After leaving Japan we made the LONG journey across the Pacific back to the USA.
We stopped for a day in Honolulu and enjoyed the beach scene.
As you can imagine, this was a bittersweet time. We were at the beginning of the end of a life-changing journey together. We were ready to be home and equally ready to keep right on going around the world all over again.
It was time to pack our bags ... physically and emotionally. (and you can imagine what that means for 700 of us!) We knew we would miss the places and all the sights we had seen. What we didn't realize is how much we would miss the community of people we became so close to during our voyage.
This "fast track to global consciousness" brought us so much closer to people all over the planet --- including those who for 100 days also called the MV Explorer their home away from home.
And now were "home." It might sound strange, but once we returned we felt like total foreigners. While we love our country, we also now have new eyes that see so clearly the isolation, waste, and wealth that this country represents. There is a tinge of embarrassment and sadness that now comes along with our US passport.
Most of all we have a dramatically fresh new sense of how privileged we are and a far deeper, richer understanding of the true meaning of being a member of a profoundly small, interconnected, interdependent global village. More than anything else, this voyage has made it crystal clear that all people, regardless of race, religion, or whatever, are part of our family.
Japan was a fantastic experience! Let's see ... we had a warm welcome from friends, were treated to a traditional tea ceremony, Rocky did a presentation on Education for Sustainable Development at a Kyoto university, we took in a baseball game, rode the bullet train, ate AMAZING food, witnessed why the Japanese have only half the ecological footprint of folks in the U.S., and left ready to return asap. Here are a few illustrative photos.
For those of you who don't read Japanese, this says "some groovy dude from California is talking about the role of higher education in sustainable development" (or something like that).
I had a FANTASTIC interpreter!
Here are my Japanese colleagues who co-presented.
We were treated by my colleague Shinichi Furihata to a wonderful traditional tea ceremony the morning before my presentation. Beautiful gardens, tea room, and ceremony! Ryder loved the green tree frog in the garden.
We took the bullet train to Kyoto (fantastic) and along the way ...
... we ate Japanese FAST food.
We also took in a Japanese baseball game and hung out with the WILD fans!
This fan was named "Rocky" so we had to pose with my autographed jersey!
Since Shawn and I had already traveled extensively in China, while everyone else flew away to see the Great Wall et al, we hung around the port city of Tsing Tao (yes, the place they make the Chinese beer you drank with your last Peking Duck). The city will host the sailing events at the next olympics, so they were demolishing most of the coastal buildings to rebuild in time for the arrival of foreign visitors and related media.
Everywhere we went we got a taste of Olympic fever!
We really loved this place. It's a "city of the future" today! Incredible mass transit, clean streets, frantic urban energy, and what a skyline. We ate lots of crazy food, walked the streets (have you seen fish so fresh that it is split open to show the beating heart?), and enjoyed the night markets.
Every evening they do this wild laser light show to music. Wild!
We had a fantastic time in and around Ho Chi Mien City (Saigon), our 8th port on this crazy voyage around the world. Like so many places we have visited, we see countries in rapid transition between the so-called Third and First Worlds. Vietnam was an especially poignant example.
Approaching this port was exciting. Just after dawn, for an hour and a half, we cruised up the Saigon River to reach the city. The morning rays illuminated a few small villages (without running water and electricity), oodles of small wooden fishing boats that were both home and "office" for families, and then the HUGE container ships that were sharing our lane on this aquatic highway.
The photo above helps underscore that rapid transition from Third to First world as well as the diversity of vessels in our path. These adolescent or emerging economies are on a no-turning-back trajectory: from small scale to large scale, from nature to technology, from renewable energy to fossil fuels, from an organic pace to that of an "advanced" society. In almost all of the ports we have witnessed an awkward juxtaposition between past and present that highlights incredible changes of scale, pace, technology, energy use, population, and accompanying demands on the planet. Businessmen still riding bicycles while talking on cell phones, shantytowns next to skyscrapers, family businesses operating under neon signs advertising multinationals, and a thousand more manifestations of "globalization." It's the same story in Brazil, South Africa, India, Malaysia; and now Vietnam.
The city was CRAZY and SO much fun! We had a great time sampling the delectable food of Vietnam, being mesmerized by the daily life on the streets, and delighting in the differences that make our cultures unique. There must be more motorcycles in Saigon than tea in China. Everywhere you go, most anytime a day, you are surrounded by a locus swarm of motorcycles (they just call them Hondas although there are many brands). It's a giant game of motorcycle ping pong. How it all works we will NEVER know. They carry families (4 at a time), office furniture (three chairs, a table and a lamp), mobile restaurants, street stall market goods, and a wide variety of fruits, trees, and domestic animals. They put more stuff on motorcycles than most Americans could pack in their SUV. And crossing the road either by foot, bicycle, motorcycle or car is a magnificent feat; you simply walk (or ride) out into oncoming traffic, and assuming you can keep your cool and maintain a steady predictable pace, the locus swarm moves around you (but not without the honking of 100 horns).
After a wonderful dose of urban insanity we headed out on a public bus to a fishing village and beach town (Mui Ne, a sailboarders paradise). The five hour ride cost $3.50 for an air conditioned modern bus and a snack. Ryder was a trooper as usual. Even though we didn't arrive at our accommodations until 1:30 am, we never heard a complaining peep. We enjoyed swimming in the South China Sea and watching the daily life of the fisher people who call this place home. Below you can see the round "rub a dub tubs" that they use to fish from at night while on the open sea! Fishermen are towed out in the tubs strung together by "put put" boat and then they float and fish through the evening with a small lantern light to drawn in the fish. Looking out to sea a night you see these twinkling lights appear as a long string of pearls.
We also visited the Chu Chi tunnels, made famous during the war as a hiding place and strategic tool of the "enemy." It was both fascinating and sobering. We put that word in quotes with complete respect for our vets, but also with the acknowledgement that the Vietnamese people, the so called American "enemy" of the past, have been nothing but gracious, loving, caring, and respectful people to us (their former "enemy") while we were in their country. The Vietnamese people make it a point of distinguishing American people from the American government, and given the atrocities that have occurred in this country, this is a humbling distinction. Agent Orange is still causing serious birth defects after three generations. Shawn rode a motorcycle taxi to the War Remnants Museum (once called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes) where nothing is held back. Haunting images of war atrocities are well documented and graphically displayed.
Rocky had the privileged of leading a field trip to an elementary school. The school has 1,800 kids. They attend school for only half-a-day shifts in order for each child to attend. Parents are charged a fee (that many cannot afford) and class size, even for K-3, was 40-50 kids. In spite of these challenges, the kids were happy, thankful for the opportunity to be educated, and a barrel of fun! They sang songs in English, taught us games, and loved Rocky's amateur magic tricks.
Like each country we visit, providing a summary analysis is just beyond words. Let's just put it this way: we can't wait to come back to Vietnam! We loved this place and we loved the people. Ryder would agree, and he also loves the pool!
Next stop? Hong Kong!
After the chaos of India, Malaysia was a relatively mellow experience. Western Malaysia is an incredibly diverse region. While Malaysia is officially a Muslim country, this region is a delightful mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures. You can hear the Muslim call to prayer as you ride in a Chinese rickshaw past a Hindu temple. We spent a day checking out the port city and took a funicular to the top of Penang Hill.
From the top of the mountain, we could look back at the harbor and see the MV Explorer. Can you see it in the middle of this photo?
We also got an INTENSE foot massage (ouch) before taking the local bus out of the big city for a little beach town and a funky hotel. There we especially enjoyed the food!
while Ryder enjoyed the fish pond at the butterfly garden.
Next stop, Vietnam! Once we leave this port, the Captain takes the ship to full speed. Since she was originally designed to be a German navy vessel, we hear she can really boogie. Why full speed? The straights we are headed through are well known for pirates. Seriously! We figure if they try to take us, we'll barrage them with books!
What can we say? It was:
filthy and fantastic, depressing and invigorating, sad and sensational, difficult and delightful. We hated it and can't wait to come back.
Before we docked in Chennai, one of the best highlights of India was meeting Sharachchandra (Sharad) Lele and Prajval Shastri.
Sharad and Rocky say farewell at the Ship's Bar
Sharad is the Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment & Development in Bangalore. His wife Prajval is a scientist at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Meeting these fine folks and their delightful children was a pure joy. They were so bright, warm, fun and gracious. They were also very generous in that they agreed to speak to all three of Rocky's classes during their short voyage from Mauritius to India. Sharad spoke in both the sustainable communities and energy courses (he has written extensively about sustainable development in India). Rocky and Sharad both got their Ph.D.s at UC Berkeley. Go Bears! Prajval and their two boys were guest lecturers in Rocky's course on schools. The boys (two very bright, polite and fun-loving kids) attend a unique middle school with a focus on service, environment and contemplative practice that American schools would be wise to emulate. They spoke eloquently about their views on education and the significance of life.
Our time in India was mostly spent in a small fishing community a few hours south of the big city. This was an area hit by the Tsunami. There is profound evidence of both the devastating destruction and the hopeful rebuilding. The photo below shows the ruble left over from four years ago along with recent new construction.
One of the fisherman invited us to his home for a cup of tea. How many of us invite total strangers into our homes? We talked about the Tsunami (it crushed his hip), raising a family, and Hinduism (one of their three small rooms is totally dedicated to their religion).
None of the buildings in the village have toilets, so the beach is riddled with human waste that sits waiting for the next high tide. Watch your step!
The next photo shows the pre-Tsunami traditional wooden fishing boats and the new fleet of fiberglass boats donated by German citizen groups. Rocky and Ryder on the right.
Here in India you can have a profound impact on someone's life with a small donation or micro-loan.
When we encountered a woman digging in the sand, searching for the day's meal of sand crabs (see note about the beach above), we decided to do our part. We handed her a small donation of about one month's salary (if you had a good job) and a smile. It felt like so little, and yet in a way it also felt huge. Back at Sonoma State they've spent years seeking tax-deductible donations for a symphony hall.
Back in town, we rolled the dice and on several occasions hopped in an "auto rickshaw."
These trips were the real life version of "Mr. Toads Wild Ride" at Disneyland. Our favorite journey started with the driver trying to charge us 10 times the appropriate fee and then reluctantly settling on a rip off price (still cheap to us) to go to an agreed destination. Next, in the middle of nowhere they tried to extort us for more money (the Indian version of "hey, the meter must have been broken"). Finally, they dropped us off (with baby Ryder) in the blazing sun several kilometers from where they agreed to take us. Makes New York City cab drivers seem like Mother Teresa. Car seats, seat belts? Dream on. Here are two views from the backseat. Sorry but you'll have to add the ear shattering zoom zooms, constantly honking horns, rapid swerving turns, frantic traffic, diesel clogged air, and 110 degree heat.
India is caught between the Third and First Worlds. We love the photo below that shows a golf club membership billboard hovering over slums with no running water, electricity or basic sanitation.
When we came back to the ship, the entire vessel was covered with a souvenir of India.
It took the ships' crew several days to wash away the funk, but the memories of this amazing place will stain our souls forever.
That's what we said when we first reviewed our itinerary with Semester at Sea.
Turns out that Mauritius is well known in these parts as a tropical vacation getaway just east of Madagascar. Well-to-do folks from South Africa and India know all about it. More on Mauritius in a minute; but first a little rap about imported oil. On the way here what shocked us was the huge number of oil tankers we passed each day. We're not that far from the Persian Gulf, and as a result we became acutely aware of the scale of reliance many countries have on oil from this region (including our own). Back in the 1970s during our first so-called energy crisis, we imported less than 50% of our oil. Since the early seventies, in spite of off shore drilling and discoveries in Alaska, our domestic production of oil continues to fall. The latest figures from our own government sources put our oil imports at an alarming 70%. To make matter worst, much of that oil comes from places around the world that are not known for their deeds of loving kindness (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq come to mind). The TRUE costs we all pay for oil are only partially reflected in the price at the pump; but apparently an addict rarely questions the morals of their dealer.
OK, back to that tropical vacation getaway. Mauritius offered some wonderful experiences. At each port we always enjoy exploring the local market. Mauritius was no exception.
We’re not talking Whole Foods here people, although you can find lots of fresh organic produce, and so much more. Like those bizarre fruits you have never seen or eaten before, funny little creatures in cages (do they eat those or are they pets?), roots and shoot, and plenty of plastic loot.
Being an island, the fish were of special interest, and we sampled a few. We always enjoy the wonderfully crazy people with whom you bargain feverishly over purchase prices to save yourself the equivalent of 50 cents. You have to enter the dreaded "dance of the potential consumer battle zone," where you stake your ground with great determination and act indignant when they try to charge you $2 for something you would pay $5 for. Finally, after a series of mutually insulting proposed prices, you arrive at an agreed upon amount, whereby they immediately become your new best friend and invite you for a cup of tea. To those of us from the land of fixed prices, it can annoying having to "bargin" for everything from a taxi ride to a bunch of bananas --- but when you get into it, realize that this is a cultural experience, and enjoy the ride, it can be yet another of life's delights.
We also enjoyed some time exploring the coral reefs around the island. Ryder especially enjoyed the glass bottom boat ride.
Now we are about to head out for 6 more days at sea before reaching India. My colleagues who have been there say, "get ready," and then add "and there is no way to prepare for what you are going to experience." We have a little twinge in our stomachs because as strange as that sounds, after reading about India, we know exactly what they mean.
While in Cape Town, Rocky had the chance to sneak away for a few days on safari (Shawn has been on safari in Kenya years ago). The Djuma Game reserve borders Kruger National Park, very close to Mozambique. Here you see all the same animals as the national park, but FAR fewer tourists. This reserve is also very conscientious on a number of levels. They only hire locals as guides (folks who grew up in the bush) and they pump their proceeds back into the local community (they have built both a preschool and an elementary school for the local village, which still has no electricity or running water). It was an amazing experience, complete with a total lunar eclipse. Oh my! We'd get up at 5 am each day to head out on a jeep (myself, two guides with guns, and one or two other tourists). The cool morning breeze was filled with the scratchy sounds of insects, a subtle hint of the intense heat yet to come, and a dose of anticipatory adrenaline. We were never disappointed! There are oodles more to share (including lions at night, giraffes, hyenas, eagle hawks and a gazillion other amazing birds, many types of antelope, etc), but here are a few favorite photos of familiar charismatic vertebrates. Remember folks, this ain't no zoo. It's the real deal. Enjoy!
"Sleepy Safari Dude says hey to the folks back home"
This ship has some AMAZING people onboard. One of our personal favorites is the MD, known affectionately as Dr. Matt. Before each port Dr. Matt and family come up with a fun song to introduce us to particular health hazards (this way the student might actually listen to this important information). Before South Africa he enlisted Rocky and the Archbishop to help deliver a unique version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy." You can check it out via the link below. Thanks to Dr. Matt for making this available.
Never a Dull Moment
First off, everything and everyone is fine. The photo above shows the cyclone that has been churning up our seas BIGTIME as we rocked and rolled our way from South Africa to Mauritius. The bigger island outlined under the cyclone is Madagascar and we are about to pull into the one of the little islands in the lower right (Mauritius). As we write this entry, the skies are beginning to clear and we know that for the moment the cyclone is headed towards the west and away from us. Last night as the ship tossed and turned we were at times lifted up in the air off of our bed, and then flopped back down. Think of an involuntary trampoline at 3 am. Everyone is very sleepy this morning but full of that energy rush of life you feel after surviving a Class V rapid or your first Black Diamond ski run. You know, that little tingle that says "Dang, I'm sooo happy we made it through that ... and now let's do it again!" Actually, for this adventure at sea, one dance with a cyclone will be plenty thank you.
Once we get to an internet cafe on shore we'll get busy bringing you up to date with some tales and photos of our AMAZING time in S. Africa. Stay tuned!
We departed Salvador late at night to the sounds of ships calling back and forth. We gave three enormous blasts from our MV Explorer, and reply blasts from fellow passenger ships in the harbor were returned. Into the inky darkness we headed for the open ocean. A few days into our trans-Atlantic voyage we saw large pelagic sea birds (!) and then ultimately mountain peaks poking out of the sea. Did you have any idea there were small islands in the Atlantic? We sure didn't. In addition to sea birds we saw sea garbage. Another reminder that there is no "away" even thought we through stuff there all the time.
Getting to know the Archbishop
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to speak with the dependent children on the ship. He answered questions from what was his favorite color to how did he participate in ending Apartheid in South Africa. Halfway through the conversation there was a group photo shoot and Ryder ended up on his lap and stayed there for the rest of the talk. During this time Ryder was busy working on a soft ribbon bracelet the Archbishop wears in honor of the people of Tibet. Alas it came off and went promptly into Ryder's mouth. The Archbishop fished it out and dangled it above Ryder and said, "Oh, the Dali Lama will not be happy about this"!
NOAA is on Da Ship
There is an oceanographer from NOAA aboard (Hi Gustavo!) who is deploying a series of drift buoys to record currents and temperatures. The buoy sinks to the bottom and then periodically pops to the surface to send a transmission to a satellite (part of a climate study). There is one now bobbing along the South Atlantic Ocean somewhere between South America and Africa with Ryder and Miles' (our dog) names on it!
Becoming a Community
Folks are now starting to call the ship "home." We started as a bunch of strangers but we are evolving into a big family. The family is comprised of 702 university students (two thirds female and a handful from countries outside of the U.S. and two are even from Sonoma State), a dozen or so "life long learners" (retired folks sitting in on classes and seeing the world), eight dependent children ranging in age 7 to 16 years old, one dependent baby (Ryder), a dozen or so spouses (called either "trailing dependents" or "independent travelers" as we prefer), and a wonderful multicultural crew who are primarily Pilipino folks with a sprinkling of Jamaican, Ukrainian, other eastern Europeans, a few Indians and some South Americans. Throw in interport students and lecturers (sailing with us between their country and the prior port) and our British captain, and you've got the whole gang. Is it a ship or a planet? Here at least, everyone is well fed, respectful of different cultures and religions, and welcome aboard!
Maybe you've heard of the maritime ritual that happens when you cross the equator on a ship? Well it involves fish guts, fish kissing and head shaving in order for a pollywog to become a shellback. We took a family vote on which one of us would get their head shaved, and since Ryder didn’t speak up when presented with the idea, he went under the razor. Hence, the Mohawk. Don't worry, we buzzed the rest off in a couple of days so now he doesn't look like a punk rocker wannabe. Oh and we all jumped in a pool of fish guts and kissed a few fishes so we are legit shellbacks too.
Kickoff to Archbishop's lecture
There is one class that everyone on the ship (besides the crew) attends: Global Studies. Yesterday the Archbishop took the stage for his first and much anticipated public speech just before we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. Some students eager to get a good seat for the event spent the night before sleeping in the front row. The Archbishop kicked of the speech talking about how much he enjoyed everyone on the ship and how happy he was to be here, and especially about the very special new friend he has made. Yea, you guessed it, Ryder James. Our jaws dropped! Don't worry, we got it on tape!
Cape Town Arrival
We've FINALLY arrived in Cape Town. The ship is docked with a fantastic view of Table Mountain, illuminated at night. Rocky is off for a three day safari near the Kruger National Park, not far from Mozambique. Stay tuned for what should be some amazing photos.
S. African Students Videoconference with U.S. Students
There is a really great group on this voyage that is doing real time satellite videoconferencing between kids in port cities and kids back in the U.S. and Canada. They are called Global Nomads (www.gng.org). Students in Rocky's class on "School and Society" are participating in this project. Above we are at a videoconference center in S. Africa and our first program (below) was at a Condomble House (think a mix of mysticism and Catholicism).
Interact Globally and Share Directly
This little girl is studying Condomble and served us fresh fruit that she picked in honor of our visit. It was so wild to be in this house of worship (sorry no pictures allowed), in a really remote locale, and be watching a live satelllite bridge back to the states. Technoland is an amazing place sometimes.
We have arrived in Bahia de Salvador Brazil. YES, THAT'S US ON OUR BALCONY. It's a fantastic city with amazing Baroque Colonial architecture (a UNESCO World Heritage site).
We were here two years ago as independent travelors and the additional layer of Carnival definitely changes the feel of this place. Baianos, the people from Bahia, are known in Brazil as those who most love to party. So, it is not a surprise that Salvador has one of the best carnivals in Brazil. According to Guinness, with 2,000,000 people (including 800,000 tourists), Salvador has the largest street carnival in the world. We just returned from a night on the streets and Ryder was captivated (and a big hit with the locals). The headphones/ear protection we bought for Ryder was definitely a good call. Think REALLY loud! The photos were taken during the day, because if you take your camera at night it is likely to go home with someone else. Several students had theirs taken at knifepoint. Yes kids, this isn't Kansas anymore.
While in Rio most of the carnival happens in ball-rooms and in the Sambadrome (which require people to pay to participate), in Salvador most events happen in the streets and beaches, and are free for all. As a consequence, the carnival in Salvador goes on, non-stop, for nearly ten days. Small groups called "blocos" pop up everywhere in the city, and they are soon followed by locals (and tourists).
This place has always been about music, but Carnival brings a fun, techno twist. A tradition of the carnival in Salvador are the "trios eletricos" (electric trio). Back in 1950, two persons, Dodo and Osmar (who today are legends of Brazilian carnival), put high power speakers on top of a 1929 Ford and drove around town inviting people to follow the rythm; it was a massive success. In 1951, the electric duo was joined by Temistocles Aragao, and the first Trio Eletrico was formed.
ON THE WAY HERE ...
Somewhere between Barbados and Venezuela we had a tour of the bridge (see Ryder stealing the captain's hat in a previous photo). While looking out to sea, Shawn spotted a small fishing boat that none of the staff with binoculars saw! The captain dismissed her sighting saying "people imagine seeing lots of things out there." Shawn kept insisting and when they finally REALLY listened to her, sure enough, we were headed directly for a tiny fishing boat with two guys (at least 40 miles from any land). The captain grabbed the wheel, made a little correction and we slipped around the fisherman. We can only wonder what would have happened if Shawn wasn't on the bridge (and who would have known?)
Yesterday we had a great tour of Salvador, one of Rocky's field trips for his Sustainable Communities class. We covered everything from giant shopping centers to Favelas (shantytowns) to Brutalistic architecture from the Cold War era (they built the government buildings to take a hit for a bomb and it shows). Reminded us of Darwin and Stevenson Hall, only MUCH more massive and, yea, brutal.
Most of the cars here run on alcohol from sugarcane. Brazil has saved over $100,000,000 USD in oil imports and debt service since starting this program in the early seventies. Alcohol (and biodiesel which you can also get at most every gas station) is much less expensive than gasoline (which you can also run the in common flex fuel vehices sold here). When OPEC radically jacked up the price of oil after the Yom Kippur War, Brazil choose to go another route based on a renewable crop that provides lots of jobs to relatively unskilled folks. We choose to import more oil from Saudi Arabia. We'll let you decide who made the right call.
Tomorrow we head up the coast to the national center for Sea Turtle preservation (funded by the World Wildlife Fund) and some snorkeling. Ryder is now crawling and we'll see tomorrow if he is ready to snorkel. Stay tuned!
We've pasted a few photos into the previous text entries. The shipboard wireless is VERY slow, so we'll do what we can when we arrrive in port. A few recent highlights. Today we crossed the equator! The Archbishop has agreed to speak to my class on schools! It's Valentines Day and Shawn got a great massage, Rocky got chocolates, and everyday is a lovefest aboard ship for Ryder. Another entry will come your way once we land in Brazil. Stay tuned!
We arrived in Puerto Rico to a formal greeting aboard ship from the Governor and Secretary of State. Lots of media on hand as well as additional security. Given that Archbishop Tutu is on the voyage, we suspect we may have similar welcomes in other ports.
The Old Town of this city is spectacular. It's a maze of tiny little streets filled with Spanish colonial architecture with the classic ironwork balconies, bougainvillea flowers, cobblestone streets, pastel colors, public plazas, and pedestrian traffic.
Our first day here we hit the Big K for a stash of diapers and more baby food since this is our last certain chance to find such "essentials" easily. We've enjoyed the local beaches with azure waters and soft white sand, toured the old forts, and Rocky had a great nighttime kayak trip to experience some amazing bioluminescence.
Ryder continues to be a shipboard celebrity. He is known by name by all the staff and many of the students. We have already been approached by several volunteer baby sitters and Ryder has been "adopted" by a lovely couple and their adopted 10-yr-old child from Cambodia. We even had a two-hour journey to old town without Ryder in tow. Yesterday he learned to clap. (He's been at many gatherings with lots of applause, so perhaps he felt the need to join in.)
This evening we set sail for Brazil and Carnival! Fasten your seatbelts. (or should we say, Grab your life vests?) Can you imagine … 700 university students and Carnival? We hope they all get back on the ship!
We are now finally at sea and today classes began (mine start tomorrow). The air is BUZZING with excitement and anticipation. Students are going through all of the emotional stuff you would expect on the first day of school, but given that we are all together on this ship, and headed around the Earth -- it's especially poignant.
And there is another reason that today was quite a special day for us. This morning Ryder had a wonderful time playing with Archbishop Tutu. He is a grandfather of seven, so he knows how to entertain and bring the giggles out of a young one. After lots of peakaboos and funny noises and cooing, he parted by simply saying to Ryder, "God bless you my son." Indeed.
At the moment I am blogging away in the faculty lounge with one other person. (guess who) Yea, you guessed it, Bishop Tutu. (yes he uses a laptop too, but it's a PC. As a Mac user, I'll set him straight about the evil empire later) We haven't spoken other than informal greetings (he greets each person with a smile and a how are you), but I can tell you that the light in his eyes and the love in his heart can be felt. It's not who he is known to be that is the source of this light. It is who he is. I'm sure I would feel this same energy if we just met on the street and I had no idea "who he was." I'm sure you have all had such encounters in life where you go, wow, that person had amazingly pure and loving energy. That was my experience just before sitting down to type this entry. Stay tuned!
And they're off! (well almost)
January 30th (Tues) we took the redeye to Miami from SFO. Ryder was great! We had an extra seat between us and he slept or nursed most of the way. Never cried a peep on the plane! (and he is cutting two new teeth) After 3 hours in the freezing Miami airport we flew to Nassau, threw the bags and baby in a funky taxi and made our way to our shipboard home.
Nassau is a giant tourist trap for the gazillion cruise ships that pull in and out and in and out every day. Imagine a Caribbean Las Vegas.
The ship itself is AMAZING. It's only four years old, so it's very modern, clean as a whistle, and according to the Captain, the fastest passenger ship on the seas today. That's good news since we are going around the whole planet in 100 days! Our room is fantastic. The folks at the Institute for Shipboard Education who run Semester at Sea gave us one of the few rooms with a balcony. Yes, can't you see us now, sipping our Merlot on the veranda watching the Bahamian sunset. Been there, done that! There is an excellent staff (mostly Pilipino and Jamaican) who make our bed, give us fresh towels, dote over the little one, etc. They miss their families at home of course and have "adopted" Ryder already.
Rocky has been in non-stop meetings for three days. The 25 faculty are already bonding and laughing a lot. A good sign. The F word is key for the voyage. Flexible. We are teaching on a ship designed to entertain, not educate, but they've done a great job. The former casino is now the computer lab and library. There is a wireless satellite connection in most places (but really slow). It's so weird to be on a ship in the Bahamas, using a wireless internet connection and reading the NY Times. What a wild world we live in.
My three classes are "School and Society," "Energy, Technology and Society," and "Sustainable Communities." Two are full at 35 and the Sustainable Communities class has 27, but I'm told to expect it to fill too. The classrooms are very small, so it will be cozy and challenging to teach, but the context and experience will more than make up for the physical limitations of the classrooms. The students come from about 150 universities around the U.S.
Tonite there is a receptions and dinner for Archbishop Tutu. $500 a plate. We get to hang out for 100 days so we passed. Tomorrow the 702 students board (the largest class ever) and tomorrow we head for Puerto Rico! Stay tuned!
My wife Shawn, son Ryder and I are sailing on a round-the-world voyage with Semester at Sea. This blog will chronicle our journey with periodic journal entries, a few select photos, and perhaps a few videos.
Here are two introductory links.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be sailing aboard the MV Explorer for the entire Spring 2007 voyage. Serving as Distinguished Lecturer in Residence, Archbishop Tutu will be a guest lecturer in courses and he will also present a series of lectures between Brazil and South Africa.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African cleric and activist who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. Tutu was elected and ordained the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and was also rewarded with the Magubela prize for liberty in 1986. Desmond Tutu is committed to stopping global AIDS, and has served as the honorary chairman for the Global AIDS Alliance.