Week before leaving -- (Jan 11-20)
Week 1 -- (Jan 23-Feb 1 Puerto Rico)
Week 2 -- (Feb 3-9 Salvador, Brazil)
Week 3 -- (Feb 10-16 On the way to South Africa)
Week 4 -- (Feb 19-24 Cape Town and African Safari)
Week 5,6 -- (Feb 25-March 8 Mauritius)
Week 7 -- (March 9-15 Chennai, India)

Week 8 -- (March 16-22 Penang, Malaysia and Singapore)
Week 9 -- (March 23-31 Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam)
Week 10 -- (April 1-6 Hong Kong, Guilin Shanghai, China)
Week 11 -- (April 7-13 Kobe, Japan)
Week 12 -- (April 14-20 On the way to Hawaii)
Week 13 -- (April 21-27 Honolulu, Hawaii)
Week 14 -- (April 28-May 8 Puntarenas, Costa Rica)

 

Week Fourteen -- Journeywoman's Semester At Sea...

 

Your emails...

 

 

 

 

 

April 28, May 2 -- Final exams and papers

Oh my goodness the ship has become so quiet. This is the crunch. Classes are just about over. Final papers are due over the next little while and final exams begin today. Students are hunkered down in their cabins, the library, the computer room and the fifth floor dining room which has been designated a study area. We Life Long Learners are 'high-fiveing' each other. We've had our time to write exams and we never have to do that again. However, we are 100% empathetic and are definitely there for moral support when the students ask for it. Over the next week we'll probably see very little of the faculty as well. They'll all be hunkered down in their own cabins marking papers and getting final grades in to Marie, the registrar. I'm using this quiet time to sit outside on the deck, watch the sea and try to record these moments in my memory. Too soon they'll all be gone. Good luck in your exams, everybody!


Looking out and recording memories

 

May 3 -- Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I didn't get up extra early today. We had two days in this port and from everything I'd read about it Puntarenas is simply a sleepy little Costa Rican town that is rough around the edges. The port itself is tiny and it's hours away from many of the spectacular beaches, waterfalls and cloud forests this country is famous for (most visits to these places required overnight stays). I'd just been on a ship for ten days so travelling long distances in a bus didn't appeal to me at all. I booked a short, inexpensive excursion to a small town called, Sarchi where wood carvers and artisans create brightly colored replicas of traditional ox carts. Several aspects of this trip appealed to me. Firstly it was only a bit over an hour away. Secondly, I thought that the old ox carts plus their replicas would photograph beautifully and thirdly, the guidebooks promised me glimpses of volcanic mountain ranges, fields of sugar cane, cattle ranches and coffee plantations on the way. Yada, yada, yada.

Was it wonderful? Not really wonderful but I did learn an awful lot from the guide who talked about Costa Rica all the way there and back. Thank goodness she was interesting or I would have been in agony not having a quiet moment just to look out the window and contemplate. Highlights? I certainly enjoyed photographing the old carts and the murals. Looking through the gift shops was short and sweet and then before we knew it it it was time to head back. I loved the half hour stop in the tiny town of Grecia to visit the metal Church of the Lady of Mercy (where Theresa Parker used my shawl to cover her head and pose for me). Then there was just enough time to buy deep-fried donuts filled with honey from the street vendor and savour them all the way home.

Day two, a Sunday, was perfect. I spent it entirely outside in the lovely sunshine poking around the little market set up near the beach, bargaining for last minute gifts and looking for fun street scenes to photograph. I went out with Stacey and Sandy in the AM and we meandered from one vendor's stall to the next, we chatted with the craftspeople, took photos of folks and shared the results with them. In the afternoon my roommate Ariane and I did the stalls (again), walked to the big grocery store to buy Costa Rican coffee (three big bags for $10) and took photos of each other to mark the last port of our round the world trip. We clowned, we posed and had a lovely relaxing afternoon. We got back to the ship at six, two hours before 'on board' time and congratulated each other for never getting dock time.

Sometimes it's the simplest, least inexpensive things that give you the most pleasure. I thought that as a last port of call Puntarenas would be a disappointment. I was wrong. It was great fun and just what I needed at this point in the journey.


Costa Rican countryside


Bright blue skies


Beautiful old painted ox cart


All the Sarchi artists use bright, primary colors


Our Lady of Mercy in Grecia


Teresa poses for me in the church


A Sunday at the beach


A quick shower on the drive home


Last photo at the last port


Last sunset of last port

 

May 6 - Going through the Panama Canal

We're in the home stretch now. Coming from Puntarenas and going to Miami we have to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. That means going through the Panama Canal. For most of us on board this is our first time experiencing these locks and today was the big day. Rushing outside early in the morning to see what was going on didn't make sense to me. I figured we had most of the day to enjoy the process, besides it was very hot out. We weren't that far from the equator so I slathered on 45 sunscreen (generously offered by Melinda and Margie -- bless their little hearts) before I ventured on to the deck. My instincts were right. The transit process was interesting but slow -- very, very slow. Everybody was milling around on the decks, chatting, taking photos and discussing the other big event scheduled for today -- our final 7th deck SAS BarBQ.

Already the wonderful aroma of ribs and hamburgers was in the air. Yes, we were enjoying the canal transit but come on ... how does that compare with Solomon's blowout BarBQs? By noon the lineup for food went around the deck. When we ran out of chairs the students laid out their beach towels and 'picnic'ed in every available nook and cranny. As usual the food was fabulous and we couldn't finish all the treats that were offered to us. I indulged in my last SAS 'make your own' sundae and oh, it was good. I thought to myself ...we on board are so very lucky. How many other people have had the privilege of sailing around the world in such great style? How many others have had the opportunity to go through the Panama Canal feasting on goodies in the company of such good friends? I took many, many photos today. They all reflect the kitchen's hard work and the fabulous SAS camaraderie we've enjoyed on the MV Explorer. P.S. Thanks to Barb Baumann, a fellow Life Long Learner for providing me with the internet photo of the MV Explorer going through the first Miraflores lock. One of those specks on the sixth deck is me.


Going through the Panama Canal


Going through the first lock

Everybody recording the event


Solomon welcomes us to his BarBQ

Is this a wedding or a BarBQ?


Love those pastries!

Veggie burger or hamburger?


Yum...

Yum...


Yum...

Yum...


Ribs make me smile

Journeywoman loves the fruit


We're having a picnic

We're sunbathing


A pink & violet Panama sunset

 

May 7 -- Activities are coming to a close

Little by little all the activities and facilities on the ship are closing down. Everybody is making their way to the Purser's Desk to clear up any outstanding accounts. The air of constant excitement has changed to an atmosphere that is a lot more subdued. I guess everybody is lost in their own little worlds trying to unravel how they feel. I've spent most of the day packing, filing papers I want to keep and catching up on my blog. There has been a call for any extra food, insect repellant, toiletries, medicines and clothing that we are not taking home. All of these things are still perfectly good (some still in original packaging) and the crew can make such good use of it. There's lots of stuff coming in; everybody is trying to make room for the goodies they've bought along the way.

I've been thinking of Greg Ullom, our Assistant Executive Dean and how I'm going to miss him (and his lovely wife Stacey). When I'm up early and working in Timitz Square there is always a cheery 'Good morning Miss Evelyn' as he makes his way to his office. Greg is the kind of guy that when he asks how you are, he's not just being polite. He really means it and the person at the receiving end understands he really means it. I like him! I'm also going to miss Greg's announcements at noon and later in the day. I always pay close attention because Greg never skips a beat when he makes a mistake. He's able to cover up instantly either with a joke or with words he dreams up on the spot.

Today everybody who was interested (and there were a lot of people who were) gathered in the Union to hear from a panel of folks who had done this voyage once before and how they dealt with culture shock when they got home. There were some excellent ideas presented including the panelist who referred to the MV Explorer as a floating community, an island, an exotic country that has its own particular culture. We've all grown accustomed to that culture and will initially find it difficult to make a transition to our community/culture at home. Excellent point! My notes tell me that we've travelled close to 27,000 nautical miles and visited 13 countries as we circumnavigated the globe on our trusty MV Explorer.

As I walked the ship I saw the librarians packing books, I noticed that the sixth floor snack bar was now closed, and some packed luggage was already sitting outside some doors. The countdown to arrival in Miami continues. I'm trying to remain focused on the present but I keep being drawn to next week when all that will be left of the Spring 2008 voyage is lovely memories.


Contribution boxes filled for the crew


The campus store is closing


We empty our safes.


We empty our cupboards


No more lattes


No more new SAS T-shirts


Young and old say their goodbyes

 

May 8 -- Tomorrow our Voyage of Discovery is over

This is the the second to last day of our voyage with Semester At Sea. Early tomorrow morning we'll be sailing into the port of Miami and we'll all be disembarking the MV Explorer for the very last time. Bitter sweet is probably the best way to explain how everybody is feeling. High because we'll soon be seeing the people we love the most, low because we'll be leaving many new, strong and meaningful friendships behind. I feel my eyes filling up every time I start my good-byes to those specific folks (be they staff, faculty or students) that I've bonded with over these last three and a half months. I've been pal to some, mom to others, mentor to the next generation of journalists on board, and grandma to those who've paid attention to the gray in my hair. I loved each and every one of these roles. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll miss each and every one of these new friends.

So .... it was a day of packing, saying adieu and catching those last last few lovely hours of sunbathing on the MV Explorer. Our ship is purported to be one of the fastest cruise ships on the water and today the Captain kept his promise and showed us how fast it can actually go -- 34 nautical miles an hour. The Captain seldom comes out on the deck to mix with the students. This time (like the Queen) he made a brief appearance and all the kids cheered for him and his very fast ship. He waved (like the Queen from her balcony) and then disappeared. Very sweet!

The kids have all bought huge maps of the world in the bookstore and all their friends are signing them, sending best wishes and affirming their friendships. For many of these students these friends will become an important network for them as they go out into the workforce. To be a Semester At Sea alum is definitely a privilege. Think about it. How many people do you know that have circumnavigated the globe on a floating campus? The originator of Crocs is an alum, so is Cynthia Nixon, the redhead of Sex in the City fame. And now I can say, Journeywoman is an alumni of sorts as well.

Tonight was convocation for the senior students and the end of term for all the other kids. I wondered if it would be a regular convocation but Marie, the registrar wouldn't let on. Well, it was a 'cap and gown' convocation (of an SAS kind).The students marched into the Union wearing their bright orange life jackets and conical straw hats from VietNam. It was fabulous. So were the presentations -- five minute speeches from a professor (Kay Widdows), a student (Jasmine Walker) and a life long learner (Barbara Baumann). Each was so heartfelt and beautifully done. I made special note that instead of shaking hands with the Executive Dean, many of the graduating females choose to kiss this very popular man on the cheek. Nice touch! There were standing ovations galore and the evening ended with a big screen presentation of photographic highlights of our 'Voyage of Discovery.'

And on that note ... the staff went up to the faculty lounge for one last evening of fun, the kids found comfortable places throughout the ship to hang out and reminisce. I stood on the deck and watched the waves, remembering ...


We were going fast, very fast


The Captain appears briefly on the deck.


Ariane thanks her dad for giving her the world


Cap and gown SAS style


Seniors waiting for their names to be called


Barb gives a star convocation performance


Students autograph each others maps


Lots of relaxing that last evening


Way past midnight card games in the dining room


Fittingly our final sunset at sea is a glorious one

 

May 9 -- Epilogue -- Arriving Miami

I have one incredible memory of this last morning on the ship before everybody disembarks and goes their separate ways. As the sun comes up we can see the port of Miami in the distance. Everybody is saying their final goodbyes and lining up at the ship's railing. The MV Explorer is flying the American flag and students are holding signs saying, 'Thank you mom and dad for giving me the world.' One young woman on board holds her own American flag high in the air. As we draw closer to shore we can make out groups of parents waiting for our ship that will bring their sons and daughters safely back to them. They are holding signs in the air as well. Beside me two young students overcome with excitement are weeping. Behind me is a tight circle of friends holding on to each other and weeping because they will miss each other terribly. Several large trucks on the dock blink their headlights in welcome. As we approach the pier the Captain gives the signal and two students sound the ship's horn. With each blast of the horn all the students onboard raise their arms skyward and roar their approval -- grateful for all their adventures, for new friends, for their safe return, and for life in general. Oh what a moment!


Oh what a moment!

 

 

The Spring 2008 Voyage of Discovery is complete.


Special mentions...

I came to this Semester At Sea program as a journalist, ready to observe and report on a mini six week Voyage of Discovery. Instead I was magically absorbed into the SAS community and became a participant just like everybody else. I am grateful for that privilege.

I'd like to offer a heartfelt thank you to the following people who gave their full support to this project and who always made me smile.
Kay S. Volkema, my first contact at SAS who introduced me to the rest of the marketing team.
Executive Dean Kenn Gaither, a fine man who supported me at every turn.
Academic Dean Dan Ehnbom who welcomed my 'Journeywoman' input.
Ariane Maico, whose generosity and friendship allowed me to complete my Voyage of Discovery.
Sal Moschella, VP and Chief Operating Officer who took his valuable time to teach me about SAS.
Craig Ullmon, who never failed to provide the information I needed delivered with a smile.
Stacey Ullmon, for her helpful listening ear, lovely conversations and sweet friendship.
Chief Purser Untivero, whose extra work on my behalf made my extended stay possible.
Deb Resling, our perfect Life Long Learner leader who was always there to listen and advise.
And Allan in the Dining Room who dubbed me 'Princess' and never failed to treat me like one.


Thank you,
Evelyn Hannon, Editor, Journeywoman.com

 

Talk to us: We welcome your comments about this blog or your own SAS experiences. Write: editor@journeywoman.com

Other Semester At Sea Blogs (please address request to link your SAS blog to: editor@journeywoman.com):
Barbara Baumann: http://barbbaumann.spaces.live.com
Amanda and Noah: http://www.offexploring.com/aatkinson
Brittany Austin: http://brittany-semesteratsea08.blogspot.com/
Melinda Baumann: http://seaspan.wordpress.com
Becca Oman: http://whereintheworldisbecca.blogspot.com
Ullom Family: http://ullomfamilyvoyage2008.blogspot.com/
Anne Benvenuti: http://annebenvenuti.blogspot.com/
Avi Gallant's SAS promotional video: http://www.videowebz.com
Mara Hedblom http://mara-at-sea.blogspot.com/
Marissa Awtry: http://marissaatsea.blogspot.com

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