|Week before leaving
-- (Jan 11-20)
Week 1 --
(Jan 23-Feb 1 Puerto Rico)
2 -- (Feb 3-9 Salvador,
-- (Feb 10-16 On the way to
4 -- (Feb 19-24 Cape Town
and African Safari)
5,6 -- (Feb 25-March 8 Mauritius)
Week 7 --
(March 9-15 Chennai, India)
8 -- (March 16-22
Penang, Malaysia and Singapore)
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...
28, May 2 -- Final exams and papers
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
Looking out and recording
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
Costa Rican countryside
Bright blue skies
painted ox cart
the Sarchi artists use bright, primary colors
Lady of Mercy in Grecia
poses for me in the church
Sunday at the beach
quick shower on the drive home
photo at the last port
Last sunset of last
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
Going through the first lock
Everybody recording the event
Solomon welcomes us to his
Is this a wedding or a BarBQ?
Love those pastries!
Veggie burger or hamburger?
Ribs make me smile
Journeywoman loves the fruit
We're having a picnic
A pink & violet
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.
filled for the crew
campus store is closing
empty our safes.
empty our cupboards
more new SAS T-shirts
Young and old say their
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
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 ...
were going fast, very fast
The Captain appears
briefly on the deck.
Ariane thanks her dad
for giving her the world
and gown SAS style
waiting for their names to be called
gives a star convocation performance
autograph each others maps
of relaxing that last evening
past midnight card games in the dining room
our final sunset at sea is a glorious one
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!
2008 Voyage of Discovery is complete.