|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 Seven -- Journeywoman's
Semester At Sea...
9 -- We Choose Mr. Semester At Sea...
will be the 2008 Fall Voyage 'Mr. Semester At Sea?' Last week
eleven male students tossed their hats into the circle to
compete for this coveted title. The crown traditionally goes
to the best overall candidate in the combined categories of
personality, runway charisma, public speaking, talent, and
fund raising abilities (each candidate chooses a favorite
charity and then for a week before the finale canvasses individuals
relentlessly for donations towards that charity). I supported
two candidates (both of them with a connection to Canada)
who sweet-talked me into supporting their philanthropic causes.
Tonight was the night for deciding who the overall
winner would be. The Union (the room on the ship that holds
the largest number of people) was filled to capacity as everybody
arrived early to get a good seat. One of the eleven contestants
was Qi Yan, a Chinese student who had won a competition in
China for the opportunity to attend this Semester At Sea voyage.
He arrived on board with only rudimentary knowledge of the
English language and American pop culture. The guys on his
deck quickly taught him the things every male college student
needed to know about (as Qi calls them) 'American girls' as
well as the words one uses to beguile said 'American girls.'
Qi is clever, adorable, and charismatic and, of course, used
these assets to his advantage.
For the talent section he crooned a Chinese
ballad that delighted the audience. However, it was the public
speaking triumph that shot him into the lead. When it was
his turn to answer the question the judges had prepared, Qi
didn't understand several of the words in the question. Clearly
he was in trouble. In his naivite, Qi simply said, 'This question
sucks; please give me another one.' Trying to keep a straight
face, the judge explained that each candidate gets only one
question and they must answer it the best way possible. The
crowd jumped to their feet chanting, 'Qi, Qi, Qi' until the
judge relented and asked a second question. Qi aced it with
a tribute to 'American Girls" and the crowd was on their
feet again. We all waited for the judges' official' overall
decision but everyone already knew that 'Mr. Semester At Sea
2008" was Qi Yan. It's not difficult to forecast that
this young man will go far wherever in the world he is (providing
he uses his 'smarts' for good). The proceeds raised for charity
from the student body for this event? A very grand $5,300
with two candidates raising over $700. What clever programming!
Qi sings his ballad...
The winner of Mr. SAS
10 -- I leave my 1st cabin...
my new, lovely Semester At Sea roommate. Ariane is a 22 year
old pre-med student (both her parents are physicians) who
lives in Gainsville, Florida. Her passion is horses (jumping
in particular). When I was scheduled to leave the ship in
India to return to Canada (as was initially agreed), Ariane
offered me the unoccupied bed in her cabin. I suggested that
maybe I could move in with her for an extra two weeks and
then leave from Vietnam. She said, 'no, we want you here for
the complete journey.' I was very touched by her generosity
-- most people wouldn't have given up their privacy so easily.
We discussed the potential move with the Dean who said, 'we
were trying to find a way to keep you here for the complete
voyage.' Long story short because everybody has been so kind
to me I left my first home and moved in with Ariane today.
She is great and my intuition tells me that we're going to
enjoy this new arrangement. Besides, what a wonderful way
for me to learn more about the nuances of the 'young student
scene' on the MV Explorer.
Our Life Long Learners sponsored a Silver Sea Social this
evening. March of the Penguins was the theme and everyone
that attended was asked to wear black and white clothes. I
told Ariane that I wasn't going to go, that I was tired from
the move and that I needed to prepare for tomorrow's arrival
in India. She kept following me around saying, 'you've got
to go, it's going to be fun. C'mon, you'll stay for just a
little bit.' So, because I didn't want to disappoint my new
roommate, I went and I'm so glad that I did. As soon as I
walked into the lounge I heard people saying, 'She's here;
Evelyn's here.' Hmmmm? What's up? Deb, our LLL leader had
ordered a huge, yummy chocolate birthday cake for me and for
another staff member who was also celebrating this week. Actually,
my birthday is on the 15th but we were going to be docked
in India for the next five days (with everybody going in different
directions) so this was the best time to celebrate the date
with everybody. Very much appreciated! I ate my piece of birthday
cake with great pleasure (and because of the caffeine in the
chocolate) promptly became wide awake and didn't fall asleep
until something like 3:00 AM. Happy birthday, Evelyn.
Ariane keeps me informed
about things I would normally miss.
My black and white
11, 2008 -- Hello Chennai, India
all the hype about India and how it will be the most difficult
country to get around in we were all up bright and early ready
to catch our first glimpse of Chennai. Even though the day
was just beginning the air was already very heavy -- just
a little taste of the extreme heat that we would have to deal
with later. From all the books I'd read and the films I'd
seen it had been so easy to romanticize India from afar. You
visualize the magnificent Taj Mahal, wonderful Northern Indian
cuisine and elegant women in brightly coloured, silk saris.
Of course, that's only a smart part of the reality. What greeted
us this morning was a filthy harbour blanketed in foul smelling
pollution. As we got closer to the dock we could make out
hundreds of cars that had been assembled in India and were
now awaiting shipment to foreign markets. No doubt about it.
Chennai is a major, overpopulated, industrial city. I took
in the scene, breathed the dank air and asked myself if I
was ready to face five days of dirt, poverty, heat, crowds,
scams and chaotic traffic. I understood that in order to appreciate
the wisdom and mysteries offered up by India my patience,
safety, and well-being would be challenged. I must say I wasn't
really excited about plunging into the madness.
The logistics for clearing the ship were mind-boggling.
Each person on board had to go through a customs station that
had been set up in the faculty lounge. Each received a stamped
landing card which they carried with their passport. Next
there were money changing facilities set up in one of the
classrooms so we could have some Indian rupees when we got
off the ship. We lined up for that, too. And then the 'fun'
started. Everybody was going in different directions. They
were all on different schedules; some were on SAS trips and
others were travelling independently by bus, train or plane.
Each had to leave the ship on time in order to get where they
needed to be on time. Each person had to check out of the
ship properly so that those in charge would know who left
the ship, at what hour and when they returned. You can imagine
the 'organized chaos' that ensued. It was like a ballet in
slow motion -- everybody wearing backpacks and moving to their
own 'music.' In fact, it was like moving a small army and,
magically they did it. I was terribly impressed with the planning
and execution of this disembarkment. All the pre-port lectures
really paid off.
For most of the students this was their first taste of India.
Everybody wanted to experience Delhi and see the Taj Mahal.
I had already been to India once before. I wanted to avoid
the crowded urban scene and chose to explore the countryside
closer to the ship. I marvelled at the students' ability to
plunge right into the confusion. I was much more cautious
and picked an organized tour that gave me a sheltered re-entry
with visits to temples and historic sites plus a three day
course in breathing and meditation in Dakshinachitra Heritage
Village. I asked myself if I was being an informed traveller
or just a 'scaredy-cat' traveller.
Two minutes after we left the ship I was convinced I'd made
the right decision. Hoards of taxi drivers and rickshaw drivers
descended upon us. All were covered with the grime of the
city, few spoke more than a few words of English. They vied
with each other to sell us their services. We were escorted
through this insistent throng to a waiting air-conditioned
bus. Through the bus window I could both observe life in the
city and be shielded from it at the same time. There were
people everywhere, cars everywhere, horns honking, hawkers
shouting. There were beggars without limbs and beggars with
limbs. There were filthy children with parents, filthy children
completely on their own. It was chaotic, it was colorful,
it was fantastic, it was sad and shocking all at the same
Before going to the Heritage Village we visited Mamallapuram
to see a 1200 year old temple, ancient sculptures and a Hindu
temple. In the late afternoon we got to Dakshinachitra (with
its recreated 19th century houses from four southern states
of India) where I had signed on for a 2-day breathing/meditation
boot camp. I figured that if the Beetles came to India to
explore ashrams and meditation, why not Journeywoman? Well,
it was truly a boot camp with most of our time spent lying
on mats and panting (as in... HAH, HAH, HAH). I'm not sure
I liked it but it was an effective stress reducing technique.
Why was I able to think so clearly? I don't believe it had
much to do with ancient Indian philosophy. I guess lots of
panting leads to hyperventilation and lightheadedness. All
I know is I kept falling asleep. Each session took over an
hour but it felt as if only 20 minutes had passed. I didn't
mind all the relaxation and sleeping but even with insect
repellent I was chewed up by the mosquitoes that frequented
the open window meditation room. One session I counted eight
new bites. Since I was taking malaria pills I didn't worry
about that disease but I prayed that these mosquitoes didn't
give me Dengue fever for my birthday (March 15). But on second
thought, mosquitoes that hang around meditation rooms are
probably health conscious and I really didn't need to worry.
Pilot boat guides
us into Chennai
Pollution is everywhere
We see things
through a haze
Cars lined up
on the dock
People and cars
Students clowning at
12 & 13 - Breathe, Breathe, Breathe in India
not so sure I liked the yoga/meditation workshop but I loved
being in this little arts and crafts center (with an emphasis
on the traditions of South India). I hated being cooped up
in a classroom hearing 'breathe, breathe, breathe' from early
morning to late in the evening. Instead I wanted to be out
exploring, watching all the craftspeople, buying their wares,
exploring the historical homes and taking advantage of all
the wonderful photo opportunities in the center. One of the
highlights for me was interacting with the groups that came
to Dakshinachitra on field trips. Everybody spoke at least
a little English and we always had a delightful little chat.
That's part of the reason I love travelling in the rural areas.
People are so much more relaxed, not tense and not trying
to scam you.
Shopping was so much fun. You didn't need to worry about
blowing your budget. Everything was so reasonable. I bought
some necklaces (about $4.00 each) from a crafts person working
on the grounds. I also asked one of the Batik artists to draw
a Ganesh (God) for me. He charged me 70 cents for a delightful
rendition (complete with a little mouse in the corner) that
I'm going to frame when I get home. This folk art is the art
I like the absolute best.
The food we were served at the center was all vegetarian,
tasty, very spicy and clean (of absolute importance in India
unless you enjoy having Delhi Belly). I never got a stomach
bug (like most of the other people picked up in India) but
I was affected by the spices. Oh well, tummy upsets are part
of any trip to India and Doc Brown (the ship's doctor) had
some really great meds that worked perfectly to calm your
innards. The pills are called Dicyclomine or Bentyl for anybody
who's interested. You need a prescription to buy them but
I will definitely have my own supply the next time I travel.
I could go on and on but the photos I took tell the story.
My 70 cent drawing
Waiting for meditation
class to start
Veggie food served
on banana leaves
A little corner of
Visiting student teachers
Playing hopscotch in
Student teachers from
School girls waving
14 -- Good, bad and difficult in Chennai, India
Today one of the students and I went off by
ourselves to shop in Chennai. Again it was incredibly hot
and we promised ourselves to take it as easy as possible,
stay hydrated so we wouldn't tire, and to spend most of our
time indoors. We bargained with the rickshaw driver who met
us as we left the ship and we enjoyed an exciting (sometimes
harrowing) ride through incredible traffic right to Spenser
Plaza (the center we wanted to shop at). Before doing anything
else we popped into the Connemarra Hotel next door where one
is always assured of clean, fresh food. We had our snacks
and went directly to Fabindia
(2nd floor Spenser Plaza) where we shopped, shopped, shopped
up a storm. I love Fabindia because the cotton they use for
their clothes are so soft and durable and they never go out
of style because they're a lovely combo of east meets west
When it was time for tea we went back to the Connamarra where
we chatted with two lovely women at the next table who were
off to a musical evening about an hour away. They offered
us a lift to the concert but since they couldn't bring us
back later that evening we decided not to take a chance on
being stranded somewhere we knew nothing about. I'm glad we
made that decision because getting back to the ship from downtown
Chennai proved hard enough. More of that story later.
Ouch, my arm! Soon it was time to go out and try the shops
again. This time we had to cross a street to get to another
branch of Fabindia. Oh my goodness, that was hard and so dangerous
if you're not careful. We found the right corner with street
lights but just as we were approaching the opposite curb a
huge motorcycle shot out of nowhere and hit my arm (below
my elbow) with its HUGE handlebars. Pain shot through my arm
and all I could think of was, ' oh no, broken ... in India
... just in time for my birthday.' But the Travel Goddess'
was good to me. My arm wasn't broken, just very sore. So,
did that stop us from shopping? Of course not. A new, extra
juicy blouse would ease the pain. I was sure of that.
dusk approached we knew we had to find a rickshaw quickly
so we wouldn't be in (dark, very dark) three lane, crazy,
busy traffic all the way back to the ship. We weren't fast
enough and our driver (the only one we could find) didn't
speak any English (bad mistake) and dusk soon became pitch
black. We found someone to give the driver directions and
we warily got into his (old, very old vehicle). To make a
long story short we got very lost in the dark and even when
we finally were on the right road I thought it was still wrong
and I redirected the rickshaw driver who was now just as disoriented
as we were. Finally, I hailed a policeman to see if we were
going in the right direction. Oh, oh, another bad mistake.
The rickshaw driver thought we were reporting him to the police.
He waited till we were on the last black, deserted road leading
to the ship and he stopped and berated us (in very broken
English) for telling the police he was bad. It took lots of
explaining in sign language and extra money to settle him
down and get us back to the ship.
When we finally saw the MV Explorer, we knew we were home
and out of danger. This day was definitely a wake-up for me.
No matter how much you have travelled, each day is a new experience
and a new challenge. The streets of third world countries
are mean, the people are a lot tougher than we are and we
must stay culturally aware in order to make our way safely
through these experiences. Ours was only one of the student
stories that night. It was good to know that everybody got
back to the ship safe and sound. Hurray for all of us!
East meets West at
Traffic in downtown
We were in this traffic
in the dark in a tiny rickshaw
15 -- My birthday party in Chennai
Today was my 68th birthday. How cool to be celebrating
it in India. Today was also the day I was supposed to be completing
my assignment, leaving the ship and flying back to Toronto.
Thanks again to Ariane for offering me a bed in her cabin
and to Dean Kenn for inviting me to stay. I am now officially
sailing around the world. Our Voyage of Discovery will be
complete when we sail into Miami on May 9, 2008.
It was boiling hot today; I left the ship early to meet the
two local women (I had met through HERmail.net)
who were coming to pick me up with a car and driver. I walked
to the main gate with some of the students. As usual we were
inundated with rickshaw drivers who wanted to take us into
town. The other students left and I stood close to the harbour
police waiting for my lift to show up. The police probably
thought I was a bit strange but there was a method to my madness.
Firstly, the police had a tiny tin roof to protect them from
the direct sun and I needed that protection. Also, if I stood
beside a policeman the rickshaw drivers couldn't harass me
which was a great relief.
my car came and I met Winnie and Shanti -- two lovely women
of a certain age. Winnie spent a lot of time on her cell phone.
She also spent a lot of time berating her driver who, she
said, was very lazy. It was very amusing to me. Though their
skin was darker than mine and one wore a sari, these two Indian
women could have been middle aged women anywhere in the world.
We worried about the same things, had the same problems with
our cell phones and noted the same ongoing aging processes
in our bodies. I was instantly comfortable in their company.
We talked non-stop, they took me shopping for clothes, showed
me the correct ways to wear Indian clothing and bargained
on my behalf. We met a lot of other Semester At Sea students
and staff in the Spenser Plaza. Winnie and Shanti helped them
as well. These two 'Aunties' sat outside the department store
dressing room and commented on outfits. 'OK'ing some purchases
and discouraging others. They were so generous with their
time and energy as I dragged them from shop to shop to find
exactly what I needed. I will be eternally grateful for the
way they dealt with the shopkeeper who was selling me a hand-embroidered
pashmina from Kashmir. They went over that shawl with a fine-tooth
comb. And when they were sure I was getting the 'real thing'
they worked as a tag team to bargain the poor man down, down,
down! I love my shawl. It is my birthday present to myself.
Imagine my surprise when I was going down the escalator and
I heard someone call my name. Who did I know in India? It
was Kanishka, our interport student who was out shopping as
well. He hugged me and complained how boring life was now
that he wasn't on the ship anymore. Imagine the fun that these
interport students have. They come on board, sleep in the
students' cabins, visit classrooms to educate the kids on
what to expect in India and make a huge number of friends
in the process. What a great opportunity and a fabulous way
for the students to receive peer-to-peer information.
To celebrate my birthday I took Winnie and Shanti for brunch
at the Taj Connemarra, next door to Spenser Plaza and one
of the nicest hotels in town. We had a lovely time -- especially
because Deb (life long learner leader), Rich (the ship's conduct
officer) and Mike (the assistant librarian) were at the next
table and celebrated with us.
We sailed from Chennai that night. I was ready to leave the
chaos behind but I do feel that I know India just a wee bit
better now. I think the kids felt that way, too. India really
affected them. They saw the poverty and also the beauty. They
were proud of the fact that they had 'survived' (in a good
way) many of the obstacles one must learn to cope with in
this country. I was happy that they all returned from their
adventures safe, relatively healthy, and on time. Phew!
Meet Winnie and her
Shopping with Winnie
New pashmina from Kashmir
Lunch at the Taj Connemarra
India was dirty. Students
had a lot of laundry.
End of Week