Monday, January 29, 2007

#102 Books and maps - together at last

Books and maps. I wonder why we didn’t think of it.

Of course, they go together - like peanut butter and jelly, like love and marriage, like horse and carriage, like the Colts and the Super Bowl, and yes, like a geographer and a librarian. Leave it to Google to bring them together.

Here’s what they’ve done so far. Let’s say, you use Google’s book search service to find a book and you come across Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before. On the ‘About this book’ page, Google’s map shows all the locations of Captain Cook’s voyage that are mentioned in the book.
Now that’s handy. And if you, like Captain Cook, are planning a big trip, you could use this handy book/map combination for your research. Thanks to the geographers in my life for pointing out this fun feature. To read more about it, see this post on the Google BookSearch blog.

Yours in appreciating all good combinations,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

#101 Oh The Places We Went

The February issue of Urban Times just hit my doorstep.

What? You don’t get Urban Times: The Downtown Lowdown on Indy’s Historic Neighborhoods where you live? For all you folks outside the Urban Times delivery area, here’s what you’d find on page 34...

Yours in review,

Oh The Places We Went By Mary Johnston It all started in 2003 when Lockerbie resident Dick Fredland returned from his voyage on the floating university called Semester at Sea (S@S) and said, “Mary, there’s a library on that ship.” I couldn’t get to the post office fast enough to submit my librarian application. Three years later my phone rang. Spending 100 days visiting ten ports around the world was just too much of an opportunity to pass up. So, I left my job at the Indiana State Library to serve as one of two librarians on the fall 2006 voyage around the globe.

Our ship, the MV Explorer, served as classroom, student union, athletic facilities, and dormitories for 550 students representing universities from all over the US – including 7 students from Indiana University. The 50 faculty and staff were from all over the world – including 1 from Indiana: me!
0188f Explorer
To earn University of Virginia (UVa) credit, students attended classes held while the ship was at sea (roughly 50 days) and field programs while in each port (roughly 50 days.) Lucky for me, the library schedule matched the class schedule – open while at sea and closed while in port – allowing my husband Kelly and me the opportunity to explore Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Egypt, Turkey, Croatia and Spain. Did I mention that I was being paid for this?

I had the best job on the ship – the assistant librarian. Erika Day, a UVa librarian, and I managed the 10,000-volume shipboard library, providing reference service for faculty, students and staff. Since the management of the S@S program recently moved from the University of Pittsburgh to UVa, Erika and I tackled a big project to support that transition in the library. In addition to the constant circulation and reference responsibilities, we inventoried the collection and labeled every item with a UVa barcode. Because of our project, future S@S faculty will know what resources are available in the ship’s library through the online UVa catalog before they set foot on the ship.

Kelly loved his experience and claims he had the best job on the ship – attending class, meeting fascinating people, watching out for pirates, competing on the Sea’Lympics volleyball team, helping out in the library, and adopting 6 daughters. (Be sure to ask him about that last one the next time you run into him in the aisle at O’Malia’s!)

We worked hard every day at sea and we traveled hard every day in port. In each country, I tracked down a local public library, navigated the library catalog, and hunted for a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go. Even though this book has been translated into a dozen languages, I wasn’t very successful. And in some countries, I wasn’t even successful in finding a public library!

Kelly and I have traveled all over the US – visiting all 50 states together – but this was our first time for any significant international travel and we welcomed it all. Whether it was sad, poverty-filled, and disease-ridden or whether it was inspirational, illuminating, and welcoming, it all came together to form an experience we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. I still wonder at my good fortune that allowed for all events to come together for us to have this experience.

Not only do I have Dick to thank, but it was another Indianapolis resident who came up with the idea for an academic voyage in the first place. None other than James O. Woodruff, designer of Woodruff Place, made the first attempt to take a group of college students around the world by ship for the purpose of study and scientific investigation. Even though the Woodruff voyage planned for 1877 never took place, the concept was born and the 92nd sailing of Semester at Sea traveled from San Diego the long way around to Fort Lauderdale with Kelly and me on board.
0748f Js on the bridge
During the voyage, we documented our experiences on our travel web site. With photos and stories, we tried to describe our adventures for the folks back home and for ourselves. You’ll find a complete list of our favorites on the web site, but here are a few samples.
  • Favorite purchased memento: watch from Hong Kong night market
  • Favorite gift memento: (tie) homemade bracelet from a faculty member and a sound recording of one of our library assistants
  • Best weather moment: escaping from typhoon Shanshan on the MV Explorer, the fastest passenger ship in the world
  • Best quote from Kelly: I don’t like being separated from you when there’s a lifeboat situation.

We returned home in mid-December with an appreciation for all that we have and an appreciation for those local folks who made it possible for us to go. Thanks to Dick Fredland, to James Woodruff, and to our Lockerbie neighbors for looking after our place while we were away. We couldn’t have done it without any of you.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

#100 Cracking open the bottle

It’s spooky how intuitive librarians are. Back in August, we asked our librarian friends how they predicted our lives would change as a result of our travels. They recorded their ideas on how we might be changed – spurred by personal experiences, quotes about traveling, lines from a poem, hallucinations, wild guesses – then carefully tied each into a neat scroll and stuffed it into a long-necked bottle. The secret messages in the bottle stayed sealed in that bottle - until last night!
6501f party prep

At our welcome home party last night, we “cracked” open the bottle and found inside this poem…
Mary and Kelly set sail ‘round the world
To see cities and cultures spread before them unfurled.
To teach and to learn was on their agenda
And they established a blog with their news to a-send-a.
We cheered them goodbye to all their exotic locales
And will delight in four months when they return to their pals.

And we found these predictions…
  • the top three locations you visited are: 1) Spain, 2) Croatia, 3) Myanmar. Then again, this is just what we call a wild-assed guess!
  • you will both come back teachers of the highest order
  • pizza never tasted as good as it does at Bazbeaux.
  • you will find a Pacific island and go there to live thereafter. (Perhaps Johnston Atoll?)
  • you will have gained a greater appreciation for clutter and chaos and may even consider incorporating it into your life now!
  • you will never have the same opinion about CNN “world” news nor will you think of CNN as a news company.
  • you will appreciate an entire floor per person and an extra one after your trip. you will find ways to volunteer globally.
  • you will continue to appreciate pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes.
  • Life is really about relationships – about loving others. You had an amazing 4-month experience. The new lives that are intermingled with yours, the new places you’ve seen, the new cultures you’ve experienced, and all the knowledge you’ve gained is with you and in you. The magic of life is that you don’t know how it will affect you, but you can be assured that it will manifest itself in a thousand ways.
  • the sheet music grant will still be going and I will still have a slot open for Mary to be my accompanist.

6507f party music

And these quotes…
  • “Of all the unbearable nuisances, the ignoramus that has traveled is the worst.” - Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard
  • “Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” – Francis Bacon (And for those of us in our prime, it’s a part of both!)
  • “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
  • “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
  • “It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage.” – Henry Ward Beecher
  • “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss

6516f M and hosts

Thanks so much for welcoming us home with gusto and for looking into our future. We appreciate you all for your questions and for your enthusiastic interest in our experiences, for your cooking and knowing our favorite kinds of pie, for your sense of humor and laughing along with us, and for loving us just the way we are. And, as you can see, Kelly is still appreciating that pumpkin pie on Sunday morning.

6518f K on Sunday morning

Yours in hoping to live up to your predictions,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

#99 What to do?

We’re often asked about the logistics of being away from home for our 4-month Semester At Sea. How’d you pay the bills? What about your mail? What about your e-mail? First, here's a list of things we didn’t need to do:
  • We have no children, no pets, and no plants that need attention in our absence. 
  • We have no exterior maintenance issues since our townhome association takes care of all that. 
  • We have our passports. 
  • Our bills are all automatically deducted. 

And now, here’s our month-by-month to-do list after the Semester at Sea offer came through on May 25, 2006 to prepare for embarking on August 23, 2006.
  • Apply for a leave of absence. 
  • Decide what Kelly’s shipboard responsibilities might be. 

  • Seek advice from those who have gone before. 
  • Apply for travel visas. 
  • Make travel plans from Indy to San Diego and from Fort Lauderdale to Indy - planning to circle the globe without leaving the surface of the earth. 
  • Find property management company to handle rental properties. 
  • Decide what to do with our townhome: rent or leave it empty. 

  • Build a trip website that we can update throughout voyage.
  • Investigate forwarding any cell phone messages to e-mail since we would have internet service but no cell phone service on the ship. (We found that retrieves voice messages and delivers them directly to your e-mail inbox - for free!) 
  • Prepare laptop, buy voltage converter, plug adapters, and external hard drive for backups. 
  • Upload contacts to online address book. 

  • Arrange finances – enough liquidity for 4 months of travel. 
  • Plan for any bills not automatically handled, such as fall property tax payment. 
  • Apply for a backup credit card and notify credit card companies of international travel. 
  • Obtain $50 foreign currency for each country we’ll visit.

0075f cash

  • Arrange health insurance and traveler’s health insurance. 
  • Get physical exams and protect ourselves with immunizations against hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, and malaria. 
  • Buy prescription medicine in advance. 
  • Stock up on seasick medication, bug repellant. 

  • Build mail slot so that mail can collect at home rather than at post office. 
  • Ask friends to check on townhome and mail. 
  • Obtain absentee ballots for fall elections. 
  • Cancel cable, internet service, and newspaper subscriptions. 
  • Step down as townhome board president. 
  • Research ports of call, sign up for Semester at Sea field programs, and research library addresses in each port. 
  • Buy Indiana gifts for shipboard community and for local hosts. 
  • Practice pack. 
  • Attend all bon voyage parties! 

It’s overwhelming when I look back on it now, but we were committed to do something totally life-changing – totally for ourselves. And doing all the preparation this time will make it just that much easier when we decide we want to do it all over again!

Yours in preparing for the next opportunity,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

#98 US Campaign for Burma

I keep thinking about Burma. Of the 10 countries we visited, Burma is the one that I think about the most.
2022f Child at Maymyo market
Experiences in Burma affected many of us. Despite US sanctions that discourage the economy, the locals were quite friendly and welcomed many students into their homes for some “people-to-people diplomacy.” Burma is run by a military dictatorship.

Working to bring about an end to this junta is the US Campaign for Burma, a U.S.-based membership organization dedicated to empowering grassroots activists around the world. The campaign’s web site at details their efforts and provides ideas for how we can all get involved. Today, the campaign's web site carried the news that the US introduced a revised draft resolution in the UN Security Council urging Myanmar's (Burma's) rulers to initiate democratic reforms, release all political prisoners, and stop using rape as a weapon of war.

Semester at Sea voyagers care a lot about Burma. Many students and staff took advantage of the rare opportunity to visit Burma during the fall voyage, were moved to improve conditions there, and are working now to do just that. A web site created by SAS alumni will be available in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Yours in thinking about Burma,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

#97 Visit from Sarah

Our shipboard daughter Sarah has written her account of the Semester at Sea experience for her hometown newspaper. Be sure to check it out here at the Quincy Herald-Whig.
6406f Js with Sarah
Sarah stopped by last week for a visit. It was fun having our two worlds collide – our Indy real-life world and our Semester-at-Sea extra-real-life world. And I gotta admit, I enjoy introducing our daughter to friends!

Sarah, thanks again for stopping by to see us. And don’t forget – work hard, wear your seat belt, and visit your folks often!

Yours in parenthood,