Saturday, August 30, 2008

#333 Summer is over

Our summer at sea is all over now but the stories.

The MV Explorer docked safely in Norfolk 75 days after sailing from New York City. The fall voyage soon departed without us on board and we are back home again in Charlottesville. After sailing twice on a Semester at Sea voyage, we can't help but think about the similarities and differences of the two voyages.

On our summer 2008 voyage, we...
- Enjoyed calm seas. Library books did not have to be tied down once.
- Visited 6 new countries
- Norway, Russia, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Greece.
- Revisited 2 familiar ports - Dubrovnik and Alexandria.
- Changed our route for security reasons.
- Said “Well the last time we were in Dubrovnik, we found this great little restaurant right on the sea...” instead of saying “I have no idea.”
- Crossed the wide Atlantic without Kelly, my human map.
- Docked in our home state instead of half way across the country.
- Returned home wondering if Virginia has a "Back home again in Indiana" kind of song.
- Visited 2 museums, both called The Hermitage, a world apart...

The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Hermitage Museum in Norfolk, VA

Despite all the differences in our two voyages, much remained the same. As on the fall 2006 voyage, we were...
- Blessed with responsible and fun student library assistants.
- Delighted to get to know our adopted students.
- Impressed by faculty and staff.
- Amazed by the accommodating and hard-working ship's crew.
- Focused on Dr. Seuss who advises, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Yours in smiling,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

#332 Carrying on at sea

Even though Kelly is on land, we continue to carry on his kite-flying tradition here at sea.

Summer and Aree, now avid kite flyers, are shown here preparing to launch some of the kites Kelly purchased in Alexandria for the exorbitant price of 50 cents each.
While Summer proudly flies her kite, Aree is despondent over her kite's inability to stay aloft, while Melissa, Amy, and Michelle stand amazed.
To commemorate the event, the ship's videographer interviews the kite flyers.
Yours in carrying on,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

#331 Kelly is on land

Back in Halifax in June, Croatia in August seemed so far away. Then boom! It's August and we're in Croatia. The plan all along was for me to fly home from Croatia to prepare for the fall semester.

The Aer Lingus flight from Dubrovnik to Dublin took me over some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe.
And after an unexpected extended layover in Ireland, I am home 32 hours after leaving the ship.

Yours in Charlottesville,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

#330 Beautiful Dubrovnik

The Old City of Dubrovnik is beautiful. There's no wonder it's been on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 1979.

Old City of Dubvronik taken at sunrise from the MV Explorer on arrival.
  Old port at the Old City of Dubrovnik taken at sunset just before dinner.
Yours in enjoying the beauty of our final port before sailing for home,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

#329 Tendering in Croatia

Huge cruise ships clog the Dubrovnik harbor in August.  In fact, locals are advised to avoid the historic walled city during the middle of the day when up to 12,000 tourists arrive via cruise ship. Most ships stay only a few hours before sailing on for the next port.
For Semester At Sea, this means there's no space at the dock to tie up for our three-day Dubrovnik stay. So we've anchored within sight of the city and we use the MV Explorer's life boats to 'tender' to the dock.
Every 30 minutes our ship's crew bring these bobbing orange boats alongside the MV Explorer to a temporary dock suspended from the ship's superstructure. With a helping hand, we're whisked away for a 20-minute ride to Dubrovnik.
Yours in appreciating the tender distinction between Semester at Sea and tourist cruises,

Thursday, August 07, 2008

#328 August in Greece

When most of the locals head out of Athens for the August vacation season, we head in. That's good because we dealt with small crowds and light traffic in this destination city otherwise known for its traffic snarls and tourist throngs.

So we enjoyed quiet time with the Antikythera Mechanism, a 100 BC computing marvel that's attracted much attention and is housed in Athens at the National Archealogical Museum.
And the summer heat kept the crowds down at the Acropolis where we saw the Parthenon in restoration surrounded by scaffolding and cranes.
The magnificent natural landscape surrounding Delphi took our breath away.
As did the climb past the temple up, up, up to the 6500-seat athletic stadium, the site of the ancient Pythian games where Greek athletes competed every four years.
Back in Athens we dined on gyros in relative tranquility in the historic Plaka district just below the Acropolis.
The August temperatures kept the crowds away and we kept finding things we like about Greece.

Yours in the heat,

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

#327 Mamma Mia!

Seeing Mamma Mia! in Greece may have been the best movie-going experience ever, due to...
Preparation. We practiced saying 'Mamma Mia' in Italy, so we were ready.  
Leading men. Colin Firth plays one of the Dads.  
Setting. The movie (and us) are set (or sitting) in Greece!  
Music. Abba's classic songs Waterloo, Dancing Queen, and Winner Takes it All are fabulous.  
Theater experience. We watched the movie in a 'gold class' theater on a HUGE screen from comfy recliners while munching scrumptious Greek appetizers.
The best movie-going experience ever? I think so!

Yours in singing loudly along,

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

#326 Hadrian's Library

Another day, another library. We're in Greece now, docked in Piraeus, and historic Athens is just a quick train ride away. Once there, we made our way to the Library of Hadrian, built of limestone and marble by the Roman emperor in the 2nd century.
Some of the rock still exists, but I couldn't find a scrap of paper or even one of those ultra-short pencils librarians like to provide.

The Library is located on the north side of the Acropolis, near the Roman Agora. So scholars there would have enjoyed this good view.
Yours in imagining what is lost,

Monday, August 04, 2008

#325 A day at an Egyptian zoo

So our friend Aree compares zoos. Having worked in one, she's on the lookout for the good and bad in others. And she's chosen that topic for a Semester At Sea research paper comparing three zoos along our route. So when she asked who wanted to visit the Alexandria zoo, I raised my hand thinking it would be fun to tag along and learn something from a pro.

The Alexandria zoo is an entertainment destination for local families. 
They walk to the zoo and picnic, kick soccer balls along the sidwalks, enjoy the outdoors, and feed the animals. Yup, for less than 1 US dollar a keeper will assist you with feeding raw meat to a lion or dropping sugar cane stalks into the trunk of an elephant.
The exhibits ranged from basic cages to elaborate outdoor runs. But everywhere you look, the place shows its age. It's not up to the standards we'd expect in the states, and the feeding practices we saw were not designed with the best interests of the animals in mind.
Aree came away with lots to write about. Thanks to Aree, I learned to distinguish Indian and African elephants along the way. But I came away wondering if the locals and the animals would be better served by a zoo focused on education rather than entertainment. The easy answer is yes, but the reality of allocating limited resources in Alexandria might mean an alternative of no easily accessible zoo at all.

Yours in scratching the surface of the complex zoo question,

P.S. See Mary's thoughts on Alexandria's great library on the UVA public affairs blog.
P.P.S. Can you have a P.S. on a blog?