Thursday, April 28, 2011

#511 Like a Sea Salt

Back home again in Virginia! 

We're thankful for so many things on the spring voyage. 

Traveling with the 65 lifelong learners (aka Sea Salts) was a big highlight.  Our friends Theresa and Paul and 63 other adventurous adult passengers were wonderfully engaged with the community - taking classes, serving as shipboard parents and grandparents, proctoring exams, playing ping pong on Deck 7, hosting parties for us in the faculty lounge, competing in Sea Olympics, and making videos...  

And here's the official SAS slideshow...

Yours in wanting to be like a Sea Salt,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#510 America the Beautiful

Home again.

This morning, we awoke to Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful and docked in San Diego after our 104-day voyage around the world.

America IS beautiful and we're happy to be home again.

After final exams, we've celebrated at the Alumni Ball, laughed at the amazing Sea Salts video, partied with the faculty and staff, cheered the graduation of 30 seniors (including a GIS student!), and hugged every one of our adopted family, our 21 work-study students, and so many other hug-worthy shipmates.    

We are so very lucky to have been a part of the SAS 2011 spring voyage and we are so very lucky to be home again in America the Beautiful.

Yours in celebration,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#509 Touring the Bridge

Three voyages, three bridge tours.  Now we're starting to look beyond the captain's chair.

When it's your turn to parallel park the MV Explorer, this diagram is handy.

When the Captain dispatches you to the Tank Top deck, here's your map.

No bridge is complete without an artistic touch.

And no bridge tour is complete without a savvy guide.  Thanks MV Explorer Third Officer Jean from Panama.
Yours in seeing the bridge with new eyes,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#508 Hilo's Japanese Garden

What a way to spend the last afternoon of the last day in our last port! 

We visited Hilo's fantastic Liliuokalani Japanese Garden.

This sprawling thirty-acre city park makes most of the gardens we've already visited on this trip seem like postage stamps. 

Liliuokalani's central pond is a tidal pool alive with exotropical fish and guarded by a massive Banyan tree. 

Maybe we saved one of the best places for last.
Yours in enjoying Japanese gardens everywhere,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#507 Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Dreams can come true. We’re in Hawai’i!

Of course, the weather is a little wet. We’re in Hilo, after all, the rainiest city in the US.

But what does that matter if you’re off the ship for the first time in 11 days and you’re setting off with good friends to visit a US National Park?

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is filled with all kinds of cool things like calderas…

And the rainforest…

And Hapuu tree ferns...

And lava tubes...

And the Holei Sea Arch...

 And a lava rock wall...

And the Pu’u Loa petroglyphs...

It’s true we didn’t see any molten lava, but then again, we’re kind of glad we didn’t.

Yours in appreciating all the positives of a volcano-covered island,

Monday, April 18, 2011

#506 Land Ho

After 11 days at sea, we dock in Honolulu to refuel.

Alas, the forward end of the ship is as close as we can get to the island of Oahu.

Yours in Hawaii dreaming,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#505 Happy Earth Week

John Muir in the New World is a new 90-minute documentary film that premieres on Monday, the 18th,on PBS' American Masters series.

We were lucky enough to have a sneak preview of this film on board the MV Explorer with Peter Evans, a lifelong learner and one of the film's executive producers.  He provided some background on how the project came together and led a discussion after the showing.

This new documentary focuses on Muir's contributions to the US environmental movement, but late in life Muir fulfilled his dream of traveling to the Amazon and to Africa.   As we sailed up the River Amazon, I enjoyed John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa.
Yours in bookending our trip with Muir,

Friday, April 15, 2011

#504 Shipboard family

How lucky are we! On board this beautiful ship, we often enjoy the company of our beautiful extended family – usually under a beautiful sunset.

Sammi, Jarett, Ison, and Amy are 4 students from all over the world who enjoy the shipboard pizza as much as we do. We gather regularly on Deck 7 for pizza and for an opportunity to discuss ship life, academic life, in-port life, and well, life.
Yours in appreciating our luck, our family, and all the benefits of sailing with Semester at Sea,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#503 National Library Week

Happy National Library Week!

In library celebration, I’ll share some news about physical improvements that have been made to the shipboard library this semester.

Two large SUPER magnets were removed from under the library counter. These magnets had been in place since the library desk served as a bar counter in the ship’s casino. These magnets are so strong that if you walk near the desk with keys in your pocket, your pants pocket will be pulled toward the desk. And our cabin keys would often be desensitized. So the crew cut a rectangular hole underneath the counter and removed the magnets. We’re thrilled.

Two large unused map cases were removed from the wall next to the window.

The space is now a very sought-after work space in the library.  
When you spend half your day trying to un-jam the printer, it’s time for a new one.  See how nice our new printer looks sitting between the two library computers?  Since the printer is bolted to the table and the table is bolted to the floor, removing paper jams in the rear compartment sometimes meant crawling underneath the table to come up behind the printer.

And we posted a Library of Congress classification poster on library shelving to assist students in finding library materials. The big orange magnets are compliments of IKEA.

Yours in celebrating libraries in our corner of the world, the MV Explorer library,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#502 Reading on the MV Explorer

Today is our second April 12 on the MV Explorer and the post for this bonus day is about reading.

With bonus time, I like to read.  There are lots of ways (libraries, book shops, web sites) to get just the right book into your hands no matter where you are.  Here is a list of some recent reading:

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
HOW: Purchased this paperback at Charlottesville’s Barnes & Noble before setting sail.
WHY: To prepare to lead a shipboard discussion group.
Greg Mortenson tells the story of his attempts to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Gone Tomorrow by P F Kluge
HOW: Borrowed this novel from UVA library before setting sail.
WHY: To prepare for sailing with the author.
George Canaris, a novelist, has been teaching at a small Ohio college for 30 years while everyone waits for his next great novel.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
HOW: Purchased from Amazon and downloaded to my Kindle.
WHY: To set the mood while sailing up the great River Amazon.
Backed by tons of archival research, this book documents Roosevelt’s attempt to explore Brazil’s River of Doubt from its source.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
HOW: Downloaded this free book to my Kindle.
WHY: To read a seafaring tale while at sea.
The full title of this boys’ adventure story is Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: How he was Kidnapped and Cast away; his Sufferings in a Desert Isle; his Journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he Suffered at the hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called: Written by Himself and now set forth by Robert Louis Stevenson. The title says it all.

Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers by J. H. Hubback
HOW: Downloaded this free book to my Kindle.
WHY: To learn something about Jane and connect it to this voyage.
The inclusion of sailors in Jane’s novels Mansfield Park and Persuasion came from the inspiration of her two brothers Charles and Frank who served many years in the Navy.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
HOW: Purchased this novel at a Cape Town book shop.
WHY: To read an African story while in Africa.
Angel Tungaraza is a specialty cake baker from Tanzania with many skills besides baking. She reminds me of Mma Precious Ramotswe. I await Parkin’s 2nd novel.

The African Queen by C.S. Forester
HOW: Borrowed this adventure story from the shipboard library.
WHY: To read an African story while in Africa.
Just like in the Katharine Hepburn movie, Rose and Charlie Allnutt fall in love as they travel down the Ulanga River in German Central Africa on The African Queen headed toward Lake Wittelsbach and their goal to torpedo the Louisa.

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
HOW: Borrowed this novel from the shipboard library.
WHY: To read an Indian novel while in India.
Despite all odds, a British teacher and an Indian doctor become friends in British-occupied Chandrapore. And despite a false accusation and numerous misunderstandings, the two remain friends though arguing their politics to the end.

Bala Takes the Plunge by Melvin Durai
HOW: Purchased this paperback at Higginbotham’s book shop in Chennai.
WHY: To read an Indian novel while in India.
In this short, funny, Indian novel, Bala dreams of making Tamil films and directing his favorite Bollywood actor -- a dream that leads him, naturally, to study engineering in college and move to the US.

Piggies on the Railway by Smita Jain
HOW: Purchased this paperback at Higginbotham’s book shop in Chennai.
WHY: To read an Indian novel while in India.
Set in Bombay, this murder mystery is a fun read with lots of references to India places and Bollywood actors.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
HOW: Purchased at the Kinokuniya book shop in Singapore (maybe the greatest book store in the world).
WHY: I can't pass up the opportunity to find out what's happening with Mma Ramotswe - especially since it is not yet even available at home.  
Mma Ramotswe solves some mysteries and participates in the happy wedding of her assistant Mma Grace Makutsi.

Lonely Planet Taiwan.
HOW: Purchased this travel guide from Amazon and downloaded to my Kindle.
WHY: As a result of our in-transit decision to visit Taiwan instead of Japan, we need quick access to Taiwan travel info.
There is much more to Taiwan than visiting the world's second tallest building.

The Luck of the Bodkins by P G Wodehouse
HOW: Purchased this paperback at Higginbotham’s book shop in Chennai.
WHY: To enjoy the comic genius of Wodehouse writing about a cruise ship crossing the ocean while crossing the ocean.
“This is Wodehouse afloat – a voyage of pure delight.” - from the book cover.

Yours in connecting travel with reading,  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#501 The Deans' Memo

The primary avenue for shipboard communication on the MV Explorer is the Deans’ Memo, distributed daily while at sea to all passenger e-mail accounts. It includes all the announcements, events of the day, film showings, reminders to take malaria medicine, the Rumor Ranger, and an Alumni Spotlight including this recent gem: 

Alumni Spotlight: Kelly and Mary Johnston are sailing on their third voyage together. “It’s really all about the students. Working in the library and computer lab gives us a unique chance to get to know students well. So now we’re convinced our world will be more tolerant, more inclusive, greener, and more peaceful. Our optimistic outlook is just one more benefit of being SAS alums.”
Yours in enjoying the glass-half-full view of the world,

Monday, April 11, 2011

#500 A Galley tour

With an 11-day crossing between Taiwan and Hawaii, we have some time to tell you a little about shipboard life.  First, the food.

We've never had a tour of the MV Explorer galley, so we leap at the offer from hotel director John Naggs to get a behind-the-scenes look at where our food comes from. 

We enter the galley through the doors from the deck 5 dining hall.  And then immediately we ride down the escalator to the galley on deck 4.  Who knew we had an escalator on board?

The galley is immaculate.  It is easy to see that the crew takes health and safety seriously.  There's a reason they've scored 100/100 the last 4 times inspected by United States Public Health.

Everyone knows what a good cook I am, so I volunteer to make the soup for today.

We learn from John:
  • The crew bakes all the breads. 
  • Though more expensive, the cooking oil used is later turned into fuel.
  • Since the installation of the new coffee makers on this voyage, we've used 3-4 times more coffee than past voyages.
  • Food waste is the only shipboard waste that goes straight into the sea.
  • As for equipment repairs, the advantage of a shipboard kitchen is that the engineers are on site.  The disadvantage is that it's tough to get spare parts.  
  • The crew spends about $400,000 at the beginning of the voyage to purchase food and supplements that with fruits and vegetables along the way.
Yours in appreciating those who work so hard to keep me out of the kitchen,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

#499 The Top of Keelung

Keelung, Taiwan harbor sits surrounded by lush green hills.  Stairways take you to the top.

Yes, the first set of stairs is intimidating.
But there's a nice reward at the landing.
More stairs...
and more rewards.
But we're not done yet. 

Inside the Guanyin statue we find five more flights of stairs with a tiny porthole view at the top.

From the surrounding park, we take in a sweet Keelung harbor view.
Yours in finding our way to the top,

Saturday, April 09, 2011

#498 Taiwan's National Palace Museum

Taiwan's National Palace Museum holds many ancient Chinese artifacts.  Collections from the 10th century forward were sent for safekeeping from the Palace Museum in Beijing to Taipei in 1948 with Communist control of the mainland imminent.
With so many amazing artifacts in the collection, we are surprised to learn that the 2 most prized possessions include the Jadeite Cabbage, a piece of Jadeite carved to look like cabbage, and the meat-shaped stone, cut to look like a piece of pork cooked in soy sauce.  Sure enough, the exhibit room for these two celebrity pieces is packed with museum visitors.

We admire this food art for a suitable length of time, then head down to a much more fascinating exhibit: The Tibetan Dragon Sutra: the Great Treasury of Buddhist Scriptures in the National Palace Museum.  Handwritten in gold ink on cobalt-blue stationery, these manuscripts from the 17th century are stunning.

These impressive manuscripts put us in a library frame of mind.  So we end our visit at the National Palace Museum library building.
Yours in saving the best for last,

Friday, April 08, 2011

#497 Taipei Day of Fun

One of the world's best museums of Chinese art, The National Palace Museum, lured us to Taipei, just a short bus ride from our port in Keelung, Taiwan. We'll post more about our museum visit soon, but just to ease your minds, yes, we saw the famous meat-shaped stone.
After the museum, Mary and I made a day of it in Taipei.  Long walks took us through city parks like Shuangxi that looked like postcards. 
The excellent subway system whisked us to the National Central Library .
The librarians have this OK view across the street toward the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.
We wrapped up our Taipei Day of Fun with a stroll through the lush Taipei botanic garden.
Yours in doing our best to find all the best places,

Thursday, April 07, 2011

#496 Ishigaki-Shima

"On the way" from Shanghai, China to Keelung, Taiwan, we anchor for a few hours at Ishigaki-Shima, Japan. 

From what we can see from the ship, Ishigaki is a lovely island. 

Japan greeted us by sending out the Japan Coast Guard to say hello.

And we greeted Japan by flying her flag.

For more on our brief stop, see Theresa's blog post: We could see Japan from our back deck.

We're sending all our good wishes to Japan while sailing on to Keelung,

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

#495 Shanghai highlights

We've enjoyed our time in China and end our time with even more fun events.

The Urban Planning Museum in Shanghai seems like the right place to go to help us answer the question, "where and how are all these Chinese people going to live?"

So we walk over to the People's Square to check it out.  The centerpiece of the museum is a massive 1:500 scale model of the city of Shanghai showing existing and approved buildings.  This model is enormous.  It covers about 6,500 square feet of floor space.  

It reminds us of the models of the French cities in the Musee des Plans-Reliefs.

And, finally, the Seagull Restaurant dinner with Dan and Barb - incredible views of the Bund and the Pudong, good food (all those dumplings and yummy rice) and great conversation.

Yours in wishing for more time,