Wednesday, October 30, 2013

#600 Kirstenbosch - most beautiful garden in the world

After the excitement of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s visit, we now return to our regularly scheduled blogging. 

When last we visited Kirstenbosch in 2011, we proclaimed it to be the most beautiful garden in Africa.  We must have been short-sighted.  It is certainly the most beautiful garden in all the world. 

On a sparkling spring day in Cape Town, we dock early, clear immigration, and walk straight to the Pick-n-Pay at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront that we remember from our previous visit.  With picnic ingredients stuffed in our backpack, we hop on the hop-on-hop-off bus (the blue route), savor the front row seats on the upper deck, and make our way around to the opposite side of Table Mountain to the Kirstenbosch National BotanicalGarden.

The 89-acre garden within a 1300-acre nature preserve enjoys a striking setting against Table Mountain full of birds of paradise, orange pincushions, and the king proteas.  Four hours of strolling are not enough.  Magnificent!

Yours in enjoying the majesty of Kirstenbosch,

#599 Archbishop Desmond Tutu revisits the MV Explorer

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Semester at Sea are a natural match.

We are so fortunate, so blessed on our last day in Cape Town to hear the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Archbishop speak and share his thoughts on Ubuntu and the value of young people. 

None of us is an accident. There's no one else like you. 
You have come to a country [South Africa] which today is free and it has been in large measure because of the success of the anti-Apartheid movement in which young people played a very signal role changing the moral climate in your country.
You are dreamers.  You're idealistic.
God sees Syria, Palestine, Somalia, Nairobi, 9/11.  It can't be nice to be God because these are all His children.  God weeps. Then God looks and sees Semester at Sea.  And God looks and sees you at the orphanage in Ghana.  A smile breaks over God's face like sunshine in the rain.  God says, I have no one except you and you and you to help me make this the kind of world it can be.  A compassionate world.  A caring world.  A world where no one dies from starvation.  No one dies because they cannot afford an inexpensive inoculation.  God says, I depend on you and you and you.  Help me to make this world the beautiful world it can be.  Please help me.

Yours in appreciating the idealistic dreamers of all ages on board the MV Explorer,

#598 Hugging the African Coast

We keep an eye on the wave heights map when traveling on the MV Explorer.  On this map, dark blue is good.  Any other color is bad.

Heading south from Ghana to Cape Town, a small patch of green appears on the wave heights map off the Namibian coast, our first clue that rough seas are ahead. 
So Captain Kingston alters our route drastically closer to shore to avoid the higher waves and to stop in Walvis Bay, Namibia for refueling.

We hug the coast all the way to Cape Town where we arrive safely without crossing the rough seas that require tying the library books to the shelves as we've seen on previous voyages.  
Yours in smooth sailing,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

#597 Semester at Sea - back into the future?

I'm still thinking about Semester at Sea's first 50 years and wondering what they might do in the next 50.

This terrific article, Celebrating 50 Years of Education at Sea, included the spring 1972 itinerary with a stop in Australia.  Now wouldn't that be fun?  Maybe add New Zealand too?  
The most recent Semester at Sea voyage that visited Australia and New Zealand was summer 2003 during an itinerary which included Vancouver, Sitka, Kodiak, Petropavlovsk, Osaka, Brisbane, Auckland, Suva, Honolulu, and Seattle.  Let's do that again!
Yours in looking back into the future,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#596 Pollywogs to Emerald Shellbacks

Crossing the Equator at the Prime Meridian is a special day for all - not just for map nerds.

For more on the ceremony of crossing the line, see Line-Crossing Ceremony.  On board the MV Explorer, we assemble a special court that includes King Neptune, Queen Minerva, and the cutest Master of Arms you ever did see.

Pollywogs (those who have never crossed the Equator) are initiated and become Emerald Shellbacks after completing just a few simple tasks.
'fish guts' dowsing
Fish kissing
Head shaving
Yours in enjoying nautical traditions,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#595 Happy Founders Day

Happy Founders Day, Semester at Sea!

I'm so glad Semester at Sea first set sail on voyage #1 in October 1963 and again on voyages #91, #96, #104, and #114!
Summer 2008

Spring 2011

Fall 2013
SAS has changed a lot of lives in 50 years, including mine!

Yours in SAS celebration,

#594 Ghana maps

To better understand Winneba, Ghana, we need maps.  Ideally we would find locally produced geographic datasets showing roads, streams, and elevation contours along with point locations for important sites like schools, clinics, and drinking water sources.   

But in conversations with Winneba government officials on the first day of our visit, we learn the creation of local scale GIS datasets has not yet happened.  So we use a printed Google Map with minimal landmarks to orient ourselves as we tour Winneba.

On our second day, our colleague Benjamin Akuetteh with the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services at the University of Ghana, Legon, works the phone and finds a lead at the Ghana Survey Office in Accra, Ghana's capital. 
Ghana Survey Office
A series of meetings there lead us to a private office where amid stacks of paper maps, those very detailed Winneba GIS datasets we seek appear on the screen!  Cue big smiles all around.

Although these geographic datasets are created by the government, they are not freely distributed.  
Since we are not prepared for a large data purchase on the spot we make some notes, snap a photo, and opt temporarily for a less-detailed paper map from the analog “Map Sales Office”.

Yours in map sleuthing,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

#593 Ghana Geography

A Ghana highlight was my visit to the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services at the University of Ghana, Legon.  Mr. Benjamin Akuetteh is Principal Applications Specialist at CERGIS and he introduced me to the staff and their work.
When I saw the sign over Benji's desk, I knew we were kindred spirits.
Benji and I share some of the same GIS books.

And Benji's spent time with GIS celebrity Jack Dangermond, founder of ESRI, the world's largest Geographic Information Systems company.

The previous day during meetings in Winneba we were disappointed to learn no GIS datasets had ever been created for that town.  But Benji was about to lead us on a hunt to see if his combination of GIS savvy and professional connections could uncover a previously unknown source for that elusive digital information.

Yours in setting up a GIS cliffhanger,

Monday, October 21, 2013

#592 Sisters - Charlottesville and Winneba

Charlottesville, Virginia and Winneba, Ghana are sister cities.
So when our Fall 2013 voyage of Semester at Sea docks in Ghana, we welcome a Winneba contingent to visit the MV Explorer, then we all travel to Winneba for an overnight stay.

In Winneba, we meet with local leaders to help lay the groundwork for future visits by Semester At Sea students through the UVA School of Architecture Resilient Communities project.  We visit local schools, see the site where a new public library is planned as part of the sister cities project, and walk the beach lined with colorful fishing boats. 
Yours in getting to know our new sister,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#591 Ghana librarians

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times.  Libraries and librarians are the best.

Our friend Cynthia was out of town on leave from the University of Education - Winneba during our 2-day visit.  But she traveled to Winneba to greet us and show us her library.

And we showed her that UVA misses her.

Yours in continuing the Ghana librarian exchange,

Monday, October 14, 2013

#590 A Disconnected Day

Here on the MV Explorer, our connection to the world is by satellite.

When the satellite fails, we rely on technology with a centuries-long track record of success.
Yours in appreciating reliability,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

#589 Making room for what's important

Weeding a photocopier from the library means more space for map viewing.

Yours in making room for what's important,

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

#588 The Canary Islands

So close and yet...

Our first stop since leaving Morocco is the beautiful city of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory.  With their climate and beaches, the Canaries are a major tourist destination.

Alas, this is a bunkering stop for us and we are restricted to the ship for our 5-hour refueling.

Yours in enjoying the view,

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

#587 The Last Voyage of the Last Cruise Ship built in Great Britian

Semester At Sea is prime time for ship spotting.   Along our Fall 2013 route, we've crossed paths repeatedly with distinctive old-school cruise ships painted with mustard yellow funnels. They catch our eye.

In Casablanca, the MV Explorer docks next to a yellow-funneled gem, the Saga Ruby.
The Saga Ruby in Casablanca
We watch with envy as her passengers circumnavigate her open decks, walking and soaking up the Moroccan sun.  Inside, they are apparently enjoying the library decorated in purples and reds.

She's vintage 1973 and the last cruise ship built in Great Britain.  This December, the Saga Ruby makes what may be her final voyage sailing from our first port, Southampton.
"There's something special about Saga Ruby. Perhaps it's her classic lines and elegant profile, or the fact that she's the last cruise ship to have been built in Britain. But I think it's simply that she epitomises the magic and romance of a bygone age of cruising". Captain Angove.

Yours in catching a glimpse of a true classic,

Monday, October 07, 2013

#586 Happy 75th birthday to Alderman Library

On this special diamond anniversary, I want to salute Mr. Alderman and the many fine folks who work in his namesake library.  He would be so proud.  The Semester at Sea library could not excel without the attention of so many Alderman denizens.    

Thank you to...
...the content management services staff for acquiring, cataloging, and marking all the SAS material. 
...the interlibrary services staff for providing all the electronic readings.
...OLE for exporting the MARC records from VIRGO.
...the financial services staff for financial and shipping support.
...the subject librarians for your solid recommendations.
...the communications team for special design projects.
...all who work on public desks and forward SAS questions to me.   
...all library administrators for recognizing the value of a semester at sea.
...all who help cover for librarians and GIS specialists at sea.
...all the SAS voyage librarians for giving so much of yourselves before, during, and after your voyage.

Thank you all and happy birthday!

Yours in appreciative anniversary applause,

Sunday, October 06, 2013

#585 Marrakesh Express

On another gorgeous Moroccan day, we travel about 150 miles south and inland from Casablanca to Marrakesh.  We travel by bus, not by train, but that does not keep us from trying to remember the words to the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic Marrakesh Express.
Wouldn't you know we're riding on the Marrakesh Express
They're taking me to Marrakesh
All aboard the train, all aboard the train

Marrakesh, the Red City, is known for its ubiquitous terra cotta-colored buildings.  Highlights of the day include the uniform terra-cotta-ness, the Majorelle Garden, the souks, and the Jemaa el-Fnaa square.

The Majorelle Garden is a botanical garden filled with Kelly's favorite things: bamboo and ferns.  It was designed by a French artist and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent.

We wander the winding pathways of the souks, or traditional Berber open-air markets, with a small group of students looking for just the right Moroccan gift for families back home.
And we end our search with a glass of leafy green Moroccan tea at the the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square filled with cobra charmers, gymnasts, and persistent hawkers. When we return home, we will watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much - with scenes of this square.

We leave magical Marrakesh at sunset, heading back toward our MV Explorer home and contemplating life. 

Yours in repeating CSN's words "looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes,"