Sunday, December 22, 2013

#620 The Newest Usonian

Frank Lloyd Wright died 54 years ago, yet his work is still being built.

Florida Southern College is the site of the most Wright structures ever built for a single client.  For several years, the college has been working on a new Usonian house according to Wright's original plan.  So when it opened in 2013 of course we visited.
Wright designed this Usonian home as faculty housing in 1939, but the plan went unbuilt. The house has three bedrooms and one bath and is constructed of almost 2000 hand-made textile blocks with thousands more gleaming colored-glass inserts. 
This new structure adjoins the main campus where Wright connected his buildings with covered walkways to protect students from the elements while mimicking the regular spacing of the citrus trees covering the original site.

The Wright buildings are all still in use putting it at the top of Forbes' list of most beautiful college campuses...

  ...and proudly displayed in the school's promotional materials.

The campus boasts Wright's only theater in the round...
 ...and Wright's only planetarium...
 ...and Wright's only water dome. 

Of course our favorite building was Wright's circular library.

Kudos to Florida Southern College for their stewardship and promotion of architectural wonders

Yours in Wright appreciation,

Monday, December 16, 2013

#619 Snowflakes and Semester at Sea

No two snowflakes and no two Semester at Sea voyages are alike. 

Here are some of the new things that happened on Fall 2013 that have not happened to us before.
  • Heard the announcement "Captain Morgan to reception" (code for a pirate attack drill)
  • Participated in an indoor lifeboat drill.
  • Participated in a combination crew and passenger safety drill.
  • Competed in balloon smash during the Sea Olympics.
  • Served on King Neptune's Court.
  • Added an extra port.  We've had an itinerary change on every voyage, but we've never just added an extra stop.
  • Weeded a photocopier.
  • Contributed our Halloween costumes to the shipboard auction.  Our astronaut flight suits raised $300 for the SAS scholarship fund.
  • Topped out with 11 study days.  These are on-ship days with no classes. We've never had so many.
  • Lucked out with amazingly mild temperatures and smooth seas throughout.  No jackets required.  No meclizine required.
  • Freed a whale.  While in Cape Town, the ship's crew were instrumental in helping to save a one-year-old humpback whale which became wedged between the dock and the MV Explorer.
  • Participated in a ship-wide event in port.  Our first day in Cuba, 17 buses transported all faculty, staff, and students to the University of Havana.
  • Not asked to complete an end-of-voyage evaluation.
  • Assisted the ship's photographer with kitecam, aerial photography of the ship from a kite.
  • Given an original painting of the shipboard library.  It's going up at Chez Johnston!
  • Took an all-Virginia photo.

Yours in loving the uniqueness of our Fall 2013 50th anniversary voyage,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#618 Cars in Cuba

The classic 1950s American cars are everywhere in Cuba.

The US embargo against Cuba that began in 1960 essentially stopped the flow of Yank Tanks onto the island as well as the flow of replacement parts. The Cubans are experts in repairing these old cars in creative ways.

Our ship is docked in Old Havana where Bryan Koop, our voyage photographer, snaps this photo on our last day.
Yours in  enjoying the color of Havana,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

#617 Hemingway in Cuba

Ernest Hemingway spent much of his life in Cuba.

It was here in 1951 that he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea, about a fisherman who worked the waters near Havana.  It seems fitting to close our journey by remembering the author who wrote "Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

On our Hemingway day, we travel with our favorite history professor and Hemingway look-alike to visit the author's haunts.

We visit the fishing village of Cojimar, his room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, the Floridita bar (the cradle of the daiquiri), and his long-time home Finca Vigia.

Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm) was built on the top of a hill and Hemingway's fourth wife Mary Welsh built a workshop tower with a commanding view of the area. 

Hemingway's 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar, is also on display at Finca Vigia.
Yours in remembering Hemingway,

Friday, December 13, 2013

#616 Baseball in Cuba

Just like in the US, baseball in Cuba is fun.

And as in the US and the Dominican Republic, baseball is the national sport of Cuba.

Our group of 400 baseball fans travels west of Havana for an hour to reach the stadium in Artemisa, the capital of the neighboring province.

The Havana Industriales take on the Artemisa team on this hot December afternoon and we're all grateful for the stadium design that puts the fans in the shade and the players in the sun!  We sit on concrete bleachers on the third base line, so our 7th-inning stretch happens between every inning.
Baseball has been played in Cuba since the 1860s and these two skilled teams are well matched.  It's a close game.  There aren't many differences between US baseball and Cuban baseball.  Even the distance to the outfield fence is labeled in feet.  Inside the stadium, you can't buy beer, nachos, or Cracker Jacks.  But rumor has it that on this day, stadium vendors sold more hot dogs than ever before. 
The students sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and start a wave that makes it way through the entire stadium.  And after the Industriales bring home the victory, the SAS group is invited down to the field for photos with the players.

Yours in enjoying Cuban baseball,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#615 Welcome to Havana

Finally, we arrive in Havana!  

Due to US government restrictions, Semester at Sea has not been able to call on Cuba since 2004. The timing of our visit coincides with the handshake between US President Obama and Cuban President Castro in South Africa and we feel we are a part of something special.

It's the first time Kelly and I have ever participated in an all-ship event in port: 17 buses with a police escort carry all faculty, staff, and students to the University of Havana en masse.  
We walk up the 88-step escalinata (staircase) to the beautiful University of Havana campus. 
We are warmly welcomed by the U of Havana faculty and students.
Our students are interviewed by the press and we find ourselves in the news (NBC NewsLatin American Herald Tribune, Daily Progress).
Our ~600  students break up into 3 conferences and we opt to attend US-Cuban Relations Before and Beyond the Cold War, led by Paul Rodriguez, Center for Hemispheric and US Studies, University of Havana.
We end our time at the University of Havana with a student cultural show of song and dance followed by a dance party in the warm sunny afternoon.
Yours in enjoying the warmth and magic of Havana,

Saturday, December 07, 2013

#614 Souls on the MV Explorer

“We have ten souls on board,” a sailor might say when asking for assistance from a passing ship.  Ten souls.  Not ten people.  Not ten passengers.  Not ten customers.  Ten souls. …  To see another as a soul was to acknowledge the magnificent, epic course that life is for each of us, and to experience sympathy for the other in his or her negotiation of that course.  It was quite different from seeing others simply as people.  The word soul had a big job to do, and it was the only word that could do it.  - Alexander McCall Smith, Sunshine on Scotland Street

Yours in love and appreciation of all souls on board the MV Explorer,

Thursday, December 05, 2013

#613 Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Salvador da Bahia is Brazil's capital of happiness due to many outdoor parties and street carnivals.

But it also was the Portuguese empire's first capital in Brazil.  The Pelourinho district, now protected as a UNESCO world heritage site, showcases Baroque architecture built during Portugal's golden age.

The historic district (upper town) and the lower town have been connected by an elevator since 1873.

Yours in exploring Salvador,