Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcome Home

Yesterday, the Fall 2009 Voyage officially came to a close. The students said their final farewells to friends and mentors, and unloaded literally tons of luggage and souvenirs off the ship. Above is a short video taken from disembarkment. It can also be found on the Semester at Sea website here.

The Spring 2010 voyage of Semester at Sea will begin January 17. To find out more about the upcoming voyage, or to apply to SAS, please visit the official website.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cool Class: Documentary Film Pt. 2

This is another very interesting documentary film done by one of the Semester at Sea students. All of the films were created with the guidance of Paul Wagner. To check out some of his films, go to the SAS Youtube channel here.

Diversity Scholars: Final Projects

The entire semester, the Diversity Scholars have been working on projects all semester about various aspects of diversity that intrigued them. Using the world as their laboratory, each one of these students developed a thesis, and supported it, not only through the scholarly research required in most undergraduate studies, but also with real-life interactions and experiences. The projects use a variety of media including video, text, pictures and performance.
Two students have agreed to share their projects, not only with the rest of the shipboard community, but also the extended community of those that read the blog. The first project below was submitted by Jennifer Carcamo, who is also one of the official student bloggers. Her project combined text and pictures, and a short excerpt from her introduction has been included below. The second project is a wonderful video about how the voyage is enhanced by the presence of the Life Long Learners. It was created by Terrance Smith.

Minorities of the World: Chronicles of a Youth’s Perspective

My goal upon embarking on this voyage through Semester at Sea was to learn as much as possible and to interpret what I learned so that eventually I could share my experience with everyone back home. When I get home I want my cousins, my siblings, my friends, my family, and my community to feel as if they were on this voyage seeing, hearing, and experiencing everything with me. I am committed to my family and community back home enough to want to make this trip as much theirs as it is mine.

Needless to say, what I did not expect to change on this trip was my motives for wanting to tell my family about the world. Initially, it was because I wanted them to be aware and conscious about what is going on in the world. This is now only partially my motive for wanting to share my experience. In the process of trying to understand the world, I actually got to know the people from the communities we visited and came to the awkward realization that my commitment to my community no longer extended to just my family. Rather, my community now encompassed every individual I had ever met on this journey plus their community. This implies that my commitment now extends to the populations of Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Vietnam, China, and Japan.

What I wanted was insight into the world, and what I got was a new found commitment to the world at large that I did not foresee as a part of my journey. What I internalized turned out to be so much greater than I had expected. I am a minority back home (and in the world) and I have made it my obligation as such to make sure that I represent not just my family, but everyone who also lacks representation around the world—because that is what diversity means: tolerance and representation of and for other peoples.

The stories I wish to share are those stories depicting the lives of our world’s young people who, as I have come to realize, make up the most “disadvantaged” group in each country. The world’s youth is left with the responsibility of providing for our world’s future and, in this time of rapid change, nothing is really secure. The way young people perceive themselves in this world varies per country from negative to positive, yet overall our generation continues to move forward with hope instead of wringing its hands in resignation. This hopeful inclination is more important than ever as my generation readies itself to lead a world that is changing faster than we can comprehend.
--Jennifer Carcamo, Fall 2009

Waves of Wisdom

To find out more about all of this semester's Diversity Scholars or to learn more about applying for the scholarship, click here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hula Workshop!!

Hawaii is a special port for several reasons. It is the first time the students have set foot on American soil in at least three months. It is also a warm and sunny port after several ports of chilly winter weather (everyone remembers the snow in Japan!), which was quite a treat for the entire community. While there might be the temptation to find one of the many sandy beaches and camp out for a few day, the SASers were sure to explore this port as thoroughly as all of the others. They visited the Arizona battleship, snorkeled, skydived, ascended Mauna Kea and explored the observatory. They also learned to hula!
A small group set out on the short trip from the ship to the studio in Wakiki, where a hula instructor, Germaine, gave them a brief overview of hula, and then taught them a short dance complete when some basic hula movements.
The first thing the group learned is that there are two types of hula: traditional and modern. Traditional, or Hula kahiko, is performed to chanting with percussion instruments to keep time. This form of hula is more rigid and has a distinctly spiritual feel to it. The modern form is called hula auana, and it is a more relaxed dance accompanied by guitars, ukuleles and singing. The dance the group learned was performed to a Hawaiian Christmas carol that had a slow enough tempo for everyone to keep up.
All of the students on the trip commented on how hula is more difficult than it appears to be. In hula, there is an emphasis on fluidity and grace, so even when the dancers are moving very quickly their easy smiles and light hands create the impression of ease. The group soon found out that hula is hard work! The entire dance must performed while in a semi-squat (making it a good workout). Also, the best hula dancers focus on perfecting even the most minute details of their performance, from maintaining a bright smile to moving your hands correctly. "You'll work your entire life on your 'hula hands,'" Germaine told the group. The hand movements tell a story, so it's no surprise that the end of the class was spent trying to mimic the motions precisely.
The final lesson of the day was the "Aloha" welcome. This is a series of hula movements meant to welcome guests and make them feel at home. It was the perfect way to wrap up the lesson. Afterwards, the group had enough time to sneak down to the beach to watch the sunset. Nani!

Cool Class: Documentary Film Pt. 1

One of the most popular classes on the ship is the Documentary Film class, which is taught by the ship's videographer and Academy Award winner Paul Wagner. The students must turn in three short films throughout the semester, and they recently shared their latest films with the shipboard community. Below is the latest work from Marcus Jamison, a sophomore from Stanford University. The film is called Kobe Homestay, and it discusses a SAS experience that has become very important to him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Celebrate Service

Service and Semester at Sea go hand-in-hand. For the historic 100th voyage, SAS focused on the $100 Solution. This service-learning project was headed up by Dr. Bernie Strenecky along with the help of Dr. Bridget LeLoup. They led a group of students in a series of service projects that sought to create noticeable change with $100. In Ghana, $100 bought and installed ceiling fans in an elementary school. In Vietnam, the money bought bunk beds for a children's orphanage.All total, the Fall 2009 voyage devoted 6,320 hours of service. According to UN calculations, the students contributed $316,000 in service.
"This is going to be the ship that carries hope," Strenecky said. "When the ship shows up, people with get excited. They'll say, 'This ship carries people who care.'"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Itinerary Change Clarification

The Fall 2009 voyage has been remarkably smooth, but recently some small changes were made to the remaining itinerary to ensure the safety of everyone participating in this wonderful journey. On the original schedule, the MV Explorer was to leave Hilo on Dec. 7, and spend six days at sea before arriving in San Diego on the 14th. However, due to expected storms in the waters near the ship's original path, the captain, ISE and the deans came to the decision to avoid the storm all together by returning to Honolulu for an additional day before returning. This way the ship and its passengers were not in any danger, and remain safe during finals prep. Right now, all of the students are back on board safe a "gift day" in Honolulu. While the ship is not expected to leave the port in Honolulu before noon on Dec. 9, the students will not be let off the ship due to the first day of final exams. The delay in leaving Hawaii is not expected to affect the ship's arrival date or time into San Diego. Please follow the Fall 2009 voyage on Twitter and Facebook for additional updates.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Featured Explore Seminar: Discussion on Diversity

It is rare to see a forum on race and diversity as open and honest as the one that took place recently on the ship. A group of 30-40 students, staff and Life-Long Learners were led by Professor Nancy Hurrelbrinck in what was scheduled to be a one-hour discussion.
Professor Hurrelbrinck said that instead of debating about whether or not racism still exists or another equally complicated and volatile subject, she just wanted to provide a safe space for students to ask questions and learn more about people with backgrounds different from their own. The group tackled a number of difficult subjects, including why diversity is important, why cultural differences exist and how they enrich society and why it is necessary for people to check the assumptions they make about others based on their race, religion, gender and/or sexual orientation. Many of the students shared personal experiences from home and SAS. Many talked about how being in a diverse community like SAS has helped make them more open to different perspectives, and visiting so many countries has made them more aware of the world outside of their home country.
The discussion on how the voyage has affected many of the students' outlook on diversity was, perhaps, one of the most interesting subjects that the group pursued. Some students opened up about how it felt to be in the minority in most of the countries the ship visited. They also talked about what it was like trying to navigate a country in which they did not speak the native language. Some of their experiences were frustrating and difficult, but they learned from these as much as the ones that filled them with awe or warmed their hearts.
The dialogue was carried with a level of respect befitting the intellectual environment that has been carefully cultivated on board. People managed their disagreements with maturity, and by the end of the discussion no one seemed afraid to offer their opinion or ask a question.
The dialogue was so productive, it had to be moved to an empty classroom after the 60 minutes set aside for Explorer Seminars elapsed. The new room, an offshoot from the smaller dining room on the ship's sixth deck, had standing room only as the conversation continued for an additional hour. What was most encouraging to the faculty and staff present was that when the forum was officially dismissed, many of the students continued their discussions in smaller, informal groups.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Going once... going twice... sold!

One of the traditions that happens every voyage on Semester at Sea is the auction to benefit the Annual Fund endowment. The endowment is used mainly to provide students with financial assistance through scholarships, but it is also used to support student clubs, class projects, field experiences and other things that make each voyage complete. Items are donated, and then bid on by the entire shipboard community. Since this is the 100th Voyage, the goal is 100 percent participation, whether it comes through bidding or a small donation. Also, a large number of community members were donors; over 124 people donated things to be auctioned.
Despite the fact that the Fall 2009 has roughly 200 less students than most other voyages, the results of the auction, which was split into silent and live portions, were very impressive. The silent auction, which offered everything from candy baskets to homestays in Colorado, raised $12,006. The live auction, which offer 25 different items, raised $21,515 for the endowment. Below is a list of some of the items auctioned, and their final price. It really shows the generosity of this community, both in donated these wonderful items, and in bidding on them. To make a donation, please go to semesteratsea.org/give.

  • Dress up as the Captain of the MV Explorer: $50
  • Paris 6 night Homestay: $1900
  • Two tickets to the Kentucky Derby, and Weekend Homestay: $725
  • Dr. Dave's Bedtime Stories: $175
  • Duke University Basketball Package: $900

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Preparing for LIFE after SAS

For some students, being on the voyage of a lifetime sailing and learning around the world, it can be easy to forget about the responsibilities waiting for them when they get back home. For some of the older students, this may include making sure they’ve fulfilled all of the necessary graduation requirements and job hunting. For the younger students, it might be landing that first internship. Regardless, students are offered a plethora of resources on the ship to make sure none of those important things fall between the cracks.
This week there have been a series of career service events, which included everything from resume and cover letter workshops to help with applying for graduate school. Mario Rodriguez, the LLC in charge of career services, has been providing many of these events all throughout the voyage. He also meets with students one-on-one to revise their resumes, research and apply for jobs and internships, and provide practical advice on life after SAS.
The Fall 2009 voyage also provides a Mock Interview Program, which consists of a round of questions from a “potential employer.” This role is filled by a variety of willing faculty and staff members, so students will get used to different interviewing styles. After the interview, students receive an in-depth critique of their performance, and they can participate as many times as they like.
The newest addition to the SAS career services arsenal, however, is the C.S.I. (Career Services Initiative) Newsletter. This two-page, weekly newsletter contains information about all of the upcoming events students might be interested in, as well as articles with many helpful tips. The latest issue contained an article about the most common reasons recruiters toss resumes, and how to avoid them.
Top things to avoid include, being informal when sending a cover letter and resume through email, overusing keywords, including too much personal information and sending a resume with fancy extras.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Farewell Japan!

Below is a video from the night the MV  Explorer set sail for Hawaii from Kobe, Japan. In honor of Semester at Sea's departure, as well as the upcoming Christmas holidays, a band played a short concert of well-known Christmas carols from the dock. Students gathered on every deck waving at the people who came to see the ship off, and snapping pictures. Towards the end of the performance, and before the ship completely exited the port, it began snowing. It was an enchanting ending to an enchanting evening, particularly for some of our students from warmer climates. A few chatted excitedly about it being the first time they had ever seen snow. It was an endearing sight; one or two reached out just enough to catch a bit on the tip of their tongues.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tokyo Tour with YCU students

For some students, the morning of the second day in Yokohama brought along the exciting prospect-- touring Tokyo, the capital of Japan and one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world, with the most qualified group possible: Japanese students. Yokohama City University and Semester at Sea have developed a relationship in the hopes that students from both YCU and SAS will be able to learn from each other and foster friendships during a variety of activities. Since several of the YCU students were from Tokyo, the group was guaranteed to see some of the best sites the city had to offer.
Before even reaching Tokyo the group encountered its first new experience: using Japanese public transportation! Because Yokohama is only a 30-minute ride to Tokyo on the metro, students were treated to a crash course in navigating the Tokyo Metro system. Maria Rodriguez, who lives in New York City, exclaimed that, "[the Tokyo Metro] makes so much more sense than the subway," at the end of the day.
Once the group reached Tokyo, they had a traditional Japanese lunch, before heading to Shibuya, one of the major shopping districts in the city. The SAS students were amazed at size of the malls, and they were very enthusiastic about exploring the newest Tokyo fashions. They were also able to cross the biggest crosswalk in the world.
The YCU students next took the group to a Japanese arcade, where the group spent some time playing games and trying to win prizes. Then the entire group crowded into a large photo booth and took pictures to commemorate the day.
One of the other major highlights of the trip was the visit to the Meiji Shinto Shrine, which was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Students followed the tradition of purifying themselves by washing their hands and mouths before entering the shrine. Once inside, the students could able to make a wish by tossing a coin into a hole separating the visitors from the center of the shrine. Before leaving, each student was able to pick out a fortune scroll, which contained short poems of wisdom written by Empress Shoken.
After visiting the shrine, all of the students spent some time in the park outside of the shrine watching a group of Japanese students preparing for a fashion show. Even though the tour was over, the YCU students escorted smaller groups of students to their next destinations, whether it was Akihabara, an area known for having the latest in anime and video games, or the Tokyo Tower, the largest self-supporting, steel tower in the world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hangzhou Overnight Trip

After arriving in Shanghai, a small group left the ship by bus to Hangzhou, China. The city, which is the capital of Zhejiang province, is a two-hour drive from Shanghai, and is well known for its natural beauty and deep cultural roots. Along with being the cultural center of the province, it is also the economic and political center of the region, as a city that fuses the traditional and modern perfectly.
The group spent two days in Hangzhou, an important tourist destination for the country, exploring some of the city’s most popular sites. It was rainy, and a bit chilly throughout the group’s stay; fortunately, umbrellas and warm gloves helped to stave off the cold. Also, viewing each stop along the journey through the fine haze of rain cast the entire trip in a mystical and mysterious light.
Below is a slideshow from the trip. Pictures come from the West Lake, the Six Harmonies Pagoda, the Ling Yin Temple and the Dragon Well Tea Growing Farm. The students also visited a silk factory and shared several traditional meals with their hosts from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hong Kong City Orientation

The first day in Hong Kong, a large group of students took a tour of the city. The tour, which was partially conducted on buses, and then ended with a walking tour, lasted most of the day and included many of the most popular Hong Kong sites. The highlights of this city orientation included Cat Street, the Man Mo Temple, and Aberdeen.
Cat Street, which is also called Upper and Lower Lascar Row, used to be called Thieves' Market. The old name was used during a time when it was frequented by people selling stolen merchandise. Today, the street is lined with new buildings the market is probably the largest collection of Chinese antiques for sale anywhere outside of mainland China.
The Man Mo Temple is reputed as one of the oldest and most visited temples in Hong Kong. It is located on Hollywood Road, making it very close to the Cat Street Market. It was first built in 1848, shortly after the British took over Hong Kong. Several times since it was originally erected, it has been rebuilt.
The temple, whose name means “civil” and “military,” was dedicated to two gods, Man Cheong (the god of literature) and Kwan Yu (the god of war). When the students visited, the saw many fortune-teller booths near the temple. Instead of peering into a crystal ball, the fortune-tellers shake a bamboo tube. Inside the tube are fortune sticks that are marked with a number. The fortune is determined based on the stick that falls out first.
One of the last major stops in the orientation was the town of Aberdeen. Located on a southern tip of Hong Kong, Aberdeen is the largest satellite town in the area. With a population of roughly 60,000, the town morphed from a haven for pirates into a small fishing town. Recently, the town has become more modern, and has transformed yet again, this time into a waterfront resort frequented by people from metropolitan Hong Kong.

This is the view from Victoria's Peak (another stop on the city orientation) at night. From here, all of Hong Kong can be seen. The area is also known for it's attractions and restaurants, but it is the view that made it famous.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Great Divine Temple for Cao Dai in Vietnam

One of the Vietnam excursions that students are particularly fond of is the treck to the Cao Dai Great Divine Temple located near the Cambodian border. The religion was founded in 1926 in southern Vietnam. It has roughly six million follows many of whom worship in temples, which a spread along the Mekong Delta. Caodaism is a mixture of three other Eastern religions: Buddhism, Confucionism and Taoism. The Cao Dai banner pays homage to these three foundational religions. Concepts from each religion, such as vegetarianism, yin and yang and reincarcation, have been appropriated. The interior of the temple also shows some of these influences; for example, situated around the temple are 28 dragon-shaped columns, which represent the manifestations of the Buddha.
Services at the temple are held several times each day. Students attended the noon services, and observed from the balcony. A group of musicians and singers led the congregation in a 45-minute prayer session. The  music is Vietnamese, but hymns sound a bit like Christian spirituals rather than traditional Buddhist or Taoist chanting.
Below is a clip taken from the balcony of the temple during the beginning procession of the noon service. Women and lay people are dressed in white, while men of rank within the church hierarchy wear solid colored robes of red, blue or yellow.

Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels

Approximately 70km outside of Ho Chi Minh City are the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground web of tunnels utilized during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were a base for the region's military committee, and were used to house and transport soldiers. Several SAS trips toured the Ben Duoc Tunnel Complex, a 200km stretch of tunnels that survived American bombing and was nationally recognized as a historic relic December 15, 2004.

This is one of many entrances to the tunnels. The openings were kept covered and hidden, and small groups were assign to each one. The soldiers only knew where their entrance was, so if captured they were not very useful to the Americans. This one has been slightly enlarged. One of the guides demonstrated how to get in and out of the hole.

A couple of students also tried getting down the entrance. Because Vietnamese people are generally much smaller than Americans, it was near impossible for American soldiers to follow down a hole, even if they located one.

Many traps like this one were set up around the area. Originally dug out to trap tigers, spikes were added during the conflict. Between 10-15 percent of American casualties were attributed to traps like this one.

The groups were also shown a reconstruction of a weapons workshop. The Vietnamese people would take old weapons and shells, and create land mines and grenades to use during fighting.

The American base in the area was set up a mere 5km from the tunnels. For two years after it was built, the Air Force was unable to bomb the area because they would bomb the base in the process. After many failed attempts to conquer the tunnel dwellers, orders to abandon the base and bomb the tunnels were issued. This crater was formed by one of the bombs, which caused the collapse of many tunnels.

This entrance has been enlarged enough for tourists to enter. Following a guide, the students crawled 300 feet through the tunnels. This area was enlarged by 40 percent, but the students still had no space to turn around and had to crawl the whole way. They found it hard to believe that people traversed this way for years in tunnels that were much smaller, but had fun scurrying through the short passageway.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

For Parents!!!

The Fall 2009 Voyage has passed its midpoint, and many parents are already making arrangements to get to San Diego to welcome their sons and daughters home. You can find all of the helpful information you need concerning travel arrangements, arrival time, disembarkment schedule and welcome reception here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cultural Preport: Vietnam

Yesterday evening the entire shipboard community gathered together in the Union for cultural preport. Preport meetings are a vital part of preparing everyone before we enter a new country. For most of the students, Vietnam is a country they have never visited before. The cultural preport gives everybody vital information that is designed to help ease their transition into a new culture. Aside from basic country information, these meetings discuss differences in culture that students may not be aware of, but are an important part of ensuring acceptance by the native people they encounter in each country. The other half of the preparation takes place the following day in logistical preport, and focuses on providing information that will help students stay safe and make the most out of their stay in a country. Information covered will include everything from where the closest post office is located to how to get in touch with the Dean on duty in case of an emergency.
The July 2009 estimate of Vietnam's population was 86,967,524. Unlike many of the other ports on this trip, there is no core religion that ties the country together. In fact, in the last census, over 80 percent of Vietnam's citizens responded that they did not have a religion. There are, however, significant cultural influences that govern the way people behave, and how they interact with one another. For example, the family is extremely important in Vietnamese culture. As a result, it is quite typical for people to live with their parents even after they marry. There is also a very strong sense of respect for elders, and students were advised how to greet older people and even how to give them money when shopping (with both hands cupped) to avoid unintentional signs of disrespect.
One of the other important issues that was discussed was the government. Vietnam is a communist country, whose constitution was enacted April 15, 1992. Although it may be difficult to see the differences in a country caused by government type during a stay as short as ours, the students were encouraged nevertheless to be observant while in port.
The students favorite part of every cultural preport is when they start talking about food. In Vietnam, some of the specialties include Com (rice), Gio Lua (lean pork pie), Cha Ca (grilled minced fish), and Banh Tom (crispy shrimp pastry). They were even given recommendations of places with the tastiest food! To keep everyone safe and healthy, they are advised to only eat cooked food.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from everyone aboard the MV Explorer! This evening was an eventful one for the community. While many of the students wore their costumes all day, after dinner everyone was completely decked out in festive attire. Some students were clad in traditional garb from some of the countries the ship stopped in earlier on, while others used a little creativity to design some amazing costumes from scratch. They weren't the only ones getting in on the fun; many of the faculty and staff also dressed up, and the small children on board put on their Halloween costumes and Trick or Treated around the ship. Later on there was a Halloween party and costume contest. Before the contest began, a few of students had quite a surprise in store for everyone, and danced Micheal Jackson's "Thriller" in front of a enthusiastic crowd of zombies, movie stars and action figures. Luckily, the whole performance was captured, and is embedded below.

The Crew Talent Show

Last night, the entire shipboard community was treated to what has become one of the most popular events to take place during a Semester at Sea voyage. The crew talent show is a unique opportunity to showcase a portion of our community that is vital, and yet often overlooked. The crew, who direct, run and maintain the MV Explorer, work around the clock ensure that all of the faculty, staff and students reach each port happy, healthy and safe. And there job is not easy; the ship is a a 24,000-ton, state-of-the-art passenger ship, and essentially a self-contained, floating community. Most of the crew have been sailing with Semester at Sea for years, and truly love the unique experience of working in an academic environment, rather than a luxury cruise. They are as diverse as they are experienced, coming from 23 different countries.
To top it all off, they are very talented. The crowd that packed out the sixth deck Union was treated to a variety of acts, including juggling, singing, dancing and even a couple of comedy routines. Below is one of the acts, and below it the finale, which had plenty of audience participation by the end.

Sea Olympics!!

Above is an extended slideshow from the Sea Olympics on board the ship. The Sea Olympics takes place on every voyage during one of the rare no class days at sea. It is a day long event, which involves a wide variety of competitions. The contests range from wheel-barrel races to syncronized swimming to banner making. The students, who are divided into "Seas" based on their room number, competed against each other and the faculty/staff. Each Sea was awarded points based for each event they placed in, and the winners were announced at the end of the day, which was capped with a BBQ and social. As you can see, it was a long day, with events running from first thing in the morning, and the winners being announced a couple of hours after dinner. The Fall 2009 Sea Olympics winner was the Andaman Sea, which is headed by LLC Danielle Jenkins. Students decked in the Sea color, orange, could be seen celebrating all over the ship until the wee hours of the morning. There were some sleepy faces in Global Studies the next day, but they transitioned back into academic mode with relative ease. Semester at Sea = Balance!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Chennai: The 100th Voyage Celebration

The 100th Voyage Celebration and Youth Leadership Conference, which took place on October 24, the Fall Voyage's second day in India, is one of the most important events that have happened thus far. Semester at Sea students celebrated the 100th voyage as well as United Nations Day, which was themed "Building Bridges of Peace and Understanding Across the Continents." It took place at Ethiraj College for Women, and was coordinated by Dr. Henry Thiagaraj, who has a long history with the SAS program. There were many distinguished political guests present to receive the students including the mayor of Chennai, Ma. Subramanian. While the second half of the celebration contained many speeches from the various guests, including the voyage's own Dean Nick, what stuck out the most in everyone's minds was the traditional and modern dancing performed by local students during the first half of the event. Below are four clips from the day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood

There are many different ways to engage students, and teach them something new. A way that was utilized by LLC Grant Hoover yesterday evening, which did not include watching old reruns of "All In The Family," was a hands-on, interactive activity. This activity is called, "Archie Bunker's Neighborhood" after the main character in the popular 1970's sitcom. Students and staff were split into two groups with the task of planning and building a perfect community. Group 1 named their community Atlantis, while Group 2 named their city Utopia. There were a series of rules that each groups was supposed to follow in order to build their city. In order to "construct" a building, they had to apply for a building permit, and have it approved by the Housing Authority (played brilliantly by Assistant Dean of Students Eddie Diaz). Each group was relegated to the taped of area designated for their town, and to leave the area for their permits, they must be accompanied by the police officer, LLC Bridget Le Loup, and if they broke any rules they would be jailed, during which time they were guarded by jailer and LLC, Ann Hsu. The progress of both groups was marked by periodic "news" updates by the reporter, LLC Danielle Jenkins, and Hoover acted as "Governator," answering any questions the participants may have.
As the students enthusiastically jumped into their city planning project, they quickly realized that there was far more to this activity then they originally believed. The citizens of Utopia first saw this when they tried to obtain permits for a city hall and houses. They were required to have every single document filled out precisely, criticized for bringing in applications in the wrong language, required to pay "processing fees" to get their permits, and still found that they only received a small number of the needed permits.
When Atlantis made its way to the Housing Authority, they were met with a very different situation. They filled out no paper work, but had their entire list of projects immediately approved. They were also given $5 million to fund the construction, After two re-zoning efforts by the police officer and Governator, Atlantis occupied the majority of the space being used for the exercise while Utopia was relegated to a tiny corner that was barely big enough to contain it's inhabitants.
By this time, both groups were noticing how differently the groups were being treated, and how this was affecting their ability to created a successful society. While Atlantis had erected a hospital, school, fire and police departments, church, houses and a park with a pond, Utopia had barely managed to finish their city hall. Utopia's attempts to equalize things was met with strong resistance, and many of their citizens were arrested. All of this was covered by the reporter, whose reports were very biased. One of her most outrageous reports condemned Utopian Tonya Phillips as a terrorist after she attempted to tell her the real story of what was happening to her city. By the end of exercise, the citizens of Utopia were calling for revolution, while the citizens of Atlantis attempted to alleviate their guilt by donating a hospital.


During the discussion that followed the exercise, the students in the Utopia group talked about how quickly feelings of despair and hopelessness crept up on them. Ruth Anne Pfaff, a junior majoring in psychology at UC-Davis, talked about how trying to revolt against the established power wasn't just about fairness, it also helped them not give up. "[Taking about revolution] kept me going," she said.
The students in Atlantis talked about the effects of being favored and seeing the way the other group was treated. They said that they were constantly concerned about doing something that might cause them to lose favor. Even when they gave Utopia a hospital, it was done secretly to avoid the displeasure of the "Governator."
In the end, everyone discussed how situations like this exist in many communities, and how people can be completely unaware of the inequities that are commonplace in their own cities. The group talked about a famous example in Apartheid, but also acknowledged that there are plenty of examples much closer to home. There was a consensus amongst the participants that even after such a short exercise they were more sensitive to inequality, and the social problems that might be prevalent in a community as a result. They agreed that increasing awareness was the first step to eliminating these injustices, and wanted to see Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood offered again before the voyage ends.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Service in Mauritius: Gayasing Ashram Home & Cite La Cure Neighborhood

Mauritius is a small island relatively close to the coast of Madagascar. With a population of rougly 1.2 million people, it is one amongst a cluster of islands known for their gorgeous beaches, and as a result, is a popular tourist destination. But Semester at Sea is not a cruise vacation, and while students always have fun, it is balanced with invaluable learning experiences. On the second day in Port Louis, a small group of students went on a service visit that included stops at the Gayasing Ashram Home and the Cite La Cure Neighborhood.
Before the students were taken to their first service stop, they were given a brief introduction to Mauritius' history though a stop at the sacred tomb of Father Laval. He came to the island as a missionary in 1840, but also taught the people how to care for the sick using established routines that prevent infection and the spread of disease. He also helped the progress of educating the Creole children of the island. Creole are Mauritians of African descent.
Once the group left the tomb, they were taken to the Gayasing Ashram Home, where they were given a tour of the facilities, and had the opportunity to interact with some of the patients and staff members. The home serves elderly men and women, mainly focusing on those who are developmentally disabled. The students saw the lands the home was built on, which are quite extensive, and include separate quarters for the men and women, a clinic, and a dining hall. They met some of the male patients, who were spending the morning outside because it was a warm day, before taking a tour of the female quarters. One of the most interesting parts of the visit for many in the group was when they had a chance to talk to two local university students that were doing internships at the home for physical therapy. They got a chance to ask them about working with the patients and going to school in Mauritius, as well as sharing some of their experiences from their home institutions and SAS.
After leaving the Gayasing Ashram Home, the group went to the Cite La Cure Neighborhood where they spent a few hours with the children in the DLD Teen Hope Project. The project is designed to help young students who otherwise might drop out of school get a quality education. These students are considered at-risk, based on their socio-economic background, family instability and other factors. All of the children spoke French, and a little English and were learning French grammar when the group arrived. After the SAS students were given a short tour of the school, which consisted of two classrooms and an art & crafts room, they sat down with the students to chat. Eventually, the children showed the students how to dance to Sega music, which is the traditional music of the island. The entire group agreed that this was the highlight of their day, even if the beats sounded complicated at times. The children were very open and encouraging, and everyone had a good time whether they were learning or teaching. When it was time to leave, many of the SAS students made promises to keep in touch with the school, before climbing back onto the bus, and taking the 10 minute ride back to the ship.
Be on the look out for a short video of the children and students dancing to Sega, which will be posted soon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Featured Explorer Seminar: The Ugly American

The following is a live blog of an Explorer Seminar aboard the ship, which took place yesterday evening. The seminar is apart of a series, and take place before each port. This forum was moderated by a student, Erin Cheatun. She is a senior from Western Washington University who majors in Biological anthropology.

8:00 pm: Cheatun is explaining what the the ugly American is to people who have never attended the seminar. It is a stereotype that many people from other countries have about Americans not being culturally aware, loud and demanding.

8:06 pm: She explains that some people are so embarrassed that they distance themselves when traveling abroad to avoid negative assumptions. She gave an example of friends who say they’re Canadian when traveling abroad.

8:13 LLC Danielle Jenkins is commenting on why people might act like “ugly” Americans when traveling abroad. She said it may have something to do with the fact that generally Americans don’t travel internationally as often as citizens of other countries. She said that lack of experience, and never having been outside of their own borders makes them more susceptible to being insensitive. She said she has seen it a lot during her travels, and is now very cautious of who she travels with.

8:20 One student is giving an example of “ugliness” that she witnessed. A student interrupted a Muslim taking part in the evening prayers in Morocco during Ramadan. She says she thinks another factor is self-centeredness.
8:33 Another factor that feeds the stereotype is unintentional offense. In certain countries there are cultural norms and customs that people may not be aware of, and offend out of that ignorance.

8:39 pm: Cheatun is now talking strategy. One way to remind yourself to avoid “ugliness” is called the String theory. Tying a simple string around your wrist serves as a reminder to wearer to be culturally aware, and lets others know that it’s okay to remind them of their commitment if they forget. Cheatun brought string for the seminar participants.

8:42 pm: Verbal Judo is a series of techniques to avoid confrontation. Controlling your responses and remaining calm when others would expect anger, throws them off and causes them to lose steam. There is never an appropriate time and return an verbal attack. Remain calm and confident with body language. Be professional and courteous; this will provoke a respectful response. Your goal is to terminate the escalation of confrontation, particularly from verbal to physical. Can be used when interacting with people in different countries as well as other students on the voyage.

8:48 pm: Jenkins is discussing the importance of being mindful of respecting others. She says that a lot of the time it goes beyond respect for cultural differences to just plain common courtesy.

8:51 pm: Cheatun says that the “ugly Americans” are always the minority of tourists, the perception doesn’t always match reality. Realizing this will empower others to stand up in the face of “ugliness” to prevent its occurrence.

8:58 pm: Cheatun is wrapping up the seminar, thanking the participants for coming and talking, and inviting them to join the next one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

National Coming Out Day Aboard the MV Explorer

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day 2009, a day set aside to support and celebrate members of the LGBT community. Semester at Sea remains vigilant about not only meeting students needs in the classroom, but making sure they feel accepted and supported within the Semester at Sea community as well. So in celebration of National Coming Out Day a screening of the movie "Milk" was shown in the Union, along with milk and cookies, with a discussion taking place directly afterwards.

"Milk" is film that hit theater's last year, about Harvey Milk from his 40th birthday until his death. Milk leaves New York City for San Francisco and opens a camera shop, but his life quickly becomes focused on gay activism in the San Fracisco Castro district. He realizes that he can be more effective in getting the issues that face the LGBT community heard as a politician. He uses the gay community's buying power to establish political alliances, and after several failed attempts, is elected to public office is 1977, becoming the first openly gay man to hold a public office in the United States.
After the movie, the students vented about their personal experiences coming out, or having a friend or family member come out to them. They talked about the importance of encouraging people to live their lives openly, but understanding why it is difficult for people to take that step.
They also tackled the subject of religion and homosexuality, saying that it is incorrect to paint religion as an enemy of gay people. By trying to cast varying opinions as “bad” or “good,” people are alienated and a true national discussion concerning gay rights will not be fruitful. The students also took this time to reflect of prejudice and the fear of the unknown that causes it, and how this was illustrated in the movie.
Several students commented on their experiences as members of the LGBT community on a SAS voyage. One student said she grew up in a very liberal town, and she was concerned with how she would be received by students from areas of the country that trend more conservative. She said her experience thus far has been very positive, and she feels, “accepted not tolerated.”
The discussion came to a close on what students can do to aid progress. They suggested making sure they are supportive of people they know who decide to come out, and help provide them with a sense of community. They also discussed challenging their peers about the language they use to help reduce the use of derogatory names and phrases.
SAS Dean of Students Byron Howlett said, “Maybe we can’t get out and speak as loud as Harvey Milk did, but maybe we can whisper, and those whispers will come together as one unified voice.”

Introducing the Fall 2009 Diversity Scholars

Every voyage Semester at Sea offers a number of Diversity Scholarships in an effort make SAS and the global educational opportunity it provides more obtainable for students from diverse economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These students are named Diversity Scholars, a title that carries distinguishment, as well as responsibility. The Fall 2009 voyage has 13 Scholars aboard, each awarded a scholarship in an amount equal to approximately half of the program fee cost. Diversity Abroad joined with SAS to award five of those scholarships (details on applying are at the bottom of this entry).

Fall 2009 Scholars
Jennifer Carcamo
Maria Matamoros Castillo
Louis Lorenzo Chambers
Khamani Fox
Camila Garcia
Nikola Ignjatovic
Marcus Jamison
Tina Le
Lily Pak
Stephanie Ramos
Erica Reyes
Terrance D. Smith
Christine Souffrant

One of the cool things that the Scholars do while at sea is meet with interport students and lectures during the Diversity Scholar Dinners. For South Africa, the students sat down with the two South African students that joined the voyage in Ghana. After conversation over dinner, the students had a question and answer session during which they explored a wide range of topics including K-12 education disparities, living in the post-Apartheid era and the battle against HIV/AIDS. Bulelani Futshane talked to the group about his work with Love Life, a South African nonprofit organization dedicated to improving sex education amongst children and teenagers, and the reduction of HIV/AIDS. He discussed the different campaigns the organization uses to encourage safer sex practices, as well as the major cultural and socioeconomic influences that they must consider in their work. He explained that there are many factors that put young people in his country at higher risk to be sexually active at a younger age, and be at higher risk for contracting a STD. Some of these factors include poverty, lack of education and they are socialized to believe having sex early is good.
In addition to this discussion, they also talked about how Americans are percieved in South Africa as not being accepting of other cultures, but his SAS experience combatted that assumption.
"I was able to establish interactions with people so that I got a different impression," he said of his time at sea. "Most people were warm."

The South African students and Diversity Scholars together after dinner.

How to Apply to be a Diversity Scholar
1.Apply for and be admitted to Semester at Sea.
2.Submit a short financial aid application to ISE.
3.Submit an essay to Diversity Abroad on the topic "What does it mean to be a global citizen both now and in the future?" See DiversityAbroad.com for submission details.
Summer 2010 - March 12, 2010
Fall 2010 - April 16, 2010

Applicants are strongly encouraged to begin the application process as soon as possible in order to guarantee availability of preferred cabin category.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pictures from the Equator: Celebrating Neptune Day!!

Special thanks to Tonya Phillips for the photographs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Live Blog: Slave Castle Reflections

This is a live blog of the Slave Castle Reflection Explorer Seminar. Many of the excursions included visits to Elmina or Cape Coast castles, which were holding places for slaves before they were taken on the transatlantic journey to "The New World." These people were starved, beaten, raped and shackled at the castles, and visiting them can be an emotionally taxing experience. This seminar gave students the chance to process their feelings and reflect on how the seeing the castles has changed their outlook on modern instances of slavery.

7:58—The reflection’s going to start in a couple of minutes… there are roughly 25 students here so far, in addition to a few faculty and staff members. Living Learning Coordinator for Diversity Ana Barraza Gonzalez will be moderating the discussion.

8:00—Ana has begun. One of the counselors, Pat Larsen, is here also to help students process their emotions. One of the students, Ashley, has begun talking about her experience at Elmina Castle and how it made slavery more real to her. She spoke of the Room of No Return, so named because it was where slaves passed through to be loaded onto slave ships, never to step foot on African soil again.

8:04—Another student, Victoria, is speaking about how it made her feel more connected to her heritage as a black person… she said that while her family is from Barbados, and she has never felt connected to Africa, but when she arrived at the castle she felt her African ancestry for the first time. She said it was very difficult for her to go into the dungeons.

8:10—Global Nomad, Tonya Phillips, said when she walked into Cape Coast castle she couldn’t breath. It was such a intensely personal experience for her. She said the tour guide left her with this question at the end of her visit. ‘The shackles are broken, we don’t have slavery anymore, but is slavery really dead?’ She said there is still a need to talk about and deal with the ramifications of slavery, which she said are still felt today.

8:14—One student spoke about how overwhelming it was to find that the smell of death remained in the dungeons remains, centuries later. Ana has responded by talking about how difficult it is to grasp what it must have been to be locked up down there.

8:19—Victoria said it made her want to know what her real familial name is beyond the European name her family now uses; she wants to know where her people are from. She said she’s always had a bit of an identity crisis just from being black, but being there impressed the importance of finding out her families past. She said it made her wonder, "Am I Ghanaian? Did my people come through this place?"

8:20—One student had commented about how stunning it was that at Elmina the church was built right above the slave dungeons. He said the hypocrisy was impossible for him to understand.

8:25—A group discussion is going on about the treatment of the female slaves, who were often raped by the governor and soldiers in the rooms above the dungeons. If found to be pregnant before they were put on a slave ship they were freed, but if the pregnancy wasn't discovered until after the journey began, they were thrown overboard.

8:35—Pat said she reflected on how the people of Ghana are still so proud of their country even after centuries of exploitation. She said it’s really amazining that they are so hopeful even though they have only been under free democratic rule for only 50 years.

8:37—One student is talking about how she wondered if her family was involved in enslaving people. She talked about how she didn’t know, but she has to deal with the fact that it was a possibility.

8:42—The conversation has now turned to instances of slavery that exist in the modern world… namely human trafficking and child soldiers. They are also discussing how illegal immigrants in the United States are usually paid far below the minimum wage, and how that’s a form of slavery. It has raised the question about the extent to which slavery still exists in America, not just remote parts of the third world.

8:48—The students are now talking about what they want to tell their family and friends about their experience at the castles when they get home. The general consensus is that they think it’s something everyone should experience in their lifetime. They say no book can do justice to the era, and evoke the emotions that being in the castles did.

8:56—One student said that slavery was born out of rampant desire for comfort and luxury… subjugating other people to make their lives easier. She said that realization caused her to ask herself, “What are the ways in which my own desires are perpetuating bondage for people around the world?”

9:01—Ana is wrapping up the discussion now, and encouraging the students to continue to talk about this subject amongst themselves in the days and weeks to come.

A Visit to Buduburam refugee settlement

As one of the most stable nations on the continent, Ghana serves as refuge for thousands of people who have been forced to flee their home because of political and military turmoil in their countries.
On the first day in Ghana, a group of 36 students were bused to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ghana operations center. There the students were briefed about the refugee situation in Ghana by Lisa Quarshie and Nathalie Springuel, associate protection officers for the center.
The refugee situation in Ghana is dictated and regulated based on the international laws that govern all sovereign states, and national law, which includes the Ghana Refugee Law of 1992. These laws are in place into ensure that refugees human rights are respected while in Ghana. These rights include the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution, the right to not be forcibly returned to the country they are fleeing if doing so would endanger the refugee, and the right to an adequate standard of living.
The UNHCR plays an important role in helping countries, including Ghana, abide by these laws. The operation provides technical assistance, mobilizes funds, and examines camps to provide suggestions for improvements in living conditions.
In Ghana, there are four refugee camps in Ghana working with the UNHCR. Beduburam is the largest with roughly 12,000 inhabitants. This number has plummeted from over 70,000 refugees and continues to drop, mainly due to repatriation and resettlement.
After an interesting discussion with the UNHCR, during which time students were able to ask questions, the group piled back on the bus, and headed for Buduburam, which is near Accra and contains mostly Liberian refugees.
The students were given a tour of the camp, which provides the refugees with many essential facilities, including a police station, medical clinic, Harmony (a community center for children who are developmentally disabled), feeding centers and schools. The students were able to see all of this, along with the refugee homes, and were able to interact with some of the school children. Many of the students also brought crayons, paper, bookbags and books to donate to the school. Before the day was over, students were giving away items out of their boxed lunches to the children, who good naturedly fought for the sweets. The overall feeling on the bus as it headed back to the ship in Tema was one of quiet reflection.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drumming and Dance Workshop in Ghana

Check out this cool clip of some students performing alongside their instructors from a Drumming and Dance Workshop that took place during the Ghana port. Students spent the entire day learning about African dance, as well as several routines, one of which is featured in this video. Enjoy!
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SAS has talent!!

Before arriving in Ghana, all Semester at Sea participants were invited to sign up for the Talent/No Talent Show.  In the end, 28 acts made the final program. Talents included playing instruments like guitar, bass and saxophone; reciting poetry, stand-up comedy, dancing and singing. The no talents, which were very popular, and got big laughs, included everything from skits and song parodies to eating a PB&J sandwich (a lot funnier than you might think). Below are a few pictures from what has been generally accepted on the ship as one of the best nights at sea thus far.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Evening With a Moroccan Family

One of the great things about Semester at Sea is the excursions. They provide a safe, hassle-free way to see the countries we visit, and, in some cases, provide opportunities that would be near impossible in independent travel or traditional study abroad programs. One such case was the evening a number of students spent with Moroccan families. Because SAS was in Casablanca during the Muslim holiday Ramadan, all of the families fasted during the day, and broke their fasts after sunset. Students were able to share this meal with them, and also the bonding and socializing that takes place.
Most of the students were shocked at how much food they were served. The families eat several times in the evening during Ramadan, so most groups were able to sample several courses during the three or four hours they spent with the family. They also had tea, which is strong, made with mint and sweetened with sugar. This was a favorite with many of the students.
Another thing students weren't expecting was how much of a social activity breaking the fast turned out to be. The families had many visitors during the evening, some coming even as the students were making their farewells.
Family, friends and food. As one student put it, "It's like Thanksgiving at my house!" Check out the pictures from one of the groups evening below.

One of the family sitting rooms.

A quick game of chess in between courses. Hide and seek was another popular way to pass the time.

A group of students with their family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adventure in Andalucia Slideshow up now

The voyage photographer recently finished up the Adventure in Andalucia slideshow. It is a wonderful mix of student comments, local music and, of course, fabulous photographs from student explorations of the Cathedral of Christendom, which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and the Alhambra. Check it out here.

مسجد الحسن الثاني (The Hassan II Mosque)

The city of Casablanca's pride and joy is the Hassan II Mosque. Built in tribute to the previous king (by the previous king), it is one of the biggest religious sites in the world. Just about everyone on the voyage took a tour through the mosque, even those who didn’t do it with the city orientation. It is stunning; designed with traditional Moorish influences on a mind-boggling scale, it fits 25,000 worshipers inside during prayer times, and another 80,000 outside. The minaret is 689 feet tall, making it the tallest structure in the country, and the tallest minaret in the world.
The mosque was actually designed by famous French architect, Michel Pinseau. As large as it is, it was finished in a surprisingly small amount of time. The project began in 1986 and was completed during 1993. It is the only mosque in Casablanca that permits non-Muslims for guided tours.
The controversy surrounding the mosque when construction first began centered on the price tag. It cost roughly $800 million to build, and took over 6000 master craftsmen to finish all of the intricate designs in such a short period of time. However, the beauty of the building won over many of it's local detractors once the mosque was completed.
The mosque has several features that make it stand out from most other mosques. During prayer, worshipers will kneel down on the mosques floor, so the mosque was designed with heated floors, which impressed the students. But was amazed them the most was that the mosque has a retractable roof. On special occasions the sliding roof is opened, and evening prayers are done under the night stars.
The students were also taken to see the Turkish-style baths below the worship area. This is where worshipers make ablutions, purifying themselves before prayer.
The last notable feature is the laser that sits atop the minaret. At night, it shines a green beam toward Mecca in the East, the direction Muslims face during their prayers. This light can be seen for miles, and many students gathered on the decks of the MV Explorer each night because the beam was visible from the ship.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cadiz Excursion: Flamenco Dancing

An excursion that was particularly popular with students was the trip to the Andalucian Flamenco Night. The trip was arranged by Professor Reyes-Torres, a native of Spain and one of the voyage's English professors. The show was a 30-minute ride from the port in Chiclana, and after light refreshments the crowd was led to a bullfighting ring. There they were treated to and amateur bullfight or cow taming with a young bull. The show was bloodless, and the students snapped many pictures while cooing over how cute both the little boy and bull were. After the amateur matador was carried out on the shoulders of a friend, a horse and flamenco dance commenced. This was one of the most interesting parts of the entire show because the horse actually danced with the two flamenco dancers. They tapped their hooves to the beat of the music, and hopped from leg to leg around the flamenco dancers, who twisted their arms in a serpentine fashion while performing complicated steps with their feet. The dancers also performed in the ring by themselves, matching their identical black and white dresses with fans that they threw and spun in the air, to the audiences delight.
After the conclusion of the dance, the students were led into a restaurant and treated to tapas or snacks, and something to drink. The dancers took to the stage and performed again, this time aided by a guitarist and singer. At the end of the show, the students got involved in the dancing as they learned how to do some of the simpler moves. One of the staff members, Danielle Jenkins, was celebrating her birthday and she danced with the flamenco dancers after they sang for her.
It was around 2300hrs. when the students were finally piled into the buses that brought them to Chiclana. After checking that all parties were accounted for, the group made its way back to the ship.

Friday, September 11, 2009

All About Cadiz (City Orientation)

The crowd of students at the fifth deck gangway was massive Saturday afternoon. Groups of new friends whispered excitedly to one another as they waited for the MV Explorer crew to swipe their ID cards, so they could disembark the ship. The numbers were impressive; they filled three tour buses, along with staff and a professional guide. The ship had docked in Cadiz just a few hours earlier, and for many of the students in the group, the orientation was their first chance to get out into the city. 
As for the city itself, Cadiz is beautiful. Full of history (it is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe), interesting people and fabulous beaches, the port is an ideal first stop for the voyage. The students that signed up for the city orientation were shown the city’s most memorable sites, including the town’s museum, which included paintings and sculptures by the city’s famous native sons as well as many of the ancient civilizations that once ruled the area. Both the Phoenicians and Romans governed the region before it passed into the hands of the Spaniards.
The orientation included a walking tour, and students had the chance to explore the cathedral that was finished in 1838, after 116 years of construction. Progress on the church was slow due to lack of funds, and the finished cathedral is actually a mix of the baroque and neoclassical styles, a testament to the two periods it’s construction straddles. They also got the chance to see the bustling residential area of the city towards the tour’s end. Many students made purchases in one of the many shops located near San Juan de Dios Square, which is located within walking distance from where the ship was anchored. The most popular purchase of the day? Ice cream!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Arrival in Cadiz

The sun got to Cadiz the same time we did. The MV Explorer pulled into the first port on its full itinerary at approximately 0800 hrs. Saturday morning, which turned out to be perfect timing; students that were milling about every deck of the ship in anticipation of our arrival watched the sun rise over a mountain range rolling along the Spanish coast. It was a bit chilly, not only because of the hour, but also because we were still on the water, so everyone was bundled in pajama pants, sweats, jackets and the occasional skullcap. Once the captain manuvered the ship to the port that will be its home until Tuesday, most of the students ran inside to escape the chill, and fill their bellies with breakfast (courtesy of the wonderful MV Explorer crew).
A couple of the overnight trips had early starts, and students picked up their passports and shuffled onto buses as shortly after the ship cleared customs. Others were eager to see the city although they had no official excursions planned for the morning, and they left around the same time. The rest snuggled into their beds for a few extra hours of sleep befor they ventured out or found a quiet place to congregate and discuss last minute plans.
The students have many options for port exploration. They can take advantage of the official excursions, which are plentiful, varied and carefully planned and chaperoned. The students that are feeling a bit more adventurous, or want to do something not included in the field program are free to travel within the country. To keep everyone safe and accounted for, students are briefed during cultural and logistical pre-port meetings about all aspects of life in Cadiz from politics to food, along with phone numbers for on-call staff members (who will be available 24/7 while the ship is in port) and Medex representatives. Safety concerns and procedures are covered in detail and students are given a page containing all of the most important items to take with them while off the ship. Also, there are independent travel information sheets that students can use to let the ship know where and when they will be traveling, as well as how to contact them. The students seem to be very comfortable with the ways they are choosing to see Spain, and it will only get easier for them as the semester progresses and they gain more experience.


The next couple of blogs will cover some of the interesting excursions the students have gone on, including a tour of Cadiz, flamenco dancing and a tour of a wind and solar power farm. ¡Que interesante!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Big Event

Just wanted to post a quick update full of pictures from the first big event of the semester-- the BBQ and Mashup Madness social. The first two pictures are from the BBQ, which replaced dinner. You can see students piling their plates (and faces) with hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and ice cream! Needless to say, a wonderful time was had by all. In the evening, students were invited to wear the most creatively mismatched outfits they could come up with, and meet in the Union for a night of Mashup Madness. The social was short and sweet, running from 2100 until 2300hrs (pretty tame, so everyone made it to class this morning!), and the students' clothes were the source of many laughs throughout the evening. Two pictures of the fun can be seen below.

The first few blog posts have been focused on showing how the students are adjusting to life at sea, as well as some of the things (like the BBQ and social) that the staff have organized to help ensure their social needs are served as well as their academic ones. In the coming days before the ship reaches the first port in Cadiz, Spain, the focus will shift a bit to look at some of the other aspects of ship life including academics.