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 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.