Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 31, 2008

Craig's List

Good morning from about 1000 nautical miles from San Juan on the way to Brazil. Air temp is 78 degrees F and sea depth is 4300 meters. Weather looks good to Salvador.

As we steam towards Salvador, we are learning Portuguese and, in Global Studies, exploring Amazonian jungle medicine and shamans. Beautiful weather with some larger swells since last night.

We had our involvement fair and the first alcohol night on the ship. Both were exceptionally well attended. It is interesting to see faculty, staff, and students sharing conversation over a beverage sans the 21 year old drinking age restriction. Students are being very responsible in their behavior at the bar and elsewhere. It is good to raise the expectations and students will respond accordingly.

January 30 Kelsey Reports

Hey folks!

We left The Bahamas and began sailing, and we were a little surprised by how much the waves rocked the ship. We were swaying back and forth, it was so weird to be back on land. But, hey, at least the land was beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico!!

The first day we joined a walking tour of Old San Juan. We learned a lot of interesting facts about the Spanish history. We saw some cool forts with cannons and stuff. We got some good food and explored some more. We found this place called Pigeon Square. There were birds everywhere! They all moved together and when people had food, oh boy, they attacked!!

Anyways, we went to K-mart that night to stock up on snacks. Mostly, Oreos. =)

The next day we walked around some more and came upon another really awesome Spanish fort. This one had watch towers and tunnels and drawing from the 1800s. We also saw a great view of the beach and lots of iguanas!!

The weather here is beautiful, not too hot and just a little breeze now and then.

Today we went on a hour bus ride to the YUNQUE RAINFOREST. It was awesome!! There were absolutely no mosquitoes and we hiked to a waterfall where everyone got it the freezing water! We got some great food which included: plantains, beans, rice (with hot sauce), chicken and flan. We were stuffed! Next, we took another bus to the beach. We couldn't stay very long, but it was gorgeous. It was so different than our Florida beaches. There were no seagulls, or seashells and the waves were so tiny. But there were palm trees everywhere and in the distance you could see the mountain we hiked.

We're hitting the ocean tonight for a 8 day trip to Brazil!! We're hoping to get our sea legs soon!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January 29, 2008 En Route to Salvador, Brazil

Craig's List

Due to some technical difficulties, we did not make our monday deadline and this posting will be in a couple of parts, starting with Craig. 

We successfully completed orientation for staff and faculty and welcomed approximately 650 parents on board for a wonderful reception, welcome, and ship's tour.  My take is that without exception, parents were very pleased with the facilities on board.  Frankly, many were surprised at the ship's condition and  also all of the learning support built into the vessel.  I found it interesting to note that $2.1 million in scholarships is given annually to support participants in Semester at Sea.  80% of costs to run this program are connected to ship operations with a good portion of that going towards fuel.  Talk about a gas bill--two years ago, ship fuel was $160 a ton.  This year they budgeted for $350 a ton.  For the fall, 2007 voyage, the actual cost was $500 a ton.  Certainly the cost of petrol is a significant challenge in putting this program together.  Parents were introduced to our captain whose demeanor and personality make it easier for a parent to feel comfortable about their child sailing around the world on the MV Explorer.  While in Nassau, a sanitation inspection of the ship result in a 99/100 score, which is exceptional. 

On January 23, students and lifelong learners boarded the ship carrying with them over 3000 pieces of luggage.  Two pieces were initially lost in the process and both have been since discovered on board.  After a safety and lifeboat drill, we departed Nassau at 1700.  A rather large number of participants (including our family) experienced some minor seasickness.  With a small dose of meclazine and dramamine (for Eric), we were able to get ahead of this affliction and make it through the transition to sailing.  As I write this, we are leaving San Juan and sporting patches...just in case.  It is evident that everyone has their own way of managing seasickness and it is a matter of discovering what works through trial and error. 

The 24th and 25th were spent in orientation with students and making preparations for arrival in San Juan.  I also started the ritual of walking (on a treadmill), eating a full breakfast (hard to resist), meeting with the Captain and his senior staff (each day we are sailing) attending Global Studies class, meeting with our senior staff, eating lunch, making announcements at noon, catch up and assisting the shipboard community in the afternoon, dinner, and meetings, community colleges, or logistical and cultural pre-port meetings at night.  The days are long especially for a novice like me learning the ropes but we have completed many "firsts" so I look forward to greater efficiency as we progress through the voyage. 

During our three day stay in San Juan, we did a lot of walking around Old San Juan, explored two forts (El Morro and San Cristobal) on the World Heritage Site registry, completed a hike in the El Yunque rain forest, and went to the Luquillo  beach.  The people of Puerto Rico are very kind and tolerant of we gringos.  Generally, not strong fans of our President or their republican Governor.  Traffic congestion makes Interstate 4 look pretty good!  Considerable poverty contrasted with affluence in some parts of San Juan.  Big drug trade both illegal and legal- we heard between 50% and 70% of all pharmaceuticals in the U.S. are manufactured in Puerto Rico.  Strong gang violence related to significant illegal drug-related activity. Not surprisingly, general concerns in this commonwealth are the economy, growth and limited space in which to grow, and reduced corporate tax incentives that results in a stream of companies leaving Puerto Rico and moving to more tax-favorable locations.  A future visit is in order to spend more time in the rain forest and exploring more of the natural beauty of this place. 

Tuesday night is the first open bar night on the ship.  Students can purchase up to four vouchers per day when alcohol is being served (about 51 days of the voyage).  These vouchers can only be redeemed at a rate of two per hour.  All students are above the 18 year old drinking age.  It will be interesting to see what happens.... 

Next stop:  Salvador, Brazil  February 5.  Stay tuned! 

Monday, January 21, 2008

January 21, 2008 Nassau Bahamas

From the Bridge......

Latitude= 25 degrees 4.94 north

Longitude= 077 degrees 20.29 west

Speed= 0.0 knots

Course=0 degrees

For those interested in voyage demographics....

This, the 95th voyage of Semester at Sea, is the largest voyage in the program's history- 852 participants including 733 students, 12 LifeLong Learners (oldest is 74), 29 faculty, 34 staff, 22 family members, and 22 partial voyagers. 70% of the students are women, 20% are students of color, 253 colleges and universities are represented. Students hail from 44 states as well as Norway, Brazil, Bermuda, China, Mexico, and Canada. The top 3 majors are Business Administration, Communication, and Psychology. Students live on eight Seas or residential communities (about 80 students per Sea), each having a full-time Resident Director. The oldest enrolled student is 69 years old.

About the MV Explorer...

The ship is 25,000 tons and was built as the fastest cruise ship in the world with the capability of sailing at 32 knots. Seventy courses are offered during the semester. 20% of academic credit is earned through port-based experiential field practica. While sailing, classes are taught in 9 classrooms and in the Union auditorium. There is a library, spa, medical clinic, two dining rooms, three snack and beverage bars, a pool, wellness center, on deck sports court, ship store, and computer lab. The ship is completely wireless as well.

Craig's List:

-We overpacked.

-Security is very tight.

-Safety is of paramount concern and much attention is given to all possible ways to manage the ship environment to protect all on board.

-The space is small but amazingly efficient and well appointed-a floating IKEA environment that is exceptionally well maintained.

-The food is very good and the service even better.

-Visited the bridge today. Quite impressive! Amazing collection of technology to manage and move the vessel.

-Made my first shipboard announcements as the "Voice".

-The faculty and staff are a very eclectic bunch of pretty interesting folk. In addition to courses in the liberal arts, we look forward to learning from faculty involved in ethnomusicology, Indian and Islamic art, alternative Chinese medicine, global warming, global mammal assessment, to name a few. Who knows what the lifelong learners will bring as well as the interport lecturers!

-Lots of orientation meetings. Anxious to board the students and get sailing!

Stacey's List:

If you did not figure out where we are from the longitude and latitude coordinates, we are in Nassau, on the island of New Providence, in the central Bahamas.  

History in a nutshell:  The aboriginal people of the islands (Tainos) did not last long after Columbus landed here in 1492 and subsequent exposure to European diseases.  Pirates (Blackbeard and such)  were in control until Captain Woods Rogers expelled them and fortified Nassau against the Spaniards and English who were competing for control of the seas and islands.  Before slavery was abolished in 1838, the African population grew as slaves were brought in to supply labor for the attempt at recreating the southern plantation agriculture.  

Bahama speak:  I'm now referred to as the "boss lady", at least when walking the streets with Eric and Kelsey.  Kelsey is "pretty girl".  If I'm too old to be a pretty girl, I'll take boss lady:)

Craig has been working since we arrived and I attended a full day of meetings Sunday.  The community dynamics are changing daily.  The energy and excitement on board is palpable.  What a fantastic, transformational voyage we are about to embark on.  How fortunate we are to have this opportunity.

From Kelsey and Eric:

    Well, we're here. We arrived at the airport with SEVEN suitcases and FIVE carry-ons. Mine was the heaviest: 69 pounds, 70 was the limit. =)

    The plane ride was only a hour and after going through customs, we got a cab over to the port with all the ships. Ours was the only one there and boy, did it look inviting. We got to our rooms and started unpacking. Eric and I don't have a window in our room, which was kind of a bummer. But the room is good size.  My parents who live right down the hall, have a window, but their room is smaller. I have figured out the advantage of no window though: it's pitch dark. I didn't believe my mom when she woke me up at 10:00, it felt like it was the middle of the night!

    Dinner was delicious! The service is not at all what I was expecting. They clean our rooms, just like any other nice hotel. They carry our plates to our table for us and they call us ma'am and sir. The food, oh my goodness, the food, is soooooo good! It's something different every meal and I have to watch myself so I don't get fat! I've been going to the work-out room everyday so far. We've made a special friendship with Marty, one of the crew members. He is really funny and taught us a secret handshake. =) 

    I slept well, but when I woke up we were surrounded by cruise ships twice the size of us! The town was packed with tourists and all the vendors had their stores set up. We went to go explore and came upon the "famous" Straw Market. It was the biggest market I've ever seen in my life. Stuffy, crowded rows of knock-off designer purses, souvenirs, and jewelry went on forever. All the ladies were saying "Hey pretty girl, how much you willing to pay for that necklace? I give it to you for 8." And that's how I learned the art of bargaining. I ended up getting $30 Chanel sunglasses for $12!! 

    In the evening, we sat on the deck and watched the cruise ships sail away. They only stayed here for one day and new ones came the next morning. The following day, we went to Paradise Island. The beaches were beautiful! The water was so crystal clear blue, you could see all sorts of fish. It was freezing, but once you got over the shock, it was quite refreshing. There was this guy selling drinks on the beach and he kept yelling "Let's get hammered!" Haha, I wish you guys could've seen it, I was laughing so hard. We spent most of the day there and then went to check out Atlantis, a huge resort on the island. There, we found the coolest aquariums, with all kinds of tropical fish, sharks, sea turtles and stingrays. That was fun and when we got home, I was proud to discover I got a tan. =) Isn't that weird, I'm already calling it home. 

    It had been pretty low-key and quiet around the ship the first two days, since only the crew and the deans were on board. But last night, the faculty arrived. And some of them brought their kids! We had a reception and met Bridget, a very talkative fourth grader, and the parents of these two brothers my age. I haven't met them yet, but their parents seemed nice. And then I met Cameron, a high school senior who has done SAS once before. He lives right next door to Eric and me.  


    I'm really anxious to hit the ocean! We've been in the same spot in the same port for 4 days now, I'm ready to get somewhere!! Although I will miss the nice Bahama breeze…

    I haven't started virtual school yet, I will when we start sailing. I'm really curious to see how they're going to teach me chemistry…?

    Hope everything is going well in Florida! I'm thinking about you all!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome to the Ullom Family Voyage 2008 blog.  This is the first time we have done anything like this so we appreciate your patience and welcome your feedback.