Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eric's List

South Africa was awesome!!
First, the safari at Buffalo Camp.  Our camp was in a private game
reserve and everything was amazing, even the African food.  We lived
in tents, up in the trees.  It was pretty sweet.  The animals that we
saw on safari were many giraffes, white rhinos, hippos, warthogs,
monkeys, lions, nyalas, kudus and herds of African buffalo, savanna
elephants, impalas, antelope, wildebeests and zebras.  I rode an
elephant and saw some of these animals even closer because they
weren't afraid of the elephant.

When we returned to Cape Town, we went to see the African penquins on
the beach.  There were thousands of penquins everywhere.  They were so
adorable.  They have very sharp beaks and could bite a chunk of skin
out of your body.  Some of the penquins were sitting on an egg.

Then after that, we rode the cable car up Table Mountain and hiked
around.  It was much cooler on the top of the mountain.  I was sad
because it was our last day in South Africa.  A thick fog rolled in
that night and we could not leave until the next day.  It was sad to
see South Africa fade away in the fog.  Onto Mauritius!  I can't wait.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Out of Africa February 25

On Tuesday, February 19, we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa and berthed at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.  Although very nice, the Waterfront was akin to a "westernized" port with plenty of shops, restaurants, and opportunities to spend money on various excursions for eager tourists.  On the plus side, there was a nice grocery store, ATM, and wine store within walking distance of the ship.  Cape Town is set against the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain which more times than not is shrouded in fog which gives the appearance of a table cloth on the "table".  We were fortunate having clear conditions that allowed us to see some spectacular views of the peaks which include the Twelve Apostles, Lion's Head and Lion's Rump.  The Table Mountain park encompasses almost 15,000 acres and has 1,470 species of plants.  There are 350 paths to the summit which is 3,600 feet.  This is a rather windy place sometimes experiencing 90+ MPH winds around the mountain.  There is a cable car that takes 4 minutes to get to the top, however, it was closed due to high winds, so I climbed it.  It took me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the top and fortunately the cable car re-opened so I could take it down.  It was one of the hardest climbs I have made due to the "steps" on the trail that averaged about 24" high.  Beautiful views were the reward on this peak that can be seen as far as 93 miles from sea.  Whilst I was climbing, Stacey and Eric were touring and Kelsey was building a Habitat for Humanity House in one of the townships.  The first evening we joined a few other faculty and dined on Malay food at a very local place in one of the neighborhoods about 20 minutes from the port.


On Wednesday, we gathered at 4:00 a.m. to take a bus, then two planes, and a 4 wheel drive vehicle to the site of our safari at Kapama game reserve which is about 13,000 hectacres in size and located on the northeastern side of South Africa adjacent to Kruger National Park.    The second flight was in a vintage DC 4 airplane (same kind as used in the Berlin airlift).  This four engine prop had seats larger than first class on today's jets, as well as spacious bathrooms and service unlike I have ever had on an airline including cold towels at the beginning of the flight, canap├ęs including salmon, caviar, cheeses, cocktail sandwiches- all wonderfully prepared and presented, topped off with champagne.  It was a very memorable flight in a vintage aircraft that replicated what flying used to be like. 


Ten of us stayed at the Buffalo Camp- a very secluded camp that has a capacity of 16.  It is considered rustic as there is no AC and we lived in tents built on platforms and suspended in trees.  These tents included a bathroom and electricity and were nicely appointed.  The lodge and Boma were simply wonderful.  The African food was spectacular and the guides were exceptional.  Each morning we woke up at 5:00 were on safari until 9:00 a.m.  We came back to the camp for breakfast and took off again in the afternoon for a second safari that extended past sun down.  What we saw included giraffes, white rhinos, African buffalo, elephants, hippos, jackals, lions, zebras, wildebeest, impalas, kudu, duikers, steinbuck, warthogs, monkeys, bushbuck, nyala, waterbuck, reedbuck, African wild cats, and scrub hares.  What we did not see were leopards, cheetas, anteaters, and lynx.  Maybe next time.  It was close up and personal.  The scenery and sightings were amazing.  Africa is indeed a very special place in so many ways.


Upon returning from the safari, I was on call so I took a long walk on the ocean waterfront and had a late seafood lunch with a philosophy professor and his wife.  Stacey arranged a tour and took Kelsey and Eric and several others around Cape Town.  She will fill you in on that experience.  The Fezuku High School choir came on board last night and delivered a rousing concert of African and Christian music to the shipboard community.  Amazing experience.  They even got Eric up there with them during a song/dance number.  


As we all know, Africa in general, and South Africa, in particular, is not without challenges and problems.  The remnants of Apartheid are still apparent and will most likely take generations to change.  Poverty and the consequences of AIDS are clearly apparent.  Exploitation of the land and problems in the townships as well as in Darfur and Sudan are difficult and complex.  But despite these huge challenges, the people are very special, very proud, and very giving.  In the context of this beautiful country, it is a special combination that beckons us to return. 


We were due to leave on Sunday, February 24, but the port authorities would not release us due to fog so we left this morning and are enroute to Mauritius which is 2,300 nautical miles from Cape Town.  Seas around the cape are generally a bit rougher than in other places.  As of this writing (Monday at 2200 hours) the seas are at 3.5 to 4.5 meters.  A cyclone recently hit northern Madagascar and the swells we are experiencing are remnants of that storm in addition to the movement caused by the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.  That's about it for now.  Stay tuned and take care.



Monday, February 18, 2008

Neptune Day: A Poem by Stacey

King Neptune is angry today

The ocean and skies above are dull and gray

Huge swells, fierce wind and white, frothy foam

Strangely, no one wants to go home

Instead, we follow a long held tradition 

To gain noteworthy, shellback admission

and to prove our worthiness as a seafaring creature

Where head shavings become a distinctive feature.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Craig's List February 16

It is Saturday morning, February 16:  31 days into the voyage.  This morning we crossed the Greenwich Meridian so we are now in the Eastern Hemisphere.  That makes three significant crossings in the past couple of weeks- the equator, the Greenwich Meridian, and the Tropic of Capricorn.  We continue to advance clocks every other day to keep up.  Two more advances to go until we reach Capetown on Tuesday. 
This is typhoon season in the southern Indian Ocean- they have had three typhoons in the past three weeks with Ivan being the latest.  Hopefully we will dodge any major storms on our way around the Cape.  We have experienced some significant swells the past couple of days- 3 to 4 meters with 30 knot winds.  A little rain but overall sunny and clear.  Sailors use the Beaufort Scale to describe wind velocity based on observed sea conditions.  The scale goes from 0 to 12 (calm to hurricane).  We have been at a 6 for about three days.  Today is a 3 so all is well! 
The four deans (Kenn, Max, Maria, and me) had an impromptu dinner with the Captain on February 13.  Stacey and I and another couple- Bryan and Kim (professors from Utah) celebrated valentine's day together. 
Neptune Day was an interesting experience.  It started at 0700 with crew members dressed in costume parading through the ship's corridors pounding drums and pans.  Students proceeded to the 7th deck aft- pool deck- and were greeted by King Neptune, Queen Minerva, a court of Goddesses, and the Royal Torturer (me).  After some pronouncements by the King, all pollywogs who wanted to become shellbacks were doused in a foul smelling concoction (the ingredients still unknown but included pureed fish entrails for sure) and then jumped into the pool to "rinse off".  You can imagine after a few rinsings, the pool was almost as bad as the concoction....After climbing out of the pool, pollywogs continued their journey by kissing the fish, kneeling before the King, and kissing his ring.  Those completing the gauntlet earned shellback status and over fifty shellbacks decided to further demonstrate their loyalty to the King by shaving their heads.
The Ullom's fully participated in this passage (with the exception of the head shaving, although Kelsey did trim her locks by a few inches).  Quite a day, indeed! 
We celebrated the 21st birthday of one of our extended family members by sharing a dinner and two cakes.  Our family now includes Hillary- from Miami University (OH), Rudy-from Emerson College, Jen- from the University of Pittsburgh, and Jay- from Queens University (Ontario).  There are about 250 students who have allowed themselves to be adopted by faculty, staff, or lifelong learners.  The community continues to build as we make this trek across the Atlantic.
I find myself to be busiest the days prior to a port and the day that students return to the ship prior to sailing.  The detailed logistical arrangements are significant challenges for the team and gratefully, we have wonderful folks who all pitch in to pull this off.  That's about it for now.  Stay tuned!

Kelsey's Neptune Cut, February 14


Head Shaving, Neptune Day, February 14


King Neptune & Queen Minerva's Court, Neptune Day, February 14


Wild Animal Party, February 13 (meow)


Executive Dean, Kenn Gaither & Academic Dean, Max Brandt


Birthday Party for Hillary Mitchell from the Ullom Extended Family, February 13


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

News from Eric, February 13

News from Eric, February 13
I am having an amazing, terrific, spectacular, wonderful time!  Since
leaving the Bahamas, we've been to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and
Salvador, Brazil.

In Puerto Rico we went to the Caribbean National Forest.  It is the
only tropical Forest managed by the U.S. National Forest System.  The
name is El Yunque Rain Forest.  I found a type of sap from a tree that
burns for 10 hours when you light it.  It is used to make torches.

Brazil was celebrating the last day of Carnival when we arrived.
Carnival was crazy!  Two million people dancing in the streets, huge
balloons and humongus semi trucks with a big rock band and singers on
the top.  The sides of the truck had lights, picture screens and huge
speakers.  It was deafening!!

We went to a futebol game (soccer) in Brazil.  The stadium food was
interesting.  I ate popcorn with shredded coconut on top and a chunk
of sweet sugar cane.  You chew the sugar cane and suck out all the
sweet juice, then spit out the rest.  The futebol fans were chanting,
"Bahia, Bahia, Bahia"!  Bahia won the game.

We also went to a theatre and saw an African religious dance called
"Candomble".  They also did "Coperia" a martial art/dance from Angola,
Africa.  It was fast and fun.

I celebrated my 9th birthday on the Atlantic Ocean a day after leaving
Brazil on our way to another country.  I had a blast.  There were 40
college students, plus the Captain of the ship who came to my party.

The ocean is 5033 meters deep where we are right now.  With 5280
feet/mile guess how many miles deep the ocean is.

Eric with friends at 9th Birthday Party

Craig Ullom
Assistant Executive Dean
Semester at Sea
Spring, 2008 Voyage

Eric's 9th Birthday Party, MV Explorer, with Captain Roman Krstanovic

Craig Ullom
Assistant Executive Dean
Semester at Sea
Spring, 2008 Voyage

Agua de Deus Company: Salvador, Brazil


Church of St. Francis: Salvador, Brazil


Itaparica Island, Brazil


Salvador, Brazil


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Craig's List February 12 Somewhere in the Atlantic

Craig's List


Brazil part two:  We enjoyed a performance of Afro-centric dance by the Agua de Deus Company.  The performance was held in a circular theatre outside and as such the audience was very close to the dancers.  Several audience members joined in for the finale.  Post-dance, we ventured upstairs to an open air restaurant, the Senec, in which culinary students prepared a buffet of 40 traditional Bahian dishes.


We were able to do some exploring around some very old churches (built in the 1700's) around Salvador. From the outside, the churches look rather plan and dilapidated.  On the inside one finds intricate carvings covered in gold leaf, paintings, tile murals, and some pretty amazing furniture. 


Before leaving Brazil, we dined at the Boi Preto grill, an amazing Churrasco near the ocean about 25 minutes from the ship.  In addition to wonderful cuts of beef, we had chicken, shrimp, lamb, pork, sausage, and sushi. We subsequently rolled out of the restaurant and returned to the ship in time for a 2145 departure.


Eric's birthday on board was pretty cool.  Families, students, faculty, staff, and crew members (including the Captain) showed up.  We had an ice cream cake and Eric loaded up on some presents wrapped in cobbled-together paper adding a special touch to the celebration.  


We are proceeding to Cape Town, enjoying beautiful weather and relatively calm seas. Prior to arriving in South Africa, the shipboard community will experience Neptune Day which we are celebrating on February 14.  During Neptune Day festivities, all pollywogs will pass through the gauntlet to become shellbacks.  Stay tuned on this one.  Our first activity in Cape Town will be to work on a Habitat for Humanity house and then take off on a 4 day safari based at the Kapama Buffalo Camp.  Until later….



Friday, February 8, 2008

February 8: Craig's List from Brazil

February 8:  Craig's List from Brazil



  1. Bom Dia.  It is February 8.  We are chilling today, recovering from the past few days and looking forward to Bahia By Night this evening (will report in later postings).  So a few reflections…
  2. We have thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful beverage, Caipirinha de Cachaca  (refined sugar cane, lime juice, sugar, ice, grain alcohol).  Considered the national drink of Brazil, it is quite refreshing and appropriate for this tropical climate.
  3. The first day in port, my boss and I had lunch al fresco and enjoyed some Feijada at Camafeo de Oxossi.  The Feijada is basically rice and beans garnished with tomatoes, some meat, and a spicy salsa.  Kenn speaks fluent Portuguese which enhanced our time on the street, changing money and talking with the locals.
  4. A very popular soft drink, Guarana, I find is like a Mountain Dew, Sprite, and fruit drink.  It has a bit of a kick and is used in a manner similar to Red Bull for revving up post-siesta.
  5. We participated in a Camarote for Carnival.  The Camarote is basically a private site for viewing Carnival.  Ours was located on the primary street for the main celebration on the last night of Carnival.  There was seating for about 100 people and stages were constructed in the patio of an apartment complex.  Seats were sold for viewing and there was a bar and food available.  One could leave the Camarote to join the dancing and festivities on the street.  At any one time in Salvador, it is estimated that there are 1.5 million folks dancing and partying. Various Samba schools participate in Carnival- each with distinctive garb representing their school.  The Salvador celebration in which we participated generally included two semi-trucks per entertainer.  The entertainer and his/her band were on top of the first truck which was basically one big moving sound system that also included a bar and bathrooms.  I observed a class system for participating in the Carnival.  First class included participants who were on the entertainer's truck.  Second class participants rode on the second truck that had no entertainers but did have a bar and restrooms.  A whole gaggle of folks walked on the street, separated from the crowd by event security staff walking with a rope that served as a moving blockade.  All of the above paid for their privileged spots.  Fourth class included the "popcorn" participants who paid nothing but surrounded the trucks and filled the streets.  The rest of the folks join the popcorn, created their own parade, milled about between entertainers, or watched from balconies, side streets, and Camarotes.  I had expected costumes and more traditional Brazilian dancing and celebrations, however, it seems that the Rio Carnival is more in that vein.  Bottom line, for me, the Salvador Carnival is like several rock concerts rolling through the streets with lots of folks dancing to the tunes.  Very loud and very many people drinking considerable amounts of alcohol. Next time, I want to try Rio to experience the pageantry and perhaps go to smaller venues to experience a more traditional Carnival.
  6. The taxi drive back to the ship was almost as exciting as Carnival.  We secured four taxis and after witnessing Brazilian police in action, we proceeded to play Test Track through the streets of Salvador.  To give you a flavor- the four of us were in a two door taxi, with no seat belts, head lights that only worked when flashing high beams, driving what appeared to be the wrong way on narrow one way streets while dodging pedestrians and other vehicles traveling in what appeared to be a permanent state of merging traffic.  We did, however, make it back to the ship and all is well.
  7. The following day, we joined 65 students and traveled by schooner through Baia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) which is dotted with 38 tropical islands.  Our first stop was Ilha dos Frades which is a small island about 90 minutes from Salvador.  The portion of the island we visited included a small village of 20 families who just received electricity two years ago.  They now have a small collection of beach bars and provide a nice gathering place for boaters to land.  We then traveled to Itaparica Island, a larger island with a few more conveniences.  We dined on a buffet of Bahain dishes- fish, meat, rice, beans, and fruit.  Mighty tasty vittles when combined with the sun and the waves created several opportunities for rest along the way back to Salvador.
  8. On my birthday, we had a nice lunch of Bobo de Camarao, a shrimp casserole-like dish with rice, coconut milk, yucca, and tomatoes at a local restaurant after spending some time trying to convert dollars.  I was duty dean and enjoyed a quiet evening on the ship.  Stacey, Kelsey, and Eric joined 350 students who went to a Futebol (soccer) game- Bahai vs. Pocao.  Bahai won 2-0.  Eric is now sporting a #10 Brasil jersey- Ronaldinho.  We are preparing for Eric's 9th birthday party that will be on February 10, on our way to South Africa.  Stay tuned…. Tchau.

Monday, February 4, 2008

On the Bridge- Crossing the Equator

Craig's List February 4

Our eighteen days on board have flown by!  We continue to experience great weather and relatively calm seas.  As of this writing, we are steaming south with the shore of Brazil about 15 miles away.  Salvador and Carnival awaits us tomorrow morning when we arrive at 0530.  We have enjoyed the company of a wonderful interport lecturer, Dr. Javier Escudero, who is very passionate about his country, its' food, and people. Students are excited about the various field programs in Brazil and considerable attention has been given to safety and security especially when traveling during Carnival.  We have done all we can to prepare so we are hopeful that everyone will be well during their adventures.  We have experienced very little drama in day to day sea life.  Perhaps our admonition for folk to "save the drama for your mama" has set the tone to be flexible and patient in working through stuff that inevitably occurs.  Eric and Kelsey both have multiple big sisters and big brothers and we have adopted four students for our extended family.  Quite an inclusive community and continues to grow closer with each day that passes.

Stay tuned for more post- Salvador

February 4- Off the coast of Brazil

From Stacey:

TuDoBem (a Portuguese greeting) from the deep blue Mid-Atlantic Ocean.  We crossed over the equator at 2:45 p.m. Saturday Feb 2, 2008.  From the Captain's Bridge it was quite a view but very calm.  We haven't seen land in days now, but have adopted one lone seagull today, although we are roughly 250 miles from the coast of Brazil  We will arrive in Salvador, Brazil on Tuesday, February 5th after 7 days a sea.  Carnival will be winding down as it will be the final day of this huge celebration.  Everything closes down for the 4 days of the annual party, Carnival.  It is one wild and crazy celebration that I am a little apprehensive about, to say the least.  Crowds of millions in the streets.  We'll have 5 days in port before an even longer voyage to Cape Town, South Africa.

Sea sickness has subsided as we are getting use to the rolling waves and when to take medicine.  Kelsey and Eric have made friends and now have a boatload of "big brothers and big sisters".  Last night we learned how to Samba and Cha Cha.  Eric and I have been attending Portuguese language classes for travelers, so we have a few words to get buy on.  It is a tricky language with varying tones and nasalization.

Tudobem Is everything well?

Por favor Please

Obrigado/a Thank You

Sim Yes

Nao No

Quanto e? How much?

Desculpa Excuse me.

Chow Goodbye

Onde e banheiro? Where is the bathroom?

Beleza A cool, hip, greeting used by people under the age of 30.

Chocanche Awesome

We've learned numbers and some other words that will be helpful for shopping, dining, or finding our way back to he port.  We also learned what not to do.  Such as the A OK hand sign is extremely offensive and will insight a brawl.  Payday (like the candy bar name) means, "I farted".  Desculpa.  In Puerto Rico we were joined by an inter-port lecturer and a student from Brazil.  It's great that we have folks on board who speak the language and can teach the rest of us the inside scoop before we arrive.