Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aarrgh-- my birthday celebration

Adjacent to the 5th deck dining room is one of the classrooms that is turned into a "special" dining room in the evening.  About 6 tables are set up to accommodate tables for 4 to 6 people.  One has to reserve several days ahead of time. Well, last night we hosted two other couples for my birthday celebration.  Given that I had just given a lecture to the entire ship on the East African piracy problem I was given a patch and hat to cover my newly shaved head...aarrgh


Dave, Julie, Donna, me, Sandra, and George at my birthday dinner

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We are sailing along western Africa

Sandra is never at a loss for her creativity-- this morning she used my newly exposed head as a canvas on which to draw "Africa".  This creation was appreciated by all on board.

Africa is on my mind

King Neptune, a few more photos

Here are a few photos from the morning of King Neptune Day-- not only did the Archbishop and his wife, Leah, sit for over an hour by the pool watching the festivities, he also had what hair he had on his head shaved.

Among royalty

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

King Neptune Day

Today we celebrated sailing across the equator and us "polywogs" who had never done that before (most students and faculty) went through certain rituals to achieve the status of "Emerald Shellback". One event was to have your head shaved.  I now can pack away my brush and comb for the remainder of the trip.

Monday, September 27, 2010

0-0 Day

Yesterday we on board ship experienced a geographic moment that we never will experience again in our lives.  At my request, the captain agreed to change course very slightly (as we head from Ghana to Capetown, South Africa) in order to cross the equator at the same moment that we cross the Prime Meridian.  Thus, for a split second we were on 0 degree latitude and 0 degree longitude (how cool is that)-- I was on the bridge with the captain and a videographer at that moment and I  had the captain sound the horn at the precise moment so everyone on the ship would know.  We had several hundred students on the back deck with another photographer who was holding a gps receiver.  The Captain also agreed to sail down the prime meridian for about 15 minutes so people could straddle the two hemispheres on board the ship.  About 10 minutes prior to this wonderful moment I went on the ship's PA system and gave a 4 minute talk on latitudes and longitudes.  Everyone on board seemed to get into the moment and I had my Andy Warhol "15 minutes of fame".
"0-0" shown on the library's computer screen

With the Captain on the Bridge as we were crossing the Equator and Prime Meridian at the same time

 Adam Seid, the Registrar, and Kathy Poole, the Ass't Dean, enjoying the "0-0" moment.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One last purchase in Ghana

There are only a handful of cruise ships that come into Takoradi each year, but the merchants try to make it very easy for us to buy their crafts. They set up their little market within 40 yards of the ship.  So, on the last day in Ghana Sandy gave me instructions to go buy some "beads"-- and off she went on an excursion to a local village.  So, to this little market I went and while I may not have gotten the best deal I certainly got several strings of beads at a price much lower than what the guy first wanted.

                                                           Making the bead purchase

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Walking on top of the trees

Sandy and I went walking on the canopy bridge , about 40 meters above the ground, at the Kakum National Park, about 2 hours from Takoradi.  The park was only about 25 miles from the coast.  We were fortunate to walk the 7 bridges before the heavy rains came.

[Note:  I am not sure why all the pictures are remaining active on my blog, but that some of the earlier texts have been placed in "archive" mode. If you want to read about some of our earlier stops click on right hand side of this blog.]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Castles and Dungeons

While Sandra was off dancing and drumming, I headed to the “Gold Coast”, about a 2 hour drive from Takoradi, to tour two castles (forts) which served as the final staging area for the slaves to be shipped out to the Americas. Prior to gaining its independence from the British in 1957 the Gold Coast was one of 3 provinces that became Ghana. Beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, Ghana was occupied by the Swedes, Danes, Spanish, Dutch and finally by the British. By 1720 the slave trade became a more valuable export than gold.

President Obama visited these sites a little over a year ago and the guide we had was the one who showed the President around. I had given my World Regional geography students a lecture on colonialism in West Africa and the slave trade a couple of days before arriving in Ghana. Seeing the cells and caves and the “Door of no return”, an archway leading to the beach and the ships awaiting to take them across the Atlantic brought a sense of reality to the lecture. And when one walked thru the archway one saw a beach full of local fishermen and their colorful boats and nets.

St. Georges Castle


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ghana: drumming and dancing

This is Sandra's posting:  The drumming and dancing workshop rated a "10".  I have a bruised palm to prove that I drummed for more than an hour.  The drummers and dancers were fantastic.  Afterwards, we talked with the troupe.  It amazed me that they were so shy in talking about themselves.
Drumming and Dancing 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

And the Rains came

Well, we are now approaching the equator (which we will cross after we depart Ghana) and humid, rainy belt. I have already shown my classes the climate maps and the weather forecast for our stay in Ghana is about 85 deg, humid and scattered thunderstorms.  At sea today we are getting a constant heavy rain.  Several of my students were feeling the ocean swells to their detriment.

On a lighter note, Sandy continues with her intro drawing class-- she is not as enthusiastic in trying to create perspective as she is in just drawing and sketching.  I include a few samples of her latest endeavors.
Sandra's "Face" Period

Guess Who?  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Table for 4 please

With about 700 people on board the ship (students, faculty, staff, life long learners, family) it is tough to meet and get to know everyone.  Thus, a variety of methods are being used to create small groups.  After we set sail from each port, for example, small "reflection" groups have been organized to discuss experiences. I co-lead a group of 18 students who meet in a corner of one of our dining rooms.
Last night another method was used.  If you wanted to be placed in a randomly-selected group of 4 for dinner you were to show up near the Purser's desk and throw your ID into a box.  There were about 20 people who showed up and 5 tables for 4 were selected.  Sandy and I split up and I drew 3 students and we headed to back deck for dinner; I now know Jessie, Tony, and Alexandra.

Jessie, Tony, and Alexandra

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reward for Excellence

This week I gave back to my three classes map quizzes they had taken during the third class, just before arriving in Spain.  Given that the taste of coffee on board ship needs much improvement, I gave those students with the best scores a “packet” of Starbucks instant coffee. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Camel ride in the Palm Groves

This is Sandra’s description of one of her trips in Morocco:

This was totally a fun experience.  We rode the camel for about an hour (much easier than riding a horse).  Following the ride we had lunch in a typical Moroccan home—seated on the floor, low tables, rugs, and ate with our hands.  We returned using ATVs—can only be describes as wild, dusty, and hot!

Sandra on her ATV

The "end" of this blog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back at sea

We departed Casablanca last night at 2000; next port is Takoradi, Ghana, arriving one week from today. We are now in day 4A for the purpose of knowing what class day it is- I just taught one of my World Regional Geography classes. Before we get to Ghana in my World Regional Geography course I hope to discuss West Africa, colonialism, Ghana, and a little bit of South Africa, plus show a movie on Mecca. In my Oceans class I’ll be covering the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea and some of the maritime zones (baselines, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone) during the next 3 classes.

With 6 class periods and up to 9 classes each period between 0800 and 1730 it is a busy time on board. Internet access is not very reliable, or fast when you do manage to get on, during day light hours. The best time to get fast service is before 0600.

Computer lab on the 6th deck

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hassan II Mosque

The third largest mosque in the world, next to Mecca and Medina (in Saudi Arabia) is located in Casablanca. It is named for King Hassan II, the father of the present king, who died in 1999. This magnificent building took only 6 years to build, with about 2500 artisans working 24/7. It is situated right on the ocean and at night emits a laser beam towards Mecca that can be seen for 35 km. About 25,000 people can fit inside the mosque with another 100,000+ outside.

Interior of the mosque

Moroccan orphanage

This is Sandra writing of her tour of an orphanage near Casablanca:
The orphanage is set up like a village; it is clean and quite lovely, with duplex one-story houses which have one “mother” for up to 8 kids. This “mother” takes a vow not to marry. And, the village has one “dad” figure. Within the village they had goats, chickens, a carpentry shop, blacksmith, and a school. One side of the village was for kids with mental illnesses.

There is great shame in the Moroccan culture to have a child out of wedlock. When it happens, the woman usually leaves her home town and goes to a city to have the baby, then she would leave it at the doorstep of a mosque.

Girl's room at the orphanage

Sandra with one of the orphanage kids

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marrakech experience

I just returned from a 2 day, one night, trip to Marrakech, one of the old and historic towns in Morocco. We had a large bus load of 39 people which made an intimate look at the narrow and windy alleys of this quaint town quite difficult. And, like many organized tours, the tour company laid on several “touristy” things, like belly dancing after dinner.

But, on the second day we had an interesting journey into the Atlas mts, a mt. chain that runs generally north-south in the interior of Morocco. While the coastal area (Rabat, Casablanca) enjoys a Mediterranean climate, if we were to have had time to crest the Atlas mts and venture further east we would have come to rather arid land and the Sahara. We did have the opportunity to spend a bit of the morning in a Berber village and although “staged” for us, we got inside a “typical” home and were shown the art of making mint tea. On the way to the village we stopped briefly at a road side store where many fossils were being sold. I did bargain for a fossil that had been found in the higher Atlas mts—it will be placed in my library next to the fossil I had purchased near Beirut.

As part of their grade, students are required to do some type of research and writing for their classes while on their field trips. For my two world regional geography classes I have established the theme of “place” and have asked my students to find some sub-theme, such as architecture, churches, the market place, gardens, etc that help define a culture. One of my students was along with me on our journey to the Berber village and was quite enthused with what she saw and she came up to me to say that she knew what her first writing was going to be on. It is an added dimension to teaching to have access to the students, and vice versa, outside the class room.

A fossil from the Atlas mountains, in Morocco
A Berber man and his donkey
Mimi, one of my students, at the mint tea ceremony

Friday, September 10, 2010

Love those Life Long Learners

At lunch today, prior to the afternoon excursions into Casablanca, one nice woman who was part of the life long learners group on board the voyage said I reminded her of Paul Newman:

me, in the eyes of a life long learner

Field Trips: Spain

A significant part of the Semester at Sea experience is the field trips in each port. Twenty percent of a student’s grade in each course derives from projects associated with land travel (either independent or structured). Before this voyage began we were given a long list of scheduled excursions, some of which we had to sign up for before leaving (primarily the overnight trips). Sandy and I went thru the offerings and identified the ones we each were interested in taking. Often we will be going separate ways on any given day.

Thus, while in Cadiz we were together on a two day, one night trip to Sevilla and Cordoba. But, on day trips she headed out to Jerez and Hierro del Bocado to see how sherry is produced and to see the Carthusian horses; on another day she took a White town route ending in having lunch in Ronda, the locale where the Moors had an uprising against Ferdinand and Isabella. And, on the last day in Cadiz she took a walking tour of the market place, sampling the food.

Both Sevilla and Cordoba had charming historic sections with beautiful cathedrals. The Sevilla cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, suspended in the air by four statutues. Sevilla’s Alcazar was built in 913 as both a palace and fort. The highlight of our Cordoba tour was the massive Mezquita, originally a mosque which had been overbuilt by the Christians. But, Sandy probably would have preferred to stay with stone masons we encountered early in the day placing small vertical stones for pathways. Instead of returning the hotel for the bland buffet lunch several of us stayed in the historic section for a delightful lunch.

I went on a walking tour of Cadiz focusing on its churches. And, on the last day I went to Gibraltar, a trip I had organized specifically for my courses, a Faculty Directed Practica (FDP). Each professor was asked to design and organize about 3 of these FDPs for his/her courses. Clearly the focus of this day trip was the “Rock” which is strategically situated on the northern side of the Strait of Gibraltar, the only entrance/ exit to the Mediterranean, other than the Suez Canal.. The British have occupied this small peninsula since 1704 and on several occasions since then have had to survive sieges. During WWII the tunnel system inside the Rock expanded to 38 miles, more than the road system.
Sandra in Rondo

The "rock" of Gibraltar

Monkees of Gibraltar

About to have lunch in a quaint restaurant in Sevilla

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hola: we have reached land

Early this morning, about 0730, we arrived at Cadiz, Spain. My promise to my World Regional geography class that this part of Spain enjoys a beautiful Mediterranean climate (Csa on the Koppen-Geiger map) has been delivered. We have a cloudless, blue sky day, although it is a bit warm (91 deg) and humid. As I was standing along the rail this morning watching the tugs nudge us into port, Archbishop Desmond Tutu came along side me. It provided a nice photo-op and a few minutes of chat time with him. He recently retired and is using our voyage, with his wife, to relax. He has made himself accessible to the students. During the voyage he will be talking to the student body, particularly just before we arrive in South Africa.

After the immigration officers “cleared” the ship (all of our passports have been given to the purser and he handles all the formalities) many headed off the ship to begin independent travels through out Spain (one Semester at Sea rule is that you have to remain in country, with my field trip to Gibraltar, in a few days, being the one exception at this stop). Sandy and I have signed up for many of the formal field trips that have been organized, but we often will be going on different ones, like this morning. I joined a half day walking tour of the churches of Cadiz while Sandy headed a bit out of town to Jerez to see how sherry is produced and then to see the Carthusian horses.

Me and the Archbishop as we arrive in Cadiz

"New" Cathedral in Cadiz; made by shells (on bottom) and sandstone (on top)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Semester has begun

The first day out of Halifax (Sat—days of the week become meaningless once classes begin as everyone focuses on which “A” or “B” day it is). There will be a total of 22 class sessions for the A and B day courses, followed at the end by 4 days of final exams before we end our journey in San Diego on 13 December.

Departing Halifax
 The first day or two at sea were a bit rough and many students couldn’t quite get to class, or stay in class. It was good that the faculty and staff had the several days at sea between Norfolk and Halifax as I do not believe any ill effects were felt by this component of the ship’s population.

As I write this blog entry I have just completed my “A2” day of teaching. On A days I teach one section of World Regional Geography to a class of 22 (from 1215 to 1330 in a room that is carved out of the rear of the union (auditorium). On B days I teach a second section of World Regional Geography, to 26 students (1045-1200) in a classroom that is at midship. Then, later on B afternoons (1445-1610) I am back in the union teaching Geography of the Oceans to 20 students. In addition to the registered students I also have between 2 and 5 “life long learners” (LLLs) and spouses of faculty who sit in. The LLLs are people who have payed to be a part of the Semester at Sea community and they are allowed to take courses, space permitting.

Sandy has begun attending her intro to drawing class and already has some nice entries into her sketch book.

We will complete A3 and B3 teaching days before reaching Spain. Whenever we are in port we stop our classroom teaching and land field trips, either structured or independent, commence. Each professor was responsible for creating at least 3 field trips, named Faculty Directed Practica (FDPs). My first come occurs while we are in Spain. With the help of a former State Dept colleague, I have organized a day trip to Gibraltar, about a 2 hour bus trip from the ship. In addition to getting a tour of the “rock” we will receive a briefing from a former US Naval officer who had been the US rep there.

In future blog entries I will continue to describe life on board.
One of my classes
Some of Sandra's art work; the "early" period