Saturday, November 27, 2010

Groundhog Day

We have enjoyed Sat. November 27 so much that we on board ship have decided to re-live the day again tomorrow, or I should say today.  Tonight the ship crosses the dateline placing us back to the past.

Nov. 27, here we come again

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Even though classes were held today a full Thanksgiving dinner was served this evening.  The 5th deck dining room was set aside for  the "extended" families, families that have been created during this voyage.  Our "family" of Amy, Kayla, and Tony enjoyed dinner together, followed by a card game of "Oh Hell".
Kayla, Amy, and Tony

Amy getting ready to deal a round of Oh Hell

Back to class

Between Japan and our arrival to Honolulu on Friday 3 December we have 10 days of classes, including today-- Thanksgiving.  Classes conclude after this stretch.  We have 2 days each in Honolulu and Hilo before our homestretch to San Diego. Upon leaving Hilo we have 4 days of final exams and that is it.  To say this has been a terrific voyage would be an understatement.

Text books used in my classes

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good bye Japan

Two nights ago we set sail for Honolulu; it was sad to know that we were leaving our final foreign port of our voyage.  Like several of the Asian ports we have just visited Yokohama lights itself up at night.
Port of Yokohama from our ship as we departed

Mount Fuji

On my last day in Japan I headed off with a bus load of colleagues to Mount Fuji, which is located between Tokyo and Osaka. The morning began dreary and raining-- while eating breakfast I announced to our group (I was the tour leader) that we were to hold good thoughts for the day's weather.  Well sure enough, as we approached Fuji-san (mountain) the clouds gave way briefly to allow us to see the wonderful mountain in all her glory.
    By the time we reach the mountain the clouds had rolled back in.  But, it was fun to hike a bit amid the snow and slush at station 5, about 2/3 up the mountain.  While at this point I took a photo directly up towards the summit-- the sun was out, but the top remained covered in the clouds-- but the resulting picture has an eerie quality to it.
  We then went to the other side of the national park to Lake Ashi to take a ropeway (cable car) up the mountain-- by then the clouds blocked any possible view we may have had of Fuji-- the day finished with brief, but delightful, boat ride across the lake.
Lake Ashi

The Ropeway, as we saw it
The Ropeway, on the best of days
Looking directly up at the summit into the sun and clouds
Mount Fuji

Monday, November 22, 2010


Me, with the MV Explorer, in Yokohama
This morning we sailed into our final foreign port.  Like the other Asian ports we have visited on this trip Yokohama is quite modernized.  The port itself where our ship is docked has a very pleasant wooden "park" for walking and underneath the walking area is a concert hall.

Concert hall, with our ship next door

Throughout the trip we have been very fortunate to have wonderful weather in the ports.  Today, however, there was a light rain in the morning and more is coming in for tomorrow---the day I am heading to Mt. Fuji and Hakone.

Port of Yokohama   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sayanara to Sandra

This morning at 0500 I placed Sandy in a taxi for her ride to the Osaka-Itami airport for her 1+ hour flight to Aomori.  She will be spending about 4 days with Tesia before flying back to Wash DC the day before Thanksgiving.  Laura will arrive into Dulles, from Norway, an hour after Sandy so the two of them will spend about 4 days together.
Sandra's farewell dinner on the ship


We arrived in Kobe yesterday morning and by early afternoon Sandy and I were traveling on a bullet train with a group to Hiroshima.  Although we spent only 3 hours there we able to see the various memorials and museum remembering August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am when the first atomic bomb was dropped.  The building now designated as the atomic bomb memorial is situated about 300 meters from the center of the explosion.
Atomic bomb Memorial

Photo of city following the explosion
A special memorial has been erected for Sesaki Sadako, a girl who was 2 years old and about a mile away from the center of the blast.  Before her death at age 12 years old she captivated her friends, and later the world, by making origami cranes. An old Japanese story says that if you make 1000 cranes you may make a wish.  She completed only 644 before her death, but her classmates completed the remaining 356 and sought funding for a memorial to be erected in her memory.  Daily origami cranes are delivered to this memorial.

Memorial to Sesaki Sadako
Origami cranes brought to the memorial


After our stay in Beijing the group flew back to Shanghai where the ship was waiting.  Shanghai is a coastal city where the Yangzi river flows into the East China Sea.  Sandy did not return to the ship until late in the evening.  I had a nice walk around an older part of town, viewing the local market place.  Then, at night, the river just lights up.  A few photos of the scenes I saw.
Night in Shanghai
Woman selling crabs

The Great Wall

Just a few pictures of this unbelievable feature.

Concluding my descent via toboggan


Most of my time in China was spent traveling for 4 days, 3 nights in the Beijing area.  I was a "bus" leader which meant I had to keep track of about 28 people periodically.  Immediately after arriving we headed to the Hutong area, an old section of Beijing where low-income people share common space (cooking, toilets, etc)-- we had arrived via rickshaw and enjoyed a wonderful home cook meal in a family home.
Suzanne, a life long learner on the voyage, and me in the Rickshaw on our way to dinner
 The next day we were off to the Forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, an orphanage and finally to a restaurant to enjoy Peking duck.  From 1407-1924 the Forbidden city served as the imperial palace to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Forbidden city
These hands are now registered as lethal
On the third day we saw a demonstration of martial arts, and then it was off to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 45 minutes from Beijing.  We took a cable car up to the wall, walked for about an hour before taking a tobaggon (luge) down the mountain.

In my role as bus leader

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hong Kong

Days ago we arrived in Hong Kong for another too brief stay. Sandy and I spent only one day there before heading off to different trips; me to Beijing and she to Guilin. We spent a fun day traveling across the harbor on the Green Star ferry and took the tram up Mt. Victoria.

On Mount Victoria overlooking Hong Kong and Kowloon
The change in Hong Kong since I was last there, about 20 years ago, is remarkable.  Before, there was nothing but walking paths at the top of the mountain; now, there is an entire mall complex. And, the entire waterfront is one modern building next to another.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An afternoon at the movies

This afternoon in my Oceans class I showed the movie, "Drain the Ocean" which discussed what is on the seabed of the world's oceans.  To get the students (and life long learners who attend my class) in the mood I had ordered a bag of popcorn for each person.  It added to the ambience.....
Movie and popcorn

Sandy's final lunch with the "family"

Sandy leaves the ship in two days-  she is packed (and has loaded two boxes for me to ship home when I get to the US).  Today she had her final lunch with our "family" at poolside, which included a game of "Oh Hell"
Lunch with the "fam": Tony, Kelsey, Kayla and Amy
Amy and Kayla gave Sandy a nice going away gift:
Gift from Amy and Kayla

Oh hum, just a smoking volcano out the window

This morning, on our last day at sea before arriving in Kobe, I was in the faculty lounge reviewing my day's lectures when off to our starboard side I see an active volcano.  It is situated in the northern Ryukyu chain, just south of Kyushu.
Japanese volcano

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat at sunrise
Following our brief stay in Phenom Penh our group hopped a plane for our one hour flight to Siem Reap to view the Angkor Wat temple complex.  Built in the 12th century to honor the Hindi god Vishnu; later it became a Buddhist temple. We got up at 5am one morning to see the temple at sunrise; unfortunately the clouds kept us from viewing it in all its glory.  Later in the day we returned to explore many of the temples in the area, including the one in which the trees seem to have taken over.
monkees at Angkor Wat

In the evening we went to a dinner/show.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Remembering Cambodia

Survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, an artist
Our schedule over the past couple of weeks has been crazy; after leaving India we were at sea for only 3 days before arriving in Singapore where we stayed for only 2 days, one night. After setting sail we had no class days and just one "reading day" at sea before arriving in Vietnam.  Most people on board traveled away from Saigon to either Cambodia or Hanoi.  Then, when we left Vietnam we had only 3 days at sea before reaching Hong Kong.  I write this entry as we are now in our last day in Shanghai.  Thus, I am a bit behind in my blogs.

In front of the Palace
Sandy and I traveled to Cambodia where we spent a couple of days each in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)-- both were terrific.  While in Phnom Penh activities included a boat ride on the Mekong River, visits to the palace, the detention building (formerly an elementary school) for those who were killed during the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79), and the Killing Fields, just outside the city.  Most of the students on our trip were quite ignorant of this tragic period in Cambodian history.
On the Palace grounds

Sandra heading out to the boat for our river cruise
Palace water lily

Monday, November 8, 2010

Vietnam: 2nd trip

The second field trip on which I was a bus leader was to the Mekong River delta.  Our first stop was to a Buddha temple.  Then we went on to the river and took two boat trips, one on the Mekong River and one in a small canal surrounded by a bamboo forest.  Although our day was geared for the tourist we did get a feel for the local life.
In the Buddhist temple

On our way to lunch we had a delightful mile+ ride in a smaller boat through a bamboo forest

Ride through the bamboo forest
Our mascot on the canal ride
Elephant fish, our lunch

Boat we took on the Mekong River