Letters (emails) from the Voyage

This is a selection of email travel-letters that I sent to family and friends as I travelled from port to port. It includes many personal impressions from the voyage and is by no means an academic review of the voyage. I never really finished the voyage for those who relied on these emails to keep track of me. Suffice to say, I made it back to Seattle in one piece and back to Elizabethtown. The titles of the letters indicate from where these were sent. Thus the letters include details of previous ports and maybe the current port.
Greetings from Nassau

Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa

Greetings from Kenya and India

Greetings from Malaysia and Vietnam

Leaving Japan

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Greetings from ... Nassau

Author Note: This is an all-purpose greetings from me to a bunch of friends ... to let you know how the time is passing. Please do not respond to this email, as I do not have email on the ship. I only have email for a short period of time when I visit an "Internet Cafe" in each port to send these missives. Thanks for understanding. I look forward to seeing you when I return to the States after 25 April.

I've decided to write this series of "greetings" to you all for a number of reasons ... 1) Many of you asked me to keep in touch as much as possible. And while this is not the most personal of communications (gang email), I will try to be consistent. 2) As many of you know, if I don't keep myself busy in situations like this one, I either get very sad or in trouble. Hopefully, these missives will keep me out of mischief and out of the blues.

As we left the Mobile (Alabama) Shipyard at 7 a.m. on 12 January, a formation of pelicans flew by and pairs of dolphins leaped and escorted the ship through the final port markers. It was cold up on deck, but beautiful to be moving after a day in dry dock.

First things first ... the captain of the program made it VERY clear during day one briefings that "this is NOT a boat, it is a SHIP," and "we are not on a cruise, we are on a VOYAGE of discovery." And those of you out there who have this glorified idea that I am on a luxury liner will be shocked to know that this is a very spartan vessel. Normally used for the Alaska vacation jaunts, this vessel has no beauty salon or massage therapist or spa (no massages, manicures or facials for me until I return home). There are only three meals each day ... and it is typical college cafeteria type food at each meal. I don't think I'll be gaining all that weight back on the food they serve on board the ship. Thank goodness I thought ahead and packed a carton of chocolate bars and snack crackers. Coffee flows here in the faculty lounge 24 hours a day. Yes, that's where I spend most of my idle hours ... in the faculty lounge (it has the best view, since it is the observation level).

Accommodations .... spartan ... that's the first adjective that comes to my mind. My room is small ... and it is one of the nicer rooms on the ship. My bathroom is just large enough to step in and turn around. At least I don't have to share it with anyone. It also serves as my office space for grading and reading. I have an outside room ... so I have a window (porthole) so I get nice light during the day. It is located on the sun deck level on the port side of the ship in the front end of the ship. The ship itself is 617 feet long and 84 feet wide. Cruising speed: 18 knots. Capacity is 739. At least 650 of those will be students.

Health ... no sea sickness here, I'm happy to report. Lots of blisters on my feet from running though airports and lugging my luggage on board the ship. But that is minor damage. And I'm not so sure how much time I will need to spend in the on-board fitness center. The elevators are very slow here, so I find myself taking the stairs to get everywhere.

Spending Time .... As many of you know, four months is a very long time in my book to be away from the family and friends I love. I think of you all very often. But the staff on the ship is keeping us rather busy. The days between Mobile and Nassau have been occupied by much training and faculty development activities. I have to catch up on my readings for my classes, too. But I'm happy to report that I'm not alone in this situation. Most of the other faculty members feel the same way, since this is a new experience for most of us. In the evenings there is time to socialize. They also try to plan activities like receptions and videos in the ship theater. Once the students get on board in Nassau (15 Jan.) there will be the typical student life activities to occupy the evenings.

The night skies at sea are breath taking. Living in the country, I see the stars every night over Lancaster County. But here on the ship ... far from any city or neighborhood lights, the sky is much more brilliant. As the evening temperatures improve, I'm sure I'll spend more nights looking at the stars. It is always a thrill to spot the Southern Cross in the night sky. But that will come later.

I teach some classes each day that we are on the ship ... even Saturdays and Sundays. Each morning after breakfast, the entire community of students and faculty participate in the core class ... a world geography class. I'm looking forward to that actually. It will be a real learning experience for me, too.

We set sail from the Mobile Shipyard around 7 a.m. on Friday, January 12, 2001. Around 1 p.m. I looked down at my cell phone and saw that I was out of service range. I fired up my GSM world phone at that time. I miss getting phone calls.

The students join the ship community on 15 January. Until then it has been just faculty and staff. As I send this from the Internet Cafe, I am preparing to do a little touring in Nassau with a group of faculty members. I'll tell you more about that in my next missive.

Curious notes ... those of you in communications might find it interesting that one of the classes being taught on the ship is black and white photography ... complete with a darkroom for processing film. This is a special feature and was added to this ship just for this voyage. I brought my SLR camera. I might invest in some B/W film and develop some of my own work. The professor of that class and I have already discussed some joint projects between his photography students and my journalism students.

In closing, I hope you are well. I look forward to dropping a line from the next port with Internet access.

Tamara

This page was created by Tamara L. Gillis, Ed.D. July, 2001. Copyright 2001.

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