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 ... Cape Town, South Africa

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.

Notes from Brazil
We docked in Salvador and not the friendliest part of town. Luckily the Old Town area and the Craft Market areas were not too long a walk from the port area. During the five days in Salvador, I enjoyed a number of museum tours, cathedral tours, and an Orisha festival (Iemanja festival).

Brazil has a rich culture that has been influenced by a history of slavery (similar to the U.S.). So there is a strong African influence. A syncretic religion unique to the country is Candomble, a combination of Catholicism and African tribal spiritualism. I'm really simplifying things here. Candomble rituals are practiced regularly. The Iemanja Festival was an example of it. In Candomble, women play a major role in the practice of the religion and its rites. The celebrations of the rites include much dancing and trance-like states of the worshippers. As a syncretic religion in tandem with Catholicism, the tribal deities (orishas) are paired with a Catholic saint. One of the most popular of these deities is Iemanja, sometimes characterized as a sea goddess and paired in the Catholic faith with the Virgin Mother. On February 2, all of Brazil celebrated the festival of Iemanja. It was a very big spectacle. The festival was celebrated on the beaches as people held Candomble rituals at the water's edge and cast flowers into the water as an offering to the deity. So that's how I spent most of Ground Hogs Day ... at the Iemanja Festival.

Another interesting aspect of Brazilian culture is capoeira, a sport native to Brazil. They call it a sport, but it is almost like a dance ... a very violent dance. To describe it would be to say... imagine two people moving and dodging like boxers sparing in a ring while drums and native instruments are playing in the background. The two people are not boxing but making martial arts jags and kicks are one another, but never hitting one another. Like a choreographed fight scene where no bunches land. As the music becomes quicker in pace, the dancers/players move ever faster and nearly graze one another with their martial art moves. But they never come in physical contact with the other player. So it is a dance/fight/game. It is taught in schools the way that ballet and martial arts are taught as an after school program with local and regional and national competitions. I had the opportunity to watch a capoeira demonstration when I visited the Museum of Sacred Arts.

I especially enjoyed a tour of the cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. The wax figure gallery of martyrs was a little reminiscent of a childhood trauma in a wax museum that my sister and I shared many, many years ago. All in all, it was a beautiful cathedral with a gold alter that was blinding in the sunlight from the open loft windows.

I took very few photographs in Brazil due to the high crime reports. I carried as little on my person at any given time, just in case. I'll have to rely on postcard images and some photographs that others have promised to duplicate for me.

Language was a big concern in Brazil. The state language is Portuguese. And don't let anyone ever tell you that Portuguese and Spanish are anything alike. While some words may look and sound the same, there is a big difference. Many people I met spoke a little Spanish and even less English. So I negotiated cab fares and purchases of everything from dresses to cashews in a mix of bad Spanish and gestures. Ask me sometime about the process of buying the dresses. It's a very funny story ... and a bit too long to detail here.

Coffee Mecca ... most of you know that I love coffee. Can't get by in a day without many cups. Brazil was heaven for coffee and espresso. I spent a few afternoons and one morning drinking coffee at this little shop on the square in the Old Town district.

Many students and faculty took overnight trips to the Amazon River, Rio de Janeiro, Iguassu Falls, and Cachuara. I wasn't so brave. And I'm glad I didn't go on any of these trips. Water purity in Brazil is a problem. Many of those people who attended these trips came back with all sorts of stomach bacteria and parasites from drinking and swimming in the water.

Back on board the ship ... between Brazil and Cape Town I suffered a nasty bout of a flu that was making its way around the ship community. Had me out of commission for a few days. I'm fine now, but I must confess that I am struggling to put the weight back on that the flu took away from me. How many times in your life will you hear anyone say they want to put on a few pounds.

My classes are going better these days. It is difficult to teach media studies courses on a ship with no regular newspaper or television news coverage of world events. But that is the sentiment of many of the faculty ... not about news mind you, but that resources for teaching the courses are limited due to the shipboard environment. I was able to help another faculty member the other day by being a guest lecturer for their class. The course is museum studies. I discussed the Smithsonian's handling of the Enola Gay exhibition. Speaking of papers, a short version of my Machiavelli article was published on 15 February 2001 at www.talkingbusinessnow.com.

I never thought I would say it, but I miss the snow. This hot tropical weather gets really boring after a while, especially when we are at sea.

Cape Town
Cape Town has been a great stop for the students and faculty. We docked here on Valentine's Day. A very modern city in comparison to the other ports we have seen, Cape Town offered a wealth of activities for everyone.

My first experience off the ship was a field trip. I led a group of my communication and journalism students to a visit at Naspers Media, the largest magazine publisher in South Africa. Actually a media conglomerate, Naspers Media holds a number of magazine titles in English and Afrikaans, as well as newspapers, satellite television, subscription television and e-commerce ventures to name only the tip of the iceberg. Students had the opportunity to tour a magazine production floor and hold discussions with editors and reporters for a number of the publications. It was a very successful program.

The remainder of my time in Cape Town has been leisure. I've been scouting the crafts markets for gifts, trekked up Table Mountain for the panoramic view of the cape, toured some of the wine country and vineyards, and wandered the cultural center ... including the heritage museum and parliament center. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Robbin Island (that's where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for years). Nor did I get to the beach to play in the sunshine. But that's not a problem. There's no escaping the sunshine here in South Africa. I don't mind so much. Here the weather is hot and dry. It cools down a bit in the evenings along the water. In Brazil it was hot and humid day and night. So, South Africa has been a pleasant change.

On to Kenya ... Lions, Tigers and Bears, oh my. Not quite, Dorothy. How about elephants, rhinos and giraffes, oh my. I'll be on a photographic safari while in Kenya. I'm not sure if I will have internet access. So if you don't hear from me in Kenya, don't panic. I'll catch up with you on my way to the Taj Mahal.

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

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