Friday, November 20, 2015

Being far away...

There have been stories on the ship of students receiving notice that family pets have died.  Some have found out relatives are ill or that a friend has suffered a tragedy.  Some received the news late because family and friends forgot that they did not have access to Facebook or that their phones don't work out here.  So they get an email, two, three days, a week too late.

The hardest part, aside from the communication issues, is how helpless you feel   2,000, 5,000, 12,000 miles from family or friends and five days from land and regular communication.  You can do nothing but worry, hope and pray. 

Tonight I'm staring up at a fattening moon and I am worried for a friend who has suffered yet another setback in his healing. 

"Hey, Mr. or Ms. Moon? Since you are going to see my friend long before I will, can you let him know I'm thinking of him?  Will you shine on him and pass along the message that out here in the vastness of the ocean there are people on this ship that he doesn't even know wishing him well?"

Thank you Moon.  Thank you so very, very much. 

Some good news?

I have six more days before I am on land and have access to a wider range of news sites.  Right now what little I am able to see from the United States is full of hate directed at Muslims, governors (including the one in my home state apparently) seeking to ban refugees and citizens calling for ethnic/religious identity cards.  I have seen stories of threats to mosques.  A fiend on the ship has shared that his neighbor's father was beaten because "looks like an Arab."  I fear for friends of mine who are of the Muslim faith or who are from the Middle East. 

One thing I have learned on this journey is how, despite the rhetoric our politicians and government spews forth, most of the world is willing to give Americans a chance on an individual basis.  They know from personal experience that what a government says it not always the same as what its people believe. I fear though, that with the racist and bigoted rhetoric that is pouring forth from out country, with no counter voice seeming to be raised against it, that this will change. 

Please, someone tell me that at least on the local level, that there are people speaking out against these proposed actions. I hope that those who disagree with this are speaking out and that they are doing so beyond the boundaries of social media.  We need a public face of tolerance and not one of hatred. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tycho Brahe

There was a man who went to the king and said he wanted to find the meaning of the universe.  He asked the king to provide him with an observatory in which he might watch the sky and seek the meaning of the universe.  The king, who also wanted to know such things, granted his request.

Twenty five years passed and the king, having had no word from the man, sent a delegation to inquire if he had yet found the meaning of the universe.

When the delegation arrived they found the man gazing at the sky.  The asked him what he was doing.

He replied that he was measuring the distance between the stars.

The delegation asked him why he was measuring them.

He replied that he had spent the past twenty five years measuring the distance between the stars and writing them all down.  In fact over these twenty five years he'd accumulated 99 books full of these measurements.

The delegation asked him what he was going to do with all of these measurements.

He replied that he was working on volume 100. 

The delegation asked him why he was doing this.

He replied that he was seeking the meaning of the universe.

The delegation asked him if he'd found it.

He replied, "No, I haven't and I don't expect that I will, but one day some one else will seek the meaning of the universe and I will have saved them 25 years of work."


The story is a folktale of a sort about a man named Tycho Brahe.  While much of the story may be a fabrication, Tycho Brahe did indeed spend years measuring the movement of celestial bodies and the tables of Tycho's measurements are real.  The measurements he took and the precision with which he made them set a new standard for scientific accuracy.  His observations are considered to have played a key role in the scientific revolution to come. 

Tonight I am working on a paper on water resources around the world.  I am reading a lot about water pollution, lack of access to clean drinking water, water shortages, droughts and privatization of water resources. 

When I think of sustainability and the huge task ahead of us in creating a sustainable world I often encounter feelings of hopelessness and the research I am doing is not alleviating this feeling.  Then I came across this little tale and I thought to myself about how even the small steps we each take today can help to bring things a bit closer to being possible for the next generation; doing the work we are still laying the foundation upon with a sustainable world may be built.  We may not ever see the final result of our work, but without someone beginning, the final outcome can never possibly be achieved. 

In this way the story rings very true. 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Semester at Sea Update - Brazil

Hello everyone,

My apologies for not sending an update sooner. Internet access has not been as good as I had hoped.  However I am alive and well having just arrived in Salvador, Brazil on Wednesday.  I have crossed the Atlantic and the equator!!  My seven days at sea were peaceful ones filled with classes and homework...and dance.  I have started teaching belly dance on the ship and I am truly enjoying it.

Since my last message we have visited Croatia, Greece, Spain, Senegal and Brazil (where I will be until Monday evening).

Brazil so far seems quite amazing.  It is full of music and song.  As a percussionist I am experiencing a bit of heaven; there is rhythm everywhere!!  Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a percussion workshop with Giba Conceicao.  It was two of the most amazing hours of my life.  Tonight I´ll be attending either an Afro-Brazillian dance class or a samba show. I am not yet sure which!!  There really is so much to see and do here. 

I might be falling in love with Brazil...or Salvador at least.

After Salvador we have a nine day sea journey to Trinidad and Tobago.  We are there for only a short time, two days, before we head for the Panama Canal and Costa Rica.

This journey is two thirds over. 

I hope to update again in Trinidad.  Thank you again for making this journey possible.

Oh!  I hope my post cards have been arriving safely.  If you did not send me your address please do so and I´ll send one a long. 

In gratitude...


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Atlantic Crossing - Day 7

The photo of the totally creepy painting which hangs in the entrance to the Kino Cinema on the ship, has nothing at all to do with this blog post.  Actually I suppose in a way it does because tonight I find myself once again annoyed and angry at being told, "If you are female XYZ place is not safe for you.  Don't go anywhere unaccompanied."  Which is pretty much what we've been told in nearly every port. 

Yep.  Every port is filled with people who want to rob you, kidnap you or steal your ATM card, oh and if you are female they want to drug your drink and rape you too. 

Part of the purpose of this journey is to see the world and understand different cultures, which is probably difficult to do if you are told over and over again that you should view every other human with suspicion. 

In any case, this is not actually what I want to write about.  What I wanted to write about is how grateful I am that I decided to teach belly dance on this ship. 

When I was first asked to teach I resisted.  I really wanted to step outside of my usual self while on this journey.  I didn't want to be doing the same things I did back home. I wanted a chance to be just Joie, not Joie who runs Dark Follies, not Joie the belly dancer, not Joie the teacher, not Joie the organizer...I just kind of wanted to be nobody for a while.   But they kept asking and I finally gave in.

There have been days aboard this ship that have been a struggle for me.  I feel very out of place here, I have few peers in my age group, and none of them are students and most disappear into the Fritz Bar on Deck 8 aft at the end of the day; a place students...even 43 year old non-traditional ones are not allowed.  While I have made some friends among the students I still spend much of my time alone.  I've had some days that I am really truly homesick, though that has been lessened during the crossing. I feel very comfortable on the sea and I spend much of my free time on Deck 9 just watching the water roll on by...

There is another time I feel okay, and that is when I am teaching belly dance.  There is a wonderful group of women who take my class.  We've had 8 classes thus far.  There are about ten regulars (8 students, 2 faculty) and most attend not only my class but the daily rehearsals we have for the upcoming ship talent show.   They are quite dedicated to learning this dance. 

Teaching has been my lifesaver, my soul's survival tool while here on this ship.  I look forward to every B day at 5:15PM and that hour of dance.When I am in the Kino, where this horrid picture hangs, every care, worry, sadness, or feeling of  longing just falls away the moment the class begins.  For that one hour I am completely content.   At the end of this trip I will be sad to see the class end, and it will be hard to say goodbye to the students who are learning the dance.  I hope to do something special for them before we go.  I am so grateful to them for being a part of this and I have never been more grateful for this dance. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Atlantic Crossing - Day 6

Tonight they dimmed the lights on Deck 9 and many of us gathered towards the bow to look up into the sky.  Some students who have lived primarily in cities their whole lives had never seen the stars like this at all. There were ooh, aahs and even some giggles of delight. The milky way was visible and Cassiopeia could be seen just above the north west horizon.  I plan to head to bed early so that I may get up before sunrise to see the southern cross.  A constellation I will see for the first time.

The horizon to the west glowed faintly with the lights of cities we could not see.  We are only close enough to witness the side effects of their existence.   It is a reminder that the day after tomorrow I will be stepping off this ship and onto the soil of South America. 

I was told that tomorrow night we will likely see bright flares from oil rigs burning off excess natural gas.   It was described as visually beautiful but depressing for the soul.  I'm not sure I want to witness it.

One more day of ocean travel ahead.   


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Atlantic Crossing - Day 5

I had plans for an informative blog post about the birds I saw today, how well my belly dance class went and how later in the evening I stumbled across the students practicing the Arabic walk on Deck 4 (which totally made me grin), and a bit about a new piece of writing I am working on.  


I spent my evening working on a presentation on bi-musicality that I will be sharing in my global music class tomorrow.  I am a bundle of nerves over it and because I really, really, really want to do a good job I will be putting myself to bed early this evening. 

So I'll leave you with this photo of the today's sunrise over the Atlantic.  Good night!