Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! (almost)

There is for sure gonna be more music
in 2016!!!!!!!
New Years Eve is one of my favorite holidays.  There are three main reasons for this...

1. It is a secular holiday.  There is no religious tradition that lays claim to it.  It is a holiday open to anyone to celebrate in the manner they choose to do so.

2. It's a holiday for adults.  You can be too young for New Year's Eve, I mean you have to have lived long enough to have a few regrets behind you, but you are never, ever too old.

3.  I love that we have a day in which we take the time to assess where we have been and where we hope to go. In our go-go-go lives this is not something we often take the time to do and while it might seem like nothing more than a day to take down the old calendar and put up the new, I believe this sort of intentional reflection is important.  New Year's Eve is the annual reset button and the fact that so many of us do it at the same time feels like a collective deep breath. 

New Year's Eve is a reminder that no matter how much we have struggled, or how much we feel we've failed we recognize that there is always the opportunity to do better. Whether measured in moments, days, months or years all things in this life are temporary.  New Year's Eve is the chance to acknowledge and celebrate that. 

Normally this is the paragraph where I'd summarize my year by listing my successes, failures and struggles, and then ponder my hopes for the next year, but this year instead I'd like to just take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of this past year. 

This year I witnessed people and communities stepping up to help friends in need.  I shared creative space with folks I'd only dreamed of ever collaborating with.  I saw so many individuals who stepped up to speak on behalf of those without a voice. I was brought closer to old friends and made several new ones.  This year for sure had its ups and downs but it was the people that made it a good one. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Post SAS Reflection III: The Processing...

Not the same woman...
In the week that I have been home there are two things nearly everyone has asked, the first, "How does it feel to be home?"

Which I generally answer with, "Oh good, I really missed my cat and good beer."   

And it's mostly true. I'm happy to have my cat sleeping next to me again, to not worry about how long it will be until the next good wi-fi and I am soooooo grateful to be back in the land of good beer and buffalo wings. I'm happy to have regular access to a washing machine.  I was thrilled to spend Christmas with family and that I'll be among old friends for New Year's Eve.  I am indeed glad to be home, but...

(oh you had to know that was coming) grateful as I am for all these things familiar, I've a deep desire to be far away and alone.

Which brings me to the second things people ask, "Wow.  That must have been a transformative experience, I bet you have a whole lot of processing to do, right?"

And I respond with, "Yeah, I'll be mulling this over for some time.  Please pass the cheese..."

Because the truth is I don't know how to answer that question.  Part of me wants to roll my eyes and thank them for stating the obvious.  I mean, I stepped out of my life for 100 days.  A life that was well established, safe and at least somewhat predictable.  I may not have had a long term plan but I was fairly sure where I'd likely be in the next year or so.

And over those 100 days I lived out of two suitcases, on a ship with 500 other people.  Together we visited three different continents, 11 countries and 13 port cities.  We crossed the Atlantic Ocean, journeyed south of the equator and sailed through the Panama Canal.  I met dozens of new people, heard a hundred or more stories, tasted new foods, danced to new music, played drums I'd not known even existed, and reconnected with long abandoned forms of creative expression.  At 43 I found myself feeling deeply homesick.  I battled and (mostly) came to terms with the sense of loneliness that has been my life companion.  I cried, shook my fist at the sky, sent weepy emails to friends at home and yet by the journey's end when it came time to leave, stepping off that deck on to the shore and was one of the last things I wanted to do.  I had come to love living on that ship, as well as the people on it and the experiences we shared...

After three and a half months at sea it took only about 24 hours for me to go from the World Odyssey gangway to the baggage claim at the Portland Jetport. 

Yes, it was transformative.  I know I am not the same person I was when my plane left the ground in September but right now I've only a tiny inkling of who this new person is.

When I'm asked about the trip and how it was I find myself faced with a traffic jam of thoughts; thoughts and feelings I've not even begun to assess and sort out in my own mind let alone summarize in 60 seconds or less.

And so I find myself wishing for a week of retreat from the world.  A time to adjust to not being on board that ship, to convince myself that the past three and a half months really truly happened; to pause and take a deep breath before I jump back into my life and the processing really begins...

I know that in the long run, as with anyone who has had a life transforming experience, whether traumatic or amazing, I will only know for sure how it has changed me once I have started living my life again.  It is only when faced with  how things were that I will know who I am now and who I might become.  There are no, "Tah-dah" moments in these sorts of things. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Post SAS Reflection II: Just Being

Learning to be...
When the MV World Odyssey is at sea there is no cell phone access, and the internet is limited to the few sites needed for class research and seamail, the somewhat unpredictable email service Semester at Sea provides.  Instead of television there is the six channel streaming service that includes the ship channel with map and current weather; a streaming webcam of the view from the bow; three channels of ever rotating movies and documentaries meant to supplement class material; and one ship sanitation channel that runs a continual loop of what to not flush down the ship toilets.  Students pretty much do not have access to alcohol while on board (there is this thing called 'beverage service' which occurs with some sort of regular frequency that I was certainly never able to figure out and which most folks, myself included, didn't seem particularly interested in it anyway).  In other words, many of our modern day distractions are simply not available on board. 

Not that there isn't plenty to do.  Every student is enrolled in four classes which take up several hours of each day and each class of course has a couple of hours of homework to do.  There are research papers to write, reading to be done and tests to study for.  There are also a lot of community activities such as exercise classes, seminars about upcoming ports, game nights, post port reflections and talent shows type events but there is still a lot of down time, or at least more down time than I was used to.

What there isn't a lot of are those sorts of distractions that allow you to numb out or escape yourself.  If you are having a bad day or are in a funk or facing a bout of loneliness, there is no Facebook to scroll through, no Google rabbit holes to get lost in, no bar to drown your sorrows in.  And while the streaming shows did cause me to develop a situational obsession with the Dalai Lama (another story for another time) a quick peruse of the generally depressing deforestation/child exploitation/women's suffering/etc. would bring the realization that there was no escape to be had there. 

While I definitely went through periods of obsessive email checking or Wikipedia (one of the few sites that we had access to the actually connected with any sort of predictability) meandering, in the end when I was feeling sad, lonely or just out of sorts there really was only one option, to learn to live with whatever frame of mind I was in.  Which is why you see a photo of the 10 of Cups above.  In the Tarot of Transformation this card is titled Joyous Flow and is about "feeling at home in the emotional world."  Despite its title the card is not about being happy all of the time but instead cultivating an acceptance of where ever you are and whatever you are feeling in the moment.  I've been using the card as a focus to remind myself to work on keeping connected to this state. 

Being busy has always been my distraction of choice.  Just keep doing and doing, keep busy, keep moving, keep going...if you are always on the go the bad feelings can't catch up to you, so get a move on!!  I didn't have this option available to me though on the ship.  It was difficult.  I was often annoyed with myself first for feeling whatever I was feeling and then doubly annoyed for not being able to distract myself from it.  In fact there were times I had no option other than to just sit and be still.

And because of this, slowly, as the days passed I learned to live with whatever I was feeling.  I'm not sure I could point to a specific moment but at some point in the journey I found that some of the loneliness I'd been battling was no longer overwhelming.  It wasn't gone, instead it had moved from being something that seemed ready to occupy my entire being, to just being just a piece of who I was at the moment.  I also found myself experiencing moments of joy that existed alongside my homesickness or loneliness.  This often occurred with I'd experienced something beautiful, whether a sunset or music or dance, that I found personally moving but which also made me long to share the experience with certain friends at home. 

By the time we docked in San Diego I was beginning to truly cherish the still moments.  The times when I could just sit and exist in whatever state of emotion I was in.  I have never been one who bought into the idea of finding a state of perpetual happiness and bliss, and I still don't, yet while I did believe in the transience of all things and have often written about how accepting the temporariness of one's current state can make the so-called negative states easier to live with, I don't think I fully grasped the concept of allowing oneself to exist within those states of being. 

I have learned that it is entirely possible to feel shitty and great at the same time.  That I can wake up in the worst mood but I don't need to run from it and in fact, I can actually get up and go on with my day.  And probably the most important lesson, to not judge what I am feeling; that there is nothing wrong with whatever it is I am feeling in the moment. 

Now that I am back in the world of easy distraction I hope I am able to maintain this new ability to be present with what I am feeling, particularly since I'm still only just learning to do so.  Of all the things I learned about myself on the voyage this is the one that I have the greatest desire to hang on to.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Post SAS Reflection I: Home Again

Sunset at Civitavecchia - 2015
On December 22nd I returned home to Maine.  I was met at the airport by my friend Max-Anthony and my mother, whose home I am staying in for at the time being. 

Before I left for Semester at Sea I had decided to give up my apartment.  I sorted my belongings, selling what I could and giving away quite a bit.  The remainder I packed up and put into storage in my father's basement.  Other than a few winter clothes, my drums and my stuffed bunny, most of my stuff remains there and I'm still unsure of what to do with most of it. 

During three months that I was at sea I lived out of two suitcases.  Everything I needed, clothes, shoes, toiletries, snacks, school supplies, two drums, zils, jewelry, textbooks and technology all fit into those two suitcases.  While I did manage to collect a few new items during my travels, they took the place of things I was not returning with, such as used up toiletries and donated text books. I returned with the same two bags with which I departed. 

One morning about a week before we arrived in San Diego, while I was having my coffee on deck nine of the ship, I decided to make a list of what I knew I had in storage.  I was curious to see what I recalled.  I didn't allow myself to add generalities such as "kitchen stuff" or "clothes" to the list.  I wanted to be specific. I had the idea that whatever I could clearly recall must be most important to me.   My list was as follows:

  • Black sweater
  • Gray sweater
  • Riq
  • Tambourine
  • Dance sword
  • Dark Follies costume and top hat
  • Cast iron frying pan
  • A patched pair of jeans
  • Winter coat
  • Combat boots
  • Vampire folklore books
  • My desk and my bed

Considering the amount of floor space that my stuff takes up in the basement, this is not a very long list.  I expect that when I have time to sort through all of it I will have many happy discoveries of things I've forgotten.  I'll ask myself if the fact that I forgot that I owned them means I value them less or have less need of them.  It is unclear how I will answer that question.

While on board the ship I did not feel that I was lacking anything.  Of course some things, such as my kitchen items, I did not have need of at all on the ship but would definitely have a need for should I have  my own kitchen again.  And when it came time for the ship dance show case I did miss my top hat and dance sword, but I never felt that I was missing any immediate necessity.  I was quite comfortable with my small cabin and my limited belongings. 

There are many things I discovered on this journey that I wish to carry forward into my daily life.  This simplicity of living with less is one of them.  Right now, while I am living in my mother's small apartment, that will be fairly easy, but what will happen should I find myself in a larger space?  Will I want to fill it up with objects, gee-gaws and comforts or will I look back and recall the less material life that I led on the MV World Odyssey?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day 10: A Rant

It may be due to my not feeling well and spending most of my day in bed yesterday but today I am feeling totally uninspired as far as writing a blog post.  The card I drew today did not help matters in that it talked about how the universe has our best interests at heart and well, if you know me at all you know that great eye roll that brought about.

I don't think the universe has our best interests at heart.  Of course I don't think it's out to get us either.  I guess if I had to summarize I'd say that the universe operates in a manner of benign indifference.  It's not out to get us, but it doesn't very much care either.

I don't think this is a cynical belief to have. There is still plenty of joy, love, happiness, and celebration to be had in this world even if the universe isn't in the job of producing it.  We are quite capable of producing out own joy, love, happiness and celebration.  We are quite capable of producing our own misery, pain, suffering, sadness too but hey, there is something to be said for balance right?

Now let me be clear, I am not talking about the 'law of attraction' here.  This will produce and even greater eye roll and a scowl from me.  While I think human beings are responsible for most of the joy and suffering in this world, I think that a lot of the time – in fact probably most of the time – shit just happens.  We genuinely have very little control over what happens in the world outside of our own skin. 

Here is what I do believe.  You have control over one thing in the world and that is you.  You have no control over anything else – the weather, the sunrise, or the guy next to you on the train.  Even your children or your loved ones, who you may have more influence with than the guy on the train, in the end you have zero control over them too. 

This is not all as bleak as it may sound, not having control certainly does seem to relieve one of responsibility, right?  No. I actually think it is just the opposite.  I only have control over what I do.  If I want to make the world a better place then I need to live in a manner that does that in whatever form that means for me.  If I had to make a list it might include…

…taking care of myself.

…being generally kind to my fellow humans.

…living in a manner that impacts the planet as little as possible.

…building community.

…speaking up when I see injustice.

…creating beauty when I can.

I'm not saying I'm perfect at any of these things.  I have good and bad days like most of us (and honestly I probably fail far more than I succeed).  I can hope that in living in this way I might inspire others to do the same.  I could even do my best to spread the word about My Super Special Key to a Happy Life but this does not mean that anyone else who hears my all-knowing words of truth is going to follow them and some might even reject them outright.

Yes.  If I am nice to people they are probably more likely to be nice to me.

Yes. If I use less resources there will hopefully be more for everyone.

Yes. If I'm less judgmental then, oh whatever, the world is full of assholes and I don't have any control over them either.

"Now wait a minute here," you might ask, "If you don't buy into this universe has your best interests at heart thing how come you read tarot cards and sometimes write about having moments of connection and a sense of peace…hmmmmph!"

Well, that is a totally different question for a different blog post; one which is not going to be written today.  But just because I can have moments of feeling at one with the universe doesn't mean I think it loves me. 

In any case, it does seem I at least got a good rant out of today's card. 

Day 9: Ugh

I did not feel well at all today and spent most of my day resting in bed.  I'll be back at the tarot blogging tomorrow!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Day 8: 8 of Disks - Skillfull Perseverance

Note:  The photos that I have been sharing have been showing up with odd orientations for some folks.  I have tried a few times to fix this and seem to be unable to do so.  I will be leaving Costa Rica tomorrow days and will not have access to wifi again until I arrive in San Diego on December 21.  I will do my best to fix the problem then.  Thank you!

Today's card is, the eight of disks, is about balanced perseverance over the long haul.  When we are working towards a goal some of us will become 100% focused on the goal at the expense of all other things in our lives while others procrastinate and put off when needs to be done until the last minute.  The key is to find that balance between work, rest, physical and emotional nourishment, etc.  I am not always great at doing this.

My major goal over the past five years has been to finish school and earn my degree.  This is something that will be brought to completion this spring.  I am pretty sure I've never found a complete balance in my pursuit of this goal.  In fact I've spent much of the past five years stressed out, full of worry and feeling overburdened. I have gone from one extreme to the other when it comes to procrastination verses careful planning. 

At times I have put school first in my life and when I do so other parts, such as my more creative life will suffer.  Other periods I have put my creative life first and school has suffered.   It has not been an easy balancing act.  Somehow I'm about to receive a bachelor's degree in sustainable business with a minor in environmental sustainability with a fairly respectable GPA which was achieved while still having a life outside of school.  I'm not quite sure how I've managed to get through it but I have.

The past few months of Semester at Sea have been the first time in my adult life in which I've only had one major focus to my life, just school.  At first this felt rather good.  I felt like I had enough time to get everything done and was feeling minimal stress.  However, it did not take at all long for me to begin to feel antsy and bored.  It was not too long after this that I began to teach belly dance on the ship and help out with other events on board.  I never felt overwhelmed or like I had too much to do.

And I even managed to get a full night of sleep each night…

Of course this was on the limited world of a 500 foot ship.  The real test will be if I can manage to keep this sense of balance once I return to the real world…

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day 7: Four of Cups - Untying the Mask

Of the cards that I have drawn from the deck thus far this is the one I can most identify with, particularly with how it relates to the past three months aboard this ship. 

There are two parts to this for me.  The first relates to what took place aboard this ship.  While I have enjoyed many aspects of this journey around the world one that has had the greatest impact on me occurred the moment I had the realization that I was in a place where no one knew me or really knew anything about me.  This was an incredibly freeing moment for me.  I was just another one of the 550 students aboard this ship and I wasn't expected to be anything other than that.

What this did for me was to relieve me of all of the expectations I place on myself that are related to my life back home.  Well in theory anyway, as time went on I certainly found that that many of my personal expectations of myself, even the truly unrealistic ones, can be terribly difficult to shake.  Regardless of my ability to shake them off or not, what matters most is just how aware of them I have become.  These expectations and the masks I have created to try and keep up the appearance that I am meeting them, were years, even decades in the making.  It is going to take longer than three months to dismantle them.

The second part took place off the ship, or more specifically in the online world of my blog and social media (though it had an impact here too).  When I departed on this journey everyone I knew was telling me how wonderful it was going to be.  They told me how envious they were and that they wished they could do something like this. They called me brave and pinned the title of adventurer upon me.  People said that the journey would change my life, that I'd have a million moving moments and I'd come back a totally different person. 

The truth is when I left I had a lot of misgivings.  Yes, I was looking forward to the trip and I was (and still am) incredibly grateful for the opportunity, but…my dearest friend and creative partner, someone who I love perhaps more than my cat, had been hit by a truck only weeks before and was facing an intense recovery process.  In the weeks leading up to my departure I'd spent days upon days in the hospital, organized a benefit, and tried to be a comfort to our fellow troupe members. In addition,  I was preparing for this trip, wrapping up a summer research job that had run longer than it was supposed to, and was tying up loose ends for my regular job.  I packed up an apartment, sorted my belongings, held a yard sale and moved all of my things into my father's basement. 

I felt like a total shit for leaving at a time when I felt I was needed and I am still not sure it was the right thing to do, but all of that aside, due to the sheer business of the weeks leading up to my departure, I'd had no time to process any of my feelings around his accident and nearly losing someone so close to me.  When I arrived on this ship the cork that had kept my emotions in check finally popped out.  I spent the first week aboard emotionally wrung out. 

I was also quite homesick.  I expected to miss my friends and my family, and I expected to miss my cat (and I really, really miss my cat) but even still, I did not expect the level of homesickness that I found myself facing.  I realize that the crazy mix of emotions I was dealing with likely contributed to my feelings of homesickness.  I knew no one and had no one to confide in or talk to.  I wrote in my journal a lot; pages and pages.  And on many of those pages I spent a lot of time beating myself up for even feeling the way I was.   

I shared a bit of what I was feeling on Facebook and one blog post early on.  A few folks responded with great kindness, telling me that what I was feeling was valid and that it was okay to be as mixed up as I was.  But there was also plenty of advice that, well intended as it might have been, was not helpful and some was downright hurtful.  Even so, the voice that was loudest was my own.  Not only was I feeling pretty lousy but I felt as though I was letting everyone down by feeling this way.

So I made a very conscious choice to only share the good stuff.  When I had wifi I put up photos of places I'd been, and I wrote short little chirpy descriptions for them.  It's easy to put on a mask on social media.  You can cultivate whatever appearance you want the world to see, especially when you are thousands of miles away and there is no one to contradict you.  I had one friend I confided in back home and I tried to let that be enough.  But then two things happened.

The first was that I wrote a spoken word piece called Base Rhythm for my travel writing class.  It was about being homesick, trying to find a place for myself on this ship, and also about one of the things I love most in this world, music.   It was a vehicle for processing my feelings but it also turned out to be one of the best things I have written, ever.  My professor approached me about sharing it with other faculty and the other writing class, which I consented to.  I also worked up the courage to read it at the ship coffee house – which nearly every member of the community attended.

In the days that followed students approached me to thank me for sharing it.  They'd been struggling with similar feelings and felt that they couldn't share them because everyone else seemed to be having such an amazing time, so something must surely have been wrong with them for feeling the way they were.  For some my poem had given them permission to share what they were feeling and to write about it.  I was not the only one wearing the mask of having a good time. 

The second thing occurred only a couple of weeks after I shared the poem. One of the podcasts I listen to regularly, Stuff Mom Never Told You, had an episode titled #blessed.  It was about our tendency, and in particular women's tendency, to cultivate an image of perfection on blogs and social media.  We have practically turned it into an art.  After listening to it (three times) I made the choice to be more honest in my posts and if I felt not so great, to share that too. 

The truth is all of life is a mixed bag.  This journey has been no different.  I have been to some truly wonderful places, I've made new friends and had some pretty incredible moments, but I have had struggle too.  Thankfully, I have learned on this journey that those feelings are perfectly okay and that it's possible to be having a great time even while carrying a sad heart.  I just wish I'd been more willing to take the mask off a bit sooner.  

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Day 6: Two of Disks - Balance in Material Life

I have a confession to make.  The 2 of Disks was the second card I drew from the deck today. My process for using the cards as blogging inspiration has thus far has been this:

  1. Sit quietly and attempt to clear my mind (my success on this part varies but I usually at least reach a point of feeling more focused)

  2. Shuffle the deck for a period of time and then choose a card.

  3. Look at the card and take notes on what the images on it bring to mind for me.

  4. Review the card's meaning in the book and take notes on anything that seems to stick out for me.

  5. Use these notes as a starting point for my journal writing which thus far has served as a rough draft for the blog post that I share later in the day.

This morning as I began to write in my journal about the first card I drew today I found myself digging deeper and deeper into some very personal stuff.  I hadn't set any parameters as far as what I would or would not share as far as writing that came out of this exercise; my only rule is that I write something each day for the month of December.  As I was writing I began to realize that I really did not want to share what I was writing.  The issues that were coming up were not anything that I'd call bad, they were more things that I'd not given a lot of thought to before.  It was unexplored territory that I'd like to give more attention to. 

So I made the call to make note of this card, put a note in my calendar to come back to it and chose a second card which was the 2 of Disks – Balance in Material Life.  The card is about finding that balance between work and play; exertion and recharging.   I've not always been successful at doing this, particularly when my semester is in full swing, I'm trying to keep up with both school work and my job, while trying to maintain some sort of creative and personal life.  In fact, finding a balance in my life is as close to a New Year's resolution as I get each year.

During my time on this ship I have taken up the habit of daily journaling.  This one hour of my day is mine alone.  It is only a small part of my day but it really helps me to reconnect with myself and begin my day a little more focused and rested.  I hope I am able to keep up this practice when I return to land.  It is one activity that could help me greatly in keeping this sense of balance.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Day 5: Spirit in Matter - Teacher of Wands

The other night I had a conversation with a student about reverse culture shock.  Reverse culture shock is what one experiences when making a return to their culture of origin after being away for an extended time, particularly if that time has been spent in a culture radically different than your own. The student, let's call her Dee, was talking about ways to make the transition to living back at home go more smoothly. 

One of the things Dee talked about was acknowledging the rituals and habits you develop in the new culture; especially those you realize you may not be able to continue to do when you are back at home.  She was planning to make a list of them so that she could either find ways to continue them in some way or, if it is something she isn't able to do at home, to take the time to really savor the remaining times that she does them.

Over these past three months I have had a taste of many different cultures, but the one that I have been immersed in the most is the one that has developed on this ship. 

I am on deck by about 6:00AM every morning.  I bring my journal and, if the weather is dry, I take a seat at one of the tables on Deck 9 and I write for an hour.  I choose a table where I have a view of the dining room so I can see when the coffee is brought out, usually around 6:30AM.  This is my favorite time of day.  The ship is quiet, I often have the deck to myself and I have seen some spectacular sunrises.  During this early hour I have watched birds catch fish, dolphins leap from the sea and this morning, those of us that greeted the dawn were also witness to three water spouts forming in a distant storm.  

At home morning was also my time to write after my early morning walk to the sea.  When I return I will not be staying near the sea and it will be winter.  I don't yet know if I'll find some other place to walk to in the mornings at home and so I am taking extra care to savor the mornings that remain. 

There are other habits I have on the ship.  I have been on deck for the entrance to each port.  I return there for our departure, often staying on deck until the lights of the port fade into the distance.  I walk the decks after each meal and make one last return to Deck 9 to look at the stars before I head to bed each night. 

The card I drew this morning was Teacher of Wands: Spirit in Matter.  One of the things this card relates to is the idea of being more present in our bodies and in the moment we are in.  As this journey nears its end I want to take care to practice some extra mindfulness, especially in those moments that I know may be experienced for the last few times.  I want to remember how sitting on deck watching the sunrise over the Pacific feels.  I want to recall the sensation of the wind on my skin when I stand in the bow watching the birds hover over the sea.  I don't want to forget the sound of the ships horn as we leave port.  I want to recall the hush of the halls when I take a late night walk insomnia walk through the ship.

There are 16 mornings remaining.  I want to remember each one. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Day 4: The Moon - Peace in the Darkness

This morning I sat on deck reading a My New York:  A Romance in Eight Parts by Peter Selgin.  It is an essay on his up and down love affair with the New York City; his hopes, dreams and imaginings of his life in the city and the fluctuating reality of that life.  He moves between optimism, dread, doubt, loss, hopefulness and bewildered resignation.  In the end I was left with the feeling that he spent most of his life sadly befuddled by his own dissatisfaction.   

It brought to mind a story I read years ago about an addict and his recovery.  There was a moment in the book in which the author was watching his friend dose up and by the expression on his friend's face he knew that she had just experienced what he called the peak high; the high that she'd spend the rest of her life trying to replicate.  It was a turning point for him because he realized then that he'd spent the past decade or so of his life chasing that same high.  It was soon after that he started down the road to recovery.

I don't believe any of us are ever fully satisfied with life.  I think we do experience moments of deep contentment but like everything else in life these moments are temporary. Beyond that, they are not only fleeting but also unique; each moment tied to its own special combination of circumstances that brought the feeling into existence.  Of course the same can be said for any feeling whether it is joy or sadness, anger or a sense of peace, but while we feel relief when the moments of pain pass we are dismayed when the joyful ones fade away.

In the midst of sadness and pain we forget that it will eventually pass and we will spend years trying to chase one moment of joy; a moment that no matter how hard we try can never be replicated.  It isn't that we can't feel joy again, but that we simply won't feel that particular joy in the same way.  We spend a lot of time trying to 'feel good' and we do so much damage to ourselves and our world in the pursuit of that.  We self-medicate with shopping, booze, food, drugs, adrenaline rushes and whatever else we can get out hands one that will help us avoid feeling bad.  It is always the next self-help book, the next workshop, the next ecstatic experience that will be our cure all and when it isn't we think it must mean we are somehow flawed.

While on this Semester at Sea trip I spent a lot of time berating myself for my feelings of homesickness. I questioned how it was possible that I could be doing this amazing thing, feeling a sense of wonder and excitement, and yet also feel so deeply sad inside.  Thankfully when I expressed these feelings someone spoke up and reminded me that it was okay to feel these things.  That there was nothing wrong with me and that it was not only possible to be happy and unhappy at the same time, but that it was 100% okay to be in that place. 

The card I drew today was The Moon: Peace in the Darkness.  It is a card about becoming comfortable with the every changing nature of being human.  Of recognizing that all things in life are in flux and learning to be more present in the moment, not because we seek to deny the future or the past, but because each moment is so fleeting.   We need to accept that it is okay to feel not great at times and that in accepting those feelings, acknowledging them, letting ourselves feel them is a necessary step those feelings moving on.  And we need to remember to not only cherish the more spectacular moments but to also acknowledge their fleeting nature and allow our happy moments to pass, just as we do our less happy ones.  Otherwise we risk becoming like that addict, forever chasing an emotional high that can never be replicated.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Teacher of Cups - Exploring the Inner Landscape

Today we cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Panama Canal.  As we entered the canal at 8:00 this morning I stood on Deck 9 towards the bow and pondered how it was possible that I was about to be one of the few people on Earth who will have this experience.  I knew of the Panama Canal of course but I had never given much thought to the possibility that I might one day be on a ship that would go through it. 

Our ship is now on Lake Gatun.  We are surrounded by rain and fog as we wait for a pilot to take our ship through the Lake to the next set of locks which will bring our ship to the Pacific Ocean.  By the end of the day I will have travelled through one of the world's greatest engineering marvels; one that allows this ship and all her passengers float across the Continental Divide at 85 feet above sea level.  Human beings can do amazing things when we put our minds to it.  I wish though that we'd put our minds to finding a way to live side by side in harmony. 

As we wait for the arrival of our pilot I have come below decks to charge my electronics and to write today's blog post.  The card I drew today is Teacher of Cups: Exploring the Inner Landscape. When I turned the card over its imagery and hidden picture drew me in.  I stared at it for several minutes trying to take in all that was in it.   

I love the idea of this card.   I say I love the "idea" because while I recognize the importance of taking the time to look inside and explore my own inner workings, I have a lot of issues with the behaviors and language that permeate the western self-help and new age culture.  I have an almost reflexive cringe that happens when I hear terms like being your finding happiness, identifying your authentic self or following your bliss.  

The thing is that I know where this cringe reflex comes from.  It stems directly from having witnessed so much bad, unkind, rude and cruel behavior done in the name of bliss chasing and authenticity.  In the extreme I've seen people ditch familial responsibilities and abandon those in need to chase their bliss.  I've heard cruel words said to others in the name of being authentic.  I've seen honesty and authenticity used as an excuse for a lot of selfish behaviors and unnecessary criticism of others.  Knowing oneself should not come at the expense of other people.  We have to learn not only to know ourselves but to also know how we can use that self-knowledge to create a kinder and more compassionate world. 

Looking inward is something I have had ample opportunity to do on this Semester at Sea journey.  I have filled more pages in my hardcopy journal over the past two and half months that I did in all of last year.  But I have had moments where my pen has stalled out on the page because I found myself questioning if the path of self-exploration I am feeling drawn to is a selfish one.  Do I risk becoming one of the bad examples that I have witnessed? 

I suppose that the risk is indeed there, but it is my hope that my awareness of its existence will mean that I remain attentive to it.  Knowing oneself is an ongoing process; one that I'm not sure ever really ends.  Though we can hope that the exploration becomes easier as we become more adept at using the tools we acquire in the process. 

Neither we nor our world is a static place.  Life is always going to challenge and change us.  Knowing myself also means being comfortable with the fact that that self is likely to change.  This might mean that in the end I may never fully know myself and may simply have to settle for a deeper sense of knowing myself better.  Perhaps it is in accepting the fact that even as we explore ourselves more deeply, we are still not ever likely to know everything, that humility is the be found. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

20 Compassion - Transcending Judgement

This morning upon awakening I wrote an email to a friend who is going through a rough time.  I expressed all sort of opinions on what I thought they should or should not do.  Even while writing it I began to realize that much of I was saying was motivated by my own fear.  Yes, there was concern and worry for them, but there was also a whole heap of my own fears of our friendship changing, a smattering of fear from my past experiences in similar situations and a finishing drizzle of fear of the unknown.  It was about ten minutes after sending the email I drew today's card.

20 Compassion – Transcending Judgement. 

I laughed when I saw it.  Okay, perhaps it was more of a rueful snort.  "Yeah, that's right," it seemed to say,  "I'm looking at you Miss Judgypants." 

In more traditional tarot decks this card is Judgement and if often interpreted as weighing of ones "sins" in order to purge yourself of them. In the Tarot of Transformation it is about cultivating compassion, trying to see others and ourselves through compassionate eyes, and seeking an understanding of where the judgements we make come from. 

Fear can be something difficult to control, particularly if it stems from past traumas or hurts.  When something sets that fear response off we simply react, "Oh, shit…here we go again!  Batten down the hatches, prepare the cannons, it's time to defend!!!"

In these moments I can be overwhelmed with a head to toe need to protect myself and my heart. I may get defensive, push people away, mentally scream at the top of my lungs about how wrong I think someone is.   Often it will not be until after the fact that I will fully understand what just happened.   And then, I find my judgement turned fully upon myself, berating myself for my lack of compassion and my inability to recognize my own fears. 

I know that part of overcoming this is to learn to accept myself more, to understand that I am just as imperfect as everyone else and should extend the same compassion to myself that I hope to extend to others.  It is also continuing to try to be more present in my own mind and my body so that I may be more aware of when my own insecurities and fears are rising up to take control. It is an ongoing process...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Day 1: Ten of Disks - The Great View

  11® 26.93" N

075® 07.44 W

Today, December 1, 2015, marks the first day of my annual month of blogging.  I don't recall if this is my fourth or fifth year of doing this but it has at least been long enough to become established as my annual writing ritual.

Each year I write a blog post a day for one month.  I usually register my blog with the BlogHer site for this but as I am currently in the middle of the Caribbean without regular internet access that will have to wait a few more days.  BlogHer also provides a focus for the month and blog prompts for each weekday, which I usually read but rarely follow unless I am at a loss for inspiration.  These prompts are something else I will not have regular access to.  My month of blogging does not usually have a theme though with the year nearing its end there have certainly been more than a few retrospective, assessment of the year and looking back type of posts. 

This year however I am choosing to do something a little different.  I have decided each morning to draw a tarot card to use as my focus for writing each day.  This is a practice that, though not generally done daily, has been a fairly regular part of my personal journaling over the past year. 

I have a long history with tarot cards having bought my first deck when I was about 13 years old. The first person I ever did a reading for was my mother at our kitchen table.  Since then I have had periods of intense study with them and times periods as long as several months in which I would barely touch a deck.  I've used them as a focus for meditation, clarification on personal issues and artistic inspiration.  I've done readings for friends, family and strangers.  I am fascinated with their history, the plethora of decks that have been created and the stories behind each image.  Whether or not you believe in the more metaphysical aspects of their history, there is more than enough inspiration and insight to be gained from the images and stories they contain. 

I will primarily be using the Tarot of Transformation which was created by Willow Arlenea and Jasmin Lee Cori.  This is the deck which I chose to bring with me on my three month Semester at Sea journey and has also been the primary deck that I have worked with over the past year. 

Today I drew the Ten of Disks – The Great View.  When I first look at this card I get a sense of soaring and seeking.  The book describes it as being "both/and," engaging fully in the details of life without losing the larger view or higher perspective.  It also talks of it being representative of manifesting things in the material world while keeping true to one's personal and spiritual values.

This trip, and stepping out of my life for three months, has provided me with the opportunity to not only view my life from a distance but to also ponder some of the details in a way that is more detached than is possible when living in the midst of it.  Even without this card I have come to the realization of my own tendency to be very either/or when it comes to the details and the higher view.  It is very easy for me to get bogged down in the minutia of the day to day, forgetting that each step taken and every small goal achieved is generally in service of some larger goal.  I can also become easily lost in looking far ahead or reviewing life goals and desires; lost to the point of being nearly overwhelmed with anxiety of how I might possibly accomplish all I wish to.  What is needed is the balance of recognizing the role that the small steps play as building blocks of the greater goal and to find ways to not lose sight of that. 

As for the second part, the one of manifesting things on the material plane while being true to one's personal and spiritual values, that is something that has always been an ongoing process for me.  It is why I have chosen to study sustainable business and environmental sustainability.  I believe it is possible to have a life in which my needs are met, I feel personally fulfilled and that I am contributing towards making the world a better place.  Now, I don't have any illusions that achieving any of this will be easy and I expect a heck of a lot of stumbling blocks along the way, not to mention the limitations of my own remaining life span, but it is something I believe I can succeed at. 

I'm looking forward to sharing the next month of blogging with you!  Peace.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Groggy Morning

It is early, just after 6:00AM ship time (it could be 5:00AM local time by we never seem to be in sync when not in port).  The sun is still below the horizon and the sky is just beginning to show the barest hint of pink.  Venus, Mars and the waning moon are in a long line high across the sky.  I am on Deck 9 watching the window of the dining room for when the coffee appears.   It seems to be a bit late today. 

I had intended to write a blog post last night but once again my cabin was the only quiet place.  Quiet is normally quite nice but as often happens, the soft roll of the ship lulled me to sleep.  I was out by 9:00PM.  I slept for nine hours.  I had a long an involved dream about being married to the this very well off older man who treated me very kindly and who I adored, but later found out was an army general responsible for a horrible genocide half-way around the world. 

I may want to reconsider my habit of falling asleep to the documentaries they stream on the ship's TV.

This morning I don't feel rested.  I feel groggy.  I had hoped to share a post about one of the personal insights that has been brought to light by this journey, but I'm only coming up with the realization that having a cabin without a window seems to have truly messed with my sleep patterns.  Even if I choose to stay in bed, I have generally always awakened with the sun.  Waking to an alarm to find my eyes opening to near total darkness is just not something I've managed to get used to.

These wonderful slowly brightening mornings on deck though?  These I could keep. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I am having an evening of frustration.  Right now I want nothing more than to be sitting on one of the upper decks enjoying the cooler evening air while writing in my journal but...

...the pool has just been repainted and so most of the upper deck is rather fumalicious right now and while it might give me a bit of a buzz, it does not make my lungs happy. 
...Deck 8 had students playing music on their laptops; no quiet there.
...Deck 7 had a talent show rehearsal going on portside and the smokers are out on starboard.

So I'm back in my cabin, in the chilly over AC'd air feeling rather grumpy. 

Earlier in the evening however I did enjoy a rather lovely sunset while eating dinner on Deck 9.  This was a good moment.  The air was warm and humid but not oppressive.  For whatever reason the early dinner crowd was smaller than usual so it was rather peaceful.  I'm trying to re-manifest the sense of calm and peace I felt while watching the sun go down over the sea (something which truly, I don't think I'll ever tire of watching) so I'll at least go to bed feeling a little less annoyed.

Mornings are the only peaceful time aboard ship when we are at sea, so my goal is to rise early and do my writing before breakfast.  Good night!

NOTE:  I think I may have put the incorrect date of our Panama Canal Transit on yesterday's post.  We the canal at about 8AM local time on Thursday, December 3rd. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stepping Out of My Life

I have not updated my blog as often as I'd hoped I would on this journey.  This is in part due to time constraints.  When in port I am busy experiencing the new country that I am in and when the ship is in transit my time is filled with classes, reading and catching up on homework.  But, and I think that this is more the issue, I am also having a very difficult time trying to distill the sights, sounds, tastes, scents and experiences of these past two and half months into the right words.  I have had an overwhelming amount of new experiences and I've no idea how to share most of them. 

But (and there is always a but) while I am having difficulty trying to share the experiences I've had outside of myself I am beginning to develop an understanding of how these experiences have changed me.  The experience of stepping out of one's well established life for three months is not one many of us are granted.  Before my departure the prospect of doing this did fill me with a certain amount of anxiety but I am beginning to see it for opportunity of experience and perspective that it has provided me.

At home in Portland I am known as many things; Joie from Dark Follies, Joie the dance teacher, Joie the organizer, Joie the musician, Joie the artist, etc.  When I arrived here on this ship I wasn't Joie the anything, I was just...Joie.  At first I admit that I found myself a bit uncomfortable with this.  I felt as though I didn't have a framework within which I could present myself to this new world.  I felt a little adrift.  But after a few weeks passed I began to find  it to be rather liberating.  I could just be me without any expectation of who I was known as in the community because, like everyone else here, I was now a part of a brand new community that was not yet developed.  We were all starting at a new place.

Now, this doesn't mean I suddenly found myself in the position of reinventing myself.  I am still me with all of my personal history and the baggage that brings, but in finding myself in situation where there were no outside labels or expectations, I was able to experience a re-exploration of myself which has led to a rediscovery of who I am and what is important to me. There are parts of me that I have long neglected that have resurfaced and parts of myself that I was holding on to simply because I felt the are part of what I was expected to be.   I have often thought about taking an extended period of solitude to do just this sort of personal inventory, but there is a benefit I think to experiencing this with people around that provides a sort of mirror that I would not have were I to do this sort of thing in isolation. 

In the coming days of our crossing of the Caribbean and the Panama Canal I hope to find the time to share some of the personal discoveries I have made.  I have a bit of a fear that this could come off as self-indulgent, new-agey, naval gazing but it's my blog and I'll blog what I want to...right?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Panama Canal

I was just informed that you can watch the World Odyssey go through the Panama Canal on December 2nd. 

The Panama Canal has live webcams at several locations. You can visit:

The World Odyssey will enter from the Atlantic side (Gatun locks) in the morning around 8:00am and leave the Canal late in the afternoon (Miraflores Locks) on December 2.

You can bet that I'll be on deck as much as possible that day as this is one of those once in a lifetime sort of events.  I've no idea where the cameras are but you may catch a glimpse of me if you are watching!

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!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Atlantic Crossing - Day 4

Tonight we had an all ship meeting about student behavior. It was one of those situations where they spoke to everyone with the intent of sending a message to a few.  What I am picturing is happening now is that some students, who are not at fault, are questioning and over analyzing their behavior because they are worried they might have screwed up while those who are at fault are finding ways to justify their own behavior.

If they even bothered to be there.  I'm not sure they actually check to see who attends these sorts of things. 

We were back at classes today.  Everyone is cramming for midterms.  I thankfully only have one and it's in my Natural Resource Conservation class, which thus far has been review for me.  Tomorrow though we have a guest speaker.  Captain Rick from the "Deadliest Catch," a show I've never actually seen, will be speaking to our class about fishery conservation.  I have been told from other classes he has spoken in that he is an engaging and interesting speaker.  I don't recall if he is the significant other of a professor or is one of the life long learners but he is here for the entire voyage. 

I attended a samba class today taught by our interport lecturer and will be participating in the Brazil cultural pre-port as a dancer.  There are about 30 of us I think who will be doing this.  I'm sure photos will end up on FaceBook.  I also started working with my belly dance students on their choreography for the end of the voyage talent show. 

Today's wildlife sightings included brown boobies, hooded boobies, a frigate and lots of flying fish.  No sea mammals yet. 

On a more personal note, I'm struggling with a bit of loneliness this evening.  It is something that has come and gone for most of this voyage.  My solution is to keep busy but tonight I seem to be caught up on just about everything.  It does seem to be more difficult in the evenings.  During the day I find that sitting on the deck and just watching the sea will ease just about any feeling, but at night,'s dark.  Which makes ocean gazing rather difficult to do!!

In any case, we set our clocks back again tonight.  I believe we also have a star gazing activity at 5:30 AM where they will dim the lights of the ship so we can see the southern cross and other constellations.  I don't have a camera that will take photos of stars but I will be sure to let you know what I see!