Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8/31/11 North Atlantic Ocean

So although the seas were predicted to be calm throughout our crossing of the Atlantic, the eerily calm, foggy waters of the 28th and 29th have since given way to 2.5m swells yesterday, even bigger today. The skies parted for most of the day on the 30th, and we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the North Atlantic, and Heidi and I had dinner outside on Deck 6. The sea temperature is a balmy 71 degrees F, and the 11,000’-deep water, when stirred up by the ship, is an utterly amazing azure blue, similar to the color in some alpine lakes, or in glacial ice.

Heidi on Deck 6 with Michael Williams, the Director of the Cape Town Opera, who is on board to teach drama.

There is a finally some sense of routine on board, with the college students getting engrossed in their classes, faculty busy keeping on track, and staff merrily doing their jobs about the ship. I, on the other hand, cannot seem to get on top of this headache that was an extra-special aspect of my strain of Reade’s cold. 24 hours a day Advil just barely takes the edge off, and the sore throat keeps me from eating crunchy—dare I say, more healthy­—things. It’s currently the 31st at 1705, and each of the last two days I’ve felt incrementally just a bit better. A very small bit, but a bit nonetheless. Last night I discovered the hard way that:


e.g., a conservative dose of Cough Syrup with Codeine + Ambien = Up All Night, not able to sleep. I should have instead tried the recently-released-as-hostage Black IPA that I have waiting in the refrigerator for my return to health. [It’s a long story, but I bought it in Boston when all the adults were on board for the Forum, where upon boarding security promptly relieved me of its possession until we departed Montreal with all the college kids on board, when it magically (nautically?) became ‘OK’ to have in my room. Huh?]

The observation deck of the MV Explorer, roughly 50' above the waterline.

I now have little clue what day it is, and if it weren’t for this blog, I’d literally have no idea. The college classes alternate in “A” days and “B” days; this fourth day of class is B2. Heidi, the boys and I have been going to the Global Studies lecture on B days; this is the ‘core’ class that is required of all college students, and strongly recommended for everyone else. Today we got a very brief dilution of world history; the last 600 years was comically compressed into about a half-hour, and Professor Scott Sernau did a fantastic job with it. Additionally, on the two days leading up to a port, there will be two pre-port lectures, one about the culture of where we’re going, and the other more related to State Department travel advisories. I had wanted to sit in on a Global Climate class, but this bug has kept me down that early in the morning, especially losing a precious hour of sleep roughly every other night. Now that I’m out here on the ocean, completely clueless about this ship, about nautical lingo, and even what’s underneath the surface of this vast expanse of water, I think I’ll instead sit in on the Oceanography class, which is also at 0800. Curiously, Geology is also at 0800. I guess us science geeks get the short end of the liberal arts education stick!

Speaking of which, last night at about 3 AM we crossed the mid-Atlantic ridge, the weird-looking line that most people probably ignore on ocean floor maps that lies in a swervy north-south direction, roughly equidistant between land masses to the east and west. It is basically the place on the ocean floor where the youngest rocks on earth reside; these spreading centers send out basaltic lava thousands of feet below the surface, creating new oceanic crust that pushes the plates slowly apart, in opposite directions. Iceland basically lies in this geologic zone, albeit the only place on earth (to my knowledge) where it is actually above sea level. Ironically, I happened to teach Tate about this stuff yesterday, as his science book was going over the basics of plate tectonics. How many people can say that they crossed the mid-Atlantic ridge on the exact day that they learned about it in school?

Since getting well clear of the weather behind us, two days ago the Captain slowed our speed from 21 knots down to 15 knots. My assumption is that we were going faster than normal leaving North America in order to get as far away from Irene as possible, and we now need to get our average speed down to 17-ish knots as we approach Morocco. I haven’t yet done a bridge tour so this is mostly conjecture on my part, but lots of aviation and marine knowledge goes hand in hand, there’s just an extreme difference in density of the mediums we operate in or upon. This ship is fascinating, and I’d have hundreds of operational/technical questions if given access to the poor sap on the ship’s crew tasked with answering such things.

We’re currently about 200 nautical miles north of the Azores, and I’ll try to get in one more post prior to arriving in Morocco. On the first day in Casablanca, we have a city orientation tour scheduled, which includes seeing one of the largest mosques in the world. On the 4th of September we depart for an overnight trip starting in Marrakesh, where we will spend one night before proceeding up into the Atlas Mountains to hike between Berber villages.

Should be amazing!

Sorry, gotta include one sunset pic, just for the record!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

8/28/11 En Route to Casablanca, Morocco

46° 14.91N  / 056° 10.93W

The MV Explorer departed the Iberville Port of Montreal promptly at 1700 hours, with dozens of parents on the dock, waving, screaming, probably some crying, too. Turned out to be a beautiful day, clear skies, felt 80-ish, and not too humid this far inland, for once. The college kids are all running around trying to meet people, get their bearings on the ship, basically figure it all out. They keep asking us "Where is Classroom X?", but not having to pay attention to classroom locations, we are no help whatsoever.

It's currently the 28th at 1300 hours (I refuse to accept the fact that the USA Pro Challenge is, at this moment, probably getting ready to roll past our house, 2 blocks away!), and last night was our first night to have to move the clocks up due to going eastbound. We'll lose 5 hours in the next 7 days en route to Morocco, and it will be an interesting challenge trying to adapt. We woke to IMC conditions outside (i.e. it's zero-zero in the fog, can't see a thing; I gotta get the nautical lingo for such conditions down!), and it's the first day of class for the students. Breakfast at 0800 was nearly devoid of college students, and many are clearly feeling the effects of the new ocean swell, as we sail toward the outlet of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The Captain (often called 'The Master of The Ship') has re-plotted our previously-forecast great circle (i.e. ‘direct’) route to Morocco, and now has us motoring perpendicular to the landmasses that are now nearly behind us, presumably to get as far clear of Hurricane Irene's predicted path as quickly as possible (ship can pretty much outrun most hurricanes if necessary, as it’s unofficial top speed is quite close to 40 knots with all 4 engines running!). It is apparently forecast to affect Quebec soon but we should be clear by then, and The Master is actually predicting relatively calm seas for our crossing of the North Atlantic, a fairly unusual occurrence. Many previous voyagers speak of typically rough seas in the North Atlantic, though I’m sure we’ll see our fair share of high seas along the way.

Reade's 6-day crud has now firmly taken hold in my respiratory system, and ibuprofen merely takes the edge off the wicked sore throat and achiness. Tate and I spent all of yesterday (the 27th) in our cabin, trying not to be vectors for this nasty bug. I sincerely hope we succeeded, as I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Murphy's Law dictates that I basically haven't been sick in two years, and now that there's 500+ new people to talk to, laryngitis prevents me from doing so. Hopefully it'll be distant memory by September 3rd, the day we dock in Morocco.

Friday, August 26, 2011

8/25/11 Arrivée Montreal

We woke at about 0600 on the 25th to such gentle swaying of the MV Explorer that Heidi thought we were already docked, but we were still approaching the Port of Montreal at about 5 knots. During dusk of the 24th, we were able to see Quebec City; a beautiful location right on the Saint Lawrence, a big waterfall nearby, and a ski area within driving distance to the east, the runs of which go right down near the water. We saw a pod of whales, and I saw a seal in an area where the greenish waters of the St. Lawrence suddenly turned blackish-brown, for some reason.

Crossing underneath a bridge just west of Quebec City.

The MV Explorer
Aft decks, where all the action is.

The afternoon of the 24th I sat in on the closing address of the Forum for Global Engagement, which featured J. Stapleton Roy, former U.S. Ambassador to China, who talked about the future of relations with China. Fascinating to hear him talk, as he lived in China for decades, and has a tremendous amount of foreign affairs experience. Similar to Thomas Friedman in 'The World is Flat', he advocates for both accepting and responding to globalization issues, and is very concerned with the U.S. standing in the world, economic, academic, and otherwise. He said that China will soon undergo a virtual complete replacement of the ruling party, as China has strict term limits (sure wish we did!). Mr. Roy said there was literally no way to know how the new administration would respond to the issues facing China: over-rampant economic growth benefitting a minority of the population, military engagement issues ('flexing' their new muscle, which all developing countries do, sooner or later), moving toward technological innovation rather than just fabrication, and a government structure that is rather antiquated (i.e. hundreds and hundreds of years old). I couldn't help but see parallels between the U.S. government's 200-odd year old challenges and China's nearly millenium-old challenges. We both have government structures that were predicated on now-antiquated global conditions (in our case the cold war, even our own independence from Britain), and Mr. Roy sees China either allowing the people to move toward more democratic means, or a complete smackdown of the population to keep the status quo, with few realistic options in between. Our government (me talking now), on the other hand, is paralyzed by our own internal fears of the 'other 50%' of the country, whom should be much, MUCH less concerning than the other 85% of the world. We stand getting swallowed up and spit out the back end if we don't immediately embrace the globalization that will occur with, or without our self-indulgent 'blessing'.

Anyway, we docked at 0715 on the 25th, and it began to rain. We proceeded to change cabins to our new digs one floor up, above which much of the faculty are now housed. Our 'staff' cabin is pretty much exactly like the student cabin we were in on the third floor, and Reade and Tate again have an interior room right across the hall. It is incredibly tight with all the camera and computer equipment I brought, but it'll do. Luckily we convinced the hotel director that two single beds in our room might not work out so well for four months, and they jammed two twins together into the corner of the room for us. Some cabins (even these relatively small ones) are arranged in a way that make it easier to change bed configurations, though this cabin doesn't appear to be one of them. I digress…

Luckily the rain let up, and once we moved our bags the four of us and another family walked to Costco, fortuitously only about 2 km away. We hadn't been able to horde snacks for the kids yet, so the location of the 'eastern' Port was a great thing, and we returned to the ship with our duffel bag full of loot. After running across a cab in the parking lot of Costco we took advantage of it and avoided the walk, since it had decided to rain again. After Heidi's cabbie experience in Boston, I think she's afraid of them all, so I handled the tip. LOL

Reade and I then headed into Montreal to search out the butt-saving Simon's Camera, incredibly only about 6 blocks from the ship. Leave it to me to have a major lens snafu 6 days into the trip, but luckily it didn't occur 2 days later, as I would have been without a super-wide lens for the entirety of the voyage, and I couldn't reasonably fathom that. The dollar certainly ain't strong here, and the taxes were an impressive portion of the bill. Add to that the fact that I was starting to get Reade's 6-day cold, and I hadn't had a great last 24 hours. Time to start going with the flow, something we've been trying to hard to teach Tate, and a concept that SAS tries to impart to the college students from Day One. By nightfall my voice was starting to squeak and I was feeling pretty meek; hopefully this won't last the 6 days that it gave Reade fits. 

Reade and Tate have already made some friends, and they are really enjoying the ping pong table, though they are anticipating it getting harder to play with the college students on board. I assured them that the college students will enjoy interacting with them, and I'm sure Tate will know many of their names within the first week. I found the boys at the piano bar a couple of hours ago, and it was cool to see the college students walking by and smiling at them. I truly believe that Reade and Tate are about to have the time of their lives.

It finally happened, Reade dissed Mommy and sat down with his friend Scott to eat dinner!

It's currently the 26th at 10:45, and the college students are now boarding. Heidi and 'Dr. Phil' are in The Union, the large lecture auditorium where they have the embarking students stopping at tables to get information relevant to the next four months of their lives. It's funny to see them so reserved and tentative; something tells me that after Morocco, it will be a very different story. While walking through the 5th deck, I overheard one student asking where the casino was, and I stopped and pointed at the library and said: "It's right there, you guys already hit the jackpot." Heidi is going to be so, so good at this. I'm sure she'll quickly develop rapports with the students that many practitioners often struggle with. Gosh I'm lucky!

The tug that pulled us away from the dock in Montreal.

Tonight at 1700 the MV Explorer will depart the Port of Montreal, and the Fall 2011 voyage will be underway, with Morocco being the first destination. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

8/22 Underway to Montreal!

Watching the Port of Boston slowly fade into the horizon was a bit odd. FInally being on board a moving ship was a new experience, and the sounds, movements and vibrations of the vessel are all new to me. Pilots develop a rather keen kinesthetic sense after years of flying, and I can feel and hear all sorts of subtle things that I have (technical) questions about. As we approached the continental shelf the seas definitely changed, and the next morning you could tell a few people weren't quite their normal selves. Turning northeastbound to parallel the coast, the swell was pushing directly across the ship's longitudinal axis, and a lot of people clearly weren't fond of it, as telltale scopolamine ear patches became more commonplace. That being said, it wasn't as bad as I thought, though I'm pretty sure the seas were fairly mild. The boys seem unaffected, though Reade is still sick with a cold.

The view out our 3rd deck cabin window.

On the morning of the 23rd, we rounded the northern highlands of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, but could only see a small island that lies 10 or so miles off Cape Breton. Nova Scotia holds a special place in my heart, as my Dad used to take us camping up there every other summer or so. We used to go on birdwatching hikes in Cape Breton National Park, picking fresh blueberries to eat the whole way. Fresh lobster brought back to Cheticamp Campground, all the small fishing villages, lobster traps, etc. SAS sometimes departs from Halifax, and I really wish they had for this voyage, it would have been fun to be back there.

We all got to meet Dr. Bernie Strenecky, one of the founders of The $100 Solution, the program that the boys will be part of a case study to evaluate the adaptation of the program to school-age children. Zubin Davar, the 25-year old Executive Director of the Board of the $100 Solution, approached the boys and asked them to sit in on meeting, and say a few words about what they are planning on doing. I spent about a half-hour with Reade and Tate preparing them for their first public speaking experience, and despite some fidgeting they did great! They seemed to enjoy interacting with Zubin, an SAS alumni who works in marketing in NYC. I'll share much more about this endeavor as we near Chennai, India, where the boys will implement their $100 Solution.

Bit windy off of Nova Scotia!

Reade and Tate have already started to make some friends amongst the other dependent children, and have been playing both basketball and ping pong, in addition to exploring the ship, learning all the nooks and crannies that remain elusive to us mere adults. Semester at Sea is using this leg to Montreal to host the Forum on Global Engagement, a lecture series concentrating on issues in globalization, this year's forum focusing on Sino-U.S. relations. There are many Chinese participants on board in addition to some distinguished US lecturers (Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, Jim McNerny, CEO of Boeing, etc.). Last night there was a traditional chinese music presentation, and the boys were very interested to see the unusual instruments that they played. One was sort of a vertical violin with a tin can-looking base, and another much like a hammer dulcimer.

Anyway, it's currently 0925 on the 24th as we head toward the Saint Lawrence Seaway. We'll be in Montreal tomorrow morning, and will be able to move into our permanent cabin and finally unpack, settle in. The chaos of the college students boarding will be interesting, however it will be one of SAS's smallest student bodies, with only 451 students onboard (usually there are upwards of 700). As I've learned in a few presentations over the last few days, the economy has understandably presented the Institute for Shipboard Education new challenges, but they are trying to adapt to keep this non-profit organization 'afloat' (ahem!). Having been founded in 1963, traditionally the fall and spring semester voyages have always circumnavigated the globe, but after this voyage the fall voyages will be Atlantic explorations only. Fuel costs are currently about $2000/hour to run the ship (which ISE owns), and declining enrollments start to paint a 'perfect storm' sort of picture that casts shadows on this amazing program. Some colleges and universities continue to refuse to accept SAS coursework for credit, despite the academic sponsor being the very well-respected University of Virginia. Many colleges want study abroad for their students to be 'immersion' experiences, and they cannot fathom how seeing 14 countries in 111 days 'on a cruise ship' could provide such an opportunity. Not having yet been on a voyage I still disagree--knowing Heidi--and now having talked with many SAS alumni (and reading dozens of student blogs preparing for the trip) for which SAS was truly a catalyst in their lives, much different than the experience of your typical Spain or Italy study abroad student. If any of you out there have children nearing college-age and are considering study abroad programs, might I suggest that you find out whether or not the schools they are looking at accept credit from SAS, and seriously consider SAS for their study abroad experience. I know that Heidi's experience during her Fall 1988 voyage shaped her life in ways that she might not have been able to envision at the time, and the 'kids' I've talked to only three days into our experience are similarly changed individuals. I'll certainly speak more to this as the voyage progresses, as I think we all are starting to realize that globalization of the economies of the world is happening whether the U.S. likes it or not, and the kids who have international education experience will have a leg up on their competition.

SAS Liferaft, anyone?

Anyway, the seas have calmed, and the MV Explorer will spend the night navigating the waters of the St. Laurence while we are sleeping. We will awaken as the ship prepares to dock and let the forum-goers debark, while hundreds of college students await finally beginning their journey around the world, as we did a mere 3 days ago.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Boston, MA

8/21 Boston

The flight to Boston was uneventful, other than the fact that we were diverted to Canada (!) for a thunderstorm over Boston, and we had to haul around 270 pounds of luggage (in addition to four rather densely packed carry-ons). Boston was mid-90's and way-muggy. We checked into our hotel after an expensive cab ride from Logan ($30 for 3 miles???), and proceeded to find a Thai restaurant just down the block (yay!). The next morning the boys were excited to meet up with Uncle Evan, who joined us for the three mile walk of the Freedom Trail. After seeing the top deck of the Constitution, we proceeded to climb 294 spiraling stairs to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. Climbing up was not so bad. Climbing down seemed not so bad. We stood around for a few minutes after we got to the bottom, but when we started down some stairs to leave, the boys, Heidi and immediately caught rig! Despite how much cycling we do, those stairs kicked our butts and our thighs started to seize like catgut on a tennis racket!

A gravestone at the Granary Burial Ground, where victims of the Bosston Massacre are buried.

Will somebody help get this pigeon off my face!
A memorial to the men and women fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Waitin' for the train...
After a late checkout, it was finally time to head toward the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal to board the MV Explorer. It's hard to express the excitement, especially mine, after spending so many hours reading staff and student blogs, seeing the myriad pictures of the vessel in ports around the world. You have to understand that I've spent very little time on the water, and transportation vehicles of any sort have always fascinated me, little boy that I am. As the cab pulled up to the terminal (a very large building adjacent to the dock, nearly impossible to see anything), I could see the 'familiar' blue hull through the occasional glass doorways; we then reached the entry doors, where we could finally see: EXPLORER! Woo hoo, it was finally here, and although we were 40 minutes early, they allowed us to board (embark, in nautical terms), avoiding the lines of faculty and staff that were to follow.

Finally, we are ready to board the MV Explorer!
Such an amazing thing to finally be aboard the MV Explorer, and it's such a beautiful ship. Built in 2002 as a cruise ship, it has been retrofitted to literally be a floating campus. Although we currently have a temporary (small!) room on the third deck due to the Forum on Global Engagement that is going on during the leg to Montreal, the accommodations are quite comfortable, despite the fact that we can't really unpack. In order to access supplies, we need to move suitcases, then to get to the suitcases, we need to move boxes of supplies. A bit like Whack-A-Mole, albeit with big, heavy, squarish rodents. It'll be nice to move up a floor and have some more room after these 400+ forum-goers disembark in Montreal.

That night there was an alumni event aboard the MV Explorer (900 alums!), and we were able to get Evan and his girlfriend Caitlin on board from 7 until 10:30 pm. Since Evan lives in Boston, we decided to send some stuff ahead so that we wouldn't have to spend the day shopping for stuff like: 4 months worth of shampoo, 4 months worth of saline solution, 4 months worth of 'name-your-favorite-staple-here', etc. He brought the first load to us in his rolling duffle, and the boys had fun showing them around their new home. We all got a chance to get to know Caitlin, and Tate and I talked for awhile with a college student from Fort Collins who had just finished the summer trip that morning. Kylie gave Tate the inside scoop, and introduced him to Howard, who just may be able to come up with fresh bananas at times when you might never expect one to be within hundreds of miles!

The following morning they both met us at the ship to get together to go to the aquarium, and brought the second load: 46 pounds of box we sent, plus about 30 pounds of Molly the Owl books that Lorien and Eric overnighted so that we could give them to kids around the world (thanks guys!). Evan was happy to be done with the sherpa duties, though I ended up getting stuck at the bottom of the gangway with the duffel bag, unable to re-board due to the 400 prospective students boarding for the next hour. I chatted with a Boston Police officer for the next 80 minutes, and it was fascinating to hear his perception of seeing the 600+ summer students get off the ship that morning. He said that most of the people getting off cruise ships are old and crusty, annoyable, hot, and just plain testy. Seeing the students say goodbye to the friends they had made while saying hello to a parent they hadn't seen in 8 weeks was an amazing experience, and he hadn't realized that such an academmic program existed (as most don't).

The tug prepares to pull us out of the Port of Boston.

Anyway, everyone (but me) enjoyed the Boston Aquarium, and I joined them for lunch at Bertucci's. Walking the 2.5 miles back to the ship was entertaining, as Little Man Tate decided that walking wasn't so high on his priority list. In preparation for departing the Port of Boston, all passengers must undergo 'muster' training, that is, learning the procedures for abandoning ship via the ship's life boats, the largest four of which hold 150 people each. After dinner as the last light faded from the western sky, the kids waited for a tugboat to approach the MV Explorer. After watching the tug maneuver around and attach a line, we told the guy working on the deck of the tug where we were headed, which amazed him. They finally pulled us away from the dock at exactly 9:00 pm, and 15 minutes later we were under way, under our own power, headed for the Atlantic with the Pilot boat cruising alongside. Twenty minutes later I watched the pilot hop off the ship onto the pilot boat, and they both blew their horns as the pilot boat flipped a 180 and returned to the Port of Boston.

After five months of waiting, we were finally underway!

Pilot boat alongside, getting ready to let us go!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

T-6 days until Departure!

For those of you who don't yet know, Heidi, the boys and I will spend the next four months going around the world via the Fall 2011 Voyage of Semester at Sea. We depart for Boston in six days, and we are currently packing and getting the house ready; fortunately we have a wonderful house-sitter to look after things while we are gone. Yesterday Heidi finished her last day of work for four months, and her practice (now owned by Boulder Community Hospital) was gracious enough to allow her a leave of absence.

Heidi is an SAS alumni, and she first circumnavigated the globe during the Fall 1988 Voyage aboard the S.S. Universe. After a conversation with a pharmaceutical rep about jobs on SAS voyages for PAs, early this year she decided to apply for the shipboard PA position for the Fall 2011 Voyage. We received word that she got the position back in April, and we've been excitedly anticipating the adventure ever since! In concert with the ship's Physician (who chose her for the job), Heidi will be responsible for the medical care of 700 college students, in addition to faculty, staff and their families. They will have 2+ hours of daily clinics while at sea, and will share both night and port call. I'll be responsible for homeschooling the boys while we are away. Cross your fingers for me!

We leave for Boston next Friday, and will spend two days hanging out with my brother Evan and enjoying Boston. The MV Explorer, the Institute for Shipboard Education's beautiful 800-passenger ship, will be our home for four months. It was built in 2002 and is one of the fastest commercial vessels on the sea, able to cruise at 30+ knots! Although it was originally built as a cruise ship, it has been retrofitted to be a floating university; no casinos or umbrella drinks aboard this ship. Having spent very little time aboard any boat big or small, this will be a fascinating experience for this landlubber.

We will embark in Boston on August 21 en route to Montreal, Quebec, where the students will board. During that time Heidi will be undergoing various orientation and training activities with University of Virginia staff (UVA is the academic sponsor). The boys and I will be heavily involved in a pilot program for The $100 Solution, and will take this time to meet with Dr. Bernie Strenecky, Semester at Sea's International Service Learning Coordinator, who will fortunately be on board for the leg to Montreal. Although The $100 Solution has to date only been integrated into Service Learning courses for college students, Reade and Tate will effectively be test subjects, with the intent being to help adapt the program for school-age children (hopefully for use by faculty/staff dependent children on future voyages, also engaging their classmates back home).

Over the course of the 111 day voyage, we will circumnavigate the earth and visit 14 countries, spending roughly half the time at sea, half in port. Our itinerary:

Montreal, Canada
Casablanca, Morocco
Tema, Ghana
Cape Town, South Africa
Port Louis, Mauritius
Chennai, India
Penang, Malaysia
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
Hong Kong/Shanghai, China
Kobe/Yokohama, Japan*
Hilo, Hawaii
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Panama Canal, Panama
Havana, Cuba
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

To support the learning endeavors of the students on board, SAS arranges in advance dozens of field trips, service visits and homestays in each port as part of the International Field Program, a fundamental aspect of the students' SAS experience. We should find out in a week or so which trips we will be partaking in, and I will endeavor to document our journey and present it here. Both Reade and Tate will be maintaining blogs as a part of their homeschool curriculum, and Heidi has decided to do one as well. You can find them here:

Please feel free to share these links with friends and family whom you feel might be interested, and we'd love it if you'd take the time to comment, ask questions, etc. We will try to update these sites as frequently as possible within the constraints of the rather limited shipboard satellite-based internet service. If you can imagine 800 of your closest friends sharing your home cable internet connection, you can fathom what we're in for.

As this extensive wait period finally comes to a close, we look forward to the next four months with the greatest anticipation. The boys and I can only remotely imagine what adventures lie ahead, while Heidi eagerly envisions the thrill of being able to share the world with her family. What a gift!