Well, folks, we are currently thousands of miles from where we last checked in. With just a brief stop in Hawaii in these first weeks, allow us to show you where we’ve been spending our time!
Introducing our living quarters aboard the MV World Odyssey. We boarded just after the New Year, having a few days to get acclimated and go through orientation with faculty and staff (or “staculty” as we’ve been branded, helping reinforce the inclusive teamwork we’re striving for) before picking up students and helping them through their orientation. Now that we’re in the swing of things, I’ve had some downtime to explore and appreciate our beautiful ship, though our cabin feels pretty luxurious after some of these long days at sea we’ve been having.
I heard a student declare on Day 1 that this ship has a “Titanic vibe,” and (while that’s a scary comparison as I write this in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is extraordinarily opulent. This is due in part to its origins as the setting for a German TV show, the equivalent of the American “Love Boat” so it is pretty snazzy. The signs are all still in German, since the ship goes back to a German company during the summer to bounce tourists around Scandinavia, though this is less helpful as an American who doesn’t speak German. The linguist in me is thrilled, since I’m starting to pick apart similarities to English (a Germanic language) and deconstruct the word structures, but it’d be a stretch to say I’ll actually learn much German while aboard.
Ironically, classrooms have presented challenges for faculty, since this is primarily a cruise ship and not a university. Multiple classrooms are set up right in the middle of the restaurants and dining halls, scheduled around meal times of course, but still. Others are tucked in the corners of the same room, or have been converted from the game parlor, the cinema, or sitting areas during the day when classes are held. The library, in fact, is a lounge and it operates with full snack and drink service during the day while Will’s at work. The SAS motto really is “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility” and everyone seems to be adapting really well, all things considered.
The course I’m working with, Global Studies, is the only required course on the ship, and we run it twice a day in back-to-back lectures. These are designed to prepare students how to function in port, given the cultural customs, historical and political influences, and more. I like our fearless and wonderful director’s explanation best: Global Studies explains “how not to be a jackass” when you get to each country. It’s been a wonderful journey already, and he’s put so much time into the course, including the creation of this video here, outlining each of the ports we’ll visit throughout the voyage. We teach in the biggest room, complete with a stage and balcony in all their gilded, lush glory.
In addition to housing close to 600 students and lifelong learners, around 100 faculty/staff/family members, and a few hundred crew, the ship also serves as home to some crazy-ass artwork. Embarking and walking around the first few days, this was the most striking for me. Each hallway, stairwell, nook and cranny has the most beautiful, outlandish, abstract, jarring, insert-adjective-here paintings and sketches. One of the other faculty joked on our first tours about creating a writing group based around these paintings. The fictions you could create, developing backstories and quippy dialogue, would be a super fun and nutty activity, and so entertaining since I doubt anyone would have the same two takes on any of this artwork.
An additional highlight so far was the Bridge tour. Though it’s marked on our ship maps, the Bridge is highly restricted to the crew and officers only. Over the last few days, we got to sign up for tours to see the navigation equipment and learn a little more about how we’re getting where we’re going. Though this was one of the rockier parts of the ship (“sea legs” are totally a thing, and you can check yourself for seasickness by seeing if you bash into the walls and feel drunk, walking in zigzags with a sleepy kind of headache), it was fascinating to hear the Second and Third Officers walk us through the mechanisms by which the propellers turn, how they receive wind and tide updates, as well as how they determine our location. My tour got to see the stash of gigantic paper maps that they keep as a backup in case of power failure. They offered us photo ops with the captain’s hat too – what a novelty, right? – but neither Will nor I accepted this particular opportunity.
To give a little perspective on this adventure, we’ve been sailing for 5.5 days straight with 2 more full days to go (at the time I’m writing not posting, because no WiFi). Land disappeared a long, long time ago. For Will and me, this is the single most anxiety-inducing aspect of this voyage, looking out at how vast these waters are and having absolutely no idea what lies below us. This first stint is our second-longest stretch at sea, following the crossing from Hawaii to Japan, so I’m expecting the cabin fever to start among the students shortly.
Luckily, we’re closing in on Hawaii and will get to fall to our hands and knees the kiss the land, beautiful land soon! Until then, don’t think of poor Jack or selfish Rose hogging that door all to herself (they both totally could have fit). Instead, enjoy the photos and we’ll talk to you soon after Hawaii!
Sneak Peak: Our excursion in Hawai’i took us through the rainforest, the Emerald Valley. We explored the botanical gardens of Lyon Arboretum and set out for Likeke Falls, ending at Tantalus Lookout (within the Pu`u `Uala-ka`a, if you can read Hawaiian) with a view of Waikiki Beach!