Well, the stories about Russia are coming in and some of them are fairly wild, though I’ve only heard of one person getting pick-pocketed which is impressive considering that half the ship was wearing their concealing neck pouches on the outside of their clothing (did the picture on the box not indicate specifically enough to them that it is to conceal valuables?) Most of the stories just involve people missing the bridges and being stranded on the other side of the river, or receiving dock time in Poland for turning in their passport late.

Today has been long and quite variable as well! First thing today, at the beginning of global perspectives, some professors and the dean put on a little “Russian choral” performance for us which was hilarious (especially at 9:20). We usually have pre-recorded music that we listen to before class that is reflective of our next port, so this was a real treat. They called themselves “The Hard-to-Fathom Boys”, and their harmony was dead on!

For the rest of the morning, there was constant blowing of the ships horn (and there was some other ship responding with its horn as well) and I have no idea what that was all about but it made getting any work done a little challenging! I’ve been telling myself we encountered pirates, but they ran away because our horn was louder and scarier… just for kicks.

Schoolwork has been nonstop between makeup work and now midterms. I have a six page midterm due tomorrow… it was originally supposed to be longer but everyone in the class complained non-stop, so our professor cut it down a bit. The students in general seem to expect not to be doing any work, and when the professors give in and lessen our load I enjoy it by all means, yet I feel almost guilty because I know I should be doing more (despite being bogged down with makeup work still). The professor for this class also talked to us after reading some in-port papers and said that spelling was atrocious and that people were making up facts instead of referencing real sources… it made me feel like I am in middle school. This class (my religion one) has the potential to go so much more in depth, but everyone complains and wastes time asking dumb questions about formatting papers and complaining about workloads… they knew it was an upper-division class when they signed up for it, and I’m still doing less than I would be at summer school in Santa Cruz right now! I really can’t believe that people don’t even use automatic spell-check on their papers… and some of the reflections about our excursions in Russia have been equally disappointing. Many people have complained about the Metro and said they didn’t want to get on it because they were scared (of what?!) and other people complained that the art school I visited was in “the ghetto” (which it wasn’t, by any means… though it wasn’t like Beverly Hills where these people must be from!) It’s getting old fast having to listen to people complain everywhere, constantly, and loudly about cultures we should be respecting and opening our minds to… but I’m getting skilled at tuning it out, because I am having a ball out exploring!

Anyhow… the day was also so long because of meetings and such. There was a memorial service for the captain, then cultural pre-port, then a Bering Sea social (we live on the Bering Sea, it’s like living on a hall in the dorms). We didn’t go to the social because we’re too worn out and have lots of work to do… but we did go to the memorial service, which was really beautiful.

It was harder for me to go to than I had anticipated, I think because some things of the past finally sunk in, in addition to acknowledging the loss of the passionate man who captained our ship. Since I left home for school, I’ve lost several loved ones and haven’t been able to be present following any of their passings… so it was really tough for me to go to a memorial service for the captain because it all felt like it caught up with me… though I think I needed the closure (albeit somewhat indirect). The service was particularly wonderful because it was put together as a celebration of his life. Many people told stories of the captain, some of which were particularly touching… One speaker talked about how back on the first summer voyage offered by Semester at Sea (about five years ago), the ship passed what is now our sister ship, the Voyager. And when this happened, the captain came on the intercom and said everyone needed to rush to the side of the boat (regardless of classes, etc.) and see the ship as we passed it (I believe he had supervised the building of the Voyager as well). Another speaker talked about a time last summer when the ship was on it’s way to Athens, the final port. As the ship was passing an island, the anchor was dropped which left everyone aboard the ship quite puzzled as to what was going on. The captain then announced that this was the Greek island where he was born. Furthermore, he pointed out a white house on a hill and told everyone that his mother was in that house right then, looking back at the ship and he would like to go have lunch with her! After some poetic readings, personal stories, and a lovely song sung by a student who lost her grandfather at sea, there was a sort of flower communion. The captain loved children, so each of the children on the ship and each of the crew members carried a white carnation to the aft (back) part of deck four. The ship sounded its horn in maritime tradition, and then the flowers were offered to the sea in his memory. It is just unbelievably tragic how his life ended so soon, especially because he has a family and children of his own. There were many remarks of fate and destiny regarding how he came to be so involved with Semester at Sea, and how although his life was cut much too short, the captain passed away doing what he loved; sailing the seas…


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