Friday, September 17, 2010

Happenings on the MV Explorer..

So after Spain/Morocco, life has become somewhat, possibly incredibly, boring here on the ship.  Crossing the Atlantic was cool because everything was so new.  Now we're in the drone of classes, and while they can be interesting, they're still classes.  So people tend to get quite slap happy. 
One of the funniest things I've heard on the ship thus far was in Morocco, a group of us were heading off the ship.  There is always signs that tell where the gangway is to get off of the ship.  We walked out onto the deck where it was, and out of no where one of the guys I was with casually told the crew at the exit, "I'm here for the gangway".  If you're a fan of Old School, you would of most likely been in tears laughing as we all were.
Global studies here on the ship is a class that all of us are required to take, and it does have a lot of guest lecturers woven into it, even though Professor Sanchez is the actual professor for it.  But right now on the ship we have IBM's VP of Global Opportunities, so today we got to hear from her in class on Global Sustainability and her role with IBM.  In the next global studies class, we'll have our inter-port lecturer talk to us about Ghana's role in the globalized world, and he himself is a professor at a university in Accra, Ghana. 
We have inter-port students as well that hop on before their home country and just hang out with us and give us ideas of what to do, sometimes giving lectures to the shipboard community.  Daniel was our inter-port student for Spain, so I got to have dinner with him one night and got a lot of information from him.  Our current inter-port student is Rebecah, who lives in Ghana.  I met her on the ship just as I got back from my camel trek in Morocco, and we both took the elavator up from Deck 2.  We exchanged greetings, and since I was holding my bags and stuff with my right hand, I reached out with my left hand to shake her hand.  An immediate look of disgust rang on her face, as she said "no no no, never left, always right".  I keep forgetting this, as most people outside of western culture use there left hand for one purpose, and that one purpose only.  Let's just say that there's a reason why toilet paper is very hard to come by in these countries.
We also have a celebrity on the ship, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I knew little about him, but apparently anyone over maybe 35 knows much more about him.  He won the Noble Peace Prize in the '80s, and basically led the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  He retired from public life just before the voyage, but he is still the leader of the Council of Elders, a group of former world leader who work to provide guidance to global problems.  My goal is to eat dinner with him one of these days, I'm sure it will happen there's always one lucky table that he sits down with.  But we found out recently that he will be our guest professor for global studies between Ghana and South Africa.  So I can now say that I have been educated by a Nobel Peace Prize winner....take that ivy league!!  Anyways, using a word he loves, I can describe him as "awwwesome".  He's totally down to earth, loves to dance, and prefers to be called "arch".  So I can't wait til those lectures, he's only addressed as a whole one other time.  But it really is just novelty of turning a corner and seeing him right there in front of you, getting a fist bump, and just going about your day.  I highly recommend his book God Has a Dream, but from what I've heard from others, all of his books are pretty good, regardless of your religious beliefs.  It's pretty cool to see the newspaper clippings we post here on the ship from the countries we visit announcing the ships arrival or departure with him on it.
But for now we're just cruising by the country of Mauritani at about 15.9 knots, and will be in Takoradi, Ghana, this coming Wednesday at 8am!  I kind of regretably booked all Semester at Sea trips for Ghana, and I say regretably because there is nothing better than having no idea what you're going to do when you land in a country with a bunch of new friends (and if I get babied as much as I did in Morocco on the SAS trip, I might end up throwing a temper tantrum).  But here's my plan:
Day 1, Overnight visit to Winneba (Sept 22 to late Sept 23)
Coastal Winneba is a town home to just over 40,000, and is know for fishing, its welcoming atmosphere, and more recently, its University of Education.  In 2009 it became the sister city of Charlottesville, Virginia (land home for Semester at Sea).  City officials, residents, and students will welcome the ship on arrival in Takoradi.  We'll welcome them aboard, introduce them to the ship, and enjoy lunch together onboard before our 2.5 hour trip to Winneba.
We'll be welcomed by the city.  The two warrior groups (asafo) called Tuafo and Dentsefo will greet us with traditional drumming and dance.  The evening will be spent exploring the town and beaches, meeting local citizens, and a local dinner.
The next morning will be spent observing local court proceedings and visiting the local market.  At the market we meet the "market queen" who presides over the market and settles disputes.  Next we meet the "Chief Fisherman" and see how the local industry resolves disputes in a completely different fashion than American culture.
Nzulezo, A Water Village (Sept 24)
Nzulezo (a Nzema word meaning "built on water")  is built entirely on stilts on an open lake fed by two rivers.  Take a five kilometer ride on the lake in a local dugout canoe through marsh and open pools fringed with palm thickets and opens out into the vast expanse of the lake.  Arrive in the village, interact with the locals and explore the surrounding area.  Also visit Fort Appolonia located in Beyin.
So yea, it should be quite the experience, hopefully on the last day I'll get a chance to go out and explore the area on my own or a small group.  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes, and what I pickup from Arch's lectures!