Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Deck

Semester at Sea ... we have made it here.

The pool deck on the ship.

Leaving the port in Halifax.

Practicing safety procedures.

Searching for Desmond Tutu or "Arch," as he likes to be called.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Living in motion

Day 4 – In-Transit: Halifax to Spain

The constant hum from the propellers and the rocking back and forth turns bellies inside out and green-faced zombies walking the halls of Fall 2010 Semester at Sea voyage. The seas have been relatively clam for the past few days, but that would come as a surprise to the majority of the participants who haven’t quite got their sea legs yet.

Despite being in constant motion walking down the halls seems to be the biggest challenge. As the boat rocks back and forth towards starboard than port side students stumble back and forth trying to walk in a straight line. It is near to impossible not to bump into at least one person at every attempt to walk.

In classrooms, attention spans sway in an out and projection screens flap against the wall. It is an unorthodox college learning environment and presents some interesting challenges.

For instance, shaving in the shower requires skill that should be considered an Olympic sport. For one, there is a deadly razor sharp object involved, unpredictable turbulence, closet size space and balancing on one leg all at the same time.

It will take dedication, balance, and a lot of medication to reach Spain.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Setting sail

After one early morning flight from Boston to Halifax, an expensive cab ride to the port, five security check points and one incredibly awkward pat down, I have made it to the ship.

The ship itself is the most astonishing part. It is a 28,000-ton ocean liner with many amenities. The big blue and white cruise ship is laced with a string of multi-colored flags that reach from one end of the boat to the other. Florescent orange lifeboats adorn the port and starboard side while a rather simple pool sits water less on the deck. And for the casual or experienced basketball player there is a netted section to practice shooting hoops.

Inside, there is a whole other world of meeting rooms, dining halls, offices, cabins, a spa, and hundreds of passengers anticipating the moment the horn signals us Bon Voyage.
In less than five hours we will be setting sail for Cadiz Spain. Oh how I hope they have some beautiful shoes waiting for me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Traveling on Semester at Sea

My next adventure will be traveling around the world. I will go east from Halifax, Nova Scotia to San Diego, California taking classes and learning about the different cultures, their traditions and shoes. As I embark on the Semester at Sea program I will observe the different shoes of each culture and the role they play in their society - just like in Hawaii where life seemed to be spent shoeless.

My route will take me to:

* Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
* Cadiz, Spain
* Casablanca, Morocco
* Takoradi, Ghana
* Cape Town, South Africa
* Port Louis, Mauritius
* Chennai, India
* Singapore
* Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
* Hong Kong / Shanghai, China
* Yokohama / Kobe, Japan
* Honolulu / Hilo, Hawaii, USA
* San Diego, California, USA

But before I can board the boat I need to decide what shoes to bring. The only problem is the airline to Halifax won’t allow bags over 50lbs.

No shoes required!

On one of the tiny Hawaiian Islands lie a place full of soft speckled sand, mouthwatering fruit, and color changing flowers. Kauai is an island where the sounds of a rooster’s crow and waves breaking upon the shore can be heard day or night. It is paradise… And a place where shoes seemed to be an option.

This summer I traveled to the East side – Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapa’a, Kauai and spent most of my time barefoot.

The "no shoes" Hawaiian mentality thrives in the traditions of their culture. Their lives are based outside in the sun: fishing, gathering, swimming and surfing. The enjoyment of plant and animals and magnificent waves would deter any person from the walled confines of a house.

Also the Hawaiian relaxed lifestyle is represented in not wearing shoes. Taking my shoes off that first day after arriving from a 16 hour trip from Boston was amazing. I soaked my sock tan lined feet in the ocean water and took a deep breath in of the fresh tropical air.

Everyday I got a free pedicure by walking on the beach with the sand squishing between my toes and the salt water from the ocean washing it way. Almost any activity didn’t require shoes – surfing or swimming, kayaking, hiking and boating too. Even the performers at the lu’au went shoeless.

The day we went hiking with Catherine, our kayaking and hiking guide, she walked a “Hawaiian mile” – which is more like a mile an a half anywhere else in the United States – without any shoes. She said it was safer. With shoes a person can’t feel where they are stepping and can’t make sure they are stepping down with their whole foot. “Shoes just get in the way,” she said. And recommended we do the same.

On our hike she told us about the Menehune people and how they lived long ago on the islands hidden in the forests. These people who were much smaller than the people today, they could build walls, dams, temples, roads and houses in one day. As we walked by the now destroyed and eroded wall claimed to be built by the Menehune people she said that no one is sure why the people disappeared, but one theory is settlers who came to the Islands forced the Menehune people to build for them. After being forced to use there gifted ability to build things fast they fled underground not to be seen again. However, whenever anything happens such as misplaced keys or socks the Hawaiian people say the Menehune did it and delight in the idea that they still exist by these little acts.

Taking off my shoes in Hawaii was like taking off pounds of stress that had accumulated from being on the hustling and bustling streets of Boston.
And the mentality from having to get things done "yesterday" switched to "tomorrow."

Friday, August 6, 2010

When in Siena ...

The rocky cobble stones that line the maze like streets of Siena, Italy are filled with men and women walking back and forth from work. The men and women wear the latest trends in Italian fashion including women dressed in what I call Genie pants, baggy pants that are only tight around the ankles and the waist.

They not only motor by me in their Vespas, but strut along in high heeled shoes not caring that at any moment they could twist an ankle on the broken surfaces of the medieval age cobble stones. It is truly an amazing sight to see how they have mastered walking on these rocks. Something I strive to do on paved surfaces.

Walking through one of Siena's portas or doors is like walking into the past. The streets are small winding paths of cobblestones, laundry drying out of the windows, giant wooden doors with their own distinct knockers, and flags of the districts contrada.

There are seventeen different districts: Nobil contrada dell’ Aquila (Eagle), Nobil contrada del Bruco (Caterpillar), Contrada Priora della Civetta (Little Owl), Contrada del Drago (Dragon), Contrada Imperiale della Giraffa (Giraffe), Contrada Sovrana dell’Istrice (Porcupine), Contrada del Leocorno
(Unicorn), Contrada della Lupa (Wolf), Nobil contrada del Nicchio (Seashell), Nobil contrada dell’Oca (Goose), Contrada Capitana dell’Onda (Wave), Contrada della Pantera (Panther), Contrada della Selva (Forest), Contrada della Tartuca (Tortosie), Contrada della Torre (Tower), e Contrada di Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram).

Every year ten of the districts compete in a horse race in il campo. They run three times around the center and which ever jockey and/or horse is victorious in il palio they get bragging rights for the next year. This tradition dates back to 1656 when there were originally 59 contrade.

Every year hundreds of tourists join the people of Siena in hope to just catch a glimpse of this historic event. They too bring their own style to this city as they discover centuries old history in the Middle Age walled city. Many come in packs dressed in the stereotypical "I'm a tourist" uniform which usually makes them look like a walking advertisement. The Nike sneakers, billabong shorts or Levi Jeans, their favorite sports team T-shirt and favorite vacation hot-spot baseball cap.

Many of the tourists causally shopping at the stores or eating a gelato in the sunny Siena weather wear sandals or flip-flops. It seems to be the less intolerable way of walking around Siena while still looking fashionable. And most of them purchased the sandals at Siena's Wednesday morning market
for around 10 - 20 Euros.

Fashionable, reasonable and "Made in Italy."