the floating librarian

the floating librarian

Thursday, November 27, 2014

On heading home and Things

Things I haven't done in 3 months

  • Cooked
  • Washed dishes
  • Cleaned, vacuumed, scrubbed
  • Made my bed
  • Washed laundry
  • Driven a car
  • Mowed the lawn
  • Kept an electronic calendar
  • Watched TV
  • Attended library meetings

Things I haven't missed in 3 months

  • All of the above

Things I will miss after Semester at Sea

  • Waking up in a new place every day
  • The ocean. Every day.
  • Colleagues working quietly in Glazer Lounge
  • Colleagues dancing riotously in Glazer Lounge
  • The happy sounds of college students in the halls (until 11 pm)

Things I look forward to at home

  • Waking up in my own bed every day
  • Walking in the woods
  • Alone time
  • Hugging my own son and daughter
  • My cat padding down the hall


Although I didn't write full posts about Rome and Brazil, I used some Rome photos to accompany other musings, and summed up a few thoughts about Brazil. While I have internet on this early morning before arrival in Cuba, I am uploading all the photos I can. We may be incommunicado from Nov. 29 through Dec. 3 due to Cuba's lack of infrastructure. (Well, it is now the next day, and the photos didn't upload so fast, so here's my post on Barbados instead.)

In Barbados FOMO (fear of missing out) got me again, but briefly. We arrived on the 2nd full day of rain, an unusual but much needed event for the island. As we gathered under the port terminal's tin roof amplifying the sound of a downpour, we were told that our trip to the botanical gardens was canceled. Even if our bus could get through flooded roads, we would not be able to walk the muddy and washed-out paths of the gardens. So I spent the afternoon with several friends, walking around Bridgeport in somewhat lighter rain.

The next day I had an afternoon trip to Harrison's Cave scheduled, so didn't get in on people's morning plans. It turns out a group hired a van and driver to take them for a day tour of the island, including the gardens we'd missed and scenic Atlantic-side beaches. That was one trip I really regretted not getting in on, in spite of my self-reassurances that you can never do it all. 

But after the cave, I went for a brief swim at the nearest beach, and caught perhaps my best photo of the voyage while ambling back to the ship with friends. I also got in some very relaxing beach time at the more touristy beach on our final day in port. Yes I did go to the tourist beach, where the fine white sand and  clear aquamarine water are nirvana akin to Hawaii. The disconnect is that it's named Accra, for the point of departure in Ghana of many slaves bound for Barbados. Given the educational theme of our Atlantic voyage, that was in my mind, but I'm told it's also named for a present-day connection to a vibrant city in Africa.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Preport reflection

Tomorrow we arrive in Salvador, Brazil and commence the frenetic rush to do and see as much as we can in port! I have learned to prioritize and pace myself, somewhat. Today is a nice, rare rainy day in transit with about one third of the passengers on board. The rest are traveling overland between Rio and Salvador, many via an Amazon adventure. 

So quiet! On the ship we usually have preport lectures to prepare ourselves, and postport reflections. Today is the right atmosphere for a preport reflection.

Suddenly, it seems, we have less than a month left, and people are starting to envision for the first time during the voyage what life back home will be like after SAS. I am dreading how boring work will be in comparison, but also looking forward to the comforts of home, and dancing and singing with my friends again. And now I have two more singing friends to get together with while in Charlottesville--Michelle Kisliuk and Allison Pugh.


I hate to approach a new place with trepidation, but the diplomats and the local student ambassadors tell us that Salvador, Brazil is more dangerous than Rio. They have all been robbed. In Rio I spent only a little time in the city, and never felt scared, but the surroundings were sketchy enough for me to be wary. Two of our crew members were robbed at gunpoint one evening. I took the safe daytime experience in Ipanema and the biggest risk I took was getting a hamburger whose meat was "freshly diced at knifepoint." This is not to make light of our crew's experience. It is a sad situation when the expectation of violence is routine.

Brazil is in the middle of preparing to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, on the heels of their incomplete preparations for the World Cup earlier this year. Even the ambassadors and tour guides who put a positive spin on it have an underlying uncertainty. Some say the bay water in Rio will not be clean enough for the water sports no matter what they do, and some countries who have inspected it will not participate in those sports. Brazil promised that the Olympic athletes' village would become low-income housing but reneged, saying now that they will sell the apartments as luxury condos. You can understand why many citizens are angry at the government for spending all this money on infrastructure that will not benefit them or make a dent in the poverty of favelas dominated by drug lords and/or police.

Four days after starting this post (four days with absolutely no internet, a curiously nice respite) I am back on the ship having visited Salvador. I actually liked it better than Rio, and found the Bahia culture very interesting. I hear there were some incidences of theft from our passengers, but I am either lucky or don't present as a target. Stay tuned for stories of candomble, bale folklorico, fish stew, and more, with a more positive attitude than I began with :-)

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Rooftop view from Casa Battlo
Port landmark
Although I'd been to Barcelona before, it was not a deep disappointment to go again when it was added to our itinerary. There is something about the Catalunyan independent spirit, and the beauty and whimsy of this city that speaks to me. It is a city where anything goes if it's fun and harmless, and bullfighting is outlawed. The Catalan language is a mix of mysterious and familiar, similar enough to Spanish and French for me to decipher some words and let others softly roll on by my ears.

Everywhere you turn, you spot a building where you can recognize Antoni Gaudi touches. According to our guide, the Catholic church is going to canonize Gaudi, who became a mystic in his later years. I realize that I have been adoring his architecture for its creativity and fantasy, but he had a serious religious purpose as well. The natural elements of his buildings were 'prayers to the architect of nature' e.g. God. Gaudi intended Sagrada Familia to be an expiatory chapel, where people atoned for their sins and gave offerings to support it. His vision was that there would be positive energy in each stone paid for in this way. It is sad that now the ongoing construction is supported by Asian companies (according to our guide) and tourists.

 I want to live in this sea-like house.
Sagrada Familia and ubiquitous crane

In contrast to Gaudi, the port is dominated by a landmark statue of 'Colon' aka Christopher Columbus, who returned to Barcelona after his first voyage to America. The base of the statue is full of other figures looking heroic. We also toured a 14th century cathedral with later layers of architectural styles, including neogothic. (I can see where Duke got its influences in a lot of the cities we've visited.) Another contrast is an obviously phallic monument by Miro that is called 'Woman and Bird.' Our guide shrugged with a wry smile.

Other experiences in Barcelona, the bullet point version:
  • A gorgeous hike in Montserrat, after being disgusted by the ugly tourists taking flash selfies with the black Madonna statue during the boys choir service
  • Tapas lessons: chorizo del diablo is not only caliente, it is literally set on fire. And pulpitos are tasty with olive oil, parsley, and lemon, if you don't think about how cute they are.
  • A visit to the gift shop of the Catalunya history museum near the beach, where the sales woman helped me to identify local music and gave me a free CD of the most important Catalunyan musicians
Mont Serrat

The Saldana, national Catalunyan dance