file under whatever color for you means NOT true
The following etymological story was making the rounds of our shipboard community last week, which entranced many of us, living in one of the rare phases of life when there is someone to make your bed for you every morning. (Thanks, Sotero!)
Here’s the version as it appears online:
The origin of the English word POSH is interesting. Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was the thing to do for Englishmen (and women) to go to India for holiday (vacation). They went by steamship. In those days, having a tan was not meant for the upper class, because it meant that one was a manual laborer or field worker.
The route to India meant that the ship went out with the afternoon sun (the hottest and most likely to tan one) on the right or starboard side. And returning from India the afternoon sun was on the left or port side. To avoid the tanning sun (and paying for the more expensive side) a wealthy person would ask for a ticket “portside out starboard home”. The ticket person would stamp P.O.S.H. on the ticket. Eventually, one had only to ask for POSH. Thus, the word became part of the language to mean better accommodations… for a price.
But, of course, all good stories deserve a check-in with Snopes.com before sharing too widely, and sadly, this one doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny.
But if it had been true, I would have to say I’m traveling S.O.S.H. as my starboard cabin on Deck 4 is mine for the entire voyage. (Which currently means the sun is in a perfect position to force its equatorial brightness between the slit in my blackout curtains—e.g. sunrise came at 4:57 this morning as we travel north toward the mouth of the Amazon River; not a typical November morning for this native of the Northern Hemisphere. But then little has been normal about the past four months.)
Still, SOSH or POSH, here’s a chance for me to publicly salute the daily efforts and constant smiles of my cabin stewards: Julius (who departed in Cape Town, South Africa, for a much deserved break and visit with his family in the Phillipines after his eight-month contract was up) and his replacement, Sotero, who joined our 182-member crew to begin a new eight-month contract on the MV Explorer.
file under ORANGE for Trevor Fairbank’s ostrich photo, the last in this series of Semester at Sea student photos
I chose not to climb or ride the cable cars to Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, in part because my visual memory cards were mostly full after so much honest-to-goodness sight seeing at that point in our common journey. (My camera is busy filling a third 8 GB card, too, so it’s not like I’ve stopped taking pictures.)
But sometimes it’s just easier and more appropriate to share the riches.
file under GREEN for leftover beer and wine bottles
As members of the Semester at Sea community, students, staff and faculty have the opportunity to sign up (and pay for) organized tours that leave from the ports where the Explorer docks. Large, well-appointed tour buses pull up outside our gangway and, carrying cameras, water bottles, note pads and local currency, we head off for pre-planned day and overnight trips, feeling somewhat despairingly like tourists, but happy for the security of vetted drivers, air conditioning and the comfort of exploring with our friends.
I try to balance each port visit with a mixture of SAS-planned excursions and solo explorations.
The convenience of having an experienced tour guide paid off in St. Petersburg when I was introduced to highlights and backstories of the Hermitage that I would have never discovered on my own. But I also like to visit some of those same places that SAS has identified, but I walk, take a train, bus or taxi to allow for more or less time at my destination than a group field program might accommodate.
In Portugal, I was intrigued by descriptions of the city’s ceramic tile museum, but not interested in the organized tour’s schedule. Mesmerized by the architectural use of ceramic tiles up and down the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon during my first two days of wandering, I chose to find the museum on my own, and ultimately spent an overcast and rainy afternoon at the lovely Museu Nacional do Azulejo, or National Tile Museum. SAS trip participants had a chance to try their hand at decorating a tile of their own; I, instead, wandered lazily through the displays and chatted with two vacationing Swedish sisters over a late lunch in the beautifully tiled, blue-and-white museum cafe. An enjoyable Portuguese afternoon both ways.
A month later, just before leaving Ghana in sub-Sahara west Africa, I decided I would enjoy taking the SAS-coordinated trip to the Cedi Bead Factory. At this open-air workshop, our small group created a half-dozen beads created from the crushed glass pieces and powders of used wine and other beverage bottles. Mr. Cedi, our skilled host and Ghanaian entrepreneur-slash-businessman, was quick to teach us how he transformed the broken glass into beads using outdoor kilns made from the red mud of African termite hills (Their saliva, mixed with the mud, creates a composite that withstands especially high temperatures.) Our beads were soon firing in the small kilns, fueled with local firewood, and tended by locally hired and trained Ghanaians in this outdoor recycling “factory.” Meanwhile our hired tour guide gave us a detailed explanation of how Ghanaians have traditionally used all parts of the prodigious and ubiquitous date palm trees. The date fruits and its oil are used in cooking; palm fronds are still commonly seen as a resource for roofs. Once the tree’s fruit producing life has ended, the trunk is processed and tapped to create a popular local palm wine; that same sap when distilled, creates a potent liquor (nicknamed “kill me quickly”). After that, the trunk is often used for firewood, as much of rural Ghana still cooks meals over open fires.
The element of design in stronger in some places than others. I will never forget seeing Barcelona, on my first SAS voyage, a city just oozing with Gaudi and art, though the graphics and textile works of Buenos Aires stand out in my mind and memory this month. Still arts and crafts abound in all our ports. For example, in Cape Town, South Africa, the animals abound under the vendors’ tents as well as on the game reserves.
Those among us looking for more than postcards, magnets and keychains would find these decorative art pieces frequently at street markets, sometimes in retail stores, and sometimes in shops ala the Ten Thousand Villages model.
In Buenos Aires, I took an SAS sponsored tour of street art and graffitti, then pealed off to travel independently with others that afternoon and the next day without a set itinerary. Looking for local color was never so easy: bright barrettes, and earth-toned carved gourds in Palermo, pastel palettes of colored wax-covered necklaces and bold prints in La Boca; and two special favorites: intricate copper wire trees and the black, white and red wire mobiles from street vendors. You have to see the mobiles in motion to fully appreciate them; I so wish I could have brought the piano player home with me.
November 10, 2013 — file under TAWNY; for the lion we could barely see
We, the shipmates of Semester at Sea’s Fall 2013 voyage, are entering the third phase of our trip: we’ve been to two continents, and are only several days away from the third.
Europe’s iconic images are largely familiar to travelers — the ticketed type as well as the armchair and keyboard variety. Africa’s landmarks are less iconic, but its animals are not. Postcards and T-shirts in the souvenir shops of South Africa promote the “Big Five.” (Who among my readers know which “celebrities” make the list?)
One of the authors I had my writing students read early in the semester (Nelson H.H.Graburn on “Secular Ritual: A General Theory of Tourism”) pens that “tourism experiences are meaningful because of their difference from the ordinary” – that “tourism is best understood as a kind of ritual, one in which the special occasions of leisure and travel stand in opposition to everyday life at home and work” — reversals of of their “everyday home life.”
I think my signing up for a safari in South Africa fits this category.
I was conflicted originally about this kind of a side trip out of the port. I’m not fond of circuses based on my understanding of how the animals are treated. I’m okay with the mission of zoos, but really don’t like the ambience of cages, even for animals. And the long-term association of big game hunters and safaris appalls me. But. I was in Africa, and this was a day trip. I wouldn’t have to lie somewhere in the dark wondering about prowling lions at least.
So the compromise of a trip to a game reserve some three hours inland from Cape Town was booked. Because I suspect my blog audience is looking both for confirmation that their expectations of a place are accurate, and titillation by seeing things they don’t expect, I took pictures of animals we were told we were likely to see from the Jeep-like, multi-seated wagon.
You’ll notice I saw many stereotypical African animals, though fewer than some of my colleagues who traveled even farther. I asked one traveler who flew inland if she saw giraffes. (I didn’t, to my great disappointment, being more inclined to view a tall vegetarian than a fast-moving carnivore.)
“Oh, yeah,” she shrugged. “Giraffes were like squirrels, we saw so many of them.”
See, I told you I was conflicted about this. But none of us can do it, or see it, all. There’s a saying on board that though we are all on the same ship, we are all on a different voyage.
Now without further ado, let me introduce you to some of who and what I saw in Africa. Well, specifically on the Aquila game reserve, home of the Big Five and what I also like to call the Next Five.*
And then, also from Africa, including creatures seen during my stops in Morocco and Ghana, my Favorite Nine, seen truly living free in their environments. (Well, maybe not the burro, but surely the dung beetle, and believe or not, the baboons!)
And finally, in the mindset of saving the best for last, from Boulder’s Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa:
Disclaimer: the cheetahs and the leopard were rescue animals, in a healing sanctuary situation. Thus, in this case some cages. With wire openings large enough for my zoom lens. Still, I saw them.
file under BLACK and BLUE, with surprises
Since August 23, I have been calling Cabin No. 4085 my home. It has one door, which I enter from off a very long hallway; the hallway is so long it looks like fun-house mirrors are used to extend it. My cabin is compact but more than roomy enough for the contents of the two suitcases I brought with me, now squashed under my bed and filling up slowly at each port with small mementoes of the voyage and early Christmas gift purchases.
(Not that it is so early, really. The Victoria and Albert shopping mall in Cape Town was fully decorated in the last weeks of October.)
The walls of my cabin are painted metal, so in addition to the large world map that is a standard wall fixture in each cabin, a motley collection of magnets is holding up a growing collection of postcards. A large mirror on the opposite wall helps give the impression of extra space.
But by far the most riveting element of my temporary living space is my cabin window.
It isn’t round like a traditional porthole, but a 31×35-inch, almost-square view of the world off the ship. For 12 days — we are beginning the fifth of these now — the view out my window is likely to be just minor variations on a constant theme, namely the South Atlantic Ocean.
We are moving steadily along the 32-degree latitude line from Cape Town, South Africa to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nautical miles made good as of noon yesterday was 1,056. I have learned that captains speak of miles “made good” rather than “traveled,” because sometimes ships — especially those with sails — have to travel in zig-zag patterns to get where they are going. Our four engines and double propellers have us heading for South America in pretty much a straight shot.
But ocean travel has a way of delivering the unexpected, too. I am regularly pulling the blackout drapes open to see what’s new about my view. See for yourself.
Look at some of what I’ve seen out my window since boarding in Southampton, England.
But there’s more!
And to get a little more of a feel for what I see (and sometimes hear) I hope to eventually upload a few videos. The last one, I’ll admit, I had to leave my cabin for and head upstairs one deck level to shoot over the railing. It was a surreal sight that night, and I don’t even know if anyone else saw what I did. I’m thinking it was after 3 a.m. when I first spotted them through the window.
(Stay tuned…strong Internet should return in Argentina.)
file under GOLD, for the gold leaf illustrations on the Book of Kells, in the Old Library at Trinity College, where I encountered the whimsy of a long ago writer and his admiration for a cat on the exhibit walls.
I and Pangur Bán my cat
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will
He too plies his simple skill.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
–Irish poet, writing in Switzerland in the 9th century
file under GOLD, in honor of the late, great Kodak packaging hue
I have been actively traveling and participating in programmed trips during the past several ports rather than sorting and conceptualizing how to capture my memories in blog format. No regrets, no apologies on my part but I don’t want to lose any faithful followers who might be wondering, literally, “where in the world” I am.
Yesterday was a bit momentous in that regard as we crossed over the equator and entered the Southern hemisphere. Not only that, but we also approached it via the Prime Meridian, meaning we passed over the so-called “Golden X” at zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude.
King Neptune presided.
Some photos of that jolly maritime ritual will soon follow.
And eventually some tremendously colorful shots from Ghana, more from Morocco, and other attempts to share what I saw in Spain and Portugal. I have been seriously overwhelmed visually. But while I process those mentally and digitally, I offer you all some selections from our Iberian peninsula visits earlier this month.
(I saw the red-caped Flamenco street dancer from afar, but was too slow on my feet to come within shooting distance. Thank you, Trevor, for being there.)