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Monday, April 25, 2005

Last Leg for Carl & Annie

Carl Unplugged Posted by Hello

Dear Family and Friends—This will be the last report from the around the world, semester-at-sea voyagers. A nice seven day sail from Salvador, Brazil to Caracas, Venezuela. Really a busy week on board with the final week of classes, term essays due (about a 100) and then final exams (again, about 100). Making the students write, but the other side is that I have to read—and it does take time. Plus, there is so much going on board ship. Food remains good, we continue to have enough wine for 4:09 each day. I also shaved off the beard I had been growing for just about a month as we re-crossed the equator. Every once in a while I get some baseball news, but not much - just know the Tigers continue to struggle—but what the hell, it has only been a generation. Managed to rent a car from Budget in Fort Lauderdale—will take us to the Villages and then up to Tallahassee. Time is growing short.

On the 16th we had our dinner with the captain—about 30 of us and we really got to know about the ship and all of the officers and crew who run it. Since Hawaii, it has been a smooth and easy voyage indeed for the ocean-seasoned folks that we now are. Some folks have taken a tour of the bridge area, and from what we can tell, it was pretty touch and go out in the North Pacific in January, but just so wonderful to sail along now—even in 10 foot seas it feels just fine. All of the faculty did an evaluation of the programme. I am more than positive, I think it is just a wonderful experience for all concerned. The students have been creative and adaptable, both in and out of the classroom. The experiences in the various countries just cannot be over-rated. You can just see the maturity grow in all of these young folks. I both like and admire them.

Tonight we had a ship’s auction, all kinds of things on the block. Annie and I put up our Hawaii place for a week and it was bought for $720 by one of my students—we will show her and her parents around. And, Annie and purchased a week to 10 day stay in a four bedroom, four bath house in Breckenridge, Colorado during ski season. It cost $450, what a bargain—a student auctioned it whose parents use the place at holiday times. Anyone for a ski holiday in the next year or so? We are going to have a talent contest, and the faculty will try to redeem itself from our poor showing in the shipboard Olympics. I am going to try the “suck and blow”—it is a riot—and also a lip sinc to “All you need is Love.” We are rehearsing but just a bit ragged—will do our best. A “block” party tonight on the 7th floor hallway—getting rid of food and drink. We had a blast, must have been about 40 of us all together singing and talking. John gave a few poetic renditions. Breaking the rules around public alcohol, but nearing the end so what the hell. Students should see us know—we sealed off the doors.

Had some free internet, looked at my fantasy team—doing ok, around 4th. Another Talent Show rehearsal—we are definitely doing better. One of the faculty who is kind of on the outs with people—a bit of a strange lad—is in the lead singing and I think it will work and help him mend some fences. Another dinner party tonight in the lounge—Ann Shine, one of the senior passengers hosting with good wine and eats. We danced mainly to Latin music—a bit too much drumming for me but lots of fun as we heated up. We are pretty loose as the voyages moves into its final days. “Land Ho”—saw Trinidad early this morning which means just one more day to go to Venezuela. I am reading every chance I get, and the students are doing pretty well. We usually have a “happy hour” from five to six in the lounge, and we have our groups we hang with—John and Fay, Ralph and Faith. Pre-port tonight when we hear about Caracas and how to deal with the issues here—especially political upheaval and personal violence. We had a concert that was just excellent—young woman from Venezuela who joined us in Brazil. She would have fit in with the old Change of Pace crowd. Then, the talent show. Some good acts, serious and comic—one about a response to the Vagina Monologues called “Dong Diaries.” It was truly hilarious and the students responded in kind. And then our time—the faculty in action. We had three little skits and then the grand finale of “All you need is Love.” Standing ovation, the students loved it, and if I do say so, it went pretty well. Annie the dancing leader, we just followed her along and did fine. It really was a fine feeling to be so well received by these young people. It has been just so exciting being around them day after day and to have this final few days with them when work is being completed and “All we need is Love.” At midnight, John, Fay, Annie and I celebrated with a bottle of good wine. They have become good friends—gave us a photo painting she has done—her teaching on the ship has been in art and photography.

Landed in port in a small town called Guaira, about 20 miles over the mountain from Caracas. In 1999 there was a huge rain that last days and flooded here, crashing the hillsides down onto the town. Some 15,000 people died and it has basically not recovered—and another landslide this year. So it is pretty grim right close by. We received our American Counsel info this morning, and then off the ship for a tour of the city. No money exchange here but the U.S. dollar is in demand, especially on the black market. As we drove to the city, favelas just everywhere—squatters on the land and trying to make a living. A poor society, but with a government that seems not to be so corrupt and doing its best to bring about some semblance of social justice. We shall see. We traveled to an old hacienda, to the maseoleum where Simon Bolivar and many other patriots are buried. Pretty impressive. The Fine Arts Museum is one of the best anywhere, including Paris. Excellent variety and scope of all kinds of periods of painting and sculpture. We only had an hour or so, could use a day. One [exhibit] on baseball which is really the national pastime here, more so, I think, than the U.S. Even got to talk some baseball with a young lad—he knows more than I, which is saying something. A huge meat lunch (at the Hereford Grill) and then on for an hour or so in one of the large city parks just to spend some time out in the fresh air. In general, Caracas is big (8 million or so) and reasonably non-descript. Not a place I would return to.

A day of work for me, just reading papers and exams, finally getting close to the end. Annie went to town with three other women just for lunch and to do some shopping. Annie is great, only buys what she needs, and what we can carry. That will be a major issue before it is all over. Warm and humid here, seems to rain a bit each day and lots of clouds in the mountains. Women home just as the bar closed, managed a glass of wine. Annie bought only chocolate—indeed she is the woman of my dreams. Watched some movies—a really fine film called (I think) “The Station Agent”. Three unlikely friends put on a riveting performance. Next day was a day trip for us by van to a mountain village at five thousand feet about two hours away called Colonia Tovar. A little place settled by Germans in the 1800s, our guide was a German/Venezuelan mix, and he was knowledgeable and well-read. Cooler in the mountains, and just a lovely place. We got into four-wheeled drive vehicles and went up and down some pretty steep roads. Charming homes and farms, looked like the Alpine regions of Austria in a way. A fine pottery shop where we got some fancy bowls. It is strange to see German folks in a Latin setting—speaking both languages and seemingly at home in both cultures. Had a German style sausage, port chop, sauerkraut lunch with German beer. Go figure. Finally some time in the village square before boarding the bus for the tip back to the ship. A nice day in the country away from hustle and bustle. Even had a bit of cloud forest where the rain is pretty constant. Through some poverty and wealthy areas of living on the way back, people trying hard to get a handle on the economy—a one-crop country, only this time Oil, and right now it is doing pretty well. Be interesting to see how it works out if prices drop—saving for a rainy day I hope.

Last day in Caracas, I finished my exams and got all of the grades recorded. Students did pretty well—no one missed anything which is quite a change from the mainland classes. Water running low on the ship because of a local water pipe break—we usually just purify the local water. So, advice here is: Shower Together. Annie and I will do our best. We went for a long walk around the area—pretty depressing right here what with all of the calamity. Guaira does need some TLC. We continue our packing in anticipation of our landing in Florida in the next three days. Water shortage pretty serious, no showers or toilets until late tonight. Left before midnight and the sea is calm and peaceful. See most of you soon. Love and aloha, Carl and Annie


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