The Scholar Ship is a fascinating concept in higher education. It's literally a floating university that operates out of a vintage, two hundred meter cruise ship, the MV Oceanic II. In this book, I have assembled a series of email dispatches that I sent to friends as my family and I pursued our round-the-world itinerary. If you enjoy reading these "dispatches from the edge" half as much as we enjoyed living the experiences, then you are surely in for a fun ride.
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Email from the Edge: Global Dispatches from The Scholar Ship
The Scholar Ship (www.thescholarship.com) is a fascinating new concept in higher education. It's literally a floating university that operates out of a vintage, two hundred meter luxury liner, the MV Oceanic II. The Scholar Ship recruits students and faculty from all over the globe--about fifty different countries per voyage--and facilitates an elaborate intercultural educational program while cruising from port to port. Having been awarded a sabbatical for the spring 2008 semester, I was fortunate enough to have the available time and requisite academic background (I am a professor of sociology at Colorado State University-Pueblo) to serve as a member of The Scholar Ship's Academic Teaching Staff. More exciting still, The Scholar Ship also welcomed my wife and two young daughters (aged ten and nine, respectively) aboard its first ever Asia/Africa/Mediterranean journey. Thus, in addition to offering a highly-innovative academic experience, The Scholarship offered my entire family the international travel adventure of a lifetime.
The spring 2008 itinerary for The Scholar Ship included the following ports (see map below): Hong Kong; Shanghai, China; Bangkok, Thailand; Chennai, India; Mahe, Seychelles; Cape Town, South Africa; San Vicente, Cape Verde Islands; Barcelona, Spain; Istanbul, Turkey; Lisbon, Portugal; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
In what follows, I have assembled a series of email dispatches that I sent to family and friends as we pursued our round-the-world itinerary. In many ways the messages are impressionistic and fragmentary. Yet, in spite of all its flaws, email happens to be an outstanding medium for capturing events and ideas in "real time." Although I could have edited the following messages extensively, in their present rough-hewn form, I think the dispatches preserve the overall flavor of the Spring 2008 TSS journey better than extensively-edited versions might. If you enjoy reading these "dispatches from the edge" half as much as we enjoyed living the experiences, then you are surely in for a fun ride.
Dispatch 4: Safely Arrived in Shanghai
January 15, 2008
A couple of nights ago the fog cleared sufficiently for the ship to make a quick dash into Shanghai. It's cold, gray, wet and wintry, but it's Shanghai!
It's difficult to sum this city up in just a few words. The best way to capture it might be if you were to rent a few futuristic, urban Anime films. If it's cold where you are, sit in your backyard while you're watching the films and then you'll just about have it.
Last night, we had one of those "You know you're in China..." moments.
After spending the day introducing ourselves to the city, we decided to go out for an authentic Chinese supper. The restaurant was no more than a block from the ship and the menu was chock full of basic, working class Chinese food. I'll name a few dishes just to create a general picture:
• chicken saliva with garlic
• braised dog shoulder
• crispy goose bowels in brown sauce
• and the pièce de résistance: fermented tofu
Imagine finding five non-descript smelly black lumps in your back yard, flash frying them in a white hot wok and then serving them steaming hot with a bowl of dipping sauce. Yum. Suffice it to say that this was a dish that preceded itself. It was truly a fragrance to remember.
Better still, I am pleased to report that (thinking she was on safe ground with tofu, for heaven's sake!) it was Susan's inspiration to order this unique delicacy. Thus, when the fermented tofu arrived at our table (five black odoriferous rectangles from the darkest depths of her culinary nightmares), Susan (with all eyes upon her) was obliged to take one of these sweetmeats and transfer it to her plate—and there it sat for not a little while until, having summoned a year's worth of courage, Susan managed to nibble off one of the corners. Three cheers for Susie! The bravest of us all.
Satisfied with that foray, Susan pushed the tofu as far from her nose as good table manners would permit.
A meal to remember.
Tonight we are going to attend a performance of the Shanghai Acrobats at the Four Seasons Hotel. By all accounts it's a truly amazing spectacle.
I'll write again soon.