Sunday, December 2, 2012

Roseau, Dominica

I realize I never wrote an entry about our time in Roseau, Dominica, the last port of the Fall 2012 voyage, most likely because I didn't know what to say, and I still don't. I'll never forget Dominica, for both good and bad reasons. I won't try to capture the emotion of this port, because I can't, but what I will always remember, good and bad, deserves a place with the reflections of the other countries we called home during the previous four months, even if the reflection is brief and unrepresentative of what we all felt. Somehow our voyage was coming to an end. Only four months ago I had never been to Canada, Ireland, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, or Dominica. The entirety of the voyage was coming into view, a view both tremendously joyful and bitterly sad. The MV Explorer was our new home, our jobs on the ship had become our new work life, and our friends on the ship became our new community. The seemingly endless new experiences became our new way of living, and Semester at Sea had become our daily life. Somewhere along the way, the voyage was no longer a temporary journey, but a home. In some ways, this would remain true, as we now saw the world and ourselves in a different way, and our thoughts, beliefs, and actions were forever changed. New experiences, embracing other cultures, and an opened mind were in fact a new way of living. Yet, the voyage was about to end. With two days in Dominica, we spent the first morning in town, wandering the streets of Roseau, followed by hiring a driver with the most colorful and flashy open-air van in town, complete with a squeaky horn. We spent the afternoon on the beach, happy to be with each other, aware that our adventures in new ports were coming to an end, yet still present in the moment, admiring the warm sun and clear waters. Our drive back from the beach was stunning, with some of the warmest glows from the sun I've ever seen, causing every color, the pink and blues of the houses and the greens of the leaves, to brightly glow as the sun faded. Our driver rushed to the top of a hill where we looked down upon our floating home, the MV Explorer, a ship that had taken us all over the world, resting alongside the city of Roseau, as the sun faded and the city turned to night. We returned to the ship to hear sad and tragic news. We will always remember the beach in Dominica, as one of the students, Casey Schulman, lost her life there, not far from where we were in the water earlier in the day. Looking back, I think we were in denial the rest of the day, convincing ourselves that she was okay, despite what we saw on the beach. I'll never forget how silent and sorrowful the ship was that night. After four months of liveliness, with classes, travel stories, meals, music, dancing, seminars, lectures, travel plans, student organization events, happy hours, and new friendships, the ship was completely silent. Everyone will forever remember Casey, of course for who she was, but also for the reminder that life is a fragile gift to never take for granted. The next day is a bit of a blur, but we managed to enjoy a day of guided snorkeling in one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving locations in the world. Leaving Dominica was not easy, knowing we were headed back to the United States with one less student. All of our hearts were hurting as we pulled away from the port and headed home. What would have been more of a celebration became a deeper reflection on the fragility of life, with gratitude for what we had experienced over the past four months. Also, we were not individuals, but a shipboard community, deeply connected, where every life is a gift. Our Fall 2012 Semester at Sea voyage was truly a gift. We all felt truly alive during every moment of a new cultural experience, and grew close with one another in a way that few experiences allow. The unique bond that occurs during a study abroad program is a powerful force. I don't know how to end my travel reflections from the Fall 2012 Semester at Sea voyage, for the same reason tears fell from so many eyes at the end of the voyage. We never wanted it to end.

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