Category Archives: Semester @ Sea

Back on Board

MV Explorer by you.

No grand entrance, no re-cap of the last 18 months other than to say that I worked, I played, I laughed, I cried, I fell in love and most relevant of all…realized that the more answers you learn, the more questions there are.

I am now an aunt 3 times over with the addition of a niece and nephew and so in awe that my family continues to grow and my love for them does the same. Just when I think it can’t get any better, any fuller, it does. So, I hope that all of you have found that the last 18 months have brought you the joy and insights of a full and well-lived life.

As always, just when I get to the point that I am itching for adventure, some opportunity presents itself. My friend and colleague Mike Zoll asked me the 2nd best question ever: “Would you sail with me, as my Assistant Executive Dean on the Summer 2009 voyage, the 99th voyage, of Semester at Sea?” Ummm….yeah! And here we are. We kicked it off in Nova Scotia and we will spend the entire summer sailing the Mediterranean. We will be in Europe and North Africa with 721 students, 67 staff, 17 lifelong learners and 3 teachers at sea, plus 22 kids of varied ages and sizes and crawling and climbing abilities. I cannot believe that after 9 years and 3 applications, I have not only had my dream come true with the first voyage in Spring 2007 (wherein the lucky narrator got to sail with Archbishop Desmond Tutu), but to be invited to sail again, less than 3 years later.

I am in my element in a way that I haven’t been in a while. I am growing and learning at a rate that surprises me daily. The blessing of being a young senior leader on a highly functioning team, is that I get to make a new mistake every day, and every day I also get the honor of bringing my expertise and insight to the community we’re building and the challenges that we face as we work toward getting all 838 of us around the Mediterranean safe and on time at about 17mph. 

And so with that. Check out our itinerary. Follow the Summer 2009 voyage on twitter (I am co-tweeting), follow me on twitter, or Facebook, and drop a comment with your name and address if you want me to send you a postcard from somewhere in North Africa or Europe!

Ciao Bellas! You have been missed.

Get Your Bookworm On

The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays

Erica and her boo were talking about their reading habits, how it developed, what they’re reading now and the obstacles to a more robust bibliophilic life. They’ve also taken up a reading challenge which I think is a cool way to push yourself.

I developed the reading habit early on, praised for my abilities in first grade, that compliment fueled an above average vocabulary and a voracious appetite for books. My room as a teenager would be pretty spotless, but if you looked under my bed…dozens of books. My favorites were Judy Blume, Madeline L’Engle and then Stephen King. But I read almost anything, trashy romances, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, whatever.

I never developed much of a TV habit, even now I haven’t seen my favorite shows (Grey’s Anatomy or 30 Rock) in weeks but I almost always have a book going. I just finished Tourist Season: Stories by Enid Shomer, which I’d recommend if you are into short, character driven stories. I liked it but probably won’t read it again. Prior to that I was reading The Between Boyfriends Book (hilarious!) and Female Chauvanist Pigs (hilarious but smart!) at the same time, which I tend to do, read a “light” tome and something “heavier” at the same time. Sometimes I’ll have 3 books going at once.

Like most readers I have both a physical pile of “To Be Read” and an Amazon Wishlist full of dream books. I’m starting Kickboxing Geishas tonight which I’m looking forward to and I owe a copy of FCP to a friend who is in grad school, but I might have to buy her her own copy because I CAN see reading this one again.

Some of my favorite books of all time:

The World According To Garp, A Prayer For Owen Meany, IT, The Secret History, The Vintner’s Luck, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Honeymoon With My Brother, PUSH, Holidays On Ice, A Memory of Running, Children of Ham, The Alchemist, Vagabonding, The Power of One, The Bible (seriously) and The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart.

One book I’ve tried to read twice and just give up on: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

Book Bandwagon that I haven’t jumped on: Harry Potter.

Let’s hear some of yours…

Oh and also, if you are a reader have you ever seriously dated a non-reader or someone with lopsided reading habits from your own? For example, one of my exes didn’t read alot of books but was a ravenous newspaper nerd, another ex doesn’t read alot of fiction but is into finance, real estate and personal development stuff. I was joking with a friend recently and we both agreed that we have fallen a little bit in lurve with someone based solely on their bookshelf. I know, I’m so shallow!


California Love: Friends Near & Far


ryan ericka and sherri, originally uploaded by funchilde.

I’m back from California. It was just what the doctor ordered in terms of feeling more energized, focused and refreshed. I went out for work of course but had 10 days between the two events I needed to attend, I hit San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Jose and finished up in Palo Alto…and of course, there was that one day in Napa that shall never be mentioned again. You know your day can only get better when you wake up to the phrase “Yall still here?” (Thanks Blaine and Tawana!).

The work part was pretty great. We laughed, laughed, worked until we were so tired we were delirious and laughed some more. My favorite saying at the end of each day was “First round is on ME!” This is for my NY client and I love my colleagues more each time we meet, there are those I miss, but our mix of personalities and workstyles keeps everything moving fast and with alot of fun. You can’t beat that.

I was lucky enough to have gracious hosts and decadent hotels, but of the two I enjoyed the time I spent couch surfing the most. I stayed with Sherri (above right) for 5 days and got to see her beautiful home complete with orange, apricot, plum, and lemon trees (and something I’m forgettingooh, pears).

It was nice to feel domestic and pick lemons right off the heavy branches and make lemonade. No trips to Trader Joes/Harris Teeter/Von’s necessary. Likewise, mojitos with fresh mint from her garden were the perfect welcome. I enjoyed helping out with the fruit picking and clean up, loved cooking breakfast on the grill, we strolled through the Ventura Weekend Market and checked out the San Buenaventura Mission, read (Golf for Women Magazine), napped, read (Back Roads), listened to old school Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, and read some more. Oh, and watched a phenomenal movie (Half Nelson w/ Ryan Gosling).

We’re both foodies, so it was nice to indulge and be indulged-I grilled steaks and asparagus, portabella mushrooms and chicken-apple sausage. She made a crustless quiche, salsa from scratch and an amazing breaded Tilapia. Wine was a staple, a necessity. The weather in SoCal is so amazing that I worked outside on the back deck every day.

We had a BBQ that included Ryan and Ericka (above w/ Sherri) two of our Semester at Sea students who are absolutely adorable, gracious and wise beyond their years. I also got to hang with one of Sherri’s best friends and met this guy (one of my favorite OG’s of Hip Hop-note the capitalization).

I also got word that I’ll be going back to a project with one of my favorite clients, this time for a 9 month (oh lawd) stint. So this trip represents the slow closure of my immediate sexy travels, but I’m excited to be in one place for a while and work on my fitness and health goals, get to know some people better, and plan the next big phase/trip/thing. So, back to New Hampshire I go….!

I’m already researching Mexico, Thailand and an overland Europe to Africa Trip. And I am always game for another jaunt on the Green Tortoise. Whatever it is, I hope to keep making friends around the world because there’s nothing better than re-living your journeys with people who were with you.

More than anything I missed my nephew, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this…felt a touch of baby fever, not that I want to actually birth one, but the thought of nurturing and loving a little person crept up on me. But it might just have been gas from the asparagus. And while I’m happy to be home on the east coast, I can’t say that I missed either the humidity or the mosquitos.

So what’ve yall been up to?



*This is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. It was on a beach in Brazil and I got about 50 shots of this kid. He was just so beautiful, unselfconcious and totally into what he was doing (bodysurfing).

Here is the text of my short address at the shipboard convocation as requested by popular demand (okay, one commenter).

First, I want to thank you for the honor and privilege of addressing you this evening as a representative of the staff for the Spring 2007 Voyage. To my staff colleagues: I am humbled and I hope to represent you well. To the faculty, it has been a pleasure to support you and to the executive team, captain and crew…without you…we’d still be in Nassau.

As we reflect on this voyage, you’ve probably thought about ways you’ve grown or changed over time. It is natural to think about the man or woman you’ve become or are becoming, and it is no surprise that you might touch upon your childhood self and remember those big dreams you had. Walk with me down memory lane and remember your 7 year old self. For some of us that was less than 2 decades ago, for others it is more than 6 decades ago, but I’d wager that we would almost unanimously agree that one of the things every 7 year old wants to be when they grow up, is a superhero.

Which one did you want to be? Did you create your own persona complete with customized powers and abilities? Did you fly solo or have a team of action hero friends? My favorite superhero was Wonder Woman. Mainly because there were so few examples of girls or women in the superhero world and at 7 years old, she’d do just fine. I loved her lasso of truth, bullet deflecting bracelets and that crown thing that never flew off her head no matter how many flips she did. Most of all I loved her airplane, it was invisible and it was always ready to whisk her anywhere in the world she wanted to go.

At 14 years old, most of us abandoned our superhero dreams. And somewhere along the way we forgot those dreams and we’d never admit we had them in the first place. But let me tell you some things about superheroes. From one superhero to another:

1. Most Superheroes don’t want to be Superheroes. They resist the call to service, they deny their powers and skills, the curse their talents and strengths. We let other people tell us we can’t be extraordinary, and then we tell ourselves we can’t be the one the world is waiting for. We hide behind things like: I’m dyslexic, I’m ADD, I’m ethnic, I’m female, I’m bisexual, I’m bad at math, I’m chubby, I’m broke, I’m lonely. Superheroes are notoriously resistant to acknowledging our power. Because once you acknowledge that you are a superhero, you can never be ordinary again. And to acknowledge that you are “extraordinary” is a terrifying thing. But I know some of you can feel it in your bones right now, and for others you’ve known it for years, some of us may not get it for a while yet. But you KNOW that you are extraordinary. That is the dissonance professor Judy spoke of last night. And as long as you resist, you’ll always feel like something isn’t quite “right”

2. Superheroes aren’t perfect. Each one has their own personal kryptonite. We all have our flaws and imperfections, areas of improvement that we use as excuses for not stepping into all of our power, all of our greatness and all of our responsibility. Know your kryptonite. Whether its alcohol or drugs, food or sex, the internet or an abusive relationship, know your kryptonite and don’t hand the keys to your super powers to anyone else. We are afraid to be exposed as frauds; somebody might figure out that Superman is just a white guy in tights and a tablecloth that he stole from his mamma. Take responsibility for your weak areas and polish, hone and improve those suckers like nobody’s business. Because Superheroes are notoriously hard on themselves, even as we grant grace and assistance to others.

3. Superheroes don’t go it alone. Even the most solitary of the celebrated heroes has a support network. Wonder Woman, as I told you was my favorite, but more than any powers or gadgets it was because she was a founding member of the Justice League. Even superheroes need a community, a family, a place to rest and reenergize. Build yours and guard it religiously. Not everybody you’re hanging out with is ready to be a superhero yet, let them discover at their own pace, but don’t waste your time on those who are clearly not your friends.

Finally, Superheroes don’t always have a plan, they do what they can with what they have and trust their network, they build their skills, they rest, they know their kryptonite and they DO. So know this my fellow superheroes. As we head towards home, in our very own magic transportation vehicle, that whether you are starting a new job, finishing up college, exiting a relationship or re-dedicating your life to a partner, whether you’ve got a million dollars in a trust fund, or you have no idea how you’re going to make it out of the San Diego area, you don’t have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just decide what you want to do next. Because a superhero’s work is never done.

#1: We, The People

You saw this one coming right?

So, #1 by an easy distance are the people, relationships, friendships, epiphanies, observations and new understandings that naturally occured in living with almost 900 people for almost 4 months.

This is the Spring 2007 voyage photo that we took last month in the port of Kobe. I often said (and still believe) that I had the best job on the ship. As Registrar/Assistant Academic Dean, I was able to forge deep relationships with the students as both friend and mentor, I was blessed to support a phenomenal faculty, I was on the 6 person executive team. Some portions of my job were so task heavy that I needed the help of our Lifelong Learners (retired voyagers) and their volunteer efforts literally made my job manageable. Finally, I enjoyed the energy and spirit of the children (9 months-16 years old) that were on the voyage without having to actually be responsible for them. I enjoyed the spouses and partners of our staff and faculty and loved what they contributed to our community. From teaching aerobics classes, to being my right hand on our 4 major exam days-smart, engaged, valuable.

We all worked harder than I thought that we would. I had imagined some afternoons reading a good book on the back deck. Never happened. Resting in my cabin in the afternoons to break up the long days. Rarely happened. And sleeping in on occassion. Happened exactly one time.

That being said, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was challenged and pushed, but I was also affirmed and valued. I enjoyed my professional role as well as my community roles. I was an advisor to the People of Color and LGBTA groups, I had two extended “families” of 6 students each, with whom I tried to have dinner or game night or snacks every couple of weeks to check in on them, monitor their general health and hear all about the wonderful adventures they were having.

I was appointed the chair of the Fairy Godmother Fund, our shipboard community effort to raise money for students who didn’t have much financial access to the side trips and experiences. This was right up my alley. I ran the shipboard TV film loop, programming 4 channels for each night we were at sea, and I was tasked with organizing the Community College series which was a series of seminars on board each night we were at sea – topics ranged from “So You Want to climb Kilimanjaro?” to “Making Special Effects Cakes”, again..right up my alley. And those are just the tip of the iceberg (and fortunately we didn’t see any of those). And how many people can say they celebrated their birthday in the middle of the Indian Ocean?

Of course any experience tends to become more pleasant in the memory as time passes, but I’ll never forget how hard we worked to get everyone around the world safe and on time, I’ll never forget how hard we laughed, I’ll never forget how my heart broke as I walked away from the ship in San Diego for the last time, my stuff in tow, my life altered in ways I still can’t articulate.

But most of all I hope I never forget that it really is all about doing the best you can, with what you’ve got. every day. And if you’re lucky, you’ll both change and be changed by the greatest resource we have, each other.

Last but not least, all of you who have followed the blog (30-200 hits a day) and especially those who took time to comment…It truly wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thanks for your support, laughs, thoughtful additions and for some of yall…pure foolishness. I wish everything for you, that I wish for myself, and harbor no doubt that we can all live a life less ordinary.


Dia aka Funchilde

#2: Sailing Around the World w/ Archbishop Tutu

I have better pictures of him than this one. But this one totally captures the spirit and energy that Archbishop brought to the ship. Some of the students and staff lovingly nicknamed him “Toots” which I thought was funny, but out of deference (sp?) I could never bring myself to say.

It was phenomenal to have him on board for a number of reasons, both personal and professional.

1. His spirit and energy are one of the reasons that the executive team believes that we had such a phenomenal voyage. We had very few major issues/disasters to deal with and didn’t dismiss anyone for academics or behavior which is unheard of.

2. Spiritual advisor. Archbishop hosted “church” on Sundays for small groups of people. A wonderful sunrise fellowship and nice way to start the day. He also performed a ship-wide Easter Sunday service which was beautiful, funny and ended with a moment of reflection and tossing carnations into the sea off the back deck.

3. Celebrity. Actually this was a non-issue. Everyone treated him like he was just…another voyager, of course people wanted to share meals, etc. but I was proud of the fact that as a community we didn’t overreact to having Archbishop on board. People were respectful and he was so visible and always about that we spent plenty of time with him. Even when we found out he had won the Gandhi Peace Prize, we were cool. When we found out he was doing a Vanity Fair spread w/ Brad Pitt photographed by Annie Leibowitz…we were a little less cool, but still cool.

4. One to one. I still can’t believe that I had dinner at his home, with his wife and friends. I can’t believe I got to attend his Church in Capetown, I had breakfast or dinner with him several times on board, he and I always put our hands together when we passed each other in the hallway, we didn’t even have to stop, we just pressed our knuckles together, smiled and kept on going. He touched my face one day and told me I had a nice smile and beautiful complexion. He autographed a book for my mom. He prayed over us all and led our shipboard tribute for Virginia Tech.

5. He inspired the students to create a plan of action to protest the situation in Burma. That is still developing, the students are still going full steam using technology such as Facebook and conference calls to get the leadership together. It has been inspiring to watch them grow with his tuttelage.

Educator, Mentor, Pastor, Friend, Shipmate. Toots.

#3: Kids Around the World

Now, as a self-admitted “own child-a-phobe” I am actually quite enamored of children. Especially other people’s children. I was raised to respect little people as just that…deserving respect and to be heard as much as any adult.

Some people pointed out that I did not blog about some places. Vietnam was one of those. For a few reasons I just didn’t get the chance to share my love of Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon with the world. The main one being that I did my service visits in this port. I spent one day at a School for the Disabled (I’m not sure how I feel about that term, is it right? I mean they taught ME how to tell them my name using American Sign Language (ASL)) and another at a Day School which had kids from all socio-economic brackets.

Those kids and we loved every minute of it. Kids everywhere are the same, unbiased, affectionate, curious, kind-hearted, hard headed, desiring to give and receive love. I still don’t want any of my own, but I had a great time playing with kids from Brazil to China. Peek-a-boo, the Hokey Pokey…magic, no matter what language barriers separate you. And little boys….all of them, I spent literally about an hour “playing” karate with these two. Thank God for my very own 10 year old nephew. I knew exactly what to do.

We loaded them up with stickers, pens, pencils, bubble gum, toothbrushes and one professor did magic tricks! the funny thing was that most of these kids have NOTHING, school isn’t free so their families are scraping together the $35 US/year it takes to send these guys and girls to school. Makes you appreciate our (admittedly) flawed but free and compulsory system here in the US huh? Anyway, I think that cheesey Whitney Houston song has it right…”I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way….”  Plus, they’re just so darn cute, it makes you feel like your heart will burst out of your chest.

#4: Cooking Class: Vietnam

This was hands down my favorite cooking class. Possibly the best one I’ve ever taken, and as you know, I’ve taken one or two 😉

First, the class was all of $36 including our crazy taxi ride way out to the facility. If you are EVER in Vietnam and you like to cook (or eat) head out to the Vietnam Cookery Center.

Second, I arranged it myself and ended up w/ 7 of my SAS students who wanted to go…so we did. And they LOVED it. That’s Isaiah aka “Zeke” pictured, Shaan got into it and here’s a couple pics of the remaining 5 students I took.

Third, the chef and his assistants were hella-funny, great humor, phenomenal facility, great menu and all the little touches that most places don’t do. The let us take pictures w/ the head chef, gave us each a “diploma” and each of us had our own individual work station and we followed along and made our own meals to our tastes as the chef led.

The cooking class in China was a favorite in terms of being in a top notch international facility w/ real chefs in training. India was great because of the outdoor facility and evening of relaxation and Capetown’s class was great for the info on spices and the spices that I shipped back home. In fact, I just made a Chicken Braai for my family w/ some of those spices…and it was goooooood!