*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.