I have been neglectful in keeping my journal entries updated on the web! I am keeping a written journal and it's easy to get behind in the transfer of info from journal to word processor! If you've been reading along, my latest entries begin on November 3, 1999.

Japan- September 27, 1999:

We were off the ship and into Kobe in less than an hour for an absolutely delicious "all you can eat sushi" lunch at Magurai Tei. We found this place on the recommendation of a friendly Japanese woman we met on the train, who spoke a little English.

Back to the ship for a welcome reception by Japanese students just returning from Summer session at sea ( 1month, 4 ports)

Lauren, Elizabeth, Deborah and I took a ride on the Portliner train around the Port Island loop while the dad's went to the e-mail café and had sushi that evening.

 Japan day two and three:

Bus trip to Nara - first capital of Japan

We visited Todaiji Temple (housing a huge bronze image of Great Buddha), Kasuga Shrine and Deer Park (where I got nipped in the bottom by one of the many deer roaming the grounds!)

On to our authentic Japanese Ryokan - Yachimo for an exceptional experience!

Greeted at the door by Kimono clad women where we removed our shoes (there is a right way and a wrong way to perform this simple task!). We were given slippers to be worn everywhere except on tatami mats and the bathroom, where you remove your slippers and don toilet slippers. Its' a real no-no to wear the toilet slippers outside of the bathroom. When you remove your slippers, you place them with the heel toward the room you've entered, so when you leave, you slip them on without having to turn them around.! Some of us had more trouble with the slipper concept than others. Ask Den about it sometime!

Slippers intact, we were taken to our rooms. A quick exploration revealed a beautiful Japanese garden just beyond the sliding doors of our room. Rocks were neatly raked into designs around Bonsai trees, a stone bridge and several other forms of finely pruned vegetation. Moments later, a hostess arrived with some green tea and showed us where our "rukatas" or cotton kimonos, were. We put them on and waited to be escorted to dinner.

What a dinner! We sat Japanese style for a delectable Sukiyaki dinner prepared at our table. There was a platter of thinly sliced raw beef and a variety of precisely arranged vegetables that were slowly added to the cooker in the center of the table. Chopsticks in hand , we helped ourselves, craftily maneuvering our chopsticks into the feast, then dipping it into the raw egg provided. I'm quite certain that Lauren ended up with the lion's share of the beef!

After eating our fill, we all headed for the Japanese bath house - gender segregated of course! As is Japanese tradition, you sit on a low stool and wash yourself before entering the hot bath. There was originally some talk of bathing suits… that didn't last for long! We did however hear through the grapevine that the men's hot tub was the scene of bathing suits for all! It was exhilirating and relaxing…Lauren was asleep within moments of hitting the futon. The futons, were, by the way, extremely comfortable. The pillows were a little hard and too full for my taste, but otherwise, the Japanese know how to make a great bed!

We awoke early the next morning for an authentic Japanese style breakfast. The only items I recognized were the Miso soup and rice. Most of the other delicacies were not selections I would make from future menus! Despite it's unusual appearance, we all tried most of the food,. We didn't feel too badly that it was not to our taste when our tour guide later informed us that most Japanese have toast and yogurt for breakfast! It seems in today's world of two career couples, there's just no time to cook the elaborate breakfast! She also admitted that she really doesn't like the traditional Japanese breakfast and has only had it a few times in her life! Many hungry people boarded the bus that morning!

The day held some more sightseeing at Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizu Temple. As you might expect, we have lots of pictures of those places that allowed photography! After a tempura lunch (good, but not a large enough portion for our Western appetities) we headed to Kyoto National Museum. There were original costumes from the Noh theatre, and calligraphy dating back thousands of years. Our last stop was Sanjusangendo Hall where more than 1,000 images of Buddha are housed. Needless to say, as I recall the events of our last few days, I'm exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep! Tomorrow…Osaka!

 Did you know… We have been fortunate enough to have some wonderful guides as we experience Japan. I have tried to keep track of some of the interesting comments they make regarding contrasting and comparing life in the USA. Excuse the brevity and poor grammatical structure of the comments!

If you drink the water at Kyomizu , it will bring you health, wealth and happiness. The monk who lived at this temple lived to be 106. 


 Hong Kong Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Greetings from Hong Kong!

Greetings to our family and friends! We arrived in Hong Kong this morning and are waiting for the ship to be cleared through customs. There is a typhoon they're tracking that may hit H.K. later this week. If it does, they'll have to take the ship to a typhoon harbor and ride it out. People will have the option to stay on board or go to typhoon shelter in H.K. No need to worry about us as we leave for Beijing tomorrow for a stay at Peking University. I suppose you probably heard about the nuclear accident that occurred while we were in Japan. It actually happened north of Tokyo, while we were far, far away in Kyoto, and we were unaware it had happened (not reading or speaking any Japanese we were oblivious to the news and newspapers!). It seems our propensity to be where the action is has turned into a global phenomenon!

Just to update you on our last two days in Japan…we headed for Osaka by train on Thursday. Lauren's outline for her journal probably describes it best. ..lost - two hours! Actually, it just seemed like we were lost most of the time because there were NO English translations under any of the city or street names (as we had found in many stations close to the port). Interestingly, very few of the streets in Japan even have names! Navigation was a challenge, but not to worry, because the Japanese are wonderful, accommodating people! They went out of their way …to help us find ours! It was not uncommon to hear stories of being guided to the very building you were trying to find. Our errant travels did take us past a homeless area, where at least 50 people had makeshift homes of tarps and scraps. Opposite them, parked at curbside and still running, was a line of 30+ cars. Each had a suited, sleeping male at the wheel, usually reclined. These weren't taxis. Someone suggested that these might be men who had been laid off from their jobs. Rather than lose face, they leave home as though heading to work. Obviously, they must eventually have to face the truth. A sad commentary on a proud society.

We found a more modern Japan in Osaka then we had seen in Nara or Kyoto. Our travels took us to the top a floating Observatory, to Panasonic Center where we enjoyed a 3-D movie about dinosaurs (most of the interactive displays were in Japanese) and of course, in true Galletta tradition we found a wonderful, authentic Japanese restaurant. Since the menu was completely written in Japanese, the waitress brought out the 4 lunch specials for us to view and place our order. It was delicious! We rode the train home during rush hour, which gave a whole new meaning to the word "crowded"!

On our final day in Japan, we visited the Ninobuki Herb gardens where our senses were pleasantly challenged by the largest variety of herbs I've ever seen. We rode to the top of the garden by gondola, where a wonderful "House of Fragrances" provided the opportunity to take a whiff of several spices and perfumes. We also stopped in a pet shop and visited with a Golden Retriever puppy…a highlight of the day! Lauren and I headed back to the ship, and Den headed to the internet café for one last try to get our messages through.

It's probably hard for some of you to imagine that Dennis (Mr. Punctuality) missed the "on board" time by nine minutes! They're very serious about punctuality around here, and he and 7 others who were also late, received 2 hours "dock time". This translates into his not being able to leave the ship for 2 hours after we're cleared in Hong Kong. People are already placing bets as to whether he can get through the rest of trip without anymore dock time!

Just a note…We were in competition with 640 students for access to computers at one internet café in Kobe (which were less than reliable!) Hopefully, the access will be a little better in Hong Kong. Lines for phones and internet access will probably get worse rather than better, so forgive us if communication is sporadic!

Thanks to those of you who have written! It's a nice welcome to get into port and find a letter. By the way, Christy would like more mail, so if anybody out there is listening, please write!

Well, we should be able to disembark soon so I'll close and get this copied to a floppy disk. Know that we are all safe and keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers! Please do the same for us!


China, Tuesday, October 12,1999 (7:30 AM) Note - we're 12 hours later than family and friends in PA! Remember, we've crossed several time zones and the International Date Line!

Our voyage from Hong Kong to Vietnam has been incredibly smooth so far, and we're only about 2 hours from the mouth of the Saigon River. We are in the South China Sea (referred to as the Eastern Sea by the Vietnamese). I would never have imagined that water could be so calm! By the way, the typhoon turned toward Taiwan and there was no need to take the ship to the typhoon harbor! We had hunkered down everything in our cabin before leaving for Beijing, just in case!

Our stay in China was a real education. Our time in Hong Kong was limited, so the first day, we bargained at the shops and took the Star Ferry from Kowloon Peninsula to Hong Kong Island. We took a tram to the top of Victoria's Peak. The nighttime view was incredible, and we found an Internet café! Unfortunately, they didn't allow use of the floppy disk drive so we couldn't send our usual tidbits of information to all of you.

We headed for Beijing early Wednesday morning on Air China. Our hosts from Peking University met us at the airport and we headed out for a great lunch! It was the first of many wonderful meals we would enjoy over the next few days! We checked into our rooms at the DaYuan hotel, a former state guesthouse. It was far better than what our pre-trip information had prepared us for, as we thought we would be staying in more dormitory type accommodations. We were pleased to discover that we had a private bath, with a Western style toilet!

After check in, we went on a walking tour of the Peking University campus. There were bicycles everywhere, and we were told that most students use this mode of transportation. Graduate students sleep 2 or 4 to a room, depending on the program, and undergraduates sleep 6 to a room. I am certain that any of our American students who had the opportunity to visit a dorm room will think twice before complaining about their accommodations on the ship! After a tour of the campus, we enjoyed a Peking duck dinner. Some of the more adventurous students tried parts of the duck not typically consumed in our culture!

The next morning, after a breakfast of carrot bread, eggs, pickled vegetables, soup, and toast with jam (probably not indigenous to the cuisine as chopsticks made it a challenge to spread!) we were off for a day of "on-site learning experiences". Our first stop was a Cloisonné factory where we had the opportunity to observe (and I mean right over their shoulder!) the work in progress. I will never look at a piece of Cloisonné the same way again! The skill and craftsmanship required to produce the detailed work was incredible, though they made it look simple. After a sumptuous lunch, with more courses than I can remember (are we really eating again?) we headed for the Forbidden City, now called The Palace Museum. As you may be aware, the Forbidden City got its name due to the fact that only the Emperor, his family and servants were permitted to live there. There were some significant rituals associated with the City, one of which was the annual trip to the Temple of Heaven. Located outside the Forbidden City, the Emperor would travel there once a year, heavily guarded, for a ceremony to insure a good harvest in the coming year. Ask me about the ceremony and the "echo wall" when I get back! We ate yet another exceptional meal then headed to the University to meet with some Peking University students. Our student, Wang Yin Ling, was one of 30 students of 600 accepted into the Law school. She was studying copyright law, a relatively new concept in China. We enjoyed talking with her about Chinese customs and traditions. She is an only child, not unusual in a country with a one child policy. Her parents would have preferred that she stay in her home town but respected her wishes to attend Peking University. She and her roommates were pooling their funds to purchase a computer the next week and were quite excited because they would have internet access in their room.

Thursday morning, we were off to the Ming tombs, where several emperors were buried, and then to The Great Wall, Ju Long Pass. It was an exceptionally clear day, much to Den's photographic pleasure! I was sure after the first steep stretch that I wouldn't make it to the top, but we all persevered! Lauren counted 2,077 steps (give or take a few) one way! That was the epitome of the stair climber! It was incredible to think of the construction process that went into this magnificent barrier. Of course we bought the obligatory "I climbed the Great Wall" T-shirt for 1 yuan each. The bus ride back to the hotel was a quiet one! We had just a few minutes to shower and change before attending a dinner reception with our Chinese host students. The dinner was buffet style, unlike the "lazy-susan" style to which we had grown accustomed. The food was, once again, superb! After dinner, we broke the ice with a rousing version of the hokey pokey! Musical chairs turned out to be the game of choice as the evening progressed. Karaoke was also a lot of fun…it was interesting to note the translation of the lyrics in the subtitles! God consistently showed up as Goo. We said goodbye to the students that evening as their seven-day holiday, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China, was over that day and they would return to classes the next day.

Friday morning we prepared for a rush hour trip through Beijing to Tien'man Square. There is no word for the traffic patterns in Beijing! Cars, buses, bikes, bicycle driven wagons…all vying for the same lanes on the road! Our driver used his horn to clear the way and warn that he would not be the one to yield! We passed a bus holding about 200 elementary school children, all standing! They smiled, waved and yelled "hello" as we passed.

The day before, there had been 700,000 people in the Square to celebrate the anniversary. I'm not sure that many of them had left by the time we arrived! We spent a little time in a market in Old Beijing where Christy found a beautiful black silk traditional Chinese dress and demonstrated her bargaining skills.

Then we strolled through the Square. We were on the receiving end of many an inquisitive stare, and Lauren was a real celebrity! We could barely walk ten feet without someone stopping to pose with the "pretty girl".  That evening we attended an acrobatic show where the children demonstrated unimaginable levels of flexibility, strength and concentration. Den's video will tell the story better than I can !

The next morning we made our way back to the Beijing airport for our return trip to Hong Kong. We cut it a little close for getting through customs with all the students and were still moving through immigration at 9:58 AM. The significance of this is that our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00 AM. Everyone made it aboard and at 10:17, with people still in the aisles, stowing items in the overhead, the plane began to taxi! We landed in Hong Kong at about 2PM, headed back to the ship and then out for some last minute shopping before the ship sailed that night.

As I mentioned earlier, the trip here was almost motionless! We traveled up the Saigon River this morning…there were times when it seemed the ship was almost as wide as the river! It looks so very shallow it's hard to believe we aren't running aground! We've had some heavy rain on our way in and our docking time in Vietnam has been delayed by "high winds". Rumor has it that there is another ship in our berth at the dock and we have to wait our turn! The students are running around on deck getting soaked. This is really the first daytime rain we've had since we left Vancouver. There were "sampans" pulling up alongside the anchored ship, trying to sell things to students on the decks above. It wasn't long before a siren sounding boat cleared the area of the peddlers. And so now, we sit anchored outside Ho Chi Minh City, waiting for the winds to die down enough for a safe docking!


Vietnam (October 12-16, 1999)

We had several delays in getting into port. When we finally arrived at 6PM, many of the early trips had to be cancelled since we were due in at 1pm! The late arrival didn't really affect us, as we didn't have any specific plans for the first day.

During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. If I had any doubts as to whether I'm claustrophobic, this experience put them to rest! The tunnels have actually been widened to accommodate Western size people. Lauren was the only one of us willing to endure the heat and small space to finish all the levels of the tunnels! She offered to return inside to retrieve any lost students!

Our visit to Vietnam was extra special because we met Linh and Thuy, two Vietnamese women who were friends of a student at Pitt. We shared a wonderful meal at each of their homes - Vietnamese specialties like snails, oysters, squid, prawns, soft-shell crab, sugar cane skewered shrimp patties…the list goes on! We visited the Mekong Delta area and rode a sampan to a remote island where running water and electricity were not available. By the curious stares we received, I'd guess we were the first visitors in a while! We had some stickers that we brought along to share with the children…fortunately we had lots of them, as the two or three children we were giving them to turned into ten or twelve!

Christy and Lauren discovered the wonder of coconuts while in Vietnam. We first had them at an elementary school visit, and then again on our sampan ride. The elementary school visit was enlightening! More than 2,000 children attended the school we visited (K-5). They start school at 7am and have classes until 9am, when they take a break. The break includes a snack, group exercise and then free play. They resume classes until 11AM and then all the students have a lunch/nap break until 2PM. Classes resume until 4PM, when 2,000 moms pick the children up …mostly by motor bike! Christy had an opportunity to speak to the Vietnamese children in a French class…she thought it was pretty cool that they were communicating in a second language! The children enjoyed hearing Lauren introduce her family members and they repeated our names in unison. Some of the children gave gifts to Lauren and Christy during the visit. The numbers of students per class (about 60) precluded us from reciprocating the gracious gesture!

Overall, our stay in Vietnam was a very pleasant surprise. Though we had been warned about a lot of petty theft, we had no problems. We enjoyed the cyclos, motor bikes, and even the challenge of crossing the street! ! Christy and I indulged ourselves with a massage for 6 US$ while Den tried to hook up to the Internet…we got the better end of that deal!

Everyone except Christy had their first mild version of "traveler's disease". Nothing that one dose of Immodium couldn't cure! So long Vietnam, we're steaming toward Malaysia!


Malaysia (October 21-24, 1999)

Penang is an island and one of the thirteen states in Malaysia. We arrived there via the Straits of Malacca (known for pirates!) and didn't travel off the island during our brief stay.

After docking, we headed off the ship in search of our first Malaysian meal. We walked through the Indian area near the port and ended up at a food stall in the Chinese section. We had some type of noodle soup that was pretty non-descript in flavor! Where are the spices?! We explored the city on foot, passing Buddhist temples, Islamic Mosques and heard the call to prayer through the streets. We rode a trishaw (similar to the cyclo in Vietnam but much more relaxing!) back to the ship and enjoyed this mode of transportation during our visit here. The tension between Malays, Indians and Chinese was most obvious when trying to get a taxi so we avoided this as often as possible.

Dennis hiked Penang Hill (see the photos) while Lauren and I took the funicular (like the incline) up to the top. Christy and a friend explored the island by trishaw. The driver spoke fluent English and was a great tour guide!

We visited an orphanage and had the opportunity to play with the children, and leave behind some craft supplies and toys. We took with us some mixed emotions that were rekindled at Sunday Mass, where we saw many of the children again.

Our travels took us to a Batik factory where we watched the incredibly talented artists use wax to draw designs on fabric, which are then dyed. We are bringing back some samples!

Another stop took us to a butterfly farm where we not only mingled with the butterflies, but got "up close and personal" with a cat gecko, leech, giant moth, and baby python! During our visit, we learned firsthand what monsoon rains were all about…an incredible wall of water that falls from the sky!

We spent one night in a hotel to get away from the ship. It is unfortunate that the industrial waste and poor sewage disposal system render the beaches unsuitable for swimming. As the ship's doctor said…Oh sure, you can swim, just keep your mouth closed! We opted for the swimming pool as a safer bet!


En-route to India (October 25-27, 1999)

We steamed out of Malaysia at about 11PM Sunday night and I awoke about 3:30am to the ship's rocking and rolling. We were on the Andaman Sea and the motion persisted through most of the next day. The seasickness bags and pills reappeared in the bins throughout the hallways with "seasickness tips" and a reminder that no one had ever died of seasickness! Some of the students probably doubted this! Den escaped without any untoward symptoms, while Christy, Lauren and I were plagued with a mild nausea and headache that was best relieved with rest and Dramamine. We celebrated Halloween early as we will be in India on the 31st. We missed our traditional Halloween with the neighborhood gang and look forward to resuming the tradition next year!

Thursday, October 28, 1999

A warm hello to family and friends! We are all well and the ship arrived in India this morning. We are waiting for the ship to clear customs. They just finished the diplomatic briefing and there is a yoga demonstration going on at the moment. We were able to make a few phone calls from Malaysia and hope to get a few more through from India. Phone cards and service are unreliable. It makes you appreciate the simplicity of stepping up to a pay phone, dialing a number and hearing a familiar voice on the other end! Hopefully I'll get an entry made prior to our departure from India as we will be at sea November 2 -13 as we head toward Egypt.

November 3, 1999

They said that India would assault our senses and they were right! From the moment we first set foot on Indian soil to trek to the Post Office, until we were back on board, we were on "high alert" as we absorbed and responded to everything around us! The sheer magnitude of the number of people was incredible!

Our experience gave us a window into life in India at both ends of the spectrum. We spent our first afternoon at the Missionaries of Charity orphanage. This is one of Mother Teresa's missions, whose focus is to help people die with dignity. Our visit took us to a center where physically and mentally disabled infants and children were residing. These tiny infants seemed to cling to each moment as we cuddled them. Some were calmed by the attention but others became more irritated. The cribs were lined up in rows, and Lauren spent the first part of our visit gently rocking 4 cribs at a time. By the end of our visit, she had moved beyond the rocking stage and had cuddled one of the babies against her, wet diaper and all. Christy moved between babies, holding and rocking them and pausing to capture this difficult interaction in writing. I couldn't have been any prouder of Christy and Lauren as they stepped outside of their comfort zones to share a little time with these children.

The other end of the spectrum was our Rotarian home stay. We were very fortunate to spend a few days with the Annamalai family. Fellow Rotarian N. Annamalai and his wife, Azhagu, and children Arvind and Arjun served as our hosts. They opened their beautiful home to us and treated us royally! All of us delighted in the spectacular meals their cook prepared and Arvind (12 years old) gave us wonderful descriptions of everything we were eating!! We're certain we ate the best Indian food, ever!

Duwali (Festival of Lights) was due to take place on November 7 but "busting crackers" had begun early! Arjun (5 years old) was particularly fond of this activity. Lauren was happy to be a spectator!

We had the opportunity to attend a Rotary club meeting and I exchanged banners with the President of the Adyar Club. Annamalai's home club is the Madras club. They have a wonderful project focusing on eye care (check out www.kannoli.com for more information). It must be difficult to prioritize their projects and distribute their funds. There is so much need… Perhaps my home club (Hampton Township, Allison Park, PA) will be able to participate in an international project!

We said good-bye to India with mixed emotions and extended an invitation to our host family to come to visit us in Pittsburgh. We hope they'll take us up on it!

November 4, 1999

Today's peace was shattered at 5 PM when 7 short blasts sounded on board. Unlike previous lifeboat drills, we had received no warning that this one would occur! Instead of being parked in our room together, life jackets donned, the bells sounded while Lauren was off at play practice, Den was teaching and Christy and I were each in our rooms. The drill went well despite some anxious moments for Lauren…as she headed back to our room to get her life jacket, the big fire doors were closing. Though they can be pushed open, it's no easy feat for a 9-year-old! The experience helped us to fine tune our gathering procedure for future lifeboat drills!

November 5, 1999

The seas are so calm that wave height is described as "mirror to ripple"! It reminded me of the day Christy caught a 28" lake trout on Lake Erie!

November 7, 1999

The Olympics of the 1999 Fall Millennium Voyage were held today. The Faculty/Staff team was known as the Titanic 2. Lauren took 3rd place in the limbo and participated in the M&M relay and stupid human tricks. Dennis was in a "pie eating" contest which consisted of fishing an M&M out of a whipped cream pie, "no hands". We've got a picture!

We've been at sea a week so the reprieve from the academic routine was welcome. We're in the Arabian Sea and spotted the Brother's Islands of Somalia off the starboard side. We're headed for the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Our stay in Egypt will be brief (only 36 hours) so we'll have to move quickly!

November 10, 1999

When I went to bed last night, I though the most exciting thing I would have to write about the day was "stargazing". They turned the lights off on an upper deck and we enjoyed a starlit sky - even a few shooting stars. Just after falling asleep, I awoke to a voice on the loudspeaker announcing "Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB." I wasn't really awake enough for it to register, but Den remembered it was the "man overboard" code. A few moments later that was confirmed by an announcement…"Man overboard, all available passengers on deck to assist in the search." By this time we had checked on Christy and Lauren and were heading up to the deck. It was dark, and the ship had begun its turn as soon as the alarm sounded Life preservers had been thrown into the water where the student had gone in, but turning a ship of this size around is a phenomenal task. Standing at the rail with several people, I couldn't help but remember the Captain's grim and serious comments at the beginning of the voyage. The chances of a live rescue, even under the best of conditions, were slim. Everyone was visibly shaken. The intensity of the moment was exhausting. Students were sobered by the prospect that one of their own might not be recovered.

The blackness of the night was unforgiving and the reflectors on life preservers thrown as markers sparked false hopes. Then, a request from the captain for quiet brought a silent hush to the decks…a spotlight beamed from the bridge to splashing in the water and sounds of shouting from the student could be heard. A lifeboat was lowered from it's perch into the water for the rescue. The crew maneuvering the lifeboat who brought the student safely on board deserved (and received) a round of applause from the spectators. The sense of relief by everyone was obvious as many students burst into tears or crumpled to the floor. Before the relief was too permanent, the voice on the speaker cracked another message…"all passengers must report to their lifeboat station immediately, in order to account for each person aboard the Universe Explorer". And so, shortly after 1 AM, we all assembled for the count. It was hardest on the littlest of our passengers to be snatched from a peaceful sleep. The count completed, some returned to bed, and others whose nerves and emotions were frayed, convened in the Student Union for a report from the Executive Dean. Everyone was visibly shaken. The intensity of the night's events was exhausting. The incredible speed and skill with which the crew had responded to the "man overboard" alarm had contributed to the first live night rescue the Captain and his officers (with 100 years-combined experience) had participated in. The preciousness and fragility of life became very real that night. The student was dismissed from the program. With some time for reflection, he may recognize how his reckless actions not only placed his own life at risk, but how they impacted the shipboard community. I hope that he thanks God for the second chance he was given and that he will use the second chance to do something worthwhile with his life.

November 15, 1999

As I write today, we are in the Mediterranean Sea! I'm sitting in St. George's Watch enjoying the peacefulness of the morning. It's 6:15 and I decided to capture my thoughts about Egypt in writing before we arrive in Istanbul!

We left the ship by tenders because the ship was anchored, not docked, at the southern end of the Suez Canal. The tender boats were quite an experience! Imagine trying to transport about 700 people, 12 per tender, on about 10 tenders. It was like the Indy 500 of the Suez! Once everyone was on shore, our convoy of 18 buses (with armed escort) headed for Cairo. We'd been on the road about 10 minutes before I realized we weren't going to "drive out" of the "construction zone" I thought we were in. Once it sunk in that we were in the desert, and things weren't going to turn green, I sat back and enjoyed the ride! We arrived in Cairo about 3 hours later, had a 4 o'clock lunch and headed to the Pyramids for a laser light show. I enjoyed seeing the Pyramids and Sphinx lit up at night, but there were some hokey parts that reminded me that these spectacular architectural masterpieces were now part of a booming tourist attraction.

We returned to the Pyramids the next morning to watch the sunrise…spectacular! Den's pictures capture the moment beautifully! There was no shortage of camel drivers anxious to whisk us away for a ride. Christy and Lauren did take a short jaunt with one of the drivers who had proven his reputation. That is, unlike some of the other camel drivers, who had great rates for a camel ride (it just cost a fortune to get off!!!), our camel driver (Moses), gave a good ride for a good price on his camel, Mickey Mouse!

After a brief camel trek, we walked from one pyramid to another and then climbed inside one of them via an entrance that had previously been used by tomb robbers. The entry was quite steep, narrow and dark. It led deep into the pyramid to an area that had been the queens' burial chamber. My claustrophobia prompted me not to linger too long and out I headed, back up the steep and narrow ramp, which, as it turns out, was two way!

After a lunch with a wide variety of Mediterranean cuisine, we spent some time at the museum where many of the findings of King Tut's tomb (including the outer two sarcophagi) were housed. There was a little miniature sarcophagus, carved in the likeness of Tut, for each of the major organs! The papyrus scrolls with hieroglyphics were incredible. We were all entranced by the museum's contents!

Our whirlwind tour of Egypt ended with a very special visit with one of Dennis' former students, Dr. Dina Rateb, who now teaches at the American University of Cairo. We walked to her office, had a glass of delicious fresh squeezed lemon juice and some fresh fruit. The time was far too short, but we look forward to her visiting us in Pittsburgh in the not too distant future. We headed back to the buses for a long ride to Port Said, happy to see that our ship had safely transited the Suez Canal and was awaiting our arrival (as was every merchant who could line up on the dock!) Off to Istanbul, Turkey!

November 23, 1999

Istanbul, Turkey was a wonderful surprise! The view from the ship was absolutely breathtaking (see the picture!). We spent lots of time walking, enjoying the narrow, winding streets and the people on them. The rainy weather 3 of the 5 days may have soaked our clothes but it didn't dampen our spirits! We visited an orphanage, a school (K-11th grades) the Blue Mosque, and the Kapali Carsi (largest covered bazaar in the world).

I took an informal walking tour with a group early one morning when the rest of the family was either sick (Den had eaten some bad lamb and Christy had a cold!) or sleeping (that would be Lauren!). We happened across several churches including a Croatian Church, a Greek Orthodox Church (the patriarch was there for a special service!), a Roman Catholic Church, and a Crimean War Memorial Church. As we were whiling our way through one neighborhood, we caught sight of a small basket being lowered from a third story window to street level. Professor Butler informed us that the basket was being lowered for groceries! What a concept!

We had an opportunity to join some faculty and students from Sabanci University (a brand new University!) for an evening of great food and dancing. The General Secretary of the program took us on a tour of the Communications Center that included a roof top panoramic view of the city. To Den's dismay, it was raining too hard for any photo ops!

Our final night in Istanbul was the perfect ending to a special port. We attended a Farewell Banquet at the Suleyman Mosque complex. More great food- I've got the menu and some recipes! After the banquet it was back to the ship!

We celebrated Thanksgiving on board the ship today, as we'll be in Croatia on Thursday. The dining room was transformed with a few tablecloths and decorations into more of a restaurant atmosphere. We were joined by many of our "adopted" students for the meal (there's a picture of course!)

We will miss our family and friends on this special holiday. This trip has certainly brought to light just how much we have to be thankful for! Know that you will all be in our prayers on Thanksgiving Day…please keep us in yours!

Tomorrow …Dubrovnik, Croatia!