Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Short Visit to Halifax

In Halifax, I kept digging into my meals (one lunch and a dinner) before remembering that I had a camera for taking pictures of food.  Since I appear to have contracted a case of food poisoning from my lunch – my last meal in port – I am glad I don’t have a photograph of it!  In addition, I don’t think clams will be on my menu for a while.  Cadiz should have some delicious clams so my stomach may change its mind. 
Yesterday, we escaped the ship just before the students came aboard and walked to Point Peace Park.  Turns out it is a haven for dog lovers – lots of off-lead areas and trails.  I was very happy to be able to pet some pups!  The park had some beautiful views.

Halifax had lots of recycling in the touristy areas.  Some bins had compartments for “garbage”, “recyclables” which included plastic water bottles and “organics”!  You could put your apple core, etc in there for composting.  The bins shown below employ solar-powered compactors.  There are solar panels on top of some bins.  Even the WalMart had recycling and I noticed that people had put the correct items in each bin.  There was no plastic in the paper bin, etc.   It was a wonderful change from the state of affairs in PA.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I very much wanted to return to the BeaverTail vendor so that I could purchase and photograph one of these delightful treats.  Sadly, we had to eat a hurried lunch - in hindsight, we should’ve skipped my tainted lunch and gone straight to dessert – and thus missed our chance.  A beavertail is a pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail and deep-fried – they then put the topping(s) of your choosing on the warm tail.  Greg and I split one with apples and cinnamon sugar.  Some friends had maple on theirs – sort of like a really good, warm maple-bar.  The US needs to rise up and demand these delicious desserts.  
Here is the one food experience I photo-documented.  I’d heard that a potato chip flavor sold in Canada, but not the US is ketchup.  I tried some – they tasted vaguely of French fries with ketchup.  It was odd because one usually associates that flavor combination with warm food.  Not something I’d seek out but not as bad as I’d expected.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this and the intriguing mental image it elicits.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Voyage, New Ship

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about making the MV Explorer my home for 4 months. It is a new ship and I knew it had nicer cabins and nicer indoor space, but wasn’t sure about what to expect. The ship we sailed on during the Spring 2003 voyage, the Universe Explorer, was a 1950’s steamship. It certainly had its quirks and unpleasant issues so I am a bit surprised to find that I had formed an emotional attachment to it. Unfortunately, it was scrapped on a beach in India so it will never sail again.
The Universe Explorer had a long history both as a cruise ship as well as with Semester at Sea. A fantastic website shows photos taken during its various incarnations as well as deck plans which is why I have provided the link below. The Universe Explorer had a lot of outside decking available and I spent a great deal of time sitting on deck reading, listening to music, walking or simply staring at the horizon. This was particularly important because the cabins were not exactly where one would want to spend a lot of time.

The new ship, the MV Explorer, is a bit narrower and just over 20 feet shorter than the Universe Explorer (the old ship). The cabins are larger (and we have a real window instead of a small porthole) which means that a lot of outdoor deck space has been eliminated. So, we have a trade off. The cabins are more comfortable and pleasant, but I am guessing that I will spend less time outside on deck which was a wonderful part of the previous voyage. So far, the seas have been rough and winds (some gale force apparently) strong enough that they’ve closed the decks and it hasn’t been an option. The lack of deck space will eliminate the walks I enjoyed. I do have plans of testing out a route on Deck 5 that involves going in and outside a lot and I am not sure how well that will be received. Some of what appears to be deck space in the plans shown in the link below is actually outdoor balcony space for the swankier cabins and an outdoor sports court that has nets at either end. We are in cabin 4104 and will have lots of students on our deck…aargh!

One of the great parts about a Semester at Sea voyage is the camaraderie and friendships formed with fellow participants. One feature of the Universe Explorer that facilitated this was the deck plan. One deck housed the main dining hall at the back (with outdoor seating), the Union, the field office, the deans offices, the campus store, etc. with the Union being midship. This meant that most people spent some time on that deck each day and ran into one another in the Union where impromptu visits would take place. Its location encouraged people who did not know each other well to chat and for increased social interactions. The Union in the MV Explorer is at the front of the ship (bad for seasickness) and does not seat the whole community. So, global studies – a mandatory class for ALL participants – will not bring everyone together. It can be watched on closed-circuit TV.
For now, I am keeping my mind open about this ship and how well it will function for Semester at Sea. We are still meeting new people and it is much too early to formulate opinions about any of them.
The food is better than I remember – as with our last voyage there is always milk, yogurt, cereal and fruit available as well as French toast, fried potatoes, sausage, etc. available at breakfast, but at lunch and dinner in addition to the options in the buffet there is a pasta station and soup. The lunch and dinner buffet always include iceberg lettuce with cucumber slices, tomatoes, shredded carrot and sometimes red bell pepper as well as some sort of fish and meat, potatoes and vegetables. Pretty much the type of food you get if you go to a meeting. Not terrible, but not great. I also remember that the quality of the food declined once the students boarded the ship. Tonight is a bon voyage “party” – a time when the parents can come on board and see the ship. The students will board tomorrow. Then we’ll see how the food shakes out!
My apologies for the lack of pictures, but sea sickness and figuring out a new camera don’t mix! I hope the seas are semi-calm on our way out for the sake of the students and so that I can get some pictures taken.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who's Who in the Coop

Here are some pictures of the baby hens who have been laying the beautiful eggs.  They've produced several more this week and they have all been lovely. 

Belle Starr is a Silver Laced Wyandotte and is showing some of the beautiful plumage she will sport when she is fully mature. 

She and Bonnie Parker are giving the camera the eye below.

Pearl Starr is a Buff Orpington and should become less awkward looking as time goes by.  My previous Buff was beautiful.  Bonnie Parker is in the background.
Bonnie Parker is a Dark Brahma and has incredibly fuzzy feet.  She has nice penciling on her feathers too.  She is the one who lives up to her notorious name.  She rules the babies and cowed the big hens when she first went to live in the coop.

The three amigos enjoying some time outdoors.

I can't leave the grand dame's of the coop out - they are somewhere around 6 years old now.  Estelle is a Light Brahma and always looks like she is scowling.

Last, but not least is Gladys the Barred Rock who has had two brushes with death.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beautiful - and that's no yolk!

Two of my seventeen week old hens produced beautiful eggs today!  In my eggscitement to photograph them, I dropped one and broke it.  I got a shot that shows its eggstraordinarily amber yolk though.

I also have a picture of the surviving egg next to a medium-sized egg from a local farm.  My girl's egg is on the left.  Not a bad effort for a first egg!