We are finally in our home time zone! It feels really strange, but everything feels strange right now. Since I last wrote we have had a very busy time. We had a Reading Day, then 3 days of exams. After that, the faculty graded like crazy people because we had to turn in our grades by 3:00pm yesterday. The funny thing is that we all have to post them on the web and our internet is sooooooooooo slow that it takes FOREVER to get the grades posted.
On the last day of finals we had the Ambassador's Ball. This is a special dinner to celebrate the end of our voyage. You had to sign up for the dinner in advance and choose what you wanted to eat and who you wanted to sit with. Everyone wears their best clothes and there were some beautiful dresses and some very interesting suits. Some people wore clothing that they had made in Vietnam or China. Everyone looked so wonderful. I hardly even recognized some of my students when they weren't in pajama pants! We sat with two other couples that we really love - it was a really nice evening. I even had my picture taken with our very handsome Captain. After the dinner there were three dances in different places on the ship. We cut a rug and had a great time.
Yesterday was reflection and re-entry day. That meant that we spent most of the day packing. There were also some great events for the students and faculty about returning home from the voyage and what to expect that you will be going through. Then in the evening we had a "campfire" sing-along. We sang songs about going home like "Country Roads, Take Me Home" and told stories about the voyage. After the sing-along everyone signed maps and t-shirts and traded pictures. We went up to the faculty lounge and played "catch phrase" and a really cool version of the telephone game with a pictonary twist. Great Fun!
This morning we had a really nice commencement ceremony for the seniors that are graduating this semester. It was a really emotional time for everyone there. We had great speakers that represented the ship population. Our speakers included a Life Long Learner, a staff member, a faculty member and a student. Then we had the main address given by Archbishop Tutu. It has been such a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to travel with the Arch. It was a festival of tears at the ceremony. Afterwards, there was more map signing and we had a final dinner with our extended family.
Now we are being called by groups to bring our luggage down to be sorted for the disembarkation tomorrow. So everyone needed to pack their room up last night and this morning because our luggage was due 24 hours in advance of our disembarkation. Now, all we have in our room are the essentials that we need for the next 24 hours. We have two little personal duffle bags and one huge one full of gifts that we don't want to be broken. Now, for the next 24 hours, we will say goodbye to our new friends.