The World Is My Classroom!

The World Is My Classroom!

Today was the first day of class for Spring 2011 Semester At Sea, the 104th voyage of this floating University.  I awoke at 6:55 a.m. and needed to make my first class at 8:00 a.m.  Visions of Colorado State University, 1974 danced in my head and I knew I could make the class.  I pulled on my jeans and t-shirt, put on my “Skecher’s” pulled back my hair etc. etc., grabbed my notebook and took off to the Dining Hall.  There I filled my “food network” coffee mug, ate some pineapple chunks and got to class on time.

The world is my classroom!

Exhilaration is the feeling that rushed through my 57 year old body on the first day in the floating, world classroom. I took some time to silently express my gratitude for this incredible opportunity to be able to become part of a 700 member ship board community. To be able to learn how global issues can be assimilated and the lessons brought right back home to our own cities and towns.  It’s energizing to go   “glocal” Thinking Globally and Acting Locally.

The college classmates around me were laughing with each other about not getting their pictures for the first day at school and of course I could not resist and had to take the photo op. I do have pictures of my daughters first day of school from Kindergarten to Freshman at college… So these were fun photos for Tom and me!

Carra Riley first day of Class Semester At Sea

Juliana Acheson, PH.D is the dynamic instructor for Anthropology 3000 “Food and Culture.” She is traveling with her husband and two daughters.  I am hoping to work with her children on the Cosmic Kids e-workbooks and really have some great research on how the principles in Cosmic Cow Pie come together for kids.

Dr. Juliann Acheson

The “Food and Culture”  class is so popular it had to be moved to the Student Union to accommodate all the students wanting to learn about Food and Culture.  Instructor Acheson started out requiring the classroom be configured in a circle so everyone could see everyone else.  The students were way out of their comfort zone in re-arranging the room.  The effect of the activity was interesting as the results of the group coming together in a circle created an instant connection among the participants.  Leave it to an Anthropology instructor to show such a good example in human behavior and how to get people to engage.

The first question Dr. Acheson asked the group to share around the circle was “What is the most recent NEW food you have tried that you liked?

I had to take a few minutes to stop and think about my food habits.  Trying new things has been something that I have not consciously thought about for a long time. Pondering the question and thinking about my behavior, I have to say I have not been very adventuresome about trying new foods lately.  What a great blog post this can be for people to start conversation or even a fb update. The list of new foods the students had recently tried and “liked” went from blueberries, brussel sprouts cherries, an omelet, pomegranate, chicken masala to raw heart, squid ink pasta, conch, frog legs, buffalo, bear guiney pig, chocolate covered worms, citric ants, sea urchins, and monkey brains.  No joke, one young lady said monkey brains!  I thought the student might be taking a line right out of Raiders of the lost Ark but evidently in South America, where she had visited it is a delicacy and she tried it. The raw heart was something a lifelong learner had tried in Pakistan.  We had young students and mature lifelong learners sharing their food experiences and touching one another by stimulating the concept of adventure with food around the world. There were certainly some real “foodies” in this group and it inspired my thought to consider trying new food, culture and the countries we are going to be visiting with a different vision and attitude.

After attending school this morning, I signed up for a cooking class in Brazil. We will create our own dinner with a chef using local products!

Teaching and learning is happening all over this ship at all times of the day and night.

Last night we had our first group meeting to discuss the book “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson. The book is an account of how one man with a vision built 54 schools in Pakistan to help educate women and children. The discussion delved into why and how this man was able to do what he did with only a dream and a passion for helping others.

Discussion group talking about the transformation process of a trip around the world together

The entire ship population, including 66 lifelong learners and 598 students are divided into groups of about 20 participants.  The group will get together before and after ports to discuss what we expect and then after we return what we observed then later, how it manifested in our thoughts. The Semester At Sea vision is to create an “experiential” education event which can possibly transform the lives of those participating.

What did I learn today? I need to be open to trying new food options. Not sure if I am going to eat everything we are exposed to but I will be open and watch those who do! The big lesson is just being receptive to new concepts presented by different cultures with a respect for their values.

The world is my classroom and I am ready to learn!

Sign up to play “Where in the world is Carra Riley?”  Win a travel voucher, lodging, food and entrance to other attractions at one of the Seven wonders of the world!

What Is The Next Charm On The Travel Bracelet?

Is life just a big charm bracelet?

Are the expectations for a travel journey just to get that next gold charm on the bracelet and to say you have been there and done that?

These are questions asked by Executive Dean, Dan Garvy at orientation for the Spring 2011 Semester At Sea Voyage leaving Nassau, Bahamas today.  His candor and dedication to “experiential” education is reflective of the magnitude in time and coordination that has gone into creating the 2011 Spring voyage around the world with Semester at sea.   Dean Garvy told  the students and life long learners that they “were needed to make this all happen.”  Without the participants, the vision never becomes a reality which can make a difference in the world.  To me the keynote speech said that “WE” the individuals on the trip are what it takes to “connect the dots around the world” to create a memorable and harmonious experience.  The connection described today made me feel like an integral part of the community and that my contribution will help others as we create the music of life together in harmony all over the world.

It might seem funny to you, the reader, to be describing the event in musical terms. Dean Garvy had piano music as part of the presentation showing how individual expectations alone do not create a melody.  One note alone,  even two notes alone mean nothing and if you have many notes not in sync it just sounds like noise.  It takes combining several notes with harmony to come up with a balance and a meaningful presentation.

One of the goals of the Semester At Sea Organization we heard about earlier this morning is to “Educate Individuals… have infused shared learning coming together with faculty and students.” “We believe strongly in the program’s mission and that the experience truly deepens one’s understanding of issues and culture…”  Today we heard  about how the experience in the confines of the ship with seniors in their late 80’s to college students in our community would impact who we are and where we are going with the rest of our lives.  Dean Garvy explained how we would all be engaging in groups about our personal journey as we experience different cultural exposures around the world. The Theme of this voyage is Thinking Globally Acting Locally.  The opening remarks set the bar of expectations to be one of growth, harmony and change within the 104 days at sea.

It seemed like my husband Tom and I have been planning, packing and waiting for ever!  We finally left the port in Nassau! As the ship pulled out of dock it was like embarking on a journey with 700 individuals we didn’t really know but deep down we know after the 104 days we will all have something very special in common as we learn and process world change together!

Hang on the ride is just beginning.….. actually the wind came up and it is rocking and rolling a bit!  We did a practice evacuation drill so we are set to sail!  We are cruising at a higher rate of speed to make up the three hour delay!  The journey of a lifetime began today!

Be sure to sign up to play “Where in the world is Carra Riley?” Lot’s of fun just posting and following the journey around the world!

Practice evacuation today before sailing

Saying Goodbye to parents on shore

Bon Voyage Spring 2011 SAS taking off!

Let The Game begin! Where In The World is Carra Riley?

Today, January 12, 2011 is the official launch day of the game, Where in the world is Carra Riley?

The contest is an opportunity to win a $500 travel certificate to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This is combined with 6 other connected prizes from Williams, Arizona the Gateway to the Grand Canyon: 2 meals from Grand Canyon Coffee & Cafe,  3 nights at The Grand Country Inn, train ride for 2 on the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon, bull whip lesson with Buck Williams , two rounds of golf at Elephant Rocks Golf Course, 4 car load passes to Bearizona and more to make winning the trip extra special.  See all the rules here.

Join in the fun.. all you have to do is engage by commenting and come to the party!  You will be sharing the journey with me, Carra Riley as I travel with world with my husband Tom on the  Spring 2011 Semester at Sea voyage.  I will be doing research as I write “Cosmic Cow Pie…Connecting The Dots Around The World.”

Today was a full day of checking out of the hotel, getting to the dock, going through customs, unpacking and participating in a “meet and greet” with the parents of the students on the voyage!

I set up the computer with the ships wireless system but we cannot upload video.  I will have to save the video till I can get to Cyber Cafes in port and stick to small file pictures to share!  You can also go to my flickr account and see the photos of the day all along the voyage!

A picture speaks a thousand words.. so this is what we did today!

Tom Riley in Nassau Semester At Sea

Carra Riley Nassau Semester At Sea

Our Ship MV Explorer

More pictures on flickr in the Semester At Sea MV Explorer set.

So let’s get this party started! Comment on the blog posts, the facebook fan page, the flickr account or youtube videos!  Get a point for each comment up to 5 comments a day!  In the event of a tie, additional engagement or posting on any of the sites will determine the tie breaker!  Go to the forum at Cosmic Cow Pie and register so we know your screen name and can keep track of your points.  If you don’ t register we will not know you are playing the game!

This should be fun and you might just connect with some very interesting people from across the world!

Connecting More Dots In Nassau!

“Connecting The Dots Around The World” will be a huge learning curve each day in  finding a gracious way to “step over the bar of expectations” from our American point of view and will be a skill that needs to be practiced. Trying to be understanding and be considerate of different cultures and their values will be of utmost importance. Kindness and peaceful communication about all kinds of situations will be the order of the day to maintain peace within ourselves and thereby create peace among people and nations.

I have been reading the book “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson as required reading for the students and Life Long Learners on the voyage for Spring 2011, Semester At Sea.  The book is about how the passion for an idea can change the world with just one person pursuing the vision of their dreams. The message that is coming to me from the book is one of belief in convictions no matter what it is.  Not that Greg’s passion would be my passion but that his example shows how an individual can make a difference with their actions.

The dots that are connecting for me from a global standpoint which I can take back to my local community, the “glocal” lesson is one of raising the bar with the best quality service to attract the consumer. I can see clearly that business in general, the global business community included is fighting for the discretionary consumer’s dollar.  The video of David in front of the Big Ten Restaurant on Bay Street in Nassau included in my post  from the past week, shows how retailers are literally fighting for that same dollar.

My belief is the consumer will spend their discretionary dollar and share with their friends if a business provides the  Nordstrom quality service at an affordable price.  Taking those concepts to a practical place to implement, a business must have clean presentations and superior customer service to get repeat and referral business from past consumers.

The number one reason my husband Tom and I are on this voyage is the fact the program was 2 for 1 package on Semester At Sea and it had been on our life “goddard” list for five years.  The opportunity was right being able to leave home for 4 months and with the value of the package we stepped up to experience this journey. We arranged for a house sitter couple that worked from home and would take care of the cat and off we went!

We are very grateful to the Semester At Sea program for this opportunity and did  not want to shake up any relationships on the first day with the group……. but after considering the message in  the required reading book “Three Cups of Tea”  and knowing that “raising the bar of expectations” is a passion of mine I felt impelled to try and correct a situation with the Hotel we are staying at as it just appeared to me they were taking advantage of a large group of people, probably 300 rooms or more of families seeing their students off on this voyage.

The hotel we made arrangements to stay with at Semester At Sea was actually below average and the room with a channel ocean view seemed extremely overpriced at $188.00 per night. I had to have some self-talk, telling myself that my expectations needed to drop down a little as this experience was about cherishing and respecting different cultures and different value systems. After seeing the unpainted ply wood circle in a window with pen scribbles, the hangers too large for the closet space, no screen on the sliding glass doors in the room combined with the stained carpet in the elevator, stained tile floors, dead palm fronds in the atrium and windows so dirty you can’t see anything but the dirt drops into the garden, I decided that corporate America and/or international resorts really need to raise the bar for service and conditions if they expect to receive top dollar for their products and consumers sharing their experiences to get repeat and referral business.

Pen markings on unpainted plywood used as a sun block in $188 per night room

Dead Palm Fronds in atrium area

Tom Brokaw reviews “ Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin “proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of Character and Determination, really can change the world.”  This concept encouraged me to stand up to do the right thing and help create change. I think this is what the Semester At Sea experience is supposed to do.. encourage people to take action. My action is a not anything compared to Greg Mortenson but his writing has stimulated me to take a stand and to reach out to corporate International connections to really let them LOOK at what the consumer sees and then try and modify behavior from the bottom up.

This concept has stimulated another aspect of my conscious reasoning: the first contact with the consumer should be one of the VERY best experiences if the consumer is going to continue to spend their discretionary dollars with that company. Now the issues corporate business has is hiring people who have actually experienced the level of service the company is expecting their employees to give to the consumer. Why not train the front line by letting them experience that high end service in some sort of practice exercise. Then they will KNOW what it feels like and can attempt to recreate that feeling for those they are being paid to serve.
I had some guilt feelings about the mini rant however; as I reflect on the day and what I am learning I think that the consumer needs to DEMAND the bar be raised to spend their money where they feel the service provided is worth the price. Talking about International business we spoke with the cab driver about the condition of the hotel and he said it was going to be torn down. Now that gave me some insight as to why they were not maintaining the facility.. It was going to be torn down and they were going to take advantage of all the tourists they could as long as they could. This does not seem right.. and even though we got a discount through the Semester At Sea group the condition was not acceptable for a group of such magnitude.

I took some action.. called the manager.. explained the dead palm fronds.. the scribbling on the plywood in the room. The view over HVA equipment to the ocean and the price of the rooms for the condition of the building. I wanted my bill to be cut in half as that is what I thought the room was worth.  He could not do that but could move me to another room and give me 2 free breakfast buffets with a $40.00 value.  He gave us an ocean view rooms for the next 2 days and the breakfast buffets.

When I asked the manager if he felt dead plants in the atrium, dirty floors, and scribbles on the wall is what the company wanted reflected in their image. He said “no” so he knew it is not acceptable and maybe my discussion can help management change the maintenance policy.  Who knows with tearing down some of the building but I did my best in trying to make them aware the consumer is watching.


The dots are starting to connect around the world
and you dear reader, can help by commenting on any of the posts sharing what is on your mind. Enter the contest: Where In The World is Carra Riley? Go to the right hand side of the home page  to register and participate to win a trip to one of the seven wonders of the world! Contest starts January 12, 2011 as the ship embarks.

Where in the world is Carra Riley? Nassau!

Nassau, Bahamas Day 1 Continued: Connecting The Dots Around The World.

The contest actually starts on January 12th.. That will be the official 1st day of the contest when we embark from Nassau.  We have just been “practicing!”  Thank you for playing along!

Warm weather of mid 70’s in Nassau was a welcome feeling as we left Charlotte, North Carolina at 18 degrees F Sunday morning.  The welcome calypso band playing at Immigrations was certainly a pleasant surprise as we waited to enter Nassau. This warm greeting  from the local band was only a start to an education in how the entire island, including the omelet lady (another post later this week)  at the resort is working to create a pleasant experience for all who come here.

We found a bag porter who helped us get the bags through customs without a glitch.  He took us right to a large SUV taxi driven by a delightful girl named, Tamika who explained she owned the vehicle and worked for herself. She was born and raised in Nassau and shared some interesting statistics such as the size of the island being 7 miles wide by 26 miles long with only 200,000 residents. According to Tamika this week is supposed to be in the 70’s as last week they were in the 60’s which is cold for Nassau.   We asked her to stop at a food store and we purchased bottled water, soda and snacks to save excess mark up at the resort.  We made arrangements with her to pick us up on Tuesday at 11:30 to board the ship by noon so we continue to “manage our mess” in an organized manner. The attitude of the locals was one of kindness and appreciation  for the business. Lessons to take back to our local areas.

Learning to roll with the punches is part of having “balance” in travel.  Sunday morning in Charlotte, NC we expected to go to a Money Exchange outlet in the airport during our 3 hour layover to obtain $30.00 in currency for each of the 11 countries where we will be dock.  I had the 11 envelopes all ready to organize the funds and be prepared when we arrived and needed to get cabs for our first location.  We had our first opportunity to exercise the “10 second rule.” The money exchange store was closed because it was Sunday.  We had the plan all arranged in our minds for the last couple months and now there was nothing we could do about the store being closed.  We just implemented the 10 second rule of being upset LESS than 10 seconds and made a new plan B to find a bank in Nassau on Monday or Wednesday when we have time to go get the change.  The activity did not turn out the way we wanted it to but the end result will be the same, just on a different day in a different place. The bottom line will be the same as we will get the different currency in the 11 different envelopes and the money issue should be smooth sailing.   Our taxi driver let us know we could walk to Royal Bank from the hotel and get that job taken care of. Problem solved and less than 10 seconds of stress.

The vision for me in this trip is to “Connect The Dots Around The World.” I had no preconceived idea of how any of the dots would start to connect but they have already started to come together. Your comments and input will be invaluable as I post on my blog with a stream of consciousness writing along with just sharing what I am thinking and the observations I am making from exactly what I am experiencing.

The “bar of expectation” for many businesses and services is a moving target today and we have had our experience with this two times in the first day of travel.  As the world economy is changing the fight for the discretionary dollar is actually going to the street with customers one on one. Watch how this is evidenced by the video where a “meal hawker” aka host, actually comes over to the taxi we just got out of to entice us to eat at the restaurant he works for.

This is certainly an example of meeting the customer where they are!  The street or beach vendors are also “asking for the business.” The worst it can be from asking for the business is someone saying “no” so if you are not afraid to get out of your comfort zone to ask for new business, it might be there. We went to “Big Ten”  for dinner and actually never went back to Twin Brothers so you see.. David asked us to go to his restaurant we did.

Now here we go!  Fun in the sun and it’s almost time to get on the ship and sail! It was a peaceful day with 3 hours in the sun to get going on our required read  “Three Cups of  Tea” by Greg Mortrenson.  An inspiration to all and another post will be coming sharing the PASSION this man had for building schools for children who want to learn.


The Island of Nassau relies on tourism for it’s very existence. The atmosphere of all the service providers is one of trying to please and create a memorable experience for everyone here.  Taking this attitude of a community working together to survive can come right back home to our local areas where we need to come together on what we are trying to do to survive also.

This is the 1st GLOBAL lesson that we can apply to our LOCAL communities as we go “Glocal” in our thinking!

Register to comment and play:  Where in the world is Carra Riley? You could win a trip to one of the seven wonders of the world!