This past Saturday, the morning after the Semester at Sea ship departed from Ghana, was meant to be a Reading Day. This is a chance for the students to reflect on their time in a country, as well as catch up/get ahead on their studies—or that’s the purpose of most Reading Days at least. What the majority of them didn’t know is that this Reading Day happened to serve a dual purpose: It was also Neptune Day on Semester at Sea.
The line-crossing ceremony is a long-standing Naval tradition that serves as an initiation for sailors making their first Equator crossing. All the “shellbacks” (those who have crossed before) get to initiate the “pollywogs” (first-timers). Semester at Sea takes these traditions seriously, and so a very festive yet serious ship crew—as well as all the staff and faculty who have sailed before—went through the ship banging pots and pans and waking students up at 0730 for an early breakfast before being ordered to convene at the pool at 0900.
Once there, all of us pollywogs had to prove our loyalty to the gods and goddesses on the council. Our own ship capt’n Jeremy played the role of King Neptune, painting his whole body green. (At least they picked paint that washed off this time ‘round; on a past voyage, the captain was bathed in a semi-permanent paint that wouldn’t wash off for a solid week!)
Two of the deans Kat and Laurie, the leader of all things fun Dave, and I decided to be the sacrificial lambs and go first. Truth be told, we were smart: At least we’d be jumping into a clean pool!
In past years, pollywogs have been christened with a huge bucket of sludge that contained all of the leftovers from the kitchen throughout the voyage, with fish heads, scales and guts galore. We were lucky in that ours was just fishy dishwater.
When we climbed out, we had to do three things: 1) Kiss a dead fish. 2) Kiss Neptune’s ring. 3) Get officially dubbed a shellback by the Goddess of Something-or-the-Other (aka one of my favorite faculty members, Julia).
And then, after the four of us “broke ground,” chaos was unleashed upon the ship.
The rest of the shipboard community went in droves, including SVV, who took along the waterproof camera for the ride.
Once everybody had crossed over from pollywog to shellback, which took an hour or so, the entire 7th deck morphed into one giant, sober dance party—at 10am on a Saturday morning. It was like a G-rated version of an MTV Spring Break Edition. Everyone joined in, from ages 3 to 93. The little kids were dancing, the students were busting out some serious moves, even the faculty and older Lifelong Learners were showing off their skills. It was awesome.
And the party lasted all morning, too!
But there were still more traditions to be had…
Bald heads! Another huge Semester at Sea tradition is for many participants to shave their heads on the day of the equatorial crossing. In all, 20 girls and more than 50 guys got their heads buzzed by Josh. It was quite the sight!
I have a conniption at just getting a mere trim, so clearly I didn’t participate, but my fellow Field Office girl Paula most certainly did. She’s so brave!
I’m sort of jealous of how quickly she can get ready in the morning now without a head of hair to wash, dry and style! Also, with such a large (and likely misshapen) head, I would never look nearly as good.
It was one of those days where having this much fun while “working” feels like a crime. I’m so lucky to be a part of this vibrant community and am stoked there are still three months—and 12 countries—of good times ahead of us.