While we’re to the point of the Semester at Sea voyage where we’re docking every few days in a new country and things have gotten quite busy, that doesn’t mean activity aboard the M/V Explorer comes to a halt, not by any means. Most times after we return from a lengthy visit to a place, the following day is a reading day, a chance for all participants to reflect upon what they experienced, as well as an opportunity to catch up on missed work (or sleep…depending). But because our time in Mauritius was so brief, the next day was an entirely different story altogether. It was time for one of the most anticipated events in a SASer’s voyage … Sea Olympics!
Sea Olympics is just what it sounds like, a shipboard competition with some events requiring athleticism (volleyball, crab soccer), some involving ingenuity (board games, joke contests), some summoning fortitude (popcorn eating), some demanded artistic ability (banner contests, face painting) and some just straight-up dumb luck (a relay that involves moving ice cubes with faux chopsticks).
It was like being back in elementary school again, only with 700 “big kids” involved. I mean, what kid did not live in anticipation of Field Day each spring for weeks to come?
Everyone on the ship was encouraged to participate, from the Sea Squirts (the children of the staff and faculty) to the Lifelong Learners to, of course, the students.
In the very beginning of the voyage, students are divvied up into seas, such as the Bering or Mediterranean, of 50 to 70 members—the equivalent of a residence hall—with one head resident (called an LLC, or living learning coordinator) per sea. On Sea Olympics day, all the seas come together for the friendly (and OK, extremely heated) day-long series of competitions. The winners received a party up in the staff and faculty lounge and the privilege of being the first to get off the ship in Fort Lauderdale once the voyage ends on Dec. 13.
Every team has its own colors (we were tie-dye as no primary or secondary color was left for us!), chant and team name (all the real sea names were taken, so we were the somewhat controversial Profs ‘a Sea…standing for both professors and professionals).
The majority of participants got really into it, too, wearing war paint and the whole nine yards.
The Comms Coordinator, Valerie, and I served as co-captains for the Profs. You’ve probably gathered already but I am ridiculously competitive, to the point that I challenged the dependent children (ages 9 to 12) to a fierce game of dodgeball a few weeks ago and had no qualms about being in it to win it, so this was a good, if not dangerous, role for me to play.
While I was tempted to sign myself up for every event simply because they all sounded like so! much! fun! (and also because other people just weren’t volunteering), I capped it at three. The first was Taboo with Valerie, Brian and our incomparably witty assistant dean Laurie, and after an intense five rounds of playing to 25, we walked away the overall victors. (Naturally.) Brian, the IT dude, usually fulfills the role of ship “nice guy,” so no one was more shocked than his teammates when he was shameless about deducting points every time our opponents would gesture or say anything remotely close to the word on the card. It was humorous to watch (especially as it aided in our victory)—glad I wasn’t the only person super into the competition side of things!
My second game was the human knot, where 12 of us had to untangle ourselves once we were holding hands, and then sit in each other’s laps and walk across the deck over a finish line. This one is really hard to practice, but somehow by grace of the Sea Olympics gods, the Profs reigned supreme: While some groups took as much as 15 minutes to complete the task, we did so in 23.6 seconds. My mind is still blown by how we managed to pull off this feat.
My final effort was as part of the tug of war team. I may look happy below and like I’m not pulling my own weight, but that’s only because all the other photos of the bloodbath were too unattractive to post on the Internet. We finished fourth (out of 10), which given some of the 24-packs on those students (both male and female) is a victory itself, and I still have blisters two weeks later.
The last event of the day was by far the most entertaining and the one time the whole ship reconvened at once to
make fun of cheer on those participating in it.
What caused the whole community to halt all other commotion? Why, synchronized swimming, of course!
We had a hard enough time getting staff and faculty to fill up spots in the “normal” events, so I was a bit surprised (and stoked) when four of our own men—Brian, Brian, Andrew and Louis—rose to the challenge. Valerie and the art professor, Christina, choreographed a fun routine to It’s Raining Men, and the guys practiced for days in advance. They came in second to the Baltic Sea; I still think they should have walked away with first, but what are you going to do?
In the end, the Baltic Sea won (deservedly), and we finished somewhere in the middle of the pack (fifth, I believe, out of 10 teams), but I maintain that’s because they robbed us of half our teammates who were either LLCs made to compete with their seas or staff or faculty who were judging events. If we’d had our full team, I’m confident experience and mental prowess would have reigned supreme over youth and physical brawn.