Stories from the Amazon

  • SAS Explorer
    The SAS Explorer docked in the port of Nassau of the Bahamas, ready for the 700 passengers to embark for the Enrichment Voyage.

    Back On The Road

    In the crisp blue sky of the late afternoon, I looked up and saw a flock of sandhill cranes flying south.

    I had just finished presenting to a group of elementary students in Butte, Neb. A fourth-grade student was helping me load my program materials into my car.

    The unmistakable calls of the cranes cut through the sky of the quiet town. It appeared they were speaking to those who peered up from down below.

    I said to the student, “Wow, look at that. Isn’t that cool?”

    He replied, “Yeah, very cool.”

    Random thoughts floated though my mind. I wondered from how far north they came and how far south were they going?

    The drive to perpetuate life with the migration of wildlife, especially the snow and Canadian geese and the sandhill cranes, is something that has always left me with a sense of awe.

    I must have encoded into my own DNA this same internal pull to move. Every time I see these creatures, it cuts through all the distractions and touches my soul. It is not a restless spirit but a spirit that seems to be reborn in the discovery of something new. Within me is an unquenchable thirst to learn and grow, to stretch my ideas and concepts of the world and my small role in it.

    Last spring, shortly after I had returned from South America, I was asked to give a brief presentation of my latest adventure at a board meeting in Lincoln. Also in attendance was Dr. Les McCabe, president of the Semester at Sea program for the University of Virginia.

    At the end of the meeting, Dr. McCabe approached me, handed me his card and said, “You would be a perfect guest lecturer on the Explorer (a cruise ship converted into a floating campus). Please join us for the December voyage.”

    I said “yes” to Dr. McCabe’s offer with the condition that I be let off the ship in Ecuador.

    As I stepped off the plane in Fort Lauderdale, the warm humid air slapped me in the face. It was such a stark contrast to the cold December dry air of Nebraska. I arrived a half day early to ensure I would not miss the sailing time.

    The cheap hotel I checked into had a musty smell that reminded me of a hotel where I once stayed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I wondered if the rooms at this hotel would also have bullet holes in the windows closed shut with Scotch Tape.

    Nassau vendor sewing bags
    A shop owner sews on the word Bahamas to a bag in a Nassau market.

    The following day my adventure started by boarding the Explorer, along with the rest of the staff at the port in Fort Lauderdale. I have never been on a cruise ship in my life. The last ship I was on took me down the Amazon River in Brazil, where they pulled the brown water from the river for our showers. I was confident that would not be the case this time.

    “We don’t have you on the staff roster,” said the person at the security checkpoint. “We will have to contact the ship.”

    An officer on the ship came down and gave permission for me to board.

    Apparently, I was scheduled to board the ship in Nassau with the paying guests. After bouncing me around between a couple of rooms, I landed in what would be my home for the next couple of weeks.

    The Explorer left Florida and “dead headed” for Nassau, a term used when there are no paying passengers on board the ship.

    The next morning the almost empty dining area had only a few tables with people eating breakfast. I filled my plate and approached one of the tables and asked, “May I join you for breakfast, Justice O’Connor?”

    “Yes, please do,” she replied. So began a new friendship with retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the Bahamas port of Nassau.

    A lighthouse at the port of Nassau
    A lighthouse at the port of Nassau in the Bahamas guides the Explorer to safe waters.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.