Sunday, January 13, 2013

Glory Days

Today is a beautiful day at sea. It's 68 degrees in the air and 70 degrees in the ocean. (Don't worry mom and dad - we only know that because of the announcement.) We're about a day and a half outside of Hawaii, and people on the ship have started to settle in to what it will be like to live here.

Again, I must reiterate that time is so weird on the ship. Weekdays and weekends no longer exists. We're either in an A-day or B-day (for students' classes), a port day, or an off day, which in the Unreasonable program we call "glory days." We don't have a port hole in our room, so we go to sleep in the dark and wake up in the dark, and it's really hard to tell what time it is unless we're on the upper decks where there are wonderfully large windows. The days seem to meld together, and it feels like we've been on the ship for a month, and it's really only been a total of six days. I've already started to get used to it now that we've gotten a little bit of a groove to our days.

The plan is to get a 24-hour glory day each week, but with the way our port schedules change things, we might have to squash a couple into a week and skip some on other weeks. It's so nice to have a day where we don't have to have a camera in our hand or be editing in the affectionately-named "vomit closet", however, cabin fever is a real worry on a voyage this long. The academic community tries really hard to keep people busy so that they can't dwell on the fact that we're completely confined to this moving space for days on end.

This six-day journey to Hawaii is the second-longest leg that we'll have to sail continuously without seeing any land. Hawaii to Japan will take nine days total. After leaving Ensanada, Mexico, it only took me two days to want off the ship. :-) After getting over my motion sickness, though, it's really a nice way to live. Far better than I was expecting.

Yesterday, Daniel Epstein (Founder of the Unreasonable Institute) and George Kembell (founder of Stanford's D-School) had their first class of the course that they are teaching together. We have a running joke about what it's called because no one can remember it. It's something like global entrepreneurial impact studies of the 21st century. Okay - I have no idea what it's called, but it doesn't totally matter because I can describe what they're doing it. They opened with having students pull out their syllabus and ripping it in half. This immediately got the students attention.

Semester at Sea, as we've been learning, was created for hands-on, real-life eduction for college students to not just teach them about the world, but to show them the world. Get them entered into their learning and their studies by taking them to places where they can apply it.

With the Unreasonable Institute or Unreasonable at Sea program on the ship, students get to work directly with 11 companies that are in different stages of development working on social issues our world is facing.

During the first class, all 11 companies pitched what they do and then offered up an issue that they need to solve right now. This ranged from the company called Artificial Vision for the Blind, who need to completely rename and rebrand their company complete with a website by the time we get to Japan, to the company called One Earth Design, who needs to figure out a way to make their solar cooker appeal to the first-world camping market in order to increase their profit margins to continue to be sustainable in selling the stove for less in third world countries where other people need it.

Plus, the three learning partners onboard the ship, SAP, Xbox and Nike had to pitch what they're working on right now and an issue that they need help solving. Nike, for example, has a piece of the company called "The Girl Effect" where they want to increase the level of education for girls in other countries, and the way that they feel they can do this is by motivating boys to become advocates for female education. (That seems like a complicated way to put it...I'd recommend looking it up because it's a great program.)

Then, once everyone pitched, the students in the class got to break up and go to the company that they were most excited about helping, and do rapid ideation to help find a few ideas that would help the companies with their issues. It was a very neat experience overall. Academia DEFINITELY needs more classes like this!

After a long day of shooting, we headed up to the Glazer Lounge, which is restricted to just faculty and staff - of which we are considered. In the spirit of renaming things, this awesome lounge is deemed the Tipsy Toucan. It's on the front of the ship, with almost floor to ceiling windows, many chairs and tables, a bar and a dance floor complete with disco lights and lasers. We celebrated with a dance party and got everybody from the Unreasonable program dancing away into the night.

I went to sit down and take a break from my grueling dance moves, and looked out into the pitch blackness of the Pacific Ocean. I realized that we are 1,000 miles from any sort of civilization living as if we're just down the street from our homes at a dance club. It was a humbling moment in the middle of all the excitement to realize how darn lucky I am to have been chosen as a part of this journey.

I agree with Daniel's belief that entrepreneurism will change the world, and my job, as a part of this film crew, is to make sure that everyone is aware of what's going on. These companies are ridiculous. Protei designs autonomous sailing drones that can head out into the ocean and clean up oil spills and plastic all while mapping out uncharted parts of the ocean. What? Damascus Fortune has found a way to take carbon emissions out of our atmosphere and turn them into a light weight material, called carbon nanotubes, and make a profit out of waste. What?! Artificial Vision for the Blind has literally found a cure for blindness. SAY WHAT?!

Yeah. This is cool.