A Eulogy for Claire Ellen (Jourdan) Green

August 9, 1943-February 20, 2011

Many of our friends and family know that my mom, Claire, died in February after six years of living with metastatic breast cancer. Her funeral was March 5, 2011, and I wanted to share the eulogy I gave (below) for those who could not be there to grieve with us. You can learn more about her life from her obituary, published in the Indianapolis Star on February 27 and March 4.My mom’s brother, Bill Jourdan, also shared a poem that had been read at his father’s funeral in 1977 and his mother’s funeral in 1981 called Gone from My Sight that I found very beautiful, especially after spending so much time on a ship last year. Yesterday was a lovely tribute to my mom, and I thank everyone who was there with us literally and also those who were there with us in their hearts. I already miss her so much! Now, my eulogy to her:

I’m sure those of you who have written a eulogy before know how difficult it is. How do you sum up the things you want people to remember about someone who was so close to you, and so important in your life? What about someone who gave you life? Of course we all have good and bad qualities—she knew mine and I knew hers. I’m not here to say that my mom didn’t frustrate me at times when it came to choices she made about her health, or that our relationship was always perfect. What I am here to say is that she was a beautiful person who made a positive impact on me and on this world.

I’m very thankful that Claire and Larry Green were determined to have a baby. They married in 1971 wanting lots of children, but it didn’t work out that way. Maybe going through so many miscarriages was one reason my mom disliked visiting the doctor so much. When they wrote “involuntary abortion” on her medical records, she demanded that they change the word to “miscarriage” even though it wasn’t the proper medical terminology for what had happened. But her sixth pregnancy was different: I was born one day before her due date and came out screaming and healthy. She would often tell me I haven’t changed a bit since then. Growing up, the number one item on my Christmas and birthday present lists was always “a baby brother or sister.” I wasn’t picky. Deemed “too old” to adopt in their mid-thirties, I had no way of understanding it was the one gift my parents wanted to give me most and never could.

Instead of a sibling, my parents gave me the best childhood a kid could ask for. We read tons of great books together, visited the local library twice a week, went to the zoo and the bowling alley, had breakfast for dinner quite a lot, and played all kinds of games: UNO, Sorry!, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Operation…and tons of card games. To fulfill my sibling envy, I watched a lot of Brady Bunch episodes. Mom even tolerated the addition of two imaginary siblings, Cindy and Bobby, when I was seven. They only existed for a few months, but she never complained, disciplined them when they misbehaved, and even set a place at the table for them whenever I remembered they were hungry, too.

She was also a behind the scenes person–always looking for ways to help and carefully avoiding the spotlight. She volunteered at church doing small but important things that she was never recognized for and that very few people even knew about: putting together church bulletins or organizing a Christmas gift giving tree for a local charity. She always volunteered for my teachers and made herself available to babysit when other moms and dads were in a pinch. She loved working at a local Montessori preschool and also supported my dad’s business by doing all the bookkeeping for free. She volunteered for the PTA throughout my K-12 years and was the first to buy the $20 in cookies I was required to sell for fundraisers so I wouldn’t have to go door to door to ask people for money, which she knew I hated. She made sure I had plenty of nice clothes, a clean and lovely home to bring friends to visit, and all the cereal and milk I needed, for there was a time when I would eat nothing else. She was the consummate nurturer, born to be the great, fabulous mommy she was.

My mom was not a helicopter parent–she let me choose my own friends, my own course schedules throughout my school years, and my own activities. She and my dad made it easy for me to own up to a mistake. She encouraged me to solve my own problems and was on my side when I didn’t know if I could do it alone. She believed in me and taught me that I have all the potential I need to do whatever I want in life. She was an excellent writer and had a way with words. If I ever write something I’m proud of, it’s not because of my teachers. It’s because of her.

And what a fabulous mother-in-law she was! Sam was dear to her heart–the son she never had. She often told him that if she could have had a son, she would have wanted him to be just like Sam. He called her mom. This thrilled her. I would like to publicly thank Sam now for all that he did to make my mom’s life better. Try as my dad and I might, there were many times when only his touch or his words could coax her out of bed, get her to take her medicine or do her physical therapy, or help her to see the need for a treatment. She absolutely adored him, and more importantly, she felt adored by him. Thanks, Sam. I love you.

But if I had to sum up my mom’s best quality in two words, they would be excellent listener. Desmond Tutu calls it “the gift of presence.” She always said that I am her legacy, but I think that’s only part of the truth. Her legacy includes the people here and many people who preceded her in death, all of whom at one time or another used her as a sounding board and got through whatever problem they were dealing with thanks to her quiet understanding. She also gave sound advice, but only when asked. Always the loyal and true friend, she kept her word and was there for people when they needed her most. She loved all of us, she loved life, and she loved God. Of all the women in the world, I’m so glad she was my mom. I’m only sorry that I am the only one who knows the exquisite privilege of growing up as her child.

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Being back in Indiana is, weatherly speaking, a long way from Central America and the Panama Canal. We got iced in for a few days last week and had a lot of good laughs with family and friends sitting around the fire, watching movies, and playing Angry Birds (Shannon is a pig-smashing fiend). Most of the city was shut down with a couple inches of ice on everything, so it was a nice little staycation for everyone except Sam — sometimes working from home isn’t as awesome as he usually makes it out to be!

The city may have been shut down, but Twitter never sleeps. Our friend, @TotallyJeffCPA started a round mischief with this little gem from a few neighborhoods away: “This stuff is so awesome to run and slide in. No joke, go try it! Get a good running start and just let nature and gravity take control.” Sam and his brother Peter took Jeff’s advice immediately. Thanks to the slight hill, they didn’t even need a running start:

Icepocalypse 1 from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

Sam captured his run on a very shaky first-person HandCam:

Icepocalypse 2 from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

Brothers will be brothers, so Pete upped the ante by heading to the bigger hill.

Icepocalypse 3 from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

Foreseeing the bruised tailbones that inevitably result after prolonged brotherly competition on the icy slopes, the girls decided it was time to break out the sleds.

Icepocalypse 4 from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

Thanks for the fun, Mother Nature.

P.S. Hoosiers are ready for spring any time you and Groundhog Phil feel like delivering it.

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131 Days Later

It’s official: we’ve just arrived back in the U.S. of A. In some ways it’s hard to believe that we really have been all the way around the world. It would have been really tough to do this without the support and encouragement of so many of our fabulous friends and family back home, and we’re very grateful. Thanks for sticking with us, caring for our pets, and sending so many thoughtful e-mails, notes, cards, blog comments and other little goodies as we sailed for 131 days from Norfolk to Canada to Europe and through the Prime Meridian and the Equator simultaneously on our way down the coast of Africa to India to East Asia to Hawaii to San Diego to Latin America and through the Panama Canal ending in Fort Lauderdale for a grand total of 29,338 nautical miles. We don’t yet know how this experience will ultimately impact our lives, but finding out will be our next great adventure, and we’re excited about it.

Between Vietnam and the end of our semester voyage, many of you noticed that our blogging fell a little behind. This happened, in part, because right after our visit to China, Sam was invited to give an address at the S@S commencement/convocation ceremony to take place on December 12–the day before we arrived in San Diego–the day before the students and most of the staff and faculty said goodbye and disembarked. The emotional time leading up to that day was filled with Japan, final exams, end-of-semester events, and a whirlwind of activities and responsibilities, so all spare time we would have spent blogging was instead spent pondering and preparing what to say. We really do write these entries as a team, and it’s difficult for either one of us to keep things going when one of us gets too busy to help. So, the blog suffered. Thanks for not unsubscribing, and thanks for encouraging us to get caught back up.

So it happened that on 12/12/10, Sam was honored to address the shipboard community along with a hilariously poignant and insightful student named Aaron Kalb, a righteously intelligent and witty poet and faculty member named Steve Cushman, and member of the Elders and inspiration to all, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Our friend Holly captured Sam’s speech on her flip video camera. Better than anything else we could post here, it encompasses our thoughts and feelings about the voyage and the phenomenal people we met, so we’ve decided to close out our F10 S@S blog posts with it. Thanks again for your support and encouragement as we lived the dream for a few months’ time. Many great poets and songwriters remind us that beginnings are born from endings. We are excited for the new beginning that awaits us on land, but thanks to thehollyroo82’s video skillz, we can always remember our Semester at Sea ending just like this:

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Fiascoes in Paradise

The semester ended on December 13, but we remained on the ship to work in the library and the lab during a three week Enrichment Voyage through the Panama Canal. The Latin American itinerary is nearly identical to the voyage we did in 2009, so we spent lots of time reuniting with old friends from voyages past, relaxing on the beach, and trying to process the experiences from last semester.

One notable exception to our beach bum lifestyle this time around was an overnight visit to Antiqua, Guatemala. We were able to get a fabulous room at Casa Santo Domingo, a converted monestary turned hotel and art museum, for an exceptionally good price. It was absolutely breathtaking, and the only place we’ve ever stayed that even comes close to matching these exquisite accommodations is the Addo Elephant Reserve on our South African safari.

The last time we visited Latin America, many people wanted to know about our favorite port. We couldn’t give any sort of straight answer because all the countries are so unique, and we had memorable and moving experiences in each of them. This time we’re going to come right out and state our preference: Guatemala–Antigua, specifically. If you’re thinking about a vacation to Central America, think about this charming little city. It’s nestled in a valley between two volcanoes, so the views are breathtaking. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, the shopping is superb, the Spanish is immersive, and the colonial architecture offsets the natural beauty of the landscape in ways that surprise and delight. You can’t do much better. Also, if any of you are thinking about a destination wedding, think about Casa Santo Domingo, and please think about inviting us. 🙂

Antigua, of course, wasn’t our only adventure. Here’s a brief run-through of a few of our more memorable experiences.

  • In Nicaragua, the kids were just as cute as the last time we visited, and Sam had a ball trying to think up games on the beach that he could explain using only very limited Espanol.
  • We transited the canal again and took screenshots with the live webcam on pancanal.com while we went through.
  • Transiting the Panama Canal – Miraflores Locks from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

  • In Roatan, we went on our first official open water scuba diving adventure since being certified at an Indiana rock quarry earlier in 2010. Our friend Courtney bought us to a great little dive shop called Tyll’s Dive. They cut us a really good deal since we work on the ship, and we really like them a lot. We dove a site called Turtle Crossing where we were lucky enough to see several sea turtles as well as an eel, barracuda, crab, and lionfish. Tyll’s Dive has a motto–Fiascoes in Paradise–which helps Roatan to remain one of our favorite Caribbean ports along with Guatemala. We hope to head back for a longer visit someday.
  • On the Caribbean side of Guatemala, we hired a boat with a bunch of fellow staffers and toured the Jurassic Park-esque Rio Dulce Canyon. We’ve really become accustomed to life on the water, and we’ll miss the pelicans, ibis, and magnificent frigate birds (Sam, especially, because he’s a birder at heart) in a major way when we return home.
  • Perhaps the best part of this trip was having a few friends from Indy along. Sam’s former co-worker Steve came along with his wonderful family. Having them here was a nice touch of home just when we needed it, and we had a blast goofing around with our fellow Hoosiers and exploring Central America together.
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Hanging Loose in Hawaii, Brah

Our last port of call during our Semester at Sea was Hawaii, and it was bittersweet. Sweet because Hawaii is beautiful and fun (and so are our new friends); bitter to think about the end of the voyage–an ending that must happen and that will bring new beginnings for all of us, but also an ending that feels very sad because none of us will ever be all together in this place at this time again. We decided to use our time to learn a little about the history and culture of the islands, relax and reflect on our voyage, and log some QT with a few of our new BFFs before they split up and scattered to Chicago, Colorado, South Africa, and Virginia.

Our friend Stephanie led a half-day SaS trip to Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. We were once more saddened by the toll of war as we learned about the Japanese surprise attack and the misinterpreted radar data that led US military officials to believe the Japanese planes were US planes coming back from an exercise in California. We saw video and photos of the devastation, and we took a ferry over to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial–one of the simplest and yet most beautiful monuments that we have ever seen. We also remembered the stories relayed by fellow shipmates who visited Hiroshima in Japan. Because we were in Honolulu just a few days before the anniversary of the attack, a number of Pearl Harbor veterans were there to talk with visitors about the “day that will live on in infamy” and to share their memories.

For the last few days of the voyage we rented a car and drove all around the big island with our friends. We did all the usual things you’d expect to do in an island paradise:

  • Visit Wal-Mart to buy snacks for a party on the ship and also to buy our shipboard family some holiday/goodbye treats. (Besides, we hadn’t seen a Wally World in 4 months–give us a break!)
  • Wal-Mart turned out to be even more culturally sweet than we expected because we learned that in Hawaii, Salvation Army volunteers play ukeleles instead of ringing bells.
  • Admire the plethora of rainbows.
  • Look at Jodi’s waterfalls.
  • Watch surfers.
  • Be the photographer chronicling some goofy girl-time in the back seat.
  • Splash around with sea turtles.
  • Eat, swill, and chill like true DudeBros.
  • Play in a volcano.
  • Write secret messages with lava rocks.
  • And last but certainly not least, get a hang loose from Santa.

Merry Christmas and Aloha (both a little late)!

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The Land of the Rising Sun

There are a number of things we saw and did in Japan that didn’t really fit in that last post, so here are a few more pics for your enjoyment.

The best waffles money can buy are found at a restaurant called Honeybee inside the mall at the Kyoto train station (calorie counting not recommended during your visit).

It impressed us how the shoguns and emperors of Japan could balance ornate extravagance with elegant minimalism in all aspects of design.

Autumn is our favorite season, but we jumped right from summer-like heat in Vietnam to icy winter in Beijing and Shanghai. We were very thankful to find fall in Japan. Kyoto was especially gorgeous during the full moon festival, and we’d love to go back and spend more time there someday.

We met a number of cutesy harajuku and anime characters in addition to future fashionistas walking and shopping in Tokyo.

Sam started working on a pouty face he calls “baby steel”. Is modeling a career he could fall back on if the computer programming job market tanks? You be the judge.

Our friend and fellow traveler Sarah Bogard led by example. Her father taught her to love sushi when she was a very small child, and she passed on to us her enthusiasm for fresh sushi from the Tokyo fish market. We ate some weird stuff that day, but Sarah, a faculty member on the ship, is smart. She didn’t tell us what we were tasting until after it was down the hatch, and we didn’t ask. Thanks for the lesson, Sarita-san!

We washed down the raw fish with delicious green tea.

Finally, we learned that good karaoke is more about spirit than vocal abilities.

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Japan: the Not-Quite-Final Frontier

Geeky confession: we both really enjoy watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Okay, now that we’ve got that out in the open, we can talk about Japan. One of the things we like about TNG is how the voyagers on the Enterprise visit civilizations on other planets that are often more advanced than the civilizations on Earth. They usually have one or two major environmental attributes that caused them to evolve very differently. We realize that Eastern thought is a huge part of Western thought and that the far East is not given enough credit by Western minds for this. We would not have evolved at all had it not been for Japan and China. Even with all the things America has in common with our Eastern friends–love of family, beauty, and history–for us, visiting Japan as an American traveler helped us understand the true meaning of the word “foreign” better than any other place on our itinerary.

We admit it: navigating Japan felt completely bizarre to our western minds. In some areas of Japan, blocks are named and streets are not. Structures are numbered in the order in which they were built instead of sequentially as one progresses along a street. To top it all off, the language barrier was greater in Japan than in any of our other ports of call, so asking for directions proved difficult. Considering all these factors, it’s not surprising that we found ourselves wandering back ‘n forth around several Japanese cities (Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama) spending an hour or so looking for destinations that were only supposed to be ten minutes away on foot.

In Osaka, we stayed at a capsule hotel. On one floor women were allowed to sleep: the rest of the hotel was for men. We each got a locker to store our backpacks. Inside, we found cool cotton kimonos and some funky little rubber slippers. The slippers covered about half of Sam’s size 13 feet (surprise!). We didn’t know it at the time, but the experience of sleeping in a rack of tiny capsules was actually just a taste of things to come: we are currently living in a tiny converted crew cabin with bunk beds for three weeks as we continue working on the ship during a highly popular (and oversold) Enrichment Voyage.

Sleeping in the equivalent of an oversized dresser drawer feels strange enough, but perhaps the most alien experience of all was the bathing ritual of the Japanese onsen. Having grown up in a family of six and having spent a number of years getting ready for the day at the local YMCA after working out, Sam is no stranger to a lack of privacy. Still, even the curtain-free showers of the Y are insufficient preparation for the experience of soaking in a series of tubs for a couple of hours with a bunch of naked Japanese businessmen. Was it odd and uncomfortable at first? Damn straight. But if nothing else, Semester at Sea teaches us to let go of as many preconceived notions as we can. Go with it, and Japanese bathing turns out to be pretty relaxing. It’s also worth the time it takes…and that’s coming from a guy who typically gets showered, dressed and ready for the day in 10 minutes or less.

Finally, the entire Japanese culture is extremely polite. This, too, felt foreign. It’s not that all Americans are rude, it’s just that being in a country where manners are prized made us realize how used we are to people doing insignificant but also inconsiderate things like cutting in line or answering cell phones during meals with friends. Case in point: in Japan, whenever we handed our credit card to a cashier to ring up a purchase, it was received carefully with both hands. We were given at least a couple courteous bows, and our card was returned to us in the same manner, with many bows and humble smiles of gratitude for the purchase. We never heard a cell phone ring in public, despite an abundance of mobile phones everywhere we went. This includes on the sidewalk, on the train, in the mall, and in restaurants.

Six days in a country isn’t long enough to fully understand all the manners and etiquette of a place, but the experiences we had made us feel comfortable and welcome while we were there. That’s a good feeling, and it’s one that doesn’t get lost in translation. Japan made us want to pay it forward. The respect and honor shown to us as human beings made us focus on responding to others in as polite and kind a manner as possible. We evolved differently, and we appreciate the that. Domo arigato, Japan.

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Shia Shia, Bullshia

The most often repeated lesson we’ve learned while sailing around the world is that people are extremely nice to travelers. Sure, some of them are hoping you’ll be willing to pay for some of their wares, but even in those cases they seem to also enjoy the simple act of making you smile – even when you don’t buy anything. It’s really quite extraordinary. For that reason, the most important phrase you can learn in any foreign language is thank you. The language barrier in China was a little stronger than in the ports leading up to it, but thankfully, saying thank you in Mandarin is not too tough. You just say xie xie with a neutral tone. Clear? Maybe not. Here is how it was explained to us by Marco, our Great Wall guide:

Say shit shit, but drop the ‘t’ and extend the i a little so it sounds more like shia shia–more Snoop Dogg than Garth Brooks, mind you. That’s all there is to it. You’re welcome is similar. It’s búkèqi, but if you lay back, take another sip of gin-‘n-juice and say the word “bullshit” in your best gangsta drawl, you’ll be right on the money. Said properly, it should sound something like boo-shia.

In China we found plenty of opportunities to use our Mandarin linguistic skillz, as there was much that made us feel thankful.

The crazy pace of going around the world in 109 days sometimes causes people to forget to stop and celebrate the moment. Hong Kong malls reminded us. Shia shia.

The people in HK taught us that fashion really is king, especially when it comes to footwear. Shia shia.

On the mainland, we led a Semester at Sea hiking trip to the Great Wall with 68 students, faculty, staff, and lifelong learners. Standing atop the Wall and trying to take in the beauty and the history and the fact that we were in China on the opposite side of the world was a real “pinch me” sort of moment…not the first of the trip but definitely one of the most poignant. We learned from our guides that the story about being able to see the Great Wall with the naked eye from space is a complete falsehood, but learning that in no way diminishes the structure’s grandeur. It’s so big and so long that only 15 people have ever hiked it start to finish. When you consider that China is home to a couple billion people…well, more people have climbed Everest. Enough said.

Our second day of hiking was on a slightly more touristy part of the wall, and there were many vendors selling panda hats. Our ears were freezing, so we were more than happy to buy them. Shia shia for the warmth (and cuteness).

The actual hiking on the Wall did end up being pretty strenuous. Our guide, Marco, was worried that we would strain ourselves or sprain something, so he insisted that we join him in a round of group calisthenics every morning before we headed onto the wall. Shia shia for looking out for us, Comrade Marco.

Warming Up to Hike the Great Wall from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

The hotel where we stayed had extra blankets, a.k.a. “sheet covers” in the closet. Same same. Shia shia for the laugh.

After a few days of tough hiking, we spent a little time in the cities. The economic might of China is manifested in its skylines. If you’re reading this from the United States and have children, now would be a good time to enroll them in Mandarin classes. Enroll yourself too, while you’re at it. Shia shia for the wakeup call.

On our last day in China we took an elevator ride up to the top of the World Financial Center and looked out at Shanghai from the world’s tallest observation deck on the 110th floor. Shia shia for the magnificent view.

Shia shia, China, for welcoming us into your world and making it feel like our world, too.

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Apologies for the delays

Dear Faithful Blog Readers,

Sorry that we’re so far behind and haven’t written in a while. We’re cooking up some posts about China and Japan, but ship and personal life are combining to delay us more than we’d like. It looks like we’ll have more time to write after we visit Hawaii on December 3-6. Thanks for hanging in there with us!

Sam & Shannon

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Viet Transit

There are lots of ways to get around in Vietnam.

You can walk…and until you get used to the flow of pedestrian traffic, you’ll feel a little like you’re taking your life into your hands every time you cross the street.

But all that walking makes you want to stop and drink Ca Fe Sua Da – the world’s tastiest and most addictive iced coffee drink. SaS old-timers call it “crack coffee” for good reason.

You can take a boat.

It’s easy to make friends on a boat.

It’s even easier to make friends on a high speed motor boat. The particular friend pictured below, Huy, gave us all kinds of insider tips about where to get the highest quality market goods. He also works at a coffee shop, so we got to go see him later and drink more Ca Fe Sua Da…full success!

The problem with boats is that the rivers are very tidal. You’ve got to time your boat travel well or you could get stuck on the wrong side of the bridge…

…or be forced to wade across the dock.

Some places are too narrow, so you’re better off in a canoe.

Tired of the water? You can take a bus. Vietnamese folks who take buses are also very friendly.

Tired of making friends? You could ride in a sweet auto. The number of cars in Saigon is skyrocketing, and the government is trying hard to build up the road and highway infrastructure to support them.

If the sweet condensed milk in your Ca Fe Sua Da has you worried that your abdominal 6-pack may soon transform into a keg, you might think about switching to a bicycle. Bicycles get infinite gas mileage (shout out to Garrett), and they’ll take you off the beaten path.

Traveling by elevator isn’t bad either, especially if you bump into your shipboard extended family. Awww, our kids are the best!

But the absolute best (and by best, we mean the most thrilling) way to get around Vietnam is the mode of transportation that lets you easily carry babies, giant birthday presents, and large stacks of vegetables: motos!!

Motos in Vietnam from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

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librarian, writer/editor, floundering guitarist, breakfast addict

mobile software developer, dog owner, hiker, adventure racer, enemy of bureaucracy
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