Penn Alumni Travel: ANTARCTICA: FEBRUARY 9-23 2010

Author: Martha Barron Barrett, G ‘68

[The following are memories from a Penn Alumni Travel trip Ms. Barrett took in 2010 to Antarctica.]

These excerpts are adapted from my recently published travel memoir: Slow Travel: Two Women of a Certain Age-and Modest Means-Leave Home.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2010  Marriott Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires

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The bus tour of the city was fine. We used our room service privileges again–just like the movies of my youth.

(Sandy Lawson, my partner and the photographer, and I had been in Argentina since January 1. After selling our winter home in 2007, we had spent each January, February, and March traveling independently: New Zealand, South Africa, now Argentina. This would be our first tour.  The Penn brochure with a sleek ship, the Deluxe M.S. Le Diamant, floating in an ice-littered sea had arrived Memorial Day weekend.  Monday after our guests left Sandy and I agreed this tour had everything we ever dreamed of.  Tuesday morning I was on the phone to Thomas Gohagan Tours reserving a stateroom to Antarctica.)

We are to be downstairs at 5 a.m. to grab coffee and a snack, then it’s into the air southward. To the ends of the earth, as I wrote to the family. Indeed. High Adventure. At seventy-seven.

FRIDAY M.S. Diamant Room #303

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I strode between rows of white-suited sailors toward an open door. A tall, handsome young man with sufficient braid to be the captain shook my hand and said, Welcome. Inside someone pressed a warm washcloth into my hand–which I found still there when I entered our cabin. A queen bed under two big portholes. I was delighted.

Others had informed us that the passenger lists had only three from Penn and one of those had canceled because their flight was caught up in the Philadelphia snowstorm. So much for the notion of “alumni groupies.” The economy is worse than anyone is letting on.

Outside Le Club, one floor-deck-up, we tried on gift parkas …

At dinner, Sandy and I, the bewildered first-timers, were gently moved toward a partially filled round table of six, to be soon joined by Nicholas, our Russian leader who had told us at the briefing to knock the adjective “soft” off the word “expedition.”

The menu let us know what we would be having for the various courses: soup, salad, fish, meat, dessert. Bottles of wine, French, of course, hovered and we chose either red or white; thereafter our glasses were never empty. Sandy commented on the amazing efficiencies of the huge staff of waiters who presented the food, impeccably, at the perfect temperature, be it hot or cold. …

With a seasickness patch pasted firmly behind my ear, I dropped into a dead sleep.

SUNDAY  Southern Shetland Islands, Sunrise 4 a.m.  Sunset 10:50 p.m.

Noon position Deception Is., where I set foot–both–on the ashy sands of Antarctica, the last or lost, continent.

Wind: Nil force 0

Sea: Calm

Air Temp: 2C (36F)

Water: .5C (33F)

Landings: Baily Head 1:50 p.m. and Whaler’s Bay 4:30 p.m.

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Instructions by the voice of our tour guide drilled through the PA system into our room. At 1:40 he finished with the Green Group and started into the Yellows (us), screwing into our heads the idea that we simultaneously must hurry and suit up yet not arrive in the club lounge too early. I tried to be methodical. Life jacket. How the hell does this thing— Yellow Group! Yellow Group, go to the club. Blue Group, get dressed.

The hall was empty.  Blue group, go to club now.  Dear god. Sandy and I ran down the hall, up two flights of stairs, through the blur of red and out onto the landing. Yellows. We slumped in sweaty relief. No one looked calm. My mouth was dry as a bone.

The line shuffled forward. ID swiped. A flight of perhaps twenty-five white metal steps, railing on both sides, so many things to consider: steepness in these untried boots, grip of silk gloves on railing, plastic tub of disinfectant at the bottom step, rope guide across to the outdoors, and another flight down to the Zodiac. I could see there were two men helping people step up on the side of it and two more inside helping them down. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Okay. Down. Too slow-keep up. Now. Step up. Grab those strong wrists. Down and in. Sit. I reached back and gripped the rope looped along the side. Takeoff might be rough.

Nothing was rough. Not the trip over, not getting out with two competent arms on the other side to steady me. Not walking up the rise. I planted myself like a flag and gazed around at the largest rookery of chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: some 200,000 who stood like small figurines arranged from the black sand beach to the high ridge. …

Boots in hand I entered Le Club and was handed a cup of hot beef bouillion.

MONDAY off Gourdin Islan

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I suspect my remaining life will be divided into pre- and post-Antarctica segments.

Our evening expedition took us out into the ice pack where I actually disembarked the Zodiac to stand on the flat surface of a “table” ice floe. It was moving with the sea and rotating, and the ice pack was thickening; the horizon resembled a city of white and gray block buildings, a nature city. But we are not residents, merely red penguins tromping about on this temporary bit of real estate, taking photos for alumni magazines, driving snow golf balls, shouting like kids at recess. Like the sea the ice will bear no memory of our passing: wind and snow will quickly cover every trace.

TUESDAY Noon Livingston Is.

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Mountains tower beyond a shingle beach. The sky’s responsibility is special effects and it puts on a great show. I could have sat there for hours.

The walk this afternoon (single file) was probably a mile in black sand along the side of a two-thousand-foot high dune. I could not raise my eyes for fear of slipping. We met a line of Greens marching our way and I happened to be first in line. Should I take a step up or take a step down?  I stepped up; at least someone would have a chance to grab me on the way by. I made it without falling, but also without grace.

WEDNESDAY    Wilhelmina Bay 

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Zodiacs. These sturdy, inflatable hard-floored boats have become my favorite way of seeing the shore, up close where my aging eyes could catch the details without having to watch my footing every second. We happily putted along the shore, the guide giving fascinating details about the snow algae and birds and seals. We were riding across the surface of their dining table that held their live eats: fish, krill …

Just finished a room service dinner American style. Our earlier lunch had been a surprise! What a scene for a “barbeque” of sirloin with twenty other dishes. I had two glasses of wine and one of our pastry chef’s beyond-this-world desserts.

THURSDAY Port Charcot 

I feel like a molting penguin today, helpless until my protective coat is restored.  It is about nine-thirty and the ship is deserted. I crave the familiar and silence. This hour up here in the little library surrounded by books, lulled by the orderly passage of time, is untangling knots and loops.

Outside icebergs roam. A small one with the head of a seahorse rides like a forgotten toy in a fancy pool. Inside, a jolt when I see on the stairs men of color on their knees furiously polishing every inch of brass. For me an unresolved enigma. Shouldn’t I be helping?

LATER. Probably overload happens on tours of art, architecture, and poets-of-the-lake-district too-and not only to the elderly. And maybe us older folk have a viewpoint on all this stark and ancient scenery that surpasses the value of what a forty- or fifty-year-old sees and feels. More kinship with the eternity presented by this vast and ageless land.

FRIDAY  Neko Harbor

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A nook of perfection stashed off to one side of a fjord lined with sheer ice-covered mountain ridges.  Everyone (including Sandy) trudged on up the slope. Penguins, as idled by the sun as I, stood silent on ice patches or in run-off streams like retirees cooling their feet on a too hot Florida day. Creaks and groans issued from deep inside the glacier.  A penguin came and stood beside me.

SUNDAY  Beagle Channel 

Placid seas allowed us to land on Cape Horn and I stood atop this storied island gazing toward Antarctica: a fitting exclamation point to a journey to the bottom of the globe. The trip had not been about the ship, the food, the people we met, but what lay over the horizon. Even when I was actually looking at it, or walking on it, a sense of disbelief hovered. What mind can conceive of the earth’s rotation slowing and slowing until it disappears? Who believes in zero?

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[For more information about Penn Alumni Travel and our entire 2015 schedule, click here. Although we will not be traveling to Antarctica in 2015, we will be journeying to Patagonia and Cape Horn, January 21-February 7, 2015. Click here for more details.]

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Throwback Thursday – Printed Directories

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @KieraReilly

Today, while looking through some cabinets in our spare office here in Los Angeles, I rediscovered these print directories from the Penn Club of Los Angeles and the Wharton Club of Colorado. I am guessing that with both clubs the last time they produced a printed directory was in 2000, which would make these the “final edition.”

Penn Club of Los Angeles and Wharton Club of Colorado directories found in the Western Regional Office

Penn Club of Los Angeles and Wharton Club of Colorado directories found in the Western Regional Office

 

Now most of our alumni clubs have a website and an online directory, or none at all, instead referring alumni to QuakerNet, the Penn Alumni online directory, to find local alumni in their community.

Does anyone else have copies of old Penn Alumni club directories?

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Our Last Reunion

By Sandra S.

Well, at least that is what George Wills, President of the Class of 1949 called his 65th Reunion when we first met to start planning the event. But after seeing this group of vibrant alumni, I doubt it. The Class of 1949 celebrated fully during alumni Weekend 2014. In addition to a wonderful class representation on Saturday’s Alumni Day, a group of classmates joined together on Friday for a full day of events. They started with a luncheon where Chris Maxwell addressed them and spoke about the benefits of positive thinking. Immediately following this celebration they took an exclusive Mural Arts Tour of Philadelphia. Then after a short afternoon break, they gathered once again for a dinner and movie night. Classmate, Shirley Adelman wrote, “For me, it was a completely positive experience.”   It was so much fun to see the Class of 1949 enjoying life and Penn this spring!

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Penn Serves LA Strikes Again; This Time With Paint

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Over thirty Penn Alumni and their children joined together for a fun beautification project for El Nido Family Centers in Mission Hills.  We were thrilled that Elizabeth Fields, Julie Gutowski and Kiera Reilly from the Penn Western Regional Office joined us. And we welcomed special guests in town from campus Penn Professor David Grossman, Ph.D., Director, Civic House and Civic Scholars Program, and Katie McCarthy from the Penn Development Office, both lending their painting skills for good.

All in all, the team completed the center’s foyer, a key event room, as well as a hallway in bright white.  The highlight for many participants was contributing to a full wall-sized canvas mural alongside the Pacoima mural artist.  Volunteers brought together her vision for a grand-scale masterpiece to add cheer and interest in the center’s main lobby area.

Stuart Berton, El Nido Board President and Wharton ’61 graduate, thanked the team and provided a great overview of the important work of El Nido, a nonprofit that has served Los Angeles for 89 years.  Each year, the centers reach over 11,000 Los Angelenos  through its community outreach, early education and teen pregnancy initiatives, and gang-prevention programming.  While many individuals come to the center, El Nido social workers are also in the field meeting individuals and assessing families in their homes and schools.

Penn Serves LA's Jane Gutman with El Nido's Stuart Berton

Penn Serves LA’s Jane Gutman with El Nido’s Stuart Berton

A few highlights of their work were shared.  For instance, their GRYD program for gang-prevention has experienced success rates of up to 98% working with at-risk youth.  Their teen pregnancy recidivism rate is 80% lower than the national average, with only 4% of teenage mothers they serve having a second child before they turn twenty years old.

Penn Serves LA's Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

Penn Serves LA’s Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

“We are excited to help El Nido with such a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers,” shares Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of the Penn Serves LA Directors and coordinator of this event.  “And to have David and Katie here from Penn lending a hand makes our day of brightening the facility with fresh paint all the better.”

View all the photos from the day here.

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The next Penn Serves’ event will be Saturday, August 9th from 9 a.m. to noon and you can reserve your spot here.  Penn will be serving LA Waterkeepers in an effort to help identify the impact of debris on our area’s water supply.  “It’s a great opportunity for your science-minded side as we will be surveying and collecting valuable data,” shares Christine Belgrad, W’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, event coordinator.
Many of the past Penn Serves sell out, so please reserve your spot quickly.

Read about our past events:

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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First-Ever Alumni Coursera Course

Author: Alyssa D’Alconzo, GED’04, GRD’11

You’ve watched the promo video

Coursera Video

and reviewed the syllabus. Now it’s time to register for the first-ever Penn Alumni Excusive Coursera course!

500 lucky alumni will join Stephanie McCurry from Penn’s history department for a four-week online version of her “History of the Slave South” course. Beginning October 6, view fascinating lectures, engage, and learn with Dr. McCurry and other intellectually curious alumni through interactive discussion forums and a screen side chat. McCurry is a specialist in 19th-century American history. Her class, taught annually in College Hall 200, is consistently popular with undergraduates and this online version is sure to fill quickly.
 
Click here to learn more or register today! 

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Great Journey Through Europe 2014

Author: André Dombrowski, Associate Professor, History of Art

A few weeks have passed now since our return from a remarkable trip through Western Europe that took us through Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands, much of it spent onboard as we cruised up the Rhine River. The trip offered a range of experiences for both lovers of nature and culture: the Alps and the UNESCO heritage site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley were interspersed with visits to charming towns and churches. It was a pleasure to meet the Penn-affiliated passengers on the trip who numbered 18 and who shared their memories of the university, which stretched from the class of 1959 to the law-class of 1989. My mother-in-law Joan, who accompanied me, would like to thank everyone for including her so warmly within our group. She said she had the trip of a lifetime!

Penn Alumni Group

Penn Alumni Group

When we arrived in Zurich, we were greeted by our charming Gohagan travel directors, Brian and Cory, who accompanied us throughout the trip and proved able entertainers with singers’ voices! It is hard for me to name the highlights of the trip. Lucerne (and also Bern) was especially appealing and our accommodations there just spectacular. Surely the visit to Zermatt was one of my favorites, reached by a slow Alpine train. On the day we visited, the Matterhorn’s peek was visible for long stretches of the day; unlike during my previous two visits…, just one cloud hugging its side. The snow in my hands in June felt good. After our time in Switzerland, we boarded the MS Amadeus in Basel and started our journey up the Rhine from there. I loved Strasbourg, such a charming town with so much to offer; Heidelberg was a favorite, especially the castle ruins, which I had never seen before; and also the impressive Niederwalddenkmal in Rüdesheim, built a few years after the Franco-Prussian War and in response to the German victory over the French in 1871, which I often study and teach in my classes. Finally, I enjoyed going up the Rhine through the famous gorge and see the Lorelei cliff from atop the river. Having grown up not all too far from there—a few hours away in North Rhine-Westphalia where my parents still live—this stretch of the trip gave me a whole new perspective on my own home country.

Lorelei cliff from atop the river

Lorelei cliff from atop the river

Two times during the trip I lectured to the passengers on the ship, one of a total of four faculty hosts who shared their research. My first talk was focused on architectural history. I had taken lots of photos along the way and wanted to provide everyone with some quick tools to understand the style of buildings—we covered baroque, rococo, historicist architecture and some aspects of modern art—and also their various functions, showing especially how both informed each other. My second lecture covered the artistic consequences—from impressionism to early modernism—of the conflict between France and Prussia/Germany stretching from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/71 to the outbreak of World War I. I wanted to show especially the ways in which military victory and avant-garde expression do not always, if ever, go hand-in-hand.

Rhein in Koblenz

Rhein in Koblenz

 

Cologne

Cologne

 

Alpine Pass

Alpine Pass

The trip was one of the most memorable for me. I had not been to most of the places we visited for many years—sometimes for more than a decade—despite having grown up in Germany. Exploring this part of Europe with other Penn guests made me look at its special and varied beauty anew.

I will participating on the Paris to Provence trip in 2015, I hope you join me!

View all 2015 Penn Alumni Travel trip here!

 

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William Penn, Up Close and Personal

by Nicole Svonavec, GEd ‘09

Yesterday we took a post-work adventure to City Hall to see Philadelphia from the 42-story observation deck. Although Penn’s campus was obstructed by the Center City skyline, we got a great view of the William Penn statue atop City Hall (it’s HUGE)! Here are some photos from our day:

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