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Apartheid was a South African system of legalized racial discrimination that ended in 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected president and subsequently established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this Explorer Seminar, social psychologist Scott Plous interviews anthropologist Walton Johnson about what it’s like to live in South Africa 20 years after the Commission was created, and what lessons we can learn from South Africa about forgiveness in daily life. After the interview, Professors Plous and Johnson are joined by South African students for a panel discussion, followed by questions and comments from the audience.

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Konakuppakatil Gopinathan Balakrishnan served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India between 2007 and 2010 and is currently the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India. On the day of the MV Explorer's arrival in Cochin, Justice Balakrishnan spoke to Spring 2015 voyagers about his career and the current state of human rights in India.

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Indian Interport Lecturer Nisha Agrawal has been working on poverty, inequality and development issues for more than two decades and has served as the CEO of Oxfam India since its inception in 2008. In this Explorer’s Seminar podcast, Nisha gives a presentation on the history of India’s development starting in 1991, when major reforms were undertaken and India opened up it’s economy and joined the globalizing world. She also examines the impact of this liberalization on growth, inequality, and poverty reduction and compares 1991 to today, when expectations of a second round of “big bang” reforms are high.

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"Middle Passage" by African American poet Robert Hayden, as read by Anjuli Tuck. This reading was part of the Fall 2014 Voyage's Atlantic Crossing, a series of cultural programming offered aboard the MV Explorer between Barcelona and Brazil to expand the community’s understanding of the African world.

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On the eve of the MV Explorer's arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Spring 2015 Faculty members Phillip Kolbe and Hugh Flick discuss their military service and their experiences during and after the Vietnam War, while Professor Joseph Lowman discusses the impact of the draft on those who did not serve.

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Daphne Spain, Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, delivers a seminar on gendered public spaces and their role in shaping women’s rights in different cultures.

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How is it that Japan has maintained such dynamism and vitality throughout its history despite long periods of inept or inefficient government? As the students of the Spring 2015 Semester at Sea voyage explore the nation of Japan, professor Jim Huffman delivers a fascinating seminar on the historical forces that have shaped contemporary Japanese culture and society.

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Storyteller Philip Byrne tells the tale of a Banshee, the Harbinger of Death.

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(From right to left)
(From right to left) Sara Hughes of Frostburg State University, Raul Gonzalez of the Universidad Iberoamericana, Matthew Wong of the University of Oregon, Rose Goodwin of Elon University and Ashley Linz of Elon University await the next tale from Irish storyteller, Philip Byrne.

As mindful travelers on Semester at Sea, students are always looking for alternative experiences to commercial tourism in every port, such as service-learning or engaging with professors on a field lab. The program's approach is to use each port as a teaching moment while being respectful to the communities that allow us to enter their borders. However, students in Professor Tracy Ehler's Anthropology of Tourism class are learning that this is not the case for all travelers.

Sara Hughes, a senior at Frostburg State University, understands that "Being a mindful traveler means that you care about the culture and you care about why you're there, and you don't try to take a lot away from it besides what you can remember."

Students in Tracy Ehler's Anthropology of Tourism class stand inside the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul while listening to storyteller, Phillip Byrne.
Students in Tracy Ehler's Anthropology of Tourism class stand inside the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul while listening to storyteller, Philip Byrne.

"Anthropologists have become critical of the tourism industry over the past 20 years...Tourists very blindly blunder into communities in search of the exotic or authentic and have no idea of the impact they are having on local people," Ehlers commented.

During a recent visit to Glendalough, a 6th century monastic settlement in County Wicklow, Ireland, Ehlers introduced her class to storytelling and listening to stories as a way of enhancing certain destinations. By listening to stories, students take an observational approach to their surroundings and can appreciate a country without leaving a footprint on the local communities.

"I wanted these students to have an alternative experience...I wanted to create some kind of day where they had a different experience from what an ordinary trip would have," Ehlers said.

Nina Pellechio (left) of Emerson College and Kalin Hoiseth (center) of University of Colorado Boulder listen to Philip Byrne (right) tell the story of the Banshee.
Nina Pellechio (left) of Emerson College and Kalin Hoiseth (center) of the University of Colorado Boulder listen to Philip Byrne (right) tell the Irish story of the Banshee, the Harbinger of Death.

Traditionally, Irish storytelling took place in a rambling house around a small fire. A rambling house would typically be a farmer's house in a rural county or a common meeting area where people from all over would share a talent, by singing, dancing, storytelling, etc. Although few rambling houses remain in use today, the Irish still gather together to tell stories that have been passed on for centuries.

"Storytelling is an art and Irish tradition, and storytellers are connected to history and culture in a way that comes from their hearts. They tell stories that have entertainment value, but they also have a social and moral message attached to them," Ehlers said.

While taking in the natural beauty of Glendalough and walking through the carved glacial valley, students had the opportunity to listen to a number of Irish stories from Philip Byrne, an Irish storyteller from Bray, County Wicklow.

"In Ireland it was very special to have a storyteller tell why certain things exist instead of just taking pictures and not knowing why we were there, and to have stories that were based on those places really connected you," Hughes concluded.

Listen to one of these classic Irish stories below, as told by Philip Byrne, and experience Ireland for yourself.

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Following a wildly successful TEDxSemesteratSea in San Diego in January, the next TEDxSemesteratSea takes place on the MV Explorer August 5 while the ship is docked in Helsinki. To gear up for the event, whose theme is "Anchors Away: From Ideas to Action," a smaller TEDx salon gathering in the Union was held just before we reached St. Petersburg, Russia.

This event included the viewing of Sarah Kay's TED Talk, "If I should have a daughter..." Also, two members of the shipboard community shared their personal journeys: student Brittani Brown, whose talk was titled "The Recipe," and Assistant Field Director Julie Engerran, who spoke about "The Bug."

Listen to these gutsy speakers as they tell their stories about overcoming adversity and making things happen.

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