DAY 1 in Ensenada
After the opening ceremony and a grand global yosakai rendition, we walked on foot to the Riviera Cultural Center where we had lunch prepared featuring tacos, tamales and other Mexican food dishes. PYs could interact with local students and we heard remarks from the state government. The event finished with an epic mariachi performance and when they started playing Besame Mucho, our great SWY performer Andres Garcia Repper Favila, began some dance moves that culminated into a SWY flash mob dance routine. With our bellies full and our hearts merry with music and dance, some of the group ventured to the Caracol Scientific Center to learn more about conservation efforts in Baja California while others went to the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (UNAM) to learn from students how their research contributes to social benefits. From there, participants all needed to get changed into formal attire as local leaders and ex-PYs were invited to join Nippon Maru for the onboard reception. For some of us, this would be our first time on board Nippon Maru since our SWY experience (for me, it had been 15 years and boarding was an emotional experience). To top it off, we learned that we would be permitted to sleep in one of the cabins for the next two nights. Instead of having two other roommates though, we only had one (ex-PY plush living :). The onboard reception was what you would expect it to be, taiko drumming and other performances followed by a number of speeches including a great welcome from Mexican National Leader, Natalia Luna. As the reception winded down, we said farewell to invited guests and the ship was ours. Night patrol!
DAY 2 in Tijuana
After breakfast on the ship (I really wanted to try natto again, but saved it for last and never did) and assembling in Dolphin Hall (on the 4th floor), we got on shuttle buses and headed for Tijuana. The first visit was to the Playas de Tijuana, the beaches of Tijuana next to the US-Mexico border. We heard different stories of what this area has experienced over the years, some positive, some negative, but you could see by the art and hearts on the Mexico side that this has been an area full of friendship and love and a desire for something better whether it be in the United States or Mexico. After taking the SWY 32 group picture, we returned to the buses and headed for the High Performance Training Center at Universidad Otay. After welcoming remarks, we were taken through a series of dance moves followed by badminton and taekwondo demonstrations and a video. We then had time to grab some snacks they had prepared, mostly guacamole and sandwiches, before heading for lunch at the Tijuana Cultural Center. For more on this experience, click here. After our caesar salad and taco lunch, some participants went to the exposition of Bronces de Jorge Marin while others went to the IMAX theatre where they watched "Oasis Marino," an exploration of the waters of the Gulf of California. We drove back to Ensenada at night and after dinner onboard, we would share our second and last night on the ship. I had to visit the Grand Bath (onsen), which of all the things that have changed in the renovations, the Grand Bath is not one of them. It looks and feels exactly the same. And then began an evening of hanging out, drinking, dancing and laughing on the 6th Floor Umi Lounge. I don't recall thinking so much about the floors in my ship experience as this go around, but the 3rd Floor has the Grand Bath and dining area and the 7th floor has the pool, although that room seemed to have changed as well as the sports deck on the 6th floor. Night patrol found a lot of people who had paired off into different nooks and crannies sharing conversations about everything from the most mundane and trivial to activity planning to deeper life reflections. As we went through the library and passed by the shops, it brought back so many memories of my experience on SWY 17, of what happened where and with who and what it all meant, and means. As I recall on my ship, I barely slept the 2 nights onboard, but it was a magical experience. I want to recreate another POC.
DAY 3 in Valle de Guadalupe
We had to pack up our bags, grab breakfast and assemble in Dolphin Hall by 8am. Ex-PYs could sense that this brief yet impactful experience had already reached the beginning of the end. We would first visit the Wine Museum in the Valle de Guadalupe and PYs would learn about the history of the wine industry, which is essential for Baja California's economy, culture and landscape. We went through a chocolate tasting with a great Mexican performer and each received a bottle of wine from Casa Magoni. A local DJ turned up the music and we had a farewell party in the Wine Museum. We made it back to the ship to say our goodbyes. Santoshi, the fearless new Japanese leader of SWY, brought all ex-PYs up on stage and the New Zealand delegation offered us a farewell haka. The passion of their haka mixed with the emotions of saying goodbye and the beauty of the moment consumed our hearts and filtered out tears of joy. We would slowly and with every degree of uncertainty shuffle our way off the Nippon Maru, nobody wanted it to come to an end, not yet, not now, not perhaps ever. The spirit that we remember, that we have lost, that we had found, that has ingrained our very lives, overwhelmed and inspired us to dream, to love, and to be; that spirit we hope lives on forever. And so we disembarked, and then it was the longest goodbye, as it took close to one hour before the Nippon Maru finally left the port, and we waved, we cried, we shouted out names and countries, shined our lights, broke into chants, echoed our own ship songs, sang Cielito Lindo for the 70th time in the past 3 days and realized that you had to be there to feel the true essence that is SWY, and thank you SWYAA Mexico and Japan for giving us this port of call memory that has bridged the gap between two experiences that will last a lifetime.
The remaining ex-PYs went into Ensenada and had a last supper at Restaurante Guadalajara followed by a novelty visit to Hussongs. I called it an early night as I knew the next day we would be getting on a boat to go near Isla Todos Santos to look for whales. The boat ride with 20 ex-PYs was a wonderful exclamation point of the POC! Some ex-PYs continued on with an optional tour of Valle de Guadalupe vineyards and La Bufadora, but most of us had returned to our homes by Sunday, our hearts full, our minds alert and our desires to live out the SWY spirit forever.