An Evening With the Williams Family

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Communications Coordinator
Oct 3, 2011


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Culture, Student Life

An Evening With the Williams Family

Birthday girl Emma Williams greets fellow South African and Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu with her family, from left – Ellen-Anne Williams, Ettie Williams and Michael Williams

An evening with the Williams family is a joy, and not unlike an evening with most families.  One hears playful banter about which of the parents’ universities the children prefer, preparations for high school exams and an upcoming birthday, and the ins and outs of working and raising a family.  Then, however, one puts the discussion into context.  The universities discussed are Stellenbosch, set in the idyllic South Africa wine lands, and the University of Cape Town, nestled at the base of iconic Table Mountain.  The high school exams will be missed, and the birthday even more special, because the family will be at sea.  And both work and family life will be adjusted to account for the unique life aboard the MV Explorer.

Professor Michael Williams, his wife Ettie, and their daughters Ellen-Anne and Emma, when they do not live aboard the MV Explorer, reside in Cape Town, South Africa. A Semester at Sea family to the core, this is the 20th anniversary of Professor William’s first sail, in Fall 1991.  In 1996, he and Ettie sailed as newlyweds, and in 2004 the entire family sailed.  In between, Professor Williams has served as the inter-port lecturer for South Africa.  The Managing Director for the Cape Town opera, Professor Williams’ drama and music classes are always a popular addition to the course catalogue.  His original plays and musicals, performed by students, pack the Union.

In their own right, the Williams ladies have added to every voyage in which they have participated.  Trina White, who coincidentally was the Administrative Assistant on the family’s 2004 voyage, as well as this voyage, vividly remembered the family, particularly the girls.  She recounted with a smile that Ellen-Anne was the most helpful visitor in her office, and their special assistant.  Emma, Trina recalled, never seemed to be wearing shoes – a fact confirmed by the family, who explained that there were five boxes strategically placed around the ship with shoes for then-three-year-old Emma.  Those who found her shoeless would try, often in vain, to get them on her feet.  These days, both girls are wearing shoes, but continue to bring smiles to the faces of all they encounter.

Ettie, a publisher and full-time mother in Cape Town, has brought her own expertise to the community.  The star of the South Africa cultural pre-port, she shared a lovely look at her South Africa.  Through her favorite sights, foods and day trips, Ettie gave us our first glimpse of the country we all came to love.

The community formed on a Semester at Sea voyage is unparalleled.  Sharing the adventures, opportunities and challenges that are unique to this program create bonds impossible to replicate.  As with any other participants, the Williams family brought their own story to this voyage.  Theirs just happens to include one of the favorite ports of the journey.

It came as no surprise to the Semester at Sea community that we adored both South Africa and her people.  Many were surprised at how difficult it was to leave.  Yet, the separation pains were eased by the knowledge that, while we may have left South Africa, South Africa is one of those magical places which never leaves us.  We all thank the Williams family for sharing their country and themselves with us.  Both have been invaluable additions to the community and experience of the Fall 2011 voyage.

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