ISU Pennant Goes 'Round the World
Alumni Director Kobus vacations with it
Fall 2009 Issue | By Andy Taylor
A black-and-orange Idaho State University pennant sailed around the globe last spring, making appearances and captured in photographs at some of the world’s most famous and obscure places.
While the pennant was unavailable for comment, Idaho State University Alumni Association Director Bill Kobus graciously agreed to share some of the tales of the global trek. Kobus and his wife, Rosemary, vacationed with the ISU banner from Jan. 17 to May 13, beginning an around-the-world cruise in Los Angeles and completing it in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Laura Vailas (ISU’s first lady) gave me the pennant a couple of days before I left,” Kobus said. “At about every stop we had, I packed it with me in a little backpack and tried to unfurl it at every opportunity I had. A couple of times the wind was blowing really hard when we unfurled it and we almost lost it, but we managed to hold on to it for the entire trip.”
Sometimes he’d find “a local victim” to hold up the pennant in front of a famous landmark; at other times he or Rosemary would hold it and snap a picture.
“Almost everybody we asked was pleased to do it,” Kobus said. “I just thought I’d try to give ISU a little publicity throughout the world.”
Kobus found plenty of goodwill expressed toward the United States during his travels.
“We never met anybody that expressed any unhappiness toward the United States,” Kobus said. “When we said we were from the U.S., the response was always positive.”
In general, most places in which the ship stopped were different and more developed than what Kobus expected.
Complete highlights during the four-month cruise are too many to recount here, but Kobus offered a few:
“For somebody coming from Eastern Idaho with not many people, going to a metro area with 20 million people was mind-boggling.”
Furthermore, the juxtaposition of old and new China was profound: “You’d see an oxcart parked next to a Lexus.”
This country seemed “half modern and affluent, and half slum.”
“Cape Town and Durban were extremely modern and well-kept and in beautiful settings.”
For part of the visit, the cruise ship was docked in Sydney Harbor in front of the famous Sydney Opera House, probably the most photographed Australian tourist attraction next to Ayers Rock.
“Very interesting in general,” and Kobus said he’d like to go back. He had the experience of watching the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” while being docked at Mumbai, the city where it was filmed.
He also stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, which was the site of a terrorist bombing and shooting that killed 37 people in the motel and 160 people in Mumbai in November 2008. “They had very tight security at the hotel that was being rebuilt. It was bizarre sitting in a place that had been the site of such a terrible event only a few weeks earlier.”
Traffic in the developing world
In general, travel by car in the major cities they visited was challenging. “I always tipped the driver extra because the traffic is outrageous and they got us around without killing us or anyone else.”
Kobus said the cruising part of the voyage – the long days at sea – were sometimes tedious, but he kept himself occupied. He calculates that he hiked 262 miles around the deck during the trip — even on days with rough seas — and that he worked out in the gym nearly every day at sea. He skipped lunches, opting instead for a late breakfast and an early dinner and managed to lose five pounds on the trip, something unusual on a cruise ship loaded with food.
“The best part of being on the ship on the long days at sea was that it gave you time to reflect on what you had just experienced and seen, before the next stop,” Kobus said.