April 10, 2011

21st Birthday!!

2/5/11
Hong Kong + 21st Birthday=Best Port Ever. I knew from looking off the boat that I would love this place. It reminded me slightly of New York, you could see lights, tall buildings and lots of people EVERYWHERE! The best part was it was even more beautiful at night!

Day 1: The day before my birthdayI felt like I had to take full advantage of being in Hong Kong so I took two days to celebrate my birthday. We got off the ship and headed directly to Starbucks, I believe I have said this before but I appreciate good coffee so much more now after being deprived for so long! We wandered the city with our Starbucks and I felt at home. This isnt a place where people stop and talk, it is a bustling city and people walk with a mission. I never considered myself someone that enjoys being surrounded by a million people you dont know but it was comforting in the sense that you can walk around inconspicuously, whereas in other countries attention was always on us. We headed to the market and my amazing shopper instincts quickly came out from hiding, fake everything, amazing fake everything was everywhere. It was all so cheap and if you couldnt find the color you wanted at one place you could walk two feet to discover 11 different colors you hadnt seen before. It was a nice place to buy presents for friends without spending too much. We headed to McDonalds for lunch, always a classy place to dine, and it was packed!! We think Americans like McDonalds, well I can tell you that Asians like it much more. All of the ones we passed were twice the size as any in the US and they were all packed to the brim. After lunch we continued our shopping day and spent about 5 hours there and left with bags full of goodies. By this time in the day we were all exhausted from walking around in the crowds so we headed back to nap and get ready for my birthday dinner. The night kind of got controversial when we started out at a restaurant that thought they could get away with charging us 22 dollars a person before we had even started eating and then try to charge about 60 dollars for a drink. Good did come from it when we found Ruth Chris about a block away and got our steak fill for the last 3 months. The owner of the restaurant also owns the one in New York and happened to be in town so he sent us over free drinks! It was a great start to my almost birthday. Since I was going to be turning 21 at midnight I felt it was time I tried crab cakes, which I loved! Its funny, I have always turned my nose up at seafood but two different ports in a row I have tried it and loved it! From dinner we headed to the street where all the bars were and before we got there we had no idea that rugby 7s were going on and happening in Hong Kong. Rugby 7s is just like the super bowl but for rugby. When this occurs they have something just like Mardi Gras for the states but in Hong Kong. Everyone was dressed up in Halloween costumes and one road was blocked off for everyone to be out in. I was in heaven, I felt like this was occurring just so everyone could celebrate my birth!! I turned 21 at midnight and I didnt feel a second older but I really truly celebrated the best birthday yet. I was surrounded by all these people I had met not even 4 months ago and couldnt possibly have felt more loved surrounded me. The night ended around 8 AM for us even though people were still out there partying hard.

Day 2: Rough start to an amazing day. We decided to sleep in or should I say at least get two hours of sleep before we headed out for the day. It was a rainy day and our last day in Hong Kong, and of course my day of birth! Everyone had left for their Beijing trips so Jill and I decided to have a relaxing day. We went to the mall and to one of my favorite stores H&M to stock up with warm clothes for the rather cold temperatures we were dealing with. We sat down at a fancy lunch at Pizza Hut, I kid you not it was fancy. People actually wait to be sat at the Pizza Hut in Hong Kong. It sounds like such an American day but it felt amazing to not having to decipher menus or wonder if you were going to enjoy the food. We headed back to the ship to pack for our night in the hotel before we left for Beijing the next day and I got to spend a couple of hours on skype with my family as another great part of my day. We were so late getting to the street where the festival was and had yet to get a hotel that we decided to splurge on a nice hotel. We ended up being on the top floor of this amazing hotel and had a view of the entire city. They even had real Doritos in the mini fridge, which ended up being an amazing breakfast. We spend the night out at the street festival again, just as crazy as the night before but because the rugby tournament was over all the rugby players were out there too. We met a couple of guys off the Australian rugby team and we shared stories of home. They were 21 years old and traveling the world for rugby, our lives slightly resembled each others and we were able to tell funny stories of each country.

Day 3: We woke up early to head to the airport so we could head off to Beijing. My flight wasnt until 5:30 PM so a couple of us sat around at the airport all day and the amount of pictures that Chinese people were taking of us were hilarious. They would watch everything we did and sometimes videotape it. We got into Beijing around 9:30 and headed out a club called Mix. It was wayyyyy to crowded for my liking, so I headed home early.

Day 4: China guide started this day, we got picked up by our tour guide around 10 AM. His name was Chen Chen so we called him Double Chen. We started out at the Tiemen Square (unsure of the spelling), it was fun but once again our tour guide didnt share a lot of history about each place. We then headed to the Forbidden City. It was huge; it went on for miles and miles! It kind of upset me to hear that everything had been repainted in 2007 and not all of it resembled the original emperors quarters, but it did remind me slightly of Mulan, so it made up for it. It was crazy to see what the emperor had for himself, such as a changing room that was a building made just for the purpose of him changing his clothes, or possibly the reading room, another large building for the purpose of reading. Apparently he was spending all the governments money on himself and his city instead of on the people. But who doesnt need a reading room, it makes sense to me! We went to a conventional Chinese lunch and it was amazing, it was a 9 course meal and I felt like it was dish after dish of amazingness. American Chinese food is very different from normal Chinese food. Almost all of the dishes were very spicy! We spent the rest of the day at a market that once again was selling all the fake bags and shoes. After shopping we had a 3-hour bus ride to the Great Wall and had dinner right next to it before we spent the night. The night started out so much fun, it took about a 30-minute hike to get to the area on the wall that we were to sleep. The stairs were so steep and very un-sturdy, which leads me to the next part of the night that turned awful. About a hour into us being on the wall, after many of us had started drinking we heard someone yelling. Two girls from another group had fallen down the stairs, and one was unconscious. It was a situation in which none of the leaders were around and us, the students, had to take over the situation. Only a couple of us that were close enough had any medical training so we were forced to find where she was bleeding, try and stop the bleeding, call medical help, and monitor her until the guys of the group carried her down all the stairs. It was a situation in which none of us should have been put in but it was incredible how everyone came together to help her. A guy that wasnt even apart of semester at sea who was there visiting his brother from the trip, tore a door off the wall in order to put her on it. It was something that made you feel proud to be a part of. The rest of the night was kind of ruined because no one knew if she was going to be okay and we all had our minds stuck on her.

Day 5: Woke up even colder than when we went to bed! It was insane how cold it got at night! I wore two pairs of pants, my shoes, 2 long sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt, a jacket, gloves, and a hat and I was still freezing!! We were woken up around 6 AM to start our 6 mile hike along the great wall. This part was my favorite of the entire trip! It took us about two hours to hike up and down the wall. It was so steep in some parts that I couldnt decide if I liked going up or down better, there were areas that you didnt have any place to put your foot so you had to walk very slow! I had no idea that I enjoyed hiking until this day, Im not sure if it was the view we had the entire time or just the rush of doing it that I enjoyed more. The rest of the day was spent at another market before we headed on the sleeper train back to the ship. I also enjoyed the sleeper train! It was so nice and it was fun being with everyone from your group for another night in a place we werent used to!

Day 6: Instead of going back to Hong Kong we had to meet the ship in Shanghai! It was very weird to be joining the ship in a city you have yet to be! Shanghai is very different from Hong Kong it wasnt as large of a city and it wasnt as busy. We got back, took a quick nap and then walked around the city. We went to a market and spent the rest of the time walking around. They had a little amusement park right next to the port area so we thought it would be fun to go on a ride. Im unsure of what it was about us being there but we caused a scene and the entire park came to watch us go on the ride. They loved watching us scream and laugh the entire time. We got off the ride and multiple people came up to us asking for pictures! I have never felt more like a celebrity! We went out that night to some nice bars that were far to expensive for our liking but it was fun to see their night life!

Day 7: Last day in Shanghai! Our on-board time got moved two hours forward so we didnt have much time to do anything! We spent the day at a local bar where everyone from the ship was and had a fun time recapping the entire China trip!

Hong Kong was by far my favorite port so far, I enjoyed it more than South Africa because it felt more different than home! I really hope I get to go back someday and be able to enjoy more time there!

April 2, 2011

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!

4/2/11
WOW, it has been a long time since I have had time to sit down and journal! We are at the point of the voyage where we are only at sea for 2 days in between these ports and it goes by so quickly with all our final journals/papers needing to be done! I know I am almost 3 ports behind so I am going to take it back to March 19 when we went to Vietnam!

Day 1: All I can say about the first day was it was spent in every market there possibly was in Vietnam. It felt like China Town/Canal Street in New York! Every purse you ever dreamed of, every jacket you could have possibly wanted was in one place. We all went a little crazy with our shopping this day, it was the perfect place to buy presents because everything was so cheap yet looked so real! We walked around all day, even in the rain, just enjoying the busyness of the city! There were motorbikes everywhere and it seemed as if everyone was in a hurry! I finally felt I was in a place that worked at the same pace as America. That night was my friends 21st birthday so we went to the sushi restaurant next to the port, it was my first time ever trying sushi and also salmon. It felt weird to actually like it! Now the events of the rest of the night are kind of hard for people not on semester at sea to understand so I will try my hardest to explainback when we were in Ghana, two students that had met at the beginning of the voyage got married. This was not a joke nor did they take it lightly. It was known all over the ship and everyone had thought it was very odd, well last port this couple had left the country we were supposed to be in and ultimately got kicked off the voyage because that is not allowed. To get to the point of the nighttwo students decided it would be funny to get fake married in Vietnam! I have never laughed harder in my whole entire life, everyone got really dressed up and it took place at a local hotel. We all sat in the seats like a normal wedding but when the groomsmen started walking down the aisle wearing wigs and double fisting beers, there was no way it could be taken seriously. A life long learner from the voyage walked the girl down the aisle and behind them written in roses was CONGRATULATIONS! It was such a fun night because a lot of people came together just for the sole purpose of having a good laugh. It was the perfect start to the trip! Oh we also rode on motorbikes that night

Day 2: This day was hard for everyone to wake up for, after enjoying such a fun night our alarms were set bright and early to head to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. We started off at the Cu Chi Tunnels, almost a 2 hour drive from our port. We took a tour and walked around inside of them for almost 3 hours. It was amazing to see how many ways they devised to stay hidden but also to actually feel the back pain they must have felt to be bent over for that many hours! The other part to it was there were bats everywhere!!! At one point I turned around and one was just sitting on my friends backpack! We were also told that often times when the US were within close proximity they could spend up to weeks in the tunnels and often times without food. Due to fact they were underground, often times with no food and also with poisonous bugs, death was rampant. The tunnels were such an advantage to the Viet Cong but the one thing working against them was the awful conditions in which they had to live under!

Later in the day we took another car ride to the Mekong Delta, this in which I am unsure of its exact meaning. We spent the rest of the day taking a boat from island to island. At one island we stopped and tried all the fruit that they eat. We had dragon fruit, papaya, pineapple, and a very large fruit that no one could give us the spelling of! I love fruit so I enjoyed this stop the most! The locals played us music while we sat there and enjoyed the fruit. The next island we stopped at was where we learned how to make the tea they all enjoyed. Surrounding us as we sat to learn was thousands of bee hives, the location they get all their fresh honey from for the tea. The tea was very odd, it tasted amazing but had the weirdest ingredients. The ingredients were: honey, seeds from oranges but actual lemon juice, and then a hint of a very dark wine. If I had not known what was in it those would have been my last guesses! Next in islands was where they made their coconut candy they are supposedly famous for! The island was covered in palm trees with VERY large coconuts. We got to sit and observe the process of how they are made. It is actually from the coconut milk that the candies are made, and the rest of the coconut is used to make the coconut flakes we often times see sprinkled on bakery goods. We then got to get on little canoes and go down the river. As we were on the river you would see little kids everywhere carrying those large fruits I mentioned earlier. From this I can assume that they are mostly found along the rivers edge but I would never have expected little kids to be the ones in charge of picking these fruit. Our last stop of the day was a horse/carriage ride to lunch. It was the slowest moving horse and the ride took about a half hour! Lunch was great besides the two large fish that were put directly on our table. I am not a fan of seeing fish in that form!

After our full day we headed back to enjoy another night out on the town!

Day 3: At this point, Vietnam was kind of getting old. We could only go shopping that many times and the heat was getting almost unbearable! Late in the day we took a two hour flight to Nha Trang, a beachy city, and spent the night enjoying the breeze coming off the sea. We went to dinner at a nice hotel restaurant and it felt like paradise. After dinner it started raining so we headed back to our hotel quickly and spent the night on the deck watching the city. It was busy until late in the night and it was almost soothing to listen to the traffic after only hearing waves for 3 months!

Day 4: We spent this day in the 80-degree heat posted on the beach. I fell asleep almost instantly and was completely fried by the end of the day! It had been a while since we had seen good weather so I felt completely unprepared for those temperatures but nonetheless it was the best way to spend a day before going back on the ship. We enjoyed a nice dinner and night before boarding an early morning flight the next day.

Day 5: Back in Vietnam, exhausted from flyingwe spent the day at the markets once again. Getting any last minute things we thought we had forgotten! We had to be back on the ship early that day so we could head out before tides changed! Its so funny the things you never thought you would have to wait for, the tides changing, the wind direction, the wind speed!

I loved Vietnam, at some points it was definitely overshadowed by the humidity and heat we were overwhelmed with but I enjoyed the people and all the places I got to see!

March 17, 2011

Singapore: Where everything is illegal but anything happens

3/17/11
Happy St. Patricks Day! Where is my corn beef and cabbage?? But seriously, I would have died for that today! We left Singapore late last night and I havent made it out of bed for anything other than meals! I loved Singapore! What a New York like feeling place! Expensive and trendy, the only reason I knew it wasnt New York was because it was incredibly clean!! For one day in a port I felt like I had been there for a week! We got off the ship as soon as we possibly could, sat for a half hour in customs and went directly to Starbucks. I really dont like Starbucks that much but to have real coffee felt amazing. We got in a taxi and had him bring us to Orchard Street. (We think America has a lot of malls, I can tell you it is nothing compared to there!) We literally just criss-crossed through the streets from mall to mall! I didnt end up buying anything because everything was stuff I could buy in America and probably for cheaper! We then headed to Raffels hotel, this hotel is known for its Singapore Slings. And for 25 dollars a drink they clearly make more than enough. We all had two drinks, just because we were in Singapore! We then headed to the botanical gardens/bird garden, it was very green and very pretty! We didnt pay for the guide so we just walked around and looked at the flowers and birds. It felt so homey since all we have been seeing for months is grassless areas and dirt! We then headed to the nicest hotel in Singapore and just walked around inside. Once again, it was another mall, but also had a casino, ice skating rink, 5 restaurants, and an amazing infinity pool with a view of the entire city! It was amazing! We quickly left there in order to keep us from spending any money and went directly to China Town. When we got there we found out it was very dead! Apparently most restaurants/bars dont open until late in the evening because they all stay open til 4 AM. We sat down with these guys from England that were in Singapore looking for oil and had a long conversation with them about oil. Who knew that could be so interesting? We stayed there for a while and then headed to Clark Que, an area known for very trendy bars. We met up with some more Semester at Sea-ers and found a place called the Clinic, you get your drinks in syringes and IVs (clearly not real ones), and your seats are wheelchairs. They dont put the IVs in your arms and syringes didnt actually have needles attached, no worries. It was a very cool area, it was covered completely by these flower looking canopy and had an area with censored water fountains you could walk through. It was very trendy and the perfect area to end the day! We headed back to the ship and spent a hour in line going through customs! We made it back in time and none of us got dock time!!!

March 17, 2011

Yeah buddy rolling like a rickshaw

3/12/11
Well the week from hell is over. Okay that was a little dramatic but I have never been to a place that I have continuously felt that I needed to have my guard up at every moment. There were good times and there were awful times, I enjoyed seeing the Taj at both sunrise and sunset the most and the worst part was watching a young boy being beat with a bat and not being able to do a single thing. The food was amazing until my body decided it wasnt. The shopping was great; especially when you could buy so much and not feel guilty about it since about 45 US dollars was about 1 Rupee!!!

Day 1: It took forever to get off the ship, we had to do face to face immigration with the customs agents and to get through 900 people it was timely! We got off the ship around 11 AM and headed directly to the rickshaws for the market. I have never been more scared in my entire life; we were in a 3-wheel vehicle weaving in and out of traffic. Im unsure if this guy thought we were in a hurry or what but we were going twice the speed as everyone else and at one point I just closed my eyes because I dont think my heart could take anymore moments of not breathing. It was a fun experience, especially since it was what we had been hearing about for weeks. I was so excited to see the market I almost jumped out of the rickshaw as it was still moving. The market was basically the same items being sold at every place, it was just how much the merchant wanted to bargain that made us decide on what we wanted to buy. The first day I left with Aladdin like pants, which I plan on never taking off when I get home and then one of the countries customary shirts. (It is tunic like with a really cool pattern) We spent about 3 hours just walking around the market; everyone there was very nice and mostly left us alone. We felt after experiencing both the rickshaw and navigating throughout the market we deserved a drink. Our rickshaw driver (he ended up waiting for us when we shopped) brought us to a nice hotel where we were allowed to drink. It was an AMAZING hotel, we sat outside and ended up meeting some ladies from Belgium, one who has been to India 6 times and one who was there for the first time. They have been friends since college and decided to travel together since all their kids were either off at school or married. It was fun meeting them to see that people still do travel when they get older! A little while later a group of kids that were our age walked in, they were all from Chennai and they sat down to have a drink with us. We all shared how our lives were and learned how different they were from each other. Two of the kids there were actually married, they got married last year when they were 21 and they said that they were actually very late in their friend group to get married. I was shocked; hello I am almost 21 and have no intentions of getting married ANYTIME soon. We headed back to the ship quickly after to make sure we could get dinner; we ended up meeting up with a group of guys from the ship who got a taxi driver for the day and he wanted to take them all out that night. We ended up heading out with them and he brought us to his friends store who had AMAZING things, I ended up spending too much money but ended up with this huge elephant wall mural which I am in love with, and of course the elephant is orange, big surprise. We ended up just driving around Chennai that night, seeing everything and how dead it was at night. Everything in India closes around 11 PM, we were all stuck with nothing to do!

Day 2: We left for the airport at 4 AM, I was a big burst of energy after a good hour of sleep, not. I am still unsure of how we made it to our flight on time, we got to the airport at about 5 and it took us an hour to get our whole group of 30 through check-in and security and our flight left at 6:15. Everyone was just dead. We made it to Delhi by 9 and spent the day seeing the city. We visited many temples, many of which I understood nothing. The Indian tour guides were not very informative nor could we understand much. I took it for what it was and did a lot of wandering by myself. In these temples you saw a lot of symbols that in the US were considered very offensive. One of our guides explained that these symbols had very good meaning behind them until a man made them wrong. (Hitler) They still represent these symbols because they believe that they still mean good. We then visited the place Ghandi was cremated. It was a very peaceful place, and the greenest area I had seen in months! We got to the train station to head to Agra and we found out our train was 4 hours delayed and even after that they were unsure it was even going to show up. A train trip that was only supposed to take 2 hours turned into a 6 hour bus ride, to tell you the truth I couldnt have been happier to take that bus. The train station was full of homeless people and beggars, and I was scared the train would be just as dirty. I think I have turned into a germophobe! We got to our hotel and were all exhausted and hungry! We ordered room service and fell asleep almost instantly in these insanely comfortable beds. I think it formed to my body and didnt have one problem staying asleep.

Day 3: Woke up at sunrise to see the Taj Mahal at its finest and boy I can tell you, it was breath taking! It was almost empty there and it felt so peaceful. We experienced many slum dog millionaire moments from this point on. As we walked out of the Taj many children were running up to us trying to get us to buy stuff and you would see them run back to these older men to hand them the money. I felt so bad; they were all so dirty, running around with no shoes, I wanted to buy all the junk they were selling but I knew the money wasnt going to them. We headed back to the hotel for breakfast and I think I ate my weight in food. It was amazingomelets, pancakes, and bacon, it was delicious! We spent the rest of the day wasting time, or thats what it felt like. We went to Agra Fort, this was built when there was a disease going through India, and people with money were moved here to stay away from the disease. It felt like a castle and it had a perfect view of the Taj! We had lunch at a local restaurant and it was being decorated for a wedding they were having that night, it was apparently a lucky week to get married and they were double booking nights. I found in India they do a lot of things out of superstition, like getting married, touching the stairs before walking into a temple and even never wearing shoes. Okay well I dont know if thats a superstition or just an odd habit but it was everywhere! We went back to the Taj that night for sunset, another beautiful sight. It wasnt setting directly behind it but the reflection on it was amazing.

Day 4: Left the hotel relatively early, it felt like a really long day because we did nothing substantial. It was a lot of walking around and shopping. We ended up finding a coffee shop and dying over a white chocolate/milk chocolate mocha. It was the first real coffee drink I have had this entire trip and I LOVED IT. We also got a molten chocolate cake, the one that when you cut into it the chocolate drips out, another one of those amazing moments. We got back to the ship that day at about 1 AM, it felt AMAZING to take a real shower and feel clean, finally!

Day 5: I woke up early to try and get on a service project I didnt have a ticket for, and it was a success! I spent the day at a disabled childrens orphanage and I dont know the right word to describe it. We got there and met all the kids and the excitement in their eyes just took your breath away. They were all so dirty but so happy. When we got there we had a tour of both the kids side and the adult side, they call it a disabled childrens home but often times the kids never end up leaving and it is made into their home for life. We ended up cleaning up the place for a couple hours; we dusted, washed all the windows and cleaned the classrooms. It was heartbreaking to see where the kids slept at night, they all had one huge, wood bed, with no mattress and they all shared it. There was a wide variety of problems these kids had, some of them just had hearing problems but some of them had down syndrome so in my mind it doesnt seem like you should mix kids like that. After cleaning we ate lunch off banana leaves and with our hands, it was surprisingly really good! After lunch we had a couple hours to play with the kids, I ended up heading to the area they do physical therapy in and sat with the kids during their strenuous workouts. Kids there are so unlike kids in the US, they would cry silently even though you knew it was causing them so much pain. I would grab their hand and they would instantly get a smile on their face. If you would clap when they would finally get an exercise they would giggle so loudly! It made my heart so happy. At the end of the day we got to bring the group of kids with hearing problems back to the ship and give them ice cream, cookies, soda, and M&Ms. Their first sight of the ship caused their eyes to widen so big, but when they first step foot on it all you heard was their little feet start running, they could not get enough of it! Most of them had never seen a boat before so looking out our windows and seeing other boats that were in the port was the highlight of their day! Not once throughout the day did I see any of them whine, complain, or have the slightest look of unhappiness. It was such a rewarding day, I know that my help from that one day probably wont change their life but to know that they had fun made it so worth it. The left the boat around 6 and by 7 oclock I thought I was dying. At that point I had no idea I had food poisoning, dramatic me was convinced I had malaria.

Day 6: Missed this whole day due to food poisoningnothing to report ☹

All in all, I had an amazing time in India. I know that I wouldnt go if it had been my choice but I was glad I got that experience. It was hard walking through the streets seeing all these kids dirty, with no shoes begging for money and knowing if you gave them anything it wouldnt actually go to them. I hate the feeling of not being able to do anything but I know that in some countries things are out of your reach.

February 28, 2011

I love Africa!

2/25/11
Oh Cape Town what can I say about you? I was in heaven; I loved every second more than I could ever explain. We walked off the ship that first day and I couldnt stop looking around, I felt like I was in America with more diversity. Everything was so nice and boy was it completely different than Ghana. I was contemplating packing my things and staying there for the next 2 months, I couldnt get enough!! We did get to Cape Town a day late due to high winds and not being able to dock because our ship would have taken out the entire town with the way we were rocking. Because of the day we loss, I also lost my chance to go shark diving and sky-diving, Im sure my mom is breathing a little lighter knowing that, but I will be back someday and I can promise they will be on the itinerary.

Day 1: We finally got off the ship around 12:30 and head directly to our FDP that was supposed to start at 8:30, once again it got shortened and things we were supposed to do were taken out of the plan. We first headed to a township for lunch, I was slightly confused because these townships compared to Ghana were luxurious! The houses actually had cement walls and actually were filled with furniture. Lunch was awesome, there was music being played the entire time and one of the men actually sang, he had an amazing voice and I even got a video of it!! After our lunch that lasted less than a hour (due to the U2 concert that was taking place that night all of the streets surrounding the soccer stadium were closed as of 2PM) we headed back to the pier where we got on boats that took us to Robben Island.
Im not sure exactly what I was expecting Robben Island to be like, but whatever thoughts I had were blown out of the water when we met our tour guide who had actually served time at Robben Island for 7 years. He shared with us the living conditions, how they were actually punished for trying to read and learn about other governments other than their own. This was during the apartheid that he was a prisoner and he had actually been incarcerated because he was apart of a group that was trying to end the apartheid and was charged with government conspiracy. We saw the cell that Nelson Mandela called his home and it was tiny. The outside of the prison was really nice, you would never guess where you actually were. Our tour guide worked in the kitchen for most of his time and basically described my job to me. He was in charge of making meals for everyone in the morningsounded a little like what I do! The tour only lasted about a hour of the actual units and kitchen and then we got a tour of the whole island, penguins everywhere!! It was now a place where old prisoners and their families could live and actually had a school for everyones children. It was a nice experience.
After our tour was over we got brought back to the ship and quickly ventured off to find dinner. On the pier there is a large Ferris wheel and it felt like I was downtown Minneapolis there were so many people out, wandering around. To my dismay (not), we ate at an amazing Italian restaurant, with real food, it was amazing!! I had a caprese salad, and Bolognese pasta, with Peroni beer!! I dont think I could have been a happier person. After dinner we met up with everyone from our group and went to Long street, this street is where all the bars are and tons of clubs. Within 20 minutes of being there my friend got 400 Reals stolen from her. Although that only equals about 70 US dollars, it wasnt a good start to our night. We continued on our night and ended up having the time of our lives!

Day 2: Started off a little rough, considering our night didnt end until 5AM. We decided today would be a good day to wander the town, we ate lunch on the pier over-looking the water and were accompanied by some seals. The weather was so unlike Ghana, there was an actual breeze in the air and it felt so nice to sit outside. We wandered the pier area and decided to go shopping. (Of course) It was crazy to see how many shops in the mall were American, we tried our best to stay away from them and we ended up getting some really cool souvenirs, words wouldnt do them justice. We continued the day very relaxing, enjoying everything we were seeing and ended up at a South African restaurant for dinner. We all enjoyed amazing steak and the rest of the girls had some fish that they said was great. The rest of the night was spent just like the night before except at a bar that was playing dub-step all night, everyone favorite.

Day 3: Bright and early we left for our safari, we took a plane to Cape Elizabeth about a 1 flight north and ended up at our resort around 12. We were quickly whisked up in the safari jeeps and brought to the Bosa, a outside eating area. I met the cook within seconds of being there as he was choosing out my meal for me. I can say that I quite possibly died and went to heave that day, it wasnt the entrée I remembered as much but the desert that I cant stop thinking about. Peach breaded pudding, chocolate mousse cake, and some apple dish…think about eating stuff like that for 3 days straight! After lunch we were brought to our chalets, they were absolutely beautiful and overlooked the entire game reserve! I felt like I was up north in Minnesota being in this amazing log cabin!
After getting settled in, we headed out to our first game ride of the trip. Within seconds we were seeing animals everywhere, the most commonly seen animal was one that resembled deer greatly. Our first game ride was successful, within the first hour we had a gang of about 12 elephants walk within 3 feet of our jeep, and not even 10 minutes later we came across a lion pack napping under the trees. I think my jaw just stayed dropped the entire time, it was too much work to snap it shut just to open it again a couple minutes later. I had never imagined that zebras stripes would differ so much between one and another, it was crazy to see how much they differed. We took a break on top of the mountain to enjoy the view and a snack. It was at this time the sun was setting and the colors on top of all the green plush were breathtaking.
We finished our game drive and headed back to the resort for another meal in the bosa, this one topped the last and I felt like I could gain 5 pounds in one sitting. The rest of the night was very relaxing, they had started fires in the bar area so the 20 of SAS students along with the dean of students sat around enjoying wine. It was a good end to a long day.

Day 4: This day consisted of a complete day of game drives, it felt like it was going to be hard to top the last, and I wasnt really into it considering our first drive started at 6 AM. It was today that we saw the giraffes for the first time; the sight of a tall giraffe as the sun is rising is epic. We learned on this day how a rhinos front -horn/tusk is worth 100,000 dollars in some Asian because a lot of men believe it is an aphrodisiac. This certain game reserve has had trouble with people coming in on helicopters and taking the horn or tusk off with a machete leaving the rhino in a lot of pain, ultimately killing them. The rangers communicate over their walkie-talkies to other rangers to help them find animals but now with rhinos they have to be top secret about it because they never know when a guest is actually there for the sights or to find out the exact location of the rhinos.
The rest of the day was spent much of the same, we had a couple of hours after breakfast for a nap and to lie by the pool. It was such a nice day and the infinity pool was calling my name. Our last ride of the day was from 4-7 and once again we were surrounded by all of the Big 5 except leopards.

Day 5: We left bright and early the next day for our last game drive, this one was quite unsuccessful, considering we didnt end up seeing any animals. After our drive we quickly got packed and left for the airport. At this point everyone was ecstatic to get back to Cape Town! We hustled off the plane and headed directly to the mall to get more souvenirs and some last minute presents. The rest of the day was spent at Mitchells a bar right on the pier with about 40 other Semester at Sea students. We enjoyed amazing pizza and drinks as we spent our last hour before we had to board the ship for another 4 days at sea.

I have realized this trip sounded so uneventful but I cant even begin to explain to you my love for that place. I keep finding myself thinking back to how pretty it was, how nice everyone was, and how at home I really felt. It could have everything to do with how American felt, but after Ghana that was all I needed.
Today was the 3rd of 4th day on the ship and we presented our global studies project. This project has been a pain in my rear end! Try getting together with 5 other students in between classes, lying out, and just relaxing. ROUGH! We ended up doing great! I was so proud of my group and the 2 guys that were in charge of presenting did an amazing job! Our project was on multinational companies in Ghana and how they effected Ghanas economy, environment and any other issues. It was a very interesting subject to research and I learned so much of how the oil industries in Britain are basically taking over Ghanaian land with very little kick-back to them.
We get off the ship in 2 days and we will be in Port Louis, Mauritius. Apparently our ship is only allowed to port there for 1 day because of past Semester at Sea experiences, meaning students got way too drunk and basically ruined it for the rest of us! My FDP was cancelled so I am loving the fact I will be spending the day on a catamaran with all my friends, snorkeling and then heading to a big island to meet up with everyone else.
A couple days marked the halfway point of being on the ship and when I go to bed at night I get teary realizing we dont have much time left. I feel like I just got on this ship and its almost time to get off. I can only imagine how quickly the next couple months are going to go because we will be in and out of countries every other day.
Its funny, I thought the lessons I was going to learn on this trip were going to be from the classroom, but instead its from walking around the ship everyday with the people I love. I am such a happy person here, I probably wont be coming back. SORRY!

February 16, 2011

I swear these dreams run deeper than the ocean

2/15/11
So today was the rockiest day by far, I think everyone disappeared halfway through the day to their rooms to either get sick or to be rocked to sleep. Its funny when I was thinking of updating my blog last night I was thinking about what to add and the first thing that came to mind was how I miss the rocking off the boat. I shall bite my tongue! Were only 1 day away from South Africa!!! Im starting to notice the trend of the staff telling us each place is the most DANGEROUS place well be going, because according to them the last 3 places weve been have been the most dangerous, and of course the next one is too. I think the same rule applies to every big city you go to, dont do anything stupid. I can safely say, I have not. I am excited to get to South Africa; I plan on going to Robben Island and then a 3-day safari. It will be fun to get away from the normal group and to be with some people Ive met but yet havent gotten to know.
Everyone is currently studying for the tests they have this week and I feel as if I have nothing to do, I have no tests and currently no homework. Life is so different here compared to at home, we have a total of 22 class days all semester, meaning I have 11 class days, and the majority of our homework consists of writing journals of our experiences. I am scared to see how I jump back into regular college life this summer.
Today we experienced being followed for the first time, but it was hardly dangerous considering it was just a flock of 3 dolphins. It was great to see, we were all lying out on 7th deck when we heard everyone from the dining center run to the railings and start screaming. They werent doing amazing tricks but they were definitely following in the wake. The announcements today (yes, we are still in high school and have announcements) said that they would start to follow us more when we get on the other side of Africa! I will try and remember to bring my camera with me so I can have pictures!
I think homesickness has kind of set in, these 6-day stretches at sea get kind of long and were running out of things to keep us occupied. We have tried scoping out boys (that lasted a week), we have tried working out (that lasted even shorter), we have watched every TV show on our computers and have now settled for walking up and down the 7 flights of stairs looking for something to do. I am trying not to let myself grovel in the fact I miss Noodles, Panera, Chipotle, Taco Bell, etc. and enjoy the amount of protein I am getting with every peanut butter and jelly sandwich I make.
Now onto a fun subject, I am still having the time of my life and am so happy I decided to take this experience. I cant wait to get to Asia, I have a feeling the amount of things I will be learning are going to be at amazing levels. Being put into a country that NO ONE speaks English will be hard but I am ready to use my Italian-ness with my hand gestures. I have learned that no matter where I go, I am still the same person. I can try and pretend to be quiet, but Im not. I am a people person and I love being around different kinds of people at all times.
* Imagine we are all the same. Imagine we all agree about politics, religion and morality. Imagine we like the same types of music, food and coffee. Sound boring? Differences need not divide us. Embrace diversity. Dignity is everyone’s human right*
LOVE YALL!

February 12, 2011

Ghana Get Away…Get It?

2/12/11
Just crossed the prime meridian and equator at the same time! There is a huge line, bright red, with blinking lights! NOT! We sat out on the deck last night watching the amazing sunset, and enjoying the breeze. I have realized I have already started to take this for grantedI dont look out at the ocean enough and appreciate the bright blue I see. From this point on, I refuse to not look up at the sky and thank the big blue I am here.
We are now on our way to South Africa after spending a fun but at times grueling 5 days in Ghana. At times I had to hold my breath (no, not because of the stinky smell) because of the amount of poverty I was seeing. The 5×5 lean-tos that held families of 8 were all we ever saw. (Well that and a tremendous amount of goats EVERYWHERE.) Watching people walk by us on the side of the road with long machetes was also something that I came to just understand was normal.

Day 1:
We spent the day on Cape Coast, about an hour from the port, touring Slave Castles and Dungeons. It was one of those times that you are walking around a place, imaging what it was truly like. It was at least 100 degrees that day and to hear that at times almost 90 people took residence in a room that was comparable to a dorm room, made me sweat even harder. We saw door signs that said the door of no return, the door would get smaller as you walked out and they did this because they didnt want anyone sneaking back in. If at times any of the slaves didnt cooperate they would be chained to a ball in the middle of the courtyard, in direct contact of the sun, and would spend up to two days there. What shocked me the most was the way these tour guides were speaking of the guilt they felt that their people were put in this place because of them. I had only ever thought of how it was the western worlds fault, to hear someone speak of the opposite side it blew my mind. We ate lunch at a local restaurant and I found worms in my chicken. You have to understand I am already not good at trying new food, and that just made my claims correct, taco bell is the way to live. (Kidding)
That night we went out club duty free, it was right across from the ship, and everyone went there to pre-game, teachers included. Some of the locals came with their drums and started playing African music for us all to enjoy and dance to. In each of these countries I have noticed the large trend of drums being used, I am really enjoying it. We then went to a bar and my first contact was here. I first had no idea that they were EVERYWHERE, but second I had no idea what one would look at. They apparently heard that Americans were in town and sent the herds out. They were everywhere I looked, they didnt approach us but they were presence was definitely felt. We left quickly once we realized we were surrounded!

Day 2:
Traveled an hour to get to a small beach town, spent the day playing with football and volleyball with the kids. It was incredible how happy they all are, they started out there just to sell us peanuts but ended up swimming and laughing with all of us. Kids everywhere are the samethey all enjoy playing games and just having someones attention. The people that owned the surf shop were telling us how it was illegal for kids to not be in school during the day but because the parents had heard that Americans were in town, the parents wanted them out selling. Its sad that kids are put into the position to care for their families. It makes sense that they are forced to when you hear the taxi drivers talking about their wife and their other women, with these other women, if they have kids with them it isnt their duty to take care of them. It makes you wonder if that is also why so many women turn to prostitution. It was a relaxing day, I played a game just like mancala with a couple and learned it was a game you play after youre married because it is a couples game.

Day 3:
The entire shipboard community, or almost the entire shipboard community rented bungalows at Axim Beach. It was about 2 hours away from the ship, and we enjoyed a long taxi drive learning the commonalities between our two countries. (There really wasnt much) Only about 15 of 200 government officials are women. The government officials pride themselves on the fact the men rule the country. I at one point was expecting to see any length of an area with money; I never saw something like it. It shocked me that this many people can be living entirely under the poverty line.
It was here at the Axim Beach Resort that I realized Ghanaians are not the nicest people. I had already had a chip on my shoulder from when were trying to get a taxi, I was getting pushed around and often times yelled at by the drivers, but here they were just blatantly rude, not everyone could go into the ocean at the same time because the second you leave your stuff they would grab it and not give it back. (Thankfully, I was not one that lost anything.) They were trying to get everyone to pay more than they had spent, they were accusing people of stealing, and were basically just running us out. I am hoping it wasnt past Semester at Sea students that put a bad taste in their mouth, but I was ready to get out of there. We spent the night there and headed back to the ship the next day.

Day 4 & 5:
I spent the rest of the 4th day after getting back from the resort in bed with strepthroat and missed the entire 5th day because I was in so much pain.

All in all, I am very happy I got to experience Ghana, it was an out of element experience, and I learned that not everyone is going to be excited to meet Americans. It makes me think about the quote money is the root of all evil, I think the only reason they were so rude was because they wanted our money so bad. I would have loved to give it to them but due to the rudeness, I could no longer get myself to want to.
I am SO excited for South Africa, shark diving, safari, and just experiencing what I have been so excited for! We have our first global studies quiz in 2 days, apparently they are really hard, but the sun is shining outside and I need a tan! Maybe I should have stayed in North Dakota to avoid all these distractions.

February 2, 2011

Wait, the ship is actually for school?

2/1/11
Happy February everyone! I hope you are enjoying your negative weather because I am enjoying the equator and its heat just nicely! Today I had no classes and enjoyed the pool all day. I did realize though its about time to share about the classes I am taking
My favorite class: altruism and social justice, with Dr. Kottler. First, I am just thankful I got in the class but secondly I leave the class in tears everyday. It was him that started empowering Nepali girls, and has since dedicated his whole life to social justice. If you dont know what social justice is here is a quick explanation: social justice is ultimately devoting your life to helping people or communities in situations lesser than your own. It is not something you do to profit yourself but to make the lives of others better. He touches my heart each day and I cant help but realize how much emotion he puts into everything he does. I truly believe he is breaking us down in order for us to rely on each other to build ourselves back up. We discuss what we are passionate about, what things in the past have a hold on us, and how we have shown resilience in our life even if we didnt know it. The books that are required reading for his class is actually books he has written himself. Every time I think I have to know everything about this guy, he shocks me even more.
Sex & Gender in Cross Cultural Experiences: My anthropology class that is making me question my major, YIKES. I am not sure if it is the lectures that have me by a string or the books we are reading. We are now reading about a group of people that were researched in the 1950s by an American couple that were looking into their culture. We are learning how different each culture can be, in this one in particular, not to be grotesque, but the children are taught at a young age the sexual play that should go on between a couple and usually start having the play by as young as 8. You may be wondering why this is so interesting to me, but come on, doesnt that make you want to know WHY!
International Perspectives on Family Violence: This class is very similar to a lot of the sociology classes I have taken back at UND. What makes me like this class a lot are the people we have had come in and talk to us. We had the head of the Brazilian embassy come in and speak to us about the domestic violence that is taking place in Brazil. It is a very common thing in most of these Global South countries, and they are just now trying to put an end to it. It was amazing to hear from someone that had such passion for womens rights. It wasnt until recently a woman had held such a high position.
Global Studies: The class everyone aboard has to take, and wellI havent quite figured this class out yet. So no comment for now.

I love this place, the interaction between SO many different people is incredible. I babysat the psychologists daughter, Kaila (Ky-La) tonight and it was nice to be around little kids for a while. We ran up and down every staircase on the ship and I couldnt help but laugh the entire time. We walked out to the pool deck and watched the ocean and she turned to me and said, how amazing. She is 4, and just wanted to sit there because she was sure a dolphin was going to come. It was amazing to see how many students wanted to stop and talk to her; its funny how much everyone is really alike. Well, I have class all day tomorrow starting at 8 AM, bon voyage mates. ☺

February 2, 2011

Manous in a nutshell

1/30/11
Today I am so seasick I could cry, I havent left my bed yet and I dont plan on it until dinner. Well you can tell were back on the ocean and the waves are incredible. I had the time of my life in Brazil. There wasnt too much to do because it isnt a touristy place, but we made our own fun and I met a ton of people

Sunday-The first day in Manous, we had no idea what to do. We left the port and everywhere there were street venders selling crazy looking fruit and vegetables. Everything smelt amazing, we were walking and I started to smell peppers very distinctly, we continued to walk and 2 blocks down were where they were selling the peppers. It just shows how fresh everything they sell is. We were cautioned not to try anything that couldnt be peeled so to my dismay we didnt stop. Due to it being a Sunday nothing other than the street venders were open so we decided to go to the zoo. The local zoo is actually owned by their Army, it was very small and the poor birds had the tiniest cages, one of them couldnt even stretch their wings. The biggest difference between their zoo and ours is the HUGE anaconda snake they had in a cage with no sides. I couldnt even allow myself to get close; it was wrapped around the bottom of the tree and throughout 4 different branches. I have only seen anacondas on TV and I can now promise you that they are as big as they portray them to be. The rest of the day we walked around in bitterness, we were hot, there was nothing to do and we all started to feel very homesick. It was the first time in my life I felt completely helpless, the Manous population only speak Portuguese, although it is so close to Spanish they didnt understand a word when we were trying to figure something out. We retreated back to the ship for the best lunch so far, (we had French fries and pulled pork sandwiches!!!!!) and laid out by the pool to regain some mental energy! Later that night the city put on a Samba for us, it was basically a street dance but they performed for us with huge drums and dancers for a couple of hours. I truly felt wrapped up in the culture. It wasnt just the Semester at Sea students there but the whole faculty (dean, teachers, LLCs) and the whole Manous community. They were so welcoming and I couldnt get the smile off my face. We stayed there until they shut it down around 2, and then walked through the McDonalds drive-thru on the way back to the ship. That cheeseburger made me so happy, I think I cried when I ate it.

Monday- (Day 2) We walked the city, we ventured down to all the shops on the street, where we noticed everyone was selling very Americanized things. It was odd to see Justin Bieber stuff being sold almost everywhere. It was a lot different here than in Dominica because once you said no to someone they didnt continue to pester you to buy. We had lunch at a local restaurant and got some pizza. The waiter said they had ran out of there normal cheese but had other kinds that could be usedwe didnt realize until we got our pizza that they put full slices of American Cheese on our pizza in its place, I can promise you it is not something you should try! The rest of the day was spent very leisurely; we went to the Opera house, which is very famously known for being built during the rubber boom. It was incredible to see, but the weirdest part was it was on a street that looked like Disney Land. All the houses were perfect, the streets were paved and the sidewalks had no cracks, but if you look into the distance all you saw were houses that were falling apart or areas that the sidewalks were so beat up you couldnt even walk on them. I wish I could have learned more of the history of why nothing else was fixed up like that but all I could understand from a local was that it was the Europeans that came in and built it and used all the money.

Tuesday, Wednesday- (Days 3&4) We rented a hotel room at a local resort, and about 20 kids from SAS that all didnt have trips planned were there. We enjoyed the day lying out by the pool (the pool on board the ship was drained) and went to dinner at a Brazilian steak house. All I can say was I ate enough meat to last me a year. The dinner included a huge salad bar with vegetables I cant even pronounce, they gave us onion rings for an appetizer (supposedly they are a delicacy in Manous) which were the best onion rings Ive ever eaten. The dinner lasted 2 hours and to say I was stuffed would be an understatement but we decided that since we already spent so much on the meal why not get desert. Oh, it was the best idea we had all daychocolate lave cake with extra milk chocolate (Mom, I know how jealous you are right now), UH MAZE ING. I died it was so good. We spent the rest of the night making good use of the wi-fi at the hotel. The next day was spent in quite a hussy. My friends towel was stolen, stuff out of their bags was stolen, and all the front desk did was laugh. It was awful, not to mention the ceiling was leaking but who notices that stuff anyways? We left the hotel and laid out by the infinity pool at the hotel next door. We sat in the pool looking out at the Amazon river all day, drinking Brazils famous drinks, (which I cant remember the name of) but they would crush limes until they didnt have any juice in them anymore, pour all of that, with sugar, and the countries vodka/tequila (we couldnt figure out what it tasted like). It was an awesome day, enjoying the company of fun people while enjoying it in the 85 degree weather made it even better.

Thursday- (Day 5) Our last day in port, by this time people were tired, Manous really didnt offer much and almost everyone was gone doing Amazon Trips or were in Rio. We slept in, and walked the city one last time. I got these amazing headbands, and a bracelet that I fell in love with. It was this day we noticed the weird amount of bra/underwear stands on the street. I am guessing that is their Victorias Secret, and no dont worry I did not buy any. The entire trip I had kept seeing little kids sitting at the street vendors stands with their parents and I was worried that they were not being allowed to go to school. It wasnt until we were at lunch that our waiter who spoke very good English told us that right now is their summer break. Summer break in January?! That sounds like an amazing idea. Well, we had lunch at a pizza place again, this time with better luck. It seemed the entire ship was in this little pizza place. We had an amazing garlic and basil pizza; it was a good last meal. (Sorry I talk about food a lot but if you knew me, youd understand it)

Overall I really enjoyed being in Manous, it was a good eye opener to what is to come. I realized my English wont get me very far and I will need to work on explaining things with my hands, such an Italian thing! This port was good for everyone because it forced people to make friends with people they had never met. We would all share a tower of beer at the port before going back on and it was almost a time where everyone could vent either about something bad that had happened in port or just feeling homesick. I finally met people that like hockey, and am now known as the girl with the Minnesooootan accent.

February 2, 2011

Amazon

1/22/11
Well were on the Amazon River, in the murky water, with no sighting of alligators anywhere, which actually disappoints me. Weve only been on the ship for about 9 days but it has felt like a lifetime, its incredible the amount of things we have accomplished in these short days. I feel like I have been friends with these people forever.
Last night we had the first talent show of the semester, it is amazing how talented people are. We had someone dance and sing to lady-gaga, a rendition of Grease summer nights made into the Semester at Sea nights, plus so many more. After the talent show was a dance partywhich was very interesting once again, people surprised me a ton last night.
Tomorrow we get into Manous, Brazil, I have nothing planned this trip except and FDP trip on Thursday. Our plan is to walk the town and see what there is to do, we are bringing indestructible soccer balls to give to kids we meet along the way, and hopefully get the chance to play with them.

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