Thursday, November 25, 2010


“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our harnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”- Mark Twain

November 19, 2010
We got in to Kobe bright an early and spent about 5 hours going through customs. I did a home stay through Semester at Sea so I was one of the first off of the ship to meet up with the university students who were taking us around for the day. In the beginning it was a bit awkward but after a while we started to get to know our student tour guides. We had to struggle to find an international ATM but soon enough we were on our way to Osaka our first stop for the trip. We go off the train and went to the largest electronics/mall in Osaka where we would be eating lunch. Since there were so many of us we separated into 3 different groups based off of what we wanted to eat for lunch. I went with 4 other Japanese students to this place that was sort of like a melting pot. We sat down, ordered the type of meat we wanted and went and grabbed vegetables that we would be cooking with our meat. It was all cooked in a pot right on our table. After eating way too much it was time for a bit of sight seeing around Osaka. We met up with the rest of our group and we set off for Osaka Castle, which was beautiful. The Emperor who built it actually never used it but it was a protection for the dynasty for many years. A few hours later we were heading to Osaka University because we would be meeting up with our host families as well as having a party. Well we showed up about 45 minutes late but as soon as we arrived there were a few speeches and we were eating sushi and hanging out with our families and the students. Once everyone had finished eating we had the opportunity to dress up in Kimonos---or at least the summer version of them, even the boys in our group did it. After a photo shoot we spent some time socializing with the university students and before I knew it this women was taking me in her car to drop be off at my host family’s house. When I got there I had to wait a bit before my family got to the door but when they did it was a sweet little lady and her son. The husband was gone away—he is in Iraq and is a war photographer. But things were a bit strange at first, the son spoke no English and the Mom spoke only a little. I brought lots of pictures though in anticipation that my family wouldn’t speak English. After a couple of hours and a lot of green tea later, my host Mom gave me a tour of her house before I went to bed. She showed me her three kitchens; her family room, dining, room, her two bedrooms, and then she showed me the formal room. All of it was traditional Japanese with the white and brown trim and the sliding doors. All doors must be closed after entering or exiting a room it was really cool. She showed me to my room where I had the best night sleep I had, had throughout the entire voyage.

November 20, 2010
The next morning my Host Mom came knocking at my door at 6 am, I was helping her make breakfast for the family. We made miso soup, rice, salmon, eggs, and had fruits. It was a gourmet breakfast and it was one way to break through the language barrier. We ate breakfast and we exchanged gifts with each other and before I knew it I was being picked up and heading back to the Osaka University. The students we were with the day before had an entire day planned for us. We were dropped off at the university and then the day began. A small group of us started for the Tenryuuji Temple in Kyoto. When we got of the train, the first thing we saw was Kyoto changing colors. All the leaves were either red or yellow and the city was beautiful. We walked through the crowded streets, it was a holiday so everything was packed and right next to me were two geishas all dressed in their attire as well as full makeup. I took 15 pictures-quickly and was so excited to actually see real GEISHAS. After all the excitement of the Geishas we made our way to the temple. The best part was the bamboo forest, it was amazing and for about a kilometer it was all bamboo trees. We spent some time exploring around the lake and then it was time for lunch. We ate ramen and something similar to croquettes and then green tea ice cream for dessert. After lunch it was one to the next temple, the group of us jumped on a small train and we found ourselves at “the Taj Mahal of Japan” It was the Kinkaku-ji Temple which was gorgeous. It was a temple that was completely gold. We spent some time taking pictures in front of it and the Japanese students taught us how to say “ will you take a picture with us” in Japanese. We got some great pictures with young Japanese boys and girls who were there on a field trip. On the way out of the temple we go to have our fortunes read, and then we had to tie them on this special branch in order for them to come true. After that it was time to head back to Kobe in order to make it to the ship on time. Saying goodbye to our new friends so sad, we had spent two whole day with them, but everyone promised to find us on facebook.

November 22, 2010
We arrived in Yokohama bright and early and Loryn and I made an early start towards Tokyo to meet up with everyone. After a while we finally found our way to the Ninja Hostel-where we would spend the night in capsules. We met up with Kevin and the three of us set off to explore Tokyo for the day. We went to the part of town called Shibuya where there is the largest and most crowded intersection of the world. When we got up from the metro station, it was exactly the typical Tokyo that I had expected. We walked around Shibuya for a while before grabbing lunch…everything appeared to be extremely Americanized. After a couple of hours we made our way back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of our group to figure out what we would do for the last night in an international port. After a bit of deliberation we decided we would do dinner, karaoke, and go out to a club. A few of us went out to explore the area where our hostel was before all of us go dinner. Dinner came and went and we all go ready for the big night out. Karaoke was hilarious and we had a private room for about 12 of us. We sang everything from GAGA to sweet Caroline. Next thing we knew it was POURING RAIN and we found ourselves in the middle of a SAS festival. The club we went to was filled with people from Semester at Sea. We danced until 5 am…,which is when the metro reopened, and we went back to our hostel EXHAUSTED.

November 23, 2010
The next morning Loryn, Kevin, and I were up and out of the hostel before any of the others were even awake. We made our way towards Yokohama to explore for the day before having to board the ship. We grabbed lunch, showed Kevin our ship, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to our ship to start getting through customs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

November 11, 2010
Hong Kong- We arrived into port bright and early and go off the ship as soon as we could. My friend Heidi needed a rail pass for Japan so that was one of the first things we did after finding an ATM. Once we got her rail pass we spent a good amount of time wandering around Harbor City where we shopped a bit and grabbed lunch. Once we finally ate something we went to the old part of Hong Kong, which looks completely different. We took a taxi to the old part where we would catch the old tram through the entire city. The point of the tram was so that you could see the transition that the city has made-from old to new. The tram ride took about an hour but it was really great to see how Hong Kong has changed so much. After the ride we got off and grabbed a bubble tea and went to a market that was right behind the MRT. The market had some of the most random things in it. Including a watch repairman who fixed my favorite watch for the grand total of one dollar. Shannon, Loryn, and I picked up several things that we would need for our adventure to Beijing where it would be below freezing. The sunset really early and by 5 pm it was pitch black we made our way back to the port via the MRT because we had to see the light show that would start at 8. We got back to the ship, got ready in a hurry and made our way to the clock tower, which was the best location to watch the light show. The light show is basically when they play music and the entire Hong Kong skyline lights up with the music. It was pretty cool and we were interviewed by some students learning English, who told us to go out in soho. We took the star ferry across the harbor towards central Hong Kong where we got lost and were confronted by college student who said he would take us to Soho. Well long story short we had to ditch him and he didn’t get the picture for a long time. But Loryn and I ended up eating dinner and this cute Mexican place called Taco Loco and we got burritos and Margaritas. After a couple hours in Soho we made our way back to the port and caught the last ferry across the harbor. We were leaving for Beijing in less than 12 hours and had a lot of things to do to prepare.

November 12, 2010
The morning came and went quickly and the adventure to the Great Wall began. It was Amber, Loryn, and I going to Beijing so the group was small and it was perfect for traveling. We took the MRT to the train station where we would cross the border into mainland China-Guangzhou was our first destination and it would take a couple of hours to get there. Once we made it to the mainland…we had to go through about an hour of security before we made our way to the airport. At the airport our flight was delayed but we ate Chinese food and shopped around the airport before boarding. Once we finally made it to Beijing it was task to get a taxi driver to drive into the center of the city at 1030 pm but finally one agreed and we were on our way to the center. Our hostel was right next to the forbidden city and it was crazy being able to recognize a city after doing all this traveling for months, this was only place I had been to before semester at sea. We checked in to our hostel which was a bit sketchy ( at night ) but really cool anyways. I was exhausted so basically went to bed right away considering we had to be up and out of the hostel but 730 for our trip to the Great Wall.

November 13, 2010
The three of us were up, eating breakfast and out the door all before 730. We took a tour to the Great Walll because the easiest part of the wall to get to was the touristy part, which we didn’t want to go to. It took about 2.5 hours to get there but when I saw the Wall from a distance I was so excited I couldn’t even stop smiling. We got to Mutianyu and the guide told us to meet her back in 3 hours at a restaurant where we would eat after hiking. There were two options, you could climb the stairs up the mountain or you could take a chair lift…we took the chairlift so that would have more time on the wall. Once we made it to the top it was breathtaking and SO EXCITING. We went to the left, which meant that it would be about 4 miles of hiking up and down stairs and there would be about 15 watchtowers. Well, we hiked the entire thing and the whole time I never felt like it was 4 miles, it was too exciting to be worried about distance at all. I took about 200 pictures and after 2.5 hours we made our way to the bottom of the mountain. The way down was awesome, you got to toboggan our way down which was hilarious and the three of us didn’t listen to any of the rules regarding speed or distance between carts…Loryn kept slamming our her breaks to “keep me on my toes” which was a riot. At the bottom of the mountain we walked through the markets which sold fruits and panda hats (which I bought two of ) but we were laughing our heads of because we had to bargain for our fruit, it was ridiculous I couldn’t even believe it… I had to bargain for a banana. With our panda hats we walked down the rest of the mountain to meet our group for lunch before heading back to Beijing.
When we made it back to Beijing we quickly recuperated and made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Since it was getting late and the sun was setting we could actually go into the Forbidden City but we took a ton of pictures of it all lit up at night-which was beautiful. Everyone wanted to take pictures with us because we looked ridiculous all bundled up and wearing panda hats. After a few dozen pictures I took the opportunity to take the girls around Beijing…my fabulous memory led us to this famous square that is near the Forbidden city which resembles most of the China towns in the United States. Little red lanterns everywhere-AND A STARBUCKS we walked around the little area before we made our way to the night market where we bargained for little gifts for our families. When the cold began to get to all of us we started to head back to our hostel and when we passed through Tiananmen square right before we got home we got to see the fountain show that was going on at the forbidden city. Music accompanied 15 fountains that lined the dark red walls of the Forbidden City. We finally got back to our hostel AND we had a new roommate, who was an American living in South Korea visiting Beijing for the weekend. The four of us had dinner together at the hostels little restaurant and we convinced him to take the same trip to the great wall that we had done. Loryn and I spent most of the night talking to him and he gave us some great advice and information on South Korea.

November 14, 2010
It was our last day in Beijing before we would head to Shanghai to meet up with the boat so we were up early to do some major sightseeing. We had a quick breakfast and were off to see Beijing. The first stop was the Forbidden City and we spent a good couple of hours walking in-between all of the courtyards and behind the big red walls along the pond. We left and began to find our way to the Olympic Stadium from 2008. We saw the birds nest and the pond or whatever they call the thing for Michael Phelps won like 50 gold medals. Once again everyone wanted to take a picture with us and after a while we were ready to leave. This part of the city looks NOTHING like the rest of the city. It looks so modern and built up which I am sure was all done for the Olympics. From the Olympic stadium we went over to the Summer palace which was way different from the Winter palace (Forbidden City) at the summer palace there were ponds and trees everywhere which was basically the opposite of the Forbidden City. After a couple of hours of walking around we had to meet up with one of Amber’s friends who is living in Beijing teaching English who had bought our train tickets to shanghai. We met up with him at the silk market, which was seven floors of everything you can imagine. After a few hours at the silk market and getting the tickets from Trey, we went back to the night market behind the Forbidden City to spend the last couple of hours in Beijing. Before we we knew it we were at the train station getting some snacks to bring on the night train…we were leaving Beijing and heading to Shanghai.
When we got on the night train…it was a nightmare there were Chinese people everywhere ( naturally- we were in china) but THEY WERE IN OUR SEATS and thought they could just steal them from us, RUDE, after quick of bit of awkward standing over these people they finally gave up and gave us our seats back. We sat across from 3 boys and before the first hour of the train was over we were all sleeping and loryn was on the ground underneath our chairs.

November 15, 2010
Fourteen hours seemed to take forever and I was so excited to finally reach Shanghai. We got off the train, asked a police officer for help and found ourselves in a predicament…not only were we tired and grouchy but Semester at Sea put a nonexistent address on the Green sheet ( the sheet we use to find our way back to the ship) so not only were we in a foreign country but we were without an address. After a lot of debate we found a taxi driver who would take us to the bund where hopefully we would find the MV explorer. WE DID WE DID WE DID and I was so happy to see it it took a while to go through security and then we were stuck on the ship for 4 hours waiting for customs to clear us…even though we had been in China for 3 days. By the time we got off the ship the sun was setting and the bund (waterfront) was lighting up. We got into a taxi and made our way to Yuyuan a small district with lots of restaurants where we would spend the night eating and walking around before going back to the ship..

November 16, 2010
It was our final day in China and we had the day to explore around Shanghai, we got the name of an area and we set out there before all the other SASers would invade. We spent some time walking around before we found a market( naturally) and spent the last of our money on gifts for everyone. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and the day was almost over. We ate a quick lunch, walked around a bit more and then went to the bund to take some pictures of Shanghai’s skyline. We walked the entire way back to the ship which was located right on the bund and we took dozens of pictures with each other- and with tourists who thought we looked weird. Because of immigration we weren’t allowed to leave straight away but when we did the bund was lit up and beautiful, it was a great way to say goodbye to China.
China was the only country on the itinerary that I had been to before, and I was extremely nervous to go back. But It was worth it, although many of my reason for not liking China the first time around were reaffirmed I am glad I got to go to the great wall of China. The thing about China is that the country is filled with such a rich history that is hard for me not to love it BUT the people with all the people that I have met along the way, the Chinese have been by far the rudest people in the world (the world that I have seen ) But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy my time and the experience that I had while I visited. Seeing the Great Wall of China was something I had dreamed of my entire life, and let me tell you GO SEE IT!!!! It was one of the most breathtaking and surreal moments of my life. ☺

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The hardest thing for Americans to realize is that they are not better than other people
-Jimmy carter
November 3, 2010
GOODMORNING VIET NAM. What a morning! we woke up at 5:00 AM to watch our ship sail through the Mekong delta, I have never experienced something so beautiful in my life. After two hours of navigating through the Mekong we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City. A few tricky hours with customs later we were off the ship and in the downtown area. It took us a few minutes to orient ourselves before we figured out how to get the famous Vietnamese coffee, a few coffees later we grabbed a taxi and headed towards the tailor. My group of girl friends-Loryn, Heidi, and Shannon all planned to get dresses made while in Vietnam for our Ambassadors ball in December. At the Tailor’s shop we spent two hours getting measured, picking designs, and battling the language barrier BUT when we left we were happy and so were they. The next stop was the Ben Thahn market which was a short walk from the tailor. The market was an absolute maze everywhere were you turned these tiny Vietnamese women asked “what are you looking for?” and grabbed your arm. It was hectic and crazy BUT AMAZING. Everything from t-shirts to chopsticks, food, bags, watches, sunglasses. Ben Thahn was an absolute maze and you could spend hours there, and we did. After a couple of hours of shopping I figured it was time to try some local Vietnamese food. Pho(pronounced faa) is the traditional meal AND IT WAS TERRIBLE. Or to say the very least not my cup of noodles…but it was a good experience and to coat the terrible flavor I ordered a fresh pineapple smoothie. The traffic around the area was out of control, at first we would wait to cross with the locals to avoid getting run over but after a few streets we figured it was time to take a few chances and cross the roads solo. The four of us spent the remainder of the daylight wandering around the city’s little streets with millions of shops. As the sun started to set we returned to the busy square with all the traffic and they dynamic had changed completely, the square was filled with locals playing with a sort of shuttlecock. I am not sure exactly what the game is call but it is more or less hacky sack with a shuttlecock. My next move was to buy one of these contraptions and make friend with some Vietnamese locals. It turns out that all you need to do is buy the shuttlecock and everyone jumps at the sight of a white person. I spent about 30 minutes shamefully trying to master the game but failed greatly. After playing the game I retired to watching the locals and eventually university students who wanted to practice their English surrounded Heidi and me. The next 3 hours were spent chatting with students who asked me every single question they possibly could and we enjoyed it. Before we knew it, it was time to head to dinner and to say goodbye to all of our new friends. After our dinner we walked around the night market entertaining ourselves before our adventure back to our ship. On our walk back to the ship we picked up a few of the traditional triangle/cone hats that a lot of women wear in South East Asia. The hats were hilarious and every single Vietnamese person we passed on our way home laughed at us. What a great first day in Vietnam, it reminded me of Thailand, which I love!

November 4, 2010
Another extremely early morning, we were up and off the ship by 6 am to head to Cu Chi, Vietnam…the place where the Cu Chi tunnels were built in the 1950-1970s. The entire area of the tunnels is a bout 250 kilometers and they are insane. When we finally go to Cu chi-about an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh, we watched a short documentary about the tunnels. It was weird and eye opening to watch a documentary in which the enemy is Americans and how they gave out awards for who was the most creative in killing Americans. After the short documentary our guide brought us to part of the forest and told us to find the entrance to the tunnel, there were 25 of us and after 10 minutes not one of us could find the entrance. Finally she showed us the tiny entrance that was about the size of the shoebox, it was the entrance that the Americans discovered in 1966. Some people took turns trying to fit into the entrance, which was the typical size used during the Vietnam War. We spent about an hour going through the “museum” which consisted of the different traps and killing techniques the Viet Cong used. FINALLY we got to actually go into the tunnels, they gave us a short briefing before we made our way down into the tunnels…they also gave us the option to exit the tunnel at 20-40 or 120 meters into the tunnels. We made our way to the 1st level…it was insane, I couldn’t see a thing in front of me and after about 40 feet I felt like I couldn’t breath anymore, I almost ducked out but figured that I needed to go the entire way. I couldn’t believe I felt so claustrophobic even after the tunnels had been made 3x bigger than they were in the 60s—the ceiling was still touching my shoulders when I was on my hands and knees. I had the opportunity to go through several other parts of the tunnels including the bomb shelter area which was the only place the Viet Cong could actually stand up in. We left Cu Chi, Vietnam after a couple of hours, but it was one of the most insane experiences of my life. The tour bus go back to the ship right around lunch and a group of us went out to explore more of the city. We ended up at Saigon Market, which was basically like the other market we had been in the previous day. After a couple of hours we decided to take a rest, we hoped on some motorcycles ( with helmets) and they took us right back to the ship, it was awesome BUT SCARY weaving in and out of the traffic on a motorcycle. Later on we were back at the night market where we had been before and WE NEEDED these shirts that said “same same but different”…probably the quote of the trip. Almost every lady we came across in any market would explain her price by saying this and eventually we would say it back to them-and they loved it.

November 5, 2010
The next morning was early as well…the day started with no plans really and then soon enough we had plans to go volunteer at a shelter for young women who have been exposed or subject to human trafficking. Before we left for the shelter we went to the market to look for little gifts and trinkets to give to the girls when we got there. Around 1 pm a group of 12 young women from the ship left for the shelter. When we got their we were informed that the children would be at school till five (they go to school in shifts) but 3 of them were home from the morning shift and they wanted to hang out with us, after about 45 minutes we all left to run a few errands before returning again that evening to have a girls night with them all. The group of 12 of us pulled enough money together to buy a LaserJet printer for the business side of the shelter…and they were grateful. We went to a different part of town were we found ourselves in a coffee shop for 3 hours (VIETNAM HAS AMAZING COFFEE) making friends with the owners and their children. This is when the rain started, and didn’t stop for about four hours…but it gave us an excuse to drink more coffee. A little at 5pm we started making our way back to the shelter to spend the evening with the girls. When we got there, it was a bit strange at first, we were starring at them and they were starring at us. The ice was quickly broken and since a majority of the girls were about 12 years old we decided to play some games. Most of the games resembled something we play in the states but they were called strange names. The games lasted for a couple of hours and we were running around and laughing the entire time. When it got closer to their bedtime we settled down by making friendship bracelets and painting each others nails, it felt like one huge slumber party with all the of us girls together in a huge room spread across the floor. The night basically ended there, it was amazing to see a shelter specifically for young girls/women like this. I wish the women in charge had been more comfortable explaining some of the girl’s stories but it was understandable and amazing just to be part of it.

November 6, 2010
This day was basically a relaxing day. Loryn, Shannon, and I woke up early (again) to go to the War Remnants Museum. The entire outside of the museum is filled with old air force and army equipment from the Vietnam/American War. There are 3 floors that explain the details from what essentially caused the war to what actually happened during the war. The most moving part of the exhibition was the Agent Orange part, it explained how many chemicals the Americans had used and how we basically destroyed the Vietnamese soil/water etc. As bad as it seemed, we sounded like terrorists to Vietnam. After the museum we found a coffee shop and spent some time talking about how the museum made us feel and if it is weird for our grandparents and parents to see us here exploring the country and loving the people they grew up hating. About mid afternoon we went back to the tailor to check on our clothes and we reached that part of Ho Chi Minh just before the rain started for the day. After our fitting at the tailor we went BACK to the coffee shop we had been at the day before and the woman was so excited to see us! We ended the day relatively early and headed back to the ship around 5,

November 7, 2010
The last day in Vietnam =(. The morning started early again, we went straight to the tailor to pick up our dresses and to start our day being productive. We finished quickly and decided to go back to our new friends coffee shop. The owner of the coffee shop had her little daughter with her, and she was adorable. The littler girl and I had basically matching outfits on and we took some fabulous pictures together. She was so cute and thought that the henna on my hands would make her hands dirty. We spent a good 45 minutes playing with her before walking through ho chi minh one last time. The remainder of the day was spent popping in and out of shops and eating some good food before the next few days on the ship before china. We got back to the ship around 2 and said goodbye to Vietnam.
What an amazing country! I am sure it sounds like I say that after every port, but Vietnam was truly amazing…I really appreciated every minute of it and the people were so friendly and welcoming it made the experience that much better. I felt myself wondering the entire time if in 40 years my kids will be traveling to Afghanistan?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


“To feel at home, stay at home. A foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It’s designed to make its own people comfortable”
-Clifton Fadiman

October 31, 2010
Welcome to Singapore! It was Halloween and we were most definitely scared. The ship spent the past few days scaring us into believing that 90 percent of us would get arrested in Singapore. We docked around 8 and were off the ship and through customs by 9, it was the fastest and most efficient country yet. As soon as we got through the cruise center we found the MRT (metro) and figured out how to get into the center of Singapore. 15 minutes later we were walking in front of Clark Quay, which is a place where there are dozens of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Loryn, Heidi, Shannon, and I spent some time exploring there were we met some Marines who at ( 10 am) were already starting to drank. I took the liberty to get to know that map of Singapore and we started exploring around this tiny Island. On our walk from Clark Quay to Little India we passed dozens of malls. Singapore is basically a shopper’s paradise. AND everything was so clean; it was pretty refreshing after India. We found ourselves at this outdoor market called Bugis Bazaar. This little bazaar was filled with absolutely everything you could imagine. It reminded me of the night markets in Taiwan. Every little stand was filled with everything from bubble tea to watches, clothes, and food. Once we left the insanity of Bugis Street we head out to find little India (we just couldn’t get enough of India) On the way we ran into a 7-story electronics store that is famous in Singapore. So we popped in for a few hours to look at everything. You could buy an IPOD shuffle for 10 dollars, its amazing how cheap electronics are in Asia. But soon enough we were in Little India and it was actually like we were in India the bazaar was selling everything exactly as we had seen it not even a week before in Chennai. We walked around for about an hour and figured that we would go check out the Raffles Hotel which is apparently famous, I had never heard of it before, but the invented the Singapore sling. On the way back to Clark Quay from the Raffles Hotel we passed many malls but one thing that caught all of our attention was this place called BreadTalk. It was a bakery that reminded me so much of Taiwan (again) but It was amazing. I got a loaf of garlic bread and an orange juice and before I knew it we were heading towards Clark Quay. Our intentions for going to Clark Quay were to find out if Ministry of Sound (a club) was open for Halloween. Two steps into the downtown area we were stopped by about 50 marines. (not a good idea) But before we knew it we were running through the MRT to get back to the ship and back out to the Quay to meet up with all of our new friends. The night was interesting we ended up meeting up with the marines and a ton of students from our ship and dancing all night It ended up being a great Halloween night.

November 1, 2010
After a crazy night out waking up early was not easy at all, but by 930 we were on the MRT and heading towards Clark Quay to start the day. After a fabulous iced coffee later we were heading towards Bugis Street again to check out the markets and collect a few things that we didn’t get the day before. We asked around and figured out that the best place to go shopping was Orchard Road so that’s where we went. In the metro station there was a mall, SINGAPORE IS CRAZY. But we finally went to another mall, this all sounds so ridiculous but I wish I was exaggerating. In this mall we found a much-needed grocery store for some snacks and toiletries for the boat. Before we knew it, it was getting close to 2 and our on ship time was an hour earlier so we had to get back to the Cruise Centre. 30 minutes later we got to the Harbor and through the intense customs.

Singapore is pretty much a Disneyland for Shoppers. Everything was extremely clean and the people were very friendly. Even though we had only two days there, I thought it was plenty seeing as the entire country is filled with malls. The craziest things I found were the laws, a country that doesn’t allow street begging, jay walking, chewing gum, or littering all of these things are great, but it is insane to see a nation that actually abides by all laws.


“Kindness to strangers creates a benevolent world. Be especially considerate of those less fortunate.” -Marvel Harrison

October 22, 2010
Pulling into Chennai was a completely different experience than any other port so far. You could smell India a mile before we even entered the harbor, it was overpowering and we were definitely in India. Another first was the massive trouble getting everyone through customs. Everyone was required for “face to face” inspection with the customs officers and every student was required to carry their passports around the entire stay in India. This hadn’t happened before and I was worried about having to carry my passport around India for a week. 5 hours after we went through customs we were actually allowed to disembark. Damien, Shannon, and I put our game faces on and prepared to haggle our way to the city center. 1.5 hours later we were successfully in the center and eating at one fabulous Indian Restaurant. SPICY SPICY SPICY food later we were heading to the Pondy Bazaar, which was really amazing. The streets were filled with little stands that had everything from puma tracksuits to shower curtains; it was a riot and provided us with entertainment for hours. After a few hours at the Pondy Bazaar we went to another market but didn’t spend much time there before we were all bartered out. The group of us, which now turned to six decided to wander around a bit, and we found ourselves in the middle of 200 schoolboys. We made the mistake of pulling out our cameras, which resulted in riot number 1 of the day. The boys were literally throwing each other in front of buses and rickshaws to take pictures with us. 20 minutes later after 100 pictures and a lot of new friends later it was time to head out. Not even 20 meters down the road…we encounter riot number 2 which was another school but this time with smaller kids, after a few close calls with children being thrown into buses we figured it was time to go on an adventure. After we found a rickshaw driver that agreed to take 6 of us in one ( a little 3 wheeled car meant for 3) we were off to a temple on the beach. When we arrived, it did not look at all like the picture in the guidebook but that didn’t discourage us from going in an exploring. We went through the entire temple with the locals, which was an experience. One of the boys I was with for the day really wanted prayer flags so we took a rickshaw to a temple that was near to the beach. But 5 short minutes later there were no prayer flags and the mosquitoes were beginning to attack as seeing as the sun had just set. We found a rickshaw that would take 6 of us and we began on a 30 minute adventure to the port. The traffic was insane and there were many times that we almost ran into a bus. The driver dropped us off at the wrong port gate so we had to walk for about 10 minutes to enter our gate and we walked through what was basically an outdoors best buy. There were thousands of DVDs, electronics, and flat screen TVs . Ten minutes later we were back in familiar territory and boarding the ship for the night. The heat had taken so much out of us for the day it was only 730 and everyone was ready to fall asleep.

October 23, 2010
The next morning we got a bit of a late start but we were heading out of Chennai and to a smaller town south of the big city. After haggling for a taxi to the town called Mamallaprum we were on our way for two hectic hours in Indian traffic. When we arrived we figured out where the Butter Ball is and made our way there. Along the way we saw dozens of cows. Our first little pit stop before reaching the Butter Ball was a little pond that had a Buddhist shrine in the center with thousands of lily pads and was filled with holy water. There we met a young man who showed us around this little town. The first stop on our little tour was a group of carvings in a rock that had elephants, women, children, and snakes. This spot used to be a place where the people would pray for the Ganges or the rain to come. Directly to the right of these carvings was the Butter Ball which, is a huge boulder that is titled slightly without any human intervention it stays put. It is amazing and is another location that is used for prayer. Inside the gates of the park where the Butter Ball is located are temples and in most of these temples is karma sutra, it is a riot and apparently after a couple is newly married they go to these temples for inspiration on their first night as a married couple. After walking around the park for an hour or so we figured it was time to find our taxi driver. Along the way we encountered dozens of people who wanted to shake our hands. We picked up a few souvenirs prayer beads, post cards, new friends. Soon enough we were in the taxi heading back to Chennai. Once we got back into Chennai we passed the non-touristy part of the beach and it was filled with shacks. This time the shacks were way worse than anything I saw in Ghana or Cape Town these shacks were just a tarp or sometimes only a sheet held up by sticks, it was terrible and there were hundreds of them. Only minutes later we were pulling into our gate and away from all the poverty that was right next to our perfect little home on the water.

October 24, 2010
The next day a small group of us went out to explore a different part of Chennai we started out at Spencer plaza which was interesting, sort of a mall but with markets inside of it. It was interesting and we spent a few hours weaving in and out of the stores and stalls. Everyone kept asking if we were from the MV Explorer and some shops even had signs that’s said special discount for the MV. After a few hours at the plaza we jumped into a rickshaw to go see a real Indian Department store. When we arrived at Pothys, it was intimidating. 7 floors, thousands of people, it was nearly impossible to even move. BUT it was beautiful thousands of saris lined the walls in every color imaginable. We pushed our way down to the shawl section to do some shopping. 2 hours later…we make our way up to other floors just to be part of the madness. The stairs were so full that you had to just shuffle with the crowd: there was no other way. Somewhere around the sixth floor a group of children started shaking our hands and taking our pictures and asking our names. It was amazing and they were so friendly. To actual pay at Pothys was an adventure. You would take your things to one guy who would put a sticker with the price tag on your items then to another who would write you up a receipt, THEN to another who would take your money and give you change THENNNN to another who would package your items ( into 3 different bags ) and give you your purchases. It was defiantly a process and MOST defiantly a way they employ people Eventually we had, had enough of the madness and figured it was almost time to head back to the ship. We stopped along the way to get henna done. I had both of my hands done completely so that they were fully designed with flowers. It was a task to get back in a crowded city with wet hands that took an hour to dry. But I managed and one hour later my hands had safely dried into a beautiful pattern. Since the heat in India is so hot, we figured we would take a few hours rest before returning out of a night out on the town. Around 9 pm a big group of people decided to go out for the opening night of The Robot (PLEASE WATCH THE TRAILER ON YOUTUBE) which was tollywood not bollywood. It cost us roughly 2 dollars for the expensive seats in the theatre; the cheap seats were about 15 cents a ticket. (The movie which lasted well over 3 hours was hilarious we spent 90 percent of the time cracking up because the actors would randomly break out in song but it was pretty amazing and defiantly an experience worth living. After what seemed like an amazing night at the theatre we left for a little journey to the pier half way back I got angry and it wasn’t at anyone at in particular it was that there was THOUSANDS of people sleeping on the concrete some had little rugs others just their bare bodies. It was horrible and I couldn’t believe that I was seeing that with my own eyes. The worst part about semester at sea ( I cant believe I am saying that ) is that you see poverty on so many levels and you feel so helpless. Yeah, I saw those people, I knew that it was a problem, but what can I do about it? Nothing, at least not right now but I hope in the future.

October 25, 2010
The next morning was an extremely early start after getting back in the early morning for the movie. We were heading to Pondicherry, which in the times of colonization was the only place the French had occupied in India. It was quite the adventure to get there. We started out walking in hopes of getting a taxi but after 30 minutes we figured we would try our luck at the public transportation of India. We got to the bus station that would take us to the main bus station the CMBT (Chennai mass bus transport?) Once we got to CMBT it was easy. I asked the police officer which bus would take us to Pondicherry and he asked if we wanted air condition. A stop at the snack stand and 2 whole dollars later we were on a very spacious air-conditioned bus to Pondicherry. It took us about 4 hours to do what would have taken us 2 hours in a taxi but it was cheap and comfortable. When we arrived to Pondicherry it appeared to be just as hectic and crazy and Chennai but after a short rickshaw drive to our hotel we realized it was much different. It was such a peaceful little town on the sea and immediately it was very relaxing. After getting acquainted with our new home for a few days we figured we would go to Hotel Sagura, which actually isn’t a Hotel but a restaurant for dinner. We sat down, ordered whatever we recognized and waited. A girl behind us asked us a question that we couldn’t answer but before we knew it we were sharing a table and we had met our new Indian friend. Her name is Nupur and she is from a state near Goa, she was in Pondicherry on vacation for a week and knew the town very well. One thing I learned is Indians are very hospitable and before we knew it we had plans to meet up with her for coffee later tonight and again tomorrow so she would show us around the ashram area. Nupur also showed us what to order on the menu, because she though we were crazy for just eating garlic naan. After dinner we dropped Shannon off at the hotel and Loryn and I went to Le Café to meet up with Nupur. Over coffee and Ice cream we learned some fabulous things about her, she is fashion photographer and only 23!! But our time at Le Café was cut short, and abruptly because a tsunami and hit Indonesia so they cleared out the waterfront of Pondicherry. We parted ways from Nupur but would be meeting up with her tomorrow for breakfast and for her to show us around Pondicherry.

October 26, 2010
It was our last full day in India and we were up really early to begin. We met up with Nuper for breakfast at Hotel Sagura. After some very interesting and spicy traditional things, I did not love Indian food as much as I wanted to. We quickly began to explore this little town. The entire area is part of the Ashram and most of the shops are sponsored by it to employ the people of Pondicherry. We began navigating our way around the little streets, which resembled some of the quieter neighborhoods in Paris. It was so relaxing and amazing to be with someone who knew where they were going. We did a bit of shopping and lots of photographing before we had to say goodbye to Nupur who was leaving to go back home later that day. We made our way to the Ashram paper factory but stopped many times along the way. First at this little store that sold postcards, which were a must, and then at this little roadside market where I got a little traveling Buddha which will hopefully give me luck for the rest of my life as a traveler. But when we finally arrived at the paper factory it was closed for a lunch break. We decided to walk back towards the center along the water and grab a quick lunch and le café. After lunch we stopped at a bookstore, which was the most random collection of books, we moved on to the paper factory that had finally opened. When we finally arrived it was amazing dozens of rooms filled with hand made paper. After many purchases later we continued on with our walk around the ashram area and finally the heat just claimed us and we went back to our hotel. We were completely exhausted and called it an early night in our quite little town of Pondicherry.

What an amazingly beautiful crazy country. The heat, the people, the traffic all of it was INTENSE but there wasn’t one minute that I didn’t soak up the amazing country. The poverty though, that was something I have never experienced to that level before and it just made me sad, and mad that I couldn’t do anything to help. I cant wait to return though, I only saw the south of this complex country and can’t wait to see the north which I heard is just as crazy and just as beautiful.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Semester at Sea South Africa

"Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on,deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."-M. Beard.

October 3, 2010
Once again I was up bright and early to watch the sunrise and to see the ship pull into port. The ship docked up right next to the V& A waterfront, which reminded me, a lot of Disneyworld. It was beautiful thought because right behind the Waterfront was lions head peak and Table Mountain. Our ship was basically downtown Cape Town…it was perfect. Once we went through customs inspections and all of that we got off the ship around 10 am. We got off right away and began exploring around the waterfront…everything seemed centered around the fact that the world cup was there just a few months ago. When we had explored around for a while we decided to sit down and enjoy some pizza and wine, it was amazing and after 6 days of ship food it was sooooo nice to eat something normal. Before we knew it, it was time to get back to the ship for a Township visit we had to Kyaleitsha, which was just outside of Cape Town. We made a few stops and one of them to Vicky’s B&B which was so adorable and it was right across the street from a bar called the Waterfront. A group of us got the opportunity to hang out with some locals for a while and one of the guys was obsessed with my friend Shannon and asked if he could buy her for 25 cows. It was insane to the way the townships were. As we drove through it was interesting to see the different classes of people, only in the townships. The houses or shacks closest to the airport were the nicest…and I am assuming because of the world cup and the fact that the government didn’t want people to focus on all the poverty that was just past the airport. The group I was with had the opportunity to walk through the area that was less fortunate. Our guide informed us that anyone can purchase a metal shack for 1500 RAND, which is about 200 dollars and this was considered an upscale shack. When we walked around we stumbled across a park, which was amazing, FIFA had built a soccer field there so we got to play soccer with a bunch of South African boys and play with all the kids. A group of small boys were beating up my friend Alex and had him on the ground and kicking him…but they were really small about 3-6 years old. It was so great to just hang out and play with the locals in the townships, it was unreal to see all the poverty segregated from Cape Town, this was showing the effects of Apartheid. Kyaletisha, the township I visited, was the largest of the townships surrounding Cape Town and was originally created because the rest of the townships had grown too big. When the visit was over for the day we had to go back to the ship but the visit was really eye opening. That night was really low key and one of my friends, Shannon, and I went to the mall that was right next to the ship to get some Subways yay! On our way home we end up getting lost and found ourselves in this fancy hotel, pretending that we belonged…in the end we had to run out so we didn’t get in trouble!

October 4, 2010
We were up and going early super early to hike Table mountain. A small group, four of us, took a cab to the base and then began our adventure. We had to hike 3 kilometers to the hiking base. We figured out which one was the easiest trail and started to go up. Basically immediately after we started I knew I was in big trouble…20 minutes in half of my water was gone and I was out of breath consistently, but I continued on. Loryn and Heidi went ahead of us and Shannon and I stayed back to go at a slower pace. 1.5 hours in…and we were stopping every couple of steps. Hiking Table Mountain was like doing a really intense Stairmaster for 3 hours. Around the 1.5 hour mark I fell and had to grab onto the barbed wire that lined the trail. My entire shin is now red with scabs and bruised intensely as well as two huge gashes my hand from where I grabbed the barb wire (thank god I got all those shots before I went on this trip) But even still we continued on and the top kept getting closer and closer but it just seemed never ending. Finally 3 hours from the bottom we reached the top. ☺ The feeling was amazing, such a feeling of accomplishment for hiking all the way to the top. The view was gorgeous you could see the entire cape town from the top. We took the cable car down and when we got back to the ship Shannon left for her safari and the rest of got ready and left for a suburb of Cape Town. Around 6 we jumped into a taxi and started for Observatory, which was a quick 20-minute, drive outside of the center. It took us a few minutes to figure ourselves around the little town and we stopped into this place called OBZ café. We had some great South African wine and some snacks and then went over to this poetry reading at a old Victorian house called touch of madness. When we managed to get into the room it was filled with a lot of locals and a lot of foreigners too. One of the poets name was Evan, who soon became a good friend to us. A few hours later we were all at the bar and we began talking to all the locals about different things and Evan told us that he had farm 3 hours away from Cape Town. Long story short…I was enjoying the South African wine which led to the genius idea of me, inviting a few of my friends out to Evan’s farm…and guess what he said it was a great idea. Since everyone thought I was crazy for asking the blew the idea off for the night and we left the suburb to go back to the center to meet up with a group of friends. We found ourselves on Long Street, which if you couldn’t guess is a really long street. A few bars later we were dancing to the one and only…WAKA WAKA, which I am pretty sure, is the SAS theme song. It was a really great night that ended around 4 am….that wasn’t too fun for the next day.

October 5, 2010
ANOTHER early morning but it was totally worth it. A group of four of us grabbed a taxi to a suburb where we went to SAEP (south Africa education project) From there we went to Phillipi township which is where the school was that we painted. It was this cute little school or preschool that had kids ranging from 2-6…in South Africa kindergarten doesn’t start till you are 7. Once we pulled up to the school we started the painting right away. We were painting the outside yellow and two coats took us about 5 hours. Before we had to leave the township we got to play with all the little kids. I went upstairs which is where the little babies are and there was this little baby girl who just wouldn’t stop crying and as soon as the caregiver handed her over to me she stopped crying….it was precious and she was so beautiful even though her tears stained her cheeks. Once the babies went to bed I went downstairs to hang out with the older crowd. They were a riot and loved playing around with us…one little boy was so mean. He kept making moves like he wanted to karate chop me and then started kicking me until I grabbed his leg and he started crying. It was a riot they all just wanted attentions, which we were eager to give away. The kids were just incredible and amazing to hang out with. When it came time to clean up the caregiver started singing a song and eventually all the children joined in and began to clean up and sing along. Once the floor was clear of legos it was prayer time, which was followed with counting time. When the caregiver left the room the children took the opportunity to show off their singing and dancing skills to us, when she returned it was lunchtime and it was time for us to head back to Cape Town. It was quite the adventure getting back into the city and we took a minibus instead of a taxi and the minibus was a riot….probably 20 people crammed into a space meant for 10 but it was fun and a much cheaper alternative for getting back. On the way back we saw a demonstration in the township that had hundreds of burnt tires in the round about. I wish I knew what they were protesting. After a long day it was almost time for dinner so we made out way back to the ship to get ready for a dinner along the waterfront and an early evening.

October 6, 2010
The next morning was an early one but so much excitement but it made it worth it. We met up with are farming friend Evan and began our 3 hour journey to Barrydale where his farm was. The trip went through the winelands and then two separate mountain ranges. When we finally got to civilization again we found out some very important things about our farmer friend. He owned a hotel as well and EVERYONE in Barrydale knew who he was. Once in Barrydale we stopped in the butcher shop for some meat for the Braai (BBQ) and also the grocery store and we were off to the farm. Another pit stop was at Ronnie’s sex shop, which was in fact a restaurant/bar for a quick lunch. Next thing we knew we were pulling up to the Sanbona Game Reserve which is where the farm was located. Evan signed our vehicle in all of the sudden we were passing elephant/lion/cheetah crossing signs. Our first bit of safari started when we made a stop to see this dead giraffe that had been killed by a lion two weeks earlier. Before we got out of the truck, we were given a pep talk…”if you run into lions don’t run” and we got out of the truck. The giraffe smelled horrible because its body was just in the beginning stages of decomposition but it was still really amazing to see something like that in real life. After we made our way to the farm where we helped Evan by cleaning up his house which took only a little over an hour and immediately after we finished he asked if we wanted to go on a game drive. AND WE DID. Evan knew everything…well mostly everything we stopped because he noticed the fresh elephant footprint and before we could say anything we were pulled up right beside a group of 3 of them. One mom and two kids…amazing , we watched the elephants eat for a good amount of time before we went on looking for the next incredible animal. The next thing we ran into was a group of giraffes…one male, two females, and 3 babies. They were adorable and they kept starring at us while they ate. On the way back we ran into a number of things….lots of elant and two white rhino. We also got to see antelope, springbok, and zebras. When our mini-safari was done of the day we went back to the farm to feed the pigs before we started dinner. We began cooking our dinner and then started to head out for the outdoor fire. We cooked all the meats over the open fire…which is a typical thing to do in south Africa which is called Braai. We cooked lambchops and a special sausage. Next thing you knew we were feasting and we could barely breath after a fabulous dinner on the farm. The night ended early but beautifully, we all laid outside and just watched the stars. We saw two planets that night and plenty of other crazy things. It was the most stars I have ever seen in my life.

October 7, 2010
The next morning we had the luxury of sleeping In which was followed by a fabulous breakfast that loryn,heidi, and I cooked for Evan. We got to use the eggs that we had collected from the chickens the day before. After breakfast and cleaning up we had to do our chores for the day. Loryn and Heidi cleaned the pig pens while I had to make hundreds of wooden stakes so that we could nail down the covering for all the pomegranate trees we would plant later on. About 200 wooden stakes later I actually got to start nailing down the trees which didn’t take long at all. Our chores were finished early and before we got ready to go out in Barrydale we had to collect all the eggs. Next thing we knew it we were back at Ronnie’s sex shop for a quick drink and a photo shoot. The night basically began an ended at this place in downtown Barrydale called the Bistro which “has the best steak in the world” the steak ended up being great actually and we met some amazing people. Glenn…the bar man was a riot and basically peer pressured us into get wasted. Then there was Jason…his younger brother who was the waiter AND 16 he was so much fun and loves Gaga just like me. After our dinner we met Alex and Mathew who were are age The night ended quite late but it was amazing to be able to meet so many south Africans that weren’t from Cape Town. When we got back to the farm it was late and I asked Evan if the Lions were out at night and he was like of course they are this is when they roam around…next thing you know I have to open the outside gate to the farm and it was nerve wrecking, luckily I didn’t have any lion encounters.
October 8, 2010
The next morning the three of us girls woke up earlier than Evan and began are chores for the day considering we had to start heading back to Cape Town to catch the ship. The three of us teamed up to clean the pigpens, as quickly as possible we were finished before Evan even got up. Then we made another fabulous breakfast with our freshly caught eggs and before we knew it we were waving goodbye to the farm ☹ The three hour drive went by quickly and we said our goodbyes to our new friend Evan and the soon there after we were waving goodbye to South Africa.

I am sure you all this I am crazy for meeting someone in a bar and having that much trust to just go to their farm. BUT a good family friend once told me to never turn down an invitation and I truly believe that I made a great decision. We had quite the opportunity to go this rural village and stay on this farm. South Africa was amazing and I would say that I became one with nature on this part of my adventure. The people were so generous and welcoming to their homes and hearts I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in the MURDER capital of the world ☺

Friday, October 1, 2010

Semester at Sea_Ghana


Because if you don’t laugh…you cry-Desmond Tutu

September 22, 2010
I woke up at 5:30 to watch the sunrise with Loryn. It was beautiful and so exciting to see the west coast of Africa. While we were out on the top deck there were small little fishing boats everywhere. It felt like we were going to hit all of them but we didn’t of course. I finally saw dolphins there had to be at least 10 dolphins swimming together jumping and it was so perfect. It made getting up at 5:30 am worth it. Quickly Loryn and I ate breakfast just in enough time to see the pilot boat pull up to the dock and run back outside to watch us pull into the port of Takoradi. The port was similar to Casablanca it was Industrial. It took a couple of hours for customs to check all of our passports because they had to make sure that everyone had a yellow fever vaccination card and a visa. Because I was doing a Semester at Sea day trip I was allowed off the ship before most people. A group of about 25 of us boarded a tiny little bus and went to go meet the Queen Mothers of Ghana. When we arrived to a little house it was not what I had imagined for a Queen Mother’s house but when we walked in, it was a definite change. The outside was white and brown and the house looked battered. When you walked inside there was gold everywhere from the curtains to the mirrors and all over the 8 Queen Mothers that sat in front of us. There were two rows of Queens and we went through a line to shake their hands. The front row of Queens was the elders and spoke the most during our conversations with them. In Ghana using your left hand is taboo so I made a conscious effort to not use it AT ALL in the presence of them. After that it was very strange. Two linguists that sat on both sides of the Queens were how we had to talk to the women. It was bizarre, we could hear what they were saying but the linguists would repeat it any way. It was very strange but very Traditional and amazing to witness. When the Queens became comfortable with us the dynamic of the room changed immediately. All of the sudden the linguists stopped “translating” for us and we were allowed to ask any question we wanted to them. It seemed a majority of the conversation revolved around the fact that women need to be educated. Queen Mothers are the most powerful women in their villages and these specific Queen Mothers were all educated. We took a break from the questioning for lunch and when we returned to our conversations the dynamic was back to the traditional ways and we were speaking through the linguists again. After another 30 minutes of this it was time for us to be leaving and they asked us a few questions and then it was a photo shoot. We went outside and took a big group photo will all the Queens and students from the class. It was amazing and all the women looked so beautiful in the traditional Kent cloth dresses. We boarded the bus after an amazing morning with the Queen Mothers of Ghana. On the way back It was amazing to see Takoradi and Sekondi. EVERYONE is friendly. It was much different from Morocco, everyone wanted to talk to you and know where you were from. All the locals waved as we drove past and it really made me feel welcome in Ghana.
Once returning to the ship we dropped off some stuff and a few girls and I headed towards the “Market Circle” which is the center of Takoradi. It was very different from the souks of Casablanca. There were no tourist traps really and I think that is because Takoradi doesn’t usually experience many tourists but it was really great to walk around the market. Everyone wanted to know your name and where you were from. Most of the market consisted of shoes, soaps, and food. When we were walking through the food portions there was everything you can imagine. Flour, spices, fresh fish, grilled fish, charcoal, tomatoes, and pretty much every vegetable you can imagine. It was pretty insane and there were so many smells that I am not used to smelling but nothing compares to the stinky tofu from Taipei. At one point this little girl walks up to me and just holds my hand. The children of Ghana are amazing, they are all beautiful and the most adorable things ever. They are all just playing in the market and every time you pass they wave. Once we figured our way out of the market we walked around a bit and they headed back towards the ship.
After a few hours on the ship we all figured out a plan for the evening. A ton of kids from the ship were going to Ocean Bar so we figured we would go too. It was Kate’s 21st birthday so we had to get a little crazy. So we grabbed a taxi and went to Ocean. When we first got there I was a little apprehensive because were so many SASers but after a while we started talking to everyone and the night did a 180 . I made friends with George the Manager from Accra and he was awesome. I also made best friends with the DJ which helped so much throughout the night. Everyone was dancing and just having an awesome time. I didn’t plan on going out but I am so glad I did the night was amazing just dancing and getting to meet some awesome Ghanaian people. It was crazy the taxi driver from the way home was awesome. He gave all my friends and me a hug when we got out of the car.
I would say my first day in Ghana was a success everyone is amazing and just so FRIENDLY. I LOVE GHANA!!

September 23, 2010
today brought so many new things. A group of girls and I volunteered at an Orphanage After a little bit of an adventure but we finally arrived. When we walked into the orphanage everyone was starring at us, and I almost felt as if I was intruding. The director gave us a tour of the children’s rooms and the common space. Since it was raining we couldn’t do what was planned so the afternoon was dedicated to playing with the children. I sat on a bench with Loryn across from 3 young boys. Isaac, Likki, and Thomas -instantly became our friends. It was amazing how these children didn’t need anything to love you instantly. The next two hours consisted of a million of pictures, dum dums, and lots of laughing. Some of the girls kept pressing the light on my watch like 15 times in a row. Even though it was raining a group of boys and I played soccer indoors they kicked my ass. The three boys Isaac, Thomas, and Likki all wrote their names on little scarp pieces of paper. It was incredible to see how much attention these kids craved. 52 boys and girls in this orphanage and 4 caregivers The director started setting up the tables for dinner and the women were making dinner in the kitchen. Dinner consisted of rice with a red tomato paste over the top-called Manku. It was such a tiny bowl of food and it just made me sad, all afternoon Thomas one of the boys kept telling me how hungry he was and asked me constantly if I was hungry too. So when we served the children dinner, it just made me sad. All of them looked half their ages and I had to wonder if it was due to their diet which was basically rice. Shortly after we served dinner it was time to go back to the ship, but I would be returning the next day. When we pulled out of the orphanage all the children came running behind us waving, it was precious.

September 24, 2010
Today I saw a part of Ghana that changed my perspective on the world. Without the rain clouding my views the trip to the orphanage brought much more clarity to how the Ghanaians live. First off there are dozens of baby goats roaming the streets, which are adorable, and a lot of them look like little cows. But right next to these adorable creatures are some of the worst things in the world. The village that the orphanage was in had a very long road that showed how a majority of the people of Takoradi lived; dozens of straw and mud shacks lined the road. The road was in terrible shape too and when it rains the 760 children who go to school at the end of the road have to walk through this no matter what the conditions are. We were invited to go and visit the village’s school and as soon as we walked up the muddy road they were all poking their heads around the corner to see who we were. Rex-the headmaster invited all of us into his office and while he was introducing the school to us dozens of students kept poking their heads into the office. Once we had the introduction the headmaster separated each groups of us to go into different classrooms. It was terrible 760 students and 13 teachers. This school needs help, badly. The classroom would be similar to how we imagine a 19th century schoolhouse-all wooden desks with one chalkboard. The minute my group walked into our classroom, every single student stood up to welcome us. We went through our names and introduced ourselves to the students and in return they did the same thing. As soon as the formal introductions were over I had the opportunity to interact with a group of students. I sat down with a group of about 15 boys…the grade six boys who I fell in love with. They spent the next hour telling me their names, ages, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. A majority wanted to be football players while some wanted to be pilots, lawyers, or soldiers. They kept asking me when I was coming back and if I could bring them with to South Africa. At one point I pulled out some paper and wrote down my name for them and in return they did the same thing. When out time was finished at the school it was time to go back to the orphanage. When we began leaving the school Thomas and Cecliia-two of the children from the orphanage recognized me and held my hands as we made our way back to their home. Once back at the orphange it was time to color with all the kids. As soon as we got back though they had to change out of their school clothes and into their home clothes-which were the same clothes I had met them in the day before. The next few hours were fun, since I had been there the day before I didn’t need to establish any relationships with these kids, I had already done it the day before. A group of older kids ended up playing soccer and volleyball with a bunch of us and I got my ass kicked by some Ghanaian boys in soccer. When things started to wind down for the day a few of my buddies from the day before game me drawings that they had done for me. And my little friend Cecilia had fallen asleep on my leg and refused to let go but we had to say goodbye, It was so hard to leave them all.

September 25, 2010
The final day was quite the adventure a small group of four of us went to Elmina. We left around 8 am and took at 1.2 hour cab ride along to the coast to the old slave capital of Elmina. St. George’s Castle which sat directly on the water just didn’t make sense. The surrounding area was beautiful so I don’t know but it felt sort of awkward that such terrible things went on during this time period. Portuguese were the first to establish St. George’s Castle and only used it for trading of textiles and spices. Then the Dutch came along and used the castle for the slave trade. As soon as you walk into the Castle there is a Portuguese church the right and then surrounding the entire bottom floor is the actual dungeons where they kept the males, which was in the main courtyard. The tour guide led us to the left which is where the female dungeons where, they were conveniently located below the governor’s house. The one thing that connected to female from the male dungeons was the room of no return. It was a tiny room and the doors were only big enough to allow one person at a time pass through. There was a narrow doorway facing the ocean that was the exact location that thousands of slaves had gone through to head to the western world. It was insane that I had the opportunity to stand in the exact spot. After our tour finished we jumped back into the cab to head to Takoradi. As soon as we got back we hitch hiked our way back to the ship, grabbed a quick lunch and went to go find some Internet. After a few hours later we realized Ghana was not the most prime location for Internet and gave up and decided to spend our last cedis on the
Markets. It was amazing, you spend 15 minutes talking to a man in Ghana and the next thing you know, he is your best friend, regardless if you spent any money at his shop or not. When it was finally time to go back to the ship I did not want to leave at all. But after dinner we went up to the top to say goodbye to Ghana and the men that had all met earlier were there to say goodbye. They spent the next 45 minutes drumming and dancing as we pulled away. I actually cried, I did not want to leave at all, Ghana has probably been the most amazing place I have traveled in the World,

The details I have provided in the blog don’t give Ghana any justice. What I saw, experienced, lived I don’t think I will ever be able to describe to anyone who wasn’t right there living it with me. I saw Africa, a way most people in the world wont see it. The people were so friendly and welcoming that in the 4 days I was there, I would have easily committed to living there in a heartbeat. AND THE CHILDREN. the children, now that is true beauty. Just thinking about it makes me want to turn this ship around and spend the next 3 months there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Semester at Sea _Morocco

“I think wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow”
-Anita Desai

September 9th-
It was a quick ride over from Spain only about 15 hours and we were pulling into the port of Casablanca. We got there and it was much different then Cadiz the first noticeable difference was the water it was filthy here and the dock where we ported was commercial. It took a while for customs to get finalized and by 2 pm we were getting off the ship. OMG AFRICA. I was so excited…new continent. The first thing I did was head to the Hassan II Mosque…second biggest in the world and the only mosque in the world that allows foreigners or non-Muslims in. But because it was the last day of Ramadan we weren’t actually allowed in but it was still amazing to see it. On the pathway up to the mosque all these young boys ranging from 6-20 years old were jumping the in the water off of the rocks. The water was filled with trash but if I was in there position I probably would have done the same thing… it was Ramadan and being without water for that long must have been miserable in that heat. A group of us continued on and adventured around the mosque and took a ton of pictures, we waited until 4pm so that we would be able to hear the call to prayer and then headed for the old Medina. The souks or markets in Casablanca were very small but still really cool we spent a few hours in the markets before we had to head back to the ship for dinner. Everything as closed because of Ramadan so it was impossible to find any food besides bread. So quickly we got back to the ship, which was not any easy walk at all. From the Port gates to the actually ship I am guessing about 1.5 miles ugh. After hurrying up with my dinner I had to head back to the port gate because I was meeting up with Charles. When we finally met up it was so exciting!!!

September 10th
I was up by 6 am to walk back to the ship to get my stuff and collect everyone that was heading to Marrakech with our camel trek. When we finally got everyone organized we split everyone up and took little red cabs to the train station. We made the “8;50” train which really meant that they would sell anyone in the world a ticket in the general time frame of 8:50. The train was delayed over an hours and when it finally pulled into the station there were probably 50 or 60 people waiting to get on to the same car as us. It was literally a fight to get on the train but it didn’t matter anyways. We were all stuck standing the aisle. After about 1.5 hours of standing an entire car of people got up but only a few of us got to sit down. A few hours later we finally arrived in Marrakech and everyone separated. Charles and I got into a taxi and went right to the main square in the Medina. It took us way longer than it should have because the directions that the hotel gave us were terrible BUT when we finally arrived at Riad Marrakiss it was quite the relief. In our short journey through the square It reminded me so much of being in Thailand were everyone is trying to sell you something. When we made it out to finally go and explore the Medina When we finally got checked in we settled in and then went to the square. It was amazing. First thing first was we got a fresh orange juice, it was amazing. We started walking around the souks and all the stores had pretty much the same thing it was a mixture of galabas ( the traditional dress ), spices, leather, pointy shoes, olives, tea pots, pottery. They had everything you can imagine. It was kind of like sex and the city 2. And then when the time hit around 5 the Medina started to transform. All the sudden the empty space was filled with little stands where people had set up restaurants, probably a dozen of them all in a row serving traditional food. And on the surrounding areas of these makeshift restaurant were tons of monkey charmers, snake charmers, traditional Moroccan games. The square filled up with hundreds of people. it was pretty crazy walking around the entire thing a dozen times. The only thing that scared me were the monkeys. The "monkey charmers" would literally try to throw the monkey on your shoulders and it freaked me out. I know of a few kids who that happened to and they either got peed on our charged 20 euro for a picture. Charles and I decided to eat dinner in the Medina at one of those little stands. He barely ate anything but since I have had every vaccination there is possible I tried everything ( including the chicken) which ended up being amazing. After that we went back to our little Riad. The heat really drains you in Morocco and the only real meal you eat is Dinner because that is when the sun has gone down and you can actually enjoy yourself. I have no idea how Muslims practice Ramadan the heat was miserable and all I wanted the entire day was water.

September 11th
We woke up pretty early and at breakfast and the Riad and then began our adventure for the day. The day started with walking through the souks again and then we figured we should probably get out of the main square. So after an attempt at finding the hostel were all of our friends/camel trekking buddies were we wanted to get lost. We definitely knew we were in the wrong place when everyone kept looking at us and pointing us in the different direction and telling us where the square was. In the end we were found ourselves walking around the city walls, which was still really cool, along the way we got to see a soccer game between a group of local teenagers. the outside of the medina and the touristy area was much different from the center. Everything is less modern and there is more of a dirty feel. There is also little stores, never actual supermarkets just little stands that sell different things. Like one store will sell all the soaps and cleaning supplies while the store next to it will sell meat. I hate to say it but the meat was sketchy all this meat was just sitting there...not hanging like you see in the markets in Europe but sitting there with flies covering it.
Well when Charles and I finally wandered back in to the main area we found our street and figured it would be nice for some ice cream. We took a nap because after three hours of walking in the heat we were exhausted but then around dinnertime we got chicken shwarma, which was great, and we ate it on our roof top terrace of our riad. After dinner we decided it was extremely necessary to find our friends because we were leaving bright an early in the morning and still had no idea were the meeting point ( their hostel ) was. After about 2 hours of wandering the area where we assumed their hostel was we finally ran in to all the girls. WHAT A RELIEF. seeing them was so exciting i was beginning to worry that we would miss our camel trek. After that we called it a night seeing as the next day was starting at 5 am.

September 12th
YAY! the day of the camel trek was finally here. Waking up was really hard but exciting at the same time. Charles and I walked over to the meeting point and ended up having to wake everyone up but it was finally heard. Fiad(our tour guide) met up with us and we all separated into three different vans. We began our journey through the high Atlas Mountains, which was beautiful. The high Atlas Mountains were all green and eventually turned in to red clay. About an hour into the journey we stopped for breakfast and snacks and got to take pictures of the fog rising up the mountains. Once we were on the road again everyone started complaining and it was a bit annoying but ehh some people who have never been to a 3rd world country just don't understand that you can't expect 1st world service in a 3rd world country. Well in the midst of all their complaining we were going on a blind curve and next thing we know there is a bus that looks like its about to hit us...well it actual hits us. The big tourist bus smacks in to our little baby van and no joke we are a foot away from going over the side of a cliff. Well the drive of our van gets out and all I see is his face go from hopeful to a- what the fuck face. Well they shuffled all of us out of the van and we figured out why. The entire rim of the back tire was bent in half. It was a nightmare. It was interesting though when we were just sitting there all the men from the big tourist bus got out and started arguing over whose fault it was while all the women in their bus just sat there and watched. Well all of us guys and girls got of the van and started taking pictures. OMG WE LIVED TO TELL THE TALE. In the end it was quite funny, everyone pulled out their iphones and were updating their facebook statuses. People began posing in front of the damage. When we finally got moving again it was a relief but we still had like six more ours before we actually got to the Sahara. We stopped for a quick lunch in the cinema capital of North Africa, which our tour guide mentioned about 50 times. From this point on we had 3 more hours to Zagora where we board our camels and head to the Sahara desert. Fiad was so cute and when we lost signal for the radio he began seeing hotel California for all of us.
Yay! We finally got to our little destination where we boarded the camels. They were every ranging from colors of white to dark brown. It was so cool. Everyone started to get on their camels and I named mine George. Watching the sunset in the Sahara desert while riding a camel was beautiful. I couldn’t help but smile. UNTIL my camel tripped in the dark and threw me off it was so embarrassing but I only fell about 2 feet so I wasn’t hurt at all. After that I was a little apprehensive about riding the camels but only after another 45 minutes we were pulling into our little camp for the night. We were led to our nomad tent where we took off our shoes and then were greeted by Bobby the leader who served us all mint tea. His English was really good and he went around the circle asking everyone question and giving everybody Arabic names. When the tea was finished it was time for dinner that was a tomato and corn soup and chicken tangine. Lots and lots of Moroccan bread and food, which was all amazing. Once dinner was finished we went outside and when the sky because clear you could see every single star you can imagine in your life. It was perfect. Then they Berbers started up the fire. All of these Columbians were also on our trek and they were hilarious everyone was dancing around the fire and clapping and it seemed like it was out of a movie. That final part of the night was falling asleep under the stars, in my entire life I have never seen stars like that and it was amazing.

September 13th.
The Berbers woke everyone up bright and early to watch the sunset in the sand dunes. We took a ton of pictures and collected our things and then we go on the camels again. I found George and although he had thrown me off the night before I was loyal to him. It was a short ride back on the camels only about a half an hour but my butt was so sore from the ride in to the camp that it seemed a lot longer. All of us were not looking forward to the 16-hour bus ride that was in front of us but we were ready to get back to the ship and be clean. Once we were back on the bus we stopped into a hotel for breakfast and for everyone to use an actual bathroom. Then we were off again for another two hours through the low atlas mountains which looked more like sand opposed to the high atlas mountains that had trees and clay. It was all beautiful and totally picturesque. The day seemed to never end and everyone was getting carsick but I think it was mostly just exhaustion and dirtiness that made everyone so irritated. We didn’t end up getting back to Casablanca till 12 at night, which meant we had spent 17 hours in the van. It felt so good to be back and to take a shower and put on clean clothes.

September 14th
Today was more of a sleeping in day and getting things done. Charles had to leave by noon and it was so sad to say goodbye to him. But right after I met up with some friends and we went back to the ship for a quick lunch and then to the markets. Eloyise and Christopher came with me to the market and they are the funniest people to bargain with. The entire time I was cracking up because the two of them were just making the funniest jokes when a Moroccan would name a price for something. I ended up getting a few souvenirs and a blanket which is so pretty!! On ship time was 6 but we went back early because everyone had so much homework to get done before classes started the next day. Watching the ship pull away was very dark but it was amazing because the Hassan II mosque had a green laser light pointing to Mecca was so cool.

HI EVERYONE!!! Thanks for reading my blog. I would love to hear from all of you, you can email me at I can’t check my facebook while I am on the ship so if you need to contact me that is the way to do it.

Mark and Kevin-we didn’t end up getting to meet your friends in Marrakech we stayed 1 night less than we expected but had a great time! Thanks for all of your recommendations…we took our camel trek out of Marrakech and it was one of the best experiences ever!! Cant wait to talk to you about all this when I am back in December

Parents- SCHOOL IS FINE. I am doing all my homework like a good girl ☺
Miss you and love you all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Semester at Sea_Spain

September 4th
Wow, I woke up today…along with my roommate at 6:00 am to watch the boat dock into Cadiz. It was unreal. First the pilot boat (tug boat) came right up to the ship to drop off the pilot from Spain that is an expert at docking here. It was pitch black so all we could see were the lights from the tugboats and the city…we couldn’t actually see the water but it was amazing. Then the sun began to rise and it lit up the mountain on the horizon and two tugboats attached to the front and back of the ship. After about 30 minutes of maneuvering we were finally docked in Cadiz, Spain. We weren’t officially let off the ship till 9 because all the passports had to be checked and certain people were given precedence to get off the ship first. But when we did finally get to go off…it was amazing. The first thing we did was navigate to the yellow-domed cathedral. It was beautiful (obviously) and it had wifi!! FACEBOOK….I know it is terrible but 10 consecutive days without any form of internet is hard on a college student. So we wifi-ed and then a group of us went off to get some coffee at a little café. After breakfast our next move was going to the beach. It took 12 of us and about 200 pictures later to make it about 1 kilometer. There were so many amazing “traditional” Spanish fountains, benches, parks, along the way and they were all beautiful we just had to take pictures. Then went we made it to the beach a million more pictures followed. It honestly reminded of Greece, there were tons of little white and blue fishing boats along the water and a castle on an island made from brick. The water was a little murky and there was broken beer bottle glass everywhere…typical Europe . But it was amazing and beautiful nonetheless. After the beach we set off looking for Tapas. Which was quite an adventure seeing as everywhere we turned there were tons of students from semester at sea who wanted to talk or see what we were up to. I stopped along the way with Shelley (new friend..YAY) at a pastry shop and I got this pizza sorta thing filled with beans and meat. Everything was filled with meat….never as quite sure what type but it was good every time. Finally we made it to lunch a few hours later and everyone got Italian food and sangria…hahah it seems kind of crazy but it was our first off ship meal in 10 days and the food as been very…blah. Lots of Sangria later we went shopping and then ended up back at the cathedral with a bunch of SASers. The day ended with ice cream and homemade donuts…and me dropping these homemade donuts on the floor and having the women in the shop stare at me like I was a crazy person. That night is when things went crazy. Everyone got all dressed up and we went in search of a fabulous restaurant. And after about an hour of searching we found one yay! More Sangria for everyone, and lots and lots of tapas! I tried Paella, croquetas, tortilla Espanola, spicy sausage it was all recommended and traditional Spanish tapas. Everything was amazing…especially the Paella. We made best friends with our waitress and ended up getting free shots and free sangria and she thought we were a riot. Elenas(our waitress ) sent us in the direction of club/bar that she recommended. The best thing we did all night…we got there and it was pretty much empty so we roamed around the city a bit more and we all took tons of photos. Finally we returned Peliguesme and there was definitely more people this time but all were Spanish. Perfect. The last thing any of us wanted was to be surrounded by everyone from the ship. So we began the night with free drinks...provided by our lovely waitress from the restaurant earlier. We recommended Lady Gaga and we all started dancing. It seemed that every other song was American vs. Spanish and the room was segregated. Then, this traditional Spanish sound came on and I am guessing they couldn’t take our terrible dancing any longer and then taught all of us how to do the dance. Lots of clapping involved and stomping which was pretty much impossible for me, but hilarious. That is when the night really became fun, these Spanish women spent a majority of their night attempting to teach us Salsa and Flamenco, it was Perfect. We didn’t end up leaving the bar/club till about 4:30…which was not a smart move seeing as the next day we had a bus to catch by 9:00 AM to Sevilla.

September 5th.
Another super early morning. Running on only a few hours of sleep we went to the bus station that was right next to the port. A group of us were on the bus together but it was only Loryn (my roommate) and I traveling to Sevilla. Two hours later were there. We got a map from the bus station and attempted to navigate our way to the center. After a tram and about 30 minutes of walking in circles later, we found our hostel. After checking in and a quick facebook relapse, Loryn and I went in search of food. We found the cutest little tapas bar that was super tiny but it was hands down the best food we ate in Spain the whole time. I had Paella again which I had never eaten before Spain but seriously changed my life. Everything we ate at this little bar was amazing. Since had had gotten no sleep the day before we thought lets take a little siesta before this walking tour. Well the little siesta turned into a solid four hours of sleep but in the end it worked out. We woke up and ate some more. We walked towards the center by the Cathedral and there were a ton of restaurants to chose from. We ate another round of tapas and lots and lots of water. The first day in Sevilla was kind of a wash…lots of eating and sleeping but definitely relaxing and worth it. PLUS tons of amazing Spanish food. Once back at the hostel we met a bunch of people from different places…obviously that’s why you stay at a hostel. But our roommate was from Tennessee and he lived in Morocco. So he was the perfect person to run into before heading there. Loryn and I asked him a million questions about what to do and see and if we were going to be shocked culturally.

September 6th
After sleeping in, in our super sketchy hostel. We figured that we needed to get out and see Sevilla…finally. Well it was beautiful. We met up with another friend from SAS..Damien and the three of us began our tour around the city. It was a bit bigger than Cadiz but after a couple of hours of walking around we all pretty much knew what we were doing. The first stop was the Cathedral and the Giralda. It was huge but in the worst spot, you couldn’t get a picture that would do it justice at all. Right next to the Cathedral were two things. Archivo de India, which was insane. We went inside and basically it is all the books and journals of all the explorers that went to the new world. Next we wanted to head towards the river because Sevilla was hot. When we got to the river it was such a relief and there was Torre del Oro. Which is translated to Tower of Gold. Apparantly once upon a time it used to be shelled in Gold from the new world. A short walk over the bridge later we had to stop for some Sangria and then our fabulous this waiter friend gave us all a little lesson in Spanish. It was hilarious and he wouldn’t believe us that we were traveling around the world on a ship. A few hours there and we were off again but this time to go visit the bullfighting ring. They didn’t actually have shows there till the end of September but I wouldn’t have wanted to see one anyways. Apparently the entire process is pretty brutal and about six bulls get killed and there is blood everywhere and that is just too sad for me. But we saw the ring and all that fabulousness and we were heading to our next destination. This time we went to the grocery store because every time I go to a different country I think it is absolutely essential to see a grocery store. So not only did we see it but also we got a tons of bread and cheeses for a little snack to bring back to the hostel. We all voted and a nap was in order before dinner so Loryn and I went back to our hostel. The two of us ended up chatting with Tennessee( we never got his actual name) for about two hours. He was amazing; he works in a handicap school in Fez teaching English Literature. And he was explaining everything that we needed to know for the next week in Morocco. Then Damien met us at the hostel and we went out for another dinner tapas adventure. Along the way we met up with a few SASers and ate dinner with them. Then it was bedtime yay! Not without some Heldado first…it made me think of and miss Italy.

September 7th
Back to Cadiz bright and early. Loryn and I woke up early enough to grab crepes with Damien and make it to the bus station before our short little journey to Cadiz. We arrived back at 1 pm. And figured we would try and find a Laundromat. Well it didn’t happen. Google maps gave us wrong directions twice it was terrible and the sun was so hot all I wanted to do was sleep. So I stayed out and searched longer the Laundromat while Loryn went back to the ship. I finally did find the place and it was a Laundromat for restaurants so I couldn’t even do my laundry. When I finally got back to the ship everyone was starting to get back from everywhere across Spain. We all were planning to go out for our last night so we set the meeting time for 10…well that never happened and a small group of us went out for dinner around 11. We went back to our favorite restaurant with elenas and drank tons of Sangrias and I tired the squid which was the last thing on the list of recommended foods to eat. It was amazing and so was the Sangria. Three hours and 2 free shots later we were all ready to head back to the ship because it was meant to be a really busy day. Not without a photo shoot first. We ran into some of the crew and took tons of pictures with them in front of the MV explorer.

September 8th
TODAY. Wow our last day in Espana It was amazing. I want to come back already. Today is really only consisting of errands and getting this blog posted. We all woke up early to get our last (good) coffee and chocolate con churros.
Morocco TOMORROW…I’ll post again soon ;)