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 cafĂ©. 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 ;)