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 cafĂ©. 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.