About Kait Squanda

Semester at Sea is a study abroad program sponsored by University of Virginia. It is a cruise liner made specifically for college students, professors, hall directors, and lifelong learners to experience a hands-on learning atmosphere around the world. My voyage will be traveling to 15 countries: Russia, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. WIth some stops before-hand, it is bound to be a trip of a lifetime!

Rockin’ like a Moroccan

 

I am skipping out on many things, like studying for 4 midterms, a presentation, and 3 papers to write this, but Morocco was such an experience, I need to share it with you all! First off, Morocco blew my socks off with it’s beauty! I have been there before, but one day is not enough time to get a full feel of the country. I had planned to do a camel trek for the length of our stay (4 days) and see Marrakesh, Fes, and the Berber villages including the camels. When we were finally let off the ship, it was noon, and our tour company had already come and gone for us. Instead, we did a 3-day trip, leaving out Marakech. It actually worked out for the best, because I think we would have missed the ship if we would have done all of it. Morocco time is very similar to my sister’s sense of time x100. An 8-9 hour bus ride turned into a 12-14 hour ride. But more on that later…

So the first day, we had no idea what to do. Since we planned to be on this tour the whole time, none of us really did research on Casablanca. So we walked around, found a cool market, saw the Mosque and pretended to fit in with the people there by wearing scarves (we are so obvious, it’s embarrassing,) and dealt with a lot of drama! Since we missed out on one day, we were going to have to pay 50 euros less. Well, some people thought this was still not enough off our bill. They thought we could “barter” with the tour company and drop the price more. The student leader of the trip, my friend, was already super stressed about it not working out the first day and having to lead a group of 27 people!!, and could not begin to THINK about bartering. Plus, it’s through a tour company. You don’t barter with tour companies… it’s a set price. And if you do the math, it was sensible to take away 50 euro… it just made sense. Anyway, there was that stress, which began the stories of impossible people!

Where I am pointing is where we went in the span of 3 days... 30 hours of driving in a bus. But SO WORTH IT! The left picture is Casablanca (where we left from and returned) the middle is the Berber village in the Sahara desert, and the right village is Fes.

When we woke up for take two of our trip, I had a feeling it was going to be a better day. We were headed straight for the desert to the Berber villages to ride the camels. We were told to meet the bus at 8, and we were all nervous to miss it again, so we ran there. Come to find out, we had two large vans, and one didn’t arrive until 9:30. Once we finally hit the road, we were all pumped and ready to ride those camels!! The drive was very scenic and took us through the Atlas Mountains. We stopped every few hours, but when the sun started setting, a lot people began to get anxious. They thought the drivers were taking us way out in the middle of nowhere to kill us, sell us, or leave us. But they didn’t!! After a LOOONG ride of 12-14 hours and nothing but darkness surrounding us, we made it to the hotel where we left our belongings and headed for the nomad tents. To get there, we had to travel by camel… bummer, right!? It was beyond anything I could have expected. My camel was named “kush kush” after the nickname one of the drivers gave to me…

Drinking the natural spring water. We were advised not to drink the Moroccan water... oops.

…side story. I was trying to talk to our driver, but neither of us knew each other’s language, so we’d try to teach simple words, and one of his words he taught me for lights was “kash kash” or something like that. So when they wanted the lights turned off in the back, I pointed to the switch and said “kush kush?” He busted out laughing, and since then has called me kush kush… still don’t know what it means. I also said “Schvedka” – which is a Swedish brand of vodka, instead of “Choukran”- which means thank you in Arabic. Luckily Islamic religion forbids drinking, so they didn’t know what I just said to them…

…so we rode our camels through the desert, at night, under the stars, in Morocco. It’s still surreal to me! It seemed that all of the stars were visible–the milky way definitely was; none of us really talked because of the mesmerized state we were in. Once we got to the tents of the little village, we were led into one with candle-lit dining and extravagant pillows for all of us to sit on. It was a beautiful, yet I knew it wasn’t authentic when I saw the candle holders were simply water bottles cut in half filled with sand. We were brought the food by young men in turbans and Moroccan wear: bread, rice, “tajine” or sometimes spelt “tagine” (a Moroccan dish cooked in a clay pot filled with vegetables, some kind of meat, and spices,) and grapes and melon for dessert. We were all stuffed and ready for killing, or bed. Instead, they led us outside to a huge blanket and began to set up drums. Great!! Dinner AND show! This is awesome… yet still no women in this “village.” The men began to play the drums and sing Moroccan tunes. They told us they were going to show us the camel dance, which consisted of them pretending to be camels, riding each other, using twigs they had found as canes and dancing like old men, and mimicking what it would look like to kill a scorpion in the sand with your foot–it was not a real dance. My friends and I were in shock, watching this all go down, wondering what they were doing, and why since they don’t drink in their culture–what would drive them to act this silly?! Nonetheless, we were dying of laughter and played along with their silly dancing when they asked us to join their congo lines and sing their music. We had NO idea what they were having us say, but it was SO MUCH FUN! When people in our group were beginning to grow tired from the long trek and the silliness of this obvious tourist trap of a village of 10 men, they told us where we were to sleep. They made the mistake of saying we could sleep outside if we wanted, and we all jumped at that. So we pulled the mattresses and blankets out and set up camp under the stars. We counted numerous shooting stars before we settled down from the excitement enough to sleep. Before I crashed for the night, I made sure there were people keeping watch, and there were.

The next morning, I was awakened by the call to worship before anyone else in the group arose. It was just beginning to get light out again, so I decided to take some beautiful silhouette pictures of the sand dunes. My sleeping buddy (we shared a blanket) woke up and we both went and began to climb the tallest sand dune in sight. When we started we were running, when we reached the top, we were dead. My lungs haven’t hurt that bad since basketball season doing suicides. Seriously. But the view was so worth it!! It was the PERFECT place to watch the sunrise, and by that time, everyone had woken up and joined us. It was a definite bonding experience. Once the sun came up, another guide, Hassan, rode his 4-wheeler to the top of the dune (SO much easier than climbing it) and brought with him two sand boarding boards. Everyone got a chance to sled down (we couldn’t board… uncoordinated Americans.)

Sunrise in the desert. I felt on top of the world!

When we all had our fun of boarding/sledding, we saddled up and got ready to ride into town. The camels were locked and loaded for us giddy Americans! It was just as great of an experience as the night ride, and we were all glad to say we did both. By the time we reached the town, we were sweating and our butts hurt from the camel (it’s like riding a bike for 30 miles and not training for it.) We got some breakfast, some took showers (not me… I did the FULL desert experience!) and we headed for Fes.

Juergen and I... Brandy, I SWEAR I am not cheating on you with the camel riding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMP DAY VIDEO! (Click Here) – Every 15 minutes my friend was saying this during our time in the desert. This video is for Dave Lewis!

The drive was long, yet again, and even though we just had an AMAZING experience, many on the trip were anxious and taking it out on the student learner. Poor girl; she worked so hard to make this happen and had NO idea it was going to be so much driving, but they signed up for it! Ugh… it made me very mad. My friends and I tried to make things light and goofed off the whole ride, but most of them weren’t having it. I even learned how to speak camel (very embarrassing noise) and my friend was speaking camera (maybe the hot sun was getting to us) but they all were only complaining. Oh well! My friends and I had a blast on the long road trip! We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant and I tried some camel kebabs. It was interesting… chewy but flavorful.

We got to Fes, again when the sun went down and I thought there was going to be a cat fight! The student leader was trying to round up everyone and organize rooms for the night and some girls decided they were going to be inconsiderate and get their room key first. It messes EVERYTHING up when you don’t go with the flow, so we asked them to stick around until we figured everything out. They began to yell and say how this trip was poorly organized and blamed some people for being late all the time… while everyone was stunned. What a great face they were making for our country… urrrgghh… some people!!

I was roommates with the student leader and I really felt bad for her, so we did what every Moroccan does to have fun: smoked a little hookah!! It originated in Morocco and it calmed her down! We didn’t get to bed until 2:30 to wake up again at 6:45. They say the #1 problem for SAS students is sleep deprivation. I completely agree!

Our bus drivers took us on a special tour around Fes since we got in so late and couldn’t see anything the day before, but it was quick because we had to be back to the ship that day. Everyone was nervous on top of that we weren’t going to make it back in time since their time schedule is nothing like ours. So tension was in the air again until we reached Casablanca. Our tour guide told us it is customary to tip the drivers and it would be nice if we would. Well, some girls had a huge problem with that and refused to tip… another bad face we all had to wear due to the minority of us. But the rest of us covered the difference and tipped our tour guide as well.

Cool Bus Group with tour guide: Muhammad (far left) and bus drive: Usef (left of me) and other bus driver: Muhammad (squatting).

Overall, it was a GREAT experience! Frustrating due to some who didn’t know how to go with the flow, but worth every second and Durham!

Things I learned in Morocco:
- Moroccans are not scary or untrustworthy at all!
- Their food is DELICIOUS!
- Groups larger than 15 need more than one leader… it’s too much for one person’s shoulders.
- Traveling is about learning how to go with the flow. You will have the BEST experiences that way.
- Americans focus too much on time. We could learn a few things from other cultures about happiness.
- Water is a very valuable thing. Don’t buy a huge bottle of Fanta and think it is going to keep you hydrated and be tasty by the end of the trip.

Choukran (thank you) for reading! Until next time,

Kait[lyn]

Obrigada y Hasta Lluego! (Thanks Portugal, & Until Next Time Spain)

Although the weather wasn’t ideal, Portugal and Spain proved to be gorgeous! Portugal blew my socks off with the beauty it had. I wish we had more time to explore it…

Jesus is guiding our trip! The mast of the MV Explorer with the sister statue of the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro. They are actually pointing towards each other. How cool!

The first day, my friend and I went on a cooking experience with SAS. It was the BEST field program I have been on yet! When we got there, we got free sausage, goat/cow cheese, bread, and red wine! They kept our glasses full with some elegant wine. So let’s just say that I was happier in the morning than I should have been. Luckily it wasn’t Sunday. :] Anyway, the experience started with our chef guide, Dave. He called us all over and we shared a station with a partner. My friend was too scared to wear her GoPro, so I was geared with a headset. I wore it for about 5 minutes until Dave volunteered to wear it as he instructed us. What a champ! We made traditional Portuguese dishes: sausage on top of cooked apples and rosemary, codfish and shrimp in green peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, all sauteed in a white wine. To top it off, we had a famous Portuguese pastry, with Porto wine and a chocolate mousse. I was in awe of everything about this experience. We then ventured next door and had the #1 best chocolate cake in the world, rated by the New York Times. If you weren’t careful and patient, you inhaled the cocoa on top of the cake and choked before you tasted anything. Tricky, and yes, I was victim to this trap!

Bar of cooking areas during cooking experience. Inspirations for what I want to do as a career--teach students how to cook healthy and delicious!!

When we got back to the ship, we had 15 minutes to get to a free walking tour, which was 45 minutes away. So we set off, determined to make it. Along the way, we were offered bags of hashish, practically ran up hills that seemed like mountains compared to the plains of Michigan, and made it 8 minutes late. Lucky for us, they had not left the first sight. While we all dripped with sweat from the quick trek, all of our group was intrigued by our background. We have all noticed we are blessed with great conversation starters, being on a ship, studying, and traveling the world–it blows peoples’ minds (ours too.)

What a beautiful place Portugal is. We were so amazed by it all, instead of heading to another city on the second day, we stayed in Lisbon. Unfortunately, it rained yet again. But we went to a flea market in the morning, which was like mini garage sales on blankets all over the streets. Not that safe, but an experience, nonetheless. A couple of friends are in the “storming stage” of their friendship, so this day was spent trying to keep everyone happy and tension to a minimum. It was semi-successful. We split them up, and I went with one of them to see some aqueducts from the 15th century. It is amazing they are still standing! We found out that they still work if need be. What a great architectural feat. After dinner, I headed to the bus station to catch an overnight trip to my favorite city of all–SEVILLA!

The rooster is good luck in Portugal. Do you see anything?

When the bus filled up, a French man ended up sitting next to me. He was a truck driver, age 40, heading to Morocco. It’s cool the different people you can meet if you separate from what you are comfortable with sometimes!! Anyway, we arrived in Sevilla at 4 in the morning. None of the stores or sights are going to be open at that time of the day. There were still drunks walking back from the parties! But I booked it out of the bus station, away from all the SASers and walked towards the bullfight rink. When I stepped onto the first street, a strange feeling inside me was ignited again, reminding me again that the love for this place runs deep in my bones. I got a map from a cute hotel and saw the cathedral at night. It was freaky! The ticket center didn’t open until 10am, so I needed to find something to do until then. Luckily, people are nice if you put the puppy dog eyes on, and a receptionist at a hotel let me sit on their couch, map out what I wanted to see, use their bathroom to brush my teeth and change my clothes, and I was off! I found our hostel, checked in, and went to mass at the cathedral! It was awesome!! I have never experienced something so powerful as a connection other than shared faith. I may have caught 20 words in total they were saying, and yet I still shared in communion with them. I got what was being said by gestures and key words. Come to find out, it was the same cathedral the bell tower we walked up 3 years ago is attached to. Funny how things work out that way.

I then went back to the hostel, realized I had nothing to shower with, and didn’t want to pay extra, so I used the hand soap and hand towel to take a shower. Probably the most adventurous thing I have done, hygiene-wise. But I was set and ready to explore the city I fell in love with! Hitting the streets, I wasn’t bothered by anyone: no one to slow my walking pace down, no one to tell me I was going the wrong way, and no one was haggling me about buying their products or taking their flyers. They really thought I was a local. Sometimes, I was even asked questions in Spanish. The best part–I could answer some of them!!

On my self-guided tour, I stumbled upon this Festival de Cinco Nationes (Festival of 5 Nations.) There were tents representing almost all of the world with either trinkets, clothes, or food. It was SO cool! The sun had come out and people were eating and drinking from all different countries! All of the countries we are going to during this voyage were represented. There was a huge Cuban stand that sold Pina Coladas and played Caribbean music. It got me VERY excited for all the ports we are going to.

Can you BELIEVE they think of us with these dishes?! If you can't read them: Hamburguesa Buffalo Bill, Costillas (Ribs) OBAMA, Alitas (chicken wings) Kentucky, and Nuggets de Pollo (chicken nuggets). My friend and I were talking though, and there's really no other dishes we haven't stolen from other countries.

At 18:00 (6pm) the bullfight began! (If you don’t like gory things, I’d advise you to skip over this paragraph.) I headed to the stadium, found my seat next to some SASers and a man who was a seasoned spectator. He spoke only Spanish, and I tried asking him questions about the fights, but understood little of his responses. Hey, at least he understood what I was asking him! The crowd would cheer, yell, and get very quiet. The atmosphere was beyond anything I could have imagined! There were 6 bulls being featured and 3 matadors. Picadors–the most daring–are the men who do the grunt work. They get the bull riled up, and then the man on a horse comes out and makes the first stab. The Picadors come back and distract the bull and make him run around some more to make the blood flow quicker. This is when they use the pink capes, and the closer the bull gets to the Picador, the louder the crowd shouts “Ole!” Some of them then get these long poles with barbs at the end of which they stick into the bull’s back in pairs. How they do this is run straight at the bull, dodge it at the last second, and run away as they aim and thrust the barbed poles. When 6 have been inserted into the bull’s back, the Matador come out with a sword and the red cape. He plays with the bull to tire it out as much as possible and makes the final stab. It’s a game of precision–the less number of stabs and shorter amount of time the bull stays alive, the better the Matador. The Spanish man next to me kept saying how the bulls were bad, but the Matadors were good. I thought it was all good.

Ole! Can you imagine this Picador's thoughts right now!?

Panoramic view of the bullfight. Anticipating and ready for what is to come: the show!

After the fight, I rushed back to the hostel to meet my friend, Rishika, and celebrate her birthday! We went on a “tapas crawl.” Who needs a pub crawl when you can eat instead!? We had everything from peppers in olive oil, potatoes in a cream sauce, paella, ham and cheese rolled up together, goat cheese and honey (my personal favorite,) fried calamari, fried codfish, chorizo and of course some sangria along the way. It was a blast!

“]

My GREAT friend, Rishika, with one of the many dishes of Paella. Both are some of my favorite things in this world. :

The next morning, I took her to the best sights in Sevilla and found some new ones myself! Across from the Plaze de Espana, there were MAGNIFICENT gardens and it was so tranquil. We walked for a while, and sat and daydreamed for about an hour about how this would be a great backyard. There were also birds of all species living here–a garden located right in the center of town: get out!!! We then headed back to the ship, exhausted and ready for a good, hot shower and cozy bed.

Stunning gardens of Louisa Maria near the Plasa de Espana. Man, I wish I could write tildes in e-mails...

Can you spot anything else in this picture besides me?

Ducks fly together--this one is for you, Erika!!

The next day in Cadiz, we started by going to their local market. It was interesting with all the different seafood they had for sale, but very little color in the market as a whole. So we moved on and found a beach. My, what a stunning day it turned out to be! It’s great to have one day in port where you take it easy and just walk around to relax. Usually, it ends up being the last day. That is exactly what the last day in Spain was for us. Don’t get me wrong, Spain is still my favorite country so far, but traveling as much as we are in such a short amount of time is exhausting. We all sleep great, when we do allow ourselves to rest for long enough.

The sun midday. The reason why everything thing was closed--siesta time!!

The last day in Europe was filled with a sense of peace to say goodbye, and anticipation to welcome the next continent: Africa! Tonight we are getting ready to visit Morocco–a HUGE culture shock it is going to be! When all the lectures were over, they shut off the lights on the top deck and let us look at the stars. My oh my, how stunning it was. You could see it seemed all the stars in the sky, along with the milky way and galaxies (I don’t know if they are the same thing.) Pinky Nelson, the Celestial Navigation professor was also out there, shining his green laser at the sky to point out constellations and important stars. Oh, by the way, he is a hall-of-fame astronaut who was one of the first to be in space connected to nothing. He’s a pretty big deal. That is one of the coolest things about this voyage: all the faculty, staff, and lifelong learners. They have SUCH great backgrounds and stories, yet you get to see they put their pants on just like any other person. It’s a surreal feeling when you experience this moment after having a conversation with them about what they have done in the last country we were in… AH! So crazy the things we talk about!!!

Well, off to Morocco and camels and sunshine!!! Thank you to all who have been reading these blogs and following/supporting my travels. I can’t believe how much I have learned already, both about myself and about the world–including the country I came from!

Love,

Kait

Zee Luck o’ Zee Irish

I fell in love with Ireland. Point blank. This was one of the most amazing countries I have set foot in. Green was EVERYWHERE!! And hiking is what they do for fun! It’s seriously the best place! I found out before we even left the ship that Ireland have food policies banning GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food. That means that all of their food is free of pesticides and growth hormones and all that jazz! That is like hearing a music major hearing in-tune bagpipes; I was ecstatic! I couldn’t stop shrieking out of joy and excitement (those who know me know exactly what noise I am talking about.)

The first day, we started with taking a train right outside of Dublin to a place called Howth Head. It was a peninsula that is known to have beautiful hiking trails and that is EXACTLY what we saw. It was difficult, yes, but worth it in the end, when we finished and enjoyed a nice cup of Irish coffee and seafood chowder (fresh from the sea–YUM!) To top it off, we found out that the blackberries lining the whole trail were edible. Ugh, they were AMAZING!

Picture of the blackberries. Obviously the red ones aren't the ones we ate (not ripe yet) but the black were juicier than a picture could show. It also made for beautiful scenery when we couldn't see the cliffs.

One of my friends got tired of walking, so we had to find a way for her to get to the train station. We had met the main (and only) road in the peninsula, and tried calling her a cab. Unfortunately, being out of the city, those services are hard to come by and the reception was not strong. So we decided we were going to walk the way to the closest train station and grab her a train back (we DO NOT let one comrade stand alone.) While we were walking, we decided to try and put our thumbs out, just for the heck of it. To all of our surprise, a man pulled over and took us on a ten minute ride by car to the train station!!! So I can officially say that I hitchhiked. Sorry Mom and Dad! Don’t worry, though, a male was in our group, and Irish people are very nice.

Juergen even got to enjoy the scenery. I had him popping out of my backpack the whole hike.

The next day, I went to Belfast (Northern Ireland) with a friend I met on the hike the day before. We took a train and got there at noon. When we arrived, I was ready for food. We had no plans, but we started walking towards the center of the city. On the way, we saw a building that had people coming in and going out quite often, but it didn’t look very inviting. It was a big building with little windows. We walked in and were greeted by the smell of DELICIOUS FOOD! There were food stands from every country all around this warehouse-looking building. There were also handmade craft stands and a fish market at the end of the building. This building was a whole block long!! I think I was in heaven for a bit. So we walked around and decided to share an Irish Bap (potato-like bun with sausage, bacon, and egg) and Irish stew and Curry stew (both homemade that morning by the woman working the stand.) They both were delicious. We sat next to a young mother and her two children, and they told us cool places to see in Belfast. The little boy told me we HAD to take the “Titanic bus” to the Titanic museum, all while spitting the food that was in his mouth at me due to the excitement of what he was saying. It was adorable. Northern Ireland people talk with an accent that is almost like they are asking you a question for every sentence they say. It’s funny because they–like the U.S.–have different accents for different parts of their country. So cool!

We also went to the Titanic museum and saw where the Titanic was built. It was so full of history, I felt like I was on the ship, or somehow tied to it. The dock had a cool building, and best of all, I could walk the length of how long the Titanic was. It was humungous! The museum had a virtual room where it went from the bottom deck to the top deck, furnished and music playing like it would have been back when the ship sailed. There were also first-hand stories and information on the building, sinking, and recovering of the ship from the ocean floor. There was a book that I wish I would have bought with stories from survivors of the ship. Buyers remorse…

Thompson Graving Dock: where the Titanic was built and went through "graving"--cleaning off the oysters on the ship. Also, the blocks down the long isle in this picture is where the Titanic actually sat! They were wooden on top to prevent scratching of the ship.

The countryside of Ireland--SO green and SO beautiful! And cows and sheep everywhere!

The third day, we woke up early and caught a bus to the cliffs of Moher (mower is how you pronounce it.) The bus ride was beautiful, the cliffs were beatiful, and every small town we stopped in was beautiful as well!! Gosh, the air was so fresh too!! I couldn’t stop breathing! I guess that’s a good problem to have.. :]

Doing an Irish kick along the cliffs of Moher. Living life on the edge!!

The last day we stayed in Dublin and went to the Guinness factory. That was definitely worth it!! We spent 4 and 1/2 hours in the museum. We learned how to properly taste beer, how to pour beer from a tap correctly, and how to connect beer with food!! I fell in love with that floor of the factory, and actually asked for the application process. I have brewery experience!!

We also had a life boat drill on board the MV Explorer yesterday, and saw dolphins for the first time!! Whales have been spotted today!

Until next time,

Kait(lyn)

P.S. A shout out to my Dad! I am sooo proud of him for passing his Master’s test!! I always knew he was smart!

See-boo-play (How You Say Please in French) Excuse My French…

I have soooo much to say! So be prepared now to sit for a while to read this… Also know that when I return home, I will be learning French, German, and Spanish so far.

Alright, this was our first overland port. That means we could travel between countries without getting on the ship if we wanted to. Well, the more time in countries, the merrier! My grandma was gracious enough to help me spend time in Paris during this overland travel. But first, I had a day in Belgium. Only one day in a country is not enough time to do everything wanted, but I did my best.

We were allowed to get off of the ship at 6 am (2 hours earlier) so we took advantage! We headed to Brussels to eat some “mussels in Brussels.” Yep, I did it; we got a HEAPING bowl of mussels with Belgium fries (they originated in Belgium–not France) and some more dark beer. We went on a tour around and saw the famous cupid statue peeing! There are a few stories behind this statue, but no one knows which one is correct:

1.) A general lost his son and sent all his soldiers out to find him. When they found him, they were to make a statue of him. You can guess how he was found.

2.) This was a place for the poor to sell their pee to leather makers, since pee helps ferment the leather… eww.. but probably the true story.

Juergen drinking some "cupid" pee... don't worry--it's sanitary water!

After some WONDERFUL chocolate as well (Belgium chocolate is all it is cracked up to be!) and falling in love with Speculoos spread (Belgium and French people LOVE it…. so do I) we came back to Antwerp. Oh, and don’t worry–I had a Belgium waffle too! I decided Belgium was the port of gastronomy… no ice cream though.

The next morning we were on our way to Paris! It was interesting to go with people I haven’t met because I got to meet a lot of new people. Some are pretty cool, and some, I found, hang out on the SAS trips because they can afford all of it and more, no prob. There was a girl that said, “Money can buy you anything….” Obviously she has not been depressed, because money cannot buy you happiness. (cliche, I know)

French roosters even look mean. New grumpy cat, anyone!?

Anywhom… Paris was… interesting. I am glad I can say I went there. I had crepes, biked around the city, saw the Eiffel Tower, and went to the Louvre. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go inside of the Louvre or up the Eiffel Tower (most of the students were FURIOUS about this) but we were IN PARIS! It rained the whole time too, so it made it very difficult to see the beauty of the city (OR my theory is it washed all of the dirt away–the streets were DISGUSTING!) Also, I tried some pato fouie bois–fattened duck liver. Actually, it was quite delicious! It looked and tasted like a piece of cheese. I wasn’t disgusted until I looked up how it is prepared afterward for my class paper…

The last day of the trip, we went to Claude Monet’s gardens. It was astonishing!! Beauty everywhere. This trip out of the city into the country made me realize how much better the country is, and that I want to live in the country someday–not city.

One of my FAVORITE pictures I have taken so far. A flower in Monet's garden.

Overall, the trip to Paris was a good one that I am glad happened. I probably won’t go back, but it was a beautiful experience, all the same.

The day we returned to Le Havre, I was EXHAUSTED! I decided to go to sleep and wake up early to figure out what I was going to do the last day in Le Havre. This paid off, since at breakfast, one of the lovely faculty stood up and asked if any student was interested in having a free ticket to go to the cliffs of Etraitat. I was immediately listening, and many were going to go independently, and a couple older people were interested, but he wanted a STUDENT to go in his place. I raised my hand and talked to him. All I had to do was take a picture for him to show his son what it looks like. Lucky me, I have been in LOVE with picture-taking. So I thanked him and took a shower. This is what I saw all day:

Cliffs of Etriatat. Stunning; Magnificent; Breath-taking.

Cliffs of Etriatat. Stunning; Magnificent; Breath-taking.

Returning to Le Havre, the bus stopped and allowed us off in the city, since the port was about a half hour away from the city (first port this has happened) so I got off and found EVERYTHING I was looking for: gold flats, a cardigan, headband (that is what I am collecting from every country) all for under 25 euros, AND it was all done in French!! It’s crazy how much of their language you pick up just by immersing yourself in the country. I also finally had a macaroon and a tart–such a healthy lunch. It was such an AMAZING day, and I felt like a blessing from God–truly. When I got back to my room, the verse of the day matched one of my pictures from the cliffs. And that is what I am going to end with. I am dumbfounded by the goodness of the Lord and how He seems to make all of my dreams come true, and connects my life in ways I couldn’t imagine!

J’adore,

Kait

“But those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”-Isaiah 40:31

Rumors Travel Quickly…

…but they travel quicker on a ship!!!

There is a HUGE rumor circulating the ship that we are going to have a surprise stop in the Bahamas. I think it’s really going to happen and this is why:

1.) On the map on Deck 6, there are pencil lines graphed on to stop in the Bahamas. Earlier on the voyage, there was also the Bahama flag added… curious

This is the pencil markings of Cuba, mysterious place, and Ft. Lauderdale!

2.) We still have not gotten any field programs for Cuba. I believe this is because we will be going to Cuba sooner, giving us more time to be in the Bahamas.

3.) When we ask faculty about it, they make up a silly story, and change the subject right away. Also, one of my friends told me in her class, the professor mentioned something about the Bahamas, and then tried to cover it up. Also, Lifelong Learners have been hinting at it.

4.) My speculation is that they are going to tell us on October 22 (my birthday) but also the day of the party for the 50th Anniversary. It is almost a month away. But everyone is talking about it.

This is like a game of clue! I love it!!!!

Kait

Auf Wiedersehen (Until We Meet Again)

Wow! All I can say is WOW! My stay in Germany has been everything and more! I was nervous, really nervous to travel alone, and all the way down to Southern Germany with such little time. But it became SOOOO worth it!

The first day, I went to a concentration camp, Nuengamme, with a couple friends and faculty (just found out one of the professors we traveled with was an astronaut!! No kidding.) It was very sobering; there was an eerie feeling about being there and know the evil that happened on the same ground I was walking on, 70 years ago.

That night I rode a train to Gunzenhausen. When I asked a nice business man for help, he was VERY friendly (opposite of Russia’s people.) He talked to me about his life and boy, and he made me feel a bit insignificant. He has 6 masters degrees, knows 7 languages, traveled to over 30 countries, and he is a professor. I don’t know if I believe everything he said. But I have his business card. I’ll check him out when I get home. I had a layover, which was scary, because it was in the middle of the night. But I am alive to talk about it! :]

I was met by Stefan and Carolin. Stefan was in leiderhosen, so I knew I was in Germany right away!! They had a WONDERFUL breakfast for me, with over 7 choices of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, and boiled eggs. We had a lunch with the JCs to begin the festival. They allowed me to open the first keg!!! I guess that is a HUGE honor! I had a traditional German lunch and met a real life Bergermeister (mayor to them.)

The food I had: bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzel, and helles beer. I later learned I like hefeweisen beer the best--dark specifically!!

We toured Gunzenhausen and they explained all of their history to me. We saw a castle, 2 churches, and one of their beautiful lakes with a natural bird-watching area. I learned they don’t really hunt in Germany. Then we went to a political talk and I got to shake the hand of Bavaria’s president! I was literally treated like a celebrity. We went to a party to start the festival (I was featured in a news article!) and had SO MUCH FUN!! There were boots of beer as big as women wear up to their knees, no lie. They also had a live band, all the sausage you could imagine, and a contest to see who was the heaviest man. Winner: 156 kg! You do the math.

Hops wreaths. Germans really do love their beer!

After sleeping very little (not going to say how little,) we went to Nurnberg and saw WWII memorabilia. Along the way, we stopped at another lake, learned about how hops are grown and manufactured by the farmers, and RODE ON THE AUTOBAHN! They drive amazing cars; Stefan had a black convertible BMW and Carolin had a cute red bug-like BMW. Riding in style, baby!! I learned a LOT about Hitler’s reign in Germany, saw some cool historical places and how scary close he was to taking over the world (he really was brilliant.)

Stefan & Carolin. They were WONDERFUL hosts and a beautiful couple.

I came back late at night and slept for a couple hours (not enough) and went to the world-famous fish market. It was excellent!!! I didn’t buy anything, but took it all in. This man asked me for a picture again (it must be a thing market men do) so I asked him if my “buddy” could be in it too. He loved it and gave me a free peach! It was yummy! We started a tour of the city and got bored, so we walked around on our own. We climbed St Paul’s chapel steeple for a city view. It was 544 steps!!! Hopefully that will help with all of the carbs, and ice cream I ate every day!!! (I guess I’ll stick to salads on the ship )

Me with the market man and Juergen. Look at him look at us--I hope he approves.

It was beautiful weather–it’s almost like we are chasing summer. I am digging it!! Also! The first day in port, I learned we might possibly be going to the Bahamas. It’s a rumor (and they travel fast on the ship) but on the map upstairs, it’s penciled in. We also haven’t gotten our field programs for Cuba yet, which means we might be going there earlier and have more time to go to the Bahamas. We have asked a couple faculty members and it feels like they are trying to cover it up. They change the subject right away or come up with an excuse.

Things I learned in Germany:
- Prost, das de mika de derosht (drink, so your throat doesn’t become burning dry)
- Traveling independently is how you grow! It’s really not so bad if you are in a safe area and do your research.
- Shaving my head for Neptune Day is in the back of my mind… I bought a headband that can turn into a bandana in case I need to wear it hiking in the glaciers…
- I WILL come back to Germany!

Peace,

Kait

Privet! (Hello in Russian)

On the road again… well not really on the road, but on the seas again!

St. Petersburg was more fun and exciting and fascinating and interesting than I could have imagined. Going into the port, I didn’t know much about Russia; I was worried there wasn’t enough to do. But leaving, I was sad that I didn’t have enough time.

Typical Russian hat. I got in trouble for taking this picture right after my friend snapped the shot. Three times I was yelled at in Russian, but I didn’t understand a single word they were saying!

I planned the trip for my friends and I during our stay in St. Petersburg. We decided at the end of the time there, one of us is good at directions (Meghan,) one is good at decisions and asking for help from others (Rishika,) and I am good at making it an adventure. Basically saying I make it interesting because I get us lost and they get us back. We make a good team. :]

The first day we planned to go to the Hermitage, the popular museum that held Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and ancient Egyptian artifacts. We took the metro, which was an adventure on its own, and ended up on the complete other side of the city! Oops. But once we got there, it was worth it! Russian vodka was tried (sorry Mom) and it proved to be much more potent than vodka in the United States.

A real mummy! Shout out to my Anatomy friend, Barb! There were still pronator muscles near the elbow. Thousands of years old!!!

The next day, we went to a farmers market. We got there as planned! Wahoo! The workers were from the middle east and they kept asking me if I was from Turkey or somewhere. When I began to talk, they figured out I was American. One of the men had a special interest in me, and gave me free food. He also asked for a picture with me… strange. That night I bought a ticket to the Folkloric show, thinking I would do that instead of the Russian ballet. It was proving to be difficult and expensive to get tickets for the ballet, and I wanted some to see a show that demonstrated traditional Russian culture. It was FANTASTIC! They actually came out in the audience and chose me and another girl with SAS to dance on stage with them. The photography guy for SAS said he got some pictures of me, so keep a lookout for the SAS blog!

Lauren Judge and I with one of the dancers/singers.

The third day we toured the cathedrals and they were so gosh darn beautiful! Gold-plated everything and gorgeous chandeliers hanging from the 61-meter ceilings was breathtaking. The church of Spilled Blood was the traditional Russian architecture with the onion-shaped domes and complete mosaic on the inside. Stunning. Then, we heard from someone that we could buy Russian ballet tickets for $37! No way! It was the swan princess too. Oh, so beautiful! What was cool is that people from all languages, cultures, and countries could understand the dancing and storyline. That is impressive.

Juergen was enjoying the beautiful sunshine. Supposedly Russia only has 30-40 days of sunshine, and we got to experience 4 of them! How cool!

The last day, I had a field lab for my history class, and it was SUPER interesting! Background information: history has always been my least favorite class. Growing up, I thought that the material was pointless and the dates and information never matched up. However, going to the political science museum and Peter and Paul’s Fortress where they housed revolutionary prisoners who tried to protest in the communist era. Learning about their government’s background made me anxious to learn more! Maybe it was connecting it with actual experience in and with the country; but I hope learning about each country is that exciting!

So, overall, Russia was a hit, my classes have been a hit, and making friends have been a hit!

Spaciba, (Thank You in Russian)

Kait

Emotions, emotions, EMOTIONS!

Wow! I can’t BELIEVE all of the emotions I am feeling/have been feeling the past couple days.

-tired
-excited
-homesick
-anxious
-nervous
-overwhelmed
-unprepared
-happy
-thankful
-seasick (yuck!)
-amazed
-remorse

I didn’t know feeling all of these in 3 days was even possible. Semester at Sea has been everything I have wished for, and yet more. I am meeting TONS of people, just like Freshman orientation week. It’s very comparable to that: people are shaking hands, (luckily there is hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE) introducing themselves, jumping from group to group, exchanging e-mails, (not phone numbers, so weird!) and forgetting names. It’s overwhelming coming from a place where I know almost everyone and they mostly all know who I am. It’s a pretty intimidating process.

-A beautiful picture of the water at suntime/sunset.

Speaking of beautiful, I was the winner of a wonderful FREE 25 minute massage!! That’s right, just up my alley, F-r-e-e that spells free! The first day was touring the ship and there is a wellness center open for service. They have facials, manicures, pedicures, hair treatments, and massages. When we were done with the tour, we got to put our name in a drawing for a free treatment of choice, and I wrote down “the seven seas massage.” Cool, right?! Well, after the first day of classes, I got a note on my door saying I won a wonderful prize! So I went to receive it, and it was the BEST massage I have ever had. My knots are gone, I felt like a new person! And don’t worry, mom, I tipped the masseuse well. :]

I am looking at all of the directors, RDs, and Deans-wanting to get a chance to sit and talk with them, but instead I have to read (outside on the deck, mind you) 298 pages for my history class. But my professors prove to be OUT OF THIS WORLD! I never feel a tiny bit of drowsiness, or even think about what I am going to do outside of class. It’s awesome to take these courses and have them transfer back as credit for distributive requirements, when others are not so fortunate.

A huge struggle today especially has been dealing with my Grandpa’s health back home. My sister informed me in an e-mail that he just went into a coma, and my mom cannot get sleep. This makes me cringe that I cannot be there for her or the rest of my family. In class, my stomach dropped, like I knew something bad happened. It was 8:05 am back home…

To lighten the tone, this morning I wanted to brush my teeth and my roommate (one of them- I have two) had to use the bathroom. I wanted to work out soonish, so I asked if I could wet the toothbrush and spit out the foam when she was done. She agreed, and I brushed… and waited… and waited… for 25-30 minutes- KID YOU NOT- so when she finally opened the door, I ran and spit it out. She didn’t really get it, but it made me mad, but now it’s funny.

The other day we passed under the infamous bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden. Here’s a picture.

Bridge Connecting Sweden to Denmark

Alright, about to go get some food and listen about the logistics of Russia. Can’t stay past 1:30 am!

En voyage,

Kait[lyn]<-- I am going to go by both of these names!

Hit the Road Jack!

Today’s the day! I’m waiting at Edinburgh’s airport for my 6:35 flight to travel to London Heathrow where I will catch a shuttle to the ship.

I can’t believe today’s the day. My friend warned me this summer, before I knew it, I was going to wake up one day and say to myself, “today’s the day I leave on an adventure of a lifetime.” Well, today was that day. Except that the first thing that went through my brain was, “Please, God, let time stop for a bit so I can sleep a little longer.”

Scotland has been a hoot with my best friend Anna and her boyfriend Fergal! We went to Aberdeen, Stonehaven, and I experienced the biggest festival in the UK called the Fringe. It was an excellent beginning trip. When I was walking through security, she used her scarf to wave me goodbye like a handkerchief. I love her and I’m going to miss them both. They got me hooked on tea.

So my Grandpa has 2 months or less to live, and I had to say goodbye to him before I left for my trip. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. But, I am taking a part of him with me. My stuffed animal’s name is Juergen (named after my Grandpa) and he will be in at least one picture every country. Be prepared to find him every so often! Here he is, enjoying the view of Stonehaven’s castle, Dunnottar.

Juergen at Stonehaven Castle

Well, off to spend the last of my pounds, hopefully on something chocolate for the ship! I have a feeling I’m going to need it. :]

Bon Voyage!

Kait

Not too yUKy

Two days have passed already in my voyage. With 24 hours of flying under my belt and only 2 hours of sleep, it has proven to be an adventurous day!
Up in the air--a view from the plane window

A view from my window seat

My flight to London was both a morning flight (they served us french toast!) and an evening flight, while only managing to be a 7-hour flight. The time change really threw me for a loop.

When I got into London, it was technically only 8 p.m. at home, so I was still wide awake. However, the whole airport was closed. I got talking to a guy named Bailey who told me he was running away from a modeling agency who he thought wanted to sell him (he compared it to Taken. Was I over-reacting to be freaked out by his story?!?). He just creeped me out, so I left to go to my actual terminal. On my walk (which was underground, ALONE, in the middle of the night) I kept thinking I was being set up only to arrive in a dungeon and be kidnapped. Luckily, the tunnel ended and happy people crowded the lobby of my terminal. I felt safe again.

child piping

This kid is starting early for the chance to get a scholarship. Youngest one I've seen. So cute!

The United Kingdom and United States have different restrictions for carry-ons, and I learned the hard way. In the U.S., there is no weight limit. So, my carry on was 35+ pounds. In the U.K., carry-ons can only be 22 pounds. I had to check another bag, costing me MUCH more than I planned… growing pains.
After my friend was LATE picking me up at the Scotland airport, however, the day turned out to be a beautiful one! Accents everywhere, kilts lining storefronts, and bagpipers just like at Alma filling the air with Gaelic tunes. A little taste of home…
What I’ve learned:
  • being a confident traveler makes all the difference
  • don’t tell strangers your life story right away
  • our accent is silly sounding
Until next time,
Kait!