Here’s a video of all the pictures I have with my bear named Juergen. He is named after a special man! Enjoy!!
Here’s a video of all the pictures I have with my bear named Juergen. He is named after a special man! Enjoy!!
Here’s a video for all of YOU! Thank you for following me!
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Our stay in Cuba was like a boat load of celebrities came. We were welcomed SO enthusiastically! There were cameras waiting for us when we stepped off the ship. The first day the whole ship went to a mandatory visit to the University of Havana (which I really enjoyed and think we should have done something like that in each country.) Yep, that’s right; all 500+ of us were loaded onto 17 buses and taken to the University. But before we could go, reporters from all over the world were eager to take pictures, do interviews, and record as many students as possible. If you spoke good Spanish, you were stolen and probably on their nightly news. NBC and CNN were both there, and I heard we’re featured in the recent NBC news. Pretty dang cool.
Once we got everyone on the bus, we were taken to the University where we were met by more media. It was a thrilling feeling–really enjoyable since the whole group of us has never done anything together in port. We are one HUGE group! And all the Cubans seemed to welcome us with open arms. My first thought was, “why do we have this stinkin’ embargo with such a lovely country!? It’s not fair.” Let’s just say I understand it a little better now. Anyway, we climbed the monumental 88 steps to the song “Imagine” and it was really magical. We all chose one of three lectures to go to and I chose a scientific research one. There were interpreters for everyone speaking, which was cool at first, but very distracting by the end of the day. Cubans have the best health care system in the world, so it was really cool to hear about the research they have been working on to further them even more. One specifically stood out: a needle to draw blood that is made with only a laser, not hurting at all when used on humans. How cool would that be?!
After they performed cool dances and songs, we joined with them in dancing and it was SUPER fun! We all were shuttled back to the ship for a briefing, and then we were finally able to explore on our own! I went to an Amphitheater show where they lip-sang popular Broadway music and danced. It was kind of cheesy but entertaining at the same time. Cuban students went with us everywhere and had nothing but words for us. They asked us questions and we asked them questions. What I thought was kind of funky is how they all answered basically the same way…
The second morning I visited a education center which houses primary schools, secondary schools, graduate, and special education schooling all in the same fenced-in area. We asked them about their schooling and all they had to say were good things: how their children all went on to good jobs, they had options for those who had special needs, etc. But when I asked the question, “what is the biggest challenge in the school system currently?” They would not answer it, pretending they didn’t understand my question. Others tried to reword it to sound a little different, but the same outcome every time. It was really peculiar; they understood every other question we had….
A quick turnaround, and I was on the bus to a Cuban baseball game! Another huge group of SAS students went, but it was sooooo cool! It brought me back to my softball days and the times I went to baseball games with my family. It was what baseball games were probably like in the 60s and 70s–concrete seats which also served as steps, a manual scoreboard (which was REALLY cool,) and no lights. I had a nice, cold hot dog with a yellow bun and our group started the wave with their crowd and sang “take me out to the ballgame” with all the Cuban fans staring at us with confusion. The crowd was very enthusiastic, and our team ended up winning after a come back in the top of the 8th inning! I sat next to an older man who formed a rival relationship with me. It was really fun to try and communicate with him. After the game, the team wanted to meet us, so we were all directed towards the field where we were allowed to run the bases, photos were taken, and meeting of the players happened. It was SOOO cool! They looked at us like celebrities, and were surprised when we thought of them as the important ones.
We got back to the ship and all I wanted was a mojito (they are native to Cuba) and some yummy Cuban food. My friend and I went with no expectations and were directed by some men to a definite tourist restaurant with shrimp, lobster, and seafood galore. We were so hungry, though, we went anyway. I had DELICIOUS fisherman’s lobster, which was basically lobster cooked in salsa. I HIGHLY recommend it!
When we were done, the men who directed us to the restaurant told us they were also salsa teachers and they wanted to take us out to teach us. We agreed and had a wonderful night learning how to dance like a Cuban!
The next day we had a list of things we’d like to do, but realized it was the last day and we had to leave at 4 p.m. so we went with the flow. As we walked to the market, a man named Malcolm B (like Malcolm X–he told us) who talked to us the day before pulled up in a blue and white ’54 Dodge convertible and said, “remember me?” We did, because he was gorgeous! He wanted us to take a ride in one of his “old cars” and see the city on the road. We decided, “why not?” and hopped in right then. The driver dropped Malcolm B off to recruit more gullible visitors and took us on a half hour drive around the city. We saw the “New Havana” which had HUGE houses that used to be for the rich in Cuba, which were now government buildings. I tried asking where the owners went, and our driver, once again, didn’t ‘understand’ my question and left it unanswered. At this point, I was frustrated with Cubans and why they weren’t understanding my questions!
We were dropped off at the Market, ate lunch and met a man named Rafiel who first tried to sell us Cuban Cigars while we were waiting for our Cuban sandwiches and later came back and asked for a lunch for his mother. We knew he was lying to us when he said his mother’s name was Rafiela… how creative. :] But we bought it for him anyway, and since I couldn’t eat all of my sandwich, he scarfed down the rest of mine as well. It was kind of sad. What was even more sad is we spent more money on one lunch than they get in a week’s salary. I felt so rich in Cuba, and I really began feeling I could relate to celebrities in the USA; money definitely does not bring happiness. Honestly, it made me more sad because I had so much more than them…
We made our way to the Chocolate Factory, which was really yummy smelling, but I was so full, I couldn’t enjoy it to its fullest… sad day.
After the chocolate stop, we walked out and planned to find a cigar factory, but had NO idea to get to the area we were told it was. We looked completely lost, so a very nice man named Ramelo, who was on his lunch break, asked us if we needed help. He then proceeded to take us to the capital building personally. He is a lawyer, but said he is nowhere near rich! Crazy thing is, he has family IN MICHIGAN!! What are the odds? We shared some of our chocolate, he kissed us on the cheek goodbye and we parted our ways. We were so exhausted that we really didn’t want to find this factory, and when we asked the hotel about it, they said it closed at 1 and we had just missed it. We took it as a sign and went back to the ship. We were EXHAUSTED!
We were waved off by the Cuban students and probably half of Havana, which was an amazing feeling. They loved us. I went to post-port reflections and a student shared a story that really explained all the eeriness I had felt–the missing puzzle piece! He and some friends went to a house where they were demonstrating for National Human Rights day, and got there to find men handcuffed and being beaten in public for trying to speak their mind. Also, they were not allowed to get out of the car they were in, since the government had already been contacted and told their driver to take them back–we were supposed to only stay strictly in Havana and this house was in a nearby town. He also learned that all the students who were so hospitable to us went through intensive training on how to speak to us and answer questions correctly. That explained a lot! They weren’t allowed to speak. Another one of my friends had a talk with a local who was VERY tentative to speak to her, but said he wanted freedom.
Overall, I LOVED Cuba! I’d go back in a heartbeat. What I didn’t like was the front they made their country put on for USA visitors, especially students who could be ambassadors for them in our country. I wish they would have been more real with us, but they can’t be… it’s the most frustrating thing! Nevertheless, I left with a love for the friendly people and beautiful country; it was the perfect last port for a perfect voyage.
As we head into the Bahamas for a free day in Freeport after finals are complete, I can’t help but realize how open and tolerant I have become about other cultures and ways of living. Instead of wanting to change them, I’d much rather learn about them, and really learn from them. I will do a wrap up blog when I return home, but just know I am already realizing how my view on the world has changed from one semester.
Until next time,
I did some pretty cool things in Brazil. Yet, I didn’t do it all There is soo much to do, and we had soo little time! Culture is EVERYWHERE! So are beautiful people. Men with six packs walking in speedos along the sidewalks was not weird. As much as I did in the short time we were in Brazil, I am telling you this, I WILL be back! Erika, work on that Brazilian visa, because it’s good for 10 years! Also, start that Rosetta Stone for Portuguese. It’ll be helpful. :]
The first day was my field lab for music. Our professor had NO idea if the plan was going to happen or not. I guess it’s Brazilian culture to throw things together at the very last minute. Luckily, their “throwing together” was super great! We began by going to the Sambadrome, where the big Carnival event happens in Rio de Janeiro every year. It was much smaller than I imagined it. Only the top 12 samba schools get to actually perform on it during the event. It’s what our Mardi Gras stemmed from. “Carne” “vale” means “goodbye meat” so it’s the day before Lent, and people go CRAZY! Don’t feel like you have to be super fit, though. Sadly, the dancers get plastic surgery to make them look skinny and put testosterone shots in their legs to make them look big. It’s their culture, I guess.
We moved to the Ciadade de Samba, the City of Samba. This is where 5 of the big samba schools are located. They work literally from the day after the last Carnival until the day of the next preparing. They design and make all of the floats, music, costumes, and more! It’s a big thing! Their lives revolve around this special one-day event. Wow. Next we learned how to drum like they do in the festival, and realized that as Americans (and mostly white people), we have absolutely NO rhythm compared to them. Haha. But they told us we were doing well, none the same.
After lunch, we went to a local get together to see their version of samba. Rishika and I met this fabulous fashion designer man who taught us his version of samba-ing. He also told us he helped with a samba school and we should come back for the Carnival celebration and march with his school… He also had a sudsy beer in his hand and was swaying back and forth quite a bit. :]
The next morning, I woke to join my group to hike in the Tijuca Rainforest. One of the things on my bucket list was to see waterfalls somewhere. Here was my chance! It was an interesting experience. Beautiful views and a lot of driving in large vans up a steep hill. It was a group of 3 large vans, and on the ride up, one of the vans ran off the road a bit and got stuck. Because it was front-wheel drive and couldn’t get traction, it couldn’t get out for a good hour. So we all sat and waited. The day got hotter, and other SAS students were passing us going to the place they were hang gliding. I was seriously regretting my experience, since I guess it’s the thing to do in Rio to hang glide. I really wanted to ditch out on my group and go with the hang gliders instead. It took me a long time to become content with what we were doing. Not everyone is going to have the same experience and I needed to be content with my unique itinerary. I was also doing something on my bucket list. Although I finally became okay with hiking–which turned out to be a fun, sweaty hike with an AMAZING view at the end–I added another thing to my bucket list: hang gliding.
After the hike, my friends and I went to the Corcovado train station and took the train to see the Christ the Redeemer statue in person: one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was MASSIVE!! When you see it in the city, you don’t think it’s that big, since it’s so far away. But when you’re standing next to it, WOW! Stunning.
When we took the train back down the mountain-like hill, there was a group of students who seemed to be on a field trip. They kept staring at us and whispering. Eventually, one of them asked a question in English and I answered it. They were in awe that we finally talked and we spent the rest of the time trying to communicate! It was one of my favorite memories.
At dusk, we headed to Sugarloaf, which is said to have the most stunning views of Rio. They were right. We got there right before night came and the lights were turning on. We were the only ones on our ride up, but I don’t get why. It is so magnificent at night! There was a thunder storm coming into the city, and the lightning lit up the Christ the Redeemer statue perfectly! It was too beautiful to capture on camera, so I stood and took it all in. That’s one thing I have learned on this voyage: the night time is too beautiful sometimes to capture on camera: stars at night on the ship, on the desert, riding camels at night in the desert, and now Rio’s lighting and beauty when the sun went down.
The next morning we were scheduled to wake up at 3 a.m. for breakfast and a flight at 6 a.m. for the Amazon! Well, I don’t know if my body can wake up to alarm clocks anymore, because I slept right through it that morning! Luckily my friend came to my room to wake me, or else who knows what would’ve happened. We got to the Amazon and it was more beautiful than I ever expected! They welcomed us with a fresh drink of pineapple juice–not the kind we are used to in the States. This juice was original; freshly squeezed from a pineapple, with nothing but natural sweeteners of the fruit. I knew this was going to be an experience of amazing, delicious food and drinks! Our lodging was also all up in the trees, like a big maze of tree houses. It was luxurious!
During our time in the jungle, we caught crocodiles and took pictures with them around our necks, swam in the Amazon river very near the Amazonian dolphins which are WAY different than regular-looking dolphins, and saw the Meeting of the Waters.
We also took a hike and were taught how to climb a tree if a pack of wild boars were coming, how to heal wounds from tree sap and bark, what parts of a tree are good for making baskets and which plants are good medicinally and which are poisonous, and saw many types of fruit trees including the Acai berry. We also got the chance to eat a maggot from a coconut tree, which I HAD to do. I bit it and it was actually not bad tasting! It tasted like coconut milk with a little crunch to it. Our guide then roasted them and we got to try them cooked; they were much better raw. The second night, a few of us also signed up to sleep in the jungle. My group were all girls, except for one guy, and the girls were FREAKING OUT. Our guide told us a few legends of the Amazon, including one about the giant water lilies and a man with a talking stomach. It wasn’t scary until we got to the sight we were setting up our hammocks, where we ate lunch that day, and our guides found a decapitated vulture, which they told us only could’ve been left by a jaguar. The vulture was eating our leftovers, and the jaguar must’ve wanted them more. This sent a lot of the girls over the edge, and at 1 a.m. they finally gave in since none of them had slept yet, and went back to the lodge. The only four that ended up staying were the brave and strong in heart. (Kidding…) But I am not going to lie, I slept pretty dang well, only waking up a few times and thinking to myself, “I am so ONE with nature right now!!” Haha.
After our wonderful time in the Amazon with nothing but fruit for breakfast, tapiocas, and fried cassava and plantains, it was time to meet the ship in Salvador. It was so different than Rio that it really is like another country we visited! They had a lot more African influence, where Rio was a definite tourist destination. The people were friendly, and the area was beautiful! I think I like the less touristy areas we have visited; they seem prettier and less fake.
The second night I went to a folklore show and dinner (who some WONDERFUL lifelong learner donated to let me go) and it was SOOOOOO COOOL! I can’t show my excitement and the coolness of it with pictures because I mostly took videos and I can’t send that big of files in an e-mail. But it. was. cool. I liked one of the drummers; he had a side ponytail made up of dreadlocks and smiled so genuinely I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Even though he wasn’t one of the men dancing shirtless with a defined six pack, he was more attractive than any of them. I was sad to go. But the next morning, I went on a service project to a school called “Project Axe” which works with kids from the streets and teaches them music: drumming, singing, and dancing to get them off the streets. They performed for us, and as I was enjoying how passionate they were about what they were doing, I glanced around the room and saw THAT SAME DRUMMER again!! What the heck!?!? How ironic.! So after the performance, I asked the leader of the school about him. He told me Andre, this man, was an educator at the school. He had been one of the students when he was younger and has since had success. He now teaches kids how to drum and at nights performs locally with groups, such as the one I went to the night before. What a cool story!!
Brazil was an AMAZING country and deserves to be explored more than 8 days. I think I’d need a month or two to see all of the beauty, and even then, it would be rushed. Also, all this traveling is getting to me and I’m finding myself more exhausted every day. It’s GREAT, but traveling for this long with what seems like no down time is really straining. I am thankful for EVERY experience I have had yet, but it will be nice to rest with family soon. Not wishing it away, though!! Pushing through my exhaustion and making the most of every situation!!
Until next time,
Thank you so much for all the comments you have been leaving on my blog. Unfortunately, I cannot read them until I get access to the internet (Willard has been posting my blogs for me after I e-mail them to him) but I look forward to reading what thoughts and opinions you have of my travels on this astounding voyage. I won’t have time to finish my blog about Brazil before the Thursday deadline I have subconsciously given myself, so I want to write a blog for the special day this Thursday is: THANKSGIVING!!
This blog is going to be about all the things I have learned to be thankful for, in no specific order, while being on this voyage. As US citizens, we have so much to be thankful for and sometimes, like in my case, it takes being away to really appreciate what you have. I went to a post port reflection tonight and we talked about what has surprised us the most, what lessons we have learned so far, and how do we plan to use this experience. Some GREAT thoughts were shared and I couldn’t help feel this was the perfect time for this talk, since Thanksgiving is right around the corner (quite literally.)
1. Family- It’s hard to be away from my family during this holiday so focused on being together and appreciating one another. But this voyage has made me SO much more appreciative of the family I have been blessed with. Not just my nuclear family, but also my extended relations too. I see how much they have been there for me: supporting me, keeping me in line, and encouraging me to become the woman I am supposed to be. So thank you.
2. My hometown-I cannot believe I am saying this, but I’d love to raise a family in the small town of Reese. If that is what God’s plan is for me, my children will be blessed. I always looked at my life and thought it was too small of a town for my life. I needed to get out and save the world. What I didn’t realize is just how much this town has given to me and what I have taken for granted. I have had GREAT teachers, coaches, friends, bosses, all of who encouraged me. They never shot me down or told me my dreams were unattainable, and for that, I thank them. I couldn’t have had a better experience and childhood.
3. Friends-They come and go, but every single friendship I have had has shaped me and formed me into the woman I am becoming. I thank you all, past, present, and future for what you have given me: friendship. Going through life lonely is not fun; friends make it all worth it! They push you when you need energy to keep going; they cuddle you when you need to cry; they even laugh at you when you need to be humbled. Sometimes they are even related to you too–double whammy!
4. God-I have had some pretty great friends, but my best friend of all is the BIG MAN!! Woop woop! He literally never ceases to amaze me. Today, I went to the medical clinic to have my toe checked out (I stubbed my big toenail playing IM basketball on the ship and again in the Amazon and it looks like it’s going to fall off AGAIN!) and the nurse practitioner told me that stubbing it the second time actually helped the healing process. After the first stubbing, there was blood pooled under the nail. The blood needed to get out somehow to relieve the pressure being built up. When I stubbed it the second time, the blood gushed out, but it no longer hurts to wear tennis shoes! How crazy!! AND I get to say that an astronaut (Dean Kathy) glued my toenail back on. :]
5. Opportunity-Looking at my adventures and talking with my friends about “that one time, in Ghana…” amazes me every day. I cannot believe this is real life! How the heck did I get to experience almost all of the bullets on my bucket list in one semester? I know, SEMESTER AT SEA! This wouldn’t be possible without amazing people and support and opportunity in my life. So thank you to all who have contributed one way or another to make this possible. This ties back into my childhood, but I feel all my life I have had opportunities; I want to give this to as many children as I can. That is my dream job–giving out opportunities with healthy food as a side.
The list could go on and on, but I am tired, and my keyboard is greasy, and I have a lot of homework to do! So until next time, enjoy your Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family, friends, places of residency, beliefs, and opportunities NOW because this is the only time you will have today. Semester at Sea’s trademark saying can be applied to life in general: “your once in a lifetime is now.” Appreciate it and be thankful for it this Thanksgiving–I know I am!
I know there is a God. I know that because this world is too beautiful to be chance. Patagonia was by my favorite port yet. The scenery, the group–all of it was perfect! We ported in Buenos Aires, but only had the morning to walk around. I was happy, though, because I am over the city landscape. We ate some Argentine meat (yum!) and dulce de leche con brownie helado (ice cream–double yum!) and hopped onto a 2 1/2 hour plane ride. I was actually excited to fly again; it was a change from sailing. :]
When we got there, it was dusk already, but our guide, Virginia, was there with a sign welcoming us! It immediately reminded me of what I assume Alaska looks like. The airport was 4 terminals and scenery to die for! I want to say it was decorated like a log cabin, but I can’t remember… Anyway, we checked into our cute hotel and went out for long awaited dinner. They eat no earlier than 10pm, so we were right in time! We got pizza (I was craving it hardcore) and an alcoholic hot chocolate… mmmm. We were followed by cute dogs all the way back to the hotel.
The next morning, I was surprised by Argentine breakfast: mini squares of sweets! Mind you, I promised myself if I watch what I eat on the ship, I can eat whatever I want to in port, in modified portions. But this was like waking up and being in a dream!!! After dessert for breakfast, I layered my clothing (5 thick) and went to the lobby to begin our adventure. At first, I was proud that I was the warmest dressed, but after 20 minutes in my clothes, I began taking them off, one layer at a time.
With a beautiful, scenic drive, we made it to Perito Moreno, a smaller version of Patagonia’s glaciers in El Calafate. It is one of the few glaciers that are actually growing in size! Boo yahh Global Warming! You may not take over our world yet!! After walking stunning catwalks along the mountain next to the glacier and having some great heart to heart chats with my friends, pausing every few minutes to breathe in the fresh air and take in the view of where we were, we hopped on a boat to see the south side of the glacier. It was cold and windy, but worth it! We were within 100 feet of the glacier. UNREAL!!!
The next day, we traveled to El Chalten, where we visited another glacier, El Viedma. Not only did we get to see another magnificent glacier we, wait for it, HIKED ON IT!!! It was soooo much fun! We put these things called “kramp-ons” on our feet and walked around like we were adventurers of Antarctica (except with less clothing.) We went over crevasses which were hundreds of feet deep and through caves full of brilliant blue from the fresh water melting. Oh, and did I mention we drank glacier water? Yep! Some people were disappointed we didn’t get to ice climb (exactly like the real rock climbing, but on ice) since it stated that earlier in the itinerary, but honestly, it made my heart beat faster and my hands become sweaty just thinking about the idea…
After a long day on the ice, we went to the cute town of El Chalten and I think I may have fell in love. It was such a cute small town; quaint in every way possible. I ordered a hot chocolate from our hotel’s lobby and drank it, soaking in the warmth of the drink and the view of the famous Fitz Roy mountain out the window. We went out for dinner in a loft at this authentic restaurant and tasted empanadas for the first time. We all fell in love. My friend and I made plans to go on an empanada crawl the next night for dinner. I will share that story later!
The next day was our most difficult day. We had 7 hours of straight hiking we were going to do. We were driven in vans to a starting point, 13 miles away from El Chalten, and informed on what the day was going to entail. We were hiking for 2 hours on rather easy terrain, and the next hour was going to be straight uphill to the top of a mountain to see a MAGNIFICENT view of the Tres Lagos and the Fitz Roy mountain (the mountain that is the trademark symbol for anything you might have made my the company Patagonia.) To prepare myself, I thought the worst. I was planning on being exhausted and needing someone to motivate me with their words to reach the top. My heart was beginning to beat faster with the adrenaline running through my veins.
The first 2 hours of hiking weren’t bad, but every uphill climb, I’d think, “man, this is going to be ten times worse when we do the hard hike.” Well, my thinking paid off. I thought the “hard” hike wasn’t so bad after all! Yes, I sweat, and yes, I was relieved when we reached the top, but I was willing to do it again! Needless to say, the view was more than worth it.
After the hard hike, we climbed down (which may have been harder than the climb up, actually) and headed back to El Chalten. It was wonderful: forest, wildlife, valleys, and mountains all around us for the whole hike, and our trail was rather flat. There was a chance to swim in the glacier water, which I would have LOVED to do, however I was held back for reasons I cannot explain to the whole audience, but I did stick my toes in. Some who went whole-body submersion in the water talked about how they couldn’t breathe for a few seconds after coming back up from underwater–it was that cold. When we finally reached the town, it was 6 o’clock and we were all STARVED! My friend and I did do the empanada crawl, after getting yummy ice cream again (hey, it was on the way back to all the restaurants.) So when we ordered our first 3 empanadas at the first restaurant, we decided our crawl was done. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Instead, we went back to the hotel where some of our group were playing cards. We played a game called “mow” which is REALLY fun!! And I’ll teach whoever wants to learn when I return. It’s frustrating, but fun. Our Dean of Students, Dean Eddie, even played with us. He was our trip liaison and a huge part of why we had so much fun. He’s a great guy, and I really enjoyed getting to know him on a personal level. Tonight, for our logistical pre-port, he had a picture of us all and called us his “kids.” I almost began crying. That’s one really cool thing about SAS programs and SAS in general: you get to interact with your professors and administration outside of school. You really get to know them and get a feel for why this is such a unique program. The people who are offered positions to be faculty on each voyage are truly special people and deserve every chance to brag about it!
Leaving Patagonia, we were all wishing that our flight was going to be delayed for just one hour. We were going to be cutting it close with our arrival back to the ship, with “ship time” already being gone, and an hour delay would have meant we’d stay in Buenos Aires or go to Rio de Janeiro early–together in our groupie. Unfortunately, it was on time, and we made it back for a nice hot shower to watch us leave Argentina. A few things why I loved this port so much: 1.) the nature and scenery was STUNNING 2.) we got to hike a TON and I LOVE being active. I don’t feel so bad for eating so much delicious foods and 3.) last but not least, the people we had on our program. They were all gun-ho about anything; everything from hiking an hour longer or having our flight delayed just to spend more time together, There was a student who ended up missing his early flight and not being able to get on a plane and make the ship. The way we all handled it: giving him an Ipad to stay in contact, giving him clothing to stay warm, and making sure he had a plan was unbelievable. It goes to show how this program knits a community of complete strangers unlike anything else in a single semester.
5 Senses of Argentina:
Sight – Mountains
Smell Fresh Air
Taste – Hot Chocolate
Touch – Glass-like Ice of the Glaciers
Sound – Wind whipping through other people’s hair and passing by my lack thereof!
A few things also that have happened on the ship the short time between Buenos Aires and Rio: 1.) I bruised my toe playing 3 on 3 basketball which was REALLY FUN and I was happy to see I still have my competitive edge in my bones. :] 2.) My friends and I finished our parody of the final scene in “Pitch Perfect” for the film festival. It’s so good, I want to cry. 3.) They FINALLY announced that WE ARE GOING TO THE BAHAMAS!!! At logistical pre-port, they finally spilled the news and we all screamed, clapped, and smiled the rest of the night. 4.) ISE President, Les McCabe spoke and inspired me to call myself a leader. He had sooo much good to say, and I could have listened to him speak for hours without growing weary.
I think that’s enough writing for now. Until next time,
Sooo… I didn’t talk about Desmond Tutu in my South Africa blog, but the last day in port there he came aboard the ship and spoke to our community. His take home message was “you are all unique.” Even if we don’t have big dreams or aren’t doing big things right now, we are making a difference in the way God wants us to. He is a wonderful man and excellent role model for the world. His spirit is like a little kid, but his maturity is that of the older, wise man he is. I was touched by his speech. We don’t hear this message often in today’s society; we are driven to achieve as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, and that isn’t always what is needed in life. Acceptance of where you are at and how you are making a difference now is truly what matters.
Second, the ship puts on a wonderful day of “Sea Olympics” in which each deck/section of the ship is a different “sea.” We compete together against the other seas in athletic, intellectual, and creative activities for the choice to get off the ship first or last in Ft. Lauderdale. Although my sea (the Red Sea) did not win, it was really fun, and we didn’t finish last! Ending up in 5th place, we put up a fight, and took home most of the golds for the athletic events. The intellectual events… I guess we need work in that category. I participated in Ships and Sailors, which is similar to Simon Says, but incorporating the game Clump as well. It was really fun! Our sea ended up getting 3rd in that event. I also competed in cup stacking, and I was pumped days before for this event! In middle school, we had a couple weeks of gym class that focused on cup stacking. Participating in this challenge brought me back to my younger days. I was still surprisingly good at it, and we ended up taking 2nd place! I didn’t have my camera on me for this event, so I didn’t get any good pictures, but I am sure I can get some pictures from those who were photographers/cheerleaders the whole day.
We have been gaining hours back, crossing the Atlantic, and so far smooth sailing (crossing my fingers!) Tonight is the talent show; my group was accepted to perform, but we backed out due to the lack of interest. It was my group I went to Ghana with. We were drumming and dancing the traditional way Senase villagers did in the past. Members were nervous to perform in front of everyone, thinking we looked silly; others were too busy with school to devote time into practicing for it. So, we decided that getting accepted by the committee and performing in front of them was good enough. Oh well, now I can appreciate the show and not be nervous about our upcoming performance.
Lastly, I wanted to share the top ten foods I have been missing since being on this voyage. Here they are:
1.) A big, cheesy, greasy, pizza full of all the toppings I can get
2.) My mother’s homemade applesauce (especially the red-hot kind)
3.) TUNA (in a can)
4.) Cottage cheese
5.) Strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, any fresh fruit to put onto salads
6.) Apple crisp/pie and pumpkin pie
8.) Pulled pork sandwich
10.) Chili/ringed bologna/taco ring/casserole/lasagna
Honorable Mention: Shamrock Shake, chocolate malt, deli sandwiches, cranberry sauce, and anything to do with thanksgiving.
But I am enjoying the creativity needed to keep my taste buds happy! It also makes in port foods that much more delicious!!
Until next time,
Going from Ghana to South Africa proved to be a whole new world. Some of my experiences were similar, but most of them were completely different. I found myself forgetting we were still in Africa. Let me explain…
The first day, I had a field lab (like a field trip) for my International Public Health class. We went to a NGO who deal with HIV/AIDs and TB testing and treatment. It was really interesting to see and learn about. For lunch, we went to a restaurant where the employees are students at the cooking school, working to get out of poverty. This is EXACTLY the kind of place I want to have someday, but in the United States and focused on teaching teenagers how to cook and how to cook healthy. After lunch, we went to the oldest township in Cape Town, Langa Township. We had a great guide who taught us a lot about his township. The biggest idea I remember is there were people from all the socioeconomic statuses living in the same township. One side of the street were shacks made from cargo boxes, scraps of tin, and sometimes only cardboard; the other side had respectable houses of artists, musicians, and businessmen and women made of brick and fences lining the property. Why is this? After Apartheid ended, they decided to embrace where they were pushed to and better the township as a whole. A lot of problems with poverty areas are those who fight to overcome poverty end up leaving, never being able to bring the area out of struggle. This township has banded together and help each other work to overcome their struggles. Instead of looking at the past and being bitter, they have cumulatively decided to look forward and walk to success together. This was inspiring.
The next day, I almost missed my safari! I overslept and had 10 minutes to get to the meeting point or they were leaving me. I got there in 9… whew! It was a MAGICAL place (they use that word all the time). They served us delicious foods ranging from yogurt, granola, and fruit to apple crisp, steamed pumpkin, and much much more! Our guide, Timothy, was brilliant (they use that word a lot as well) and took us to see all of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhinoceros, water buffalo, and leopard) sans the water buffalo. I got some amazing pictures, held some rhino poop, and had a ball with my friends.
After the safari, we drove back through the mountains and saw some STUNNING wine lands. It was like something out of a movie. A half hour before we arrived to the ship, we were able to go to a winery where we tasted 6 different wines in combination with 6 different cheeses! My favorite was gouda!! (I hope some people get that reference)
Upon returning, I got ready for another safari: a Jazz safari. This entailed traveling to local musicians in Cape Town and enjoying a night of them playing their music for us. They also taught us a bit about their struggle with Apartheid, since they were colored, or black (it is socially acceptable and common practice in South Africa to call non-white people colored) and still lived in the townships they were sentenced to.
The next morning, I met up with a lovely woman, Alison Moore, who is a sister to my mentor/Bible study leader, Mrs. Douglas, at Alma. Alison lives in Cape Town with her husband, Dan, and the two of them together were my tour guides for the last three days! We went to Boulder Beach and saw Africa penguins, Cape Point where the Indian and Altantic Oceans supposedly mix (I guess it’s just a myth though,) and drove all around the coast. It was a stunning drive! I found myself itching to hike to Cape Point, but I had to behave and go with the flow of my lovely tour guide. I got to ask her questions–and learned a lot–during the drive about their country, the history, and her views on everything.
We returned to their immaculate home and Dave had a braai in the making for dinner. Braais are a South African BBQ that is a special meal for special occasions. He was cooking ostrich and chicken kabobs–yummy!! After dinner, we sat around and drank wine, while I listened to their lovely accents in their funny reminiscing conversations.
The next day, I tried to get to Robbin Island, but the tickets were sold out (it was peak of the touring season.) So I stayed around the waterfront and went to markets all day. I had some great conversation with store vendors and people who I randomly ran into! So many compliments on my hair from strangers. I was actually surprised!
This one lady came up to me while I was standing, watching the boats at the marina, and asked me for a cigarette. When I told her that I don’t smoke, she then proceeded to tell me about how she came to Cape Town for work and found nothing and how her husband had died and she had 2 kids at home and how was she going to feed them? I knew it was a scam, but my heart wouldn’t let me be rude and tell her to go away. So I listened; and listened; and finally stopped her and told her I wasn’t going to give her money, but I’d buy her lunch. I could tell she didn’t like the idea much at all, but that is the only way I was going to help her. I don’t care if she was trying to annoy me; two could play that game! So I took her to a local vendor and ordered her a dinner to go that she could take home to her children. We sat and waited for it to be cooked, and I tried asking her questions. She rudely answered them and was uninterested in making small talk with me; instead, she was constantly trying to change the conversation into how she had to take a taxi back to her town, and she didn’t have any money. I had enough of her. So I told her I had to go, but she could get the food when it was done. I don’t even think she said thank you. But my, was it an experience!
Hungry myself, and craving pizza, we went to a restaurant on the coast and I had a seafood and avocado pizza! We met up with some of Dave’s movie making buddies, so I had another chance to listen to South Africans banter. Dave then took me to a place where he called a woman “the poodle” and she made the BEST biltong in the WORLD! I had no idea what biltong was, so I said okay… ends up it is DELICIOUS jerky made of Kudu, which is a wild game animial. Yum… I snuck some back on the ship for this long trek across the ocean!
When we returned to their home, I watched his film they just made, funding it all independently. I was impressed! The film was shot in South Africa, and had some of the most beautiful shots I have ever seen! We ate curry chicken and yummy rice for dinner, drank some more wine, and listened to Phil Collins and Paul Simon on their lovely record player. Having my own record player someday is on my wish list. :]
The final day, they planned for me to see the top of Table Mountain. I was determined as well, so after a breakfast with some more of Dave’s movie friends, he drove me to the cable cars. Yet again, I found myself wanting desperately to hike, but had to suppress the urge. It was foggy and barely visible, but I had to do it! So I bought my ticket (with the lady warning me there was zero visibility at the top and it was only 7 degrees celcius,) purchased an overpriced sweatshirt, and braced myself for the cold. Mind you, I was wearing a dress… Once reaching the summit, I only saw ten feet in front of me. All the rest was white from the clouds. On top of that, it was raining. I thought I saw the structure of the cable car crystalizing, but that could have been just my imagination. Needless to say, I was back down the mountain within a half hour. Worst waste of money I’ve had in a while.
He then took me to the waterfront–the third day in a row I had been there. We went to a food market, which was cool, but very touristy. I was ready to be done; although everything being sold had African prints, I wasn’t convinced we were in Africa. We said our goodbyes, and I headed for the ship. Getting back, I think I was the only one who was ready to leave. Everyone seemed to have fallen in love with Cape Town. Yes, it was lovely, but to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite port. I think hearing what the locals thought of their country and seeing it almost from a non-tourist eye, I saw past the beautiful scenery. I saw the hurt of the people, and the continuous struggle with racial segregation. I saw the South African disgust of their government. But most of all, I saw the HUGE inequity in this country. The tourism almost seemed to want to cover up their problems and put on a face for the world to see. It irked me like none other. South Africa was by far the most naturally beautiful country, but not when you looked deeper. It reminds me of a woman who is stunning on the outside, yet so unhappy on the inside. It makes me angry, frustrated, and sad all at once… it seems I was the only one on the ship to feel this way. Am I wrong? Maybe. But Cape Town has driven my desire to help my nation even more. I don’t want to live somewhere that puts on a show for the rest of the world. I want our country to be proud of our struggles and work together to overcome them. I want us to learn from the pure happiness of Ghana; I want us to learn from the hard work and humbleness of Germany; I want us to learn from the inequity of South Africa. We CAN be a better, more genuine country!
Until next time,
I’ve been dreaming about this day for a couple days now… actually I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous. The day was finally here when I could shave my head! I woke up to work out one last time with hair, and creeped on “Neptune’s court” as they banged their drums and woke us all up.
Neptune Day is a ceremony that occurs when ships cross the equator. Any military ship goes through the ceremony along with certain traditions, and Semester at Sea makes this possible for students twice a year. The ceremony was originally created to ensure all shipmates were capable of being on the sea during rough times. Once you cross, you are deemed a “shellback” and those who haven’t crossed yet are called “pollywogs.”
The traditions for Neptune Day are voluntary for everyone on the ship. Some traditions are worse than others: wearing funny clothing, being hit with fire-hoses, locked in a small area and pelted with fruit, locked in a water coffin of salt water and sea dye, crawling through rotten garbage, kissing a belly with axle grease on it, chopping hair, and much more. Once you go through this, you get a certificate. There are different types: Golden Shellbacks are people who have just crossed the equator. Those who are lucky enough to cross where the equator meets the prime meridian are deemed Emerald Shellbacks (those from the USA) and Royal Diamond Shellbacks (those from other countries.)
Lucky for us, we had minimal duties to fulfill and we got the elite status! I chopped my ponytail off, got slimed, jumped into the water, and kissed the fish and King Neptune (our captain, Jeremy) and Queen Minerva’s (our Dean Eddie) rings. Once that was complete, we signed up for our certificate, and waited for the next open shaver.
There are a few reasons why I did it.
1.) It was either this or dreadlocks.
2.) It’s tradition, and I am not about to pass up an opportunity for regret to overcome me!
3.) Most of all, I did it in honor of my Grandpa, who recently passed from bone cancer. I wasn’t there when he passed, but his memory lives on.
I told him before I left that I was thinking about doing it, and while he was struggling to breathe, he managed to spit out, “if you do that, I will get up out of this bed!” Well, looks like we both did what we said we were going to do. :]
The energy was high all morning. Each of my friends cut a piece of my hair off! It was awesome! Most guys shaved their heads, and there were about 10-15 girls who shaved their head completely, with some doing variations (not a complete bald head.) Everyone kept telling me that I was so brave for doing it. Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined not doing it. I LOVE it right now! Already have a coat of sunscreen on it!
As freeing as it is to do such a bold thing, I am excited for it to grow back and try a whole bunch of different hairstyles. Neptune Day has proved to be alive and rewarding in every way possible. Ode to Neptune and my Grandpa and living life for every adventure that comes around!
Ghana was everything I imagined it to be. Seriously. I couldn’t have asked for a better time. We arrived and there was a drumming and dancing performance happening outside our ship to welcome us! Once we were cleared to disembark, we met with the bus, which was quite nicer than I imagined, and headed for Senase. It was a longer drive than he said, but it was nice to have some time to just sit and not have anything to do.
We got to the village after dark (the sun sets at 6:15!!) and the children of the village greeted us, running along side our bus. When I hopped off the bus, I realized it was raining. And I was wearing a white shirt. Dang. Little kids ran to me and took my bags from under my arms and put them on their backs.
By the time we got to the meeting house, we were all soaked through. But I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. We were in Ghana, in a village far away from any other SASers, and surrounded by giddy children. We ate a delicious meal I am glad we didn’t see because it was dark (in the daylight, the food didn’t look the most appetizing.) Once we were all filled with spices and rice, we headed to our host families. I was lucky and got to stay with the main hosts, Auntie Paulina. She is who cooked all of our meals, and took care of all of us throughout the week. She is a saint. It is our tour guide, Fredrick Bennah’s mother, but not actually. She took him in after his parents didn’t want him any longer. Since she was unable to have children of her own (she fell on her way to give birth to her first child) she has taken in over 25 children who needed somewhere to stay. She isn’t rich by any means, but she knew how to make her kids help out and turn out right. Fredrick is one of the coolest guys I know; he has achieved SO much, and he is only 23 years young!
Day 2: We woke up with the roosters, literally. It was 5 a.m. I was so dazed that I didn’t even realize where I was going to the bathroom. They have squat toilets, but I needed to go. So I went in the woods, dropped my pants, and went. Only the roosters saw, so I was safe. But good thing I have a toilet right next to my bed usually. I’d be peeing in closets, probably! We ate some yummy porridge, which I am pretty sure Fredrick said had ground fish, maize, and cassava in it (but I didn’t want to tell the others–they probably wouldn’t have eaten it.) We then went into town where we talked and hung with some locals before the elders were situated. We played hand games with the little ones and were asked to marry the older ones. Fredrick told us that the only white people they are used to seeing are businessmen trying to sell them their products they can in return sell to their people. I guess these white men are not the friendliest, so for us to be excited and friendly was a HUGE change for them. It was a very eventful morning.
We then got to go in front of the elders and queen mother of the village (that is equivalent to meeting the President for us.) We were taught how to greet them properly: shake their hand with your right hand, bow a little, and say, Mi Daah Si (thank you in Twi.) They then thanked us through Fredrick’s translating and had a dancer for our entertainment. It was at this time we realized what our payment for this program was going towards: a computer for 5 different schools. They treated us like celebrities. I couldn’t help thinking that how much I paid was not enough for this program. I wanted to give all I had to these people who were so grateful and thankful for every little thing.
After the ceremony, we hopped on the bus and headed to each school to deliver the computers. This was BY FAR the best experience I have had yet. Each school welcomed us with flying arms. They stopped their school day to let us come in and say hello to their class. Some of our group had pencils and little trinkets to hand out, and the kids went crazy over them! They also LOVED getting their picture taken. They’d do a funny face or be very serious and instantly want to see what they looked like. Someone stated that they don’t get to see themselves, really ever. They don’t have mirrors, which is so strange to us, who have mirrors in almost every room. We would go into the classroom and teach them some songs I learned from camp counseling, which was hilarious and super fun all at once! They loved it, we loved it, and all was fun! As white people, we are deemed “brunees,” which means foreigner, and one child told me I was a “brownie.” I’m going to take that as a compliment?
Although we were exhausted, it was only 1 p.m. when we finished. We went back to the village, ate delicious “Red Red” (fried plantains with black eyed pea mixture–all with only our RIGHT hand,) and some took a nap. I sat and tried to write in my journal, but was instead bombarded with children wanting to teach me Twi. I actually learned quite a bit, and I can still say it: “Oh Frie Hay” means “where are you from?” and “Uhn deen de sayn” means “what is your name?” I used those two quite a bit and impressed many street vendors! When the rest of the group was refreshed, we went to our lesson of drumming and dancing. It took about two hours and we were as ready as white people can be in front of a village full of naturally talented musicians. We sounded and looked so uncoordinated with no rhythm, but they were supportive anyway. We then ate dinner (fufu and yams with another spicy mixture–delicious, but filling!) and went to a Ghanaian bar to learn their popular dance: Azonto. It is very hard, even though it doesn’t look like it. But it was fun! Some of our group were so tired, they fell asleep where we were sitting. So we checked in for the night.
The next morning we woke up, had the same yummy porridge, and went to one of the schools where they first performed for us (they were maybe 7 years old) and put our dancing to shame! But we were devoted; we had to show them our version of their culture. We had these awesome traditional outfits and our drums, and we suffered through. When we were done, they all clapped; one lady asked us if that was all… what an awkward question to say yes to. :]
It was time to head back to the ship. As much as my heart was begging to stay in this beautiful village with these lovely people, my hair and body were pleading to have a good, hot shower.
The last day, I had a field lab for my Anthropology of Food class. We went to the market, a local restaurant, and a farm. We all were led by a Ghanaian student per 3 of us. Ours was named Richmond. He was a sweetie! I had some great chats with him, actually sharing my favorite song with him while he shared some of his gospel music with me! It was a very educational day, but I don’t think I could have forced down another Ghanaian food dish if I wanted to. For some reason, it became repulsive with the bones and the skin in the soup along with the meat.
Ghana was beautiful in so many ways. The people really made the country. Yes, they are a developing country; yes, they have day-to-day struggles we in the U.S. don’t even think about; and yes, they are happy through it all. They pearly whites were stunning, just like their hearts. I will for sure be back to this beautiful country, hopefully to help for a longer period of time!
Until next time,