Thursday, September 30, 2010

The last bit about Ghana.

I woke up hungover on day 3 at 7:50. Flipping out, I called Corey in his room as he was supposed to be leaving for the water village trip with me at 7:30 on the SAS bus – my first pre-paid SAS trip. He picked up half asleep, and I was screaming into the phone. He realized that we’d missed the trip and started to groan. I ran outside in my pajamas to the buses. Apparently they had even stayed until 7:45 to wait for stragglers – we missed our bus by 5 minutes. I was devastated. The water village of Nzulezo was one of the highlights of my journey. As much bonding as I did the night before with my friends while out drinking and having late night heart to hearts, the alcohol intake was not worth missing out on such a unique opportunity and I will move forward much wiser for having felt so badly about this.
We each slept for 3 more hours and met up at lunch. We discussed our plan to spend the day visiting Market Circle, which is the central market of Takoradi. We went into the city with Eric and explored for about 4 hours. They sold ALL sorts of junk. The stationary stores notably had very few school supplies and paper, but rather carried a couple composition books, some pens and “I Love You” cards from hallmark – not at all our idea of a stationary store. There were clocks for sale, fabrics jewelry, beads, whole fish that had been grilled and stacked on wooden boards to be carried on women’s heads along with carrots, beats, peppers and many unidentifiable fruit. Anyway, they sold everything there. One woman that I chatted with gave me a carrot for free, and I accepted it and took a bite out of it because it is taken as a personal offense in Ghana to turn down a gift. It was risky though as they wash everything in visibly filthy water…
I found one group of women that was very friendly and had their kids with them, one had her child strapped to her back. I asked them if I could try to balance onions on my head, and they helped me out! They put their wooden board piled high with purple onions on my head, and told me to slowly lower my hands and take some steps. I did so, and these women could not stop laughing at me. It took a few minutes, and after giggling excessively, I tried to remove the wooden tray from my head and several onions went rolling off of the sides :( The women gave me their address (which they didn’t understand until I said “post”) and asked me to send pictures and money, and I promised I would. When I turned around to continue walking, I realized about 20 kids had gathered around me to see how uncoordinated the white girl was and everyone was laughing as I passed!
We went on and I found a thimble for my collection and returned to the ship for dinner.
At night, I really wanted to go to a jazz bar we’d been told about by our interport student, and got a bunch of people interested. As we left, some locals told us it was a prostitute spot – so we opted out of this and went to a club instead which I was bummed about. I ended up sitting at a table alone and left about an hour after we got there… clubs just aren’t my thing I guess, especially when infested with SAS students. I later heard from a friend that she and some other students not interested in clubbing did end up going anyway, and that it was the club next door that attracted prostitutes – not the jazz bar. I’m a little bummed.. and realizing that I need to stick to my own plan and not give in to what those around me want or are telling me to do.
Because I’d spent the day in Takoradi, which I was planning to do on day 4 initially, I had a free day. So, I joined an independent travel group to an orphanage. As sad as I am about missing out on the water village, the money spent on that was worth it because it was donated to the people of the village and gave me a chance to meet the children of Egyam Orphanage instetad. They had 52 kids, each is kept for 3 years until they are placed in a home. Every child LOVED the cameras we had with us and loved to play football (soccer). They had some drums in there, and the taxi drivers in Ghana have a habit of dropping you off, waiting for you to do what you were planning to do, and then drive you back to your starting point when you’re done. Our taxi driver stuck around the orphanage for the day with us and played with the kids. He ended up by the drums playing with a guy we brought with us, Matt Murphy (whose a great drummer!) and some kids. The bunch of them got into a good flow, and the taxi driver and kids burst into song simultaneously. Apparently they’d been playing a song about praising Christ in Twi, but it was AMAZING to hear everyone drumming, singing and dancing. We were all on our feet, on the tables and chairs, having a great time.
Later, we walked up to the church so they could show us their village. When we asked why we were going to the church, they told us it was to pray to God. They all loved holding our hands, which I realized on Day 1 as many Ghanaians like to guide each other and tourists by holding hands. It’s so friendly :) The kids are free to do whatever they want, as long as they stick around the orphanage for meal times and bed times. There was a funeral going on in the village, and everyone was dressed in black Ghanaian fabrics so we stuck out like sore thumbs (as if we didn’t already?). When we quickly realized this, we raced back to the orphanage with the kids to get them back in time for lunch.
All in all, it was an amazing trip and my favorite country so far. I loved Ghana. The people were so friendly and the kids took our breath away. I’m happy I ended up not going to the water village because it gives me something to leave for next time… in addition to visiting Accra (the capital) and Kumasi (where the king lives).
Desmond Tutu went up to Kumasi with a delegation of SAS students to accept the Millenium Council’s African Lifetime Achievement Award. They came back to the ship with videos and great stories. It’s a pretty special thing that we have such an amazing man on the ship. I can’t wait to end up at his table for a meal, and will write all about it WHEN it happens!
I’m realizing how great it is to travel independently, too. I’m learning more about the world in figuring out my travel plans than I would have if I’d paid for SAS trips and been herded from one bus stop to another. Being timed on orphanage visits and in villages just isn’t up my alley, and I’m happy that I’ve had the freedom I’ve had.
PS – everyone’s been playing that Shakira song around the ship– waka waka It’s Time For Africa… so great!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Neptune Day!

So, last night I met with a woman on the ship who shaved her head a little over a year ago. She has developed and interest in the stories and journeys of people who make the move and chose me as one of three girls she would interview as they went through the process of shaving our heads. The two other girls and I sat down with Stephanie, the woman who wanted to interview us and had a long talk about women empowerment. About how we shouldn’t be so reliant on something that is so materialistic, and that the real story of a woman doesn’t come from the length of her hair but rather what lies within. It was a great talk and lasted way past all of the tables and buffet areas being cleared, and we were the last ones to head down from the dining room in the evening.
We were not told anything about this morning. Part of me doesn’t want to write it all down for all the “pollywogs” who may one day go on this voyage, but the bigger part of me wants to share my experience. Not knowing what time we would be woken up this morning was rough, and I woke up every 45 minutes for almost 4 hours with the anticipation of hearing drums come down the hallway. At about 7:30, a crowd of drummers, symbolists and singers paraded through the hallways of every deck of the ship. They were dressed in white robes, some of them drawn on in elaborate and colorful designs. Some wore wigs, some crowns and all had excessive and gaudy make-up. This group consisted of the “shellbacks,” who are the people that have gone through this experience before and was mostly composed of the crew and cabin stewards.
Alexa and I excited changed into bathingsuits as there had been rumors of fish guts and jumping in the pool, and went upstairs to grab some grub. After that, we went upstairs and followed the sound of the drums and soon enough almost all of the ship had convened on the 7th (top) deck. Our Executive Dean, Sue White, and Academic Dean, Dean David Gies, led us all in our ceremony as King Neptune and the Queen of the Sea.
We had to chant in unison following a leader, reassuring Neptune that we were worthy of passage into the southern hemisphere! He joked and questioned our loyalty as we were called Land-Lubbers, but soon after confirmed our safe passage and the festivities began.
There were 5 chairs lined up, a lady with buzzers behind each one. Probably about 100 people shaved or buzzed their heads or got some sort of crazy Mohawk design. I decided I’d rather do it alone in my bathroom, and Alexa and I went downstairs to study for our exam tonight while the festivities continued.
Two hours later I woke up from a great nap. :) We went back upstairs to get showered in fish guts and kiss the fish after having waited for the crowd to clear, but they had run out of fish guts and closed off the pool. Sad. I went over to Stephanie, my interviewer, who was buzzing her last head and asked her to do mine since the crowd had dispersed. So she, Alexa and I sat on the top deck with a pair of clippers and a buzzer and did the deed.
It feels great (kind of like a helmet)!! I’m posting a picture because I think it suits the post. I feel refreshed and amazing and am so happy I did it. Hiking will be so much easier now too, I think, because my hair was driving me NUTS in the rainforest since it was too short to pull back. We took a group photo and came downstairs to study.
Alexa then asked me to cut her hair. She’s never had it professionally cut, so I figured she wouldn’t have too much to compare it to, so I had at it. She looks great and isn’t used to it either, and both of us are now finding it hard to focus. But, the Global Studies exam is tonight so it would be wise to stop procrastinating and start putting my reading day to good use. I’ve gotten all sorts of compliments and a lot of “I’m proud of you”’s so that’s been a neat feeling too. It's great to be an Emerald Shellback! Alright… more about Ghana next time. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day #2 in Ghana

Oh man.. so much to write. I will warn though.. the castle stuff is heavy.
So Eric and I got up on the second day of the Ghana journey in our mosquito-netted hut and hiked with our trash up to the main area at around 5:45 am to meet Eric, our guide for the nature walk. Kakum Nat’l Park does not let anyone hike alone “because they will get lost” which I thought was interesting. Can you imagine not being able to go into the woods of Yosemite just because you don’t have a guide?! Eric was running a little bit late because he slept at his girlfriend house (haha) and showed up in the same green camouflaged combat outfit, boots and all, as he wore the previous day. We went into the forest just the 3 of us by 6:00. The sun was just barely coming up and it was hard to see where we were stepping, but we trusted our guide.
From time to time, we would stop and observe a tree or large vine. The first tree we saw grows thorns on it to prevent elephants from using it as a scratching board while the tree is small. As it grows larger and more sturdy, the thorns begin to fall off as it can withstand an elephant rubbing his back on it! I thought that was so great. Nature is so neat. Then we looked at a vine that was very large, and if you have a stomach or head ache you can chew up the seeds, or mash them and mix it with honey and warm water, and drink it to cure yourself. There were several other plant remedies like this that involved honey. What a neat way to feel better! The sounds of the forest were great and we tried very hard to be quiet and get the monkeys to come out but they sadly did not. We talked to our guide a bit who said he sees his family once a year maybe, and that he was about 25 years old and has facebook! We explained that we were on a ship traveling the world and he got so excited and asked all sorts of questions. There was a point where there were SO many ants walking across the path that we had to run through it, and even then they were covering all of our legs. They were biting ants, and I got several bites and all three of us were jumping around brushing our legs off and yelping. It was great. I’m so glad I have my super excellent Oboz hiking shoes I bought at Clintonville Outfitters before I left (even though I felt bad because Eric was in flip flops). They’re phenomenal.
An hour and a half later, our hike was over and the park would still not open for an hour. Eric (not the guide) and I jumped into a taxi and headed into Elmina to check out the village and the castle there. I slept through the hour ride, and was shaken awake as we pulled up to the village. There were pigs and goats and all sorts of animals running through the muddy, rainy village. There were people everywhere selling food and fabrics, and taking shelter in their shack-shops. The names of these shops were great, some of them were called “God Is Great,” “Good Eating Food,” “Good Toys For You,” etc. They were all painted extremely vibrant colors of lime green, yellow, magenta and teal but I could not take pictures because it was pouring. Cars here don’t really have air-conditioning (though I’m sure at one point they did), and the windows steam up quickly. When we got out of the car, a man named Richmond got me and Eric’s names and introduced himself but hung out outside of the castle. We walked up and paid 5cedi each for a tour, plus 50pesewas (cents) to take pictures. We first stopped in the women’s quarters with our tour guide and one other traveler and things got intense.
Slavery in Africa existed before anyone came over and colonized different areas in terms of owing each other land or being in debt; they would pay off debt as servants or slaves to each other. When the Portuguese saw this, they took advantage and developed the ideas of slavery that we think of today. After them, the Dutch occupied the same area, followed by the British and then the land went back to the Ghanaians. They kept women in caged areas surrounding a small stone courtyard with a hole in the ground covered by a wooden door. The water was so infested they would not drink it. The governor’s quarters were above this. He would sometimes go to the balcony and soldiers would herd the women into the courtyard until the governor made his selection. They would then use the awful water to clean the woman in front of everyone at the courtyard’s center as she probably had gone a month without any sort of bath, was dressed and given a bit of food for energy. She was then sent up to the governor’s quarters and back down to the dungeons when he was done using her. The women who became pregnant would be put in another area, and once she bore the child she would be freed. As most of these women came from far-away countries, they would never get to go home. The kids were given European names and educated, which is why many Ghanaians are named Eric or Christopher. Their education often times turned into running the slave trade.
We walked through the areas where they kept women, and the smell was unbearable. It was the stench of urine, feces, vomit from hundreds of years ago embedded in the stone of the castle, and literally made me cry. I was so ashamed to part of a culture that once used people the way these people were used. I’m sure I looked like a whimp. We saw an SAS group who had come to the castle on a day trip and they joined the rest of our tour. With them we went to the men’s quarters, which were better but not by much, and led into the “Room of No Return.” This room was between the slave quarters and the ships where they were carried to other parts of the world. They had to crawl through such a tiny hole in the wall to get to the ships; I had a hard time fitting in it. Our guide said that obese people would come into the castle and be able to fit through that passageway by the time they left. When they boarded the ship, they were strapped to one other slave by the ankles and carefully organized on the ship to maximize space usage. Often times when one person died on the ship, they were still attached to their mate for the rest of the voyage.
One last thing I found to be especially shocking was the Room of the Condemned, which had a skull and crossbones in the stone of the castle above the doorway. When a slave acted up as a leader and fought for their freedom, they were thrown in this room with no food or water until they died. Often times they did not empty the cell between people, so they would die alongside their long-deceased brothers. All dead bodies from the castle were thrown into the ocean and never recorded. Overall, the slaves had a careful balance of sustenance; they had to be given enough to survive but not enough to be able to rise up against the soldiers of the castle to rebel.
I’ll stop going on about all this.. but it was alarming, terrifying and shameful to see all of the things that happened before they boarded the ships. In the US, all we learn about really is the receiving end, and this trip and tour had a pretty big impact on me.
We got into a taxi to Elmina Junction to grab a Tro-Tro to head back, and Richmond (the guy from the entrance) had written both Eric and I notes on large seashells, “To My Dearest Friend Amanda, I hope you enjoyed your time at Elmina Castle!” with his contact info on the inside. Of course I had to pay for it and now it is making my room smell like fish and it needs desperately to be thrown away.. but it was great.
We smelled like rainforest, rain, sweat, humidity, slave dungeons and Tro-Tro.. it was great to get back to the ship finally and shower. I slept the whole way home, and we ended up at a bar called “Champs” that night later on. I played some billiards with my new friend on the ship Tall Ross, and made some Scottish friends. The bar had all types of flags hanging from the ceiling, including a Texas Longhorns flag and a Gators flag, so I wrote down the address and will send them one from OSU when I get home to have the buckeyes represented in Ghana. We stumbled home at about 2 am and Corey, Travis and I stayed up late chatting about all the things we had seen and were experiencing emotionally on our voyage, while also playing with some beautifully terrifying African masks I’d purchased earlier. All in all, a great day but so glad to be back.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


We will continue down the prime meridian for another 15 degrees (I think) but it was great and everyone went out on the deck to cheer. They blew the horn on the ship and it was such a monumental moment of the voyage. Luckily, I was out eating lunch so it happened to be good timing (tuna sandwiches! my favorite :). There were announcements all about it on the loudspeaker/intercom throughout the ship, though it didn't play in our room so Alexa held the door open so we could hear the announcement from the hall. They talked all about how the prime meridian has changed over time and is now a universal point on the globe, and it was neat to get all the historical info on where we are in the ocean! Neptune day is still scheduled for 2 days away, I guess we crossed early and had to go out of our route a bit to go through (0,0) but the celebration will definitely still go on.
I'm still feeling a little sick from slimy Ghanaian food so I will sign off for now... but will write way more about Ghana later!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One more thing for now!

While driving into Cape Coast, there were billboards everywhere featuring pictures of the Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, shaking hands with President Obama as they smile together. The billboards read "Change has come!" and I've seen both women and men wearing Obama shirts all over. It's pretty incredible what his image is doing for our international relations... just saying.



So, Ghana… wow. From the moment I stepped into Takoradi, it began to take my breath away. Our first goal was to find a working ATM – I was with my roommate and we followed a group of 5 into the city, trying 4 ATMs before finding one that spat money back at us. On our way there though, we began to see women walking up the street after we exited the port.. with HUGE baskets balanced on their heads. I always imagined these women with their arms up for support – no way. They do it all hands free, and it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in this culture. It can be anything from a wooden-framed glass box containing bread loaves, to crabs with their claws dangling over the edges of metal bowls which I would only ever use to mix cookie dough. Beneath whatever they carry atop their bodies rests a small supportive roll of cloth to make sure their heads don’t bruise. The strength and balance in these women’s necks is impeccable. Then, one of them turned around only to reveal a small, bobbing black head popping out of a long cloth wrapped around her. His feet hung out the sides, and arms had been tucked in and he was fast asleep as his mother carried him around trying to sell the goods she carried. I continue to ask myself how these women wrap babies to their backs?
You would think that this image of a woman wrapped like this carrying something on her head would appear in a rustic, tribal setting.. however these women were EVERYWHERE along the sides of the busy city streets, wearing their children like backpacks. At one point, right as we found the cash machine, three kids ran up to me and stopped in their tracks about a foot before me, and began to wave bearing enormous smiles saying “Hi Obruni!” I asked if I could take their picture only to receive an enthusiastic yes! And they quickly posed for me. I introduced myself to them but realized my friends had kept walking and started to catch up. I was suddenly tapped on the shoulder, and turned around to find the mother of these kids – holding up her baby and asking for him to be in the picture too! I thought I was about to get yelled at, but these people just want to share everything they have with newcomers – even their children! So amazing.
Alexa and I realized that she wouldn’t have time to accompany me to Kakum National Forest and make it back to Takoradi in reasonable time to sleep here, so she bailed on me – but I recruited a friend named “Cookie,” who I later found out is named Eric, to come with me and camp out in the forest overnight even though he was entirely ill-equipped to do so in flip flops with no change of clothes, etc.
We asked around for a Tro-Tro station and ended up in a sea of busted old VW vans that came in all different colors – some packed with people, some empty, and most with stickers on the windows and chunks of paint missing. We each paid 2.50cedi for a ticket, and within 5 minutes the van had filled up and we were on our way to Cape Coast. Eric and I were in the front seat, and there was a beautiful breeze coming in through the windows. I had my camera around my neck, and when I turned around to inspect my fellow Tro-Tro goers, I got harsh looks and requests for no pictures. I thought this was interesting as this was not my intention, but kept my glare forward for the rest of the journey. About 5 minutes after we left, the driver pulled over and got out, and a new driver came and took off which seemed strange but I guess wasn’t. We had a full view of all of the villages we drove through – Sekondi and Elmina among others – with windows opening up between trees and villages of the ocean right at the roadside and riddled with palm trees. I could not stop smiling, despite the hideous stench that came from the driver to my left. I was enjoying even the foul parts of my day and soaking up every ounce of life.
Each village we passed through looked similar and often times like slums, with cement or mud walls and palm leaves or sheets of ribbed metal for rooves. There were children EVERYwhere, and every time we stopped they often pointed at Eric and I as they whispered to each other. I found the best way to approach this was with a smile and a wave and they would erupt with laughter through our passenger window. Often times they would yell “Obruni!” and cover their mouths, giggling, as they were screaming “White man!” to Eric. It is a term of endearment here. We also heard a lot of “Akwaaba,” which means “Welcome” in Twi, and just goes to show what a hospitable culture this is. We arrived in Cape Coast and it was.. crazy, to put it simply. There were people EVERYWHERE. Traffic was terrible, and people were auctioning off anything and everything imaginable – pens that had pull-out 2010-2011 calendars in them, baby dolls with terrifying faces, bruised bananas, every type of shoe you’ve ever seen… everything.
After a 2-hour ride, we got out of the Tro-Tro and our driver helped us find another one to Kakum, and we boarded a near-full van in the front row. A woman with an infant squeezed herself in next to Eric, and within two minutes had pulled her breast out to feed her child. The expression on Eric’s face was.. priceless to say the least. When she was done feeding, she held her baby up for me to see and coo at for a moment before tucking the fastly sleeping child under her arm.
I quickly realized the B.O. smell in the Tro-Tros was something common among them all. After allowing several merchants to enter the van trying to sell their stuff, the driver got in his seat and a 5th person squeezed into our row before closing the door. This person is the one who collected money from all the passengers throughout the journey, about 1cedi. The door refused to close as the van was possibly the oldest and most broken down vehicle I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in, so the man pulled it almost-shut and held it in place as we took off. Eric pointed out to me the electrical tape holding two wires together under the dashboard – indicating that the presence of a key was a façade and the car had been hotwired. (This explains why they kept the van running WHILE filling it with gas…)
The rest of the drive featured palm trees and exotic tropical plants on either side of the road. There were frequent checkpoints where cops would talk to the driver for a moment but then allow us to continue on. Many of the drivers waved to each other was we passed other vans by. It was suddenly past 3:00, meaning we’d been traveling through chaos for nearly 3 hours and were very ready to be dropped off at the front entrance to the park when we’d finally arrived. There was a kid, a man and a woman trying to sell water bottles full of palm wine and palm fruits, so we bought a fruit for 1cedi, cracked it open and shared it. We were told to suck on the jelly on the outsides of the seeds and spit out the rest – it was so strange at first, but sweet and tangy and deliciously refreshing. We paid an initial fee of 1cedi/person to a man who called us both “Obruni” followed by laughter, and made our way up to the reception desk close to 4:00 when the park closes.
It cost about 70cedi for a guided canopy walk, mosquito net, platform and mattress for the night in the jungle, a flashlight, a guided morning hike, dinner and a couple beers. This came out to about $50, which I found reasonable. The canopy walk was very short but thrilling, it seemed quite sturdy and provided an awe-inspiring view of the tree-tops. Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys because it was too late in the day. There were 3 people on the canopy tour with us, all from Nigeria and clearly well off. I don’t know what would inspire a person to wear a tie, shiny leather shoes or heels through the forest on a canopy tour, but it seemed suitable to them so .. to each their own.
We went back to the main grounds after the damp hike back from the canopy tour and were handed our beverages and dinners, which had been boxed up. Our guide showed us to our platform by 5 and left us there for the night. We quickly realized we were the only two people left in the rainforest until the morning at 5:30 am when we would meet back up with our guide. The mosquito net had holes in it, which we plugged with crumpled receipts and forks, and all that protected us from our filthy, jungle-worn mattress was a sheet (which I can’t guarantee was clean…). The mosquito net had to be tucked in under the mattress, so we were confined to that small space for the next 12 hours. :-\ We enjoyed our dinners of indescribably greasy chicken legs and fries, and filled our bellies with some bottled Ghanaian Guiness. Soon it was dark out and after 7:30, so both of us tried to sleep to no avail. The forest grew louder as the night grew darker, and bush babies came out with horrendous cries at about 10. I’d finally found sleep at 1, until the full moon blinded me awake, and the night went on like this until our guide, also named Eric, came to get us in the very early morning. (to be continued…)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They were Ghana beat us from the start...

Hey folks!
It is 2:28 am and I can't sleep, and my brain is fuzzy from reading so much, so I thought I'd write instead. We are 5 hours and 32 minutes from docking in Takoradi, Ghana. Between each port, students and ambassadors from our next country join our shipboard community to educate us on the cultural and logistical differences we will inevitably encounter upon our departure from home. There are two people currently aboard who will leave us in Ghana tomorrow (where they are from), named Rebecca and Jo Baami. They have been excellent resources for trip planning.
Ghanaian (sp?) currency is the "cedi" which is 1.4 to every USDollar. This means 3 cedis for a Tro-Tro to Kakum Nat'l Park is equal to 2 bucks! Tro-Tro's are mini-buses, generally old VW vans, that are known for breaking down frequently. They are also the most cheap and common form of transportation in Ghana.
Kakum Nat'l Forest is known for it's canopy walk which is reportedly the highest off the ground and longest in the world. It sits 40 meters above the ground in the tree tops, and you can see exotic birds and monkeys swinging between branches frequently - supposedly. We shall see, I will report back excitedly, I hope, as soon as I see this for myself! They also have cascading waterfalls and great hikes, so I'm pretty excited to put my new shoes to use! I plan to stay in the forest tomorrow night.. but due to my paranoia, I may not if I cannot find someone from the ship to stay with me. It is rainy season too, so camping might find some complications.
Takoradi calls itself the center of the world as it is the city that is the closest to the prime meridian and the equator, sitting just 930 kms north of (0,0). The sun is roasting everyone on the ship like almonds at the fair. It's pretty silly.. you'd think everyone would learn from each other's mistakes and lather up!
Have been taking Malaria meds for several days now which is enough time.. I think. I'm terrified of getting it, but bug spray and long clothing should suffice. Anyway, I should try to hit the hay. Am extremely nostalgic and homesick today for some reason. Have gone through thousands of pictures tonight from Columbus, LA and travels with family and friends... and am starting to anxiously await the annual trip to Lake Cumberland!
Until departure... Nanti Yie! ("Go well" in Twi, a common Ghanaian language!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ship Life

Life here is becoming increasingly comfortable, and starting to resemble something of a home. It is especially nice to return to after being away for several days, with the promise of healthy, clean food, air conditioning, privacy and our personal belongings even if they are few.
I was extremely ill earlier this week. The doctors in our community are well-versed in anything that might come up with all 700+ of their patients on board. They arrange for sick trays to be delivered to our cabins during meals, and there are full hospital facilities on board just in case they are needed. I was well taken care of and feel WAY better! Yay.
Our beds are made daily and our cabins are cleaned, and there are crew-members and employees always bussing tables and serving drinks in the dining areas. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a fancy hotel, but then the ship lurches and everything falls off the nightstand and I remember I’m on the ocean. I think I’ll need a hammock when I get back to be able to rock myself to sleep, I’m getting so used to this!
Yesterday I took a bridge tour of the area where the captains command the ship. It was very cool to see all of their navigational equipment, and reassuring to know that they plot everything on paper as far as our progress and location just in case of a blackout on board! I asked them what we would do in case of a pirate attack, and they said that since we are one of the fastest ships in the sea with a potential speed of 39 knots, we would flee! Apparently it would be hard to mount a ship moving that quickly. For relative comparison, our current speed is 17 knots and it is pretty fast as it is right now.
We each have between 2-3 ½ hours of class everyday. There are intramural teams that have started to form that use the basketball court-sized area on the top deck for volleyball, basketball or small games of soccer. We also have times designated for pick-up games of all 3 of these, and dodgeball, on designated days in the same place.
At night, beverage service is offered on the top deck. We are limited to 3 between 9-11pm. I’ve been picking my nights for this wisely, limiting myself to football gamedays (2 so far), and seeing how I’m pretty small, 3 drinks is quite enough. Clubs also meet at night and there are all sorts of board games available, so there’s lots to do. I started a Scrabble Club on the ship, and so far have enough members that I need to pick up a new board in South Africa (if I can!).
When the sun comes out, there is a huge amount of people laying out with their textbooks on the top deck, jumping in the tiny pool for a quick dip from time to time. It’s a good way to socialize and still get work done and also get a tan! Because we are rapidly approaching the equator (eep!), the sun is getting stronger and the Midwest-kids on the ship look like tomatoes because they are not used to it. We also have dining areas outside. Weather permitting, I don’t eat indoors. One teacher started a sunset club, and goes outside to watch the sunset daily. It’s always beautiful out here, even if the sun is hidden, because the colors are echoed in the clouds.
I’ve been active in the Jewish community on board, am holding 2 positions in the photo-club and instruct the kids on board in photography every other day. There is a ping-pong table on the top deck, so I plan to be a champion by the time I get back to the states. I have also read Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger this week and restarted The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, on top of my reading for class. It’s quite humbling not to have a television (even though I miss HIMYM and Grey’s) but keeping me productive in other areas. Trying to keep busy, but always anxiously awaiting the next port! I will post pictures to my blog by the time I leave South Africa.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The last of Morocco

The drumming of the nomads woke us up around 5:00 am. We crept out of our tents into the unlit atmostphere of the desert, and walked just outside of the camp to watch the sun rise over the dunes. There was a plethora of skis and snowboards that the nomads had set up for us. Only about 15 of my peers had the opportunity to use them as it took a long time for them to climb up the 300 foot dune next to our camp. They glided down through the sand, some reporting it was not worth the climb and others totally loving it.
They hurried us along at about 6:30 so we could get on the camels and head back to civilization. As the camels stood up, there were still surprised yelps as it is not something you get used to quickly. Our trek through the Sahara back to our vans took about 2 hours, and everyone figured out the side saddle technique which gave much relief to the lower half of our bodies. The sun was blazing by 8:30, and we were happy to be provided our complimentary breakfast of croissants, orange juice, mint tea, tomatoes and olives. There was also some sort of dried meat that fell into dust in my mouth.. but it was delicious none-the-less.
We organized into 4 vans, 2 were to go back to Casablanca because its passengers were fed up with traveling.Van #3 went to Marrakech but made pit stops on the way to see the gorges and botanical gardens we’d been promised the previous day. My van booked it to Marrakech, as I was supposed to (possibly) meet Alexa, my roommate, at the hostel where we had previously stayed. No one could communicate with our driver, and the drive took about 9 ½ hours including our one 45-minute stop for food.
I sat next to a guy on the bus named Mason. He is always decked out in preppy garb and Vineyard Vines croquees (the things that hold your glasses to your neck) and he told me all about how hard he parties (?) at Duke and his fraternity and how he’s meeting with Ju-Jit-Su senses throughout the world as we dock to train with people of all different cultures. I thought that part was very cool.
We got to Marrakech at 8:10, and called the hostel to see if Alexa had shown up. She ended up on another camel trek, so my friend Damien and I stuck together and hung out in Marrakech for the night. We got a common room at our same beautiful hostel for half the price, and went swimming. After a quick shower, we went down to the market and grabbed a leisurely dinner of snails, kabobs, olives and bread. All of the market shops were still open, but we decided to leave shopping for the next day as we finished dinner at 11:30. After getting back to the hostel, I got to catch up on the free internet with my dad and my brother, and some friends from O-State. I heard all about how they spent the weekend celebrating Ohio State’s victory of Miami U, and was happy that they had such a good time (but also a little jealous!).
The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat but pushed through it and ate some breakfast. Damien and I shopped around and I got lots of little trinkets and gifts for people at home. We walked around the mosque in the Medina because we were not allowed in it, and strolled through the gardens. A quick cab ride later, we arrived at the train station and got some McDonalds (so weird!) which was a friendly familiarity. The train ride back was quiet and I slept most of the way. That night, we boarded the ship just in time for dinner, and I spent the evening grooming myself and getting all of the desert sand out of any hard to reach places like inside my ears and under my nails.
In the morning on Tuesday, the 14th, I went with some friends to check out the Mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca. It can fit 25,000 worshippers inside, and 80,000 outside. Almost as many as the buckeye shoe at Ohio State! They were very sneaky in hiding technology inside the recently-built mosque, and had speakers in the columns and escalators hiding behind walls for women to get up to the balconies during times of prayer. Our guide said that the entire mosque was full during every day of Ramada, and I found the idea of cleansing their feet, hands and faces to obtain purity before praying fascinating. The tilework was unreal and took over 10,000 craftsmen to design. We had to take our shoes off to walk through the mosque, another thing I found very neat.
We then ate at a restaurant in the center of the city and got tajine couscous with chicken (so good) and crepes for desert. I was with Alexa, Corey and a couple that I’ve started hanging out with named Nick and Kailyn. Nick lives across the hall from me, and brought up stories I don’t remember from a night I stumbled back onto the ship after a little too much Sangria!
We stopped again for some mint tea at a salon. Our server poured the tea in such an extravagant way, filling our cups and dumping it back into the kettle, and then filling again while lifting the kettle high above the cups until full. He told us how the point of this was to invoke all the senses – the smell of the mint, sight of the pour, touch and sound of the splash and taste of the tea. We then ventured into the market of the Medina, where there were all sorts of knock-off shoes, coats, purses, etc. and nothing native to Morocco to purchase. Realizing there was nothing special to see here, we walked away from the Medina and towards the ship, hearing the cries of the call to prayer one last time. Boarding the ship was a relief, and felt like it was so good to finally be back to home, sweet home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nomads of the Sahara

Our room of six in the hostel woke up very slow moving and quite hungover. We were up by 5:30 am to check out and meet our tour guides from Your Morocco Tour by 6:00 am. We walked out through the alleys to the streets, where twice as many buses were lined up as expected, and we approached another “half” of our group that we were not expecting. Apparently word got out about the trip that a girl named Kamrin scheduled, and the company allowed another 35 people to sign up without notifying Kamrin. This doubled our group size, making the amount of stops we made on the way to the Sahara much higher, and each stop took twice the time to allow everyone to use the restroom. Anyway, we piled into our 15-person buses, and I fell asleep quickly.
Next thing I know, our bus is being tossed back and forth around winding turns, everyone is on the edge of their seats with nail marks in their palms. Our driver was going at exceptionally high speeds around corners in the Atlas Mountains that were not guarded with rails. It was terrifying. We were whizzing through tiny mud-hut berber villages caked into the mountain sides, which was very cool, but hard to catch too much detail of as we passed them by so quickly. In one case, there was a group of about 7 children below the age of 10 and they stood and waved to us, and it melted my heart.
The villages were dilapidated and beautiful at the same time. Along the roads edge, every village included shops and attempts at making money off of tourists. We stopped at 8 am for Pringles and water, and other than bathroom stops, did not get off the bus to stretch or eat until 3 pm. Our guides kept telling us, “Just one more hour, just one more hour” when this was absolutely not the case and ultimately left many people feeling taken advantage of.
All of our tensions eased up quite a bit once we had food in our bellies. We were served a pre-paid meal of “Moroccan salad,” tajine chicken and some bizarre yellow melon fruit. A tajine is something of a small Moroccan stove (look it up on Google). After we left, the bus driver played wonderful Arabic music from CDs and the radio, and when that died down several people on the bus played music from their iPods with speakers they brought. It was good fun, and a great way to start bonding with new people on my trip.
We drove through the areas of Morocco where Babel was filmed, in addition to Prince of Persia and Gladiator, until we finally arrived in the Sahara. Many students had picked up wine on the way in, but I decided against it. We made our way through a resort after the sun had set, and out the back through some desert sand until we reached a large group of camels sitting down and several nomad guides. They took us in groups of 4 or 6 to their camels, and got us situated on them.
The camels stood up in a domino-like fashion, and you could hear one person yelp after the next as the alarming, jolting, swaying lift of the camel happened below them. We began on our way, and the desert sky opened up for us. It was painted with so many stars that we could see the Milky Way. I don’t think I’d seen that many stars since my dad and I went to Idyllwild with my Indian Princesses group when I was small(er). There was a shooting star every few minutes, and Stephanie in front of me told me about her new life philosophy: that even if everything seems hectic, sad, problematic, or anything of the negative sort – the best approach is to spin it to the grand perspective of life and take in every moment of it. Everything contributes to life one way or another, but if you can shine a light on it, life gets to be quite a bit easier. I think this is something I am going to try to adopt more and more as my journey continues.
After 2 hours, we finally arrived at Mezouga, the name of the nomad camp where we would stay in the desert. Our legs wobbled upon our descent from the camels as the trek was incredibly destructive to the inner thigh area. The guide of my camel train, Muhammad, told me that I would accompany him into the dunes after dinner. I politely said no, and went to find my friends. We walked through an arch into the lantern-lit camp, to find an area encircled by tents made from branches and blankets. The center of the camp was open, and had blankets all along the floor to keep sand from getting on everything (though of course, this is unavoidable in the desert). My 3 friends from my camel train and I claimed a tent, and went to join the rest of our group at the long and low tables that had been set up in the camp’s center. The chairs were low to the ground, and surprisingly we were sitting at tables adorned with silverware, plates and glasses. We were all served Morocco’s signature mint-sugar tea, and dinner came soon thereafter. First it was another Moroccan salad. Then, a tajine that carried something like a stew made of “Fox of the Desert” (?) and vegetables. The desert meat was gamey and chewey, and I’m not really sure what it was. We happily ate, and my new friends drank up their wine.
After dinner, the tables were cleared and the nomad men of the camp sat down in a circle. They each had African drums, and began to play some beats for us as we all sat down before them in awe. Soon enough, our group started to hop up and dance, and the nomad men jumped in as the drumming continued. It was so much fun, and nothing like I’ve ever experienced. Through the language barriers between our English and their Arabic-Berber dialects, this music brought everyone together, laughing and dancing under the stars in the Sahara. It was an incredible feeling.
It was my mom’s birthday, so my friend Erin and I stepped out into the sand away from the camp and said a prayer. We talked a bit about her and it was good to have memories in what Erin referred to as “the biggest beach in the world.” Erin goes to Ohio State, and I’m lucky that I get to take such a loving person home with me.
The evening ended soon after this, and I made some new friends who stayed up and chatted with me for about another hour. We spotted some ungodly large bugs scampering through the camp’s center, which drove me to sleep in my very hot sleeping bag even in the heat of the desert just to make sure they wouldn’t crawl between my toes.
All in all, even though 12 hours were spent in the bus, the camels were so cute and ugly at the same time and very fun to ride, the sky was brilliant, the nomad camp friendly and inviting and the entire experience worthwhile. Some interesting points to make are the lack of women we saw in the camps or among our guides, and the sad aspect of us not getting to interact with the people of the villages we drove through. All in all though, Morocco is a beautiful place full of desert and personality, and this day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Allah is God, and Muhammad the Prophet!

These are the words we heard wailing five times daily over a loudspeaker coming from the tallest minaret in every city throughout Morocco. It is the call to prayer made by the Imam, alerting the Moroccan people that the time has come again to worship Allah.
Though religion is clearly very prominent here, everything seems to be open to interpretation the way it is in the United States (to a degree, of course). There were men and women walking around in floor length gowns, wearing hoods or scarves and making sure to be completely covered out of respect to Allah and to one another. In some cases, however, local people could be seen walking around in tee shirts and shorts.
On my first day off the ship, I dressed in knee-covering shorts and a tee to cover my shoulders, being sure to carry a scarf in case I needed to cover my hair or head. I met up with some other buddies heading to Marrakech on the same camel trek, and we were definitely taken advantage of $-wise as we were foreigners and overcharged for our initial “petite taxi” ride. Much of the culture here is French speaking, so that came in handy (thank you, Dr. Yoshimura!). A train ticket in second class to Marrakech was 90 Dirham (about $10).
I ended up in a cabin with two local Casablancans and four unfamiliar SASers (Semester At Sea-ers). We all got to be friends, and one of the girls in the other group spoke French as well. It was so fun trying to talk with them through our language barrier, and hard to explain to them that we were living on the ocean. They were on their way down to visit their families in Marrakech as it was the first day after Ramadan, the month of fasting in the Muslim religion. After Ramadan, there is a big holiday that lasts several days called “The Eat,” which is the first day they are allowed to eat in public again, or between sunrise and sunset at all.
Anyway, we dismounted the train in Marrakech and I met back up with my roommate, Alexa, and two guys in my camel trek group. When we asked for directions, the police would not speak to me directly – they directed their speech at the men of our group even though I was the one with the language access. This infuriated me, and while I wanted to rage into a moment of feminine empowerment, I found it best to refrain out of respect for the local culture.
After a long walk to the Medina, we found our hostel. The Medina is the city center, which is where the mosque is located within each city and contains the main market and much of the local housing. The directions to our hostel were obscure as there are no street signs anywhere (even though they technically have names.. I think). “Go through the arch down the street on the left. Follow the left wall closely until you come to a restaurant, make a u-turn through another small arch and pass the second door on the right…” etc. 
We soon saw familiar faces, and got ourselves checked into our beautiful hostel. This was the first of many instances where I realized not to judge a book by it’s cover – so many of these brilliant resorts or cities and such are concealed by their outer wall; once the door was opened and I stepped inside, a lush world of palm trees, tile ornamentation and sunlight opened up. Our hostel had a pool and a rooftop garden that overlooked the city and provided a beautiful view of the mosque in the evening. All for just $25/night!
I went out for dinner in the Medina with my train-going group of four. We ate snails that were boiled and seasoned with a salt/cumin/saffron liquid. They were given to us in a bowl and served with a toothpick, which we used to scoop them out of their shells. Some of them were boiled while they were still out of their shells, and those ones with faces were especially difficult to eat. They were EXTREMELY delicious though, and I went back for seconds two nights later. ☺
We ate at one of the local market stands. The market that erupted at night was incredible. There were over 90 stalls, mostly serving the same thing, but creating this collective smoke rising from the center of the city and glowing in the market lights. Some of them had tables of goat heads lined up on them (thought I could never bring myself to eat at one of these…). Some only served Chabatikay (sp?) which is a honey-fried dough dessert, or only served mint tea sweetened with sugar cubes, etc. Often times they tried to swindle us and overcharge for their food, but ultimately it was inexpensive and always delicious. I got back to my hostel by 9:00 to meet up with people in my camel trek group and head to a belly-dancing restaurant we had heard about earlier.
After cabbing there, we arrived at a really nice restaurant. We were led through dim lights up a cascading staircase lined with musicians and a man singing in Arabic. It was astonishing Moroccan music that was definitely uncommon for an American mindset and made the experience all the more thrilling. We had reservations for 22 and were sat at two separate large tables. They served us wine and brought a hookah to the table, and within half an hour we had already started bonding quickly. The festivities began shortly thereafter and were very impressive.
These women danced ALL over the restaurant: in between tables, up and down the central staircase, around the DJ booth (yes, DJ booth).. everywhere. They balanced tea sets on their heads with lit candles on them while shaking their hips aggressively, or held candles in their hands while charming with their bodies. Some of them had bills in their straps, which made me want to compare it to a strip club, though I found this to be much classier (or so I would imagine). When they were dancing the music volume increased and everyone in the restaurant clapped joyously. We were so happy to be snacking on Moroccan olive-stuffed bread and enjoying the local atmosphere. The women rotated throughout the restaurant and then tucked themselves away once again until the next round of dancing. Thoughout the night, we all ended up popping out of our seats and dancing at the table together. The night went on like this until our taxi back to the hostel at 1:30 am, and I fell asleep thrilled after having made so many life-loving new friends and having fallen in love with a cheek-kissing culture to which I was previously completely unaware.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Madrid, and it's over!

After a whole hour or so of sleep, we all woke up and went to an early breakfast. I said goodbye to David, and we hopped in a cab to catch a train to Madrid. Kelly, Corey and I arrived and got off the train with no semblance of an idea of where to start. We wandered past the Reina Sofia Museum and up a busy street. After poking our heads into a pet store (which house ferrets, hedgehogs and groundhogs), we found ourselves a hostel on a side street near the Prado called Hostal Cervantes. Our landlord Fabio hooked us up with a key, and after giving our tuckered out legs a much needed rest, we took off to explore the city. Per suggestions of Jon Brown, a friend of mine who had just studied for several months in Madrid, we went to Plaza Mayor which is one of the biggest and most popular plazas in the city. There are all sorts of artwork and souvenir shops and restaurants in the area, and it was very cool to look at the old architecture and paintings on the walls of the buildings.
From here, we walked down to Plaza del Sol, another very famous old part of the city that was busy and loud. This led up a shopping path to Plaza de Callao, so we shopped a bit and stopped for food. From here, we went to check out the Royal Palace, as Madrid is the capital of Spain, but it was closed for the day so we saw the Cathedral instead. On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at El Mercado de San Miguel, which was absolutely amazing. Like an upscale farmers market, each vendor had a permanent shop selling fish, beer, wine, cheeses, desserts, etc. We each picked a vendor and got 3 of a small dish to share with each other, so it was a fun little potluck of sorts. Paired with wine, the food was good enough to distract from aching feet and tired bodies. Shortly after dinner, we all crashed and were in bed and asleep by 9:00 pm.
We woke up at 8 am the following morning, ready to take on El Museo del Prado. There was no line because of our early arrival! We went right in for just 4 euros, and picked up audioguides for 3 euros each. I was SO in my element, and it felt very cool.Kelly and Corey had their own personal tourguide, and the audio parts were only there for reinforcement! :) Thank you, Art History classes! Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and Velasquez's Las Meninas were probably my favorite. It was an amazing comfort to feel so at home in such a foreign place because of this common love for art. It was just.. great and possibly my favorite sight we saw.
After this ,we went to El Parque del Retiro, which is next to the Prado. We picked up some bocadillos (small cheap sandwiches) and sat on a park bench overlooking the paddle boat lake as we ate. We got a paddle boat and rotated rowing it ... it was hard, but a total blast and well worth the 4,55 Euros.
I went back to the hotel to nap while the other two explored, and we met back up at the hostel to explore the palace. Ran into some SASers on the way and said hello, and continued on to see the official Royal Residene of the King himself! (Even though no one really does live there.) It was enormous, very baroque/over the top, and very beautiful. Every room was themed. One king had a room to himself and was painted into the ceilings in addition to paintings of himself hanging from the wall (how awkward!). The ornamental designs and wall embroideries were beautiful, and this possibly rivaled the Prado visit. We left here, grabbed some grub, and headed back to shower. We each picked up a bottle of wine for 1 Euro, and finished them off before hitting the clubs. On our wandering path to nightlife, we ran into our SAS friends from earlier and stuck with them for the rest of the evening. Even though we ended up in a bar/club that played American classic rock tunes, it was nice to have a slice of home after having been away for so long.
The morning was rushed as we were not in good shape for travel. We woke up late and hadn't packed yet, and ended up missing our train. Because of this, we got on the next one, which broke down after an hour in the middle of nowhere. It finally got fixed, but put us in Cadiz to catch our boat 25 minutes after dock time. This means I acquired dock time in the following port: 3 hours restricted to the boat for every 15 minutes we are late. As we arrived in Morocco the following morning, I was sick with a fever and glad for the excuse to stay on the ship the entire day.
Overall, I really loved Spain. Even with the bland food and not loving Madrid, the culture was vibrant and the general vibe and way of life relaxed. Children are out until 1 am with their families, and everyone is laid back. Sevilla is full of color, and definitely a place I'd visit again, and I learned the importance of solid footwear (flip flops are not the way to go!) as Europeans walk everywhere!

Spain: Sevilla!

We woke up in the morning, and barely made it to our train in time. The ride was quick, and arriving in Sevilla was a thrill. The taxi ride was wild and reckless as we dodged in and out of alleys at full speed! After dropping off some bags at David's hotel, we went on to breakfast (for the second time that day). Shortly after this, we made our way to the cathedral, but couldn't see much of it as it was Sunday during mass.
On the way in, Kelly and I were approached by some women who said they had gifts. They began to bless us and placed leaves in our hands before we knew what was going on, and I tried to tell them we had no money but got hushed and kept my mouth shut. They told our fortunes and kissed our foreheads, and patted our purses with their hands out. When we insisted our lack of change, they grabbed their twigs back and spat at us. So muhch for gifts!
We then stopped for tapas and beer, and explored a local flea market. Next to that were permanent food market stalls, all named after their owners. From here, we walked to the Palace de Pilatos, which was David's idea. Every surface of the VERY old palace was lined with beautifully intricate tiles, and pretty amazing to behold.We strolled through the gardens listening to the cooing of doves from the rooftops until our tour of the furnished upstairs began. None of the windows had glass in them, and there was a light breeze running through the halls. The upstairs had some frescos and a Goya painting, which I got very excited about!
From here, we took another rollercoaster taxi to the bullfighting ring, el Plaza de Toros de Sevilla. We bought tickets for 12 euros, David went back to the hotel to rest and Corey, Kelly and |I enjoyed beer and tapas in a nearby "bar" until the fights began. At 7:00 sharp, we entered the dilapidated white building with yellow-orange trim and fine orange dirt on the ground. We sat down in our seats at the small arena, noticing that the small part of the crowd that showed was mostly tourists, and mostly SASers. The band, dressed in all white, played wavering, classic Spanish music to introduce the geared up horses, their riders, and the 12-15 matadors that followed in a formal arrangement. Shortly after this, the first bull entered the ring. He was black and shy and confused, and we realized that the only way to take in the experience would be to check our morals at the door and know that the bull's fate had already been decided. To spare the details, there were 6 bulls total, each one spent about 20-30 minutes in the arena and was dragged out in no kind of a respectful way. We stayed for 3, and decided we had seen enough.
Then we went to pick up David, and went out for dinner in the Jewish district near his hotel (which was called the houses of the Jews). Here, I ate the best meal I had in Spain. After this, we wandered trying to find some clubbing nightlife to no avail. On our way home, we finally found a club that was open until 6 am and filled with people about 23-30 years of age. We found ourselves a table in the corner, spent WAY too much money on drinks, chatting and laughing until 5 am.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spain, the intro!

Hello all,
Am terribly sorry not to have written in so long. I used up all of my internet minutes on the boat, but plan to set something up to be able to post here by emailing my blog.
Spain was... too much to put into words, really. On the first day, my friends Corey, Kelly and I exited the ship to find my friend David Jones, who came to meet us and traveled from London. Shortly after we found him, we did some wandering in Cadiz and bought train tickets, which was quite difficult with the language barrier. They got very fed up with us at the station. We then went to the cathedral for a tour, and our respective homes to change for the beach. The rest of the day was spent lazily baking in the Spanish sun, frolicking through light waves and looking out over the city while sharing stories and enjoying each others company. The Spanish lifestyle is to have tapas and a beer every few hours, so we indulged in this for sure. Spanish food is incredibly bland as it is all grilled in olive oil and no flavors or spices are usually added. David and I showered after Corey and Kelly left for their organized ship Flamenco excursion, and went off to find some dinner. Shortly thereafter, we enjoyed a flamenco show of our own. It was so amazing and passionate, and extremely expressive. Everywhere, they served olives when we sat as they serve bread in the states. After sharing some sangrias and a bottle of wine, a  crooked walk back to the ship as in order until the following morning when I met back up with my friends to continue traveling. Overall, Cadiz is an amazing city. It is incredibly mediterranean, and I kept thinking how much my dad would hate it if I lived there because he would think it was dirty. There is dog poop all along the streets, and every street is what we would consider an alleyway. The mediterranean lifestyle is casual and lazy, and I loved it. It was beautiful to catch a glimpse of a lifestyle through an open window as you walked through the streets, catching the eye of the habitant of a place and having a mutual understanding for a love for life.
I must got, as Kamrin is calling role for our camel trek in the Sahara, but I will write more about Spain in a few days (sevilla and madrid) and try to keep in touch. Adios!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Some things I learned, and pictures to share.

Gooood morning!
I learned these things today, and wanted to share. Also, I thought it necessary to post these Halifax pictures before arriving in Cadiz, Spain (in 48 hours!). ALSO, we just found out, we're arriving in Morocco a day early, which means more time to explore on LAND. Trés cool.
1. 3.5 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day. Think about that the next time you buy a coffee at Starbucks.
2. There are 15 physicians in Ghana for every 100,000 people. Don't you feel lucky right now?
Lastly, today is the first football game of the season, and I'll be wearing my jersey all day! GO BUCKS!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Good Morning Voyagers!
These are the words we hear over the speakers on a daily basis as we approach the middle of the day. There is always an update of how fast we are moving, how far we have to go, how much water we have used per person (in order to be aware of conservation) and listing any special events or seminars going on that day.
I have been attending nightly seminars on Spain that discuss culture, history and most importantly of all dining! It sounds like the Spanish eat all day, all the time – I am honestly looking forward to this aspect of Spain the most and plan to photograph every meal I eat before it ends up in my belly.
Finally falling into a routine here on the ship; going to class in the morning followed by some exercise and reading up on the top deck for class while laying out. Or, waking up to lay out and read, followed by class and working out. These are pretty much the only things there are to do around here. Dinner is between 5:30-7:30 daily, and seminars are at 8. Everyone ends up on one of the top two decks playing cards or board games or just chatting and enjoying each others’ company. I was expecting all sorts of cultures in each country I plan to visit, but was not expecting such a thriving and diverse culture here on our own ship. I have met people from all over the world (including my roommate from Germany!) with beautiful accents and have been pleasantly surprised.
Tomorrow I start teaching photography to kids ages 2-5. They are working on different in-port and inter-port projects, and I can’t wait to start spending time with the kids and having some structure to my A-Day afternoons.
The ship is starting to develop little cliques, but even still – we are all on the same page, and a stranger can sit down anywhere and continue to feel comfortable and welcomed. It is definitely nice to feel that you have your “go-to” people and I am glad this happened so quickly. Also, I have already filled two journals and need to buy a new one in Spain!
This morning we went by the Azores, a small group of islands about 930 miles west of Lisbon. This means we are getting VERY close and this is very exciting. The island we passed is beautiful and freckled with white towns and villages – I just wonder how they get internet! There were crashing waves along the cliffs and lush forests in the mountainous center – definitely a place I’d like to go check out one day in the far future.
Anyway – time to get my day going. Lots of reading to do for class and to get fully prepared for my time in España!