Tuesday, April 21, 2009


My home away from home! The MV Explorer has definitely become a place I can call home. I am going to be soo sad when it’s time to leave in 2 and half weeks because I’m soo used to it now. Life on board has been busy busy busy! More busy than I could have imagined, I thought I was going to have all this free-time and that my classes would be a breeze to get through, but no! Whole different story! Probably because I am involved with soo many clubs on board I’m always in a meeting or have somewhere to go. It’s been fun though!

I’m apart of four clubs/organizations which are the Students of Color group, Asian-Pacific Islander American group, LGBTQA, and the Ambassadors Ball. So I am always doing something or got to be some where on the ship. My main club that I am into the most is the Students of Color group, I took on the position of being the Student Coordinator and this group actually meets the most out of the entire shipboard community I think. We are like a family and I am soo glad we have this group here because I seriously needed some space to reflect and find support. So I help a lot with the event planning and coordinating of the meetings, send out emails and remind people when we are meeting. It’s nice to have conversations around identity and how we are affected by the things we experience in port. I am definitely proud of myself for getting involved in all these organizations because at home I would never have done it. I definitely want to get more involved back home now though since I have had such a positive experience from it here on the ship.

So I am usually super tired everyday basically, that’s why I was slacking on my blogs after India lol! It just got really difficult to keep up with everything because we only had 2 days at sea in-between each port traveling through Asia so it was soo hard! To just process everything we saw and to keep up with classes. It was a lot! It’s like school, vacation, school, vacation, but no time to recover from the last pot because your going to be in China the next day, it was like that. I like having at least 4 days in-between, it helps. So if you were wondering why I stopped posting for a while that’s why! I’ve been a busy girl here!

Another interesting thing is that we don’t have weekends on the ship, we have class everyday at sea basically, “A” and “B” days. So I never even know what day it is of the week really, none of us do lol. The time is constantly changing too! If you thought day-light savings was a hassle imagine losing an hour each day for 6 days. It gets a little hectic around here at times because everyone is super tired!!! Our meals on board are at scheduled times for 2 hour periods for each meal, so if you miss it you will probably be hungry… They have a pool bar on the top deck with snacks and a grill open at certain times, but it all adds up onto our shipboard account so I try not to spend too much there. It happens though, because I get hungry! A lot of people ask me how is the food, I mean they are making food 3 times a day for us for over 700 people so it’s not always the best food, but it’s food. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t, but after visiting these countries you come to realize that at least we have food. So I don’t complain about it, because at least I have something everyday you know.

Classes are not too bad, just one that everybody has to take called Global Studies is the one we all don’t like. Everyday at 9:20 am we are supposed to be in the Union which is a big room that fits like 400 students or we can go in the satellite classrooms since they video tape it they just stream it in there… I have to go to the union otherwise I won’t pay attention. My other classes are alright, some of my professors are chill about things and will let us turn things in late and some are more strict. Just depends on who you have. The thing that kinda sucks though is that if you miss a class you will definitely see your professor later that day at lunch or dinner or just around the ship and they stop and ask where you were haha. I usually only miss class if I’m sick, but yeah… It’s very informal, we call our professors by their first name, and we come to class in PJ’s and sweats most of the time. It doesn’t feel like real school sometimes, but we do have assignments, essays, and tests. Just a different structure to try and accommodate our situation. It gets really rocky at times and it’s funny to see everyone swaying back and forth with the motion of the ship, people lose balance if they are standing sometimes, but it’s not weird to see anymore. I’m used to the movement of it now. I’m going to miss it when I go home actually!

They also plan out different activities on the ship for us. They have movie nights sometimes or like open-mic night. There’s definitely always something to do. I never get bored here! They have pub night on the 7th deck sometimes where you can drink, but there’s no music and it’s just beer and wine, not a fan. It’s limited to like 2 drinks I think too, 2 at dinner and 2 up there… Not sure because I never got a drinking card… Pub-night is definitely not my scene though, some people are just obnoxious honestly and I don’t want to associate myself with them. So I usually will just go up to get a snack or talk with the crew then head back down.

The crew is GREAT on the ship!!! They are like family to me! They take care of everything for us on the ship, they are amazing! We are soo spoiled here. I did not know they would be doing that much for us when I got on board, but they really do earn their $! They clean our rooms and bathrooms for us, make our beds, do our laundry, cook, and pick up our dishes during dinner. I try and take my own plate all the time because I don’t feel comfortable having them do everything! I feel bad… They are all really good people though. Mostly Filipino and Jamaican, but a few from other countries too. I definitely will be keeping in touch with some of them. The thing that makes me mad is they have a no “fraternization” policy between crew and passengers which I think is soo dumb!! They are people too you know, but yeah when we run into each other in port we will have a drink or something. It’s cool. I love one particular crew member from South Africa =) she unfortunately left in Japan, but will definitely have to go back in visit!!! I love the crew though, they look like me more than the students do lol… it’s actually kinda sad that the diversity on the ship is very low.

It was quite disappointing when I first got on the ship to see that it was all white people basically. Only 5% non-white students and like no staff! I mean there’s a few, but less than a handful. Something they need to work on, the students of color group has expressed our concern in that area already to the administration and hopefully they will do something about it in the future.

Back to more on what there is to do here, umm, they also have a gym and cardio machines, weights, and a basketball court!! They have a big net around it so the ball doesn’t go overboard. So in the beginning they had soccer and volleyball, now it’s basketball intramurals. I was playing, but hurt my ankle in Japan, so played once hurt the other one, now I’m done! Don’t want to leave on crutches so I decided to sit out. Yeah other than that everyone is either reading, working on assignments, emailing home, or sleeping if not eating. The days sometimes go by really fast. It gets pretty routine sometimes. I’m trying to do it all though, since time is limited I don’t want to miss anything!! I’m never in my room, just to sleep and shower really.

That’s basically what I do on the ship, nothing too special, but I’m telling you I am always tired! I love it though, miss home definitely too. Ahh it’s almost over, super excited to see you all at home don’t get me wrong! But I’m also going to be really sad to leave all this and just knowing I’m not going to see my friends here anymore is sad. We have become a really close group, and I’m lucky to have them. The whole experience has been great, I love it here. I really have grown to call the ship home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



Alright I’m sitting here trying to decide if I should go back and blog on the countries I missed and I think I should. Each one was soo different and I experienced too much to not share with you guys. Even though I’m writing this during my transit to Hawaii, I find it important to share. At least the major points of what I experienced…

What a hott/humid country Vietnam is! I did not expect to HAVE to shower twice a day there just to feel comfortable… Lol! Anyways, I do have to say I learned A LOT, soo much about the war and the people… I felt angered and sad after leaving Vietnam, or even while I was there. Angered at the fact that I was uneducated on the war and on the after-math it had on the people there. I went to the War Remnants Museum there and that was an emotional 2 hours. We weren’t taught a lot of what was actually done. We always only learn the American side to the story if even that, and it angers me! I could not believe the pictures I saw and things I read in that museum. I felt embarrassed to be an American. I never learned what Agent Orange was or about the torture American Soldiers did to the Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. It broke my heart to see that people are still suffering from the effects of being exposed to agent orange and how many children were born with deformities and disabilities because of it. The blood left on the Vietnamese soil is still visible left from our country. I had soo many questions walking through that museum, most of it began with “WHY?” Why did we do this? Why did it happen? Why wasn’t I taught about this? Why? Why? Why? Soo many questions unanswered….

I left the museum speechless, timid, tearful, and sad. My friend Braxton and I went together and we didn’t even know what to say to eachother. We felt horrible and just had to leave… I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels the 1st day and the museum the last day. If I would have went to the tunnels after having been to the museum my experience and outlook would have been totally different. I could not imagine how they lived in those tiny tunnels for soo long. I couldn’t stand maneuvering through the one we went in for longer than 5 minutes… It was an awakening for me as most of the things I have witnessed on this voyage have been…

I’ve learned that I have to seek the knowledge I want and am yet to learn. Nobody is going to teach it to me. I have to go out there and learn about it myself. I want to know more and more and more. Even if it is the horrible things that happened in the passed, I want to be aware of it. I would rather be knowledgeable than no nothing about the war or culture.

Yeah Vietnam was definitely an eye-opener. I did do more than learn about the war. I had a positive experience with a few locals that spoke no English and I speak no Vietnamese. We found a common ground though and communicated with hand gestures and expression. It was an interesting experience, one that I will never forget. They were soo excited to meet us though. I also had a chance to see the Mekong Delta and experience the floating market. I tried all sorts of fruit and saw a different type of life I ceased to know existed. The Mekong Delta was great to see… The food I had in Vietnam was fabulous! A lot better than the Vietnamese food I’ve had in the states that’s for sure lol! The people were AMAZING!!! I could not believe how open-armed they were to us …

My mind is overwhelmed with experiences from Vietnam. It was an emotional, life-alternating, self-educating, and challenging experience all-together for me. Vietnam is in my heart and I am soo grateful I had the opportunity to visit such a country of great people and tragic history.


It is May 21st and we are already going to be in Vietnam tomorrow just 2 days after leaving Thailand. It is getting really difficult to keep up with school and process all the information and my experiences soo fast. One day we are in India, a few days later in Thailand, and now Vietnam. The time really flies by, it is crazyyyy!

Anyways, I am trying not to fall behind in my journaling and blogging so I got to write and keep writing whenever I can. Thailand was a relaxing port for me. A LOT different than our last port (India). I did not get a chance to make it to Bangkok, but I did go to the island of Koh Samet and spent most of my time also in Pattaya. Two very different parts of Thailand! They informed us about the sex industry in Thailand and told us we would see it while we were there, but I was in no way prepared for what I saw. I have never seen that many sex workers in my life! It was soo bad! The area where I saw them in was in Pattaya by walking street. This is where the nightlife is at and is like Vegas, but more intense. Some students say it is even crazier there than Amsterdam? I have never been there, but yeah, Pattaya was like nothing I have never seen. I have to admit I had a good time partying out there, but it definitely took a toll on me seeing all those young women, looking not much older than myself, working the street and strolling off with old foreign men. It was terrible!!! =/

On another note, the Thai people were very nice and helpful. I was surprised to see how many people spoke English. I had the chance to spend a day with a Taxi driver that my friend and I paid to take us around and tell us about the culture and people. His name was pronounced like “Clack-Clack” but I’m sure that’s not how you spell it lol! He was GREAT! Took us all around Pattaya and even had dinner with us, told us about his kids, and his thoughts on the sex industry in Thailand. It was really nice having a local with us to show us the good places to go and see. I think I learn soo much more from people than seeing actual sites… I can appreciate the culture a lot more and develop a greater understanding of the people.

The massages in Thailand are the BEST I must say so myself! I had two while I was there and they were both great! If you ever go to Thailand make sure to get one! I recommend the oil massage! A little uncomfortable at first, but trust me, you get over that part fast and it is really relaxing.

I also had the chance to go see some animals in Thailand and I got the chance to hold and feed a baby tiger! It was great! A little scary, but I’m happy I had the chance to do it. I just didn’t appreciate how they treated the tigers there.. They seemed enclosed in a small space and yeah don’t want to get into the rest.. I also held a baby crocodile! That was pretty cool! Very rough texture to the scales/skin, whatever… lol…

The island of Koh Samet was a beautiful place! Nice clear water that was almost like bath water, and very warm. I went banana boating there which was quite an adventure… All of us came out with some form of injury and I lost an earring I had just bought! Oh well… It was worth it.. That overnight trip was very peaceful and relaxing, a nice getaway from the city… Overall Thailand was a super nice place to visit. I don’t know how I feel about everything I saw there, it’s a lot to process and some of it makes me really sad. The people I encountered were super nice and welcoming to me. Many people thought was Thai actually and I received soo many compliments on my short hair haha, it was nice. Thailand was a great start to the East-Asian countries we will visit. I’m going to miss it….

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A whole new world is what it seemed like. They told us from the moment we would step off the ship we would notice it through one of our senses. From what I saw, smelled, felt, tasted, and heard it was a definite difference. The humid, dirty, moist air immediately took me back and made me realize I was in a place like no other. The smell is distinct, and is everywhere. The things I saw were not so pretty at first. Old-run-down buildings, dirty streets with trash everywhere, people peeing against walls in public, children walking barefoot, street-vendors hustling to make a living, and traffic that was busy, loud, and hectic! It was a big first impression and I didn’t really know how to handle it since it was soo much at one given moment.

The places I visited were Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The ship was docked in Chennai, but I was gone the whole time there so did not really see much of Chennai besides the bus ride to and from the airport there. I traveled with about 80 other students on a 5 day 4 night adventure.

It was REALLY hard for me to see all of what India is. At one point I almost broke down in our tour bus. It was a lot to take in at once. I wish I could show you all and explain to you guys everything I experienced, but it would be impossible to convey the same feelings that I felt there… There were soo many, I felt sad and angry at the same time. Excited, but tired at another. Soo many emotions and feelings in such a short time makes you think, think a lot about the world we live in and the way we choose or not choose to live. I spent most of my time on the bus traveling to the different parts of India, but I saw soo much by just looking out the window.

Here’s something from my field journal I wrote during my bus ride:
March 6th, 2009
“Driving through the country you see soo much looking out the window. I think it just barely hit me that I am really here, and the life I see outside is a reality. Soo much diversity, yet soo much poverty. Kids roaming barefoot through the roads, babies holding babies begging in the streets… Endless like and colors, some brighter than others. I looked outside the window and saw tired faces, people of all ages, working, hustling, a never ending story…”

There are people literally EVERYWHERE!!! It is crazzyyy how many people there are. Some people would wave and smile, and I would wave and smile back and get really excited. And other people would just stare, stare and look just as we were doing, maybe we were the first non-Indian people they had seen in person, could be… I’m not sure, but we definitely spent a lot of time on the tour busses and I could not believe that soo much life exists at all time of the day and night. It is insane!

I definitely have a greater appreciation for the Indian people and culture. I visited a Hindu temple in Dehli and it was really interesting. I never took the time to actually learn about the religion and now I can really understand what the religion conveys and practices. I have soo much more respect for other religions and am humbled by how welcoming they were to us in letting us visit. It was the 1st Hindu temple I had ever been to and was a gorgeous one at that. There is a lot of symbolism and insight to phrases plastered all over the temple walls. Religious figures painted and carved everywhere you look in a variety of colors. It was impressive art and the history behind it all was amazing.

I feel like a changed person in some ways after leaving India. I saw A LOT of things, some really beautiful and surreal things like the Taj Mahal, and some really sad and emotional things like the corruption of some of the people there and the poor children begging on every corner. They told us that we would change after India, that it would be impossible not to change after what we would see. I feel like I have changed in many ways. It is hard to describe, but I can feel it inside of me that something is different. I guess it will be apparent when I return home and there is a certain aspect about me that is different.

I visited monuments that had guards in front of them armed with AK-47s. I went to palaces with mirrored and gold walls. I walked through the dirt-roads and watched out for cows in my path. I rode an elephant up to one palace in Jaipur. I bargained my way back and forth with street vendors to get the best price for my souvenirs. I tried the Indian food I was always afraid to try in the states. I walked through the city of Dehli at night in search of an ATM. I got lost in the streets, but always seemed to find my way back. I met six little Indian girls that couldn’t stop smiling and wanting my attention. I brushed my teeth with bottled water because they told me to. I saw the snake charmer play his flute and a cobra slither out of its basket. I rode in a rig-shaw-taxi when they told us not to. I visited the Taj Mahal and embraced the moment looking at one of the 7 wonders of the world. I took pictures to remember those moments that will never come again. I got the worst allergies because of the bad air quality and could barely see. I wore sunglasses for half of the trip because of how red my eye looked. I made myself stay awake on the long bus rides so I could stare outside my window. I saw life I never knew existed. I saw poverty in its worst form. I tried to buy food for the begging boy holding his baby brother that was hungry. I tried to understand why the boy didn’t want the food. I tried to understand why the King cut the 20,000 men’s arms off after they built the Taj Mahal. I tried to understand the caste system, but failed to let it set in my mind as fair. I tried to understand why the people would let the corruption of the orphan children occur. I tried to understand why they purposely disable the children and make them beg for a rupee. I tried to understand why they told us not to help the beggars. I tried to understand why the air was soo thick. I tried to understand why the streets were soo dirty. I tried to understand why nobody seemed to care.

Now I understand why they told me India would be a country I would NEVER forget…

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I’m trying to keep up with these blogs for you guys back home so you can read up on my adventures! It’s soo hard though because I really don’t have that much free time. I’m sitting on my bunk right now and I feel like I’m going to fall off because it is extremely rocky right now going into Mauritius. The bangs and motions from the waves crashing into the ship are intense!!! Anyways, I still want to be able to share Cape Town with all of you because it was an AMAZING port! My favorite soo far!

When I walked outside on the deck after I woke up and looked to see what was around me in port it looked like a nicer fisherman’s warf! It’s actually called Victoria Warf in Cape Town, but it was foggy and a little cold and I could see Table Mountain in the background over the waterfront, it was a nice view even with the fog! I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect Cape Town to be this urbanized, it was an eye-opening view for sure.

I was excited to get off the ship and roam the port, but I had an FDP (Field Dependent Practicum) on the ship right away so I had to stay on for that for my class. I’m glad I chose to attend this FDP though. We had 3 authors from Cape Town come on board and share their novels with us. They told us what they were about, why they wrote them, and they each read a short passage from them. After that they opened up the floor for questions. This was for my Asian American Fiction class. All of the authors were great, but one of them had a story like no other. I just had to buy his book and he signed it for me too. He is an African from one of the townships in Cape Town, and his story is about surviving an attack and 5 gun wounds while walking through his township I the night. He lived thankfully! And his way of healing in a sense was to write about it. Listening to him talk about writing and about his story has inspired me to want to write and maybe actually publish something one day. He gave me some advice about beginning to write and he told me the opportunity I have been provided with here on Semester at Sea is the perfect place to begin writing. I am excited to see what I will make of it and see how my story will end up. That was a great experience for me and I’m glad I got to meet them, it was the first time I had met an author and been able to talk about their book and ask questions. Great start to my time in Cape Town!

I do not want to go through my 5 days in Cape Town play by play, but everything that I did in Cape Town was just so relative to my experience it’s hard not to. I actually made a video blog about the 1st two days but I can’t upload it since I have no internet minutes! Ahh!

Alright I’m just going to go into detail about a few of the things I did and experienced. Habitat for Humanity was by far the most eye-opening thing I did in Cape Town. I went on the 2nd day and the site where we worked at was in a Township called Khayelisha, and a township is the area where all of the poor people live... Cape Town has a lot of white people surprisingly, but in the townships it is ONLY black people it seems like, figures... It is the area where all the shacks are lined up together to form their own community, made out of any scrap metal or material they can find to make their homes. Just driving into the township I felt sad, teary, and in shock because I had this idea of what poor is, but it is just to the extreme there. I had never seen that many people in poverty in my life! I think it was because that there were soo many people, that it was just a huge impact on me… My idea of poverty in states is completely different to poverty in Africa. I was ignorant to not think about how different it would be, but it was just soo crazzzzyyy to me to see THAT many people living like that. I felt terrible because I know how we live in the states, and then to see that, it just doesn’t compare, and doesn’t seem right to me at all... We have soo much back home, and they have soo little, but they are actually happy there it seems like, they are VERY appreciative of everything. To see the nice part of Cape Town where we were docked and then just 15 minutes away to see that just blew my mind…

I’ve never volunteered for Habitat before, but I’m soo glad I did. We did roofing and our coordinator was a really nice guy. He was actually from Khayelisha and his name was Mufundis. The work was physically enduring, we had to use ceramic tiles and get them on the roof, lay them out and nail them in. It took awhile, but we got it done. Then we used cement and fillied in the gaps between the roof and wall with bricks. I have soo much respect for brick layers now! It’s definitely hard work. After we had our lunch from the ship we took a mini-tour of the township. There were some little girls outside watching us work and some of the other students had stickers and pencils to give out and these girls were just soo excited. It was like Christmas for them, I never have seen a kid that appreciative for something soo small in my life. It just goes to show how little they have there and how much we have. I definitely want to do some events to raise money to send school supplies to the schools in Khayelisha. I feel like there is soo much we can do back home to help the kids there. Walking trough the township kids would just run up to us and want to talk to us and hug us. They were excited to see people that looked different from them I guess. What really shocked them though was when I took off my bandana and they saw that I had no hair. They just looked amazed, jaw dropped almost, I just laughed and was like yeah I cut it all off! We had a chance to go into a daycare there and the kids sand for us in African, they were soo cute. I have a video of them singing. I gave one little boy a hug and they all rushed me to get a hug haha. I love little kids! The tour was short, but we saw a lot, visited our coordinator’s house and met his mom. It was a good experience. It’s crazy that they make their own community in the township with barbers, salons, shops, and food stands in the shacks. I was surprised to see all of that.

Visiting Khayelisha and participating in Habitat was definitely something I value while in South Africa. I only hope that the two-million people that live there will have houses soon and that more people will help out with the projects there.

The rest of my trip consisted of extreme activities: Cliff Jumping, Hiking Table Mountain and repelling from it, and cage shark diving. I did participate in all of them. I did also get hurt though and am actually lucky to have walked away from. I wnt cliff jumping in Kamikaze Canyon and I got hurt on my last jump. I did 4 jumps total, a 7 meter, 10 meter, 14 meter, and 21 meter. The 21 meter jump was the one I got hurt in. They were all fun until that happened, but I hit the water wrong and was paralyzed for about a minute, couldn’t move my legs and could barely breathe. I could not talk at all and I was making like a murmuring noise. Luckily our guide was right there in the water when I jumped so he pulled me up fast. I was soo scared that I would never walk again and that I was going to have to get helicoptered out. I couldn’t communicate witht the others so I just prayed, prayed that I would be ok and walk. There must have been some angels looking after me because within two minutes I regained my breath and was able to talk and slowly get up and walk. It was crazy. They said I was really lucky. I was in A LOT of pain still though. I went on with the hike in the canyon because I didn’t want to ruin the trip for everyone else so I toughed it out. My legs were soo bruised and my ass too, the next couple of days were torture! My tailbone hurt soo much! It hurts to get up and sit and sleep, even still a week later. My neck hurts too, but I’m getting better and will be ok. I went to see the doctor when I got back. But yeah that was pretty scary! The baboons attacked our bags and stole our food, I ate most of my lunch though before they got my bag, I just didn’t want them to touch me lol. They threw everybody’s stuff everywhere looking for food. It was funny, but then there were like 7 of them around us and it was kinda scary. But yeah they eventually left us alone. I finished the rest of the hike and am soo proud that I made it! I was in a lot of pain, but I did it.

I did go hiking and repelling the next day because I am crazy lol. I’m on pain medicine so that got me through it. It was such a view though at the top of the mountain! I have never been soo proud of myself physically. I made it up in about two hours, was the last in the group because of my injury, but still pushed myself and made it! Repelling was soo worth it too! The scary part is just leaning off the edge. I jumped out and would slide down, it was fun, the view was soo cool though! It was the largest commercial abseil/repel in the world. Crazzyyy! I’m glad I was able to do it!
Shark Diving was really fun too! Kinda scary, but not that bad! 1st time I wore a wetsuit, I wanna get one when I go home! It really does keep u warm in freezing water haha… But yea we were lucky to see the sharks because the group the day before didn’t see a single one. February is the worst month of the year to see them they said, but we saw two, a 2 ½ meter one and a 3 ½ meter one! I’m glad I went. I have the dvd to show you all when I come home!

Anyways, this finally wraps up what I did and experienced in Cape Town. I did not go out a single night to the bars or clubs which is kind of lame, but that’s not why I was there so it’s ok. I met some really nice South Africans that I will remember forever. The craft market had the most amazing, creative, talented artists I have ever seen. The people there are really creative and I bought a few things from some of them. I could honestly see myself living in South Africa, but it would be hard with that big of a separation between the rich and the poor. I would definitely have to work with fixing that problem and community involvement if I did, but don’t worry, I’m not going to move there. I’ll just have to come back and visit someday. I got to experience both the cultural side of Cape Town and the adventure side of it. I learned a lot about the people there, and value of things in life. The things that matter the most to these people are the things we often take for granted. I also learned that I have definite Angels watching over me on this trip and am soo thankful for them. I know I am lucky and will not be doing anything else life-threatening on the trip so don’t worry. I bought an amulet from the craft market of the endless knot to protect me and give me strength. I wear it everyday. South Africa has definitely been my favorite port soo far and I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to go and see this part of the world. As you can tell from the length of this blog, there is soo much to see, do, learn, people to meet, and culture to endure that it was just an overall great experience. I <3 Cape Town South Africa!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Wow… I actually just crossed the middle passage, sailing down the Atlantic Ocean, the same blue seas the 12 million African slaves were forced to cross, the same blue seas that many slaves were beaten, raped, tortured, and died on. This was an emotional passage to Africa. I am part of the students of color group on the ship and we put on a day of silence and the middle passage event right before arriving in Namibia. We wore black or brown that day and taped a sign to ourselves saying what we were doing and recognizing that day. We did not talk all day long from the time we woke up until 8 pm that night. We all had the whole day to reflect and think, think about all those people, their families, their torture, their deaths, and their survivals. The last 15 minutes of our silence we went to the back of deck 7 and looked over the balcony together at the sunset and ocean. It was a powerful moment that I will never forget. So many things ran through my mind, I can’t even describe them all. The group then walked in together into the union where we sat in the middle of the floor together in front of the audience and continued our recognition, broke our silence, and shared our reflections. The emotions, feelings, spoken-words, poetry, and tears we shared made us all connect on a different level. I will never forget that day.

We then arrived in Walvis Bay on Valentine’s Day and I remember going outside to look at the port on deck 7 to see what it was like. It was kind of cold, but it was like 7:30 in the morning, and there was like a fishy bay smell in the air. I could see workers working on a tall structure in front of us, they were making a lot of noise with whatever they were doing, but some of the workers waved to me as they walked by which was nice. There was a group of young girls that were waiting to perform for us outside and we watched them from the front of the ship looking overboard and they sang and danced for us. They were from a school and had traveled quite a ways to come, some of them were orphans. It was great to have them there and I was excited to get off the ship and meet some of them before leaving to my safari. They performed for awhile and after they were done they seemed very excited to meet all of us. They wanted to take pictures and ask us all kinds of questions. One girl named Samba was really interested in why I didn’t have any hair haha. It was funny and I tried to explain to her why I did it, I even showed her a picture of how I used to look in my camera. She told me that she goes to school and when I asked what they were learning about she told me HIV AIDS. I was kind of shocked to just hear that be the first thing, but in Namibia there is a very high rate of HIV cases, it took me back a little though because this girl was only ten years old. She asked if I was staying on the ship for awhile because they were going to go on and have a tour, but I felt soo bad because I had to go right away on my safari. I wish I would have had more time to interact and talk to them. They were a great welcome into Namibia.

Now it was off to Etosha National Park for the safari and the lonnnnnggg drive. We were told it would only be 4 hours, but it ended up being like 7 or 8 hours! Soo longgg. We stopped a couple of times and picked up gifts in the shops and I just slept and read my Obama book. I met some interesting guys while walking in the shopping area that randomly came up to me. He thought I was from China because of my bald head hahaha! I was like no, the United States! He made these little nut carvings with animals on them and he engraved my name in it. I thought that was pretty cool. I had to pay for it though, but it wasn’t that much. It’s weird using the African money though which is the rand because you feel like your spending more than you actually are because $2 is like 20 in rand. So it’s hard to get adjusted to the change in currency since they are different because it makes you not want to spend anything since it seems like more, but it really isn’t. Anyways we finally get to Etosha and the guides on my bus were absolutely amazing! They set up our tents in the rain for us, cooked our dinner, and we didn’t have to do anything, but some of us helped them. A lot of the students that went on the trip in the other buses were just drinking the whole time. I didn’t really get it, I mean we were in Africa, on a Safari, camping out, and all they cared about was drinking. Yeah I definitely do not understand some of the people that are here. I took advantage of the fact that we were away from the city lights and traffic and I went to the water hole on the 2nd night and saw soo many stars. I had never seen soo many in my life. It was amazing, I felt like I was looking at a mirage or a picture because it looked unreal. It was great. I just laid on the bench and took in that moment.

The safari was pretty kool. It takes forever to find the animals because you just drive around for hours trying to find them, but it was nice seeing them un-caged. I saw a lion, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, wildebeests, spring boks, and jackals. No elephants or rhinos. We were out all day though looking for these animals. The top to the mini-bus popped up so we could stand on the seats and take pictures, I didn’t get any good ones though because my camera sucks! Lol, the zoom is broken, but I will steal some from the other kids. Our bus broke down a couple times and we almost were going to have to get another group to come get us, but it eventually started again. The good thing was that there were no dangerous animals around at that time or it would have been scary. It was a good experience though and I’m glad I had the chance to go.

We were only in Namibia for 3 days so that trip took up the entire time, when we got back all I wanted to do was shower and sleep. It was kool camping out though in the tents and meeting new people from the ship. I think I learned a lot from our guides, Gabriel and Paulie the most. They worked really hard for us and made me feel welcome in their country. I think it is kool to go to all these places, but you really get the most of the experience from talking to the people that live there like the little girls that sang and danced for us in the beginning, and the guy that sold me the carved nut. I think those are the moments I will remember most. The actual scenery as well was unforgettable too, the sunset in Etosha was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen by the water hole, and the stars were brighter than ever, Namibia was definitely a nice port.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Neptune Day, February 9th, 2009 for the Spring Semester of Semester @ Sea. The day we cross the equator on board the MV Explorer and also a day full of silly traditions (youtube semester at sea Neptune day lol) including shaving your head as an option if you would like to...

(I did NOT do this just because it was Neptune day…)

This was the one day though where it would logical and be now or never! I had been thinking about it for some time now, going back and forth for about two months…

One of the reasons was so that I could donate my hair to charity so that people that are actually sick can have hair where as I can grow back mine… I was able to donate like 10 inches… and after cutting off that much I just had to go all the way because I knew I would regret not doing it later…

Second reason was that my hair was A LOT to manage…. I would get frustrated with it all of the time and I actually would lose a lot of hair anyways each day combing all the tangles out… It is just hard to take care of, especially on this voyage traveling to soo many countries where we are not able to shower in some… Now when it grows back it will be healthy, and may even come out straight like when I was little… you never know… I’m excited to see how that will be…

Third reason is I really want to get the MOST of this once in a LIFETIME experience… I already feel somewhat changed, but by May, I will have grown for the better as a person even more. Shaving my head will enable me to experience what cancer patients experience with having no hair and looking different from everyone else. I’m not sick so obviously mine will be growing as time passes, but I think I will grow a deeper appreciation for my hair, my health, and my life as a whole. I think it is something many of us take for granted, I think I have. This is something I wanted to do for that purpose, and to show other people that bald can be BEAUTIFUL!

I do not know if people will treat me differently now because of how I look, but it will be interesting to see how much outside appearance really affects that. I really don’t know… All I can say now is love me for me, not my hair, but for my heart and the PERSON that I am. I have my health, my family and my friends, that is all I need. I am sailing around the world on a “floating University” for crying out loud! You would think it would be appropriate to pull a Britney right? =) Smile because I am, and I have no regrets, I am having the time of my life here. It’s just hair, it will grow back!

Alright now time to study, study, study before we hit Namibia in Africa in 4 days! I think it’s about that time for a Safari!!! I <3 SEMESTER @ SEA! =)

LOVE YOU MOM, DAD, ANT, BRETTY BOY, & ALL MY AMIGOS & FAM BACK HOME! (Thank you J & Marion for persuading me to go bald!)

Friday, February 6, 2009


Cold, windy, puddles, dirt, and cloudy was how it was first walking off the ship and into the port in Casablanca. Not the best weather, but it still could have been worse. Traveling with 23 other students on an independent trip planned by one student on the ship before leaving home through face book. It was an interesting group, I didn’t really know any of them. Finally we find our guide outside of the port gates after our 25 minute walk to get outside of the port. We all fit into a small bus and jeep and head straight to Marrakech which is a 2 ½ hour drive away where we spent most of our time. Driving by the roads you see mules trotting along, women walking completely covered head to toe, people in fields with herds of sheep, horses with carriages of fruits and vegetables, and a lot of land. It was very kool to see how different life is in Morocco.
The first day we checked into our hotels, which was in the Medina near the major market place called the Souks, and the hotel was pretty sketch, not cute at all, but part of the experience. It was cold, no hot water, had to scrounge for toilet paper, luckily I had brought some Kleenex! And also blankets that we just hoped we wouldn’t catch scabies from since they kept scaring us about that in or pre-port meetings lol… Anyways from the hotel we went to a bank to get the Durham (Moroccan money) and then went to a very authentic Moroccan lunch! It was soo kool, at the top deck, open cabana like environment, with Moroccan drapes, just full of culture. We got to try a lot of Moroccan food, family style, it was salad, but much different than the salad we are used to, bread that was freshly baked and like round flat loaves which was good, koosh koosh (not sure if that’s how u spell it haha) which is very popular there that had steamed vegetable over it, lemon chicken, olives, some type of little beans, and I forget what else, but I tried almost everything it was good. The desert there is oranges with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, but their oranges are the best ever! Then some mint tea which is super sweet to end the meal with. It was a kool experience. Definitely!
After lunch we headed on a guided walking tour through the city, visited old palaces and shopping areas, the market place. Took a lot of pictures… The Moroccan men make a lot of comments to the women, and they warned us about it on the ship. Some guy tried to buy a girl in my group for 3000 durham, it was crazzyy.. and they know your not from their so they just yell out random things like spice girls haha, and someone said good afternoon to Japanese to me lol, and stuff like beautiful and then other stuff in their language. It gets intense, but you just keep walking and don’t make eye contact with them because in their culture it means the women want to have sex with you, it’s crazy. Anyways we spent to nights at the shady hotel haha and at night went to the Souks, ate at the busy market area where like a million ppl come up to u and try to get u to eat at their stand. Kids are walking around begging for money and trying to sell u Kleenex packets, it’s soo sad. There is a lot going on in that area, tons of people there. At night we found a bar near by, but I was not trying to go clubbing there, oh hell no… but yeah the 2nd day we woke up early got a lil snack/breakfast from a cart where a woman made these crepe-like rolls with honey, it was good. And we headed to a different part in Marrakech where we went Camel Trekking! It was sprinkling rain so we all got wet, muddy, dirty, and their were 14 camels, 24 of us so most of us rode 2 on each. It was quite an experience, almost fell 3 times because our camel was getting mad and kept trying to eat while we were on it so it was a ride haha. I was scared, but the girl that rode with me was terrified. It was fun though.. I took a video which I will upload whenever I get a chance to get free internet. Anyways camel riding was very kool! Dirty, but kool.
We drove another 2 hours to the Atlas mountains, saw waterfalls, snow, and the Berber village which is like the indigenous people village. Went to the 1st palace ever made in Africa which reminded me of Aladdin the Disney movie lol. No one lives there now though, it is very old, I think from the the 18th century? Not sure. But the views were just amazingly beautiful. It was surreal, like looking at a picture. The people that lived in the Berber village were very poor, they used the old school washing board with a bucket and their little houses were like ceramic/mud walls. I saw a little girl washing her hands in a puddle of water along the path, it was very sad, and they speak either some form of Arabic or French their. So we could not understand what they were saying when they asked us questions. I could not imagine what it would like to live like that, definite moment of appreciation for everything I have at home, but also sadness for how bad it is there and sense of helplessness. I’m glad they took us their though, it was good for us all to see how these people live. Close to the village a Moroccan family opened up their home to our group and set up their living room so that we could all eat there. It was very nice, and they prepared our lunch that afternoon, of course Moroccan food, and then we each paid. We spent all day in the Atlas mountains, at the village, so by the time we got back to the hotel it was already dark. Continued with more shopping and visited the new city part of Marrakech that night. Much more modern and wealthy than old Marrakech.
The last night about 9 of us crammed in one room with two beds and stayed up for awhile talking and then passed out there for warmth haha… It was fun, but uncomfortable! I didn’t get much sleep also because at like 5 in the morning there were people shouting or praying outside and chanting super early, woke me up! Lol… but yeah we left Marrakech that day and drove back to Casablanca and visited the 2nd largest Mosque in the world! It was closed for tourists to go inside until a certain time so we only saw the outside. It was raining though so we all got all wet. Finished the day with walking around Casablanca, having lunch at a restaurant, I had Moroccan Pizza which was pretty good, then walked back into port to get on the ship after saying bye and tipping or tour guide. It was an experience in Morocco! I have never been so happy to get on the ship haha! I went straight to my shower after turning in my passport! We are spoiled on this ship I swear… Morocco was very interesting to see, I’m glad I had the chance to go. Leaving Morocco was crazzyyy because the waves were soo big! A lot of our cabins were trashed wih stuff all over the place, my ladder came off my bunk and stuff in the bathroom was all over the place! Other people’s rooms were worse and there were a few injuries. I was on the 5th deck outside of the room watching people slide across the floor haha. We are ok though… my new perfume from Spain broke though, fell out the cabinet this morning =( cost me 25 euros so I was mad… but oh well. The good thing is that I’m safe. Now it’s 9 days at sea until Namibia and my Wild Dog Safari!!! We cross the equator along the way! That means I’ll be shaving my head.. yes I’m shaving my head, it’s tradition, you don’t have to do it, but I am since I’m over this hair and it’s now or never. I may look like a boy but whatever. Love me for who I am, not how look is how I see it, the hair will grow back and I’m going to donate it. Email me if you want to talk more about this to me haha.. My brother is begging me not to… Well ne-ways I have to go shower and get lunch now so I’ll give you guys an update soon!

I sent some postcards out so email me when u get them! And if u want one email me ur addy if u think I don’t have it…

Miss u guys!! Take care xoxo