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

Sunday, February 1, 2009


What’s up guys! I’m in my cabin right now trying to manage with the waves and stuff falling off my shelves lol. Just left Cadiz and am on my way to Morocco in Northern Africa where the sea gets a little more rough, but we should be ok.

Anyways, Spain is absolutely AMAZING!!! I love everything there. The food, the people, the culture, the futbol!!!! It was a great experience for me… I was only in Cadiz and Sevilla while in Spain. Madrid and Barcelona were further away in Northern Spain so I decided to stay closer to the ship. I will definitely have to return sometime soon!!!

I went to a Flamenco show and Bullfight the first night with the city orientation tour in the day. It was very cool to see, the flamenco looks kinda hard to do too, they were great dancers! We had Sangria and tapas there, but I didn’t like their sangria too much, I dunno, I feel like I’ve had better haha. I also did tons of sight-seeing at museums and cathedrals which are soo beautiful! The architecture is just crazyyyy… I posted some of my pictures on facebook and myspace since I found free internet close to the ship, I have soo many more pix tho… You will have to wait until I get back to see those! The streets are very small and a lot of people ride bikes everywhere. It’s kinda cute… you have to remember to stay out of the bike lane tho because it’s sort of on the sidewalk and they ring there little bells when your in the way haha. I feel like I saw a lot of historical parts of Cadiz and Sevilla though, it was all good to see.

I can’t say too much about the nightlife since I only went out one night due to exhaustion one night and weather the next (rain & wind + walking to the club did not work for my group lol) I kno I kno.. I’m the one who always wants to go out, but oh well! But yeah the Spaniards do not drink that much or I should say do not drink to get drunk. They don’t really have mixed drinks, they just drink beer, wine , and sangria. It made no difference for me since I don’t drink =) hahaha! ;) Anyways, so yeah it was kool though. The Spaniards are very nice, at least they were to me, and helpful when I was looking for directions.

I was the translator in my group so I got a lot of practice in! It was fun, they said I was pretty good. It was hard for me to understand at times though because they talk very fast and use some different vocabulary than what I was taught. Overall, was no problem for me to communicate. I feel like I could live in Spain for a year or so and would like it…

Now the hi-light of my trip was definitely the futbol game of Sevilla vs. Valencia! Sevilla won in the last minute and the fans just went crazzzyyy!!! It was the best professional game I have been to just because of the hype! We were in the rowdy section and the best way I can describe it is like a mash-pit a rock concert… it was kinda dangerous lol.. but this one guy kept tryna holler so he was close by me and made sure I was ok after the rumble… You stand on your seats the whole time and sing, clap, shout, and it’s just something I’ve never experienced at a game. Soo much fun! Definitely want to go to another soccer game in Spain or a Latin American country! It was AMAZING!!! Soo glad we got tickets last minute.. worth the 30 Euro… =)

Overall I had a very good experience in Spain. I even went to church by myself and it was just beautiful inside. A lot nicer than the ones in the states. I was able to roam the city of Cadiz by myself for a few hours and I got my “me” time in… =) shopping was fun! And the food… sooo good!!! I love cafĂ© con leche!! It’s really good coffee.. I wish we had it back home. The churros are delicious and fresh! The hot chocolate is soo good too, it’s really rich and thick, made from real chocolate, not the lil packets haha… and the bocadillas and paella is a must as well! I loved everything I tried!!

Anyways, I’ll fill the rest of the stories in when I get back! Must get some rest tonight because tomorrow I will be in Morocco! We get there late though which is lame because we have to re-fuel… but I’m going to be going camel riding!!! It’s a dangerous country for girls though so hopefully I’ll make it out ok! I’m sure I’ll be fine.. But yeah I miss u guys tonzzzzzz!! Please email me!! I love getting them.. it makes my day lol… seriously.. alryte I will write another after Morocco! Take care guys.. love u!!

Email: MNGaan@SemesterAtSea.Net