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!