Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I'm excited for in South Africa

1.  post-Apartheid, whats it like now??
2.  Pulling into Cape Town at sunrise and seeing Table Mountain, then hiking up it
3.  Visit townships and hopefully making some kids day better
4.  Eating at some of the top 100 restaurants in the world for $20
5.  Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island
6.  Bike N' Wine Tour!
7.  per Kaeleigh Farrish, Melissa's and the waterfront (don't be that this isn't further up!)
8.  returning someday to do everything I cannot do because 6 days is not nearly enough for this country!
Also, it is literally insane how many networking opportunities are available on this ship.  Today alone I'm having dinner with a New York Times bestseller (Louise Patler) and IBM's VP for Global Engagement is looking over my resume to give tips and see if I match any IBM positions.  I am lucky.
Expect tons of photos when I get into Cape Town Sunday, internet there should be great..

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I'm now completely bald.  I tried to upload a photo of this, but after eating up 15 mins of my internet time and no results, I gave up.  Mad props goes out to my friend Tam Feldman though, when she completely shaved her head it gave me the inspiration to do it as well.  Feels great! 
Photos at some point when I'm in South Africa though..5 days

Monday, September 27, 2010

Emerald Shellback

As of 8:33am EST, or actually 12:33 GMT on Sunday, the 26th of September, I became an Emerald Shellback!  What is this honor?  It's very rare for someone to have the opportunity, but I can now say I was at the center of the world.  That was the time our ship came upon the exact spot where the Prime Meridian crosses the Equator, or 0 degree latitude/0 degree longitude.  The captain blasted the horn for about 30 seconds while we were on the exact spot, and since no shipping channels and no flight paths go over this spot, it's safe to say I'll never be there again.  It actually took the entire ship to beg the captain before he agreed to veer off course, but it's cool to say I've been there!  Definitine resume booster haha.  Tomorrow we have no classes and are celebrating Neptune Day, which initiates anyone who has never crossed the Equator and honors the god Neptune.  I'm about 85 percent sure I'll be shaving my head as tradition dictates...and I mean totally shaved, no hair at all :)
Stay tuned for pictures from Ghana, my new hairdo, and Neptune Day....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ghanaians & Winnebarians

Me be Ghana (I love Ghana in Twi)
Ghana is indescribable.  My overnight visit to Winneba, the sister city of Charlottesville, Virginia, was my first glimpse into what Semester at Sea really can do.  And let me tell you, Ghana is one of the poorest countries I will ever be in, but I've never felt more welcomed at any time in my life.  There is seriously so much love from everyone here.  I don't know if I'll be saying this about the next 7 countries, but I will never forget my time here.  It's my first time ever going somewhere and finding the people themselves the attraction.  I feel like I've learned so much these past 4 days about ourselves as humans that I haven't yet learned it 22 years.  It really is mind blowing.  I'm so excited to get back to the US and start exploring ways to help Ghanaians, and I will not be surprised at all if I'm back here someday, I'm actually already looking forward to it now that I'm about an hour out of the harbor in Takoradi.
I have to mention that our interport student Rebecca was phenomanal.  I mentioned previously how I had the awkward "no left hand" encounter with her in Morocco, and sadly I can't say I had many more one on one interactions with her.  However, during our preport the night before we left for Ghana, Rebecca addressed all of us as is part of what each interport student does.  Her speech though caught us all by surprise, as she just talked to us about opening ourselves up and going to Ghana in with open minds.  I know I'm not conveying how it really was in that room, but she just had so much emotion at having to leave us it kind of just poored it self out during her speech, and we were all wrapped up in it.  We gave her quite the standing ovation, and even though we were already excited, Rebecca's speech gave us kind of a first glimpse at how loving the Ghanaians can be, and I think everyone got more excited for it.
This is also the first time Semester at Sea has docked in Takoradi, Ghana.  Usually the ship docks in Accra, about 4 hours by car from Takoradi.  Basically, other than merchant sailors, Takoradi does not get many tourists.  I think this helped set up for an amazing interaction with the locals, who truly do love Americans.  They also love Obama.  Many times people would ask how Obama was doing and how happy they were he was our President.  It was actually hilarious at one time when I was talking to a lady in the market and we could not understand eachother at all, I'm pretty sure she could only speak Twi.  After some frustration and right about when I was going to give up she says "Obama?" and then holds her thumb up and down.  I go "Obama!" with thumbs up and she started dancing! 
But even though I said Ghana was quite indescribable here is my attempt at it, of my four incredibly too short days in the country of Ghana....
Day 1
Overnight to Winneba - me and 10 other students, some staff and faculty
We were greeted a delagation from the city of Winneba Wednesday aboard the ship.  Our interport lecturer for Ghana, Joe Bami (a very shortened name) was accompanying us as well, since he was one of the original coordinators for the Sister city accord between Winneba and Charlottesville.  We immediately got use to "Ghanaian time", so we waited a couple of hours for our guest to arrive. 
When they finally arrived, we all shook hands, and they had various city officials, a lady representing the royal family of Winneba (here husband was a King of some sort, lots of tradition going on).  There were two gentlemen who were each the chiefs of the two warrior companies in Winneba.  Today the warrior parties are mainly for tradition, but still dictate much of the social environment as far as who interacts with who in the town.  Most of the people were dressed in business attire, but one of the chiefs did come dressed in what is traditional for a warrior chief to wear.
But we immediately got lunch together on the ship, and had a classroom reserved for us and our guest to eat it just off the dining room.  Luckily I got my plate of food first and sat myself in the room at an empty table, and just as I hoped would happen, three gentlemen from the Winneba group sat with me.  We greeted each other again, and were able to make some small talk, mainly me telling them about life on the ship, and what Semester at Sea was all about.  They kind of broke off and started speaking Twi between themselves, and just as I was starting to feel uncomfortable, one of them (Joseph) suddenly gave me his cell phone and said his son very much wants to talk to me, so I take it, and start to have a conversation with his son!  His name was Emmanuel, and he welcomed me to Ghana, asked about my journey so far, and was just excited to have me visiting Winneba soon.  He's in his last semester of college as well, and he's an IT major.  It was such a fun converation and just made me that much more excited to get off the ship.
So finally we got in our minivans and started the 3 hour drive to Winneba from Takoradi (our port).  I cannot really describe Ghana.  It's towards the end of the rainy season, so everything is very lush.  It reminded me much more of the Carribean than West Africa.  But it was no doubt Africa.  Poverty is basically the norm here as well.  I wouldn't call them slums, but the housing is quite poor.  It was hard to tell one town from another, they all kind of blended together as we went through.  The cell phone companies in the area are the biggest advertisers, and they actually pay people to paint there house either red, for Vodaphone, and put the Vodaphone logo on the house, or they paint the house yellow, for MNT, and put the MNT logo on the house.  So this is everywhere.  Many many people are selling fruits and food everywhere, and everything is carried on your head.  It was just crazy to see with my own eyes what I've been looking at in textbooks for years for, it was really overwhelming.  Scratch what I said about them not seeming like slums, because they are straight up slums.
So the drive was three hours, and the first place we stopped at in Winneba was the munincipal building to be formally welcomed.  The mayor of Winneba, along with our those who came and got us from the ship and others, were all present, as well as the elders of the community.  It was a cramped conference room, but it was a nice ceremony, and very formally done.  I forgot to mention that the leader of this SAS trip was Professor Tuscano, who teaches here on the ship.  He used to be the mayor of Charlottesville in the 90s, so he brought several gifts for throughout the trip, and gave one of them to the mayor that night.  Another fun fact, Tuscano also now holds the same seat in the Virginia House that was once occupied by Thomas Jefferson, and he'll be the first to tell you how badass that feels to say to someone. 
But anyways, our welcome to Winneba was completed when the elders performed a traditional welcome, which included an abolution, which for them is the waking of the ancestors to be with us and keep us safe during our stay and our future journeys.  It was basically a prayer/song, and the pooring of a perfectly good bottle of gin all over the ground, but it was good to know we had the ancestors at our back now.
After the welcome, we drove to the University of Education in Winneba.  Winneba was once mainly a fishing town (still is very much so) but it can be thought of as a college town now as well.  One of the big similiarities it shares with Charlottesville (home to University of Virginia) is this college town setting.  When the schools in either city are not in session, the town sleeps.  But we went in to this big lecture hall filled with a band welcoming us and students that were gathered there, probably about 75, and we were kind of treated like the guest of honor, which was really humbling.  After almost a full hour of formal intros and panel discussions, we broke down and just interacted one on one.  I gave out me email to so many people that promised to email me in the future!  I met Emmanuel here, who is a really cool guy, and honestly I now have a great friend in here Ghana (Thursday he called me his best friend haha).  I usually have trouble understanding people through an accent, but I really had no trouble with Emmanuel.  Another student I met was Peter, who represents the entire student body at the University of Education.  He told me much about the problems university students face in Ghana, and I realized just how much we take our education for granted in America.  These students work so much harder, and sacrifice so much more in order to get there education.  It's extrememly competitive to get into a university in Ghana and in most of Africa, because the governments simply do not have the resources to have too many students in the universities.  So I listened and we talked about some ways he thought the West would be able to help more here in Ghana and Africa.
After the University of Education, we went to our hotel for dinner and the night.  Dinner was good, just about all the meals I had here in Ghana consisted of chicken and rice.  It was pretty late for dinner, probably about 9 or 10 when we finally wrapped up.  We all hung out for awhile in the one girls room that had air conditioning til 12am or so, and then went to bed for the night.  Our air conditioning didn't work, and we figured we had a 50/50 chance of the ceiling fan falling of the ceiling and killing us in our sleep, but it was so humid we really had no choice!  The bathroom did have toilet that sorta worked, and luckily we brought our own toilet paper.  The shower consisted of a semi tiled area in the bathroom with a faucet nearby and a bucket to dump the water over yourself.  I skipped the shower the next morning ha.
Day 2
So the next morning we got up, got breakfast, and headed to the local courthouse.  Their judicial system is pretty similiar to ours, including it being overloaded.  However, we were able to watch a few proceedings, but because there was a lot of rain that morning, many of the trials were just getting delayed over and over.  In the US you can be fined or even jailed for missing court or showing up late, but Ghanians just have to apologize and they get a new trial date.  When the court went in recess 3 lawyers (very few people had actual lawyers to represent them) came over and talked to us about the system and such.  One thing I thought interesting was that Ghana does have the death penalty, but no one in the court could remember a time when it was ever used, having never had a violent enough crime to warrant that. 
Luckily while in the court we found out there was a marriage that day!  They have 3 types of marriage in Ghana, one being within a church, another being in a courtroom, and another being the traditional wedding within the tribes and an exchanging of dowrys and stuff.  Obviously we saw the one in the courtroom, and I think since we were there they made the groom "kiss the bride", which I guess is pretty Western thing to do.  She seemed so embarrassed and he actually pulled out his hanky and wiped off his face before giving her a kiss, and everyone cheered.  The families seemed excited we were there to witness it as well.
Our next stop was back to the municnipal building to meet with the chief fishermen.  It was suppose to happen in the fishing district, which we drove through and saw, but the rain made it too difficult for us to meet them their.  We sat down with about 10 of the chief fishermen, and just found out about what they do, and they presented some ideas they had that could be mutually beneficial for Winneba and Charlottesville.  Basically they represent all the fishermen in Winneba, mediate any disputes between fishermen, and just work on the overall welface of the fishing community.  It's an inherited position.  Prof Tuscano gave a gift to them as well, and we all thanked each other.
Our next stop took us into the market in Winneba.  It wasn't a market day so it wasn't too hectic, but we went in and sat down across from the market Queen and many of the other vendors.  We had an interpretor, and the exchange went like many of other visits:  "Welcome"....."Thank you"....."What are you doing here???"  But after explaining who we were and why we were there, they were more than happy to tell us about their market life.  The market queen handles disputes and regulates the whole market.  After Prof Tuscano gave them our gift, the tension that I think everyone felt kind of broke down and they all ran over to shake our hands and welcome us into the market!  Some were hugging and kissing our cheeks, they were so nice.  The kids flocked us and loved seeing our pictures after we would take some with them, and the older ladies of the market all loved to see there pictures too.  I guess they get a few tourists in the market every now and then, but never any kind of exchange so they all loved having us there.  When I went into the market more to explore, I met a lady who spoke English and we started talking.  She told me about the Deer Festival they have during the first week of May every year, and it's one of the largest in Ghana.  People start preparing for the celebration about a month in advance, and while they say deer to us it would be an antelope.  She was so proud of her the festival, and it's just so refreshing to meet people who are genuinely interested in just us, and its great to see how much it means to them for us to be interested in them.  Here in the market I also got some fun pictures with the kids, who loved looking at the pictures on the camera!  It was just so great to hang around those kids!  Eventually we had to load up the van again, and just before we pulled away the market queen and a few other ladies were running towards the van, so we slowed opened the door, they got on, and started giving all of us bead bracelets as gifts, so this bracelet will definitely be a treasured possesion of mine for years to come.
So the day continued as we found out we needed to go back to the municipal building for a presentation of gifts.  We were all a little confused by this, and very nervous since we had nothing to give other than the gift that Prof Tuscano was giving out (I still don't know what this gift was).  So we got back into the conference room at the municipal building and in came Emmanuel with the other members of the club he was a part of.  The club is part of the University of Education in Winneba, and it's called the Youth of Winneba.  I never was quite sure what the club exactly did, but they gave each one of the students on the trip (11 of us) a traditional satchel that students use at the university, which is handmade.  Mine ie beige with a pattern on it that is in the shape of Africa.  Inside was a letter thanking us for coming to Winneba, and a few pages about the city so we would always rememeber them... we were all blown away.  So then the mayor came back in, and this time he was with the director of the Efutu State (Efutu is the native name of Winneba, thus the name of the region as well).  The mayor is an elected position, but the director of the state is a staff position, and this gentlemen has had it for over 20 years, so he was THE head honcho.  They presented the entire shipboard community of Semester at Sea with two gifts.  One was a beautiful glass replica of the Peace Arc located in Accra.  It was very pretty and impressive.  The other was a wood carved antelope with symbol of the Efutu State and the words "Efutu State" carved into it.  This was about 3 ft wide and 2 1/2 ft tall.  Walking around today I saw the Peace Arc replica sitting in a glass class here on the ship.  Theres memontos like this all over the ship in different display cases, and I'm so happy to know that I'm now a part of one of these mementos here on the ship :)  Three countries in and I've made my mark!  So we finally started boarding the bus and said goodbye to our fabulous host.  Got some nice pictures here as well, grabbed lunch at the hotel, and then began the 3 hour drive back to Takoradi and the ship.
All in all an incredible SAS trip.  Met a lot of people, saw many things.  When I got back in that night I heard the same from everyone, we all love Ghana and the people were all amazing!  So this wasn't an exclusive experience of mine, it truly was something we all noticed.  That night we did the American thing and I ended up at a very American bar setup in town.  I'm not ashamed though, I was able to watch the first quarter of Miami vs Pitt, it felt so good to have a beer and watch football!
Day 3
I'll admit it.  The bar the night before got a little out of hand, and I slept through my alarm clock.  So as much as I wish I hadn't previously mentioned in another post that I was going to the water village, I now have to admit I missed the bus and could not go to the water village.  Lesson learned.  However it worked out, as I was able to go explore Takoradi, which I had not done at all yet.  Amanda, Eric, and myself took a cab into the city to the main market.  The market is set up as a giant circle, with the a street going around it.  The rim of the circle is a long circular building with a bunch of venders, and the inside of the circle is filled with vendors in little shacks, and very narrow walkways (maybe two people wide, quite crowded).  We had a lot of fun just exploring the market and interacting with the people in it.  It wasn't set up for tourists at all, everything being sold was produce and such, not the touristy souvinier kind of stuff.  Amanda got lessons in how to carry stuff on her head, and since she had the big SLR camera, a lot of people asked her to take photos so they could see it.  So the three of us just spent about 3 hours wondering the market and meeting people.  After this we took the taxi to a place called Captain Hooks which had been recommended to us.  It was a pretty good restaurant, I had fish that was good with a really good sauce on top of it.  We came back to the ship and had went over to the duty free with some people for drinks and had a chill night.
Day 4
Today I caught up on some sleep, and then went out with Ross, Keitia, and Amanda to a secluded beach area Ross found the other day by the port.  Walking there was sketch, and we ended up walking down some railroad tracks for 15 minutes.  To really no surprise there was people living in little huts right off the tracks, but just like everybody else, they waved and said hello and were just overall nice people.  A guy named Patrick walked with us for awhile and actually hung out with us at the beach for a little while.  The beach was really nice, even though there was trash all over it.  I got some pictures with some other guys that came up to us later who turned out to be really nice.  We talked for awhile and they did hit on quite often how much suffering they had, and as we left to head back to the boat we realized they lived right next to the beach area we were at it in little huts.  They had told us the kids can't go to school and they were pretty hungry most of the time.  Strangely the did not ask for any money or anything at all.  We bought some drinks though for them before we left since that was the only thing that someone was selling nearby, if there was any food I think we all would have probably pitched in to get as much as we could for them.
When we got back towards the ship I went to where a bunch of local artists had set up for the 4 days we were here right by the boat.  Like I said earlier, Takoradi isn't a tourist town, so this was really the one place to get any kind of souviniers.  I ended up getting an impressively large drum, or Djembe (JEMbey).  I also bought two masks from an artist called Elvis, yes Elvis.  The one mask is for peace and tranquility, and the other one represents forward thinking, always looking and planning for the future.  So I'm pretty happy with those purchases.
As we pulled away from the harbor tonight, a lot of these artists that had been camping out there all week played there drums and sang songs as they said goodbye to us.  A lot of us were on the decks looking out at them, both us and them were waving Ghana flags, we started chanting Medase (thank you in Twi) over and over.  As we pulled away a lot of them kept running and waving goodbye.  All the people on the tug boats pushing us out kept yelling goodbye and waving.  It seemed everyone working in the port and on the boats were all waving goodbye, so different from all the other ports so far.  It was just an awesome way to go out from such an awesome country.  I could go home now and be so content with the journey, but next up is Cape Town, South Africa....and we have Neptune Day in 3 days....oh and my first exams :(  more on all that later.  Good night from the coast of Ghana!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunny Equator = Not Cool

I like to turn the TV to channel 1 in my room every now and then.  It's just a map that shows our exact position, and then some info as far as speed, course, temperature, etc.  They have music in the background, and somehow they managed to find the songs that just kind of pump you up for a journey.  So it's always fun to turn that channel on, see the boat cruising on past Mauratania, and realize that I'm just cruising by Africa, probably the most mysterious continent still out there.
The first two days after we left Morocco, the sky was overcast and visibility was down to maybe 1/2 mile.  So it was pretty gloomy.  But then, on the 3rd day, it was gorgeous.  A few clouds in the sky, but all around pretty sunny.  After lunch I had an hour to kill, so I figured I'd get a nice base tan to get moving on my plan of being a bronze God by my return date in December.  So I laid out for about 30 mins, no more, and felt great.  Went to my two classes after, and then went to my cabin, and noticed I was looking pretty red.  By dinner time, I couldn't let anything touch my skin.  And for the past two nights, I've slept about 2 or 3 hours total, on my back, keeping my original position of when I originally got backed under the sun, since that is the only comfortable position I have left.  Lesson learned, never, never, NEVER, NEVER lay out under the sun near the equator with no sun block, even if its just for 30 mins.  I hope that I start to peel by Ghana, or else Ghana will be the most miserable country for me.  So wish me luck.
Also, I wrote this because I'm pretty bored at work right now.  I got a pretty cool gig, basically just working as needed.  Since the Regirstars office (I'm the Registrar's Assistant) is right next to the computer lab, I just chill in the computer lab, doing homework or surfing wikipedia (it's one of the few website we have for free).  But yea, not bad!
See ya after Ghana!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happenings on the MV Explorer..

So after Spain/Morocco, life has become somewhat, possibly incredibly, boring here on the ship.  Crossing the Atlantic was cool because everything was so new.  Now we're in the drone of classes, and while they can be interesting, they're still classes.  So people tend to get quite slap happy. 
One of the funniest things I've heard on the ship thus far was in Morocco, a group of us were heading off the ship.  There is always signs that tell where the gangway is to get off of the ship.  We walked out onto the deck where it was, and out of no where one of the guys I was with casually told the crew at the exit, "I'm here for the gangway".  If you're a fan of Old School, you would of most likely been in tears laughing as we all were.
Global studies here on the ship is a class that all of us are required to take, and it does have a lot of guest lecturers woven into it, even though Professor Sanchez is the actual professor for it.  But right now on the ship we have IBM's VP of Global Opportunities, so today we got to hear from her in class on Global Sustainability and her role with IBM.  In the next global studies class, we'll have our inter-port lecturer talk to us about Ghana's role in the globalized world, and he himself is a professor at a university in Accra, Ghana. 
We have inter-port students as well that hop on before their home country and just hang out with us and give us ideas of what to do, sometimes giving lectures to the shipboard community.  Daniel was our inter-port student for Spain, so I got to have dinner with him one night and got a lot of information from him.  Our current inter-port student is Rebecah, who lives in Ghana.  I met her on the ship just as I got back from my camel trek in Morocco, and we both took the elavator up from Deck 2.  We exchanged greetings, and since I was holding my bags and stuff with my right hand, I reached out with my left hand to shake her hand.  An immediate look of disgust rang on her face, as she said "no no no, never left, always right".  I keep forgetting this, as most people outside of western culture use there left hand for one purpose, and that one purpose only.  Let's just say that there's a reason why toilet paper is very hard to come by in these countries.
We also have a celebrity on the ship, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I knew little about him, but apparently anyone over maybe 35 knows much more about him.  He won the Noble Peace Prize in the '80s, and basically led the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  He retired from public life just before the voyage, but he is still the leader of the Council of Elders, a group of former world leader who work to provide guidance to global problems.  My goal is to eat dinner with him one of these days, I'm sure it will happen there's always one lucky table that he sits down with.  But we found out recently that he will be our guest professor for global studies between Ghana and South Africa.  So I can now say that I have been educated by a Nobel Peace Prize winner....take that ivy league!!  Anyways, using a word he loves, I can describe him as "awwwesome".  He's totally down to earth, loves to dance, and prefers to be called "arch".  So I can't wait til those lectures, he's only addressed as a whole one other time.  But it really is just novelty of turning a corner and seeing him right there in front of you, getting a fist bump, and just going about your day.  I highly recommend his book God Has a Dream, but from what I've heard from others, all of his books are pretty good, regardless of your religious beliefs.  It's pretty cool to see the newspaper clippings we post here on the ship from the countries we visit announcing the ships arrival or departure with him on it.
But for now we're just cruising by the country of Mauritani at about 15.9 knots, and will be in Takoradi, Ghana, this coming Wednesday at 8am!  I kind of regretably booked all Semester at Sea trips for Ghana, and I say regretably because there is nothing better than having no idea what you're going to do when you land in a country with a bunch of new friends (and if I get babied as much as I did in Morocco on the SAS trip, I might end up throwing a temper tantrum).  But here's my plan:
Day 1, Overnight visit to Winneba (Sept 22 to late Sept 23)
Coastal Winneba is a town home to just over 40,000, and is know for fishing, its welcoming atmosphere, and more recently, its University of Education.  In 2009 it became the sister city of Charlottesville, Virginia (land home for Semester at Sea).  City officials, residents, and students will welcome the ship on arrival in Takoradi.  We'll welcome them aboard, introduce them to the ship, and enjoy lunch together onboard before our 2.5 hour trip to Winneba.
We'll be welcomed by the city.  The two warrior groups (asafo) called Tuafo and Dentsefo will greet us with traditional drumming and dance.  The evening will be spent exploring the town and beaches, meeting local citizens, and a local dinner.
The next morning will be spent observing local court proceedings and visiting the local market.  At the market we meet the "market queen" who presides over the market and settles disputes.  Next we meet the "Chief Fisherman" and see how the local industry resolves disputes in a completely different fashion than American culture.
Nzulezo, A Water Village (Sept 24)
Nzulezo (a Nzema word meaning "built on water")  is built entirely on stilts on an open lake fed by two rivers.  Take a five kilometer ride on the lake in a local dugout canoe through marsh and open pools fringed with palm thickets and opens out into the vast expanse of the lake.  Arrive in the village, interact with the locals and explore the surrounding area.  Also visit Fort Appolonia located in Beyin.
So yea, it should be quite the experience, hopefully on the last day I'll get a chance to go out and explore the area on my own or a small group.  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes, and what I pickup from Arch's lectures!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


     Sounds so exotic doesn't it?  Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (if not it's okay, I did not know they were the stars of the movie Casablanca either).  In fact the entire movie of Casablanca was shot in Los Angeles, and even though I've never seen the movie, I highly doubt it looks much like anything does here in Casablanca, or anything else in Morocco.  Morocco is the most abnormal place I've ever been in my life.  I loved it but could never imagine living here, it was as beautiful as it was depressing. 
     It was also very exhausting.  I was a total foreigner at all times.  Everything was new and different, my brain worked over time just analyzing everything.  At times it seemed I always on guard, whether it was to keep a guy from putting a snake around my neck or a monkee on my arm, or just constantly standing out so much and being so different from others.  Don't get me wrong, I'd never take back a single moment I had here, it was all so eye opening, and I think I met some of the nicest people, whether it was the owner of the hookah/mint tea bar that we frequented here in Casablanca, or the man who stopped his car in the middle of the busiest street in Casablanca to get out, shake our hands, and welcome us to his country, and gave us help in finding the post office that we had no luck in finding until he showed up. 
      Morocco was initially the country I was most excited for.  I took an Arabic Culture course last spring quarter at OSU, so I was eager to see what I had learned in class with my own eyes.  I found no class could ever really prepare you for the actual experience, though I was glad to see so much of the Islamic religion.  The class was taught by a Lebanese grad assistant (maybe 25ish) who taught us a lot about the Islamic religion since that makes up so much of what is the Arabic culture, so I have a lot of respect for it (and it was a she, and she put a great effort into showing that what Westerners may see as gender inequality is not perceived in the same way by the Islamic religion.  But being able to see first hand the dedication of the followers, listening to the calls to prayer, and seeing people just stop in the middle of a plaza and use cardboard and begin their prayers while facing Mecca was so rewarding to see first hand.
      But I digress, I'll just write the breakdown of my days here to give you an idea of it...
Day 1:
     So as I wrote about earlier, I had dock time in Casablanca.  It was nice, the ship was practically our own, so Kelly, Daphne, Hans, and myself all sat by the pool for awhile reminising about our train misadventure the previous day, and listening to stories coming back from everyone who went out.  Just to reiterate how exhausting the country was on all of us students, just about everyone piled off the ship between 2 and 4, and about 75 percent of them were back on between 5 and 7, mainly because the just had to get back in their comfort zones (the ship is now totally home for all of us, when I'm sleeping in a crappy hostel bed, I'm thinking of my cabin with a great bed and a hot shower with clean water).  So we became really apprehensive about the country very quickly.  When my dock time finally ended, I just wanted to get off the boat for a little bit, just to get a taste, so all I did was go up the main street for maybe two blocks, and went into a hookah bar and smoked some hookah and had mint tea.  Hookah was good, and mint tea was amazing.  It's a combination of mint tea, green tea, and hot water with what can only be an entire cube of sugar dropped in.  VERY good and very sweet.  It's a diabetics nightmare and slowly yet surely  turned all of us into diabetics.  But that basically wrapped up that first night there in Casablanca, no real problems for me.  I went in for bed and to get ready for the big trip that began the next morning, a Semester at Sea sponsored trips, 4 days and 3 nights of adventure...
Day 2:
     So the day started off early, our bus departing for Marrakech at 830 in the morning (about 3-4 hours driving).  This was ride was my first glance of Casablanca close up during the day.  It was dirty.  Trash was everywhere, modern buildings were built right up against some pretty slum looking areas, and if there was a place for trash to accumulate, it accumulated there.  There was some very cool architecture in some areas, and our tour guide told of us how Moroccans like think that they are a people on the move, progressing towards a modern future, so the cities resemble this pretty well.  These construction projections on the outside were grand in scale at times, but you could see wherer right next to them a little slum village was created to accomadate the construction workers.  Getting outside of the city, things kept getting different.  From the highway I could see huge, beauitful villas for the affluent, but slums right next to them.  So of course the solution is to build huge walls around those villas.  Getting more rural the farm homes(?) were adobe like, and I could saw a lot of donkeys moving goods and people around.  How frustrating must it be to see this highway which most likely divided their farms with these cars zooming by and doing what their day long trip takes in 2 minutes?  I remember one of the people in our group later on lifted his camera to take a picture of a man and his son riding on a carriage being pulled by a donkey.  He immediately covered his sons eyes and shook his finger saying "no no no" to the guy who was about to take the picture.  Luckily the guy hand enough to sense to not take the picture and respect the mans wishes, and it was obvious this man did not appreciate being a "curiousity" for his poor welfare.  I was more moved by the fact that he covered his sons eyes in some attempt to not let his son yet realize his unprivlidged position.  Like I said, a depressing place at times.
     So we got into Marrakech I were dropped off right at the Djemaa el Fna, the main square which you've probably seen before, as it's one of the busiest in the world, and leads into the largest souk (market) in Morocco.  It was CRAZY.  Mind you this was daytime when we arrived, and the square is basically dead.  Still, there was snake charmers (my friend Ross was maybe thisclose to getting bit by a King Cobra that he didn't notice was in attack position), trained monkees (who knocked off my glasses after being thrown onto my arm, which led me to angrily explaining to the monkee's master why no means no), random gambling games, and all sorts of food and music.  I went into the souk with some others, and was introduced to the art of bartering.  Odds are, everything in there was imported from China for 10 cents a piece, but bartering for stuff is so foreign to us we couldn't stop.  It was great to compare prices that people got for things, they fluctuated so much.  I got two pieces of art for 220 durhams, only for Kelly to buy an even better painting right after me for only 90 durham (I got screwed!).  So we then went into a restaurant by the souk, and had couscous, fresh vegetables, baked dates (the dates here are delicious) and an all around great meal, the first of many. 
     We went back to the hotel, which was quite nice for Moroccan standards and took a swim in the pool and had a few beers before dinner.  Beers can basically only be bought at hotels, and the pools are always in an inter courtyard so the locals cannot see anyone baring so much flesh.  But we went that night back to the souk, and after following are tour guide for half an hour between the maze of walls in the souk, got to our dinner destination.  Outside it looked so sketch, but inside it was a beautifully restored former Moorish house with nice lighting throughout it and a beatiful courtyard that we all ate around.  THE BEST CHICKEN OF MY LIFE.  Chicken tangiers.  It fell of the bone, was so tender, the sauce was so delicious.  I was in heaven.  We all talked about this meal for days, in fact typing this now I am talking to my friend about how delicious this meal was.  WOW.   Bellydancers came through, the one was beautiful and enchanting, the other apparently liked the chiken tangiers as well.  That night I passed out in food coma back at the hotel contently. 
Day 3:
     So we started out 9 hour drive (without stops) at like 8 in the morning.  Marrakech is much cleaner than Casablanca, it's called the pink city for the color of all the buildings in the city.  You'd see some sad attempts at parks ( I shouldn't say sad but well, they were not that nice) and I loved seeing kids playing soccer in the sand or basketball.  So the drive took us into the Atlas Mountain range, the highest, longest, and widest in North Africa.  The highway was so narrow, and we were constantly on the side of cliffs, one false move by the driver we were all done for.  But we survived.  Eventually we then came onto the Draa Valley, just an oasis of date palm trees that stretched for a few hours as the highway continued weaving along the mountains on the side of that valley.  It was quite the scenic drive.  We made stops along the way, the lunch stop was again an amazing meal.  Couldn't really even describe what it was, but basically everything is slow roasted so the meat is always so tender and delicious.  We went through the town Ouarzazate, Morocco's Hollywood.  We saw some studios, and are guide told us how Laurence of Arabia, Star Wars, The Mummy 1 and 2, Gladiator, Kingodm of Heaven, Alexander, Babel, etc. were all filmed here (I'm totally name dropping yes).
    We went a little ways to get to the dunes of the Sahara Desert.  Yes the dunes, sand everywhere, it was amazing, and we totally watched the sun set over the dunes.  I can't really even describe that in words so I'm not going to bother, but I'll never forget that.
    So it was dark when we finally arrived at our Nomad camp, and they greeted us by singing songs in Berber (Moroccan's learn Arabic and Berber in school, Berber is the language native to the Morocco).  The songs were pretty entrancing, and the village was authetic.  We all claimed tents, 6 people to a tent, and then went back for mint tea and then just sat with the Nomads as the sang to us.  The loved to get us to all dance together, or when the girls would try to imitate the unique yells the Nomad women would make.  So it was quite engaging.  It was then that a guy informed me ( I was wearing an OSU t-shirt and Ebony's Buckeye necklace) that OSU was up 26-17 at halftime.  I was stunned, thinking it was an eight o'clock kick off.  I was then stunned to thing of all my friends at home at the game or watching it on tv, and in an instant was incredibly home sick.  The next instant I realized I was in the Sahara Desert dancing with Nomads and the homsickness vanished.  Two opposite ends of the spectrum in every way.
     So I won't go too much into detail about that incredible night, but beetles about the size of my fist kept popping up in everyones tents so just about everyone slept on the carpets in the center of the camp under the Sahara sky.  Nothing beats waking up in the middle of the night to dead silence and pitch blackness except for the ten million stars in the sky.  It was nothing short of amazing...
Day 4:
     So we woke up, had breakfast of honey and bread in the main tent, and hopped on our camels.  The camel trek took about an hour and half, through villages and palm tree groves and then desert areas.  It was so easy to picture myself doing what people did a thousand years ago, for I don't think we saw one automotive vehicle the whole time.  My ass hurts still from the damn camel, but it was worth it.  We all felt like we were getting ready to invade the main village we were heading towards since there was about 90 camels heading towards there.  We were quite the curiousity for the locals since I don't think they had ever seen so many camels together.  The kids were the best, usually waving a chasing after us for a bit.
     After the trek, we began our bus ride to the Marakech and the same hotel.  Lunch again was delicious, and the bus ride was just rediculous.  No one showered ( we didn't have the option in a nomad camp!), we all smelled and the smell of camels lingered with us.  So we finally got to Marakech, took showers and relaxed with a few beers and eventually that night found a nice bar ontop of a swanky hotel that overlooked much of Marrakech.  We checked out the main plaza that night as well, at night.  Totally different, fully of life and food, and just a mast amount of humanity throughout it.
Day 5:
     I'm rushing through this blog post because I have homework to do.  So day we went to the square to get some more items in the souks, and checked out the local supermarket.  The drive back to Casablanca was nice just to finally arrive and see the ship again, and I mainly just stayed in and looked for friends to catch up with, and I was so glad to sleep in my bed again that night in my cabin (after of course I spent an hour showering all the sand off me, flossing, shaving, brushing my teeth, etc etc).  I felt so fresh and so clean clean.
Day 6:
     Today I had a nice Western breakfast on the ship, omlettes and potatoes mm, and headed with a group to the Hassan II mosque, the 3rd largest in the world here in Casablanca  By ettiqute, no mosque can be bigger than the mosques in Mecca and Medina, so this is about as big as they can get.  It was a beautiful place, and we luckily got on an English tour of it, and our guide was quite charasmatic.  The building can hold 20,000 worshippers on the first level and another 5,000 on the second level.  Outside in the plaza area around the mosque, another 80,000 worshippers can be accomodated.  Inside and outside it was amazing, it's only about 10-15 years old.  A majority of it as actually built on piers so it lies right over the ocean.
     After this a few of us, Alexa, Amanda, Nick and Kailin headed for lunch (chicken tangier of course, though not quite as good as the first one), and then went to get mint tea at a favorite spot for all of us SAS kids.  After that, we spent FOREVER looking for a post office and stamps, and luckily got those sent out since I couldn't get any sent out in Spain. 
     So some of you should be expecting some cool postcards in the next week or so.  If you don't get one, it's probably because I don't have your address.  Just email me your address and I promise to get you one, it's really dirt cheap so don't worry about that.
     So it's 11:15 pm as I finish this, I have class at 8am tomorrow, which will be quite hard after 2 weeks of Spain and Morocco, but I guess that's life on the ship.  I think I have 4 chapters to read so yeaaaaaa, that's not happening.  Miss all and see you in a few months!

Monday, September 13, 2010

FW: Espana ~ Seville/Madrid

Day 2 (Sept 5) ~Seville
     So Cadiz the next morning, Kelly, Amanda, and I went to get David at his hotel, even though our ship was docked right next to the train we were sprinting for our train in the end!  We made it this time! (foreshadowing).  The day before we had bought our tickets at the train station, Kelly and Amanda spoke some Spanish (it drastically improved during our short trip, kudos to them)  Despite being pretty tired from the night before, and Kelly not being that tired, I only slept for maybe 10 minutes on the train, and when we got to Seville was I very excited.  The four of us took a taxi to David's hotel where David and Amanda were staying.  It was AMAZING.  Rooftop pool, courtyards everywhere, windy passage ways through gardens and water fountains, all in the middle of the city.  The name was literally Houses of Jews, so it was located in the old Jewish section of the city, and blended several buildings together to make this place.  It was beautiful.  After a quick breakfast on a plaza (toast with this amazing olive oil/tomato spread, mm) we went to get me and Kelly a hostel.  Eventually found a pretty cool one and settled in to get ready for the day.  We went to the cathedral of Seville, one of the largest in the world.  Mass was happening (this was Sunday) so most of it was closed off, but still even being in the area we were in we saw just how huge this building was.  So tall, monster columns, it made one feel so small.  It was hard to compare it to the Vatican because it was too different styles, but it was very cool.  Didn't get to see Christopher Columbus's tomb though :/   Earlier in the day we walked by a monument that was dedicated to Christopher Columbus's discovery of the new world, erected about 500 years ago.  How crazy was it that Columbus, Ohio is dedicated to a man who lived 300 years before the city ever existed, yet here I am looking at a monument dedicated to him during his lifetime. 
     So after the Cathedral we stopped off to get some delicious tapas, Amanda and I ate most since David and Kell were full, but tried the local dishes, and luckily noticed AFTER we ate the paea (spanish rice basically?) that the pigs legs were hanging over and basically dripping into it.  Mmm love that extra flavor.  The olives in Spain are delicious!!!  A lot even had a smoky flavor to them, but it was great to enjoy them with a cold cerveza.  So we left this place and headed to the Plaza de Torro, or the bull fighting ring.  I've heard since that Seville's was one of the oldest in Spain, and we found out that there was indeed a bull fight that day, so we decided to come back later.  In the meantime we went to back to a Palace (name totally escapes me now) that was owned and run by the Medicinili (sp?) family for hundereds of years, and recently given to the public in 1980.  A lot of history in it and preserved nicely.
      BULLFIGHT!  So I was annoying everyone in the group with how amazing and exciting I was to go see a bullfight in Spain.  I had no plans to do this but it kind of just came up and we all (except David) decided it was something we needed to see.  The actual event though was quite different then what I thought.  The stadium was cool to be in, but maybe 20 percent full? And it was mostly tourist.  I was hoping for a lot of Spainards to get me excited and angry at the bull, but the fight itself was not a fight at all, and I can't say I'll ever be back to one.  However I left my conscious at the door and took it for what it was (Later I learned that bullfights are banned in many areas of Spain).  Basically what happens is the bull is brought out, and it is tired out by charging at pink banners, then two men on horses come out (the horses are blindfolded and have heavy padding on the sides) and get the bull to charge at the horse.  When it hits the horse, which somehow keeps standing, the stab it a few times with a spear.  Next, the horses leave and the people with the pink banners get two large needle like things with longer flags attached to it, and then stab the bull as it charges by them with the flags.  Apparently you applaud them if they get both needles to stick in.  Finally, the matador comes out, this time with a red banner.  The bull charges that a few times, still with about 6 of those needle things sticking into it and bleeding profusely, and eventually the matador uses his sword to stab the bull.  This is usually the end, and the bull falls down.  I didn't like it, the bull is pretty helpless and the whole process is just to wear it out enough so the matador has the balls to go up and kill it.  Pretty one sided but it was what it was.
     After the fight we eventually went out, and had trouble finding places open (this is Sunday).  However, we knew nightlife in Spain was crazy, most places open around 9 or 10pm, and the party doesnt start until maybe 2 or 3am, with most clubs closing at 8am.  Dinner in Spain is around 10-1130, and part of my motivation to stay up each night is that I did NOT want to fall asleep before the 12 year olds!!   So we went to a bar and got a beer, a pretty cool, chill place.  It was not busy at all however.  So we left there, giving up and thinking we were going to go back to the hotel.  But all of a sudden on the edge of this park is the club.  NOTHING like a club I've ever seen in the states.  All outdoors, just a part of this park, with club lighting and furninture everywhere.  It seriously reminded me of a place you'd see on a channel E! show highlighting the world's greatest clubs or something.  We were about 7 or 8 years younger than anyone else in the club it seemed, so the four of us got our own little spot and drank til at least 4am, so it was still a lot fun.
Day 3-4 (Sept 6-7) ~ Madrid
      So we got up, grabbed food, and headed to the train station.  We said adios to David (he returned to London) and the three of us got on the high speed train to Madrid.   I had been waiting for an "oh shit" moment this whole time, the moment where I realized just how crazy what I'm doing actually was.  It happened on this train, blazing at 300 km/h, listeing to classical music, and looking out over the Spanish country side.  I was overwhelmed by the whole journey I'm still have in front of me, but it was just amazing to sit and think for a moment how lucky I am and how amazing this trip will still be.
     But anyways we finally arrived here in Madrid (I slept the entire way).  Goal one, find a hostel.  We found a great one with just enough beds for the three of us, our own bathroom, and free internet on a computer.  Pavio? I believe runned the place, and he was great, even though he spoke no English.  But here I was in the world city of Madrid!  We immediately set out, and Amanda had a list of place her friend Jonathon recommended for us, since he studied in Madrid for a semester or so.  GREAT list.  We really got to see the city for the next two days, including Plaza Mayor, Plaza del Sol, Parc del Retiro, Prado, Palacio Real Madrid, and soo much more.  Plaza Mayor was huge and had some interesting people on it with lots of cafes for tapas!  The Plaza de Sol was great, and had a lot of streets leading off of it that were topped with cloths stretched between the two buildings on each side.  The girls did some shopping there, and eventually we moved to the Palacio Real de Madrid, or the Royal Palace of Madrid, home to King Juan Carlos.  The next day we toured here, and saw so much, including the throne room!  It was my first time in anything like that, with so many expensive tastes and priceless works of art.  The only thing I could compare it to was the White House, but for whatever reason this seemed more impressive.  Also on that same day, we went to the Prado in the morning.  The Prado houses Spain's most treasured art works, and I was very happy to go with Amanda, who studied a lot of art.  It was funny to see just how happy she was to be in there, and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me and Kelly.  (The aduioguide explained a lot as well).  Greco, Goya, Velaquez, van Dyck, and so many others.  I enjoyed it.  (PS - student discounts are everywhere, but I have no student ID, so I hope those football games our worth it Dad!)  We also went to the Parc Retiro, a huge park by the Prado, it was beautiful.  The three of us rented a canoe in the giant Lake and leisurely rowed through it.  The Crystal Palace inside there was cool with its position right next another pond.
      We ended the afternoon getting food, accidentally ordering WAY too much fun, and were subsequently made fun of by every Spainard in the restaurant.  Oh well.  After this we went to an internet cafe, so Amanda could make some phone calls.  We left her there for a bit to do some errands, and when we came back she was in an in depth conversation with Antonio, and 72 year old man who spoke Spanish and French, so Amanda had a great time speaking the two languages with him, at times speaking "Franglish" but me and Kelly had a blast listening to the conversation for a half hour.  Later that night we went out with another group of SAS students by the Plaza de Sol and had a great time until about 430/5 in the morning.
      Next thing I know, Kelly wakes me up saying we have 30 minutes til our train gets there.  I rushed through a shower (why I took a shower I have no clue, there was no time).  We then hurried our way to our train station, just in enough time to see the end of our train slip out of the station.  So we had to wait 2 hours for the next train to Cadiz, but luckily only had to pay 6 euros to change trains.  It should of given us about 1.5 hours to get to the boat before "on ship time".  However, we stopped for 2 hours right outside of Madrid because another train broke down ahead of us!  The people were very polite though, we got free drinks, and a full refund for the price of the train ticket.  Imagine if thats how they treated us in the U.S. when our planes were delayed!!! However, the three of us were still late, with 2 others on the same train, so I currently have dock time, which means I'm not allowed to leave the ship until 6 hours after the rest of the students were let off here in Casablanca (3 hours for every 15 minutes your late).  Luckily we arrived a day earlier than planned, so this won't interfere with any of my planned trips for here in Morocco.  But how can I complain? I'm about to go layout in the sun, overlooking the Hassan II Mosque, 2nd largest mosque in the world, and possible go for a swim in the pool :)  I'm not complaining!
A couple of things I know now about Morocco.  It was the first country to officially recognize the United States after we declared our independence.  It is one of only 11 countries in the world that enjoys a free trade agreement with the U.S., and the U.S. and Morocco have the longest running, unchanged (theres a fancier word for unchanged but I forget it) treaty in the world, from about 1787 to today.  Those are the positives.
Negatives:  In the Pew surveys on attitudes of the United States, only 16 percent of Moroccans listed their view as favorable.  It's an islamic country, and I'm sure I'm going to be ready for a culture shock.  The "feit" is also about to begin, commemorating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  During ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight, and depending on how Morocco's Imman determines the moon tonight, the month will end, so the feit is a time to eat a lot and be with family, so much of Morocco will be closed, like Christmas or Easter in the U.S.  We've also heard on the ship about how a lot of concern in the U.S. over this since it may seem like Muslims our celebrating Sept. 11 when in fact they are celebrating the Feit, and the concern now here is that this crazy priest in Florida may create backlash against the U.S. here in Morocco.  Supposively it shouldn't be a problem, but it still will have us a bit on edge that day, and we will all be watching the news here in hopes of that guy not being the headline story or anything.
But oh well.  I know this is VERY VERY VERY long but hopefully it was enjoyable, I'm kind of doing it so I can remember everything myself as well.  I'll have my own journal in the rest of the countries so hopefully they won't be this long!  Remember my email is and I love hearing from anyone at home.  Go Bucks, kill the 'canes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


So the background picture on this blog is literally the bullfighting plaza in Seville!!! It matches my pictures exactly.  Crazy coincidence.  It was just one of the optional templates to use for the background!  I'm also about 1 hour away from going into the city.  Apparently it's overwhelming.  Most people come back after a few hours, after being hassaled by merchants or potential victims of the youths addiction for stealing from Americans.  Not always the most flattering comments made to us either.  But at the same time heard a lot of stories about locals helping people out, telling them what streets not to go down, etc.  A group of  7 girls I know went out with 1 guy, and a guy told them to go back to the ship and find more guys to be with them.  So I'm excited and a little apprehensive now...

Espana + Dock time :)

So Spain was awesome despite some rough moments, but generally an awesome place and I had a great time.  Hopefully I'll have some pictures posted later tonight if I can find an internet cafe when I'm let off in Casablanca.  The ships location in the port was nice, literally right in the middle of the city of Cadiz (pronounced CAdiz).  Here's the breakdown:
Day 1 (Sept 4)
      Got up really early to watch the sunrise as we pulled into our first port.  It was beautiful watching it come over the mountain range in the distance, and we could soon see the big cathedral's dome and the city coming into view.  Obviously we were all pumped to get going and finally get off the ship.  So it was me, Amanda, and Kelly.  Amanda I met a couple of months ago at OSU and we got to hang out a few times before the trip started and decided to do Spain together.  Amanda met Kelly on the ship and she had no plans so she joined us as well.  So we got off the ship, kissed land, and started moving right away to meet up with David, who was Amanda's friend from England who was meeting up with her.  We had some fun learning the city and wondering around, made our first Spanish friend, a stray dog, and finally was able to get to David's hotel.  The four of us then went to the cathedral that rests near the ocean.  It was great to get inside there and look at it, it reminded me a lot of my time in Rome and seeing those churches.  We went down into the crypt which was very creepy, but cool to see.  I had a lot of fun listening to my fit echo around the walls of it.  After that we decided to get some food, and at this moment I completely forget what I had, so not too memorable.  (I also forgot my journal, so was not able to right down daily what I did, but lesson learned, not happening again!) 
      After lunch we went back to the ship and headed to the other side of the city (maybe 15 min walk) to go to the beach, which was beautiful.  So cool to be on a beach and see cathedral rising right by and just the older European vibe the whole city had.  As we were walking down the ramp I remember looking down at it (it was packed of people) and asking Kelly, "So I don't have my glasses on, so I can't really tell, but is that lady topless?"  Kelly looked for a bit and said, "Oh wow!"  Unfortunately, it's more or less all the women who no longer care what anyone thinks about them who decide to go topless, but it was definitely the first so called "culture shock" I had.  It felt so good to be in the ocean, especially after a week of being so cramped on the ship.  I got some sun and just had a great time living in the moment there (and did manage to find 1 hot topless girl haha). 
     After the beach me and Kelly headed back to the ship to get ready for our night of Flamenco dancing.  So we got back and got ready, and headed to the pier to meet the bus, and found out we would go to a bull fighting ring first and see a bloodless bullfight and some horse like stuff.  The bus ride was about 25 minutes to a ranch outside of the city, and when we got there, everyone gave each other looks, and I remember saying, "Wow, I didn't realize we were in Mexico, not Spain."  The ring was just a wall with a small section of seating on one side, and just was not what any of us expected.  But when in Spain, right?  So we were greeted with a welcome drink of wine (Kelly doesn't drink, so that meant two for me) and we proceeded into the ring.  The start was some kind of dancing between two Flamenco dancers (girls) and a horse.  Sounds weird, but the horse was obviously well trained, and it basically "danced" by using its feet to keep the beat and such, but I don't think I could describe it without showing a video.  They then brought the "cow" in for the fight, and this was too see if the cow was brave enough to become a "bull".  The most entertaining part of this fight was the 20 minutes it took for the cow to go back into it's holding pen after they were done.  We then went about 10 minutes down the road to a hall to watch the Flamenco show.  We had some tapas (tortilla espanol, mmm) and had a glass of wine and all the sangria we wanted (awesome!).  The show started, and it was really interesting.  The dancers were very good, and most of the show is individualized, basically showing off there skills, it was crazy how fast they could move their feet.  Almost exhausting just to watch! 
     So I came back to the show and even though it was 1130pm and we were leaving the next day for Seville, I wanted to go out.  I'm now convinced Europeans enjoy telling you they know where the nearest club is and then taking great fun in seeing how long the Americans will follow them around the city for.  NEVER found a bar with the two groups I was with (ditched one group for another after 30 mins of walking). 
I have to go now, that was most of Day 1 but I have a diplomatic briefing to go to for Morocco now (do me a favor, if you run into one of these crazy U.S.A. priests who are planning on burning Korans on Sept. 11th, smack them for me, seriously.  What fools, I hope I don't run into any repercussions for there stupidity).  I'll post the rest later today!!

Friday, September 3, 2010


I forgot to add that I have a new email address.  It's free for me to use so send me anything (text only) and I check it daily.  My old email costs money, so this is the one to use:


The ship is quite close to Cadiz right now, we're actually moving quite slowly to make sure we get todays full day of classes in (lame).  But I figured I'd let all know what my plans are for Spain and Morocco, and of course when I get back I'm sure I'll have a very long post on each updating everyone.  Spain I'm doing independent of Semester at Sea for the most part, where Morocco I'll be doing mostly through Semester at Sea.  Either way I can't wait to be on land and no classes for 10 days! 
Espana, arriving 0800 tomorrow (Sept. 4) morning:
I'm most likely getting up early to watch us roll into Cadiz, apparently the ship will be surrounded by the city itself, one of our better ports.  Tomorrow night I'll be doing the following SAS (Semester at Sea) trip:
Andalucian Flamenco Night, 1930-2300 Sept 4th
Head out to Chiclana(30 mins) and enjoy welcome drinks as you proceed to a small outdoor arena.  View an exhibition of spear cow taming, an amateur bullfight, and a horse and flamenco spectacle.  Proceed indoors for tapas and flamenco.  Costumed dancers a guitar accompanist begins the show, followed by a rest for the dancers and a second show where audience members are invited to participate.
The next morning I'm headed to Seville and staying the night of the 5th there.  We then head to Madrid on the 6th and stay the night, then to Barcelona on the 7th and stay for the night, returning to Cadiz on the 8th.  Most likely the trips will all be by train except for Barcelona to Cadiz, which we'll fly in order to save time and make sure we get back to the ship, which we have to be on by 1800 Sept 8th.
We get on the ship and the next day, Sept 9th, at around 1400 we arrive in Casablanca.  I'll be free that day, but the next morning (Sept 9th) I start my trip to Marrakech and a Nomad Camp overnight stay, so the itinerary follows:

Marrakech & Nomad Camp with Camel Trek 

Day 1: Depart by minibus to Marrakech (3-4 hours).  Upon arrival, you will have free time to explore the city.  In the evening, enjoy a Moroccan dinner with an Arabo-andalucian orchestra and a belly dancer show.

Day 2: Travel to Zagora (7-8 hours with no stops) in the magnificent Draa Valley.  A lunch stop will be made in Agdz, a village where the huge palm groves and Oued Draa (river) begin.  There will be a tremendous view of the Saharan world, including its dunes, oases and small mud villages.  Later enjoy dinner in a nomad tent before settling into camp for the night.

Day 3: In the morning, venture into the Sahara Desert on an early morning mehari (camel trek) with nomads.  Enjoy a last mint tea in the desert before returning to Marrakech.  The late afternoon and evening are free to explore the famous Jemma el Fna Square and other sites.  Dinner is on your own.

Day 4:  After breakfast, enjoy Marrakech on your own until you depart for your return to Casablanca.


I'm sure I'll have lots to share when I get back....


Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Right now it's almost 9am and we are passing one of the islands of the Azore chain of islands.  Took lots of picture which don't do any justice, but it's pretty cool to finally see some land after days of water.  We're also far away from the hurricanes so we have a calm sea which makes everything a little more pleasant. 
I'm taking 4 classes during this voyage.  One is global studies, we all take this to prepare ourselves for each port and a globalized world.  The second is environmental psychology, or basically the think between physical design and what that does on the human condition.  Kind of a perfect marriage of my first college major and the one I actually graduated with.  Thirdly, I'm taking Intro to Anthro, which has always kind of interested me and what better way to explore culture than when I'm sailing to 13 cutlures?  Finally I'm taking Higher Ed. in the Global World, which is taught by a guy who has infinite experience in it.  I'm pretty sure my future lies somewhere in higher ed.  Class sizes are awesome, maybe 12 tops in my classes except global studies, which is something I'm definitely not use to.
But my boss just showed up at work (half hour late) so I guess I should go do some work.. Next post should be all about Spain!