Wanted to get up to speed before I hit up Mauritius in 8 hours on just some random things, mainly just so I'll have them written down before I forget. If you haven't read my South Africa post on my time spent there, I'd read that before you read this.
First, happy birthday to me!, 23 now, which seems pointless. Oh well, two more years before my car insurance drops.
Neptune day was pretty fun (way back to after Ghana). Not many people have been to that exact spot, where the Prime Meridian and the Equator meet each other. No shipping channels or flight paths cross it, so it's pretty safe to say I'll never be there again. We were woken up pretty early with some of the crew banging drums, tambourines, pots, and anything else to wake everyone up. Everyone gathered up on deck 7 by the pool, and Dean David and the other deans came out dressed as various sea gods and such. So you stepped into the pools overflow, had some sort of fish guts poured on you, jump into the pool to rinse off, get out and kiss a fish, then kiss Dean David's ring, and then have Adam (Registrar and my boss) knight you with the sword. That took care of that, and then of course I shaved off all my hair. I actually "BICed" it, which apparently everyone but myself has heard of, and it just means shaving everything off with like the razor so there's nothing. The best part of the day though was that we had our first BBQ. Usually dinner is on decks 5 and 6, but for BBQs they fire up the grills on deck 7 and have burgers, sausage, ribs, corn on the cob, etc. It was great, and I'm excited for our 2nd day in Mauritius, when we reboard the boat we have another BBQ right after on ship time.
Desmond Tutu's lecture was great, he has plenty of stories to tell and is incredibly insightful. But what else would you expect from a Nobel Prize winner? It was also amazing while in South Africa if you just brought up that Desmond Tutu was sailing on our voyage with us as well. First response would always be a hearty laugh and an "oh sure he is". But then when you told them it was true, it was the best conversation starter! You suddenly weren't a tourist but had a bond with the person, and it seems everyone knows about his infectious laugh and humble personality. In the Waterfront area there was a statue of him and Nelson Mandela! I can't think of many people I know who have statues.
I was also pretty impressed with how long Semester at Sea has been traveling to South Africa. Louis Patler, who was our interport lecturer for South Africa, was on a voyage as a student in the early 70s. They had 6 black students on board the ship, and when South Africa's immigration came on, they were originally not allowed off. Louis actually got on the PA system, announced this, and he organized the entire shipboard community to come and sit in the union and not leave the ship until they can. Six hours later, they were allowed into South Africa.
It's crazy to hear some of the stories about past voyages, never being sure what is true or what is rumor. Louis cleared up rumors that were going around on the ship about that same voyage, and he told us about four SAS students that had rented a car to go to the top of Table Mountain. Three white students picked up another student by the ship who happened to be one of the 6 black students. Two guys, two girls, which wouldn't have sit well with many people in the 70s. On there way up the mountain, another car intentionally ran them off the road, killing one of the students and severely injuring the other three. I think that's when it hit me just how horrible the situation was in South Africa only a few decades ago, but I'm kind of proud that SAS has such a long tradition of anti-apartheid ways. My post-port reflection group leader (post-ports are an hour long discussion after each port of everyone's experiences, usually 6 or 7 students, same group every time) had an incredible experience of being on the SAS voyage in 1994, just a few weeks before the election that put Nelson Mandela in power. In a last minute gesture, the African National Congress (Mandela's political party) invited any SAS students who to go to come to a rally outside of Cape Town where Nelson Mandela was speaking. Only 26 SASers signed up to go! Kind of understandable since the Amy Biehl tragedy happened only a few weeks before their arrival. They were given heavy security, and put at the very front, just in front of a giant stage where Mandela spoke to the crowd of about 150,000. They realized that they were being "used" in order to get some white people at the front of the crowd, but Joel's favorite memory of that was when they were quickly escorted out after the rally, and found that their buses still had not come back to get them. From across some sort of field, all the people at the rally started running right at them, making the SAS crowd fear the worse. Just before they collided, many of them stopped and just started dancing for joy, and all of a sudden the SAS crowd was dancing with all of them as well! Humanity is an amazing thing at its best.
But on a lighter note, I'll be celebrating my birthday with my extended family here on the ship on Oct. 17. They invited to dinner someone who shares my birthday with me and also invited her husband. Guess who it is?....Yep, it's Leah Tutu, and Desmond Tutu will be joining us as well :) The Tutu's and Mauritius?? Can't get much better.
I do have to say once again, the networking opportunities on this ship are amazing. I'm not going to say anything on here, but its creating some exciting avenues for me to explore, especially since I have the luxury of being a graduate come December on my return!
Life on the ship is about to get crazy, since once we hit India we have 31 total days where there's only 6 days of class. Which means tons of time in port! Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with this blog but there could be some long stretches of nothing. Plans for Mauritius: do not get burnt, enjoy my birthday with many new friends in a private villa, and then get up on the 15th to go enjoy snorkeling and the private bar on the catamaran with even more friends. Life's good!