Archive for June, 2005

June 27, 2005

time for an update

I guess everyone was sick of my limerick post because nobody else wrote me any 😦 or maybe vik showed you all up! haha anyways, I figured it was time for an update.


Our Chicago trip was amazing! We drove up to Chicago and stayed there for 4 days to attend the Rotary International Convention. For those of you who don’t know what Rotary is, I can’t explain it any better than the website: “Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world.” Before the convention they had a Rotaract Pre-Convention meeting which was our main reason for going to Chicago. Rotaract is basically the college/young professional version of Rotary ( and Interact is the high school version).

Anyway, some of our plenary sessions were interesting and helpful but I think the best part of the convention was the House of Friendship. They had this HUGE area of the convention center devoted to booths for different Rotary clubs, fellowships, service projects, etc. It was great just walking around and talking to people (oh and getting purple pinkies!). The first booth Jatin, Nikunj, Poonam, and I stopped at highlighted a service project called the “Purple Pinkie Project” The original project was aimed at elementary schools. When kids donated money to PolioPlus they got their pinkies painted purple. The reason for this being that when PolioPlus volunteers travel abroad to administer polio vaccines, they paint the pinkies of the vaccinated kids so that there is some record of the immunization. One of Rotary’s main projects is PolioPlus and they have done an incredible job at raising money and getting volunteers to go to the countries that need it the most. Here are some facts about polio and polioplus:

  • – Polio can’t be cured, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. It is an oral vaccine and is very inexpensive.
  • -In 1985, Rotary launched the PolioPlus program to protect children worldwide from the cruel and fatal consequences of polio.
  • -In 1988, the World Health Assembly challenged the world to eradicate polio.
  • – The number of polio cases has been reduced by a projected 99 percent since Rotary and partner agencies formed the global polio eradication initiative — from 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1300 in 2004
  • -The number of polio cases has been reduced by a projected 99 percent since Rotary and partner agencies formed the global polio eradication initiative — from 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1300 in 2004
  • -Despite intensive surveillance efforts, one of the three types of viruses (Type II) that cause polio has not been seen since 1999. Could it be that it has already been eradicated? The World Health Organization will continue to promote active surveillance to determine this possibility.

We also did some other things in Chicago: Sears Tower, Millenium Park, that park with the crazy fountains, Improv Club (pancreas anyone?), charades when everyone was EXHAUSTED, really good Chicago-style pizza and Tapas, a fake tour with the one and only Jatin ( oh and his ATG Nikunj with the lovely eyebrows), Buckingham fountain (night and day), Rotary parade, Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, double decker train, floor 2.5, Chicago TRibune building, carnival mirrors, oh and of course our antics in the car ( Twizzlers anyone?) All in all it was an awesome trip and I really hope we can go to Cali next year for USCC or Copenhagen, Denmark for RI 2006. Either one works for me…or both!

Here are my Chicago pics (well the ones I could put up at least 😉 )

If anyone is interested in joining or finding out more about the College Park Rotaract Club or even Rotaract in general, just leave me a comment and I’ll try and get you some more information. The Rotaract Club on campus is fairly new so we’re definitely looking to increase our membership so let me know if you’re intereted!


I guess it’s time for a SAS update too. Contrary to popular belief (more like Ronak spreading rumors), I am still going on SAS in the fall. All that nonsense with Univ. of Pitt and ISE is straightened out and we will receive academic credit for our voyage. Thank goodness it all worked out because I think I would be going through SAS withdrawl of some sort if it hadn’t.
Fortunately, my summer class is over next week and I can get into full gear with all this preparation. There’s so much more to do than just packing. It’s hard to explain and I’m trying not to get stressed out about it, but let’s just say spending a few days in the Bahamas before we depart will be a welcome vacation!
I am trying so hard not to have impossibly high expectations of this trip because I really don’t want to be disappointed. It’s hard though. One of the reasons I’ve been so excited lately is because we’re finally putting together some tentative plans for our first port of call: La Guaira, Venezuela.
At first, I really wanted to go on this trip to EcoLodge, but then when I thought about it again I figured it might be fun to try doing an indy (independent) trip for the first port. Sarah, a Spring 05 alum, suggested this trip which she did:

“I personally made no plans ahead of time for what to do in Venezuela. It was the end of the trip for us so I was outta money and so were my friends… so five of us got off the ship, and made our plans in only a few hours for what to do. ONE OF MY FAVORITE MEMORIES OF THE TRIP.

Here we go, instant guide to the best (and cheapest) time of your life:

1) Pack bag for 3 days/nights that you don’t mind carrying around plus blanket
2) Take cab to Carracas ($20 divided by number of passengers…) $5ish
3) Go to bus station, purchase overnight tickets to Merida… $30
4) Spend day in Carracas, just walk around… free if you do it right
5) Cabs within city to get back to bus station… $5 max
6) Catch 7:00 overnight bus to Merida. Bring blanket. It’s COLD. They love air conditioning.
6a) Bring toilet paper. They make you pay for it in Venezuelan bus stops.
6b) Bring snacks, esp. for the morning/afternoon
7) Wake up in the Andes mountains
7a) Buy return tickets to Carracas… $30
8) Check into the Posada Suiza for one night. Joe will help you out. $5/person/night
8b) This is a good time to book your horseback riding/canyoning/paragliding w/ Joe
9) Catch the world’s longest cable car to the highest peak. Watch out, last trip up is noon. $20
10) Eat awesome, cheap pizza at pizzeria to the right and down the street of where you come out of the cable car… $5
11) Hang out at Posada Suiza, take nap and shower, you’re tired
11a) optionally find market to buy souvenirs… cab $2
12) Check out cool nightlife back at square by cable car (cab fare… $2)
13) SLEEP. Yay.
14) Wake up and catch pre-arranged ride to go Canyoning (description below)… $45
15) Back at Posada Suiza, quickly change and eat leftover pizza
16) Catch pre-arranged ride to go Paragliding… $45
17) Find quick food, ask driver… $5
18) Catch 7:00 bus back to Carracas. WHEW! You’re tired.
19) Wake up in Carracas
20) Hang out/do what you like for the day.
21) Catch cab back to ship… $5

GRAND TOTAL: $204ish (including thrills!)

Now, about Canyoning. Never heard of it? Neither had I. MOST AMAZING THING I’VE EVER DONE. So we’re wearing nothing but our swimsuits and tennis shoes and our guides take us to the top of a mountain, and we proceed to hike down in the Andes Mountains (AND RAINFOREST, GORGEOUS) in our swimsuits for half an hour till we get to the river. I loved this part. At the river, we put on full-bodied wetsuits and helmets, and basically hiked THROUGH the river. This includes repelling down three waterfalls, jumping into pools, sliding off of rocks… AND…I got to stand behind a waterfall for the first time in my life. I’d always dreamed of it. Swimming in pools, playing in waterfalls, climbing on jungle vines…If this is your idea of cool, you HAVE to. It’s not scary. And PARAGLIDING… AMAZING. Gently drifting through the Andes… aaaaah. You can find the Posada Suiza in the Lonely Planet book for Venezuela. Joe is the manager and speaks German/English/Spanish. He’s great. Brush up on your Spanish. Or do what I did and bring a friend who has ;o) Okay, so that’s my advice on what to do in Venezuela. Way better than getting drunk on some island, you can do that lots of places.

Spring 2005

yeah sorry for copying and pasting the whole post, I don’t think anybody is interested in reading all that except for SAS ppl (and the only ones who look at my LiveJournal are Jed, Ashish, and Amy 😦
oh well, I just posted it in the off-chance that someone reading this has been to Venezuela before or has any tips/suggestions for me.

eeks what a long entry. Well i guess this update will satisfy me until my exam is over. I’ll definitely be posting more regularly after that.

June 9, 2005


so all is good with Semester at Sea…Univ of Pitt. will give transcripts for all voyages through Spring 2005. Thank goodness!!!!!
Anyway, here is a limerick Nayan wrote me (I love it!) after I wrote him an interesting one:

gr8oNe214: there once was a girl named apu
gr8oNe214: people like her…there were few
gr8oNe214: she doesnt watch b-ball
gr8oNe214: she’s gonna be at sea in the fall
gr8oNe214: and i think i’ll miss her most of all

This is the one I wrote Nayan(with added comments):

xoAKxo: there once was a boy named nayan (that’s me)
xoAKxo: and he’s guju so you know he ain’t payin’ (damn right)
xoAKxo: he woke up one day
xoAKxo: and realized the errors of his way
xoAKxo: so now if you ask him for money he’ll say OKAY! (definately a lie)

This one is more of a rap than a limerick…but it’s awesome nonetheless. It’s written by our very own Jay ISA…or Jay USA shall we say? see i can rhyme too!

my name is aparna and i just want to warnya
when i get my bbq on, it’s fresh like garnia
i may be light skin
but you bet i like gin
so be wildin august 6 and i’ll adornya
we got good food and we play nice beats
we have clean fun please no skeets skeets skeets
but come night time
it’s my prime time
party on till dawn till liquors gone, after the feast.
if you like these rhymes, come over and recline
no sin cosine, just coronas with lime and fine wine
good times and dine
mmm, it’s dyno mite
drop a line, drop a dime, if you will be so kind.
come august 1, save your food stamps
the rolls is delish, the yams wont cramp
if it gets dismal
i got pepto bismol
or the metamucal if you old like my gramps

This one is awesome too…can you believe Vik came up with this on the spot?

apu’s my boo
2 years in college in still no booze
gotta luv it
hater’s gonna hatee…rise above it
everytime i see ya u got a smile on ur face
i’ma miss ya at sas but that’s jus sumitin i gotta face
i remember bak in the day
i would say a cuss word n u’d be all in my grill
bak in the day when we would all jus chill
not a good time when u came to cville
remember that?
u were sober i was on some koniak
all toe up
fa sho…but now we all grown up
gotta face responsibilities gotta be mature
gotta make sure u got enuff papur
no more str8 shots wit a coke chaser
we too old for that
wut am i sayiin? how is this a rap?
we needta go out… party les get it cracked!
i’ma see u when u come bak from abroad..until rap
‘s gonna take nap

New limericks/raps/poems currently being accepted.
Exercise your creative juices!

just do it…it’s summer…you don’t have anything better to do! (i’m sure you do but i bet you’re not doing it…at least not right NOW)

June 8, 2005

not a happy camper

looks like as of now i’m not getting any academic credit unless another “accredited institution” picks up where Pitt left off. i guess it’s time to start thinking of some contingency plans…any ideas?

Here’s the email the UMD study abroad office sent me:

As you may already know, the University of Pittsburgh has terminated its
sponsorship of Semester at Sea. We have just learned of this and
contacted Semester at Sea and the University of Pittsburgh to confirm.

We only accept credit for study abroad programs that issue transcripts
from an accredited institution. It is not our intention to cause you
undue panic but rather to let you know we are informed of the situation
and monitoring it closely. You may read a few more details of the story
at the link below – we have also been told by Semester at Sea that they
are in negotiations with other schools to issue transcripts and award
credit. We can’t predict how this will unfold but it is important that
you have all the facts and we will relay any new information we have to
you as soon as it becomes available to us.

Sorry for this disappointing news but perhaps it will have a happy ending

Michael Ulrich

June 7, 2005

oh dear…..

so apparently our voyage is still on…for now. It’s not through the University of Pittsbugh anymore though. I’m not sure where we’re getting our academic credit from, but it better come from somewhere! I don’t really care as long as we’re still going. I think if SAS was cancelled I’d go through some kind of travel withdrawl or depression of some sort.

Pitt cuts ties with Semester at Sea

Breaks off 24-year deal in dispute over governance, safety

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

By Sally Kalson and Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The University of Pittsburgh has abruptly severed its 24-year sponsorship of Semester at Sea,citing concerns about safety and governance of the ship’s operation. In response, Semester at Sea’s parent company, the Institute for Shipboard Education, on Friday filed a court action to stop Pitt’s withdrawal, claiming contract violations and irreparable harm to the program.

“We found ourselves in the position of a frustrated spouse who hastried to keep the marriage going but in the end has to accept that it’s over,” said Pitt spokesman Robert Hill. Hill said a joint statement might be forthcoming after further discussions.

No one from Semester at Sea could be reached for comment and there was no mention of the upheaval on its Web site.

It was uncertain yesterday if the dispute would have an impact on the summer 2005 voyage, slated to depart June 17 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on a nine-week trip. Hill said Pitt faculty members who chose to go would be paid by Semester at Sea instead of the university, and that Pitt would still grant academic credit to the students on this last trip.

“The University is NOT saying that the upcoming voyages will be unsafe,” the Pitt statement said, before adding that the institute has not provided sufficient risk-assessment information.

Since 1980, Pitt has been the academic sponsor of the “floating university” that takes college students around the world as they earn credits toward their degrees. The operator of the program is a nonprofit educational corporation with offices in the university’s William Pitt Union.

In a letter dated May 2, 2005, Pitt Provost James Maher told John Tymitz, the institute’s CEO, that the school was cutting its ties. He cited unresolved claims from the deaths of five program participants in India almost 10 year ago; concerns about the process used in acquiring the new ship that sustained storm damage in January; and the program’s decision to visit Kenya on its most recent voyage despite a State Department travel advisory.

Hill attributed many of these problems to Semester at Sea’s decision to end its long affiliation with the Seawise Foundation, which until a year ago supplied the ship that housed the program and also furnished “a level of proven maritime management expertise on which the university had come to rely.”

The institute’s lawsuit counters with these claims:

The contract between the institute and Pitt requires 24 months notice before termination unless both parties agree on a compressed time
period, but Pitt shortened that period unilaterally after negotiations broke down.

Pitt has refused to enter mediation as required by the contract.

The school sent a letter to faculty and staff who were scheduled to sail on the summer 2005 voyage, telling them that if they go, they would have to take an unpaid leave of absence from Pitt. This has caused irreparable harm to the program, “in that some, if not all, of the faculty and staff committed to the upcoming voyage will no longer be able to afford to participate.” As a result, the summer 2005 voyage may not be able to take place.

In violation of their agreement, Pitt gave the institute an ultimatum: notify all students registered for the trip about the university’s withdrawal, or Pitt would do so on its own.

Pitt’s withdrawal on such short notice hurts the students who were expecting to earn credits toward their college degrees.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Pitt to stop sending notices about its withdrawal from the program to students, faculty and staff, and to enter mediation with the institute within seven days of the order. It also asks the court to appoint a mediator — noting that the institute had offered to let Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg serve in that capacity — and to keep the current agreement in place in the meantime.

Robert Fessler, a Point Park University psychology professor who has taught on four voyages, reacted with surprise and sadness yesterday to hear that Pitt’s sponsorship is ending.

“There is something about being able to move around the world from one country to the next and be able to compare and contrast the different cultures,” Fessler said. “I think it’s unparalleled. There are lots of study abroad programs, but not like this.”

As long as the new sponsor is a reputable institution like Pitt, he said, individual trip-goers may not feel much change. But he called the move a loss for higher education in Western Pennsylvania since the voyages draw participants from across the nation and world.

“It raises the visibility of the education community in Western Pennsylvania in a positive way,” he said.

Semester at Sea, originally called the University of the Seven Seas, was founded in 1963 by a group of California educators and business people. Over the years, the floating campus and its passengers have taken part in some ground-breaking trips to places once taboo for U.S. travelers.

A stop in Vietnam was the first large-scale visit by American college students since the Vietnam War. The program has made similar visits to China, South Africa and the former Soviet Union.

In spring of 1999, the group made what was believed to be the largest sanctioned visit to Cuba by a collection of American college students in nearly four decades. Fidel Castro was a fan of the program and sometimes lectured Semester at Sea students for hours on end.

But the program has also endured hardship.

In January of this year, a 50-foot wave hit the vessel as it traveled in stormy seas in the Pacific, shattering a window on the bridge andtemporarily shorting out the electrical system, leaving the ship running on one engine.

In October of 2000, a container ship sideswiped the program’s former vessel, the S.S. Universe Explorer, on the Saigon River, slicing a 30-foot-long gash in its hull and damaging five student cabins. No one was injured. And in March 1996, five Semester at Sea travelers, four of them students, died in a bus accident in India.

June 1, 2005

Host an Exchange Student (or become one)- get interested!

I’ve been pretty lazy about advocating for YFU lately but seeing Scott again and just getting an email from my host mother in Finland motivated me to post about it.

As most of you know, I went on two summer trips as an exchange student with an amazing organization called Youth for Understanding (YFU) that I am gratefully indebted to. The summer of my sophomore year I went to Japan for six weeks and stayed with a host family in the small town of Miyazaki on the island of Kyushu. The next summer I went to Finland ( I know you’re asking why Finland?)for eight weeks and stayed with a wonderful host family in another small town called Pirkkala(near Tampere). So the common factor between these two trips is that they were FREE. Yeah, all you guju people read right- it says FREE. The organization that sponsors it has tons of scholarships for high school kids to study abroad. I went to Japan through a scholarship called Japan American Friendship Scholarship and it included airfare, domestic travel, and a week-long orientation in Tokyo. I went to Finland through the Finland-US Senate Scholarship which is an awesome program because they only pick 14 people from around the US. You’re stuck with these 14 people for two weeks and you do EVERYTHING together so you inevitably make 14 new friends for life. This scholarship included an orientation in DC, pre-departure and pre-arrival orientations in Finland, along with airfare and all of that. The Finnish Embassy in DC and the American Embassy in Finland both threw receptions for us and we got to meet both ambassadors along with other government officials. On both trips though, the most amazing part of it was staying with and getting to know my host families. They take you in and treat you like one of their own family members-it’s just an unforgettable experience. I miss my host families, especially the one in Finland, immensely and I get tears in my eyes just thinking about them. That’s how much of an effect a trip like this will have on you, guaranteed. Oh man, I could talk about my trips forever…Now I’m not writing about this to show off but I’m trying to get people interested. If you’re still in high school, have siblings in high school or know anyone in high school please please please tell them to check out this website and especially the scholarships. They have scholarship trips to Finland, Japan, China, Germany, and for some of them you can pick the country.
If you’re NOT in high school anymore, please consider hosting an international student. Ever since 9/11 people have been reluctant to send their kids abroad and even host foreign students. It is such a desperate situation that YFU has had to cancel some students trips because there were no available host families for them in the US. Somehow this doesn’t seem to be a problem in any of the other countries that YFU sends kids to, just the US. Hosting a student would be such an amazing experience. You get to learn about a new country and a new culture from a first hand source! You can contribute as much to their exchange experience as they can to your hosting experience. So please, if you or anybody you know is even remotely interested in hosting a student tell them to check this out:

I can’t express how important this is to me and I know that it’s even more important to the students who are coming from abroad.

Just check out the websites, it will only take a few minutes of your time. Thanks!

If you have any questions just leave me a comment and please pass this message along.

Here is our yearbook in progress from Finland:

Here’s the link to some more Finland and Japan pictures: