Archive for September, 2005

September 29, 2005

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long! I’ve been typing my journal on my laptop but I haven’t had a chance to post it. I’ll post it tonight or tomorrow- beware it is VERY long and I don’t have pictures to break up the monotony. Anyways, Cape Town is amazing! I am very excited to be here for 2 extra days. And then…on to Mauritius! For those of you who don’t know- our trip to Kenya got cancelled due to a travel advisory issued by the State Dept. It is unfortunate but exciting at the same time. 🙂 Now we are going to Mauritius, a place that we don’t know anything about. That’s why it’s exciting! haha ok well i have to go- better things to do in Cape Town than be online!

Love to all.

I haven’ tbeen replying to emails lately either because my mail client on my laptop isn’t functioning properly at the moment. We have 7 days at sea so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on some of that.

P.S. I WENT SKYDIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? It was absolutely amazing!!!! Will write more about it later.

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September 23, 2005

September 21st, 2005

It’s so easy to lose track of days while we’re at sea. I keep meaning to write in my journal every day but it never seems to work out! Anyway, the day before yesterday we had Community College in the evening. The Global Nomads Group showed their documentary about Rwanda. I forgot what it was called but it was excellent. I also found out some more about Global Nomads itself. It’s basically a bunch of guys who started this non-profit group after college. They are based out of NYC and what they do is set up satellite meetings between schools in US and schools in other countries to foster communication and understanding between youth. They are on our voyage because they are doing this with schools in each of the countries. Their one constant school is an elementary school in Magnolia, Texas (40 miles outside of Houston). I think it’s an amazing project and I really want to get more involved in it when I get back. They are also trying to set something up in India, kind of like a town hall meeting I think. The topic will be HIV/AIDS. Ok so after that there was a big karaoke night! I didn’t sing but I did videotape haha. It was a lot of fun. Some people had such amazing voices…there were also some really entertaining performances (Drop it Like it’s Hot and YMCA). haha i wish i had pictures, but taking my video camera was a much better idea. So it was a pretty chill day. We finally played the Candy Land and Clue that were sitting in my room. I hadn’t played Candy Land in SO long. After karaoke we watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and fell asleep. We were nicely awakened around 8am to the sound of drumming and loud knocks on our door. Neptune Day had arrived. We actually crossed the equator last week but we had a global studies exam the next day so the rituals were postponed. We were so grumpy when they woke us up so we stayed in bed for awhile. They came on the loud speaker a little while later singing some song about pollywogs- Jed does an excellent imitation. We finally decided to go upstairs and join in the festivities. We got up there and people were already finished so we went down, changed into our bathing suits and ran back upstairs. We got in line and then one by one stood in the shallow part of the pool while a foul-smelling concoction of “fish guts” (really it was just soy milk, oatmeal, and bisquick or something) was poured over us. We then jumped in the pool, swam to the other side where we had to kiss a dead fish before climbing out. The last thing we had to do was kiss King Neptune’s (our captain painted in green war paint) ring.

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On my way to becoming a shellback. That stuff that they were pouring on us was absolutely disgusting.

After all that was over some people got their heads shaved (it’s an old Navy tradition for equator crossing). A fair number of girls got their heads shaved and donated it to Locks of Love. I was thinking about doing it…but I’m not comfortable enough with my image as it is. It’s terrible but true. 😦

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Mark, me, Rob (just thought I would put this picture up because I got an email from Rob’s mom so I thought she might want to see a picture of her son :-))
PB people- doesn’t Mark look EXACTLY like Garrett? I think so at least. Maybe not so much in the picture but in person it’s such an uncanny resembelence.

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Me and Executive Dean John Tymitz ( who sang us Margaritaville on karaoke night)

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Me and Glenn after he shaved his head…sort of. They told him he had good mohawk hair. I agree!

The rest of the day was fun, really chill actually. Our first day OFF since we boarded. To everyone at home: I know it seems like we’re on vacation, but the truth is it can get pretty hectic. Imagine having class every single day while you are at sea and then you have 5 busy days in port. There are no weekends and therefore no time to catch up on work. You have to stay on top of your work otherwise you’ll be stuck doing it while you’re in port. Anyways, after showering and trying to get the smell out of my hair Pete, me, Rafi, Shane, and Jed watched their new Britney Spears DVD in our room. haha it was hilarious. As trashy as she can be sometimes I have to admit that she’s an amazing performer. I wish I could dance like her. Ooh you want to know the best part of the day? Tacos at lunch. We were so excited…it was kinda pathetic. Carrie and I keep talking about how satisfying it was. Especially for vegetarians! We just hung around some more after lunch and played Pit. The waves were crazy high today and I couldn’t even eat dinner because I was feeling so nauseous. Ugh. I don’t even remember the rest of the night. All I know is that I finally put the seasickness patch behind my ear. I caved. haha I think it’s working though. Either that or the seas are much calmer. Oh well. Luckily I didn’t react too terribly to the patch…just some drowsiness and dry mouth. It’s fine now though. The next day there was a second Global Nomads community college. This one was about the situation in Darfur. It made me so upset the other day when they announced that their next community college was about Darfur, so many people had confused looks on their faces. I definitely don’t know as much about Darfur as I want to but I have a VERY basic idea of what’s going on. I know I sound obnoxious right now. But the whole ordeal reminded me of a quote I read after watching Hotel Rwanda. It was something about whether 10 years from now we’ll be watching a heart-wrenching documentary about Sudan and wondering why we didn’t do anything to help. The most frustrating part is that I don’t even know what to do. I don’t know how I could contribute or how I can make a difference. That’s why organizations like Global Nomads appeal to me so much. They really get to the heart of the problem and try and raise awareness about it. I feel so selfish sitting on this ship and paying so much money for this trip while the money could be allocated elsewhere and make more of a difference. Distribution of wealth. Ugh I just don’t know. Time to quote Casey’s card.

“Well you’re on your way towards another AMAZING traveling experience. Just remember though, when you see things and hear about things that make you feel guilty for growing up in the US with all the privelges we have here it’s not your job to feel guilty. More so you should be grateful to have had such experiences and do your best to raise awareness and maybe in the future to make some changes. I’m sure you already knew all of that but just making sure you don’t go through the entire trip feeling bad.”

Casey- I love you soo much. Hope you’re reading this. 🙂

Anyways, back on the track. They gave a quick explanation of the situation and then recounted their trip to a refugee camp in Sudan. I realy think their work is incredible and I definitely want to get more involved when I get back. Their videos and just the way they talk about their work is so inspiring. After Global Nomads we met again for Vicarious Voyage. We finally got all our stuff together and put it in the mailer. I hope we get their letters in South Africa. We started watching Bring it On last night but I have no attention span for movies so we went to snack time and then to Lindsay and Drea’s room for some quality girl time. 🙂 so much better than tea time. haha anyways, I’m really rude and even if there’s people in my room I fall asleep. that’s what i did last night and probably the night before too. haha it’s just so hard to catch up on sleep when we have to advance our clocks 1 hour almost every night! 5 times until we get to south Africa. Eeks.

September 22nd, 2005

Global Studies was actually really interesting today. K Murph was talking about apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s role in it. I actually stayed awake the whole time. 🙂 After my classes I met with Chris from GN and we talked about the MTVU project in India. I think it will turn out really well. After lunch I did some work and then played around with Windows Media Player. I tried to make my video footage more exciting with captions and such. I LOVE my new video camera. I really need to start using it more. Anyways, dinner was terrible today. Haha just thought I’d share. Jed and I had a GN blogging meeting at 7:30 and then another community college at 8pm. This one was about Iraq and how they set up two teleconferences with a school in CT and a school in Baghdad. The first one was two weeks before the war and the second one was six weeks after the war had started. It was so weird because I recognized one of the kids from the FUSYE orientation that I volunteered at a couple years ago. I think his name was Alex. I remember him telling me about it before but I never actually saw the documentary. What a coincidence. I had to leave a little early because I wanted to go to the Hip Hop dance lessons at 8pm. There were too many people there and the room was way too small so we just passed around a sign-up-sheet and decided to break the group up by skill levels and set up different meeting times. It worked out well because the hip hop class was overlapping the salsa lessons tonight. It was fun but there were so many more girls than there were guys. Guys are a hot commodity during salsa lessons…

Right now I’m just sitting in my room with Shane and Ashish and updating my journal when I really should be writing a paper. Oh well. 🙂
Oh yeah, my email isn’t working very well right now so it might take me extra long to reply.

In conclusion, I need to buy a planner in South Africa. I’m going crazy trying to remember all these things. Tomorrow we get to hear Desmond Tutu speak in the afternoon. I am SO excited. I think we have our first actual hip hop class tomorrow too. Excellent. 🙂 I love meeting new people. I just met a guy named Brandon from Alabama. He goes to Fiske- it’s an HBC. I’ve heard of it but I can’t remember where or when. He came over to see the video I had of their AMAZING Drop it Like it’s Hot performance at Karaoke night. I burned it for him on a CD and we were all talking while it was finishing. It’s so awesome that even though we’re 1/4 the way done with our trip (how depressing is that…) we can still meet new people. I love it. It seriously makes my day. I can’t believe how fast this trip is going. I don’t want it to end. I feel like I’ve learned so much already but I do. n’t know how to explain it. Ok time for bed. Thank goodness we don’t have to advance our clocks tonight. I have an 8am tomorrow- I need all the sleep I can get!

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Me and Shane after the Welcome Reception. Ross- Shane says hello 🙂

September 23rd, 2005
I’m in Phil. and Film right now taking notes about Amandla! (yeah there’s an exclamation mark at the end) and once I started writing I couldn’t stop! Anyways, Amandla! is a beautiful film. You should really watch it. It chronicles the struggle to end apartheid but through music. It was so well done and we learned not only about South African music but their fight for freedom as well. I feel so ignorant for not knowing this before. My knowledge of apartheid came from watching the movie Gandhi a few years back. Maybe we talked about it briefly in school but it blows my mind that we never discussed it thoroughly. It wasn’t even history yet. Apartheid ended in 1994- we were still in elementary school. Maybe we were too young to learn about it but how come it was never mentioned again? I can’t believe how much we don’t learn in school. It makes me wonder what we did learn because none of it seems to stick out in my mind. I can keep listing all the things we never learned about but I just realized that my ignorance is my fault. I should have taken the initiative to learn about these things. I wish I had started reading the newspaper at a younger age. That is one thing I will definitely force my kids to do. I know Mom- you tried to get us to do that but somehow we evaded it and didn’t pick it up until later. Being on this ship makes me feel like I was so sheltered at home. Not only do we learn about the atrocities that have occurred all around the world but the rich culture as well. I guess it’s a good a time as any to start. I can’t explain how beneficial this trip has been to me thus far, but I will admit that it will definitely be a challenge NOT to fall back into my old routine. Me, Rob, and Natalie were talking today and saying the same thing. It’s going to be so hard to go home. There are so many things that are important to us now that never even crossed our minds before. We’ve only been to 2 countries and we already feel like changed people. Changed how? I don’t even know but it’s evident that something inside of us has changed. I feel like I have acquired a new love for life, a genuine appreciation for all that we have and an intrinsic motivation to do something, anything to help improve the conditions of the world’s impoverished. Maybe we were blessed with good fortune and financial stability so we could afford to help out elsewhere.

Music is such a powerful entity. This movie proves this point many times over. I’ve always felt like music controls us more than we want to admit. Turn on your mp3 player, put on your headphones, play a feel-good song and immediately you are transported to a happier place. Some songs I listen to because they remind me of home or of India or of pat experiences. You know what track makes me really happy? Raas Chaos 2004 mix!!! 🙂

Desmond Tutu’s speech today was so inspiring. He is such an amazing person. Some background: he won the Nobel Peace prize and headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa among MANY other things. Today we just had a Q + A session with him and tomorrow he’s speaking in Global Studies. It was pretty informal so me, Amy, Tanya, Ted, and Liz were sitting on the floor of the union right at his feet. Seriously I was sitting 2 feet away from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I was beside myself with excitement. I’m not going to pretend like I knew a lot about him before SAS but I had only heard a little bit about him. Ever since we got an email from SAS saying that he would be joining us on our voyage I started reading up about him. I meant to buy his book before I left but I didn’t get a chance to. I definitely want to buy it in South Africa or when I get back. Along with the Amandla! soundtrack. Anyways, the 3 interesting questions I do remember from this afternoon were about his courtship with his wife, his opinion on Myanmar, and his views on homosexuality. Him and his wife were so adorable and obviously very much in love with each other. They’ve been married for over 50 years! Regarding Myanmar, he said that if he had known it was on our itinerary he would not have come on the ship. He is part of a boycott effort towards Myanmar and its oppressive regime. He does not believe tourists should go there at all. SAS’s argument is that we are going with educational motives. I think I agree with SAS on this one because if 680+ kids go there and learn about the situation, even if only a few decide to do something about it it would be worth it. Raising awareness is half the battle in my opinion. Desmond Tutu opinion on homosexuality is that it is wrong to discriminate against people for something they can’t control. He has seen the first-hand effects of this when blacks in South Africa were discriminated against because they were black. He knows that his opinion goes against the Church but he kept saying that when he feels something is wrong he can’t keep it inside. I taped the whole thing and when I get a chance I’ll transcribe it. The one line I remember most vividly is ” After all, the sea is made up of drops of water,” implying that every little bit makes a difference.

It was pub night tonight again. There was a theme for a change…I Love the 80’s. It was definitely interesting to see what people came up with. Natalie, Lindsay, Drea, and I didn’t feel like dressing up or anything so we just went up there and ate snacks. Haha. THen we were just sitting at the piano bar watching all the tipsy people walk back and forth between pub night and the Union where there was a dance party (complete with black lights and strobe lights!). It was so entertaining- much better than TV! Ok well I really do have work to do tonight. Time to post!

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Jed all dressed up for 80’s night. He’s wearing my jeans!

September 18, 2005

September 13th, 2005

First day in Salvador, Brazil was awesome! We had our embassy briefing this morning and then there was a separate session for anyone interested in the US Foreign Service. Jed and I went to that and it was really helpful because the embassy official was a senior officer in the Foreign Service so he gave us a lot of insight into the process and experience. I had to leave early because Natalie and I had to be in Purser’s Square at 12. I ran back to my room to change into “business casual” attire (it has a different meaning on the ship…haha) All I had were black slacks and a plain white shirt. Oh well 🙂 Natalie and I coordinated well- she was wearing a black shirt and white pants. Ok too much detail for everyone. Sorry! So we met the interport lecturer and student from South Africa. The lecturers name is Shahid and he teaches anthropology. The son’s name is Mikael, he’s 19 and studies architecture. We showed them around the ship and took them to lunch. After lunch me, Natalie, and Mischa decided to wander around. We started to look for the elevator but we found the cable car/tram instead. It was only a short ride to the upper city. As soon as we got up there these ladies came up to us and tied ribbons around our wrists. They tie 3 knots and you’re supposed to make 3 wishes. When it falls off you’re wishes are supposed to come true. We’ll see what happens! The ladies were kind of pushy but we soon learned how to say no. We just walked up and down side streets, it was really nice. I’m so glad it was only 3 of us…Ok so some highlights of the day: we found this AMAZING artist on the street who was painting tiles with his FINGERS. I can’t explain how gorgeous they were but I bought one so I’ll post a picture soon. We also bought some “street cheese” which is basically some kind of cheese sprinkled with oregano roasted on hot coals right in front of you and topped with a honeyish sauce. It was delicious. Prof Murphy told us to try it.

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Glenn, me, Mischa, Natalie, Doug and some street vendor in the upper city of Salvador holding our hand-painted tiles. Well, finger painted actually.

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The amazing artist who painted our tiles. I wish I could post the video I have of him actually doing it.

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Street cheese! This is actually on the beach but it was similar.

I bought some Capoeira pants on my way out which was my favorite (and only) purchase of the day. They are super comfortable and great for lounging around the ship. Too bad everyone else is going to have the same pants…similar style, different pattern. Oh well! Oh, we also saw a GORGEOUS church yesterday. Pictures weren’t allowed so I’ll just have to remember it in my head. The interior was completely gilded in gold and the whole church was gleaming. I’m bad at remembering details but the rest of the day was fun. We got back to the ship around 6 to eat dinner because we had to get ready for the Welcome Reception. Getting ready was fun- kind of like getting ready to go clubbing at home. 🙂 We really had no idea what to expect from the Welcome Reception but it turned out to be absolutely AMAZING. I thought it would be in a hall or something but it was at this gorgeous venue…it was outside but with tent like covers. There was a dance floor, stage, tables and chairs all over the place. When we first walked in there were two rows of musicians that we had to go through as a sort of welcoming ceremony. As soon as we got there we watched a Capoeira demonstration which was awesome.

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Capoeira demonstation

They made the students who were learning from our interport lecturer join in at the end. Next there was a drumming and dance performance which was equally amazing. All these kids were so talented! After all the demonstrations they had live music from a band called Sudaka. I want their CD. I can’t even explain how good they were. I never realized how much more fun it is to dance to live music instead of the same old songs.

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Sudaka- can someone see if their CD is on Amazon?

Anyways, we danced pretty much all night. It was sooo much fun. There were a lot of young local people at the welcome reception so that added to the experience. One guy came up to me and asked me if I was Indian, I think his name was Mario or Marco or something. He studied in the US for a few years so his English was pretty good. He couldn’t pronounce my name so he just called me “my Indian girl” and at the end he called me “Oprah”…I guess it sounds similar? The whole night was fun and a great introduction to Brazil.

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Aparna and Aparna. There are only 2 Indian girls on this ship and we both have the same name. Actually, there are 4 Indian people total and all of our names start with “A”. Aparna, Aparna, Ashish, and Amritesh.

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Me and Jess- my fabulous roommate from Santa Barbara.

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Carri, me, Natalie, Lindsay, Drea, and Kyle before the Welcome Reception

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Me and Glenn after the Welcome Reception. I LOVE his hair so I had to post this picture. He said that it hurt A LOT and he only did it because he’s going to shave it off on Neptune Day.

We got back to the ship and met some people who went up to the city at night to see a drum show. Apparently, a couple people got pick-pocketed because it was so crowded and I guess we make easy targets. I’ve also heard of a few people being mugged and getting their cameras stolen. That’s why we come back to the ship to sleep at night. I definitely don’t feel anywhere near as safe here as I did in Venezuela. That’s also because we weren’t in Caracas…Merida was a much smaller more college-like town. Ok fine maybe I’m just in love with Merida.

September 14th, 2005

Today was a really relaxing day. Me, Pete, Jed, Shane, Ashish, Rachel, Jess, Mandy, and Sarah went to Praia de Flamenco beach. It was an hour’s ride away on a local bus so it was away from all the tourists. It was seriously like a private beach. Too bad it was kind of windy outside- definitely NOT beach weather. We just sat there for some time chatting and eating. We all needed the R&R though.

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Me and Jed at the beach.

We got back to the ship around 4:30…we were supposed to meet in Purser’s Square at 4pm to go to the soccer game. Turns out that there wasn’t really a soccer game…too bad 30 or so people had gone earlier thinking that there was one. Our taxi driver told us that there wasn’t, I don’t know why theirs didn’t? They just wanted the money I guess.We decided to split up because we were kind of a big group and nothing ever gets accomplished in a big group. Lyn and I had to go see a movie for our philosophy and film class so we decided to go do that. Lindsay and Drea decided to join us too. We took a taxi to the Barra shopping mall where there was a movie theater. The sun was setting on the way to the mall so our taxi driver stopped by the oceanside so we could take some pictures.

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My sunset picture. I would make it my desktop background but every time I try and change it I just end up reverting back to Ahaan.

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Lyn’s sunset picture. He was trying to tell me that his was better. Hmph

We were supposed to watch a Brazilian movie without subtitles and make all sorts of observations about the theater, behavior of the patrons, and the actual movie of course. The mall was really nice but we didn’t have a chance to walk around because we wanted to eat too and the movie was at 6:30. We watched a movie called 2 Filhas De Francisco…or something like that. We couldn’t understand a word yet we were still laughing and crying with the rest of the crowd. I think it was probably the best movie I’ve seen this year. I LOVED it and I really want to watch it with subtitles. If I can’t find it with subtitles Josh is going to have to translate it for me! It was a true story about a singing duo of brothers and how they became successful. Great movie. I’m glad it was good because I would have felt terrible if Lindsay and Drea had come along for a bad movie. We went back to the ship afterward and were too exhausted to go back out so we watched a movie in Lyn and Jed’s room. As usual, about an hour into it everyone was out cold. I know I know..we’re in Brazil and we’re sitting on the ship watching a movie. It’s pathetic but seriously none of us felt like going out and we definitely needed to catch up on sleep.

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The amazing movie we saw.

September 16th, 2005

Last night was crazy. Let me tell you about the day first thought. Me, Pete, Jed, Melissa,, Krista, Shane, and Mandy decided to go walk around the upper city. We left around 10am and on the way to the elevator Pete and I shared some sugar cane juice. 🙂 Luckily there is no threat of jaundice here like there was in India. We ate a lot of interesting things today- coconut water, some roasted coconut thing(that looked like termites), and acaraje. Everything was really good. Other than that we just walked around the shopping district. We were out of SAS vicinity so we were basically the only tourists around. I didn’t buy much- just a pair of earrings and some beads for Jed to make me a necklace with. Oh and I also bought this soda pop tab purse. It’s hard to explain. It was a good day though.

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Krista, Melissa, Pete, Me, and Jed taking a break. The soda I’m holding in my hand is Guarana Antarcica- sooo good.

We got back to the boat around 5pm because the rest of them had to get ready for Bahia by night. We met Caitlin at dinner and she told us that there was a Candomble ceremony trip leaving from the terminal at 6:30 so Ashish and I decided to go. It was really interesting but very similar to what we say in Maria Lionza. We were in a small room observing these people chanting, singing, entering trances, etc. The problem was that it was incredibly smoky from all the cigars that everyone was smoking. After about an hour or so I couldn’t it take it anymore and I really had to leave. I was feeling so dizzy and light-headed. Me, Ashish, and Arriana took a taxi back to the ship- I don’t even care that it was extra money…I really had to leave. I feel terrible but it was just too much for me. Well luckily we got back just in time to meet Lyn, Lindsay, and Drea (short for Andrea). They were on their way out so we took quick showers and left. We (me, Ashish, Lyn, Lindsay, Drea, Rob, and Courtney) took the elevator up and walked around trying to find a place to eat. We went back to this restaurant that everyone really likes and sat there for a few hours. I met Mandy and Shane here and they were deep in conversation with these two Brazilian women. Turns out that one of the ladies spoke German in addition to Portuguese and Mandy speaks German so it was a very interesting translation triangle. The ladies were so nice though. The older lady, who was a trial lawyer, kept telling me that I was pretty and she wanted to hook me up with her son!

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Me and Nej. I have pictures of all 4 of us but they are on Mandy’s camera and I couldn’t find her today.

We stayed at this place until it closed. Two of the waiters that we had made friends with during the course of our dinner wanted to come hang out with us so we waited until they closed up and then they showed us to this salsa club. It was amazing. Live music and lots of people. We also saw two of our crew members there!! They had the night off so they were out too. One of them was my favorite crew member- Dimitar. He’s from Bulgaria and he’s really nice. He learned one line in Hindi to tell me….not that he doesn’t speak fluent English. haha. Anyways, this one guy asked me to dance and at first I was wary because I didn’t know him and I’m usually not one to dance with random guys (mabye that’s because all the guys at clubs in DC are sketchy….). But this was salsa and not the kind of dancing we do at home….lol…so I didn’t think it was that bad. Besides, there were so many of us around. Turns out this guy taught in LA for 6 years, spoke perfect English and was a really nice guy. He was teaching me how to dance…it kind of worked. Haha it was alot of fun though. The rest of the time I just danced with Lyn (Well tried to at least). Towards the end I finally worked up the courage to ask this other guy to teach me some of his fancy footwork. He was an amazing dancer. Good times. On our way out we met these 2 Indian (Guju of course) girls from London. They’ve been traveling around for 10 months and this is their last stop on their way home. I think Ashish made plans for us to meet them for lunch the next day but those plains failed on my part. Ok so now the fun really starts. We left the club and went outside. Somehow I managed to sideswipe a broken glass bottle with my foot and I cut myself pretty badly. I was flipping out. I had my black shawl with me so Lyn wrapped up my foot and carried me all the way to a taxi (on his own bruised up foot mind you…he kicked a wall by mistake when he was playing soccer with kids at the favella). The whole thing was such a blur. I don’t know how so much blood came out of my foot but it did and it was all over Lyn’s jeans and shirt. Ugh. If you didn’t know I can’t stand the sight of blood. I was seriously shaking…not from the pain but from the sight of blood. Lyn kept trying to reassure me that the cut wasn’t that big it was just in such a sensitive area and that’s why it was bleeding so much. We finally got back to the ship and the crew member on duty called the ship doctor. I felt so bad about everything. It was 2:30 am and I had been such a burden to everyone already (Lyn had blood on his clothes, Lindsay and Ashish had a few spots on their jeans and Rob carried my blood streaked sandal). The doctor woke up and cleaned up my foot. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought and it didn’t need stitches. She put ointment, gauze, and an ace bandage and told me to come back at 7am to get it checked out by one of the other doctors who specialized in ortho. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was in pain and I was just feeling really stupid. The funny thing is I’m sure all the crew and doctors thought I was drunk when I came back to the ship. Too bad I was 100% sober and it was my own carelessness at fault. Ugh. So I went to the clinic this morning and the doctor cleaned it up some more, probed it a little bit to make sure there was no glass in it and wrapped it up again.She put SteriStrips on it to keep it together. It stopped bleeding for the most part so that’s good. Now I’m just in pain and going crazy because I can’t really walk on it right now. We only have 2 more days in Brazil and I had to go and do this. aaaahhhh. I guess it could have been worse though. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow- I have my Clean up the World service visit all day. A lot of help I’ll be. I still want to go and try and do what I can. What a night. I think I’m just going to take it easy today. It’s so frustrating to sit on the ship while we’re in port though. It makes me feel like I’m wasting my time. I guess my health is more important though. It’s not one of those injuries where you can just walk it off and it does you no good to stay off of it. If I keep walking on this cut it’s not going to heal as quickly ( this is my assumption…I don’t even know). Some concluding thoughts, the medical staff on the ship are amazing, my friends are amazing for taking care of me last night (especially Lyn), and last but not least….Mom and Dad-STOP WORRYING!!! I’m fine. It’s about time I learn how to take care of myself right? 🙂

Ok change of plans….me, Lindsay, Lyn, Kyle, and Drea are going out. I can’t sit inside all day. I’ll go crazy. I’m in BRAZIL. We’ll be on the ship for the next 9 days!

September 17th, 2005

So yesterday we just went to the mall and walked around for a little bit. We were all so exhausted from the night before so we didn’t feel like doing much. I had really good guava geltao though…mmmm. Kyle went to go see 2 Filhas De Francisco because he’s in our film class too. He loved it just as much as we did. We went back to the ship and got ready to go out. By get ready I mean I brushed my hair and put on some eyeliner. Me, Kyle, Lyn, Al, Kelly, Jackie, Drea, Lindsay, and Mikael went up to Palmero again to meet our waiter friends. It was really busy up there tonight and they had live music again so that was nice. There were a couple other tables of SAS students too….we gave them good business. Oh! So while we were there, guess who came by? Mandy, Maximilila, Nej, and her husband!! The ladies from the other night who could speak German. We were so happy to see each other and her husband was just the nicest man I’ve ever met. They are all so friendly…not to mention hilarious. Aah I can’t even explain. Mandy told me today that the older lady (I can’t spell her name) Nej really took a liking to me. She kept saying how she didn’t want me to leave and all this. It was really sweet. I hung out with them for a little bit and then we left the restaurant to go somewhere else. The night was fun- I’m glad we got Mikael to come out!

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Me and Mikael. It’s not a very flattering picture…

We got back to the sihp pretty early- around 12:30. We kind of got into a shady taxi situation on the way back. The taxi we were in was flagged down by police before we even got down the street. They wanted him to pull out his permit I think. At first we thought it was just a routine check but then the cops pulled out their guns a little bit. That’s when we decided to get out and find another taxi. We got back perfectly fine but it was just a sketchy experience. We got back, talked to some people around the ship and then I went to sleep. I had to be up and ready by 7:45 this morning for my service visit. Clean Up the World (Itaparica) turned out to be absolutely FANTASTIC. We walked down to the ferry terminal only to find out that since there was a full moon the night before the tide was too low for the Itaparica ferry to leave. We took taxis to another terminal thinking that we were going to take a catamaran. Turns out we were just taking another ferry. We finally got to Itaparica island…but our tour guide Bruno somehow missed the ferry. He called the ferry captain and talked to Prof. Barretto to tell him that he was on a smaller boat and would probably reach before us. He reminded me a lot of Pedro and Ben. Ok so after that we got on two buses and drove about 45 minutes to another part of the island. We were all nodding off on the bus because we were exhausted and there was something about the motion of the bus that was just putting us to sleep! We reached this little beach town and ate our boxed lunches from the ship. Our last leg of the journey took place on 3 small boats that we had to wade through knee-deep water to get through (fully clothed, with all of our stuff and coconut trees in our hands). That was fun…lol. Oddly enough, the name of the boat I was on was the Bhagvad Gita. It took us about 20 minutes to get to our final destination- Love Island (appropriately named for obvious reasons). It was an extremely tiny island in the middle of the ocean ( really where the river and the ocean meet) and completely uninhabited . It was absolutely gorgeous. We got there and immediately started planting coconut trees (they help prevent erosion) and picking up trash. We combed the whole beach with these white burlap bags looking for any foreign objects and trash.

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Clean Up the World. Check out their website.

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Carrying our coconut trees to plant.

We certainly found some interesting things. Jed even found a shower gel bottle from Vietnam. One of the volunteers told us that the current probably brought it here. Oh, that reminds me. While we were waiting for the ferry we were talking to Fabiano who was one of the volunteers. He is very concerned about ships illegaly dumping their grey water among other substances in the ocean before they get to port just to save themselves the expense. He wanted us to throw a bottle off the side of the ship every 6 hours with a piece of paper that contained his information, the day, time, and coordinates. He wanted a way to track the ship by the currents or something like that? We were trying to talk later too. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Portuguese so we were having a hard time communicating. Somehow we figured out that he speaks German and I called Jed over to translate. 🙂 We finally got some method of communication going and I found out that he’s traveled in India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. doing photography and videography for different groups. Ok so we picked up trash for a few hours and then it was time to go back.

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Fabiano, me, Jed

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There is no “I’ in Teamwork. Yeah that’s right, I said it. haha

We made an assembly line through the water to get all the bags on to a boat- 49 bags plus 2 toilet seats and 2 rings of bottles (ingeniously crafted by Shane). It was amazing how much trash there was on this deserted island. Unfortunately it was time to go back….the ride back was fun though because I was sitting on the netting at the front of the boat. What an amazing feeling. We were all just sitting there in silence and letting it all sink it. What a fantastic experience. We got back to the island to find that the tide had come in and there was no more sand. We had to wade back to land and then unload the bags again. My foot was not happy with me by the end of the day…it’s fine now though. The guy in charge of our Clean up the World project ( I forgot his name) was a great guy. He explained a lot about the campaign and its efforts worldwide. He also gave us all dried coconuts to take home- they were about 5 years old and had some significance that I can’t remember. Oops. So only one of our buses came to pick us up…the other one broke down. We took a van instead so it worked out fine. What a ride though. Potholes EVERYWHERE. I guess I didn’t realize it on the way there because I was half asleep. It was a nice drive though. I just stared out of the window the whole time. It was one of those moments when the wind is blowing in your face, the sun is shining, and you feel happy all throughout. Ok I know that was kind of cheezy but that’s really how I felt. We got back to the ferry terminal and caught the 4:30 back to the city. We rushed back to the ship to shower and clean ourselves up before our big trip to the supermarket. haha. I needed some provisions for the 8 day trip to Cape Town and I wanted to use up my Real. Jed, Ashish, and I took a taxi to the supermarket because it was the ONLY thing open. I love grocery shopping in other countries. haha I bought guava cookies, pineapple cookies, some interesting crackers, and this realllly good soft drink called Guarana Antarctica. It’s my favorite soft drink so far. I don’t even know what it’s made of. I thought Guarana was a fruit but I’m really not sure. Oh and I bought salad dressing. I eat salad every day on the ship so I decided it was worth it to get the good stuff. 🙂 The dressing they have on the ship is really watery. I know, I don’t really need it but whatever. You know what’s funny? Some people were so frustrated that they couldn’t find things like “normal” peanut butter, trail mix, granola bars, Oreos, etc. at the grocery store in BRAZIL. Why should they carry the same stuff as in the US? It’s so much more fun to try new things! It’s definitely ok to have guilty pleasures like Snickers or specific candy or something like that but don’t be mad if you can’t find it everywhere. Ok I’ll stop. So we got back from the grocery store around 7:30 and guess who was at the port!!! Max, Nej, and her husband!! It was soo nice to see them again. They came to see Mandy off. Nej’s husband wouldn’t let me hold my case of soda or any of my grocery bags. He insisted on carrying them the whole time we were standing there- which was more than an hour! We talked for awhile and none of us wanted to leave. Nej gave me her clip from her hair to keep- it was so sweet. I was seriously about to cry. We took some last pictures, promised to write to them, said our goodbyes and reluctantly got in line to board the ship. I started cleaning up my room and Carri came over to keep us company. Hi to Carri’s mom by the way 🙂 She told me that you read my blog sometimes. I appreciate it more than I can express!!! Feel free to email my parents if you want 🙂 mkothary@hotmail.com

We just hung around till snack time and then went out on deck to see the ship leave. It really wasn’t too exciting this time. I tried to read but I was SO exhausted. Ok enough for now. Good night!

September 18. 2005

I woke up early this morning to read for Travel Lit. It was gorgeous just sitting outside and reading. I love it. I was definitely falling asleep in both Travel Lit and Global Studies- eeks. OH! We saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu!!! He was sitting in our row in Global Studies. He seems like such a down to earth person. I’m so excited to hear him speak and hopefully meet him! Ok well nothing else exciting today. I got an email from my Vicarious Voyage teacher today- she was on SAS in 2002 so she is really young!! Me, Amanda, and Courtney are having a meeting today to decide what we want to send them and all that. Ok I’ll try and post this tonight after I get everyone’s pictures!

My foot is feeling MUCH better now. Thank goodness! Anyways, today we watched “The Gods Must Be Crazy” in my phil. and film class. I remember watching it when I was younger and loving it. I watched it again today and realized that it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. It’s just slapstick comedy, which I guess is funny at first but it has no meaning. I prefer witty comedy I think. After the movie we had a big discussion about the movie and its implications in South African society. The disucssion carried through to dinner- it was really interesting. Mikael came over to our table later and put in his 2 cents so that was good. Amanda, Courtney, and I had a quick meeting to decide what to do for Vicarious Voyage. We finally got ourselves organized a little bit so that was good. Other than that I have just been running around getting people’s pictures, talking to the field office, and studying. I had to make myself a To-Do List. 😦 Oh well! Ok more to come later. 8 days at sea? I’ll definitely post at least once.

Love to ALL!
Sorry I haven’t sent any postcards yet. 😦 I never get a chance to write them. I will try my hardest to do it from South Africa.

September 15, 2005

Hi!! Just enough time for a quick update from Brazil. Jed, Pete, and I are in an Internet cafe right now in Salvador (the upper city). I have been having an amazing time here but it~s a little bit sketchy at night…we come back to the ship to sleep. A bunch of people have been getting mugged and pick-pocketed so our guard is definitely up. Don,t worry- we are all fine.
A quick update of what Ive been up to- first day we walked around and then went to the Welcome Reception at night. It was soooo much fun. Sudaku (i just have to remember the name of the music group…and try and find it on amazon) they were FANTASTIC. then yesterday we went to the beach and then to a movie for my phil. and film class. the movie was AMAZING. more about it later. as for today, we just walked around a bit and did some shopping. no ig plans fo r tonight. hopefully going out somewhere!! everyone else is ding bahia by night. ok time up. sorrrry for all the spelling and grammar mistakes.

love to all!!!!

September 13, 2005

September 10th, 2005

I wish I had enough time to update every day. I had big plans to write in my journal every night before I went to bed and then pick and choose what to post on my livejournal. There goes that idea! Oh well…I’ll get over it. Something is better than nothing right?

So I definitely missed my 8am class yesterday. I didn’t sleep through it but somehow I managed to change the time incorrectly on my alarm clock. We had to put our clocks ahead 1 hour and my alarm clock is on military time because the ship is on military time. It was around midnight so it was 0:00….I think that’s what threw me off. Anyways, I woke up thinking it was 7:30 but no it was 8:30 and my class started at 8:00am. Great. I felt terrible. It’s not like I could pull the “I’m not a delinquent. I don’t usually skip class.” routine because none of my professors would believe it. I just went at the end of class, turned in my paper and left. My professor was talking to a bunch of people so I didn’t want to bother him. I left him a note in his mailbox later. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Ok so I guess that story wasn’t very interesting. Sorry!

What else is new? We watched Pixote in Philosophy and Film. It was a riveting movie but at times I felt like it was competing with itself to create the most shock value possible. I also believe a similar thing occurs in the third cinema industry. There is underlying competition between films from different countries to see which one can garner the most shock, pity, despair,etc. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing…but it’s interesting to think about. Every time you thought Pixote couldn’t get any worse, it did. I’m not saying that it wasn’t realistic but after awhile it becomes overkill in my opinion. The movie was about a young boy from the streets of Brazil named Pixote who was in a boy’s reformatory. He escaped with some of the other boys and the movie chronicles his adventures with crime after escaping. There are some truly horrific scenes that brought tears to my eyes. One of the worst was…well I won’t tell you just in case you end up watching it. The first movie we watched was Central Station. It was also about a young boy in Brazil whose mother is hit by a bus and is in search for his alcoholic father who abandoned him. It’s a gorgeous film. Amazing shots and script. I really liked it. I was never one for artsy movies but I’m really enjoying this class. The only bad thing is that our classroom is up near the front of the ship and that’s where you can feel the waves the most. I always have to have candy in my mouth during class because I feel so nauseous. It’s really hard to stare at a screen that’s shaking while the ship (and the contents of your stomach) itself is shaking. Ugh. We’ll see how that goes. My Travel Lit class is fun (the one that I missed yesterday). I just wrote a paper for it this afternoon. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written a paper. I wasn’t very satisfied with it but I wasn’t sure what direction the paper was supposed to take so we’ll see what my professor says. I really enjoyed writing it because we had to compare our experiences in Venezuela with Elizabeth Bishop’s poem (I posted bits of it in the post before Venezuela) Questions of Travel . It is definitely one of my new favorite poems. Anthropology of Food is also going well. Our readings are pretty interesting. One of our books is Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It’s awesome and a pretty easy yet informative read. I really like our professor. He has such a wealth of knowledge and he’s hilarious.

Today was an insanely busy day. I had class until 12, worked on my paper for a couple hours, ran some errands ( haha I couldn’t think of any other way to put it…what I mean is that I ran around the ship and got stuff taken care of), and then had meetings all night. OH I forgot to mention this. I didn’t get most of the presale trips I signed up for. They all went to lottery and I wasn’t very lucky. The only ones I got were the Clean up the World-Itaparica (Brazil), Township Visit in South Africa, Making Movie Art (India) and Yoga Demonstration (India). I already had the Welcome Reception for Brazil and the Masai Mara Safari. The ones I didn’t get were Homestay (Japan), Operation Hunger (South Africa-service visit), Habitat for Humanity (South Africa- service visit using the money raised by past voyages…almost $8000 I believe?) and Angkor Wat/Phnom Penh. 😦 I was a little bummed out but not for long…it’s not like I’m going to be bored! I don’t want to be ungrateful either. This trip is such a blessing and each minute of it has been worth it so far. Just the opportunity to visit each country is enough. Besides, my balance is only $50 when it could have been over $1000 if I got those trips! Ok so in conclusion. I am not doing very many Semester at Sea trips which is fine with me but the only thing I wish I could do is more service visits. That’s something that might be a little harder to do indy but it’s worth a shot! Ok so first I went to the GLBT support group meeting (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender). After the Tunnel of Oppression (well before that too but that was kind of the turning point) I realized how much support the GLBT community needs not only in terms of moral support but government action as well. I strongly believe that everyone should be entitled to lead whatever type of lifestyle they choose. Nobody should be able to tell you how to life your life. Whatever makes you happy. At night I was talking to Jed and Shane about their “coming-out” experiences. I have so much respect and admiration for them. It was good to hear that they didn’t face too many negative reactions. I guess we’re finally taking a step in the right direction. There’s a fine line between tolerance and acceptance though.

We had a Vicarious Voyage meeting at 7pm today. Vicarious Voyage is a program set up by SAS and a school in your area. You exchange letters, emails, etc. with them throughout the course of the voyage. Me, Amanda, and Courtney are in a group and our school is is Holy Cross School in Garrett Park, MD. We’re meeting tomorrow to talk about what our theme should be with the class.

After that meeting I tried to study for a little bit but it’s so easy to get distracted when you’re sitting in the piano bar area. Even with my headphones on I was still getting distracted. I eventually gave up at 9 and went to Encore with Ashish, Glenn, Doug, and Jack. Encore is basically the equivalent of a discussion for Global Studies. It’s not mandatory so anyone can come either to be a silent observer or to debate with the professor or other students. I was content just to sit and listen. First they were talking about whether the US or other first world countries should monitor the spending of the loans they give out to developing countries or leave it to the countries own discretion. My ignorant opinion right now is that if we’re lending them money we should be able to allocate it as we see fit. I can understand the argument of “who are we to tell them what to do?” We don’t know what their country needs? We don’t know what it’s like to live there so who do we think we are stepping in and telling them what and what not to spend their money on. The reason I think we do have a right to do it is because it is our money after all. If they don’t agree with how it should be spent then they shouldn’t accept the loan. We should definitely consult with as many sources as possible in order to allocate the money most effectively. Another reason for monitoring the money carefully is the rampant corruption that undeniably pervades most third world countries government and economies. Honestly though, I don’t know nearly enough about all of this to have a strong opinion. The next topic we talked about was Hugo Chavez and his rule in Venezuela. Natalie and I only heard half of this because we had to leave early for our Intercultural Ambassador’s Meeting. I’m really excited to be an Ambassador because it’s a great opportunity to meet interport students, US Embassy officials and other guests. I think the interport student from Brazil thinks I’m a stalker. I know where they live now because they have 1 empty room on the ship reserved for interport students and it just happens to be down the hall from me ( I only know because Cristian was staying there). I left him a welcome note on his door. Haha I’m a big nerd…I know. Anyways, Natalie and I signed up to meet and greet the interport student from South Africa. It takes up some of our port time but whatever. The bad thing about this is that there are about 20 Ambassadors ( I think), so once you get your chance to meet an interport student or embassy official- you’re done. You’re still an ambassador but you don’t really get one on one time with any of the other people. We’re all desperately hoping that they’ll be able to set something up with Desmond Tutu for us…we’ll see. How amazing would that be!

Ok so after that Natalie and I went upstairs to get a snack and we found Glenn and Jack still talking about what happened at Encore. Apparently it got kind of volatile after we left. We hung out there for a little bit and walked towards the union to go find a place to study. I completely forgot that there were impromptu salsa lessons tonight so I got pulled into that and Natalie went to go email her mom. I was just going to watch for a few minutes but somehow I got onto the dance floor and started learning. It was sooo much fun. I’m definitely not good at salsa or meringue but I’m trying my best to get the basics down before the welcome reception in Brazil! Whatever, I don’t care if I’m bad, it was fun! You know what made it more fun? Today was the WORST day on the ship in terms of waves. It was so bad last night that I actually woke up a few times. Usually there’s just enough rocking to put me to sleep but last night was terrible. I could feel my stomach moving up and down along with the ship. It’s like being on a roller coaster all the time. Everything on the walls is shaking and walking around the ship is near impossible. You can literally feel the ship ride the waves. One moment you have to struggle to walk because it feels like you’re walking uphill and then the next minute you feel like you’re running downhill and can’t control yourself. I’m surprised I haven’t fallen down yet.

OH! How could I forget? WE CROSSED THE EQUATOR TODAY!!! Dean Tymitz (oh I mean King Neptune) and the Voice came on around 5:30 to let us know that we crossed. Ok so back to the rough waves. They’re pretty rough. It also made salsa dancing extra difficult. Dinner was crazy too. They had a big BBQ to celebrate the equator crossing ( the real celebration will be on Sept. 20th) and they had delicious garden burgers. They decorated the dessert table really nicely with fruits and food sculptures (like at the Folk Life Festival). The worst part was that we tried to eat out on deck and our food was flying everywhere (peas and French fries mostly) as well as ourselves. Quite an experience.Well that was my day. Jed, Shane, and Jess are in the room and we’re doing Shane’s nails. 🙂 Right I’m supposed to be studying. Will write later.

September 11, 2005

Only time for a quick update today. We have our first Global Studies exam tomorrow and I’m already terribly behind in my reading. Lots of studying to do today in addition to preport lecture and a review session. Anyways, hopefully we will have a moment of silence today to remember those lives affected by the events of September 11, 2001. Since we’re kind of living in our own little world it’s easy to forget what’s going on back at home. Jed and I didn’t even realize it was September 11th until we were sitting in Global Studies this morning. I can’t believe it’s been 4 years. It definitely doesn’t seem that long ago. I can still remember that day so vividly. Sitting in Mr. Stein’s AP Stat class when Mrs. Dixon’s voice came over the PA and told us that two planes had crashed into the twin towers. At first I thought it was just an accident and we didn’t understand the extent of the situation until the next class period. Mr.Normyle let us kept the TV on all period and we were just sitting there in disbelief watching the rest of the events unfold. They suspected a plane was going to hit the Capitol building and that was when I started getting really scared (right Jilna?’). Ugh. Ok well there’s no point in reliving the events because I’m sure everyone has their own story. It’s time to move forward. Hope all is well at home.

So we had 3 minutes of silence today during pre-port tonight. The captain and crew joined us so that was nice.

September 12, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!! I’ll try and call tomorrow from Brazil. Mom- don’t forget to give him the card when he gets back from New Orleans.

We had our first Global Studies exam this morning. It wasn’t too bad but there were a few tricky questions. I’m just glad it’s over. We just got back from laying out on the top deck because the weather was gorgeous outside. It was just warm enough to sit outside but it started getting really breezy and none of us could read our books so we came inside. Jed, Pete, and Tessa are playing slapjack in my room now…lol.(Vineet- Tessa goes to Stanford and she says she knows you. She said she has some friends on Basmati Raas.)

I’m so excited for Brazil tomorrow! The excitement doesn’t really hit hard until the first cultural pre-port. I don’t really have any plans for Brazil- just the Welcome Reception tomorrow night and Clean up the World-Itaparica on the last day. Other than that I just want to explore the city. Natalie and I have to stay on the ship for a little bit longer tomorrow to meet and greet the South African interport lecturer and student. I want to read up about South Africa tonight because I’m not going to pretend like I’m an authority on the country when in fact I know almost nothing about it except for apartheid, Nelson Mandella, etc. Oh, and that there are A LOT of Indian people in South Africa! Our Port-to-Port reader is actually a really good resource for that. We tried to make a welcome sign for the interport student but it didn’t work out so well….we’re going to try again tonight. haha thank goodness for the magnetic poster board that Natalie brought! Ok well I have to go cash some TC, stop by the field office, and then go for a bridge tour! Will write after the tour and hopefully post tonight.

The bridge tour was awesome. They showed us all the controls and explained a lot of stuff about the ship that we didn’t know. We also learned that we are going to be going through pirate waters! I thought it was just a joke but the captain said it was actually an issue that they carefully consider. It’s not really a big problem for us though because of the size and capacity of our ship. Yeah so the bridge tour was really informative. I have most of it on my video camera and I’m too tired right now to remember everything. 🙂 Right now we’re sitting near the piano bar and watching the Capoeira lessons. It’s amazing. Our interport lecturer Clovis has been conducting lessons the past couple evenings. I keep thinking of how Josh made our GEMS100 go outside in front North Campus diner and do the same thing.

Just came back from more salsa/samba/meringue lessons! It was soo much fun. The ship was still rocking alot today so it was quite an adventure. I’m so excited for the welcome reception tomorrow! Before the pre-port lecture today we were playing cards in my room (me, Ashish, Carri, Amy, Jason, and Amo (short for Amritesh) and it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Carri taught us how to play Pit – “Cattle on the Corner!!!” “How can you have cattle when I have 4 of them” Oh man. I’m going to laugh about that for the next 3 months. Ok well me, Lyn, Shane, Jess, Jed, and Pete are about to watch Mean Girls. Good times. I want to wake up to watch the sunset tomorrow morning.

Ha-ha I forgot to mention the Pepto Bismol group. At pre-port some of the people from the health clinic made up a song for us about how to avoid diarrhea among other things. Apparently, after Venezuela “s**t hit the fan”- in the words of our doctor. Tons of people were sick and on one trip 24 out of 28 people came to the clinic. I guess our stomachs just aren’t used to some of the food.

We’re almost in Brazil! I can see Salvador out of my window but we had to anchor the ship before port because they have to do a medical inspection of the whole ship (since we’re coming from Venezuela which is an endemic area). We probably won’t get off the ship until this afternoon- they have to do personal passport checks- meaning they want to match everyone’s face to their picture. There are 700 some people on board…it’s going to be awhile. We also have our embassy briefing and all that. Aah! So excited!!!

I’m staying on the ship in Salvador so I’ll be able to post at least once.

P.S. Sorry for the spelling mistakes. For some reason my spell check in Semgaic isn’t working. 😦

September 9, 2005

September 6, 2005

Warning! This is an extremely long entry. Carri and I sat on the bus for hours trying to write about the trip….we just kept writing and writing and writing! I’ll try and post some pictures to break up the monotony. Enjoy!

I woke up today feeling like I had just done 12 hours of garba. My whole body is sore but I woke up smiling. I honestly think that this was the best weekend of my life thus far. I can’t get over how fortunate we were in all aspects of this trip. I’ll try and write in detail but so much of it is in my head and I’m going to have a hard time expressing it in words. Anyways, let’s start out Friday night. After our preport lecture we were all feeling pretty sketchy about Venezuela. They gave us a whole list of things front and back of what NOT to do. (Aah! Ted and I just saw dolphins outside my window!!!) Ok so none of us knew what to pack or what to think of this trip. We got the idea from Sarah (justduckycolorado as Jed affectionately calls her). Sarah- I know you’re reading this because I just read your email that said you were so I just wanted to thank you for telling us about Merida. I don’t think we can thank you enough for your advice and kindness. We’ll send you pictures- don’t worry! We wanted to do it indy but we ended up doing it semi-indy. Caitlin (thanks so much to you for planning this!!) found a tour operator who helped us organize it (more about Ben, Pedro, and Osprey later). We all finally finished packing and me, Jed, Natalie, Glenn, Lindsay (note to Lindsay’s mom- she told me that you might be reading this. 🙂 rest assured, this is the same Lindsay and she’s a very sweet girl!), and Lyn went outside to sleep on deck. We woke up at 4am, went back own to our rooms and I ended up waking up again at 6am to watch the ship pull into La Guaira, Venezuela. The morning briefing was long and we were so anxious to get off the ship…I guess that made it seem even longer. We finally disembarked around 10:30 am, got some express tourist visas and found our bus. The bus is really nice; it has reclining seats, lots of leg room and a bathroom. The only problem is that it is FREEZING cold inside. The AC can only be turned on or off, there is no in-between. Anyways, we drove off through Caracas and it looked like a pretty downtrodden city. I guess all the warnings they gave us applied more to Caracas than Merida. We drove by so many hillside slums and shoddy houses. It was such a stark contrast to the beautiful landscape though. I took way too many pictures from the bus since I am not used to such a mountainous backdrop. I was mesmerized and stared out the window for hours.

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Ben with all of our money!!

We drove for about 5 hours and then stopped at this place for lunch. It was a small family-owned restaurant with a very interesting and hodge-podge decor. Outside they had parrots and an old sugar cane press complete with information plaque. Inside there were pictures of all kinds of things up on the wall and a kid sized model Ferrari. The chef made some HUGE barbecue thing for everyone which was apparently delicious. At first Ashish and I were just eating salad but Pedro and Ben noticed we weren’t eating anything so they asked the chef to make something for us. He made us black beans, rice, friend plantains, and some white cheese. It was really really good. The chef and his family were awesome. We were in such awe of the hospitality, good food, and the idea of actually being in Venezuela that we didn’t notice these 2 women who were kind of following us around. We found out that they were from a local newspaper in San Felipe and they were doing a feature story about us! Apparently, we were the largest organized tour to visit Maria Lionza Mountain so it was a big deal for the state.
After lunch/dinner (or supper as Shane would say), we drove a short way to Maria Lionza. I don’t have a good way to describe it because the brochure is in such broken English. Basically it’s a mountain that houses worshippers of the patroness Maria Lionza. They practice both white and black magic. We really didn’t know what to expect when we got there…As the bus pulled into the parking lot we saw about 15-20 men in uniform standing around. Apparently we were being escorted by the police and National Guard to ensure our safety. The road leading up to the mountain was dark and surrounded by high sugar cane fields which are conducive to bandit activity The Mountain itself was kind of sketchy too. Ok so we got into two smaller buses (each one had a gun-toting National Guard officer) and made our way to Maria Lionza. Police on motorcycles and in cars led the way and surrounded us on all sides.

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Me with the police/national guard.

After a long and bumpy ride we reached a place where other buses were parked. We were told that Saturday is the best and most ‘auspicious” day to visit so there were a good amount of people already there. Conveniently (ha, yeah right) it was dark when we got there so that added to the effect. We walked up to this place where there were tons of people singing, smoking, praying etc. There were 2 beautiful shrines in front of the crowd and people were coming in and out of them after lighting candles inside. These people were all so welcoming and they invited us to participate in some of their rituals. I think we all felt pretty intrusive at first because we were observing such sacred practices. The first thing they did was bless us with the smoke from one of those swinging containers (help?? what are they called) filled with burning charcoal and incense.

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They also gave everyone cigars (I felt bad not taking it so I just gave it to someone afterwards) – smoking seemed to be a big part of their lifestyle. I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by so much smoke in my life. We met a fortune teller who could tell you about your life just by smoking the remaining part of your cigar (guess I missed out on that one)! She did it for a few people in our group and they said she was dead-on in everything she said. I can’t even remember everything we saw that night. It was such a sensual assault. Anyways, we hung out there for awhile and then went across a really rickety bridge to some other part of the mountain. At the first place we stopped we witnessed people going into trances. The first guy who was in a trance was speaking to us in tongues. He asked someone what the English word for “children” was and they told him it was “babies.” He went around talking to us and the only thing we understood was babies. I don’t think I can ever forget the sound of his voice. Shane does a pretty good imitation though. The second guy in a trance was a doctor so he went around to everyone, held their hands and “cured” us of all our ailments. Oh, I forgot to mention. We though the first guy was talking about babies- like the children we might have in the future. We were, well at least I was, hoping that he wasn’t cursing our unborn babies! Luckily it turned out he was just blessing us and saying that his God will protect us. It was such an amazing thing to see. The next place we went was a small alcove where everyone was signing and clapping. It reminded me so much if doing Aarti. Apparently it was some woman’s birthday and she entered a second trance because she felt our presence. While she was entering the trance people would put alcohol in their mouth and spray it all over her. It was really interesting. I really want to read up on all this now. After this stop we headed back toward the first place. I make it sound like this was a short trip but it really wasn’t. We were there for a good 3-4 hours. On our way out we met the equivalent of the Director of INS for the state. She gave us little gifts and some info about Maria Lionza. Oh I forgot to mention that after lunch when we got back onto the bus there were bags on our seat with Maria Lionza statues and some more information. The gifts were so authentic and unexpected. Anyways, on our ride back to the bus we still had the escorts but there was an addition of an army truck. I still can’t believe what we saw. If that was all I saw in Venezuela I think I would have been satisfied!
We were all exhausted by the time we got back on the bus but we were also stupefied (that’s a real word right? I feel like I stole it from Harry Potter) by what we saw so sleeping was difficult. It came eventually though (thanks to Collin’s generous donation of a blanket to me and Amy). I woke up around 6am and couldn’t go back to sleep so I just stared out the window until people started waking up. The drive was beautiful- so many mountains, farms, and little houses on the side of the road. I loved it. Ok so we reached Merida around 8am- 2 hours behind schedule. The canyoning people were shuffled off and we were sitting on the bus for another 30 minutes or so. Oh, so on the bus ride over us talked to Ben and Pedro. They are amazing people who are full of information and ready to talk about anything and everything. Ok so I’m a little biased because I am writing this in retrospect but whatever. Anyways, we finally got off the bus- dumped our stuff in the posada and we all tried to brush our teeth and wash up in one tiny bathroom. We eventually left and started walking towards the cable car (teleferico?). We met Jorge on the way- at first we thought he was some sketchy guy following us but he turned out to be another tour guide. He was really nice and walked and talked us through Merida to the cable car. Merida is a gorgeous place- it’s a college town so it’s really charming. It was just so inviting- wide streets, store owners standing at the entrance, street vendors, and more importantly everyone was smiling. More about Merida later.
We got to the cable car and waited in line for an hour or so. It was here that we learned Pedro was the pimp of Merida. Since we were late our tickets were given away. Pedro knows everyone so he managed to get enough tickets for our group. Group B is awesome by the way. We had a small group and we all got along so it worked out well. It was me, Amy O., Amy R., Ted, Caitlin, Kristyn, Maritza, Alex, Rob, Carri, and Shane. While we were waiting in line we got to know Pedro a lot better. He is such a genuine, happy, intelligent and kind-hearted person. We were so fortunate to have met him and to have him as our tour guide on the first day. I think, as a result, he was closer to our group. Ok so while we were waiting in line these 2 people came up to us and start talking to Pedro. They were from the local paper and wanted to write about us. They took all of our names, asked us what we thought of Merida and took a picture of us. We found the paper the next day and lo and behold there we were on page 5! The name of the paper was Cambio and the title of the article was “Merida entre las ocho maravillas del pais.” The whole article wasn’t about us, just a section of it.

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Ok so we finally got on the first cable car. We had to go on 4 different ones to get all the way to the top. The first one went up 5174 ft, the second 11326 ft, the third 13271 ft, and the fourth 15,683 feet. That makes it the longest and highest cable car system in the world (it’s in the Guinness book). It took us a really long time to get all the way up and back but it was fine because along the way we talked to Pedro about all sorts of things. How he felt about Chavez, etc. It was really interesting. I kind of hoped that I would meet a Chavista because I want to hear their side too. To bad all the people I’ve met believe Chavez isn’t good for their country. Actually, Pedro said he was “neutral” and just “observing.” Ok so we got all the way to Pico Bolivar, the highest point on the cable car. Some of us were feeling pretty lightheaded and nauseous, myself included. The air was way too thin up there and we obviously didn’t give ourselves the chance to acclimate to the climate. It was also freezing cold up there. The trip down took a long time too but it was fun.

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The last leg of the cable car. At times all we could see were clouds around us. It was a bit unsettling.

We got back down and rushed to Posada La Montana (a Posada is like a hotel/inn), put our stuff away and got ready for paragliding! Me, Carri, Amy R., Amy O., Rob, Ted, Shane, Maritza, and Rick went from our group. We took a Jeep up the mountain…it was one of those winding roads with nothing to keep you from falling off the side into the abyss. Our driver was crazy and he was laughing at me because I was sitting up front so he could see me grabbing onto the handle bar on the glove compartment every time we came to a curve or a bend in the road. He was a good driver though. It was also a good thing that his speedometer wasn’t working…I didn’t want to know how fast he was going. We got to the top of the mountain safely and there were a lot of people just milling about watching the Para gliders. We also saw one guy on a hang glider take off which was awesome! Coincidentally, the adrenaline tour people were there too and just finishing their paragliding. I was really nervous about doing this in the first place so this was a big step for me. I’m a pretty nervous child for some reason…no roller coasters, bungee jumping, diving, scary movies, etc. I finally decided that it was about time I started facing my fears. Paragliding was attempt #1 (canyoning was definitely #2).

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The view from the top of the mountain.

My nerves were a little shaken up because we saw a girl throwing up and I was positive it was going to be me throwing up next! Somehow I put it out of my head and made the decision to just do it. Best decision I’ve ever made. There was a little bit of chaos because it was nearing the end of the day and they were having a precision competition that day. Me, Ted, and Rick were the only ones who weren’t going to be part of the competition. That was perfectly fine with me because they were going to land in the dark! For the competition, they set up a target down on the ground and whichever paraglider landed closest to the bull’s eye won. Some of them did it tandem, that’s why some from our group went with them. My pilot, Jorge, was doing it by himself so he just took me up earlier and we landed on top of the mountain instead of at the bottom. Besides being extremely good-looking, Jorge was an EXCELLENT pilot and he was pretty proficient in English. Ok so I thought that we would need more gear for paragliding but all we had was a helmet and a harness seat type of thing. Your legs are hanging down and you’re strapped to your pilot.

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Getting ready to go.

The only instructions Jorge gave me were to keep running off the mountain and don’t sit until I tell you to. Do you know how hard it is it physically and psychologically keep RUNNING off the side of a mountain into nothingness? Eeks. Our takeoff went fine though- thank goodness. Once we were airborne I calmed down a little bit and got comfortable. The view was incredible. I went paragliding in the Andes mountains. I still can’t get over it. All we could see were mountains, the city beneath us and the sun shining through the clouds. The sun was starting to set when we got up in the air.

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Running off the mountain…

Jorge and I struck up a conversation and I learned that his English was so good because he lived in Canada for awhile as well as Morocco, Nepal and some places I don’t remember. He teaches and competes in paragliding. He was really interesting to talk to and he made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. He asked me of I wanted to do this spinning thing so I said sure why not. I’ve gotten this far anyway. Ted told me to do it before I left so I figured it was worth a shot. Oh my goodness it was insane. I felt like gravity was sucking me downwards like in a vortex. By far the craziest thing I’ve ever felt. Jorge asked me if I wanted to do it again and I bet you can guess what my answer was. I like trying new things but I don’t like feeling unnaturally controlled like that. It’s hard to explain. After that we flew around for awhile. It was surprisingly relaxing. I guess because I didn’t have to physically do anything. After being airborne for about 30 minutes we landed smoothly back where we started from. Paragliding was by far the most amazing thing I have ever done. Jorge told us to drive down to the competition to watch them land and then join them for a party afterwards. Ted, Rick and I drove back down with the driver who was still going super fast around curves. I wasn’t nervous this time though! We met up with the rest of our group who landed down on the ground. We didn’t get to see them land because we were still driving down at the time and it was dark. So here’s where we started doing things that SAS probably wouldn’t have approved of. It’s ok though…we’re all adults and I think we made good decisions for the most part. We went with one of the pilots to this little village where the rest of the pilots where. I think this was Pedro’s doing because he was good friends with a lot of them. So we walked down a dark street (complete with open manhole) to this party. Well at least we were in a big group! It only took us 2 minutes to walk there. Pedro and the other driver came a little later because they were driving so it took them longer. We got there and the whole atmosphere was like something out of the Fast and the Furious. We just hung around for awhile until Pedro came back. I eventually found Jorge and he told us to follow him down to where they were giving away the awards for the competition. This is when we went down the seediest and darkest alley I’ve ever seen, Carri even took a picture. 🙂 It was OK though because it led to the back of someone’s house and there were tons of people and lots of light. You just had to turn the corner to see all that. It was incredible to be part of this. To get the chance to hang out with locals and have them treat you like you’re one of them. Jorge told me that they only have this competition every 2-3 months so we were really lucky to be there on that day. Even though we didn’t get to stay as long as I wanted it was an overall unforgettable experience. Oh, and I got a kiss on the cheek by Jorge so I guess that made it somewhat more special for me! 😉 We reluctantly left the party and headed back to our Posada. We showered and cleaned ourselves up since we hadn’t showered in 2 days and we were still in the same clothes we got off the ship in. A shower was much needed.
This is how you make true friends; we’ve seen each other dirty, exhausted, grimy, scared, and happy, you name it. We were waiting around in the lobby and Pedro sent his friend Rico (another cool travel partner of his) to pick us up. Me, Carri, Amy, Ted, and Shane. We were going to get something to eat but apparently all the other people had eaten already and wanted to go out. Somehow we all ended up at a bar. Luckily there was a restaurant next to it so we went there to eat. It was called MacWen’s and Pedro told us the story behind the name because he knew the old owner (of course!). The owner apparently wanted something between MacDonald’s and Wendy’s…well at least they had good French fries. I wasn’t actually that hungry but I needed to eat something. So we finished eating and headed next door where SAS had pretty much taken over the place. There were 30 from our group and about 7-8 people who came to Merida indy. It was good though because there were a lot of locals too. The music was good at first…until they started playing old American music that you couldn’t even dance to. We would have much rather danced to Venezuela music Oh well, it was fun anyways. The bar closed around 12:30 but none of us wanted the night to end because it was the only night we had in Merida- the other 2 were spent on the bus. Yeah…so guess where we went? Pedro’s mom’s house. Our 27 year old tour guide took us to his mother’s house to party. It was hilarious. He doesn’t live at home because he has an apartment but his mother lives in Tennessee so the house is pretty much empty. It was a gorgeous house though and we got to see suburbia in Venezuela. Very cool. Me, Amy, Ted, Carri, and Shane went with Rico- but not before stopping in another dark alley with some more shady characters (good times, right girls?). We went to Pedro’s house and Amy O., Rob, Maritza, and Collin were already there. Not too many people but it was still a lot of fun. Somewhere between all the talking and laughing we realized it was 5:00 am and we all had to be up and ready by 6:15 am for canyoning! We got back to our Posada around 5:45 and I set my alarm for 6:15am. It’s hard trying to fall asleep when you know you have to wake up in 30 minutes. That and Collin was snoring louder than any of the kakas! Somehow we woke up and got ready (keep in mind that getting ready didn’t involve a shower…whatever we were about to get really dirty anyway). We had kind of a late start but somehow we got to the canyoning place on time (after unsuccessfully trying to find “Tom’s office”…we didn’t even know who Tom was!). We drove for about 20 minutes up a mountain I think? We got off the truck and stripped down to our bathing suits and sneakers. We were each given a helmet and a big pack to carry on our backs. Have you ever tried hiking in a bathing suit? It’s tons of fun. Haha, actually it was a lot of fun. Poor Ted was the only guy and he was walking around in his underwear. Whatever, we’re all friends now. We hiked for about 30 minutes up and down and all around. The view was gorgeous- mountains in an early morning mist. We were all pretty relaxed…we had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into!

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The first part of the hike. That’s me in front and Carri behind me.

We were being led by this Andes mountain man who was awesome (we later found out his name was Blue Eyes). He was really good at leading because he would hold your hand when you needed it and showed you where to place your feet. He was also wearing nothing but loincloth type underwear and a necklace made of horse teeth. We got to a small river and he did some sort of prayer before we crossed it. My Spanish skills are nonexistent to I couldn’t ask him what it meant. We then put on our wetsuits, jackets and carabineer harness things. Ok so let me preface this by saying that this was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life and probably the scariest thing I will ever do.

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This is nothing compared to the rest of it.

Dry hiking is perfectly fine but there’s just something about the water that makes me panic. After we put our wetsuits on we just started walking down the river (cold water, mind you), slipping on rocks, climbing over and on trees, etc. I was fine and pretty excited until we got to our first waterfall. We got a crash course in rappelling down it but it was in broken English so I didn’t understand that we would actually be going UNDER the waterfall not on the nonexistent rock face that I thought would be on either side of it. You were supposed to go down, with your feet dangling, head down so the water was cascading over you and slowly giving yourself slack until you got down to the bottom. I have never felt so panicked in my life. As soon as the water hit me I started panicking. I stuck my foot in this little cove thing so I could have a place to breathe. I had to try 3 times to go down- I was on the verge of tears but somehow I did it. Now that I’m thinking about it I have on idea how I got myself to the bottom of that waterfall. I have no recollection of it. I really think I blanked out. I remember someone untying me at the bottom and then swimming out to the rest of the group. My nerves were shot and I was literally “Shaking in my boots.” I know I sound really weak but this was really hard for me. To each his own. Don’t make fun of me until you try it!

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I look a little panicked.

So, the first waterfall was only 10 m. The next one was 14m and the last one was 35m….that’s over 100 FEET. Thank goodness on the other two you had the option of going on the “outside” of the waterfall instead of under it. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if that wasn’t an option. I don’t even want to think about it. Even rappelling down 35 m of rock face by yourself was hard enough…and sometimes you would lose your balance and swing into the waterfall anyways. My heart is beating faster right now just thinking about it.

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It’s kind of like walking the plank…

The other part that really scared me was jumping from the rocks down into the water. We had to do that periodically and you could never tell how deep the water was. The scariest one for me was this place where were on a high rock and had to jump down about 10 feet. The problem as that the space between us and the rock face across from us was maybe 10 feet in width. You were supposed to do a step off kind of jump so you wouldn’t hit the wall. I got up there 3 times and couldn’t make myself jump off. Panic mode again. I’ve never felt so weak in my life, but I guess it’s good to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. I finally ended up sliding down the side of the rock- TERRIBLE idea. I banged up my knee pretty badly.

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It’s hard to tell in the picture but this is one of the places we had to jump. The scariest one for me…it doesn’t look that high in the picture but believe me, it was.

Just reliving the canyoning experience is scary for me. I loved it but I would NEVER do it again. It’s just not my thing. Now, paragliding I would definitely do that again. Especially with Jorge. haha just kidding.

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Ted, Amy, Carri, me and Alex

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Group B is awesome. Top Row: Amy, one of the guides, Alex, Blue Eyes, Carri, Kristyn, Caitlin, Maritza. Bottom Row: Ted, Amy, another guide, and me (holding my disgusting wet socks in my hand….ugh).

We finally finished canyoning- after about 5 hours and stripped off our wetsuits quickly because the Adrenaline Tour people were waiting for them. While we were waiting for our bus Blue Eyes and Carri went off to talk somewhere! The Venezuelan men seem to love her. She’s such a sweet girl though so I can see why. We drove back to Tom’s office (we know where it is now) and had lunch there. We had German food because I think Tom is German. I was still pretty shaken up from canyoning but it was nice to sit and relax (and ice my knee). Their office has an amazing view of the Andes and the cable car line.
After lunch we walked back to the Posada to clean up. We all had to check out in the morning so we just rented one room for an extra night so we could keep our stuff there and shower when we got back. We all showered and then went to walk around Merida. Amy, Carri, and I went to make some phone calls first though. I talked to Mom for the first time since I left so that was really nice. I’m not homesick yet and I don’t think I will be because we are going to be so busy! I do miss you all though! After we were done with all that we walked around looking for postcards and patches. I was unsuccessful in both areas. We did, however, find copies of the newspaper we were in. We found ourselves in the Plaza Bolivar and saw a newspaper stand so that worked out well. We also wandered into a gorgeous church. I love churches if you didn’t know. Outside the church they had some street performers that reminded me so much of Stockholm. There was this one guy who was dressed all in gold- complete with painted face and all that. We gave him some money and first he made some weird pose with Carri. Then he beckoned me over and put his forehead to mine and made Shane take a picture. He then kissed my hand and made me kiss his cheek. It was interesting…and I walked away with gold glitter on my lips. He could control his movements so well and was so graceful that he almost seemed angelic…in a robotic kind of way. After that we (oh by we I mean me Carri, Amy, Ted, and Shane) walked down some side streets and we noticed that they were drastically different from the main street. But I guess that’s how it is everywhere. I still think Merida is a really charming pace. We walked around for a little while longer and then headed back to the cable car place. Carri and I got strawberries and cream from a street vendor. It was really interesting because they put condensed milk on top. Anyways, we ended up going to a bakery instead of the Posada to get food. Much better idea. I love going to see 3 things in places that I visit; churches (or any house of worship), fruit stands, and bakeries. If I was a photographer I would take pictures of fruit markets all over the world. Ooh, on the topic of photography…I was thinking about something else that would be interesting to take pictures of- tree roots. Some of them are HUGE and make such strange shapes. You could call the exhibit “Roots” and integrate something about the young and old and instilling good values in the next generation and being in touch with their “Roots.” ok sorry I’ll stop trying to be creative. Back to Venezuela. The bakery we went to was awesome; crowded and full of all kinds’ local foods. I got a chocolate croissant, some twisty sweet bread thing and plantain chips for the bus. All of it was really good. Rob got some foccaica that was delicious. We headed back to our Posada in the rain, sat upstairs for a little bit and then gathered up our stuff to leave. We broke one last rule (only mentioned in my written journal);-) and then it was time to leave. We got in a van and went to the public bus depot. Apparently our driver was confused and he took us to the wrong one. Luckily we got a hold of Ben and the bus came and picked us up! We kind of had a party bus yesterday but Carri and I were running on less than 30 minutes of sleep so we were OUT in no time. I woke up around 8am this morning and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Thank God we all survived this trip with noting but bruises, mosquito bites, and sore muscles to show from it. We’re almost back to the ship and I can’t believe this actually happened. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life. Last night was so bittersweet. We only spend enough time in each country to make friends and begin to get to know them. Before you know it it’s time to leave.
Pedro lived up to his word and gave everyone a bag filled with information about Merida, his card, and a CD of Venezuelan music. He also gave me copies of the paper to give to people who didn’t have them. You know how some people say that they are going to do something but it never comes to fruition. Well Pedro and Ben were definitely NOT those kind of people. Venezuelan hospitality or truly genuine people? Whatever it is, it was so great to meet people who act out of kindness and not purely for profit. Granted they are getting paid but they definitely went above and beyond their duties. We each paid $230 for this trip (+$50 for paragliding) – you can’t put a price on our memories though. I’ve spent 3 hours of writing in my journal on the bus yet I still feel like I’ve forgotten to mention so many things. Well this entry is long enough anyway. We’re back in Caracas!

What’s been happening since then? Nothing too exciting. We had an activity fair the day after Venezuela (I only know days as A, B, or port…days of the week are no longer important). It was kind of like First-Look Fair but on a much smaller scale obviously. I signed myself up for Global Nomads which sounds like an amazing opportunity. They are promoting intercontinental conversation between youth on the topic of HIV/AIDS. I believe they are doing it in conjunction with MTV and some program in India. I’m not sure what the details are but I will let you know. Google Global Nomads if you are interested. I checked out their website before I left and it’s pretty good. Other than that I signed up for salsa and hip hop dance lessons (we’ll see if these actually work out), Adopt-a-Family (you get to know more adult passengers and kids on the voyage), Vicarious Voyage (2 way communication with a classroom back in the states- I’m excited about this one), and I applied to be an Ambassador (you get to meet with interport guests and basically promote goodwill on the ship). I met a good amount of people yesterday so that was awesome. I keep forgetting how many people I HAVEN’T met on this ship yet and it’s a bit daunting to think that there are 680 kids on this ship and I don’t even know half of them. I guess it’s impossible to meet everyone but I sure would like to! OH, Mom- thanks so much for the card!!!! Mail in Venezuela is extremely unreliable so they only got 12 pieces of mail for the whole ship (6 of them were for one person). They’re going to forward the rest of the mail to Brazil so I was pretty lucky. Anyways, today was pub night again. I’m feeling kind of under the weather so I just went up and hung out for awhile and then came back down to finish writing this journal entry. Oh, I forgot to mention- we had community college today and the topic was Capoiera (Josh L.- you would have loved it!). Community college is this thing they have every evening where people teach a quick lesson in their area of expertise. Yesterday, for example, the staff photographer held a “take good travel pictures” session. They all seem pretty interesting. Ship life is awesome. It’s definitely not conducive to studying though.Today Natalie and I were trying to study but we kept staring out at the ocean and we eventually gave up and just started talking. Well this journal entry is long enough. If you did read until the end of it- congratulations! No but for real, thanks to anyone and everyone who is reading this. I really appreciate it. Leave me comments and I’ll appreciate it even more!

P.S. You know what’s frustrating? We all feel like we live in our own little microcosm. We read the news whenever we get a chance but we don’t get to know the whole story or the country’s reaction to the news which is equally as important. All we can do is talk about it amongst ourselves. It’s weird. So many people dead in New Orleans? Someone told me 10,000 the other day. I can’t even fathom such a loss. We are hoping and praying for all who have friends and family down there…

Mom, Dad, Didi- missing you all so much. Must be lonely at home without me and dad? I can’t even imagine…I’m trying not to worry about him being down in New Orleans but it’s hard. Must be even worse for you. I’ll call you whenever I get a chance. LOVE YOU! Oh, my cabin number is 4086, I forgot to tell you that when I called.

Everyone at CP (that includes Meera, Kinj, and Tapan)- hope the semester started off well! Let me know how you all are doing! Also, when they put up spring registration stuff can someone please please please send me a quick email.

Tejal- miss you soo much! How’s your new apt?

Casey- thanks SO much for the card. I meant to email you earlier but I didn’t get a chance. I will really take your words to heart.

Everyone in India- wish I could see you all in Chennai! Ahaan is the most popular person on this ship now because his picture is the wallpaper on my laptop. Missing you all terribly!

Anyone else reading this- thanks!!!

I will post again after Brazil. We are crossing the equator today! Neptune Day will be saved for Sept 20th though because we have a Global Studies exam.

It’s tradition for everyone to shave their head on Neptune Day? Should I do it? Leave me a comment with your vote!

Love to all.

Some old pictures:

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I wish you could see how blue the water is.

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Jed, Lyn, Shane, and me after dinner.

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Me and Cristian- the Venezuelan interport student.

September 3, 2005


Day 1- August 30, 2005

The TRUE first day of SAS. Today was absolutely amazing. There are no words to explain how I feel- strangely enough. Usually I have more than enough words for everything! Anyway, we took a taxi to the ship today and the check-in and all that went really smoothly. We bummed a ride to the ship from the loading dock off a guy driving a golf cart- a good way to beat the heat! My first impression of the ship? It’s gorgeous. It’s a lot more posh than I thought it would be in terms of decor. It’s really clean as well. Ok so I went to my room which I thought was small at first until I realized that it is actually one of the bigger rooms! You walk in and the bathroom is to the right and some closet space (including our safe) to the left. Our beds are horizontal and we even have a tiny tiny sitting area which is the best part of the room. It’s more like a seat attached to the wall. Along the other wall are some more drawers, a mini fridge, outlets, a TV (don’t get excited- it doesn’t show anything but a map of where we are with some elevatorish music playing in the background). We don’t really have a desk, but it’s ok because I don’t want to study in my room! Since I got here earlier I took the bed by the porthole. We’ll definitely switch halfway though because we both paid for a room with a porthole so it’s not really fair for me to have it for the whole duration of the trip. Anyways, I dragged my suitcases inside and didn’t even want to think about unpacking so I walked around for awhile. I met A LOT of people today and I was feeling bad because I’m bad at remembering people’s names, but then I realized that everyone is having the same problem! When you met like 50 people a day it’s hard to keep everyone straight. I met my roommate finally (she had the later boarding time). Her name is Jessica ( what a coincidence!) and she’s from Santa Barbara, California. I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate! She is so awesome- really laid-back and friendly. Her mom was here for the day so she “adopted’ me and we toured the ship for a while. Her mom was really sweet too. They love Indian food and movies and all that so we had a lot to talk about. We started unpacking and I realized that I didn’t have as much stuff as I thought I did. I kept whatever I wouldn’t use everyday in my suitcase under my bed and the rest of the stuff fit nicely in the small drawers and my 1 closet shelf. Jess has a lot more luggage than me so I just gave her most of the closet. Ok so unpacking really didn’t take that long. I did all that and then took the best shower I’d taken in 4 days. Did I mention the shower at the Towne Hotel was always cold. I think we stole everyone else’s water pressure (they had a sprinkling shower) and they stole our hot water in exchange! It was worth it though to meet all those people.
It’s just like going to Gems Camp (stop laughing Chris) because you meet all these people beforehand and then it’s really comforting to see familiar faces once you get on the ship.

Ok so the meals on the boat are not bad. So far they’ve had a vegetarian entree every night and there’s always salad and peanut butter and jelly. It’s basically like dorm food (minus the stir fry and taco salad). We’ve been joking lately that we’re living in a pseudo nursing home because we have set times for everything. Breakfast from 0700-0900, Lunch from 1130-1330, Dinner from 1730-1930, Snack time around 2200, etc. On Tuesday I had dinner with some really cool girls and I met the interport student from Venezuela. His name is Chris and he is really nice. I want to be a Student Ambassador because you get to meet all the interport students and lecturers. Oh wait, I guess I should explain. Interport students/lecturers are people who are guests on the ship between ports of call. Since Chris is from Venezuela he has been with us since Nassau and he will get off the ship in Venezuela. While we are there we will pick up students from Brazil and they will travel with us until we get there. It’s an excellent idea and I love meeting people so I really want to be on that committee. The whole atmosphere here is really different because most people are extroverted and not at all shy by any means. You seriously go around and if you see someone you haven’t met you introduce yourself. There’s no hesitation or anything, it’s just an automatic “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met before. What’s your name?” kind of thing. For me, lately it’s been ” Um I know I’ve met you before but I’m a terrible person and I forgot your name…” You all will have to stop me from doing this when I get home. Out of habit I’ll just go up to random people and introduce myself! Wait a second…that sounds like Jay S. 🙂 Maybe it is a good idea after all!

After dinner we had a meeting with the whole shipboard community and we were introduced to the Academic Dean (Dean Beverly I can’t remember her last name ) and Executive Dean John Tymitz. They both seem really awesome. John Tymitz gave us some facts about the ship, so I thought I would share what little bit I could scribble down in my notebook.

  • 683 students (largest student body ever in the history of SAS)
  • 66% female
  • 34% male
  • 26 faculty
  • 38 staff
  • 29 family members
  • 11 adult passengers
  • 268 schools represented
  • The schools with the most people onboard are UC-Boulder (54), Pitt (42), UCSD (23), UCSB (22), Stanford (19), and Babson (10)

Following that meeting we had a “Sea-Meeting” We are all divided up into different seas depending on where we live (e.g. Arabian, Caribbean, Baltic). We are the Bering Sea which is located between Russia and Alaska. We spell it the BeAring Sea so our mascot can be a polar bear. Our Resident Director (RD) is Michael and he is hilarious and really nice. The meeting was pretty short because we were going to have a longer one the next day. The rest of the night was spent meeting more people and getting to know Jess better. It was fun.

Oh I completely forgot to write about our departure from Nassau! It was pretty emotional for the people whose parents came to see them off at the dock. One of our faculty members plays the bagpipes so he was out on deck doing his thing while we were pulling away from dock. It gave the moment a bit of a Titanic type mood (sorry Mom! you know what I mean though) The parents did a little chorus line dance for us and they had Bon Voyage signs. Most of the mothers were crying (who woulda thunk) and it was just an overall emotional experience. I think it was at that moment when it truly sunk in that we would be away from everything familiar and comfortable to us for 3 months. For some it was a liberating feeling, for others it was one of nervousness and detachment. I think I’m just too excited to be scared right now! Oh, I forgot to mention- someone’s mother rented a jet ski and drove by our ship to give us a “final goodbye” of sorts! Immediately after we left we had a lifeboat drill. We had to run back to our rooms to put on long sleeved shirts, long pants, and sneakers (keep in mind that it was about 90 degrees and humid outside). We then had to line up at our muster stations- women in front and men in the back. We didn’t actually get in the lifeboats but we got a good sense of where our muster stations were and what the general procedure was. We departed around 5:30 pm and everyone just hung around until sunset. Our first sunset on the ship was beautiful. I’m sure there will be more amazing ones but since this was our first it was special. Everyone was out on deck taking pictures, meeting people, and trying to acclimate themselves to their new home. I went out again at night to see how many stars I could see. While it was a great deal more than we can see at home. the bright lights of the ship obstructs our vision. Michael said that one night they will try and turn off the lights for a few hours and we can all go sleep out on deck. Actually, we can sleep out on deck whenever we want so I definitely want to do that before it starts getting chilly at night. I don’t want to have brought this sleeping bag in vain! The ship wasn’t rocking too much tonight but I still put on my wristbands just in case. I was feeling a little queasy and lightheaded but I definitely didn’t want to take any medicine. Hopefully they will work.

Day 2- August 31, 2005- Orientation Day

So today we had orientation pretty much all day. We had a general meeting first where we met all the faculty and staff and then a conference period to meet with our professors. I am taking:

  • Anthropology of Food
  • Philosophy and Film
  • Literature of Travel
  • Global Studies

I met my professors and they are really interesting, intelligent, and passionate people. I am incredibly excited for my classes. I felt like such a nerd but then I realized that most people are feeling that way after meeting our professors. I’ve never been so excited about school in my life! After that session we had our Intro to Global Studies Lecture. Global Studies is the class that everyone has to take and its from 0920-1045 every day. In this class we learn about each country extensively before we reach it. We not only learn about the country but how it fits into the global community. Our professor, Dr. Kevin Murphy, seems really excited about what he’s teaching so that’s encouraging. Jed, Shane, and I wanted to sit up front but there were no seats so we sat on the floor. Bad idea. We were in so much pain at the end. Not to mention it was hard to balance while the ship was rolling around. One thing that Prof. Murphy said that really stuck out is that this trip is different because it will be a “comparative experience.” Most people look down on Semester at Sea because it doesn’t serve to immerse you in the culture of another country because the most we stay in a country is 5 days. Prof. Murphy, however, truly put it into perspective by telling us that the comparative nature of our studies and experiences will be equally beneficial.

We had another Sea Meeting after that. This one was much longer. We talked about the rules and regulations of the ships (no fraternization with crew members no smuggling alcohol on board, random drug tests, etc.) Some interesting things I found out

  • We have ID cards to get into our rooms and they basically control our lives. They can find out when we swiped in/out of our rooms just in case something happens.
  • They also monitor the flushing of toilets! If you flush a “Foreign Object” down your toilet they will definitely find out.

Other than that we did some ice breakers, talked about pub night (I’m not really interested enough to write too much about it…lol) Basically, the day of a pub night you have to buy drink tickets in the evening. You can buy a maximum of 4 in a night and all they serve is beer, wine(boxed I believe-I don’t know what the difference is?), and wine coolers. Our first pub night is tonight and people are pretty excited. Not to say that a few people weren’t successful at smuggling alcohol on board from Nassau…
We also elected Sea Reps and Sea Olympic Captains at our meeting. Sea Reps basically represent us to Dean Tymitz and the Captain. Ours are Grover (he lives across the hall from me and is really nice) and Aaron ( ex-marine, amazingly tall and also really nice). The Sea Olympics are a day of crazy events where the seas compete against each other. The winning sea gets off the ship first in San Diego.

After dinner I went to the smoking deck to hang out with Jed and Chris ( the interport student) I hate cigarette smoke but it wasn’t too bad because it was pretty windy so I couldn’t really smell it. Besides, it’s hard enough to find people on this ship. Once you find who you’re looking for you have to stay with them lol. While we were talking. we saw this really strange tree type thing sticking out of the water while we were standing there. It looked like a weed/tree type object but it wasn’t moving one bit with the waves. It looked like it was completely grounded- it was pretty weird. I also forgot to mention that we passed by Cuba and Haiti today so that was cool. At dinner we saw some pretty rough thunderstorms that were within eyesight. I’ve never actually been at a vantage point where I could see rain falling from a cloud like that so I was mesmerized. We got a little bit of rain and some choppier water but nothing too bad. This Atlantic crossing is supposedly a lot more peaceful than the Pacific. The other thing I’m really surprised at is the color of the water. It’s a deep electric type blue. I can’t explain it or even take any pictures to do it justice. It’s absolutely beautiful and not at all what I thought the ocean would look like out here. I thought it would be a lot darker and more ominous. I’m staring out of my porthole right now and I realize that I could sit here for hours just looking out the window.

Tonight was so much fun. We had a party in my room 🙂 It was me, Jed, Shane, Glenn (from next door), Ashish, Doug, Jess, Natalie (lovingly known as Bama because she goes to school in Alabama), Lindsay, Carrie, Kyle (our neighbor from the other side) and Lyn (Jed’s roommate who is also really awesome). Guess what game we played? Taboo! I brought it from home. It was beyond hilarious. I wish I could have video taped it. We took a break from the game for snack time and then we were sitting out on the deck playing two truths and a lie. After a while I got really sleepy and decided to go back to my room. I stopped by Chris’s room just to say hi and luckily he was there. He was a little bit bored so he was glad I came by. I taught him how to play Taboo. It’s a lot harder (and much much funnier) playing with someone whose first language isn’t English! We talked about Venezuela for a bit- the education system, gas prices, safety, and all that. I finally went back to my room and got ready for bed. I was just getting out my journal when Jed and Shane came in. They hung out for a bit and then I was about to sleep again when Ashish came in. Jess, him, and I started to have some deep conversation but I was feeling pretty nauseous and light-headed so I just listened for awhile. It was pretty interesting. Jess and I are really alike in our views, especially our optimism! Oof, today was a long day.

Day 3- September 1, 2005

This whole experience is unbelievable. I’ve been so happy the past couple days. You know the kind of happy where you wake up smiling and actually want to get out of bed? The kind of happy where you’re alone in the room and feel like singing out loud and then you have to pause and assure yourself that this is really happening? I’m not trying to sound obnoxious but a part of me still doesn’t believe that I’m doing this.

Anyways, today is the first day of classes. I had Travel Literature in the morning with Professor O’Brien. It seems like it will be a great class. We were reading and analyzing a poem this morning and I realized how much I missed this stuff. All these business classes have been getting to me! I miss writing and I haven’t done it in so long that it’s kind of awkward. It’s kind of like not exercising for awhile. I guess that’s why my writing is much more colloquial than professional or stylish. I really wish I could write better. The more you write the more naturally it comes to you, right? Anyways, some parts of this poem really stood out to me so I wanted to post them before I forget:
(These are just excerpts from the poem so don’t expect them to make too much sense as they are part of a whole).

“Questions of Travel” by Elizabeth Bishop

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theaters?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?

-And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”

Some background on Elizabeth Bishop according to Prof O’Brien: She was from New England but kind of expatriated to Brazil. Another poet, Robert Lowell, was apparently madly in love with her even though she was a lesbian. He wrote her numerous love letters which have just been published. Some insight on the reference to Pascal. Apparently everyone but me remembered that Pascal was the guy who you learn about in Physics (some law of pressure I believe?). However, apparently he was also a philosopher and an existentialist as well. He strongly believed that it is better to sit in your room and think rather than travel to a “fool’s paradise.”

After Travel Lit I had Global Studies. We talked about Moral Relativism vs. Absolute Relativism and Globalization. The interport lecturer spoke to us briefly about Venezuela at the end of class. We have a pre-port briefing tonight so I believe he will be talking to us more during that. I have Philosophy and Film from 1545-1900 today. It’s a double period class because I think we are going to watch a movie every day and then analyze it. Our professor, Jo Ellen Jacobs, is planning a trip to a film studio in Chennai (Tollywood not Bollywood!) so I definitely want to go on that FDP (Faculty Directed Practicum). I have 3 classes on A Day and 2 on B Day so my schedule is pretty good. Travel Lit is at 8 am but I don’t mind waking up early. There’s too many people to meet and too much to do on this voyage. Sleeping is slowly falling on my list of priorities ( don’t worry Mom- I’m getting enough sleep. I just don’t plan on napping). Ok I have to get to class! To be continued.

So my philosophy and film class sounds like it’ll be really interesting. We’re going to be watching about 20 movies. The movies are ones that are written, directed, produced, and filmed by natives of that country and they are NOT Hollywood movies or documentaries about the country. Some of them aren’t released in the US and a couple of them are banned in their home countries so it’s a great opportunity for us to watch some movies we wouldn’t normally be able to see. Here’s a list just in case you are interested: (Don’t be jealous Paraag and Casey 🙂

  • Brazil: Central Station, Pixote, Four Days in September
  • South Africa: The Gods Must Be Crazy, A Dry White Season, Amandla, Red Dust
  • Kenya: Faat-Kine, Moolaade
  • India: Hum Aapke Hain Koun (I’m not kidding), Aparijito, Salaam Bombay
  • Myanmar: The Burmese Harp
  • Vietnam: Scent of a Green Papaya, Daughter from Danang
  • China: Farewell my Concubine, Story of the Weeping Camel, Ju Dou
  • Japan: Ikiru, Tokyo Story, Tampopo

The only downside of this class is that it’s goes till 7pm…dinner ends at 7:30 and there are usually a lot of activities around 6:00 pm. Oh well, I’ll deal with it. I think it’s definitely worth it.

I met some really cool people in my class so it should be fun. Me, Kyle, My Han, and Glen went for dinner afterwards and that was a lot of fun too. Meals are actually like the highlight of my day because we just sit around talking for hours and completely forget that we have other things to do. Today, for example, I have a massive amount of reading to do and we were sitting up there for like 2 hours. We also have a preport lecture today at 8 so I’ll write more about that later. If you can’t tell I’m kind of schizophrenic with my journal…I jot things down on my laptop whenever I get a chance. Most of the times the thoughts are not very connected or logical…

I just got back from our first preport lecture for Venezuela; we have another one tomorrow night and a briefing on Saturday. Our lecturer was Max Branadt and he was fabulous. He told us about food, safety, what to do in Caracas, etc. He also made us sing some American songs because apparently when you go places like orphanages and children’s homes they will sing for you and then they will want a song in return. We sang “You Are My Sunshine” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” together- it was so funny. I wish i had my video camera with me. After he was done speaking, Chris spoke about some other aspects of Venezuela. His accent is pretty exciting. 😉 Haha just kidding. So after that we finally met up with Caitlin and some other people doing this canyoning trip to Merida. We talked to her for awhile then headed up to Deck 7 for our first “pub night.” It is incredibly hot outside today and even the wind is hot. Maybe it was the mass of people outside that made it worse but it was seriously like a frat party in a furnace outside. We all headed inside and started playing cards so that was good. I met Amritesh, this international student at Babson in Boston. He was really nice too. I don’t think I’ve met anyone I don’t like yet! I came downstairs for a while because it was so hot upstairs. I think we’re going to go play Taboo again…what could be better than Taboo with people who are slightly intoxicated?

Day 4- September 2, 2005

Today was the second day of classes. We had global studies in the morning and today we talked about Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. I really like our professor, he did a good job of giving us the facts behind the story without being biased. After that I had my first Anthropology of Food class. It seems like it’s going to be pretty interesting. We went around and said what our least favorite foods were. I’m not a big fan of butter on bread…haha. I couldn’t think of anything else except karela and I didn’t think anybody would know what that was. What is it in English? bitter gourd maybe?

Anyway, tonight was so awesome. I spent some more time with Chris, I was keeping him company while he was packing. Meeting interport students is kind of sad because they are only with us for a week or so. By the time you get to know them it’s time for them to leave! Tonight we talked a lot about the state of the Venezuelan government and how he feels about Hugo Chavez’s “dictatorship.” It was truly fascinating. It’s one thing to read about it and another to hear it from someone who is living it. Ok well this is enough for now! We’re going to go sleep out on the deck so we can watch the ship pulling into port tomorrow morning. Pretty exciting. Too bad we’ll be woken up around 4am when the crew swabs the deck…haha. Oh well, I don’t care. Carpe diem.

Day 5- September 3, 2005

I woke up this morning to an absolutely breathtaking view of Venezuela. We slept out on deck last night but we went back to our rooms around 4am because we were getting sprayed with water. Sleeping outside was amazing though. It was warm but breezy and all we could see were stars and more stars. I can’t imagine what it would look like if the ship’s lights were turned off. Anyway, I woke up around 6am, openend my curtains and saw beautiful green mountains, quaint little coastal houses on the backdrop of a hazy blue sky. As you can tell I’m not a travel writer. My pictures will be better than my words. Ok well now I have to try and get online to send some email. First time I’m getting online since I’ve been here. Next post will be after Venezuela.
Love to all