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

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