Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Safari: Kwazuli Natal, Durban
Unlike my ridiculous wait in airports for my Brazil trip to Iguacu, it was only a two-hour flight to Durban for my safari. We got to the Tree lodge in time for a delicious, cooked lunch. Africans know how to cook some yummy food, let me tell you. Because there were a lot of us (38) we were split between the tree lodge and the safari lodge. I was supposed to be in the Tree lodge with one girl, but at this point in the voyage everyone already has tons of friends and everyone wanted to switch around room assignments. Amanda was on my trip, and we could have roomed together; we both wanted to meet new people and didn’t care enough, however. By the time everyone had the roommate they wanted I ended up with a nice, but not all there (she almost missed the trip because she overslept from being hungover), roommate named Courtney. We were in the safari lodge, which was about a five-minute walk from the Tree lodge and main reception area. It was still nice, and I think even better than the tree lodgers. We had a bigger pool and a playground. We each got huts, complete with full bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. My hut was huge, and the view from our porch was gorgeous. I also liked the kids who were in the Safari lodge much better than the other half of the kids. Unlike Iguacu, there were certain people on this trip that I would be happy if I never saw again. I know that sounds harsh, but I swear if I heard one more person complain that they didn’t get to see a lion or that ‘this was so lame’ I was going to kick someone’s ass. Amanda nearly did, and she is NOT an aggressive or mean person, so you can imagine. I feel very lucky that I didn’t live with them and that I got along well with the kids who were in the 4x4 land rover with me for the full day safari. Well, there was one girl I couldn’t stand in our car, named the Honey Badger (I know…it’s bad ass), but other than that it was amazing. We went on a late afternoon game drive the first day. We got to see giraffes, zebras, warthogs, an ostrich, wildebeest, and tons of antelopes (nyalas, empalas, and kutos). I got some good shots, but most of them are of animal butts. There were also tons of animals just roaming around the lodge. A monkey even got into Amanda’s room and ate their oreos and coffee creamers. Nyalas were scattered all over the place, and we had to shoo some away in order to get into our hut one night. After the afternoon game drive, we had a great dinner and all immediately went to bed afterwards from pure exhaustion.
The second day we headed out on an All Day game drive in 4x4 land rovers. My guide’s name was Sipo. The day happened to be the hottest yet, so we didn’t get to see as many animals. It was still amazing. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, you got a great breeze sitting in the car, and we got close to a lot of animals. There were giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and baboons, buffalos too. We got to see three of the Big 5 (no lions or leopards, but I wasn’t expecting to be able to see them, so it wasn’t really a disappointment). I thought three was a pretty good number anyway.
Our tracker, Sipo, practically proposed to me. It was quite awkward. We were making a bathroom stop, and I, not having to go, was taking pictures of the zebra a few feet in front of us. Sipo came up to me and first asked me how old I was; he then asked if I was married, since I wasn’t—did I have a boyfriend, and then had I ever thought about marrying a South African? I responded that I didn’t know, I hadn’t ever thought of it, but I guess anything is possible. He smiled and said, “Yes, anything is possible.” So I got my first marriage proposal in Africa, pretty cool I guess. I’m telling you it’s the blonde hair. He was really nice though, and he was soooo good at being able to spot out animals. He could see things miles away and know what they are. We were the only car that got to see a crocodile, so that was pretty cool since we didn’t get to see any lions. One car did get to see some lions though.
After a full day out, we went for a swim in the Safari lodge pool. I made friends with the most adorable four-year old girl. Her mom works at the lodge, and so she and her little sister came into the pool. She came into the pool and swam right over to me to hold my hand. She was precious. Some of the guys in the pool were a bit rowdy and wanted to pick her up and throw her, which absolutely terrified her, so she clung to me for a good fifteen minutes. After a swim, such a nice way to cool off, we had dinner outside by a bonfire. Oh my god, the food was so delicious. They had creamed spinach, and it was simply amazing. After staying up late to watch the stars, and getting to see my second shooting star in a week, we headed to bed.
The last day, we had a nice breakfast and then began the three-hour bus ride into Durban. We stopped at a touristy shop area and I was able to spend the last of my cash, which was nice. We flew back to Cape Town, arriving at around 5. We had to be back on the ship by 9 that night, but I was so exhausted I just stayed on the ship for the rest of the evening.
At nine, a local high school choir came on board the ship and gave a performance. They were wonderful. You would never have been able to guess that they were only in high school. They’ve won awards and have traveled around the country and internationally. I think the best part about it was that they didn’t just stand and sing. They danced, they moved around, their parents who had come sang along, whistled, danced around behind them, grabbed SAS kids and dragged them to the front to dance along as well. Everyone had a great time.
There was bad fog, however, that delayed our departure. We didn’t end up being able to leave Cape Town till 10 the next morning. It doesn’t affect our travel plans at all, because five days is more than we needed to get to Mauritius. It was nice though, because they planned for a lifeboat drill during global studies, so we didn’t have to have class. Unfortunately, I still had my other classes, but it’s never too bad the first day back from port. I have to admit six days off of the ship meant seasickness when we started going again. It doesn’t help that it’s been really rocky as well, so no one on the ship is doing too well right now. We get into Mauritius on Saturday, however, which is exciting. We’re actually having our first legit week of school. We go Monday through Friday and then have the weekend (until Tuesday, when we depart Mauritius). I thought that was pretty exciting. It’s weird when you have class on Saturday and Sunday. I’m also pretty excited because after Mauritius the fun really starts. We go from port to port with only one or two days of class in between. It’s fabulous. I think I have five or six days of class for the entire month of March. Well, I have tons of papers and exams to get working on, so I’ll end here. Africa was absolutely beautiful and amazing. My safari was awesome, and I wish it could have been a day or two longer so I could have gotten another day out to see some animals!

Cape Town, S. Africa: Day 1-3

First day: Up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the sunrise over Cape Town, South Africa. About half of the ship was already out on the deck watching as well. I knew this port was going to be wonderful when I saw a shooting star flash by as I looked off the deck at the lights of the city. It was amazing watching the sunrise over Table Mountain. We docked in a toursity area called the V & A Waterfront. It has tons of cute shops and restaurants and was a really nice place to dock because we all felt comfortable walking around there at any time of day.
I went to Robben Island, an island off the coast of the city where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held from the 70’s through the early 90’s. Many were tortured, held there without trial, and detained indefinitely, often leading to many “suicides” (that is how they are documented, but it is much more likely that they were beaten to death). The island was absolutely beautiful and had spectacular views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, which starkly contrasted the terrible things that had happened at the prison. There were adorable penguins resting, antelopes prancing, and birds everywhere. The prison cells were tiny, the prisoners were forced to do hard, backbreaking labor in hot conditions, and we saw Nelson Mandela’s tiny prison cell. Our tour guide was a former prisoner, himself, and had served an eleven-year term. It was a very informative visit, though slightly depressing. After returning on a bumpy ferry ride (aboard the Sea Princess), I backed out of my second FDP. I was supposed to see a show at The Baxter Theatre Centre, however, after the depression of Robben Island and knowing the show would be equally depressing, I opted to go out to dinner with a few friends and hit up a few bars. I haven’t gotten to go out in any of the ports, so I figured I could check out the bar scene in Cape Town. Guess what? It’s exactly like every bar scene anywhere you go, just different setting and different accents. It was still fun, and it was a nice way to relax and enjoy the evening: to end it on a high note instead of a sad one. We had excellent pizzas at a place on the Waterfront called St. Elmo’s. We went to a few bars, which of course were crawling with SAS kids who were completely wasted. It was quite embarrassing, actually; we made sure to avoid them. We did not want to be associated with them, and as a result met a few really nice locals.
Second Day: I was supposed to hike Table Mountain in the morning; I was going to meet Christine and Tea, who had spent the night at a local hostel, and the three of us were going to backpack it. When they came back to the ship to pick me up, they said they had talked to some of the other guys who were at the hostel who had advised them to NO WAY, EVER hike that mountain with only three girls because the pick-pocketing and mugging was really bad. I was disappointed, but we spent the rest of the day walking around Long Street. It’s a trendy street with lots of great markets and shops, so I was able to pick up TONS of cute souvenirs for all of you! I met up with Amanda later in the day to have dinner on the Waterfront. The meat situation on the ship is pathetic, so I thought I deserved a nice steak. We went to a delicious grill that was SO cheap. We went all out: shrimp appetizer, steak dinner, and brownie dessert all for about 20 American dollars. Everything is so cheap here; it just seems like it’s really expensive because the exchange rate is 7.6 rands per dollar. I must admit that I’m getting quite good at my basic math skills, though. After dinner, we were both exhausted. We walked around the nearby mall and then went right to bed.
Day Three: Amanda and I had a full day! We got up in the morning to try and find a shuttle to take us to Table Mountain. We weren’t going to hike it, but they have cable cars that go up to the top and there are tons of walking trails on top to look around. We went to the Tourist Information Centre and were told about a really great deal. For 100 rand, there was a red, double-decker Cape Town Sight-Seeing Bus that stopped at about 12 different spots throughout the city. It was an all-day ticket; buses frequented each of the stops around every 20 minutes, so you could just hop on and off as you pleased. It worked out perfectly; instead of having to pay for a bunch of different taxis for the places we wanted to go, we got to sit on top of a bus! We stopped back at Long Street to do a little more shopping (we have to get all of our shopping done by today because we leave for our safari tomorrow at 4:45 am! We don’t return till late Sunday, which is the day we leave Cape Town. There would be no more time for shopping!), and then we went up to Table Mountain. It was gorgeous! The views were amazing, and I couldn’t stop taking picture after picture. We got back to the ship around four, and after having a break and time to pack we headed out to one last dinner on the Waterfront. Our field guide book says that all of our meals should be covered on the trip, so we figured we might as well enjoy real food while we can. No need to save money eating on the ship, when my meals for the next three days were prepaid! I can’t wait till I leave for my safari! It is going to be so freaking amazing!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Countdown to Capetown: Less than 24 hours!

We arrive in Cape Town tomorrow, and I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT IT. Unfortunately, however, I seem to have come down with a stomach bug. I started feeling pretty awful yesterday, and today isn’t much better. I am hoping it is only a 48-hour bug and that I should be feeling much better tomorrow. Either way, I don’t intend to alter any of my South Africa plans…except for how much and what I will be eating. I don’t leave for my safari until Friday, so I’m sure I will be back to normal by then, thank goodness. My other Africa plans include: a visit to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner), a show at the Baxter Theatre Centre, and hopefully a hike up Table Mountain. A lot of kids have been sick on the ship the last week or so, so I caught it from someone. In the meantime: Pepto Bismol, hand sanitizer, toast, and water are my best friends. It’s not fun feeling sick, but I am thankful because I could feel a lot worse and even if the timing isn’t great it could also be a lot worse.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2-14-08 NEPTUNE DAY!

There’s no school today, and as Semester at Sea tradition dictates, Neptune Day is that crazy day when kids shave their heads! It’s supposed to be the day we cross the equator, but we already had that event before Brazil. It’s more about the ceremony than actual timing, I guess. The crew went around the entire ship at about 7:30am with pots and pans, banging on doors and waking everyone up (complete with costumes). Then there was the official ceremony to request King Neptune and Queen Minerva’s permission to continue our sailing. It feels appropriate that today is also the rockiest day we’ve had so far. Drawers are constantly slamming open and shut, everything keeps sliding off the tables, and everyone is walking in an awkward straddle-type position with their arms out or grabbing onto rails for any sort of possible balance. It’s actually a lot of fun and really amusing to watch. Back to the “ceremony,” however, if kids wanted they could get real fish guts poured on their heads (it reeked!), jump in the pool, climb out and kiss a real-live fish, and then kiss King Neptune’s ring (who was played by Ken, one of our Deans. Queen Minerva was my Econ and the Arts professor). I was surprised how many kids actually did it. I opted to watch; no fish guts for me, thanks. Then the “Shaving of the Heads” began. Don’t worry; I still have a full head of long, curly hair! There were a lot of people who did shave their heads! I think there were about 30 girls who shaved their heads. Props to them, but I have a feeling half of them will wake up tomorrow morning and say: what the hell was I thinking? A lot of guys just went with the Mohawk look, though a decent number did shave the whole works. I couldn’t imagine doing anything like that; the most outrageous thing I would do to my hair would be to dye it (which I’m actually thinking about doing when we get to the next port. Not anything too crazy, but maybe a crazy color on just the tips. That’s fun, different, and a hell of a lot tamer than cutting it all off! I was thinking either purple or blue. It really depends on what the local supermarket has though…) It’s been a really entertaining morning: watching kids kiss fish, shave their heads. Definitely the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had. There was also a “Party Animals” Dance last night—safari style. My roommate, Christine, went as a fish. Tea and Nikki (our good friends who are also roommates) went respectively as a parrot and an elephant (Nikki had a kick ass elephant mask). I went as a monkey. We got pretty creative with construction paper; I created some kick-ass bananas. It wasn’t that great of a dance, but it was still fun dressing up and seeing what other kids came up with. One kid was completely zipped up in his sleeping bag and made an awesome penguin; another boy had an all-white suit and nice unicorn horn; a few girls had a creative way to make turtle costumes by wearing big green shirts over their backpacks. I definitely spotted next year’s Halloween costume for me, but I won’t ruin the surprise. We get into Cape Town on Tuesday. Until then, however, it’s classes and tests. I have my second rehearsal tonight for Overruled, a play by George Bernard Shaw. It’s a four person cast (but only about eight girls auditioned, so it’s not like I had intense competition), and actually one guy from Bucknell (Kadero) is in the show with me. It’s a fun show, only one act, and even though the other guy who is in the show isn’t the most intelligent I like the lady who is directing it. We perform it after Cape Town during one of the Community College events (a nightly event that usually has different speakers, certain movies, lecturers, etc). Of course, I play my expected role as a “dumb blonde.” A few other kids and I from our theatre class also have a sort of “acting troupe” put together (courtesy of our professor). We may do scenes from future plays we’ll read in class, or help out the Documentary Theatre class she teaches and perform their shows for them in front of the entire ship during Global Studies at the end of the semester. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, so hopefully, that will pull through. It’s nice to be able to do acting since I really haven’t had the chance to dance much. Sea Olympics are also coming up! All of the students are divided up into seas by room number, and we each have a different resident director (similar to an RA). Sea Olympics is a full-day competition between all of the seas. I’m in the Arabian Sea. We can sign up to compete in two events. I signed up for “Slippery Twister” and lip-sync. I’ve got some good ideas for lip-syncs, and I figure any song from Aladdin would be appropriate for the Arabian Sea. Other events include a full-day scavenger hunt, dodge ball, mashed-potato sculpting, swimming relays, synchronized swimming, and flip cup. The winners get to leave the ship first the day we dock in Miami. The 2nd place sea gets an extra 100 minutes of free internet access each. I would prefer 2nd place, personally. The tech-lab was really nice though, and fought the dean to get every student an additional 100 minutes of free internet access because there have been so many problems with speed, logging onto the system, and disconnections. I think that’s about it from here. ~~~~~~~~~~ xoxo

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The last day in Brazil was AMAZING. I got up early and went with two kids who I had gotten to know on the trip, Grant and Tom, and then a dancer who I had met in one of my classes, Izzy, and also one of Grant’s friends, Amy, and went to take a Capoeira class. I had done all the research for it, and we were able to stop by the local tourist office to get directions to the school. It was pretty much a private lesson for the five of us for an hour. We only had to pay 15 reals for the class (which is about 9 dollars). There was a Semester at Sea (SAS) trip that went to visit a Capoeira school and they had to pay over $50 and definitely didn’t get the experience we did. Our teacher didn’t speak English, but the nice thing about dance is that you can watch and mimic. It was so much fun, and Tom took a lot of pictures so I will try to get some of his and post them. I am SOOOO sore from that class. My butt and thighs have NEVER hurt this badly after a class before, but it’s kind of awesome in the sadistic-dancer way. It was totally worth it, and afterwards we went to Bahia CafĂ© to get some acai. Acai is a fruit, and it’s usually made into a creamy, slushy type of yogurt with bananas or mangos with granola on top. It’s really good for you, packed with tons of antioxidants, and supposedly great to eat after working out. It was delicious. I then spent the rest of the day walking around Salvador picking up souvenirs and checking out the local markets. I got some Capoeira pants, and they’re so comfortable.
My overall impression of Brazil can be summed up as the following: Carnaval—crazy and I’m glad I got to experience it once; Salvador—a bit of sketchy town that I have no desire to return to; Capoeira—kick-ass and tiring to do; Iguacu Falls—absolutely amazing, spectacular, and beautiful; The Igaucu trip—so much fun because I met tons of really great kids and we all had a blast; Brazil—an amazing experience, but I was ready to leave by the end of the five days. Next stop: Cape Town.

Iguacu Falls: Argentina and Brazil

These waterfalls are the biggest in the world, more spectacular than Niagra. They really were amazing. Pictures do NOT do justice to them. The first day of the trip was spent traveling. We had a five-hour layover in the Sao Paulo airport, which meant we had nothing to do. The first flight had been three hours, and after the layover the next flight was only an hour and a half. It was late afternoon by the time we got into Foz de Iguacu. Our tour guide, Oliver, took us through our entire trip. He was pretty entertaining—between the broken English and constant repetition of telling us EXACTLY what we were going to do. We went to the hotel first, which was pretty nice. It was slightly ghetto (alarm clocks didn’t work, we didn’t always get hot water), but it was still a lot nicer than I had thought it would be. I ended up with a really nice roommate, Michelle, and we ended up spending most of the trip together with another guy who had sat next to us in the nice long layover in Sao Paulo, Brad. After getting a chance to shower and clean up, we headed to Rafain, a Brazilian restaurant with an all-you-can-eat meat buffet. It was absolutely delicious (especially after ten days of ship food). Then they put on a “cultural” show, hosted by a weird Portuguese man. It was definitely commercialized and not that authentic, but it was still fun.
The second day we started out by heading into Argentina to see the falls from that side. We got soaking wet when we went on the walking tours, and got right in the Devil’s Throat. I can’t even describe how awesome they were. We did tons of different walking tours and saw the falls from tons of different views. In the afternoon, we got to go in rafts and actually go under some of the falls. It was amazing and I ripped through a waterproof camera in about ten minutes. Then after getting a chance to dry off, we went to a bird park. It had some pretty cool birds, and it was a nice way to “end” the day. Afterwards, we were on our own for dinner. Oliver suggested going to the Bier Garten. (We thought he had meant Beer Garden). Not all 40 kids wanted to go to the same place though, so we split up. We told our taxi driver we wanted to go to the beer garden, so the five of us in our taxi ended up at a legit Brazilian beer garden: Cervaja de Jardim. It was so good. I had the best sangria, and we split two pizzas: quarto queijos (4-cheese) and moda de casa (it had peas, asparagus, bacon, and other stuff on it—it sounds gross but it was absolutely delicious). It was nice getting to know the other kids, and overall the trip was a really great bonding experience. The other kids who went to the real Bier Garten said it wasn’t very good, so we were lucky. The waiter had been really nice too. He tried to speak as much English as he could with us, and even called us a taxi.
The last day we went to Itaipu Dam (currently the largest dam in the world, and one of the most environmentally friendly). It was pretty much just a big dam, not horribly exciting. It was exciting to go back to Igaucu falls though, and see them from the Brazilian side. Argentina had the wet side, but Brazil definitely had the picturesque view. I probably took over 150 pictures of the falls, and none of them are as great as it actually was being there. We did more walking tours and even went up in an elevator to get a better panoramic view. We got a bit wetter, but it hadn’t been as bad as the day before. After a few hours we headed to the airport, where we were stuck on a three flight with one stop. The flight got pretty entertaining though. We spent most of it telling lame jokes. Then we had another hour layover, and by that point we were exhausted, tired and delusional (so it was a lot of fun). We made it back to the ship at about midnight, and I immediately passed out.

Carnaval in Brazil!!!

The first day in Salvador was absolutely crazy. We spent most of the morning walking around, and I believe we got asked for money at least twenty times. At least we weren’t mugged, however, which some SAS kids were. The city really didn’t smell very good, and it was a bit on the dirty side. One interesting thing was that in order to make it into Pelourinho (one of the older cities) you had to ride up in an elevator from the level of the port. It was also the last day of Carnaval so there were people EVERYWHERE. We headed back in the late afternoon to get “ready” for Carnaval: aka shower and dinner. I headed back out with my roommate, Christine, our friends Tea and Amanda. We were told Pelourinho was the safest part of the city for Carnaval, so that’s where we headed. We first ran into a group of missionaries, who were very nice and very entertained by the fact that we were Americans. It was really pretty random, but they wanted a picture with us so we figured, why not? Then it got a little crazy because we went down to see the parade.

Carnaval is mardi gras times one hundred. There were sooo many people, it was ridiculously crowded, everyone was drunk or getting drunk, there were vendors selling cheap beer everywhere, and a few interesting costumes. The parade consisted of huge triple-decker sized buses, with singers and a band on top playing music. The buses were about ten minutes apart with millions of people dancing like crazy in between them (which was marked off by ropes. People had paid over $500 just to be in the actual parade with the cars). We were on the side watching and eventually dancing.

Let’s see, I was kissed, gawked out, the works. Some guy was petting me (literally…blonde hair + Brazilian men = petting apparently) for about five minutes before we could finally get rid of him. Another guy picked me up twice for no reason. He just came up from behind me and threw me up in the air. Slightly scary but completely harmless. So it was a bit crazy, but we were still having fun (and completely sober too, I couldn’t imagine being drunk in that kind of craziness). I felt worse for Amanda; she probably got kissed the most because she was short…and most Brazilian men are pretty short. We took a break from the parade and headed back up to the older part of the city to see a more “tame” parade that including tribal-like dancing and Capoeira (a popular dance form that originally began as a means of teaching fellow slaves how to defend themselves without getting in trouble (bc they disguised it as a dance form). It’s practiced on street corners everywhere and they do tons of crazy moves. It’s kind of like break dancing.) After checking out the scene, we decided to head back down to the parade again for some more dancing. By this point of the night, however, (and it was only 9) things had definitely gotten rowdier. People were starting to push us, and then it got a little too sketchy for us. We were getting pick-pocketed every second (hands were constantly reaching in our pockets), but of course we didn’t have anything in them. It was still enough for us to put an end to our night and head back to the ship. Over all, Carnaval was something that I’m glad I got to experience, but once was enough. It was nice to head back early because I had to leave at 4:45 the next morning for a trip to Iguacu water falls.