Thursday, May 15, 2008


Things that happened before Spain....(that I can remember) We had an interesting discussion on the Declaration Of Human Rights and talked about if universal human rights even exist (an event sponsored by Social Justice club). Social Events also hosted the Blast From the Past Dance-everyone dressed up and it was hilarious! We danced to oldies until late. The night before Spain we had the cultural cafe (where people talk about the country we are about to visit and give tips/history/information etc.) and I was able to talk to the community about a foreigner's perspective of Spain, so that was fun.

The first day in Spain, Ryan and I went to Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia church and walked around Barcelona. It is a beautiful city, but everyone speaks Catalan so it was a little different than the Spain I am used to. We went to a panaderia and saw the main strip of Barcelona and some of Gaudi's famous houses. Then I exposed Ryan to traditional Spanish food (which he liked!) before returning to the ship so I could fly to the south to visit my Spanish family.

Pablo and I went to the airport together, since he was going to see his family in Madrid and I arrived later that night to Malaga. I was worried that my family might have forgotten me, but ALAS they picked me up! It was so good to see my brother and sister in law-Dory and Manuel and we talked a lot in Spanish. I got home that night to see my Mom and Dad (Mari Carmen and Manolo) and we had dinner before going to town to see the big Easter processions. It was an amazing procession of all the people dressed in the pointed hats and traditional Catholic attire (for Easter) and they carried all the scenes of Christ's life and Passion.

My other sister, Maria, and her boyfriend, Luis arrived and we climbed to the Sierra (the country/mountainside) for most of the day. It was beautiful and so nice to be outside. We also played a ridiculous game involving eggs (I brought it home!) that everyone should learn how to play. Then I had to say goodbye to my parents and Maria to go to Cordoba (about 2 hours away) with Manul and Dory.

In Cordoba, I went to school with Dory. She is a teacher at an elementary school and works with 6 year olds. That was the most fun day! I was exhausted but the kids were adorable and we had lots of fun. I taught the kids "Simon Says" and how to sing Row Row your Boat in English and they loved it. Then we went to the very famous Cordoba mosque/church with all the arches. The next day I went to lunch with Dory's teacher friends and to an "intercultural dance class" that the teachers at her school could attend. We learned the polka (which they claimed was American) and some other dances, it was pretty funny to watch all the older teachers dance. Then that night after dinner we went to an Arabic bath where you get a massage and go to pools of different water temperatures. It was very relaxing.

The next day I said goodbye to Dory and Manuel and flew back to Barcelona. As I was heading to find a bus back to the ship, Ryan surprised me!!! He almost missed me since my flight was delayed and I didn't have a phone, but I didn't know he was coming. We went back and ate paella (not as good as what I ate with my family!) and then got gelato. It was a good night!

My last day in Spain we intended to go to the Picasso musuem but ended up mailing boxes home and then spending the afternoon in the Gothic Quarter. Ryan was my tour guide since he learned during the week all about Barcelona. We were also filmed on the ship for some Spanish TV stations since we happened to go back to the ship during the day and no one else was around. So now we are famous! ha. Then we met up with one of Ryan's friends and he showed us around a little and we went to a big parque that is very famous and it was nice. Then we went back to the ship for ETL. Adios, Espana!

Cape Verde

Well the main thing about Cape Verde is that there is no VERDE there. We walked off the boat to discover a brown island. Truth be told, it turns out that the islands have not received rain in over 26 years, hence the lack of green.

We spent the day at the beach in nice COOL waters and found some little kids and played with them for awhile. They love getting their pictures taken and Ryan was throwing some of them around and it was a beautiful day. Julio, Pablo, Ryan, Me, Maureen, Brooke and Michelle spent the morning/early afternoon frolicking around and then we went into town to have lunch, where we proceeded to wait for 1 1/2 for our very simple food. Welcome back to Island TIME!

We walked around some and then that afternoon we went to another beach. (There wasn't a lot to do on the islands but eat or go to the beach). We enjoyed our 12 hour adventure and day of rest and then hopped back on the boat to continue the journey to Spain!

UPDATES-until Cape Verde. . .

Ok, back by popular demand....I am finishing the rest of my voyage blog. As you can tell (since I haven't posted since March) things got pretty busy and my blog's priority level dropped.
I will carry on from South Africa until the end of my voyage and maybe my travels in Europe after. Anyways, on to the good stuff.

This leg from South Africa to Cape Verde was the longest of the trip and I kept very busy. I went to a women's self defense class onboard (RAD) and it was so much fun. I am looking into getting certified when I get back to the states to be an instructor. We also had a few big events onboard that I helped coordinate this leg. Casino Night raised 1400 US dollars for the Hardship fund (for students with financial difficulties) and it was fun setting up and running the event. Everyone had fun playing jenga, Texas hold em, bingo and may other games. We also had the American/Canadian cultural show and I danced in the country line dance (TEXAS REPRESENT!) and in a Native American dance. It was fun being involved but also frustrating as the Americans fought quite a bit (ha).

We also had the first TSS WEDDING! I helped decorate all day (it was very hot since we were so close to the equator) but we had several mishaps with balloons and fabrics flying away. We did get it all set up (on the large Aft deck) and it was a beautiful multi-cultural ceremony. The bride and groom wore clothes from Thailand while the captain officiated. Then we had a Buddhist ceremony where we tied strings on each other to represent the union of marriage. Then we did a Moroccan dance that we have grown very fond of on the ship and then the TSS band sang. WE had a huge dinner outside on Lido Deck (while we were still sweating) followed by a champagne toast, throwing of the bouquet, and cutting of the cake. Then in the student center, students performed the Indian Bollywood dance, and an African dance. Then we danced the night away and it was an amazing day!

I also got to go on a "bridge tour" of the front of the ship and saw where they have all the navigation equipment and where they steer the ship from! I even got to touch the Captain's wheel! I also learned about all the procedures for ports, flags, and weather recording etc.

Lots of class this leg-gearing up for finals and diving deep. My favorite class, Intercultural Communication has been really interesting, learning about different peoples' and cultures' styles of communication (direct/indirect, emotional/restrained etc). After we took some tests, I am engagement (direct but emotional-which I think is pretty dead on for me, ha).

We also had Drag Idol hosted by our very own handsome Ryan Secrest. It was quite entertaining to say the least. Lots of boys came quite elaborately dressed as girls and it was hilarious. We danced the night away just to wake up to CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cape Town

Ok. On to the good stuff. Cape Town is a beautiful place and my favorite port so far. We woke up to see a beautiful port with a view of Table Mountain and civilization right there! It was so nice to have an accessible and nice port with a huge mall, internet, and groceries just outside the boat. The first day of AFP's we went on a walking tour of the city and then had a good hamburger for lunch (a nice change from ship food) and then went to the African Center for Conflict Resolution. Ihad a huge seafood dinner that night with Pablo and Maureen and it was yummy!

The next day our AFP was the big deal. Our group, Conflict Studies, went to Pollsmore Prison, a fully functioning prison houses 7,000 of male, female, and youth inmates. First, we went to talk with the adult male inmates. We sat in on part of a program called Restorative Justice, which focuses on rehabilitation of inmates and not just punishment. Then, the coolest part, we got to sit and just talk with the inmates. I talked with 3 and they were all so young and it was so sad. One was 24 and had been there since he was 19, and was getting released in 3 months and wanted to know if I wanted to go out when he got out! hahahaha I told him I would think about it. ;) Many of the men in that room had committed dozens of murders, the concept of the value of life is very different for them. One man got up and talked about a day where he had killed 6-8 people but he was on drugs and didn't know what he was doing. And they are all in gangs, thats how they survive. Then we quickly saw the women, who were more emotional, because most were mothers seperated from their children. Then we went to the boys prison and it was so sad. They are just teenagers and seem pretty happy but you wonder why they are in prison, and what will happen to them when they get out. Most probably end up back in jail within in a few years. It was an amazing and eye opening experience.

Then we went to Robben Island, which was very interesting as well. They showed us where the political prisoners of Apartheid were held and the working conditions. They were fed based on color (coloureds received more food than blacks). And we saw Nelson Mandela's cell and where he buried his manuscript.

I was so exhausted that day, both physically and mentally, I don't remember what else happened. I think I might have gone to a lame club that night.

The next day (Feb 29) we had a lecture and tour of the University of Cape Town, which has one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. I would love to study there later on. That night we went to the rugby game (80 of us from the ship!) We were on the side of the New Zealand Crusaders and we all dressed up and made banners for them. They killed the Cape Town Stormers 22-0. I had never been to a rugby game and I actually really liked it. After the game, Ryan, Pablo and I went out to Long street (the main bar/club street in Cape Town) and found a club with a live band and then did some dancing. It was a fun night.

Then we had the service project organized by the local Rotaract club. About 50-60 of us went to a black school inside a township to paint and do a little work on the classrooms. The classrooms hold about 40 students each and have a chalkboard and desks, and nothing else. Apparently many windows were broken, but when the government heard we were coming a few days in advance they went to the school to fix them. (how convenient!) We spent the day painting the walls blue to make the classrooms look a little nicer and hanging out with some of the local kids who went to school there. The school housed about 700 children and needs a lot more funding and teachers, but at least they have a school. (Education in South Africa is NOT free). That night we went to the ballet and it was a wonderful contemporary ballet.

Then it was Sunday so the 4 other Mormons and I went to church. We found the chapel easily and arrived on Fast Sunday. The people were very welcoming and we even went to a single adult Sunday school class. Then we got a tour of the German navy boats that were parked next to us in the port and saw some pretty handsome German sailors! Then we hired a car and went to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope (the southern most point of Africa) and it was beautiful. We spent a few hours there driving around and taking pictures and then had an amazing Italian dinner where the waiter, Kurt (31), offered to show me around town the next day. O that night the girls and I went to see 27 dresses (it was nice to go to a real movie theatre!)

Our almost last day we went on a township tour with some friends of Ryan's who work for a Non-profit in the townships. The townships, are where blacks and coloureds (they are from mainly Indian descent) live outside the city. They are huge communities (some of houses, others are more like slums). We went to an afterschool program in a black township and talked and played games with the teenagers/children there. The children then performed 2 short plays for us which included these amazing evangelical songs. It was honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen or heard. These teenagers are so strong when their lives are so hard. They go to this program (a shack-like building with benches) to get away from all the crime and danger in the townships. They performed plays and sang about the trials of their lives including violence, discrimination, and even rape. They were so happy to have us there adn they were so nice to us. They kept saying thank you to us for coming and I couldn't believe they were thanking us. They let us into their world and it was so powerful. I stood up to thank them and couldn't help crying in awe of their strength and dedication to living good lives and pushing out the bad that surrounds them on so many levels. We were all quite moved by their examples, and after taking millions of pictures with them, walked away different people.

I can honestly say I learned so much from South Africa between the prisons, the township, and the service project it was probably my favorite port so far.

The last day we climbed Table Mountain which was one of the scariest experiences ever! Half way up it was raining, windy, and cold. I nearly blew off the mountain many times and it was quite a struggle to get to the top. We made it though to arrive to a foggy view-ha! But it did clear some and we got some good pictures and still enjoyed ourselves. We were so cold though we just sat huddled together for awhile (we wore shorts and t shirts and it was freezing at the top). We made it down (barely) after a few falls and going very slowly on the wet rocks.

That was all of the main stuff about South Africa, condensed so I hope that helps!
Sorry it took so long!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Time flies!

I realized it has been quite awhile since my last post, which means (unfortunately) I have to try and remember everything and write about it all! I will do my best to summarize effectively and quickly!
Between the Seychelles and South Africa was midterms, and ironically, the worst weather of the trip. The seas were quite rough around the Cape and coming into Cape Town. We also had to go on the inside of Madagascar instead of the outside to avoid more bad weather from a cyclone that had occured earlier. There was mainly school stuff during this leg and nothing super exciting, except for the Crew Talent Show, where crew members performed for us. They sang and danced and there was even a whole band! They sang, in uniform, "In the Navy" and it was hilarious. There was even some drag in there! One day, I helped with the research institute onboard to launch a research probe into the ocean to record temperatures and other data. The Scholar Ship is part of a worldwide effort by cruise ships to record data from all parts of the ocean. It was pretty cool to go to a different part of the ship and be part of a research team. We also had the Middle East and African Cultural show which was very cool! Students from the ship did traditional dances including Gumboots, belly dancing, and the Moroccan students did a presentation on Morocco. I wore a traditional sari that I bought in India and it was a good night!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Spectacular Seychelles!

I woke up on the 17th to see beautiful islands outside my window and Brooke and I were quite excited to be in the Seychelles! So Brooke, Ryan, Taha, Maureen, Brittany and I rented a car for the day and went exploring. We drove all around the main island of the Seychelles, Mahe, and it was beautiful. It was actually quite jungle-y and very green. We went to a secluded beach and went swimming and played soccer. There was small island in the distance so we decided to swim to it (never a good idea!) and it ended up being farther than we thought so we swam to shore and proceeded to climb these huge rocks to try and take a shortcut to the island, but we just ended up getting all scraped up. We did finally swim to it and take some pictures but man was the swim back long! Lol then we found lunch at this Seychellian-hibachi style place that was wonderful. Talk about island time though, it took about 2 ½ for lunch but banana crepes for dessert were worth it. Then we found another beach and watched the sunset and frolicked (per my request) and played a little beach volleyball. We took a lot of underwater pictures and videos too, (since I have a waterproof camera) and it was lots of fun.

We went back to the ship and freshened up and then went out to dinner at the Pirate’s Arms. Most of TSS was there, since it was the only restaurant in town open on a Sunday night. The next morning we woke up at 530 to drive to a lookout point and watch the sunrise. It was somewhat cloudy but still pretty and it was nice being up that early! We had a few hours until we had to turn the car in so we drove around some more and found a pretty waterfall and took pictures there. On the way back to the ship we discovered this abandoned area and were driving around when we got a flat tire! In the middle of nowhere! Ha! Luckily we had a spare and the boys attempted to put the spare on, but then they didn’t know what to do. So I stepped in, by getting out the manual, and reading them the directions, imagine that! (All men are the same!) We got the spare on and then picked up some groceries on the way back to the ship. We exchanged pictures and rested for a couple of hours since we had been up so early and there were some issues to take care of with the car. We found internet that afternoon and then the boys went to play soccer and I went with the girls to the main beach. We had ice cream and played in the water for hours and it was wonderful! Then we had to head back to the ship so we wouldn’t miss ETL, but it was a beautiful experience. The waters were blue and the beaches white and everything was pretty well-maintained. If we had more time we could have seen some of the smaller islands, but 48 hours is pretty limited.

India cont'd!

Hello friends and family! I realize it has been quite awhile since I have updated the blog and I know I owe some stories!

The night of my last blog, afterwards, Ryan and I took a walking rickshaw (a man pulls a cart as he walks barefoot on the street!) to a club that was supposed to be cool. We went in and there were literally 5 people there-haha, we just hung out for a couple of hours and laughed at another of our lonely planet failures, but we had fun anyways. On my last day in Kolkata with Ryan we bought some chupati (Indian flat bread) and oranges and walked around passing out food to some of the people on the streets. It was harder than it looked as in many places you will get mobbed if you aren’t careful. We also went around the city some and discovered that it was a lot bigger and a lot busier than we thought since the day before the whole city was on strike. It took hours to get anywhere and by late afternoon we had distributed the food but not done much else. We rested some and then went to the market and did some shopping and looked for a place for dinner. We ate at the top of a nicer hotel with a view of the city that was quite pretty and the weather was great. That night I got sick (from the food at the hotel, ironically)

After Kolkata with Ryan the next morning I flew solo to Delhi to meet up with Maureen (the following day). That was quite an interesting day! From the moment I was alone in India I became 10 times more noticeable than before with Ryan. I was hit on in the airport, the streets, dinner and about 4 guys from the tourist agency asked me if I wanted to get a drink with them. I had been sick and just wanted some normal food and a sprite and I picked the first restaurant I saw, which turned out to be a dark and smoky bar, ha. But I sat at the bar drinking my sprite just fine, and then this guy from the tourist agency recognized me and proceeded to try and talk to me. I could really have cared less as I was still sick and tired and he was in his 30’s. but he ended up sitting down with me and asking me what I was drinking, I told him sprite, haha, that should have told him to go away, but he proceeded to ask me all about my Indian travels etc, and I told him a student (which finally turned a light bulb on I think!) but after a few minutes I left to meet my driver to take me to the hotel. It was very cold Delhi and the hotels have no heat so I slept with all my clothes on, ha.

The next morning I arranged a car to take me to take me to the airport to pick up Maureen and then go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. After an hour long drive, I asked the driver if we would be getting to the Airport soon and he said, Airport? We are going to Agra. We had gone an hour in the wrong direction without getting Maureen so we had to turn back, I was almost crying in the car, that was such a stressful day and a half, Maureen was just getting into the airport and we were 1 ½ away. But we got there and picked her up and Maureen and I talked the 5 hour drive to Agra and she had had many similar experiences in India. We got to the Taj Mahal late that afternoon and it was beautiful. Definitely worth it! We got to walk around for awhile and just soak it all in. it was a redeeming experience for sure. We had dinner at Pizza Hut in India, since I hadn’t eaten at this point in 2 days. I have never been so grateful for a pizza. Then we drove back to the hotel and crashed.

On Sunday morning we got a taxi to take us to church, which involved stopping literally 12 times to ask directions but we finally arrived. We missed most of the first hour since we had been lost, but the congregation met in a “chapel” that appeared to once be someone’s home. It was beautiful and comforting to be there. There were lots of missionaries but just as many investigators. Maureen and I went to the gospel essentials class and listened to the new members/investigators and we discussed the fall. I probably learned more in that hour than in years of Sunday School before. Then we had relief society and made friends with a sweet Indian woman who was investigating the church. She became attached to us very quickly and after the meeting (There were only about 7 women in the RS) she asked if we would be back next week but we had to explain that we were leaving India the next day and she didn’t really seem to understand. We exchanged information with her and I am planning on writing her. There was a baptism after church and we stayed for that too. It was so nice to go to church in another country again. Then we went to the Bahai Lotus Temple that was quite beautiful and very interesting to learn about. We searched for food again for lunch, and unbelievably ended up at Pizza Hut again (I was still sick) since we couldn’t find any place else. (Shameful I know). Then that afternoon we went to the largest mosque in the world (so claimed Lonely Planet, but wouldn’t the one in Mecca be bigger?). this was one of the favorite experiences. We entered and they handed me a bag, which I thought was for shoes but It was a huge bag to tie around my legs since my skirt was only knee length (so I looked ridiculous). As we entered we were admiring the most (this was outside in the courtyard area) and as we stood there, suddenly a crowd gathered around us of about 50 people, all just staring at the 2 white girls. Several people had pointed at my fluorescent pink toenails and lots of people were taking pictures of us from afar. a few men asked to take pictures with us and one guy was video taping us on his phone. It was crazy! Then children would follow us around asking our names and wanting to take pictures with us (surprisingly enough not for money). Then it was sundown and prayer was about to begin so we had to leave.

We took a bicycle rickshaw (very uncomfortable) back to the center of town, Connaught Place, and then we did some market shopping before returning home. We left for Chennai in the morning and that afternoon we were able to do some necessity shopping, internet, and I bought a beautiful sari! We rushed back to the ship and just barely made the ETL at 4. Coming back to the ship, was like going home, I had never been so happy to see it after a long hard week in India. Most of the ship’s students felt the same way and everyone was grateful to be back but had definitely learned a lot from India. I think everyone had humbling experiences wherever they were. Some students went to Bombay (Mumbai) where the largest slum in the world is, Varanasi (the holiest Indian city on the Ganges river where they burn thousands of bodies) and Kerala, an area with many orphanages in the south. India was eye opening for all and gave us a better perspective into the developing world and poverty, despite the challenges it was amazing to go there.

I can’t remember much of what happened in between India and the Seychelles so I will recap what I remember. We (Social Events) sold candygrams to the TSS community and that was fun. We delivered them on Valentines Day morning and everyone loved them! That night we hosted a semi-formal dance and it was great as well. The cookies (which I procured through student government and hours of bureaucratic crap) were delicious and only cost we danced for hours and everyone had a lot of fun. Mainly everyone was resting from India and looking forward to the beach in the Seychelles (and catching up on school).