I know it's been a while since I last blogged. But after India, ports were coming left and right -- only leaving time for class and rest & (little time for blogging). As most of you may already know, they had to take Japan out of our itinerary and make Taiwan the alternative port. I am here now and we leave tonight. We have a long 11 days at sea before we are back in the states, Hawaii that is !! I still can't believe that this voyage is coming to an end. It's gonna be sad to let it go because it has been an amazing, incredible experience. I still can't fathom the fact that I just travelled the world (IN FOUR MONTHS) and did some of the stuff I did. I am truly grateful for everything this world has to offer & for my parents that were able to send me on this remarkable trip. It is going to be hard adjusting back to 'real life' but I think at this point I can handle it.
Until later friends - See you all very soon,
Varanasi - a city where traffic laws don't exist. The streets belong to pedestrians, cows, dogs,rickshaws, cars, bikes, motorcycles, and anything else that wants to be on the road.
Our arrival to Varanasi was just like any other. We got picked up by our tour guide and brought to our hotel. Upon our arrival we got greeted by some locals and a traditional Indian ring ceremony. We checked in and within 15 mins we were out the door again. This time our bus was not transporting us instead it was the infamous rickshaws. (what were we getting ourselves into?!) a rickshaws is a bike driven by a local with a little 2 person seat thingy attached back. Let me just mention that the seats our comfortably made for 2 people but somehow Indians find a way to fit 3-5 people on it. Well for us that wasn't the case. So off we were with 8 rickshaws to the Famous Ganga River. Every night they have a traditional Ganga seva Nidhi ceremony. At the ceremony they had 7 devotees pray to one of the MANY gods of India. This was definite sight to see. There were many locals along with hundreds of tourists. Of course you can't go to any country with beggars and people trying to sell you things. I was convinced into buying a packet of bindes and some color stamp set. Once you bought from one person you were pressured into to buying from another but I wasn't having it. After watching this religious for about an hour we headed back to where the rickshaws were parked to being us back to the hotel. On our way to the dirt lot, our group of 16 became a main attraction to the locals. We had to maneuver through them as well as the cows who were trying to enjoy the ceremony. Walking was a great nightmare! Locals followed, stared, and tried to sell us more stuff. We finally made it to the dirt lot and got out of there quick only to be stuck in traffic. I'm still trying to figure out how they do it. The driving it ridiculous - everything and everyone sharing the same road with little to NO type of regulation. Needless to say we saw and were almost in many accidents but nothing happened. The adventure and experience was absolutely amazing. As anxious as I was coming into this country I'm really really loving it. Back at the hotel we had dinner and headed straight to bed after a long day of traveling. Everyone was super excited to sleep until we discovered our beds were just as hard as table tops. Haha but we all made it work and at this point it didn't matter, India was growing on us. The next morning we were up, ready, and out the hotel door by 445 am. We were headed back to the Ganga River but this time is was to witness the morning ritual were locals and 2 Asian tourists ( that I saw) bathe in this funky water as a form of clearing their sins. Go figure. While on the little boats on the rivers we were approached by other little boats that tried to sell us more stuff. Ganga River supermarket as they called themselves. Watching the sun rise was awesome - back to the hotel for breakfast and back out to see a Buddhist Temple ruins and silk factory. Finally to the airport for our flight to Delhi.
Mauritius is a beautiful island off the coast of Africa, about the same size of RI. We were in port for 8-9 hours. Having that been said, most of the student population booked Catamaran Cruises. Off we went on this awesome boat with 30 students with unlimited drinks and food. - probably not the best idea. Any who, all 6 Catamarans met up in a body of water and it felt like Spring Break. Students swimming, drinking, eating, taking pictures, jumping, everything you could imagine happened. Of course you can't leave out those who were intoxicated by 11am. After partying it up, we started to make our way back to the ship so that we would all make it back before on-ship time. Back on the gangway, the scene was disastrous. Picture over 200 college intoxicated students trying to board the ship. Not only was that a scene in itself, but we had a very SERIOUS incident in which a student had to be quickly transported to a hospital. To this day we know very minimal about his recovery but from what we were informed, he was suppose to be a "goner." Due to immediate response, he regained consciousness the next morning. The student had to stay in Mauritius and we are unaware if he will be allowed to resume the voyage. If they are, they will meet us in India.
March 2nd 2011
Early this morning we were woken up by "the voice" & the captain over the intercom. We were informed that the ship had been going at full speed for the past 2 days due to some medical issues that needed to be assessed rather quickly. The MV Explorer was granted permission to enter the island/lagoon of Diego Garcia ( a US and British military base). Here, two female passengers and a crew member would disembark and be airlifted to Singapore for medical assistance that could not be addressed on the ship. The morning was quiet hectic with passengers looking overboard to figure out what was going on and to check out the scene. There was armed military on board to scope out the situation. Although it was sad to see these people go, it was an interesting, exciting, and nerve racking morning for the MV Explorer.
Feb 17th Today we were scheduled to arrive in Cape Town, but due to high winds and waves, we had to stay at sea and linger around until the weather was appropriate enough for us to dock. I spent my day in bed, watching movies, and then headed to the talent show.
Feb 18th Woke up in the morning to find we were still circling at sea. With no rush to get to Cape Town, I again spent some time in bed and outside until we finally were able to dock at about 11:30 am. After going through immigration and being cleared I hopped off the ship, headed to the mall quickly before my Township overnight stay. Shortly after leaving for the trip, we arrived at a Township where a group of us would be spending the night. We arrived at Mama (all elder women are referred to as Mama (last name) as a sign of respect) Nocks house; she was the lady in charge of where the students would be spending the night. I, along with another girl, were assigned to Mama L’'s house. There she fed us a small lunch and we headed out for a walk around the town. Her young neighbor joined us and with her she told us a lot about the town/village. She was telling us that there was a lot of crime and that it was not a good idea to go out at night, so her advice we took. Arriving just in time for lunch, Mama had prepared the most amazing South African dinner. It included chicken, carrot, cabbage, and some cornmeal thing that looked like mash potatoes. It was amazingly delicious. That night we spent it with her at her house, next door to Mama L'’s watching Step Up. ☺ After the movie, we went back had some tea and went to bed. We had to wake up bright and early to be at Mama Nocks for 9am. At breakfast we had the same cornmeal stuff from the night before, but it was prepared differently and sugar was added. Still, it was yummy. Once at Mama Nock's house we patiently waited for our bus to arrive but due to some delay we had to stay a little passed 1030. During the time all of the SAS kids were outside playing with the local kids and enjoying the sun. The ride back was short, but upon arrival to the ship at 11:30 am, a few of us planned to head out for some wine tasting. A quick shower took place and by 12:15 we were off the ship and out again. The vineyard lands were about an hour away, but the sight seeing on the way there was beautiful. We were able to go to two places, very fancy, for tasting and lastly ended at Spier for the petting of the cheetahs.
The ride back was long and tiring, we drove by district 6, then to the Africa Café for dinner. The Africa Café was an all you can eat set menu restaurant. All of the courses were typical South African dishes. The food was really good and while having dinner, we got our faces painted. Nights in Cape Town get very windy and chilly and being on the waterfront did not help. We walked back to the ship, put on warm close and headed to Mitchells (a local bar) for some socializing.
Feb 19th Today was a fall through day. I wanted to hike Table Mountain but everyone had seemed to already do it. So I finally found 2 people to go with, but due to high winds the mountain could not be climbed! So I spent the day walking around the city and back to the mall.
Feb 20th Finally, I found 2 people who wanted to hike Table Mountain bright and early. We all had to be back to the ship before noon, so everything worked out well. The hike was not what I expected. It was anticipated to take 2.5 hours, but we booked it and hiked it in an 1.5 !! I got an amazing feeling when I got to the top and being able to see clouds and mind-blowing views, I had the biggest smile on my face. Because of time we could not hike it down, instead we took the cable car. An hour and half up, 3 minutes down.
We got back to the ship right before noon, just in time for me to go to my doctor’ appt. The doctor's’ office was something I had never seen before. They still do everything by hand and only have the necessary materials, which I thought was super neat. After 2 plus hours, more blood work, I headed into the city and then back to the ship. By this time I was wiped out, ready for dinner, and bed. I had to make sure to get some sleep since I had to be up at 330 am for shark diving !!
Feb 21st My most favorite day. Although I only got one hour of sleep, at 330 I was ready to go. We got picked up at 415 and arrived at our location a little after 630a.m. After a quick introduction and a small breakfast we were all suited up to enter the cold water. The area where the sharks were located was a 15-20 min boat ride away, not to mention the waters and waves were crazy strong, everyone was getting sick. Finally we hit a spot and the boat was anchored. The waves were still really strong, but I was super excited to get in the cage and see a shark. Because of the season Great White's were the only kind of sharks we saw and we saw 7 of them !!
We were first instructed on how to get in the cage and what it was that attracted them our way. So there I was inside a cage with 4 other people ready to see these beasts. The water was freezing and even with wet suits my body was still shaking. After 30 minutes and 4 great white encounters, I was ready to get out. On the boat I sat for the remainder of the time trying not to throw up from all of the movement. At about 1030 we headed back to shore. After a quick snack and viewing of the video, we headed back. 2 hours back to the ship just in time for on ship time.
After arriving in an industrial port in Takordai, Ghana a lot of emotions rushed through my body. I was ready to experience this country for the first time. I had a pre-arranged Semester at Sea trip to visit the Castles and Slave Dungeons of Ghana. Walking off the ship, the warmth quickly attacked. I hoped on the tour bus and patiently waited until it was time to go. Off we went for the first time on the roads of Ghana. The travel time was a little over an hour before we arrived at the first Castle; Cape Coast Castle”. There we were shown where the captives were kept prior to being put aboard the ships into slavery. There was a male dungeon and a female dungeon. They were about the size of a normal bedroom (13'x13') in where they would pack about 150-200 individuals, way too many for that space. There were no washrooms (bathrooms) or electricity. The only ventilation available were 2- 3 square in the concrete walls in which very little sunlight would shine in. If the captives had to use the bathrooms, against the walls was a small indent in which outlined the whole room where they could go but bu no means sanitary, private, or comfortable for anyone– in general totally inhumane. The waste would stay in these indentures until the excrement broke down naturally. Our tour guide showed us a line that was about a foot or two above the it in which human waste had accumulated. When the captrives were ready to be transported and shipped off they would be taken out of the dungeons, caged, and walked through the “door of no return.” Similarly, the same happened at the Elmina Castle. Before visiting Elmina, we stopped at a resort and had lunch with many other SASers. The food was intended to be typical Ghanaian food– much of which I was not a big fan of. We then continued on our tour to Elmina. There, the set up of the castle was a little different but had the same concept. The door of no return was a lot smaller than the door at Cape Coast Castle and it did not matter the size of the captive going there, they had to get through it one way or another. Returning back to the ship was a treat. After a long day of sweating and walking, shower and food could not have been better. That night I decided to stay in and hang out. Many people went out but because we had an early trip to Accra, I thought it was best to stay in. Good life decision. Those who went out did not come back till 3am drunk and had to be up ready packed for a little after 7am. Bad life decision.
The next morning, bright and early I was up and ready to go, I woke up Rachel and headed up for breakfast. Little did I know what exactly I was getting myself into, let me explain: off the ship we went at about 7:40am. Because we were in an industrial port, we had to walk about 15-20 mins in order to catch a taxi (if you were on an SAS trip the buses were right outside the ship waiting). By the time we got to the taxis, locals bombarded us trying to sell us items and trying to get us to ride their taxis charging absurd prices. Luckily we had Esanam, the Ghanaian interport student who traveled with us from Brazil back to Ghana. She roughly knew how much we should pay to get us to the bus station. We needed 3 taxis because there were 14 of us, but how about 5 mins off we took with 3 taxis to the “BUS STATION.” Hmmmm. 10 mins later, we arrived to what seemed to be a huge dirt lot filled with people, street vendors, cars, buses, vans, etc. Totally not what I expected but there I was with 13 other students trying to get to Accra. There was no schedule, it was more let us find the cheapest, has AC, and suits everyone. Well, that was hard to find. So we hopped on what seemed to be our best option for 9 cedi (about $6). Not only did we have 14 of us, but the van would not leave until EVERY SINGLE SEAT WAS full even though we were just fine, upon being full we were now uncomfortable squished and sitting with people we did not know for the next 5 hours. NO FUN. The van ride was a complete TRIP. But we finally made it to Accra. There everyone spilt and went there separate ways. Rachel, Hannah, Lilli, and I were picked up by Hannah’s friend's uncle. I thought he lived in Accra until we were hoping on another van and headed another 1.5 hrs towards a different direction. WHERE THE HECK WAS I GOING?! We finally ended in a town called Tema, not that that meant anything to me but that’s where I was. Nicholas was the guy's name whom we were traveling and staying with. He ended up taking us to the main fishing harbor, there we had to talk to top security and explain as to why we were there and why we wanted to see this. We then explained that we were students on a ship, blah blah blah and we were allowed to walk around. I was the only one who could take pictures, but if I was stopped I had to show his business card explain the story and continue on. After leaving the habor, we headed to a local school. This was the school where he was the headmaster. Upon our arrival during recess, we were greeted by MANY (like a lot) of kids with smiles, claps, laughter, and play. He told us a little bit about the school and proceeded to show us the classrooms. It was sad to see the conditions in which these kids have to learn in, but they make it work and are completely happy. We took hundreds of pictures of all the kids and were bombarded by many questions. Leaving our names and emails we all left smiles from ear to ear. This was a very memorable time. At this point of the trip I still do not know where I am spending the night or what our plans are. Nicholas then takes us to his house. Very close to the school, we walk through dirt paths, homemade houses, and much of what I have never seen before. Finally arriving at his house he tells us its time to relax and eat and here is where we would be spending the night. My heart semi dropped. I did not know if I was ready for all of this. It had been a very long day and I could sure use some food and a bed at this point. We sat and chatted with him for a while about the school and general things. He showed us his house, very small one room – no bathroom or shower. In Ghana, it seemed like people went to the bathroom where ever they had to go. O_O As it got dark, he also explained that the electricity came on around 730pm if not later. We had some dinner attempted to shower in a not so real shower and headed to bed, a floor. It was hot and humid, but we made it work. Man was I pooped. 5:30 am Tuesday morning, I was awaken by the bark of a dog and around 7 am we were all ready to continue our Ghana adventures. Nicholas took us to PramPram, another town, then we took a bus to somewhere else. Before the bus took off I bought a mango from a girl with a tray of them on her head. The mango was delicious until my stomach started to hurt. Once off the bus we headed to an art/culture place. Still I was not feeling to well. I thought it was a combination of the heat and perhaps not much in my stomach. At the little drum shop that we stopped at I was not able to enjoy the drumming and music being played due to this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. At our stay persisted, I continued to feel less and less like myself. After leaving the drumming and art, we headed to look at some of the traditional clothing and artwork. At this point I was ready to lose it. About 45 minutes in I started to get the chills and all I wanted to do was get back on the ship. I knew something was up and being 5 or more hours away from safety made me very nervous. After borrowing Lillis fleece sweater I started to burn up. My whole body was on fire. I was sore and at this point, all I thought was about Malaria. One of the native asked me if I was taking pills for it and with a concerned looked on his face told us what kind of medication I could take if indeed I had Malaria. I quickly rounded everyone up and headed for the bus station. In fear that I could potentially die before making it back to the ship I tried to use a local cell phone to call the doctor on the ship or anyone who could help me out. I just could not fathom the fact that it was 75 degrees or higher outside. I was wearing a fleece sweater and I was still cold, burning up. The bus ride to the bus station felt like an eternity. I was set on getting back to the ship that night regardless on how long it took or how I got back. Finally making it the station, a sense of a relief took over my body until finding out we could not leave immediately. The van had to fill up before it could take off. Here I was thinking, I’m gonna die of Malaria. 45 mins later, off we were. Stuck in rush hour traffic, still cold not so much a fever but still not feeling not up to par. After 6 hours of agony and pain, we finally made it back to the ship. I had not had food all today I was super dehydrated but straight to the medical center I went. There they quickly took my temp, which showed I still had a high 102 fever. I lay there in complete shivers as they attempted to take blood. (my worst nightmare) One tube down, which was tested for malaria. Because they were taking so long, that had to mean something was up… and indeed there was, I had tested positive for one of the kinds of malaria that was treatable. But to double check they wanted to do another test, so here they were probing at my arms trying to take out more blood. After 4 hours, past midnight, 2 doctors 2 nurses, calling the CDC, emailing and looking up information, I was sitting in the medical room, they concluded that they were going to treat me with Coartem, an anti-malarial agent. I seem to be doing better now, but my blood has to get sent to labs in South Africa if possible and back to the states for accurate results of what exactly it was or is that I have. You can only imagine my mom's reaction; –emailing me 8-10 times, calling the ship for information, so on and so forth. She even asked if I should come home. Here I am still alive to tell this semi horrific story. Until later friends.
Tonight and tomorrow are going to be crazy days on the MV Explorer. Tonight was the opening ceremony for SEA OLYMPICS, probably one of the biggest events on the ship. There are 10 SEA teams. I am a proud member of the BALTIC SEA, repping light blue for the next 3 months. Luckily I bought a lot of my Rhody gear so I was set to go. We got first place for our banner and tomorrow we shall KICK SOME ASS on all the events. Right now, everyone has a lot of adrenalin in preparation, I can’t wait. I wish I could post all the pictures and videos I’ve taken, but I guess that’s gonna have to wait. B to the A to the L, T to the I to the C, B A L- T I C Baltic Baltic SEA
For dinner, we had a BBQ on the pool deck. The food was amazing, so obviously I ate everything in sight that we don’t have on a daily basis. i.e – ribs, cheeseburgers, ice cream, corn- all that yum stuff. After the events were over, we were all called back to the union for closing ceremonies and to announce the winners. There were rumors that some seas had done very well in certain events so on and so forth. So there was remotely no idea what team was going to be the lucky team to get off the ship first when we dock in San Diego. After listening to Dr. Bill and Dean Dan talk, the winners were announced. There was a total of 10 teams and surprisingly, we came in 3rd. Chants & cheers followed. Aegean Sea came in 2nd and Red Sea came in 1st. Overall, today was a great day. I’m super tired and I have a feeling I’m going to lose my voice.
Feb 3rd and 4th
So it’s been two days since the Sea Olympics and I still have no voice. ? Today is the last day of classes until Feb 10th. We get to Ghana tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I have a trip to visit Castles and Salve Dungeons and Monday morning, Hannah, Rachel, Lili, and I will head over to Accra to visit Hannah’s friends. We plan on being there until Thursday and when we get back to Takordi on Thursday, we start our adventure for Cape Town South Africa.
Well that is all for now, stay tuned for my adventures in Ghana.