Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The next day, and final day in Japan, I had a trip to Mount Fuji. The day didn't go as well as I'd hoped, because the entire day it was raining and cloudy. We took a bus ride a few hours to Mount Fuji, and drove to the fifth station on the mountain. We stopped and walked around, and of course hit up the gift shop. It was so cold out and there was snow everywhere, which for some reason I wasn't expecting. I guess I thought we weren't going to be going up high enough for there to be snow. But the ground was covered and it felt like winter in Kansas, which I thought I'd missed. And lucky for me, I wore flip flops so it was even more unbearable. After spending some time shopping for Mount Fuji souvenirs, we went back to the bus and drove to the Visitor's Center. There we, once again, went to the gift shop. And after that we watched a short film about Mount Fuji. Then we drove a while to Hakone and took the ropeway for about 30 minutes. We stopped near a lake and drove a couple minutes to a boat, where we took a ride on the lake, hoping to get some good views of the mountain. But it was too cloudy and we couldn't see Mount Fuji at all. I was pretty disappointed, since that was the whole point of the trip. The rest of the trip was fun, but I was really looking forward to seeing the giant mountain. Oh well, I'll just have to come back during July or August some year and climb to the top. They said it only takes about six hours to get to the peak. After the boat ride we just took the bus ride back to the ship and I got back on, after waiting in line forever. Now's going to be the most boring stretch of the trip. We have about a week and a half until we get to Hawaii, and then another week until we get to San Diego. During that time I'll have to write a few papers and study for my finals. I don't think anyone's looking forward to the rest of the trip.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The last day we spent in Kobe, I went on a trip to Hiroshima. I was really excited for it, until I found out we were going to be taking a 5 hour bus ride out there. The ride didn't end up being all too bad, we stopped a couple times at gas stations and I tried to find some food. But everything was in Japanese, and it was really hard to tell if it had meat in it or not. I settled on a hotdog......with noodles inside. It was very interesting. Besides the sauce they put in there, the noddle-dog was actually pretty good. We got there about 2 pm and started at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Our guide gave us until 3:50 to walk around the museum, which was hardly any time. I got a lot of the way through, but by the time we had to leave, I still had a couple rooms left but was only about halfway done with the audio guide. I was pretty disappointed I missed the room where they had clothes from some of those who passed away and their stories, and the room with information on what happened to buildings. I need to go back there someday to finish going through the entire museum. There was just too much to see in such a short time! After that our guide walked us over through the park and to the statue for the 12-year-old girl who passed away from leukemia. She folded 1,000 cranes while she was in the hospital, since they symbolize peace and recovery. We all had some paper cranes that we set down there. Then we finished the tour by walking to the Dome. That's the building they decided to keep the way it was after the bomb, they've just done a little restoration to so it could be preserved. It actually has some controversy around it because some people want it to be destroyed since it reminds them of an awful time. That building was probably one of my favorites to see, because it kind of made you feel like you were right back there in 1945. One of the things that struck me the most about my day in Hiroshima, was that none of the people in Japan have negative feelings toward Americans. They are all very polite, respectful, and friendly. Their only goal is to create peace and ban all nuclear weapons around the world - and, unknowingly to me, they've been in pursuit of trying to make that happen. And after that trip, we went back to the ship, but this time we took the bullet train. It only took about an hour and a half to get back this way, so it was a lot nicer trip back. When I got back, I grabbed some dinner and went to bed. We left for Yokohama that night, and the next day we spent in transit. I spent that day watching movies and doing homework. It turned out to be a very productive and relaxing day.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
The movie was very well done and I might have found a new inspiration in Ric O'Barry. However, it brings a lot of questions to my mind. As soon as the students saw this they gasped and were really upset by the killings. And maybe this isn't logical for me to think, but it made me really mad at everyone around me. How hypocritical is it to say that the killing of these animals is wrong, but all other animals is perfectly acceptable? Is it because these animals are mammals, or because of their intellectual ability? To me, it felt the exact same as watching documentaries about the slaughter of cows and chickens. And cows are mammals. Is it just that they are "dumb" or that it's accepted to eat that kind of meat in America? Or maybe dolphins are prettier? I just can't understand it. To me, all animals are equal, and just because one is smarter or better looking, doesn't make it superior to another. I definitely think that this dolphin hunting needs to gain attention of the public, but it's ignorant to think that the same kind of treatment to animals isn't occurring in our country, right under our noses. It's ignorant to think that this town in Japan is cruel and barbaric, when similar practices happen to other animals all over the world. It's ignorant to get so worked up over something and then talk about what you bought in the last port. I think that this world is just filled with ignorant people, who like to pretend that these horrible things aren't happening all around us, or just don't care.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
The first day we were there I had two trips planned. The first was the Maglev Train trip. We took a drive around some major parts of Shanghai and had a brief city orientation. Then we went to the Jin Mao Tower, which I think is either the sixth tallest building in the world or in Shanghai. We took the elevator up to the 88th floor from the -6th floor. The ride took only around seven seconds or so before we reached the top. The view was very beautiful - you could see anything. After that we went to ride the Maglev Train. This train goes to the airport and can hit a maximum speed of 431 km/hr or about 267 miles per hour. We were able to ride it during a time when it went to its maximum speed. It was very fast, to say the least. But I wasn't ever scared until we passed a train coming the other way and for a second it sounded like we just collided with it since we passed it going so fast. The Maglev stands for Magnetic Levitation, so it uses magnetics and sits about 10 cm on top of the tracks and doesn't actually touch them. It was a very cool experience to ride on the Maglev, but I don't think the trip should have taken so long. After that, I went with a friend to eat by the ship at a Chinese restaurant. I had noodles and rice, and it was decent. By that time I had to leave for the next trip, which was an acrobatics performance. Our guide said that the ERA Acrobats worked with Cirque Du Soleil. The show was pretty incredible, it had flexible people, acrobatics flying in the air, extreme balancing acts, and even a motorcycle show, where they had six people on motorcycles going around in circles in a giant ball. That was probably my favorite.
The next day I had a trip to the Zhujiajiao Water Village. I was really excited to see a village, since that's been my favorite parts of each country. But, in my opinion, the village wasn't even really there anymore. I read that in 2012 (must have been really recent) it had been converted to a bunch of gift shops. It did have a waterway going down the middle of the village, but our guide said they don't use it anymore except for tourists. So when we got there we took a little boat ride along the waterway to one end of the village and back. Then we had two hours to walk around and shop at the gift shops. I was super disappointed that we didn't even have a guided tour or anything. It seemed just like some scam to make money, which I'm sure it was. After just walking around for two hours we went back on the bus and left. The only thing I ended up buying was a name painting for my niece, as everything else was really overpriced. I had planned to go out to the markets after that trip and had a friend to go with, but she bailed at the complete last minute. So I tried to find other people to go with, but everyone either was going to sleep or going out to get drunk.
The last day I woke up really early to hit the markets. I wanted to do a little shopping before we left and I had an FDP in the afternoon. So I met up with some people and went to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum underground markets. It was huge and had a ton of cool souvenirs to buy, but I also wanted to go to the Yu Garden Markets, so I only spent about 20 minutes at that market and headed to the second. I didn't buy much at the first market since I was holding out for the Yu Garden, but it was complete crap. It was like three stories of junk. A ton of jewelry places, kids toys, and knock off items. I didn't even have that much time to really shop since I had to be back on the ship by 1 for my FDP, so I quickly bought a bunch of junk items and left. But before I was leaving, I couldn't find my phone in my bag, I searched and searched and my friend even looked in my bag and couldn't find it. I was convinced it was stolen. But later I magically found it in my bag. I barely made it back in time for my FDP to the Shanghai Media Group, which ended up being a television station so I was extremely excited to go there. However, when we got there our teacher found out that the person he'd been corresponding with didn't really work there, or at least no one knew who he was. So our trip got canceled, which was a great ending to the day. I couldn't go out again because I'd spent all my money earlier since I didn't expect to go out again and everyone I knew was already out so there was no one to go with. I just came back to the ship and stayed on the rest of the time. So my time in Shanghai wasn't the best, I probably will never come back here. But I would like to travel to Northern China, to the Great Wall. Next we're going to Kobe, Japan.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The next day I went on a trip to do Tai Chi. We met a Tai Chi master at a park and he briefly taught us some beginner Tai Chi. It was really interesting and calming, and I really want to do more of it when I get back home! After that, we went to learn about tea and try some different kinds. I used to hate tea, but lately, since just about every Asian country drinks it all the time, I've grown to not hate it. The taste testing was nice and I want to try more types of tea now! We didn't have much time there because we had to go eat lunch in "Central." We went to a restaurant that served Dim Sum. The meal was really good! We just had noodles and vegetables, like just about everywhere else, but it was still great! Someone at our table ordered chicken feet, and that made me a little uncomfortable, but oh well. After our short day, we went back to the ship and I went back out to a different market. I decided to go, in the daytime, to the Ladies Market. It was probably the largest market I've been to yet and had just about everything you could ever want to buy! I found some really nice souvenirs and I found a small teapot with a filter so I can make some tea when I get home! In Shanghai I'm going to try to buy some teacups and loose leaf tea. After spending a while at the market, I took the bus back to the ship and stayed there since we were leaving that night. I could have traveled off the ship since we are all meeting in Shanghai, and in hindsight I don't know why I didn't. But I guess I was just thinking that I wanted to get caught up on homework since we're in the last leg of the trip and I also didn't want the hassle of planning a huge trip in China when we don't really have Internet access. I also didn't find people that were doing anything that interested me until after we had to declare if we were traveling on or off the ship. But even though I'm missing out on two extra days in China, it is nice to be on the ship with only a few other students. Nice and quiet. We will be in Shanghai on Thursday.
Friday, March 30, 2012
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on March 25 and I had a city orientation. We drove around and looked at some of the major sites of the city. Immediately, I noticed the large amounts of motorcyclists. And the traffic only seemed to get worse throughout the next few days. It's a pretty sketchy place to ride a bike in. First, we stopped at a temple that I think was Buddhist, but it might have been a mix with Caoism or Daoism or something like that. It had a huge painting on the wall of the sea. They worshiped a goddess to ensure safe crossings over the ocean. The temple was partially enclosed and outside. It had a lot of incense and candles that were used to pray to the gods and goddesses. After the temple, we went to eat at a very nice Vietnamese restaurant. I thought the food was OK, but it had too much cilantro for me. It definitely wasn't my favorite meal in Vietnam. After lunch, we visited the Unity Palace, which is where the president of South Korea once lived. It was huge and mainly consisted of large, extravagant rooms with very nice carpets and rugs, taxidermy, and nice furniture. We saw rooms like the president's office, room, and meeting rooms. Then, we went to a cathedral near the post office. It had giant ceilings, kind of like what you would picture when you think of a cathedral. We also saw the post office, which was huge and looked kind of like a train station. The last thing we did was visit a museum of Vietnam's history. It was different than the War Museum but had a lot of interesting artifacts. That's one thing we didn't get to do - go to the War Museum, and I really wish I had done that.
The next day was my trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Caodaoist Temple. We began with a long drive to the temple. It was completely different to the temple the day before. It was entirely indoors and was just one enormous room with elaborate statues and decorations.The religion fuses a lot of different religions together to create one perfect religion that wouldn't cause controversy and would create peaceful unity. Yellow stood for Buddhism, red for Confucianism, and blue for Daoism, I believe. We made it there in time for their noon service, which involved a mass prayer and song. After that, we stopped by the Cu Chi cemetery for the veterans. Then we made our way to the tunnels. First, we saw a video of life in Cu Chi, which was extremely sided toward the Vietnamese and seemed anti-American. Which makes sense for a video in the '60s, but I just thought that was interesting. Then we got a brief introduction to the tunnels and saw a model of what they once looked like. After that, we got to walk around and look at/go inside the tunnels. The openings were well hidden and extremely small. We also got to go further down into a tunnel a few feet underground. We had the option to go about 60 meters, but I only went 20 meters. It was very small, you had to crouch down, so someone that was claustrophobic had a lot of trouble. And it also had bats in it, although I didn't see any. They showed us the traps that they used to wound or kill American soldiers. They all consisted of long, metal spikes that were arranged to form various traps that rolled, swung, folded, etc. It was a different experience, because you really saw their side of the war, which also made you understand our side even better and what they had to endure. It was a lose-lose situation for both sides.
On the third day, I didn't have any trips planned. So I just found a couple girls who were going to get Internet and explore the city. We went to an Internet Cafe we had seen the day before, but it wasn't open. So we walked around and tried to talk to local people to find out if there was a place to get Internet, but no one spoke English. We were just about to give up when we saw the cutest Husky puppy. I went up to the owner and motioned to pet her and he nodded. We tried asking him if there was Internet anywhere and he, luckily, understood English, but said no. Then he said we could use the wifi in his office. It might have seemed a little sketchy to some people, but it was in the middle of the day, in a crowded area, with three people, and a man with a puppy. So we just went for it and it was completely safe. It was an advertising business and several people were working inside. They didn't mind if we skyped though, and one even struck up a conversation with me. After that, we dropped our computers off at the ship and went back out. We explored some of the markets, like the Ben Thanh market. They sold mostly electronics and American clothes. So I didn't find much to buy except headphones and an extension for my Mac cord. We decided to take a bus to a random part of town and found a local area with a long strip of shops. We walked along the strip, and I found a moped helmet that I bought. I just had to get one, since almost everyone there has one and has a moped. I really wanted to buy a moped though! We kept walking around and decided to get dinner. We finally found a restaurant but they spoke hardly any English. I asked for noodles and rice with no meat. The waiter acted like he understood, nodded his head, and even repeated "no meat." I made clear and even said, "No pork, no beef, no chicken, no fish, no shrimp." And he pretended to understand, but he didn't. When the food finally came out, mine had shrimp in it. I tried to explain to them what I wanted but they didn't understand one word I said. After nearly an hour of trying to get them to see that I didn't want the shrimp, they went in the back and quickly brought back noodles without the meat. I figured they just pulled out the meat, which I still don't eat food that has touched meat, but I just ate it anyway. I was tired of being there and wanted to leave. After dinner, the two girls I was with decided to go back to the ship, but I went to the night market. People had told me it was really safe there and it was crowded and well-lit so I decided to check it out. And I'm really glad I did because it was a great experience! I bought a lot of cool souvenirs! After about 30 minutes there, I walked to the place where the shuttle picked people up to take back to the ship.
I went to the Mekong Delta the next day. First, our guide took us to a local food market. It was good and bad. The good was all the fresh fruit and other foods all along the road. But the bad was all the meat, especially seafood. The fish were in these tiny buckets, alive, and the entire area wreaked of fish. Then we took a boat to the Mekong Delta. It kind of reminded me of those swampy, wet areas with tall plants that you saw in movies about the Vietnam War. And in fact, people in the war had to fight there. The river was brown and narrow, and one both sides were these tall plants. Then, we went to an island and saw how local people used the coconut. They use it to build houses, rugs, roofs, lamps, purses, and candy. And I bought six packs of coconut candy, I already almost finished off one. I'm trying to save the rest to bring home and share with my family. We got to see how they make the candy by shaving off coconut meat, liquifying it, and then it hardened and they hand packaged it. We also got to eat lunch there and it was very good! Then we took several boat rides, some smaller and hand paddled, and others larger and with engines. We even took a ride on a horse drawn cart, which I was very upset about. These poor horses were the size of ponies, and had to carry around six people in the heat and humidity. I wasn't very happy. But all in all, the day was interesting and we were able to see how people lived on the Mekong Delta. Although, we didn't really learn much about how they use the water in their everyday lives, which I thought was interesting.
The last day in Vietnam, I went to the Can Gio Biosphere (pronounced something like Cun Jia) with my marine biology class. We took a bus ride to a ferry, then took the ferry to the other side (wherever that was). Then we took another bus ride further to the Can Gio Reserve. Along the way, I saw a lot of aquaculture going on, especially shrimp farming. I thought that was interesting since it's one of the worst things for mangrove areas. It was interesting that there were so many since the Can Gio area was devastated by the Agent Orange gas. The shrimp farming only furthered the devastation. That and cutting down the mangroves for fire wood. But we went to the reserve and got a presentation about how they use aquaculture and about the Can Gio Biosphere in general. I saw a lot of mudskippers (which they eat), prop roots on the Rhizophora trees, pneumatophores on Avicenia, propagules (baby mangroves), macaques, an area that they farm blood cockles, crab farming (everyone else participated in fishing for crabs, but luckily caught none!), a bat island, these crazy, huge deer, a gibbon, a water snake (it was tan and had black lines going down it the long way), and some birds. We also helped rebuild the mangroves by planting baby propagules. We walked a long way through the thick mud and got covered in mud. We were the first Americans to help in the rebuilding of the area since Americans destroyed it in the Vietnam War with Agent Orange. The last thing we were able to do was probably the most exciting, maybe even my favorite on the entire voyage. We were able to feed crocodiles! We went into a caged area (it was a very large reserve that was just caged so they couldn't get out, but they said they planned to release them into Can Gio in the future) and got into a caged boat. The crocodiles came from everywhere and surrounded the boat, they knew that meant food time. Then, we were handed a fishing pole with a wire and a dead fish attached to it. The first person to do this put the pole over the edge and almost immediately the crocodile jumped up and snatched the fish from the pole and made the most terrifying sound when he closed his jaws. Then he played tug of war with the rope for a minute. I was terrified to feed them because I thought maybe they would pull me in! But the nice crocodile i fed just snatched the fish off, clean and easy. I was grateful for that. But at the end, a crocodile got the wire caught on his tooth and couldn't release. I felt really bad for it, and the tour guide just pulled really hard and eventually it snapped. But the whole experience was very cool. I've studies crocodiles in high school and only saw one in Kenya, so to be able to see that many was amazing! After the crocodiles, we went back on the bus, took the ferry, then got back on the bus again and returned to the ship. We will be traveling for two days to China, and will arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday. But the journey is expected to be rocky, because we will come very close to a typhoon - hopefully it won't get too bad.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The first thing I noticed in Singapore was a couple huge, futuristic-looking skyscrapers. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them, but I didn't even think about it. As we walked off the ship, we entered long lines for customs. To get through customs either way can be a long, time-consuming process. But after we made it through, we went to a place called Arabic Quarter. Singapore is very famous for having a variety of ethnic groups like Muslims, Indians, Chinese, etc. We were originally going to go to the world-renound zoo and botanical garden, but we decided to just explore the city since we only had one day there. So we went to Arabic Quarter and we immediately got some food at a Hawker. A hawker somewhat resembles a food court but is just filled with food vendors that are side by side. They sell all kinds of food, but this Hawker was mostly Indian food, which I didn't mind. (Oh yeah mom and Shauna, I like Indian food now.) And so I had some delicious Indian food and we left. Then we walked around Arabic Quarter, which consisted mainly of fabric shops where you could buy fabric and have it tailored. So there wasn't a lot to buy there, but it was still neat to look around. Then we went to Little India, another part of Singapore that resembled India. It had a ton of shops like what we saw in India and I found the perfect Aladdin pants I had been searching for. I also bought a ton of Singapore souvenirs for family and friends.
Probably what Singapore is best known for are its laws. Chewing gum, failing to flush the toilet, littering and jaywalking can have huge fines. The punishment for drug trafficking is death. Caning is also a form of punishment. They are very strict in Singapore, but they have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It's also known for being relatively clean compared to other places. Even having a smelly fruit called a durian is illegal in many places.
Singapore was really interesting and I felt like I might be seeing the future in a way, but I think it's a little too strict for me. There's also not a whole lot to do there other than walking around and going to the zoo. I am not sure if I'll end up going back there.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
My first impression of India wasn't too great. Well, strike that, my first impression of India, pulling into the port was amazing. Palm trees everywhere, beautiful buildings on the side of the water, it was gorgeous. But when I went to exchange my South Africa Rand for Indian Rupees, which I was told I could do at the front desk of the ship (they had several Indians there who were exchanging money), my impression of India went way down. The exchange rate for Rand to Rupees is 1:6.56 or so, and I expected it to be worse at this exchange but when we offered me 3,000 Rupees for 1,000 Rand I was shocked. An exchange of 1:3 was really, really low. So I said absolutely not and he actually tried to bargain with me. He asked if I would take 4,000 and I just walked away. I'm not stupid, I know that goes on a lot in India, but when you are dealing with money exchange, especially on the ship, that was really unacceptable. I didn't hear about that happening when exchanging dollars to rupees to my only guess is that he didn't think I knew the exchange rate and figured he could get away with it. I think the ship should do a little more investigating if their going to bring in a local money exchange for the students. Anyway, after that things didn't get much better. For some reason, whether it was students taking a long time to go through customs or immigration taking forever to process the ship, we were a couple hours late getting off the ship, making everyone late for their trips. There was just this huge mob of people waiting in Tymitz Square for such a long time and that was not fun at all. Once we finally left the ship, I raced to my bus and we left for our trip to the Kumbalanghi Village. On the trip we took the bus maybe 30 minutes to an area where we got on a little boat (I can't think of the name) and took a short ride over the brackish backwaters to the village. When we got there we were greeted with a coconut, which I've learned to like on this trip and become a pro at drinking/eating. They taught us the various ways they use the coconut and palm trees, which are very plentiful in India. We saw veeshu vala, fishing with conical nets, and padal, fish trapping in coconut tree leaves. They also showed us how they catch crabs (huge blue crabs that they catch from the ocean and grow until maturity in freshwater), catch fish, boil clams, make coir from the palm fibers, make coconut milk, use the leaves as shelter, climb and get the coconut, sharpen knives, break open coconuts, and much more that I just can't think of right now. But it's amazing how one plant can be used for so much! You can literally use every part of the palm tree for something, according to our guide. After all of this, they treated us to a great meal, which I was surprised about considering I don't like Indian food. Of course they had curry, which I hate, but also fish, shrimp, and several vegetarian dishes, which I enjoyed. Then six young girls performed a dance for us for when their friends are about to be married. When we were done, they let us all ride in a richshaw, just for a few minutes, to get to our bus. The rickshaw is a three-wheel motorcoach and seems a little sketchy, but it was still a lot of fun! Then we quickly viewed several sights of Kochi since we were running late. We just went to the first European church built in India I think at Fort Kochi, the first European colony. The church was where Vasco Da Gama was once buried, he first discovered India. Then we walked to the Chinese fishing nets near an area where there was a market and got bombarded with salespeople (I think it was a trap!). On the way, some of us saw a snake charmer on the other side of the street. I was the first to see it and looked over and all I saw was a cobra figure swaying back and forth in a small basket and asked, does that look real to you? After we decided it was real, one of the professors whipped out his camera, and as I was about to do the same, the man put the lid back on the basket and demanded money for pictures. Since I didn't have any money and didn't really want to condone using animals for such entertainment I just kept walking. But it would've been amazing to get that on camera! At the market I surprisingly didn't get hassled. I just didn't make eye contact with the salespeople, and the one who wouldn't leave me alone I just completely ignored and walked away. But several guys on the trip must have just looked like they were going to give in because they just wouldn't leave them alone, so I tried to help saying that this was our first day here and nobody had gone to an ATM yet so we didn't have money. Which wasn't true, but usually when you look at them and say I have no money they will back off. And it worked in these instances. After that we just went back on the bus and went back to the ship.
On Tuesday I went with my media studies class to visit the Times of India, which is India's most popular newspaper. They just recently opened the bureau in Kochi in February so everyone was new. But they had some very interesting things to say, and I was a little surprised considering we have a tendency to view newspapers as boring in the US. But in India, it's quite the opposite. Newspapers are still very popular and aren't going to become obsolete any time soon, according to the editor. He said that many people, even young kids, read the newspaper often. Even though they have an online web page that's free to read, people still buy newspapers. He said it might be because buying Internet is more expensive than paying 2 rupees (1 dollar = 50 rupees). He also said that English newspapers tend to be weren't popular in India at all until the Times of India began. Another interesting fact is that they are sponsoring scientists to go and get water samples from the river in Kerala and testing the water. Then they are going to report the results and show how poor and polluted the water is. I thought this was very strange because usually it's the governments job to fund such research but the newspaper company was taking it into their own hands to show people the extent of the problem. In addition to all of the newspaper's accomplishments, I was also very impressed with the hospitality. The entire time we were there we were being served with bottled water, more cookies than we could eat, and the most amazing coffee I've ever had. All while in the most air-conditioned room I've been in in India. I felt really spoiled.
The third day I had a trip to another village called Chendamangalam. Upon arriving, we were greeted by young girls who threw flower petals as we walked by. Then 10 or 20 members of the community were waiting for us, along with a musical performance using drums and a sort of trumpet instrument. We were, of course, given a coconut and watched as the women performed a traditional dance. Then we were shown a 93-year-old grandmother's recently built home, it looked nicer than many American homes. We were then served a meal on banana leaves, which consisted of fish for some (and I have the recipe for it for my mother!), potatoes, rice, breads, and bananas. After that, they gave us a tour of part of the village and we just walked around for a while. Everyone was very friendly and the locals stood outside of their homes as we passed to wave hello. We were able to meet many of the young boys and speak with them. Surprisingly, there weren't many young girls we saw outside. After walking around, we drank some lemon tea and then went to a factory where the villagers weaved. I was a little taken aback because it looked somewhat like a sweatshop. Women working inside a hot building all day and being paid very little. But I guess it's how they are able to make money. We were then taken to a shop and I bought a dotee/tablecloth. After that we just went back to the ship.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
The next day I went with a couple friends to the Two Oceans Aquarium and it was amazing! There were a ton of underwater animals and even a touch tank. Then we went to lunch in the mall and went to the Botanical Gardens. We had to take a taxi there, but it wasn't too far away. It was very beautiful, but really only interesting to those who have a passion or hobby for plant species. There were a couple birds but no other animals there. The plants and flowers and view in general was great, but walking around a viewing plants got a little boring after a while.
On the third day, I originally had an FDP that I sold so I could go to Robben Island. We woke up early and went shopping around the market and I got some paintings and little things. Then we went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. This island was where they took political leaders who opposed the apartheid. But, it was also used by the Dutch and British earlier for prisoners as well as people with Leprosy. They didn't understand the disease and they didn't have a cure for it so they put everyone on a island who had it and they were forbidden to have children. But during the 70s through the 90s, it was used for political leaders like Nelson Mandela and Sobukwe. We got to see Mandela's cell, as well as other people's cells and group cells. We also got a bus tour of the island and saw some of the sites. Then we went back to the ship and relaxed for a while, before coming back out to Skype.
On the fourth day in Cape Town, I went on a trip to the Amy Biehl Foundation. Amy Biehl was a Fulbright scholar who came to South Africa to study and help with the apartheid. She was stoned and then stabbed to death by four angry black men who thought she was a white person trying to take their freedom away. Her parents started the foundation to end the cycle of violence by educating children and better preparing them for future job opportunities, and also giving them after school programs. We visited the office, where apparently two of Amy’s killers worked. I did not meet them but other people in my group did. I think all four of her killers are now associated with the foundation in one way or another. Then we visited a school and met some of the children and the principal. We also went to a couple after school programs that were focused on teaching the kids music and dance. They performed several dances for us and I even got some on video! We ate at a restaurant that served only meat, so it was very frustrating and difficult for me to find anything to eat. But, overall the trip was one of my favorites and I would seriously consider going back and volunteering at the Amy Biehl Foundation.
The next day I decided to go out and get some stamps and some more money. So I walked to the Waterfront and didn’t have any problems. It was really nice walking around by myself for the morning without anyone else to worry about. Somehow, I felt safer in Cape Town than any other place we’ve visited. Safer than most places I’ve been to in the U.S. But later I found out that there were larger amounts of theft reported, including at least one person robbed at gunpoint in a taxi. Other incidences included people walking to the Waterfront, like I did, and just being held at knifepoint. I was extremely surprised to hear that and felt lucky, to say the least. I’m not sure if I didn’t look like I had anything of value, considering I never dress up for the countries, or if I was just not in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if I walked to fast for them. Because every time I was around a South African male (white or black) I would pick up my walking, but I really wasn’t ever alone in the sense that there were always a few people around. Whatever it was, I definitely will not be walking around there by myself again. Apparently, there were so many incidences that they are considering not returning next year. Anyway, after my dangerous morning, I had my trip to the Cape Community TV station, or C-TV. It was very interesting because its purpose was strictly social movement media, meaning they didn’t play mainsteam or entertainment media. Only issues that were pertinent to their community. They even had meetings where members of the community could get together and discuss what topics they wanted to be broadcast. It was also interesting because rather than being a journalism station that aims for neutrality (which is what every news station will tell you, but hardly ever are) they explicitly said that they were left-wing and if you wanted something to be on the air, it had to agree with their views otherwise they wouldn’t air it. I’m not sure if I liked this idea because the type of journalism I’m partial to is neutral and objective. But on the other hand, can you create a media that is intended to change social norms and ideas without having an agenda? Whichever, it was great to see a different point of view on how journalism should be.
The final day in Cape Town, I woke up to a rocky start. I had a trip planned for 7:30 in the morning and I tried to get to bed early so I would feel rested. My roommate, however, had a different idea when she came into the room with a boy, intoxicated of course, and they blew some horn over and over again. I finally told them to leave and that was the end of that, but it was not the best start to my last day there. My trip was to the West Coast National Part and Langebaan Lagoon. Although we didn’t see many animals since it wasn’t a game park, it was still really neat. We saw eland, ostriches, flamingoes off in the distance, and a variety of birds, along with the landscape of the lagoon and grassland. After that we came back and left for the rocky seas. We will be in Mauritius on Tuesday, just for the day.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The next day we went to the Kakum National Rainforest, which is north of Cape Coast. This park was basically a short hike up some very steep hills and stairs to the canopy areas, where we crossed these wobbly "bridges" over a 100-200 ft drop. It was a little freaky, but very interesting. Did not see any animals though. Then after waiting for my group to eat, which took at least an extra hour, we went back to Cape Coast. At that time I was starving, but the same three girls didn't want me to eat. They told me to get "fast food" so we could go. I don't remember telling them that while I was waiting for them to eat. So we left and returned back 4 hours to Tema and I had a veggie burger on the ship. Yum. After that, my roommate and some other people went to an Internet Cafe for a bit and then we went home. It's very interesting learning how to bargain with the taxi drivers. The first day when we went to Cape Coast, we were told a price of "4 mil.", which we took as 4 million cedis, for two cars. But after five very confusing minutes, they explained that that was 400 cedis. I managed to get it down to 360 for three cars, which was a decent price. We had some very interesting discussions with the taxi drivers about Ghanaian politics, government, and their culture.
Yesterday I went with SAS to a local radio station in Ada. It was very interesting to see it and learn about their local radio.The stations there are much more community based and focus on controversial issues that occur to try to fix them or better develop the areas. They also try to address "glocal" issues, or global issues relating on a local scale. I was very excited to see their radio station, and it seemed like the used older technologies but it was similar to what I've seen, the audio boards and they also use Marantz recorders. After we left the radio station, they took us to a local community where they mine salt, or also called salt weathering. There were mounds of salt for miles and miles, it was pretty spectacular. Everyone there seemed to enjoy what they did and it was a pleasant community. We asked a woman what her dream job would be and she said, "What do you mean? This is my job. I do this to support my children." Then we asked two kids what their dream jobs would be and they said teacher and accountant. I'm glad to see they have those dreams, but unfortunately, some kids there are taken out of school so they can work at the salt mine and make money for their family.
Today, I went to Accra with a couple girls and it was really fun! People were saying some pretty negative things about it because everywhere you go, Ghanaians come up to you and try to get money. But I expected that going in, so if you really understand what it will be like then maybe it's not such a shock. You just have to be very insistent about not wanting anything and they will usually go away. Some girls aren't very good at that because they don't want to be mean. The thing is, they talk to hundreds of people every day so as long as you aren't completely rude, that isn't out of the ordinary for them. We went to Global Mamas, a fair trade organization and I would highly recommend going there. I bought a wallet, bag for make up, some headbands, a hat for my mom (sorry not a surprise anymore mom!), and a shirt for my niece. I wanted to buy more but I didn't bring enough money and the store is more expensive than on the street because everything is hand made and didn't use child slaves. I think it might be all made by mothers, but they write on the tag who made the item. That store had some amazing things, I wish I could've bought more! Then I went to a nice store on the side of the street, I chose it because the guy didn't come out and hassle me. He also gave me a very fair price when I asked him about a drum so I shopped there for a while. A lot of people bought drums in Ghana, and they are aware of this, so they make the price really high and try to scam you. If you come to Ghana and want a drum, or anything for that matter, be aware of that and know what the item is worth so you don't overpay. Anyway, I bought a medium sized drum from him for my boyfriend, a mask, and a dress for my niece. I think it was a pretty successful day of shopping. I only have 3 cedis left so that's just enough for a taxi back to the ship. Tonight I'm just planning on relaxing and doing some homework (I have a paper and oral presentation due by Wednesday, on top of reading). Then tomorrow, I'm going to try to find some stamps to mail my postcards. We have to be back on the ship at 6 and I know there will be a huge crowd starting around 4, so I'm not trying to get back that late. Next stop will be Cape Town next Friday.
From Brazil to Ghana, we had one of our longest stretches of days at sea, the longest being from Yokohama to Hilo. It was difficult for most, since we experienced the rockiest waves we have come across yet. My roommate and I spent the majority of two of the days sleeping. However, it paled in comparison to the SAS experience in 2005. Nonetheless, it was different and tough to get used to. Unfortunately, we are expecting to see even worse waves from Ghana to South Africa. Eventually the waves became smoother and the last couple days to Ghana were enjoyable.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
On Tuesday, bright and earlya t 8 a.m., I left for my first excursion in Brazil. It was the Swimming with Dolphins faculty-directed practica. We left for a two hour boat ride to a local man’s property who had been preserved very well. We hiked through the rainforest for an hour or so, something we weren’t aware that we were going to be doing. I’m glad I didn’t know though, because had I known I might not have gone. But it was one of my favorite parts thus far. We didn’t see any animals but so much flora and that was amazing in itself. I’ve been taking notes about what we see and what the tour guides have been telling us. Unfortunately, later in the night while caiman catching, I dropped the paper in water so it’s drying right now. But if I can remember correctly, we saw Brazil wood, a type of orchid, obviously many plants that I don’t know the name of, and several insects. Oddly, I didn’t see any mosquitoes during the hike, but many insects on the ground. There were huge black ants and then these tiny red ants called Army Ants. You really have to watch out for those suckers. We weren’t supposed to stop when around them, but when people around you have stopped on this tiny path, it’s hard to avoid. A girl behind me started hyperventilating because she was afraid of being bitten by these ants. Anyway, after the hike, we went to get lunch at a local outside restaurant. I didn’t find any food particularly interesting, there was pasta and a lot of fruit. Oh and of course, fish, however I wasn’t able to sample those. So far I haven’t given in to eating meat at all and it hasn’t been too difficult. After lunch, we went to a lake that fed these dolphins so they lived in the area. These dolphins are called pink river dolphins or Pink Amazonian Dolphins. They are obviously pink and look differently than marine dolphins. I had no idea that these dolphins existed, so swimming with them was incredible. I have to admit, they look a little intimidating but it’s way too cool to be scared! Although I can’t speak for my fellow females, who spent the entire time in the water screaming. We weren’t supposed to scream because it could obviously scare the dolphins. But I guess that’s what some girls do. They swam under and around me, touching my legs and feet, in this completely black water. So I could see how it could be frightening for some since you can’t see what is swimming under you. After swimming, we went back to the ship and I prepared for a second trip that day. Around 7 in the evening, I went caiman spotting, or as they called it “alligator spotting.” I’m not sure if they call it that for uninformed people, but caiman and alligator are definitely not the same. I don’t think they even have alligators in Brazil. But they have plenty of caiman, which we saw. I was a little disappointed because we went out in several of these small boats, but our tour guide didn’t catch any himself. When another boat caught one, he took us over there to see and hold it. Holding a caiman was very cool, but I really wanted to see him actually catch one. But I did hold one, a speckled caiman, and they are either very tame or just so freaked out they won’t really move. Very beautiful animals. I felt bad for them because some students dropped them. I swear, I never thought I was really suited for nature, but compared to some people here I sure am. For some reason, I haven’t been scared or worried at all this trip, but I’ve seen a numerous amount of people freaking out.
On Wednesday, I had to wake up early again to go on an excursion called Amazon Explorer. I was a little disappointed with this one personally, but I know some people who really enjoyed it. We took a river boat out to the meeting of the waters, where the Rio Negro, a black river, met the Amazon or Rio Solimoes, which is a brown color. Look it up, it’s very cool! I really enjoyed this part because seeing the extreme contrast was something I’d never seen before. The rivers are different colors, temperatures, and have different flora and fauna in them, yet they are so close. Then we went to the exact same place I had gone caiman spotting the night before. We went on a short walk through another part of the rainforest that didn’t have natural trails but had boards and walkways built by man. We saw a cappuccino monkey in the trees, lizards, and caiman in a lake with many water lilies. I also saw many, many mosquitoes. Luckily, my roommate brought Permethrin to spray on our clothes so the insects didn’t touch me. But I couldn’t say that for other people there, especially those who wore tank tops and shorts. Then we ate at the restaurant there, which served the same thing I had the day before. Then we sat there for literally two hours waiting for a small boat to come. They had 100 people on this excursion which affected my experience. Having to sit there in the heat and humidity in long sleeves and pants for so long wasn’t fun. I think they definitely could’ve planned this better. Finally, a boat arrived for my group and we went piranha fishing. And when I saw we, I mean they fished and I watched. I had no idea when I signed up that we’d be fishing so I was very disappointed. They did throw them back in the water afterwards, but fishing isn’t an activity I really support. But only our tour guide caught one, no one else had any luck. Or maybe that was just my luck, since I’d hoped that no one would catch any. After the fishing we just returned to the river boat and came back to the ship, where I took a nice shower and relaxed all evening.
Thursday I had another trip planned to the zoo and it was a service project as well. I knew that we would be visiting an orphanage and taking children to the zoo with us. But what I wasn’t aware of was that this orphanage, Abrigo Moacyr Alves, is a special orphanage that only takes in kids with neurological diseases. It’s about 20 years old and they have 54 people living there. Some of the kids are only mildly affected but there are others who are very sick and are confined to a special infirmary room. It was a different experience for me since I was already nervous being around kids without such disorders so I was very nervous around these children. After we walked around the facility, which is paid for by the state, government, and donations, we left and went to the zoo. Upon arriving we helped serve them lunch and then took the children around the zoo. There were interesting animals such as boas, anacondas, big cats, a harpy eagle, capybara, many birds, and many monkeys. All animals there are found in the rainforest. After walking around the zoo we said our goodbyes and left. The rest of the day I went shopping at the markets with a girl I met from Boulder. We ended up going to the mall here, which was a huge disappointment because they only had Americanized stores. Anyway, after walking around for a while and trying to order food, which was probably the hardest thing I've ever done, we left and I went to a wifi area near the ship to skype and catch up with the blogging. Now I'm getting ready to go back to the ship and get some well deserved sleep. Tomorrow my roommate and I are going to the market early to buy some nice local souvenirs and then the ship is leaving Manaus by 5 p.m. Next stop: Ghana.
I couldn’t get myself to wake up early enough, so I slept in a bit, seeing as how my field trip wasn’t until 1:30 p.m. (1330). So when I woke up, I got ready and met my group to go snorkeling in Champagne Reef (a must for any snorkeling/scuba enthusiast). Although I had a lot of fun and saw so many beautiful coral and fish, I’d recommend not going in a large group and just going there on your own. Being in a huge group following one dive master and having beginner snorkelers kick you in the face is not fun. But I’d love to return and do a little snorkeling with a small group of people. We saw many different coral, including brain and fire coral, an octopus, and many different fish. Also, there were bubbles coming out of the bottom (hence the name Champagne reef). My professor and dive master explained what caused this, but of course I can’t remember now.
On Tuesday, I woke up and got ready for my 4x4 adventure through the forest! It was very cool. We took safari-like jeeps and went through the forest and up the mountains. We saw many different plants and waterfalls. Then we went to a little cave area with a lake that we swam in. That was where they shot a part in Pirate’s of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest. So that was pretty exciting but it was freezing. It was beautiful driving through the semi-deciduous forest. I’m exhausted now and I’m about to go get dinner, do some homework and go to bed.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
On Monday we had our first dive. And for me it turns out it was my last. We left at 8 a.m. and took a boat out into the ocean. It had been a couple years since I last dove so the feeling of breathing under water was a little foreign. As soon as I jumped into the water, I immediately began hyperventilating. I have no idea why, possibly the cold waters. But as soon as I went under, I was fine. It was a beautiful dive, we saw various fish, coral, and a reef shark. But as soon as we surfaced, I immediately became sick and started vomiting. NOT FUN. Lucky for me, they had to go back and pick up some more divers from the dock and they let me off before they went on their second dive to see a sunken ship and plane used for a James Bond movie. It was upsetting that I couldn't see those. But I did find out that a boat near ours belonged to Johnny Depp who was enjoying a nice day on the ocean. So after we came back to the hotel and took a nice hot shower, we got ready to go to the zoo and see some marching flamingoes. That was pretty neat. Then I took a bus back to the hotel while everyone else went and got pizza. I was pretty tired so I just crashed.
On Tuesday we woke up, got some breakfast, and got ready to go to the Atlantis Resort. We went to the Aquaventure which is just a huge water park kind of like Oceans of Fun, but way nicer. We mainly went on the lazy river for a while, which had a bunch of rapids and drops. We also saw a couple aquariums at the Atlantis. Really wish we would've stayed there instead of the Sheraton!! So after that, we went out to eat at a nice Greek restaurant and then took a taxi back to the hotel. We just hung out there and I started packing since I needed to be on the ship Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I arrived at 3 (and was the last one) to get on the ship as a work-study student. It was nice to meet all of the work-study students, get unpacked, and walk around the ship before everyone else was there. We had a meeting and met the rest of the audio-visual work-study students and our supervisor. We mainly work with projectors, tvs, microphones, audio levels, cameras, things like that.
The next day, all of the other students came and I worked helping students get checked in and welcoming them. After I was done working, I finally met my roommate. We went to dinner and had several meetings in the evening. We were supposed to leave around 5 p.m. (1700) but apparently some students had trouble with their visas and we all decided to wait for them. We waited through the night and until Friday evening, when they all finally boarded the ship. We all left and went on our way to Roseau, Dominica.