Thursday, December 18, 2008

I did it..


Yeah. I did. And here's why:
It's not because I had a break down when I returned to the US and realized that I just couldn't keep up with showering daily. Even though when I woke up this morning after having not showered for two days and my hair was a greasy mess made - made all the more obvious by my DARK roots - I screamed that life would just be easier if I was *actually* blonde. No, instead I'm going to blame it on Love Actually:


More specifically, we're going to focus on a little trifecta in the upper right (or is that left?) hand corner of this scoring web. (Which, by the way, I must admit...is a bit more impressive than those made on teh boards of Kitt II way back when.) Here's that love triangle:
For you sinners that haven't seen the movie, man cheats on blonde wife with hot brunette assistant. That's right ladies and gentlemen, it's no longer hot to be blonde. The new hot ones are the mysterious, often overlooked brunettes.

So I marched right in to my hair appointment today and announced, "Frank, I want to go dark." The place went silent. The Jew in the back even dropper her bagel. Frank gasped. "I'm I'm sorry...what did you say?"

"Dark. Brunette. Hot. Mysterious. I want it."

"Eli, I cannot agree to this unless you absolutely confirm with me that this is what you want. Tell it to me in three languages now. Tell me that you want to go dark."

"Je ne voudrais pas blonde. Me gusta marron. umm...obrigada?"

Frank stared at me, armed with foils and scissors and then he called in the support team. One blonde woman rushed over, "I once went dark. Hun, it's all bad. It's different. People don't pay as much attention to you. I missed it. I went back. Real soon." "We don't want to lose your business. We want you to be happy." I explained to them that I'd gotten all the blonde attention I needed what...with traveling in China and all.

No. Blondes are the girl-next-door cute look. Brunettes are hot. I was convinced.

So I did it. Frank convinced me to keep a little blonde in there. But for the most part I did it. I didn't really believe the reflection in the mirror. Or the gasps of others as they walked into the north Jersey hair salon...shocked to see somebody going dark...why...when they paid so much to go light...

It actually didn't hit me that I am now a brunette until I was in line at CVS. And this little blond woman cut in front of me and I said something about it and she just turned and flipped her hair as if to say "excuse me hun, but did you see the hair...I'm blonde and you're not and that's just something that me and other blondes are allowed to do to you and other...ugly girls."

And then the guy at the pharmacy didn't flirt with me nearly as much as he normally would have.

And then I went to buy some wine at the Chatham wine shop and they carded me.

And then I marched right back to CVS and bought some blonde hair dye.

Let's call that one...a fun social experiment. Anyways...here's a picture...and no...it's not a wig:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vagina Vagina Vagina – December 5

I think the most devastating part of my first term at St. Paul’s was getting that shocker of a C…in acting. I mean…I knew that a new school was going to be hard. But a C. In acting? Needless to say, this saddened me enough to end my acting career a few terms early. I ended up fulfilling my arts credits with art history.

It’s a true testament to the boredom on the ship (we’ve now figured out gin…any other cards games out there??) then for me to have auditioned to be in the Vagina Monologues. Either that or I like vaginas enough to overcome my fear of acting. Apparently in my years off the stage, however, I think I lost…what’s that word…my…talent in the field. After the incredibly stressful auditions (I was told to do a “mountain-top moan” on the spot), I was assigned a total of 192 words for the play.

And boy were they hard to memorize. I had to remember a list of things people’s vaginas would say if they could talk. And that’s not easy because they’re all kina the same (PS – 192 words right now to get a sense of how long my part was). How was I supposed to keep track of when “whoa mama” came relative to “brave choice” or “find me”??

My other big part was a short piece of female genital mutilations. This was properly titled a “not-so-happy-fact.” And yeah…192 words total…both pieces combined.

Oh I guess I didn’t count that I got to scream the “college moan” during the last monologue. I think it was supposed to be something like “myroommatemyroommatemyroommate” but I, in a very Ivy league manner, decided to change it to “I should be STUDYINGGGGGGGGGG!” It was great.

The only other time I had ever seen the vagina monologues performed was actually during my fifth form at SPS when Nash put it on for the Fiske Cup. For all you non-SPSers – Nash is a guys dorm. So it was a group of high school boys performing the vagina monologues. They did present it impressively well…but I’ve got to say, I’m not quite sure anybody can moan about studying quite the way I do.

The Second November 20

This blog is WAYY overdue but I figured I should at least throw it out there that way back when we crossed the international date line. So we had two November 20ths! Even cooler though…we were literally in a time zone that does not exist for an entire day. (Standard -13…look it up) This was because, rather than reversing our clock 23 hours, el captaino that I love so much decided that he’d have us reverse our clocks 24 hours…and then lose an hour of sleep the next night. Thanks for that. Because my body just LOVES losing an hour of sleep every other night. Especially when we get the day off from school on the second November 20th but not on November 21st.

To keep us entertained during our day off from school on the Second November 20th, we had a World Food Summit on the ship. It was kind of like a model UN except different. I don’t really know how it was different because I’ve never actually done Model UN. But I represented Japan and we wanted to find out a long term solution to the food crisis (which was that like 70% of the world’s supply of rice was wiped out in an out-of-season tsunami). Another group focused on the short term solution, which was especially fun because Japan was the only county unaffected by the “crisis” so we had all the power in that group. For the long term solution, as Japan, I got to repeat the refrain “environment” many many times while everybody else talked about population control and opening barriers to trade.

It was actually a fun hands-on learning experience. We had people representing the G-8 plus all the countries we’ve been to on this trip and a few other. There were also “lobbyists” and special interest groups running around trying to push their agendas. It was almost representative of how policy-makers go about solving international crises. Except that we’re a ship full of idealists and when “Condoleeza Rice” agreed that the US should stop investing in biofuels in order to provide food security to SE Asia I had to step in and just tell her that she simply could not agree to that.

In the end though, I’m pretty sure that Japan won.

Panama Canal - December 11

You can watch me! I'm on a webcam somewhere. I don't know the address for it but I'm pretty sure if you google "Panama Canal webcam" you should find the link. And then look for the MV Explorer. We're about to go past the first and then we go past the second one this afternoon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

YES! – December 5, 2008 – second time around

And as today’s maybe-not-final reminder that we ARE at sea: I just witnessed the best ever slow-motion collision of girl with full plate of food with girl walking past her. We all saw it coming. There was enough time for the entire dining hall (which is actually not that many people…just the nerds studying and not tanning) to turn and watch as the boat rock catapulted them into each other and food went flying. Followed by a waiter coming up right behind them and exclaiming “Crash!”

I tried to start the slow clap but I don’t think it was slow enough or something? I don’t know, nobody else joined in.

Just a Reminder – December 5, 2008

Life at sea was definitely getting too easy. I haven’t been sea sick since the Indian Ocean (I love being able to refer to time periods based on oceans or countries: “Yeah we talked about that before Malaysia…”) and people now seem to only fall out of their chairs because they’re clumsy (Carly, that’s your reward if you actually ever do read this), but of course…it was getting too easy. And the captain obviously felt like something needed to be done about that.

So he drove straight into 10 foot waves. I’m pretty sure it was just for fun. But I was suddenly reminded of the days of slamming into walls as I walked down the hall. Actually, what was really unique about these ones were that we were going really slowly so the rocks were slow, but HUGE – and I would suddenly stop as I was walking side to side on the ship because the incline was too big (yeah I know…skiing is going to be miserable this Christmas. Poppy, please please don’t buy me a pass for every day. I will not be able to do it). And then I would suddenly be falling/sprinting forward as the boat rocked back the other way. My new challenge became keeping a steady pace rather than avoidingwalls.

Our rooms are pretty well configured for rocks like this. Unless you put something on the very small space on the very small “dresser” (more of a bedside table), then it’s secure. And the beds are configured so that you rock head to toe. It’s some great fung shwe or whatever. But I also just realized this morning – upon talking with a professor – that the professor’s beds are configured in the opposite direction. So they rock to side to side. And when waves are like this…they rock side to…floor. Oh the terrors of having a larger room with a balcony, queen size bed, couch, walk in close, and a full sized dresser. I feel terrible for her for falling out of her bed. Really.

And today’s second reminder that we actually are at sea and studying for my exams right now cannot be *that* bad because I’m getting at tan too…WE SAW DOLPHINS! Literally, finally.

It would have been a grave disappointment to sail almost-all-the-way-around-the-world (disappointment about that one in the next blog) and never even see a dolphin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Japanese Toilets

After the India-Malaysia-Vietnam-China stretch, almost everything in Japan came as a relief. Hotels had wireless, public transportation was clean, it was safe to brush our teeth with tap water…and then we could even drink the tap water afterwards! Etc etc etc

But nothing was quite as wonderful as that porcelain goddess that I love so dear. Because toilets were not only raised back up to Western standards…they exceeded them. I first saw all the buttons at our hotel. But I was too nervous then to use them. But there were so many options: they would spray your backside, spray your frontside, you could change the water pressure and temperature, they would heat the seat for you, send out a little puff of powder on your bottom, start the jets in the bathtub, call your boyfriend and break up with him for you. It looked incredible.

But it of course took me a few drinks to work of the confidence (or stupidity?) to actually use one of them. So yes, the first one that I used was in a public bathroom at a bar in Kobe, Japan. Ostracize me for that one after I tell my story.

Okay so I pushed the button…and I liked it. Damn did I like the feel of that water on my butt-icks. So I changed up the pressures and the angles and the temperature and then I realized that I had probably been in the bathroom for an awkwardly long time. Keep in mind that I was travelling with two guys in Japan. This is when I found out that my magic toilet was missing a critical button: the stopping one. Oh shiza. I pushed every single button and nothing would happen. And somebody was knocking…umm…vashinglibatten? I knew I should’ve paid more attention during Road Trip. *Knock*Knock*Knock*

Okay I was starting to get desperate. With apologies to the next person, I quickly jumped off the seat and slammed down the lid. Washed my hands because there was actually a sink and then ran out, only to run into one of the guys I was travelling with. Oh god. He wouldn’t know how to fix it…should I tell him? Of course not. So instead I just stood outside and told He-li to laugh with me. And that is my story of toilets in Japan.

One Exam Down – December 2

Two more plus one essay to go.

I’m sorry for the constant academic updates…but suddenly…they’ve taken over my life. Remember how I told you that the ship ran out of paper during midterm? Well this time, it’s worse, much worse. We’ve run out of Red Bull. I have never needed Chi Gam’s rent-a-bro service more in my life: “Hi, yes, can you please deliver five cases of Red Bull to the MV Explorer? Location 115 degrees 37.4 minutes west and 18 degrees 4 minutes north. Thanks!” I don’t exactly need the Red Bulls* – but damn, that profit would be INCREDIBLE!

Time at sea is really not all that interesting. The highlight of my day today was when Micah – the three year old bombshell on the ship – got on the ship’s speaker system and wished us all good luck as we were starting our exams. So to make up for that I’m going to try to use this time to fill you in on a few stories that I’ve left out during the voyage. Mostly in order of what pops up first:

TOILETS

The first non-western toilet I encountered was in South Africa. But I didn’t have to use it so it really didn’t matter that the toilet at the school I was visiting was literally a bucket in a room.

But then in India, I found the same thing. Except this time I had my period. Let’s make a quick list of worst places EVER to have your period:

1. Rural Indian village

2. During a one night stand – in the guy’s bed

3. When you’re in eighth grade and think you’re all cool swimming with the boys at Storr’s Pond and then you get on the raft and one of them points at your leg and is all like “eww you’re bleeding!”

4. While working with a group of guys in Mississippi who tell you that you should just squat behind a tree if you need to go to the bathroom so badly because no, they’re not stopping before lunch and no, they won’t give you the keys to drive to an actual bathroom

5. When travelling with a group of guys in Japan

I guess I’ve told you all about my bowel movement this term so I might as well not hold back now…

Onto Malaysia. During our first night there, Cory and I found this fantastic local celebration/performance/outdoor club. All the locals loved us and our blonde hair and kept us dancing and drinking all night long. At one point I asked where the bathroom was and this one lady walked me to a secluded door and said she’d stand outside. She closed the door behind me and I was left staring at a hole in the ground. Not any old hole though…it was literally a toilet bowl, dug into the ground, complete with liftable seat. Which was quite humorous because the only way one could sit on the seat would be by lifting their legs straight up in the air and I really didn’t see any reason for that. So this was all about good aiming. There was even a little spout and bucket in the corner for me to wash my hands with! (cue for laughter from all that have been to a Southeast Asian country – but that’s what I did with it) And then of course when I left there was a guy standing outside waiting for me, holding a fresh, unopened beer in his hand. Umm…thank you?

And then Vietnam…oh Vietnam. Most of the showers in Vietnam were actually in the same room as the toilets, which meant that most of the time when you went to go pee the seat was completely soaked. You were guaranteed to get some part of you wet in some way. And we continued to run into the Malaysia type of hole-in-the-ground toilets too. On our last day at the Mekong Delta we stopped at a truck stop for lunch. The two other girls in the group ran off to the bathroom and when they came back they informed me that they were “not western” toilets. I kind of assumed as much but didn’t ask them for any more details. Then right as we were all about to leave I figured I should just make one quick stop in the bathroom. So I hurried over to the bathroom – I didn’t want to keep anyone waiting – and let myself in to the first open stall. That’s right about when the confusion began. I turned around and saw only a showerhead and a drain in the corner. Okay. I knew that they had told me these weren’t western toilets…and I thought that it was a little strange that they would point it out…but they could’ve told me that there weren’t any toilets! What were my options? Was I supposed to just squat in the center and then use the shower head to aim it all into the corner? Or could I stand in the corner and “lift my junk” (is that another Chelsea Harris reference? Shit…she might be winning at the reference game or something) and aim for the drain? No no no…this could not be right. There had to be some form of a toilet. Convinced that I was wrong, I exited the stall, noticed that I had inadvertently cut a huge line of people, ignored that fact, and ran towards the next open one. Victory: there was a toilet. By toilet I obviously mean a toilet bowl cut into a hole in the ground but that’s much much better than a drain in the corner of a shower. Whew.

And finally onto China (because Japan deserves its own entire blog on its toilets). It was basically the same idea as Vietnam in Malaysia. My favorite was that porta-potties at the Olympics venues were labeled “Squat” or “Western” on the door. Oh and I also thought it was hilarious when I went to the bathroom at a five star restaurant – the bathroom was sparkling marble with big thick doors for each stall. It was super nice. And then the toilets were the same hole in the ground technique. But at least these ones had a handle to flush.

*I was smart enough to stock up on Starbuck’s double-shots in Hawaii. The first thing I said to my roommate: You drink, you die. Caffeine is something I’m NOT willing to share.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Culture Shock – November 27

“Excuse me, how much would it cost to take us to the clock tower?”

“Let’s see…four of you…that will be four dollars each.”

“My friend, you joke with me! The clock tower is 2 miles down the road.”

“Umm no…you see, I’m going to use a meter and I’m telling you that it will probably cost that much.”

“But if you use a meter you will probably drive around the island first!”

At this point in the conversation, my friends came up behind me and told the cab driver we would accept his offer – it was only $2 more than the bus that would for sure take us around the island – slowly – first.

Unlike when we made stops for gas in Puerto Rico, Mauritius, and Singapore, we were allowed to disembark during our Thanksgiving stop in Hawaii – which has definitely been the biggest culture shock on the trip. I mean…they all speak English. I spent the first half of the day volunteering with 20 other SAS students at the Salvation Army. My favorite part was serving coffee – because, culture shock #1 – Americans really like their coffee. But then we ran out of coffee and everybody started to hate me so I ran away to the break room and ate…wait for it…LAY’S POTATO CHIPS!!! They were seriously only two PMS’s a little too late, but still perfectly salty and crunchy all in one.

After Salvation Army, our guide dropped us off at Safeway. I had gotten a little excited by the Lays and bought a whole big box of mini-bags of them. Very American of me. And Cabot Cheddar Cheese. Ahhh…but it costs 8 bucks for a small brick in Hawaii. Eff you transportation costs. And wheat thins and crunchy peanut butter and American gossip magazines and normally flavored gum and…no alcohol because, culture shock #2 – America’s drinking age is 21 and people actually card for it. But there was no reason to buy alcohol anyways because, culture shock #3 – it’s illegal to drink in public.

The best part of being in America for Thanksgiving was being able to use my cell phone and call my family. I guess some of the girlfriends are getting pretty serious…because my mom said that there were six people over for dinner and last I counted there are four people in the fam minus me – unless you were there Geoffrey? But that would still leave space for one girlfriend…

And now I’m back at sea.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Done? – November 26

The most rewarding thing about finishing a paper is closing all the internet tabs, all the spreadsheets, and all the word docs with notes that have been open on your computer for the past five days. It’s shutting a book and knowing that I’ll never have to look at it again – although I know that I will never sell it or anything silly like that. And it’s printing it out, and stapling it, and handing it in, and being done.

And what a better way to relax than to have a day off on the beaches of Hawaii. …before I’m back to my five remaining papers.

I’ll have US cell service tomorrow (Thanksgiving night for most of you) so you should call me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back at Sea – November 25

I’ve now been back on the boat for a week. And let me tell you…am I getting good at cards. If you have any suggestions for games that we should add to our routine, please let me know. Recently we’ve been stuck on Rummi though – which mainly just kills me because all I can think about is Rummikub and I find it impossibly boring to just have to wait until exactly what you need pops up instead of shuffling it all around so that it works. I might see if I have any time to pick up a Rummikub while in Hawaii (two days!). I mean…our family could always use another, right? I don’t think we have one for each room in the house yet.

I’ve also finally learned Pinnocle, which I actually hate because unlike Spades or Hearts where your hand is THAT terrible you cannot “go nill” or “shoot the moon” or anything like that in Pinnocle. You just have to deal with having an incredibly crappy hand that will win you no points. At all. But anyways I am happy that I’ve finally learned Pinnocle because it means that in terms of Wardrop’s (sorry…Terry’s) perspective I’ve probably finally become an adult because I can now sit with him and play some of his Canadian card games.

Bridge is hard to start if nobody knows how to play at all. If you know how to play, please update the Wikipedia entry.


I downloaded Microsoft Office 2007 onto my computer. It’s fun to play with.


The other really exciting even of recent was CROSSING THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE! So now instead of being super ahead of everybody on the east coast, I’m very behind you. I remember at one point in my life perfectly understanding the concept of the International Date Line. But that was obviously before I got stupid or something. Or maybe I just accepted what I was told and didn’t think about it or anything. Because once I really started to think about it…I had to take a water bottle and draw a globe on it and use that to try and figure out how the sun sets on Alaska on Monday while, SIMULTANEOUSLY, setting on Russia on Tuesday. Or would it be Sunday? Eff.


And I still have tons of papers to write. Since we last talked…I’ve completed one and half of the outline for another. But…I HAVE watched all four seasons of Weeds. Great show. It almost makes me want to smoke. Or at least deal because that looks like tons of fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh my god - papers - November 21

I always knew this was coming...it was really just a countdown. But you see, I'm not used to EVERY SINGLE CLASS I take to require a paper, let alone multiple papers. And I do like writing, well at least sometimes. But here's the countdown:
-2 diet analyses
-2 international health 3-5 page papers
-1 international health 7-10 min presentation
-20 paragraphs about international power
-4 5-10 page international finance policy papers
-1 econ paper (topic? length??)

...blaksjdf;laksdjf;aiojf;oeijf;laejr;ajeio;rasj;odfjiasn CAN'T THEY JUST GIVE ME AN EXAM!?!?

A Little Bit About Culture – November 17

And specifically the culture that you can really only experience first hand:

Imagine you lose 60 dollars in Central Park. Like you’re just walking around and pull a tissue out of your pocket and 60 dollars falls out of it and you don’t notice until an hour later. Would you even bother retracing your steps? Would you even think to go back and look – maybe the hundreds of people that have since passed just left that 50 and 10 lying on the ground? Of course not. Central Park is in America. And cash money lying on the ground is totally up for grabs. If you don’t take it – the guy behind you will.

Not in Japan. After Heli lost his Rail Pass (~300usd) and then re-found it in the Tourist Center’s Lost and Found, we had a little bit of confidence that Michael’s 6,000 yen might still be wherever he had lost them. So we did the whole retracing our steps deal and didn’t really find anything. At this point Michael was a bit depressed and neither Heli nor I really knew what to do.

Japan is incredibly expensive you see. And my ATM card decided to not work and Heli had charged all three rail passes to his debit account so neither of us really had any money to offer Michal in condolence. As he went into the information center – totally disheartened – we were ro-sham-bo-ing about who would buy him a beer. It was the least (and the most) we could do for him.

Meanwhile in the information center, Michael is struggling to even communicate with the guards about what he’s looking for and why and who he is and why he’s even there. In a final, vain effort, he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down 5,000Y and 1,000Y – the two bills that he lost.

The guard’s face lights up and he trots over to a drawer to pull out the two bills, paper clipped together with a note saying that an elderly man had found it and brought it back to the information center. …really?

So then Michael actually bought a round for all of us to celebrate.

And then a few hours later Heli left his calculator at an entrance gate and the woman came running out of her booth after us to return the calculator to him.

And then the next day Heli lost his Rail Pass (again). Let me quickly explain these Rail Passes to you – think of a European Rail Pass – okay and now replace Europe with Japan. Great. Basically, they don’t check ID and it means that you can ride BULLET TRAINS anywhere in the country FOR FREE. It cost 300usd for a seven day pass (which we only used for three days) and we way more than made back our money on it. But if somebody else were to find it, they could just flash it at a gate to get onto the $200 train to Kyoto – the biggest tourist attraction in Japan this time of year.

Our guess was that he dropped it on the floor of the station – because he had it to get into the station but not out of. More out of curiosity than necessity (we had no more use for a pass), we made our last stop on the way back to the ship at that station to see if anybody had returned his pass to the lost and found. Sure enough, we walked in, I held up my pass to show them what we were looking for and they run back and pick up Eli’s. No ID check or anything – in a country built on such honesty and integrity they simply assume that nobody else would try to claim an item that’s not theirs in the Lost and Found.

Hiroshima – November 16

The irony about Hiroshima is that a war begun because of mass murders of the innocent –

Could only end by the same prescription.

Hair of the dog?

Oh please – please – justify to any one of those deaths, of the suffering

Realism tells us other options are impossible.

The mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima then – do they just fight in vain?

Can they only make such futile please because they themselves are protected by US?

And our atomic bombs.

One minute – 8:15am on August 6, 1945 – turned a war factory into a country dedicated to peace and passivity.

One minute – how many people?

The Nazis – so many more years, so many more people.

Is it okay because we killed for peace?

Who actually dropped the bomb?

Did he know what he was doing?

Was he just following orders?

Is it that psychology experiment all over again?

Can I give him a FREE HUG?

Does he even deserve a free hug?

Ashes to Ashes

Dust to Dust

Lives for Lives

War for Peace

Which does not belong with the other three?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

...bet you weren't expecting these

...but apparently everywhere in Japan has wifi so I can actually upload some pictures:


Me swimming at the water cube...ready for me Phelps?













my roomie (Darcy) and I in a vineyard in South Africa















Cory and I showing our love for each other on our safari in Namibia. Love you dear.




















Me trying on a saree in India!











Okay that's actually all apparently that I have on my computer...reminder to self to actually upload some pictures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Acrobatic Show – November 9

These dates are totally wrong but whatever. On one of our nights in Beijing we went to an acrobatic show. In the interest of time (remember that whole school thing…) I’m just going to run down the notes that I jotted down during the show:

• Ballerina – young enough to not understand how many guys masturbated over her routine, or even to know what masturbation is
• Baton things – no wonder the Chinese students didn’t understand our excitement about making a human pyramid – that’s like too simple for them to be excited about
• Umbrella – how does one discover that they have the talent of twirling umbrellas on their toes?
• Slack rope – I actually think that Patrick – and the rest of the SPS crew – could have done a better performance
• Diabalos – didn’t write anything
• Bowls – not impressive given that he girls were 60lbs. If they had thrown some real girls/women like that…now that would’ve been impressive.
• Tumbling through hoops – their practices must be so much fun. Like I can just imagine this group of boys setting up hoops and trying to one-up each other with a routine, challenging everybody in the group to be better. Made me miss my brothers actually
• Contortionist – at this point I actually had to get up and leave…because what I was witnessing was so amazing and so unique…that I felt guilty knowing that Kurt, and Cliff, and Jason would never be able to do the same
• Ball catching – the guy juggled 9 balls while tap dancing
• Balancing Act – actually not that cool. I refused to clap. Because the whole time I was doubled over in pain imagining my shoulders dislocating if I had done the same.
• Bicycle – Goddd if only Footie, Baer, Kopp, Imoo, River, Bayard and I knew that we could all ride ONE bike across the country we would’ve saved a lot of energy and money. Soo stupid of us to not try that one out.

And finally…my favorite summary of the performance from another SASer: “that could only happen in a communist country”

Beijing – November 8

Oh boy…Beijing…so many sights, so little time.

And, congratulations blog readers, you did successfully help me procrastinate my biggest grade for developmental economics. And profs here are not nearly as lenient about deadlines as Dartmouth profs are. Great. Good thing grades don’t transfer, right?

I would say that hands down, my favorite part about Beijing was being treated like some international super star. The videographer and camera person for Semester at Sea travelled with our group, so everywhere we went, we were being followed by a very intense looking crew of cameras and camcorders. But even without my every move being recorded for the SAS video and slide show, every single Chinese person we passed turned around to snap a picture of me. …I have blonde hair you see. And I spent most of my time in Beijing with Nicole, another lucky blonde. And I may or may not have been drinking a beer at the top of the Great Wall at 9am, which also won us some attention. (Hey, you’re only at the top of the Great Wall once, why not have a beer to celebrate?)

Unlike the other blondes in our group, Nicole and I loved the attention. If we noticed somebody taking a picture of us (and they were not to secretive about it), rather than rudely snap a picture back of them like most the others in our group, we would ask if they’d like to take a picture WITH us. Their faces would light up with learning about this unimaginable luck and they would quickly rush over and pose for a picture – holding their peace signs high of course. Nicole and I actually came to love this attention so much that we were offended to walk around areas and not have anybody take pictures of us. We would wear our hair down and unnecessarily throw it back due to the “wind,” just hoping somebody would notice our blonde locks.

It was definitely attention enough for me to be happy with my terrible dye job – because, if nothing else, it does mean that my hair is blonde. I only hope that they do the same in Japan. Because it will really be a sad day for me when I stop being special to strangers on the street.

In Memory of Kurt Leswing – November 7

I don’t normally write poetry. Actually this may be the first time I have ever written it outside of an assignment. But for some reason that is where my mind went when I learned about Kurt. So here we go:
I Know
I know three too many people who were lost too early –
Four if you count my Uncle Greg.
I know very little about Jason.
But I do know that he garnered my brother’s respect,
And I know that my brother’s respect is very hard to garner.
I also know that he was not in pain when he passed,
Because he was strong enough to let us all know that.
As little that I knew about Jason, I knew less about Cliff.
But judging from the numbers – the swells –
That paid their respects at his viewing
(and Jason’s funeral)
I know that they were both great kids.
Kurt, well I know that he was a great kid.
I know that I slept in his tent.
And he pretended to be mad –
But, really, it gave him a chance to go somewhere else.
I know this because he slept with two girls instead.
And he laughed as he yelled at me
For making him sleep in their tent.
I know they all had dreams – because everybody our age does.
I know they were all excited, on the top of the world, right when they lost it.
Cliff had just returned for his second year,
Excited to live with all his friends in a new house.
Jason had just started college –
And he even pushed through classes until the end.
And Kurt was travelling the globe on an itinerary
Packed full of adventure and fun.
I know of three tragedies that are incredibly hard to bear.
I know that it was unfair.
What I don’t know is how to justify any of it.
And I don’t know if I’ll ever know that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just Another Dinner – November 2

On the second day of our Mekong River Tour, our guide just dropped us off at a hotel and told us peace, he was off to visit his girlfriend and he’d see us in the morning (at 6:30am). Armed with a map of restaurants that serve mice and hotel with a discothèque, we hit the town.
But then we had a group argument over whether we should eat western or Vietnamese food. The basis for the argument being that we’ve had a lot of Vietnamese food and it is not filling…and we knew we were going to the discotheque…so in smart, be prepared fashion we thought it’d be best to get a full meal beforehand.
But…you’re only in Vietnam once. Maybe. Or maybe you run away in Costa Rica and return to Vietnam. Who knows.
So we split up and four of us decided to go out for some more local cuisine, leaving the other four to enjoy a night of burgers and tex-mex. Which is right about when we heard 90s dance music blasting from a boat on the river. And noticed throngs of well dressed people crowding onto it. It looked inviting. Plus, I was travelling with two self-proclaimed dancers who just could not pass up the opportunity to bust out their moves and maybe get a few international phone numbers too. (If any girlfriends are reading this: Jonathan was very well behaved.)
The first challenge was the security guard, but we looked straight ahead and followed closely behind two people that looked like they knew what they were doing, so we got past that quite fine. The next challenge though, was overcoming how utterly, utterly out of place we were at…a Vietnamese wedding.
That’s right. Heli, Sheli, Michael, and Jonathan became international wedding crashers. We’re talking table cloths, free food and entertainment. Umm…mazeltof?
We quickly sat down at an unassuming, unoccupied corner table and pondered our situation. But before long, some delicious fried spring-rolls were dropped off at the table, we discovered why the table was unoccupied (right next to the deafeningly loud speakers), and the boat pulled away from the dock. So, cheers to that and two the two people getting married. If you’re reading this, your wedding was a blast. I certainly hope you stayed at the Honeymoon Hotel which was right across from ours.
Here you can fill in with your imagination what we did once we realized that our attendance was secured – unless they felt the need to go all “walk the plank” on us.
The entertainment was a mix of performers and karaoke – we really couldn’t tell. There was certainly no TV with words that singers were reading off of. But they weren’t that good and got up from the crowd to sing. This karaoke was followed by a magician…who had all the charm and moves of a magician…but slightly lacked the magic. Like…I’m pretty sure he just got everything out of the Klutz magician set.
The highlight of the night, I think, was when we were welcomed into the family. This was good for two reasons: it meant that we can now return to Vietnam at anytime to stay with Lihi and, although the food was free, the booze was starting to get expensive. It was nice to have our drinks paid for for the rest of the night.
The way Lihi welcomed us into the family was by having us pass around a chug a rum and coke. (My hangover thanks you, Lihi.) Once we were part of the family (we really failed our second challenge), we were allowed/forced to dance with them all. This got Jonathan and Michael all excited and left me running for cover. Unfortunately, I was the only girl in the group, so I guess that means I’m a pretty hot commodity, and I kept on being dragged back to go dance with somebody’s father.
All in all, a great adventure. And even though it wasn’t a competition, compared to the tex-mex group…we win.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post Sea*crets – October 28

We’re docked in Singapore right now. But that’s not too exciting. Here’s something today that was posted that is pretty exciting. These Sea*crets have been posted on a board in the main lobby, with many more being added throughout the day.

  • I wish I could let my light within shine
  • I cheated on my boyfriend of 6 years in Namibia…twice
  • I hate you when you’re drunk.
  • Your Feet Smell
  • I HATE FDPs because I Have zero (0) money!
    • Please see me – Jack*
  • I with more people knew how creepy and sketchy you R. If they knew you’re a pervert you’d get kicked off!
  • I like being the little spoon. From: Dude.
  • Sometimes I eat salad just to have the dressing.
  • I’m not voting.
  • I’m afraid I’ll never find “HOME” again like I had as a child. But…I’ll keep looking!
  • Yeah Bobby, I ate your pizza! It was so good. And What!?! J
  • I know that someone made up a big LIE for this box. I know the name.
  • Last year…I left my bear at a hotel in Ohio. I drove 100 miles to pick him up. Ps – I’m a guy.
  • I have to confess, I had sex with 7% of the girls on the ship…
  • I was raped in South Africa.
  • I lied! Actually, I think it is mess up that you hang out with us. Something is very wrong here. I know it…and other agree. Wake up and act your age, weirdo!
  • Anytime someone knocks on my cabin door I want it to be you coming over to watch a movie and cuddle.
  • I’m going to switch places with my twin in Vietnam.
  • I like shoes.
  • I have never been so judgmental in my life. I judge all the bros and slutty/drink girls on the boat.
  • As much as I love being around fellow SASers, if I didn’t have my cabin to retreat to they’d drive me completely bonkers.
  • I convinced him he gave it to me. He has never forgiven himself. But I had it before we even met.
  • I once got caught stealing at a store.
  • Sometimes I blow my nose in the shower.
  • I’m worried I’m only my job.
  • I once couldn’t make it to the bathroom so I threw up in the janitor’s bucked that she uses to mop the floor!
  • I have no more money to do even minor adventures in the next ports – I’m completely broke and hate asking my parents for any more money.
    • Please see me – Jack*
  • I wanted to break up with you for a year but waited until now because I couldn’t face you afterwards.
  • I drove a rickshaw around in Chennai.
  • Any aspirations I had for romance on the ship stayed behind in Africa
  • Dear Schoppa, We’re not all drunk college kids ditching your class. Some of us are just confused. Slow down. Don’t give up on us. Love Global Studies “B”
  • I wear big underwear during exams, can’t have a wedge to pull during multiple choice!
  • The crew on the ship makes me feel really uncomfortable because I know that given any other circumstance, I’d be one of them.

*These are comments written directly onto the cards. Jack is our executive dean.

PIRATES – October 27

I know I know…I talk about pirates a lot. But I may have a slight obsession with being Keira Knightley. I mean…being Elizabeth Bennet wouldn’t really be that bad. But here’d our update about the current pirate situation.

We’re currently sailing through the Straits of Malacca. Which I didn’t know existed before this trip. Well I guess that in some, abstract sense I’m sure I was aware that some body of water existed been all the south east pacific islands – not that I would’ve known the names of the islands or anything.

A brief history lesson to everybody as naïve as I once was/still am: they’re a big deal. And have been since way before Jesus was born. We actually got a really cool lecture (see everybody! I am working!) about how their geographic location made them so strategic: first the summer typhoons would blow long enough and in just the right direction for Chinese ships to make it to Penang. And then the winter typhoons would come and blow the ships right back up to China. At the same time, the same winds were blowing the Indian ships from Chennai in the opposite directions. So Penang was always bustling and now nobody there knows if they’re Indian or Chinese or Malay or Hindi or Buddhist or Muslim. It’s a great melting pot of Asian cultures.

Then ships got engines but since they were so used to going through Penang and the Strait of Malacca, they continued using that route. So now there are lots of ships up and down the strait, which makes them the perfect location for pirates to hang out and attack. Of course though, the MV Explorer is prepared for this new danger: we are now equipped with fire hoses on the bottom decks. Crew members stand watch holding the hoses all night long to spray down pirates if they attempt to board the ship. Right now, more than ever is when I wish I could post pictures online to show you that I’m not lying.

I mean…it makes total sense…water vs guns is a very fair fight.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Battle Wounds Sustained – October 26

Ah grandparents – I got comics from Nannie today and an email from Gramps: “We hope you didn't cut your toe on the coral in the Indian Ocean while swimming with Cory (whoever he is?) while studying hard half way around the world somewhere in Malaysia.”

Thanks for the sincere worry, Gramps. But you actually did remind me of a great story I left out. (Sad side story: I lost my notebook of random thoughts, quotes and contact information from this trip. I left it on a public bus in Malaysia. There was very little hope for it and it depressingly means that I am left with only the contact info for the guy that added himself to my gmail contacts at an internet café as a useful contact to refer back to. Please mourn with me and parents, please don’t be mad that it means I am now leaving on my cell phone because the number was listed on the first page of it. But yeah – that’s why I forgot about this story.)

Back to snorkeling – the best places to see the fish was right above the coral and rocks. Preferably the ones closest to the surface because they ensured the best visibility. But sometimes you were so close and so transfixed by the fish that you didn’t realize how – ouch! – close you were to the rocks. Also, Cory and I had a great system of peeking our heads above water and yelling the other’s name whenever we saw something especially cool, so we were always listening to each other.

One of my highlights from the day was hearing Cory screaming my name. (It was a highlight in my dreams later that night too. Oh and to answer your question Gramps, Cory is a good Dartmouth boy. Of course.) It was a rather loud scream so I was definitely expecting something exciting, like on the order of a shark. Instead though, I looked up to see Cory, belly down on a rigid rock, flapping his flippers and waving his arms, trying to get off as each wave continued to push him further and further off the rock. He pretty much looked like a helpless beached whale, making angry dolphin noises (Hey Nathan Bruschi, are you reading this?) and destroying his legs with cuts in the process.

I of course laughed and swallowed salt water and it was no longer funny.

Until he got off and suddenly all the fish were attracted to his bleeding legs.

***********************

Injury Number Two:

We found this Reptile House that would not be legal in the US – mostly because it lets its animals run wild. As in, the turtle shell that I stepped on in order to better see the poisonous snakes in the corner – actually belonged to a real turtle. And there was one snake just hanging out in a tree (most of the others were in cages, albethem cages that allowed you to reach in and touch them if you wanted). Oh and then there were the three monkeys – two of them were chained up and one of them literally was just running wild.

The monkeys and I didn’t really get along. It started when I felt bad because one had pushed its apple right out of its reach with the chain, so I went to go hand it back to it – but it grabbed a little to quick – and I got scared and may or may not have thrown the apple into a pond even further away. …I did go and fish it out of the pond (which had some Chernobyl – type creatures in it), but when I went to give it back to the monkey, he angrily stalked away to the other side of his tree. Oops.

Monkey number two started out liking me a bit more. I actually have a few great pictures of him all curled up in my lap, and me discovering that his chain was a simple clasp that I could undo to easily steal him. I was letting him play with my zippered purse because I was curious if it had been monkey-proof against the trained monkeys in India. He basically destroyed it, but did not manage to get anything out of it until…oh shit…he grabbed the sacred green sheet. The green sheet lists all of the important information for every country we go to. It’s like our Bible and we’re never supposed to lose it.

I wasn’t actually too worried about losing the green sheet. It was the last day and I had pretty much memorized where the port was – but I was actually worried about the monkey’s well-being. I didn’t know if the green sheet would to toxic to it…so I wanted to save the monkey from the poisonous sheet.

Commercial break.

Reconvene in the middle of dance between Eli, Cory and Monkey. Eli and Cory trying to save monkey’s life by grabbing the toxic sheet from its mouth and full using the monkey’s lack of mobility to their advantage. Keep in mind that they’re trying to save the monkey’s life. And then – suddenly – out of nowhere, monkey turns and bites Eli in the leg. Thank God she’s wearing jeans because otherwise blood would have been drawn for sure. As it is, there are teeth marks through the jeans and a huge, immediate bruise.

I checked with the clinic on the ship though and I don’t need rabies shots though.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Honeymoon – October 24

Let’s start this off with a little status quo update: I was just beautifully, post-modernly lounging in a hammock, typing away. I actually felt a bit like Hemingway – so much so that I even asked Cory to take a picture of the beautiful moment, but before it could happen – EFFF FIRE ANTS EVERYWHERE!!! The things were crawling out of my keyboard attacking me. There’s another one walking across my screen! They sting and are impossible to kill. 80% DEET bug spray doesn’t even kill them on the spot.
So now I’m huddle on top of table, drenched in but spray and praying that the lizard on the ceiling doesn’t fall on my head. Ceiling…of course…being a euphemism for tin roof being held up by four corner stilts. I don’t know which qualifies more for a ceiling – this one or the one to my “room” which also serves as the walls. Okay now my whole hands itch and it looks like all the fire ants disappeared – so they obviously just showed up because I was there.
Not the first thing something like that has happened today.
Cory and I went “trekking” on an island and as I was screaming about being bitten by mosquitoes the whole way he said he had no idea what I was complaining about. The second we saw water, I threw off my shoes and went diving in to get all the bugs off of me and to maybe, hopefully ease the itching. This was when Cory actually took the time to notice how eaten my whole body was. Thanks dear. Thanks for caring earlier.
Back to chronology…this morning…we woke up. After I spent all night awake with diarrhea. Godd am I loving these foreign countries. (Before this trip, I honestly, honestly thought I had a strong stomach.)
Then we got breakfast and they added chocolate syrup to my pancakes even though I asked them not too. I really don’t like sugar in the morning so this made me unhappy.
Then we found out that the only ATM on this island is in a town 8km away. …so our brilliant idea was to rent a motorbike to drive over to it. This would not have been such a bad idea except that Cory doesn’t know me that well. So … he thought I was a good driver. [Caveat: No, I’ve never been in an accident, but I warn every single person when they get in my car that I’m not a good driver. I make no attempt to hide the obviously true fact.] So Cory thought I would be a better driver than him, so really awkwardly in front of the man that was probing us about our experience on motorbikes (none, except for the time one ran me over – I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to one) – Cory insisted that I drive and he hop on the back.
About 200m down the road the man drove up along side us and told us to pull over and bring the motorbike back, they could not rent to us. I managed to cover up the absolutely terrible driving by joking that I’m simply used to driving on the right hand side of the road. But all the same, they gave us our deposit back and we sulked away in shame.
So then we decided to do something that seemed a bit more dummy-friendly. I mean…there was a five year old doing it. We decided to go snorkeling.
Hence the title of the blog – all I’ve ever really heard about snorkeling was how my parents did it during their honeymoon and while my mother was puking at the surface, my dad was screaming about how awesome the fish were that were attracted to her vomit, completely oblivious of his new bride’s pain and plans for immediate divorce.
Cory did a bit better. But then we had an argument about whether or children would go to private day schools or boarding schools…so it was basically the same thing.
All I’ve got to say about snorkeling is…Mom, you missed out. It was absolutely amazing. I have recently been obsessed with watching Blue Planet on the SAS TV – and this was so much better. The fish were right in front of my face, absolutely surrounding me. It was ridiculous. Insane. I wish I took the SATs because then I would probably have fabulous words with which to describe this experience…but all I’ve got is awesome.
So I have now given up on my goals of learning Hindi and being in the CIA – now I want to become a full-time scuba diver/instructor and maybe even make my own documentary about fish. Or just run away and find Nemo. Something like that.


It may or may not be legal to dance in a temple (AKA – The Missed-Adventured of Cory and Eli Part 1) – October 22

Today’s irony: the airport ran out of internet. How exactly does one run out of internet??
Oh also...I got coffee to go and they tied it up and gave it to me in a plastic bag. Awesome.
In the greatest example of indecision I have ever seen, Cory and I could not decide between two different flight destinations. We actually spent about five hours at the airport (without any internet), trying to decide where we should go. And then, right as we made a final decision, both flights left. Greatest example of indecision ever.
But let’s take a step back and investigate perhaps why this occurred by looking at just one of the many conversations we had:
Cory – I think we should go to B because it’s cheaper and it’s cheaper once we get there.
Eli – Psh, A has way better food.
*Both Eli and Cory take a bit out of their McDonald’s quarter-pounders.*
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After this experience, we decided to spend a night out on the town…kinda…two hours after we planned to because we couldn’t quite figure out the tender schedule. (I curse tender boats.) My favorite part from this adventure was running into Little India. I swear to God, we turned down a street and we were back in Chennai. The most shocking part about this was that I saw a few blouses for 50 ringgits and was like “oh wow, totally a legit price, I think I’ll buy one.” And then Cory reminded me that we were in Malaysia and it’s 3.5 ringgits to a dollar, not 50 as it was in India. So these shirts were like 14x the price I was willing, or used to paying. Conclusion from that adventure: Real India >> Little India. (Now is when I point out that I wrote and reread the entire last paragraph using Italy instead of India before I realized that something was wrong?)
Then comes the part of the night that I really cannot describe. The Westernized analogy I will use is…imagine if there are five, Asian Britney Spears’ on one stage. With lots of Muslims cheering on from the audience. Introduce four SASers…and you have my night. It was 100% ridiculous. I don’t know if the more ridiculous part was when they had the four of us try (raw?) shellfish or when the Asian pop stars stopped mid-song to “velcome aar guests from Amarica!” (I can’t write it with an accent – but it was Asian and strong.)
I think it was after this moment that I learned it was a bad idea to dance in a temple.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halfway There – October 21

We’re on day 55 of our 109 day voyage, which means…wo-ah we’re halfway theree! Wo-ah livin’ on a pray-er!

Actually, not really. Unlike have the Dropper’s band practice and perform this song at a dance the weekend we were “halfway there” during my senior year at SPS there have been no celebrations or recognitions of the fact on the ship. In fact we’re mostly in preparation for the CRAZY few weeks coming up. Before the trip…this looked kind of amazing: 3 weeks with only 6 class days. I somehow managed to hide this fact from my parents as I was convincing them of the academic validity of the program. (I hid many things from my parents on my way out of Hanover, my proudest being my mom’s white leather belt. I’m wearing it right now with my green shorts and it looks GREAT.)

But it now seems like the most hectic schedule I could imagine. For example…I have a midterm and a case study due the day we get back from Penang, and then a case study every day until we leave Japan. And I have a field journal due before Japan – yeah that’s three weeks away, but that only really counts if I do work while in port.

Feel bad for my very stressful life please. My teachers are forcing me to do a little bit of work while I’m cruising down the Mekong Delta in a houseboat. Terrible people that they are.

I don’t know how much I’ll be updating my blog in the next few weeks – I really should concentrate on schoolwork when I’m on the ship and given that most of my schoolwork consists of writing I always justify not doing any of it by saying “but I’ve written so much today…for my blog.” …so if I do continue to update this then you know that I’m just procrastinating more…

Tomorrow morning we arrive in Penang. Unfortunately we have to take tender boats to and from the ship. They only run from 7am – 1am, so if you don’t get on that last boat…it’s either a hotel for you or a very very late night. (I’ve heard the late nights are not difficult to come by in Malaysia.) Fortunately for me though, Cory and I will be headed to the airport first thing in search of a flight to somewhere. Preferably secluded and romantic but possibly just adventurous.

Three days back in school.

Arrive in Vietnam and spend three days cruising up the Mekong River with a group of nine SAS kids. We found this trip for 100USD…for tours, lodging, and food for three days. Gotta love those third world countries. I’m also planning on getting a dress made. James, John – if you want sweet silk shirts/suits…give me some sizes.

Two days back in school.

Hong Kong! Where I get to go out with Hilary Shih’s family! (Thanks Hill!) And then to Beijing where I, like every other SAS girl, will be more excited to see the Water Dome than the Great Wall. I plan on taking pictures of standing exactly where Michael Phelps once stood. I think Heli may be able to work something out on photo shop so it even looks like I’m standing with Micahel Phelps. … To Shanghai.

Two days back in school

To Japan for five days. Akihiko…get back to me about chillaxing with your fam in Tokyo! I’m excited to ride the bullet train all over the country, go skiing on Mt. Fuji, and go crazy at Disneyland Tokyo. … But in all honesty none of this will probably happen because I’m going to be so pissed that I have to pay more than 2USD for a cab ride that I just won’t go anywhere or pay for anything.

~~~

Oh and I just wanted to point out to Mommy that you would be VERY proud of me – in perfect girly fashion I decided that the halfway point would be the perfect time to get my roots done and go blonde again. So I had my hair highlighted today. By this woman who is probably more anal than I am. Honestly…I have never seen anybody take longer and act more meticulously in order to highlight hair. She literally used a board to hold the foil right up to my scalp. And had a special come to section off perfectly equal parts of hair. I didn’t have the guts to tell her that I really don’t think hairstyling is her thing…but at some point you have to recognize that you’re just a bit to much of a perfectionist for your profession.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Formal Dinner! – October 20

For $25 on the MV Explorer, you can be waited on for an entire five course meal. And receive a glass of champagne. That mysterious kind that is actually a higher quality than Andre.

This obviously special occasion dining is reserved for birthdays and meetings of the DRA (Dinosaur Rights Association – I’m not a member). Because my birthday was while we were in port (and my birthday dinner was way less than $25 and with way more alcohol than one glass of champagne), tonight was my first opportunity for fine dining – Danielle Hessel’s 21st Birthday.

Danielle is a unique girl to say the least. She is currently being written up for throwing a temper tantrum in the lobby when she learned that her care package, which contained a tiara for her to wear on her birthday, had been lost between customs and the ship. She was also upset that she wouldn’t get the pink wig that was in the package because she, unlike me, actually did shave her head on Neptune Day. In perfect Danielle fashion (pun intended, given that she’s a fashion major), she requested that we all wear saris to her birthday dinner. This request gave everybody who foolishly spent money buying a sari in India a welcome excuse to actually wear the thing for once in their lives – but, for the rest of us, left us confused as to what to wear.

I settled with JCrew and a silk scarf. Surprised?

Alright – halfway through the cruise and here is my opinion of fine dining – the $25 is worth paying simply for the dessert. I’m pretty sure that the rest of the meal was exactly what was served in the cafeteria; it just came on separate plates and with multiple sets of silverware. But the dessert – oh my – was that to die for. Mine was something like raspberry chocolate mousse, I don’t even know, but it was rich and sweet and exactly what I needed last week when I was PMSing and oh my god I have just discovered the most expensive habit ever. Actually speaking of expensive habits on the ship – massages available practically 24/7. My back has never been so relaxed. And my bank account has never been so happy to find a boy that will do it for free.

~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
A little more on food…

I just called my Mommy. Because I love her and it’s almost 1am here and I was bored. She seemed very worried about my health and if I was eating alright on the ship. For everybody that is similarly worried – I am not John. I have lost no weight. Actually I’m pretty sure that I’ve gained weight given that my body is in a continuous state of confusion – I gorge for 5 days while in port (we’re talking five, six FULL meals a day), and then spend the next 5 days surviving on PB&Js, cucumbers, and coffee. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. The whole counting jogging for half an hour every three days as exercise thing also probably contributes to the weight gain. Okay now I’m feeling guilty. Thanks Mom.

~?~?~?~?~?~?~?~?~
And something else from my conversation with Mommy…

I’m really really happy to be here. I just realized that while I was talking with Mommy and wanted to share it with all of you. It was so worth the $27.50 phone conversation to really put into perspective how much I love this program. Now I’m being sappy, which I never am. I blame the chocolate raspberry mousse.

Things the Titanic Lied About – October 19

  1. Steady Sailing

That part when the girl walks down the stairs to a dressed up Leo waiting for her. It could never happen on a ship. It’s simply not practical to walk around in heels, or floor length dresses, or anything you could trip on. What is also confuses me is how unprepared the MV Explorer seems to be for all these inevitable waves (or, in some cases, times that we hit a whale). You’d imagine, for instance, that we’d have some type of handlebar in our shower. Since the floor gets wet and slippery, and then there’s nothing to grab onto when the boat flops over. It turns showers into more of a death sentence than taking a rickshaw in Chennai. And shaving…oh god…why in my life did I ever start doing that? Nick, nick, nick, nick, nick. Nick.

  1. Cars on Board

Puh-leeze. We’re not even allowed to have lacrosse sticks on board. Meaning…I FINALLY brought my lacrosse stick out and was having a great time passing and catching up with Jocelyn for all of twenty minutes before Young Mean Lady’s (…remember her from entry 2?) best friend came out and told us that he would confiscate our sticks if he ever saw them again because they qualified as “oversize sporting equipment.” Umm…I’m sorry…but a car kinda sounds like that too. And in all my adventures through the crew quarters, I have yet to come across a sweet 1920s buggy to sexile my roomie to. Of course…not that I’ve explored the crew quarters too often. I mean, Allan’s gone now.

  1. That Scene

Yeah…you know which one I’m talking about…Leo and the girl standing at the front of the ship, arms up in the air, romantically flying with no care. Yeah…lies. In reality, the bow of the ship is usually closed due to strong winds. I think they realized this after the first night when my roommate and I went running up there, both of us wearing skirts, only to be thrown against the windows at the very front and flashing the whole faculty lounge. Yeah, after that, they started closing the bow.

But not today! I guess because we’re only going 17knots (no more worries about pirates), the wind is manageable and people are allowed up front. So, at exactly the halfway point of the voyage I finally got to have my Titanic moment. Complete with rain and knotty, flapping hair. There was no sound real, no sunset and no Leo (…sorry…but it’s true…), but somehow it was still quite perfect.

October 16, 2008

Written by an SASer a few years ago after departing Chennai:

Don’t give to the beggars they said,

So I didn’t and my heart ached

AS I turned and walked away

From a 4 year old starving child.

Don’t give to the beggars they said.

So I hid my money and walked away

From a thing Mother and her two children.

Don’t give to the beggars they said.

So I pushed away the little children.

Don’t give to the beggars they said.

So I laughed nervously as a leper

Clutched at my friend.

Laughed, because it was easier

Than to cry.

Don’t give to the beggars they said.

So I walked for blocks

Trying to ignore the kids at my side,

Running away, instead of staying to help.

Don’t give to the beggars they said.

I thought I hadn’t, but I was wrong…

I did give, each and every time…

A part of me, naïve to the pains of others.

I gave them my innocence,

And they gave me their pain.

And after India

I will never been the same.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

So something I never mentioned about Cape Town: it is true that at every port, we are told to not give to the beggars. Doing so, they (and I) believe only justifies begging as a way of life. It only helps these people continue on as beggars. So although most of our stops in each country are spent completing service projects, we paradoxically build immunity to poverty simply by ignoring the beggars at each port entrance. As the poem says, it is easier to laugh than to cry.

By my last night in Cape Town, however, I had had enough with pushing away begging children. So as I stumbled (sober!) away from 1rand shot night I sought out a young boy and told him that I’d buy him whatever he needed at a grocery store. He immediately told me that Corn Flakes were his sister’s favorite cereal and beelined for that aisle. We filled up a basket of food and I spent my remaining money on him – hoping that the food got back to his family and sister.

The tables then turned as I wished him good night and told him to go home – it was way too late for a kid his age to be out and he should get some sleep. I suddenly realized that I was left with no money and would be on my own to somehow find a ride home. So with no real hope I went up to a taxi driver and explained my situation to him: I had foolishly used all but 20 rands (~$2.50) buying a child some food and now needed to get back to the port, an 80 rand ride. This is when we cue that insurance company commercial where one woman sees another doing something nice so than does something nice for a man on the street etc etc. follow it down the line – because the cab driver simply agreed. He’d drive me back to the port – and for free.

Local Life – October 15

This morning everybody on the ship either left for the Taj Mahal, a local homestay, or for adventures on a train (unfortunately for that group, the Darjeeling Unlimited left out the warning for travelers against burglarizing prostitutes. Email CMEhrlich@semesteratsea.net for that story.) This exodus left me and the twenty other students still on the ship to fend for ourselves and find our own entertainment in the city that threatens our lives with each street crossing and enforces an 11pm curfew.
I had originally planned on spending the day with two girls in my International Health class to research the prevalence of eating disorders in India (if anybody has any research suggestions here – my grade and parents would greatly appreciate it). In classic rickshaw fashion, however, we were all separated from the start, leaving me alone in a market bargaining for items I would never buy, simply because I made a game of seeing just how low in USD I could get a certain shirt or skirt. If I couldn’t get the price below 2USD, I lost.
Just as boredom was settling in to the point that I was about to actually spend some money, Giri, my genie in a bottle, appeared out of nowhere.
“You! You! Are you Semester at Sea? From the ship?”
“Umm yes…”
“I LOVE Semester at Sea!”
“Okay…I mean…obviously…we overpay you like ten times the amount for each rickshaw ride. Like you could probably retire the day we leave Chennai.”
“No no! Like really love SAS!”
At this point, Giri pulled out a notebook from his front breast pocket and proceeded to flip through pages full of comments such as: “Giri is the best rickshaw driver EVER! – Stephanie, SAS Fall 2002”
After reading through dozens of SAS reviews dating back almost a decade, I decided to test out the best rickshaw driver ever.
With no plans for the day at all, I settled in (in crash-ready position) and told him to take me around. And boy did he take me around – we went to the beach, his mosque, his favorite restaurant, various stores and markets; he let me drive his rickshaw and took me to a very clandestine snake verse mongoose fight. We had a debate about politics and religion (my new pastime is convincing foreigners that Obama’s “change” campaign isn’t exactly what they all seem it’s cracked out to be) and ended the day with me being allowed to add an anecdote to his notebook. We also exchanged addresses to send pictures and postcards to.
Unfortunately, when I got back to the ship and started raving about how fabulous my day with no plans ended up being, I learned how very uncreative my plans were. It turns out that just about everybody I spoke to had had the same experience. All twenty of us, with no plans, had latched onto rickshaw drivers for our personal tours of the city. One guy even invited his rickshaw driver out to dinner with the group of us that night. So my second day in Chennai was awesome, but disappointingly unoriginal.

Getting Around – October 14

Before disembarking at each port, members of the US Embassy give a presentation on the ship. The imminent arrival of 700 college students into their jurisdiction terrifies the directors of each embassy enough to send, without fail, their highest ranking security officer to drill into our heads the mantra of US Embassies everywhere: don’t break laws, don’t wave money around and don’t wear American flag t-shirts (unless you’re in Namibia – then you should wrap yourself in an American flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner as you walk down the street). They also usually manage to throw in a little anecdote of being mugged themselves, or of an American being thrown into prison and them being able to do little more than send a care package complete with KFC (more prominent than McDonalds in every country we’ve been to) and soap, hold the razors. At the end they throw out a few taxi rates at us so we have an idea of what to negotiate. These rates are inevitably misinterpreted to mean “per person” when they really mean them to be “per cab” and we spend the rest of the trip overpaying by five times each amount. (But…it’s so hard to bargain when all you’re arguing over is 50 cents.)
India’s talk was a little different. Although the fact that the drinking age is 21 and those found using fake IDs can be prosecuted is a little terrifying – it’s simply too hard and too expensive to find alcohol in this state to even worry about that. Instead, the Indian embassy workers took the opportunity to warn us about the number one public safety concern in Chennai: crossing the street. Sidewalks, one of the workers warned, are a “mere afterthought that come to abrupt ends.” He suggested that we just walk in the street and deal with the honking – because if a car is honking at you it at least shows that it sees you. And here I use the word “car” very liberally to include rickshaws, motorbikes, pedal bikes, busses, ox-drawn wagons, and thousands of 1950s model cars. “Honk” is similarly used liberally to include a regular car horn, a musical horn (think of downloading ringtones to the horn of your 1950s car), yelling, beeping, poking (seriously), whistles and bells.
He then finished with two pieces of advice: to speak Tamil, just add an “-ah” to the end of every word and neither pedestrians nor the cars with a green light have the right-of-way: he with the most guts has the right-of-way.
**If there is a reason that Dartmouth does not approve SAS credit again after this trip it should not be because the classes are too easy or because the curriculum is too fun: it should be because Dartmouth can only stretch its luck so far with sending kids to Chennai before one dies. …I think that with the way we’re used to crossing the street, it’s a guaranteed 20% risk…and there are five of us here right now.**
I would lie to say that I felt prepared for the streets of Chennai. But I did honestly think I’d be more prepared than I was. Because it was ridiculous. I cannot fully express in words what it was like. When we asked everybody what they did during their first day in the city, the most common answer was “survived.” We piled four people into an auto-rickshaw, only to have the two on the edge (hi, that was me) pushed to near decapitation as there is nothing, nothing designed to hold you in. In one particularly congested area, our rickshaw driver found a rather clear street and zoomed on down towards our destination, only for us to realize too late that – fuck – we were on the right side of the road and the opposite light just turned green. But remember Rule #2. It was like the chase scene in an action movie as he weaved us through five lanes of oncoming traffic without even flinching. And then there was that time when he went to pass a bus on a narrow side street, only to get into the other lane and see a car coming right at us. …yet our driver still somehow managed to sneak between the two and temporarily fit three abreast. And yet, neither of these are extraordinary situations.
I’ve already started to treat each rickshaw ride like a rollercoaster. I jump in my seat and brace myself between the drivers’ seat and the poles provided, both holding on for dear life and encouraging the driver to go faster faster! The best part of this type of roller coaster ride is that there actually is a fear factor, because it actually is dangerous, because you actually could die, because there actually aren’t any seatbelts. Oh, and that at <1usd>

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back in the Northern Hemisphere – October 12

Hi Northern Hemisphere, I missed you. Did you miss me? Yeah didn’t think so. We should make over-under bets on how long I’ll stay this time around. I’ll start it at January 2010. Where in the world will I be?

I expected my welcome back to the Northern Hemisphere to be a bit…warmer. And drier. Seeing as we’re at the equator and all I wasn’t expecting gray stormy skies for as far as the eye can see (far) and the necessity of wearing pants and sweaters (which are all in the wash).

But I’d say that crossing the equator was the least eventful event in the past two days. Mostly because it’s been midterm season and between creative procrastinating, delirious remarks, and failing exams, exam season always produces quite interesting stories.

Well start chronologically.

  • Due to the fact that I have been going to Global Studies and doing all the readings for all the classes throughout the term, I was excluded from the Dartmouth study group. Because that makes sense. In a fit of anger and frustration though, Cory and I made a bet that we would hook up if one of us scored a 100 on the exam. (Cory, by the way, really wants me to clarify our marriage plans. He wants to make sure that you understand we plan on getting married for the soul purpose of convenience…it has nothing to do with attraction. At all. In any way. None. Never.) Anyways…this was incentive enough for me to study all night long. Two questions in I knew I wasn’t going to get a 100. Disappointed that I lost my opportunity, I eagerly awaited for Cory to check his grade. 100. (Yes that’s right Cory, I’m telling the world that you’re a nerd.) But this was with a 4 point curve, so he says that it doesn’t count.
  • Somewhere in the middle of studying for Global Studies and taking the exam, I had a case study due for one of my Econ classes. My strategy here was to just turn the bare bones of the case in and to spend the class doing some last minute studying for GS. (I really wanted that 100.) This worked out well enough – I participate pretty actively during other classes so my professor was nice enough to not call on me. But that was before he sent out the email after class: “Great job today, to those of you who chose to not set aside the time to study for your Global Studies exam. For those of you who did, your time was not wasted as such efforts, if continued, will raise the median of the class.” If anybody wants to explain this to me, please do. But otherwise, I’m pretty sure that it means…oops on my part.
  • Then came my other Econ exam. I knew from the start that this would be a disaster. The format of the test was more like biology than economics. And there’s a reason I’m no longer pre-med. Anyways…my saving grace came in the lacking paper supply on the ship. Fun story: there are no Office Depots in the middle of the ocean. Better story: when SAS restocked their paper supplies in Cape Town they assumed that we would continue using just as much paper as we had up until that point in the voyage. They forgot to account for the fact that midterms = needing to print papers to turn in, review sheets to study from, and exams to hand out. So we ran out of paper day 1 into exam season. Rather than just putting the exam on the projector and having us write the answers on notebook paper, or printing out the exam on notebook paper (as everybody who has had to turn in papers has done) though, our professor had a panic attack and broke into the dean’s sacred and secret supply of printer paper. Economists lack creativity. Or something about how she demanded the paper badly enough to break rules to access the only supply? Does that work?

Okay…now I’m off to finish my bio paper analyzing the food I eat. Greattt.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Midterms – October 11

**********************
It’s midterm season in the Indian Ocean. I promise this will be updated soon (if for no other reason than I need to procrastinate). In the meantime…thanks for the emails. I’m doing great and appreciated them all. But, quite honestly, I deleted everything so that I could get focused on studying. (It’s hard to do on a boat, you see. I need to get rid of all distractions that I can.)
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sea Olympics – October 9

It was a disastrous task, given my little experience and the boat’s rockiness, but on Wednesday night I painted my nails. Not only that…but the 20 guys on my floor also painted their nails. Pink.

As you have probably already guessed, it would require a very special occasion to convince me to be so … girly. And trust me was the occasion special: it was the eve of the Sea Olympics: One Ship, One Dream. I made my bid for captain on the second night of the ship by bribing everybody with cookies (thanks parents, that purchase went to my shipboard account). Little did my floor know that I would inevitably choose pink as our team color. And little did I know that these boys, unlike those from St. Paul’s and SAE that I’m used to, actually do not own a plethora of pink shorts and pink polos. Don’t worry though, because I had enough pink in my wardrobe to supply the entire floor and then some. And then the mighty PINK PANTHERS came out strong.

It was looking all uphill from the start. The Aegean Sea, the smallest of the seas and the only sea on deck 2 (every other deck has four seas – ours is so little because we share most of our deck with the crew quarters) has been undefeated for the past five Sea Olympics. We had a song to the tune of the Pink Panther theme song: We’re gonna win; You’ll see; We’ll gain a victory: Aegean Seaaaaaaaa. And a rally chant that nobody else could compete with: “Where’s it better?” “On the bottom!”

Ah…and the bottom is right. After losing our voices at the Opening Ceremonies, we competed fiercely the next day. I stacked our Tug-o-War team to outweigh any other team on the ship. I sent the girl with glasses to the spelling bee. I paired the Italian roommates on the pizza making contest. And I put myself on flip cup and Pictionary. Basically…we were stacked. There was no way we couldn’t be number one. And yet…our cheer unfortunately came true…

As I used my “pimp cane” (aka – my pink lacrosse shaft) to force my way through the crowds around the volleyball court, another Panther yelled back to me that it was useless, we had already lost. Then came the nightmarish round of Pictionary during which I failed to guess “paste.” And then our spelling bee girl got out in the second round. And our pushup boy collapsed with 15 seconds left (it was probably the pink nails that did him in). And a 65 year old man broke out 24 pull-ups, dominating all the college boys. And the other teams’ wall-sitters lasted for 15 minutes – our 3 minutes there just couldn’t compare. Our pizza was burnt. The jeopardy questions were about classes, not pop-culture. Our hotdog boy, who said he could eat 11 in five minutes only downed 3. And, as it turned out, the wheelbarrow races did have to switch partners. Oh, and equally disadvantaging all: in an effort to conserve water (we’re at sea for a long time), the pool was drained and the synchronize swim teams were forced to perform on a stage rather than in the water.

All in all, it was nightmare after nightmare as we rushed back to the scoreboard only to see another round go through with the Pink Panthers at 0: DFL. In the end, we managed to secure a solid three points: 2 from our Hawaiian hula-hooper and 1 from our human knot team (6 seconds to undo a human knot. Ridiculous).

But that’s okay because we showed up at our closing ceremonies yelling (or, by this point, hoarsely whispering) our favorite chant:

Where’s it better?

On the bottom!

That’s right. We managed to be excited that our ranking matched our cheer. But then came the dreaded announcement…the Pink Panthers were not actually last. We had beaten out the Silver Stars.

Yeah that’s right – we can’t even lose right.