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.)

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.

Mauritius – October 8

Today we stopped at Mauritius to quickly fuel up on our way to India. I first noticed us approaching the island at the end of my econ class. I looked out the windows on the far side of the room and saw huge, steep mountains coming closer and closer. I think I was the first person to notice it so I played a fun game of watching as each person in the 40 student class realized what was right outside the window.
It was beautiful. Like as beautiful as Lencois, except not a six hour bus ride away from the port. The island seemed to erupt out of nowhere (ironically of course, it had). But it was amazing to see such untouched nature right next to a port. Anyways…I opened up my computer and immediately made plans to run away. (The major hindrance being that if I used my Amex – inevitable – I’d be traceable to the small little island at which point I’d be quite easy to find.)
Our class got out a little early and I immediately flew up to the seventh deck to go outside and just stare for a little longer before my next class. While I was leaning over the railing, taking in the beautiful island and imagining climbing the peaks when I moved there, Professor Ehlers came up behind me.

I first met Prof Ehlers when she gave a guest lecture in my Global Studies class and I disagreed with a main point of hers so I had lunch with her to discuss it. Since then, we’ve continued a lunch tradition to debrief from every port. She teaches a class on the anthropology of tourism and has a knack for making students feel guilty for everything they do in port because of how tourism breaks down communities. Great.
Okay so Prof Ehlers just stood there looking at it and said, “It’s beautiful isn’t it, Eli?”
“Yeah. I want to live here.”
“Yeah. You see all those big long buildings?”
“Uh huh.”
“Those are all sweatshops. Kind of ruins your idea of paradise, doesn’t it.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sneaky Bastard of a Professor – October 5

Obviously I did consider the potential repercussions of calling one of my professors a “bastard” in the title of this blog. But it’s just so true that there was no way around it.

Here’s what the sneaky bastard did: we were given a group assignment to make a five minute presentation on what monetary and fiscal policies we would recommend to South Africa @NOW. The assignment itself was pretty neat because he told us about it before we docked in Cape Town, so we had our whole time there to collect newspaper articles and ask around about what people generally though of the financial standing of the country. Plus, the situation in South Africa is almost as extreme as in the US, so our policies could kind of be on the order of a $700b (or is that “t”?) bail out plan. Actually, that’s a lie. But their president did just “resign” and the guy that will probably replace him did have and “affair” with his fifteen year old niece. (Some might call it an affair – others might call it rape. Either way, good thing he showered afterwards because she had AIDs.)

(If you don’t get the last parenthetical – get your head out of the US section and start looking at what’s going on in the world. For example: our ship had to change course in order to avoid the pirates that are only asking for $5m ransom. And we might be going to Thailand instead of India if they have any more bombings in the next week. Yeah…the world is a pretty fun place.)

Woah. Lost myself there for a bit. Group project. I don’t have ADD. Okay.

So I hate group projects because, obviously, nobody else can be trusted. Like I’m just such a better student than all of my peers that I’d prefer to just do the whole thing myself and slap their names onto the first slide of the presentation. That’s the only way to guarantee an A. (Hi people that interviewed me this summer – all those stories I told about being a team player. Yeah – well practiced lies.)*

Thankfully, Stanford Boy was in my assigned group. It was perfect. The five of us met, Stanford Boy and I agreed on a proposal, he made the slides, I wrote up the summary, and we told the rest of the group that we were done. Half an hour tops and we were ready to go.

This is around when sneaky bastard whipped out his sneakiness. He called up the first group to present, and then told all the members except for one girl to sit down. “Okay, now give your group’s presentation.” No. Fucking. Way. He expected us to work. As. A. Group.

Around now was when I switched into panic mode. There was a 60% chance that he’d call on somebody in the group that had no idea what our presentation even said. Stanford Boy and I were just planning on giving the whole thing. Ohmygod.Ohmygod. I broke out my laptop and started sending very detailed instructions to the rest of my group members. We were all going to be graded on one person’s performance. Ohmygod.Ohmygod. This project was no longer a guaranteed A. Ohmygod.Ohmygod.

I honestly have no idea how long I was in freak out mode for. Our classes are 75 minutes long (KILLER) and my group was 7 out of 8. But as I was furiously typing away to my group mates, largely ignoring every other group’s proposals except for when I looked up and made very pointed critiques about how further devaluing the rand with screw over their small open economy, and then telling my group why we made sure that in our proposal the rand would appreciate and then explaining to them exactly how this would happen and then ohmygodtheyknownothingaboutecon- “ELI!” “Umm…yes?” “How about you go up there and give your group’s presentation?”

Oh. My. God. Halleluiah and praise the day. I don’t know if I was saved by luck or pity, but I amazingly got to do the group project exactly how I like doing them: alone.

But there may have been a lesson learned there. And in the future, I may collaborate with my group. Maybe.

*Hello again people that interviewed me this summer – this is actually a joke that I inserted for poetic humour. I swear. I’m a great team player. Lacrosse. Group Projects. Sorority. Love them all.

Ahh…that Walkward Moment – October 4

Yes. You know what I’m talking about: You’re walking down the hall and you see somebody coming in the other direction. It’s either morning and you feel gross, or you hooked up with him freshman fall and never spoke again – either way, you don’t want to say hi. You avoid eye contact. So does he. Next thing you know – BUMP. And you two are walking into each other. Right. Because that doesn’t make things less awkward. Fuck. … … …Both of you side step right and the awkward situation is one second behind you. Reached your quota for the week.

The boat multiplies the effect of these situations.

1. Our hallways are not quite large enough for two people to pass without touching.
2. The boat will inevitably topple right as contact occurs, meaning that your innocent and accidental bump now consists of being thrown into a wall right on top of boy-that-you’ve-been-avoiding-since-that-one-night-in-Brazil-damn-should-not-have-drank-that-much-but-maybe-his-is-kinda-cute?
3. People don’t inherently sidestep to the right. (Mom: that’s to the side of your keyboard with the delete key on it)

One and two should be self-explanatory. Number three, though, I can see how that requires some explanation. It was not something I had ever thought of before travelling so often. Our goal in each country (because I’m now such an experienced traveler) is to not look touristy. And because it is distinctly American to drive on the right side of the road (pun intended every single time), it is distinctly touristy to pass a person with left shoulders on the inside. Touristy to the point of a bridge in the Cape Town harbor needing to announce to tourists to please stay to the left in order to avoid pedestrian collisions.

So then what are we supposed to do on the boat? Do we return to our American default ways? Or do we continue our non-touristy, pass people on the left ways?

Solution: accidentally go left when he goes right, then fix it by stepping right as she steps left. Turn around, and run away.

Eli’s Age: 20
Eli’s Maturity Level ~ That of Ali Weinstock’s

Friday, October 3, 2008

Complaints – Version 9.0 – October 3

I’m back on the ship again. Back to my Iceberg lettuce and white bread sandwiches. But wait…even better…THIS TIME around I have an ear infection! AND the seas are even WORSE!

Oh boy! Oh boy!

Everybody warned me about how much it would suck to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Well…I have something to tell all those people: they have no idea.

And ear infections, y’know, because of the whole balance thing…multiply the effect.

Lucky for me though, I found a pretty effective solution in “Adventures in Sex: 365 ways to make every day & night more exciting.” Mark Bricklin’s suggestion for May 26 is the following:

seesaw sex

Holding hands is one of the most unusual things people do during sex, but it’s a key part of the charm and energy of this position. And, the positions are completely reversible, so long as both have fairly strong arms. One partner, let’s say the woman, lies on her back, with her hips raised, and her legs grasping the sides of the man. The man, inside her, leans forward and extends his hands out over the woman’s shoulders. She raises her hands to meet his. They interlock hands. The woman then uses both her hips and arms to seesaw the man back and forth. Playful and passionate at the same time!

Right…so minus the whole sex part…this is actually a pretty good technique to use for seasickness. It helps you work with the rocking of the boat – the motion of the ocean, as some might call it. I’ve learned that, in such situations, it’s better to accept that I’m living on a large floaty device that rocks rather than fight it.

I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in there.

Finish Your Food, There Are Starving Children in Africa – October 2

In my case, with being raised by WWII-era-clean-plate-club grandparents, this line has never actually been used. But I’m sure that had it, I would’ve been the smart alec to respond that it doesn’t make a difference to any starving children in Africa if I have leftovers or not. That is…if I wasn’t such a fatty that finished everything on my plate anyways, or if my mother wasn’t such a good cook.

Anyways…the significance of this line really starts to increase when “in Africa” can be replaced with “20 miles away” or even “right outside our incredibly posh coach bus.” Here’s the difference it makes: if you don’t finish your meal, you could potentially give it to the children right outside your window. The boy with the bulging stomach and inflated feet that’s sitting at a distance because he no longer cares if he lives or dies so why should he care if he has friends when he does – he’d probably really appreciate that disgusting excuse of a sandwich, which is really just a piece of mystery meat and cheese between two pieces of dry and moldy (yes – at the same time) white bread. But here’s the bigger issue: if you don’t have enough to give to everybody, you might as well not give out any at all. Lest you be the cause of turmoil between those who received and those who did not. Let me tell you, when you’re forcing your way through a piece of overly dry and crumbly “cake,” staring at children staring back at you, and listening to your tour guide who tells you that you cannot under any circumstances take any food off the bus to offer the children, you’re really going to appreciate every last bite of that terrible piece of cake.

This was the opinion of one tour guide.

On a different tour of a different Cape Town neighborhood, our tour guide did allow us to give away our leftover lunches. This was not the original plan. We were actually supposed to be volunteering with an organization called Operation Hunger, cooking and serving meals to select residents that were so underfed that intervention was the only solution. (Operation Hunger refuses other residents in order to avoid the risk of dependency.) Unfortunately, on the day that we planned to serve, the soup kitchen was temporarily out of money (something about being the last day of the month. …because people only need to be fed at the beginning of each month?) So the group of us trekked back through the muddy roads to our bus, where we gathered all the leftovers we could find. We then set up our own line of food donations.

I have never seen children so well behaved. We asked them to line up single file. The older children immediately took control, directing the younger ones to the front, while staying in the back themselves. They benefitted from the selflessness of this move when the younger children decided to share their rations with the older ones, completely on their own initiative. This was especially necessary because we ran out of food by the time the older children came through the line (despite cutting everything from the apples to the cookies in half). But it didn’t matter, because after receiving their food, everybody tromped over to a small shelter, where they laid it all out and distributed it evenly between the younger and older children. Amazing.

Moral of the story: Finish your beer because there are sober kids in India.

Eli + Children = Not Happening? – September 29

At the beginning of the summer, I told my mom I was sorry because of her children…it doesn’t look like she’ll ever get grandchildren.

The first change in this luck was that James got a girlfriend. Just in case you didn’t know, you now know. Absolutely ridiculous right.

Caitlin – don’t gain any weight. You’re a cute little peanut just as you are. I’m just seriously scared you won’t be able to carry a child.

And as far as I go…I still hate children. They’re just kinda loud and energetic and too much for me. After spending four months volunteering in Mississippi, I had only volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club once – and it was probably my least favorite volunteering experience. Ever. Which is why I wasn’t especially excited for my mandatory visit to a pre-school in a Cape Town township. Our job was to weigh the children so that we could test how they measured up against other children their age. I immediately volunteered to run one of the scales. I figured that while everybody else actually had to deal with the children, I could just sit and read off numbers to somebody else. And still get class credit for it. Perfect deal.

Little did I know how amazingly adorable children can be. We walked in the door and this little girl clung herself to me. She did not let go for the next two hours. While I sat at the scale, she curled up in my lap, kind of like a cat. A perfectly behaved and quiet cat. But then once I was done weighing every body, all she wanted to do was play with me. She could have cared less about the stickers and bubbles that other SAS kids brought to the school. She just wanted to play follow the leader, or run around piggy back style, or dance to her own music.

I’m Alive – September 28

Right before I left Buffalo, my grandfather slipped me a sum of money and told me that I could only spend it on something that was “completely unnecessary.” And then, for my birthday (RIP teenage years), my other set of grandparents gave me life insurance.* I think that had they spoken with each other, they would’ve realized that it is stupid to give a teenager both of these at once. I mean…because…the result of money plus life insurance is obviously sky diving. In a third world country.

It was great. I love you all.

*This whole life insurance thing is pretty interesting because it means that my life is suddenly worth something. To that extent, here’s my quick, unofficial will:
(in order of monetary value)
-pink bike – to whomever can ride it down my driveway – clipped in and alive
-computer – to whomever wants the piece of shit. Have fun.
-clothes – only to someone truly deserving and appreciative of their preppiness. I’m thinking that my cousins will all have sweet wardrobes when they turn 16.
-textbooks – to the only person who won’t throw them out (my dad)
-board games – shall be “auctioned” off in a game of round robin tournaments on each. Winner chooses which game she wants etc etc.
-lacrosse shiz – let’s be serious…Ddubz has already eaten all of it anywayz
-trip around the world – (priceless) – to the lucky person who can both pass as me in my passport picture and put up with my spaz attack of a roommate (love you Darcy)

Vineyards – September 27

Oh my goodness. Today we went to the South African wine lands. It was absolutely gorgeous: huge mountains cascading into vineyards; villas spotted across the landscape; and this was at the end of their winter – so it was ugly. I could totally justify selling my soul to Wall St. if it meant living here eventually.

The best part about our tour was that we got to bike ride! It wasn’t that long…but it was so necessary for my New Hampshire self to get far far away from cities and cars and civilization. It was my first time since Lencois that I haven’t been in direct view of something with an engine. And it was amazing.

Okay, now here comes the critical part…

When I signed up for the SAS sponsored trip, “Wine Tasting and Cycling in the Wine Lands”, here’s what I was imagining:
Summer foliage and weather. Trails that cut through the rows of grapes. Wearing a flowy skirt and scarf that billowed in the winds behind me (I think this is a scene out of some 1950’s movie?). Rest stations every 5km (where rest station = wine tasting spot). Grabbing grapes out of trees and eating them as a snack between wine tastings. Not being allergic to red wine.

Don’t get me wrong…it was an absolutely gorgeous and perfect day. It’s just that – unsurprisingly – my expectations were a bit off. I think the most accurate part about them was that I wore a skirt. Besides that – I’ve determined that I MUST come back when there are leaves on the trees. I felt cheated as I cycled into one vineyard with trees without leaves arching over the driveway. And I felt freezing as I cycled out of control down a rocky path into a small crick of freezing water (I’m not used to mountain bikes). And frustrated that they had the foresight to know that we should not be allowed to continue cycling after the wine tastings began.

I think the best part actually was being allergic to red wine. (A story in itself – hi family genes! Love you!) I strategically waited until my entire range of wine samples had been poured before telling each vineyard that I was allergic to red wine. This usually resulted in me having twice as much wine (because they would then pour an additional sampling of white wines) and twice as many friends (to whom I handed out my glasses of red wine).

My favorite part of the day was Guy Eli’s (aka “Heli” – and I’m “Sheli”) conversation with our dean of students:
Heli – So Jack, what if I wanted to bring back a bottle of wine to my parents? Like would it be possible to put it in a storage room on the ship for you to keep safe and for me to have when we got back to Miami? Or could I give it to you for safe keeping?
Jack – Well, Eli, let me tell you a few things about life. As a dean, I’m only allowed to bring on two bottles of wine from each port. Only two.
Heli – I’m guessing you want both of those bottles for yourself?
Jack – From South Africa, yes. But I’m not saying I’m not above bribery.

I guess this conversation wouldn’t be so hilarious if Jack hasn’t been completely serious and if Heli didn’t currently have a bottle of wine stashed away in the dean of students’ room.

The day ended with a dinner of mussels, sushi, and two bottles of white wine at a restaurant overlooking the bay. So I’d say, absolutely perfect day.

This Blog is About My Parents – September 26

And how awesome they are to be more specific. They are like the coolest people…like ever. A great example of how exactly oppositely cool we are: this summer, during parents’ weekend, they didn’t want to be seen with me. While they went to Theta Delt to play pong with Isabelle Schless’ parents, I went to Phi Tau to have Milque and Cookies with Isabelle Schless’ younger brother. These are truly on opposite ends of the coolness spectrum. If you’re on facebook, you should friend my dad. If you’re in Newark, you should try to not be in a crosswalk when my mom’s coming. She’s so cool that it don’t matter – she’ll run you down.

On a more serious note, I’m sure they hate me because I’m not exactly aiming to be the most successful (financially) daughter they were probably hoping for. But they understand that. They understand how much Semester at Sea mattered to me as an opportunity to see the world – as a chance to play with the idea of living/working in a third world country. They saw that I considered it more than a 108 day “booze cruise” and agreed to let me go. They are so understanding. And cool.

[My dad may or may not have just received the bill for my shipboard account. Love you Pops!]

My Continued Birthday – September 25

Today I had lunch with my adopted grandparents. Adopted grandparents is a program set up by SAS where students are matched up with professors, staff, or life long learners. My grandparents’ names’ are Doris and Hal. They are life long learners from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. And they are terrible influences on me. Hal is big into NGOs and being an explorer, wandering the world. Besides that, they’re also incredibly adorable.

Doris and Hal have six adopted grandchildren. We have a meal together about once a week. It’s a great program, especially for somebody like me who’s so used to having grandparents around all the time. It’s also great to have meals with them because they’re treated like royalty on the ship. The wait staff clears out rooms for us to eat in and then carries our trays from the food line to the table. It’s great.

Anyways…at lunch today we were having quite the heated talk about how one professor has decided to make his class mandatory (I’ll leave you to guess which side of that argument I was on) when suddenly two waiters came in carrying a huge birthday cake with a candle in it, singing happy birthday to Ellie. (They actually meant me.) So I got another birthday wish and another birthday cake.

Oh…and in a classic reference to New Hampshire/Ben and Jerry’s/Stoneyfield Yogurt, it was an ice cream cake.

Namibia – September 24

Oh God…where do I even start? …quick summary of the last five days:
1. My mother was SO right – I do not ever want to have to leave Africa. And I might never have to, seeing as I was conveniently offered a job at a nonprofit in Walvis Bay.
2. I’m no longer a teenager.
3. and NONE of you sent me ANYTHING. Despite my suggestion on Sept 2.
4. I saw zebras and ostriches and giraffes and elephants and wildebeests and springboks and kudus and lions and rhinos and cheetahs. (I think the cheetah part is a lie – but everybody else saw one so it kind of counts?)
5. And then I ate zebras and ostriches and springbok and kudu and crocodile and chicken. Ostrich was by far my favorite.
a. (and this meal cost all of 15USD, with drinks and dessert)
6. The exchange rate is 8ND/1USD. Beer costs 6ND. (I did the math for you – that’s 75 cents a beer.)
My visit to Africa started with a 5am wake up call. I was really excited to see the sun rise over Africa as we approached our port.

Let’s quickly go through what I was visioning: 80 degree weather, dolphins jumping in front of the ship, silhouettes of elephants and giraffes in the distance, and the whole continent blasting the Circle of Life as the sun rose over the desert and Pride Rock.

Right. Well I guess the reason for this trip is to break up those stereotypes. So…things I was not expecting/was incredibly disappointed to learn:
1. It’s fucking freezing in Namibia.
2. Those things jumping in front of the ship – they weren’t dolphins – they were fucking PENGUINS.
3. Like I was convinced that the captain made a wrong turn and accidentally brought us to Antarctica.
4. Because the fog was also so dense that you couldn’t even see the front of the boat.
5. And there was no Lion King music blasting from the country. Which I was really expecting would happen.
6. So, overall, it was the worst sunrise ever.

But it turns out that Namibians LOVE Americans (rough estimate that 70% of their exports are to America and 70% of their foreign aid is from America.) so we were able to get off the ship very quickly and get on with our adventures in Namibia. Cory, however, had three hours of “dock time,” so I had three hours to explore Walvis Bay before returning to the ship to pick him up. This is when I first learned about the 75 cent beers. And I had a great 5 dollar burger at Wimpy’s.

Then…it was off to Windehoek, the capital, for the first leg of our safari. …six hour cab ride (for 13USD) later … and we found our hostel! There were 15 other SAS kids staying at our hostel – all of them headed to the same safari the next day. Blah blah blah blah blah blah…safari…lots of animals…already listed those…okay…MY BIRTHDAY:

So we had a few randos in our group of 25 SAS kids on the safari. These randos included: Fin (short for “Finland”), Canada (also known as “Cougar”), South Africa, Lombard (our tour guide), German Guy and German Girl. As you can see – we really focused on getting to know all of their names.

These randos did a fabulous job of both keeping up with the college kids and celebrating my birthday. At dinner (the best meal I’ve had since last Thanksgiving – and I’m pretty sure the best meal that has ever been cooked over an open flame), Fin broke out his Scandinavian specialty of gin with a pinch of tonic. We then proceeded to the “bar” (a clearing in the woods with a hut full of beer and a fire pit) to play Kings with all the old people. Some great stories that came out of this were “Never have I ever had sex with an animal” (thank you, Lombard) and “Never have I ever walked in on my parents” (but Canada, aren’t you a parent? I mean…you’re like 50.)

After Kings, the night divulged into mayhem – I went to explain the IS/LM model to a kid in my econ class and to discuss the effects of inflation and exchange rates on pricing with the bartender (hey – can’t ever miss an opportunity to get a little work done). But apparently while I was doing this, Fin got really scared that “THE PORTUGUESE WERE ATTACKING!!” and insisted that we all escape to Angola. Around the same time, Canada/Cougar started listing her favorite white liquids. Cory was most shocked that milk, milkshakes, and ice cream were nowhere in the top five. And during all of this, one sly person snuck back to the campsite and moved around all the tents – resulting in disaster around 4am when everybody decided to go to sleep, but nobody could identify or find their own tent. (Just to add to the confusion, another prankster had completely removed one tent from the whole camping area.)

Oh – I forgot to mention that there were little Pumbas running around the entire camping grounds. (Lombard started referring to animals by their Lion King names because that was the only way that I could identify them: “You see that in the trees Eli? That’s Zazu.” “Ahhh right.”) I did manage to avoid any run-ins with the Pumbas, but on the first night I may or may not have tried to befriend Shenzi, Banzai and Ed at a watering hole.

The fences at safaris are electric.

Moving on.

Our Safari ended with missed opportunities because nobody (not even our tour guide) woke up until 9am the next day (we were supposed to start our game drive at 6am in order to watch the lions go to the watering hole). But despite the lack of lions (we had seen Mufasa and Simba the day before anyways) – I think it could safely go down as the best birthday. Ever.