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 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 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.