Friday, February 20, 2009

Crew Appreciation

Since I am being fairly lazy tonight I felt like I should write another blog post. Today’s topic is the crew of the MV Explorer! I have been planning this post for a while and I don’t think anything I can say can really do justice to the hard working people on this ship.

My three favorite crew members are Achilles (who Hannah and I called Edga for the longest time)r, Joseph, and Clive. Achilles is my cabin steward and is one of the nicest people on this ship. For the first few weeks the idea of having someone come into my room and clean every day was intimidating. The fact that he would fold my pajamas and place Mr. Beeps my stuffed bear at the head of my bed was also somewhat foreign. However, his hard work is not unappreciated! Every morning my roommate Hannah wakes up before I do and goes to breakfast. When Edgar sees her leave he knows that I will be leaving in about thirty minutes for class. After I (finally) drag myself from bed and go outside he is waiting there patiently with a smile and a “Good morning Kendra, how are you today?”. He never complains about picking up our dirty towels and always brightens the gloomy days!

I ought to preface my stories about the dining hall staff with an explanation that I often eat lunches alone. Most of my friends have class on an opposite schedule than I do so more often than not I will be seen alone on deck 6 staring morosely into my PB &J. Joseph works in the Garden Lounge dining hall on deck 6. Every day you can here him singing while he clears plates and cleans tables. For a long time I only enjoyed his music from a distance, but one day he came up to me while I was sitting alone and started up a conversation. We talked about the different countries and how hard it is to be away from family for such a long time. We also talked about how little I ate and he asked if there was anything in particular that I liked. I replied that I love the ship’s iced tea and every day since then he will bring me a pitcher of iced tea to fill my water bottle. Whenever I sit alone he will take time out of his busy day to come and talk to me. I know that many other students feel uplifted by his singing and I wonder if he understands how much we rely on his cheerfulness to brighten our days.

Clive was the first crew member that I really had a conversation with. The day before we arrived in Spain I was sitting alone in the main dining hall on deck 5 doing homework when Clive comes over and says “I am Clive, where are you from?”. We had a great conversation about life and family. Several days later I was eating lunch with a friend and we told Clive about our parents’concerns regarding the white slave trade in Morocco. Clive promised that if we went missing, he would lead the search party for us. Simply knowing that someone was looking out for us made me feel much more comfortable about Casablanca and Moroccan adventures. Today I created another Clive story. Most of my friends and my roommate are on safari and I was feeling lonely and somewhat pitiful so I called home. I love calling home, but inevitably I will cry and wish more than anything that I could see my parents! After the phone call I went up to eat dinner and mope. No moping allowed! I had been sitting outside for about five minutes when Clive comes up and says “I was going to stand in your sunshine, but it looks like someone already stole it from you”. I told him that I was feeling homesick and he said “Don’t think about going home. Think about bringing home to you and sharing your life with everyone you meet. And I promise that your day will get better”. He was right and soon my favorite professor and her sixteen year old daughter came and sat with me and we ate while marveling in the beauty of Table Mountain. They later invited me to go to a bookstore and out for coffee with them. And so I am now sitting in my room with three brand new books ($5) and a smile on my face.

There are so many hardworking people on this ship and, although I have only brushed the surface of their lives, I am extremely grateful to know them. Even tonight I met a new crew member at the piano bar who is from Turkey and was telling me all about the beauties of Istanbul. I wish I could fully express the amazing things done by the people working on the MV Explorer, but words cannot do it justice. Besides, I have three new books to read (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tempted Champions, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wisdom of War, and bizarre looking book called Jude: Level 1. Am I a dork? Hell yeah!). And so goodnight everyone! I plan to go to bed early knowing that there is an amazing crew taking care of every student on this ship!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Neptune Day!

Whenever I feel homesick I go up to the deck 7 pool bar and buy a bag of popcorn. It is stale and too salty, but it never fails to make me feel better! Tonight I splurged and bought a large bag to eat while looking at the stars. Even with the ship completely lit up the stars here are amazing! Right now we are between Namibia and South Africa preparing for the next adventure. I promise that this post is not about homesickness; instead I plan to write about Neptune Day and my shipboard family! Neptune Day was a whirlwind of fish guts, sunburns and barbeque. Technically we celebrated Neptune Day the day before we crossed the equator, but the sentiment was the same. On February 8 (happy birthday dad!) all “pollywogs”were sent an email requesting their presence before the royal court of Neptune to acknowledge his sovereignty. We woke up on February 9 to the sound of people running up and down the halls screaming and banging on doors and drums. After dragging ourselves from bed my roommate Hannah and I moved up to deck 7 where the festivities began!

In order to be initiated a student had to stand in one of the side pools, have “fish guts”poured over them, kiss a fish, kiss Neptune’s ring, jump into the pool, and then be knighted by our security officer Joe. And so I became a shellback with fish in my hair and water up my nose! I looked a fish in the eye and kissed it right on the lips (I later found out that the fish was fake…). The rest of the day was class free and so I went up to the front of the ship to read and relax. After falling asleep in the sun I woke up with a spectacular sunburn from the bottoms of my feet to my neck! That night was an impromptu barbecue with amazing burgers and corn on the cob! With ice cream for dessert it was a perfect end to a great day.

But wait, there’s more! That same night was my first dinner with my extended family. The ship has a program called “extended family”in which faculty, lifelong learners, and living learning leaders can create a family with several students. The families eat together generally twice a week when at sea and they provide a good outlet for students who need help or are feeling homesick. My family consists of two boys and five girls (not unlike the general male-female proportion on SAS) and our “parents”Fred and Nancy. Fred Levine is an art history professor on SAS and he recently spoke in our general Global Studies course about the cave paintings made by early humans. Our first family dinner was great and I am very glad that I have a family away from home.

Well, I know that this was a kind of slow email, but I promise that my Namibia and South Africa post will be interesting! With any luck I will find a cheap internet café in Cape Town and will be able to put up some safari photos!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Here is a small note from the other side of the world (Senegal to be exact) to let you know how much I love you! I hope that you have a wonderful day filled with cheesy Aloha shirts and mom's carrot cake.

Love, Kendra

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Spain to Morocco

Feb. 6, 2009

The first intense set of adventures has come and gone and now all that students can think of is Namibia! Well, Namibia and seasickness. I thought that seasickness was just for the weak, but as I had to be given a seasickness shot today the size of a horse tranquilizer, I am rethinking that prejudice. Combining seasickness with the five students who have broken wrists, sprained ankles and pulled muscles gives the MV Explorer a less-than-cheerful student body. Why all the injuries you ask? Well yesterday as we left the port of Casablanca the ship was forced through a tiny gap in the seawall with huge swells surrounding us. My roommate Hannah and I were sitting on our beds when all of a sudden we go flying across the room, beds and all! It was like Bedknobs and Broomsticks combined with large waves! Luckily my seasickness didn’t set in until late last night when I was reading for my Military Force and Diplomacy class. And then today (after a night of unsuccessful attempts to take medication) I surrendered to the ocean and let our amazing medical team give me a shot. So now I am sitting in my cabin feeling like a mule kicked me in the shoulder and decided to write a Spain/Morocco update for everyone!

First of all, I have to say that words cannot give justice to my experiences, but I will do my best to explain everything completely. We arrived in Spain early in the morning and hundreds of students climbed out onto the decks to see land for the first time in nine days. Luckily the port of Cadiz was in a very nice part of town and we were able to get favorable first impressions. I spent the first day wandering around Cadiz with some friends. We didn’t have a set plan and so we simply walked around the entire city finding some amazing public gardens and drinking Sangria in the shadow of a beautiful cathedral. Spain is paradise for the homeless cats of the world and they are all well-fed and loved by the city residents. Before the novelty of stray cats wore off I would run after them taking photos. On the first night I went to a SAS sponsored flamenco performance that included a dressage exhibition and example of a bullfight. The show was excellent; although many people felt that it was completely unauthentic and that we would do better to find a real flamenco show.

The next morning I took a train from Cadiz to Sevilla with a group of four other students. We were hoping to spend one night in Sevilla before continuing to either Cordoba or Granada, but unfortunately all hostels were filled to the brim thanks to Semester at Sea and a soccer game that night in the city. In the end we decided to simply spend the day in Sevilla and then take a train to Cordoba that night. That one day in Sevilla was amazing. At first we had some trouble finding the nice part of town, but once we saw the cathedral, we knew why everyone praises Spain. We visited the Real Alcazar which seemed to me to be a miniature Versailles with amazing gardens and absolutely stunning mosaics! If I worked in Sevilla I would go to the Alcazar every day for my lunch just to sit and breathe in the peace. It was hard to believe that there was an entire city on the other side of the wall! That night we took a fast train to Cordoba and spent the night in a very nice hostel (Hotel Boston). The next day we were all too exhausted to visit any tourist sites so instead we spent most of our time relaxing near the hostel before taking a slow train back to Cadiz. The final day in Cadiz was a blur of grocery shopping, chocolate con churros, and postcard writing. We left that night and I was finally able to fall asleep with the gentle rocking of the ship once more.

The following day we pulled into Gibraltar to bunker (take on fuel), but thanks to extremely rough seas the Explorer was forced to spend a whole day there (without landing to look at the monkeys!) which pushed our Morocco arrival date back by about 18 hours. Our arrival in Morocco involved going through a narrow sea wall with heavy waves. The result was broken dishes in the dining halls and a flipped chest of drawers (caught on film) in my cabin. Since we had lost a day in Morocco, many of the trips were changed. Luckily my trip stayed on schedule and the morning after our arrival in Casablanca twenty-two students took a bus to the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the ancient city of Fes. I can’t find words to describe Volubilis and the surrounding areas. When I had pictured Morocco I had not expected lush green valleys with beautiful trees and mountains! The ruins of Volubilis were in amazing condition with mosaics made out of local stone filling the houses. It was easy to imagine a complete city filled with people living their lives. After visiting Volubilis our group continued to Fes for the night.

My second day in Morocco was spent in the city of Fes. Our tour guide was a Fes local and so he knew exactly where to take us. We spent most of the day in the Old Medina (Fes el Bali) where the largest “souk”in Fes exists. Some fun facts about the Old Medina:

· The Old Medina is home to the world’s oldest (859 AD) continuously running university; the University of Al-Karouine

· The medina is believed to be the largest contiguous car-free urban area in the world as well as the largest medina in the world)

· The medina is the craftsmanship capital of Morocco and almost all goods sold in areas such as Marrakech or Casablanca originated in Fes.

I have to say that the Medina was like being pulled into Arabian Nights or Aladdin. It was the first time I really felt like I was in another world. In one day I visited a ceramics studio where I saw how mosaics are created, a tannery with a view of the city, a weaving studio where we could buy Moroccan scarves fresh off the loom, and an apothecary’s shop filled with stuffed foxes and exotic remedies. I learned that when someone in the narrow street calls out “Grand Taxi!”to pull over to one side and let a pack-laden donkey pass by. I learned stories about ancient kings and modern ones who all found true love in Fes. It was like being pulled into a fairy tale and I never wanted to leave!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and we returned to Casablanca late that night. On our last day in Morocco a large group of students decided to walk to the Hassan II mosque which is one of the largest mosques in the world. We were told that it was a twenty minute walk from the ship to the mosque, but it tuned out that it was a twenty minute walk from the ship to the port exit! Morocco has strange weather patterns and when we were about fifteen minutes from the mosque there was a torrential downpour of rain! None of us had umbrellas and things would have gone very poorly if the “tourism police”hadn’t pulled us over and driven us the rest of the way free of charge! And so unlike most students, I have a good story about being picked up by the police and riding in a paddywagon. The mosque was beautiful and awe-inspiring, but it could not compare to my experience in Fes. We spent the rest of the day in the Casablanca medina doing some last minute shopping. My favorite Casablanca was buying a round loaf of bread for 1 dirham (about 15 cents) to eat while following a rainbow back to the ship.

Now we are on our way to Dakar for fuel before the adventure continues with a safari in Namibia!