We are down to the final stretch and on our way to our last port.  I’m officially done with classes and only have finals left!  It’s crazy to think that in less than a week I will be back in Minnesota and my journey will be complete. These past few days of classes have been focused on reflection and how to make meaning of this trip of a lifetime.  I still can’t believe it’s almost over. 

Manaus was an amazing port.  The port city itself wasn’t that exciting but Paige and I made reservations at a place right in the heart of the rainforest.  There was a SAS trip going to the same place as well but we were too late to sign up so we reserved it independently.  Two other teachers, my politics teacher included, and their wives were traveling independently as well so we were paired with them the entire port.  That is something that is so different about SAS than any other school!

The first morning we hopped on our first boat ride.  We stopped at the meeting of the waters where the two rivers meet.  It is interesting because in the middle of the river you can see the two different colors keep the two waters separate.  The Rio Negro is dark because of the tannin in the water and won’t mix with the other river.  We were lucky to stay in an area where the river had tannin because mosquitos aren’t attracted to it so we didn’t have to worry about malaria as much as our friends did.  After our hour boat ride we took an hour drive and got on a second boat to take us to our lodge.  We finally arrived around lunchtime and were greeted by our personal guide Kenrick.  Our lodge was amazing!  The entire place was on stilts and all of the huts were connected by suspended walkways above the rainforest. Our hut was at the very end and looked over the river.  We had a hammock on our porch that we could sit outside and look at both the forest and the river.  We couldn’t have asked for more.  For our adventure of the day Kenrick took our group out on canoes.  We paddled 5km away and were surrounded by pink dolphins, jumping fish, and birds.  It felt straight out of a movie.  We went back for dinner and Kenrick gave us a lecture on the Amazon and the area we were in.


Our Lodge



Our Hut


We woke up the next morning bright and early to start our adventures!  We started off with a nature hike.  It was a big surprise for us when our hike turned into a 4-hour trek through the rainforest.  We were told to wear pants for our hike but unfortunately the closest thing we packed were capris.  Kenrick told us that we needed to find pants because snakes and other animals were more likely to bite our legs when they saw our skin.  We were officially scared out of our mind to go on this hike.  He had us wear these leather leg straps to cover our legs up.  We definitely went on our hike in style!  We weaved in and out of the forest stopping to examine all the different types of trees and plants.  Kenrick made us fans out of the trees trying to cool us down from the 105 degree weather we were hiking through.  He challenged us to try a forest delicacy while we were there.  We understood afterwards why he made us agree to try it before telling us what it was.  Before we knew it Kenrick was heating our larvae over a fire.  We kept telling ourselves this is a once in a lifetime adventure and we have to experience everything.  And we sure did!  We learned a lot about nature and living in the rainforest on our hike and I’m amazed by the diversity of animals and plants even within that small area. 


Our larvae

In the afternoon we went to a local’s house to see how people in the Amazon live.  He was a farmer and had multiple different animals on his many acres of land.  What I was really impressed by was his pineapple farm!  It was the first time I had seen pineapple being grown!  The farmer said he sells them each for 75 cents to locals or stores in the city.  After our family visit we spent a little time on the water piranha fishing!  We tied our boat to a stick rising out of the water and within 30 seconds we had our first bite.  I got a little too excited when I caught my first one that I ended up letting it fall off the hook and into the boat.  I don’t know if you have ever seen the teeth on those things but they are terrifying!  As a group we ended up catching about 20 piranhas and 15 catfish.  We finished up fishing right after the sunset- a perfect ending to the day.  We kept the largest fish and brought them back for dinner.  I was surprised by how good it tasted! 


Our catches for the day




When it got dark out that night we went caiman spotting.  Caiman are little alligators and at night if you shine your flashlight on the water you can see their eyes reflecting back.  I was a little nervous at the thought of pulling up to the shore and watching Kenrick jump out and grab it.  After the first one we all calmed down a little bit.  He passed it around the boat and we all were able to hold it.  The rest of the night Kenrick took us on a night boat ride around the area, which was amazing with how bright the moon and stars were.




The next morning we had to get up early to start our three  hour trek back to Manaus.  I was sad to say goodbye to Kenrick who had become a good friend of ours in the few days we were there.  When we got back we decided we should probably venture into Manaus a little to see what it has to offer.  Right when you get off the ship there was a market that we walked around for awhile.  We went to the Cathedral and ended up taking a tour of the opera house.  The tour of the opera house was one of the funniest tours I’ve ever been on.  I’m not sure if it was because of the language barrier but our tour guide gave us a pretty interesting tour.  He basically only explained to us what each pillar was made out of- usually iron and marble.  Then he took us to a mirror and started to explain that this is a mirror and it shows what you really look like.  It was definitely interesting! 


Kenrick and us


Now we are almost to Dominica- our last stop for the semester.  We only have two days there and then we have four days at sea before arriving in Florida!  Crazy to think about!


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I can’t believe we only have two ports left before we are back to the United States.  It’s finally starting to hit me that this amazing voyage is almost over and pretty soon I’ll be back in Minnesota shoveling snow in the cold.  As excited I am to be reunited with my friends and family, I’m not quite ready for this journey to end.

Rio was indescribable.  For years I had dreamed of visiting this vibrant city and seeing Christ the Redeemer in person.  I was amazed with everything I experienced while there.  My roommate and I prepared for the port by waking up every morning for a week to “Take You to Rio” by the one and only Justin Bieber.  Everyone on the ship was excited for this port.

The first day my friend and I signed up for a SAS trip before getting off the ship.  We went and visited a favela, which are equivalent to shantytowns in Rio.  I was surprised by how packed the houses were and how close the living quarters were.  They were built into a mountain that overlooked Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.  It was a beautiful view.  It was interesting to see how the people in the favela live.  To get to their homes from the bottom of the mountain there is a cable car that is free to them and drops them off at different stops on the hill.  They are able to bring their groceries up on them and it makes it a little easier for them to access their homes.  Just our luck, the cable car was broken: so we got around the hard way by taking the stairs.  We got to fully experience what it would be like for them without the cable car in the high 90-degree weather!  We visited the favela Santa Marta, which is also the first pacified favela.  They have three police stations- one at every entrance- and that has helped reduce the crime and drugs within the community.  Michael Jackson shot his music video for “They Don’t Care About Us” in the favela.  They have a square dedicated to him with a mural and statue.  We went in a little store that sold a bunch of Michael Jackson items, which was interesting.  When we got back down to the bottom of the hill we ate a delicious local meal.  We spent time talking to the guides who grew up in Rio and learned a little more about what life is like there.  On the way back to the ship we went to a Hippie Market on Copacabana beach.  I’m not exactly sure why it’s called a Hippie Market but it is always fun to check out local markets and see what they sell.  For dinner that night, all of my friends and I went out and ate on the beach.  There was live music and locals singing.  It was a really fun night.




Michael Jackson square in Santa Marta


Out for dinner

The rest of our time in Rio we spent doing tourist activities.  My other friends had a great taxi drive the first day and they offered to show us around the rest of our trip.  Alejandre picked us up at 8am and took us first to Christ the Redeemer.  Christ the Redeemer was one of the places on my bucket list and it was my favorite place in Rio.  He drove us up the mountain to the place where we bought tickets.  Then we had a van take us the rest of the way up to the statue.  Words can’t even describe how big the statue is.  We spent about an hour just walking around taking pictures.  They had a little chapel at the top and lots of gift shops.  Alejandre told us he wanted to take us into Tijuca rainforest and show us the waterfalls, after he took us on a little nature hike through the forest.  It was interesting communicating with him because he only speaks Portuguese.  For the most part we could communicate through broken Spanish but it was difficult at times.  We ate lunch at a little restaurant in the forest.  It was a cute little place but also had us worried if anyone had eaten there in years.  It turned out being pretty good and we had local food.  After lunch we went to Sugarloaf Mountain and took the cable car up to the top.  It had the perfect view.  It was Alejandre’s first time going to the top of the mountain after growing up in Rio so it was a fun experience for us all! 


Christ the Redeemer


Waterfall in Tijuca Forest


All of us with Alejandre

That night we went to a Brazilian steakhouse, which was phenomenal.  It was amazing how much food they gave us.  It was exactly like Fogo de Chao in the US.  They came around with different meats on the skewers and then would just cut off a chunk for you.  No one left hungry, that’s for sure!  Rio was an exciting city and definitely one I would love to come back to!  Next we are off down the Amazon River into Manaus!  I never imagined I would ever be visiting the Amazon Rainforest!

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Uruguay was a pretty laid-back visit for my friends and I.  I stayed in Montevideo the entire time and didn’t spend too much time traveling.  Montevideo wasn’t like other major cities we have stopped in that have multiple tourist spots or places that you must see before leaving.  It is more of a quiet, sleepy town at least during the time we were staying.  It is the first time Semester at Sea has ever stopped in Uruguay so everyone was sort of winging it. 

The first afternoon Paige and I went out to eat at a restaurant that was recommended by the tour agent on the ship in the morning.  We took a cab out to the city center to try chivitos, which are Uruguayan sandwiches made of beef, egg, bacon, ham, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  We were told it was the one food we had to try while here so we decided to start our trip off right with it.  We had a few questions about what exactly a chivito was and our waitress looked toward a lady at the table sitting next to us to translate.  The lady helped answer our questions and order our food and we continued to talk to her while we were waiting for our food.  We explained Semester at Sea and why we were in Uruguay.  You could tell that she enjoyed talking to us and hearing our stories of our travels.  After we ate we asked for the check and the waitress told us that the lady had taken care of it.  She came over and gave us a piece of paper with her name and email and told us to keep in touch with her.  Her son is living in the United States and she said we reminded her of him.  She said by paying for our meal she felt a little bit closer to her son and that we were her adopted daughters for the day.  We were amazed and grateful for her random act of kindness.  We plan on sending her pictures from the rest of our journey. 


Chivitos at the restaurant



The rest of the day we spent walking around the city with a group of friends.  We ran into some guys playing soccer who asked us to join.  We jumped in the game for a little bit (the 100 degree weather made it hard to play for too long) and then spent awhile talking to them about Uruguay.  About a half hour into the conversation one of them brought up that they all knew each other because they were all working for an unloading company.  Another then went on to explain it was sort of like a halfway job because they all had been in jail at some point in their life.  That came up as quite the surprise for all of us.  We couldn’t all help but laugh because we didn’t know how else to react.  The guys had all been so generous and welcoming to us before we knew they were criminals.  Their boss tried to explain that most crimes were very minor and not to worry.  It sure made for a good story at the end!


Our new soccer friends


That night we went out to eat for my roommates 21st birthday.  We went to a nice restaurant and then tried to meet up with the rest of the SAS kids.  There wasn’t anywhere for students to really go out and we heard that everyone was at a casino so we split into different taxis and went.  Our taxi driver didn’t know what casino we were talking about and we ended up going 15 minutes out of town and into a random casino.  We were the only girls there and the only people under the age of 60.  We tried to make the most out of the situation and laughed about how Jessie was now able to get her first gambling in as well.  We left and somehow managed to find the other people at the right casino and we all sat around watching the election.  It felt pretty strange being so far away and cut off from most forms of communication and news.  We have spent so much time focusing on other countries politics that sometimes I feel really disconnected from our own country. 

The other days we spent strolling around town shopping and looking at different statues.  At one point we were lost between the small streets and sat down on a ledge to take a break from walking.  We met a lady who was cleaning and preparing for the Carnival.  The Carnival is huge in Uruguay and lasts for 40 days.  They are already getting ready for it and it doesn’t start until February!  She showed us the different costumes and sculptures she was working on which was really neat. 





Lady working on carnival



The last day in port was my birthday so we walked around town some more.  I was able to Skype with my friends and family for a while which was a great present.  When I got back to the ship all of my friends had decorated my door and we had cakes at dinner.  My parents and my friend both ordered me a cake so we ended up with two.  It was the first time I have seen them come out with a cart for the cakes!  What better way to celebrate your birthday than on a trip like this!  Next we are off to Brazil with Rio being our first stop!  I can’t believe there are only three ports left! 


My door for my birthday



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Argentina was amazing! It was another country that I knew very little about until the classes leading up to it.  I only knew that we kept getting “Don’t cry for me Argentina” blasted on the PA system leading to port.  I’ve learned that the countries you have the least expectations about turn into being some of the best ports.  The first day I signed up through SAS for a city orientation with a few friends.  They took us all over Buenos Aires and into the different areas.  We first visited La Recoleta Cemetery, which is really famous.  Families pay up to 3 million dollars for a plot there.  Many previous presidents and elite are buried there.  It is unlike anything I have ever seen.  Most were mausoleums and were decorated by stone statues.  It felt like we were walking into a little city.  Next we went to Plaza de Mayo and saw the Pink House where the President works.  We came in the middle of a demonstration, which was an interesting experience.  Our last stop was in La Boca, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires known for colorful houses and streets.  The city orientation was perfect for the first day to get an overview of the city


The Cemetery


The second day my roommate talked me into signing up for a bike tour around Buenos Aires and an eco reserve.  We were outside meeting the guides at 7:30 and they gave us our bamboo bikes and we were off.  On the way to the eco reserve my roommate and I were the only ones with bike problems, our chains fell off a few times.  The guides definitely knew who we were by the end of the trip.  They took us to a lake and we sat down and drank mate- an herbal drink famous in South America.  We biked through Plaza de Mayo and the financial district and were back at the ship by lunchtime.  After lunch Jessie and I met up with Paige and Krista to do a little sight seeing.  We went to the botanical gardens and the Japanese gardens.  They were both beautiful and were a little break from the city view we were used to. On our way to the gardens we saw some girls getting pick pocketed.  It amazed me how everyone watched and clearly saw what happened but then ignored it.  No one tried to stop or even help the situation.  Later at night we met up with a bigger group of friends and went to dinner and a tango show.  It was a beautiful show and a great cultural experience. 


Bike Tour





On the third day a group of 10 of us went to a zoo right outside of Buenos Aires.  It took petting zoo to a whole new level.  We got there and started off by petting the lions.  They were a lot bigger when you were right next to them than I remember them being in the zoo!  We got to hold the baby lions and tigers in our laps.  We then went in the cage with the tigers, which I thought was the scariest part.  We had lunch in the restaurant inside the zoo and continued our trek around the park.  We waited in line for the camel rides but decided that feeding the elephants would be something we otherwise never would have had the chance to do.  By the time we were done with that, it was time to go.  We had to skip a lot of exhibits but still were excited for all the great experiences we had.  Our driver dropped us off at a market so we could shop around.  We all went home with mate and Dulce de Leche! That night I went with a huge group of SAS students to a pizza place that was known for the best pizza in Buenos Aires.  We all went out to a bar after to watch American football that all the guys have been missing.  My friends and I spoke to some locals about Buenos Aires and were surprised by how well our Spanish held up in a 30-minute conversation. Our Spanish is progressively getting better as we travel to more and more Spanish countries.





The next morning I had signed up for a graffiti tour around the city.  It was an interesting tour because it is legal in Argentina and many people in the community feel connected to it.  We walked all around town and looked at different types and learned about different artists.  At the end of the tour they took us to a famous artist’s studio and we got to meet him.  Jazz is well known throughout Argentina for his graffiti and even has some of his work in the US (legally).  After the tour I met up with a few of my friends and went shopping on Florida St.  We all got an Argentinean soccer jersey and we couldn’t leave without trying empanadas!  On ship time is at 6pm and we didn’t leave the restaurant until 5:20.  We had a really hard time finding a cab because all of them were full or wouldn’t stop in the traffic.  We finally flagged one down at 5:40 and he said he wouldn’t take us to the port because it was way out of his way.  We all were freaking out by that point because if we are late on the ship we get ‘dock time’ where we aren’t allowed off right away in the next port.  At 5:45 we finally flagged one down and he told us it would take us 15 minutes to get there.  We told him in our broken Spanish that our ship was leaving and we needed to get there fast- and that he did.  He legitimately drove 100 miles an hour weaving in and out of traffic.  I thought I was going to lose my life at least 5 times during that short drive.  We were on the shuttle bus back to the ship just in time and we got to the ship seconds before on ship time.  It must have been a funny sight to see because all the deans waited on the deck watching us sprint off the bus into line.  We made it in time and that’s all that matters!  For dinner we celebrated my roommates birthday with an ice cream cake.  Argentina was a little stressful at the end but was a success!  It is definitely a country I would love to come back to visit!


Graffiti Tour with Jazz

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10 Day Stretch

When someone would have asked me two weeks ago how I felt about being on the ship for 10 days straight without seeing land I would have told them how much I was dreading it.  I was thinking we would all feel trapped and be ready to jump off.  This 10-day stretch however has turned out to be great!  We have been able to sit back and reflect on all that we have done so far on our journey and strategize how we are going to make the best of our time left.  We related our experiences to our classes and have seen how far we have come as a community in the past 70 days.  We had one study day in the middle so we didn’t have to have 10 straight days of classes, which was a relief.  They have had a lot of fun activities on the ship to get us through this long stretch as well.

            The third night back on the ship a group of us decided to go to special dinner on the ship to celebrate three of our birthdays.  Haley’s birthday was the second day of the stretch and then Jessie and I have our birthdays in these next ports.  Special dinner we pay 30 dollars for a fancy 5-course meal that is served to us restaurant style.  It is amazing how good the food truly can be on the ship.  It made us set higher standards for the dinning rooms.  18 of us rented out the room to celebrate and it was a lot of fun!

            Halfway through was our study day which was actually our Sea Olympics day.  We are broken into seas by which deck we are on.  My deck is the Aegean Sea.  We had over 30 activities that we can participate in.  Some of these included: Jeopardy, lip synch contest, pass the orange, spelling bee (backwards), obstacle course, limbo, hula-hoop contest, volleyball, dodgeball, synchronized swimming, and many more fun activities.  My favorite one was a secret event where they didn’t tell you what you had to do until you got there.  2 people from each sea went up and the comedy teacher (who is a professional clown) and the theatre teacher (my extended family dad) tried to make you laugh.  You couldn’t smile or show any emotion.  It was amazing how long people made it!  The Olympics were a nice break from 5 days of classes and my sea even came in third!  Where we place determines when we get off of the ship when we arrive in Florida.  First place guarantees you will be the first group to get off and go through customs, which apparently can take up to 7 hours for us to all get off.  

            Later on that day I signed up to go on a bridge tour and see where they drive the ship.  We got to look at all of the equipment and their tracking systems.  They showed us their logs of how the write down their routes.  It was a little scary to think that they put the ship on autopilot and sit and watch with binoculars for anything ahead of them.  When we were in the front the pointed out some whales, a group of dolphins, and even a turtle.  It’s always exciting to see dolphins jumping next to the ship.  In the middle of classes we all get to stop classes to get up and look at them.  You can’t get that everyday at college at home!

            The other night we had a Halloween dance that we all got dressed up for.  It was in the Union and students DJ’d the dance.  My friends and I went as the three blind mice.  It was pretty funny to see everyone’s costumes especially with the limited resources we have on the ship.  People got pretty creative!  It was a nice break after a long day with three midterms!  Classes are pretty stressful trying to shove all of the material into a short period of time.  It is helpful to have teachers so readily available on the ship.  I love how it is totally normal to go up and ask your teacher a question about class at a meal or in the gym.

Life otherwise has been great on the ship.  It has been nice to get a routine down.  Work in the morning we have a lot of fun.  My friend and I got to make a costume for one of the crew members for their Halloween party.  My roommate and I schedule time every night to go work out and stretch outside on the deck.  With a sunset like we have there’s not too much we can complain about.  Teachers are starting to talk about the end of the voyage, which seems unbelievable.  Time has been flying and we only have one continent left!  In less than 10 hours we will be in Buenos Aires!  We then go directly to Montevideo with no class days in between.  We are having some people from NBC Dateline come on the ship between Montevideo and Rio to film about study abroad experiences so it will be pretty busy time!  37 days left on this wonderful journey!  Argentina tomorrow!



Special Dinner Crew


Special dinner with one of our favorite crew


Sea Olympics Synchronized Swimming


Bridge Tour


Three Blind Mice


Perfect View

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South Africa!

We just left South Africa! A day late because of windy weather but that meant my roommate and I had a perfect view of Table Mountain when working out in the gym last night! We didn’t have the best weather while we were here but we learned a lot about being flexible and enjoying spontaneous adventures. South Africa is definitely a country that is hard to fit into a week. You could spend months here and not visit it all. From Table Mountain, the animal reserves, the wine land, the beautiful beaches and the welcoming townships: South Africa is full of beauty and life. It also has a rich history that we were able to learn about on our passage over. We spent a lot of time talking about the apartheid because it is in such recent history for them. It is a sad but very present issue that continues to challenge the community today. We heard multiple speakers teach us about their involvement with the apartheid including stories about a family who lost their daughter while working for peace and Bob and Alice Evans who worked directly with Desmond Tutu (who had to skip our voyage and go on the Spring one) on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We also had the chance to talk to the interport student and learn about what it is like being a student in South Africa and the issues she sees facing her country. It’s always interesting to be able to relate what we learn in class to the community we are visiting.

The first morning we were woken up bright and early at 6:30 by our dean on the PA system to go through face-to-face immigration for the first time. The parent trip was in South Africa also, so at breakfast there were parents and students hugging and crying all around us. I signed up to go on a service trip called Operation Hunger with Semester at Sea. I ended up knowing about half of the people on the trip so it was a lot of fun. In class we learned about South Africa having one of the largest gaps between the rich and poor, which was easily noticed just by our drive to Freedom Park. We volunteered in a squatter camp that was technically on the airports property. 90% are unemployed and malnutrition is a large issue facing the community. We helped them produce baseline data on children and their level of malnutrition that can later on help them see the progress they have made. We started off by weighing them, measuring their arm circumference, then taking down their height. When they were done they could play with the other students outside. We had a lot of time to hang out with them and play on the swing set. I don’t know who was having more fun, them or us. After lunch we came back and fed all of the children. A lot of students stood outside so I decided to jump in the action and help in the kitchen. There were four moms serving the food and three of us students made an assembly line making sure that the food got to the right person. The ladies laughed at us because we would call out the color of the kid’s shirt to remember whose bowl was whose. It was nice being able to be in the kitchen and we talked a lot with one of the ladies Cindy. We got to know her and she kept asking if we could come back for the rest of the week. It was sad having to tell her that we couldn’t but she asked us to take a picture with all of us. She said that looking at pictures is the only time she has really seen her face, which was interesting. That night we went out to a Turkish restaurant where you sit on the floor and there was even a belly dancer. The belly dancer came up and gave us all skirts and made us try in front of everyone. Some big group was celebrating their birthday so we all ended up dancing in the middle of the restaurant. We are all about new experiences!

The second day my shark diving was cancelled because of the weather so a bunch of us went to the mall. For dinner we went to a restaurant Mama Africa and my friend and I shared a Big Game Grill, which included crocodile, springbok, ostrich, and a few other kinds of meat. It was good that I tried it that night because the next night I went on a safari and saw all of the animals I ate unfortunately. We went to Aquila Private Game Reserve and went on a 3-hour safari. We saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, zebras, springbok, wildebeest, lions, and a few more. We had an awesome tour guide Tyler that made it a lot of fun. For dinner I went to a restaurant named Moyo with my friends Paige, Braxton, and Nick. We ended up driving about 20-30 minutes away to go to it but it was definitely worth it. We picked up a cab outside the dock and asked him to take us there. When we got there we asked how to get a taxi when we were finished because we were in an area that seemed more of a beach town and less of a tourist spot. He said they don’t really have taxis there and asked if we would like him to wait for us. We decided it probably would be a good idea to make sure we had a ride home so we asked if he would mind doing that. We were getting out to leave and I asked him if he wanted to come in and sit with us. I thought it didn’t make sense for him to sit in the car and wait when we didn’t know how long we would be. His eyes lit up with happiness. When we sat down and he started telling us that in his 45 years working as a taxi driver no one had ever invited him to sit with them for a meal. He said that he often waits for people and usually they don’t even thank him for the wait. He went on and on about how kind I was and you could tell that the simple invitation made his day. He started teaching us a little about the apartheid and how 20 years ago he wouldn’t have been able to drive us around. It was a really rewarding experience to talk to him and learn from his experiences on the changes and growth his country has made in the past few decades. At the restaurant they had live performers who came and sang to our table and they painted our faces. It overall was a great night!

The next day we had rescheduled shark diving but once again was cancelled for the wind. We spent the day at the waterfront with friends, which is a really cool area. The last day I had a field lab for my politics class. We were led by a man Reverend Story who was the Pastor for Nelson Mandela when he was in prison and also for the community of district six during the apartheid. We visited District Six, the Old Slave Market, the Race Classification offices, St. George’s Cathedral and the exhibit on the Peace March, and Castle of Good Hope. In the exhibit there were pictures of Reverend Story next to Desmond Tutu leading a group. It was very cool to learn directly from someone who was so involved in the anti apartheid movement. We had two hours to sit down with him and ask him any questions we had about the apartheid or South Africa in general which helped us learn a lot. Today it was back to classes! In Global Studies today we talked about people we have met on our journey that has impacted our life. We wrote a paper on the person on this trip that stands out the most to us when we reflect on our two months so far. It was really neat to share stories with each other on who our “toothbrush” person was. Our professor calls them our toothbrush person because he wants us to think of that person and the difference they have made in our life every time we brush our teeth. I got out of work early today because my boss wanted my friend Carlos and I to watch the ship leave. The view of Table Mountain was amazing! Tonight we had our fifth family dinner. We celebrated my friend Edna’s birthday. Our “Dad” bought a huge ice cream cake for us and we all ate until we felt sick. After that dinner I had to hop over to my friend Haley’s birthday dinner. Now we are just getting ready to watch the last Presidential Debate. We have 10 days at sea now until we get to Argentina. We are officially on our journey home! I can’t believe how fast this time is going! Only 5 more ports left! See ya on the other side of the Atlantic!

Operation Hunger

Belly Dancing Crew


Us with Abbe the Cab Driver

A little windy leaving Cape Town

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It’s hard to put Ghana into words.  It was the first port we have stopped in that has seemed very different than the United States.  In the few lectures
before arriving, they prepared us very well as to what we should expect and
different characteristics of their culture.  What I realized however is that until you experience Ghana, it’s hard to understand.  We spent a lot of time talking on the ship about the attitude we needed to arrive in Ghana with.  One of our professors gave us the best advice that stuck with us throughout our journey:  “Don’t go looking for ways to change Ghana, but look for ways that Ghana can change you.”  With that advice I went with a group of 30 SAS students on an unforgettable journey.

The first morning in port I boarded a bus with 30 SAS students on our way to a village called Senase.  With our bug spray, toilet paper, and malaria pills packed we were ready for anything.  We signed up through a man named Fred who other SAS students had recommended.  He is our age and a few years ago met some SAS students who were looking for a good place to eat.  He brought them to a restaurant and ended up sitting down and getting to know them.  He invited them to visit his village the next day and that
was where he told them about his interest in tourism.  Since then, he has had a group of SAS students every semester and has done an amazing job.  He is a pretty remarkable young man.  He is studying abroad in Turkey right now and is given one trip home a semester and ended up choosing our three days as his time at home.  

We took a bus ride to Kumasi, which ended up taking a lot longer than usual.  Our professors had warned us about the bad roads but I had never seen anything like it.  Basically it was a wide dirt road that people drive wherever they feel they will scratch the bottom of their car the least.  There aren’t any lines on the roads and it was the bumpiest car ride I have ever had.  We would bounce up and down in our seats and it lasted for a few hours.  Luckily our driver put on alligator movies for the entire 8-hour bus
ride, which made for some good laughs.  We ate lunch in Kumasi and headed back on the road until we arrived at Senase.  We had a home cooked Ghanaian meal from Fred’s Aunt and family.  I made sure to take pictures of all the food we tried there!  We were assigned a home for
our home stay and brought to those homes shortly after dinner.  It was around 8 pm and usually people in the village go to bed earlier because there isn’t much electricity.  I stayed with another girl Katie in a one bedroom home.  It was interesting to see how differently they live.  It sure was an experience not having a bathroom or running water.

In the morning we realized why they go to bed so early.  At 4:30/5 we were woken up not only by the roosters but the goats outside.  I thought there was a goat in our room for a minute because it was so loud.  We walked to the outhouse and then went to have porridge for breakfast with the group.  After breakfast we went to have a welcoming ceremony from the Chief Elders and the Queen Mother.  They had a girl dancing and people playing the drums when we arrived.  We shook everyone’s hands and had the ceremony.  Before we left they told us we had to dance for them.  It was pretty embarrassing us dancing because they are all such good dancers.  Right after that we got split into groups.  We spread out to the different schools throughout the village to visit.  My group went to a school with 900 students.  Right when we started to walk up, all of them rushed out of the classroom screaming and running to greet us.  It was amazing.  It took awhile for the kids to calm down and go back to their classrooms but after that we met with the superintendent.  


School visit!

An organization called Global Grins was started by two SAS alum and they provide toothbrushes to people across the globe.  They depend mainly on people volunteering to hand them out when they study abroad or travel.  They donated 30,000 toothbrushes to our voyage so everyone was encouraged to hand them out throughout Ghana.  We brought 3000 with us to the village and handed them out in the school.  We also brought gifts and school supplies that we handed out as well.  The kids were excited and came up to us afterwards telling us how they brushed their teeth.  We spent time just hanging out with the kids during their lunch break.  When we walked back somehow they all came with us.  We each had about 10 kids hanging off of our arms when we got back to our meeting point.  I kept wondering what happened to school for the day.  Later in the day we had dance lessons from a man who was teaching us a Ghanaian dance.  It was difficult between the 100-degree weather and all of the kids from the village watching us.  We practiced for about 2 hours until we finally had the dance down.  That night we went to dinner and then Fred took us to a bar area in the next town over, where we could sit down and talk about the day.

The next morning we woke up bright and early again to goats.  We had porridge again and said our goodbyes.  One of the Chief Elders thanked us for our donations and the water tank that they would be putting in this week.  We set off for another school to do our performance.  Fred gave us all outfits for our dance and we performed in front of everyone.  We weren’t exactly perfect with our dance – I know because unfortunately someone got it on tape.  It was a fun experience though and something I won’t forget.  After
finally getting on the bus after talking to all the kids again we sat down and
watched some more alligator movies on the way to Kumasi.  



Girls in our performance outfits!

We had some time to visit the market in Kumasi, which was crazy.  It was so busy mainly because it was a food market too.  After we ate we got back on the bus and finally got back to the ship.  We all went back and
showered and crashed shortly after.

The last day I went to Accra with my friend Gabby to the art market.  We took the bus arranged by SAS and then crammed 6 of us in a taxi to the actual market.  It was funny because the people in my taxi were two of my
teacher’s wives and their two children.  Only on SAS will you be in a taxi with your professor’s family.  The market was a lot of fun and had a lot of cool things.  It was a little overwhelming trying to bargain the entire time and how much people try to get your attention.  They would try in the weirdest ways too.  I can’t tell you how many people talked to me about Obama and a few guys even talk about giving you a cow because that’s what they do for marriage proposals in Ghana.  I left the market at the end of the day with the few things I wanted and without a husband so I would say it was pretty successful. 

The first day on the ship was Neptune day where we crossed the equator.  We ended up going a little out of our way to cross 0°/0° we crossed the equator and the prime meridian at the same time.  The ceremony was exciting and consisted of us getting green stuff poured on us, kissing a fish, and a lot of people shave their heads.  I can’t say that I shaved my head but I participated in everything else.  


Crossing the Equator and Prime Meridian!

Now we are on our way to South Africa to continue our amazing journey in Africa!



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Canary Islands!

Two days is way too short of time to experience a country. Since we had to skip Morocco they gave us two days in the Canary Islands. I had never heard of the Canary Islands until this trip so it was interesting to learn about them quickly and make a plan. The Canary Islands are a part of Spain but is located right off of Morocco to the west. We docked on the biggest island Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

This port my roommate Jessie and I decided to have a “roomie bonding” trip. We booked the hostel Refugio de Altavista, which is located ¾ up the volcano Mount Teide. Two months ago if you asked me if I would consider hiking a mountain I would have laughed in your face. Semester at Sea is full of once in a lifetime experiences! Getting to the volcano was a little tricky. There is only one bus that goes straight there and it left at 9am right when we were getting off the ship. We ended up following two other SAS students on a bus and then took a taxi to the volcano but it took an extra two hours. Jessie and I started our hike where the cable car goes up and walked 3 km to the start of the trail. We started hiking and looking back at it I don’t know how we made it. To the hostel it took 5 hours and we stopped a few times to eat and drink. It was exhausting. We realized partway up that there was no food at the top so we had to save some of our granola bars for dinner. About three hours into it Jessie got sick from the altitude so we went a lot slower on the last two hours. The hike was full of amazing views and we saw a lot of other SAS students on the way. I don’t think I have ever heard silence like I did hiking up. It was very peaceful. It was a perfect trip to get away from all the stresses on the ship and in classes. When we got to the hostel we put our stuff down in our assigned room. All of the rooms were on the main level except ours, which we had to take a steep ladder to get up to. It was a little sketchy. Jessie went straight to bed because she was sick and I hung out with other SAS people. There were 4 girls and 6 guys from SAS along with the ship’s doctor which turned out to be helpful for Jessie. We didn’t get to the hostel until 8 and around 9:30 we all went out to look at the stars, which were amazing. I’ve never seen stars so bright. A few girls are taking astronomy on the ship and were able to point out a lot of cool stars and galaxies. We were above the clouds by this point too, which looked really neat at night. I had my first experience purifying water by boiling it too! The hostel was booked for the night and some troopers even slept outside because they didn’t want to hike back down in the dark. Pretty amazing considering how cold it got!

We woke up at 4:30 to start hiking again. We had about 2 more hours straight uphill to the cable car level. We went a lot slower because it was a lot steeper and the altitude kept getting higher so it was harder to breathe. We also of course forgot our flashlights so we only had the moon as our light, which was an adventure in itself. By the time we got to the top Jessie and I decided not to take the extra hour hike to the summit. We both were getting pretty light headed and she still felt sick from the night before so we decided to stick by the cable cars until 9 when they started. We watched the sunrise from there, which was beautiful. We underestimated how cold it really would be at the top. It was both of ours first time climbing a mountain so we didn’t come as prepared as we should have. At the top we found anything that would help keep us warm because it was only 20 degrees. We had a sweatshirt and sweatpants and then ended up putting socks on our hands to keep warm. It was quite the adventure! At 9 all of the SAS people took the cable car down and warmed up in the café.

Jessie and I took another taxi to the bus in Puerto de Cruz like we did to get there. We hopped in with two random hikers but it was an interesting ride! We walked around Santa Cruz for a while and got to see the city. We walked by the theatre, which looks a lot like the one in Sydney, Australia. We met up with another SAS guy and looked around for flags for a bit because a lot of people on the ship collect flags from each country and are going to make a quilt out of them. We looked at about 10 stores and none of them sold the Tenerife flag. They all had Spain’s flag but not their own. The Tenerife flag is the exact same as Scotland’s flag so most people are planning on ordering it online. When we were hiking up the volcano we were cold because the altitude and didn’t think about putting sunscreen on. I of course ended up with a pretty sweet sunburn. We saw our RD (sort of like an RA in the dorm) hanging out by a statue with a fountain in front. The rest of the day we spent hanging out with her. It was in the upper 80’s and we were hot from walking around all day so Renee told us to go in the water. We ended up having a water fight and lying by the fountain for a few hours. It was the perfect end to a peaceful weekend.

Back on the ship tonight they had a BBQ for all of us. We are officially leaving Europe today! We have five days at sea and we are finally docking in Africa! I’m excited for all of the adventures to come in Ghana and can’t wait to experience a drastic change in cultures! I’m going to miss Europe but I’m ready for a change!

Starting the hike! Five hours to go!

Almost to the Hostel!

Freezing at the top!

Perfect weekend with my wonderful roomie!

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Every port seems to fly by faster and faster as we move further on in our voyage. We just had six days in Spain that felt more like two. We docked in Cadiz, which is in the southwest end of Spain. It’s a smaller town and best known for where Columbus set sail for one of his voyages. The small town feel was perfect for getting a feel for Spanish culture.

The first morning we walked around town for a few hours to get a feel for the set up. We stopped at a clinic/hospital to set up an appointment for our global studies project. We were pretty proud of how well we were able to get around with our Spanish. We met a musician who came to Spain from Croatia to find work. It was interesting talking to locals who came to Spain to look for work and how many have to leave because the economy is horrible. Some go to South America if they only speak Spanish and if their English is good enough they try to move to Germany for work. We stopped and ate churros for breakfast (healthy I know). They come by the Euro and we only saw a sign saying you have to get between 1-8 so my roommate told them she wanted 5 and looked at her like she was crazy. We ended up getting three euros worth and it was enough to fill a plastic bag full. We walked to the Cathedral to go to Mass. The Cathedral is right on the beach and was gorgeous. The only Spanish that I know perfectly is Spanish prayers from high school. They came into good use. We ate lunch outside of the Cathedral and walked around until siesta when the town shut down.

We got on a bus at 3 to go to Sevilla for a bullfight with SAS. It was an indescribable experience. I came in knowing that the bulls would be killed in front of us but I never knew the extent of bullfights. We sat next to the teacher who was leading the trip and were able to share our thoughts on the events which was interesting. We talked about how in America it would be seen as animal cruelty and how it is hard to understand the difference in cultures. The one we went to was a match between two bullfighters and each faced 3 bulls. The first bull ended up pinning a man against the boards and attacked him for at least two minutes. In the end he wasn’t able to stand up he was so hurt and they had to carry him out. We watched all 6 bulls, which was hard. I’m struggling to understand the art form behind it all. The entire fight is focused on stabbing the bull and by the end each bull was struck at least 6 times. It was definitely a cultural experience. After the 50 of us from SAS went to a tapas bar to talk about our experience.

Paige and I stayed behind in Sevilla in an apartment. We arrived late but one of the staff stayed back to let us in and he showed us the rooftop bar, which was awesome. We were in a perfect location right across from the Cathedral. Two guys met up with us about an hour later and stayed with us. My roommate and another friend of ours met up with us on the second day after their other trips. The second and third day we spent in Sevilla. We went to the Festival of Nations market and shopped around. We did a lot of walking around. We visited the University of Sevilla, the Cathedral (which is the 3rd largest church in the world), and the Plaza de Espana. The Plaza de Espana is a beautiful building and is hard to describe. It was featured in a Star Wars movie and is breathtaking. They have water surrounding the building, which we took a rowboat on at sunset. One day we took a carriage ride and saw all of Sevilla. It was an interesting way to get around! The fourth day we traveled back to Cadiz by train. It was about an hour and a half ride with all of the stops. At night we met up with friends and went to a local restaurant to try Sangria! The owner ended up talking with us for over an hour. I’m still so surprised by how friendly all of the locals have been in each port we have stopped in.

The next two days I spent in Cadiz wandering around. Both days were pretty rainy but we still managed to get some shopping and sight seeing in. The last day we had an appointment at a clinic for an interview with a doctor. One of the lifelong learners is helping us a lot with our project so he came with. The doctor didn’t seem to know too much about disabilities, which we thought was surprising. We ended up not using him for an interview and are shifting the projects focus around. Before leaving Cadiz we made a quick stop in the grocery store for food. My mom would be proud that the one thing I bought was diet coke. Like mother like daughter. The rest of the night we spent studying and working on our papers that were due today.

There isn’t much new on the ship. Two students didn’t make it back to the ship in time so we left Cadiz without them. They are supposed to be meeting us in the Canary Islands but are pretty lucky that we only had one day between of classes. They spoke with us tonight if we miss the ship in one of these next ports we will have to make that awkward call to our parents telling them to pick us up from the airport because we would miss too much class. I’m excited for the Canary Islands tomorrow and can’t wait to see it all! And after the next two days we are moving on to Africa!

My roommate and I at the bullfight

Outside Plaza de Espana

Carriage Ride


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Portugal was amazing!!  I didn’t know what to expect at all when first coming here.  I think Portugal is a country that usually gets brushed aside by Americans but it is a beautiful country and I wish we had more than 3 days to visit.  We were docked in an area with a great view.  When looking out our window we had a view of their independence bridge which looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge and a statue that resembles Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.   The first day I signed up for a scavenger hunt through Semester at Sea.  We boarded a bus and got dropped off in the city center and were given a booklet with directions and questions. We spent the morning wandering around Lisbon up and down the hills looking for places.  We were directed to a castle, a restaurant where we tasted a local wine, and to a store to buy a local fish.  It was really intense because my team was really competitive.  We ended up coming in second but were happy to see most of the city and get a lot of exercise climbing those hills!  We went back to the ship for lunch.  The food on the ship is pretty bad but when in port it tastes a lot better because they don’t have to make it for as many people.  We took a taxi to Costa de Caparica, which is about 20 minutes away across the bridge.  Taxis are a lot cheaper here than in our previous ports.  It only cost 16 Euros for the four of us to get there.  We spent the day on the beach and in the ocean.  We didn’t bring a camera because we were swimming but I regret it because it was gorgeous there.  It was probably a good thing though because we were all lying out on towels when we heard people screaming so we jumped up.  A huge wave had just come and our towel was sitting in a little pond.  We ended up all getting matching Portugal towels, which will be a sweet memory to bring home.  We sat on the beach watching the sun set and it ended up being a perfect day.



The next morning we boarded the bus to go on another SAS trip.  We went to Sintra and Pena Palace.  It was up the mountain and took awhile to get there but it was well worth the drive.  We had about 2 hours to look through the palace and take pictures.  Walking down we went through the gardens that the King had made which were huge.  They took us to a restaurant for an official Portuguese meal.  We had enough food to last us a week.  They gave us white and red wine and started us off with bread, cheese, and meat.  Ten minutes later they came out with our soup.  We had salads, rice, fries, and kebabs.  They gave us flan for dessert with coffee.  Soooo much food.  When we got back from the trip we took a train to Cascais.  It was quite the adventure.  When we got to the stop we didn’t see anywhere to get a ticket.  It was just a platform with little shelters.  We thought we were supposed to get our ticket on the train, which is like our light rail.  We got on and saw there was nowhere to buy it.  Halfway through our ride there we saw someone coming around checking tickets.  All we could picture was the show Locked Up Abroad.  We jumped off at the next stop and had to get someone to let us use their ticket to get through the turnstiles to buy tickets.  We finally had it figured out!  We stayed at a hotel right on the beach and spent the night sitting on the beach.  We walked around town where we met up with people from the ship for a little bit.  Cascais would have been a nice town to be able to spend a little more time in.


The next morning we got up early and went to the pool on the top deck of the hotel.  We later walked around town and went in little shops.  We took the train back to Lisbon.  We had to be back on the ship by 6 and it was 4 at this point.  There were still sites we wanted to see in Lisbon that we didn’t cover on the scavenger hunt such as their Presidents house, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, and the monastery.  We ended up finding a cab who drove us to all of them and stayed there so we could take pictures and move to the next place.  We were really lucky he stayed because we communicated solely through my limited Spanish.  I guess I had enough for him to understand we were coming back but it sure was an adventure!  We made it back on the ship with 10 minutes to spare!



Last night we had a mandatory ship meeting where we were told that unfortunately we won’t be visiting Morocco on our voyage.  With all of the political unrest in the area it wouldn’t be safe enough for us to go.  Instead we will be spending two extra days in Spain and then going to the Canary Islands for two days.  I’m sad I won’t be able to go on a camel trek to the Sahara Desert but I understand our safety is much more important.  I’m excited for the spontaneous planning that is to come in the next week!  Tomorrow we dock in Spain early and have six days to adventure!  Can’t wait!

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