We’re at Cape Town! There is so much on the agenda right now. We just got our passports back and were let off the ship. Unfortunately, my FDP won’t leave until 11; wow, hard to believe I’ve been up for four hours already. Today, September 23: Township Performance FDP Lion’s Head Sunset Picnic Hike Excusion with Trevor Going out for Rhanya’s birthday tonight! Tomorrow, September 24: Doing an all day trip to five different places including beaches and penguins with John and Nichole. Sunday, September 25: Hanging out with Alex all day at the 2 Ocean’s Aquarium and then walking around the marinas including the fishing marinas. Monday, September 26: Open for options! Maybe find an internet cafe? Tuesday, September 27: Habitat for Humanities Volunteer Shopping and walking around with Nichole, Rejina, and possibly Alex. Wednesday, September 28: Afrikaans Language Musuem FDP Listening to Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak on the ship and hopefully get the opportunity to meet him. :] I feel like this place is more of a resort than it is an educational port. The vacation will come to an end shortly though. I come back and have to read a lot of books on top of writing three essays. Can’t wait… The fun that we find on this ship mostly is in cards. We play so many card games all the time to avoid doing our homework, especially this week. The ship was rocking so much it was ridiculous. I couldn’t go a day without getting a splitting migraine and trying to sleep was horrible because we are all the way at the front of the ship. I cannot wait to sleep tonight while we were at port. So long for now! :]
This is Africa!
Today is the first time that we were crossing over the equator. There is a tradition in which you need to perform some challenges to be allowed to cross over by King Neptune. My morning started off a little nuts.
Because I fell asleep so early around 7 the night before, I woke up at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. So, I went to the piano bar to hang out with Owen, the crew member, all night. He’s super sweet and was excited to have company. We listened to music for a little while, as I ate my cup of noodles to wake myself up. Then Owen and I watched movies all morning on his friend’s laptop as I attempted my religion essay. Owen is such a sweetheart, he kept on making me “baby milk,” that’s what the other crew members called it. It’s essentially just hot chocolate made with hot milk and water. He also got me a bag of Fritos to munch on when it got closer to breakfast time.
I must have been the only passenger awake, cause all of the crewmembers kept asking me what I was doing out of bed. Then they told me that their the wakeup call was at 7am for Neptune Day. I was prepared to take a video for them of them drumming away and screaming through the hallways. It was so funny to see sleepy heads popping out of the doorways.
The traditions started right after breakfast was over on deck 7. The staff involved came out wearing Greek togas and symbols of their identity. King Neptune is Captain Jeremy. He was only wearing the bottom half of the toga, had a pitchfork, and was painted green. It was an awesome event to attend. The first tradition consisted of getting a mixed liquid poured on you, then you jump in the pool, come out and kiss the fish, then kiss King Neptune’s ring. It was hilarious and fun. Allison and I were one of the first few to do this. I wish I would have known they had this event sooner so that I could have worn appropriate clothing; I was stuck wearing my sweatpants that remained soaked and dripping. The next event was the shaving of the head. Many guys did this event, and more than expected girls did so as well. I kept my hair though, it takes way too long to grow my hair out. Alex and Trevor wanted to shave their head, so we waited… For hours. It was super annoying but after an hour of waiting because of the pushing and forcefulness that was involved, they both got their heads shaved. It was a pretty horrible job, so I helped clean up their haircuts with their razors in Trevor’s room. It was nice just relaxing the morning away until lunch.
Lunch was the end of Neptune Day activities. Unfortunately I had an essay to write. It wasn’t too bad since I had most of my concepts figured out that morning, it was just tedious to write the essay and read over it. It was my first official essay in a while and I wanted it to be just right. I read it once and decided it was fine, we’ll see what happens though! Professor Green seems like an easy grader, so I have nothing to worry about.
The rest of the evening just played out nicely. I pretty much just relaxed and hung out with a few friends all night. I especially needed this night, the rest of the reading can wait for tomorrow. As of for now, it is time for me to get some sleep. Sweet dreams world! I miss everyone back home! <3
Today I just spent the day in Tema with my friends. Our goals were simple though we had so much that we still wanted to do in Tema alone. We all wanted to find the Internet Café. I wanted to be able to Skype my parents and sister and add a few Facebook pictures. Our first stop was the post office so some people can get stamps to send letters out. I picked up a few postcards here.
The next stop was the café where we only spent about an hour at. It was so great to talk to my family again. I wish it were longer though and with a little privacy cause talking in a café where everyone can hear you was a little awkward. I wasn’t able to Skype my mom like I wanted to, but I did talk to Dad and Amanda! It was nice to hear from them again. By the sounds of it, nothing’s really changed; everyone’s still busy as always. It’s weird hearing them talk about the events that I usually attend. I can feel myself getting a little homesick especially thinking about them. We have extended families on the ship where we can be part of a family made up of a mom and/or dad (a professor and significant other, or life-long learners) and siblings (other students or professor family students.) Dr. B, the marine biology professor, and his wife Janie are my parents. Janie’s really awesome, her birth parents are from Poland and we had lots to talk about because she also knew some folk dancing along with Polish school on Saturdays. I’m going to schedule a meeting with her soon to shower her pictures and music of our costumes and songs. I also have three students and two songs/students of Dr. B. I always wanted an older brother and now I get four! Lol. These families are supposed to help us if we start to get homesick, but I feel like it’s just making me feel worse because they’re not my real family. So Skyping with Amanda and Dad was amazing.
Next we decided that we wanted to get a coconut. On the way there, we stopped at this shop where I found this purse that caught my eye. I had to buy it. It turned out to be only 20 cedis, I only had 13 but Alex spotted me a 5 so I was able to get the bag for 18 cedis. I don’t know what is up with the bag, but I absolutely love it and it is my style. We finally got to the coconuts. It was interesting to drink out of the coconut. I’m not a fan of coconuts, but I heard this is the tourist thing to do in Ghana that is cheap; I couldn’t just pass up a tourist attraction!
Soon it was time to start heading back to the ship. On the way back, we stopped at the duty free shop to buy some soda for the ship. I ran out of money this time around, but everyone stocked up with their leftover cedis. When we got to the ship, we still had time left, so we stopped and talked to some of the locals. Everyone here is so nice and friendly.
I went to bed extremely early that night out of complete exhaustion even before the ship departed Ghana. I’m going to miss itl I love it here. There is no doubt in my mind that I will come back some day in the near future.
We had to be back at Fred’s by 7am. We set an alarm for 6:30. I first got woken up by roosters at 5, and then people and more roosters at 6! These villagers wake up early! Brian slept through it all lucky for him.
We were the first ones at Fred’s and had to wait forever or everyone else to get there. I guess they didn’t get their great wakeup call. Once everyone was there, we had porridge and bread while we hung out for a little while. Our next mission was to meet the Elders including Queen Mother and Chief. It was a great learning experience. The chief usually doesn’t talk directly to the people, so he spoke to the spokesperson and Fred translated it for us. First, we went in a line to greet the Elders; left hand goes behind your back and you shake with the right. He was saying things along the line of how grateful he is that we made it safely and was excited to meet us. The elders also said that if we were to come back we are more than welcomed. Or if we want to stay, they’ll help us with living arrangement until we can get our house build on our own property. The welcoming here is so great.
One of the council members gave is a small lesson about the health in Senase. The nearest hospital is an hour walk away and most kids lose their mothers because of the journey. They are trying to build a hospital to improve the village and those surrounding it. They have the support but they were open to all ideas because Americans have it way better. It made me start thinking; I wanted to get my MBA in health care management. In four years I can probably have a job lined up for me. We’ll see how this goes, I love it here but I’ll probably miss my family too much, but we’ll see.
The next project was the performance. We got our costumes and danced for everyone on the square area. The performance was interesting but the people seemed to enjoy themselves. We were quick to leave though because we were already running late.
We said our good byes and exchanged a lot of email addresses and we were on our way.
We stopped at Crumausy for lunch/dinner along with some shopping. It was a pretty cool. We didn’t get to hit up a lot of stores because of the time limit, but the stores we did get to see had beautiful crafts. I would have bought more but I ran out of cedis for lunch. I figured I’d probably be buying more tomorrow in Tema or Accra anyways.
On our way there the bus came to a stop. Apparently our air conditioning went out again and the bus driver didn’t feel safe driving us all the way back in it. So we had to wait for a new bus to come adding another 30 minutes to our drive home.
It was a very long ride home indeed. Soon it became 11 and we didn’t even notice. The ride consisted of weird music, a lot of bumps, and sleeping on top of each other. It was interesting. After on and off sleeping, we finally arrived back at port where I went straight to my room and took a shower. It felt great to be clean again. I knew that we were privileged to have what we have such as running water that is filtered, but I never felt what it was like; I’m extremely grateful.
Even though I was exhausted, I caught up with Alex to tell him about what happened and what’s going on tomorrow. We discussed this over a bowl of noodles from the piano bar where we also saw many other Senase family members all showered up. It was a relaxing end to a crazy, amazing adventure in Senase. I am seriously coming back to Senase, I love it here.
We arrived in Senase around 7 in the morning. The first things we did was brush our teeth and eat breakfast. The meal consisted of white rice and stew, either vegetable stew or fish stew. I got the vegetable stew and man was it spicy but it definitely had a purpose. I cannot believe how tasty the stew was! It had the right about of spices. Afterwards we received our room assignments. Brian and I were rooming together in Joe’s house a few minutes walk from Fred’s. We got lucky because there were a handful of people that were staying whiles walk away. The houses seem like small strip of condos. The door of each room opened to the patio strip that opened to a courtyard-looking strip. It was a pretty nice room. We learned to control the usage of electricity the village only lets the power on after 9pm and before 7am. We quickly dropped our stuff off and left to go back to Fred’s to visit the children.
The people and the children are incredible here. They are so welcoming in every way, shape, and form. You know those commercials where kids just cone up and hold your hand and pictures were taken all the time? The commercials weren’t lying, that’s exactly how it was. When we got to the school building, children were everywhere. They saw that I had goodies for them so they just came and swarmed me! It was so hard to make sure people weren’t taking everything, I soon gave up on that factor and just passed it out as fast as I could to get out of situation. They pinned me up against the chalkboard! lol. These two little girls clung onto me the whole time and stayed by me. They were so adorable. The children were specifically excited for the bubbles. I’m sure they’ve seen them before, but thy loved blowing and popping them. A mother saw how much the kids were enjoying the bubbles and asked if she could try. I told her she could keep the bubbles if she promised to share with the children. I don’t know how to explain the emotions I felt when playing with them. It was incredible. In a short time, however, it was time to get moving.
Our guide at the time, Dan, was to show us the main square area. Everyone was wearing black and red. We learned that those colors symbolize that someone has died in the village. This is when things started to get frustrating. Because Fred wasn’t with us, everything seemed disorganized. We spent almost 2 hours just walking around. We decided that we wanted to go back to Fred’s and wait for him to come back.
At Fred’s, we just relaxed while we waited for lunch and the other group to get back. It was an emotional roller coaster at this time. Our group wasn’t having a great time and there was one girl in serious pain because her back was fractured and felt like she was going into a relapse. We explained to Fred the situation and he understood incredibly and a tad frustrated himself. He promised to make it better. Dinner is when it started. We had fried plantains with a stew-like side dish. It was tasty and not spicy at all. We, as a family, bonded so much.
After lunch was dance practice. That was exciting but not what I expected. The dancing was super easy for me bit extremely fun to perform it. Part of the village was there to cheer us on as they watched. It was pretty awesome. We felt ready to perform it.
After practice, we were allowed to go back to our houses and rest until 7. This is when we met part of our family. Andy is Joe’s brother and was there to greet us and welcome us. He had very good English and helped us to understand the rest of the family. By now it was getting dark and I decided to pass out the glowsticks. They loved them and most never seen anything like it. It put a smile on my face to see their faces glow.
The walk back was interesting. Though I had a flashlight, it was hard to see every ditch in the road. Brian and I tripped and almost fell more than a few times. We got there safely though. Dinner consisted of fish stew and fufu. Again, another spicy and delicious meal.
Instead of going to bed right after dinner, Fred wanted to show us the nightlife in Senase. He took us to a club that was. Five minute drive away. It was such a good time. Dan from the village danced with me and taught me moves that they use there. I had such a great time with him. I love the people here, have I said that yet? Lol. I met many villagers; they’re even greater when they’re drunk because they don’t get the concept that I’m not from around town. It was great time and everyone enjoyed themselves.
Thankfully, everyone was dropped of by bus to his or her houses so we didn’t have to walk back in the dark.
It was such a long day, the bed couldn’t have felt nicer. Brian and I later there talking for tenish minutes and then hears a noise outside our windows. We froze. I thought it sounded like “yo yo yo” but Brian said he kept saying “Joe Joe Joe.” I guess he didn’t know that Joe wasn’t home. It freaked both of us out and we turned our talking into a whisper. Shortly after, we fell asleep.
Today is the start of another adventure. We arrived at Ghana around 0800 hours. How do I know this? Because the anchors woke me as it was going down to dock. Unfortunately, we didn’t get off the ship until around 12 because of the diplomatic briefing and the distributions of passports. Soon after, we were on our way.
The group of 30 of us walked the pier and out of the area. We then found Fred, or Fred found us and told us we have to wait for the bus. Waiting was the first moment that I found out how the Ghanaian’s act.
They were so nice. Everyone seemed to come up to us’ unfortunately they also wanted up sell us products that they were making or made. Ghanaian art is beautiful. There were men who came with their canvas to show. I felt really bad because I didn’t want to pay 50USD for his work but I made sure to reassure him that it was absolutely beautiful. He replied that I have good taste.
I think I figure out how these people sell their products. Ghanaian’s like to get to know you. A lot of them talk to you and introduce themselves to engage in a conversation. Then they make their move to sell you something. A few lines to me were as mentioned earlier, “I like your style,” “you are a beautiful lady who deserves this,” “sister from another mother,” etc. After you say no, you have to make sure you have a reason to back yourself up. They are very good a agreeing to what you want to give, but then they keep trying to push more on you. They are nothing like the Moroccans who just push and are a little mean, they are nice, overly nice. Not saying that it’s a bad thing because there were times where they got me. Like the guy who sold me the keychain he made in front of me. He was telling me all about his family and showed me his brother and said they were trying to pay their way through junior high. He was such a sweet heart. He made the keychain with my sorority letters and the Ghanaian flag. I love it and the meaning behind it.
Fred (the tour instructor) took us to the city in Accra so we can exchange currency. There were more people tying to sell to tourists again. I’ve met a lot of people like this. They have a different handshake where they shake hands, pull apart and pinch the middle figure to somehow snap. It’s cool when it actually works. I have yet to master that.
Soon we were on our 7 hour bus drive to Senase Village with Fred. Here, we met Celestina who is a student in Senase who was the lucky child to see the city.
To get there faster, Fred decided for us to grab a snack and then eat on the road. It didn’t work out as planned because our bus broke down. First the air conditioning went out and we pulled off the side of the road in a little village I later found pronounced like Chakoos. I’m almost certain that the spelling’s wrong. We first thought this was going to be a bust, but then we started interacting with the children and everything became better. We all took a lot of pictures. They love to see the pictures of themselves. One thing I noticed is that all of girls had their ears pierced. Once we found out that we are going to be staying for a while, people started bringing out the football (I kept calling it soccer. Ops!), bubbles, and stickers. They were having so much fun!! It was so sweet to see them having so much fun. After two hours in this village, we were starting to just chill. This girl came to me and started to engage in a conversation. She was wondering all about me. Such as why we’re here, what I’m doing for a living, where I live, etc. She was pretty awesome and she promised to email me. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it will happen or not. We weren’t able talk long because it started down pouring and we all went onto the bus. Fred and the bus driver went with a car part to get it fixed while we were left on the bus for them to come back. We were about 3.5 miles away and hungrier than ever at 2000. Fred and the driver came back and told us that the alternator is broke. They called around and were able to get a replacement from Accra. It is an 1.5 hour drive there and another back. We were still stranded. Fred took us to a local bar and we all just had a few drinks and relaxed for a little. Then we hopped on the bus to sleep and wait. We woke up with a rumble of the engine and we’re on our way. 5 hours of sleep later and we were in Senase.
Hey family and friends!
Let me first start by apologizing for this HUGE delay. It’s been crazy here on the ship trying to keep up with everything including my sanity. There has been so much reading, so much studying, so much work, and, though we haven’t lost hours for about a week now, less time. I simply couldn’t find enough time or energy to type out the long journals that I’ve already written out in a notebook.
The ship has been really rocky on the way to Ghana and it’s been making people feel sick; including me. That first night back on the ship was the worst. It was really swaying back and forth. At first, it was kinda funny cause Trevor, Nichole, Alex, and I were on the top deck where the pool is. Every time the ship rocked, more water poured out. There was even a girl that fell out of her chair. It was hilarious then. But after a few hours of it my stomach and head reminded me it wasn’t too funny. I ended up taking one pill of the sea sickness medication on top of ginger gum, coke, and Sea-Bands to get me through the night. I had two papers and a lot of reading due the next couple days and I needed to get some of it done that night. It was a crazy night.
Since then, it’s been even crazier! Remember that bottle of perfume the crew member was going to have checked out? Well apparently the manager was very suspicious about it and turned it in to the assistant dean who then contacted me and told me I broke the Code of Conduct specifically the Prohibited Item’s section. I got the not Saturday morning in class and had the meeting Sunday after class. I was freaking out for over 24 hours! I had no idea what it was for because the note was so vague! It was completely stressful and my managers at work finally found ways to calm me down and make me laugh, gosh I love these two ladies. They are incredible; so far I’ve been lucky and had pretty decent managers for my employments— knock on wood.
But as noticed before, it has been a crazy schedule lately. I promised myself that I would get the journals done before I reached Ghana though! Lol, so here I am at 2 in the morning getting these journals done the night before I leave for Ghana.
In Ghana, I’m doing a 2 night village home-stay. So right after the diplomatic briefing we are going to head out of the ship as quickly as possible and take a bus from Tema to the small village called Senase; it’s going to be a long 8 hour bus ride; time to get reading done! I am beyond excited to do this trip; I’ve been waiting so long! :] While on this trip, we are going to be visiting several tourist sites and learn some of the Ghanaian history. We are then going to go to the village before nightfall to eat dinner and meet the village. I cannot wait to meet the children and give them the little things I brought for them. :] :] :] At night is when they start their traditions. They are going to teach us their African drumming and dancing. On the last night we even get traditional outfits from them to take home with us! It is going to be so exciting.
But I am also nervous as well because we just learned of all the diseases and parasites that are in Ghana. I want to say that the doctor was just trying to scare us off to prevent major accidents, but it still freaked me out. Those who know me know that I’d rather expect the worst and have a good feeling afterwards than expect a little less than the truth and feel stupid and used after.
I’m just extremely excited. Time for me to hit the sack!
Thank you so much, Mom, Dad, family, and friends to help me make this possible! I love you and miss you all!
We slept in. There was no way that we were going to wake up early. The only goal that we had for the day was find Internet. Trevor had bills to pay, a girl had an application to submit, and the rest of us just wanted to try to Skype family and friends.
We set out on our travels after lunch around noon. We walked around and ran into some other students who were also looking for one, so we went together. We checked out this one place that had computers so that we can buy 30 minutes of internet usage. A few of us weren’t happy so we went in search for another one. We found the Sharaton hotel and felt comfortable there although we had to pay for unlimited internet as a non-guest. Total ran to 30 USD (5 a person) so we decided to go for it. They didn’t tell us though, that it only works with 2 computers at a time. Someone talked to the manager who was able to get technical help to get 3 computers at once, but then directed others to the computer room that they have. I was lucky enough to be that third person.
I was able to add pictures to Facebook and reply to a few people. I checked Skype and no one was online. I was pretty depressed because I was looking forward to seeing a few family faces. I will admit, I was/am getting a little homesick especially since I am not able to talk to my family and friends outside of email that I barely have time for. Then, my mom messaged me on Facebook! It made me so happy to hear from my mom. Unfortunately it was the wrong timing though cause we had to get back to the ship to make sure we got back in time. But I cannot find a way to describe how happy it made me to tell my mom I loved her. I hope she can get Skype going soon enough to make sure I can see her in Ghana or South Africa! :]
On our way back, some of us still had dirham to get rid of. Since soda on the ship costs an extreme amount ($2 a can!!!) we decided to stock up. Trevor and I bought 20 cans of soda to share along with a box of peach juice and 3 ice cream bars for Trevor, Alex, and me. It’s amazing how little everything costs there.
When we got to the pier, Alex and I decided to walk rather than wait for the shuttle bus because we knew it would be packed and take a long time for security. We tried to make it there before the bus, but we only made it 3/4 of the way. The bus picked us up and we stood in the aisle way and we were the first ones out. We only waited for about 20 minutes to get through security. Then they told me I was the next victim of the random drug test. It was interesting, she put on white gloves and went over my hands and fingers and then put it on a slide to test. I’m assuming they check for residue and that determines if they were using drugs. I, of course, was clean.
After putting our bags in our rooms, Trevor, Alex, and I started our tradition where we will get a can of Mountain Dew and sit on the deck to relax and watch students rushing back to the ship. Unfortunately, we were disappointed that most of the kids made it back on time. There were two students who were an hour late because of the taxi driver. It was interesting to see the taxi speed down the pier.
We then got dinner and felt relieved to finally leave Morocco. The journey out of Morocco was very rocky where people almost fell down and water started pouring out of the pool. It was quite fun until I realized I had to write a paper and read a few books. Let’s just say I needed to pick up some of the motion sickness medicine for the night.
We heard lots of rumors going around about Morocco: 2 people got mugged (one at knife point,) more than 1 got robbed, and 4 people went home already. I’m really glad that none of that happened to my friends and me, but that is mostly because all four of us knew how to protect ourselves and we looked intimidating, well at least the boys did in some aspect.
The friendship with these three boys definitely grew and I have learned so much about them and their girlfriends (Trevor’s and John’s.) John and Trevor live in Colorado and Alex lives in Michigan. I can already tell it’s going to be hard to leave this trip.
After going to sleep past 1:30 a.m. these past few, crazy nights in Morocco, Trevor, Alex, and I decided to sleep in a little and not wake up until 7 a.m. We met with Jeanette, Rajina, and Jesus at breakfast and discussed if we had any other plans for Fes. So far, all of us just wanted to go to the Medina (market place) to shop around because we heard the prices are cheaper there.
Again, we traveled by train because it would be a long, expensive drive there. This time, I took more money with me to exchange incase the debit card wouldn’t work again. The train filled up rather quickly as we tried to board. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a seat for a while, so we stayed standing until arriving in Rabat, where several people left and we were able to get seats easily. We were not together, but we did get seats for the 4 hour trip. I slept most of the way because I was exhausted from the trip before. I was hoping Fes would be different than Marrakech.
Indeed, it was different, extremely different. Before we got off the train, we ran into someone, Muhammad, who knew my neighbor on SAS. He said that he can arrange a tour that would only cost 10 dirham each and a taxi ride. We were all skeptical at first, but he seemed pretty trust worthy and everyone else thought it would be okay especially because we were a rather large group. He was able to have a his friend pick us up in a caravan so everyone can fit. The taxi drove us up the hill to see the overview of the medina. It was absolutely beautiful; it was what I always thought it would be like.
Our first stop was the family leather tannery. It was extremely outstanding to view the tannery from above and watch a few people work. First, they had to wash the leather in the white bins on the far left hand side. After a few days, the smell would start to go away and they would begin the dying process. There are browns, khaki, green, and dark red. There is also yellow, but they had to do those by hand. It was absolutely gorgeous. We were able to see the shop as well and buy leather products. Most of the items were out of my range and they weren’t willing to barter. There were a lot of very nice leather jackets along with bags and boots.
After the leather tannery, we were led to the tour guide’s real job at a silk shop. Here we learned how they make their tablecloths, scarves, carpets, etc. They, as everything else so far, were beautiful. They were made of silk, wool, and canvas of all colors.
Muhammad then had a reservation set up for us at this restaurant a few minutes away. I never got the name of it because it wasn’t out in the open, but it had all traditional Moroccan food and everything seemed ethnic. It was so cool. Drink wise, I ordered Lemon Fanta. I never heard of it at home, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s pretty much just like Sprite. I ordered Chicken and Vegetable Couscous. It was beyond delicious; very spicy and filling, but delicious. Most of the group ordered some type of chicken with almonds or onions. Trevor ordered a pigeon pot pie. I had some and it was actually quite tasty. I probably wouldn’t order that on a normal basis though. The owner of the restaurant was also a famous person in Morocco according to Muhammad. He was the man on the Moroccan Tea commercial that showed every night. Whether that is true or not, we won’t ever really know, but we did end up taking a picture with him.
After dinner, Muhammad took us to a rug house. We met the elderly women who created the house. All of the rugs were hand-made mostly created by widowed women who needed money and an a job to pay for necessities. The rugs were beautiful. The largest ones were exceptionally gorgeous and, of course, the most expensive. They did have smaller rugs for us to look at as well. Muhammad had everything set up so that we can shop like the Arabians do. There was Moroccan tea prepared and we sat on decorated benches while they showed us their famous rugs. We learned 2 different phrases: “Hauley” which meant I like, please tell me more, they put that rug aside for later, and another phrase, “Ishmae” take it away if we didn’t like the rug. After deciding that we didn’t like the rugs for the prices he was offering, he brought out silk rugs. These rugs were beautiful and caught my eye, and wow were they soft. These were a hundred dirham more expensive than the other rugs he was offering and I was getting iffy about buying one until he took out this one that I loved. It had a picture on it- the tree of life with the birds of paradise. It also contained the family name the rug was created by. This rug was supposed to bring good luck to anyone who placed it in their home. I bartered a little and came up with a reasonable price. However, I was still questioning whether I wanted to spend that much money in Morocco, Muhammad told me that if I were to change my mind about keeping the rug, I can always sell the rug in the states for thousands of dollars and make a profit off of it. I’m still indecisive about if I want to keep it or not, right now I definitely do.
After the rug house we were taken to a spice shop owned by Muhammad’s father. He showed us several spices, where they come from, and how to use them. It was awesome learning all of this information even though I couldn’t retain all of it easily. There was one spice that was an interesting, natural remedy. You can sniff the spices and it can help sooth headaches, muscle aches, and other types of problems. I decided to get a small portion of that to see if it can help with my headaches when I get back home. We’ll see how it goes. Before we left, he gave us a large water bottle of perfume that he made in front of us as a gift. We had no idea if we could take it on a ship or not, but we were going to try.
Finally, it was time to head back to the train station. We finally arrived and a lot went downhill from there. The tour guide told us that the last train was to leave at 8:50. Well, there was no train until 2 AM. We all were frustrated at this point. The taxi driver offered to drive us back to Casablanca for about 450 dirham each. I was willing to stay at the train station until the train comes. It just seemed better because we knew where we were going if we took the train. Yes, it would be boring to wait in the train station, but it was pretty empty and it felt safer than taking a taxi. Everyone just wanted to go home and I wasn’t about to just stay at the station alone. We agreed that we are going to take the taxi home.
It was really sketchy and all of us didn’t know how to react. Some could say that we started to go crazy, but we were just trying to consume what happened all day today. It was a great bonding experience. The taxi dropped us off at a street by the pier because he wasn’t sure what we meant by dock or ship. The 25-minute walk down the pier was calm since we all knew that we were almost there and we all realized we were exhausted tremendously.
We finally got on the ship and worried about what they were going to do with the spices and stuff we bought, specifically the gift because it was an open bottle. Surprisingly, the security didn’t automatically say no. He smelt it and said he’d have to ask his manager and he’d let me know the next day. Unfortunately, the answer was no. We expected that so we weren’t too concerned. We made it inside and most of us just went to the piano bar and bought a snack and just sat there thinking about the day. Then, we laughed for ten minutes straight to end the night.
Today was an epic journey filled with excitement, nervousness, comfort, and exhaustion. John, Trevor, and I started off with a SAS trip for a Casablanca city orientation. It started at 8:30, which meant we had to be ready to leave at 8:15. However, John really wanted to see the sunrise so I agreed to wake up with him at 5:30 to watch it.
The sunrise was exquisitely beautiful with the reflection in the water and a boat in the background. This whole time we were able to see the Morocco’s city lights but not any buildings except the large mosque that we were soon going to visit. After the sun rose completely, John and I went to work out, to kill some time before breakfast. I ran a whole mile today! It felt great! It has been so long since I ran that I couldn’t believe I made it that far. Running on a treadmill on a boat is difficult especially when it is a rocky voyage.
As mentioned before, my first Moroccan experience was the city orientation. The tour and the guide were great. Our first stop was the central market. It was how I always thought it would be like. There were carts on the outside full of fruits, veggies, flowers, and herbs. The only thing missing were the monkeys like Abu! On the inside portion of the market, were the meats to keep them cool. Our tour guide gave an introduction and story about their famous Moroccan tea. Moroccan tea consists of peppermint herbs, green tea powder from China, and sugar for taste. They use a special kind of pot to make the tea; it has a large, wide base and a very stout spout. The story has to deal with the wedding proposal. When a guy says to a girl that he likes her and he wants to marry her, she prepares a tea for the response. When she comes back, the answer is in the pot she just brewed. A very sweet mint tea means that she will marry him. A semi sweet tea says that she needs a little time to think about it. And a tea without any sugar added addresses the fact that he should walk out the door as soon as possible. I loved hearing this story and stories similar to it.
There are a lot of stray cats and dogs in Morocco. They seem to be like our rabbits and deer back in Ohio. Along with these wild pets, there was also a lot of trash everywhere. I could not believe my eyes when I saw how dirty it was. There were squares on the walkways that stood maybe a foot high that was full of trash, it could have been a trash can, but I was not too sure. It was disgusting to see and smelled awful. I wish there is something I can do to help them out with the situation, though there is very little I can do.
There are also these “water men” who wear red dresses with yellow and green details and a pointed hat with yellow, red, green, and black fuzz balls dangling from the rim. Their purpose is to supply water for whatever cost you are willing to donate. The only problem with this is they use the same gold glasses for everyone, use dirty, old water, and act as they are begging for people to drink their water. It seems like such a health hazard.
The bus then took us to the Great Mosque of Hassan II. OH MY GOSH! It was beautiful! I don’t remember how many km high the tower was, but it was remarkable. The guide said it took 6 years of continuous labor to build the first part alone and over $8,000,000 to build but they are not even done yet. Our first stop was the religious part of the mosque where we had to take our shoes off and women cover our heads if possible. We learned that there isn’t a significant meaning behind taking off the shoes except that it keeps the floors clean and somewhat sanitary for their prayer.
There is so much detail in the profound building. The ceiling alone had some of the most beautiful detail imaginable. It was made of cedar wood dyed in several colorful dyes from natural plants. The ceiling also contains 14-karat gold leaves. There are also 6 chandeliers from Italy. As like everything else, the mosque is beautiful and technological. Part of the ceiling contains sliding doors to open the ceiling as a sunroof. The walls next to the beach also open as well to help with the air ventilation on nice days. To add to the technology, the mosque is broken into sections by a split that goes through the floor, walls, and ceiling. This is considered the expansion because it gives in when the ground shakes making the building earthquake proof. There are also speakers throughout the whole entire building that are practically invisible, we can only notice them when she pointed out where they are. Their technology is incredible.
On the sides of the mosque are chairs presented on platforms. These are for the imams. They preach about what ever topic they prefer throughout the day. Then anyone can come and “join a circle” around the preacher to listen to his words and ask questions for him to answer.
Muslims call themselves sunits: they believe they need to do the same as the prophets. Back then, the prophets washed themselves several times before starting religious prayer. That’s why they wash their head, hands, right foot, left foot, nose, and mouth several times. They had the choice to do the washing at home, or they could wash in the social areas of the mosque. Gosh, I wrote so much about this mosque already and there is still so much to tell! I cannot wait to tell everyone and show pictures when I get home.
One fact that I must write down is about the hand of Fatima. It is a symbol of a hand that is located on entranceways, door handles, and jewelry. It is supposed to bring good luck and keep one out of the bad eye. There is also a tattoo of the tribe that parents either tattoo their children and/or on jewelry that is worn. The tattoo symbolizes which tribe they came from and what generation they are of that tribe.
We were also taken to the building called Hassan II Palace of Casablanca while on this tour. It is the third largest in Morocco and is where the prince stays when he visits. Right how they are in their 6th dynasty. The building was huge and had a courtyard. In the courtyard the city has a ceremony of alliance where the people come and give their appreciation for being their king. We spent a very short time here, but it was interesting none-the-less.
We were then out to explore and shop for 20 minutes. Trevor, John, and I didn’t get too far before someone tried to help us but told us complicated directions. We decided to act like we knew what he was talking about and move on. He was really nice and told us which way to go. He also said he had a brother who lives in America. He said he liked the US government and loved that we stopped to converse with him for the little while we had.
Soon we got back to the port and ate some lunch before heading out again. We went to the train station closest to the port to figure out how to get to Marrakech the next day. Once we found it and got there, Trevor decided to go with a group to Rabat. So John and I were left alone at the train station completely lost and confused. Finally, a French lady asked if we needed help. She was super nice and directed us in the right direction to find what we were looking for.
Since we finally figured out that part of the puzzle, John and I headed towards the Catholic Church called ANFA, Chapelle des soeurs Franciscaines. Our plan was to find the church and then get to a cyber café to spend some of the time before mass. Along the way, however, we experienced a few detours and learned a lot. For starters, we ran into a medina that sold a lot of different items. It was very overwhelming because people kept offering us stuff and kept following us until we responded. It was pretty freaky. But again, someone reached out to help us in the “right” direction until we ran into someone else who told us to go the opposite way or we found our way around. Did I mention that there aren’t many street signs in Morocco? So you pretty much know the city or don’t know where you are at all.
We felt completely lost and decided to take a taxi. The taxi probably drove for 6 minutes before it stopped again. It didn’t cost anything much, it was just not necessary because we found out he dropped us off at the wrong square. John and I had some time to kill before getting to the church and were a little shaken up, so we decided to stop and get something to drink. John immediately recognized a drink called, something along the lines of, Oranjio. It was just like carbonated orange juice and tasted delicious after everything that happened. We then asked for more directions from 2 different people. Of course, both gave opposite directions, which, I must add was different than the taxi driver’s directions.
Soon after approximately 4 hours of searching for the church with wrong directions and frustration, we found the church 15 minutes before mass. When we got there, we started talking to the sister that spoke English. She was very friendly and welcomed us warmly. She told us we’re allowed to come as often as we can and that we are always welcomed in their church; she even offered to help us find a safe place to stay the night! We were very grateful but declined the offer because we needed to sleep on the ship.
Even though we couldn’t understand a word of mass, we both agreed we felt relieved and calm for the first time all day. It was so nice to just sit there and feel a sense of belonging and thoughtfulness. After mass, we talked to the sisters some more and learned a lot of interesting information. One being that they are not allowed to preach in Morocco. No one is allowed to preach a religion of any sort. The one sister said she saw a group of people from Southern Africa preaching and the next day she watched them being taken away to leave the country. These ladies were so nice and I was so glad we had the chance to meet them. Unfortunately, it was time to get back to the real world in Morocco.
Our next mission was to find wi-fi somewhere so we can see if we can Skype anyone and update photos and such. We found a nice restaurant that had free wi-fi (they pronounce it wiffy) and had great food. I ordered some type of chicken dish that was delicious and John had kabobs that also looked great! John immediately started Skyping his girlfriend. It was so cute how happy he was to see her! I was able to Skype a few friends and I was glad I did so to keep a little bit of home around. I was really hoping for family, but maybe next time. :]
After all this adventuring and time spent at the café, it was time to head back and catch up on sleep I most needed. We took the taxi to make it simple because there was no way we wanted to walk back and get lost again, especially not at night.
It was a grand adventure. Learned a lot about myself and about Morocco. Independent traveling isn’t the greatest idea if you haven’t the slightest clue what to do in a situation. Now that we experienced those situations, I feel more prepared to tackle the next adventure to Marrakech. Time to rest up for the match tomorrow! Sweet dreams! <3
Today was a crazy day. Trevor, John, Alex (AJ) and I went to Marrakech for the day. I’ll just start off by saying that this trip made our friendship grow, that’s for sure. Here’s a few statistics to start off. According to Wikipedia (the only free search engine we have access to, ironically—so this information might be false,) Marrakech, alone, has a population of 1,070,000 people in the city. It is the second largest city in Morocco containing both the old fortified Marrakech and the modern city of Marrakech. Along with being one of the largest cities means that it has one of the largest markets, in fact, it does have the largest market in Morocco.
We traveled to Marrakech by train at 7 o’clock in the morning. One thing we learned is that there are illegal taxi drivers looking for money. After 15ish minutes of walking down the pier, a fake taxi driver picked us up. We weren’t too worried because John was able to talk him down to 70 dirham instead of 100 dirham (9 USD versus 13 USD.) It wasn’t a big deal, but the pier is extremely long (25 minute walk) and we needed a taxi to the train station anyways. My debit card still wasn’t working, but fortunately the station accepted credit cards so I easily got my train ticket and we literally made it on the train right before it left.
We jumped on the first car we were able to which was a cabin car for second class. Since we were so late we were stuck in the aisle way of this car. We are not Arabic, so people always wondered who we were. Most of the time they started speaking to us in French because we had white skin. But then we say English or Spanish and they immediately transfer to that language. It is absolutely crazy how many languages some of these people know. There was one man who started talking to us while we were in the car. John engaged in a conversation with him. He found out the man has a brother in the US (just like every other Arabic man) and he loved Obama. Once we started talking about America he went ballistic about Obama; he hated the country but loved the government. In my mind I’m thinking, “at least someone does.” But because he loved Obama so much, he decided to help us out. He told us to follow him, so we followed him to the back of the train. The train conductor stopped us since we were trying to get through first class to the second class behind it (we didn’t know what was going on this whole time.) We were getting kind of nervous when we saw the back of the train and nowhere else to go. But this nice man led us to the back of the train where the car was almost completely empty and there were four seats facing each other for us to enjoy the 3-hour train ride.
When we got there, our first goal was to find an ATM that worked, or some place to exchange money in the modern city of Marrakech. After 30 minutes, we finally came across a place where I can exchange my USD for Dirham; unfortunately Alex had no way to receive dirham. Throughout the whole trip we all helped him out. We then took 2 taxis to the main square (each taxi can only take 3 people and we had 4, of course.) Once we got there we were in search for food because it was around lunchtime. Unfortunately it wasn’t lunch for another 45 minutes for them. We walked around while we waited. I found a pair of DG sunglasses that I really liked for 30 dirham (about 2.50 USD) though I didn’t buy them yet.
We went into the actual square of the building where there was some entertainment. Lesson 1 of Marrakech: don’t have your camera even showing near the snake charmers, monkey owners, or watermen. I will admit that I took a video of the snake charmer’s musicians and John took a picture. As we were walking away, a guy made us pay for the picture. Even though I showed him I deleted it, he still demanded money. I didn’t want to mess with him anymore so I tossed him money, told him to leave me alone, and walked away. He realized we were American so he stopped to talk; apparently he worked at Epcot although I highly doubt that. This was an interesting, adrenaline rushing experience; but wait, it gets better.
Because we obviously don’t look Arabic, people were offering things and getting our attention left and right. We were just in the square; the market alleys had a lot more amazing stuff that we wanted to look at. Instead, we decided to eat lunch and work our way up to those markets. We stopped at a restaurant sponsored by Coca-Cola. I had a coke, vegetable Panini, and fries that had it’s own little tang to them. They were quite delicious actually. Definitely satisfied the stomach although we were hoping for more Moroccan traditional food; we couldn’t find a trustworthy restaurant.
We gained the courage to walk through the markets. It was extremely interesting. We found a lot of things we liked and a lot that we thought were weird. One of the things that the boys were specifically interested in was the hookah. We didn’t spend so much time on this because of the fact it’s banned from the ship. There were a lot of cool things that I wanted to look at, but none of us were ready to barter with them yet.
Next, we walked our way to find the smaller market located in Marrakech. We finally found it, after walking through the larger market. On the way, we almost got ran over by motorcycles, horses, an ambulance, and taxis. It was literally crazy. After walking for a little while, we decided to turn down an aisle way to find our way out. There were a lot of children in this place. They were all so cute and said bonjour to us. After about a minute, it was getting awkward because they just kept looking at us. I told the boys that I wanted to leave because they were either interested that we were Americans, or they were interested in the stuff that we have. We left and walked through the market to find our way out while almost getting ran over again. Like I said, it was crazy.
We made our way out and crossed the street to the mosque. It was peaceful for the most part and very little people were there. However, we did see an absolutely crazy lady. I’m not sure if she was high on something or she was just going insane, but she was playing in the road, messing with cars, and just screaming something in Arabic. That was a weird sight to see. While at the mosque, a group of British guys sat next to us by the ledge. They were saying how crazy Marrakech is and that there isn’t really much to do. They gave us a lot of hope (sarcasm.)
We decided to walk to the famous gardens that were on the other side of the city. Halfway there we found a cyber garden. It only consisted of 3 computers and a large garden, but Cyber Garden could have been an appropriate name. We decided to rest in there for a little while and enjoy the shade. It was awesome because we were bonding during this whole time, thinking back on how much we went through in that day alone.
We continued walking towards the gardens and then realized that we needed to get back to the train station. We also realized that we were extremely thirsty and all of us ran out of water so we stopped at McDonalds for cokes and water. John noticed that there was a poor woman with her 2-year-old child who was begging for food and juice for her little one. John was super nice and bought them a small meal and orange juice. The security guard (yes, there was a security guard at McDonalds) almost didn’t let her in because he knew she was begging for a long time and thought she was going to steal food or something. John explained that he bought it for them and he let them through. It made my heart smile to see how happy these two were while eating their meal.
We were then on our way back to the train station and walked a few miles to get there. Once we were there, we learned we couldn’t use credit. Since the debit machine in the train station wasn’t working, we had to dig for dirham. I had just enough money to pay for my ticket and we barely found enough to get the other two. The train ride home was a long one. All four of us ended up finding seats next to each other, but there were a lot of people standing for the entirety of the trip. It became uncomfortable for everyone because they were leaning on our chairs and sitting on the handles and tables. I guess this is natural for them to do this. It was going to be an uncomfortable 3 hour ride home. After 3 hours passed, I began to worry that we missed our stop. During our panic we bonded some more and soon learned we didn’t miss the stop, the train was just running an hour behind. It was one long train ride, that’s for sure.
On our way home, around 10PM, we needed food. We had no idea where to look. The first thing we saw was a Pizza Hut. I guess I still followed my family’s silly Uniontown tradition after all! We enjoyed our pizza, even though it was burning hot, and made our way toward the ship. It was a long walk, but boy were we glad once we made it back to the pier! Part way down the pier, the security drove up next to us. We kind of freaked out at first, but realized that he can only speak French and wanted to take us back to the ship so we don’t have to walk so far. So I can officially say that I was in the security car in Morocco, hahaha.
It was one epic day and we started to make our time arrangements to go to Fes tomorrow. Oh boy. Hopefully I’ll be well rested for tomorrow!
Lesson of the day: no matter how much you wanna drink tea, don’t keep drinking at 10:30 at night. Especially when you lose an hour of sleep and have an 0800 History class in the morning. XP Not really tired at 0100 so I decided to catch up on emails. Dang you tea!!! I never used to like drinking tea, but it’s just so flavorful to me now! I think it’s because it’s something different from water and mostly free depending on the type of tea I get. Yesterday I fell going up the stairs… I was positive no one saw me until someone asked if I was okay. Gah! Oh well! It was pretty funny at the time. I also saw some dolphins a few days ago! I don’t know what breed they were, but the seemed small; I’m not sure if it is because we are on a large ship or not. People say they have been seeing dolphins around dinner time. No one’s seen them for a few days, but they were spotted at least three nights on this voyage so far! There was even a sighting of a pod of whales at sunset! Not killer whales of course, but it would have been awesome to watch! Man, if I can see a pod of killer whales on this trip, it would be the perfect trip. Lol. Met another girl from Ohio yesterday. So that makes 5 students and 2 faculty. The one lady, Kristie I believe is her name, was an undergrad at BW as well and knew Mila Cooper (OCO Director.) What a coincidence that was! She’s now a successful teacher and helps run volunteer programs back home in Ohio. It was so nice talking to her though and share stories! I got to work out this morning too! Well, I was kinda forced by John. Forced is a powerful word, encouraged by John to go with him. It was just a quick little thing to get us back in the groove of working out again. There’s no one in the workout room in the mornings, so it’s nice not having to worry about anyone watching or waiting. I hate that self-consious feeling. Just got to remember to bring my iPod next time and I can possibly run even longer without a problem. :] One bummer of this trip is the reading. There is a lot of reading for all my classes. In a sense I feel like I will be able to become a better reader after this trip, but then again I also might become a procrastinator or just not read at all. Hopefully I become a better, faster reader. I feel like all my classes just like to make us read. I have had about 40 pages of reading for every class except history (it’ll catch up to me) and Global Studies (requires short readings instead of long, dreadful ones.) Some of the topics are very interesting such as International Business and World Religions, but some are just dreadful -Language and Culture. I thought that would be a fun, informative class, but it seems like it will become a lot of hard work in the long run. Grrr. I’ll have to just keep my butt going. Today while reading, I thought I started reading a foreign language for that class, so I just decided to give it a try in the morning if at all possible. We’ll see what becomes of it. Yesterday and today consisted of a lot of reading and studying for classes, so I took the night off to re-cooperate. John and AJ found me in the union studying and waiting for our culture pre-port. Culture pre-port is just an hour introduction briefly talking about the culture of that country. Today we talked about Morocco of course! Learned some pretty interesting facts such as where to go, how to act and dress, different types of food, and a little of their language. I am so excited to get to Morocco and get this show on a roll! After the hour and a half meeting, John, AJ, and I went to the dining hall to play some cards and wait for snack time. We played 4 rounds of hearts with Joe. I forgot how good I was at that game! I was so close to winning until the last round. AJ seems to win everything! Lol. That’s okay. I beat John in Dots, Checkers, and Hearts that night. He only beat me in ping-pong. He even admitted he only wanted to play me because he knew he can beat me in that game. XP Then we went down and watched a few episodes in AJ’s room on Deck 2. It’s actually kinda nice down there. Everyone seems to act like a family on those bottom decks. Makes me miss BW where my sorority sisters are always out and about and we don’t have to worry about being alone a night. That’s what sucks about being in the corner of the ship, no one wants to walk all the way down the hallway to come say hi unless they are close friends. Time to try to sleep!!! We are now officially 4 hours ahead of my family in Ohio. Ubuntu!