AT SEA: ATLANTIC CROSSING
I finally feel like the circumnavigating has begun! We’re now in a stretch of 9 days at sea. The first two days were traveling out of the Amazon and since then we’ve been journeying across the Atlantic Ocean before arriving at Ghana. The first three days in the Atlantic rocked the ship with ten foot swells and lots of people got sick. One of my classes was cancelled and the Global Studies lecture was broadcasted to our cabins (via TV). It’s much harder to pay attention and take good notes from bed! But it might have been even harder in the Union as it’s in the front of the ship where the rocking can be felt the worst.
I thought 9 days at sea would be tiresome and I would become restless for land, but I haven’t grown bored with life at sea. The ocean never ceases to mesmerize me, particularly as it changes with the weather. At times it can be still and flat and at others it will undulate with waves. Sometimes it’s a steel blue, sometimes it’s a hard gray, navy blue, and black. While clouds have been almost constant across the Atlantic by the equator, they’ve been ever-changing and moving. Another beautiful sight to behold. I’ve very much enjoyed waking up to the ocean outside my window each morning.
It was also nice to finally get into the grind of what ship life will be like for the next 3 months. Course topics have finally delved a little deeper, clubs have kicked into gear, routines established, and homework has piled up. Unfortunately I was not documenting these past 9 days because I was trying to catch up on Brazil, but I will do my best to give a brief overview of my activities.
February 5th was my roommate, Eleni’s, birthday. Since our friends and her parents got her cake, we were able to enjoy delicious ice cream cake two nights in a row!
There are some days when I’m just perpetually tired for no reason and I sleep the day away. I wake up to go to class, eat, and do some homework before being called back to the comfort of my bed. I’m not the only one though. We all pretty much take naps everyday.
Let’s see….I had my first meeting for my French Conversation Club! I went to meditation with Allie. I went to Zumba with a bunch of friends. That was a fun work out. I did my group presentation on FMG and one girl in the class passed out. Saw an incredible thunder and lighting storm one night. It was spectacular to watch. I’ve done A LOT of homework and eaten a lot of snacks at snack time. Learned a lot. Had class out on the deck one day. Our guest lecturer from Brazil to Ghana is this amazing musician named Sheriff Ghale and I saw a bunch of performances by him. Grace’s parents sent her a huge Valentine’s Day ice cream cake and we feasted on that. I saw a screening of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” Went to a meeting for a 120 Hour Film Contest. Made Valentine’s Day cards. Met my “Extended Family.” (A program where SAS creates a “family” for you so that you can connect with more people.) Was awarded a “study buck” for studying in a common area. Oh man… I don’t know what else. It’s been a jam packed week and a half.
I guess the most exciting part was right smack dab in the middle of the week when we had class off for one day. It was called Safety Protocol Day but when we all were awoken to toga-clad crew members running down the hallways banging drums and blowing whistles at 7am, we knew that in fact it was Neptune Day. Over the intercom we were informed that King Neptune was upset that we had crossed the equator with out permission and that we had minimal time to throw on a bathing suit or some old clothes and get to the pool deck. It was up there that the parade of bizarrely dressed adults came through, led by “King Neptune,” or Dean Bob painted completely green and dressed in a sheet. We were packed like sardines up there and it was hard to hear, but the gist of it was that we had to go through some atonement to appease King Neptune. This consisted of have some green or blue slime poured on us, jumping in the pool, and kissing a fish. Those who wanted to could also shave their heads. While the events took a long time, it was quite the exhilarating morning, especially watching 5 of my friends shave their hair completely off! Two of them girls. I was very proud of their courage.
So now it is far past my bedtime and I have to wake up early tomorrow because we arrive in Ghana! Cannot wait to step on African soil for the first and tell you all about my new experiences. Hopefully I’ll be more punctual about my blog entries! Goodnight!
I have to say, I was a bit surprised when I woke up the morning we arrived in Manaus and I looked out my window at the port. I was told that Manaus was a very built up city complete with sky scrapers. While my view was mostly of the industrial part of the dock, there were no sky scrapers to be seen. And it certainly wasn’t as pretty/charming as I expected the “Paris of Latin America” to be. The view was certainly underwhelming after what we had experienced in Dominica.
The day started for me with my first FDP (Faculty Directed Practicum) experience. It was called “A Conversation with Writer Dare Clubb” and featured 3 other professors onboard. On one side of me sat Grace, my ruby-playing-charming-comedian-goof ball of a friend. To the other side was Academic Dean Luftig who casually informed me of the exploits of the accomplished intellectuals in front of us. (One of whom was his wife and my World Theatre Professor.) While the FDP technically just involved the on-ship conversation, we all were invited to go with a group on a tour of the Teatro Amazonas about an hour later. Grace and I were certainly not about to miss out on that opportunity. We ate lunch with one other student, my World Theatre professor, the Dean, their son, his tutor/teacher for the semester, and Dare Clubb. I have to say, we were quite honored and bragged to our friends about why we couldn’t sit with them. Being able to so casually eat with your Dean, your professor, or a professional playwright, is one of the many unique attributes of this shipboard community that I love so much. After finishing lunch, we headed over to the opera house.
The walk there was my first experience in Manaus. It was outrageously humid and hot. It was uncomfortably crowded. And quite a bit smelly. The sidewalks were barely passable. Storefronts were without walls/windows and encroached onto the sidewalks which were lined on the other side by endless street vendors. In the tiny space between, crowds of people walked at varying speeds in all different directions. From the crack between the store overhangs and vendor tents often came drips of drainage which were tricky to avoid particularly while avoiding the cracked sidewalks. Needless to say, it was much easier to walk once we reached the open square in which the french-style opera house was situated.
While what I have described so far sounds vastly unpleasant, I did enjoy (in some aspects) my walk to the theatre. Since it was my first exposure to the city and the Brazilian people, I was bombarded with a thousands sights to look at and observe. Relaying it to you would be impossible. I’ll try to get some of the biggest observations across. Well, first of all, it wasn’t very touristy at all. You might expect that with my description of the endless street vendors, but these carts sold everyday commodities. Fruit, cell phones, underwear, remotes, hot food, notebooks, you name it. But nothing was sold with “Manaus” or “Brasil” (as they spell it) printed across it.
Something else that left a strong impression on me was how much the Brazilians stared at us. I have never experienced anything like it before! We were so clearly out of place. My friends and I noticed that I particularly was getting a lot of attention because of my red hair. The rest of the trip I did not see one redhead and realized how exotic I must have looked to them with my pale skin and bright hair. It was bizarre the amount of blatant stares I received.
The Teatro Amazonas was astonishing. Walking into the house of the theatre for the first time surged within me strong reminiscent feelings of the period of my life in which I was obsessed with “The Phantom of the Opera.” It honestly looked like it could have been pulled straight from that era in France, and it almost was. Interestingly enough, it was designed by a French architect to look just like the French opera house. If you looked up at the painted ceiling of the Teatro, it even was painted to appear as if you were standing beneath the Eiffel Tower! The tour was cheap, informative, and chock full of interesting tidbits like learning about strategically placed mirrors so that men could look at women’s ankles in the ballroom, how the coloring of the floorboards symbolized the “Meeting of Rivers”, and that there was a staircase in the men’s lobby area so that they could sneak out to the cabaret during performances.
The tour of the Teatro was followed by a visit to a church across the way, and ice cream with the Dean. After that (and some wandering with Grace) it was back to the ship where I brought my laptop to the dock terminal for some free wifi. The free wifi enabled me to video chat my parents and sister for the first time since I’ve been away. While I was only able to chat for a few minutes, it was really nice to see their faces.
My friends and I then met up on the ship to head out for dinner in the city. Brynn had heard great things about a Brazilian steakhouse called “Buffalo” and we set out for the restaurant with eager appetites. We had some difficulty finding the restaurant with the map we had, and when we finally arrived, we were discouraged to see that it was fechado- closed. This caused much uneasiness as we were in the middle of the city at night, practically everything had closed down with cage gates, we clearly looked out of place, and were with out a clue of where to go. We attempted to talk to a woman inside at a hotel desk, but she did not speak Ingles and the language barrier didn’t get us anywhere.
Thank goodness we had more luck with a old, female taxi driver who we managed to communicate the words eat, restaurant, and meat. Squeezing into two cabs, she delivered us to what seemed like the only lit up establishment in Manaus at the time. The restaurant, while large, brightly lit, and modern looking, was practically empty. After being seated we were greeted by a waiter who I suppose had been sent to us because he had the best english skills of the staff. Unable to read the menu, he instructed us on the best dishes and translated to another waiter who queued the order into a hand-held electronic device. Before we had even finished ordering, food began to arrive at our table. We had a bountiful feast of garlic bread, sausage, fried cheese, rice with 3 traditional sauce-like toppings, and fantastic steak which we ordered per ounce per person. The steak was brought before us and sliced on the table and was seasoned with a delicious array of spices. We were also brought passion fruit juice in glass pitchers that had a thick, smooth texture like that of a yogurt smoothie. To finish off the meal, we ordered roasted pineapple which was also brought on a skewer and sliced before us.
It would be an understatement if I said that we were treated very well at this restaurant. We were treated like royalty. We were given a lot of attention by the english-speaking waiter who waited on our every desire and gave out orders to many different co-workers. We began to get nervous that the check would be expensive, but it came to no more that about 20 US dollars per person including tip. This was a fantastic price considering the quality of service we received, the exorbitant amounts of food we consumed, the taste of the food, and given that some other SAS found a “Buffalo” steakhouse and paid about 70 US dollars per person. The good fortune didn’t end there. The group of us had hoped we could find a place to go dancing after because dance, like the samba, is a prevalent part of the Brazilian culture. We had no idea where to go though and were apprehensive about the cost we might rack up in a taxi trying to find one. Not to mention that our large group hardly fit into two taxis. We thought our waiter called a cab for us, but when we left the restaurant we were informed that the restaurant’s shuttle service was complementary to the meal! What restaurants have shuttle service around the surrounding city?? And for free?? The shuttle, being a newer vehicle than the cabs of Manaus, fit us comfortably and keep us cool with its well-functioning air conditioning.
The good luck ended there though. It seemed to never cross our minds that it was a Tuesday night at about 8pm. All the local joints that usually hosted live music or Brazilian dance were practically dead if not for a handful of locals. After the shuttle driver patiently drove us around the city for an hour, trying to help us find somewhere to go, we finally made the decision to head back to the ship. By that time we made it back, we were all beat tired and happily crawled into bed.
Oh! Something else interesting from this night was when I told the waiter my name, he asked if it was like Meg White from the White Stripes! Shocked me completely that this Portuguese-speaking guy from Brazil had any knowledge of a band like the White Stripes. It was a cool inter-cultural connection.
The next morning had its up’s and down’s, quite literally. I lazily got ready in the morning, and then finally headed out for some exploring with my roommate, Eleni. We stumbled upon a market area that sold more touristy merchandise which appealed to our souvenir shopping inclinations. We also got to try the sweet brasilian coffee and attempted to order a type of breakfast cheesy bread that was recommended by Brazilian students on SAS, but were given grilled cheese instead. It was still delicious! While Eleni bought a fantastic hammock, I was heading back to the ship empty-handed.
As I was looking around to get my bearings and find out our location in relation to the ship, I suddenly found myself falling, and my right leg almost wholly submerged in a square foot hole of garbage/sewage/sludge that I hadn’t noticed. This was in the middle of the crowded, dirty, city of Manaus. I don’t really remember it very much… just the feeling of the sludge,the embarrassment, and the pain. My right foot was fine, but the top of my thigh got scraped up and I have this monstrosity of a bruise right above it. My left foot got cut up a bit and a bit bruised. I have no idea how my left foot got injured. It was quite embarrassing when all the Brazilians looked at me, not knowing what to do with this clumsy, white American, but I got out of the situation quickly and headed back to the ship (which was thankfully close by).
Again, I have to comment on having such handy friends. Coincidentally, some of them had been at the terminal on their laptops and went back to the ship with me and Eleni. Taking on a very serious tone, they told me to go back to my cabin, shower off, and when I got out of the bathroom, they’d be there. Sure enough, I emerged from washing off my legs to find my friends equipped with first-aid supplies. Both are first-aid certified and took time disinfecting the scrapes and bandaging them up with neosporin. Luckily all injuries were minor and I was ready to head out for my next adventure in Brazil!
Not long after, a group of 6 of us met up to head out into the Amazon jungle! My friend Mike’s mom is a travel agent and was able to get us a deal on an eco lodge called “The Amazon Eco Jungle Park Lodge.” First we were picked up by a van (after some confusion on where exactly it was picking us up. It’s tough not having cell phones.) The van drove us out of the city to a dock. We were starting to become a little apprehensive about the water portion of the travel to the lodge because we kept hearing the term “canoe” and wondered how exactly it was that we were being transferred to the hotel (or were transferring ourselves!). Shortly after we arrived at the dock, a long, shallow “canoe” came to pick us up. This was not a canoe in our sense of the word. It had a motor and driver situated in the back who drove not with a steering wheel, but a long paddle that was attached to the motor. There was a canopy/roof and benches runninf width-wise. It probably could have easily fit 15 people.
The journey took us about 30 minutes down the Amazon and across to the other side of the river where the eco lodge sat amidst the jungle. Upon first arriving, we saw other SAS students lounging around (they were there for a SAS planned trip) and were given passionfruit juice welcome drinks. The lodge was interesting in that there were hardly any walls anywhere, particularly exterior walls. Everything was made of wood and had a distinct jungle feel. Winding paths took guests through the forest to the different social rooms (meal room, hammocks, “event” room), the natural pools, and the cabins.
Forgive me for not giving more descriptive details. It has now been 4 days since leaving Brazil and I’m trying to finally type everything out! I can’t be too descriptive or I’ll never get this done.
Luckily, all of our cabins had air-conditioning and could be completely closed off to bugs. After setting down our things, we changed into swim suits and headed to the natural pools to get some relief from the intense heat and humidity. There were 3 round pools contained by rock that cascaded down into the next one. They sat right in the jungle and trees had hardly been cleared out. It looked like we were swimming in tea, which was really bizarre. Mosquitos started to get at us after a short while so we headed back to our cabins to change and hang out/explore before dinner.
I spent a good amount of time before dinner swinging in a hammock with Eleni, Grace, and Sarah while Brynn and Mike slept while waiting for Evan and Brynn (number 2) to show up. I never realized how comfortable hammocks could be. Again, the hammocks were strung in a wall-less hut and it was incredible swinging under the roof while rain began to fall around us.
Not long after Evan and Brynn arrived did dinner start. It was a fantastic feast of fruits, vegetables, meats, everything! Because it was buffet style, the huge tables were surrounded by hungry guests. I guess the seats were assigned because there was a little confusion about there being a table for us, but once that was settled, we all enjoyed overeating the deliciously fresh food. (I think we each went up for fifth servings of the desserts and fruits.)
When dinner was over we headed to the “event room” which was a huge hut strung with lit lanterns and full of bean bag chairs. We stayed there chatting and playing games until almost 4 in the morning while bats swooped no more than a foot over our heads at moments to eat up all the bugs that had flocked to the light. It was so enjoyable to sit carefree in the middle of jungle laughing all night with close friends. Definitely one of the most memorable nights so far!
Walking back to our cabins we spotted many frogs along the paths and on our doors. In the night the jungle absolutely came alive and was full of exotic sounds. The depth of sound was incredible. I know this is cheesy, but it truly was musical. 100 times better than a sound machine or even Disney ;)
Unfortunately we had to wake up early and breakfast wasn’t quite as enjoyable as dinner. The food spread was still delicious. I ate an interesting “pancake” of sorts which the Brazilians make by grilling tapioca. Tasted yummy with butter! The meal was hard to enjoy though because flies were unrelentingly pursuing our food. Some guests had to give up their meals completely when brilliantly colored, large parrots flew in to claim their plates of food. That was certainly something I’ve never seen before.
After breakfast we were boated across the river to a conservation park where we had reservations for a canopy walk. This was quite the challenge to my fear of falling. Around particularly large trees, were platforms that wrapped around the trunk and were strapped on with ingenious (German? Canadian?) engineering so that the tree would not be damaged or compromised at all. Suspended by rope and netting to connect each platform were extensive, narrow, and wobbly “bridges” which necessitated single line formation. Peering down to the jungle floor from our position in the canopy as we teetered across the path was exhilarating. Don’t let me fool you, thoug. This was completely safe and brilliantly engineered, but I’m typically more comfortable being in sturdy positions at significant heights.
Nonetheless, the experience was breathtaking. The depth and intricacies of the rainforest continued to awe me. Our tour guide could not speak English (though he could speak French) and communicated to us through another English speaking guide (who didn’t have as much knowledge of the jungle). The tour was full of captivating tidbits about our surroundings, but unfortunately did not result in any animal sightings. We all had kind of hoped to snag a picture of a monkey and thought that perhaps going early in the morning and in a small group would provide us with a better opportunity.
On the last platform were stairs leading up to another platform which stood above the roof of the rainforest. In climbing up to the top, we took in a gorgeous view of the park, the river, and the eco lodge across the way. The group of us was mesmerized and spent a while up there. Sitting on the platform, the English speaking guide told us to listen to the music. I caught him say the word “nirvana.” Sitting there, feeling the light breeze and the heavy humidity, listening to the music of the Amazon, I swear I got a taste of what nirvana must feel like.
We also made a bit of our own music when the guide tried to teach us some Portuguese songs at Eleni’s request. We really had a great time with the two of them to guide us and when we arrived back at the eco lodge, gave them a modest tip even though it’s not expected in Brazil. To our surprise, he gratefully told us it was the first time he had ever received a tip.
The trip back to Manaus was long and tiresome. The group of us planned to attend a free symphony concert at the Teatro Amazonas and I knew I needed rest before a night out in the city. Before collapsing into bed, I decided to venture back to the terminal from the ship to browse the souvenir shop with a friend for potential purchases and take advantage of the free wifi. Some how during the time I spent on the computer, I lost track of my wallet and when I got up to leave, I could not locate it. I know I had it when I entered that room of the terminal so I can only assume that my fatigue and ability to only focus on one thing had allowed someone to swipe it. It was incredibly frustrating because I had been going through so much extra effort to secure my personal belongings through out the trip, especially while in port. Fortunately, I had planned accordingly and had left backups of the contents of my wallet onboard. Thoroughly disgruntled, I took care of what I needed to before taking a much needed nap, knowing I would awake with a fresh perspective.
Waking up from my nap, I did indeed feel much better. I got dressed up and met up with my friends to head over to the square around the Teatro. We wandered around for a little bit, keeping our eyes peels for a line to form. We spent a little bit of time in an EcoShop were I bought postcards, water, and banana chips (which I expected to taste like banana chips from Trader Joe’s, but instead were very much like a potato). And then we decided to spend the remainder of the time sitting at an outdoor restaurant in the square, watching for a line to form.
Because I’m getting extremely lazy with my blog entries, (it’s now been a week since leaving Brazil) I’m going to insert a paragraph from a site report I had to write for one my classes.
“ It [the Teatro Amazonas] clearly distinguishes itself from the surrounding area of Manaus, making it truly a spectacle. After trudging through the packed, claustrophobic, dirty, busy street up to the Teatro, I could not help but gasp in viewing it. Immediately wide space opened up, and in the center sat a pristine and elegant structure. I feel as if its presence not only held some effect over me when I first beheld the opera house, but particularly on the city the night of the symphony. Before that Thursday night, I could draw only meek connections between Manaus, the “Paris of Latin America,” and the actual Paris of France. However, the night of the performance, the atmosphere around the Teatro transformed completely. While most of the city seemed caught up in a half-hearted hustle and bustle, the square around the Teatro was relaxed and romantic. People were strolling around the fountain and sitting down at outdoor cafes for drinks. I felt as if we all had space to breathe and kick-back, contrary to the way I had felt since being in the city.”
Unfortunately, the cafe was on “Brazil time” and took forever to deliver the food that was ordered. Sara and Grace strolled up to the theatre and saw that a line had been forming in an area that wasn’t visible to our position. Some of us headed over to reserve a spot. The theatre only holds about 700 people so we were nervous about beating out the locals and the hordes of SAS students expected to flock to the free concert. Luckily we were well within the limits. I took a seat in one of the boxes and imagined what it would have been like to be one of the social elite attending a performance in the heyday of the opera.
The first act consisted of solos, duets, trios, and quartets of like instruments while the second act was the full symphony which covered the whole stage. The blast of sound when the whole symphony played was powerful and traveled right to your core The music was hauntingly and discordantly beautiful (if that makes any sense) and painted vivid images in my head. It was interesting that the performance could communicate so much through non-verbal sound that it transcended cultural and linguistic boundaries. The symphony, I found out later, played strictly Brazilian composers and picked pieces that captured the spirit of the Amazon. This was effectively communicated in the storytelling of the music.
From the performance I also gained a funny anecdote related to the transcendence of forms of communication beyond cultures. During the first act, musicians entered from between dividers (that blocked the back of the stage) to take their positions in the front. One of the brass performers was too wide to pass through and after a moment of struggling and awkwardness, walked around. The tension and formality broke when the audience laughed and the musician jovially bowed. To the audience’s amusement and for his own sake, the musician went around the dividers after his song. Even though there were so many Americans and other foreigners in the audience, the power of physical comedy permeates all boundaries.
I’m getting incredibly lazy now. Here is another excerpt from a report I wrote:
“In addition, the prevalence of Semester at Sea students in the crowd compared to local Brazilians surprised me. Although others observed a different percentage, I saw that at least one-third of the audience were SAS participants. The atmosphere of the audience throughout the performance was then baffling to me. There was relentless Portuguese chatter and twice a cell phone went off, rightly infuriating the conductor. This bad behavior seemed not to be coming from the Americans who had flocked to the theatre in great anticipation. Instead, it was the local Brazilians who took the performance for granted perhaps because its typically an event of status and sophistication, but that night was free.” Despite this bad behavior, it was a fantastic night out and my friends and I had a blast.
On the final day in Brazil, I only had the morning before an FDP in the afternoon and the ship’s departure. With some friends, I returned to the more touristy “market place” to get some last minute shopping done. We also were able to find the what was seemingly the only cafe in the nearby area to finally taste quality Brazilian coffee! Because I had heard so much about the quality of Brazilian coffee and its prevalence in the economy, I had expected cafes to be everywhere. I was shocked when this wasn’t the case and I had to go looking for coffee. Anyways, I was thrilled to have found a coffee shop and ordered a cappuccino. We learned in a pre-port meeting that Brazilians always load their coffee with sugar (partly because of sugar’s significance in its economy) and you have to tell them if you don’t want any. The first time I ordered coffee, I tried it with sugar and it was surprisingly good. (I usually take my coffee/espresso with out sugar.) At the cafe though, I opted for my normal choice and asked for it with out sugar (in Portuguese and mostly likely saying it almost incomprehensibly). The cappuccino was spectacular. In that moment I realized just how much I missed my local coffee shops and regularly buying espresso drinks. The drink also came with a small package of chocolate! That’s a trend America should adopt! Two of my friends ordered these incredible cappuccino “shakes” and I had to order one to go when we left. It wasn’t a shake in our typical sense of the word, but rather a thick, frothy coffee drink. It was quite the treat.
Before heading back to the ship, we stopped in a grocery store and I picked up some ground coffee to take home. The line was impossibly long and like nothing I’ve ever seen in a market before. It was quite interesting to spend a lot of time there and observe the people around me.
The afternoon of the last day I signed up for an FDP to Monte Salem Orphanage. Again, in my laziness, I will just insert here an account of the rest of my day that I wrote for my service learning class.
“Upon boarding the coach bus for my first service visit, I had no idea what to expect. I purposefully thought little of what I was about to do so that I could have as much of a raw experience as possible with as little preconceived notions as possible. From class I was aware that we’re already plagued with biases and assumptions and I wanted to limit that as much as possible.
Arriving at the orphanage, I saw the same grunge that had been present through out the majority of the Brazil I had been exposed to in our time there. At this time we were informed that it had taken us about an hour to get there and since it would also take us about an hour to get back, we only had 60 minutes at the orphanage. This was discouraging, but I still hoped to make the best of the situation. I had no idea what we would be expected to do, or what the organization would be, but I was willing to go with the flow. First, the owner’s son, Marcos, told us a little bit about the orphanage. I was surprised that the children are only supposed to stay there for about a year. In my mind, children lived at an orphanage throughout their youth until they turned eighteen. In that moment I realized that I had no exposure to real orphanages previous to this moment. My only knowledge was from fictional representations like Annie or Anastasia. This is something I’m not very proud of.
When we were told that there were only sixteen children to the forty of us, I was definitely discouraged. I knew there were a lot of people here set on “making a difference” and getting some pictures of themselves with foreign orphans. I was not going to aggressively seek out a child so that I could feel like a better person and I had really hoped there would be a bit more organization. Slowly, while Marcos was talking, kids started to emerge, evidently just having woken up from nap. When he was done speaking, I wanted to avoid intimidating the kids with the full force of forty of us, so I opted to look around the orphanage first. While I didn’t see the bathrooms, the rest of the rooms looked well-kept, incongruous to the dingy yard.
After walking around, I decided to venture back outside to where the children were to see what was going on. The next forty-five minutes were sufficiently awkward. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The kids seemed more concerned with the toys and gifts rather than the visitors. One boy spread open a map and with the help of a guide I managed to communicate with him a little bit, pointing places out around the globe before he packed up and went back to the toy table. I decided to stay seated and just see what would happen. Another student from our class, Jackie, was using one of the guides to communicate with a girl who was about thirteen, I believe. I also communicated a bit with here, talking about what she wanted to do when she grew up, driving, interests, and the first SAS visit. It was interesting, but did not feel very meaningful. A lot of other SAS students were sitting around like me, fiddling our thumbs. Many others were eagerly snapping pictures and playing with gifts they had brought. When time was up, we took a group picture and left.
The whole experience was very superficial. I would not classify it as a service learning experience, making it hard to write an academic reflection. I don’t feel that much of it, or any of it, relates to the course content thus far. I could not place any clear academic or learning goals. Perhaps, I should have made my own beforehand. I was hoping that through these service projects I would gain some career direction and that definitely was not achieved in this visit. I did learn what a service learning experience does not feel like. I’m really hoping that the rest of the service visits are better planned and there will be some reciprocal exchange. I supposed that if this were to happen again, I would use the opportunity to observe the other SAS students, particularly the ones not in service learning to make claims about the nature of service.”
I was going to write about my final thoughts and impressions of Brazil but it has now been over a week since we left and I need to start writing about what’s been happening while at sea for the past 7 days. Didn’t do a thorough read-through so I hope there too many grammatical mistakes and you enjoy finally hearing about my time in Brazil!
Megan, I miss you! Loved reading about your time in Dominica. I am so glad that your experiences have been everything that you have hoped for. I can't wait to see what your next adventure will be. LOVE YOU!
Asketh - cbeaulieu
Thanks, Mom! Love you, too! Writing from free Wifi at the port in Manaus, Brazil!
I’m just going to lump these days together because they haven’t been as interesting as previous days. Routine is starting to set in. We have two different schedules for classes. Day A and Day B. On A days I have Service Learning and World Theatre and Performance. On B days I have Global Studies, Globalization and Development, and Multiculturalism and Women’s Rights. Day 7 of my voyage was an A schedule, day 8 was a B schedule, day 9 was a reading day, day 10 an A, and day 11 a B. Reading day is a much needed break that is sometimes thrown into the week to give us a chance to catch up on work since we don’t follow the normal Monday-Friday schedule.
I’ve spent most of these days in class or working. Now looking back, it’s hard to remember what I’ve done specifically, besides class and homework. Classes are finally just starting to pick up and delve into course material. Each course is required to have two mandatory Faculty Directed Practicum (FDPs) that take place in ports and count towards our credit hours. This has been extremely difficult to organize and there have been many administrative roadblocks. Hopefully, mine are all set. They’re intricate to the coursework, especially because we have to doing some sort of written assignment in conjunction with each one. They seem to really support the learning that’s going on in the classroom and enhance the overall experience, so I’m quite excited for mine.
Despite all the work we’ve had onboard, I’ve spent a lot of time with my friends. It’s incredibly easy to run into each other through out the ship. It’s pretty small, and while all the classroom are occupied during the day, there aren’t too many other places you can be. Luckily, a lot of my friends live in my hallway, so we see each other quite often. We spend hours studying together, long meals conversing about everything and anything, planning independent travel in Brazil, and attending ship-wide meetings.
The night before reading day was something of a “Friday night” onboard since there were no classes the next day and every one was planning on sleeping in. It was also the night of the first ship-wide social event which was “Family Feud Remix.” There was an awesome turnout and a wonderful chance for us to bond over shared experiences so far. Those who participated were in groups of 6-8 and had to submit an answer to a proposed question by one of the game leaders. Groups with the most popular answer gained points. Groups with funny answers also gained points. For example, one of the questions was, “What annoys you most?” To this, the most popular answer was, “Pastel shorts, button up shirts, and Sperry’s,” referring to a popular style among some students. This was a common answer to many of the questions that gave us all a laugh. And guess what!? Out of over 40 teams, my team won!! We were all shocked. Our certificate read, “
It was a fantastic night of bonding.
On Day 10 we entered the mouth of the Amazon. The water turned from a deep grayish blue (similar to what we see at the coasts of New England), to a murky green, to finally a tan/brown (quite gross) color. It is so bizarre to look out and see a pale brown color all the way to the horizon. It looks like we’re floating on a vast plain of ripply sand.
Well I keep coming back to this blog entry and writing a bit, but now I’m having trouble going back and separating the days in my head. I guess I’ll write pretty generally then.
Classes are going pretty great. In Service Learning we’re learning to differentiate volunteering, service, and service learning from one another and placing its meaning in our society. We’re also examining our own personal reasons for wanting to take part in service learning and becoming aware of what western judgments and perceptions we need to address before doing our service. In World Theatre we’re talking about what falls under the umbrella of cultural performance and how universal truths can be communicated in theatre despite cultural borders. In Globalization and Development we discussed ethnic tourism and the practice of “performing” a culture because that’s what tourists want to see. In Women’s Rights we did a cool exercise where we pretended to be an NGO and rank the order of the actions we would take to help women affected by the unrest in Sudan. I’m also working on a presentation about FGM with three other girls for Women’s Rights that we will do before the ship arrives in Ghana. It’s a really fascinating and horrifying subject, but I’m glad to raise awareness and understanding about the practice. Global Studies is also going really well! I’ve learned a lot of great things about Brazil and the rainforest which I think are giving me a really useful base of knowledge from which to understand my experiences in the country.
Last night we were introduced to a handful of US State Department workers stationed in Brazil who are onboard to run lectures/presentations/conversations about the country and culture.
We were also introduced to a few bugs…. I’m not sure how they’re getting to the boat from the land, but the interesting interaction with Amazonian bugs has begun. I’m a bit nervous about that especially after we learned about all the horrifying creatures that live in the rainforest in Global Studies. (Including the kissing spider which lands on your lip and bites you to cause brain swelling years later, insects that lay eggs under your skin, rodents the size of cats, spiders the size of a man’s hand, mosquitos carrying malaria, and lots more.) Should be interesting! I’m quite excited to visit the port city of Manaus where we will be docking. It’s know as “The Paris of Latin America!”
Sailing down the Amazon is quite amazing. The river is extremely calm, so there’s none of that rocking that lulls us to sleep in class. I’ve gotten used to looking out and seeing brown. I’m still getting used to looking out and seeing a solid wall of green foliage right at the water’s edge. Sometimes I look out a window in class and am amazed at how close we are to the shore, and the lack of a shore. It seems that the rainforest grows right to the water’s edge. We often see kayakers and floating branches (leaves and all) as we sail on. It is also EXTREMELY humid here by the equator, keeping many people indoors from the decks. Luckily, now that we’re sailing west, we’re gaining back the time we lost in sailing eastward.
This afternoon I went to many of the “Brazil Day” activities including an International Career Panel (which was very informative), a music/dance presentation, a language workshop, and pre-port logistical briefing. It was really awesome to see my friend, Grace, dance capoeria at the music/dance presentation with a bunch of other students. Now I’m sitting at snack. (We’re inside because they won’t let us on the outside decks that way the bugs can’t get in.) But I’m very tired so I’m going to end this blog very abruptly with out proof reading it. Need rest before the four day adventure in Brazil begins! Goodnight!
“Four-Dollar-Grace says hi to my blog, to my people.”
How do I even begin to describe my day…This post for sure is going to be a long one.
While I was getting ready this morning, my roommate, Eleni, went to an upper deck to check out the brand new view-Dominica. The view from our window was the ocean. She came back and explained that the island looked like jurassic park speckled with colorful houses. When I caught my first glimpse of the island, my jaw dropped. That was exactly what it looked like, an almost prehistoric, dipping and climbing landscape of rainforest. Of course, with the brightly colored buildings through out the scenery. Had an early breakfast at 8am back on deck 6 (the outdoor, back deck I always eat at) with a gorgeous backdrop. Between breakfast, picking up things we had forgotten in our cabins, and walking to the port city of Roseau, our group of 5 had grown to 10 (quite a lot compared to the original 2).
First, we wanted to do some stocking up for the day. We went to the “new market” and bought bananas and oranges from stands. Then into a “Save A Lot” for some other packaged food items. We bought granola bars, peanut butter, and bread. We then walked over to what we think was the “old market” area which were just touristy vendors. After a peek around and one “Dominican” towel later (I forgot to bring one), we were ready to head to our first destination. (I might add here that it was HOT out.)
By the time we got to a taxi the group shrunk to 7. We haggled down the taxi cost from $20 per person to $4 per person, which apparently is the standard price. The taxi took us right up and into Dominica to Trafalgar Falls. The ride was so interesting and it was at that point I wished desperately that I had brought along with me a small notebook to write down interesting observations. Simple images or interactions that made the visit special, like driving past a few schools and waving to the kids in the schoolyard.
The narrow, winding, and steep roads took us close to the falls. Our first steps into the rainforest were incredible. I wish there was a way that I could justly recreate it for you. It would take a novel to accurately describe it in words and the pictures, while beautiful, simply did not capture the intricate beauty. It did not nearly capture the depth and richness of color that I saw. The many brilliant shades of green, the hanging vines, mossy covered rocks, the leaves bigger than me- it was a paradise.
The hike took us easily to an observation deck. There we got our first glimpse of Trafalgar Falls which consisted of two falls. With plenty of time to spare and adventurous spirits, we continued onward to the base of the waterfalls. Now this part was tricky. The valley, gorge, basin (whatever it was) that the water spilled out into was filled with boulders through which you had to navigate and clime. It was something like a Purgatory Chasm or Connor’s Farm. The combination of heavy backpacks and slick, mossy rocks made for a challenge. (Oh man…I’m already falling asleep while writingthis
I writing this now from January 24. I was so wiped out last night that I couldn’t finish the entry despite being really eager to get everything out. Okay. To continue where I left off…
We strenuously and very carefully made it up to the base of one of the waterfalls, where a pool had formed. It was truly a spectacle with the powerful waterfall erupting from the wall of intricate rainforest into a misty pool and spilling over into a million paths through a valley of boulders. We were euphoric, splashing around in the paradise and cheering in pure delight, inspired by the surroundings. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
The water being quite chilly, we traveled downwards a bit to some flat rocks were we spent a couple hours sunning, snacking, and chatting. Lots of SAS students as well as German tourists from a cruise ship passed through and we were able to talk with many of them. In the last hour or so we returned back to the pool and dried off on the rocks we claimed for ourselves before heading out for our next adventure.
My friend Brynne and I planned the day through travel guides and had read about sulfur pools at a place called Wotten Waven that was nearby to Trafalgar Falls. The journey was hot and and full of drastically steep declines and inclines as the simple, paved road weaved around the complicated topography of the land.
I might add here that Dominica is very mountainous, an attribute that in part saved the island from the fate of most locations in the Caribbean. It escaped the Triangular Trade where indigenous people were made to harvest sugar cane by colonists because the land was very poor for agriculture. Let’s see…some other facts to help you get an idea of the country. It’s called “The Nature Island.” Our taxi driver the second day claimed that when Columbus described the island to Queen Isabella, he crumpled up a piece of paper and said that was the closest he could get to explaining it (referring to the landscape). I believe it is one of the most, if not the most, volcanic island in the Caribbean which is what causes the many sulfur pools and geothermic activity. Another way Dominica escaped the fate of most other Caribbean islands is because the currents that most colonists sailed did not deliver them to the island. The indigenous people are called the Kalinago people but are more commonly referred to as the Carib people, a name meaning cannibal. This name was acquired from claims by enemies that they were cannibalistic (an unlikely accusation as this was a common insult of the time). Their name for the island means, “tall is her body,” also referring to the landscape. 2 really cool facts are that 40% of the energy comes from hydro-power (we witnessed the pipes that transported the water) and that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was filmed on the island. More about that later. (Pretty much all of this I learned in Global Studies, a useful class.)
Back to my first day. We walked until we got to Wotten Waven, which turned out not to be a specific sulfur pool but an area of the island where “spas,” restaurants, and “resorts” had sprouted up around the sulfur hot springs. They were all small buildings, only some of which had been constructed with materials comparable to American buildings. Most were more like shacks made with metal or huts made with bamboo-like wood. After a bit of direction from a local, we stumbled upon a small hut (where the owner lounged in a hammock) and paid an entrance fee to the grounds. Into the forest we found the natural pools where water flowed through what looked like bamboo shoots down to a pool constructed by rocks sitting in the rainforest. The weaving of wood pipes also sent streams down into tubs that you could soak in. We spent a large chunk of time relaxing in the calming atmosphere until my skin starting turning orange from the sulfur and a bunch of local kids came splashing in.
After leaving the “spa,” the seven of us stopped into a restaurant we had seen on the way up. It appeared vacant until a woman came out and said she would just whip us up something. The restaurant was part of a “resort” and I think the woman cooked a daily dinner for her guests. She was so hospitable. I’ve written so much and still have a TON to write that I think I’m going to try to be more brief. The atmosphere of the second-floor, open restaurant was perfect. We sat around a big table sharing great conversation and really getting to know each other. The first course was lentil soup. The main meal was a combination of many foods. I can remember a yummy fish, bread fruit, yam salad, some sort of beans and delicious plantains. We were also served a small glass of ice cream for dessert. Strung lights and sounds of laughter, dogs, and roosters accompanied the dinner, which was incredibly tasty. The woman also called us a taxi, which was so helpful because we were kind of in the middle of nowhere. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. We were able to thank her and her husband before we left for a wonderful experience.
Obviously that night I was completely exhausted and collapsed into a deep sleep when we returned to the ship.
It took every one a while to will themselves out of bed, but the promise of a day full of new adventures in the lovely island of Dominica was a powerful incentive. After meeting for breakfast on the ship another group of 7 (with a couple additions and subtractions) headed out. We were bombarded with taxi drivers as soon as we stepped past the security gates and finally picked Roland who drove us up to Titou Gorge. The view from the winding road up into the rainforest was breathtaking and I would have to agree with Roland’s story about Columbus and the piece of paper. The landscape was much like a crumpled piece of paper with sudden unpredictable plunges and peaks, but ubiquitously a rich, deep green.
Titou Gorge was a “tourist” destination where Pirates was supposedly filmed. The first day we drove past the place where Johnny Depp stayed and the second day Roland said he drove Johnny Depp around. I’m more inclined to believe the first tidbit of information. Titou Gorge was in a way similar to the small canyons at Lake George, only MUCH smaller and the colors of the rainforest rather than orange. After walking through shallow water we approached a narrow, vertical slit in the rock which continued many feet above our heads. The canyon/gorge seemed to be very deep and was a gorgeous atmosphere. It was just enough space for two people to swim side-by-side. In the opening overhead you could see the rainforest creeping in. When we swam to the end of the gorge we approached a circular cavern where a short waterfall was spilling in from another cavern.
Now, I’m not a very strong swimmer despite many attempts to learn proper techniques. I felt very safe because Brynne is a life guard and synchronized swimmer, but I started to get a little nervous in this small cavern. Being a popular site by SAS students, there were a lot of people in this area, many of them trying to climb up the waterfall into the other room as well as many jumping down from the top of the waterfall. There was one hollow, circular area in the rock where one could sit and it was occupied by many kids. At this point we had swum the length of the gorge and all of a sudden was facing a lot of resistance from the force of the waterfall. I was a distance away from the resting spot because almost every one in my group was in front of me. I realized that the cavern wall was slick and there was nothing to support myself with besides my tired legs and arms. I didn’t have much room to try and float, especially with out being pulled away by the current. As soon as I started to get nervous, I started to sink a bit in the water, and as soon as I started to sink a bit in the water, I started to panic. As soon as I signaled to my friends that I couldn’t tread water anymore, they assisted me right to the resting spot. Another one of my friends, Mike, had the same problem and was also helped up. While it was a tad bit scary, it really revealed to me what a great group of people I was with. As soon as I needed help, they were right there and their top concern was making sure I was okay. It made me feel really great to know we all have each other’s backs. Even though it wasn’t a big deal, I opted not to climb over the mini waterfall. Neither did Mike. But we still LOVED the experience. It was so unbelievable.
After Titou Gorge we headed down back near the “city” of Roseau (which is nothing like the cities of America). Roland played us a video from their Carnavale on a DVD player hanging from the ceiling of the van. We enjoyed grooving to the Creole music before he dropped us off at the Botanical Gardens (which wasn’t as much of a garden as I thought it would be, but more like a park). We didn’t explore too much though, so there was probably more to it. We saw a lot of interesting trees. Fan-like palm trees, massive vine-like trees, and the coolest- an enormous African baobab tree that had fallen over in a hurricane and flattened a school bus. (There was no one was in it at the time, thankfully.)
We sat down in some shade to eat the peanut butter sandwiches we packed at breakfast onboard. When we had been there for a while, four women with baskets were walking by and stopped to talk to us. They were extremely friendly and welcoming. Earlier we had been stopped by some one else who was really interested in seeing how our experiences on the island had been so far. These women really went above and beyond though. They were so pleasant in nature and willing to share with us. I thought perhaps we would just share a few words, but then we all introduced ourselves. And then we tried carrying their baskets on our heads and they taught us how they do it. We began to get into more conversation and they told us how they come into the park every day and rake up the leaves and dead grass, pile it into their baskets, and carry it to the compost. The interaction went even further beyond what I had initially expected and we began to help them ourselves, raking and filling the baskets.
It was such a positive experience and I’m too tired to put the thought into accurately describing it. All I can really say was that it was the exact reason I really wanted to do SAS. That type of cultural exchange, that type of cultural meeting, interaction, understanding. It was such a pleasure to spend 20 minutes of our afternoon with them.
We then walked into Roseau and did some souvenir shopping. Before heading back to the ship we bought a coconut from a man in the “new market” where we had been yesterday. He chopped the top off with a knife and we stuck a bunch of straws in to hydrate ourselves with the coconut water.
Back on the boat we had dinner, swapped stories of our island adventures with other students, and headed to lounges and cabins to work on homework. I can tell you that I’m really looking forward to sleeping tonight. Thank goodness I don’t have class until 10:45am tomorrow.
I had such an INCREDIBLE time in Dominica. It surpassed my expectations in every way. It’s beauty was something I never imagined and the people were warmly welcoming, always as genuinely interested in us as we were in them. (Not to mention greatly hospitable.) It was a great port to begin the learning and the rest of our travels.
I would like to share a quote about becoming a traveler (rather than just a tourist) that the Dean included in his daily “Dean’s Memo.”
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
This was definitely something I felt the meaning of in Dominica.
Today was our last day at sea, but we were able to view Puerto Rico as we sailed by. It was gorgeous seeing the sloping silhouette of the island like a cloud on the horizon.
I had my other three classes today and man, that morning lecture at 9:20 seems like decades ago. I feel like the many engaging conversations and discussions that I’ve been a part of today has attributed to that feeling. Time is passing in a very bizarre manner. While I feel like moments on the ship from a few days ago, or even this day, happened ages ago, I also feel like I never have enough time in a day to accomplish all that I would like.
So far I’ve had A LOT of reading assigned, a large portion of which has been in pdf format. Fortunately for the environment, they are strongly discouraging printing anything. Unfortunately for people like me who hate reading extensive amounts of literature on a screen, they are strongly discouraging printing anything. Not really being allowed to print is also a challenge because with the documents I’ve encountered, I haven’t been able to save them to my computer due to copyright restrictions. This means I can’t annotate the documents and end up not actually taking in anything I’m reading. I’ll just have to write out notes in my notebook, which would be fine if I had enough free time and wasn’t overloading classes. It’s so much more time to take written notes. Extra-curriculars haven’t even begun yet and I’m already feeling the pressure of the coursework! It’s difficult to manage with attending class, going to ship-wide meetings, planning independent travel, and social interactions. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to make it all gel. Maybe this passage/rant would have been more appropriate for my personal journal, but maybe it’ll make those of you who are jealous, a little less jealous because there actually is a substantial academic rigor involved with this cruise.
First class of the day was the only lecture and required course onboard, Global Studies. And I loved it. So did the friends that were sitting next to me. The professor was so incredibly enthusiastic, had a lot of relevant and interesting knowledge to share, and presented probably the best power point I’ve ever seen. I cannot imagine how much time and effort and thought he put into it. His class/presentation was straightforward, color coded, sound coded, engaging, interactive, and presented a very fair grading/assessment system. I can’t wait to learn more!
After lunch on the back, outside deck I had 2 classes back to back. The first was Globalization and Development in which the BU student I met on the plane is also taking. I really enjoyed the professor and the introductory discussion. The professor is another smiley woman, with a eager demeanor and hippie-like style. The discussion was stimulating and genuinely interesting,
The second was Multiculturalism and Women’s Rights, the professor of which gives the air of an aged southern belle adorned with plenty of “bling.” This superficial exterior does not give any hint to her exhaustive past of incredible accomplishments and career changes. One of which was teaching women in east Africa who had been mutilated. We did not talk much about course content but she gave comforting and valuable life advice about not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life and always being ready for change. It was quite inspiring,
I’m really enthusiastic about all my classes right now. Besides the wonderful professors, I really think that each course is going to engage me and feed the passions which have been sitting idly aside so far in college.
Global Studies will really help me to discover and piece together the world in a way that gives me a better vantage point from which to think and analyze issues in all my other classes.
Service Learning will speak to the humanitarian in me, acting as a “chicken soup for the soul,” and hopefully helping me examine possible future work opportunities.
World Theatre and Performance will be very familiar in nature and general topic, lending me to feel comfortable, passionate, and willing to share my ideas.
Globalization and Development will also speak to topics I am thirsty to discover more about. It will attribute to a much better basis of knowledge for my chosen academic and career field that will help me to be more confident with other folk in International Relations .
Multiculturalism and Women’s Rights will reignite fires within me- angry, I’ve-got-to-do-something-about-this fires and perhaps better direct my career goals.
In general, I cannot wait to learn and assess all that I’ve gained academically by the end of the semester.
Also had a pre-port logistical meeting tonight about our first port- Dominica! It’s exhilarating going into this country I’ve barely even heard of before and exploring (on my own with a group of friends) the culture and environment that exist there. Spent some more time in the library flipping through travel guides to set a loose itinerary for the next 2 days. I’ll tell ya, I’m really crossing my fingers about meeting up with people during the day when we don’t have cell phones. I don’t know how you readers of later generations used to do it, but I guess I’ll find out!
My goodness, once I start, I really don’t stop writing. I’m sorry if you’ve been reading this and had expected different sorts of entries. I’m having a difficult time balancing a hand written private journal and an online public blog and determining the difference between the two. Perhaps I should write in my physical journal first rather than my blog. Maybe then I’ll be able to streamline my entries to detail more “doing’s” rather than “thinkings”, but I know I have quite a few friends back at home reading this and these are the things I would be telling them about anyways. Soon I’ll be posting more “actiony” stuff once I get into port. Hopefully I’ll also stop by an internet cafe tomorrow night and post pictures! Internet isn’t free even on land, so I probably won’t be video-chatting. That’s probably not such a good idea this early in the game anyways. I’ve been having such a great time, seeing faces from home might bring on some home-sickness.
Don’t hesitate to email me with opinions, questions…anything! I particularly love hearing what every one is up to! email@example.com
Thanks for reading :) Hope the formatting turns out right through email. And sorry for typos and bad grammar. I’m exhausted by the end of the day and sleep like a rock once I finish my journaling. If I try to go back and proofread, I always find a bunch of wrong words, and I’m sure many more slip by my notice. (I’m also pretty atrocious with my use of commas. I have almost no memory of how to use them. Sorry to all any past Language Arts teachers!)
Separate post for this… If you’d like to email me, (which I hope many of you will to fill me in on your lives or ask questions!!) my email address is
This is a free way I can communicate, so email me as much as you’d like! I really want to hear from every one. Also, send your mailing address to my email address if you’d like a postcard from somewhere. Check out my itinerary and let me know a specific place. I can’t make any promises, but I will absolutely do my best!
Actually just figured out how to post via email so that’s what I’m doing now! Hope it works!