Tuesday, February 24, 2009

constantly losing time

Since we are traveling east around the world, we are constantly losing time. We lost an hour last night, tonight and I think even tomorrow night too. Everyone dreads hearing the words "set your clocks forward one hour tonight"on the evening announcements. One hour doesn't seem like much, but three nights in a row definitely catches up to you, especially when you are constantly fighting getting rocked to sleep by the ship anyway. 

Then we gain all of the time we lose back in one day when we cross the international dateline, and we even have class on both of the repeat days. The day that we get repeated is April 12, which also happens to be Easter. Everyone thinks this is kind of funny, and for us I guess Jesus is going to rise twice. 

That's about all the rambling I've got for now. I will try and put up something about South Africa in the next couple of days. I have been sick for several days which has gotten me behind on all sorts of things, but luckily I've been feeling better this evening after sleeping for 6 hours all afternoon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Safari in Namibia

Right now I am actually in Cape Town, South Africa, but I hadn't really had time to post about Namibia until now.  I am also using free internet in a coffee shop, which is awesome so that I don't have to use my internet time on the ship.  

But anyway, Namibia.... we landed in Walvis Bay one morning, and after a diplomatic briefing, we got a singing welcome from a girls choir from the capital, Windhoek.  They sang traditional songs as well as some in English and they were adorable.  I didn't have a ton of time to watch them because I was going on an independent safari with about 120 other people from Semester at Sea.  We had to get going quickly to get up to Etosha Park for our safari run through a company called Wild Dog Safari.

This is a picture of Jill and I on the bus ride there.  Our group had about 8 buses but each bus was on its own during the drive and actual safari.  We thought it would be 4 hours, but it was actually 8, so definitely a long long day of driving.  We finally got to our camp in Etosha around 9 pm and it was dark and raining and we had to set up tents.  Jill and me and our friend Chrissy shared a tent and evidently we pitched it well, because we stayed dry all night.  Our guides, Elias and Matthew, cooked us an excellent dinner of pasta with a vegetable sauce.  

The next morning we got up very early to go game driving all day.  We were literally in those buses (which were comfortable and spacious) for three days, but it was a great time.  Basically we would just wander around and whenever we would see animals, they would stop the bus and we would take a ton of pictures.  My bus was very lively and we definitely sang the entire Lion King soundtrack at least four times that trip.  We were subsequently obsessed with lone trees, like the one pictured below, which reminded us of Rafiki's baobab tree in the Lion King.  

Below are black-faced impala.  We saw a lot of these guys, as well as the similar-looking springboks, all day.  The two guys in the middle are fighting.  

We saw giraffes several times throughout the day.  This was actually the last one we saw, but it was the closest.  He is actually walking right now, which looks really cool, and actually surprisingly graceful.  Giraffes were probably my favorite animal that we saw.

We also saw a lot of zebra.  Here is a mom and a baby, and there were about 5 others with them too.  A few times they were very close to our bus.  

Finally, the ostrich (which I did try some of while here in South Africa).  This is a female, because she is brown.  These are not pretty animals and they just look really weird.  

Not pictured are springboks, wildabeasts, warthogs, and oryx.  We also lions at two different times from really far away.  They just look like a dark blob on my camera, so I didn't post them, but they were still really cool.  That night after game driving we also stayed in the camp and had a traditional Namibian meal of "mealie pap" which is basically like grits, but more dry with a sauce and grilled out meats and such.  It was delicious.  

The next day we had the long drive back to get on the ship.  Toward the end my bus got out and ran up a sand dune to take a picture.  Walking up a sand dune is a lot tougher than it looks.  Namibia actually has the world's tallest sand dunes, which one of my friends climbed and took 2 hours to get to the top.  Namibia was really fun, and then we only had one day on the ship until getting to South Africa.  I actually leave here in a few hours and I will try and post about it in the next few days.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A few Neptune day pics

Look below, there is another new entry below this one with Morocco pictures.  

I described Neptune Day already (see below), but I thought I would post a few more pictures.  Neptune Day was between Morocco and Namibia and is a celebration of crossing the equator.  Shaving your head is part of the tradition, and in case you missed it... I did it!

First I had to get a (very uneven) super short haircut, and then they went at my head with two sets of clipper at once.  

This is one of my neighbors and I after we both shaved our heads.  11 girls total shaved their heads that day.

This was also on Neptune day during a cookout in the evening.  These are two of the kids that are on the ship, Abi and Barrett.  Overall, there are about 15 kids ranging from 10 months to 17 years old.  Abi is 3 and Barrett is 2.  My friends were eating dinner on deck 6 and they were up on deck 7 being lions.  This is mid-roar and Barrett reminds me so much of Cameron right here that I had to post it.  He is full of energy and actually wears a leash all the time around the ship.  It is this little monkey backpack that they put on him that has a tail as a leash coming out the back.  He definitely needs it. 

Morocco pics

Hopefully over the next few days I will post a bunch of pictures.  Right now I'm in Cape Town, South Africa.  I am in an internet cafe that has size limits so I will probably run out.  I will do what I can.  We just got to Cape Town this morning and will be here for the next 5 days.  

But these are pictures from Morocco.  They are out of order because they uploaded backwards.

This picture I just had to upload because it reminded me of MIT.  We visited the Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh and we got stuck behind a huge group of Asian tourists.  All MIT students know how that goes, though I wasn't stopped for directions.  The tombs were beautifully tiled as you can see on the ground.  

We stayed in the main square in the old part of Marrakesh (there is a picture below).  In the evening the square really came alive.  There were a lot of orange juice stands serving the best OJ I have ever had for 3 dirhams, which is about 30 cents.  I also had hair at this point

This picture is actually in Casablanca.  On the last day Ben, Conor, and I took a tour of this mosque, called Hassan II.  (Jill wasn't feeling well).  The mosque was beautiful, though it was also very touristy.  I know that my mom likes pictures of people in front of things, as opposed to just the things themselves, so I went with this picture.

This is back to Marrakesh, in the main square.  All behind the square is a maze of markets called souks.  This is about what it all looked like, though sometimes they were covered with kind of straw roofs.  There are also people on motor bikes whizzing all over the place.  

This is a picture of the roof terrace from out hotel.  This is the main square called Jemma el Fna, and the tower in the background in the Koutoubia Mosque.  There were mosques all around us and 5 times a day we would here the call to prayer from all directions, which was really cool.  This is how crowded it is every day of the week, I think this was taken on a Tuesday.

That's all for now.  I'll try and post some safari pictures from Namibia soon.  

Friday, February 13, 2009

Neptune Day!!!

A few days ago, the ship crossed the equator.  Since then we have also crossed the prime meridian, so I am in both the southern and eastern hemisphere for the first times.  On the day we crossed the equator (actually the day before because that was when the ship was originally scheduled to cross), the entire ship celebrated Neptune Day.  On this day, all of the pollywogs (those who haven't crossed the equator on a ship) will become shellbacks.  There are a series of rituals to go through in order to make this transition.

It sounds super weird, as most rituals do if you haven't gone through them.  First you get "fish guts" poured over your head (which is really some thin gelatin mixture dyed a bit blue), then you kiss a dead fish (very lightly in most cases), bow to King Neptune (the captain) and then jump in the pool.  Then, if you want, you can shave your head.

And guess what.... I did!  We're talking really short haircut and then a razor on the shortest setting to the head.  Shocking!!!  I know I'm going to get a bunch of emails.  So here is what I look like (and that is even grown for about 2 days)

I was actually pleasantly surprised that I don't think I look horrible (please don't tell me if you disagree).  The biggest shock hasn't actually been the haircut, but how cold my head (and subsequently the rest of me) has been.  Everyone who shaved their heads has been walking around wearing hats, not because we don't like our hair, but because it's so cold.  I'm glad I bought a beanie in Morocco.  Overall, 10 other girls completely shaved their heads, and about 80 guys did.  If you want to see more pictures I think there are some more on the Semester at sea blog of Neptune Day and  group "baldie" pictures afterward.  

That's all for now.  We're about to pull into Walvis Bay, Namibia, where I am going on a safari which I am super excited about.  So I'll be out of touch for the next few days, but I look forward to any shocked emails I may receive.  

Thursday, February 12, 2009

grad school stuff

For anyone who is interested, I got accepted to Berkeley's Neuroscience PhD program this morning! I am very excited and also relieved that I have somewhere to go next year. I would most prefer to go to UC San Francisco, but Berkeley is in my top 4, so I would be very happy there too. I will keep everyone posted as I get more news. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marvelous Morocco

So I've decided to borrow the theme of my blog titles from Justin's facebook albums because I like the alliteration, and Morocco was indeed marvelous. Also, there aren't going to be any pictures for now until maybe South Africa because it's easier to upload photos in an internet cafe, and less expensive. We actually had one less day there than originally planned, which no one was too thrilled about. The seas were rough when we were trying to bunker (fuel up) in Gibralter, so we had to wait an extra day. This did mean that we got a pretty clear picture of the Super Bowl, even though it was on a German network.

We actually got into Casablanca around 8pm the next night, but we weren't allowed off the ship until the next morning. Coming in to Casablanca was pretty fun. We basically had to make a right hand turn into the port which meant that the stabilizers had to be turned off and there were huge swells because of the wind. The ship was rocking side to side a lot, like beds and dressers sliding around our rooms, bunches of people falling out of their chairs, kids hurting themselves because they thought it would be cool to slide around on the hardwood floor and then they ran into things. But the next day we were finally able to get off the ship.

The same group of people from Spain (me, Jill, Conor and Ben) plus two other girls named Rebecca and Alex were traveling to Marrakesh by train, along with what seemed like half the ship (and it very well may have been). Right when we got out of the port area, we were swarmed by Moroccan cab drivers (who were all men) and were trying to negotiate prices with all of us. It was fairly overwhelming at first, but we were all definitely used to the bargaining by the end of the trip. We finally made it to the train station (we realized we were ripped off later, but just didn't know the prices at that point) and got first class tickets to Marrakesh (125 dirham, about 15 dollars for a three hour train ride), which meant that we got our own seat in a compartment. The three hour train ride through the Moroccan countryside was beautiful and it was a great way to see a lot of the landscape in a short amount of time. 

When we got there we needed to make our way to the old part of the city called the Medina, though the train station was in an area of the new part called Gueliz. In my broken French (though my French I professor would have been proud) I was able to ask people where it was and navigate us there. We eventually made it to the central square of the city called Jemma El Fna. It is one of the coolest places I have ever been. I will definitely post pictures of it later. In this huge square are food stalls, orange juice stands, story tellers, snake charmers, and women doing henna who will grab your hands and just start drawing if you aren't careful. Along the edge of the square are restaurants and then the souks start and form a huge maze behind the main area. The souks are a huge market full of stalls selling everything: shoes, shirts, lamps, carpets, pastries, jewelry, hats, and so much more. And all for cheap prices that you are expected to bargain down. I'm sure we were still getting ripped off from a local's point of view, but everyone did improve their bargaining skills. 

Our hostel overlooked this square and had an awesome roof terrace where you could get a 360 view of the city. We hung out in the square and just in the sights, walked around the souks and ate delicious Moroccan food that is a lot of meat, vegetables, and cous cous. I had the best orange juice ever from one of those stands for 3 dirhams which is about 35 cents. The next morning we woke up the next morning and had delicious lattes, mint tea and croissants and then walked to the Saadian tombs in the rain. The tombs were pretty with lots of tiling and cool patterns, though we got ourselves stuck behind a huge group of Asian tourists, and MIT students know how that goes. Then we wandered back up to the square and shopped and hung out for the afternoon. I bought many cool things in the souks and am going to have major problems getting all the stuff I collect back home. 

That night we took a train back to Casablanca and slept on the ship. The next morning I went with Conor and Ben (Jill wasn't feeling well) to the mosque Hassan II, which is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims (especially non-Muslim women) can enter. The building was gorgeous with beautiful tiling and ceilings and chandeliers everywhere (will definitely post some pics), though it felt like a tourist attraction. It was really neat to see, but I didn't feel like I was really experiencing a mosque. Then we went to Rick's Cafe (from the movie Casablanca) and had a delicious lunch of salad, chili, and rolls. The whole restaurant was basically the ship, and the AV guy from the ship was playing guitar. Then we headed back to the ship and just waited to leave. 

Since then we have been at sea and we get to Namibia on Saturday. I'm going on a safari and I am super excited. We have been having classes again, which was weird at first, but everyone has gotten back into the ship routine. The weather has finally gotten hot, and we are actually going to cross the equator today. We had Neptune Day yesterday, which is a celebration of crossing the equator, which I will write more on later. Right now our Global Studies class is starting, so I should probably pay a bit of attention. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

SAS email

I forgot ever to post my new email. My semester at sea email is cpmosley@semesteratsea.net. If you send to either my school mail (mosley@mit.edu) or my gmail (colleenmosley@gmail.com), it gets forwarded to me, so any of those emails will work. Don't try and send pictures or big attachments because they won't get through. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picture Captions from Spain

Now that I am back on a keyboard that I can type on, I thought I would make little comments on the pictures I posted from Spain. The pictures aren't in any order of what I did on the trip because I was just trying to get stuff up in a random little internet cafe in Morocco (5 dirhams for an hour of slow internet, but it was only 5 dirhams, which is about 65 cents)

1. This is a side view of the Palacio Royal in Madrid. This is a 2800-room castle is the official residence of the King of Spain, though he doesn't actually live there. My friends and I went just as sun was setting so we only saw the outside, but it was still beautiful and enormous. If I look straight ahead from where I took this picture, there is a beautiful palace garden.

2. This is the Cadiz Cathedral. The ship landed in Cadiz, Spain and we had about 4 hours to walk around before our train to Madrid left. For 3 euros, we walked up to the tower on the right side which gives you an amazing 360 degree view of the city. To get up to the top there were only stairs at the end; before that it was an incline, which made us more tired than we thought.

3. This is a picture of the center part of the Plaza de Espana, in Sevilla, Spain (which was the third city we went to after Cadiz and Madrid). We kind of stumbled upon this place, but it was quite a find. It was built for the 1929 World Fair and now serves as a government building. From this center part comes out two huge buildings that wrap around to form a half circle. It was impossible to get far enough away to take a picture of the whole thing, but at night it was a beautiful sight, especially with the huge, lit fountain in the middle.

4. This picture is sideways, but I didn't want to load it again, but you can get the idea. This is a picture of my friend Jill and I in El Retiro, which is a huge park (kind of like Central Park) in the Middle of Madrid. Jill is a junior Boston University and we met once last semester and are becoming quite good friends on the ship. We are planning on traveling together at most of the ports.

5. This is a picture of one of the pieces of the art installation we found while wandering through El Retiro. There were about 5 of these mirror balls with other metal sticks coming out of them in this glass and tile building. The whole thing was very cool and a closeup of one of these is my desktop background on my computer right now.

6. Repeat of #4 that I didn't want to delete.

7. This is a picture of my traveling group in Spain (though we were added be another friend later that day, but didn't end up getting a group shot then). The other girl is Jill, and the two boys are Conor and Ben, who we met along with most of the other people we hang out with, the first night at our hotel in the Bahamas. They both go to Syracuse University and were friends before this (and aren't big smilers in pictures, as you can see). We also travelled with them and two other girls in Morocco (more on that later). We all get along well, and have a similar style of travel, which is to not plan too much and kind of go on an adventure. 

That's all for now, I'll be posting an entry about Morocco in the next couple of days, though I may not get a chance to upload Morocco photos until South Africa, since I will be gone on a Safari almost the whole time in Namibia, and I can't imagine that their internet would be particularly speedy anyway.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

pics from spain

here are a bunch of pictures from Spain. ill explain what they are later but right now i am in an internet cafe in casablanca Morocco and the wacky keyboard is killing me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spanish Adventures!

Hola!  At this very moment the ship (with me on it) is floating off the coast of Gibralter (which is British land at the southern tip of Spain).  We left Cadiz, Spain yesterday and were supposed to get to Casablanca, Morocco tomorrow after fueling up in Gibralter today.  But there was bad weather and the seas were too rough to connect the fuel pipe, so we didn't get any gas and now have to wait here until we are able to fill up.  This means that getting into Casablanca at least a day late.  Everyone is disappointed, but at least lucky for me, I was planning on just taking a train to Marrakesh, so my plans are at least flexible.

Disclosure:  There aren't going to be any pictures in this post because I found out that posting pictures eats up my Internet allowances.  I'm going to wait until we get into Marrakesh and post an entry with a bunch of pictures.

So anyway, Spain was awesome.  The cities were picturesque, the food and sangria delicious, and the Spanish people generally friendly.  I traveled with three other friends and then a fourth joined us later.  The original group was my friend Jill from BU and then two boys, Conor and Ben, who are friends at Syracuse University.  We got into Cadiz (pronounced CAD-ith, is the Spain version of Spanish) in the morning and spent the day there because the train to Madrid didn't leave until later.  The city is very cute with narrow stone roads and pretty squares.  We went to the top of the tower of the huge cathedral there and could see the whole city.  Then we walked to the beach and had lunch and waded in the cold water. 

Then we got on a train for a five hour ride to Madrid.  The Spanish country side is pretty.  We got a cab from the train to go to the center of the city and find a hostel.  We found a hostel where we basically had a two bedroom apartment that had a sitting area and small kitchenette which was awesome.  We went out to dinner that night (the Spanish don't eat until 10) and just went to bed since we were all exhausted.

The next morning we got up and walked to the Prado, which is arguably the best art museum in Spain.  We saw a lot of art, though probably less than half of the whole museum, including Goya, El Greco, and Velasquez paintings we had learned about in Global Studies.  Then we went and wandered around the "central park" of Madrid, El Retiro.  It was beautiful and I got some good pictures, including ones of this awesome art installation of mirror and glass balls we found in a building in the park.  Then we went to the more modern art museum called the Reina Sofia, which was also amazing with lots of Picasso and Dali paintings.  The museum has La Guernica, which is this huge famous PIcasso depicting the Spanish Civil War which we gaped at for at least 15 minutes.  Then we walked to the Palacio Real, which is the huge palace for Spanish royalty.  There another friend, Alex, met up with us that had really wanted to come to Madrid but had to come late. 

That night after going to dinner, around 1 am we went to this huge 7 floor club called Club Kapital.  It was really touristy, but still really fun.  On the main dance floor they periodically sprayed out this cold fog which was really fun.  The next morning we took an early train to Sevilla, which is back in the direction of Cadiz.  We saw the Cathedral of Sevilla and wandered around for a while.  After having lunch and walking around the river, we sort of stumbled upon the Plaza Espana at night which is one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen  (I will definitely post a picture of it from Morocco).  It is this huge palace looking building that is a half circle that was originally built for the 1929 World Fair.  We wandered back to our hostel through the small streets and went out to a couple of bars that rainy night. 

The next morning we took a train back to Cadiz, which held a ton of other SAS kids.  We wandered around Cadiz for a while, went to an internet cafe and supermarket and then got back on the ship.  It was really nice to take off my backpack and not be living out of my backpack.  I took a bunch of great pictures and we all had a great time. 

Right this second we are actually watching the Super Bolw streamed.  It is sort of weird and awesome to be watching it, though sligtly blurry, from the Strait of Gibralter.  It will be about 2am here before it really starts, so it is nice to be able to sleep in tomorrow.  That's all for now, but look for a post of pictures in the next few days.

Spanish Adventures