India – Land of Beauty

Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.

[Originally posted April 11, 2014]

India is beautiful.

The first day was spent on my field lab for my Medieval Travelers class. We took traditional canoe-like boats and saw a guy make coconut wine, which tasted like the sweet rice wine from China. Then we were rowed over to a different island where they had already picked a basket of coconuts for our class and they cut them open, stuck straws in them and gave them to us to drink. No one was particularly fond of the coconut water, but we got them to cut the coconut open, so we were able to eat some of the coconut flesh before we moved on to watch a local man pull up some of the mud crabs that were being raised on the island. After that, we saw local pottery being made, and some people in the class learned how to climb a palm tree! Then we learned all the different uses for coconut husks, and we got to eat fresh clams that they had just cooked for us. Then we rode a tuk-tuk (which is like a taxi in India,
except it’s open air and the driver steers with a handle system like a bike, instead of a steering wheel) and wandered the city in the rain for an hour or two.

The next morning I rose before the sun to leave on my Jaipur & Taj trip through SAS. The first day was just a day of going through airports, since we had to fly all the way to New Delhi from Kochi, which is a long trip north. The only real upside was finding 50 cent samosas at the airport… and getting 10 of them. That night we stayed in an extremely gaudy hotel in New Delhi, where the Taj Mahal Group A was staying as well. A few of my close friends on the ship were on that trip and it was fun to see them. The hotel lobby was quite entertaining though—the piano man played Wrecking Ball (by Miley Cyrus) and a variety of other contemporary American songs on the piano. It was… confusing.

Anyway, we left bright and early again the next morning to take the train to Agra, which is where the Taj Mahal is. The train was a bit sketchy and a little rough, but we got to see a lot of the countryside, which was really nice. Once we got off the train, we were bused to a hotel where they served us a breakfast buffet. It was interesting that most of our meals were served at hotels, as that is one of the main places where you are sure to get clean water and safely prepared foods. After breakfast we drove to the Taj Mahal!

The thing about India is that there are Hawkers everywhere. Everyone is trying to sell you things and they don’t take no as an answer. People were selling us things all the way up to the gates of the Taj Mahal and they followed us around Agra for the rest of the day. It was very strange.

But the Taj Mahal… that is worth all of the hawkers and long transportation. The entrance is off to the side, so you don’t see the Taj Mahal until you turn a corner and it’s all very dramatic. To be honest, it wasn’t as large as I was expecting, but it was ten times as beautiful. I can’t even begin to explain the awe, excitement, happiness, you name it, that was all over the faces of all the SAS kids. This was India.

We wandered around and took lots of photos and walked around the inside of the Taj Mahal (something that is apparently not going to be possible for much longer?). They had us leave relatively quickly so we could make it to the next stop, but we all had a hard time tearing ourselves away from the gorgeous building. We ended up going to the Agra Fort, also known as the Pink Fort. We also went to a marble carving place where the men working there were all trained in the traditional carving style of their forefathers, who did the carvings on the Taj Mahal. It was amazing to see. Also one of the men there told me I looked “very Indian” as a large compliment, which was weird but hey, he was being nice. Then we drove 6 hours to Jaipur (and saw our first thunderstorm in months!).

In Jaipur, we rode elephants up into the fort on a hill, which was an amazing experience! As we rode into the main plaza, they had people playing traditional Indian procession music and it felt like being Indian royalty. Imagine the Prince Ali musical scene in Aladdin, and that’s about how we felt, without all of the extra people. Just elephants (as if that’s a normal thing to say). Then we wandered around the fort for a little while, saw a snake charmer, and wandered back down to the base of the fort. We got off our bus and took pictures of the floating palace and found tons of camels by the side of the road (camels are like horses here).

After, we wandered through a traditional Observatory (it was like Disneyland for astronomers), and then we wandered through the markets and we each bought a saree to wear at the Ambassador’s Ball. We met back up at the bus with our group and went to a dinner show. They had traditional dancers and then a puppet show that was all done in the traditional Indian style. Then we were back to our swanky hotel (really though, we had a glass bathroom area that was larger than the sleeping area. And you could automatically lower and raise the shades so you weren’t looking in on the bath. Plus, they had 2 restaurants and a “hip new night club” in the lobby.

The next day was another transportation day to get us back to Kochi. This day was a bit of a mess. Some of us had to check our backpacks because the plane was tiny and then we were supposed to have a 1 hour layover. That layover quickly turned into a 6 hour layover, with half of us only having our wallets and things to do, since that was all in our backpacks and they sealed them before we could pull things out. That was a fun adventure, but when we finally got a flight out, it was a relief and we got back safe and sound from there.

The final day in India was spent wandering through Kochi with my friends. We went to a market to get last minute gifts that people had been looking at all week, and then we found internet to download TV shows and get applications turned in. We found some great Indian places, ate some great gelato, found a place that sold Nutella (a serious find!), and one of our friends got into a shouting match with one of the tuk-tuk drivers. We ended up having to take a tuk-tuk back to the ship with our friends who had befriended a driver on the first day. Let me tell you a thing about tuk-tuks: They are made for 3 people. Four people can squeeze if you’re determined. So of course we crammed 6 people into one tuk-tuk. 5 crammed in the back and I was half-on the driver’s seat in the front. Halfway through, the driver offered to let me drive! I of course said yes (when do you get to drive a tuk-tuk again?? All week people had tried to pay drivers to let them drive tuk-tuks), and apparently I’m very good at driving tuk-tuks, so long as the driver actually lets me have the brake pedal.

We got back on the ship about 20 minutes before On-Ship Time, which is closer than I have ever cut it, but we made it on without dock time and it was well worth the experience! India was a place of adventure but mostly it was overflowing with beauty.

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Burma was a Blast

Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.

[Originally posted March 8, 2014]

First things first: What do you call this country? Burma or Myanmar?

When you are in the country, we were advised to call it Myanmar, as that
is what the ruling party calls it. While supposedly the country is
relaxing some regulations, we were still strongly cautioned against
openly calling it Burma as a foreigner. Burma is what the National
League for Democracy calls it and the act of calling it Burma is
declaring yourself pro-democracy and against the current government. SO
that was a really long-winded way of saying call it Myanmar while you’re
there and Burma everywhere else.

Going into Burma (during pre-port and throughout the days leading up to
Burma in lectures and such) everyone was asking why we were going to
Burma. Every report we got was that it was impossible to get anywhere
and buses took forever and roads weren’t functional, and planes crashed
all the time, and essentially we were prepared for the worst.

We got the best.

Burma is beautiful. Our hour-long shuttle drove us from the shipping
port to the city center, where the first things you see are: the
gorgeously crafted city hall with elaborate designs all along the roofs
and the shining golden Sule Pagoda that was at the heart of the city.

I had a field lab on the second day, so the first evening was spent
exploring the area and grabbing a traditional longhi (a wrap-around
skirt worn by both men and women, though tied in a different fashion) to
wear on the field lab.

The field lab took us to the US Embassy where we spoke with 3 civil
service workers from the states. It was fascinating to walk through the
largest embassy in Burma, and the three people we talked with gave some
amazing insights into Burma (both currently and looking to the future).
After that however, we didn’t really have much planned for the field lab
so we sort of wandered around the city, following after our tour guide.
We did get to see Aung San Suu Kyi’s house (well, the gate where she
greeted a lot of people), which was really important for us to see.

After that, a group of my friends decided to just explore Yangon (the
main city we were in) for the majority of our time. We got to see a
plethora of pagodas, including the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is the
largest in the city. We saw it on the first day and then on the last
night we went back to see it at sunset and all lit up at night. We sat
down in the shade for a little while (our feet were burning from the
tiles, warmed by the noon sun) and spent an hour talking with a monk
(with raybans!) about a variety of traditions. We also got to see a
bunch of school girls paraded around for their Noviciation Ceremonies.

We explored a few different markets as well, and we tried to see the
National Museum, but we got there on some random holiday. We tried a
strange donut shop (Jdonut) and we almost got our taxi driver lost on
our way to this restaurant we found, that was called the House of
Memories (we totally chose it for it’s name). We had some amazing
Burmese food there and also some weird Blue Curacao Soda? I also had
high tea at the big hotel on the main road where a lot of Embassy staff
go, which was cool. We also ate at Monsoon, a supposedly big place to
eat local cuisine. I wasn’t supremely impressed with their food, but it
was good and didn’t make any one sick, which was a big concern in this port.

On the last day, I woke up at the crack of dawn and signed up for the
SAS Orphanage Visit. We got to see a local market with some amazing
fresh fruit and flowers before we got to wander around the local
village. So many families opened up their homes to us to visit, though I
felt awkward wandering into people’s homes to take pictures, so we tried
to just make friends with the local kids while others looked into the
local houses. The orphanage was relatively large, and it doubled as a
school for these children. We played sports with them and taught them
dances and art until lunch. Us SAS kids didn’t eat any of the food,
because we felt bad taking the food from the kids, but they were all
adorable throughout the entire meal. It was a bit awkward because our
group was so large at the orphanage, but it was well worth the money.

Overall, Burma was spectacular. I wish I had been able to go to Mandalay
and Bagan, but the roads and travel conditions just weren’t feasible to
do on our own in just over 2 days. Though everyone was wary going into
the port, we all left having found a new found appreciation, if not
love, for Burma.

MY LIFE IS A WHIRLWIND

Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.

[Originally February 13, 2014]

I feel like it has been ages since I updated on this voyage, but maybe
that’s just because each port feels like a winter break.

SO I WENT TO CHINA.

It was amazing. So many voyagers complained about China (the people
weren’t as kind as in Japan, the air quality sucked, it was cold), but
really those are all things that we were warned about extensively
(EXTENSIVELY) before we docked in Shanghai. I loved it. I’m not as
enamored with the culture in China as I was in Japan, but dang if China
doesn’t have some amazing history.

Fun story about docking in China: Our pilot boat that was necessary for
us to navigate up the Yangtze River, was supposed to meet out boat at
midnight so we would arrive 8am February 6th. That didn’t happen. There
was some miscommunication, some bad weather, and then the tides worked
against us. Either way, we were supposed to dock at 8am Feb 6th, and
instead we docked 1800 Feb 6th. We called it our “River Day,” instead of
a Snow Day.

River Day was lovely and wholly unproductive, but once we docked in
Shanghai, it was a rush to get off the boat and explore the city for a
night. Our group of friends decided to find a shopping mart to grab some
quick food, and then find wifi at a bar to make plans for the next day.
The wifi bar was weird, but HEY we got to watch the Olympics for a bit!
(We barely missed the opening ceremony, which the entire shipboard
community is bitter about)

I was on a SAS trip to Xi’an and Beijing, as were 49 other voyagers.
Although it was a big group, and our flight out of Shanghai was delayed,
it was an amazing trip and I am so thankful I got to go. We flew into
Xi’an (She-Ahn) and immediately boarded a bus with our adorable little
tour guide Neil (Wang Jiu Jiang is his real name, but he didn’t think we
could remember it). He took us to go see the Xi’an City Wall, which was
like a mini Great Wall of China, except it has permanent lights all
around it (like rope lights at Christmas time, outlining everything). We
also got to see some other city sights, but then we stayed in this
gorgeous Days Inn and Suites. Now, back in the states, Days Inn and
Suites are decent, but nothing to write home about. LET ME TELL YOU.
This place was gorgeous. Our room had tons of extra space, we had huge
beds, and there were separate glass rooms for the toilet and a different
one for the shower (plus a hot tub/bath).

The next day we visited a mosque in the Muslim quarter, visited a
marketplace, and ate at a Chinese dim sum place. We visited a
traditional Chinese calligraphy art museum, and got to practice our
Chinese calligraphy, before we went to the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show.
This show presented the traditional dance and song of the Tang Dynasty,
and they served you traditional dishes while you listened to the
musicians before the show. It was beautiful, and the food was delicious,
but DANG I have never been served so much alcohol in one sitting. They
served local beer, but also hot sweet rice wine. That stuff is
dangerous, and the waiters would be pouring you another glass (which is
about the size of a shot glass) before you even set it back down on the
table. We all took a few refills to realize we should just stop drinking
it so they would stop refilling it.

The next day we went bright and early to the Terra Cotta Warriors
Museum, which has to be the highlight of my trip. I cannot put into
words how breathtaking it was to see this. These warriors stretch back
so far, and they haven’t even uncovered all 8,000 of the warriors that
they know are buried there, and yet it’s still absolutely phenomenal. I
can make a whole blog post on the history of the Terra Cotta Warriors if
y’all really want me to, but the really cool part of this experience was
that we got to meet the farmer who discovered the warriors when he was
digging a well. He signed a book for me, but he was really quite surly.

After the warriors, we drove to the airport and flew out to Beijing.
Once in Beijing we immediately drove to our hotel, which was a Holiday
Inn and was just as nice as the Days Inn and Suites. It was weird. This
hotel also housed about 100-140 other SAS kids who were on other SAS
field programs, so it was never dull in the lobby. We stayed in that
hotel for the rest of our nights in China, which was really nice.

In Beijing, we woke up and immediately traveled to Tienanmen’s Square
and the Imperial Palace. It was absolutely freezing, no matter how many
layers I put on. One of the most interesting things about this visit
though, was how the guide spoke about Chinese history. It was very clear
that our history books do not match up on some points.

[Side note: the Imperial Palace is /definitely/ where Mulan blows up
Shan Yu. We hummed Mulan songs most of our way through the Palace grounds]

We took a rickshaw ride through Hu Tong, which is the traditional area
of Beijing. We had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and got some
amazing Chinese tea (because I clearly didn’t have enough before), and
then we took the rickshaws again and ate some homemade dumplings from a
Chinese artist in her home.

Then we hopped back on the bus, breezed past the Olympic Park, went to a
silk factory, and went to go see a Chinese Acrobatic show, which left
most of us stressed after they crammed eight men on motorbikes into one
round metal cage.

The next day we went to a Kungfu school and learned a basic sequence of
moves, which really warmed us up from the freezing air outside, and then
we went to a Jade factory and ate lunch in the restaurant above. After
lunch, we traveled to the Great Wall of China. The wall still had some
snow on the edges, and it was absolutely beautiful. We took a ski-lift
up and then after we wandered on the wall for about an hour, we took
little toboggans down (it was like the world’s longest alpine slide)!
After the Great Wall, we went to a marketplace to practice bargaining,
and then we ate another traditional Chinese meal (family-style) before
heading back to the hotel.

Finally, we had to wake up at 4am the next day so we could get to the
airport by 6am to catch our 8am flight to Hong Kong. By the time we
arrived at the Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong, we only have a few hours
before On Ship Time (OST), so we wandered around the terminal (which was
really just a mall) and grabbed some food. The lines to get back on the
ship weren’t as bad as we were expecting, but most of us started to line
up 2 hours ahead of time, instead of the recommended 1 hour.

Overall, China was amazing. The history of the country was great to
see, but I am glad to be sailing away from China now, as I started to
get sick from the air quality. I would definitely go back, even if other
voyagers wouldn’t, because it was fantastic to get to see some true
historical sites that are older than America 10 times over.

Konnichiwa!

Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.

[Originally posted February 4, 2014]

Hello, yes, I survived Japan, the first extended international port! There is so much to tell, that I’ve decided it’s probably easier to split into a few different posts. I will just give you the basic rundown of what I did each day and I can get more into it in other posts. We spent a total of 6 days in Japan from January 29- February 3rd and they were some of the most phenomenal days of my life.

Days 1 & 2: Yokohama

The ship docked at 8am and we pulled in to the port to a traditional Japanese drum performance. My friends and I wandered downtown Yokohama for an hour or two until lunchtime, when I had to leave for a field program. The Hakone & Yokohama Overnight was a phenomenal experience. We say the big sites in downtown Yokohama and then drove into the mountains to Hakone and stayed in a ryokan. We explored Hakone’s tourist sites before heading back to the ship.

The second evening I met up with my roommate and some other SAS kids who were not traveling with the ship as it moved from Yokohama to Kobe and took the train into Tokyo station to meet up two of our friends. We ended up at this sketchy Japanese hotel, but we got inside and it was actually quite nice and run by a cute little Japanese couple.

Day 3: Tokyo

Our friends met a German guy the night before who was in Tokyo for work and he offered to tour the city with us. He didn’t speak Japanese very well, but it was nice having someone with us who knew how to work the metro system well and knew some of the better areas of the city. We ate a traditional Japanese breakfast at Denny’s and then we saw the Otaku street, one of the biggest department stores in Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo museum, the Pokemon Center, and Tokyo Tower. That night my roommate and I hopped on a night bus and rode that down to Kobe.

Day 4: Kobe

I got in to Kobe around 7:30 in the morning and we got back to the ship right as it pulled in at Kobe. We showered and unpacked before wandering around the city. I explored the shopping district (which is huge) and saw a huge Shinto shrine, before we took a hike up to Nunobiki Falls in northern Kobe. That hike may or may not have involved getting lost and making friends with a Japanese man who led the way out of the trail. I slept that night on the ship because I had a field program the next day.

Day 5: Hiroshima

The field program I was on took us to the bullet train (the Shinkansen) which we took to Hiroshima. We went to the Memorial Peace Park and Museum. It was an eye-opening and sobering sight to see. It’s awe-inspiring to see a whole city dedicated solely to promoting peace in the world. The museum has some of the most horrific sights I’ve seen, but I feel like I better grasp the impact of the A-bomb after visiting.

Then we took a ferry to Miyajima Island to see the Itsukushima Shrine with the “floating Torii gate.” There are wild deer roaming around the island which made for some fun experiences. We also ate our way through the island, which became a theme with this group we traveled with. We stayed that night in a hotel but we had two dinners once we were there: one at a traditional ramen bar and then at a conveyor-belt sushi place.

Day 6:

The field program continued bright and early the next morning. We took the Shinkansen again to Kyoto. We saw Nijo Castle, which was the castle of the First Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as are the other 2 places we visited this day. We then travelled to the Golden Pavilion which ended up with absolutely gorgeous photos. It was phenomenal to see in person, and I wish we had more time to explore the grounds around it. Our bus hurried us along to the Kiyomizu Temple where we wandered up a small walking street overflowing with food stalls and shopping. We ate our way up to the Temple, bought charms, and ate our way back down the street to our bus. Then we hopped back on our ship (after a long, winding line to get back on) and pushed away from Japan.

Now we are all realizing tomorrow we have to pack for China, since only have a 2 day break between Japan and China! It’s such a struggle to get back into the swing of classes these two days, so wish me luck! I’ll post some more in-depth posts a little later.

Animals and Adventures in South Africa

Jessica Zaksek is a senior Psychology student at Colorado State University. She is currently partaking in a Semester at Sea and will visit ports in various countries such as Russia, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Morocco and many more. Stay tuned to hear about all her adventures!

[Originally posted November 10, 2013]

Hi Readers!

How are you all? I am doing pretty well! I have been very busy during this long, oceanic stretch, but have also had plenty of time for fun and relaxation. We have been at sea for 11 days now. We are two days from arriving in Argentina, and I cannot wait to be there. During the crossing on the Atlantic, I haven’t seen much land. It will be a pleasant sight when I do spot it, and the image comes to mind of a pirate in the lookout region on the ship, yelling out “Land Ho!’ and the excited buzz of crew members. That is what it is like for us. Even so, being out in the middle of the ocean has been amazing. The sunsets have been breathtaking and I have enjoyed the views. The ocean itself has been both calm and rocky, depending on the day. Right now we are sailing through a rainstorm, so the waves are a bit choppy, but nothing major. Weather is not a good indicator of ocean swells, though. Earlier this week it was clear outside, the sun was shining, but the swells were giant and it was hard to get around.

Jessica Zaksek 15

I can’t believe that my time in Africa is over. I have to say that my favorite port thus far has been South Africa. I had an amazing experience there. It was not the most intense experience I have had, but I found value in it through the fun and connections I made. It was not as challenging as Ghana was for me. Cape Town could easily be mistaken for a city in my home state. The weather when we arrived was temperate and amazing. It was sunny, in the mid 60s, with a light breeze. I got to watch the sunrise the day we arrived, which was spectacular. What makes Cape Town special, in my opinion is the presence of giant mountains behind a city. It was kind of like Denver, but much more pronounced. I loved it immediately and was fascinated by the clouds that seemed to creep down from Table Mountain and disappear, as it got lower to the ground. Cape Town is also unique in that it has the largest noticeable and pronounced gap between the rich and poor. As we drove to our field lab, one side of the road had beautiful affluent looking homes with high walls and barbed wire, overlooking the white sand and turquoise water. On the other side of the road was a township. The homes were very different there and appeared to be more ramshackle. If I have one regret from South Africa, it is that I did not get the chance to visit a township. I guess it just gives me reason to return, and soon!

I cannot talk about South Africa without mentioning the food. I have to say that it is some of the best I have had this whole trip. I loved it! I didn’t know what to expect but I was happily surprised the whole time. The first food I had was bobotie pie, which is like Shepherd’s pie but with an egg layer instead of mashed potatoes. It was really delicious and I loved it. It was sweet from the thin custard and from the meat itself. The pie was served alongside yellow rice and was accompanied by a thin crisp. It was a very balanced and composed dish. The second food experience I had that is worth mentioning was when I tasted a passion fruit Popsicle. For those who do not know me, I have this obsession with passion fruit. I love it! When I saw this Popsicle in the ice cream case I could not resist. It was so delicious and refreshing and I had five throughout my trip on the safari! I really wish we had these in the US. The next experience I had was tasting ostrich! I decided to be adventurous at a lodge and try some of the wild game. My favorite was the ostrich. It tasted like steak, but much richer. Ostrich is a healthy alternative to beef because it has low amounts of saturated fat. I loved the sear on it! I think we can learn a lot from South Africans about a healthy diet. Most of the other meals I had were full of variety and everything I tried was delicious. The only problem I had with the food was the eating times. Lunch is usually very light. Dinner was a lot later than I was used to and several times we ate around 7:30 or 8 PM. On the ship I have been eating dinner at 5:30, so you can see why that would be a problem for me. Luckily, I had plenty of snacks with me 🙂 Also, while I was in South Africa, I had two pizzas! One of them was from a mall, but it was far from typical mall fare I am used to in the US. It was fresh, hot and delicious! My tummy was very happy!

Jessica Zaksek 13

We also had the opportunity to spend time with elephants at a special sanctuary. This experience might be my favorite of all the others I had.This sanctuary housed elephants that had been orphaned because of poaching or because they were caught in snares as infants and their mothers left them. The leader of the elephant herd was Marula, and I interacted with her the most. First, we walked hand in trunk with the elephants. When my turn came, I was assigned to the boss lady. You had to put your hand in a C shape and hold it behind you. The elephant would then place its trunk in your hand and you would walk along with them. Marula decided she would be the leader by sort of shoving my hand and indicating she wanted me to go faster. She had the best personality, and I had to laugh. After that, my hand was a bit snotty and dusty, but it was a unique experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Jessica Zaksek 12

The handlers then let us touch the elephants and feel the different parts like the skin, ears, tail, tusk and feet. I think the coolest thing besides the rough skin was the tail. The bristles on it felt like the bristles on a plastic broom. It was not what I was expecting! The skin was also interesting. It was rough but much thinner than I expected. I liked the feet because they were squishy to the touch. It was super fun to get up close and personal with the elephants. We also got to see inside their mouths!

The next part of our interaction included a 10-minute ride on their backs. I was super excited for this portion! I didn’t know what to expect. When it was my turn, I had difficulty getting on Marula, especially since I have short legs. It was an amusing struggle. The ride itself was like riding a horse, but you had a wider stance and you could feel the backbone underneath you. It was such a cool moment to think that I was riding an elephant, in Africa. Marula stopped several times and even started to jog at one point. That was disconcerting, but overall it was a great time. Another experience I will always remember. Throughout the day, I found myself loving elephants even more!

We also got to feed the elephants as a thank you for letting us interact with them. Our guide told us that if you give Marula only a few apple pieces, she would hold out her trunk until you give her as much as she thinks she deserves. Like I said, quite the personality! I thought it was hilarious! J The last thing we did was have an anatomy lesson in an outdoor-classroom. It was pretty fun and I learned a lot. One thing I appreciated about the experience was that the handler’s loved the elephants, and it was evident that the elephants were happy and well taken care of. If the elephants did not want to do something, they did not have to. It was clear that free choice was present, and I think it is extremely admirable. The elephant needs come first, and their happiness does as well. It is a sanctuary after all. I loved my time there, and it was truly special!

Jessica Zaksek14

The last cool thing that I did that is worth its own section is our trip to see the cheetahs and the reptiles at Garden Route. The lodge has a cheetah sanctuary area within the vicinity of the resort. There were five cheetahs total and each had their own cage, save for two. I was lucky enough to film and witness the two cheetahs playing with each other. They really are powerful and beautiful creatures and they run fast!! Another cheetah was sleepy, and I got some cute pictures of him sleeping. It was really fun and I was excited to see the cheetahs. I did not know that we would get to see them. They are in the sanctuary to prevent inbreeding. We spent about 15 minutes there and then walked up to the Reptile Center. There, I got to see several crocodiles, a giant turtle, a baby turtle and some lizards. I also saw a python, boa constrictor, a green mamba and the deadly black mamba. It was definitely cool, and I enjoyed it.

Ireland and a Wicklow County Adventure

Dani Langevin grew up Summit County, Colorado. Currently she is a junior at Colorado State University. Now it’s time for her to embark on my study abroad adventure with Semester at Sea for a four month journey around the world.

[Originally posted September 23, 2013]

This was by far the best day of Semester at Sea so far! It was time for me to get away from all of the cities and people, so I peaced out to a little town called Glendalough (pronounced Glendalock) in Wicklow County by myself for the day/night. I took a 100-year-old bus service out there and ended up in a town that consisted of a hotel, hostel, restaurant, and 2 sweater shops. I ended up seeing some of the Schuchardt family (a family on the ship that consists of a professor with his wife and 7 of their 8 children) on the bus on the way there – it’s impossible to fully escape, but it was good to know that I was going in the right direction. The town was perfect! I walked 5 minutes up the road to the hostel which is tucked back in the trees. After dropping off my bag I wandered through an area with the “Round Tower” back to town. Once in town I ended up talking to this Irish man who was watching a sweater shop for his friend. We talked for at least half an hour about his life story and my adventures thus far. It was interesting to find out that our paths could have crossed at some point in time! He had been to Aspen, Colorado and he has a friend that lives in Breckenridge. It’s a much smaller world than anyone could imagine! I was also surprised to find out that he knew so much about what was going on in Colorado with the floods. It’s amazing how much other people know about the United States compared to how little the general American population knows about the world. After talking to him for a while he told me about a few good hiking spots and sent me on my way.

"Glendalough" meaning "Valley of two lakes"  is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park with its world famous Round Tower was one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland. Image obtained from the following URL: http://www.nolancoaches.ie/visit-beautiful-glendalough/

“Glendalough” meaning “Valley of two lakes” is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park with its world famous Round Tower was one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland.

Image obtained from the following URL: http://www.nolancoaches.ie/visit-beautiful-glendalough/



A few minutes later I found myself at a map. Too bad I couldn’t read it. So I took a picture of it just in case and started to walk in the direction of the mountains. Turns out I began on a relatively popular path through an “enchanted forest.” That defeated the point of having time to myself, so I found someone with another map. Basically I told her that I wanted the hardest, longest and least populated path. So there I found myself following the “red hiker” on the Spinc path. After about 3km I was out of the populated area. Then it was just me and nature. I hiked over mountains, through forests, around valleys, by lakes, and down 600+ wooden stairs. There were sheep everywhere at the top and a few deer, although they didn’t look like the typical Colorado deer.

I did come across a few people, mostly locals. All of the locals were incredibly friendly and, like the Irish man at the sweater shop, they all wanted to know about me just as much as I know about them. One group of people sticks out most to me. A group of three people was biking up behind me and stopped at the top for a snack. When I got to the top they started asking me all about myself and I ended up talking to them for a while. Like the Irish man I had met earlier, they also asked about the floods in Colorado. The lady gave me a granola bar and they shared their gummy bears with me after telling me that I still had a ways to go – that saved me because I did not prepare properly for the length of the hike. When we parted ways they pointed me in the right direction and I was off again.

There was one point during my hike where I got to the summit of one of the mountains and crossed a marshy area via a boardwalk. Then the boardwalk ended and I found myself in an area without a trail. Luckily I have hiked enough to have the skills to find my way back to some sort of trail. As I descended I began to see more and more people that had done the shorter hikes and eventually I ran into the Schuchardt family again. I was talking to Rachel (the mom) as her kids and husband laid in the freezing cold waterfall stream below. After an incident with the youngest one falling, I walked back to the town with them.

I thought I had found a quiet place to escape and be alone, but with 600 Semester at Sea students in Ireland that was nearly impossible. While looking out of the Schuchardt’s hotel window I saw Ryan, Shiloh, and Dana (friends from the ship) and ended up having dinner with them. 9pm rolled around and somehow I managed to make it back to the hostel in literally the pitch black night.

The next morning I had to catch an early shuttle back to Dublin. Glendalough did not disappoint and I will definitely be back someday.

I guess Colorado has had a huge impact on me. I love nature and the mountains especially. Throughout the past few ports I have discovered that city life is not for me. From here on out I am going to try to get out of the city as much as possible to see the true natural beauties of each country.

Portugal: Food, Folklore, and Moorish Influence Galore!

Jessica Zaksek is a senior Psychology student at Colorado State University. She is currently partaking in a Semester at Sea and will visit ports in various countries such as Russia, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Morocco and many more. Stay tuned to hear about all her adventures!

[Originally posted October 1, 2013]

I hope this entry finds you all healthy and happy! I am doing quite well! I had some free time and I thought I would write the entry for Portugal, instead of combining it with my experience in Spain. I only had two days in each country, so it was a whirlwind! I think that the time constraint also made me hyper-vigilant to my surroundings and experiences. Portugal was really amazing! I plan to go back very soon so I can see more of the country. I honestly had no idea what to expect, and I must admit that I found myself ignorant of the country’s history and culture. It made the entire experience so much more exciting and surprising. It may be small, with a population of around 10 million, but it has had a powerful influence on world history. You can find Portuguese culture and language in places such as Brazil, and even China!

During my stay in Portugal I traveled to Sintra and spent time in Lisbon, our port city, as well. In Portuguese, Lisbon is actually called Lisboa. Lisbon is the oldest city in Europe, which explains why it is such a cultural hub. The city has seven steep hills and trolleys. It reminds me a lot of San Francisco. They even have a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge! Most of the buildings were pretty old, and had fantastic iron work around the windows. The lamps were also a unique and fun feature of the streets in Lisbon. The sidewalk stones were shaped in a very distinctive manner, and I learned that they were created by pounding the stones into the ground with a wooden mallet. Apparently, this is a pretty laborious process! My favorite aspect of the city was the tile. On several buildings you could see walls filled with beautiful, old tile. Each building had it’s own unique tile design. It was unexpected because I did not know the Portuguese used tile. I loved how old the city looked. It gave it so much character and told such a rich story of times long past.

Strolling through the city, I realized quickly that the Lisbon itself as well as the surrounding areas were heavily influenced by the Moors. They brought their tile to the city and created city quarter names in Arabic.

Strolling through the city, I realized quickly that the Lisbon itself as well as the surrounding areas were heavily influenced by the Moors. They brought their tile to the city and created city quarter names in Arabic.

I was happy to discover that the food in Portugal is quite delectable and there is plenty to go around! Food has its own unique culture. I quickly learned that the Portuguese live to eat. Meals usually lasted several hours, which allowed for intimate conversation and enjoyment. I enjoyed getting to know some of my shipmates and eating delicious food. I had this amazing pastry during my cooking experience, which was covered in cinnamon sugar and filled with a tasty vanilla cream. The pastry dough was so flaky! The closest thing I can compare it to is a churro, but with filling. Another wonderful dessert item I enjoyed was a pastry filled with walnuts and apples. The outside of this pastry was coated in sugar and added just the right amount of sweetness.

The Portuguese also love their wine! Every meal I had was served with a glass of wine, specifically red. I learned that the Portuguese prefer red wine, because they feel it goes with everything. In restaurants we were often given bottles of wine and they were replenished throughout the meal. It made it very difficult to keep track of how much you had enjoyed already! Another great thing about Portuguese food was the cheese! It was so yummy! I had three different kinds of cheese. One was a hard cheese that consisted of a combination of goat and cow milk. The second was a softer cheese and the third was a goat cheese that was very spreadable. Bread was also served in abundance with every meal. I definitely enjoyed that!!

During the cooking experience I learned that the Portuguese pride themselves on food that is flavorful. When I tasted the olive oil I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of flavor it had compared to what I am used to. Dipping the bread in the olive oil created a fantastic culinary experience! The sausages I tried were also jam-packed with aggressive flavors. My palate was definitely pleased in Portugal!

At one of the last restaurants I dined in, they served kebabs(sliced meat grilled on a skewer), further reinforcing the Moorish influence on Portuguese cuisine. One funny aspect of this meal was the accompaniment of French Fries to the kebabs, which was definitely an interesting combination. I have noticed that a lot of meals in Europe are served with fries, no matter what the dish is.

At one of the last restaurants I dined in, they served kebabs(sliced meat grilled on a skewer), further reinforcing the Moorish influence on Portuguese cuisine. One funny aspect of this meal was the accompaniment of French Fries to the kebabs, which was definitely an interesting combination. I have noticed that a lot of meals in Europe are served with fries, no matter what the dish is.

In addition to the cuisine, I was also able to enjoy some traditional Portuguese dance known as Fado, which incorporates folklore into its music. It was my favorite cultural experience so far in regards to dancing/ singing. I had a minimal understanding of it from cultural pre-port on the ship, but it wasn’t enough. Our tour guide explained that the primary theme of this style is “saudade,” which does not have a direct translation into English. The closest translation would be nostalgia or an intense longing for the past, and better times. Fado is the national style of music. The saudade in the music can be directed towards a variety of different things. You could have saudade for your grandmother’s pie or for someone who has recently passed. In many songs, the longing is for the times when Portugal was a wealthy, influential and powerful country. The other primary object of saudade is unrequited love.

There are two styles of fado. The first originated among the poor classes and marginalized individuals in Lisbon. Marginalized individuals included prostitutes, sailors and coachmen. Lisbon fado is usually sung in a very raspy sort of way and focuses on a longing for better days and times. The elite, for obvious reasons, rejected this form of fado. The second style of fado originated at Coimbra University. Men usually sing in this style and wear black capes, traditional to the uniforms at the University. The primary theme of Coimbra fado is love, whether it be unrequited or reciprocated. It is also much more lyrical and light compared to the Lisbon form. Classic guitars and a special Portuguese guitar are used to accompany the singing. The Portuguese guitar is in the shape of a teardrop, which I believe is very appropriate.

During our meal we got to listen to both styles of fado.  It was very unique and unlike anything I have ever heard. Normally, music in America rhymes and flows but fado sounds more disjointed and seems to tell a story. Their costumes were true to the period and were very intricate and beautiful. One of my favorite dances was the one using the special noisemakers. The women were spinning so fast, their skirts were billowing, and they were a blur on stage.

During our meal we got to listen to both styles of fado. It was very unique and unlike anything I have ever heard. Normally, music in America rhymes and flows but fado sounds more disjointed and seems to tell a story. Their costumes were true to the period and were very intricate and beautiful. One of my favorite dances was the one using the special noisemakers. The women were spinning so fast, their skirts were billowing, and they were a blur on stage.