Mauritius

So let me start with explaining why I am go grateful I got to go to Mauritius even though it was on the SAS itinerary. So while we were at sea a few days before we were supposed to get off the ship, the assistant dean came on the loud speaker and said that due to weather and the lack of speed we were going at we did not have time to stop in Mauritius. When all of the students heard this everyone was devastated. We all thought it was a joke, until everyone received emails from ISE in Virginia confirming that we would only stop in Mauritius to refuel but we would NOT be allowed off of the ship. So the night before Mauritius we were given a dance party. It was so much fun! Everyone was dressed up on the 7th deck and they played music from our middle school days. Everyone knew all of the words and some of the dances like the cha cha slide. After sweating and dancing for about an hour and a half it starts pouring. Everyone runs out in the rain and continues to dance. It was unreal, one of the most fun nights of the voyage. Even though we didn’t think we were going to Mauritius, everyone accepted it at this point. When the crew shut off the music and the party was over, students weren’t ready to leave. We stayed on the 7th deck for another hour or so and were chanting “We’re not going to Mauritius” and signing songs like Baby Got Back and Fresh Prince of Bellaire.

The next morning we al slept in because they offered a brunch. After brunch we all went to the 7th deck to layout and it was a perfect day. Everyone was outside hanging out with speakers and endless decks of cards. A few hours after settling into the day we see an island. It was Reunion – the island that Jurassic Park was filmed on. It got everyone excited. As we were passing the island, the assistant dean got back on the loud speaker and started talking. Nobody wanted to listen because we were sure it was going to be bad news or something having to do with classes. It wasn’t what we expected – he REINTSTATED going to Mauritius! He explained that we would be able to get off the ship but only for four hours and that we had logistical pre port later that night. I can’t even explain how excited everyone was. The dean walked outside and got a standing ovation. That night everyone slept on the deck and watched us pull into Port Louis and get ready for the next day!

So we have to go through face-to-face immigration starting at 6a.m. and everyone was up and ready to have fun for the morning in Mauritius. We ended up getting off of the ship at 7:30a.m. Our first stop was to a nice beach pretty close to the ship. After the first stop we head more into town and head out to another beach, which was breathtaking. It was near the 5 star resorts that Mauritius is known for. There we run into other SAS kids and we just hangout and have a few drinks in this pristine paradise. After we have a dip in the Indian Ocean, we head to the markets where I bought so much stuff. Most of the things being sold in the markets had Dodo birds on them, the extinct bird that was specific to Mauritius. After that we ride back with our cab driver and talk to him about the lifestyle there. He loved it – he has traveled a lot and said that if he never left the island again he would be happy. We got back to the ship around 11:30am. After getting back on the ship, my work-study boss told me that people in Mauritius and Dominica speak the exact same Creole. So it is easier for Mauritians to speak to Dominicans that it is for them to speak to someone from Reunion (the island about 50 miles away). It was very interesting.

I definitely plan to go back to Mauritius. 4 hours was not enough time in the paradise but everyone was so thankful that we were able to go. The next ports are all going to be harsh, so having some time on the beach was perfect.

Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa was an amazing country. It was a completely different experience than I thought I would experience.

The first day we got there I walked around the Waterfront, which is a shopping area right by the ship. After spending the day walking around the port area and eating some South African cuisine, some of my friends and I went to Long Street – the bar district of Cape Town. We went to a restaurant called Mama Africa, a lively restaurant. I ate venison, impala, crocodile, warthog, ostrich and springbock. Surprisingly, all of it was delicious!

The next day was one of the best days of my life. I woke up at 4:30am to go shark cage diving. What an experience that was. We went out on the ocean at sunrise and got in the cage where great white sharks were swimming all around us. I touched one of the fins. After that we got back into Cape Town and quickly changed and went up Table Mountain – which overlooks all of Cape Town. We spent about an hour at the top walking around looking at all sides and then we immediately headed to a professional rugby game. The Stormers v Hurricanes game was South Africa v New Zealand, the two best teams in the world. We all got really into the game and South Africa ended up winning – we knew it was going to be a fun night in Cape Town after that! But the day wasn’t finished yet! Right when the game ended we met our cab driver and he drove us across town to the Olympic stadium to see the Ajax play the Santos – two of South Africa’s best teams. After the soccer game we ventured to a penthouse that some students bought and hung out overlooking Cape Town.

The next 3 days I ventured to Johannesburg to Kruger National Park where I went on a genuine African safari. It was unreal. We saw rhinos, zebras, impalas, giraffes, elephants, wildebeests, water buffalo, hippopotamuses, warthogs, monkeys and a beautiful grown lion with a full mane. We went on three safaris. Two were at nighttime and one was a full day. It was beautiful. We saw all of these animals in their natural habitats, which is something you can only do in some parts of the world because of zoos all over the world. We learned that it only takes poachers 8 minutes now to fly into the reserve via helicopter and steal rhino’s horns, which are worth thousands of dollars. Our safari guide told us that it is on his bucket list – along with his coworkers – to kill a poacher. In Kruger National Park, it is a law that you are allowed to shoot and kill any poacher you see on the spot. That is how much the animals mean to the people of Africa.

We arrived back in Cape Town the night before the ship was debarking. We all went out to a bar in Camps Bay, a really nice town on the other side of Table Mountain. A lot of SAS kids showed up so they shut down the bar and everyone was scattered with figuring out plans for the rest of the night. One of my friends rented a mansion on the side of a mountain so that’s where we were headed. The mansion was unreal. It was huge will so many bedrooms, a huge kitchen area, a game room and an infinity pool overlooking Table Mountain and Cape Town. It was the perfect way to end our time in Cape Town.

The next morning I woke up early and went to Robben Island – the prison island where Nelson Mandela was held. After Robben Island I went to Langa Township, one of the oldest townships in South Africa. To my surprise, this township was a lot more modernized than I thought. Out of all of the shantytowns I have seen while being abroad this was the one with the most comfortable living. After leaving the township, we headed back to the ship and set sail for Mauritius!

 

Accra, Ghana

We just got back from Ghana and what a trip it was! It was completely different than I thought, but it was much better then what I expected.

The first night we were here, a few friends and I went to Coco Beach and stayed in a resort for the night. We played soccer with locals and hung out around the resort, drinking local drinks. The following morning we went into the center of Accra, which is one of the biggest cities in Ghana. We shopped on Oxford Street, which was the main street and ate a Frankie’s – one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been too! We also bought FanIce, which is Ghanaian ice cream and was absolutely delicious. You eat it straight from the package and you suck the melted ice cream out. It was very different than anything I’ve experienced in the states. That night we went out in Tema, which was the port city where the ship was docked. There were a lot of Semester at Sea students at the bar, Manila, so it was a nice mix of local people with familiar faces.

The following morning we hired a tour guide to take us around Ghana. We went to Jamestown, which is in old Accra, Nima Market and we walked around central Accra. The first stop was the Jamestown lighthouse which was old and out of work but we walked up it and saw the view from the very top. There were shacks everywhere with people playing soccer – futbol – at the field right below it. From there, we went into the family square of Jamestown where there are houses and “neighborhoods”. We met our tour guides family and learned about Jamestown. Most people who live in the area that we visited never leave. They spend their whole lives within the borders of the neighborhoods. They work as fisherman right behind the shacks. We went and visited the fisherman and some of us got to go out with locals on their boats. I went with two friends and while the two locals that came with us were rowing, a guy who came on the boat with us had to bucket out water that was leaking onto the ship. The locals that took us out do that every single day of the week from 8a.m. to noon. After we got back to land, we were walking to lunch when our tour guide ran into his old friend- the headmaster to a school that was not to far away. We ended up going to his school with him and we met all of the children. Before we got to the school we went to the nearest candy hut and bought all of the toffee lollipops and gave one to every single student at the school. The students were so excited to see us and to take pictures with us.  After we left the school we went to eat lunch at a local spot. I ordered a bean burger and jollof rice, which is a Ghanaian dish that was amazing. We then went to Nima Market and went to people’s houses and met with five families. We hung out with our tour guide Charles, and met his friends from when he was young. He also showed up his mother’s house and where all of his friends live. At that point it was getting dark so we took the SAS shuttle back to Tema to go back for the night. When we got back we met up with more SASer’s and headed out to Manila Bar again and had a fun night where they played Shakira’s Africa and the Macarena. I’ll never forget everyone out on the dance floor while we were all yelling, dancing and drinking – Cheers to Ghana!

The following two days I went into Accra. The third day we went to Marcole market which is the biggest market is Western Africa, and the fourth day we went to Global Mamas, a store that sells the making of African Women’s shirts, bags and headbands. On every tag it has the names of the woman that hand made whatever it is you buy.

Overall Ghana was a beautiful country. The locals were friendly, nice and happy that we were visiting their country. The major word that I heard throughout the five days in Ghana was unity. Everything was about unity and family, something that is refreshing to see.

Spain and Morocco, New Years and My Birthday!

Over New Years and my birthday I traveled around Spain and visited Morocco for a day!

Madrid for New Years
Seville
Costa Del Sol
Granada
Valencia
Barcelona for my birthday

Highlights from the trip:

A camel bit me in Morocco!
Experienced Sol in Madrid-eating 12 grapes leading down to New Years (a Spanish tradition)
Went to Apollo in Barcelona
Visited the La Sagrada Familia
Went to a Seville vs. Valencia Futbol match in Valencia
Traveled with my Big in Delta Zeta