we do not stop…

 

Last month we had a little Semester at Sea reunion at the University of Virginia. To say the least, it was incredible. The drive up was so exciting, I couldn’t wait to see my sea family. We told them we wouldn’t be there until at 2am because I had a night class…but we lied. We rolled up to Caroline’s house  around 10pm and as soon as I saw Dan I put the car in park and ran outside to give him a hug. When we went inside and saw all the familiar faces that traveled the world with us we launched into a hugging parade of screaming and Americano dancing.

Jordan, coming from Minnesota, came to surprise me (everyone knew except me) but Dan, being Dan, ruined the surprise as soon as I got there. It didn’t matter, I was still so excited to see one of my favorite people in the world – Jordan Angelle. The whole gang was there – minus Morgan who’s off in Turkey “studying abroad”.

UVA is a college from the movies. Huge frat houses everywhere, parties going all night, kids running down the streets in togas… I really have never experienced this kind of college atmosphere. We went to a frat party where there was a bouncer at the door with a list. Kevin had to throw money to get us all in because we weren’t on the “list”. A party…with a “list”. What? Inside was a filthy dude house with beer cans scattered everywhere, liquor bottles in every corner and on every table, two bathtubs of beer, and it was all “help yourself”. Apparently this is a really rich fraternity and they spent nearly 1500 dollars on this ONE party. A DJ was playing in the living room with a whole light set up and stage. Later that night we went back to Claire’s sorority house where Sam, Lacey, and I were staying that night. Now, the sorority house is much different. Beautifully decorated, clean floors and carpet, no scattered beer cans. When we woke up a nice man was there making us anything we wanted for breakfast which is part of the Friday brunch deal at the house. It was crazy – they have their own cook everyday…I couldn’t believe it.

We met up with the rest of our group over at Caroline’s house and we all decided to go to her lake house in Goochland, VA that afternoon and spend the night there. The lake house would have been enough to satisfy the entire trip. Her property is huge. HUGE. The driveway took nearly fifteen minutes to drive down. At the end of the driveway were scary bear statues that would make us scream every single time we drove past them. At night it looked like people waiting to shoot us as we approached the lake. I had never been to a lake before, by the way, so seeing this lake was INCREDIBLE. So still and peaceful. It was beyond beautiful. I fell in love with lakes that day/night/morning. We unloaded the cars filled with food (we overestimated how much food be needed for sure) and alcohol and started the night. Blasting European techno songs that reminded us of our two month adventures together and singing along…it felt so good to be back with these people. We grilled out and danced and decided to swim in the lake later on that night. We rode the ATV’s and golf carts all around her property and visited the horses, dogs, chickens, and other livestock in the middle of the night. Thank God no one lives within miles and miles of her lake house because we caused quite an uproar on this farm.

I never went to sleep. I watched the sunrise over this lake and the mist sitting on top of the lake created such a peach within me I can’t describe and that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with lakes. Since everyone was fast asleep I took it upon myself to take the kayak out on the lake and explore a little at about 5am. I sailed through the thick fog and shouted nonsense just to hear the echo come back to me. I loved it. I felt alone but so relaxed and at one with the whole scene around me. There is something about the lake that really got to me. I wish I had wrote about this sooner so I could be more fresh about how it made me feel. People always say the ocean brings them so much calmness and healing but this lake, the lake was the epitome of calm.

Anyways, we all woke up, cleaned up, and went to visit Carolines pet ZEBRA that lives on the farm. Yes, she had a pet ZEBRA. It was so cool! I felt bad for him though because he had no one to play with but they may get another so he has a partner. I fished in the lake for a bit and caught some kind of small little fellow that I let go. We drove back to Charlottesville and got ready for another fun packed night – the Widespread Panic concert. We painted out faces and headed out the door to the show. We pushed out way to front and center of the stage and danced like we were in back in Montenegro all night. We begged the band to keep playing, we didn’t want the music to stop! The photographer of Widespread got a great group shot of us all during the show, it was a fantastic concert – Widespread killed it! After the show I started kicked the mess of beer cans surrounding my feet around and before I knew it I had about twenty other restless Widespread fans kicking cans with me! We had a can kicking war! Men in their 50’s were kicking cans at me and I was kicking them back. It was so much fun, it sound’s ridiculous but it was actually a ton of fun…a boy came up to me and said, “Hey, I saw you kicking cans… I wanted to meet you…”  hahaha…what a pick up line?

We left the arena and headed back to Dan’s house. It was only about 11pm so the parties were just getting started and we had already been partying all night with Widespread Panic. We hung out over at Dan’s place for awhile and then walked to Josh’s crazy frat house and sat on the roof-top balcony for awhile just talking and reminiscing about all the adventures we shared and the night so far. It’s funny how even when you’re not with certain people for a period of time – going back to see them it’s like nothing has changed and we’ve still been together the whole time. Our group of friends is just so incredible and we all wish we could just be together all the time. It makes it a lot more exciting to come back to them though after being apart. It’s also exciting calling them or getting a call randomly from one of them out of the blue. I’m the worst at talking on the phone but I’m working on it because I need to hear their voices as much as possible. It really reminds me of my Remuda girls so much and I really wish we talked like we used to. I still consider them all my sisters even if we don’t talk as much as we used to. My SAS’ers will always be my best friends too. You build great friendships when you live, breath, and travel with a certain group for so long. I love it.

The drive back was sad. Five hours of wondering where the weekend went… it went by SO fast. Kevin came all the way from Tennessee, Jordan from Minnesota, Blair and Emily from Maryland, Barrett, Carol, and Abbie from Kentucky. We don’t mess around – we’re true friends. I love these people. Love them to death!

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back “home”, whatever that may mean…

(First part written August 19-20th)

As we approach Norfolk there has been so much on my mind. I keep thinking back to when I returned to New Jersey after being in Arizona and how difficult it was to adjust back to real life. It was the most difficult transition I have ever had. For my friends on this ship who have never experienced such a transition I think it will be a lot harder than they anticipate. It’s a different kind of transition then I had nearly five years ago though. Now I’m going back to my own country and my own culture. I won’t have to worry about what I wear when I leave my house, if my head needs to be covered, or if

During convocation today one of the students gave a speech to end the journey and congratulate the people graduating after this semester at sea. She read off a list of hilarious things to think about as we go back:

-It is no longer appropriate to yell out in class “dolphins!” or “a whale!” and run to the window.

-You will probably never get the chance to pie your professor ever again.

-Talking about your G.I. problems/pepto side effects at the dinner table will no longer be appropriate.

-You will no longer be padded down when entering your home.

-You will no longer have to think of sneaky ways to get alcohol into your house.

-You won’t have to save wine for weeks in order to have a good time one night.

-There will not be someone making your bed or picking up your towels on the bathroom floor anymore, you’ll have to do it yourself.

-(This was said for the guys on the ship because of the 25/75 ration of guys to girls): Guys, you will never be this attractive to girls again in your life.

– You will no longer be able to claim “seasick” when skipping class.

-There won’t be an announcement at noon everyday telling you you’re latitude and longitude.

-Peanut butter will no longer be rationed – you can have it whenever you want.

-There will not be anymore “Stupid Question’s/Comment’s of the Day” anymore. (These were hilarious…some people just amaze me.)

-The same four movies will not play on a “loop” everyday.

________________________________________________

I wrote this on the last day on the ship and never finished it. Now that I’m back there is a completely different perspective on this topic. The transition back has been completely different from my Remuda transition. While at Remuda those girls became my sisters, we shared a bond that went far beyond friendship – we all chose life together. We worked towards living and recovering. There was an incredibly strong bond that was created because of the intense emotional and physical changes occurring in each one of us. On the ship, however, my friends became best friends. We shared radical experiences all over the world. We share memories that my friends here, besides Sam, don’t really understand.

I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging or talking only about the greatest adventure of my life so far but inside there really is so much I wish I could say. It’s really awesome having Sam here with me so that we can relate to each other and reflect upon the whole summer. I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who don’t have anyone back at their home school to talk to. It’s hard looking at pictures from the summer…especially one’s ON the ship. We had an amazing time off the ship for sure but the community on the ship and the pictures of our summer’s home really gets me. Every time I see the video that the ship made for us before we left I want to cry. I wish I could post it up here, I’ll try to when I figure out how to do something like that. It’s intense. People who weren’t on the trip and see the video almost cry. The whole experience was just really mind-blowing. I can’t believe it even happened now. I’m three weeks into my junior year now… THREE YEARS. Next year I’ll be a senior and preparing to go to my internship and graduate in the spring. It’s so surreal how fast things happen. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized this so much more. I wish I could slow things down so that it is easier for me to reflect and absorb all the things I’m doing and seeing.

Sam and I have talked about how much smarter we feel back at school. Our minds have been working constantly all summer while everyone else drank their summers away. Not that we didn’t drink or have fun – I’m sure you’ve read about all the dancing we did haha – but we also learned a superfluous amount over the last two and a half months. Things we have learned and seen are popping up constantly. Right outside where I work is a picture of the Blue Mosque in Turkey. I was there, I went inside, I saw it all. My friend Alex went to Granada, Spain to study and he said he was staying across from the Alhambra – I learned all about that in Global Studies, about King Boabdil and the Moors… I feel enlightened with knowledge.

Next weekend is a mini-reunion of my favorite SAS’ers. We’re meeting at UVA for the weekend and going to a Widespread Panic concert. I wish we were meeting at Saki’s Hostel in Montenegro instead but this will do. I can’t wait to see them. Everyday we talk, whether it’s through texting or random phone calls. Morgan came to visit last weekend before she embarks to Turkey for a semester. It’s really awesome how new friends can mix with old friends so easily…I think our group of friends on the ship are incredibly special people who have such amazing personalities that they can be friends with anyone! I can’t explain enough how excited I am to dance with all those kids again!

Well, I hope to keep this going for personal use…in order to slow my life down and really grasp the reality of where I go, what I do, and the extent of my experiences…wherever they may be.

Hands Stained with Henna & a Head Full of Memories…

All of the previous ports don’t compare to the experience I had in Morocco. I didn’t stay more then thirty minutes in Casablanca. Instead, I met a whole new group of students on the ship that I’ve never hung out with before and caught a train into Marrakech. The plan was to stay in Marrakech one night and the next start hiking. As I stared out the window of the train I was mesmerized by the vast landscape of valleys rolling into the distant High Atlas Mountains. All I could think about was getting up those mountains. I had a great feeling about this trip and it hadn’t even started to begin yet…

Marrakech was wonderful. Unlike other places we’ve been the past month, Marrakech was a clean and uncrowded city. The market square was a complete trip in itself. As you walk into the square you begin to hear horns and flutes become louder and louder. I was shocked when I realized these flutes were taming real cobra snakes. I really didn’t think people did that…but they most certainly do. Other people, as you walked into the square, were giving henna tattoos, and selling handmade baskets. Inside the market: the most amazing handmade leather bags hung on the walls, baby turtles and lizards crammed in small cages, squirrels on leashes, the most amazing smelling soap I have ever smelt, quality jewelry, handmade chess sets, shoes, clothes, spices, and everything else you can and can’t imagine. Everything at a fraction of what it is worth in the US. A handmade leather bag with intricate designs carved onto the leather ran for under 200 dh which is like 15 American dollars.

After the market me and the new group of girls I befriended (3 from Colorado, one from Texas) went back to our hotel to get ready for that night. From what I’ve heard I really need to go to Colorado. Everyone seems to think I’m already from there and when I tell them I’m not they’re shocked and immediately say I need to be there. Anyways, that’s besides the point. That night I caught a cab to the square to meet up with my other friends who had booked a villa for the four days in Morocco. Their villa was super cool, it was like a mini palace all to themselves surrounded by this indoor/outdoor pool. The center of the house was entirely open and the surrounding areas were doors that lead to each individual bedroom, a full kitchen, a chill room, and a roof top terrace. At the center of everything was a pool and if you didn’t look up you would have thought you were inside the house completely but in reality the ceiling was the real night sky. We hung out there for awhile then decided to go to Pacha, the biggest club in Africa. Pacha is in NYC as well so I already had a good feeling about it. When we got there we found out there was a 350 dh cover charge. Since I had been to the market earlier and they hadn’t yet I said I wouldn’t pay that because I could have got three leather bags for that price. They all just paid and went in while Sam and I stood outside contemplating what to do. Then, this fourty-something year old sweaty man comes over and starts to talk to me. He’s asking why I’m not inside and I tell him I don’t have the money for that and it’s my only night in Marrakech. Within ten minutes Sam and I were walking in, free of charge and V.I.P. We sat a table that had been reserved for 4000 dh with an abundance of full bottles. Sam and I really just wanted to dance with our friends and decided to sneak away after one drink. The rest of the night I was constantly on watch to make sure he didn’t see me anywhere because I felt so bad but it was totally necessary – my only night in Marrakech should be spent with my friends not some sweaty Moroccan man.

The club was fun but the adjacent smaller bar was even more fun. The Rose Bar, which is connected to Pacha, was not nearly as crowded and drinks were a fraction of the price they were in Pacha so naturally my friends all migrated over there. They were playing swing dance music for over an hour and all of us were dancing like we’ve never danced before. I felt like I was in a completely different era. Jordan was swinging his arms and shuffling his feet. Maeghan and Kim were spinning each other around. It was a great time! Around four thirty I met up with the Colorado girls and headed back to our hotel to try and get a bit of sleep before the trek up the mountains began.

In the morning I packed my bag and headed down to the lobby where I met up with the other people in my group. We met our tour guides, Mohammad and Oyher, and the teacher who was also coming along – Mike. The group was still a bit shy but I knew by the end of the trip we would all be good friends. Our journey started in a small village, Tachbibt, where we loaded up mules with supplies to last the next three days: vegetables, couscous, fruits, cheese, bread, and an abundance of mint tea..We hiked about two hours to our first destination, Ait Zitoun. I was stunned at the reality of these villages. It was right out of a movie or documentary on small village life – houses made of clay, stone, and mud, children running around everywhere, shepherds herding sheep, and smiles on each passerby’s face. This was exactly what I wish I had done in each country. I didn’t even think shepherds actually still existed…it was so cool! After settling into our gite, a local village hostel, we explored. It started the rain and a nice older women invited us inside her home to escape the rain and have some coffee. She had a fifteen year old daughter who had been schooled in Arabic and French. Luckily, one of the girls I was with spoke enough French to help us converse quite a bit. She stopped school at fourteen in order to help out around the village which is common to the Berber community. The family was incredibly friendly and hospitable. We sat with them for over an hour, enjoying coffee and nuts. I was surprised to see that the little house had a tiny television where the girl said she had learned about Istanbul before. Afterwards the young girl took us around the village and taught us how to eat and pick the ripe figs off the trees. We invited her to dinner but her father said there were too many young boys by our gite and didn’t want her walking home after sunset. We exchanged email addresses because she said she would be getting one soon. That night our neighbors invited us over to play with the children. Some of the young girls gave us henna tattoos and drew pictures with us. They were just as excited to see and play with us as we were to do the same with them! Two little girls, Fatima and Hasna, were my favorite. They saw me writing in my journal and started writing with me. Fatima wanted to learn how to right my name so I taught her and she taught me how to write hers in Arabic. Later that night she ended up writing my own name across my foot in henna, haha. We ended the night sleeping under the stars on the roof of the gite reflecting on an incredible day.

The next day we did a five hour hike to Ait Hamed. The views on top of the mountains were incredible. We passed abandoned villages, tons of sheep herders, small villages, and crossed dry rivers. Half way into the hike we stopped for lunch. Our lunched was prepared right in front of us. Two Moroccan cooks had joined us on our hike to make sure we experienced real Moroccan food at its best. They prepared a huge fresh salad with homemade lemon dressing, bread, vegetable couscous, mint tea, and the most delicious yellow melon I’ve ever had. Talk about a picnic, these guys prepared a full Moroccan feast without any kind of kitchen. We all ate, family style, on the top of a mountain sitting on blankets and mats laid out for us. It was amazing. We gathered water in a neighboring towns well and purified it with iodine tablets before continuing the hike. Ait Hamed was another village filled with generosity. Our gite owners greeted us with mint tea and hot pastries as soon as we arrived. Another girl and I drew pictures and made paper toys for the children who gathered around us. We brought some coloring books and fun workbooks that the children loved. I saw nothing but smiles everywhere I went. The men, women, and children all waved and said “bonjour” on each corner. More henna was done that night and I was really surprised at how intricate this young girl did it. It was so amazing, she painted all the girls (even some guys!) hands (tops and palms) and feet! Eric and I hiked to the very top of the village mountain and got an incredible view along with heavy muddy sneakers. The weather in Morocco was really unpredictable. One minute its sunny then the next its raining and this repeats every hour. The rain was refreshing nonetheless, the only other time this entire summer that we had rain was one afternoon in Turkey, so it didn’t bother us at all.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to our new friends in the village, packed out bags, and headed out. It was only about a two hour hike to the road where a few vans were waiting to pick us up but the whole way we were all pretty upset it was coming to an end. Not only was the coolest experience ever ending but we knew that we would be heading back to Casablanca that afternoon and boarding the ship for the last time.

We ate lunch in Marrakech then got a train back to Casablanca. The train’s air condition broke making it a moving sweat box but I just listened to music and admired the incredible landscape that Morocco has to offer.

Bit About Egypt & more..

Sorry for the delay in this post, these past few days have been rough with tests and papers to write. We’ve been at sea for three days now, traveling to Morocco from Egypt. Egypt was really something. It’s almost hard to put into words the extreme shock culturally there.

There is a radical gap between poor and rich in Egypt and it’s obvious everywhere you look. Some people are dressed in rags while others are in lavish business suits. Most the women are covered head to toe, more so then in Turkey. I honestly felt like I was in the Bible when I was in the desert in Giza. The men are in long white dress-type things with the whole Egyptian headdress thing on. I felt like everyone was trying to dress like Jesus. I didn’t expect it at all. Everyone, every where, is trying to get your money. Children of all ages, men and women, all trying to sell you something or take your picture in hopes of a dollar or two. They tell you something is free, put it in your hands or on your head, then ask if you are happy. When you say that you are happy they ask for money. Even asking for directions requires a little money. They are super crafty over there, scheming you in all types of ways and trapping you into a situation where either you have to run away and cover your ears or throw them “Obama-money”. They LOVE Obama. If you say you are from America they immediately mention Obama. Kind of sketchy, ey?

Besides the schemers, the Egyptians were pretty friendly. The children we passed in our bus would chase us, waving and blowing kisses. The tourist police (who carry huge automatic weapons on them everywhere) and locals would always say “Welcome to Egypt!” when recognizing that we were not in anyway from there. The language barrier was by far the most difficult here. Taxi drivers didn’t speak a lick of English and we were forced to find someone to write down the location in Arabic before finding a cab and hope it was correct. We learned a few Arabic phrases such as “Salaam” within the first day. Salaam is a greeting for hello and also goodbye. It you put the palm of your hand up when using it, it infers “peace to you”.

The first day in Alexandria we saw tombs, the Alexandria library, palaces, the beach, and a few other places. The library was impressive. If you ever seen a picture it is shaped very peculiarly but the meaning of it is pretty interesting. The worship the sun god, rayas, and the library is shaped as a sun to signify the permanence of the library because the sun will always rise and always set. Pretty cool! The inside was really wild, there are thousannndssss of books, the database is incredibly detailed and you can view books for free from the site, and there are small museums inside as well!

The first night in Alexandria I wanted to get overnight tickets to Luxor for the following night when we would be in Cairo but didn’t want to go alone. I asked Dan to come with me since he needed the same ticket but him and a few others insisted we go out for an hour and explore the scene first. I was in no mood to drink, we had a camel and jeep safari thing in the morning that required us to be up by 6am. Anyways, I settled on the notion that the group would definitely come with me to get the tickets. That never happened. We got into a “taxi” with a man named “Happy” who took us to where “all the Americans go”. Worst situation ever, right? He claimed it was 12 minutes away, after 15 we started to get really sketched out but he said it was close. After 30 minutes we said we wanted to go back but he said it was right up the street. 45 minutes later we arrives at a dirt alley. He said it was down the dark dirt alley and to the left. We needed smaller bills to pay Happy so he followed us down the alley. We arrived at Summer Moon Hotel. Outside were two men sitting in chairs who followed behind us into the “hotel” and closed the doors. Inside the wallpaper was peeling off the walls and the reception desk had begun to crumble. This was most definitely not a hotel and all of us were so confused and angry at ourselves. They take us to a door with a huge Tiesto poster on it (like Tiesto makes everything better and more legit?). Inside the door was a room with red lighting (the worst lightening ever, reminds me of hell) and we were the only people there. There was a DJ in the corner, who he was playing for is beyond me. Immediately the “staff” ran up to us and tried to seat us while shaking our hands and welcoming us. I was pretty aggravated, we were 45 minutes from port in some sketchy place that looked like Satans closet and I didn’t even want to drink or anything in the first place! We ended up leaving and Happy drove us all the way back to the port for free. We think that maybe Summer Moon Hotel was one of his friends that he was trying to bring business to and it just totally backfired. By the time we got back the train station was closed and we couldn’t even get tickets.

The other places we visited in Alexandria were the Catacombs of Kom El Shogafa, The National Museum, Qait bey Citadel, Abou El Abbas Mosque, the Archaeological Museum, and the Montazah palace gardens. For lunch we ate traditional bread and sea bass that was actually really good! I haven’t had that much good fish on the trip at all… mainly because I’m on a budget, I’m afraid of getting sick, and the fish elsewhere has been sketch. I’ve been eating a protein bar everyday to make sure I get some kind of protein since I don’t eat meat either. AS for the weather in Egypt, it was not as hot as you are imagining. We went in the off season too. Usually tourists go in December and January, not July/August! It was hot but there was a cool wind that was really satisfying and made the whole journey a lot more bearable.

The next morning we got up super early and boarded a bus to Cairo. Three hours later we arrived. We visited a few smaller pyramids that were found only two months ago. We were the first to actually go inside these pyramids and they were so cool. The colors are still on the walls with hieroglyphics written everywhere, big and small, all telling some kind of story about the person buried in that tomb. We got to climb all the way down into one of the tombs too. It was the craziest crawl ever. You can’t even stand up, you are bent with your back parallel the entire time until you get to the main tomb area. For claustrophobic people this was super hard because the walk ways are tight and everyone is bent over and uncomfortable. After that we went to the most famous pyramids that you see on TV and in textbooks, the pyramids at Giza.

Driving to Giza was really depressing. The area right outside the pyramids is the most impoverished place I have ever seen. Trash everywhere. Children laying in the streets with there heads on piles of garbage like it was a pillow. A small stream flowing through the town is completely filled with garbage and dead animal carcasses. I never have seen anything like this. We passed a young man kicking his little sister repeatedly in the stomach while she laid on the ground. They didn’t seem wrapped up in their poverty at all though. As we passed the children and adults all waved at us and smiled. They believe that the poverty the live in now will be riches in heaven – which is straight out of the Bible too.

Anyways, the pyramids, they were EPIC. I heard the ones in Mexico are BIGGER then these and it’s hard to believe because these were so much bigger then I thought they were going to be. Desert everywhere then out of no where comes three magnificent structures, BUILT BY MAN. I can not fathom what it was like to build these, or even watch them be built. The Egyptians were (excuse my language) bad ass! I still can’t absorb everywhere from there. I wrote a paper for my global studies class on the conditioning and sensitization people have to where they live that takes away from it. I am so conditioned to only learned about these places on TV and textbooks that I feel like it wasn’t real. I don’t feel like I was there at all. I hate that. On the other hand, there were kids and adults everywhere outside the pyramids scheming you. The obviously see these pyramids daily, and it begins to have no meaning or special “wow-factor” anymore to them. They probably wouldn’t care if they never saw them again. It unfortunate.

Right next to the Giza Pyramids is the Sphinx. A lot smaller then I thought it would be but still fascinating. A little Egyptian boy took pictures of the Sphinx kissing me, kissing my butt, kissing my hand, me kissing the sphinx, and one of me putting my sunglasses on the it. They look so funny! It almost looks as if they are photo shopped. All the hassling of vendors at these places took away from the actual awesome-ness of it. I could barely grasp the fact that I was there and all I wanted to do was concentrate and try to process it and I kept having to say “no thank you” every two minutes. I can’t imagine what this place is like during the tourist season.

After that we visited Imhotep Museum and Saqqara.. The Saqqara pyramid was discovered not too long ago. The found only the very top of it coming up from the sand and kept digging…there came Saqqara. Imagine how many pyramids are all over the desert that haven’t be discovered yet!? The desert is so vast that there is probably TONS of them. Our tour guide said there is so much hidden treasure over there and new pyramids and tombs are discovered quite often. Saqqara is different from Giza in that the pyramid is like huge steps instead of flat. It was really awesome.

A few years ago a kid on Semester at Sea paid the pyramid guards some money to climb the Giza Pyramids and ended up dying. See what money can get you? ANYTHING OVER HERE. A few people climbed the pyramids this year and they’re fine. The stones are really old which makes it really risky because they will crumble out of no where and there really is no place to catch yourself. Some of them looked pretty easy to climb though and it I had enough time I would have liked to try.

After all the sights we had a Jeep Safari through the desert which was basically the coolest sand dune off-roading ever. I was surprised that we didn’t flip. About 10 Jeeps were all driving with SAS’ers inside, racing one another, blasting Egyptian rock music, and screaming. It was a blast! At the end of the safari they brought us to our camels. Camels are a whole lot bigger then expected. My camels name was Obama, of course, because Egyptians love Obama. Dan’s camel was Whiskey. Jordans camel was Michael Jackson. The camel ride was really relaxing after a long day of sight seeing. I wish I could ride camels more often, it was really a great time and they looked so pimped out in there colorful head gear and saddles.

We stayed in a hotel in Cairo for two nights because the Luxor trains were filled for two days. The city of Cairo is busy, kind of smelly, and dirty. The bazaar in Cairo had some interesting things for sale. Papyrus is everywhere and actually really awesome to look at with original art work on it. Sam and I wondered off and did our own thing in the bazaar. We met some really cool Egyptian men that drank orange soda with us and explained more of there culture, specifically the Muslim religion. A really sweet Egyptian man sold his wheelchair to Sam for 50pounds, from them on traveling with Sam became easier for us and her! It was a blessing! Sam and I stayed in that night instead of doing the Nile Cruise because we were beat from a day of trekking. Our hotel was pretty terrible. We had to choose between a bathroom or air-condition. We chose a bathroom but it was a hard choice. Our friends left the second night and went to Sham el Sheik. Sham el Sheik is the number one party place in the world they say but I really didn’t have the funds to do that kind of traveling to the Sinai Peninsula even though I would have loved too. I really wanted to backpack Mt. Sinai but the school discouraged travel to there because of threats from Israel. I heard that the hike is one of the coolest and if you start around 3am you’ll get to see sunrise form the top which is out of this world. Apparently some man at the top rents out mattresses and blankets to watch the sunrise on? That sounds not only disgusting but super weird. We went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo which was straight out of 1970. Amazing pieces of history just out in the open or behind a thin piece of glass. There were no security cameras or anything. It was the most old school museum of the entire trip.

We got a train back to Alexandria after two days of roughing it in dirty Cairo. The train wasn’t too bad. We paid five extra bucks for first class and the seats were really nice. There was a young boy with Downs Syndrome sitting on the other side of Sam and I and we had so much fun with him the entire trip to Alex. He was so cute and so shy it was the best. I wanted to take him home.

It’s day three on the sea since Egypt now. In two days we will be in Morocco! Our last port! I’m a little bummed out because all my friends got a villa in Marrakech for the week but I’m doing a trip the whole time. My trip sounds really amazing though, I just wish I knew people going on it with me! I’m going to have to meet new friends all at the last port. My itinerary in Morocco is as follows:

Day 1: From Casablanca to Marrakech. Dinner in the medina with an Arabo-anadalucian orchestra and belly dancer show.

Day 2: Marrakech to Tachbibt where I hike 3 hours through the dry but cultivated landscape to the village of Ait Zitoun and stay in a local villagers house.

Day 3: A full day hike to Ait Hamed (4-5 hours) down valleys and up mountains with fabulous views of the Haouz plain and Lake Lalla Tazerkount. We walk through the pine forests and follow the river to Ait Hamed where we stay in another gite with a villager.

Day 4: Walk through the traditional villages in the valley of Amizmiz with well kept gardens upon desert and verdant areas. Mountainsides changing color due to the rich and varied mineral contents. Return to Marrakech for lunch then back to Casablanca.

This trip is going to be a much different experience for me. I will be in the local Berber villages, living and learning, the entire time. There will not be trains and taxis like everywhere else I have been. I’m really excited for this.

Again, Sorry this post was so delayed! These five days at sea are packed with events and work! We had the Sea Olympics the first day at sea and our team won! This means we get off the ship first in Norfolk, VA and also we had a party in the fancy teacher lounge last night which was fun. I’ve had two tests and three papers to do too! It’s none stop over here. I’m looking forward to getting back on my own schedule at school and not being so rushed anymore. I can’t wait to see everyone, especially Brewster!

I’ll update after Morocco, be checking your mailboxes – you may have gotten one of the postcards sent from Egypt! (Egypts post cards look ancient by the way… they all are in terrible condition and look super fake. My apologies.)

Tales of Istanbul

So we’ve been in Turkey for the last five days. It’s been quite an experience. The call to prayer that echo’s throughout the streets five times a day is really something. I’ve never heard anything like it. At first it was startling and a bit scary, after the first day I was already used to it.

On the first day we visited The Sehzade Mosque, a smaller Mosque built by Mimar Sinan. Then we visited the Serpentine Column which was really not so impressive but after learning about it in Global Studies it meant a lot more. It was stolen from Delphi after the Battle of Thermopoli and is made of melted Persian weapons. We visited the Blue Mosque which has blue tiles lining the interior. Before we entered we had to remove our shoes and cover our heads in respect. I thought the dress code would be a lot more strict then it was. We were prepared to be covered the whole time and if not be scolded in the streets. However, the streets and night life are filled with scantily dressed females. I guess I should have somewhat expected that in a city of 12 million. Seeing women in black burkas walking down the street, the only proof of them being human and not a walking textile was their eyes. I couldn’t imagine in that heat walking around covered head to toe. Especially in black. Was their reasoning to torture women 24/7 or really religious? They should have picked at least a different color. Maybe I’m being culturally insensitive but it seems incredibly unfair. Especially since their husbands decide whether or not they will have to wear that. In my opinion that’s an incredibly selfish husband.

I went inside the Hagia Sophia and the Cistern. The Cistern was incredible, probably my favorite of the sights. Back in the Byzantine Period in Istanbul they created an underground water system to supply water to the palace and residents. It collected water from the rainfall and stored in underground. The put fish inside the water that ate mosquitoes and other bugs that would be attracted to the water. Today, it has walk ways for people to tour and look at the magnificence of it. Some modern artists have put up amazing work inside the Cistern now. Glowing squid hang from the ceiling in one section, another has sea creatures, another section shows the medusa head carved in stone. Its dark but the lights in the water reflect the fish and large pillars reaching to the ceiling. It was probably my favorite sight of the whole tour.

I didn’t go out as much at night in Turkey. The nights I did go out were weird. The whole nightlife scene is much different. Lira is the money used their and drinks were expensive even in little hole in the wall clubs. Nightlife in all the other ports was much more enjoyable. I didn’t dance like we did in other places, instead we relaxed and smoked hookah at Turkish cafes which are on every corner. The hookah is super tasty but makes me really light headed so I can’t sit around for hours like some people smoking this stuff.

The food was alright, nothing spectacular. Being a vegetarian is really difficult in Turkey, especially a picky vegetarian like me that won’t eat things cooked next to greasy big piles of some kind of disgusting looking meat. I drank Turkish coffee which is super strong. It has a pile of mud at the bottom of the cup when you’re done. Omar taught us a trick for telling the future with the mud of the coffee. We put the little espresso coffee cup on the saucer, upside down, and shook it. You wait a few minutes then flip the cup over. The excess mud stays on the saucer and the inside has lines and wrinkles of future written on it. I don’t know how accurate this trick is but it was really fun to look into the cup and see what pictures you could make with the mud sticking to the sides of the cup.

The Grand Bazaar was ridiculous. I honestly hated it. It’s packed full of people and over 5000 shops in a small area. Men yelling, “Lady! Lady! American!?” everywhere. It was quite annoying. You have to bargain with the shop owners and try to get the best prices and really all you have to do is start walking away – then they settle for the price you want. I purchased a really beautiful Turkish quilt to put on my bed and a few other things for friends and family. The Spice Bazaar was a little bit better, not so big and mostly the same stuff but also TONS of fresh spices and teas. All over the bazaar you see mosaic lamps, jewelry, genie lamps, rugs, quilts, gypsy pants, Turkish delights, belly dancing outfits… anything you think you need (but probably don’t) is there. A lot of it seemed to be a bunch of garbage but then if you end up walking in any random alley way you see the real garbage sellers. People on the streets of Istanbul sell used shoes, ratty clothes, Euro-trash rip-off clothes, fake bags, fake sunglasses, glowing toys, and Viagra. For some reason Viagra is sold on every street corner. I don’t understand.

The last day I went to the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. Unlike the MoMA it was all Turkish artists and designers. The whole first floor had amazing paintings, collages, and drawings from all genres. Some told stories of Istanbul’s past, other’s showed the hardship of women there, and many represented the torn country between Western and Eastern culture. Turkey is a very different country because it meets both the West and the East, Istanbul particularly. One part of town is upscale stores and clubs while 10 minutes away is slums and ghettos. The second level of the museum was my favorite. It was a showcase of a Turkish clothing designer. His stuff was incredible but all the stories behind the clothing were even more interesting. Their were videos and special effects that helped bring this point to the surface. He really got into my brain. The videos all depicted the media in a terrible light and urged people not to listen to the media standard of how you should look. It was awesome. Part of it explained how the media is held in such high standards because us, society, reflect right back at it and do what it says. He showed this by having a dark room exhibit with rotating models on this platform with laser beams shooting out of them and reflecting on the glass I was looking at them through then reflecting back off their crystal necklaces and to me once again. The lasers represented the whole system of media -me – media – you – media – society. It was an awesome representation. I stayed on the second floor in awe for two hours while everybody else left. I wish I could explain more the feelings I got there and the impact it had on me.

From Athen to Ios, Now onto Istanbul!

Right now we are hours away from arrival in Istanbul, Turkey…I’m really excited for this port because it will be one of the more intense culture shocks – the next 3 ports will actually be much different from what we’ve been to so far. I can’t believe we still have nearly 5 weeks left…over a month! There is still so much to see! As for Greece…

Greece was really great. Athens itself didn’t stand out as spectacular as I had imagined but it was still really fun. I shopped in the famous flea market and all the gypsy shops. It seems like after Greece everyone has taken a liking to gypsy pants, both guys and girls. The first day in Greece we visited the Acropolis and explored that for quite a bit. It was super hot out, I think Greece has been the hottest of the ports so far and everyone was definitely feeling the heat exhaustion. We took a nap before going out to a nearby pub in Piraeus (where the ship is docked) and tried Australian Snake Bites…a mix of beer, grenadine, and cider. For someone who hates the taste of beer these were actually quite good…the grenadine must have helped a whole lot. We headed back to the ship early because we had to be up at 5:00am to catch a ferry to Ios, an island about 5 hours away. There was a lot of drama between the whole ship on whether to go to Ios, Santorini, or Mykonos. Santorini is the romantic island. Mykonos is the wild party, celebrity, rich, rave island. Ios is the mix of both with much better prices plus Homer is buried there. Our group of friends decided on Ios and booked a hotel for 2 days the night before.

When we got to the ferry most of us passed out on the floor because we were still so tired. It was quite a scene having a whole isle of kids on the floor using their towels as blankets and backpacks as pillows. When we arrived on the island we saw a man holding a sign for our hotel, Princess Sissy. I approached him and he proceeded to tell his little girl, probably around 8 years old, to take us to the shuttle. We followed her to the van where 17 of us piled in as she yelled at us in Greek to fit more in. Luckily our friend Victoria has her friend visiting, Angela, who speaks Greek which made it ten times easier while she was with us. When we got to the hotel the owner explained where to go around the island. The other side of the island was a short bus ride away and conveinitly the bus stop was at the top of the street. The nightlife was a 5 minute walk up the street. Our hotel sat on top of one of the dry, desert looking, mountains, overlooking the port down below with crystal blue water and small town lights at night. The beaches were beautiful, the water was warmer then most other ports and once again, incredibly clear. You don’t even need goggles to see underneath the water its so clear. Across from the beach was Far Out, a day time club/bar with a pool, dancing, and trashy girl contests. At 10am you could already see people dancing and taking shots over at this place. Girls taking their shirts off while men sprayed them with water on a stage. It was quite a seen. I felt bad for most of these girls who were not so attractive and obviously intoxicated.

We rented ATV’s for the two days we were there and took turns riding them so we never had to pay for a cab or bus. After a long day on the beach the first day we rested up for awhile then went to get dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hotel owner, Nicos, which wasn’t anything to rave about. The shrimp were decent…the were huge and the heads were still on with the eyes all looking at me. My friend, Eric, ordered fish and it came out as a big ‘ole fish slapped on a plate. The salads are pretty good – they come with a huge block of feta cheese right on top, its delicious. After dinner we headed back to the hotel then started to walk up the road to the night life scene. I was really surprised at how cheap and fun everything was. We went to crazy clubs with great music and danced everywhere. The people were so much fun and really friendly. Most of the people we met were from Australia since it’s their winter they all are coming to the islands to hangout on the beach and have some fun. I met a guy named Noah from California that just came to Ios from Israel where we had been staying the last 10 days. He told me how the Jews in America are given a free trip to Israel for ten days if they are in college which sounded really awesome. He said it was amazing and now I really would love to go there too! It’s been so great meeting new people and being able to keep in touch with them through facebook.

After watching the sunrise we went to sleep, knowing we were going to wake up early again and go back to the beach. Nicos made us breakfast in the morning which was really delicious. I haven’t been able to have my regular egg and cheese sandwich in SO long that this was a God-sent. The coffee is outstanding over here… I believe they use Lavazz which is a bit stronger and it looks like there is mud at the bottom of the cup but it’s actually the best part. I could drink endless amounts of this coffee. After breakfast me and Jordan rode the ATV all over trying to find a place that I could get my own. Since they were all sold out Jordan let me drive his around which was super fun. After a few hours of swimming and laying on the beautiful beach we decided to take a crazy ATV trip to the top of this mountain. The landscape here is very mountainous but not green like the other islands in Capri and Montenegro. The mountains are rocky, dusty, and dry. Half our group caught a ferry to Mykonos to check out the scene over there while the rest of us stayed in Ios and explored the rest of what it had to offer. The ATV journey up the mountain was crazy to say the least. The dirt trails were bumpy and really scary. I held onto Jordan with all my strength while admiring the incredible view up to the top. Sam almost crashed while going up the mountain so Claire refused to let her drive again. When we reached the top there were goats everywhere. These goats are the coolest goats ever…they all have bells around their necks and we watched them jump from rock to rock and graze along the side of the steep rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. The view was breath-taking. I felt like the water wasn’t even real because we were so high up. The rocks shimmered with gold and silver tints. We stayed up here for awhile, taking pictures and laughing about the crazy ride up. When we started to get hungry we headed back down. The way down we didn’t even need to use gas, we just rolled. We ate at a really unique Mexican restaurant on the opposite side of the mountain. There were hammocks and couches and pillows everywhere. It was a great little place on this tiny cliff. The service was really slow (island time I’m guessing) but the food was great and super satisfying.

After eating we slept… slept until Nicos prepared a huge BBQ for all the people staying at his hotel. Since Sam and I are vegetarians we just had salad but everyone else was loving it. There was all types of meat – chicken, pork, steak….prepared in all different ways. It was really cool eating with the other people staying because we got to know them all and they hung out with us all night. All of them were Australian and all of them were a great time. The night consisted of more dancing (I feel like I’m going to go through dancing withdrawal when I come back to America…dancing has become apart of my everyday life. Maybe I’ll join a dance team at school! Haha). It seemed like everyone on the street that night recognized me or knew me from the night before. Maybe the island is that small but I already felt like some kind of local. Everywhere I went someone shouted my name and we ended up having conversation after conversation. It was so awesome! Later in the night Sam took quite a topple and fell from a ledge about 8ft high. She wasn’t drunk or out of control…her foot just slipped and down she went. It was terrible, we all felt so bad. Thankfully she didn’t hit her head or else this would have been a complete disaster. She somehow happened to land on her feet and just hurt her foot. After a few days of rest, ice, and crutches it seems to be healing quite well and were hoping she will do fine tomorrow in Istanbul.

We caught the ferry back to Athens early the next morning and got home around 3pm. That night we explored a bit of Athens nightlife which is fun if you don’t go into the bars or clubs. It’s super crowded, the streets are filled with people everywhere and the bars are too expensive to even step foot into. Jordan, Claire, and I opted to sit in the bar and people watch while everyone else spent sweet euro in some fancy shmancy bar. It was hilarious in the park. We watched people making fools of themselves in the street and talked for hours. This eleven year old girl, Denize, was selling glow sticks on the street and I had seen her all night and wondered why she was doing such a thing. There are gypsies everywhere trying to sell you stuff but when I see kids doing it, it makes me super sad. It’s so late at night, this girl should have been in bed and instead she’s out till 5 in the morning selling glow sticks? It’s so wrong. I ended up sitting with her for a long time and pouring my heart out to her. I bought her an ice cream cone and sat in the park for probably an hour just trying to tell her she shouldn’t be doing this. She ended up telling me how her brother makes her do it every night. It broke my heart so bad. I wanted to take her on the ship with me. At the end of me pouring my heart out she asked me for 5euros. I said no, I knew it wasn’t for her, and she skipped away. Around 2pm we went to this gay bar to see what it was like. It turned out to be really awesome and I didn’t really expect it to be at first. It was such a relief to not have to push grimy men off of me and just be able to dance and have fun. It was hilarious to watch some of our guy friends, who are not gay, dance in cages and on stage. The guys were all very friendly and super sweet. Non of them creeped us out like in other clubs we’ve been too and all of them didn’t stare and watch us girls dance! It was great!

The next morning we shopped in the flea markets in Athens before dock time at 6pm. I got a pair of sandals so I don’t have to wear Lacey’s anymore that she left me in Rome with and they are beautiful handmade Greek leather. I sent out about 15 postcards and we headed back to the ship to get dinner.

Today was Turkey Day on the ship where we had numerous lectures and movies shown about Turkey. I just got in from watching Midnight Express and it was quite the crazy movie. I have never seen it before but it reminded me of Brokedown Palace but for men. Really intense film. We’re all trying to get a good nights sleep so we can wake up at 630am and watch us pull into port because it’s supposed to be really something. I’m super excited for Turkey, this is going to be a whole different kind of country. We’ve been in places that are pretty relaxed with Americans and women but here is going to be a whole different story. We had a whole talk about how we need to dress, act, barter, etc. I’m looking forward to really embracing the culture and taking it all in. I’m even going to get a Turkish bath – I heard you can’t leave with getting one! It may be a bit awkward having someone wash me but they say it leaves you feeling incredible! Alright, well I hope everyone back home is doing well… I’m hoping the postcards I sent out in Rome and Naples have gotten to all of you by now! The ones from Greece should be on their way!

Sending all my love back to the states !

The Magic of Montenegro

Port after port I write about how much I have loved each one of the countries. Each has been a completely new and fun experience but NOTHING comes close to the magic of Montenegro.

We docked in Dubrovnik, Croatia and already knew this was going to be the paradise port. Dubrovnik is beautiful. A huge wall surrounds the whole Old Town where people sell art work and play music. The stone architecture is captivating, castles popping up on every corner with a breath-taking view of the clearest blue Mediterranean water. We walked through the Old Town and went to the beach early the first morning. We rented a cabana for the day and had a blast swimming and snorkeling. At night we went to Fuego, the biggest club in Dubrovnik, and danced till morning once again. Fuego had an awesome energy about it, everyone was up on platforms dancing and laughing. The roof top had an awesome little terrace where the trees were incorporated into the building so we could sit on the branches and climb while taking a breather from the dance floor.

The next morning, after two hours of sleep, we woke up and headed to the bus terminal to get the first one to Montenegro. We made arrangements to stay at this hostel called Saki when we got there and the whole plan had such positive vibes from it that I knew this was going to be spectacular…and it certainly was. The bus ride was the most beautiful drive ever. Four hours of mountain tops and coastlines. Some thought different, the little sleep and excessive dancing isn’t for everyone and the curvy crazy roads weren’t the best mixture. It was probably one of the scariest rides, the drivers don’t follow any kind of rules here – its all up in the air and when your going 75 around mountain top corners and looking down at a drop of hundreds of feet into the rocky water. Crossing the border into Montenegro from Croatia was really interesting – even more interesting on the way home though. They stopped, took our passports and made us sweat on the crowded bus for a good 30 minutes then allowed us to pass. The way home was much different.

As we got more and more into Montenegro it was very obvious that everyone was in shock with the beauty of this place. This is not like the beauty I have spoke about before – this is the most unbelievable place I have ever seen. It is a fantasy of a country…straight out of a fairy tale. Driving on the Bay of Kotor was my favorite. Imagine mountains, huge black mountains (hence the name Montenegro – Black Mountains), surrounding the quaintest little towns. An island in the middle of the bay has a small church where people drive their boats to every Sunday. The mountain landscape goes on forever and the crystal clear water is just amazing. Thanks to the Costa Del Mar sunglasses Albie got me for my birthday I could see fish everywhere from the bus. There are no words to fully describe the beauty of this place. I could write and write and write and it would never give it any justice. This is probably why Montenegro is the “jem of the world” and the “worlds best kept secret”.

We stayed about 45 minutes from the beautiful Bay of Kotor in Budva, Montenegro. The Saki Hostel was by far the best hostel in the world. Saki and his family (his wonderful mother, wife, children, and brothers) greeted us with two bottles of the countries famous liquor, cookies, and fresh cut watermelon. The liquor comes in clear bottle with a pear in the middle. I was very curious about how the pear got inside the bottle and asked Saki about it… his first answer was magic. I was totally down for magic but then he explained the real process. When the pear trees begin to bud the person who makes it will put bottles on the tiny sprouts and the pear grows inside the bottle! I thought that was so cool! The hostel costed 8euro a night… ONLY EIGHT EUROS. I have never experienced this much hospitality in my life. I could pay for the best suite in the most expensive hotel and not get half of what Saki did for us. They sat with us and laughed with us from morning till….morning again! We definitely didn’t get much sleep but Saki kept us going. They made sure we stayed fed and had everything we needed. They called cabs when we needed them, made us breakfast for 3euro, dinner for 3euro…these dinners were LAVISH. Huge family style dinners and breakfasts. He made all fifteen of us feel like his own children. His children were a great time too. We played soccer and had water gun fights with them in the street in the afternoons. Saki’s brother even let me hold his new little baby girl, Teah. Gabby and Alex both celebrated their birthdays the two days in Montenegro which made it really awesome too. Saki went out and bought all kinds of cake and a few bottles of wine for us to toast and sing happy birthday. The man is wonderful – he is the most generous and loving individual I have ever come across.

Our first day we went to the beach and relaxed a bit after a long bus ride and no sleep the night before. That night we had a wonderful dinner at Saki’s of traditional Montenegran food and went to the Old Town (there is an Old Town everywhere it seems like, ahah) to celebrate our girls birthdays. We ended up at Raphaelo where Carter got Gabby and flaming bottle of vodka and we sang again, of course. We danced until the bar closed (2am) and were not ready to call it a night. We waved down a taxi and told him to take us to a place where we could dance. He knew exactly where we should go and proceeded to take us up to the top of the mountain where we could already see the beams of light shooting out into the sky. This club was insane. It was the size of a stadium. We stayed there all night then headed back to Saki as the sun was rising.

The next morning we headed to the Old Town, once again, and posted up at the beach. We did some shopping on the strip because the prices are incredibly cheap. The girls got big floppy hats and the boys went and got the traditional, super short and tight, bathing suits. We figured this was the best way to not stand out as Americans…but I think it just drew even more attention, in a funny way. I got a really sweet hair wrap done and while the lady was doing it something happened where she had to get off the main strip. So in a panicked rush, me, her, and her little girl start grabbing the jewelry she was selling and all the hair wrap supplies and running down an alleyway. A little down the road, behind a little shed the women finished my hair wrap then gave me a bunch of free, really beautiful, handmade wire jewelry! I don’t know what exactly happened or why she couldn’t be there but it was a really fun experience and it paid off in the end! I headed back to the beach and swam around for a good bit of time, admiring the mountainous landscape and looking at the clear blue sky. I felt like I was swimming in a paint…or the most perfect post card. I tried to stay in that moment, soak up every feeling, appreciate every bit of it’s beauty. I never want to forget that place in my mind.

That night I got to skype with my brother and Gabby which was really great because I haven’t seen anyone face-to-face in so long and it felt good to talk to a familiar face from home. After I chatted with them I immediately hit up Lacey so that I could talk to her too. Her swollen face was so cute…I like her better without her wisdom teeth, hahahaha, sorry Lace. Around 1:00 am we got some taxi’s and went back to the mountain top club with our whole group of friends. We never stop, we danced till dawn. The pictures are amazing. The view from the club was just unbelievable. Everywhere you are in Montenegro must be beautiful. The country is flawless. The people are generous, loving, happy and giving. The program I talked about creating in an earlier post would be perfect in this location. Mountains and sea – the two most wonderful areas for recovery. Nature is the ultimate healing and Montenegro brings both of them into perspective.

After we left the club we immediately gathered our belongings and Saki packed us into his hummer and 3 others cars and drove us all the way back to Dubrovnik. Imagine that – our hostel owner took us 4 hours back to our ship…in a HUMMER! We looked so cool coming out of that. One problem coming back was our one friend, Omar, was held at the border coming back into Croatia. The country would not allow him to come back in because he has a passport from Lebanon. After fifteen of us showed our semester at sea ID cards and explained our situation they still would not allow it…just because he is of Arab decent. It was the most eye-opening situation of my life. Omar is a great friend and person in general and because of his nationality he is constantly scrutinized and judged by others. Every time he travels he is pulled aside and questioned. I never experienced this first hand before and now that I have I see it in a whole different light. Someone’s nationality should not be their identity. Before this trip I have to admit I have judged people of different nationalities before and never really thought twice about it, especially after 9-11 but now, going through this, I have realized that just because someone is Arab doesn’t mean they are any different from you or me. Omar is one of my best friends here and definitely one of the most fun to be around…his ethnicity doesn’t make me think twice about being friends with him – why should it make others think twice about letting him travel back to our school ship with 15 other Americans pleading his case?

All in all, this last port was the most incredible so far. I hope to live in Montenegro at some point in my life. I hope everyone gets to see it one day before the Russians come in and take it over (which is starting to happen…which we learned from a really nice Serbian man on the beach). Montenegro is of crucial location and many surrounding countries want to control it. I hope none of them do because it’s beauty needs to remain untouched. Bottom line – on your next vacation go to Montenegro. It is worth every penny.

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