Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 31- Mykonos to Pireaus, Greece

This morning I woke up before everyone else and sat serenely by the pool and watched the sun rise higher over the waters around Mykonos. I woke everyone up by playing the theme song from The Lion King excessively loud. We packed up, paid, and jumped on the bus to the ferry port. We took the ferry back to Pireaus with few incidents other than Tyler losing his backpack. That whole saga is a story for another day. Just know that Tyler is a Marine and he might have had too much to drink.


When we returned to Pireaus our group parted ways to do some last minute shopping. The girls got a late lunch and looked in some shops. We returned to the port to a long line at the gangway. We had to form two lines for those with bags and those without. I think the wait time was about half an hour because everyone was coming back from overnights with huge bags. When I finally returned to the ship I had to study for an ethnomusicology exam so there was little time to catch up with everyone. I hope this test goes well, I don’t really know what to expect. If anyone wants to know about the musical significance of the Quran or a bamboo and silk ensemble, just email me.


+ + +

Tyler found his backpack and made it back to the ship.


- - -

We had to delay our departure from Greece because 40 students and 2 professors did not make it back from Santorini because of a ferry strike, or something of that sort. Funny how the rules change when professors are involved. If it was only students they would be finding their own way to Istanbul.


Day 30- Mykonos, Greece

Today we woke up around noon when Anna, Meredith and Spencer came by to say they were heading back to Pireaus. We dressed and went down to the beach and swam for a little until it was lunch time. The girls went to a restaurant on the beach where I had souvlaki (sp?) which was essentially just grilled chicken. We had a great time without the boys and shared all kinds of silly stories. Around the time we finished talking about embarrassing farts and moved on to peeing in the pants stories a man at the table next to us turned around and said, “So which one of you peed in their pants?” We laughed so hard because we had forgotten that people around us may understand or even speak English too! That is something we will definitely need to remember in the future!


The rest of the afternoon was spent laying by the pool at our campgrounds where there were beanbags and a dj playing all sorts of house/techno music. We showered in the communal bath house and got ready for a night on the town. The city bus picked us up at the campgrounds and took us into the main part of town. We walked around trying to find a neat restaurant and found the most amazing sunset on the water’s edge. The restaurant nearby had tables outside so we had dinner as the sun was setting, watching for the green flash that supposedly happens when the sun goes below the water on the horizon. There was no flash to be seen but my lamb was very tasty.


After dinner we got some champagne and drank it by the harbor watching the families pass by with their children. It is very different but pleasant to see families out every evening just enjoying each other’s company. I don’t think families at home spend time together like that, at least not out in public as often as I have noticed here. The parents seem very involved, playing at the child’s level, not talking to the other parents while the children play elsewhere. Once the champagne was gone we headed to the famous “Skandinavian Bar” with the free entrance cards we had received on the street. Once there we enjoyed some mojitos and Mythos with a huge crowd. The bartenders were passing out Skandinavian Bar shirts and we all wanted one. Not everyone could have one so the bartender cut up some straws and said whoever got the short one could have the shirt. Sam cheated and saw ahead of time which one was short so she won. (I don’t mind because later we realized the shirts are too tiny and awkward.) At one point in time this small boy came in and started dancing near us. He was a really good dancer and we thought it was random and funny so I started dancing with him. We had ourselves a little dance off before the bartender took him aside and was arguing with him. That was when we realized the children who had gathered there were trying to get money from us. They were selling glow bracelets for a Euro. I bought one because I felt terrible that they had to practically beg for money that way. I think there is a good video of the dance off if anyone is lucky enough to see it someday. We hopped on the last bus back to the campgrounds and fell back into our tiny beds totally exhausted.


+ + +

The sunset I saw tonight was the prettiest thing I have ever seen. I have a post card from Mykonos that I received more than two years ago that I found the other day. Looking at the picture I can point to the exact spot where we sat tonight and had our champagne. We toasted to Greece and our very memorable summer.


- - -

The men next to us at lunch might have heard about every embarrassing moment of my entire life.


Day 38- At Sea

We have another random one day at sea and class before we get to Bulgaria. Nothing special about that except my music paper that is due. I think I did a good job and I went over it with the professor so it should be ok. Additionally, tonight I had a Mystery Dinner Date with a child on the ship. I was assigned to Rebecca who is 14 years old and is on her second SAS voyage. We sat and talked for over 2 hours about teenager stuff. It was very entertaining, especially because she is going into high school like Andrew. Good thing Andrew is her age so I know what those young kids are up to these days.


+ + +

I had a lovely dinner with Rebecca.


- - -

Global Studies was super boring today. Unnecessary information was taught for over an hour.


Day 37- Istanbul, Turkey

I volunteered to go with Andrew to the Grand Bazaar today since he was in Troy when we went the other day. We headed out at about 10 am and made it to the Bazaar by 11am. Our first mission was to find a necklace for his mom. We looked at all sorts of things in the jewelry section of the bazaar which is pretty overwhelming. He finally settled on a silver long necklace with an intricate design. I let him haggle with the salesman as I am not very good at that. Next we looked for a lamp that he wanted. We found one of the hundreds of shops that sells handmade lamps and took a look inside. I helped him pick out a really pretty golden lamp that he plans on hanging in his new apartment. The salesman there was trying to get me to buy something but I didn’t need a lamp so I asked him where to look for musical instruments. He linked arms with me and took off quickly through the shops to his friend who sells all sorts of instruments.


We hung out and talked to the shopkeeper in the music shop for almost an hour. Andrew ended up buying a professional kemençe. We had no idea what it was called until we asked the man to write it down. It’s sort of like a violin but you play it upright with a special bow and it only has three strings. It’s really interesting and I can’t wait to see if Andrew and figure out how to play it. (He’s a composition major) After some more browsing we stopped for lunch at the Fes Café where I had an awesome chicken sandwich and we discussed That 70’s Show. (I hope you all get the connection.) We met up with some other SAS kids and made some more purchases before heading to the Spice Market. We browsed and tasted several Turkish Delights. I ran into the man from the market yesterday who was my friend. He offered a sample and I told him I was allergic and he finally remembered me. He laughed so hard and patted my head. I kept my promise and bought some spices from him.


Istanbul is an amazing city and I would definitely return sometime. It is beautiful and interesting; there is always something to discover here. It is surprisingly easy to navigate and I feel like I was astounded by something every time I turned the corner.


+ + +

I had a musical “experience” to write about for my ethnomusicology paper that is due tomorrow.


- - -

We left Istanbul…


Day 29- Pireaus to Mykonos, Greece

Today a group of us signed up to see the Acropolis and National Archeological Museum with SAS. Our trip left at 8 am and took us in a bus to the Acropolis. We walked up part of the hill/mountain to the main gate and got our tickets from the tour guide. At the top of some slippery steps was the Parthenon. It is currently being restored so there is scaffolding all over it and you can’t get very close but it is still magnificent. We walked all around the Parthenon and learned about its history as a temple to Athena. Parthenon is Greek for “virgin” and the building was constructed between 447 BC and 432 BC. There once was a giant golden statue of Athena in the center of the temple. From the Acropolis, the highest point in the city, you can see for miles and miles, just green hills, houses, and other ruins of temples to Greek gods. For example, the Temple of Zeus. It once had 104 columns but now only has 16.


After the Acropolis we went to the Archeological Museum and saw the mask of Agamemnon. For anyone who took Mrs. Hungerford’s English class we all know about that. It was pretty cool to finally see it in person. For lunch we went to the Plaka which is a market area near the Temple of Zeus. I had a lamp gyro which was fantastic. Once we made it back to the ship we grabbed our bags and headed to the ferry to catch a ride to Mykonos for the next few days. The ferry ride over is about 4 hours but it has airplane seats with a snack bar and gift shop. There are also tvs which play weird shows like Baywatch re-runs. There is a rumor going around that 65% of the SAS kids are going to Mykonos and from looking around the ferry, it might be true.


Once we arrived in Mykonos we took a bus to our lodgings which are called Mykonos Camping. We have a bungalow which is not more than some cement walls with bamboo for a roof and 5 camping cots. There are seven of us staying there. Math is not our strong suit. After cleaning up and getting dressed we headed out for the supposedly short walk to Paradise beach to hit up the club that was celebrating its 5th anniversary with some DJs from Australia. We enjoyed music and dancing until about 3 am and then found some gyros at a 24 hour snack place across the street. After a long walk back that included getting REALLY lost, we watched the sun rise from the beach at our campsite. We found some of our friends in our bungalow, they had crawled in through the window because I still had the key. I think Mykonos is going to be a memorable experience, no doubt about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 28- Pireaus, Greece

After our diplomatic briefing we headed out in Piraeus to find the train station to make our way to Athens. It was quite a walk, especially since we only had a vague idea of where the metro was supposed to be. As a side note I still get thrown off calling trains etc. the “metro” since our public bus system at home is called the Metro, but anyway…Our first stop was about 30 minutes down the line to what was labeled as the Olympic Stadium. What we found there was an amazingly huge but completely desolated group of stadiums. There were no tourists around but we saw a group of kids who were part of a day care that had set up shop there. It was kind of eerie and it was strange that you can’t go into any of the buildings. All the windows are blacked out so you can’t see anything.  


Since that was kind of a disappointment we got back on the train and went to the area that has a market near the Acropolis. We got lunch at a place called OQANASHS or Thanasis. I had a mystery meat “kebap” which was great with tomatoes and fries. After lunch we wandered through the shops and looked at all the Greek goods. Most shops had the same tourist souvenirs; replicas of ancient vases, evil eye jewelry, worry beads, sandals, and ouzo. We made some purchases then headed back to Piraeus to shower before going out to celebrate Julie’s birthday.


Back in Athens we had dinner at a place called MUOSES KAFE. I have no idea what it means but the food was great. I had a real Greek salad which actually does not have lettuce or dressing like they do at home. It was made of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and olives with oil and vinegar if you wanted. I have developed a liking for tomatoes and cumbers which I didn’t like at all before this trip. I also ate feta cheese and almost liked it! After dinner we wandered around looking for a place to party it up for Julie’s 21st. (Which was actually yesterday, the 12th) We found a small bar/restaurant/lounge where we were the only people. All 14 of us celebrated with tequila shots and ouzo till about midnight when we had to catch the last train back to Piraeus. Fun was had by all.


+ + +

I got to take a photo with the owner of the restaurant at dinner.


- - -

Julie didn’t get to dance on the bar for her birthday.


Lopud, Croatia


Day 27- Sea Olympics

I got up and was in the pool at 9 am to practice for the synchronized swimming competition. I ended up making up our routine from my little experience at camp. I don’t think it will be nearly as funny as some other groups but we will get full credit for the technical aspects for sure! After lunch we had opening ceremonies of the Sea Olympics in the Union. After each team presented their banner and cheer the competitions commenced. First up was synchronized swimming in the pool and Pictionary in the Union. (I had to drop out of Pictionary L ) I headed out to the pool and explained out routine to the two people who didn’t make it to practice in the morning. Some of the other routines were so funny I almost peed in my pants. Jon’s group was 4 boys and they danced/swam to the “Thong Song” with thongs drawn on their backs with marker. It was fairly disturbing but thoroughly entertaining. Other performances included boys in bikini tops, boys in speedos, and one of the IT guys being carried above everyone’s head on a raft. Our group was less entertaining but at least we made it through without embarrassing ourselves. Next I watched lip synching which was a great exhibition of the talent on our ship. There was a great Tina Turner minus the hair. The scariest was a boy named Eric who had a weave and a dress with the top stuffed. He sang an inappropriate song complete with hand gestures and facial expressions. He got a high score from one judge provided that he never did that again.


My next event was the relay race which was more complicated than any relay I’ve done before. Leg one was egg on a spoon, second was three legged race, then rock paper scissors against the judge, then a Sudoku puzzle. Next was wheelbarrow (I was the wheelbarrow) and then orange-under-the-chin pass. Last was a mystery task which ended up being a map that needed to be labeled with all the ports within a half inch. I watched some of the Academic Bowl, Jeopardy style, and learned all about Thurgood Marshall and Michael Jackson.


Dinner was another BBQ which was when I picked up a date. Jon babysits a dependent named Ryder who just turned three. Ryder is attached to Jon more than I’ve ever seen a little kid be attached to someone. So Ryder came and had dinner with us on the 6th deck. Since Jon was carrying Ryder I had to carry their plates for them and ended up cutting up their food for them. I had to trick Ryder into trying a little bit of everything and make sure there any seeds in the orange segments. I made us all ice cream sundaes with sprinkles for dessert. After eating, the three of us went up to the sports court to have a race. Ryder claims that he is faster than me because he runs as fast as a whale swims. I think I lost every race.


After dinner we went to the closing ceremonies and it was announced that the Yellow Sea won. That means they get to get off the ship first when we arrive in Norfolk. I think our sea was third to last but everyone had a good time anyway.


+ + +

Our team, the Bering Sea, won the relay race, but very little else.


- - -

I saw too much drag today; entertaining, but scary.


Day 26- At Sea

We have one day of class while at sea before we reach Greece because tomorrow we have the day off for Sea Olympics! However, it is a pretty busy day. And before I forget, HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY ANNA-BEAR! There isn’t much of anything interesting going on other than preparations for Greece in a few days.


+ + +

We don’t have class tomorrow!


- - -

I had something in my teeth for a long time today and no one told me.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 25- Dubrovnik and Lokrum, Croatia

I met up with our group to go kayaking around 8am. I only knew a few people going so I met a bunch of new people. The videographer asked if she could follow us to the bus station to get some footage of students traveling independently in port. We said sure, thinking it would be an interesting experience. Since none of us really knew each other it was kind of hard to find the bus stop, find out which bus to take, and which stop to get off at. I think it took about 45 minutes to figure it all out but the lady said she got some good footage. She said the bus door closed in a girls face and she will put that shot in the video at the end of the voyage but I didn’t actually see it happen. I need to make a note to look out for that part!


After finally finding the beach (the same one we took the children to from the orphanage) we got some quick instructions from Marco, our guide for the day. We were the only people he was taking on this excursion so it was nice to only be with my friends. We jumped into our kayaks quickly and headed out across the sea. Sheryl-Ann and I were the only ones who decided to do a tandem kayak (is that what a two-person is called?). It took us a little while to get synchronized but we got a good rhythm going eventually. We went around the side of the island, Lokrum, and pulled up among some rocks to get out and walk around. We followed our guide to a restaurant and got some snacks to refuel for the trip back. After a quick dip in the water we were back in the kayaks and heading back to the beach. Total time in the boat was about three hours, longer than I have ever had to paddle any type of watercraft! It was quite a workout but definitely worth it for the views and the company. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to life my arms tomorrow since I am a weakling.


After kayaking we headed back to the ship and grabbed our extra kuna. (Kuna is the currency in Croatia, 1 USD = ~5 Kuna) Jon and I hit up the grocery store to get some snacks. I ended up with some chocolate and some hand soap. (There is only bar soap in our rooms for the sink, and I don’t like that) Back on the ship we showered up for dinner and watched the sunset on the back deck. We were supposed to leave for Greece tonight but departure has been postponed till early in the morning. Rumor is the captain (Roman Cristonavich (sp?) is from Dubrovnik) wanted to spend an extra night at home. His family is joining us for the rest of the voyage.


We saw nude cliff jumping during our kayaking today so here is some information I found on such activities:


Croatia was the first country in Europe to start with the concept of commercial naturist resorts. It is estimated that about 15% of all tourists that visit the country are naturists or nudists (more than one million each year). There are more than 20 official naturist resorts as well as a very large number of the so-called “free beaches” which are unofficial naturist beaches, sometimes controlled and maintained by local tourist authorities. You are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centers.


+ + +

I discovered that I am rocking the flip flop tan. Better that than no tan at all!


- - -

My nail polish has lost its color, probably due to the salt water. It looks nasty.


Day 24- Dubrovnik, Lopud etc. Croatia

 I started this morning with absolutely no plans for the day. I had no idea what to do in Dubrovnik but go to the beach so I met up with some new friends and headed out. Whitney, Amanda, Jon and I had heard of an island named Lokrum that we could get to by ferry from Old Town. We walked to where we thought the ferry would be and encountered several stands where people were advertising boat tours. No one was really interested at first but we walked over just to see what kinds of things they were offering. One man told us about going to three different islands and hanging out on the beaches. He said that one beach on Lopud was especially good for children and pointed to Amanda. She shot him a death glare and he quickly caught on that she was not a child. He tried to cover it up by saying that it makes you feel like a child again but the damage was already done. To make amends he gave us a family rate for the whole trip. Jon and Whitney were the parents and Amanda and I were the children. We spent about $35 USD for three islands, lunch, and unlimited drinks. There is no way we could get a better deal than that anywhere!


So we went on this little wooden boat that had a roof with a picnic table. A young boy served us drinks and we set off for our first island. It was a small island with a little beach and some shops. We spent about 40 minutes hanging out on the beach and testing out the water. There was a good deal of nudity there, mostly from some Spanish girls on our tour. After the first island we got back on the boat and had lunch. Amanda and I had chicken which was amazing with tomatoes and homemade bread. Jon had fish that came with the head, tail, and skin still on it. He was not as proficient at eating it as the British girls next to us. They threw their fish remains to the seaguls as the boat was still going and the seaguls tried to attack us. Whitney had a vegetarian dish with something that resembled eggplant but we aren’t sure. At the second island we couldn’t find a beach nearby so we took a stroll down a side street. We saw a ton of wild flowers, grapes, and a few farm animals. We spent some time sitting by the harbor and taking in the scenery. Our last island was a little bit bigger than the other two. We took a twenty minute walk to the other side of the island to what was called the most beautiful beach in Croatia. It was mostly rocks and set up with some restaurants and cabanas. Most of our time there was spent floating in the water or laying in the sun. We also spent a lot of time avoiding looking at the naked men who were frolicking on the beach and jumping off the boats.


After a brisk walk back to the harbor we grabbed some gelato and looked in some tourist shops. We had a nice boat ride back to Dubrovnik just in time to walk back to the ship for dinner. I spent the evening sitting in the park across from the port and talking to people. I tried to play Frisbee but as most people know I can’t throw a Frisbee to save my life. I called it a night earlier than the others to rest up for my kayaking trip tomorrow.


+ + +

I had a really good time traveling with new people today. It was nice to take it easy and just relax. It was a good experience branching out because everyone has a different traveling style and our group worked really well together.

- - -

I got an awkward burn on my back today. Just a stripe down the middle. But its only pink, not red, so I should be fine.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 23- Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sam and I had planned to jump on a service trip this morning but she was too sleepy and didn’t wake up when I was saying her name one foot away from her face. So I went outside and got a ticket last minute by myself. But not really by myself because coincidentally Sam’s roommate was on the trip as well. Our first stop was an orphanage nearby. We listened to the manager of the orphanage talk about their work and the children who are there. There are currently 14 children in the home but some of them, or rather most of them, are not orphans. They have been placed there by social services or their parents are drug addicts or something of that nature. Sometimes the parents come to visit the children or they go visit relatives during the summer. The whole thing is financed by the local government but their finances are still not adequate for the work they do. Their house is in desperate need of repairs but they do not have the money to do them all.


We brought toys, games, and treats for the children who were there and spent a couple hours playing with them. We played with bubbles until the youngest started crying because she was scared. It was so sad to realize she had never seen bubbles before. Once she got used to them it was a lot of fun watching her chase them around. We also had sidewalk chalk, beach balls, coloring books, silly putty, jelly beans, and pixie sticks to give out to the children. After playing around their patio that looks over the ocean we headed down to the beach. Most of us didn’t have bathing suits so we couldn’t swim but we watched the children play in the water. They were having a great time and I wish I could have gotten in because it was so hot sitting on the rocks. I played cards with two of the children instead. We were playing a game that the little boy was making up as he went but it was something like gin rummy I think. It was hard to catch on because we didn’t speak the same language but I just copied what he did. The first round we all won at the same time and the second hand I lost miserably. It was still exciting though and it was nice to interact with children as it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do that.


After a sad goodbye we headed to the Pediatric department at the local hospital. Our group was rather large so we split into two groups for the tour. The first group went while the other group waited in the lobby. After a while it was our turn to tour the pediatric wing. There are only about 20 beds in the wing and currently about 5 of them were being used. We talked to the head doctor in the department who told us way too much information to absorb in the short amount of time we had. We were running out of time so we didn’t get to interact with any children there, which was unfortunate. The group rushed back to the port to jump on the tender boat back to the ship. (We are not currently alongside the port so we have to take a tender boat about 20 minutes out to the water to get back on the ship) After a rushed  lunch and a quick nap I met up with Jon, Logan, and Julie to head out to Old Town. We met up with Erik, Andrew, Spencer, Sam, Courtney, Shane, Meredith, Anna, Lauren, and Greer. We had dinner at Taj Mahal which is a neat Bosnian restaurant down a side street. The only way we found this place was from asking our inter-port student what places he recommended. I ordered Cevapi (CEV-AH-pee) which is seasoned minced meat shaped in finger-sized portions served in bread with onions and some type of cheese spread. It was amazing but I heard that the second time you try it is not as great.


Some of us grabbed a gelato after dinner and then headed to the cliff bar to enjoy a “rum-refresher” which ended up being a bottled Bacardi drink. Mine was grapefruit and very tasty. The cliff bar (we don’t know the real name) is situated on the outside of the city walls (Dubrovnik is totally surrounded by high stone walls) but you climb through the wall to get to it. There are different levels to sit on and watch the waves. There is also a ledge to jump off into the water below. They were playing Frank Sinatra and the place was only lit by candle light. We all agreed that it was very romantic and felt like something out of a movie. Julie asked me to be her boyfriend for the night so I used Erik’s smooth move to put my arm around her shoulders. It involves locking your fingers together and moving your arms in a wave motion. Then a little robotic motion to swing your arm around the person’s shoulders. Very suave I think. (not really)


We had a lovely walk home in the warm weather and ended the night early to prepare for our adventures tomorrow.


+ + +

Cevapi was awesome and the first truly exotic thing I have tried so far. It’s not really exotic but it’s the most foreign dish I have tried.

- - -

At the hospital I saw a lady wearing a see-through white tank top. Without a bra on. She was not in good shape physically. It was a really unfortunate event.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 22- Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia had me completely astounded this morning with how beautiful it is. I had no idea what to expect but the area is amazing. It’s a really nice change from Naples and its gloomy industrial scenery. Dubrovnik is green and hilly with tons of flowers. All the buildings are white with terra cotta roofs. The harbor is full of yachts and small fishing boats. We started the morning by taking a walk around town. Andrew took the lead and decided he wouldn’t tell us where we were going until we got there. We walked for about fifteen minutes and then we came to an amazing view of the surrounding islands and the beach from the edge of a cliff. Andrew said he didn’t know what exactly we were looking for but he knew there would be something awesome there. And he was totally right. We went down some stairs and found some SAS kids cliff jumping. Erik and Shane immediately joined in but the rest of us were too scared or didn’t have a bathing suit on. Eventually Julie and I decided to try it, even though I stood on the edge for 20 minutes debating whether or not to jump. It was only about 30 feet high so it wasn’t that scary once I went the first time. It was so much fun and the water felt amazing. Again the salt film after swimming is less than pleasant but totally worth it.


After our mini adventure we hustled back to the ship to change into clean clothes for an FDP. (Field Directed Practica) I was signed up to go to a nearby village for a folk show as part of my ethnomusicology class. The field trip sounded pretty lame especially because we watched a clip of traditional Croatian folk music in class. I thought it would be people in costumes dancing and singing while the audience just sat around. I could not have been more wrong about this experience. We first drove across an amazing bridge in Dubrovnik which everyone should look up because I cannot for the life of me figure out how it stays up. Then we went to the village where we got a tour of their church and walked down the gravel road to a house. The guide told us about every plant we passed; what it was called, what it was used for, what animals ate it, etc. etc.


Once we arrived at the house we were greeted by the man of the house who was dressed in traditional costume. His wife and daughters gave us each a small glass of clear liquid and a dried fig. The liquid ended up being homemade brandy which was so strong it could be used to perform surgery. We got to listen to a traditional instrument which is like a small mandolin. The ladies tried to get everyone to dance but not many people had enough homemade wine to perform quite yet. Then we had a traditional appetizer of bacon, cheese, and bread which we could put on a stick over the fire to cook the bacon. It was very tasty but made the patio fairly smoky. After some more mingling and snacking we went downstairs and had dinner in what looked like a cave. (It wasn’t because it was built under their house) We had chicken, some other meat, homemade bread, potatoes, and another vegetable that was unidentifiable. Everything was very tasty and very unique being made in someone’s own home. We enjoyed more music from two men playing an accordion and a guitar. They played some Croatian folk songs as well as some older American songs that I only knew the chorus to. Some of the students got fairly drunk by downing the wine like they had just run a marathon. I thought it was pretty disrespectful but they were also a little bit funny. (Mostly just the gay guy who is very flamboyant) We made it back to Dubrovnik and the port in the evening just in time to change clothes to go out for the night. Sam, Logan and I met up with the rest of the group at the park and eventually made it to Old Town where there was a huge bash at EastWest, a club on the beach. Our big group of about 30 ended up breaking down and I grouped up with Dan, Calvin, Craig, and two girls from South Carolina. We went to the club but it was way too crowded. The drinks were $$$ and it was super hot. SAS people were all over the place, even dancing on the tables. We headed to the Irish Pub down the street that looked tamer to us. Later in the night I met up with Erik, Anna, and Andrew to walk back to the ship. It was a late night but a good experience in Croatia. The city is very clean, very safe, and very easy to navigate. I think we will enjoy the rest of our time here for sure.


+ + +

Croatia so far has been full of surprises. It has exceeded my expectations in every way. I originally thought Croatia was a place that was random and going to be really hard to find something to do. I was so wrong and could not be happier about it!


- - -

Homemade brandy sounds like a good cultural experience, but it’s definitely one to pass on. It’s like drinking pure alcohol.

Day 21- At Sea, Pre-port Croatia

Today was a busy day with a paper due, a presentation to give, and a new port to prepare for. We also got our Global Studies scores back today. I was less than impressed with my paper grade but my test was good. Jay and I are going to talk to the TA because we know Vandy kids write better than the grade they gave us. That and a kid who read my paper said we chose the same examples and that he thought mine was good. He got a 99 and I didn’t, so I need to check up on that. Good thing I don’t get that credit transferred I guess. Early this morning, 7 am, we got an announcement in our room saying we were going through the Straits of Mycenae which is between the tip of Italy and Sicily. I didn’t go outside to look but it looked pretty neat out the window of my cabin.


Tonight in pre-port we were sitting next to a guy and his girlfriend who were on the floor. At first we noticed that the girl was buffing her boyfriend’s finger nails. That was pretty weird but we thought that she was just bossy. Well then she starts buffing his toe nails and now the situation turns from weird to gross. Then she starts digging on his toe nails which is making everyone want to gag. So Lance decides to say something to them and here is how it went:


Lance: “Hey man, I hear there is a great spa up on deck 7.”

Phil: “Don’t give her any ideas.”

Katie: “They’re all booked.”


+ + +

Our inter-port student told us all sorts of neat souvenirs to check out in Croatia.


- - -

I already dislike seeing people clip their fingernails but tonight’s experience was worse than anything I have ever seen.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 20- Capri, Italy

After our difficulty yesterday trying to get to Vesuvius I decided to go on a SAS trip instead of trying to figure out Capri on my own. I bought a ticket from Logan because she wanted to try to hike Vesuvius instead. I think going on that trip was the best idea I’ve had in Italy because it was AMAZING and the tour guide took us to some really neat places that we couldn’t have found alone. We started out taking a hydrofoil to the island of Capri. A hydrofoil (sp?) is a fast ship/boat/ferry type thing that has a ton of seats and also sells food and drinks, including beer. Once in Capri we boarded a bus and went up the mountains to Anacapri to see a breathtaking view. We saw some shops that made homemade perfume, soaps, candles, candies, chocolate, and lemoncello. We did a taste test for melon-cello and it was just ok. It was like being in a cloud at the top of Anacapri which is only reached by taking a rickety wooden chairlift. We saw gardens, homes, beaches, and cliffs. After Anacapri we went to lunch on the edge of a cliff and had homemade spaghetti, bread, chicken, and chocolate cake. Accompanied with some good white wine, of course.


After lunch we went to the town square and jumped on the tram back down to the harbor. There we got on a boat that took us around to the south end of the island and showed us all different caves and coral. We stopped off near some other boats and all got to jump into the water. Swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea was like swimming in pure salt. Even the biggest person in the world could float with how salty that water was. It was nice and refreshing but left a film on your skin. After a quick (40 minute) hydrofoil ride back to Naples we rushed to the ship to shower. It was sad to leave Capri because it was so beautiful and also because it means that we are leaving Italy for good. Hopefully you can see the photos of Capri that are attached because I decided I will either live their or go on my honeymoon there. I just have to find one of the movie stars with a house there to marry.


The fast paced traveling is catching up with me and I have a paper and a presentation for tomorrow so I think it needs to be an early night. The paper is for music and I think I did a good job but I have no idea what the professor is looking for. The presentation is for my education class and I am teaching a lesson on human capital. I think that should be easy peasy because I can handle talking in front of strangers pretty well.


+ + +

I finally got to go swimming in a foreign body of water since our trip started! That and we had a 5th of July BBQ which was AWESOME! Hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, salad, fruit, ice cream, and a giant flag shaped cake. You should be jealous.


- - -

I really can’t think of anything that wasn’t good about today! But yesterday I busted out the American flags I brought with me and no one wanted to be enthusiastic about it with me.



Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 19- Naples and Pompeii, Italy

Because I didn’t have any activities and most of my friends were signed up for an SAS trip, I ventured out with Dan, Calvin, and Shane (whose real name is Shannon I discovered) to find Mount Vesuvius. Armed with a map and some vague directions we headed toward the train station looking to hike up to this great volcano. We got the train station and found the ticket booth easily. The streets are not pretty here in Naples and the stench is pretty awful. So we got a ticket to Ercolano where we would then take the bus to the base of Vesuvius. So far this trip was pretty smooth and we made it to Ercolano easily. Once we were there we asked for directions to the bus station. We followed another vague gesture and asked many times along the way. Finally we found a man who spoke English in a barber shop. He told us to go to the main square and take a bus from there. So we found the main plaza and saw a bus stop but we didn’t know which bus to take or how far to take it. The list of stops was only a list of streets, not locations, so it was no help. We asked a taxi driver how much it would be to take us up but he was trying to rip us off and asked us to pay 60 Euros for four people. We weren’t even sure if we would be going to the right place because when we asked to go to Vesuvius no one was really sure what we were talking about. Instead we asked how to get to Pompei and then people started catching on.


We hopped back on the train and went a few stops further to Pompei. After wondering for a bit we found a travel agency and asked for directions to the ruins. It was nice to find someone who knew the town really well and also knew English. After a lunch of linguini and pesto we headed to the ruins. There is no information posted about what the ruins are or what used to be where so we just wandered around the town. We saw many interesting places and kept wondering aloud what life must have been like before the whole place was destroyed by the volcano. There are preserved bodies on display that shows how the people in Pompei must not have been prepared for the destruction and chaos.


Since we didn’t really know what we were looking at we tried to jump on a tour that was full of SAS kids. We were immediately found out because the boy to girl ratio changed dramatically as we walked up. The tour guide, Sasha, kicked us out but as I walked by he said I could stay if I wanted. I think he flirts with every girl he sees. I bet you can get a better tip that way. On the way back to train station we grabbed some gelato to cool off. Once back in Naples we headed back towards the port but got distracted by a pet shop that had animals, knives, nun chucks (sp?), and ninja stars in the display windows. We ventured inside to see if they really had a monkey like they advertised on the sign. There was not a monkey and the owner kicked us out saying they were closed. However, there was a man and his son in there so we are thinking the pets were a front for the mafia and they didn’t want any stupid American snooping in their business.


Back on the ship we discovered that there was free internet available from somewhere nearby if you sat on the back deck. I jumped on that for a bit and finally checked my gmail that hasn’t been forwarding properly. I had 80 emails that were backed up. I sent a few and checked out a little fbook. Nothing interesting happening there so I ended up going back to the room and watching an interesting documentary about the Knights of Malta who do humanitarian missions in Afghanistan.


+ + +

I got a nice little tan today walking around the ruins in Pompei.


- - -

I might have run into the mafia.


Sistine Chapel


Day 18- Rome to Civitavecchia to Naples, Italy

Our last day in Rome started with a quick breakfast in the B&B and a brisk walk to the Pantheon. We made a pit stop by the Roman Forum and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Both were really interesting but I wish I knew more history so I would have understood what happened there. In the main square we did some shopping and had lunch. I tried a Fanta because the little kid across the room had one and it looked amazing. It didn’t taste like Fanta at home, it was more like Orangina, and it was not bright orange. Continuing on to the Pantheon we got some gelato and ran into a couple people from the Pub Crawl the other night. One was Sean who is originally from Nashville. He said he would call me when he goes back…in a year. Yea right. We passed the Trevi fountain, again, on the way back to the hostel when we were swarmed by Asian women who were on a tour. They were dressed to the nines with hats, coats, heels, and gloves without fingers. I didn’t understand that part at all.


Back at the hostel we had some peach iced tea for a refreshment and I think it might have been the best peach tea I have ever had. And I really like peach tea. We went back to the train station and grabbed the best pizza I have had so far. We took the train back to Civitavecchia and got back on the ship to sail to Naples.


Our trip was packed with priceless quotes and memorable experiences. Rome was almost as amazing as Barcelona but I don’t think they can be really compared. Hopefully throwing my coin in the fountain will bring me back here one day.


+ + +

“Welcome to Italy, you look fickin’ nice”- repeated by Sam when Logan actually said pretty, not fickin’.


- - -

I’m going to miss authentic Italian food. The pasta on the ship wont compare to the pasta here.


Day 17- Rome, Italy

After a rough start for some people this morning and a breakfast from our hostel mom we headed to the subway to catch sight of the Trevi fountain. There is a story that says if you throw a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder then you will be sure to return to Rome. If you throw two coins you will fall in love, and if you throw three coins you will get divorced. I only threw one coin. After a quick bite of pizza we jumped back on the subway and went to the Ottaviano stop to see the Vatican. First we went to the Vatican Museum, after we got a little lost, and saw all sorts of neat artwork. We saw a ton of early Christian art, the picture gallery, and of course the Sistine Chapel. You aren’t allowed to take pictures in there but we sniped some which I will post later.


We rushed over to St. Peter’s because it was about to close for the day. I really enjoyed walking through the Basilica and seeing all the extravagant statues, stained glass, and paintings. I wanted to go to mass in the Basilica but we were not there during the mass times. We also went through the tombs and got to see a much of famous people. Most of the tombs are still being guarded and you can only stop to pray or lay a flower or note. Julie asked a security guard and the bodies are really in the tombs in the crypt. After St. Peter’s we went back on the subway to the Barbarini stop to get an early dinner near the Trevi fountain. We ate at Mangianapoli in their garden out back. That is, until it started to rain and hail. I had some yummy spaghetti with bacon and onions. I hope that sounds good to you Abby J Our long day left us tired and dirty so after cleaning up we headed out to find some fun. First we came across a photo booth where we played a fun game of “How many Americans can you fit into a photo booth?” The answer is 5.


We came across a bar playing American music and went downstairs to find some other young American travelers dancing. We hung out for a while but didn’t feel like spending so much money on their cheap beer. So we left and went to the corner store to get some wine. Unfortunately the man at the shop didn’t speak any English but his helped spoke Spanish. So I got to negotiate with the Peruvian to make our purchase. I tried to make some small talk but he was not interested in chatting. We drank our wine sitting on the corner because you cant walk around with an open bottle. I didn’t notice until the man came up to us but apparently we were sitting on his flattened cardboard box that he uses as a bed. I don’t know which was more embarrassing, waking up on the floor of the hallway in the middle of the night or sitting on a homeless man’s bed.


We watched the sun rise over the Coliseum which was possibly the most amazing sight I’ve seen so far.


+ + +

I saw some places that are very important to the Catholic religion, which was pretty neat.


- - -

I missed seeing the pope by one day.


Day 16- Civitavecchia to Rome, Italy

After touching Italian land for the first time a group headed straight to the post office to mail our post cards we gathered in Spain. We thought this would be a good way to spend our time before heading to Rome when Sam finished her trip to the youth home. The post office was such a bad idea of how to spend the first two hours in Italy. After getting our train tickets to Rome we found the post office and took a number to wait in line. Problem one was that there was a box with several options of different tickets to take. We didn’t know what the options meant so we took a variety of numbers and waited…and waited…and waited.  Finally we asked someone who spoke a little English what the different tickets meant and realized we didn’t have the right one. We had to wait again for our number and then finally got to speak to the lady at the desk. Because we were mailing to the U.S. we had to wait while she put all the addresses into the computer and got us the right postage. Some of us left before we were done to go meet Sam at the ship and get ready to head to Rome. We had a quick but tasty lunch on the ship. Then booked it back to the train station at the last minute and walked right on to the train for our next adventure.


After about an hour and twenty minutes on the train we arrived in Rome. We started looking for our hostel which ended up being quite an ordeal. We wandered through China town and found the correct address right on the other side. We waited and knocked on doors but couldn’t find anyone to help us or an office at that address. Finally I just called the number and someone came to meet us. Apparently there are hostels associated with this one place and they meet you at the main location and take you to the one where you are staying. So we walked back into China town and went through some crazy alley ways until we reached Twins B&B. The B&B is really a lady’s home where she rents out rooms to tourists. The six of us were the only ones staying with her and she ended up being like a host mother to us. We dropped our bags and headed out to explore Rome.


We walked straight to the Coliseum and jumped in a rather long line to get tickets. The tickets are supposed to let us into a variety of places including the Roman Forum and Caesar’s tomb. Right when we got into the main part of the Coliseum it started pouring rain but we kept walking around anyway. It’s pretty crazy to think of that huge place filled with people and having animals running around the middle.  Not much has changed between ancient Rome and modern day football games. I had dinner with some of the group at a place called Ristorante Alfredo where I tried real Italian gnocchi. It was similar to the gnocchi I tried in Argentina but probably more authentic. After dinner and some primping we headed to the Spanish Steps to meet up for a pub crawl. I wish I had some history of the steps to share but it was so completely packed with young people ready for a crazy night that I didn’t learn much about then. Forum Pub Crawl is a fairly popular thing for tourists especially during the summer. This night was special for Canada Day so we got souvenir t-shirts to commemorate the occasion. We went to three bars and were supposed to end at a disco. Not all of us had enough energy to make it all night so half went back to the hostel and half went on to the disco. I went back and two girls got in bed when the rest of us realized that we only had one bedroom key. The people who went to the disco had the other two so the remaining three people fell asleep in the hallway waiting for the party animals to return. The hostel lady came out and found us asleep in the middle of the night and thankfully let us into our rooms. It was a wild night but certainly one to remember!


+ + +

I met an Aggie at a bar in Rome!


- - -

I was embarrassed that the lady found us sleeping in her hall way, she must have thought we were drunk. Don’t worry, we weren’t.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 15- At Sea

Today is Lauren’s birthday so Happy 20th Birthday Lauren! Even though you are here with me and not reading this! We spent a long time last night writing a card for her. It was 10 things you might say to someone on their birthday if they are on a boat. Here are a few:


1.      Hope you have a whale of a time!

2.      Hope your birthday is ship shape!

3.      Anchor down for the party!

4.      You’re a shining star…board!

5.      Have a great time on the M.V. ExpLauren!


There were a bunch of great ones but I can’t remember off the top of my head. We are going to have cake at dinner tonight to celebrate!


I had a “Silent Lunch” today with a couple girls on the ship. We had a meeting at the beginning of the voyage to meet people who either know ASL (American Sign Language) are learning ASL, or want to learn ASL. We decided to have a couple lunches where we only signed instead of talked. I was really nervous going into it because I saw the LLC Lissa and a girl, Nicole, signing furiously fast at a corner table. I didn’t think I would be able to jump in with them because they looked so advanced. I went over anyway and they asked how much sign I knew. Since I only had a year so far I just told them I would watch for a little bit. I eventually joined the conversation and we talked about what we are going to do in Italy and possibly signing a song in the talent show. Some other girls came over and we had a good time getting to know everyone. Some people don’t know that much sign or are on my same level so it is good practice for now. I hope I can get more advanced with my conversational signs because right now I only know things useful for talking to little kids in school. It was a good experience and we have a couple more planned for later in the voyage.


+ + +

I learned some new signs today such as travel, major (like school), and email. I also learned a few different ways to sign Italy.


- - -

I ate way too much ice cream cake but it was amazing anyway.

Day 14- At Sea

We are currently traveling at about 14 knots to make time for classes before we arrive in Civitavecchia. The ship is going so slow that it is vibrating constantly which is kind of like being in a car or an airplane. We have quite a bit of time because we reach Italy and most of that time is preparing for Global Studies. I am almost done with my paper so I just need to study for the exam. It should be easy because it is only matching with 20 sections of 5 questions each. If you know at least 2 answers you can pretty much guess the other 3. This is the first time SAS has done a completely un-proctored exam. We are getting the test as a .pdf on email at 7 am tomorrow and we pick up a Scantron from the Union between 7 and 11:30 am. We can work at any time for an hour and fifteen minutes wherever we want. The test has to be turned in at 11:30 and then the paper has to be in at the same time on email. I think its pretty neat that we are trusted so much but we will see how many people actually follow the honor code.


During the Student Perspective Seminar tonight I learned a little about Italy that will prepare me for this next port. For example, 90% of the population is Roman Catholic. Italy also has 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites which is more than any other country in the world. I learned about all the different popular foods which was very interesting of course. I’m ready to try some gelato.


+ + +

I have the best notes for Global Studies out of anyone I know and many people have complemented me and asked for help editing their paper. It makes me feel pretty smart.


- - -

I can’t find a pencil anywhere to use on my Scantron tomorrow.


Day 13- At Sea, Gibraltar

Having class on Sundays is still confusing me because I think of the weekend but really there are no weekends on the ship. Going back to class after four days off was another tough thing to do this morning. We have a Global Studies test on Tuesday so we have a ton of information to cover before then. There is also a paper due Tuesday in the same class so everyone will be working hard the next few days.


We are currently bunkering in Gibraltar to refuel for the next leg of our trip. On one side of the ship we can see Africa and on the other side we can see Europe. It is pretty interesting that we will be traveling through both these areas pretty soon but there is a place where you can see both at the same time. Currently the ship giving us fuel is right outside my window and the men working on the ship can see right in my window.


The highlight of the day was mac and cheese at lunch. I don’t even like mac and cheese and I thought it was good. Thrilling, I know.


+ + +

I can see two continents at the same time right now!


- - -

I have real school work during the summer.