Salaam Alakum from Morocco. I have been busy on the ship finishing classes and haven’t had much wifi until now. So, here is an update from the last month!!
TL;DR: I crossed the Equator for the first time, then crossed it again at the Prime Meridian. I had a quick pit stop in Mauritius, an amazing time in South Africa, and an illuminating time in Ghana.
On the way to Mauritius, we crossed the equator for the first time! For special occasions like this there are traditions that span centuries. We celebrated with Neptune Day. On Neptune Day we officially crossed the equator around 7am. We were woken by a procession led by King Neptune who was followed by people (mostly cabin stewards) banging pots and pans down the cabin halls. We grabbed a quick breakfast then went to the Pool Deck for the ceremony. King Neptune had boarded our ship to continue granting us safe passage. When crossing the equator you go from being a Pollywag to a Shellback. King Neptune had some requirements of us though before he continued to grant safe passage. Each person, so they choose, had sea guts dumped on their head then jumped into the pool, got out to a kiss a fish and King Neptune’s ring, then was “knighted.” Afterward, you had the option of getting your head shaven. This comes from the tradition that the sailor is on his way home and must clean himself up after being at sea for months. (I did not shave my head.) Afterwards, we had the day to catch up on studying, sleeping, or tanning.
Mauritius is a one-day port. It is our one day of land while traveling from India to South Africa. It was six days to Mauritius then we had five days to South Africa. For one-day ports we are required to do a field program. I decided to do one called “Island Tourism: Luxury Sustainability.” Sadly, the program did not actually focus much on sustainability, but we did get to visit the University of Mauritius, visit two 5-star resorts, and at one of them we got to have lunch and some beach time, too!
I had a field class for my Social Problems class. We visited The District 6 Museum which shared the story of people displaced by apartheid. We then enjoyed a legitimately wonderful box lunch on our 10-minute bus ride. Next, we got on the ferry to Robben Island, it was about an hour long (+ 45 minutes waiting in line). On the island, we were driven around shown different sites, like the isolation centre, from the bus. Next, we got to tour the maximum-security prison where people like Nelson Mandela were imprisoned. After we got back to the ship, a group of us checked into the Airbnb. The power went out after 5-minutes in the apartment and about 30-minutes later we went to a Greek restaurant which ran on a generator. We checked out a British pub before passing out after our first long day in South Africa.
Safari Day!! We woke up super early to meet a shuttle which took us out to the game reserve. We got to eat breakfast there, then went on the safari. We got to see: elephants, zebras, spopopos, big anteater things, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos. We got to eat lunch and spend the afternoon at the safari, before going back to Cape Town. It was a 3-hour ride each way. Afterwards, we went to the V&A Waterfront Wellness Market which had a lot of food vendors. We met a family from Johannesburg and got to talk about Semester At Sea and South Africa with them. That night we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner before heading back to the Airbnb.
Once again, we woke up early, this time the drive was a little shorter. We went on a wine tasting tour. After we got back to the city we were not very hungry even though it was dinner time but we shopped around the V&A Waterfront for a couple minutes before heading back to the Airbnb. I hadn’t planned on being at the Airbnb so long so I headed back to the ship when my friends went out.
I booked an Airbnb Experience called Cape Point with a Marine Biologist. We met the group at a café and bakery a little outside of the city. He drove us to Boulder Beach where we got to see penguins then we went to Cape Point which is where “the two oceans meet.” The two oceans being the Atlantic and Pacific :))))) Afterwards we headed to the beach, the Atlantic beach so it was cold but very untouched. We made a couple scenic stops on the way back to the café. That night we got dinner again at the V&A Waterfront Wellness Market and shopped. We went to dinner at a new menu everyday kind of restaurant called the Black Sheep and got some groceries.
Dudududu. I started my day by heading back to the ship with all of my things. Afterwards, I went to the Art Museum and ate lunch. I met my friends again at the aquarium which is one of the top 10 in the world! It was smaller than the Ripley’s Aquarium at home, but they had quite a bit of things we don’t/can’t have. That night after a quick dinner at the V&A Waterfront Wellness Market, Emily, Valeria and I went to the national tour of Chicago! which was so much fun! I stayed on the ship that night.
Some more time on my own. I went to a church service at St. George’s Cathedral which is the head of the diocese for Cape Town region. I went to a café and bakery which had some gluten free options for breakfast and then went to the Old Biscuit Mill Market which only happens on Saturdays. It was jammed packed, but the products and food was amazing. I dropped somethings back off at the ship then went to just walk around the V&A Waterfront. I was headed back to the ship when I ran into Emily and Valeria. We hung out for a little while longer than we probably should have but we managed to still get on the ship without getting back late and avoiding dock time. We had our aft picture which is a picture of everyone on the ship on the aft taken from another ship. We also had a “BBQ” that night to soften the blow of leaving such an amazing country.
SA à Ghana:
We crossed 0°,0°!!! This is where the Prime Meridian meets the Equator! We circled around the “0°,0° buoy.” One of the families on the ship had a memorial service and spread the ashes of a relative who died at Christmas and had sailed with Semester at Sea before. There were not any ship-wide activities for this but you become an Emerald Shellbackwhen you re-cross the Equator.
Ghana was a very different country. It was the most underdeveloped country of the voyage. The first day I had a field program to speak with Ghana’s Queen Mothers. Queen Mothers or Nana as we were supposed to refer to them, are basically community leaders. They ensure the community’s values are upheld. The next day I went on the field program to a local church which was Pentecostal. The priest gave us a blessing at the end of the service. I spent the rest of that day on the ship. There is not a ton to do in Takoradi. On the third day, I jumped onto a field program called “Global Mama’s Batik Workshop.” We learned about Global Mama’s which is a free trade non-profit which provides local women jobs in a handicraft. In the afternoon, we got to make batik. Batik fabric is a process which uses fabric and wax to make a print. That night most people got back on the ship to sail to Tema/Accra. The first day there my friend and I got on a shuttle to Accra then walked to a restaurant and got an uber to a market. Afterwards we got coffee then decided to head back to the ship. The last day in Ghana, I was on a field program to the Torgorme Village. We got to participate in a naming ceremony. My new Ghanaian name is “Ame Seyram,” “Ama” for Saturday the day of the week I was born on, and “Seyram” which means “Blessed by God.”
Thanks for keeping up with my travels! I got one week left on this amazing program and so much more to learn.