Sunday, February 20, 2011


Tree at Aburi Botanical Gardens. The close up symbolizes coming back to your roots.

First Presidents Memorial

Hello...My name is Araba Nyame (Ara ban ya mey)

Ghana Days 4&5 Cultural Immersion

I walked toward our meeting spot wondering what the hell I was thinking signing up for this trip. I thought I had decided that I would not be doing any home stays on this trip because I have been there, done that, and don’t especially enjoy the awkward silences that come regardless of whether you speak the same language as your host family or not, but surely there will be more with the language barrier. Too late to turn back, I’ll have to make the best of it. Rumors started circulating the minute we got with our group that it would be a” four hour bus ride”, “no six hours”, “wait, I heard it was a different village than last semester” etc., so I ran back to my room to collect my ipod in preparation for the long drive ahead only to find out when I got back five minutes later that we were only looking at an hour and a half long bus ride. Time to board another bus, actually, lets refer to it as the ice box because they keep the buses in Ghana freezing cold, which feels great right when we get on because we have just been in the muggy sweaty weather, but after the sweat dries, I’ll tell you, it is freeezinggggg!

We arrived in the village of Atonkwa in our big green bus which looked so out of place in this small village with little houses, no cars in sight, and no paved roads. Before the bus doors opened there were kids waiting for our arrival. As we walked off there were kids grabbing at all of us from every direction and our guide had to try and guide us all away from them to take our seats for the naming ceremony. That was our first activity of the day. We would all be receiving African names. We were called up to the “stage” in alphabetical order and the elders would say a prayer then we would have a sip of water, they would say another prayer and we would have a sip of Fanta, then we were presented with a medicinal leaf, a bracelet which was a gift (not something received in normal naming ceremonies)and then handed a certificate with our name on it. My African name is Araba Nyame. Araba means born on a Tuesday and Nyame means a God/Goddess. They called people up to the front in groups of ten and there were dancing performances and drumming by people from the village between each group. It was really cool to see this ritual even though it wasn’t completely authentic considering we obviously aren’t babies or members of the community.

After the naming ceremony we were free to play with the kids. One of the guys from SAS ripped open a bag of plastic whistles that he had brought to give out. Oh shit…In my frenzy to get ready to go I forgot my little toys that I had brought for kids in this exact situation. Although I didn’t have presents, I did have a camera. And as I had found out in the fisherman’s village a few days before, these kids LOVE pictures. As I snapped away they couldn’t have been happier and then, one of them asked for the camera… I reluctantly handed over my nice SLR making sure that the neck strap was securely around this 12 year old boy’s neck, and let him play photographer. After mingling in the main area of the village, we were told it was time to head over to the school so the kids grabbed our hands and tugged us in the right direction. The 12 year old boy, James, still had my camera in hand and continued to take pictures on our walk towards the school which made me nervous until we arrived at the buildings where he saw his friends and then I just saw a bunch of hands reaching at my camera, grabbing the lense, trying to take the whole thing so that they could have their chance to take the pictures, and after a few minutes I had had enough. Most of the kids had their chance to take pictures and I took the camera back to safety around my neck and asked the kids to show me there school.

I followed them to their library. Concrete floors, two big wooden tables with benches around them, and two walls lined with shelves covered by disheveled books. By the way, at this point I was drenched in sweat and my white shorts were no longer white, they now blended in with the dirt ground (which had so much soil and sulfur that it was a reddish color). James, the boy who had pretty much adopted me for the afternoon, grabbed a book and sat down on the bench and beckoned me over to sit with him so he could read the book. I took a seat and was immediately surrounded by kids n both my sides, behind me, and climbing on the table next to me. In the loud room it was hard to hear but he attempted reading the English book as best he could and before I knew it our time at the school was up. Our group would be getting back on the ice box and taken somewhere for lunch. James and his friend had been with me for the better part of the 45 minutes we spent at the school and as we walked back I received my first real culture shock. James asked me if I was going to buy him shoes tomorrow. Feeling speechless and not understanding how I would buy him shoes tomorrow regardless of whether I would have or not, I mumbled something like “I don’t know we’ll see” and the next thing I heard was James’ friend say “you’re a liar”. I just wanted to disappear and knowing that was not possible I started walking faster towards my only relief which was joining the crowd and redirecting conversation before getting on the bus. I mumbled something that I don’t even remember in response to his accusation and we continued walking to meet up with everybody else. As we approached the crowd and it was obvious we would be parting ways James asked me if I had any pens. A request which was much easier to meet, and I still had to say no. I told him I would check my backpack which was on the bus but I knew I didn’t have any because I had cleaned out my bag before packing it. I felt awful and helpless I waved goodbye and boarded the bus, hoping that I could find some pens where we would be eating lunch and if not, praying that I could avoid having anybody else asking for something that I was not prepared to provide.

We drove through a small town and past the dungeons and slave castles (which I didn’t get the opportunity to visit) till we arrived at the Coconut Grove Hotel. In an isolated spot on the beach it was easy to see that this was one of the, if not the nicest hotel anywhere nearby. We had the usual rice, chicken, fish, and plantain, meal with our choice of soda or water and enjoyed the breeze eating at the beach. This was our last chance to collect ourselves because when we got back to Atonkwa we would be meeting our host families and spending the rest of our time (aside from dinner) with them.

When we got back to the village it was much quieter than it had been when we left. The kids had apparently dispersed to their own houses and the only people who were around now were the host families. We sat back down where we had previously been seated for the naming ceremony and waited for our names to be called with our corresponding families. As I sat waiting to hear my name, I prayed I would be staying with someone else from the group. “Samantha …. And Alisson”. THANK GOD. I didn’t know this Allison yet was still incredibly relieved. I would have a companion to struggle through the language barriers, answer the questions that I couldn’t, and hopefully fill the awkward silences that I so dreaded. Not to mention remember the details and fill in the blanks where I had forgotten things that I wanted to include in my blog. Lucky for me, Allison proved to be all of those things, and a much better journaler than myself because she carried her notebook and paper with her writing down everyone’s names, ages, conversations, and observations. We stood up to meet our host mom, Runkuwa . as she led the way back to her house, I felt like it was very tense. It could have just been me being uncomfortable but aside from the usual trading of names and where were from, it was hard to find a common ground to talk about. We got to the house which had a courtyard and then rooms surrounding it. One room was the kitchen, one was Runkuwa room, one was where he brother and his wife and kids lived (I don’t know it I was a room or if there were multiple rooms beyond the front door), and another door that I don’t know what was behind it, and the door to where we would be sleeping which opened up to a room that was attached to another room set up with mattresses on the floor and a ceiling fan. After we put our bags down we were greeted by Runkuwa’s sister in law and her children, and Runkuwa’s other sister Comfort who was 17. I asked comfort if she had gone to school earlier that day and she told me no because she had a toothache and my immediate reaction which I kept to myself was what if she has to have her wisdom teeth or molars taken out. In retrospect I could have asked but I was worried that they didn’t have access to dentistry like that and didn’t want to scare anyone that it might be necessary but not possible. Then again, a lot of things that we find “necessary” in the US are probably not top priorities in other countries or cultures where access to things are limited and unreliable.

We sat in the shade in the courtyard and looked at each other awkwardly, just as I had suspected but the mood lightened as Runkuwa ‘s sister in law started investigating my hair. Karissa had pig tail French braided my hair that morning which was apparently something very unfamiliar to this woman who was the hairdresser of Atonkwa. With her baby wrapped in a scarf on her back, she stroked my braids examining them intensely and then moved on to Allison’s blonde hair. She had her take it out of the pony tail and began to play with it, then started braiding it in tight little braids across her head, kind of like corn rows but not as tight. As Allison tried not to wince in pain I could see the strands of thin hair being pulled from her scalp because she didn’t realize that our hair is a lot finer than the thick hair she was used to working with. I was extremely thankful that I had opted to have my hair braided the way I like it which seemed to satisfy the girls I was staying with because they let me keep my braids. When we had exhausted the hair conversation Runkuwa took us on a tour of the village. We walked passed their church, the cassava plants, the day care center, and the nursing home.

Back at the house the kids had returned from where they were playing earlier in the day; two five year old boys and a five year old girl. My roomie for the night went to go relax in our room and I stayed outside with the kids and proceeded to have a photo shoot. It didn’t take much for the pictures to come out well because these three kids were so adorable. I just wanted to bring them home with me. After awhile I noticed that one of the boys was wearing a Boston Celtics shirt and I got excited. Not because it was the Celtics because I of course am a Lakers fan, but because this rivalry is usually a topic of conversation not too mention the Celtics have become a sign of Boston which is now a sign of my friends, etc. But as I tried to explain the significance of the shirt he was wearing, the kids and their mothers didn’t really understand what I was talking about or who the Celtics are. That’s when I realized that we often leave our mark in places whether we mean to or not. This shirt must have been given to the little boy or left behind by a traveler or a visitor in the village who was from Boston and even if they just left it behind because they wanted to offer clothes to a child who needed them, they still left their Boston mark in this small village in Ghana.

We sat around outside for awhile and I noticed Comfort looking at my shoes. She looked up at me and asked me if she could have them. Once again I was caught off guard and didn’t know how to respond or how I wanted to respond. I needed time to process the question, it is such an unfamiliar thing to have people ask you straight up for things especially right off your body. I hesitated and said that I didn’t know if my shoes would fit her but maybe she could try them on later. Part of me was hoping she would forget because I had a feeling that if she didn’t I would be giving my shoes away in the morning. Time progressed and Runkuwa invited me into her kitchen to watch her make dinner. The SAS students wouldn’t be eating dinner with our host families because the program was having our dinner brought in from the restaurant where we ate lunch ( I don’t know if this was because they didn’t want to worry about anybody getting sick or if they did want to put the pressure on the families to cook for us). I watched her mix maize and water in a pot over a fire until it became a thick sticky substance. As she mixed the concoction she looked over at me and asked “what did you bring me?”. Again, speechless. I wonder if questions like this ever get easier to hear or to answer. I told her that I didn’t know and I would have to look in my bag. In my head I knew I didn’t have anything, I was hoping to get creative because I know better than to go to a home stay without a gift. Unless I could think of something in the next 12 hours, I knew I would be saying bye bye to my tennis shoes. I would have to talk to Allison at dinner and find out if she brought anything and what we should do.

It was dinner time for us. Runkuwa’s daughter walked Allison and I through the village, past where we knew dinner was, and to an open field where older kids were playing soccer and her friends were there with our friends playing games. It looked like summer camp. It’s weird because we don’t do that at home, we don’t just go out on an empty field with all the kids from our neighborhood and play soccer and games just for fun. We hung out there for a bit and I was re –introduced to hand games that I hadn’t played since elementary school, these girls just used different words but the movements were familiar. Rockin’ Robin, Miss Mary Mack, double double this this double double that that double this double that double double this that, down by the banks where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky, etc. any girl roughly my age should remember these. As the sun started to set we walked back over to the center of the village, you could hear the electricity running through the electrical wires above us. I had made a new friend at the field. She was my name sakes daughter, aka the real Araba Nyame’s daughter. One of four and as sweet and talkative as can be in her adorable pink dress and gapped teeth. She held my hand as we walked to the community center where dinner was served and we got there before they would let us in so we were all lingering outside and she didn’t leave my side, just cuddled up against me in the crowd. When it was time for us to go in I told her I would see her later hoping it was true but not sure I would be able to find this little girl in the pitch black later that night especially since she wasn’t part of my family, but after dinner, there she was waiting at the door to grab my hand and lead me back to the house. I realized she was with Runkuwa and asked her if she would be sleeping over because she was friends with Runkuwa’s daughter and she said yes, so I happily accepted her guidance along the dark road back to the house.

Back at the house we were joined by my new friend’s sisters who were roughly the same age, and little brother who was one and a half or two. The girls pulled out a book from school that had pictures and words in Fanti, their language, and they attempted to teach me a few random words. As some of them walked me through the book, another one was playing with my hair. At first I was worried about her messing up my braids because I had no intention of taking them out until we got back to the ship the next day, but then decided what the hell, it’s probably already a mess, and let her go for it. A little bit later Runkuwa’s brother Osmond, who we had learned earlier goes to school in the morning and then to work in the evening, arrived home. He is a student and his ultimate goal is to become an accountant and move to the US. His English was great and for the first time we were able to have a fluid conversation with an adult where the language barrier wasn’t such an issue. It was the first time in the village that I felt like I was having a candid conversation. Although there wasn’t such a language barrier per se, there were still struggles with understanding not words but attitudes. For the first time my eyes were really opened to the difficulties that most people in Ghana struggle to overcome. Yes, it is common knowledge that the poverty level is disturbingly high and education is not prevalent Ghana, but I hadn’t yet had the chance to discuss some of the hardships that people go through. We got to a point in conversation and I could see that Osmond was trying to figure out how to word his next question about America. He looked genuinely confused and proceeded to ask me how black people are treated in America because he has heard from Ghanaians that have been to the US that they get there and they are harassed and not treated well, but he didn’t understand because when white people come to Ghana they are so friendly to us and open up their homes to us and are friendly and want to talk to people and tell them about Ghana, etc. The best answer that I could come up with was that first of all, it depends on where you are as to how people of other ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, etc., are treated. And second of all, that perhaps as a country American’s just aren’t as nice as Ghanaians. We don’t generally take the time to welcome new people into our Country because we’re too wrapped up in our own lives. Osmond nodded his head but the look of confusion didn’t go away. I don’t think those were good enough answers for him but that’s all I had at the time and am still not sure what the right answer to those questions would be, or if there even is a write answer. We continued the conversation learning about the education process in Ghana and explaining to Osmond how the process works in America. He told us how hard it is to get through school because of money. School is expensive and on top of the school expenses its hard to get through school without a computer which is an additional cost that most people in Ghana at this point cannot afford. He also commented on how we have the opportunities to travel abroad but people in Ghana don’t have the ability to do that because once again they cannot afford it. It was a very difficult conversation. A few months ago I saw the movie Waiting for Superman which is about the public school system in the US and since then, whenever I discuss education not matter where it is, I remember that movie because it really enforced for me that education is really the basis of intelligent people and therefore and intelligent and successful society. The fact that getting even a basic education past the 9th grade in Ghana is a struggle is just tragic. How can a country grow and develop if the majority of its people aren’t educated?

Mentally exhausted we all decided to retire for the night. I didn’t get away before Comfort reminded me that I had said she could try on my shoes, so I removed my tennis shoes and handed them over to her. She said they fit, whether they did or not ill never know. I told her I would leave them with her in the morning and that was that. The deal was sealed. Allison and I went to our room and discussed what else we could leave behind in the morning because she hadn’t brought anything to leave either. She decided she would leave her hat with the little boy and was debating between her shoes or her watch for Runkuwa, and I would leave my shoes for Comfort.
I slept much better than I thought I would, as a matter of fact I woke up because I was COLD in the middle of the night. The fan really worked, and the noise outside from the goats and the roosters also probably contributed to my waking up sporadically from about 5 am till 8 am when the kids woke us up. Runkuwa had made us donuts/fried dough and porridge. The donut was good, the porridge was not my thing. It wasn’t American porridge, I don’t think. I’ve never actually had porridge in the US, but this was a thick substance made from Maize and it had a tangy spice to it. I took a sip and panicked because I knew I would not be able to finish the whole cup. So I tried to divert attention from myself and I pretended to take a few more sips and then set the cup aside. Hopefully I didn’t offend anyone. The kids were all dressed in their uniforms and ready to leave for school I gave them all hugs and said goodbye. Then it was time for Allison and I to rejoin our group back at the community center. But not before I handed my shoes over to Comfort. Luckily I had packed a pair of flip flops.

So, with those tennis shoes, like the Celtics shirt, I left my mark. I hadn’t planned on it but I knew they would be appreciated by Comfort and maybe when she wears them she’ll be reminded of me.

They called the program cultural immersion. I think its difficult to really be immersed in a culture over night. I think cultural observation would be a more appropriate name. Most of us enjoyed our time in the village. We got to see how these people live and conquered the cultural differences in lifestyle for the 18 hours we were there, but the reality is that we all knew we would be waving good bye in the morning.

Accra and Aburi

Ghana Day 2/3

This was my first overnight excursion without Karissa and I went into it not knowing anybody. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. When I got to the meeting place in the morning there were indeed some familiar faces. Two other Bentley kids were on the trip along with some other girls I had met once or twice. After our initial meeting I was more comfortable and ready for the 4 hour (minimum) bus ride to Accra, the capital of Ghana.

A few minutes into our bus ride, after our guide gave us some trivial information about Takoradi, I was ready to sleep. Lucky for me, I can sleep pretty much on command in a moving vehicle, so I passed out and didn’t wake up till we were almost in the city. When I did finally come out of my slumber I opened my eyes to a city much different from Takoradi. The streets were jammed with cars, and people. There seemed to be four lanes of cars all just trying to squeeze around and between each other, fighting to be at the head of the traffic. And the people, there were people walking through the streets, between each row of cars, on the sidewalks and the middle dividers, with baskets of various items n their heads. Some people carried bowls with water in them. This water isn’t in bottles like we drink, instead it is in plastic bags. People cut off the corner and drink water from plastic bags. Some people has chips, some had other snacks. Some were piled high on peoples’ heads and others were in huge shallow bowls. I still can’t understand how they learn to walk with all this stuff on their heads and they do it so naturally, paying no attention to it as if they have forgotten that it’s there.

We stopped for lunch when we arrived in Accra. “Ghanaian” food. Chicken, rice, plantains, and fish, this would be the extent of our meals for the next 4 days on this trip and my other one. I think the Semester at Sea sponsored trips try hard to make sure we have the Americanized version of the food so that we don’t get sick or complain about it. After lunch we got back on the bus for our tour of the city. We drove by the soccer stadium, and went to the Memorial of Ghana’s first president, and we went to the where W.E.B Dubois lived and is buried and then we went to an open market.

The market was quite an experience. The second the people selling goods spotted us it was like we were wearing signs that said ATM. We fought through them and went to exchange money and then to a small shop on the side of the market. There, we met Colin Powell (that’s what he called himself). He told us that he could name every capital in the US and to test him. I told him that I wouldn’t know if he was right wrong. He said to stick with him and he would take care of us. So he walked us to his “brother’s” shop. And as we walked we gathered a following of people trying to sell stuff. I called my Mom and my Uncle suckers when we were in Turkey and they gave in to buying rugs, well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (in either case, because Karissa and I BOTH were totally suckered on the first day but that’s a whole other story). All of a sudden I was surrounded by men trying to sell me bracelets. It was claustrophobic. “How much you give me for these?” well, the point wasn’t how much was I willing to pay, the fact of the matter is that I didn’t even want them at all! Eventually I gave in. I handed the 15 Cedi (Ghanaian currency) over to one of the guys and took my 5 bracelets. When it was finally time to go, we pushed through the merchants lined outside our bus and when we finally got on the bus it was like the safe zone. Such a relief. We went back to the hotel for dinner and an early morning trip to the botanical gardens and then back to the ship. The botanical gardens were pretty cool. Not much to write about them but we saw some nice trees.

All together this was honestly not the best trip I’ve done I don’t really like feeling like a tourist and although it is usually unavoidable especially in Ghana where people with light skin stick out like sore thumbs, I felt like all we did in were typical tourist things. The one activity that could have been somewhat normal for people who live in Accra was going to the market place but being swarmed harassed and probably taken advantage of with pricing just made it as much of a tourist activity as going to the museums. But on our drive back to the ship we passed by tons of different towns and one town we must have passed through right about the time that school got out. The older kids were walking down the road with their backpacks and held onto the hands of the younger kids. Parents were outside waiting for their kids to get home and playing games in front of their houses with the ones that were home. I realized that at the end of the day, our lifestyles are completely different but most of us are on the same path. Just trying to make ends meet and doing everything they can to take care of their families. I guess we really are all one tribe if you look at it like that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ago! Amee!

Takoradi, Ghana – Day 1

In Ghana the way people call to get someones attention is to yell “ago” and in response everybody is supposed to yell back “amee” so that it’s clear they’re paying attention.

For the first day in port, Karissa and I happened to have signed up for the same field program which was a Twin City Orientation. Takoradi and Secondi are known as the Twin Cities so we would be exploring those for the day. Not really sure what the trip would entail, we got dressed for the overwhelming humidity that we would undoubtedly have to endure for the day. We boarded the bus and were on our way.

As we pulled out of the port, I looked out the window and saw the roadsides covered by garbage and then when we started to get into the city the scenery changed. I was now looking out the window at sheds basically back to back with each other and clothing lines strewn between them. These were the houses in Ghana. I was taken aback, and still am, by the poverty that is so blatantly obvious in this city. Yet despite the fact the people sat outside their homes in ragged clothes and no shoes, many of them smiled and waved at us enthusiastically as we drove by snapping pictures, seeing their neighborhood from the shelter of our air conditioned bus, momentarily. The air conditioning soon died and we were all much too suddenly forced to understand what it would be like to live in Ghana with no air conditioning. The beads of sweat started forming as we all looked at each other and questioned if this was a fixable problem or if we would have to suffer this heat the rest of the day. Our guide soon came onto the loud speaker and announced that another bus would be meeting us at our next stop so that we could switch and get back to the comfort of the ice box.

Where we stopped was a fisherman’s village on the beach. From the road where the bus was parked we could see the tin roof tops of the huts, some covered by tires and all of them by dirt. We unloaded the bus and waited for our guide to start the decent down the stairs from the road to the village. There was a funky smell, chickens, fish, and probably some other stuff but after a few minutes we got I got used to it. Kids started coming up to us as soon as they saw us enter the village. Our guide tried to keep our attention to explain to us about the village and I tried to focus for as long as I could. I learned that in this village the men fish and the women cook the fish (smoked fish is very popular in Ghana). I also learned that in this village, everybody is “family”. They all know each other and whether they are related by blood or not, they all consider each other as family and work together.
Our guide tried to keep our attention so he could talk to us about the logistics of the village and the boats that they make by hand out of wood but our attention was quickly redirected to the adorable kids who gathered around us. As we made our way through the village to the beach front there was no hope for our guide. Our group spread out and each of us were circled by kids who wanted to know our names, ages, where we were from, but mostly, they wanted us to take their pictures. These kids absolutely LOVED the camera, being in front of it and taking the pictures. They would pose with wide smiles and then as soon as they heard the snap of the pictures being taken they would rush over eager to see what they look like on camera, giggle and then return to their last location for more pictures. Pose, picture, review, giggle, repeat. The women of the village made their way down to the beach as well. With their babies swaddled in fabric on their backs, they came carrying buckets of fish and proceeded to show us what they do with these fish for fun. As we watched in awe, they took a knife, cut a hole in the gills, pulled the tail and threaded it through the mouth, out the gill, and then did a little knot with the whole thing. We found out that they did this because if the fish are too long, this processes makes them shorter so it saves space. The women laughed hysterically at our curiosity about this process and they couldn’t have been happier to share it with us. They also were quite fascinated by my braces. One of the women looked at me with curiosity and then started pointing to her teeth. I knew immediately that they were wondering why I had metal brackets on my teeth and what the purpose of them was. I told them that they were to make your teeth straight but knowing that they probably didn’t understand, I called our guide over to explain. He laughed along with all of us and explained to the women what braces are and they oo’d and ah’d just has I had about their fish moments ago.

Our guide called to the group that we were moving on and we walked the few feet off the beach and back to the part of the village where all the “houses” are. We were going to see how they smoked the fish. With her baby still sleeping peacefully strapped to her back, the woman we had met on the beach lit a fire under a man made oven and showed us the trays of fish laid out stacked high over the fire. Im sure for people who enjoy fish this might have smelled appealing, but I am not one of those people. As interesting as it was, I was eager to move away from the smell of the smoked fish. The display didn’t last too long and then it was time to go. We started back to the buses and the kids lined the pathway sticking their hands out for high fives with smiles from ear to ear. These people seemed genuinely happy to have had us in their village and to have been able to show us how they live. It’s amazing how these people with pretty much nothing, especially in comparison to us, are just so happy. It was amazing to see that and be able to leave the village with that knowledge.
Tsamina mina
Cuz this is Africa

Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka Waka eh eh

Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa aa
This time for Africa

The Sweet Life on Deck

Location: The middle of the Atlantic
This is the longest stretch between ports, from Brazil to Ghana. So I was going to get cabin fever now would be the time, but so far so good! The past few days were very routine, rotating from A day to B day. B day I have consumer behavior at 12:15 and thats it so the morning and afternoon I usually spend between laying out by the pool and using the gym or catching up on work. A days I have global studies at 9:20, international marketing at 12:15, and travel writing at 4:15. Rough schedule huh? I’m enjoying my classes for the most part. Global Studies is not what I expected and there is a lot more reading than I have had to do in a long time. Rumor has it the teachers were told to make classes harder in an effort to make sure that Semester at Sea keeps a strong academic reputation. Interesting…

Anyhow, they don’t make us suffer through classes for too many days in a row. Last night we had the opening ceremonies for Sea Olympics! There are I think 8 seas, each one is something different. Arabian, Baltic, Bearing, Caribbean, etc. and each time is associated with a color. I’m in the Arabian Sea and our color is black. we met in our hallways before the procession into the union where the “ceremony” was held. Everyone was dressed in black head to toe and super enthusiastic about the event. Everyone got each other pumped up as a team and it was definitely a bonding experience for our hallway. Last night we presented our banner and our chant to the rest of the Seas and came in third with our chant. Unfortunately we didn’t place in the banner competition, but I still stand by ours because it was definitely the most official looking. Karissa and I along with a group of 6 or 7 others worked on the chant and it went over great. There is a guy in our group who does a really good Obama impression so he stood up and made a little speech and then said that the Arabian Sea was the best. Someone from our team called out “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” and the rest was a call and response that went like this:

And then at the very end the Obama impersonator said “ Im Barrack Obama and I approve this message”

The next day were the actual “Olympics” which started at 1 pm. There were activities going on throughout the day such as a trivia match, basketball, three legged race, synchronized swimming, volleyball, dress your RA (we had to dress our RA like a hippie), and others. The day went by like a blur. As a member of the activities committee, I’m trying to figure out a way to make sea Olympics more like color wars at camp (color wars went on throughout a camp session) because everyone really enjoyed the activities so I think it would be good to try and have different games or competitions throughout the semester. We didn’t come in last place so the motto we adopted is that if you didn’t lose you’re a winner.

I also met my extended family during the nine days at sea. The head of our family is named Judith and she is a lifelong learner who did semester at sea as a student in the 70’s. she has two kids in there thirties and a one year old grandchild, and her husband passed away a few months ago and she thought now would be the right time to do semester at sea again. There are three other kids in my family; One girl who goes to Michigan, another girl who goes to Charleston, and a boy who got to Point Loma in San Diego. We had our official dinner together that was organized by the ship and then the night before we arrived in Ghana Judith treated us to dinner on the pool deck which is more like a snack bar/grill and tomorrow (the day after we leave Ghana) we will be having dinner with her again in the main dining area. Signing up to do the extended family was a really good way to meet a few new people in a much different way than we would normally get to know people so im really glad that I did it and cannot wait to continue to get to know my “family”.