Thursday, November 5, 2009


These days i'm either waking up at 4 in the MORINING to go hook up dogs and take em out on a run, or I get up at the more acceptable hour of 6 30 to go feed, water and scoop doggie poops. Yesturday morning I got up to run dogs when that little worm of a question wiggled into my thought, "Why in the heck am I doing this?" On top of it being one of those 4 am mornings I was dealing with one of those monthly annoyances...ugh. I went through the morning bitching and moaning to myself "Poor me...oh, Poor me". I was your basic whiner. Toward the end of the run my boss, Linda, had me hop in the front of the 4-wheeler to continue my lesson in mushing. Its an amazing thing to be mushing a 16 dog team. They are so frickin amazing! After returning and finishing up chores, I went up and loved on each dog... They completely changed my attitude. As I get to know the each dog individually and as a team, I realize just how incredible they are. I LOVE my job!

Friday, September 25, 2009


I saw Moose the other day (or more fondly reffered to as meese). Its just that time of year here in Colorado! I am a Colorado Fall virgin. There is something truely majestic about the Rocky Mountains during the fall... the mountain sides are gorgeous, covered in pines and speckled with aspens turning firey orange and golden yellow. We even had our first snow last weekend. It continued to lightly snow throughout the week as we took students canoeing, played games, and monkeyed around on the ropes coarse up in the tree tops! What the HAY???? SNOWING?? what month is this again? Oh wait its still summer....

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Happened in the End??

Wow! I'm VERRY late in writing about the rest of my trip abroad, but better late than never! It seems like I returned ages ago!...back in December. I left off writing about my time in Malaysia. The truth is that I was just having too much fun to write about what was crackalakin! so happens :) . So lets see...After Malaysia we journeyed to Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Hawaii, through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica and then up on to Miami. Each port offered incredible eye-opening experiences, never to be forgotten. I had the amazing opportunity to crawl through the cu chi tunnels (a system of tunnels the Vietkong used during the war to sneak up on their enemy) and go floating on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, explore the summer palace and walk the top of the Great Wall of China, explore the tokyo fish market and sing Karaoke in Japan, Help serve a Salvation Army Thanksgiving feast in Hawaii, and go hiking to waterfalls in Costa Rica.
It was bittersweet coming home. I had missed the familiarity of home so badly. I never knew how much a comfort familiarity was. But I wanted to tell EVERYONE about my trip! It has been difficult finding that line of how much people wanted to know about my trip before they would become uninterested or sometimes resentful. There were times I even felt alienated from people. The trip helped me to realize who was a true friend and who was just going through the motions. Meeting people from many walks of life granted me new perspectives on our American population... abundant with diverse ethnic origins. I have come to realize that the "travel bug" can never be fixed. its the same idea as "if you give a mouse a cookie". Traveling opens the door of curiosity and questioning. It is not easily closed.
The following Spring, this past semester, I have picked up school again at Las Positas Community College. I enrolled in many classes, including Rock Climing and Ultimate Frisbee with the idea being to keep myself busy and from missing my trip too much. But lo and behold!...I have had such a blast practicing, competing and goofing around with the Ultimate team (Yeah Peaotches!). They have become such a family to me. In fact, it is quite possible that I will be rooming with a few of the ultimate girls in fall! Good is everywhere to be found, God just keeps on giving. :)

Monday, October 27, 2008


Malaysia Blog Oct 22- Oct 25

Malaysia was such a beautiful country! I stayed in the state of Penang the whole time which is an island of Malaysia. On first day I decided to go and hike up Penang hill with some friends. It was so pretty and was exactly what I imagined the rainforest to be like when I was learning about it back in the days of elementary school, haha. Except, instead of trails, we ended up trekking up a steep road that winds its way to the top, all the while being smashed by buckets of rain. When we reached the top of the hill we were surprised to find a small little town. There was a temple, restaurants, a garden, and some small venders…however, it was completely vacant. I still don’t have a clue why but it was interesting to have discovered this beautiful retreat on our own. We wandered over to a building that seemed like a nice restaurant…lo and behold it was an English tea house! It was pretty strange and even shocking that on the top of this deserted hill, historic imperialism, and present globalization had still managed to reach. Another example of this was Little India in the capital city of Penang. I didn’t spend too much time there since I had experienced a healthy dosage of India a few days before but it was interesting to witness the combining of cultures from around the world in this one little country. Since Malaysia is a prime trade spot in the world, it includes a large mix of Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Korean culture, among others.
I loved Malaysia with its people, culture and food! My biggest difficulty was refraining from using my left hand for gestures. The left hand is considered unclean because it is used for toilet purposes, and toilet paper is a rare commodity, thus its offensiveness. Also I am very use to putting my hands on my hips, which in both India and Malaysia is a sign of arrogance and snobbery. I was always nervous to do anything with my hands for fear of ruining my good American name…

My favorite part of Malaysia was the two days I spent in a Malay neighborhood with a family. Kristi, another girl from SAS, who lives a few doors down from me on the ship, stayed with the same family. We had a ball the whole two days. It made it a bit easier to be able to talk and laugh at the end of the day about things that had happened. When we first arrived in the neighborhood our SAS group of about 30 people was greeted by the local mothers and grandmothers. They didn’t speak much English but the sure fed us a lot! Kristi, my roommate on the trip, and I were escorted to our house. It was a cute two story house with multiple bedrooms, a family room but I never did find out where we were supposed to go to the bathroom. Kristi tried asking a couple of times, the most we figured out, was that it was outside somewhere, who knows. They gave us our own little room to share, which was decorated with pictures of Asian boys (the teenage daughter’s room I’m guessing). She sat us down in front of Malaysian Idol and just kept feeding us. I’m pretty sure this was because the Grandmother, who was the only one home besides her three-year-old grandson, spoke little to no English and this was her way of avoiding the awkwardness of not being able to communicate. When the rest of the family came home we got to have a lot more fun exchanging cultures. They took us into town. We walked the night market, drove around the island of Penang and stopped off the road to have some good Malaysian food! I tried to impress my new family by ordering some spicy mee (rice noodle) soup. More than anything I just gave them a good laugh because I couldn’t help but tear up and chug the fluids, haha.
The next day we got to see the rice fields, watched some butik making (more or less beautiful paintings on cloth), and ate lunch in a cool, secluded little fishing village.

The rest of the trip I spent visiting some really elaborate Buddhist temples, seeing the beach (bustling with tourists), craft shopping, and eating great Malaysian food. Malay food is a mix of many Asian cuisines: it consists of a lot of rice, spicy sauces, chicken or fish, and noodles.
I had such a fun time there. I never felt uncomfortable around the locals. They were always willing to help me out, or answer my questions and did it with a smile. Yay for Malaysia! I would love to go back and see the rest of it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


India! Oct 14 - Oct 18
On the first day in India, I went to two different schools in the middle of Chennai. For both my Science education and education around the globe classes, I facilitated a science activity for the students there. The activity was to have the students build paper pressure rockets. Each school had us sit through welcoming ceremonies such as a song or two sung by the whole school, a big part of Indian culture. The first was an all-girls school. They spoke fairly good English but were very timid. It took them a while to get the drift of the experiment. However, my partners and I were just getting the idea as well of how to run the activity as well. The second school was coed, but with a strong separation within the school of boys and girls. The boys were sat in very neat rows on the right and girls on the left. My partners were surprised when all of a sudden we were facilitating the experiment from at least one hundred students. We set up in the middle of the court yard. Since we weren't prepared for quite that many, we pulled pairs of students out from the crowd and brought them up to build a rocket. They got into the experiment like I had hoped and the other students had fun counting down seconds till the launch of each rocket. We could barely clean up the experiment because students didn't want to stop building! They kept grabbing for the supplies so they could fit in more launching! I must have shaken a thousand hands and signed autographs like crazy! The principle invited us into her office for tea and biscuits and we got to have a discussion of their school system. That was when I realized what I had been hearing about the Indian head-bob was true! Indians really do bob their heads. It is a side-to-side a bobble head! Later that evening a whole group of us decided to go out for some good food. Some friends and I ordered a couple dishes to share around...not good Indian custom. I later found out that t is very frowned upon to eat from the same plate. I don't think the waiter liked us very much. Then we some of us decided to go catch a Bollywood movie. We hired a couple of rickshaw (rickshaws are the funky looking mini, mini vans with only three wheels) drivers and headed to the cinemas. Driving in India is always an adventure whether you are traveling by bus, car, or auto-rickshaw (a three wheel mini, mini van). Lanes are coincidental. No one stays within a lane. Often times your driver will just cruise right down the middle of two. And sidewalks? …sidewalks were an abrupt after-thought...people here normally just walk down the side of the street. The movie was a typical American plot about getting framed for a murder, escaping from jail and running from the corrupt authorities and ending happily ever after. It was all in Tamil but we could understand it just fine with the help of dramatic music and expressive the actors. We were caught by surprise by the intermission half way through the movie. Not that the movie was super long or is just normal for there to be a ten minute snack and commercial break. Looking around the theater my friend and I realized that there were no other females in the theater. I think that there is an unsaid rule about women being out late. On the way back to the port our same rickshaw drivers let each of us drive the funny little things! Because of the hour there were few vehicles out...which made it nice not to have to worry about the mass swarm of traffic.

Wednesday was packed with things to see and taste!
I went on a school trip at 7am. We hopped on a bus to go temple hopping throughout Mamallapuram. After that we drove to a silk shop and saw how they made the sarees on the silk loom and got a chance to purchase a few. There were sarees, scarves galore, wall hangings, as well as man skirts (not sure what they are called), and ties.
After purchasing too much we drove two hours to a resort to have lunch. The drive was well worth every minute because when we got there it was a massive buffet with dishes and dishes of exquisite Indian food and deserts. My personal favorite is Dosa bread with masala all the wonderful chutneys! They are so good! I was surprised by my obscured understanding of Indian food. Rarely in India will you ever find a fruit chutney…they are all spicy vegetable or meat-filled chutneys. I also fell in love with Chai! Ahh! I don’t know why I have never been a Chai coniessur before. It is a little cup of heaven! Once we were done we headed back out again to see our last couple of Hindu monuments.
Thursday, I went on a rural Indian village stay. The whole trip was put on by an organization called the Rural Institute of Developmental Education (RIDE). They have been working to eradicate child labor as well as empower women by creating self-groups. Schools in rural areas are typically low quality. Teachers show up when they please and not much of an education is offered to the children. At the school, I could here the sound of the stone quarries at work which still employs the local children. The students were so excited to see us. They ranged from three to ten years old and were divided into two groups, the children who attended school full-time and the children who divide their time between the stone quarries and school. When we arrived we spent a few minutes meeting the kids and sharing stickers and school supplies that we had brought individually. I was so impressed by how much the organization was doing to help these children. The employees of RIDE have such a great vision for the future of their students and a spirit of selfless service.
A few kids danced for us, which was so great! Those kids really know how to swing some hips! Since we don’t dance nearly that well, some others and I sang a few songs like I’m a Little Teapot, and You Are My Sunshine. I’m not sure if they knew what the heck we were singing about but I think they liked it! J When the kids left for home, we had a really interesting Q&A with the founder of RIDE, and some of the teachers about the organization and the lives of the students.
We returned to the guest house and had an amazing home-cooked meal. The ladies that ran the guest house were so humble, welcoming, and accommodating, as often Indians are. When I returned to my room I got to know the German school teacher, Bierget, who was staying in the same room with me and 2 others on my trip. She has also been traveling around the world. In India she has been helping to set up a library in a local school. It was hard to sleep that night. There was no a/c in the room and I couldn’t help sticking to my sleeping bag from all of the humidity. Outside I could hear the sounds of dogs barking, cows mooing, stones being thrown at clever monkeys, and the TV blaring soap-opera next door. The government gives out free TVs to families, hoping that households would use them to watch the government-operated news station. But the fact of the matter is that people spend the news hours to take a break from the show that they are wrapped up in.

Friday morning, we left to visit the nearby village where one of the women self-help groups was located. We all celebrated international Women’s day together. We talked about the daily struggles of rural life, and they showed us around the village. We were invited into multiple houses and met so many ladies and families. All of the women were incredibly humble, lighthearted, and warm. After being shown around the village, we were taken to the local temple. They prepared coconuts for us to drink from and we all sat together in the shade on the temple floor to continue with more discussion. They even had us play games with them, one of which was hot potato with a basketball (music supplied by two people chanting and clapping)! The women were so lively and such great sports. The winners were given decorative tin plates, and all received vegetable planting seeds.
We returned to the guest house for our last fabulous meal, then left to see the silk shop that I had visited a couple days prior. One of the peddlers, who had hassled me a couple of days earlier, continued his work, pressing me to buy his wooden sandals. When he realized I wasn’t budging he decided to make conversation instead. I told him my name but not being able to force it from his mouth he decided to rename me Sonia, haha. We piled back onto the bus we set out for a three hour ride back to the port in Chennai.

I spent Saturday I spent soaking up my last opportunity for spicy masala and chai, and wandering through colorful markets. India caught me by surprise. I was aware that it is an incredibly dense population; home to around one billion people. I was shocked by the amount of poverty within the country. Unlike Namibia and South Africa you can’t chose what you see in India. The hardships are visible everywhere one goes. But behind the shocking numbers and often brutal living conditions for the majority of Indians, there is a strong sense of unity. Hinduism is part of daily life for the majority although there are a few who practice others like Islam and Christianity.

All of India was fantastic! Everyone on the ship had very intense experiences and was really moved by what they encountered. India looks dirty and uninviting from the view of the air conditioned bus, but once off the bus, and immersed in the culture and with the people, it is overwhelmingly beautiful. There is an incredible sense of love and hospitality that Indians have and share. If you smile at them and share a moment, you get that smile and love back three fold. They are so in touch with their capacity for goodness. It is hard for me to make sense of the contrasts of India's gruesome visual images verses it’s touching, and embracing culture. But what I know is that the ladder has left the biggest impression.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

South Africa :D

Cape Town, South Africa
Fri, Sept 26 – Thurs, Oct 2

After spending a long rough night on the ocean, sailing toward the cape, we arrived in South Africa. My initial reaction to South Africa was Wow! It was breathtakingly gorgeous. The city of Cape Town is set on the water and in front of the very tall, Table Mountain. It kind of looks like a…table, very flat and long. The first day I spent wandering the waterfront. There is a lot of action in that area due to the incredible amount of tourists who visit. I ate at a small hidden pub on the first night. It is always so strange to eat a couple tables over from someone smoking a cigarette. They served lots of different types of steaks, Ostrich, zebra, as well as schnitzels and seafood. Then we treated ourselves to Hagen’ Doz. Heard of it?
The next day a whole group of us from the boat took an all day tour into the wine lands. There are so many vineyards in South Africa! A European influence, of course. It was spectacular. The morning was spent bicycling through the mountains. I was a bit surprised because I thought it would be some leisurely ride through the vineyards, but I was pleasantly surprised. We rode for a couple of hours to one of the wineries were we were offered a large array of tasting options. The winery treated us to a picnic lunch and we then set off for the second winery. That wrapped up the day, so we headed back for the ship.
On Sunday two friends Ali, Caitlyn and I made arrangements to take a day trip to Cape Point. It was a beautiful two hour drive. The other passengers in our tour van were from, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and England. I was blown away by the number of languages and accents going on! I shot so many photos on the way there because the landscapes were constantly changing and it was just plain stunning! We must have seen half a dozen humpback whales from the road side. The entire drive was along the coast line. We past many towns that draped themselves down the hillside, and overlooked the water. When we got to the point, the driver warned us about the baboons. The baboons have built a strong reputation for aggressively stealing food from people. There were warning signs everywhere, cautioning people to keep any food out of sight. I sat in the parking lot eating my sandwich. I was slightly terrified that I might be surprise attached at any moment by these food thieves. Luckily I am still in one piece today, although I did see those buggers more than once. We walked up to the lighthouse that was perched at the very edge of the point. At the light house, there is a post sticking out of the ground pointing to the direction of major capital cities around the world. On the way back to the ship we enjoyed a beautiful ride back, along the opposite coast line. Our tour guide was a fairly light hearted fellow. Our entire trip was supposed to be from 1:30 to 5:30p.m. but the guide was willing to lengthen it till quarter past seven since, he explained, his wife would just have put him to work anyways if he were to return home early.
The following day, I hopped on a school trip to Robben Island, a historical sight which was once a leopard colony and later a prison where black government resistors were eventually held. The tour took us to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. All of the cells are ridiculously small. Yes, I have seen the inside of prisons in movies such as the Shashank Redemption, but when looking at it personally, I can just imagine what it must have been to be locked in one. My cabin on the ship is itty bitty but it is at least twice as big as that cold concrete space. I also say the last cemetery left of what used to be many from when the island was a leopard colony. They were almost all destroyed with the creation of the prison and the housing of those who worked in the prison and their families. It seemed somewhat strange that in such a historically important location, there were hundreds of Penguins wobbling around!
I went to the Malay district in Cape Town. A group of students and teachers were shown around to the different shops for spices and kosher meats. We were invited into the house of a Muslim family. The mother in the household taught us how to make samosas along with many other dishes. We sat down for lunch and ate many dishes. We had chicken and curry, ate with fried flat bread that we made ourselves. For desert we were treated to tea and these bread balls coated with sugar water and sprinkled with sweetened coconut. The meal was a great change from the routine ship food. We left with happy, full bellies. Oh, how I miss home-cooked food!!
At the last minute on Wednesday, I was fortunate to be able to hop on a school trip to the Amy Biehl foundation. Amy Biehl was a Stanford student who was studying in South Africa on a scholarship. She was dedicated to the fight against apartheid. One day she was giving a friend a lift back to her township. There was a heated rally going on in the streets. The slogan was “one settler, one bullet.” She was white and therefore a settler. She was taken from her car by the ralliers and brutally killed. Her parents decided to take on the cause of their daughter and created the Amy Biehl foundation. It provides help to schools as well as afterschool activities for students, such as dance, music, singing, sports, etc. It also helps to provide resources to students in townships. I went to the headquarters in Cape Town as well as one of its project schools in a township. All South African schools were on holiday that week but that didn’t stop students coming from many schools around to put on a performance for us. It was absolutely fantastic! The Dancing was incredible to say the least. Boys of no older than ten years old were dancing like miniature Michael Jacksons. Some women put on a traditional African dance. Brass instruments were played, drums were beat, and others belted out singing. I was impressed by how accomplished all of these students were. They had really made these activities their own and excelled. We were taken to a near by bed and breakfast, for a late lunch. The owner was such a humble lady. I can’t imagine that it would be easy for any woman, let alone black woman to run her own business. She served us traditional Xhosa food, which consisted of chicken and beef, sautéed cabbage sweet bread, rice and garbanzo-like beans with beef gravy. It was really delicious and much needed after such a big morning. In the ship’s conference room that evening, Arch Bishop Desmund Tutu came and spoke to us! He came for a quick forty-five minute stop then had to leave. On a previous voyage he was a partial voyager, meaning that he sailed for one port to another, teaching South African history to students. He enjoyed that experience and keeps Semester At Sea close to his heart. I loved hearing him speak. He is so light hearted and he laughs like a little kid! It was refreshing to hear his perception of humanity. He spoke of how all people are inherently good, and it is maybe fortunate we don’t see all of the glory within us…Otherwise we might be blinded by the purity and goodness that we all shine! Not even an hour after he left two of the men who were convicted and put in prison for Amy Biehl’s murder came to the conference room and spoke of their experiences. It was captivating to hear their story and how they have changed their lives since. They now work for Biehl’s parents with the foundation they started. It was a pretty touching story of forgiveness.
Around these trips I managed to squeeze in time for perusing through the water front. I visited their gigantic mall, stopping for some much needed time at the internet café. I also got to try different cuisines. Some friends and I sampled lots of seafood, South African favorites like ostrich, and made small pit stops for gelato as well.
South Africa was an awesome experience!
I will be back on this ship until oct. 14th.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Namibia, September 19-23
Hey everyone!!! I just got back on the ship yesterday, September 23.
I really enjoyed being in Namibia. This is the first semester that SAS has ever docked in Namibia. Nobody on the ship (besides the hair-dresser) had ever been to Namibia or had any idea of what to expect. It was fun to explore all together. Namibia is coming into their spring now and the weather is still chili. During the afternoon the winds pick up and town becomes less and less busy. I thought it was interesting how, during the weekends, the shops close down by one and town becomes vacant. To paint a picture of most of Namibia, all I need to say is flat desert + sand dunes meets ocean.
All of the locals that I met and that had a chance to talk to were incredibly sincere and humble. There are only two towns that I visited, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, but they offered an array of activities to experience. Some of the most popular to Semester at Sea students were, sandboarding, 4-wheeling on the dunes, camel riding, horseback riding, camping/stargazing, skydiving, and kayaking. I got a chance to explore the towns, talk to very interesting people, do some super fun camel riding, SKYDIVING and of course some great food tasting! I soaked in every bit of it.
The food in Namibia is amazing. I sampled different types of seafood, such as shrimp, calamari, fish, and muscles. I definitely give their different types of game two thumbs up. Things they might offer in an average restaurant might be zebra, oryx, springbok, ostrich, gazelle, and many more. Something that really surprised me was how much Namibians like their pizza. There are pizzerias everywhere! Its nothing like what they serve in the states. Their pizza usually has a very thin, crispy crust with a ton of different kinds of cheese, topped with fresh veggies, spices and meats.
I was talking to a cab driver about Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. He said that people from the two towns Walvis Bay and Swakopmund don’t mix and if you were to put ten guys from Walvis Bay and ten from Swakopmund in a bar together there would be a fight in about five minutes. It is interesting, and shows how people and their culture can vary drastically from one town to the next, not to mention one country to the next.
Namibia has only been its own country for eighteen years. Since the apartheid ended changes have been made to create a more equal society but there is still much segregation within the country. Those that are white have a much higher standard of living than those who identify with being black, colored, or Indian. Although the people are very friendly, there is still a lot of crime, mostly all instances of pick-pocketing, and ATM fraud. I was happy to not have learned this from experience.
Some pre-conceived notions that I had tuned out to be very wrong. It is not always hot in Africa (duh, not like it’s a big continent or anything). Many, to my surprise, speak German in Namibia. The cloths worn in town are like any you would see back in the states, not some exotic tribal garments. One day, I walked into a music store and asked one of the employees what his favorite music was, expecting him to pick up some African rap of some kind… he picked up Celine Dion, Usher, and an Afrikaans country artist (his top pick being Celine Dion J).
It was an incredibly surreal experience to be in Africa. I kept on having to remind myself of where I was. The people were loads of fun to be with and there were so many fun things to do. In short I loved Namibia!