Saturday, August 10, 2013

Final Video

It's been a good run, I'm eternally grateful to everyone who followed this blog, the voyage and my crazy, beautiful, unbelievable adventure. The video was actually the very first thing I finished, because I had to have it ready to share with the 6th graders at Johnson Street Global Studies. Now that I have concluded my blog, it's time to share the recap with everyone. Oh, and you'll get to find out how I actually came to be bald (even though it was all the way back in March). 

I hope you enjoy the video!

Video Link, should this file not work, or should you want to share with others!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


The end of our journey and entrance into Barcelona was beautiful, and bittersweet. We were sailing close to land through some rather typical "European" landscapes, and we even stopped to refuel somewhere along the coast of Spain where the houses were built into the side of the hill and the waters gently rocked colorful boats side to side.

All of our belongings had to be packed and taken to Deck 2, 24-hours before we disembarked one last time, so our rooms were completely empty save backpacks with a change of clothes, money and the ever precious cameras. Gone were the pictures of family and friends from the wall. Gone were the souvenirs and proof we managed to sail around the world. Our room was sparse, making it feel colder than it already was. 

Lots of people pulled an all-nighter on our last night aboard the MV; I was not one of them. I hate good-byes and on top of that, I knew it would be a long and busy day, having to get up early to disembark and then make it out into Barcelona. 

As we pulled into the Port of Barcelona, we passed several cruise ships 3-4 times the size of ours, making all of us feel quite small. Unlike those ships however, ours featured a full celebration with almost everyone out on the decks, in the front and the back, waving and yelling to all the fancy people on the cruise ships who were standing on their balconies in bathrobes, enjoying a cup of coffee. We laughed about how they could never handle our boat, with our box showers, instant coffee and endless pasta meals. Oh, and how they would be jealous of us traveling around the world, while all they did was tour the Mediterranean.
The QE2, one of the swankiest ships on the seas today,
berthed right beside us. These folks were out on their
balconies in bathrobes (we had neither robes nor balconies)
drinking their morning coffee. 

Our berth was farthest into the port, so we had to travel quite a ways up stream, and as we approached, we heard yelling that was giving our boat a run for it's money. The parents had arrived. Mind you, it's about 7 AM as all of this is happening. You can tell these folks have been waiting eagerly, signs, banners and bull horns in hand for us to arrive. I had a twinge of guilt seeing all of them, watching as the students on board located their parents down behind the fence and starting a conversation from 7 decks distance. I had told my own parents I wanted to complete the entire trip on my own, and since I was staying in Barcelona for 6 days, I counted that as part of my world voyage.
Parents with signs. And cameras. And bull horns. 

While the process of disembarkation wasn't as smooth as I expected, and took a lot longer, it was okay. Groups of people filed off the ship and everyone ended up in the luggage terminal anyway. Yes, for us to easily move our bags off the ship, they tossed it off the ship onto conveyor belts, motored it to the carousels and we had to locate our black bags amongst everyone else's black bags.

On my first, second, third and fourth days it rained almost all day. Not a heavy rain, but a cold drizzle that was bad enough you needed pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a rain coat. And since I still had very little hair, my hat. The less-than-stellar weather didn't stop me from exploring the city and seeing some of the sights, it just gave me a good reason to immerse myself in the tradition of afternoon siestas!

Some of the highlights of my time in Spain:

Churches, Cathedrals and Monasteries

La Segrada Familia, seen from the top of Park Guell above the city. 
Interior of La Segrada Familia, the main sanctuary.
Exterior of La Segrada Familia, very ornate with hundreds of
images depicted in the Bible, placed all over the church. 
From the top of Park Guell, high above the city.
No, I don't have black hair, that would be my hat!

The monastery of Montserrat, located 1 hour
outside of the city high in the mountains.
Intricate, hand-made stained glass inside the
Montserrat monastery.

Cathedral de Barcelona, located between a main road and many
alleys in the city. Hundreds of people visit each day, and mass is
held 4 times per day. 
Biblical figure on the outside of the Cathedral
de Barcelona. I, however, think it looks like
he's "raising the roof", not praying.

Exterior of Cathedral de Barcelona, taken on Day 6 in the
clear skies.
Highest point on the spires of the Cathedral
de Barcelona. 

All of the food I ate while in Barcelona was delicious. Traveling alone was a totally new experience, as was dining alone in nice restaurants. I think both are crucial skills to have as we get older. I was able to eat alone, and be quite comfortable with the thoughts in my head and to sit and enjoy a long meal. No, it wasn't the ultimate Spanish meal, because it is nearly impossible to eat alone and have a 3 hour dinner. But it was possible to eat and make it take a full hour to sit and enjoy food and the company of no one. There were a few times I missed having my parents, because they would be more inclined to pay the bill and I would be more inclined to order expensive food. But I survived on my own and had a wonderful time. Here are the highlights:

Fried anchovies from the most delicious
restaurant right around the corner from
my hotel.... I ate there twice it was so good!

Tomato bread with sea salt..... pretty much heaven on a plate.
Tartar, one of my most favorite dishes and it was on the menu
in Spain! 

This looks rather odd, but it's vanilla ice cream, with hot berries
and a fluffy pastry. I sat at the bar at this restaurant and watched
them make it all night for other guests- I knew I had to order it! 

One of my favorite aspects of Spanish cuisine were the
"mercats" (markets) I found along the streets. Big, little,
open air, covered, air conditioned, these are the equivalent
to grocery stores in the US, but with a wonderful twist--
the whole thing is nothing but stalls, all of them sell
food right there on the spot which most people
ate right there on the spot. I went to this mercat twice for lunch!

St. Josef's Mercat, one of the candy stalls. There
were hundreds of stalls, all with different owners
who were selling similar things.

One of the many meat stalls to choose from. Unlike Cambodia,
these butchers had clean water, electricity, glass cold cases for their
meat and best of all, a license to operate! 

Olives are in my top 5 favorite food groups. Many of the olives
found in Spain were local or from just across the strait in Morocco!

Spanish cuisine is not limited to it's oddities,
though I didn't try any myself. Here, cow hearts.
Not pictured here (but I do have proof): brains (no joke), intestines, livers,
skulls, eyeballs and more. 

Pizza that might top the professionals of New York City.

Another of the many "mercats" in Spain; stopped here for
breakfast, seen below!

Tasty apple pastry, hand-made by the lady who owned the stall.

Cross between a doughnut hole and a beniegt..... locals were
buying these by the dozen! 

Another national delicacy-- spiced ham. Think country
ham, except 100x better. 

Papas bravas-- aka spicy potatoes. Served as diced potatoes,
these are french fries with a house-made spicy sauce.
You can find these on every menu in the city, they are common
and definitely a new favorite of mine!

Olympics of Summer 1992
While on the voyage, I was able to visit 2 of the former host cities of the Olympic Games, Beijing (summer 2010) and Barcelona (summer 1992). Although I didn't get to spend much time in Beijing touring the facilities, in Barcelona, everything is very close together and you can walk between most of the sites and into some of them-- like the track stadium and location of the opening ceremonies.

Olympic Diving site- almost everything was outdoors,
including diving. Also, these were the days before platform
diving, so there are 3 spring boards of different heights.

Track and field arena and the location for the opening ceremony.
Today it is still used, but as a soccer stadium for local teams
(not FC Barcelona, they have their own stadium).

Exterior of the track and field arena was designed to resemble
other landmarks throughout the city.

Olympic pavilion; the yellow columns to the right were/are
lights. The white structure to the left is the communications
tower that was used to broadcast the Olympic Games
around the world.

Indoor swimming pool; was most recently used to host the 2013
FINA World Swimming Finals.

Typically a plaza for visitors; while I was in Spain, they were
setting up for the X-Games, which were held in the week
after my departure from the country. 
As much as I loved Barcelona, and I really, truly did, I was ready to go home. I missed my family, friends and my bed. Plus, I was flat out of clean clothes, which was an unfortunate problem. I loved spending time alone and traveling alone-- it only reaffirmed my desire to see more of the world. And now, I know I am fully capable of doing it solo if I must. BUT it also taught me that it can be more fun when you go with friends or family, because you'll never be bored and you'll always have someone to talk to.
In-flight tracker was the best! 

I have to say, the best part of my entire trip home was the plan ride from Barcelona to Philadelphia (though not my last flight of the day), because they only charged me for 1 overweight suitcase (when I really had 2), the plane was 60% full and no one was in the seat next to me! I got to stretch out and watch movies for the entire 7.5 hour plane ride. There was zero turbulence (my least favorite part of flying, besides the flying part) and when we landed on the ground, I had no fear of dying as I did on my most-previous ride in India. Thank you American and European pilots for getting me home alive!!

Coming Next: The Final Video-- stay tuned!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sailing to Spain

Officially, Morocco was our last port of call before we all disembarked from the Spring 2013 Semester at Sea voyage in Barcelona, Spain. Officially, we still had to take exams, turn in papers, pass around notebooks for goodbye letters and oh, pack.

As soon as I realized my Moroccan rug was going to fit in the suitcase, then I began to panic that it might not fit with all of my other worldly possessions and clothes. Despite having another 5 days in the voyage, I was compelled to pack and make sure it all fit. It did. Sorta. One suitcase was just clothes, the other was entirely souvenirs. Both suitcases were the same size. And as luck would have it, both suitcases ended up being overweight. Oops.

Because I had such wonderful, generous professors on the ship, the last few days weren't as stressful as other peoples. Here are the highlights:

~ School work consisted of 2 presentations, 1 paper and 2 exams. Piece of cake. Especially since they were all spread out and I had actually been paying attention throughout the semester.

~ Alumni Ball: big fancy dinner to celebrate the end of the voyage. Sit down meal-- NOT pasta, potatoes and bread-- and a massive dessert buffet after everyone ate. I went with my new friend Rachel, and we scored a sweet deal. You had to select your menu about 3 days before and pick your table. Unknowingly, we picked to sit next to Dean Jelke's table. His two boys got the kid food- pizza from the 7th deck and french fries. Lucky for us, his kids are picky eaters and just ate french fries. Double lucky for us, Mrs. Jelke offered me and Rachel all of the pizza!!!!! SCORE!! So instead of eating the boring fancy food, that sort of lacked flavor, we got to split the pizzas. So we were dressed like a million bucks and we ate pizza on a moving vessel. I'd say the night was successful.

The second perk of the Alumni Ball, aside from getting to dress up, was taking pictures with everyone. It was like prom, except it was sunny and we were sailing up into the Mediterranean. Kinda. The best part, with my new awesome short hair, I didn't have to worry about the wind taking my hair in 100 directions and messing up the pictures.

~ Goodbyes. I really dislike them and avoid them at all costs. I never cry (which is bad, because lots of other people do and then I end up looking like a rock) and I'm not very good at faking emotion. If we weren't really friends and I don't know anything about you, I don't really want to sign your book or take a picture with you or whatever. Let's be real. But for the good of the society, I did write the standard "thanks for the memories!" and whatever else and gave a nice hug/handshake. You never know when you'll need to call on that random person and ask to sleep on their couch. On the bright side, I now have a nice little collection of musings from the people you see below, who so kindly wrote in my book of memories.

Here are a whole lot of pictures of me with my many friends, and now family, from the voyage. My apologies to everyone (I didn't ask their permission to post these wonderful pics... please don't sue me). I could talk for hours about these fantastic folks, but alas, you'll just have to see me in person to hear those!