The End is Near :(

Finally are finally over! The last week has been full of studying, hanging out with friends as much as possible, and trying not to think about the end. Last night, we had our Alumni ball which was very nice. This included a dessert feast, and I cannot remember the last time I ate so much chocolate. Today was a packing day, and packing is no easy feat, especially if you have to fly. The scales on the ship do not really work because of the rocking, so I am going to have to wait until the airport. Tonight we signed each other’s maps (like yearbooks), played games, and just reminisced about the voyage. Ive made so many great friends and it’s going to be a lot to realize I can’t just walk down the hall and knock on their doors.
Also, today was a reflective day to kind of help us get prepared for the reverse culture shock of arriving back in the U.S. and reflecting on our experiences. I still don’t know how to put into words exactly what happened this voyage or how I feel about it. I do know that I see the world differently and I am truly grateful for what and whom I have in my life.
Tomorrow is our Semester at Sea Convocation for the graduating Seniors, which I am one of! We have one last full day, and then we will arrive at the Port of San Diego. I’m sad to see it all end, but looking forward to seeing my friends, family, and the Keystone Community.

Even when your at the end, keep on reading!

Attached are some pictures from Hawaii and random photos from the ship.

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Ports are over, a week left.

I can’t believe this semester has flown by so quickly. We just left Hawaii and have a week until we arrive in San Diego and say Bon Voyage to the MV explorer! Finals for the next three days, and then some time for updates and packing. Have a great week!

-Eric

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Happy Earth Day!

Sorry for the delay in blogs lately. We are now wrapping up this voyage with papers and finals, while also taking part in some of SAS’s annual traditions. I am sad to see things coming to an end, but I also can’t wait to see people back home.
Some of the events that have went on this last week, besides straight days of classes was having to April 20ths. (4/20 participants should be very jealous). On the first April 20th, was just a regular day of classes, but one of the discussions was on the legalization of marijuana, which was very interesting. Also that night was poetry reading for a poetry class. I have to say that there is an extremely talented group of people on this ship whether it be academically, art, English, dance, you name it. I’m honored to have met some of these people. On the second April 20th, we had the silent auction and live auction. It is one of the biggest events every year and all of the proceeds go to scholarship funds for Semester at Sea. Approximately 60% of all students receive some sort of aid, resulting in over $2 million in aid every year. For the auction, anybody could donate anything, gifts, personal services, homestays, ect.. There were also annual items such as dinner with the captain, steering the ship, honking the horn upon arrival, a bubble bath in the Dean’s bathtub (in his office) and some nice trips such as week long trips to owners beach houses, including a stay in Switzerland. Each item went for a significant amount of money, and I’m still amazed at where some of the students come up with the money. It is for a great cause, and it is tax deductable. For example, one of the items- steering the ship- sold for $1,300 dollars. In total, at the live auction alone, we raised $21,000 dollars. I ended up buying a sweatshirt for $60, but it was primarily to support one of the faculty members who is willing to help me out with future travel plans. It was the least I can do, and the sweatshirt has a Chicken in a fire fighting costume- for the town of Chicken. That in itself is pretty awesome!
Today was Earth Day, which seems much more significant now after witnessing pollution, overfishing, and other environmental problems that I usually just heard about, first hand.
Also, tonight, a few students on the ship ran a program called Spread the Word to End the Word. I did not know that there was actually a national orgainization for it and I would love this program to be spread to my home institution. It is about thinking twice about using offensive words such as “retard”, “fag”, ect.. out of context. These words are used to bully and hurt millions of people, and often times, people don’t even realize they are hurting people. This program calls for awareness and education, and by spreading the word, hopefully more people will help to eventually end the word. For more information, please visit the r-word.com.

As a side note, I would just like to finish up the last Day in Japan. On my last day in Japan, I went on a day trip to Mt Fuji. It rained the whole day and was very cloudy, so we never actually ended up seeing the iconic mountain Mt. Fuji, which was definitely a major bummer. We were able to go to the highest station that was opened, which was station 5. The main hiking trails start and station 5, and the summit is around station 9 or 10. Unfortunately, the hiking trails after station 5 are only open during the months of July and August, so we were not allowed to hike it. On our trip, we also took cable cars up some of the surrounding mountains to a lake where you can usually see the Mt. Everest. We then took a boat ride across the lake. Even though it was a dreary day and our last main day of international land travel, we still made it fun. My extended parents for Semester at Sea were on the trip, so it made the trip so much more fun and enjoyable.

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Mt. Fuji to come.

We have yet another time change tomorrow, so it is now 1:40 in the morning, and I have to get up for Insanity in the morning. Life on the ship has been rocky, but very busy in finishing up classes and writing essays. There has also been some fun and interesting sessions over the last few days which included Crew Appreciation Day and the Crew Talent show. Tomorrow is April 20, which is also our International Date line, so we will be having 2 April 20ths. One of the unique benefits of traveling the world by ship. Who else gets to cross the prime meridian and experience the same day twice? Last day of Japan updates to come, as well as some ship life updates.

Have a good day!

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Tokyo!

After watching the fireworks at Disney, we headed back to the train station, picked up our backpacks from the lockers and resumed as backpackers. We decided to spend the night in Tokyo and then head back early the next morning to catch the ship arriving and leave for a 2 day Mt. Fuji trip. We had heard about capsule hotels, which are narrow compartments stacked on top of each other that you sleep in. They usually include saunas, hot tubs and showers. The train system shuts down at midnight and taxis are unrealistic, so we walked for a half an hour or so, and asked a lot of people until we finally found a popular district with capsule hotels. It was already late and we had to leave in a few hours, so we just used the spa and shower area to clean up because we hadn’t showered in two days. That was a unique experience in itself. After showering, we went out with a few other SASers for a few hours, but it was not really fun because you could not walk anywhere without being hustled by Nigerian immigrants and everything was just too expensive. The trains start at 5:00am, so got on the trains around 5:30 to head back to Yokahama to catch the ship. We got there just in time to catch breakfast and repack for our trip. I went to go leave for my Mt. Fuji trip, and I realized then when my name was not on the list, that there was some miscommunication between what trip I had signed up for. I was almost certain that I signed up for an overnight trip, but I was actually signed up for a Mt. Fuji day trip the next day. I realized it was my fault for not noticing before hand, so I went back on the ship to take my bags in, realized I had only slept a few hours in the last few days, and passed out.
I woke up around 3pm, walked around the city for a few hours, ate dinner, and then found wifi in the port terminal. I skyped for a while, and unsuccessfully attempted to do a lot of updates on Facebook. It was a fairly unproductive day, but for some reason, I throughly enjoyed it.

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Yokahama and Disney Sea

We arrived in Yokahama via the overnight bus about 7:30 in the morning. Still groggy and tired, we went into the bathroom in the train station to change clothes and clean up a bit. Little did we know, they had fancy toilets!!! I was not aware of these before this trip, but Japan (being the technologically advanced country that it is) has toilets that have heated seats, water jets that you can choose the heat and speed. It was a cool experience, but I was not expecting water to be sprayed up there, so it was quite a shock! It reminds me of Cars 2 and the scene with Mater in the bathroom.

After an amazing toilet experience, we asked around to find directions to Tokyo and then Tokyo Disney. It is hard to find people that speak English in Japan, but Disney is a universal term, so it was not hard to get directions. After being pushed on to the trains by the train attendends to fit as many people as possibly, and riding for close to an hour, we made it to the Disney station. Myself and my roommate Robert, and a few other SASers we met there spent the majority of the day there. Disney Sea is a completely different park compared to Walt Disney Land in HongKong, and Walt Disney World. I am a huge Disney fan, and I knew that I wanted at least one international Disney experience. I was going to settle just with Hong Kong, but I’m really glad that I went to Disney Tokyo. Compared to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Japan in general is very much Japanese language oriented and there was very little English present. Disney Sea definitely had a Japanese twist to it and Disney is LOVED internationally. Some of the interesting areas of Disney Sea were the Atlantis park, Agrabah marketplace and palaces, the adventureland with a volcano roller coaster and Indiana Jones Attraction, and Fantasmic, which is always amazing. They also had a place called American Waterfront, and it felt ironic walking down to New York Harbor and the American Board Walk. Even though I thought I would not find Japanese culture in Disney and a few people on the ship kind of scoffed the idea at spending time in Disney, Disney is truly engraved into their culture. I highly recommend a trip to Disney Sea if you have a chance to go to Tokyo.

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Kyoto in the rain

On our second day in Japan, I traveled by bus with a SAS group to Kyoto, a popular Chinese tourist location known for its temples and history and its cherry blossoms. It just so happened to be the peak of the cherry blossom season while we were in Japan, so the whole area was beautiful. It also rained most of the days we were in Japan, so that made it a little harder to take pictures. One of the temples, or houses that we went to was the shogun’s house, or the person that is directly below the emperor, and usually in charge of the military forces. We were not allowed to take pictures, but the house was stunning, at least for being over 1,000 years old, and each room had a strategy behind it. Even the floors were purposely designed to be noisy (squeaks and bells) when you walked on it, so that the shogun and his guards could hear intruders more easily. This was also during the age of the ninja, so that was interesting to learn about as well. We were free for lunch on our own and I went with Grace and Myra to a popular pizza place known for putting whatever ingredients you want on a pizza. I had so much pizza, and almost all of it I had never had before on a pizza. There was a pizza with icecream and sprinkles, a brocoli and cheese pizza, one with potatoes and peas, and some more traditional ones like Hawaiian and cheese. They also made potato wedges that tasted out of this world!

Also, many of the places we visited in Kyoto had gardens and pathways that you could walk, some having stepping stones and covered bridges with an asian flair to them. One of the things I found interesting at the gift shops is that they sold good luck charms for everything. You could buy a good luck charm to get good grades, to find love, have long life, ect. I know it is part of the Buddhism religion and this was something I didn’t know before this trip. Kyoto was easily the most beautiful place that I visited in Japan this week. Instead of heading back to the ship with the bus, my friend Robert and I decided to stick around Kyoto for a while and then take an overnight bus to Tokyo. We ended up taking about a 45 minute pick-up bus to the local station. On a side note, I have really been impressed with Japan’s infrastructure and transportation. It is much easier to get around even if you don’t have a vehicle. However, stay away from the taxis!!! On the bus, we met a family from Louisiana who had been traveling across Europe for 3 weeks and was ending their vacation in Japan. They had been in Tokyo earlier that week, so they told us some highlights and gave us pointers. They also spoke English, so that was a bonus. Japanese is the main language here, and unlike a lot of the other countries we visited, Japan for the most part is a monolingual country- speaking only Japanese for the most part. A few people speak different levels of English, especially business people. It is similar to the U.S and the varying levels that people speak Spanish. I wish I could speak all of the native languages of the countries that we visited because I feel it is more respectful and would be very helpful. I did learn a few words, and many people were happy when we attempted to speak Japanese.
We eventually made it to the bus/subway station and ordered our tickets (much more than what I thought) for Yokahama, because Tokyo was sold out for the night. We had about five hours to blow, so we walked around the city, ate dinner, dried some of our soaked clothing in a local laundromat, and picked up some snacks for the bus ride. About 20 minutes before we were to board our bus, I found a free wifi spot, and got in some quick skype and facebook updates. We got on the bus, and I was pleasantly surprised! The seats elevated almost all of the way back, there was footrests, and we were given a pillow and blanket. It was very comfortable, but not quite the same as sleeping in a bed. Something else interesting that happened was when I was messing with the buttons for the air, I ended up pressing a button that turned red, lit up about 8 other red buttons in the bus, and started blinking. An announcement came on in Japanese, and I had no idea if I was getting yelled at, or what was going to happen. He ended up shutting the lights off and that was that. I decided to keep my hands to myself lol. I ended up getting a few hours of sleep. The next day was a long, but a very fun day: Disney style!

Enjoy!

SAS quote of the day:

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

– Miriam Beard

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Japan Day 1

For our first day in Japan, we arrived at 8am, but immigration took a long time and included getting finger printed. I finally got off around 11:30. I didn’t really have anything planned for today except that I wanted to go to Osaka, one of the 9 major cities in Japan and only about an half an hour by train from Kobe. We took a taxi to get to a bank, and that was a bad idea. Taxis are very expensive and I paid about twice as much as it cost to and from Osaka. I met some friends at the bank and decided to travel with them to Osaka. One of the girls, Lucy, spoke Japanese, so it made things much easier. There are very little signs that are in English and the language barrier can be very tough at times.

The train system is very organized, yet complicated getting to Osaka was good practice for the rest of the week, which consisted of many hours on the trains. After getting to Osaka and having lunch it was already 3pm. A few of us decided to go to a popular shopping and just walking area. We walked down so many cool looking alleys with decorated with plenty of Japanese lanterns and such, with enough room for a single car to drive down. Despite there being plenty of alleys, overall, trash was very hard to come by; Japan does a good job at keeping clean. This is not true for almost every country we visited, except for Singapore maybe. We eventually settled for a local restaurant that served us rice, some sort of stringy beef and miso soup. Not everybody was satisfied afterwards and we were debating if we had eaten dog or not (im still not convinced it was beef) and we went to Subway. I haven’t gone to too many american fast food places, but I really enjoy seeing the international spin that each country adapts. Subway had a lot of the same food, but they also offered chicken wings. There was also no $5 foot long offer.
The shopping streets were very impressive and everybody seemed very stylish. You could find many name brands that you do in the states, but there were also many popular Japanese stores. I was with Kara and Chelle, and I decided to venture around while they shopped. I found some wifi at a hotel and skyped for a couple minutes with my family. I was having some financial problems this morning, so it was nice to sort out some of those issues. I left around 8 to try to meet up with my roommate Robert and a few other friends for that night. We all walked around for a while, but most of the clubs required high cover charges (Japan is really expensive!) We decided to just walk around for a little bit more and then head back to the ship. Fun, but not very eventful night.

Currently, we are back on the ship, sadly saying goodbye to our last main port. I can’t believe we are almost finished. It will be sad to say goodbye to all of the new amazing people in my life, but it will be great so see everybody back home, graduate, and start the next chapter in my life. Until then, it will be a lot of essays and tests in the next couple weeks and getting ready to say goodbye.

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In Japan!

So today is our first day in Japan, and it was full of a LOT of waiting, some money confusion and some awesome sites around Osaka. Tomorrow I am going to Kyoto, and it is the peak for the cherry blossom season so that will be great.

Here are a few pics from China!

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Vicarious Voyage Q and A Session

Throughout the semester, I have been to share with elementary school students back home at Myers Elementary school through a program on the ship called Vicarious Voyage.

I have enjoyed being able to share with them and I hope they have been able to learn a little bit more about the world. (Hey everybody!!!!)

Here are some of the questions!

Sorry it took so long to get back to you all!

We arrive in Japan tomorrow, and then we have a 2 week stretch at sea.

-Eric
#38 VIETNAM.docx
Brazil answered.doc
General Answered.doc
India Answered.doc
South Africa Answered.doc
Vietnam answered.doc
CHINAhalf answerd.doc

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