Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sea Olympics!

The games were intense. I am member of the Yellow Sea. Our color was red. If this alone did not foreshadow the confusion of our team, then our meager construction paper taped to a lacrosse stick torch that was presented by an eccentric guy in a Speedo at the opening ceremonies would definitely stand as our introduction to the Olympic community.

The games included synchronized swimming, relay races, spelling bees, banner contests, human knot, three-legged race, crab soccer, volleyball, doge ball, fishing, tug-a-war, and so many more. I was chosen for the human knot, water pong (civil war style) and flip cup teams.

If any other ship had cruised by us at any point during the day they would have not have thought of Semester At Sea as an academic institution. Music was playing on the speakers, college kids were running around on all of the decks chanting and screaming, and there was an atmosphere of good fun and chaos.

Pong was incredibly competitive. Never have I seen more heated debates over a pong game and I go to Miami, this is saying something. The rules were unclear from the beginning and when the Mediterranean Sea started using other players to hit balls away our Yellow Sea demanded a rerack. We got 3rd place in the tournament. The championship ended with tables overturned and chaos on deck 6 aft.

Our team ran around the ship like a bunch of chickens, sporting as much red as they could, with their heads cut off. We had a BBQ. BBQ night means eating like hibernation is tomorrow. I had three hamburgers, a hotdog, and a plethora of ice cream. Everyone enjoys food choices that stray from the usual. It was glorious to have spent a day off the coast of the Maldives where the water was 86 degrees and the air was 82. After dinner, a group of us jumped in the pool, which is filled with seawater and had an impromptu dance party while watching the sun set on the ship’s wake. It was cool that after a day of insane rivalry between the eight teams that we could all celebrate the fun day together.

To everyone's surprise, the Yellow Sea ended up in second! Yay!

Mauritius: It's always 5 o'clock

So, I am standing there in my state of admiration of all the island’s striking features, I am sending off wish-you-here vibes to my family and friends, and listing off the reasons I am blessed: this place, these people, this journey, these memories… as I am feeling the water I am tackled to the sand and called out of my own world by blaring techno music from the center villa where pong games had started.
It’s always 5 o’clock Mauritius time.

We kayaked out to the coral reef where the waves were breaking a ways out. It was so fun! We had three kayaks we would take turns between paddling and riding on the back. Sean paddled a surfboard ou. It became rougher with every length we went. Our kayaks were flipping and it was a game to try to stay above water for an extended period. We boogie boarded and got tossed around as we rode the waves. Dark clouds were on the horizon so we paddled in, save Brian, Austin, and Johnny. We were grilling lunch as it started to drizzle. Then we were admiring a rainbow as the three boys lugged themselves up the beach. The rain had brought even rougher waves and had thrown them into the coral reef. Blood everywhere; we sent them to the emergency room. They returned bandaged up but in good spirits.

It is just impossible to capture an image of bright and clear constellations drawn out on an unspoiled ink black canvas and framed by the Milky Way. Besides- after a night swim, lit only by the pure crescent moon above the Indian Ocean, and collapsing onto the white beach- No one cares about the sand sticking to our salty bodies. No one considers moving from the comfort of good conversation. No one can bear to break away from the arms of a friend. And No One ever thinks about getting up to get a camera to capture the moment. The picture would not be able to do the moment justice anyway.

We tried our best to cook. Cooking was really an act of foraging through all of the villas for something that had not been eaten or destroyed by an inebriated thought process. We made hamburgers on coconut buns, someone grilled a steak, grilled cheese was a favorite until we ran out of bread and cheese, and we ate avocados on crackers, and then resorted to just Pringles. 

While I took a nap in a hammock (we all know how much I love hammocks!) Taylor had conjured up a small chocolate cake with sprinkles. And although our villa stopped its running water and we had been using Captain Morgan in lieu of water for pancakes, the cake was somehow delicious. It was a simple cake made wonderful by the people who sang happy birthday.  

The second night was just as beautiful. The boys had chopped wood in the morning and we dug a pit in the sand. Using eagle scouts as our resource, we successfully made a large beach bonfire. I know it’s corny, but we honestly sang and told stories around the fire. We sat on the beach until early the next morning.

On our last day, we did not waste any time- we were on the beach for as long as we could. Our bus came at noon to take us back into the city. But we didn’t immediately take the water taxi back to the ship. We went to a bar/restaurant ‘Keggers’ on the waterfront and told them it was my birthday. I was able to pick the soundtrack for our remaining hours on shore. All SASsers (as we call any member of our ship community) were returning to the port area and joining the crowd at Keggers. Everyone exchanged stories and had a great time before returning to the ship for our voyage to India.

Mauritius: 9,912 miles away from home for a 21st

21 years after I was born I found myself on a beach, on the island country of Mauritius, halfway around the world. I was smiling in awe of the:

5 beachfront villas with large furnished porches and plenty of living space beautifully decorated with blue-green mosaics of sea glass. These paradise homes slept:

58 old and new friends from the ship, all of whom were exhausted from midterms and ready for some fun in the sun. Our adventures together began with:

2 buses brought us from the ship to the closest supermarket. We ran around the store as if we were on a timed shopping spree with no English food labels. Everyone laughed in excitement as we rang up all of our ‘necessities’.

3100 Mauritius Rupees which is over a thousand USD, paid for:

85 six-packs (largest available) of Phoenix brew that we crammed into every space and passed through the window when the bus was reaching capacity.

17 bottles of Island Green Rum that is locally made with the bountiful sugar cane island resource.

5 bottles of champagne, my birthday preference, to celebrate with.

10 or more additional bottles of liquors suiting everyone’s fancy

3 jugs of mango, pineapple, litchi, guava, and orange juices.

2 carts of food including something to satisfy everyone’s craving. Personally I picked up:

6 avocados a few large chocolate bars.

1 ½ hours later we arrived

72 hours of the most righteous birthday celebration began right there where I found myself; viewing the most postcard-worthy beach I had ever seen; throwing our bags that were packed with just swimsuits and toothbrushes onto beds; beading with perspiration from the wonderfully warm and humid island air; some of us running to the beach with snorkels and masks, some lathering sun lotion on to soak up some rays, some sprawling on hammocks in the shade of palm trees, some leading expeditions down the beach to the point of the bay where the volcano was in sight, some mixing drinks, some playing catch, and some standing there-entranced by the surroundings- taking it all in.