Posted by Emily Block | 3 comments

Re-Entry: First Thoughts

A lovely little reminder from iCal greeted me as I opened my computer for some bedtime browsing.  It said, "Remember why you went."  I have this scheduled to pop up at odd intervals for the next three years to remind me of my voyage around the world, what I learned, and what I want to do in the future.  As I gazed at that little reminder my throat tightened in a wave of memories caught me in their flow.  In some ways the trip seems like seconds ago.  I still wake up some mornings expecting to be in Ghana or India.  In other ways, the trip seems like a whole lifetime ago or even perhaps just a marvelous dream I had.  To think I did these things I recall seems the purest of fiction as I recline in my childhood bed in my childhood house in my childhood city.  The past several weeks have been busy with a whole host of ordinary things; doctor appointments, lunch with mom, finding an online class to take this summer ...

In some ways this "usual life" consumes me.  It is difficult to focus on all of the tough questions that came from my travels, difficult to ponder all of the things I learned in my ship classes, when I am back in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices and spending evenings watching X-Files with my mom.  The ordinariness of each day binds me in it's monotony.  It is not unpleasant, but it perhaps is not the best thing for me.  At the same time I am so often plunged into these moments of almost immersive memory.  I look down a street and something about the colors of the buildings or the lighting peeking through rooftops takes me back to the fishing village in Ghana.  The drive to my university I have done so many times takes my breath away in it's likeness to the rolling hills outside of Cape Town.  I look at little town on the hill facing the pacific ocean, close my eyes and I am looking at the ocean facing hillside in Dominica.  It is not only places I so often am transported to.  I also find myself vividly recalling conversations I had with a guide in Brazil or how a man in South Africa taught me how to make a pot out of clay.  I find myself turning to share a joke with one of my friends and realizing they are half a country away.  I'm caught between the monotony of everyday life and the memories of a few extraordinary months.

Sometimes I wonder if I have really changed at all.  That is my biggest fear.  That I went all these places, did all of those things, met all of those people, and will put it on a shelf in my brain under "a very good vacation."  I fear that I will loose the passion I felt as I sat discussing tough issues in service learning or the friendliness and openness I acted with as I met so many new people.  I fear that my eyes will stop searching for wonder and that my mind will stop questioning.  Perhaps that I fear this means I am not there yet.

Perhaps there is other evidence that SAS was so much more than just a vacation.  I have been shopping only twice since I got home.  I used to delight in the browsing and purchasing of new things but now I find myself too preoccupied with questions of how and where the goods were produced.  What sacrifices were made to bring that product to me at the advertised low price?  Do I really need another shirt?  I look at menus not only based on what sounds good but also what sounds sustainable.  I now know that I have a part in so many of the problems that plague the world.  Each time I order a hamburger, I'm using that $8 to vote for a ridiculously unsustainable food source.  Each time I buy something I don't need for a ridiculously cheap price, I am voting for a system that doesn't always adhere to human rights.  The more I take, the more I take from others, whether it be humans, animals or the environment.  I can't ignore that.  That is a major difference in me since the trip.  Before I knew all of these things, but they seemed to be just as distant as the fictional novels I am so fond of.  Now I have seen it, lived it, and cannot look the other way.  At the same time I want to fit in with my culture and that culture is one where I hang out with my mom by shopping at Kohl's.  It's one where I really should put up with those infuriating commercials to watch a TV show so I can chat with my friends about it later.  No one would want to hear about how flipping scary the censorship and regulations are in Tibet.  I am having a hard time with this.  My dad jokingly said that I must have majored in insufferable on the ship.   I guess in some ways that is true, but the fault is in my delivery, not my education or the people in my life.  RIght now I am trying to find a balance between living a life I feel good about and staying tolerable to my friends and family.  I  hope this struggle means I did change.  That things did stay with me.

The hardest part about this reverse culture shock is that I lost my support community.  For every step of the SAS journey I had a whole ship of people to help me process what I saw.  Each class session was an opportunity to put things into context, to discuss what we saw and what it meant.  Meal times and late night conversation found us reflecting on our most recent adventures and trying to wrap our minds around big questions.  We all went through different shades of the same thing and were a part of each other's journey.  Then, when it came to the biggest challenge of all, how we would take these many experiences and apply them to everyday life, that community no longer existed.  We left our home on the MV Explorer to fade back into our own lives, but I think we still need each other to figure out the complexities of this transition.  There's facebook and text messages and all the benefits of modern communication technology, but that will never be the same as a passionate class discussion or a three hour conversation with one's roommate.  We are left on our own with the most important and difficult part of the journey.  The sum of all of our challenges converges on our shoulders in one moment, and that moment happens again and again as we venture each second into our old yet different lives.  It is unbearable at times and beautiful at others.  Usually it is both these things as once.  


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Posted by Emily Block | 0 comments

Strangers Like Me

My first video from the trip!  :0)  This one focuses on the people I met and the things that they taught me.


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Goodbye Loves!

Leaving the ship was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life.  I was so excited to see my parents, but hated to leave the amazing SAS community.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Before that, there was more packing and celebrating.

SAS does this neat thing where the graduating seniors get to participate in a commencement ceremony.  Since I am a graduating senior, that included me.  Andrea was also a graduating senior so we had some hang out/goofy time before the ceremony.

We are special.  :0)

The Captain gives a speech.  

The Dean gives a speech.  This guy was absolutely hilarious!  

The much beloved Global Studies professor gives a speech....

....and demonstrates how not to take pictures at tourist destinations.

And my bum food.
The family and I had our last bunch of meals together complete with the usual shenanigans and heated Doctor Who discussions.

I must have said something hilarious here.  I am quite funny you know.  

Ok, maybe someone else said the hilarious thing.  

As usual, Josh uses his facial expressions to convey how we all feel.  In this case it is how we feel about signing abazillion maps.

Josh's pen 

Josh knit this with sewing thread and tooth picks.  I want one!

We had our last pre-port the day before we arrived in San Diego and it was a hilarious spoof of the usual pre-ports.  The deans' and the staffs' kids or students dressed up like them and gave a silly version of their usual pre-port shpeal.

I stayed up quite late that night swapping photos and getting in last minute fun time.  And more last minute packing.  And picture taking.


And then it was our last day on the MV Explorer.  We started out the day with a breakfast with our sleep-deprived comrades.  There were many a laughs and a general air of denial that this was all going to be over soon.

Then we headed out to the deck to watch San Diego come into view.  I think for a while we got caught up in the excitement waving American flags that someone passed out and signing along to Neil Diamond's America.  As we came into the port, these bouncy little specks materialized into parents who were jumping up and down to greet us.  After some searching (and shoving through crowds) I spotted my mom and dad.  They too spotted me once I started waving my crutch and there was much frantic waving.  

After that adrenaline rush was over, we had about two hours to say goodbye before we started disembarking.  I don't think so many people have cried so hard ever.  In history.  We almost had to call Noah in with the flood of tears.  Ok, I may be exaggerating, but it was a really heart wrenching two hours.  

I spent most of it sobbing into my friend's shoulders as we bear hugged each other goodbye.  We thanked each other for making this journey as amazing as it was.  I know my voyage would not have been the same without these wonderful people at my side.  I kept wondering how I was supposed to go back to "normal" life without seeing them every day.  I still am not sure.  I could write pages and pages and it would not come close to expressing what each of my friends meant to me.  It is hard now with us spread all over the country (and world), but I find happiness in knowing that we are friends for life.  

In between tearful goodbyes, I took some last photos with people.

Last roomie picture  :0(

Professor Bass and I.  This lady is one of the coolest people I have ever met.  I certainly learned a lot from her!

I knew I would miss Crispen's sign!

Cripsen, my cabin steward and I.
Too soon they were calling my sea to disembark and I frantically shoved the last things into my suitcases and headed out.  I wish I could say I had gained some composure by this point, but no, I cried all the way out the door and into the terminal.  Stepping off the boat that last time felt more frightening than the first time I set foot on the MV Explorer.  I wasn't sure how this real life thing was going to end up.  I'm still not sure.

It reminded me of a quote I have in my digital quote collection: "The truth is, I was afraid the day I walked into Stanford.  And I was afraid the day I walked out."  ~Carly Fiorina  
Insert "MV Explorer" in place of "Stanford" and it's golden. 

All of my sadness turned abruptly into joy the second I turned the last corner of customs and saw my dad.  I hobbled up to him and cried some more as more bear hugs ensured.  Then my mom, and my brother leaped out from the car to surprise me.  It was great seeing them again!  My tears rapidly dried as I took off talking at the speed of light about my trip.  I was really happy that my family got to meet my ship parents and ship grandparents before we pulled away from the dock.  

For the next twenty four hours I was all excitement.  I had fun exploring the familiar San Diego surroundings, meeting Andrea and her sister for lunch, and catching up with my family.  

After 110 days of pining after it, I finally got some of my chocolate "jumping cow milk"

And Mexican food that isn't Taco Day

Since then it has been a roller coaster of emotions as I am adjusting back to civilian life.  More on that later.  :0)


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Posted by Emily Block | 0 comments

Finals and Finales

  I wasn't sure how I would do with finals, but things turned out ok.  As they always do.  Global studies was surprisingly really hard, but I had a good enough grade going into it that it turned out ok overall.  The single most worst part of finals week was that there was hours upon hours of banging on pipes.  It started around 8:00 on the Global Studies final day and went for hours and hours that day and the next and the next.  Alyssa and I could not for the life of us figure out what was going on.  There were all these crew members banging on the pipes with chisels, hammers and even crowbars.  Seriously!  We finally figured out that they were chipping off rust.  Which it totally necessary, don't get me wrong, but it negatively affected our sanity.

I took plenty of time to de-stress (and escape the pipe banging) during meal times and other excuses for procrastination.  
The beloved dish disposal station.

My Ship Parents!


 After my last final I hurried to my room to get ready for the Alumni Ball that night.  It was so much fun!  And the food was pretty good in terms of ship food.

Getting ready with the girls.

The family <3

My shrimp cocktail (aka one shrimp cut into five slices so I would be fooled into thinking it was a shrimp cocktail.)

Surprisingly decent soup.

Caesar and water dressing.

And a delicious chicken something for the main course!

 We took some pictures and goofed off in the hours between the noms and the dancing.

Including attempts at artsy photos because there were some crazy orange curtains.

 And then back to attempts at normalness

 Dessert was a beautiful thing!

 Morgan rocking the Who look.

 Dance party on the seventh deck!  I was really happy to hardly have to lit down at all.  I almost blacked out a few times, but not nearly as much as I'm used to.  And no collapsing!

And I IIIIIIIIIII will always loooove yooooooooou!

quack goes the token duck face.  (And Josh photobombs us, as usual.)

 And then something unfortunate happened.  I am told someone in heels jumped and landed on my foot.  I can only inarticulately describe the event as ow.  OW OOOOOOWWWWW!  Then some sobbing (I'm not proud of it) and Courtney saving me by keeping me from freaking out completely.  I've had a lot of crazy injuries and I think this one ranks at the top of the ouch scale.  I couldn't' stop crying and started shaking and was a general mess.  Courtney went to get help and then helped keep me calm in the half hour it took for people to come help me.  Still not sure what that was about.  I don't think the crew person thought I was actually hurt so he wanted me to wait until the end of the dance.  Oh well.  I eventually got a wheelchair and with many whimpers as we went over bumps, I got down to the health center.  I felt horrible later for waking up the whole medical staff, but then I was too busy freaking out because it hurt so much.  It also did not look so pretty.  I had looked at it up at the dance and it was all bloody and swollen through my compression socking.  I made Courtney take a picture of is after they cut the stocking off because I was too afraid to look.  haha  After it was cleaned up a bit it didn't even look all that bad as you can see.

 There was nothing they could do that night because everything hurt too much.  So I just got something for the pain and my friends got be back to my room.  I didn't really sleep that much that night because it hurt every time I moved it, but that's to be expected.  I got an x-ray the next day which was inconclusive but showed it wasn't horribly broken or anything like that.  (I still can't walk on it, but it is a little better after two weeks.)  Enough about my stoopid foot eh?

I felt pretty rotten that day between the lack of sleep and the ouchies so I pretty much stayed in the room.  I had wanted to take pictures and videos of the ship and hang out with my friends, but it was not in the cards.  I did get some pictures though!  :0)  Like of my door.

And Hannah was awesome and helped me finish up the packing I hadn't quite finished.  So as far as things go, the day wasn't a total loss.  Plus, it was totally worth it to have danced all night on a rocking ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Now there's story when people back home ask me what happend to my foot!  :0)


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