Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ghana, Togo and Benin

90% of American slaves were said to have come from Ghana. One of West Africa’s most successful economies, going into Ghana I was looking for a life altering experience. I was only in Ghana for a day and a half because I had planned traveling to Togo and Benin. Our ship docked in Tema, which is almost an hour outside of Accra, the capital. It was very difficult planning and getting around because of the roads were in poor condition and taxis were few and far between. Our game plan was to head to Cape Coast and see the slave castles, the mouth of the slave trade. But that didn’t happen. When we arrived at a recommended hotel, Avis told us that it wasn’t a good day to visit Cape Coast because it was a weekend. I was disappointed…..
We decided to do a city tour of Accra. We went to the W.E.B DuBois Museum, it was closed. Then we had lunch, at the recommendation of my friend Maame-Yao who studied abroad in Ghana last semester, visiting Auntie Muni's Wakye. (Waa-chee) is a delicious mixture of rice and beans, the customer than has the option to mix in spicy beef, fish, plantains and noodles. It was a delicious meal. We met a Ghanaian guy, David who explained to me the secret of dating and marriage. It was really funny because all the girls I was with disputed and argued.
Next we visited the Accra City museum and the city square. We learned about Ghana’s independence of 1957 and the pride they had especially from Obama’s visit last summer. After we went to the Kwame Nkrumah Museum, Ghana’s first president had an international legacy that brought him to form grand alliances and put Ghana at the forefront of west Africa. Nkrumah is credited to being responsible for Ghana’s success today. We saw where his wife is buried and the beauty that made up their memorial. I had a fascinating conversation with the museums curator, it is believed that when Nkrumah died, in Russia it was a plot by the CIA and the Russian government. But I didn’t feel that made any sense because at that time America had little interest in Ghanaian region and it being the time of the Cold War I felt the likelihood of US-Russo cooperation was unlikely.
Next door to the museum was a market. The market was very lively, we separated from the group and found a couple of men who owned a small shop. Somehow they persuaded me to buy a lot of very nice pieces of art, Figurines, pictures and even a wooden cup. The man guy, Sam, ran me bone dry and walked Amira and I to the ATM to have more money. On the way I spotted a station wagon with a Spelman College sticker on it. We joined them for a drink and we danced to Ghanaian music, I ended up buying a wine drum. The tour guide then took us to the mall where we went to get snacks and buy magazines. The mall was closed and I wasn’t interested in the snacks Ghanaian grocers had to offer so we decided to wait by the car until the tour guide returned. We planned on meeting Corey and Bruck at a spot in downtown Accra but they never showed up. We were hungry and decided to eat, we found a restaurant and it seemed pretty popular. We all had different foods, I ordered pizza and Ann and I split some babaganosh and hummus. Best Babaganosh I have ever had!
For whatever reason they were slowest with Amiras food so she found the owner, who was also Lebanese and complained. The owner gave us complementary Kibe and we got to sit in the VIP section of the restaurant and meet his friends, all of which were from Lebanon and Syria. After waiting 30 minute for Amira to eat we all were really tired, we took a cab to drop Amira off at a hotel to meet her dad. As she was checking in the lights went off, a frequent occurrence in Ghana. We exchanged good byes and it was off to the ship. Kelly, Ann and I gave the taxi driver the address to the terminal but he must have stopped about 10 times asking people where to go. Driving from Accra to Tema was a hassle. The roads were dreadful. 20 minutes into Tema we were pulled over by the police. They made our driver get out, open the trunk and furnish what looked to be a bribe. Several miles down the road was another one of these “Checkpoints”. This time they flashed the light in the car and questioned us. They asked Kelly and Ann where they were going and they asked me whether I was Ghanaian or not, we showed them our IDs and they let us go. Weary, we returned to the MV Explorer, it was about 1230AM and my time in Ghana was complete, disappointing as it was the next morning I’d leave for Togo and Benin.

630AM the next morning we met in the union, had breakfast, left the ship and boarded a bus. Over the next six hours we drove from Tema, Ghana through Togo to Benin. We stopped at the Togolese border for about 45 minutes. It took them so long to process our visa and passports. A nap and snack later we were onto Togo, but only for a short while because the drive through Togo was not long at all. Before long we were in Benin. In Benin we stopped at Musee D'histoire De Ouidah. It was here at Ouidah that we learned the prominent role this Portuguese post had in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Mostly to the countries of Brazil and Cuba.
Ouidah is home to a rich Voodoo tradition, for Benin, as well as Togo, were the birthplace of this practice. After the museum we visited the Benin Snake temple. We learned that the snake, namely the python is highly respected in the voodoo world chiefly as protectors. We entered a small yard like area where large trees grew. Around the tree were several small fenced in areas and adjacent to those was a small round hut. We learned these fenced in areas were to make sacrifice to voodoo gods. The tree, which seemed to be a weeping willow, was said to be a sacred tree that if it grew long enough it could catch a man or women and kill it. The circular hut was the actual Python temple. I took my shoes off, out of respect, and entered around me lay at least 50 pythons coiled in one another. Our guide picked one up and put it around my neck. There was a church just beyond the doors of the snake yard. Our guide explained hat sometime snakes get out and go into the church, but because each religion respects one another the church people often return the snakes, as opposed to killing them.
Next we visited the Foret Scaree De K'passe Ouidah, the Voodoo Forest of Kpasse. The forest is peppered with contemporary sculptures of voodoo idols. As we enter we meet Legba the guardian, this seated figure feature a perturbing phallic symbol and horns, asserting his masculinity and aggression. Legend has it that he was cursed with this sexual burden because of his promiscuity. The rest of the forest was filled with mythical voodoo characters, ones for life thunder, eternity and forgiveness, nearly every aspect of living. The life in the forest was rich, we saw giant millipedes, lines of hug ants, bats and birds.
We soon returned from the forest back to the Ouidah square where we shopped. Juana and I played with some of the local kids. It was here where my french came in useful. I found myself speaking with a young boy and slid him where I could find a Benin soccer jersey, before long he was leading me to a small shop. He asked the shopkeeper about the jersey and he then furnished a bag with the Benin National Football club shorts and soccer jersey. I tried it on, paid the shopkeeper and slid the kid a couple of francs for commission. I did some more haggling and then we were all back of to our hotel in nearby Cotonou, Hotel Du Lac. We sat down to a decent meal but soon my roommate Patrick and I were watching the CNN coverage of the Nuclear Summit and were fast asleep.
The next day we visited "The Venice of Africa", Ganvie, Benin. This fascinating aquatic society thrives off of its canoe building, fishing and water agriculture industry. It sits on Lake Nokoue in Cotonou. The largest lake village in Africa borders Nigeria. We took a canoe to the center of Ganvie, led by our guide and another. The guide was a native to the lake village and spoke mostly in French. But he told us that the local people don't really like their pictures taken because they feel it takes apart of their soul, similar to the indigenous people of the south pacific. He showed us the fish and prawn fishing and the ingenuity of the local people, displayed by the stilted homes and buildings over the lake. We went to a shop and purchased shirts. The kids rowed over to us and asked us for chewing gum. Lucky for them, I'd bought a bag of gum balls while we waited to be cleared into Benin, in Togo. Aaron, my buddy from Indiana, and I practiced our french and gave them gum balls and then said our Au revoirs. Next we tours ti the sixth of Ganvie, not to far from Nigeria, then stopped at shop/hotel. While there we saw kids wade in the water to cross the street, people carrying large loads to their homes or store and we saw and dry patch where kids learn to walk. We saw kids shower, play and wave to us from their homes. In the hotel/shop we bought different clothes and saw a deadly spider on the table where we sat and waited. After Ganvie, we headed to do even more shopping in Porto Novo. I bought African Art, clothing, and figurines. I found a man who was reading a book on African Politics. We spoke for about an hour outside of his shop about corruption in African regimes, US-Ghana and US-Benin relations and the opinion of Obama.
We left ad had diner at a nearby restaurant, probably the worst pizza I've ever had.

We returned to the hotel. Juana, and a bunch of our friends went swimming, played Marco polo, and jumped from the diving board. Juana was afraid her lip ring would come out upon impact, so I held her hand and she held her face as we took a plunge.

The next day, our last day we left rather early and went to Lome, the Capital of Togo and did a brief city tour. There was not too much to see. We saw the independence square (1956) and went to a the national museum of independence which really showed the dynamic of modernization from tradition.

We were all so tired at this point so there my adventure of West Africa ended with an 8hr bus ride back to the ship

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Mauritius was quite the experience, for the first time in a long time, since Vietnam, I was able to hang out with some of my RamRod brothers (Corey, Bruck, Graham and James). You see, RamRod is our intramural Basketball team and because the ship always cancels the game due to inclement weather we found ourselves hanging out with one another and it became a great friendship. Okay, enough with the mushy stuff. I started off my arrival to Port Louis by visiting the Jummah Mosque the Muslims there were very hospitable. This was my second time in a mosque ever; the first was in Cairo when I visited the Citadel Mosque. When we first arrived, the men seemed to pick up on the fact that few, if any, of us were Muslims. I even heard a comment by one of the men referring to one of my Hindu colleagues as, well…. a Hindu. This distinction was not hostile; in fact we learned that the Muslims at the Jummah Mosque were a part of a multi-religion council where they work very closely with other religious groups in Port Louis.
Our guide showed us the area where Muslims prayed, where Muslims observed the pillars of Islam and the area there men and women Muslims were allowed to pray together and where they were not. We learned that the Mauritian mosque was originally a place for Muslim traders to pray and it was rebuilt 58 years ago. After about 20 minutes of touring the main level and library, they invited us to the top floor, where we were seated and given a 90-minute presentation on Islam. I learned so much. First, it was surprising to me to learn how closely Muslim observed similar things to Christians. Muslims even believe in Jesus as a prophet. Muhammad will follow Christ as a prophet as stated in the book of Barnabus in the Quran. Our lecture was given by Hajee Imran Beedassed, a scholar from al-Azhar Egyptian University, and Sheikh Qari Alikahnoori, who was the Imam of Jummah Majid, they taught us about Halal, which is the precise slaughter of an animal in the name of God for Muslims to eat.
The degree to which the Muslims there were Sufi was not initially apparent, but the longer we stayed and the more we spoke to them we learned that their Pir was buried atop the mosque. Another fascinating part of the FDP was learning that Muslims believe that the Arch Angel Gabrielle gave first word to Muhammad “Read…in the name of your Lord”. According to the lecturer this, reading/learning, stands as a very important part in Islam. They prepared a great meal for us and I spoke with the Imam about American Islam and the view of Islam in the western perspective. He urged us not to judge Islam by Muslims but by the study of Islam. After such a long talk with the Imam, I was the last back to the bus. We returned to the ship and had lunch. Then I accompanied a group of friends to exchange money and then on to Grand Baie. We relaxed on the beach, it was not my hotel I was just visiting and waiting for Graham and friends to return from the adventure park. Upon my second return to the ship grabbed a snack and it was off to our hotel in Blue Lagoon. When we got there it was realized that 12 of us could not legally stay in our hotel so we decided we’d camp under the stars on the beach. That night we met locals and ate and hung out. We had a blast and woke up to a beautiful sunset. A cold night met a warm morning and by 11 it was off to our catamaran lasted all day and took us too many spots including Il Aux Cerf’s. We met a couple French families on the boat and used my French which was awesome. I met some locals namely a Rasta named Sebastian who I spoke to about blacks in the Diaspora and he taught me that surprisingly a lot of slaves had come from Mozambique, he gave me blessings and said that life’s motto should be “one Love” because when everything boils down we are one people and we should just love one another. In my cab back to the ship we slept but the family of the cab driver was really cool and said they were considering coming to the states soon. To be honest I cannot give Mauritius its due in this blog because the experience was superb. We were only there for 36 hours but the time spent was well allotted between learning at the Mosque and the beach and catamaran. This was an experience to strengthen friendships and relax after our Global Studies Exam.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

South Africa

South Africa!
Cape Town to be exact is a beauty that could only be compared to Mauritius or heaven. If I have not indicated at this point but in every port I am collecting a soccer jersey, Cricket in India’s case. The day didn’t start off as expected, there was no Diplomatic Briefing, and I love meeting the Foreign Service in each country to remind us of our American Values and those of that port. They give us keen insight and a settled glimpse of what it is to be American in that country. No less, as we left the ship, we were on a mission to find my soccer jersey, we found a shop, the Cross Trainer where they screen printed your last name on a jersey for 70 Rand, and I got the one for Ghana and South Africa done. Here my collection was nearing completion and it was out of the way. Amira’s family has a home in Hout Bay, Cape Town so as we at lunch at the Ocean Basket grille at the V&A, the main mall off the pier which stands for Victoria and Alfred, we(Kelly, Amira, Me, Zach and Bruck) looked for her mother. Jennifer Amira was gleaming with excitement. A while later we finally met up with her and then proceeded to show her the MV Explorer, the ship we had been living on for 3 months. After the tour we headed to Robben Island. Robben Island as I hope you know is where many anti apartheid activists were jailed. Most namely was Nelson Mandela who served 27 years for being a freedom fighter. Going into this tour I was really looking forward to getting a more intimate understanding of the struggle of apartheid juxtapose the civil rights struggle. We arrived to Robben Island and immediately boarded a tour bus where we were guided around the far part of the island, which to my surprise was a little town. Robben Island had its own post offices, churches and even general stores. This was very different from what I had always pictured about Robben Island. Our tour guide, James, was informative but hard to understand. During the tour we profiled two prisoners, Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe. On Robben Island we learned his story and his experience within the jails. We even visited his cell. I had always seen people go to Mandela’s cell and shed tears but, my reaction was more reserved. I understood the implications of speaking out in that society and have definitely come to understand unfairness in the judiciary, especially having studied the civil rights struggle in America and having family who were in the movement. Mandela was a freedom fighter with sound morals and patience who proceeded to a prominent position as South Africa’s first Black and Post apartheid president.
Who is not commonly know, I feel was, Robert Sobukwe. Sobukwe was jailed for inciting the defiance movement against South Africa’s “Pass Law” which required blacks to carry papers with them that were both seen as identification and restricted them to black or colored only areas in South Africa. Sobukwe opposed such limitation on peoples who were native to the land and organized a non-violent march to the police station but was arrested and sentenced to 3 years of solitary confinement for violating the “pass law”. He was subject to complete isolation in his own state provided quarters on Robben Island. He had limited communication with the outside world and other people, guards included. Sobukwe suffered some mental illness and vocal restraint because he hadn’t spoken to another human being in 3 years. The island was a fascinating experience.
After we returned we met Amira’s stepdad Stephen, who has a radio show on NPR “Living on Earth”, so he is very well versed in sustainability, as appropriate for the theme of our SAS Voyage. We toured him around the ship as well. Then we were off to Hout Bay. By this time it was night so we did not get a chance to view the splendor of Cape Town until the next morning. We arrived to their house to a great dinner and great conversation with Amira’s parents and hilarious anecdotes from Bruck. The next morning Stephen and I dropped Amira off at the dentist and went to the organic market. I tried a delicious olive sauce which I must remind myself the name for purpose of buying it when I return to the States.
Jennifer took Zach, Kelly and I to District Six Museum and Table Mountain. District Six was an area in South Africa which was very rich in African culture, but the government came in a forced all the blacks there to relocate. The museum showcased the vibrant culture of the neighborhood, all the while not pressing the devastation. After District Six, we were hungry and given the great recommendation by my prophyte Warren, I had to get some Nando. Which I learned is a jewel chicken spot in South Africa. We took our Nandos to Table Mountain and lunched on the side of table mountain because the line was simply too long to wait in for 3 hours in 90+ degree weather. After lunch we pulled off near llandadnao’s where I bought some African Art, a chair and some masks. We returned to the house where the sun and Nando had taken its toll and I took a 2 hour nap. When I awoke Amira was back from the dentist, we left for Stellenbosch to go pet the cheetahs at Spier Unfortunately we were 15 minutes late. But we had been having so much fun it didn’t matter. We walked around and met our reservation at Moyo. I don’t know how to describe such a magnificent place like Moyo. It was a buffet with show and rich African themes. Our faces were painted on the way in and we were seated adjacent to the stage. While we waited for Hailey and Stephen, Jennifer, Amira, Kelly and I had a bottle of Blanc de Blanc and appetizers. Once they arrived we dined on a magnificent buffet of Springbok, Ox tails, venison, squash, mashed potatoes and a myriad of delicious foods. We were given an African dance show of which I was chosen to come participate in. 5 men were chosen to do a traditional Zulu greeting dance and I participated, I will post the video on my face book soon. I started to become sick, it was a mix between my asthma adjusting to the dry African air and dehydration. We returned to Hout Bay where I got better and went to sleep.
The next morning we woke up and had a great organic breakfast then drove up to Chapman’s Peaks, one of South Africa’s most scenic drives and where many car commercials are filmed. After that we ventured to Cape of Good Hope the most southern point in South Africa where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. Off the beach, one part of the water is really cold (Atlantic) and the other very warm (Indian). It was a hike that Stephen, Kelly and I made and once we arrived at the crest it was a beautiful view of the ocean. Once descending we had lunch and enjoyed the staff singing South African songs to us; my favorite was Shosholoza a song that is a traditional work song and used to inspire pride. It really hit me that I was so blessed to even be in South Africa, because I looked around and saw black people is every facet of society; however, the disparity of wealth was obvious. We saw this while drove from townships to urban areas to beachfront properties.
That night we went back to the ship and it was off to Long Street to party. Ivy League and Zanzibar were big hits. I met a student from Spelman College who was studying abroad in Cape Town. She recognized me and we even emailed after and planned to keep in touch in the fall. We found Luzuko, the inter-port student, on Long Street and had a blast. I met two girls at the Ivy League and we talked about African Politics.
The next morning we were off to Akilah Game Reserve and went on safari. We saw lions, zebras, antelopes, rhinoceros and elephants. We were really close to a water buffalo and it charged toward our jeep. We stopped for a rest and a spotted a giraffe. After the safari we had lunch then went over to the private pins to see cougars and cheetahs. It was a great experience.
That night Genevieve and Bruck celebrated their birthdays. We had dinner and another night on Long Street.
The next morning was Easter Morning and we voted against going to church so we could experience more of Cape Town. We drove around Camps Bay and then went back to Hout Bay. Jennifer organized an Easter egg hunt, my first one; she filled the house with goodies hidden behind doors and on shelves. At first I was a bit reluctant but I was excited to find chocolate Easter bunnies so I cleaned up. Juana, Zach, Sandy, Corey, Bruck, Hailey, Amira and the Zimmerman Family all came together at the end of the day and appreciated sharing Easter together and took a moment to reflect and realize our blessing.
I loved South Africa; I bought a lot of shirts and artwork to remember my experiences outside of this blog. A beautiful wine country with a long history of race problems the fact that blacks are refooting themselves despite unequal distribution of wealth was fascinating. It was astounding to see townships set in mountains around million dollar homes. I look especially forward to returning.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


From the moment we arrived in India things were hectic. We had to disembark, yet I had a paper due before people had to leave the ship. So here was I in the computer lab typing away on a Philosophy of Lit paper, hearing my sea (Each area of the ship is broken down by sea, mine being Caribbean) called, saving my work, I rushed to get my passport and visa stamped at the pursers desk and instead of going to customs immediately as recommended I finished my paper. A clear mind leads to a good experience. The paper was finished and there I stood at the printer, waiting for my essay to spool as I gazed out of the window onto Chennai.

My first reaction: There aren’t as many beggars as I thought, it’s hot and everyone looks like me, is this India? But of course as I ventured the almost half kilometer form the ship to customs I was ravaged by dust clouds and saried women asking me for money to feed themselves. Now I’d like to illustrate that if you are ever in India, do not give money to the beggars. No I am not a cold-hearted and selfish American but these “beggars” 9times out of 10 are a part of a seamy underworld of organized crime designed to take advantage of tourists. So save your rupees for a 501!

Anyway customs was a headache, my Tamil (language spoken in south India) was nonexistent but a couple of broken English commands made me on the right track. To declare my backup camera and laptop was all of 15 minutes. I was ready to see India. Unfortunately my Field trip was cancelled and I was confined to the ship. Not because I was afraid to venture but frustrated that my first 4 hours in the country was so busy. Sitting down to the onboard lunch, Amira told me her FDP consisted of meeting with some Indian psychologists and their students and they had agreed to show us around Chennai, Cha-Ching! Jackpot!! It’s great to have proactive friends when you’re discouraged. Amira didn’t know my strife and I was thankful for her diligence. She only requested that I help give the guests a boat tour. So we did, I asked questions about the education system, future dreams and successes they’d had. This was by far one of the best conversations I’d had. The pressure Indian parents put on their children is immense, a reason for the high suicide rate of high school students in India who don’t get into the IIT or vocational equivalent. After showing them brig to bow, the professor drove us around Chennai, showing us the beaches and stores. It was interesting, yet brief, and before long we were beck to the ship to meet up with my friend Neha and her family. They had planned a fantastic 5 days trip for us that would take us from to Delhi, Agra, and Hyderabad (her home town). Neha is on SAS and she’s from Northville MI only about 25 min away. We met her grandmother Soroj. Sweetest lady, she didn’t know a lot of English but she knew enough for me to feel like she was my grandmother. We flew from Chennai to Delhi. I was pissed because my sky miles card was lost before SAS and Kingfisher was definitely a client airline SMH. Amira would continue to rub it in. We had a smooth flight to Delhi and on the flight we had some spicy Indian food on the flight, which sure beats peanuts. We arrived at night, we had a van pick us up and take us to our hotel. We were all so tired. I skyped some friends and a couple of us went out to get some traditional Indian food, we found a small hotel down the street which opened up just for us. The next morning we were up at 4AM, as we would for the rest of our time in India. We ventured to Jama Masjid a huge mosque, one of Asia’s largest. We listened to our guide and then learned about the mosque, we ventured to the observation tower with a guide for 100 rupees, and he led us to the high overlooking domain which seemed like one of the highest points in Delhi. We took pictures with the little man and after leading us half way down he requested a tip. Jordan, Amira and I looked at one another like we’d been duped but realized that a dollar would suffice. Outside the mosque stood a gang of rickshaw drivers. Our group which by the way consisted of Tess, Nuvia, Chi-Chi, Shannon, Amira, Jordan and Me. I sat with Amira, Tess with Nuvia, Shannon with Chi-Chi and Jordan by himself. We rode around the block surrounding Jama Masjid which when toured we saw the back alleys of local people who grew and sold a lot of vegetables, owned shops, the highlight was probably the monkey we saw that stole a man’s bag of peas. The monkey snatched the bag climbed to the top of a telephone pole, tore the bag open and began to eat from the pod. From the rickshaw ride we went to Raj Ghat, a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. We had to remove our shoes, as we did in the mosque except I’d forgotten my socks in the bus, so when we entered Gandhi’s memorial I already felt that I was intimately paying tribute the Gandhi. This was the first time we experienced Indians taking pictures of us tourists. I felt it was rude and I decided that every person who wanted to take a picture of me, I’d take a picture with, switched it up for the sake of milking my newfound celebrity. We later visited the Delhi Red Fort, which over looked the river Jamuna during the Mughul Empire (1638-1648) and India Gate. All magnificent sites. We also went to Lotus Temple and Qutab Minar. The Lotus Temple was a beautifully crafted monument built for the Baha’I Faith. A religion that my friend Michel subscribes to at Morehouse. It was exciting to me to realize this faith first hand. The beautiful part about the Baha’i faith is, to simplify, they believe in the golden rule (a guideline in every religion) and comingles every faith. Qutab Minar on the other hand was a crude ruin of ancient history. We then retreated back to the Hotel Star Grand Villa because it was so late in the day, we showered and ate dinner. During dinner and through the early of the night we heard a lot of music coming from the basement of the hotel, following Amira and Shannon we discovered an all men’s party in the basement, which was the norm in India. We learned it was very uncommon for men and women to party together outside of a family function. Two businessmen were celebrating a birthday so Amira and I acted as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, in a wedding crasher style and had everyone sing an English version of happy birthday. The put celebratory flowers around our necks and it became quite the shindig. The rest of the girls in the group came and went as soon as they noticed the men to become a bit drunk and touchy but the original 3 of us stayed and I could tell the men were not sure if either one of the girl was with me some they became less touchy as the party progressed. We had a lot of fun and did a lot of dancing. They were very hospitable; the owner of the hotel was there with his brother, the CFO. They gave us food, business cards and gifts. Needless to say after to 2 hours of partying I was out like a light.

The next morning began again at 4am and we were off to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. This is the first time the India food started to get to me. We stopped at a rest stop and it took us to realize that the rest stop would be were our breakfast would be. I drank 2 ginger ales and stayed in the bathroom for most of the time. After the 3 hours sleep en route to Agra, my stomach a less upset. We visited Fatehpur Sikri, there was a court where legend has it that an elephant, by foot, would judge the fate of a criminal. Also that the ruler, Akbar, who lived in the palace had 3 wives. One Christian, one Muslim and one Jewish, all the women had a different quarters on the palace grounds and from the rulers bedroom there were secret passages that would lead to each one of the wives rooms. Akbar actually abandoned this temporary capital because of a water shortage. We left there and within an hour we were at the beautiful Taj Mahal. The “Taj” was built by Mughul Emperor Shahjehan in 1639 in memorial of his wife Queen Mumtaz. The security of the Taj Mahal was pretty intense. Two lines, one for men and one for women. Our guide was pretty aggressive in getting us in the Taj; he even pushed other nationals around to ensure us a good spot in line 1) for entry into the gate of the Taj 2) for entry into the Taj Mahal. After the Taj we went to the Red Fort of Agra, which was a beautiful structure about 1 Km from the Taj. It was a beautiful structure and the view of the Taj was impressive. The red fort was built for Prince Ali. We returned to Delhi that night and the next morning we were up again at 4AM.

Jordan was very adamant on going to Hudmyums Tomb, who was the second emperor of India. As we pulled up to the premises I was a little cranky from getting up so early. Amira and I were heading to the tomb with the group when we saw about 3 fields of boys and men playing cricket. She and I had a history of always adventuring from what everyone else was doing, and the 3 days of sightseeing had us already a bit exhausted. We decided to sit and watch a couple games of cricket. We decided that we would find some kids and maybe learn to play. That’s exactly what we did, we played a small game of cricket with some kids and their mentor translated into Hindi. We had a blast and I truly have an understanding for the game. After the game Amira and I decided to buy popsicles for all the boys we played with we paid about $10 for 2 boxes of popsicles. Upon return to the field, the entire field of children descended on Amira, some tackled her to the ground and took 3 or 4 popsicles each, as I filmed. We thought it was hilarious and peculiar that no one said thanks, but it was fine we were happy to play and have the experience. We left and I headed to get passport photos for Togo and Benin. Thereafter we went to the airport. We were 4 hours early for our flight; I bought a new camera at the airport. Then Amira and I got massages and had dinner to kill sometime. About 2 hours into the meal a man rushed in requesting ticketholders for the flight to Hyderabad, turns out it was the last call. We rushed to the plane and learned that they had been calling us for 50 minutes. Apparently my watch was an hour slow. The kept the plane waiting for us and the group had been on pins and needles.

An hour flight brought us in Hyderabad, Neha and her grandmother met us at the airport with signs. We thought that we’d be staying with her grandmother, but she actually booked us a hotel. We ate at Neha grandmothers, and ten we ended the night. The next morning we got up early to eat amazing Dhosa at the Taj Mahal hotel. We drove through necklace road, Birla Mindir and went shopping in the Bazaar. We went to a bangle district where Jordan and I waited for hours for the girls to buy bangles. That afternoon, we visited Neha’s Grandmother’s women’s college for abandoned girls. We had a great lunch at the women’s college; the Indian food was foreign yet delicious.

Funny story: After dinner my upset stomach seemed to take rule. The commode actually malfunctioned and I had to fill up a bucket to raise the ball in the tank but it just wouldn’t work. I spent an extra 15 minutes trying to get it to work. The innerving part was that people were waiting; eventually it worked, after I’d dropped the bucket and the whole bathroom was wet.

We took a tour and as a surprise to us we were invited to speak to the whole women’s college. We sat on a dais and spoke to a group of 60 girls about the importance of education, it was very touching. We actually were featured in the Hyderabad newspaper for this event. We donated and sponsored a girl’s education. After the talk we gave out desserts. We went shopping the girls went to get saris’ and Jordan and I went and got our cricket jerseys. We all met at the mall and had dinner at Neha’s grandmother’s house for a fantastic dinner. The next morning it was off to Cochin, when we arrived in Cochin and we essentially walked around the city sightseeing, highlights were St Francis Church and Jew Town. In Jew town I bought some linen pants. Amira and I found a nice ginger themed restaurant and had a great dessert. We met up with the group and returned to the ship.

I never understood how much there was to see in India. Usually when one thinks of India they immediately think of the Taj Mahal, but there is so much more.