October 31, 2007


Dear Loved Ones

Places around the world my "international" cell phone doesn't seem to be working #86 - Alexandria, Egypt. I will try to find a calling card because I miss your voice(s).

In other news, I went to the Bibliotheca Alexandria today - very cool but also kind of just a library. Highlights include a handwritten passage from Homer's Odyssey, and other very cool things.

Alexandria is beautiful (not entirely gorgeous, but thriving and full of character). One of the most breathtaking coastal cityscapes. Since Israel I've developed a thing for Middle Eastern Mediterranean cities.. there's something kind of simple and serene about they way they've been built up. I am LOVING the charm and the people and speaking Arabic (ok just saying hello and thank you but whatever), and looking forward to amazing food, coffee, company and nargele.

Anna! To answer your question - tonight is the crew Halloween party (despite the fact that this holiday is only celebrated by 1.3% of the crew population, everyone is getting really into it). I will be Uma in Pulp Fiction because I have black flood pants and a phenomenal wig, and because I do not feel like wearing shoes.

At 2:45am, 10 of us are getting in a mini-van and driving to the Pyramids for a sunrise tour- should be amazing.

I know I didn’t update in India. I’ll try to put some thoughts together soon about it, because it was an unbelievable trip and a very important one, too I think. It’s #2 on places I want to get back to (behind Vietnam, though Egypt and transiting the Suez Canal are definitely sparking my interest in the Middle East and Africa (ok basically I need a job that will require me to travel the world.. Dan/Kissairis/Lewis make up the couch, maybe I will come to DC to study politics & journalism it will be GREAT!)

Quick highlights include eating with my hands from a banana leaf, watching a TV show being filmed at AVM studios, Sir Benemore’s cameo in this trip around the world, the seaside sandstone temples and Mother Teresa’s orphanage.

Since I’m lazy, here’s a cut-and-paste email I sent to a friend who gave me a Polaroid camera as a going away gift (THANKS)-

So I wanted to tell you how much happiness your Polaroid camera brought to some of the people I met in India.. There has been this guy Sami - a rickshaw driver that me and my friends have used here - who took me yesterday for the last time when I went to Mother Theresa's orphanage (intense, amazing, ). Anyway, Sami brought his girlfriend with him this time, and she was sweet but kind of sad- there is such poverty here, so much homelessness or straw huts constructed on the side of the road.. So many rickshaw drivers sleep in their rickshaws, and it's open and not hidden and scary and sad. Anyway, Sami's girlfriend came with us and she was so sweet. So when they dropped me off at the port, I asked if I could take their picture. Outside the port, there are always beggar children and families, and a million rickshaw drivers.

The second I took out the camera and took their photo one for me one for them, everyone was asking me to take their picture. And they all wanted to keep it, which I thought was odd until I realized that this might be the only photo they've ever had of themselves, and will they pass it down to their children and will this become an heirloom? I had about 17 pieces of film with me. I only got one (the first, of Sami and his girlfriend).. I took photos of a couple children, three men who sold drums (together), a man with his truck (he was so proud to own it) and his friend, a very old woman who later came up to me – you go from the street to the customs house to sign in.. usually when they come up to you it is to ask for money to feed their family -- but she just asked my name and kissed my hand and said thank you.

Anyway, it was fifteen minutes of utter chaos and some of the most amazing smiles I've ever seen. I wish I had copies of these photos - they were amazing and you would have loved them - but it almost is better that I don't, I think, I think the whole idea is so much more of a pure and authentic experience and interaction and it was amazing.. maybe having copies would make it feel more touristy (tourist or witness??).

But anyway, I wanted to thank you for them, and for me, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip, just laughing and hugging and giving these people something that they don't have.

SO – that was part of India. I’ll write more later.

I’m off to get dressed and do the twist.
<3 MR

October 15, 2007


Today was the longest day ever - worked an extra shift during immigration. Tried to plan out the next four days in Chennai.. I'm hoping to go to Mother Theresa's church and orphanage, buy a sari, a new nose stud and silk bedding, and enjoy lots of Indian food and culture with Brett & Jignesh's families. I'm also trying to fit in a drive through Mallaparum and add one more to my list of gorgeous coastal road trips.

Today was intense.. (warning: Dear Sue & Zaide, don't worry ok)

I went out for a couple hours with two students. We tried to go to the orphanage but the language barrier was too much and we were sure we weren't going to be taken where we wanted to go. So we decided to just go to one of the bigger shopping centers in Chennai, a name all of the rickshaw drivers knew. We bargained with one guy and were about to get in his auto-rickshaw when one of the Customs Officials came over and started yelling at him - we have no clue about what, whether he was going to rip us off, or take us somewhere else, or just wasn't supposed to be in that area (it was really close to the port where most aren't allowed). And the Customs Official hits him upside the head. We freak out and start walking away. Turn back to see that the Official has dragged him by his hair into the empty lot alongside the road we were walking on. Then we notice that he had parked his rickshaw there. He was driving the rickshaw now and the exit from the lot was in front of us and we assume that he's coming back to pick us up. We feel terrible about what just happened so we get in the rickshaw. As he drives away, the Customs Official runs after the auto-rickshaw, hits the guy upside the head again (we jump out of all sides of the rickshaw and start walking away again, freaking out, all near tears). The Official pulls him out of the rickshaw and throws him on the ground, punches him in the face and kicks him over and over. I'm kind of ashamed to say we never turned back to see what happened. No idea what the conflict was about - whether the guy was about to put us in danger, whether he had done something wrong to the official, or whether (as it seems) there is just a longstanding conflict between the officials and the rickshaw drivers. It was terrifying, and I hope to have so many more memories of Chennai other than this one, but it was one of the most vivid experiences of my life and I wanted to share it with you guys.

We did make it to the shopping center, and we found some great stuff, but we were all definitely shaken by what had happened earlier. On the way home I had an amazing auto-rickshaw driver named Raja, who I will probably use for the next few days. He spoke pretty good English, was nice and funny and so curious about my life as an American. He also told me about his family, which was very cool.

That's one thing I haven't gotten used to yet - the idea of us being something foreign and fascinating to someone we meet. Today one of the immigration officials on board, an older woman (it was so cool - she was wearing a white sari but with her stripes (during the day i wear an all white uniform, and stripes are those shoulder stripes you wear depending on your rank)).. anyway, she wanted to take a photo with me. And she told me about how as a person growing up in India you read all of these stories about Americans, young American girls, and you see them in the movies, but to spend time speaking with someone - it was like a character from a book coming alive... which is such a weird way to think about yourself - as an incarnation of something forty years in the making in someone's imagination. It's so interesting to have people admit that they see you as foreign and interesting and different as you sometimes seem them.. and then of course as you talk you find more and more in common, and differences become less and less and (it's a cliche but whatever) there is actually so much that is the same.

COOL OK It's been a long day I'm rambling.. early morning tomorrow. Time to clean my room (things never change) and go to bed.


October 13, 2007


So I get to start my malaria pills today, which is going to be awesome because your dreams are supposed to get really terrible and vivid and ridiculous.

Last night we had a 70s party and I was the most creative ex-sorority girl ever and wound up with a pretty impressive costume even without forever 21 three highway exits away. RE: SU – have an amazing time at homecoming, I miss you all SO much and wish I could be there with you. I imagine after hours in The Club and going to Lucy’s because even though I pretend to hate it there I secretly love it. I also imagine 2am beers with Guy and Bruce Springsteen (and G.Love and Elvis Costello’s “Allison”). And some daytime activities like strolling through the quad and STELLLLLLLLLLA’S. I can’t wait to hear all the amazing and awkward stories.

Things have been great, Singapore was beautiful from a distance and we just sailed through the Malacca Straits which started some amazing pirate rumors.. Supposedly the area is riddled with pirates, which is why we put off sailing from Singapore at night and traveled during the day. There are two schools of thought on this – either we are a terrible target because we’re a passenger ship with (pax + crew) 450 strong, young males to defend the ship, or we’re a really fantastic symbolic target because we’re a ship of American college students who love democracy and freedom and peace and beer. Either way, we’re safely on our way to India now.

Everything else remains status quo – it’s still weird to like protect and serve a bunch of 21 year olds, and sometimes drunk girls make me sad when they pity my inability to go to their 4 drink maximum pub nights.

But then I remember how lucky I am to be waking up in India in two days, and to live on a ship where I am re-learning Spanish from all the Panamanians, sunbathing in the middle of ocean with absolutely nothing else in sight, practicing Croatian pleasantries before Dubrovnik and finding out everything you ever wanted to know about the Caste System but were too afraid to ask – insanely lucky to be paid to see the world.

I have also gotten very good at transferring calls, taking keycards on and off key chains, troubleshooting plumbing problems, and accounting. I’m fairly certain most or all of this will come in handy at some point in life.

<3 MR

October 11, 2007


So we’re currently anchored of the coast of Singapore, I think for fueling but I’m not really sure. We left Thailand 3 days ago and will get into India on the 15th.

For me, Thailand was less than exciting – I was on this travel high coming from Vietnam (I’m already planning my trip back) and Thailand was a bit of a downer. It has everything to do with where we were, but this was the first time that I was totally unable to go where I wanted to because of my job. The closest area was Pattaya, which is this seedy beach city by day and this extremely seedy hedonist capital of the East by night. We went to a drag show that was surprisingly very PG – actually kind of boring.. it’s got nothing on the SU 2007 show… We also went to an elephant park, but NOT the gorgeous beautiful nature preserve we were supposed to – the taxi driver we got didn’t know where he was going.. the resort wound up being pretty – beautiful gardens, and there was a cultural show with dancing and martial arts that was amazing.. but the elephant ride was kind of pointless and the elephant SHOW just made me sad.

I’m really looking forward to India – two of my friends’ families are coming to Chennai so we will all go out to big delicious dinners and dancing and my life will become a Bollywood movie. Also this kid Ally & I met in Barcelona (Mr. Benemore, world traveler) is POSSIBLY leaving Dubai and heading over to meet me for a fancy lunch, since he knows how much Mixie misses Ellie!

In more hilarious news, word has spread that I went to Syracuse.. the most frequent question is “oh my god, did you know that girl who wrote smashed?” but my favorite has been from Josh, a kid from AZ who went to SU until sophomore year and then transferred. After talking about majors, he asked if I knew Jonny Umansky. He broke out his best Jonny impression – “Hey, I’m Jonny Umansky. I make movies!”

Lastly – thank you everyone who has left comments, emailed me, etc.. it’s so great to hear from you guys. I’m trying my best to get back to everyone in the next few weeks, but every time I use the internet while we’re sailing it’s because I’m sneaking on at work (I don’t get internet in my room anymore, and either way its insanely expensive, which is why I try to only use a few minutes at a time). I won’t have internet for the next several days, but I hope to take a few hours in India or Egypt and finally upload pictures, email everyone, etc. So thank you, love you, and pleaaaaase keep emailing me I love it.

<3 MR

October 02, 2007


Things I Have Seen Tied to a Motorbike in Vietnam
Another motor bike
A little old lady
A basket full of live chickens
An office chair
A wooden chair
About a thousand bananas
The recycling man (well, his recyclables)
A family of four
Gardening tools
Grilled corn
A beauty queen
Four hundred SAS students (and only a 2% accident rate)
and about a million other things

Vietnam was unforgettable, and I can't wait to get back to see more of Saigon/HCMC and much more of the country. I definitely want to get to Cambodia, too. Big plans. This definitely feels like the start of the trip, officially.. Eye opening and fascinating and so new.

A little bit of ship life updates. Ahh where to begin.

So I work nine hours a day (eight when we're sailing), unless it's really hectic (the downside of ACTUALLY living at the office). Day shifts are split, so you work a 8am-noon/3pm-8 or noon-5/8-midnight. Right now I'm on the second shift, which is great when we're in port because I wake up at the crack of dawn to see as much as I can. But when we're sailing it sucks because I sleep like a bum until 11:50 and feel useless all the time. I love working the other shift because I get things done, get time to sit in the sun on deck 8, work out, read, and still get to bed at a totally reasonable hour.

So yes, I have a lot of me time here on the MV Explorer. Everyone has told me that other ships put more effort into crew activities and social life, but since it's such a small crew and the entire operation is not for profit, those things kind of take a back seat. The few crew parties we've had have been really fun, tons of dancing and hilarious life stories. The people in my office are great, too.

The job itself is good - busy, high pressure, which makes me feel like I'm getting some good hands on experience that will benefit me in the future. But it is really hard at times to separate myself from the passengers and be really professional about things – it’s hard to turn down offers to meet kids for dinner, or to be sneaky about going out with the student life team, and to generally just talk with kids while I’m helping them. A lot of kids just don’t really get the idea that even small talk is frowned upon, and it’s hard for me not to sit and have a conversation with a kid who, oh you know, is Emilia’s friend from school (Min I LOVE) or help him figure out what’s going on with his friend when the Deans won’t tell him if she’s ok. So I guess it’s just hard keeping distance from, well, peers.

My bosses kind of realize this, and sympathize, I think, but it’s still not allowed and that is one of the reasons that I turned down the offer to stay on with them for a few more voyages (even though they would have taken me all of Europe, and South America, and Africa, and back to Asia ahh). I know that this trip is for me to see the world and to just take in as much as I can, but any travel I do in the future (for work or otherwise) I will need to do with much more free time and with friends or family. But I am LOVING this job and trip regardless. And even though I wish some of you guys were here with me, I think there's something unique about doing this kind of thing alone. I'm taking it all in and able to just go for the day without plans and just experience things as they happen. So far it’s been great.

Thailand is next, but we'll be about 2 hours south of Bangkok so unless Anna and I do some very serious schedule covering, I doubt I'll be able to get up there. So far the only plans I have are a spa day, because 120 days of work without a single day off means I can totally be a brat and get a $10 two hour massage, and a night in Pattaya to go to this Muay Thai fight.

Seven stops down, six to go.