12 more days at Sea, whatever are we going to do??
After leaving India, the voyage was going to slow down considerably, on paper at least. The itinerary called for 12 days at sea between India and Cape town which sounds like an eternity to most people on board. Truthfully however, the time FLEW by. There were a number of pretty fun events planned, but really, it was a great feeling to be back on the ship, with all of our friends, for an extended period of time, not recovering from one port while frantically preparing for the next. As ill write about later, life on board the ship truly was the most amazing part of semester at sea.
After two days at sea, we were awoken around 7 am to the sounds of pots and pans banging, and people parading through the halls. Generally on ship, being woken up to loud noises is bad thing, this howevere felt different. The banging was in a playful rhythm, and was quickly approaching our cabin. I peeked my head out the door, to see the crew, in ridiculous costumes parading through the halls. This could only mean one thing, Neptune Day:
Neptune day is a centuries old maritime tradition in which one transforms from being a lowly pollywog to a trusty shellback the first time they cross the equator on a ship. The custom was designed as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Today was the day the MV explorer would cross the equator for the first time, and thus, the day gabby and I would become trusty shellbacks. This process is cruel, unusual, and requires a very specific chain of events to be completed.
Step 1. Get violently woken by the sounds of metal pouding
Step 2. Get covered in fish guts and rotten food waste
Step 3. Submerge yourself in King Neptune’s pond
Step 4. Convince the royal manger that you are ready for the transformation
Step 5. Show your loyalty to the sea by publically displaying affection for its fauna
Step 6. Prove your loyalty to king Neptune by kissing his green slimy belly
Step 7. Complete the ultimate and mandatory sacrifice by ridding yourself of your most precious locks
Now, after years of Jewish mothers complaining about hazing, lawsuits, and the occasional bride complaining about their bridesmaids showing up to the wedding soon after semester at sea with nearly shaven heads, this process has transformed considerably. It looks for like this these days…
Step 1. Gently be awoke by the jovial sounds of your trusty crew playing ‘Under the Sea’ with pots and wooden spoons
Step 2. Change into a bathing suit, then have an alum (shellback) pour warm water with green food coloring in it delicately over your head.
Step 3. Hop into the pool to wash off any remaining greenish tinted water
Step 4. Have the academic dean help you up the ladder to exit the pool
Step 5. Kiss a fish (it was a big nasty looking barracuda, so this part hasn’t really gotten any better)
Step 6. Kiss a ring that King Neptune (the executive dean painted green and wearing a toga) is wearing.
Step 7. If you want to, shave your head. Most of your friends will probably do it, but really, no pressure. Also, girls, if you don’t want to go all out, just go for the Skrillex look, and shave a tiny square just above your ear. You can totally tell your friends later that you are a bad ass and shaved your head (p.s. some women on board did shave their head, and though a bad ass thing to do, is something they will likely be regretting for at least a couple of years while their hair grows back).
So yah, that’s why I shaved my head. That and its really freaking hot near the equator, so the breeze is nice
Two days after Neptune day we stopped to re-fuel in Mauritius. Mauritius is somewhere that I had never heard of until last year, but once I heard about it, it just kept coming up. Mauritius is a tiny Island about 200 miles off the coast of Madagascar, and Madagascar is a giant Island off the east of Africa. Like the Pixar movie, yes. And the second one, yes. And maybe the third, one, I don’t think I’ve seen that one. We first learned about Mauritius when we were researching places for our honeymoon last year. Our travel agent said it was exactly what we were looking for, though I ignored her advice at the time, I know she was right. Mauritius is a tropical paradise, not too dissimilar to many islands you would find in the Caribbean. Sadly, we would only be docking in Mauritius for 8 hours, just long enough to refuel. Past voyages have stayed longer, though after an unfortunate Semester at Sea Students getting drunk and inadvertently burning down a hotel incident, the Mauritian government kindly denied Semester at Sea’s attempts to dock over night. 8 hours in paradise it was.
We weren’t going to waste any time. We both knew we wanted to get under water so along with a faculty member and his wife, we arranged for a dive shop to pick us up at a nearby beach. We had an amazing afternoon diving. The water was beautiful, the fish were spectacular, and best of all, Gabby, who has had trouble with her ears, and being able descend in the past (conveniently, the wife of the professor we went with had the same problem recently), was able to get down with no problem, and had a great time. The dive masters literally held each of their hands the entire dive, and I couldn’t be more grateful. After such a great day diving, I knew Gabby would have no fear in getting back in the water with me in the future (spoiler alert, the next time we got in the water, there was a lot more fear, stay tuned…)
A few days after leaving Mauritius was the long anticipated Sea Olympics. This event separates the student body into 7 different ‘seas’ based on where they live on the ship. Each sea was assigned a color, and essentially a color war in sued. The faculty and staff comprised an 8th team, that we named the ‘Sea-lebrities’, cause well we’re kind of a big deal around here. I’m still not sure if I appointed myself, was or was appointed the team captain, but well, I assumed the role quickly. Those of you who know me best know that I like dressing up in costumes, making fun of others shortcomings, and dominating and menial tasks and worthless trivia. This day was tailor made for me. We assumed the tag line of “if were not last, were first, cause well, if a rag tag group of old people and children can beet even one group of well fed testosterone laden sexually frustrated college students, we’d take it as a major victory. Turns out we didn’t come in last, in fact, we came in fourth. We were pretty excited about it. Events throughout the day varied from classics like tug of war and volleyball, to synchronized swimming (a fan favorite), lip sync contests, musical chairs, and even a 24 hour film competion. It was a blast. I almost got thrown out of the volleyball competition for arguing with the ref, but a blast none the less. We had fun, we ended in a respectable fourth place, and gained a Sh%t ton of street cred for the students. Not sure how, but I ended up at the choreographer for the synchronized swimming competition. Imagine your geology professor, your psychology professor, your physician, or your father doing then gangnam style and Haka in speedos. It was a sight to see, trust me. We sailed on, and soon Africa would come into view. We would soon turn the literal and metaphorical last corner, around the cape of Africa, on our way to the finish line…