Tag Archives: travel

My first week in Jordan

I finally had arrived in Jordan and things seemed to be going well – until the airport lost my luggage. Luckily, with the support of our amazing program director, and a little luck, my luggage was located and I could comfortably experience my first days in Jordan.

These first few days consisted mostly of city and ancient ruin and historical visits, as well as orientation. Skipping the boring parts, I absolutely cannot say enough about how beautiful, clean, and amazing Jordan is. The weather has been very comfortable, and the sites to see are absolutely breath taking. Because it is Ramadan, the best time to be out is at night, when there is music, laughter, shopping, and food along the streets. I was awh-struck when the time of fasting broke, and I found myself right next to a mosque, listening to the call to prayer trickle from the mosque’s speakers. Locals handed out free tamr (date) drinks to myself and others surrounding, and I peacefully observed how locals broke their fast and experienced the city slowly come to life as the sun set and the stars began to gleam.

 

These few days I got to go to a couple really nice places to eat, one in particular I would like to mention is called “Books at Cafe” Downstairs is a book store/library, and up stares is a beautiful restaurant/ hookah lounge. What really got me about this place, is that it is known as a place of openness, and safety to all. Jordanian, tourist, gay, straight – it doesn’t matter all are welcome. In fact, the owners themselves are known to be …well “different”. Seeing a place like this right in the heart of the Middle East really left me silent and speechless.

Moving on to some of the amazing historical sites I got to see, between Amman’s Citadel, Jerash, and the amazing ajloun castle.

Amman’s ancient Citadel, is located on the highest hill top in Amman, known as Jebel alqala. This ancient site was occupied during the Bronze Period(3200 BC), and has been rebuilt multiple times during the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad (also know as More) periods. A little bit that was interesting about this site for me is that my ancestors were actually thought to be the Umayyads. The Umayyads, also known as the More’s (My last name being Moreau, deriving from More) were nomads of North Africa who ruled and traveled thorughout the Middle East, before much later migrating and colonizing in France and eventually (most recently) French Canada. . Seeing what could have been a creation of my ancestors was absolutely amazing!! The pillars you see in the picture below are known as the Roman Temple of Hercules, and yes that is Hercules’s hand. This area is also known as an area that the prophet Jesus and Islam’s prophet Muhammad passed through once long ago.

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Moving on, I eventually saw the ancient city of Jerash and the awesome aljoun castle. Jerash was a full blown ancient Roman city. From washrooms, residential areas, roads, walls, shopping areas, the arena/theater  and fountains this city was founded 2000+ BC (exact date unknown). After earthquakes, and wars around 720 AD, this city was buried under the gravel before it was discovered in the early 1800’s. Enjoy the breathtaking photo’s I took on my snazzy canon camera. Excuse any horrible angles, editing, or lighting. I am not a camera genius but I thought I’d play around and try to capture this areas outstanding beauty. I cannot explain the feeling I had when being here. My mind kept coloring the ruins, and I imagined flashes of what the city once looked like, bustling, the smell of food, the sound of children playing among the streets. It took a couple hours to walk around the entire city.

 

Finally, Aljouin castle, owned by many rulers, and mentioned by the legendary traveler ibn batutta, was an outstanding sight to see. This area was also once crossed by many of our world’s many holy prophets.

 

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A summer in Jordan as a Gilman scholar

I can’t believe it, but I am going to Jordan this summer! This would not be possible if it wasn’t for me being selected as a Gilman Scholar! I received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, a scholarship which granted funding to do my chosen study abroad. I am beyond thrilled for this opportunity, both as a scholar and as an eager traveler.

I will be spending a month and a half in Amman, Jordan with International Studies Abroad. I will have an apartment in the heart of Amman, and take classes at al-ahliyya amman university. I will also have the opportunity to do volunteer work with refugee communities, something I am very passionate about. Not to mention I’ll be able to finally experience the Middle East and get back to traveling! I am so excited to share my journey with you guys on my blog! I will be leaving in June, so stay posted!

                       (images taken from google)          

Feeling like the Little Mermaid in Mauritius

Gonna keep this one pretty quick! 12 hours in Mauritius! 

So, I pretty much lucked out on the little African island-country of Mauritius. My best friends family friends actually lived in Mauritius! As such, they had happily arranged for my friend to bring three other friends along with him to be accompanied for the day by a personal driver. I was in shock, and most of all grateful he invited me – and I still am, he was truly a blessing as a friend. 

We got there and sure enough the driver was waiting for us. He picked us up and drove us to the family friend’s estate where we were greeted by their secretary (still not sure what this guy did for a living!) and treated with absolute hospitality. They served us coffee, took us out for lunch, and despite the pouring down rain, took us out on their boat that they had ready and stocked with rum (Mauritius is known for her rum) sodas, water, beer and snorkeling gear! 
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Some drinks and a dive into the water with an under water camera! 

Ahhh! I love fish! 

Anyway, enjoy the photos!!

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Namaste, India!

India Blog Post

India was a place I have only dreamt of visiting, yet here I was on my way to this colorful, diverse country. I was ecstatic, to say the least.

Our ship arrived in the port of Cochin, India located in the state of Kerala. I woke up that morning, opened my port-hole to see a few local authorities standing outside. They noticed me peeking out and waved with laughter. Great start, can’t wait to step off the ship!

Finally I was able to disembark and I and one other friend headed out into Cochin without much plan or idea of what we’d do – just eagerness to get off the ship. It actually went pretty well! We managed to push through the dozens of taxi drivers begging us to use their service, and got a ticket to ride the ferry to the other side of Kerala. Once we got there, we realized with the bustling streets that it would not be the safest to walk along the area (nor would it be the most productive, considering both my friend and I had a 5 day trip planned with a tour group and we had to be back for pickup in the evening.) A local pulled us aside and said “100 rupees for tuktuk tour! Interested?” Now, a tuktuk is this sketchy, tiny, open-air vehicle that locals and tourists take as taxis. We heard about these tuktuk tours before, and actually this was the cheapest offer we had heard. Not only did it seem convenient, but also fun. So, we took this guy up on his offer and he took us on a short tour of the area.
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We stopped by museums, old churches, shops, and even the beach. The beach was particularly fun – there were goats and dogs everywhere, as well as locals playing Cricket. He also showed us the local life, and we had a stop at a laundry place, where locals washed all their clothes by hand. We ended the tour with a stop at a place to grab lunch – The Dosa House. I never had a dosa before, they are kind like spicy, flavorful pancakes with assorted chuttneys on the side. (pardon any misspelling)

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When we got back to the ship, I packed my bags and was ready to rock n’ roll to my text India adventure. I had a 5 day, 4 night trip planned with a tour group organized by one of the other Semester at Sea students. Our first flight would take us to Hyderabad, India.

We got to the airport that night, boarded our flight and eventually arrived at out hotel in Hyderabad. The guy who organized this tour for us was actually Indian himself, and his grandma (who lives in Hyderabad) came along with us and met us at the airport. She greeted us with bottled of waters and smosas – quite possibly the sweetest woman alive. We also had a meal ready for us when we got to the hotel, which was Biryani, a spicy indian rice-based dish served with yogurt and breads. It was delicious, but quite frankly I thought I was going to die by how terribly spicy it was….it was…the good kind of pain though. Yummy..satisfying…but painful.

The following morning we stopped at various museums, but what really highlighted the day was a visit to a local all-girls college that was actually run by the grandmother I mentioned before. This was absolutely amazing. The girls all excitedly greeted us with hugs, served us snacks, and we spoke to them about college life in the US and our experiences in India. Turns out, we made the Hyderabad newspaper!

That evening was something absolutely mind blowing. We had the opportunity to see Hyderabad’s famous night-time laser show! Lasers reflected off of water and presented beautiful images and told a beautiful story of India. Bollywood music played in the background, locals all danced together. The laser show, which was conveniently in English, spoke of how India came to be with it plethora of religions. At the end, it brought Islam, Christianity and Hinduism together as one in complete harmony. Seriously, I pay for a plane ticket back to India just to see that laser show again.

In the next few days we got to visit Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal in Agra/New Delhi. Both of these places were surreal. I could not believe I was actually there, and I did my best to absorb every second of its outstanding beauty.

The Taj Mahal, as many of you may know, is one of the world’s greatest wonders. Built in around 1632, it was created by Mughal Muslim emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved and dearly departed wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Inside rests her tomb.

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We also saw quite a lot of monkeys running around…
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On the final day we took a trip to down town Delhi for a visit to the Jama Masjid Mosque. When we arrived the mosque-keepers (for lack of a better word?) covered the women in scarves and clothing, and we removed our shoes and were able to enter the mosque. Somehow I wondered away from the group and found myself floating about. The inner mosque was filled with tourists, however as I got to the back of the mosque there was a second exit. The back was higher up on a platform, and presented an absolutely beautiful view of Delhi. Only locals sat in this area, praying, listening to music. I instantly felt out of place, and all eyes were suddenly on me. Family’s found me amusing and asked me to take photos with their children. It was embarrassing, but part of the cultural fun travel brings.

At the end of this day our tour operator surprised us by taking us to a place where we could celebrate India’s holiday known as “holi”. It was a little early, but it was just for fun. The tradition is throwing colorful dust on everyone around you and screaming “HAPPY HOLI!” It’s supposed to be a lot of fun, and it brings friends and family together during this time. It WAS a lot of fun, although getting that stuff out of my clothes, hair and skin proved to be a challenge

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And so ended our tour and we were transferred back to the ship.

On my final day in India I spent it at a local boy’s orphanage. The boys at the orphanage were all once street-children, working and begging for any penny possible before picked up by the orphanage. The kids all danced and preformed for us, we played games such as soccer or basketball, and finally had a traditional Kerala meal served to us on banana leaves (probably the most delicious thing I ate on the trip!)

Beauty in the land – Guilin, China (SAS)

When reality set In that I was going to be heading to China with Semester at Sea, I honestly wasn’t so sure what I would be doing in China. It was never a place I’d see myself going to – but here I was on my way! I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle, the pollution I have heard so much about, and while I wanted to see the Great Wall, I felt I wanted an experience a little more diverse, something I could relate to…something I would fall in love with. As such, I set my heart on going to Guilin, China way up in the mountains. Why? Well, initially I was simply interested in seeing the great wonders of Guilin: Reed Flute Cave and Elephant Trunk Hill. I am a nature junky, I love caves, I love to climb and hike, so I felt this would be the best choice for me. Little did I know, Guilin held something so much more precious, something I know will stick with me forever.

We did visit the caves and the hill I mentioned, and I loved every second of it. While extremely touristy, I tried to see past that as I placed the palm of my hands inside Reed Flute Cave and tried to absorb the 180 million year old phenomenon it is. The cave was decked out in colorful lights, and although I would have preferred to see it in its natural state, the colors did give its amazing structure charm. This cave has seen so much – I wish it could speak because I’d have so many questions.

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Elephant Trunk Hill was just pretty to look at. A natural formation that resembles the trunk of an elephant, locals liked to dress up and take pictures in front of it. I wanted to touch it. No matter Guilin was freezing, I wanted to cross the river and climb it.
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Eventually it was time to get on the bus, up the mountain, to board a second buss which continued up the mountain via a winding (and terrifying) road, and finally we excited to see countless stairs going up. It was hiking time! Through the freezing fog, we headed up the mountain. I saw tribes and villages, small schools, markets, woman selling taro roots cooked over an open fire. So many fire places everywhere! To keep warm I often bought these taros and munched on them – much like a potato, but somehow so much more satisfying.
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Completely engrossed with what I saw as I passed by locals, I didn’t even notice the view that was slowly becoming. Eventually, I looked up and I thought I’d fall off the mountain in pure shock. We were so high, in the fog, and in the distance I could see the amazing beauty Guilin brought. The mountains and land formations were other worldly – it was something I only ever saw in the movie Avatar, yet here I was, on planet earth, seeing what just didn’t look real. Any and all of life’s problems became so pointless staring into its vastness.
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Eventually lunch was served in a cabin like building. Inside, it was still freezing but a lovely fire place warmed the enclosure as we all gathered in, and we were served soups and fish. Places and meals like this I only ever saw playing Skyrim or watching Game of Thrones. I remember often thinking “ it would be quaint to be exploring long, freezing distances to take cover in a cabin with a fire place where a fresh meal is served” yes, I am weird, and when I was here I realized that I was experiencing something too pleasantly similar. The small things please me so well.\
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It was even greater the next day to board a river cruise on the Lijang River from Guilin to a small area known for its popular water show and, again, its surrounding hill and mountain formations. On the cruise we passed by mini floating markets where men on bamboo rafts sold fruits and fish on the water.
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Alongside these men were their trustworthy companions: Cormorant birds! Beautiful creatures that are a part of the local farmer’s family, one can simply not go fishing without them!
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Eventually we made it to our destination: Yangshuo! Our hotel was in the heart of what the locals called “The largest market in the world” and that night we headed to something that left a print on me forever: The water show of Yangshou! You can only see such beauty here, and only here. You go to a place where there is a small clearing to see the river, and behind it are the amazing mountains and hills I keep mentioning. At night you head here, and the lights are all off: and then it begins. Women come out dressed in lights while floating on rafts, sing their heart out to tell a story of their tribes and love for the land. Huge spot lights turn on and brighten the beautiful hills and mountains, so it is all you see. I wish I could describe to you such a sight to see, but you can only experience it if you go for yourself! So please do, Head to Guilin, China – you will love the culture and history, and coupled with the sights to see it is impossible not to fall in love with. Go when it’s warm, although the freezing temperatures had a special charm.

SAS – Japan

So here it is: my first blog post from my first country! I have come to realize that due to time constraints I will likely only do one, long (good) post per country. For Japan, yea, I went to Tokyo and did all the pop-culture anime-nerd stuff, and yes, I freckin LOVED every second of it! Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku, Karaoke…Tokyo is just a magical place!
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But for this blog post, I want to concentrate on Japan’s temples, food, and more historic cultural aspects. For more pictures and posts on the anime-aspect of Japan, please head over to my Instagram!

After Tokyo, I realized the group I was initially traveling with wasn’t the best(for me) – so to maximize my experience in Japan I decided to head back to the ship for free food and a free place to sleep while it traveled from Yokohama (near Tokyo) to Kobe (Osaka, Kyoto area) Most people travel over-land, but for those who travel with the ship you get special privileges. For example, they showed movies in the theatre room (“union”) and offered free fine dining for dinner.

I awoke the morning as the ship ported into Kobe, and another rush of excitement took over me. When we had first arrived in Yokohama, It took all I had not to cry happy tears. “I did it! Finally! I’m in JAPAN!” It didn’t take long before I was looking for every excuse possible to use my poor, hilarious Japanese language “skills”. My Japanese is horrible, folks, but it’s just enough to get me around and have small conversations. I loved every second of it, and although lost-in-translations happened many-a-time, it was still exciting and I did pick up more Japanese. – I wasn’t in Japan 10 minutes and I vowed to return. And if I may point out, Japanese people are so hospitable…I was a foreigner, clearly, but I didn’t *feel* like one. As much as I loved Korea and Morocco, I always felt like a foreigner because I was treated differently. It’s not that way in Japan. It made me feel guilty for not knowing more of the language.

I met up with an amazing group of SASERS (Semester at Sea Students) and we headed Kyoto way, with absolutely no plan (minus some ideas and basic directions to some possible hot spots) One girl we were with really did her research, in a sense she was the leader of the pack during this trip, and she did an outstanding job. There was never a rush, it was laid back, relaxing, and adventurous. Our first stop was the Inari Temple in inner Kyoto. My heart kinda stopped here. FOXES. SACRED FOXES. EVERYWHERE. I REALLY love foxes, so I was in fox heaven. Wolves too. The temple was beautiful, huge, red, and had many amazing attractions. From food stands, to little shops, to a beautiful walk-way within the temple itself, I was just in awe.
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It was crowded with locals and tourists alike – photos and clicks at every turn. I gave in and bought a magnet (plan to buy at least one magnet per country) and also got a fox plushie….I think I have about 10 foxes now…
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After Inari temple we headed to a crowded market place. It was a thin, extremely long strip of food stands and little shops. I sampled everything that was offered to me. From Mochi (rice candy), dango (kinda sorta like mochi), fish heads, octopus, I was overwhelmed and after bits of sampling I was growing more and more hungry for a meal. Starving and graving sushi, a SASER and I asked if we could have a sushi stop. You can go to the best Sushi joint in the U.S, I don’t care, it won’t compare to Japanese sushi. Looks the same, but the flavors are richer, stronger and just over all tastier. Expensive though…worth. Every. Penny. I mean, yen.

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And then I asked “So where are we sleeping tonight?” and we headed to our hostel. I was excited! I was with a group of 6, so I felt very safe, a mixture of guys and girls, and I would have my first hostel experience. I prepared myself for dirty, dangerous conditions….and then we got there. The bunk beds were clean (and sooo comfy!), the bathrooms offered towels and soaps, the lobby offered free drinks and treats and our one roommate was a backpacker traveling Asia from Israel – and he was awesome. Okay, what was I thinking? This is Japan. One of the cleanest, safest countries in the world. Can I just move here? That night our Israeli friend took us to a little noodle place for dinner. Between 2 and 4 dollars (depending on if you got meat or not) you tell her what you want, she slides the bowl to you, and you eat quickly standing up. After eating, karoke and drinks around! And I spent like 10 bucks trying to get a Pokemon plushie at a nearby arcade. I didn’t get it….Japanese arcades are evil. So many cute prizes that I just cannot win.

The following morning was a final breathe taking adventure – to Kinkaku-ji temple (Sorry for bad spelling) – a temple that looks as if it floats on the water. I can’t even get words to describe this, it was just so beautiful, and I got some of the best photos that I have ever taken at this place. The temple and its surrounding nature made it a hotspot for photographers. When you pass the temple you go up some stairs and at the top there are candles, Buddha and god statues, and a place to put the candles and watch them burn. But these candles were special, they read in Japanese things such as “Heart’s Desire” “Pray for cancer” “Hope for love”, you burn this candle to represent your hearts deepest wishes, and you ask Buddha to hear your desire, and hope for it to be granted. Can you imagine the emotion here? You are surrounded by so many people who are burning these candles with heavy hearts. As soon as I recognized where I was at and what people were doing, I was filled with tears. It’s beyond words.
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I headed back to the ship that night exhausted (my group stayed behind for some more nightlife, but I was pooped so I headed back via subway) the next morning I found myself with no plans on the last day. I found the Semester at Sea field coordinator, and she pointed me to one program that may have spots open: Hot Springs and Lunch. And sure enough, I found a student who was selling his ticket for half the price. That day I relaxed at a public hot springs. I soaked in water heated by volcanoes, and ate a tradition lunch of tempura, miso, sashimi, steak and pork (didn’t eat the pork. – quick side note, on a couple occasions I could not avoid pork in Japan. If I wanted to eat, at times I didn’t have a choice. Pork in Japan is tastier, but my stomach hated me for about 3 hours…for those who don’t know, I really don’t like pork. )

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And that ends it, I held back my tears as Japan faded into the distance. In the other direction awaits China, and through the fog – Vietnam.

12 countries in 112 days: My semester at sea

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The MV explorer; my new home for the next 4 months!

 

Spring 2014 Semester at Sea blog!

Hey guys! Have not heard from anyone in a while, but of course this is because I have not posted in a while. I’ve been home, in Michigan, doing my usual university-work lineup. Nothing special, but as some of you may already knew, in one month I leave for a Semester at Sea!! My amazing experiences in South Korea and Morocco were simply not enough for this crazy girl. I am excited to blog about this amazing opportunity here on my little wordpress! Spread the word because honestly I want people to hear about this opportunity and be pushed to it as well in life!

Wait, what? Hold on a second Danni. What in the world is a Semester at Sea?
Well, put simply and quoting from the Semester at Sea homepage:
Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program open to students of all majors emphasizing comparative academic examination, hands-on field experiences, and meaningful engagement in the global community. A wide variety of coursework from 20-25 disciplines is integrated with relevant field studies in up to a dozen countries, allowing for a comparative study abroad experience that is truly global. The University of Virginia is the program’s academic sponsor. Students from 250-300 colleges in the United States and the world participate on Semester at Sea each term. Credit earned is transferable to a student’s home institution.”

Let me get this straight: you’re going to be living on a ship?

You guessed it! I live on a ship in double occupancy cabins! There are classrooms, pool areas, salons, food courts, ball rooms, a library, book store, snack booth – you name it and it’s there, everything I need to thrive while at sea! Naturally in ports (and we are in ports an average of 5 days) I will be traveling around and staying in hotels and such. And host families! So far I have plans to stay with host families in multiple countries in order to get the full cultural experience!

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Picture of one of the cabins on board

And where exactly are you going?
(Briefly Mexico) Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco(Yay! Back to Morocco!!) and London! Possibly more depending on my budget (Might hit a few countries when I debark in London, but that’s actually unlikely)

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How can you afford this!?
Well, I can’t. If it was not for scholarships and a work-study I earned for Semester at Sea I would not be going. I received a merit scholarship, need based scholarship and was hired for a competitive work-study. I am awaiting on one more scholarship that is worth 10,000 through an honors society, but it is unlikely I will receive it. (Only one was available. And a girl mentioned to me since she is involved professionally with the program she will pull some strings, so I just applied for a good shot!) I am also taking out loans and emptying out my savings. Unless I get that last scholarship, I will be eating ramen noodles for a year after I return. Worth it.

Read more on my Semester at Sea on my wordpress at the tag https://elusiveambitions.wordpress.com/category/semester-at-sea-2/

If you guys have any more questions feel free to ask! I will be posting more about it as time gets closer! I also have a tumblr dedicated to Semester at Sea so feel free to follow me at
http://seathroughneweyes.tumblr.com