Japan was our final port, and the port most special to me! My family on my father’s side is from Japan and this was my first time visiting the country. It was everything I’d hoped it be and more. Only 5 days in Japan was not enough.
First day in Kobe I visited beautiful Shinto shrines, walked around the city, ate amazing udon noodles, and spent the night karaoke-ing with friends.
The next day I visited Himeji Castle and then took a bullet train (which was such a cool and efficient experience) to Hiroshima. Which was my grandmother’s hometown. That night I tried okonomiyaki. The following day the group I was with visited Miyajima Island. The natural beauty of the island and shrines there were captivating! And it was such a connective feeling to go to the island where my grandparents frequently went on dates and where they say they fell in love.
Next we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum. This was a very impacting experience in general, but even more so knowing my grandma’s story of surviving the bombing and growin up in Hiroshima as it was redeveloped post-war. Also while in Hiroshima I got to meet my second cousin.
Then from Hiroshima I traveled to Kyoto. Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is full of beautiful traditional architecture and culture. For the two days I was there I toured many shrines and castles, and ate my heart out in sushi.
In China we ported in Shanghai. It is the country’s biggest city and a global financial hub. As well, it has some of the most impressive architectural structures, which I tried to visit as many as possible. There I visited Oriental Pearl Tower, The Bund, and Nanjing district. Also as of 2016, Shanghai now has a Disneyland location. Which I went to and had a last at despite the all the rain the day my group went. If you ever are at Shanghai Disneyland I highly recommend going on the Tron roller coaster.
For the second half of my trip I traveled to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). To reach this mountain in Anhui province, my group took an overnight train. Finally after 12 hours on the train, I was beyond excited to climb this beautiful mountain, which countless Chinese art has been inspired by. After a couple hour hike to the peak, we spent the night in a mountain top hotel. Watching the sun set over the mountain peaks, and later stargazing, was breathtaking. To save some time we took a cable car down the mountain ad spent the next day enjoying the hot springs and tourin the historic villages at the base of the mountain.
Vietnam was abundant in natural beauty, and while I was there I tried to spend as much time as possible in nature. My favorite day spent in Vietnam was on a cycling tour of the Mekong Delta River and the national park there. Other highlights include, visiting botanical gardens in Ho Chi Minh City, tea cafes, art museums, temples and seeing an amazing acrobatic performance.
Pagodas, pagodas, pagodas! Pagodas are literally everywhere in Myanmar, and they are all beautiful! Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country, and during my five days there I spent my time touring pagodas and learning about Buddhism from local people.
India was everything that I had hoped it to be. Vibrant, diverse, and beautiful in everyway. Also the best cuisine ever. Not only was India exciting on a surface level, but on the ship I had the privilege of hearing and learning from many Indian students about various aspects of their dynamic culture. Honestly, conversations with my friends about their country was definitely how I learned the most about India. Not the global studies course we all took on the ship (tragically taught by an ethnocentric old white guy…but that is a rant for another time), but from the invaluable friendships I made on the voyage. So shout out to beauty of international friendships! Developing friendships and meaningful connections with students from other countries across the globe was the best thing I gained from this whole voyage.
In the Port of Kochi, where I spent the first two days in India, I got to visit markets, museums, churches and temples, and eat amazing food.
For the last four days I spent in India, I had the lucky opportunity to do a homestay at the house of one of my ship friends in his hometown Hyderabad. There we visited more markets, museums, temples, castles, forts, celebrated a belated Diwali, all while eating a ton of amazing food all day!
Sadly, due to rough seas we arrived at Cape Town, South Africa a day late. But that did not stop me from making the most of my time there. These are the highlights of everything I packed in doing during the 5 days I was in South Africa:
-Cape Wheel Ferris Wheel
-The Good Hope Castle
-Climbing Table Mountain
-Kistenbosch Botanical Garden
– visiting The South African Human Rights Commission, and getting to hear a presentation and personal speak with the leaders of the Commision
-District 6 Museum
-Nelson Mandela Museum
Ghana was the most surprising and fun country to visit. Admittedly, prior to going on Semester at Sea, my knowledge of Ghana was very minimal. But on the ship my professor for the gender studies course I took (Multiracial and Decolonial Feminism) was the marvelous Abena Busia. Abena is a Ghanaian writer, poet, feminist, lecturer, diplomat, professor of literature and gender studies, daughter of former Ghanaian Head of State Kofi Abrefa Busia, and sister of actress Akosua Busia. Likely, the biggest privilege of my journey was learning from Abena Busia all semester, as well as getting to travel with her during our port in Ghana!
Abena is also a founder of the African Women’s Development Fund. “The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is a grantmaking foundation that supports local, national and regional women’s organisations working towards the empowerment of African women and the promotion and realisation of their rights .By specialising in grant-making and focused, tailored movement-building programmes, we work to strengthen and support the work of African women’s organisations.” ( http://awdf.org/ )
While in Ghana, Abena brought the class to the AWDF Headquarters. We got to tour the facility and meet with and learn from the amazing, radical women who are changing the lives of women all throughout the African continent. As well, we got to visit local women-led business that have been helped by the ADWF. This experience was unforgettable.
Aside from learning from Abena & all the women of the AWDF, I did a lot more during my two days in Tema and two days in Accra. I got to go a chocolate farming and factory production tour. I visited the School of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana, and participated in an african dance and drumming workshop. And finally explore the famous Takoradi Market.