Hilo, Hawaii (January 17, 2013)
Better late than never, I guess?
The first week was such a whirlwind. Overwhelming is a massive understatement. I met so many wonderful people, and couldn’t wait to spend time on land with them. I spent a good chunk of time with Bethany Clark, the director of community at TOMS. She was an interport guest between embarkation and Hilo. She was such an inspiration, and reminded me why I’m so passionate about the company. I can’t express how thankful I am for the time I got with her.
We got into Hilo, Hawaii the morning of January 17. I spent the day with a friend, Rachael, from Colorado. We went right into town on a local bus and got as much fruit as we could carry at the farmer’s market (3 papayas, 1 pineapple, 1 pound of lychee, 1 pound of passionfruit). We got lunch at a local shack across from the farmers market and went to a black sand beach called Richardson’s Bay. There was an enormous sea turtle in one of the big tide pools, so we hung out with it for a while before venturing into the surf. It was so peaceful and relaxing. It was refreshing to actually be in the water instead of floating on top of it. I got to talk to my mom and Libby for a while, and it was amazing to hear their voices one last time before leaving.
Then we took a cab to Rainbow Falls. It was beautiful, but the hike was stunning. There was a forest of mangrove-like trees that grew so thick it looked like a rainforest. It was so humbling to stand inside the labyrinth of ancient trees after playing in the lagoon and springs on top of the waterfall. Rachael and I walked back into downtown Hilo, which was wonderful. We got to see the local side of the city as we walked through the neighborhoods. We ran into some SASers and got dinner before heading back to the ship. We got ice cream on our walk back to the ship, and the owners were fascinating. One of them was a suit designer who left LA to come to Hawai’i to pursue a career in art.
I had forgotten how much I love Hawaii. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live there forever, but I would love to spend a year or two there.
I don’t even know where to begin, to be honest.
To say that the past few days have been overwhelming would be an unbelievable understatement.
To start the voyage, the first leg of our flight was cancelled because of the Polar Vortex. We were able to drive to O’Hare to catch the second leg, though, and all was well.
I fell in love with San Diego in our 72 hours in the city. I will definitely be back.
I left San Diego on the morning of Friday, January 11th, on a bus to Ensenada, Mexico. It was a short, uneventful ride gave me time to think about the four months ahead of me…which means it gave me time to freak out. But I was on the bus, and there was no turning back.
The landscape was beautiful as we rode along the water. Turning a sharp corner, the MV Explorer came into view and the bus erupted into cheers. That’s when it hit me: I would be spending the next four months on a trip around the world.
As we waited to hand over our paperwork and passports, I got to know a few of my fellow travelers. In about 45 minutes I met people from Argentina, Swaziland, Canada, Mexico, and dozens of U.S. states.
I got to my room, which has a huge window overlooking the sea. The shades are definitely staying open during the day.
My roommate is wonderful - she’s studying political science at a small school outside of San Antonio with hopes of becoming a foreign service officer. I really lucked out in getting paired with her.
I’ve never been one to get seasick, but the Pacific really got the best of me on the first night. I held out longer than most people, and made it through the orientation meetings, but I finally lost the battle - and my dinner. I’ve been fine since then, though, and I’m slowly getting my sea legs. I still look and feel like a drunken toddler when big swells hit, but so does everybody else, so I’m not terribly concerned.
The eight hours of orientation were dreadfully slow, but this experience is well worth it. We have two invited guests onboard for this leg of the journey: Monica Johnson, a youth coordinator from the UN, and Bethany Clark, the community director at TOMS.
The student activity fair was the second night, and I signed up for Model UN, TOMS Club, Women of the World (a forum to discuss the various issues we may face in each port), and to tutor the children of the staff.
When I signed up for TOMS Club I asked Bethany if I could pick her brain about being involved with TOMS, and ended up having lunch with her the next day. Apparently I was the only student to ask to speak to her individually, and I could not be more thankful that I did. She is so delightful, and had wonderful advice for me.
Classes started Sunday morning, since we don’t have days of the week when we’re on board. The schedule is organized into A-days and B-days, with 21 class days of each (read: 42 days of class TOTAL). My professors are all passionate, approachable, and engaging. It’s evident why they were invited to teach for the voyage.
My global health professor has a couple of extra credit opportunities that involve service projects onboard the ship. One is the sale of Beads for Life (if you haven’t heard of it, check it out), where we’ll also be learning about how the project developed and how it operates.
My marine biology professor is an old hippie who attended UCLA in the ‘60s (as he put it “sometimes it comes back to me in a rush, and sometimes I can’t remember it all) who has a penchant for cursing and igniting passion in his students. I hit the jackpot with that class.
The concept is so amazing to me - a living learning community. We live with the entire staff, from the dean of students to the professors to the kitchen staff. Everyone is passionate about the program, and the environment is so unbelievably positive and inclusive.
It was surreal to look around at 2100 (9:00 pm) and see the dining room filled - and I mean filled - with college students playing card games and conversing without a cell phone or laptop in sight.
We’re now about halfway to Hawaii - we arrive January 17. I’m planning on hiking in the morning, finding a Hawaiian plate lunch, and renting a paddle board for the afternoon.
Tomorrow, I’m getting up at 6 with a friend to do sunrise yoga on the top deck. I’m not sure how well the yoga will go on the rocking ship, but it’s an opportunity I can’t pass up. I have the feeling that these next four months will be full of those.