Semester at sea |

Semester at sea

Editor’s note: Chloe Gilchrist, a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently embarked on the Semester at Sea program through the University of Pittsburgh. She set sail Aug. 30 and will return Dec. 7. During her trip, she will visit ports in the Bahamas, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii and California. Gilchrist is the daughter of Tom and Beth Gilchrist of Craig. This is the first of three parts that will be published through Saturday. The Craig Daily Press will publish future dispatches from Chloe when she sends them.


Special to the Daily Press

Today is Neptune Day on the ship. It is a time for all pollywogs (those who have never crossed the equator by boat) to be initiated as shellbacks (those who have crossed the equator by boat). If you have been following our position on the Semester at Sea Web site ( you may have noticed that we crossed the equator Sept. 10.

We were having our first global studies test (the class that everyone on the ship takes) the next day, so “King Neptune” postponed Neptune Day until Tuesday, Sept. 20. Instead, we had a big barbecue on the upper deck. There were tons of food and awesome desserts.

The initiation process was pretty disgusting. We had fish guts (or a mixture that smelled very much like fish guts) dumped on our heads. Then we jumped in the pool, was also pretty disgusting. As we were getting out, we had to pledge our respect to all living creatures of the sea, and then kiss a fish.

To complete the ceremony, we also had to kiss King Neptune’s ring. It was all pretty fun, and I think that we even get a certificate proclaiming our status as shellbacks. Everyone was participating, even the captain, who dressed as King Neptune.

As many of you also may know, another part of this ceremony includes about half of the people on the ship shaving their heads. Apparently, it is part of an ancient sailors’ tradition. I am glad to say that I chickened out and still have all of my hair.

I may have told a lot of people that I was going to do it, but as I watched my friend Christine become completely bald, I realized that I would have no problem telling everyone what a chicken I was.

If you have been following the Web site, you also may have seen that Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife are joining us for our voyage from Brazil to South Africa. They are on the ship and doing well. I sort of met the archbishop last night, as we tried to help him find the room he was looking for. I was in the room with our academic dean, whom he bowed to when he realized who she was.

The archbishop is very funny. He even did a little dance for us before he left. He is going to be giving a lecture for the ship, but I will definitely try to meet him more personally during his stay with us.

So, we are back on the ship and three days into our eight-day trek across the Atlantic Ocean. Brazil was nothing short of amazing. I loved every minute of it. The first day we were there, we walked around a small section of Salvador. The ship was docked about two blocks away from a large market, where you could find lots of great souvenirs. We all bought a few things and then continued on to the upper city.

The town of Salvador is split into two levels, the upper city and the lower city. Close to where we were, there is a huge elevator (72 meters high) that you can take to get to either part. The elevator costs 0.05 reals (the Brazilian currency, pronounced ree-alls) or about 2 cents.

We rode the elevator to the upper city, where we were bombarded instantly by local people asking us to buy something. They would first give you a “gift” which was usually a ribbon bracelet, and then you were expected to buy one of the necklaces that they were selling. The ribbon bracelets do have some sort of meaning, though. You are supposed to make a wish as they are putting it on you, and then wear the bracelet until it falls off. If you take it off any sooner, bad luck will come your way.

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