Monday, April 29, 2013

Creative Energy: The Priceless Human Commodity

One of my three biggest learnings from this trip comes in the form of energy management.  The other two are about leadership and about not following the societal rulebook about what your life has to be like.

When energy is flowing, harness it.  Human batteries don't store energy forever, so if you feel creative potential bubbling up inside, pour it out right at that moment.  If you don't, it will fizzle or come out in different, unproductive ways.  Then, the batteries will need time to charge again.

Once the energy starts flowing, it's important to appropriately channel it. Projects and activities that the person exuding the energy enjoys are the best places to funnel the energy.  For example, if a person loves to edit, but hasn't felt like editing for days and gets a boost, put them on a project.  Let them free, take away the bounds and open up the energy faucet on them.

As far as managing my own personal energy goes, I'm in a position in life where I'm in charge of my hours, my projects and my clients, so my biggest mistake at the beginning of that transition from 9-to-5 to self-employed was saying yes to everything.  We were afraid of not having enough work to sustain us, and it turned out that we got more work than we could almost handle.  I should have said no to a few things, but shoulda woulda's aren't worth dwelling on.  Moving forward, I'll be able to assess better whether or not we're in feast or famine mode with work and decide whether or not it's time to pour into something or break away and recharge the batteries.

Just this morning's two cents.

The other two learnings are still in journals waiting to be organized into helpful thoughts.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Siesta en Barcelona

April 27, 2013

I woke up feeling pretty rested and found Oli and Matt cooking breakfast for the team.  They had made a fruit salad with our leftover apples and the strawberries and pineapple that we got yesterday from the restaurant we visited.  Oli made cheese quesadillas and some mushroom and onion scrambled eggs.  It really hit the spot.  Then, I realized it was almost 11am.  Apparently we all really needed the sleep.

We caught up on packing up extra gear, editing, sewing ripped pants, laundry and other items that we had been neglecting.  We decided to have lunch around 3:30pm, and Oli and Jessie whipped us up some delicious ham sandwiches.  I can't imagine a better lunch.

It felt really good to have a hangout day.  Even though we were doing small items to catch up on loose ends, it finally felt like we had a moment to just relax.  We didn't have to move, pack gear, carry anything, have meetings or try to run around a ship finding one another to get stuff done.  We were all in one place working as a team.  Some cooked, some cleaned, some edited, some did finances and caught up on receipts and others relaxed and watched movies until it was time to cook again.  We're like a little family.  It feels so good.

We ended up working away the afternoon and then had a late lunch of sandwiches that Oli and Jessie so lovingly whipped up for us. I captured the delicious moment.

We decided to go out for a walk and see Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral in Barcelona that is only about two blocks from the apartment where we are living. The cathedral is stunning! It's like nothing I've ever seen before. Because it's been being built for almost a hundred years, and has been passed between architects and artists, there are sections that look old and gothic and realistic, and other sections that look new and sharp and surreal. It's huge and detailed. I'd love to go back and sit and stare at it for an hour.

We walked to find a cappuccino and warm churros and hot chocolate. They have this snack here that's basically deep fried bread dipped in hot chocolate pudding. Magical! I'm trying something new with my diet to see if I can start feeling better, so I wasn't able to taste them, but my cinnamon cappuccino really hit the spot on this cold, drizzly day. We also found a tapas restaurant where we decided to have our final team dinner this evening and made a reservation.

Mark and Larissa broke off to find fixings for some appetizers before our 9pm dinner and came back to the apartment with a baguette, stinky, delicious cheese and some unique sausage. We enjoyed the snack with some leftover South African wine that Mark had purchased at a winery.

We all headed out for the restaurant for the team dinner. We had a nice walk because it had stopped raining. Such good conversations during our walk.

We arrived at the tapas restaurant and ordered up a family-style dinner where we all got to try some fun and unique Spanish dishes. One of them is called Jamón Ibérico, which is a cured pig leg from a pig who only eats almonds. It is ridiculously expensive and eaten in thin, tiny slices, but it is bursting with flavor. It's soft, nutty and like no other ham I have ever tasted. It's sweet like an almond and not overly salted. Delicate and expensive tasting. We had gazpacho, a cold soup or sopa fría. It's made with tomato and cucumber. Yum yum yum.

We made toasts at the beginning of the meal and each toasted using our new favorite foreign word that we learned. "Dozo" is the team's favorite and has been our ongoing inside joke since Tokyo. It means "please" as in you would open a door for someone and offer for them to go first. Please enter before me. Please take my seat. Please let me stuff myself in this tiny closet in shame because I was in your way just a moment ago.

My toast utilized the bartering phrase I learned in Cambodia that begins with a high-pitched, "ooooooh!" Then follows with, "thklay naah." After someone has told you the price of an item, you use this phrase to say, "that is far too expensive." Then, you commence bartering. Another word was "Ubuntu" which is the word introduced to us by Archbishop Desmond Tutu which means something like, "I am me because you are you." Basically, the idea that we build each other up as a human force and affect one another no matter who we are or what we do.

We enjoyed dinner, then went around the table saying our parting words. This was the last time that we would be all together in one place for this project. Mark and Larissa were heading to DC at 3am, and the rest of us are going to stay here and finish post-production then beginning peeling off to explore around Europe. Matt and I will be staying in Barcelona until May 5th when we take an early, early flight back to Denver. I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again, it will be so nice to have this project wrapped before coming home to restart.

We left the restaurant and found a place with gelato for a walking dessert, then made it back to the media flat to help Mark and Larissa pack up for their flight. Those not helping with the packing went back to work editing, and a few people headed back out for a 2am nightcap. When we walked back, there were tons of young people out standing in massive groups talking and laughing in front of Sagrada Familia. The nightlife is very late in Spain. Many people don't even finish dinner until midnight, then begin their bar crawl in the wee hours of the morning. On weekends, churro places open around 7am or 8am to serve breakfast to those that are still up and ready to eat before going to bed. Then, lunch isn't until around 2pm, so people sleep in until lunch, then have a late dinner and do it all again. We've now adopted this lifestyle.

We stayed up to see Mark and Larissa go and then crawled into bed at 3am. We're finally down to a number of people that offers everyone their own bed and couples a big bed. A good morning's sleep for the first time in a while will feel good.

Unreasonable at Sea's Culminating Event

April 26, 2013

We snuggled into our media flat last night after a long and busy day of settling and editing, and woke up after four hours of sleep to our 6am alarms.  We had to get all our gear together, eat breakfast from our newly purchased grocery stash of fresh fruits, yogurt and milk.  It was magical to eat a piece of produce that hadn't been frozen or steamed.  Pure magic in our mouths.

We called three taxis to tote our gear and selves over to the Axa Auditorium where the final Unreasonable at Sea culminating event was to be held.  The auditorium was beautiful and big.  We had to get set up with four cameras on the event, plus one roving camera to shoot the backstage happenings with the entrepreneurs before they headed on to do their final pitch before Unreasonable at State.  On top of setting up for the event, we also had a meeting with the learning partner we were working on another video for to get approval on the second rough cut.  It was a crazy morning, but the team handled it really well.  Go team!

The event was awesome!  All the entrepreneurs were on their A-game and totally rocked their pitches.  We had filmed their final practice pitches on the ship before landing in Barcelona, and the mentors that were on board tore them apart.  There was so much that the mentors wanted them to change. It was interesting to see what they changed and what feedback they totally ignored.  It's a subjective thing, so they did what they thought was best, and it turned out brilliantly.  Everyone came so far from when we did the original "elevator pitches" during the first week on the ship.  Those elevator pitches were so bad, that we never even posted them.

Before many of the entrepreneurs pitched, the episodes that we had done along the way were shown.  I think the value in that was not only that you got to see their business in action and understand more about it, but also that you fell in love with their personality before hearing them pitch.  The audience got to see Tendekayi in the Hong Kong episode doing sign language with the hearing impaired people he employs there, they got to see how entertaining Pedro is then how passionate he is about eliminating deaths from unclean drinking water, and they got to see Protei getting down and dirty in Hawaii, digging through meters of plastic as they investigated how their sailing drones could help in the area.

Watching the videos we had done brought back so many memories from this trip.  Both from things that Matt and I shot, things I edited, but also flashbacks to the places we slept, the things we ate and the people we met while we gathered this footage.  The smells came back and the sounds came back to me.  The first video brought tears to my eyes because of how bittersweet the end of this journey is.  I had to get it together, though, because I was one of the cameras on stage in front of the 500 people at the event and the lights were about to come up.  Daniel recognized the media team and offered up a big thank you and a bow.  It was a great moment.  It made me feel so proud of what we accomplished in these short four months.

Local entrepreneurs from the Barcelona area also pitched in-between the Unreasonable entrepreneurs which offered a great energy between new and old business ideas.  One start-up that I was particularly interested in was which sells an energy independence kit where you can use a solar panel to charge a battery that can charge small devices like your phone.  You use the solar panel in your house or on your backpack, then use the energy whenever you want it via the battery pack.  But, it doesn't stop there.  They also have an online community where you keep track of the hours of clean energy that you produce and use yourself, then you can make purchases with the credits on the online community.  Kind of like carbon credits, but on a small, small scale.  Interesting idea, but it leaves me with many general questions about the infrastructure of energy around the world.  Like, if I charged my phone using only solar power, and the little electricity box outside our house read a smaller number, and we paid less this month, would that actually change the amount of energy that the energy company produced?  Just because I didn't use it this month, does that mean that they didn't burn the coal to produce it?  Or, does it just get used elsewhere or just get wasted?  I don't know.  Experts: e-mail me (shawna (at) massfxmedia dot com) so I can ask you more questions, por favor.

In Spain, they don't do regular lunch breaks.  Since their lunch starts around 2pm, the event ran straight through from 10am to 3pm, and we had all eaten breakfast around 7am.  Our awesome producers brought around apples and bananas for snacks, but we were still starving by 3:30 when we finally got our gear back to the media flat and headed out to find some lunch.

We arrived at a vegetarian restaurant around 3:50pm, and were welcomed with some head scratching.  The way this restaurant worked, like many lunch places, is that it has a set menu where you choose a starter between a couple options, a soup, salad, main course and dessert.  Since they close at 4pm (as all  Spaniards know) they didn't have much left to feed the ten of us.  The guy said that he would make it work and seated us upstairs in a little loft.

We got a mix of soups, both of which were delicious, some boiled potatoes and broccoli with some sort of sour cream topping, an unbelievably tasty couscous and veggie stuffed squash and then piles of fresh fruit for dessert.  We told the waiter that we had come from a ship and couldn't wait to eat fresh food.  He brought extra fruit and said we could take it home.  As we left, they were receiving the food for the next day, and the man gave us a whole pineapple and a crate of strawberries to take with us.  Such nice people here!

The team was exhausted and we went back to the flat thinking we would take a short nap, and all ended up sleeping until 7:30pm.  We woke up and headed out to dinner at a crepe place across town that Mark and Larissa highly recommended.  It was delicious.  I had a spinach, strawberry, goat cheese and pine nut salad, and attempted to order in spanish.  I was laughed at, but I think in a cute way and not a you-should-be-embarassed-for-trying-out-our-language way.  I also got a spiced chai.  Didn't even come close to India's chai, but the warm tea was good for a cool, drizzly night.  We ate crepes and drank our chai's in a warm restaurant with good conversation.  Oli was cute enough that she finagled two free dessert crepes out of the place, and we all enjoyed extra chocolate and banana crepes.  Too good.

Matt, Oli, Patrick, Jessie and I decided we would walk back to the apartment and get to know the area a little bit better since we still have a week here.  We walked by a concert hall where many young people were standing outside waiting to go to a concert.  They said you can just buy tickets there, and we considered doing that later this week.  The buildings are old and beautiful in Barcelona and the city is clean and feels safe.  We visited a couple grocery stores trying to find tortilla chips for Oli to make us Mexican breakfast the next morning, but didn't find any.

We arrived back at the media flat and finished up some final work from the day before and hit the hay around 2am.  I'd like to think that we're preparing for getting back to Colorado.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hastalouego MV Explorer!

April 25, 2013

After three rocky, emotion-filled, work-filled days at sea where people wrapped up what needed wrapping, graduated from what needed graduating and hugged those that needed hugging, we said goodbye to our shipboard family and our home away from home for the last 105 days.

Two nights ago, we had the alumni ball where everyone on the ship got dressed up and had a sit-down, four-course meal. Matt and I sat with a couple who we had met early on in the voyage and then never really followed up with until that dinner. It was interesting to talk with them and hear what they remembered about our first conversation. Apparently, I raved about rambutan in Hawaii and told them how much I was looking forward to it in Vietnam.

Last night was the commencement ceremony for the students and after that was Unreasonable's graduation ceremony which is basically a circle up where everyone gets a moment to say whatever is on their heart. We first heard from the entrepreneurs, then Daniel made sure to highlight the admin team and then the media team. Following up after the articulate fellows felt a little bit intimidating, but because we had grown so close, I had some confidence to tell them how I really felt.

I'm sure it came out all jumbled and nothing like I had imagined it in my head, but when it was my turn to speak, I wanted to thank everyone and to thank the program for taking me through exactly the experience that I needed right now in my life. I came into this project thinking of it as an end goal. It was a year and a half in the making, and Matt and I had to make some dramatic changes in our life and careers in order to make room for it. We made some hard decisions, made it through the big changes of selling our car, moving out of our house, putting our cat into long term kitty-care with my mom, starting and pursuing our own business, Mass FX Media, and finally saying goodbye to all of our brand new clients that we had gained during the first seven months of doing Mass FX Media full time.

This trip had been the end goal for so long that once the countdown had reached single digits and we had reached San Diego, I realized we had nothing left to plan for. I got the expectation that this trip would answer the "what's next" question. About three months into it, I didn't have my answer, and I started to panic. What do I want to do? Who do I want to work for? What should we pursue next?

With work as a distraction and ridiculously talented and inspiring mentors, I slowly came to the realization that this trip ending meant our future was beginning. We were in charge once again of our day to day and the projects that we'll take or turndown. We can live anywhere we want and work with whomever we want. With just three days left at sea, I started packing and felt excitement for what is to come, and it was these people standing before me that offered me excitement for the edge, not fear.

I ended my, probably too long and rambly, speech and admitted that I was about to follow in their footsteps and follow my own dreams: I'm going to direct the feature film, Operation Babylift. Cesar yelled out, "tell us about the film!" and I couldn't help myself. I used the opportunity to pitch the film. I got some good feedback and one of the mentors approached me afterwards and said I had to make that film, and another mentor gave me a contact our in San Jose.

That all said, we'll be heading out to California late this summer to follow up on these leads and visit all our new friends in San Fran, San Diego and LA. I'm ready to jump in. No more excuses.

We had a fun, but late, party and headed to bed to get a couple hours of sleep before our 6:30am breakfast call to be ready to disembark. My emotions were extremely level and steady today. Nothing extreme, no tears, not really any giddiness either. It was all happening and it all felt right. I felt content and ready.

We debarked, grabbed some taxis and checked into our new home for the next ten days: an AirBNB apartment in the middle of Barcelona. We had to get four taxis to get all of our stuff and all of our peoples over to the flat, but it went pretty smoothly. The flat is really nice and there are enough beds for each of us to have one, a small kitchen, a laundry machine and a little patio. It's close to restaurants, grocery stores and public transportation. It will work out well.

We settled in and were ready for an early lunch around 11:30. Spain shuts down for lunch which is scheduled for 2-4:00ish, so we were turned down at every restaurant we went to. People had no idea why we were wanting lunch so early. We found a nice little Colombian restaurant that was willing to have us in early and we ordered up some fun Colombian delights. We worked on our Spanish and made friends with Fernando who we knew we would being seeing a lot during our stay here since his restaurant is just at the bottom of our apartment building.

While we ate, we were sought out by a random lady looking for a bunch of Americans. She was with the taxi company and we had left a bag in one of the taxis. It turned out to be Mark's clothing bag, and it was crazy how it got back to us in that restaurant. What awesome people!

After lunch, we did a gear swap, bought groceries and then hunkered down on post-production while part of the team went to shoot the Unreasonable VIP dinner tonight. It feels good to start settling down, and I'm now just looking forward to the day that we can get some sleep. Early event tomorrow all day for the culminating Unreasonable pitches in Barcelona. Should feel good to see the entrepreneurs in their final form and hear the pitches they've been perfecting for the last four months.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cooking in Casablanca

April 21, 2013

Today we had the whoooole day off in Casablanca, so Matt and I signed up for the Moroccan Market Tour and Interactive Cooking Class.  It was meant to be for fun purposes only.  The only camera we brought were the ones on our iPhones.  Our good friends Tori and Kevin happened to be along on the tour as well, so we enjoyed spending more time with them.

Matt and I ate breakfast on the ship and then, after buying our ticket to the tour, we headed out to the bus.  We were joined by some students, lifelong learners, RA's and then Tori and Kevin who are part of the communications team and work with us.  We met our tour guide, Mohammed, who said that we could call him, Mo.

Mo took us around Casablanca for a little bit because he wanted to show us some places just in case we missed them while we were here.  I was appreciative of the gesture since I hadn't had much free time to explore yet.  He took the bus first to the Hassan II Mosque.  It's technically the tallest mosque in the world even though it's not allowed to be bigger than the one in Mecca.  People here just say it's pretty big.

Mo explained to us that it was built between 1987 and 1992 and it was funded by the people of Morocco.  He was living in Las Vegas at the time and he was sent a letter from the Moroccan government asking if he would donate to the building of the mosque.  He said that he gave $25.  He explained that the Koran tells that anything built here on earth is duplicated by God in heaven, and many people will give a lot of money toward beautiful couches and tiles, but he is in love with the kitchen, so he hopes his fund counts toward that and he could spend all his time in heaven's kitchen.  We all had a good laugh.

We toured around the outside of the mosque very quickly and Matt and I posed in front of it.  It was a very open design on the outside with a lot of space leading up to the mosque.  The architecture was interesting, but classy.  Not too busy like many cathedrals I've seen.  Mo said that 20,000 people fit inside and another 40,000 fit outside for worship time.

We headed for our next stop which was to see Rick's Cafe from Casablanca, then to the consulate's residence (where I had lunch on the second day here) because of the significance of Eisenhower and Churchill staying there and their impact on Morocco during the world war.

After a little more city tour, we stopped off at the central market in Casablanca.  The market tour was meant to show us where the chefs get their fresh meat and vegetables for cooking around the city.  The farmers and rural people bring their goods here.  We got to experience some new sights and smells.  I appreciate the lack of rotting fish smell like in Vietnam and Myanmar, but the dangling cow, sheep and rabbit were as surprising a sight as the fish were a smell.  It was fascinating to me that they leave the little feetsies on the rabbits that they've skinned.  I told the man that we keep the feet for good luck in my country, and he said he didn't have any duck and pointed down the aisle.

Mo stopped in front of some grotesque slabs of pink flesh and explained how the bull tongues were prepared.  I stared at them for a long moment, then realized that my gag reflex was alerting me and my eyes were tearing up.  I was trying to imagine where that tongue connects in the lower abdomen of the creature.  It was far longer than I thought it should have been.

There were little kitties all over the market.  They were hanging out on the floor, behind doors and in boxes waiting for scraps from the food vendors.  The people there were very kind to them.  They patted them on their heads and gave them shrimps or little sardines that looked a little funny.  It was an interesting change from how we saw the animals in other countries treated like pests.

Mo picked up a tiny, live turtle and began passing it into our hands to hold.  If it turned its head left or right and if it decided to move forward or backward, we were wished a different type of luck.  Apparently the turtles are master givers of good fortune and they decide your fate.  Just like in Hong Kong, I was wished children.  Look out parental units, this trip just might bless a child out of me.

We left the market and walked to the cooking school a few blocks away.  We entered a tall, white building with wonderful smells pouring down from the marble, spiraling stairway.  Mo offered the lift to anyone who was old, which made us chuckle and the people who legitimately needed the lift feel offended.  He went along his business not noticing the scowls from the lift-takers.  He was an easy-going guy who told things like they were.  I found it funny.

We hiked up and up the stairs and wished we had taken the lift because the four stories weren't up to American building code stories.

We got to the top and were welcomed by a nice lady named Laila and a cook who spoke only French.  He would be our teacher for the day and Mo would translate.  They first taught us how to make proper mint tea.  They showed us what to put in first and how to boil the water and wash the tea. Then, they added the sugar.

Mo asked if we wanted no sweet, half sweet or Moroccan sweet.  The younger people were all for the full Moroccan experience, and the few older gennies in the room voted for no sweet, so Mo settled for half-sweet and stuck in the equivalent of two cups of sugar in sugar cubes into the tiny pot of tea.  There was an audible gasp from the no-sweet side of the room. I found the drama of this particular moment highly entertaining and inappropriately laughed out loud.  This encouraged Mo.

Mo and the French-speaking Moroccan chef began their teaching.  They showed us how to make traditional Moroccan pastries, how to fold them, bake them and lay them out nicely for display when presenting them to guests or hosts.  They then moved on to the ever-so-complicated couscous.  Then, they showed us how to make tajines which is both the pot they are cooked in and the actual food that comes out of it by being prepared this way.  It would be like calling something a fish bake because you prepared it in an oven.

They showed us prune-almond lamb tajine and also ginger-apricot chicken tajine.  They didn't cook anything in front of us, just taught us how to prepare it and brought it out in multiple phases because it would have taken hours to actually follow through with cooking all of these traditional items.  It was tantalizing to watch all the fresh ingredients go into all of these deliciously seasoned dishes.

On the ginger chicken, they often use preserved lemon.  The room got so excited at preserved lemon, and we knew we couldn't bring any on the ship and finding it in the States and for cheap was difficult.  We wanted the know how of how to make these ourselves.  Laila scooted out of the room and came back with a giant jar of weird looking masses floating in brown liquid.  She showed us how to cut the fresh lemons, stuff them with salt and then said that you just jam them in a jar for two weeks and they juice out, fill the jar with their juices and the salts and will last for a good year.  You use the skins of the lemons to flavor the chicken tajines and you can also spoon out the salty, citrus liquid and put it on cucumber salads to impress your guests.  Mo said we would be the most popular cooks in our neighborhood if we did that.  I believe him, and I'm going to try it with our new neighbors.

After the lemon excitement died down, the cooking demonstration was over.  Laila gave us her e-mail address and said we could e-mail her any questions we had. I wrote it down just in case my lemons go south.

They led us up to the next floor where there was a dining room and four gold covers on four giant plates on a long table in the front.  They had prepared us all the dishes that they had just taught us to cook, and it was time to gorge ourselves on the delicious food.  They had planned to remove the silver covers all at once, and they counted down and then whipped away the covers while Mo yelled, "surprise!"  It was a fun moment.  I happened to capture it in action, and I'm quite pleased with the blurry photo.

We went through, buffet-style, and were served up a spoonful of each of the dishes plus two slices of orange with orange blossom water and cinnamon sprinkled on top. Matt and I sat with Kevin and Tori and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Once we all finished eating, it was sadly time to say goodbye to our new culinary friends.  On our way out, I was gifted a bouquet of fresh mint, which I gladly took with a gracious thank you in English, then French, then Arabic.  I'm working on my deca-lingual counting and thank you's.  I knew we wouldn't be allowed to take it on the ship, so I gifted it to our bus driver hoping he could take it home to his Mrs. and she would whip him up some delicious mint tea.

We drove back to the center part of Casablanca where we had 45 minutes to do our final shopping.  Matt and I had 42 dirham left, and we decided to spend it on whatever tickled our fancy.  Mo took us to an over-priced souvenir shop, and we left for the madina where local shops and street vendors had the same goods for haggling prices.  We bought a few things for the last of our dirham (which is about the equivalent of $4.50) then headed back for the bus to take us to the ship.

We arrived back at the ship, thanked Mo and our bus driver and then climbed the steps of the MV Explorer for the very last time.  The next time we'll see these stairs will be in Barcelona and once we exit the ship, there will be no getting back on.  We'll have our stuff packed up, and we'll be off on our 10-day Spanish adventure.

What a life I lead.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Multi-lingual Fail

April 20, 2013

Today was a pretty slow day.  Matt woke up dark and early (there are no windows in our cabin, so we never have any clue what part of the day/night it is) and scrambled around to head out and film Protei's Hackathon today.  They were supposed to leave the ship at 7:30am, so he ran out of the room at 7:15am to grab some breakfast.

I showered and got ready, looked at my watch at 7:45am and then looked down at the camera and tripod still sitting in our room.  I wandered up to breakfast and found him and Jessie chatting over breakfast potatoes.  It ended up they didn't need to leave until about 9am.

Matt and I sporting our Prana in port.
We had a leisurely breakfast together recounting the way that we ended up coming on this trip.  It was interesting to think back to all the events and emotions that led us to coming on this voyage.  We talked about the people who supported us and the people who were worried for us, and we ultimately landed on the point that we couldn't imagine being at home watching the other's photos roll in as we went about the same routine we had had last summer.  It's crazy to think about all the things we had to uproot in our life to make way for a four-month leave like this.  After this experience, though, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  You can't live your life looking at the green grass over the fence.  You have to get over there, roll around in it and find out for yourself that it has goat heads, then you can make informed decisions on whether or not you'd like to deal with goat heads or go back to the grass that causes you allergies.  I suppose that's pessimistic.  The optimistic metaphor would be whether or not you like smelling roses or tulips, both of which are good in their own right.  One just happens to have thorns and the other one bees that sting your nose.  Do you value your nose or your fingers? Ha!  Okay...that random string of thoughts would have probably been funnier out loud rather than written down.

Next up...the rest of the day!

My job today was to follow Pedro.  I had no idea what he was doing, but I did know that it consisted of a meeting at 11:00am.  I didn't know where and I didn't know if I was allowed to tag along with a camera.  I called him around 9:30am in his room, and he said to meet at the gangway at 10:30am.  I did so, and we headed off for the shuttle to the end of the port.

Once we got to the end of the port, we walked over to a nearby hotel, and it turned out that this was where we were meeting a university student who is doing research in water purification.  He spoke a tiny bit of English, Arabic and mostly French.  Pedro speaks English, mostly Spanish and French.  I sat and filmed their quadri-lingual conversation wondering if we'd ever be able to use this footage.  I could pick out all of the English, a little bit of the Spanish, but only the yes's in French.  It fascinated me how they used their vocabularies from all three languages to help one another understand.  If they said something in one language and the other didn't understand, they'd try it in another language.  Pedro said that if two people have passion for something, language is no problem.  That man has so much passion for purifying drinking water, he could do anything.  I have so much respect for him.

They said goodbye and Pedro and I finished our Red Bull and espresso (respectively) and decided to see if Evan wanted to get some lunch with us.  Evan has been trapped on the ship our entire time in Morocco editing the video we took on for one of the learning partners.  We thought we could give him a break.  Pedro wanted an hour to go and try to sell his iPad "on the black market" and I didn't want to partake in such activities.  I decided to head back to the ship and check on Evan, and because we were so close to the port, I thought it would be okay to walk to the port entrance then take the shuttle back to the ship.

Within two blocks, I had been followed by one man wanting me to come to lunch with him and hassled by the port attendant who said I didn't look like my passport photo or ship ID photo.  He made me take off my glasses, take out my ponytail, turn my face side to side (which definitely didn't make sense because the photos on both of those IDs are straight on).  I tried to act happy and nice, and I assertively laughed and took my ID's back and walked under the car gate, thanking him in Arabic.  I muttered under my breath some non-thank you's in English as I walked away.

The shuttle was not waiting at the port entrance, and there were three local men chilling next to where the shuttle picks people up and no one else around.  I decided I would walk rather than wait with them. I picked up the pace and walked past cat calls from the ships nearby and honks from the cars and motorcycles that drove past.  They are NOT kidding about the fact that women shouldn't walk alone.  I did not witness a single woman walking by herself anywhere in the city in the past two days.  They are either with their kids, husband, other women or the places I've been are literally all men.  It blows my mind to think that America had female discrimination like this during the lifetime of people I know.  We humans are so silly with our need to be superior to other humans.

I made it back to the ship, sweating and tired, and found Evan enjoying sloppy joes on the fifth deck.  I joined him, Tendekayi, who doesn't have a visa to Morocco, and Daniel, who is working on the ship today.  We ate and talked about the future of Unreasonable.

After lunch, I decided to hang around the ship and catch up on everything I've been neglecting for the past few crunch weeks, and it really felt great.  In fact, just a little bit of downtime really goes a long way.  Tomorrow will be our 7th official day off on this entire voyage.  The nature of being locked on a ship and having deliverables as you go means the work is never done.  In documentary, you shoot everything your subjects do when they are out and about.  When you live, eat, play and work with your subjects, your work is never done.  There is no separation.  As much as I absolutely love the Unreasonable entrepreneurs, I'm looking forward to my next documentary subject not being my housemate.

Evan and I worked on the edit a little bit together and I worked on the outline for my feature film.  It certainly feels more attainable after all of my talks with these awesome mentors and watching these entrepreneurs follow their dreams.

The door to the restaurant.
We found out that there were ice cream sundaes for dessert down in the dining room, and went down to eat those for dinner.  We found Daniel there who convinced us to scarf our sundaes and then go workout with him.  I've been partaking in the "deck of cards" workout where we flip, one by one, through a deck of cards and perform whatever exercise that symbol or color represents and do the number of them on the card.  I've chosen squats instead of pull-ups because I'm unable to do a single one and push-ups just about take me out after 50.

We showered and then headed out on the town to a restaurant that Daniel had found on TripAdvisor.  We arrived to a totally decked out Moraccan restaurant with delicious food.  I had to order up a #selfie of Daniel, Evan and myself (which means you take the picture yourself), and we got this lovely gem.


It was a neat restaurant, and we met Mara and Tom, both from the Nike Foundation, and our new learning partner, Daryn from Microsoft Xbox.  It was entertaining to get to know one another better by playing a version of "hot seat" where each person asks the group a question, and everyone has to answer it truthfully.  We bonded.

We walked back to the ship in the cool Casablanca night.  All around a slow, but good, day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Governmental Affairs

April 19, 2013

In the morning, Matt and I had breakfast with one of the new mentors who joined us on the ship here in Morocco: Pascal Finette and his wife Jane. Pascal was the founder of the open source little ditty Mozilla (you know, Firefox?). We had a lovely breakfast with him picking his brain about the audience for our Unreasonable Media. We talked about how there is an identity crisis with the media we're producing. Because we haven't defined our audience, we have made videos for multiple groups, none of which we have directly targeted. He gave us a lot to think about, but it's too bad the advice came with five days left in the voyage.

Matt, Patrick and I had a long breakfast and continued chatting about the trip and our future plans. it's been the topic of many, many discussions as we wrap up our voyage, and it has been exciting to hear all of the things people have been inspired to pursue after this trip ends, and we leave our new shipboard world for land. I'm highly encouraged by everyone's passion for their new projects. Mine is my feature film. If I haven't pitched it to you yet, let me know, and I'll practice on you as if you're my future investor. I'll take $30,000,000 please. (Just a medium-budget feature). Okay, just kidding about the investor part, but serums about the pitch practice.

After breakfast, I packed up our camera, showered then grabbed a snack before heading for the day's luncheon at the US Consulate's residence in Casablanca. He offered to host Unreasonable as a gesture toward supporting the growth of local entrepreneurs.

We broke up into a bunch of taxis and drove along the coastline to see the biggest mosque in the world. It is a beautiful mosque, and it was neat to see it on our way. I might like to get closer, but I don't think I'll have the chance on this trip.

We arrived and our taxi driver charged us 50 dirham even though the meter said 32. It's time to get used to being taken advantage again. We had a male in the car, so I think that helped keep the price down. People have been peaceful and kind so far, but this country still has a very sexist culture. I'm not a fan of that part.

Our cameras and bags were searched in order to enter the residence area. We entered to a stone walkway in a beautiful garden with a nice, white home in the middle. This was the home where Roosevelt acknowledged that the US was for Moroccan independence. It's a symbol of the good relations between Morocco and the United States. It was interesting to hear the history of the place and walk around the garden. We met the wife who was holding little Pepper, a black Pomeranian. He wasn't allowed down because he bothers Winston Churchill, the peacock who lives on the grounds.

We got some beverages and shot some video of the home before filming the luncheon. There were great speeches made from the locals and from our Unreasonable people thanking one another for the time together. A man was barbecuing lamb chops, chicken kabobs with jalapeños and hotdogs. It smelled delicious. And it was delicious.

They had fresh salads with corn, avocado, tomatoes and kidney beans, and if you had been eating frozen ship food for as long as we have, you would know how amazingly pleasing fresh fruits and vegetables are to our pallets. I'm going to eat an entire bag of apples when I get home.

They brought out the mint tea and traditional pastries for dessert, and we gabbed and munched until they kicked us out. I met a man who wants to hire us to film in Morocco in the future. I gave him my card. We'll see what happens with that.

We snagged a taxi back to the port which cost us 100 dirham, I'm thinking because of the all female cab tax. At the consulate they told us not to pay more than 30. Sigh.

Jessie and I were the only two that weren't heading off to film traveling entrepreneurs, so we decided to drop our gear on the ship and go out for an adventure. We walked from the port back to the tram stop we were familiar with and wandered through a couple cat calls and an offer to get in a white, windowless van to a cafe where we found Jeff HoffmN and his girlfriend Ghada having an apple shake. We said goodbye to them because they fly out tonight and then found our techie friend from the ship, Dan. He had just gotten scammed out of $70 and needed some cheering up.

We all walked around the market place for a little while, then Jessie and I decided that we needed a sit. We found a cafe where people were drinking coffee and tea and we made ourselves comfortable. We ordered up two mint teas and joined the dozens of men with their seats turned to the street, sipping their beverages and watching the world go by. We took some selfies, chased off some street kids and then received our piping hot tea. Our waiter poured it for us, but it's important to begin the pour, then life the pot as high as possible to create bubbles in the tea. We learned that if there are no bubbles, the tea has not been prepared properly and should not be consumed. Good lesson. This tea had bubbles.

It was interesting how many people that we met who asked where we were from offered their condolences for what was happening in Boston. The bombing has made international news, and people all over the world are paying attention to America right now. I don't want to start anything political, but I feel embarrassed by the people who are posting on Facebook incendiary, blanket comments about Muslims. I sat in a cafe today in a predominantly, predominantly Muslim country watching their city run like any other city I've been in on this trip. There's hustle, bustle, people meeting one another again, others meeting for the first time. I sat in a group of Muslims yesterday painting together and dreaming with them about how to change our world for the better. You can NOT make a blanket statement about any group of people: Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Blacks, Whites, Men, Women, the rich, the poor, Mexicans, New Yorkers, people who like shellfish. People are people. They love. They hate. They play. They react. They fight. There are extremes in every group of people, but the -ism's that hurt so many people and ruin so much potential for good, productive relationships are fueled by comments that I'm watching pour out of my American friends' computers. Be mad at the two men that killed and injured so many, but stop blaming every person that shares an attribute with them.

That's going to stir up some debate.

Anyway, onward with our lovely evening: Dan found us again and we made friends with a local enjoying a cup of coffee who recommended a place to get some couscous. It was Friday, so we would be able to get it. Apparently couscous is limited to Fridays.

We sauntered down to Ramses, a nice little restaurant and ordered up three plates of couscous. It came with steamed veggies like squash and cucumbers and a sweet raisin concoction in the middle. It hit our little Moroccan food spot. We were happy. We decided to remember the moment forever.

We finished dinner and walked back to the ship with a man named Medi who was part Moroccan and part Spanish. He claimed that his body was Moroccan and his left arm Spanish. We went between French, Spanish and English as we walked and talked. It has been eye-opening to see how many opportunities we miss as mono-lingual (If that's even a word) Americans. There is such a communication barrier for a culture that expects the world to only speak its language. Yet again, I wish I were fluent in another language. French would have been helpful here.

We got back to the port entrance and said goodbye to Medi. We didn't see the shuttle I sight, so we walked back to our ship talking about philosophy and ethics on odd topics. Jessie's philosophy minor compliments my obsession with philosophy. Dan didn't seem to mind the wacky thoughts we had.

I got back to our room to find Matt crashed out after his b-roll day. I can't wait to hear about his adventure, but it will have to wait until morning, I think.

Moroccan Mint Tea = Magic in a Glass

April 18, 2013

We pulled into Morocco early this morning, but didn't end up leaving the ship until about 2:30pm to go with the entrepreneurs to a round table event in the middle of Casablanca. We walked from the port area to the tram that runs through the city.

Casablanca is a nice city. Many if the buildings are painted white and the streets are much cleaner than other places we've been to on this journey. It's predominantly Muslim, so we must dress very conservatively and many of the women have scarves over their heads. I'm glad that I had both a scarf in Cambodia. I brought it along just in case I needed to cover my head, but it was also good to cover my neck.

The people seemed pretty nice, and there weren't a ton of street vendors. As we waited for our volunteer local escorts to get us all tram tickets, there were a few children that appeared to be selling tissues. They would place the little travel pack of tissues in your bag or your pocket then refuse to take it back and hang around, I think, waiting to be paid. Mouhsine speaks Arabic, so he told us that the young boy was offering a blessing to keep a handsome face. People, I guess, would tip the children if they got a blessing. Interesting.

The kids weren't as aggressive as they were in India, so we learned that they would accept our "la" (which means "no" in Arabic) and head to the next person.

We all got on the tram after waiting for some Unreasonable stragglers and arrived about an hour late to the event. The event was held in a really nice office building where many events are held. There was a cafe just inside and people flocked for a shot of espresso. Now, what they didn't know was that there is something better than espresso waiting behind the little orange counter: Moroccan mint tea.

We went into the event and were warmly welcomed by three people who are trying to start up a business accelerator similar to what the Unreasonable Institute does in Boulder, but for local Moroccans on weekends. The main woman was bubbly and fun and a brilliant host. They rolled with the fact that our entire group was late and we jumped into the round table networking event.

When we rolled in with all of our film gear, we realized that there were other cameras in the room. There is a French television network that is going to be joining us on the ship to document Protei's journey from Morocco to Spain. Protei has arranged a hardware hackathon ( that will take place in Casablanca on the 20th. The French media team consists of two people, a man and a woman, who are our kind of people. I think no matter the country, media people are media people. We liked them right away. Matt and Oli are following Protei for this port, so they have made the French film crew a part of the story, and they film them filming Cesar and Gabby. It's great.

The first thing that our local host does is invite everyone back to three tables where they are to split up into three teams. The crowd at this event consisted of larger business owners, local start-ups, the Unreasonable mentors and the Unreasonable entrepreneurs. They happily divided and were coached to paint what the word "unreasonable" means to them. The first group will have blindfolded painters with seeing coaches. The second group can't speak, and the third group wasn't allowed to use their hands.

The painting ensued and we were all thoroughly entertained. It was a great reminder that we shan't forget to play in our old age. Play is healthy and it Kickstarts you creativity.

After the painting time, the entrepreneurs did a quick version of their pitches to introduce themselves to the group, and then the locals asked questions about life aboard the ship. They had hilarious, authentic conversation as a whole group, and it was really fantastic to see the two groups getting along so well. I met many of the locals and really enjoyed chatting with all of them. They are excited to encourage Moroccans to follow their dreams. A few of then told me that it isn't as encouraged here as they would like. I'm pleased to see a group encouraging it.

They provided mint tea, traditional pastries that were interestingly more fragrant tasting than sweet, and mini burgers and what looked like samosas and egg rolls. It was a delicious close to our mingle time.

After we wrapped, most of the group headed out to dinner with the locals, but with all our film gear, we decided to take the tram back to the ship. It was getting late anyway. we grabbed the tram and met a nice Moroccan man who was riding the train with his sister and her fiancé. His name was Osama, but not like Bin Ladin, he stressed. We all laughed. He really took to Jessie. He felt that her name was as beautiful as her face. I suppose a nice compliment coming from a person with English as their fourth language. He was very kind and we had a nice chat all the way back to our stop. We all exited the tram, and he gave his phone number to us in case we needed anything, including coming over to his mom's house for couscous. Danny had given him a business card, and he was so impressed that he called Danny the businessman for the rest of the ride.

We walked back to port then back to berth 5, realizing why there is a shuttle that runs from our berth to the port entrance. It takes a good 20 minutes to walk that thing. We were exhausted by the time we got back to the ship, but we all changed and headed up to the tipsy toucan for a nightcap. I went and found Matt who had been stuck on the ship working on motion graphics all day and we all chatted upstairs with the executive dean as we enjoyed our imbibeable beverages. After losing in a game of bones, I decided to turn in for the night.

What a lovely country with lovely people. So far, I'm liking Casablanca.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sailing, sailing, sailing

April 17, 2013

We have been sailing for five days, and they have been an absolute blur. Not only is the ship preparing for the last port before debarkation and the students are taking finals, but our team is trying to wrap up final interviews and videos that need editing still. We've taken on the extra project which has also put extra strain on an already pretty full plate.

Most of my days have been spent editing either in our little cabin on deck three or in the Eagle's Nest on deck 6 behind the Union. I've finished the episode for South Africa, which you can see on (if you'd like to keep up with the entrepreneurs' journey), and I edited the Fireside chat between Daniel and Jeff Hoffman, the founder of many companies, including, currently, producer of horror films such as Cabin Fever and all around great mentor.

I actually took notes while I edited Jeff's fireside chat because he had such great advice. I actually really related to his childhood story of being told no. He wanted to drive a Ferrari and his friends and mom laughed and said that he never would. Why? Because there's only a very small percentage of the population that drive ferraris and he would never be one of them. Why not? He decided that if someone was being successful, then why not it be him? If he wanted to do something and didn't now how to do it, he'd learn it and surround himself with teams of people who knew how to do it.

I remember when I was little that there was no bigger motivator for me than people who told me I couldn't do something. "Girls don't play the drums." "Film school is a waste of your potential." Working hard and following my passions has gotten me to a very happy place in life so far. Jeff was very big on the fact that there is no rule book. There are rules in life that our society made up, but they aren't to be followed by everyone.

He also talked about finding a good mentor. He noted that the best mentor is someone you, of course, look up to or admire, but they also need to share your values and live a life and live in a way that you want to live. Why would you take advice from someone you don't want to be like? Even if they're rich or highly successful, if they don't value family and you do, their advice and road to success isn't going to lineup with your values. You'll find yourself miserable.

He had great advice on leadership and how to build a team. I felt very inspired to continue my studying of leadership. I've been reading Drive on this journey and Matt got me a book called Leadership and The New Science which compares managing people to chaos theory and quantum mechanics...right up my alley. I'd love to be a good leader someday. All of my aspirations: directing, owning a business and being a momma (someday) require me to know how to be a good leader. The advice i took to heart was that integrity is one of the keys. You've got to practice what you preach and know your values so that you can live them out and people won't question your motives when push comes to shove.

Anyway, I didn't mean for this blog to be all about my learning, but it's really been great to glean so much from great people who weren't meant for me, but offer me advice anyway.

This last leg of the trip has also included some fun. There was a ship-wide talent show, a drag show (which was fantastic), a media junk food thank you dinner, and a closing time themed reception for the faculty and staff.

This is the last long sail, and once we get back on the ship to get to Barcelona, we're thrown into a whirlwind of shooting, wrapping editing, and packing all of our stuff. There are just three days on the ship before we are kicked off in Barcelona. The Unreasonable team launches straight into an event, and the media team will shoot for two more days before moving into a flat where we will all hunker down and finish our deliverables,

Matt and I have decided not to go to Unreasonable at State, so we will be a part of the team staying to finish deliverables, then finish our extra video, then we'll be flying home bright and early on May 5.

Wrapping up this time is definitely bittersweet. I don't want to leave. This is where we've settled and it's comfortable, predictable and scheduled. All of our resources are here and all of our work is lined out for us. It's been a nice break to focus on a single project for so long and to get to know our interview subjects intimately because of how deep into their lives and businesses they've allowed us. It won't feel right not to interview them weekly and follow them on their adventures in a new country every few days. It'll also take some getting used to to be away from our bonded crew. We've built a family with this vide team, and it'll be sad not to see one another at breakfast every morning and happy hour in the afternoons. What are we going to do with ourselves?

It's new shipboard reality has coasted a spell on us. We've got a travel bug, we've got more confidence and we've been inspired to reach for our dreams. My emotions are all over the place and I'm mostly sad to leave, but I'm also excited about what's next. The world is our oyster, as someone not of my generation might say, and we're ready for it. Well, maybe after a couple weeks off to reset our lives.

Tomorrow, we land in Casablanca, Morocco and begin another bout with culture shock. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Lapse in Travel-Confidence

April 10, 2013

We assessed today that as a team we had gotten what we needed from Ghana.  Matt and Jessie were assigned to shoot the African drumming and dancing field lab for Semester at Sea, so they had their last day full.  The rest of us decided that we would head over to the swim beach outside of Accra and take some time to relax and play in the ocean.

We gathered together and rode the shuttle from the ship to the outside of the port where there was a huge group of taxis waiting for the people from the ship.  We had asked our driver to negotiate us two taxis to the beach and so he headed over with us to the group and got it worked out.  We agreed on 20 for each taxi, and the seven of us split between the two of them.

Our taxi was the crappiest car I have ever ridden in.  The seatbelt bolts had been pulled out of the wall of the car, so they were dangling with the bolt and scrap of metal daring us to get in an accident.  There wasn't much upholstery and the ceiling had no cloth.  None of the gauges worked and the windows were all stuck in various positions of down.  We giggled a little at the state of the vehicle, but it became less funny once we realized it shook back and forth once it got to speed.  It wasn't a pleasant half hour in the car especially because it was more than 100-degrees and we were squished together in the back seat.

The driver took a u-turn on the highway to get to the entrance of the beach, and as we turned something clunked out of the bottom of the car and we started dragging the metal down the highway.  The man pulled over and he and Evan jumped out and assessed the damage.  Apparently it was still drivable because we took off again at a slower speed dragging the metal along the road.  We pulled into the beach area and each paid our fee to get in and they let us through the gates to a large dirt parking lot behind a couple buildings.  We could hear the ocean and were excited to unfold ourselves from the car.

Rosa was the only person who had cedi left, so we had agreed to pay her back with American dollars later.  She handed him the 20 cedi that we thought we had agreed upon, and the man flipped out.  He started yelling at us that we were offending him with such little money and something about 1,800 cedi is an insult.  He wanted 20 US dollars.  We made the mistake of arguing back.  Why would we have agreed on US dollars when their country's currency is cedi?

He wouldn't take the money.  He went around the back of his car and said he wasn't moving an inch until we paid him $20 and started trying to fix the dangling pieces of his vehicle.  Meanwhile, the other cab driver saw the commotion and came over.  He was fine with the 20 cedi because he knew we had agreed upon it, but once he heard that his friend was upset, he decided to be upset, too.  He gave back the 20 cedi he was paid and said he wouldn't take that either.  Neither of them would take any money we were trying to give them and they had now ganged up on us.  Larissa got stern and put the money on the car and said that they can either take it or leave it because it was what we had agreed upon.  This set them off.

Our taxi driver, who had the worst temper, lunged for Larissa grabbing her backpack and screaming profanities and saying, "give me my money!"  We had gathered a crowd of locals at this point, and they were trying to figure out what was going on.  Some were on our side trying to help, others heard that we were trying to get a free cab ride so they were yelling at us.  It became a huge group of people, and then many of them turned on us.  They started using excuses about the fact that there was traffic and that meant we had to pay more.

Our taxi driver was still grabbing and pulling on Larissa's backpack, so I tried to gently touch his hand that was on the backpack and I said, "calm down."  "I won't f**ing calm down! You f**ing thieves! What?! Do you think I'm a little man? I can take all of you," he screamed in my face.  At this point he had let go of Larissa's backpack, and we had two of the gate officials who were trying to calm the situation.  There were at least 20 people in this huddle of screaming madness at this point.

The two officials from the beach had moved between us and them and started trying to reason with them.  Our taxi driver lunged through them again grabbing Larissa, and they pulled him back again.  The people finally turned to us and said we needed to pay them something.  We were so scared and fed up with the whole situation, but we didn't have enough money to pay what they wanted.  We had just planned to go to the beach and get some lunch, and we hadn't pulled out more cash than we thought we needed.  We scrounged up 10 more cedis per cab driver, and they finally settled down and stormed back to their cars.  This apparently sufficed.

We hurriedly walked away from the madness and the locals dispersed.  We walked for the beach and then were bombarded with the beach sellers who wanted to sell us their necklaces and shirts and little drums.  After our encounter, I had nothing but disdain for these people.  I was very shaken, and I know it was visible because my face was all twisted up attempting not to cry.  My knees were shaking and I had a rush of adrenaline that I was trying to get under control.  It felt so terrible to be in that situation not knowing how far this guy would go to get his ten more dollars.

Maybe we should have just given him his money, but part of the frustration is the fact that this only encourages the racist, asinine behavior of these people taking advantage of foreigners.  He absolutely knew that we had agreed on 20 cedi at the beginning. We all stood around in a circle and we confirmed with both drivers that it would be 20.  We learned from this experience that it's important to specify which currency you're negotiating in even though I feel like it was an excuse to have an altercation.  I suppose he was also mad about his car falling apart and maybe he was just taking this out on us, and wanted the extra money because he knew he needed to fix it.  Regardless, a 250-pound man doesn't physically assault a small-statured woman and try to steal money out of her backpack outright.

I liked Ghana, and I liked many of the people, but the disdain for people who are white is palpable.  I know it will take generations and more global business being done there and giving them more positive experiences with foreigners for any of this to change.  We had heard from two different people that they believe that the US needs to give reparation funds to repay what the country lost during the slave trade in population.  They believe their country is behind because of this dip in their population and if the US paid a bunch of money, they could kick-start their development and catch up with a lot of the world. An interesting point of view that I had never thought about as an American.

We found other members of the film crew already there swimming and joined them at some covered tables at a restaurant.  We confirmed ahead of time with the owner that we didn't have to pay them to sit there so that they didn't have to hassle us when we decided to leave.  They said it was free.  We started to settle in and put on sunscreen when a fight broke out about three tables away from us.

People gathered around two men who were whipping each other in the face and chest with small sticks with ropes on the end and yelling at one another.  Women would jump in and they would get slapped or pushed away.  People who were surrounding them were fighting and yelling at one another.  It escalated to the point where we were ready to grab all our stuff and head down the beach further, but then, they apparently worked it out because one of the men walked away, and the group dispersed still talking loudly and yelling at one another.  I was done with aggressive activities for the day.

I headed out to the ocean and bobbed in the waves for a good hour.  Don't worry - I lathered on the sunscreen.

A view of the ocean and fishing boats
from the window of out taxi.
After bobbing, we decided to go and get some lunch at a nice hotel down the beach.  We were all out of cash, so we couldn't find a local spot on the beach for grub.  I was glad that there was a nice hotel that would take credit cards and have foreigners. I had kelewele and french fries for lunch, mostly as comfort food and to say good-bye to my favorite fried treat: plantains.

We talked about what was next for everyone, and it's crazy to think how close we are to the end of this trip.  It feels like a year ago that we were walking on the beach in San Diego looking out to the West talking about the fact that we were about to embark on a journey around the world in that direction, but it also feels like just yesterday that I was homesick and wishing the trip wasn't four months long.  People have many emotions, but on average it's a fulfilled excitement ready to set foot back home.  I know this last push to finish all of our videos and shooting will help wear us out completely to the point where we'll want nothing more but to be home.  I feel like anything's possible, though, when I can see the light at the end of a tunnel.  We'll get it all done.

Reflecting a tiny bit, this has been an amazing, perspective-changing project.  I think it's going to take me a while to let it all soak in and be able to articulate exactly how it's changed me, but I'm sure I've been changed.

Binging on Plantains in Accra

April 9, 2013

Falling in Love with Plantain
Ghana, oh Ghana You have not a clue
That I've fallen in love with your plantains, but not stew
Your stew is so slimy and snotty and fishy
But your plantains are sweet and salty and crispy
I've had them grilled, fried and also seasoned with ginger-pepe
So good I've had four servings and gotten a food baby
Take me away, you underestimated little fruit
I'll miss you so much once I go back to ship food. 

Today began with a comedy of errors. When people flush something other than the very blunt three P's (pee, poo or paper) everybody suffers on the ship. Our toilet was backed up and our shower drain was clogged for our morning duties, which threw a bit of a wrench in getting ready. Regardless, Matt and I made it in time to catch the 8am breakfast and got a little caught up in fun breakfast conversations. With the delay and delay, we had 15 minutes to pack our gear and supplies for the day in Accra and get out to catch the 9am shuttle.

Matt needed to find a working bathroom, so we split up to get ready to go. You would be surprised how difficult it is to find a person on the ship once you've parted ways. I went to our room which was being cleaned by Jesse, our awesome cabin steward and barged in to grab my stuff. He was working on the issue with the plumbing, so I had to work around him a little to get all my things. 

I had five minutes to get to the bus which is notorious for leaving early, and I booked it down to the gangway. I didn't see my day's team, Mark and Larissa, and Matt was nowhere to be found. I saw Matt's subject for the day, Tendekayi, who was headed out to the bus, then found Mark and Larissa. We decided to jump on the bus and hope that Matt would make it. We had the bus wait a couple minutes, but at 9:02, it was time to go. The irony here is that nothing else in Africa keeps a schedule, but they were insistent on keeping this one.  The bus made its hour-long, bumpy way to Accra from our Tema port.

Meanwhile, Matt had been doing laps around the ship looking for a working bathroom, ran to our room, grabbed his gear and popped out of the ship at 9:03. The bus was gone, we were gone and we hadn't made a plan B.  Tende didn't have to meet his people until 11am, so we figured that if Matt caught the 10am shuttle, he might just be able to arrive before Tende goes. Otherwise, we would send Mark and his camera with Tende and then have Matt as our b-roll escort for the day whenever he arrived.  Without communication, though, each of us just had to figure out the logic of the other and hope that our assumption we were to act on was correct.

All in all, we waited long enough to go with plan A and left Matt with Tende and headed for b-roll. We first climbed the Citizen Kofi building to the top balcony to film some high angle shots of the city.  We took a couple photos of one another while we were up there.  Here I am modeling over the city of Accra.

The building is under construction, so the club isn't running, but it was being used by a film crew to hold auditions for a narrative feature being shot in Accra soon.  We met some of the actors and actresses lined up to audition and also met the film's producer.  They let us in to the side of the building that led up to the top balcony and we made our way up there through paint buckets and cloths.  It felt scandalous to climb through the closed building.  Quite fun.

We climbed down the stairs and headed for the streets to find a taxi to get to the market in downtown Accra.  What we didn't know ahead of time was that the taxi driver took us to the local market rather than the more touristy crafty market where we would have been more welcome.  We drove and drove and he let us out in a mass of Ghanaians who were selling everything from vegetables and fruits to housing goods and toothbrushes to clothing and shoes.  The women carry their goods on their heads.  There are some that seem straightforward like bags of fried plantain chips on a platter.  They seem light enough and also easier to balance than the women who are carrying bags of water on their heads.  Other women are carrying soaps, toothbrushes or clothing on their heads.  One woman was carrying three tomato-crates stacked up on her head.

Walking through this crowded market was very difficult.  Most of the people were balancing their goods on their heads and trying to squeeze through all of the same places we were trying to get through.  We were definitely the only foreigners there and we got many stares and many people grabbed us.  One man grabbed my arm and stopped me completely to have me look at the belts he was selling, then got offended when I pulled away.  He was very aggressive and it seemed like he was looking for trouble.  I got another older woman between us, and she allowed me to hurry away.  Another group of three men stopped us and asked Mark if I were his sister.  Mark said no, and he eyed me up and down and said that he liked me very much.  He shook my hand, asked my name and told me how much he liked me.  I kindly thank him and said that my husband liked me very much, too, and the three of us hurried away from them.

We got high enough to see the market
from above. It was so crowded!
We found a nice-looking woman with fried plantains on her head.  We bought three bags to snack on and to have something to do because it felt so awkward being there.  She asked if we were part of a big group, and we said that it was just the three of us.  She looked concerned, looked around and said, "be careful."  It was all over a disconcerting place to be.

It didn't help that we had brought the tripod for our camera.  People in Ghana have decided that a white person with a camera is a form of oppression.  We come and get photos and video of them and then make money off of it in our country.  There is now a very widespread disdain for any person, especially white, to take their photo.  If someone doesn't notice their getting a photo taken of them, a person nearby will yell to them and warn them.  The children will scream at you if you have a camera out, "no photo, no photo!"  We were extra unwelcome because of our professional-looking gear.  We asked a couple people if we could take their photo, and all of them declined.

One woman was selling grilled plantains with little bags of peanuts that you're supposed to eat together, and we decided to get some of those, too.  She frowned at us as we walked up to her, and said, "no photo."  We assured her that we just wanted to buy from her, and she perked up and became very friendly.  She sold us three sets of two plantains and a baggy of peanuts.  She wrapped them up in original welfare documents complete with fingerprints and happily took our money.  She smiled and waved us away.  We stood in the shade of a tree behind some women selling pineapple trying to figure out how we could shoot this market, and we thought we should walk down out of the main area and maybe vendors would be happier to allow us to film them without so many people around.

We walked to the other side of the market to the main street and asked some women if we could film them selling melons.  We could if we paid them.  We declined, but now they wanted money just for the request.  We hurried away.  We asked another cell phone vendor who also declined.  "Are you going to pay me?" was the most-heard response.  One man explained how we were going to make money on it, so he'd better get some of it.  It was definitely time to leave.  We bought some snacks from a convenient store and then caught a cab back to The Hub.

We found the rest of the film crew hanging out in the air conditioning and joined them.  Moments after walking into the building, a giant wind and rain storm pelted the city.  We were glad to be dry and safe.  The air had cooled down, and we felt like we weren't able to capture what we wanted for the day, so I split off from Mark and Larissa and joined Jessie, Evan, Danny and Patrick to find some palm wine for Patrick's birthday.  We had heard about palm wine and decided it would be important to taste it.  We walked the much friendlier streets near The Hub which is in a suburb of the city and found a bar and restaurant that was technically closed, but allowed us to come in and have some palm wine.  They handed us five bottles of "Palm Drink," and we figured we'd all test it out. We sat in the back of their building in an air-conditioned room that had satellite TV piping in The Sixth Sense.  We laughed about our situation and how weird it was to be enjoying this moment in Ghana.

With an hour killed, we headed back to The Hub to see if Matt was back.  Our plan was to all meet there so that we could go to dinner together to celebrate Matt's birthday.  It was 4:30 and we had until 5:30, so the fiance of the fellow running The Hub decided to take us to try her favorite street food: kelewele. (pronounced like killy-willy).  We walked down some back alleys to the main highway, crossed over and found a bunch of stands selling street food.  We all ordered up one cedi's worth of kelewele with a bag of peanuts and dug into my new favorite Ghanaian food.

Kelewele is fried chunks of plantains with ginger and pepe seasoning.  They're greasy and hot, sweet and spicy and a little bit chewy because of the ginger crystalizing with the sugars in the plantains.  When you mix in peanuts (which they call groundnuts here) it's a delightful snack. This was now my third helping of some form of plantains, and I was in love.  I brought some back for Matt hoping that he would find his way back from his adventure with Tendekayi to meet us for dinner.

We got back right around the same time as Matt did to The Hub, and he was so excited to see us.  He had been through quite the day.  Their main form of public transportation is called "tro tro" which is a fleet of 15-person passenger vans that they cram at least 25 people into which seem to have no structure of stops.  Matt, Tendekayi and their connection in Ghana named Sam all traveled together to get to a deaf school across Accra.  They made multiple tro tro transfers and crammed in with all kinds of locals.

One thing that I personally noted was how racist they are here.  They are not huge fans of white people coming in and wanting to pay local amounts.  They feel like we are all rich and we should not pay what they have to pay.  They up-charge everything because we are white, and with all of the corruption in the government and police force, check points and public transport punish everyone if there are any whites in the vehicle.  This is the same for street vendors and cab drivers.  They'll charge 40 cedi for something that should cost 17-20.  Matt was the only white person in the tro tro, and people were angry with him because all of them had to pay more to get from point A to point B.  Matt said that it was the most uncomfortable and vulnerable he's ever felt.  He made sure to keep his camera tucked away in order to avoid any further upset.

Buka's for birthday dinner.
With our whole crew together, we headed for a restaurant called Buka for Patrick's birthday dinner.  We walked quite a ways in the evening heat and arrived dripping sweat and ready for some cold brews and hot African food.  I ordered up a guinea fowl and, of course, fried plantains, and both were über delicious.  The guinea fowl was spicy as all get-out, but I couldn't stop because it tasted so good.  I gobbled down the fried plantain with salt.  Our evening couldn't be complete without birthday ice cream, so we found a place called the Creamy Inn and had some soft serve to celebrate with Patrick.

It was 9:30pm at this point, and we were afraid that the 10pm shuttle would leave early, so we headed for the stop.  It left five minutes after we got on, so we were glad that we didn't assume it would keep its schedule this time.

Matt and I had a goal of getting a djembe from Africa, and we had checked out the selection next to the ship the day before.  We pulled out extra money, and when we got back to the ship, we headed for our friend, Mohammed who we had met the day before, with intent to buy.  He was sleeping between his drums, and a friend of his woke him up to let him know he had customers.  He had shown us the drums the day before and we had our drum picked out already.  We played hard ball and talked him down 50 cedi's (or $25) and got our djembe drum and bright red and yellow carrying case.  They come with a certificate of fumigation, which is very important for getting it back into the States, so it was an overall good purchase.  We are so excited to have it.  It's a purchase that we both love and will both use.  It has real cow skin on the top, it's hand made and there are two symbols carved on the base.  One is (phonetically) sankofa, a bird that's biting a round circle in it's middle which means "go back to your roots," and the other is a lion which is the symbol of Ghana (phonetically) "akraaba" which means "welcome."  We thought it was the best message of all of them.

It was time to call it a night, and we said good-bye to sleeping Mohammed and got on the ship with our new loot.  Tomorrow's our last day in Ghana and we'll see what adventures we get ourselves into.