To myself in May 2012, to be opened and reread, and also reflected upon:


My “goal” upon entering this program was basically to reward myself of this dream that I have always had since I learned about what is “identity” and my own being. I wanted to see what it would be like to live in my hometown and grow up as if I had never left. I know I would not ever get that original feeling, but I wanted something close. I wanted to test myself also, who am I, who I could have been, and who I am capable of becoming. I wanted to meet local Chinese friends, and sure maybe meet a Chinese (or Chinese American) boy or so. But learning Chinese was never the priority, although quite the side dish that comes with this whole semester. There is so much to say, so much to hope for, to dream, but I just want to be happy and enjoy this last opportunity to solidify my personal identity. Who I am - that’s the ultimate goal.

Last night on Semester at Sea!! I am so going to miss everyone and everything. It’s not even funny how sad I am right now. We had a closing ceremony tonight, sort of a like graduation ceremony. We had the captain, the deans, and student and faculty representatives all speak. There were also a few people, 10 or so, graduating this semester so we held a diploma ceremony for them to congrats them on their successful college career. ALSO, I know I usually don’t brag about things, but I GOT a 4.0 GPA on the ship!! I totally did not expect it because Marine Biology is the hardest course on this ship. Just this morning, Dr. Boudrias emailed us students telling us that 2/3 of the class got Bs on their lab notebooks (which is just a simple journal over the course of this journey). So I thought I was screwed if I can’t even earn an A on an easy assignment. BUT obviously I got an A in that class if I made straight As!! The Voice called a list of names out this afternoon, and I was on it. I completely thought that I was going to be randomly chosen for the drug test. BUT turns out that I am only 1 of the 15 people on this ship who got ALL As! And there are 455 of us students in total. What is even more interesting is that 5 out of the 15 people are from UVa. haha. I was quite shocked. In addition, the straight A groups can get off the ship early with the 1st Sea to get off. I was so happy and proud!!! The closing ceremony was just so wonderfully moving and amazing! I love everyone on this ship and the faculty and staff and crew are just plain awesome people. It’s unbelievable how there are people like them existing in this world. The ending slide show with photos of us almost moved me to tears, but they just wont come!!!!! hehe

T.T Everyone is signing maps and notebooks (our form of year book) and it’s so sad. We are also taking shipwide group pictures and holding yard sales to sell and buy souvenirs. Tonight is our last farewell reception and we have a musical performed by our very own drama classes. SO SAD!! *tears* I don’t know how it was possible to get close to these people on the ship just in 111 days. But it’s POSSIBLE because that’s what happened to us! For a mere 4 months, I feel like I have known these people for 4 years! It’s unbelievable. Unbelievably amazing and wonderful, that is. :P

IT’S SO SADDDDDDDDDDD!!! As much as I miss home, my family, and my friends (and of course dramas), I WANT TO STAY HERE FOREVER!!! I will never forget this experience and the wonderful people I meet, on ship AND at each country. It just doesn’t seem real nor fair to leave them now. I think I will cry every time they play “wavin’ flag” on TV. :

Yesterday, we docked in Roatan!! It’s a tiny little island northeast of Honduras. Because of US Department of safety warnings, none of us were able to get off the touristy island and go to mainland. Apparently, there was a lot of crime in Honduras so it was quite dangerous for us to go there. Some of us were bummed because we actually want a cultural experience rather than being stuck with the tourists and treated like tourists. But I just wanted to find a place where we can all relax and enjoy our last days together. Glad we reserved a fantastic beach house RIGHT BY THE BEACH. It was quite amazing. it looked like a hut and we had the entire floor, with a huge living room filled with 2 flip down beds, a huge couch and kitchen, and 2 more bedrooms with 4 beds total plus 2 beds outside. there were also hammocks and a patio/balcony outside. When we walk down the stairs, we hit sand. The bar outside was always filled with some kind of live music and the restaurant was quite good and the service really nice. We spent the first half of the day just chilling by the beach, some went snorkling, some just swam around. Stelly and I tanned by the beach and it felt so good. I actually think that I got tanner!! After the last 109 days of “summer” (with the exception of China and Japan), I was hoping I can be at least 2 shades darker. I have a tiny farmer’s tan on my arms and I think I do look much better. hehe. Everyone else DOESNT want to get tanned. Anyway, we have lunch right below our house at the restaurant and Papa John and Mama Shirley were so nice and bought the 10 of us 2 plates of whole fried fish. YUMMMYYY. We had a really good time, but too bad it started to storm so we had to wait out the rain. Later that afternoon, we headed out on a water taxi to a few miles along the coast to West End. We found a few small shops and tried to bargain for some souvenirs. Later we all went out to dinner i a really nice restaurant. There was live music, a singer singing “I’m Yours” and many other classics. The whole time it felt quite surreal to be in such a nice place with your feet on the sand and wearing sun dresses and listening to live music. Aubs took Eva and Stella to go dancing at the center and then the drummers and young dancers all came out to party. Later that night, we got free drinks at the bar. I had a Monkey Lala. It was quite good but I am not a big fan of alcohol so I was craving coke that whole time. I know, LAME right. haha. Anyway, us girls and Jesse stayed inside to watch a scary movie “Grag Me to Hell” and it was surprisingly super hilarious. I thought we were going to stay up late but most of them are either wiped out, or drunk and sleepy, or just good kids who never sleep past midnight. hehe. So we ended up asleep by 1AM and woke up early for breakfast. The second day was unmemorable perhaps because of this huge hurricane-y weather. The wind was enough to flip open the door by itself. It was disgusting but some of them even went out to jump into the water from the pier. We just chilled around playing cards and caught up online with facebook. It was so funny when all 5 of us were sitting beside each other on facebook, but instead of talking to each out, we wrote on each other’s walls. haha. Facebook ruins our lives. :P Anyway, we all packed up and got out to get some lunch at local shops and then had a taxi to take us back to the ship. I wish that the weather was nicer so we can at least enjoy some sun before I have to head back home to COLD and SNOW and basically freeze to death. I really hate winter!!!! Anyway, Honduras was such WELL-DESERVED relaxing time. It was like a treat to ourselves, with no worries about school or anything for that matter. Just plain enjoyment and fun. AND LOTS OF DRINKING. :P

In a rare moment in history, our MV Explorer passed through the Panama Canal. Not many people get to witness this because one has to be scheduled to pass through this narrow strait. There was 3 locks that we had to pass, which took the entire day to do. But it was pretty cool. A lot of people woke up really early, but I had 2 finals on B Day, one of them being Marine Biology (YUCK) so I wasn’t very into the beautiful natural scenery. Anyway, finals went by successfully. I studied very hard for Marine Bio, which everyone on the ship, even the professors, agree that this is the hardest class on the ship. But the final was okay, not as bad as I expected it. I was so glad to be over that I packed up both of my suit cases that afternoon. When I want to release stress, I organize. haha.

On the 2nd day in Costa Rica, we headed out first thing in the morning to Puntarenas. Aubs and I just hanged out by the beach, drank yummy Costa Rican coffee, shopped at the stands beside the beach, walked to grocery stores and bought local snacks, and ate delicious food at local Costan Rican restaurants. It was quite a relaxing but surprisingly interesting day. I met even more locals that second day. One of them is a stand seller named AB who makes leather bags to sell to tourists. He was quite nice and welcomed us to talk when we bumped into him to shop. When we asked him for directions to local grocery stores, he asked if we could get him a bottle of water. When I brought it back to him, I told him not to worry about the money, so he gave me a cute little leather coin purse in exchange. He is so sweet. Aubs and I also met another guy named Kevin, who is from San Hose, Costa Rica and who is an amazing artists! We spend quite some time speaking Spanish to him on the beach while he drew beautiful pictures on the sand with a stick!!! He has absolutely incredible imagination and actively interacted with his art works. He drew angel wings and we both lied down on the sand so we can be angels. He also drew a huge monster with teeth and stuck his arm in the mouth to make it look like he was slaying the monster. Pretty cool. So the last day in Costa Rica went by pretty chill, hanged around under the sun. Nobody wanted to go back to the ship and start studying for finals! We had 3 days until Honduras, the very next day being A Day Finals and then free day as we hit the Panama Canal and then B Day Finals. It was quite an intense period of time.

I know it’s kind of late, but I was busy with all the finals and whatnot so I did not have time, nor the mood to update on my Costa Rica experiences. Blame it on the ship administration for assigning FINALs the very NEXT day after Costa Rica. Anyway, so basically, we had 2 days in Costa Rica, Sunday and Monday. It was really gorgeous there, very sunny and hot but right next to the ocean/beach. There was nothing near where we docked in Puerto Caldera. It was all big trucks and dark streets. So we had to take a shuttle bus that only fits 15 people the most. Talk about having 700+ people trying to get out to Puntarenas by the shuttle when there is only 1 shuttle every 30 minutes that fits 15-20 people. Anyway, so that wasn’t that fun but luckily lots of private tour companies took advantage of us and offered us rides for only $3.00/person. hehe. So I spend the first day going to the zipline/zip wires in the hills and forests. I gotta admit I was kind of scared at first but after getting harnessed and all prepared, I was so pumped up for the zip line. We ended up doing EIGHT different ziplines and one of them was the longest - 550meters long. It was soooooooooo much fun!! I did scream a little bit at the beginning because I did not expect to slide so quickly at first. But it was super fun and I tied my camera to my chest so it can tape all the scenery. During the 2 particularly long ones, I held the camera in my hands and got a pretty good view of the river down below. Overall, it was super cool. I also got to practice my Spanish with the locals out there. Costa Ricans are so funny and nice. living the “pura vida”. Basically pura videa means literally “pure life” and the locals use it for EVERYTHING, from “hello” to “what up” to “thank you” to “everything’s fine”. I think over the entire 2 days I spoke “pura vida” more than 100 times! hehe. Anyway, after ziplining, we still had some time so we went out to Puntarenas by shuttle bus and hanged out by the beach. There really wasn’t much to see since it was a Sunday so we just walk along the sand with the waves crashing on to us and tried local “shaved ice”. It was pretty good. Then we came back and ate on the ship. After I waited for Siqi to come back from her SAS trip, we and Audrey and Aubree headed out by ourselves. Us 4 girls didn’t really expect Puerto Caldera to be THIS creepy. There was absolutely NO lights on the streets. It was a long walk, 20 minutes or so, outside the port gate. IN COMPLETE DARKNESS. It was quite freaky at first because we kept thinking we would get attacked since it was just 4 girls walking, but it wasn’t bad. We talked and walked until we saw a restaurant. We had a few nice smoothies there and met a local with his daughter and son. The little girl was so cute so we played around with her a bit. The guy was so nice to us that he paid for our drinks without telling us!! After we talked with him and told him where we are from and he told us he travels around the world selling cars, he even offered to give us his car so we can drive around ourselves. We were so shocked that people like him actually exists, just give random strangers their car. haha. In the end, right before we pay for our bill, he secretly paid it himself! When we found out from the waiter, he was so embarrassed that he hid his head in his arms. So sweet!! We just keep meeting nice people every where!!! So we got him to exchange contact info with us and took a picture with him and his family. Then we just walked around at night to find a local grocery store and then walked all the way back to the ship. But this time we know we are safe and so we enjoyed the night.

I know it’s kind of late, but I was busy with all the finals and whatnot so I did not have time, nor the mood to update on my Costa Rica experiences. Blame it on the ship administration for assigning FINALs the very NEXT day after Costa Rica. Anyway, so basically, we had 2 days in Costa Rica, Sunday and Monday. It was really gorgeous there, very sunny and hot but right next to the ocean/beach. There was nothing near where we docked in Puerto Caldera. It was all big trucks and dark streets. So we had to take a shuttle bus that only fits 15 people the most. Talk about having 700+ people trying to get out to Puntarenas by the shuttle when there is only 1 shuttle every 30 minutes that fits 15-20 people. Anyway, so that wasn’t that fun but luckily lots of private tour companies took advantage of us and offered us rides for only $3.00/person. hehe. So I spend the first day going to the zipline/zip wires in the hills and forests. I gotta admit I was kind of scared at first but after getting harnessed and all prepared, I was so pumped up for the zip line. We ended up doing EIGHT different ziplines and one of them was the longest - 550meters long. It was soooooooooo much fun!! I did scream a little bit at the beginning because I did not expect to slide so quickly at first. But it was super fun and I tied my camera to my chest so it can tape all the scenery. During the 2 particularly long ones, I held the camera in my hands and got a pretty good view of the river down below. Overall, it was super cool. I also got to practice my Spanish with the locals out there. Costa Ricans are so funny and nice. living the “pura vida”. Basically pura videa means literally “pure life” and the locals use it for EVERYTHING, from “hello” to “what up” to “thank you” to “everything’s fine”. I think over the entire 2 days I spoke “pura vida” more than 100 times! hehe. Anyway, after ziplining, we still had some time so we went out to Puntarenas by shuttle bus and hanged out by the beach. There really wasn’t much to see since it was a Sunday so we just walk along the sand with the waves crashing on to us and tried local “shaved ice”. It was pretty good. Then we came back and ate on the ship. After I waited for Siqi to come back from her SAS trip, we and Audrey and Aubree headed out by ourselves. Us 4 girls didn’t really expect Puerto Caldera to be THIS creepy. There was absolutely NO lights on the streets. It was a long walk, 20 minutes or so, outside the port gate. IN COMPLETE DARKNESS. It was quite freaky at first because we kept thinking we would get attacked since it was just 4 girls walking, but it wasn’t bad. We talked and walked until we saw a restaurant. We had a few nice smoothies there and met a local with his daughter and son. The little girl was so cute so we played around with her a bit. The guy was so nice to us that he paid for our drinks without telling us!! After we talked with him and told him where we are from and he told us he travels around the world selling cars, he even offered to give us his car so we can drive around ourselves. We were so shocked that people like him actually exists, just give random strangers their car. haha. In the end, right before we pay for our bill, he secretly paid it himself! When we found out from the waiter, he was so embarrassed that he hid his head in his arms. So sweet!! We just keep meeting nice people every where!!! So we got him to exchange contact info with us and took a picture with him and his family. Then we just walked around at night to find a local grocery store and then walked all the way back to the ship. But this time we know we are safe and so we enjoyed the night.

Roatan Island, Honduras!!! Roatan Island, Honduras!!! Roatan Island, Honduras!!! Roatan Island, Honduras!!! Roatan Island, Honduras!!! Roatan Island, Honduras!!!

Roatan Island, Honduras!!!

Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!! Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!! Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!! Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!! Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!! Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!!

Special Dining with Uncle MC, who treated us Asians to a nice 7 course meal!!

Panama Canal Transit!! Such a rare moment!!!

Panama Canal Transit!! Such a rare moment!!!

Costa Rica — Pura Vida Costa Rica — Pura Vida Costa Rica — Pura Vida Costa Rica — Pura Vida Costa Rica — Pura Vida Costa Rica — Pura Vida

Costa Rica — Pura Vida

Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!! Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!! Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!! Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!! Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!! Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!!

Ziplining in Costa Rica!! SOOO MUCH FUN!!!

Hawaii…again!