Well, I guess I’ll have to Learn Portuguese Next…

I wasn’t sure about Brazil. It’s not a culture I know much about, beyond beaches, rainforest, carnaval, and …capoeira? While I love beaches, and I hear that Brazil has some of the best beaches in the world, I have already been to the Amazon, I don’t study martial arts, and you couldn’t pay me to go to Rio for carnaval. Ok, I would (begrudgingly) take the money and the free trip, but my point is that hanging out in Rio with two million other tourists doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. 


I’m focusing on learning Spanish, so as a Portuguese-speaking country, Brazil doesn’t help me with that. And everyone, everyone, EVERYONE says Brazil is so dangerous. People talk about how one street can be totally safe while the parallel street is ground zero, and there’s no way to know. Everyone says you cannot wander around, definitely not by yourself, and don’t even think about going out after dark. Folks I know who went to Rio for carnaval mostly talked about how everyone in their hostels got robbed. I thought about not even going to Brazil.

That would have been a shame.

I loved it. I only spent four days there, to visit the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls and tour Rio de Janiero, but I really enjoyed it. I will need to plan a massive trip back  in order to thoroughly explore it – as the fifth-largest country in the world, this will take some time. I swear, the more I travel the longer my bucket list gets…

Anyways, Brazil is blessed with some amazing natural beauty which I first got a taste of in Iguazu. I had visited the Argentinian side the day before, and was skeptical that the Brazilian side could offer such an awe-inspiring, wonderful experience. It did. The Argentinian side has more trails and you can spend all day walking around, enjoying getting up close to hundreds of falls. (And because there is more room to spread out on all those trails, the Argentinian side never felt as crowded as the Brazilian side did).

The Brazilian side is all about the stunning panoramic views, building up to a dramatic overlook of the Devil’s Throat. I swear, we saw falls that we weren’t able to see from the Argentinian side because sometimes you need to be further away to get some perspective. But the Brazilian side isn’t without its own up-close-and-personal experience, as one of the walkways  goes out into the falls. You will get wet.

After being wowed at Iguazu, I flew to Rio where I stayed in Copcacabana. What an amazing place. The natural beauty of Rio is ridiculous. I’ll always remember the first time I walked out onto the soft white sands of Copacabana beach and took in the view towards Sugarloaf mountain. I almost cried (right into my Capirinha). Ipanema beach is equally stunning, and the view from Corcovado will take that breath right from you.

I was surprised. I felt completely at ease walking around (by myself, naturally). I even stayed out until after dark. Although not much later… I like to go to bed early. The vibe is chill, people are friendly, and the food is amazing. I didn’t know about feijoada before, but it’s gospel now. The metro is clean, safe, and efficient. And there are urban monkeys, y’all – I didn’t know that such a thing existed.

Not everything was perfect. Getting around can be difficult, if you don’t want to go somewhere on a metro line (and unfortunately many of the places I wanted to go were not near a metro stop). The downtown area lacks charm, and without the cool ocean breezes it gets to feeling humid quite quickly. And in Lapa, right near the cathedral, was the only “this seems strangely unsafe” moment – some kind guy told us (some folks I met on my walking tour) to turn around and not go walking through this area. In the middle of the afternoon.

So it wasn’t perfect, but nothing ever is. I loved my trip to Brazil and am glad I didn’t let the naysayers keep me from going. I’ll be back someday, to lay on the glorious beaches some more, head to the Amazon, and maybe even find myself at a carnaval. Perhaps I’ll spend some months learning Portuguese…

How to Do Buenos Aires: Favorites and Least Favorites

In addition to taking Spanish classes, I was excited to spend six weeks in Buenos Aires for a couple of other reasons. When you are on the road for so long it is nice to have a place where you can unpack your stuff, do laundry, and almost feel at home. Staying a little longer somewhere means you can find a favorite café for breakfast every morning and learn how to get around like a local (to accomplish that, download Como Llego and you’ll be navigating the bus system with ease).

Mostly I wanted to stay longer because there is just so much to see and do in Buenos Aires (as the local gov well knows, their slogan being “there’s always something to do in the city”). I wanted to be able to get beyond the greatest hits of the tourist trail, and really get to know BA. Even with six weeks, I did not get to everything that was on the list. I guess I’ll just have to go back and visit Tigre and Tierra Santa

But I do feel that I got to experience the city in the way that I wanted to, and to the level which I was hoping. After my time there, here are some of my recommendations.

For the Art Lover

For many, the Bellas Artes museum is a can’t miss. It is the big art museum in town, and is a wonderful collection with a European tilt. But basically, it reminds me of any art museum you can see pretty much anywhere. If you only have time (or patience) for one art museum, make it MALBA. The MALBA has a Latin American focus which is a bit more unique and offers a more sense of place.

Regarding another kind of art: if you have a chance to catch a show at Teatro Colon, do it. I saw the symphony perform there, and the stunning interior is well worth the small price of admission. Alternatively, you can take a tour of the theater but for me if I am going to go to the theater I am going to go to the theater.

The Nature Lover

It is always nice when you can find patches of green inside dense cityscapes. Buenos Aires is not covered in parks, but you can still find lovely pockets of nature throughout the city. For weeks everyone told me I needed to get out to Puerto Madero and see the Ecological Reserve. I finally made it… You can skip the reserve. It’s out of the way, crowded on the weekends, and not particularly pretty.

Spend time at the Bosques de Palermo instead. You won’t be disappointed by the lovely well-manicured rose gardens, the meandering paths, and the peaceful bodies of water. The botanical gardens also do not disappoint, and if you are looking for a culture mash-up (and are willing to drop a couple bucks) the Japanese gardens are lovely as well.

The Food Lover

If I were to mention Argentina, you’d probably immediately think wine and beef – am I right? And while the wine is divine, I have found that the barbeque is really nothing to write home about. Argentinian barbeque follows a similar all-the-meats-you-can-eat philosophy as Chilean asado – which is fine, although I prefer more variety in my meals. And while the quantity of meats on display can be staggering, I would say they generally lack in quality cuts. Call me crazy, but I would rather have a nice juicy ribeye that you can cut with a butter knife off my dad’s grill in the summer… Although there is something to be said for grilling over wood rather than propane.

Argentinians would probably also add pizza to the list of prized food items, but of the Italian delicacies they replicate here I’d pass on the pizza in favor of the ice cream. I did eat some decent pizza, but nothing impressive. And I’m baffled why every slice has a whole green olive on it (even though I’m an olive lover!). In a surprise turn of events, Buenos Aires does have a lively Armenian community and the scrumptious plates turned out by Sarkis is unmissable if you enjoy Middle Eastern food.

Hit the Cultural Centers

Probably one of the most pleasant surprises about Buenos Aires is the center of social life that is the cultural center here. Every day of the week you can find classes, lectures, workshops, concerts, and all sorts of activities for every type of person. I’ve seen art exhibits, language classes, laser shows, film screenings, tango workshops and hip hop battles on offer. You never know what you could find.

So before you come to Buenos Aires, check out what is going on at a the cultural centers near your hotel or hostel – there’s bound to be a couple nearby as they seem to be on every corner. Or at the very least, check out what is going on at Konex CC (DON’T miss La Bomba de Tiempo on Monday nights) or Recoleta CC, where it is wonderful to drop in on a Saturday or Sunday late afternoon while the artisan feria is going on outside.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention a few other notable to-dos:

  • Take a stroll in the Recoleta cemetery, and make the pilgrammage to Evita herself. If all you know about her is “don’t cry for me Argentina” then maybe make your way to the Evita museum and study up a bit.
  • I put off visiting it for awhile because I could not imagine what would be special about going to yet another cafe, but visit Cafe Tortoni. Walking through the door is like stepping back in time, the atmosphere is leisurely (despite the often long line out the door), and the service is surprisingly attentive! Practically a miracle around these parts.
  • A good option for lazy weekend afternoons, as I mentioned before, is to hit up one of the many ferias around the city. Every little neighborhood seems to have one. The Recoleta one seems a standout in size and quality, and the San Telmo one is famous for antiques and evening tango (in Plaza Dorrego).
  • If you are interested in watching tango, or even taking a class, you could not find a cooler place to do it than the bohemian/industrial chic Catedral de Tango.
  • Like jazz? Be sure to check out what’s playing on stage at the cozy yet elegant Thelonious.
  • I try and take at least one walking tour in every new city I hit, and Buenos Aires was no exception. I ended up taking all of the walks offered by Free Walks Buenos Aires. I always love a free walk.
  • Everyone will tell you about Ateneo Grand Splendid, and while it must be one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores in the world, it is crowded and offers very little in comfy seating if you want to cozy up and read a book. Still, go. But don’t expect to spend much time there.

I think that’ll about do it. After all this reflecting on Buenos Aires I want to head back… but right now I’m being called westward. More on that later.

Underdog Uruguay – Is that in Eastern Europe?

Wow – in the past month I have really been neglecting writing posts. It’s because I have been out and about doing and seeing so much! We have a lot to catch up on, and I’ll start here with reflections on my trip to Uruguay.

If you look at a map, you will see that Buenos Aires is just across a river from Uruguay. On a clear day you can make out the edge of the Uruguayan shore – or so they say (I haven’t been able to). It seems like it should be just a quick hop over there, and in fact lots of people pop over to Colonia del Sacramento for a day trip from Uruguay.

So, I originally thought I would do a day trip, or maybe even a weekend trip, to Uruguay. But it’s a wide river delta and the boat to get across is not cheap (about $80 round trip). Plus, to go for only a weekend seemed like too much of a rush. After two weeks of cramming information into my head during class, I thought a break might be alright. I was excited for the opportunity to explore Uruguay beyond Colonia. I decided to squeeze in some time in Montevideo, the capital, and check out one of the beaches that I had been hearing so much about.

I got up bright and early to take the first ferry over to Colonia and spend the day walking around the cute little town before heading to Montevideo. Colonia was my favorite part of the journey. It is bursting with cuteness, and if you arrive early enough you can really enjoy some tranquil moments soaking it all in before the tour buses arrive for their midday stop. I strolled through the old city gates, climbed the lighthouse, went into the church, and meandered through the cobblestone streets for hours. I popped into a few shops, enjoyed a coffee at a café on the square, and had a beer at a local artisanal brewery.

I was fortunate to have a perfect sunny day to enjoy the lovely water views and soak up some of the history. Colonia got its start as a Portuguese fort in the 1600s, pretty much in the thick of Spanish land and commercial activity. At the time, there was not much in what is now Uruguay, so Colonia boasts the oldest church in the country and really some of the colonial foundations of the country. This history buff was a little sad when the time came to head over to the bus station to make my way to my next destination.

I made it to Montevideo around 7pm and went to my hostel in the old part of town. By luck, a friend that I had met in Antarctica was also there at this time so we met up for dinner and to explore the old part of town. My excitement quickly vanished. The old part of town seems to clear out after 6 or 7, and we were left with a ghostly neighborhood where you could literally hear the crickets.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t all you could hear. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that in Chile and Argentina street harassment is largely not a thing. Hardly anyone does it. Not so in Uruguay. The stares, whistles, and comments made me feel uncomfortable as I walked down the dark, otherwise deserted street with my friend. That aside, we did manage to find a restaurant and had a good dinner and a bar for some wine after, but most of the places in this part of town were closed.

I had a full day in Montevideo, so I was able to see the Ciudad Vieja in all its glory. During the day, there was much more hustle and bustle and it finally felt alive. I did a walking tour, learned about the history of the country and the city, had a great Uruguayan style barbeque at the admittedly touristy market in the center of the old town, and strolled along the ocean a little bit. I stopped in a bar, tried some Uruguayan brews, and hung out with the bartenders awhile. We talked about, among other things, how people are often surprised that they speak such perfect Spanish… because they think Uruguay is somewhere in Eastern Europe. (Seriously, Miss Teen South Carolina wasn’t wrong: we need more map education!)

I had a pleasant day, but ultimately am left with the feeling that Montevideo is the more expensive, less interesting version of Buenos Aires. The cities have a similar architectural style and everyone is constantly eating meat and walking around drinking their yerba mates. The Montevideans seem a little more obsessed with their mate than the Portenos, and their coastline is definitely prettier (although they don’t seem to take very good advantage of that), but overall I was not impressed. I was happy to leave Montevideo and head further east to sit on the beach.

A friend had recommended La Paloma – a tiny town on the coast a little further east than the more famous, glitzier Punta del Este which from what I have heard sounds like the Miami of the Uruguayan coast. I relaxed in the soft sand, made friends with a local seal inhabitant, and walked to the lighthouse (but not that lighthouse). The beach in La Paloma was very nice… but not anything special. I met my friend there as well, and we basically had the whole place to ourselves since it was the end of the season. This was both tranquil and a little boring, although I must say we did have some phenomenal food, but after two nights there I was also ready to leave.

Overall, I had higher expectations for Uruguay and it definitely fell short. To me, it is this underdog nation that is a little more off the tourist path, which I tend to like. It’s a football powerhouse. It’s a bastion of progressiveness in a sea of conservative countries – for those that don’t know Uruguay beat out Canada to be the first country in the world to legalize marijuana (in addition, abortion is legal, which is highly rare in Latin American). It’s a small little spot quietly hanging out and doing its own thing in the shadow of its bigger neighbors. I had hoped that I would like it more.

I would be willing to try it again, though. I could easily see myself going back to Colonia to take advantage of the many little museums that dot the town, as well as some of the activities put on by the cultural center there (which although small, looked pretty active). Perhaps if I stay in a different neighborhood in Montevideo, my impression of the city would be different. And along the eastern shore there is no shortage of cute coastal towns that I would love to see, including La Pedrera, Cabo Polonio, and Punta del Diablo. Until next time, Uruguay.

I WILL learn Spanish

Wow, I can’t believe it has been so long since I sat down and wrote a post. I guess I have been feeling a little bit TOO at home in Buenos Aires – I have gotten into the routine of breakfast at my favorite cafe, going to class and doing my homework.

Yes, homework. It has been awhile since I have done homework.

Part of my goal in coming to South America and hanging out down here for so long was that I really want to learn Spanish. Given that the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world (and some experts think it will grow to be the largest in a few decades), speaking Spanish can only be an asset. In addition to being useful, being bilingual is incredibly sexy and has got to be good for your brain.

When I left the States for Chile, I didn’t arrive with nothing. I had an ok level of Spanish, but had difficulty carrying on a conversation. My vocabulary was limited, I said things in very strange ways, and actually speaking with natives was nerve-wracking. In those five months, I definitely improved. My vocabulary expanded, my listening skills improved, and I got better at the whole conversing thing simply because I had to. Although my fluidity depends on a lot of factors (what we are talking about, who I am talking to, how many people are involved in the convo, how tired I am, etc.), I can usually carry on a conversation.

But I still speak like a cretin, committing endless errors. So, in an effort to polish up some of my grammar, I enrolled in Spanish classes in Buenos Aires. And I am LOVING them. I have never been so excited about grammar! Some of the tenses we are tackling are very complex and as I try out these new skills, I feel like I’m back at square one because of how many errors I am making. But on the bright side, I have had many people tell me that my Spanish is very good (and I have even received multiple compliments on my accent).

I am far from mastering the pluscuamperfecto de subjunctivo (who names these things?), but I feel like I am at least being given the tools to build my Spanish dream home. It’ll take a lot more work and practice to get to the level of fluidity and comfort that I want. Fortunately, by taking this class in Buenos Aires I am immersed in Spanish both inside and outside the classroom. I’m absorbing so much Spanish all the time, just by walking down the street or eating in a restaurant.

In addition, I’ve started watching TV in Spanish (Casa de Papel, what’s up!), taking walking tours in Spanish, and even reading in Spanish! It was about time for a rereading of the Harry Potter series anyway, and I’ve already finished the first two books 😊 And through this exercise I have learned the endlessly useful words varita (wand), baul (trunk), and cicatriz (scar).

I’m so happy that I gave myself this opportunity to continue immersing myself in a language and culture that I am growing to love and to practice speaking with people that encourage me meanwhile correcting my errors. I can’t believe I waited so long to do something like this. If you are dreaming of making a change in your life – DO IT!

Feeling at Home in Buenos Aires

For years, Buenos Aires has been loitering near the top of my travel bucket list. Everyone I know who has been to Buenos Aires has loved it and has told me I would love it. A Spanish-speaking Latin American city with a heavy European influence fueled by red wine and grilled steaks? Sign me up! For years I have had this idea of renting an apartment there and exploring everything that such an amazing capital of culture has to offer. And what do I think now that I am finally doing that?

I love it.

For me, Buenos Aires is a perfect blend of all the places I love: Italy, Chile, DC, London.

The Italian influence is very obvious here. At around the same time that there was mass immigration to the U.S. (specifically, New York) from Italy, there was a parallel flow to Argentina. BA reminds me of my beloved Florence, but on a much larger scale. Italian restaurants abound, there are cafes on every corner where you can actually find good coffee (instead of the instant variety they are serving over in Chile), and they take their ice cream pretty seriously. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had ice cream for dinner… more than once. The Italian language even infuses the Spanish here.

To be honest, it reminds me of some of my less favorite things about Florence too. Both are cities of stone, and green spaces can be hard to come by (something that London definitely does much better). No one knows how to drive in a safe and ordered manner. And Portenos, like Florentines, are not particularly skilled at picking up after their pets. Between doggie droppings, litter thrown about, and dumpsters lining the streets, I realize how much I take the cleanliness of DC for granted.

While it is not similar to DC in sanitation, it does have a surprising bit in common with DC. Although I love it very much, DC is a fake city – a city that evolved not naturally but in an otherwise undesirable location with the specific purpose of being the capital. Likewise BA was a fairly small port city that became the capital of a united Argentina through much debate and struggle. It was never much of a big city until it was forced to be so. Plus, the city was practically leveled and redesigned beginning in the 1880s with the wide avenues and Beaux Artes architecture that are all-too-familiar to Washingtonians. And as I sit through a heat-wave (with humidity bringing us feels-like temps close to 100), I also can’t help but be reminded of DC’s swampy summers…

The British also left their mark here, as they were desirous of access to the port that gives Portenos (people who live in Buenos Aires) their demonym. As such, there’s an Argentinian Big Ben, you can find the classic red phone booths, and the trains on the Subte drive on the left (the whole underground in general has a very tube-vibe). And like London, a truly international city, you can find people and food from just about anywhere. Just don’t ask anyone about the Falklands/Malvinas…

Surprisingly, Buenos Aires probably least reminds me of Chile. Although they speak pretty much the same language, the Argentine accent is super distinct and I have to learn a whole new set of modismos. The food culture is also similar, featuring empanadas and wine and a diet heavy in meat (and sushi with cream cheese in it). I, however, do not feel the same warmth and welcome from most of the people here (and those in the service industry would feel right at home with the notoriously snooty waiters populating Parisian cafes, but I digress…).

Nothing is ever perfect, though, right? I think I will fully enjoy my month or so here, especially now that I am starting up with my Spanish classes, which I am really excited about. But more on that later.

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway: Antarctica, Part 2

Actually the cold does bother me – I’m not Elsa. But you can’t pass up the opportunity for Frozen references, right? Maybe I can squeeze in some more for you.


Fortunately, it was not too cold on our trip down south. It is summer, after all. Now that I am back, I feel like I am going through withdrawal. I just can’t let it go. It has been rough coming back from the high of all the beauty we saw. But I am excited to be in Buenos Aires now, which is more my natural element. And I was REALLY happy to call my mom after not talking to her for over a week.

Now that I’ve done that, it’s time for some reflecting on the last few days of the trip to Antarctica. I was able to check off two of the three items on my wish list at the end of the last post.

Our second landing day, we did get spectacularly blue skies. It was spectacular to see the frozen fractals all around glistening in the sun. We were able to hike to the top of a little hill on Danco Island where we were treated to spectacular views of the bay and whales. Did I want to build a snowman? You bet! I made my own little Olaf  up top, although I found out later that this was against one of the many rules we were told about at the beginning. (I can’t see how it was that much different than having a snowball fight, but I have been wracked with guilt since, barely able to function.) Coming down, we opted for the bum-slide option, and got up to pretty high speeds. People had to watch out for my butt!

I also got to check off the polar plunge from my list. We got back on board, put on bathing suits (well, some of us – there were a handful of hardcore polar plungers who did it in their birthday suits) and jumped off the side of the ship into the frigid Antarctic waters. I was nervous. But they say “have courage” and I’m trying to. I jumped in, got out as quick as I could, and downed my free shot of vodka with rapidity. I’m proud that I did it. Some of my new friends cheered me on from a few decks above. I’m told that I was the most vocal, and the only one that audibly cursed.

Much to my dissatisfaction, I did not see my orca. Anyone who grew up watching Free Willy or the amazing Sea World shows (before they were tainted by Blackfish) knows that some whales are worth melting for. I did have a heart-crushing orca fake-out when one of the guides said he’d *thought* he’d seen an orca, but it was just another humpback (“just another humpback” – I’m the worst). I guess that old saying is true: “never trust a birdman to do a whaleman’s job.”

Orca or no, the whole trip was perfect. If you get the chance to go, do it. It is worth it. It’s unique. It’s an eternal winter everywhere… I didn’t know winter could be so beautiful!

Ice, Ice Baby: Antarctica, Part 1

Since we did not have  internet on board (or rather, I was too cheap to pay for internet on board – and honestly the 8 day digital detox was not so bad) I couldn’t post in real time. But I did sit down while on the ship and jot down some thoughts. Here are my reflections on the experience after we did our first day of landings.


Guys… I made it!!

antarctica 6

Right now, I am sitting in my cabin (which I somehow lucked into having by myself) aboard the Ocean Atlantic where we have just finished our first day of expedition landing. It is hard for me to put into words how I feel right now. Just a few days into the cruise and I feel like I have already seen so many amazing things that have made this experience beyond invaluable.

Here’s a list of five things I have seen in done on the cruise so far

  1. Seen multiple whale tales – I was majorly bummed at first because I missed the first whale sighting when we were still in the Beagle Channel off the coast of Ushuaia. For me, in addition to the spectacular icy scenery and landscapes, whale watching for multiple days on end was what drew me here. But we are sailing through a veritable whale soup, and since then we have sighted many whales – both from the cruise ship and from the zodiacs, where we are able to get in much closer. These majestic giants of the oceans are somehow the most graceful creatures on earth, and seeing them swim among the ice is truly mild-blowing.
  2. Been hunted by a seal – In addition to the Orca, the king predator here is a rather large seal with a very menacing toothy grin that is called the leopard seal. One got very close to our zodiac boat, and was eyeing us quite suspiciously. We got to see him very well, but I am glad we did not have a swimming with the seals experience in this case. One zodiac got a little too up close and personal with him: the seal bit the boat a few times and the resulting puncture wounds took that zodiac out of commission for the rest of the day. But this is apparently something they tend to do, so nothing to worry about!
  3. Sighted an Iceberg, dead ahead – Rather disturbingly, there have been quite a few mentions of the Titanic on board. No one seems to be superstitious that this will bring bad luck, so hopefully our reinforced hull is strong enough to battle all the ice we are seeing. We have travelled through some pretty dense ice fields, and as we are headed into colder water it is only expected to get icier. Some of the icebergs are easily larger than the ship we are on, which provides a nice menacing beauty to our journey.
  4. Walked through a mess of penguins – Our two landings so far have involved very close visits to penguin colonies. We are not supposed to get within five meters of wildlife, but they do not follow the same rule. Curious penguins will come up quite close to you. A mess is a perfect way to describe it, as the snow turns a sickening color of greenish yellow and brown from all the little deposits the hundreds of penguins have made. And the smell is fierce. But I think if you get tired of watching penguins awkwardly waddle about, then you are tired of life.
  5. Had a snowball fight in Antarctica – for myself and many on board, setting foot on the Antarctic continent is the primary driver of this journey. We accomplished this goal at the Argentinian Brown Station. From here we got to climb up to a scenic viewpoint overlooking Paradise Bay and frolic through the snow. When a snowball flew my way, I joined in on the snowball fight, which is probably the first snowball I have made in quite a few years. The snow was less like snow and more like little granules of ice, but you could pack it into a ball alright. It was less effective for snow angels.

And, just for balance, here are five things I have not done so far.

  1. Vomited – The waves in the Drake Passage are notoriously rough, and about half the ship’s passengers were down for two days with seasickness. Fortunately, I felt totally fine. I got to walk around the ship, staggering like a drunkard with its tossing and turning, but enjoying relatively empty observation areas… and buffet lines.
  2. Become a criminal mastermind – The second night at dinner, a couple organized a version of “Clue.” About twenty of us drew slips of paper out of a hat that told us who our target was, what murder weapon we had to use, and where the incident must take place. The game began at dawn, and by day’s end I had taken out a nice Danish man in the Bistro with a cookie. But I was not the game-winning assassin, as I was struck down while casually strolling by reception.
  3. Kidnapped a Penguin – As both common sense and the various briefings from the expedition team will tell you, visitors should not take any ice, plants, soil, animals, pieces of buildings, or anything from Antarctica. But a lot of people don’t think the rules apply to them, of course. Horrifyingly, I heard there once was a passenger who smuggled a penguin chick onto the ship. The room cleaning staff found the chick, alerted the captain, and attempted to bring the chick home… but from what I heard a reunion was not possible. A penguin family was destroyed, and most probably the penguin chick did not survive, all because people are idiots. I’m sticking by the sage advice given to us by our expedition leader: take nothing but photos and memories.
  4. Become a fan of Chinese karaoke – I am on a Chinese charter cruise, which features some nice Chinese food on board but also means we have been subjected to Chinese karaoke. We have a number of enthusiastic karaokers on board, and most are not blessed with beautiful singing voices. What they lack in skill they make up for in volume. I have to admit that hearing the loud, off-key screeching in a language that I find very harsh to begin with (although I am sure many people feel the same about English), is an experience that I have no desire to repeat again in my life. Ever. The accompanying music videos are pretty dope though.
  5. Cried – Every time I get on a zodiac or even look out the window, I am so incredibly moved by the scenery, the immense beauty of it all, and the fact that I have the opportunity to be here that I feel on the verge of tears. However, they would likely freeze on my face outside so fortunately they have not fallen. But I am often left dumbstruck, speechless, and completely astounded by the experience I am having in this beautiful frozen world.

For now we are continuing further south, attempting to cross the Antarctic circle and get to areas that are colder and full of sea ice. If we sailed home today I would be completely satisfied with my journey, but there are a few things I hope we get the chance to experience in the next few days: orca viewing, a sunny day with blue skies that will throw this world into a totally different light, and perhaps a polar plunge?