Heading Home

Today, six months have passed since we started our journey in Kiel. At that time, no one of us really knew each other and I exaclty remember the feelings I had on the day I got my invitation. I couldn’t believe that this was real and that I was going to be on a journey for over 6 months. I couldn’t really grasp the meaning of this big chance, until the day we left. The last night, I slept in the hotel with my parents and in the morning I said „goodbye“ to my dad not realizing that this was the day.

We waved at our parents the last time not knowing what was going on. I mean, we were on a ship, which was going to be our home for half a year! We will have to deal with 50 other people who we not really knew. That time, no one of us thought that in half a year’s time, these people were going to be our brothers, sisters and friends.

During the time we got closer and learned to sail. Everytime we talked about home we said: „Don’t think about it, there are only two months over now“ …. „Don’t think about it, we have more than half of it left“ …… „Hey don’t talk about this, we have 40 days left“ …. Weiterlesen


Student Meeting

What is that? Students sitting together?

Well, probably the first thing that comes to your mind are students sitting together and talking. Congratulations, you’re right. This one here isn’t different, but the conditions are. You might think that we are sitting in our classroom in school, but you don’t know that the classroom is often flooded with water. Hang on, wet feet in the classroom? Do they have problems with the toilets or something like that? No, we don’t have any problems with the toilets, it is just that we are living on a sailing ship. This ship, called “Thor Heyerdahl”, is a school project named Classroom under Sail. 34 students are sailing around the world for half a year with 15 adult crew members.

One part of the project is that we, the students, become more independent. Maybe it has already come to your mind that this kind of traveling, school and living together has other structures than living at home. Whenever we have problems, things to discuss or – like now the “handover of the ship“ – we meet and discuss solutions. Of course, we are not in politics, so we don ?t wear black suits. There isn’t a proposition or an opposition either. However, what we do have are two hosts, who lead the discussion about problems or things we want to organize. The last meeting was about the “handover of the ship”. The main question was, if every position will be applied for. If not, the handover of the ship wouldn’t take place. An easy question? Yes, but we like to do things the complicated way (we don ?t, but it sounds better ;)). So, we did not just raise our hands for one position to see if every position has at least one student. First, we were just talking with our neighbours, how the weather is and the cake at 3pm. Then our hosts had the great idea to ring the bell. Silence- it works, thanks to the host. Weiterlesen

Azores – Setting Foot on European Ground

On the 27th of March, we reached Horta, a port on the Azores Islands. At first we had to clean the ship and pack all our sails because there are often many people who want to visit our ship, when we are berthed in a port. After that, we celebrated our arrival … we were back in Europe and we have had some hard days since we had left the Bermudas.

The next day, I got up early to visit the small island jogging. So we met up at 07:00 o´clock in the morning at the pier. I went up the companionway to the poop deck and left our ship walking over the gangway. Then I set my foot on European ground again: after 125 days!! (although the Azores are far away from continental Europe, they are a European island because they belong to Portugal). I had mixed feelings: On the one hand, I was happy to be back in Europe and see my family and friends in one month again. But on the other hand, I was so sad because we had such a great time in Grenada, Panama, Cuba and on the Bermudas and our journey will end soon.

But now, I want to tell you something about Horta: Horta is a little city in the south of one of the Azores Islands named Fajal. Most of the inhabitants are fishermen, but there are more and more people who work in tourism. Because of the advantageous position in the mid of the atlantic ocean, there are many sailing boats in the harbour because their owners want to spend some free time on land during their crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean. Historically, planes, which crossed the Atlantic, had to do a stopover on the Azores because they hadn’t got enough fuel to fly over the Atlantic in one go. Weiterlesen

Rituals and Running Gags of KUS 13/14

It is difficult to explain the way we KUSis feel on our journey because most of the things we will remember are not the planned activities, but situations and behaviours in the group we simply got used to. We all spent the last months as a huge family. No one of us can believe now that we hardly knew each other at the beginning of this adventure in Kiel. This means that the things we will surely keep most in mind are the funny situations we experienced in this huge family.

There are some rituals that are part of KUS as a project, such as the „silent minute“ before having a meal or „run and dip“, what means going jogging early in the morning (when we are on land) to jump in the cool water afterwards. These rituals now mean a lot to us, they got part of our daily life on board, but most important for us are of course the individual running gags we invented together.

For example, if you hear a KUS- student shout: „AHA!“, just try to shut your ears as fast as you can because 49 people will soon answer with: „AHA!!!“ The meaning of this might not be clear to others and it is not easy to explain at all because then it is actually no longer funny, but this shouting refers to Lambi, a Caribbean guy who owns a restaurant with the most delicious food we had on this journey! Weiterlesen

The Bermudas

We reached Bermuda on the 5th of March. As always, we first had to clean the ship. After some hard work, we finally could have a Coke – we had something to celebrate! We, the students, had managed to bring the Thor save to the Bermudian Islands- all on our own!
Our first day here in St Georges started with a great brunch. I helped to prepare it- and we had nearly everything what we could find in the corners of our ship. Pancakes, scrumbled eggs, toast, wraps filled with lots of vegetables, cheese,  tuna, …, many fruit and that was not all!
After my small presentation about Bermuda – in English of course – we finally went out to spend some time and our first money in St Georges, a cute little town with a small shopping street, a main place and a supermarket. We soon found out that we would have to take care of our money here because it dissapears right away in Bermuda. No, that´s not because of any thieves or pickpockets, but it´s just a result of the enormous prices in the shops. For example, a small box of chocolate could easily make 5$ disappear, while a whole fast food meal was most of the time as expensive as the famous Bermuda- hoodies… or  even much more expensive. Weiterlesen

Taking Over the Ship

“Taking over the ship“ is an important educational part of the project “Classroom under Sail“.
This handover gives an unique opportunity to the students. We had to take over all the jobs of the usual crew for a few days. That means jobs like the captain, first mate, project management, boat man, watch leader and cook. During that time the students should learn to keep responsibility and get a better organisation. There have been two handovers so far.

The first one was on the Atlantic Ocean. We had to bring the Thor to the Caribbean Islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines. All the students had to apply for the jobs. I applied to be captain. After a few days the crew read out the new positions. Ben and Svenja became the project management, Simon the first mate and I became the captain of the Thor Heyerdahl. We had to organize a lot. For example creating new watch plans or preparing the customs and immigration. Simon’s and my main task  was to do the navigation. That means we each had 6 hour watches in which we always controlled the course and the wind and checked the weather forecast for the next days. We had to do a jibe once, which was the first time I had the command over the jibe of such a huge ship. We were a very good team, so the jibe was very fast and successful. Weiterlesen

Cuba – School life in Pinar del Rio

A boarding school for very talented students in Cuba? I think everyone of us already had an idea that you can’t compare it with one of our schools in Germany. I don’t know what I expected, probably I didn’t think about it, but if I did, my idea was totally different!
Just when we arrived there, sweaty and tired because of the strenuous biking trip, every student came to us and welcomed us with a kiss on our cheeks. And that was not all! They had prepared a performance for us with dancing, singing and theatre. I don’t understand why every Cuban is good at singing and dancing. But it’s like that. We enjoyed the staging very much and at the end all the Germans went onto the stage, too, and we all danced together. It was a very good feeling to be welcomed that way!
On our first day in Pinar del Rio we visited the school again and had a conversation with the principal of the school and the students‘ representatives. I think you can compare it with the SV/SMV, but there is a difference anyway: The parents of all of those students are members of the Cuban Communist Party. In this conversation the Cubans told us something about their school life at Friedrich-Engels-School. Weiterlesen

Cuba – catching a glimpse of socialism

“Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”
-Oxford Dictionary

This sentence sounds pretty theoretical and doesn’t really give an insight into life under a socialist system. Our trip to Cuba however…

My “English Report” topic states that we managed to catch a “glimpse” of socialism during our time on Cuba. But after three intense weeks there I firmly believe that we actually managed to catch more than just a glimpse of life under a socialist system. Whether we were taking part in political events or just out shopping: ignoring the fundamental differences between our and the Cuban system was simply impossible. Seemingly every wall on the Caribbean island had socialist propaganda plastered over it (unless Che Guevara’s face had been painted on them), while rhetoric used around us during our tour with ICAP (Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos, an institution for Cuban foreign relations) always had an official, state-controlled ring to it. The words “compañeros” (companions) and “solidaridad” (solidarity) always played a big role during official events we attended. Weiterlesen

Panama – Living in host families

During our wonderful stay in Panama we had the pleasure to stay a whole week in Boquete. And to get to know the way of living in Boquete best, we had the great chance to live in host families.
But at first some short information about this great little city: Boquete is located about 1000 meters above the sea-level. It is surrounded by a large number of mountains and numerous volcanoes, including the highest volcano in Panama, which is called „Baru“.  And that is also the reason why Boquete has a very comfortable climate. During the day there are temperatures about 25 °C, but in the evening there are strong winds and it gets a bit cooler, which are the perfect conditions for a pleasant living (especially sleeping!). But not only the people in Boquete are loving these conditions: A great variety of flowers and fruits is growing in this area and in the meantime this part of Panama is very famous for coffee, which has a very high level of quality in cause of the important and valuable nutritions in the ground.
The first impression I got from out of the window (in the bus) were the mountains, fruit plantations and the great forest everywhere in the surrounding. The days before we spent in Panama City, so this beautiful landscape was a very nice change. But I couldn’t really concentrate on this fantastic view: I was really excited and nervous, because I knew we all will be spitted up in different host families soon and my Spanish isn’t the best!
After a one-hour bus tour we arrived in Boquete at the “HablaYa” language-school, where our families were waiting for us already. After a very lovely welcome from the headmaster and some information about this school and our program during this stay we were introduced to our nice host families. Weiterlesen

Panama – The Cuna Tribe

Six different indigenous tribes exist in Panama. Today we had the pleasure of being able to visit one of them: the Cuna. The Cuna live on really small islands – you can cross most of them in two  minutes – called the San Blas Islands. The Cuna live a really traditional lifestyle, but they also have contact with traders in Panama City, where we could buy handcrafts made by the Cuna. This tribe is also strongly represented in the Panamanian political system. However, they live very traditionally  – without electricity or running water. That’s why they have to go to the mainland to fill up their water bottles every day. The Cuna lead a healthy lifestyle living their own traditions, yet being in contact with Western culture.

But what was the first impression we had, when arriving on the island for the first time?  It is not possible for you to see much of the island as such because there are huts everywhere. They are very small and made out of clay, wood and stones and have a thatched roof. The huts stand close together and are surrounded by small gardens, where vegetables are grown. Everything you can see is made out of natural resources and painted colourfully. On the small paths between these huts, you can see children playing on the ground. When you walk through, you can see women sitting in front of these houses making handcrafts. The clothes they wear are the traditional dresses, consisting of a skirt and a blouse of the same colour. Every Cuna woman wears around 40 bracelets on each arm and leg. The handcrafts made by the women are sold to the tourists, so we bought small bags, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, hammocks etc. The most common handcraft is the “Mola“. This is a sort of a fabric, which is embroided with complicated colourful patterns, for example animals, flowers etc. Selling handcrafts to tourists is not the only way the Cuna finance their lives. They also trade fish and agricultural products.

In order to get to know the culture and the traditions of the Cuna, we were able to use their traditional way of transport. So we were allowed to sail with a sort of canoe  –  small boats made out of the trunk of one tree. A small sail – a blanket – is fixed to a small branch working as a mast. A bit different to the Thor… sitting in these small boats with two other students was very wobbly but funny!

Although we only visited the Cuna for one afternoon, I think we all where impressed by their simple lifestyle, happiness and friendliness.

Greetings from Panama!