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Published: January 16th 2022
We finally have a lot of photos and several stories to share, so this will be a longer-than-usual post.
Maggie arrived in Pireaus, Greece, near Athens, on Tuesday, January 11, though they did not disembark until the next day, January 12. The first leg of the ship's journey was filled with ups and downs. On the positive side, she's meeting all kinds of shipmates and making lots of friends - Diego, Victor, Colby, Lyzette, Madeline, Caroline, Salma, Alex...and the list goes on. She's also getting to know the crew, and they are getting to know her as well. She's got crew friends on her hall, in the dining rooms, on the deck, etc. She loves that they call her by name and she's working hard to get to know all their names as well.
She's getting along great with her roommates, and despite having a triple, was able to fully unpack and store everything she brought while still feeling as if they have room in their cabin to move around. She's settling into her classes, and believes she will probably enjoy Oceanography or Global Studies the most. Her Global Theatre class turned out to be only 5 students, and
they are focusing on puppetry this semester, so she was not so thrilled about that. The food, though, she says is delicious so that's good. And she's been staying up late every night with different groups of people to play games, watch movies or just hang out and talk - exactly what college should be like!
On the down side, COVID is still having a tremendous impact on ship life. Almost 40 students tested positive before they even left the U.S. to board, so they had to quarantine and catch up with the ship at a later date. In the dining hall, they are enforcing social distancing by only allowing people to sit in every other chair, which makes socializing and getting to know people a bit more awkward. Additionally, her best friend so far, Salma, ended up having to quarantine for several days, including their first couple of days in Greece, due to her roommate testing positive. Salma tested negative twice, but they still required her to isolate on the ship, including on her birthday. Thankfully, one of the ship's stewards was kind enough to let Maggie and a couple of friends who had managed to scrounge up
some random snack food as a makeshift birthday gift visit outside her door for a while to lift her spirits and wish her a happy birthday.
Maggie is quite frustrated with the administration on the ship - they are so focused on COVID that they are forgetting or letting go of everything that makes SAS the unique experience it is supposed to be. They also have not managed to get the ship's email system working, so communication has been challenging. She watched so many YouTube videos of prior voyages and had pretty high expectations based on those, that it's taking a bit of effort to adjust to the new realities of completing this program in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
So, she was very excited to get to their first port in Greece and get back on track. Unfortunately, with Salma in quarantine and her Google Fi plan on her phone not working, the first day in Greece was a bit rough. Maggie spent about 6 hours working to get her phone switched over to a European phone plan, with Todd on the phone with Verizon here in the states. We had to laugh that Maggie and
Todd were the ones tackling an international technological problem (since Marcia and Tommy are usually the go-to tech problem solvers). But they persevered and Maggie was able to get her phone fully functional once again (and hopefully for the rest of the trip!). She did admit to missing her brother more than she ever had before, as well as a new appreciation for his skills!
Thankfully, her time in Greece just picked up from there. She explored Athens and said it may be the most beautiful city she has ever seen. She was struck by the Greek ruins everywhere - get off at a metro station, there's a ruin. She definitely wants to go back there someday. Once Salma was let out of COVID jail on the ship, she, Maggie and Victor took a train up to Meteora to see the monasteries built on mountaintops. In addition to the loving the train ride through the countryside, Maggie was overwhelmed by the beauty of this particular area. She described it as being similar to a video game landscape, it had such a fantasy feel to the area. On their last day in Greece, she and a bunch of friends went
to see the Parthenon, which she said while impressive, was a bit of a let down after Meteora! See the photos for this post for lots of pictures from around Greece - this was definitely a great experience and Maggie was sad to have to return to the ship.
She spent the last night in Greece in a hostel, but spent most nights on the ship to save money. She believes she is doing okay with her budgeting, but her plan is to spend no money in Cyprus or even try to get a job for 1 or 2 days (LOL). So we'll see. The important thing is that she's seeing amazing places, meeting lots of fun people, and being very intentional about trying to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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