By: Samuel R. Faktorow, Communications Team Work-Study Student
Fast asleep in dream land this morning, I hadn‚Äôt a care in the world. Sleeping in was the only thing on my agenda. Well, that, and reading for class, but sleeping in was definitely much more appealing. Anyway, while I was floating through unconsciousness, drums started to beat in the hallway outside. Whistles blew as well. Thinking it was a bunch of goons playing Ghanaian drums, I stayed in bed. Later on, the noise returned. There was pounding on the door. I got up and was met with a camera flash and cheering staff members. Neptune Day had arrived.
Okay, most of the above is a lie. We all knew Neptune Day was scheduled for today. So, yes, I‚Äôm in the southern hemisphere. For the first time, I‚Äôm below 0 degrees latitude. The captain blew out a horn to signal the moment we crossed over the proverbial line of lore. I suddenly felt really far away from everything. Admittedly, though, I can‚Äôt wait to flush a toilet and see it spin in the other direction. Is that a weird thing to get excited over?
Neptune Day is an SAS tradition. At breakfast, nobody really knew what to expect. When it was time, King Neptune (Captain Jeremy) summoned us to the 7th Deck. Neptune and his Court met us mere pollywogs. After a brief introduction and kneeling before him, the festivities began. In order to become a shellback, we had to go through a process involving ‚Äúhaving fish guts‚Äù poured on our heads, jumping into the pool, and kissing a fish. We were then knighted into our new glory. For the really brave, you were given the option of shaving your head. It‚Äôs a tradition among sailors to shave off all their hair in respect to King Neptune after crossing the Equator. What was the result of being presented with the choice to shave my head or not, you ask?
I did it. You may be thinking I got caught up in the moment, especially considering I kept saying it would be a day-of decision, but it really wasn‚Äôt. I believe the best way to get as much as possible out of any experience is to throw yourself into it as much as you possibly can. What better way to show my growing love for the ocean to keep up with a tradition like something as simple as shaving your head after crossing 0 degrees latitude? Yes, I loved my hair and felt like it was part of my identity, but I can feel myself slowing changing as this semester continues. So many people are walking around with freshly bald heads. Some cried as the razor cut away their locks, but afterwards their tears were replaced with cheers.
My hair will be back eventually. Everyone on this ship looks amazing, bald or not, and so many people rock this new look well. My love for the people around me continues to grow as we hop between ports, slowly transforming physically, mentally, emotionally, and spirtually into new people with endless stories. There lies the magic of Semester at Sea, something that I‚Äôm trying to understand. Maybe I won‚Äôt until after the voyage comes to a close, but I know now that what I am doing is special. It requires a level of empathy for the world and its problems. At the end of the day, we‚Äôre very fortunate, but with the number of folks giving back and slowly becoming different people, that hardly matters. Like I said before, so many shaved their heads. The people that didn‚Äôt shave aren‚Äôt bad people or any worse than those that did. For me, though, it became simple as my time in Ghana was drawing to a close. When you think about it, all hair really is is dead protein on your head. Ghanians celebrated the simple things, so why can‚Äôt I?