The occasional series "How it feels" last ran in the 2005-2006 volume of the Orient. In this 2010 revival, Bowdoin students tell the Orient about their experiences—good, bad, or just extreme. Here are their stories.
How it feels to go diving with sharks
"It's like four o' clock in the morning; we had to leave. And they pick you up in this white huge van. I was the first one that got picked up, and it was this big Afrikaner man driving this van, with no one else. The security guard standing outside my building actually took down the license plate because it looked so sketchy, in case I didn't come back.
They drove us three hours to the coast, where there's this place called Dire Island, where all the great whites hang out. There's no other sharks in the area because all the great whites eat all the other sharks. It's so popular for sharks because this island is covered with seals. You can smell the island before you see it, because it's just filled with sh*t.
We get to the office, and there's all these pictures of people reaching out and touching the sharks' noses, because apparently once you touch their nose they become paralyzed. We weren't allowed to do this. I think a few too many people lost their hands so they didn't let us do that—we had to stay in the cage.
We go out there, and unfortunately a lot of people got seasick. Half the boat was throwing up. We had a big crew, like 20 people, [and] it was a small boat. That wasn't very fun. But the more you threw up in the water—they called it chum—the more sharks were attracted to where you were. I wonder if they purposefully didn't tell us about seasickness medicine...for that purpose.
We took turns, three of us went into the cage at a time. [The captain] was so casual, he didn't give us any direction, was just like 'you'll have fun, do whatever, just don't stick your hands out of the cage. Do not touch the bars in front of you, because your hand will get bitten off. You can hold above you, you can't hold in front of you.' So that was a little scary.
We didn't have any scuba gear, like we just went in with a snorkel, and when the shark came towards you he would just say go down, you just hold your breath.
The way they got the shark to come towards you, aside from people throwing up, they'd have a hunk of meat attached to rope and throw it out into the water, then wait until they saw a shark barreling down on it, and then they would reel it in as fast as they could directly over the cage. The shark would swim directly towards the cage, and occasionally ram right into it. But you would be down underwater just watching this great white shark come directly towards you, which was a little terrifying. ...
Occasionally they would get the hunk of meat, and then it would be kind of a [fight]. The shark would always win."
Hannah Peckler '11 as told to Seth Walder. Peckler spent the fall semester studying in Cape Town, South Africa.
How it feels to be denied at the Syrian border
"Versus a tourism experience, [this was] an experience where I was like 'Oh I'm definitely in the Middle East, this is definitely not where I'm used to.' I tried to go to Syria, and we had heard that it was hard to get into Syria, just in general being American and so I brought my iPod, brought some books and stuff to get ready for the long wait.
And so I sat there for two and a half hours, ate lunch, hung around. I was [at the Jordanian border to Syria]...and, you know, we had made hotel plans, we had looked at the guidebook, gotten excited, and after two and a half hours, the guy called me over to the desk. Actually, I was in a restaurant, and one of my friends brought me back in and they called me over to the desk and he just said, 'You have to go back to Amman.' No one else, just me, out of a whole group of 10, [the man at the border said], 'You have to go back to Amman, you have to get in a taxi, and get out of here.'
And later—I wasn't sure about this, but he didn't give me a reason, I asked—he said, 'You have to go to the embassy, ask about it,' I even tried, you know, to kind of bribe him, but that didn't really go over well. And then, I guess one of the guys, they walked me to a taxi and they wouldn't let me, they wouldn't give me back my passport until I was in a taxi back to Amman.
[...] We were at the border, in the middle of the desert, just waiting to get in. And I'd filled out all the work, and I'd made sure not to get an Israeli stamp—I'd been to Israel, but they're kind of like, they're somewhat at war I guess, so you're not supposed to have the stamps—but I had no evidence that I'd been to Israel in my stamps. And apparently he told the taxi driver in Arabic—I hadn't understood this, but someone who was with me came with me to the taxi—that it was my last name [Fischweicher], because I guess I have a Jewish last name, so that was just a pretty interesting [experience].
I mean, it sucked, and I was pissed, because my friends all went [to Syria] for five days, and I kind of hung out by myself. I mean, I did some cool stuff in Amman, but...it was eye opening, it was something like you, when you realize, 'Oh, I'm in the Middle East.'"
Simon Fischweicher '11 as told to Piper Grosswendt. Fischweicher spent the fall studying in Amman, Jordan.
How it feels to hitchhike in Chile
"Cam [Weller '11] and I went on this three-week backpacking trip down in South America. We started in Chile where I was staying. We went down to this really small town in the northern part of Patagonia. It was called Puerto Mant. We wanted to go to this volcano where you could stay pretty much at the top of the volcano at this refugio, which is basically this empty building with a bunch of beds.
We take this really long bumpy bus ride to get there. We finally get there and there's a forest ranger station—we're still 16 miles from the top of the volcano, at the base of the volcano. We're like, 'If we want to get to the refugio, how do we get there?' The guy looks at us and starts laughing.
'Hacer dedos'—make thumbs. Hitchhiking.
So first we're going up, and we walk two and a half miles before someone will pick us up, but we finally get picked up.
The problem came when we're hitchhiking down the mountain the next morning. We're sitting there, no one's coming, no one's coming. And then, this van comes down the road...we're like what the heck, we'll stick our fingers out.
So [we] get in the back of this van, and we're really tired...I of course, fall asleep...next thing I know, I'm waking up to the van slowing down.
And I look out the tiny window that I can see, and there's the police pulling us over. And we're all panicking, 'Oh my god, what do we do? Is hitchhiking illegal in this country? Are we going to get sent to jail?'
So we're flat against the floor of the truck, which is covered with wood shavings and metal tools.
But [as it turns out] the police we're just doing a routine check, and they let us go."
Sarah Pritzker '11 as told to Seth Walder. Pritzker spent the fall studying in Valparaiso, Chile.