Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 12: Tour Comes to a Close

We were expected to check out of the Golden Tulip Al Barsha by 11 AM. Due to how late we all stayed up the previous night due to the "Last Night of Tour" festivities, it was a struggle for people to stay awake. However, we were all able to check out and load our luggage on the bus for our last day in Dubai. 

The Club poses outside of the Burj al Arab, the most expensive hotel in the world!
Since our flight wasn't until 8:30 PM, we decided to take a bus tour of Dubai for the majority of the day. We visited a multitude of places, such as the Burj al Arab, dubbed "The world's only 7 star Hotel"; the palace of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, called the Zabeel; and the Souk Madinat, a famous shop where many people bought souvenirs.
The Souk Madinat.
The Club poses outside of the Zabeel.
After a brief stop for lunch, we stopped at the Consulate of the United States of America in Dubai, where we met Robert Waller, the American Consul General of Dubai. After a brief chat with Mr. Waller about what the Consulate does, we had an impromptu concert. We performed four of our more American songs: “Blue Skies,” “Shenandoah,” “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” and, of course, our national anthem. The Consulate was a very great space to sing in, as the acoustics allowed for a lot of reverberation. Hearing the ringing chords of these four songs sent chills down many people’s spines. It was a truly memorable performance.
The United States Consulate.
Local artwork in the Consulate - each one represents one of the seven emirates in the UAE.
Charlie McClelland (C'15) poses with a badge. 
Our badges to get into the Consulate. 

After leaving the Consulate, we headed to Dubai International Airport and boarded our flight to Doha. We had a four-hour layover in Doha, so people split up to explore the recently opened Hamad International Airport in Doha. In addition to having a spectacular food court, the airport also had a "computer lab," a play area for children, multiple stores, and, strangely enough, an animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex! 
Only 16 more hours until we're stateside!
Who knew dinosaurs weren't extinct?

After saying a few goodbyes - a couple Clubbers weren't joining us on our flight back to Philadelphia - we boarded the plane. After another 12-hour flight, we finally landed in Philadelphia this morning. After claiming our bags, the 2013-2014 University of Pennsylvania Glee Club finally said goodbye to each other. 
We're home! Only one more baggage claim to go!
We'd now like to take the time to thank some people who made this trip - and this blog! - possible: 

-Joseph Ooi (E/W'15), for making this tour possible
-Kyle Andrews (E'09), for helping us get a stellar flight package from Qatar Airways 
-Jackson Foster (E'14), Zach Costa (E'14), Stephanie Garace (C'15), Charlie McClelland (C'15), Arjun Shankar (E'17), and Matthew Howard (E'17) for providing photographs for this Tour Blog
-Kristen Stevens for the awesome Tour Shirt design
-Salman Al-Ansari and Navin Valrani for sponsoring parts of the tour in Doha and Dubai, respectively

Thanks a ton for reading this tour blog! It really means a lot to us. 

To our graduating seniors: you will be sorely missed. Thanks for as many as four years of outstanding service to this great group that we can all call a part of our family. 

To the Clubbers returning next year: we'll see you in August! 

That's all folks! Have a great summer!

The Penn Glee Club

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 11: The Penn Glee Club Explores Dubai

Our day began with a great treat: we were invited to spend the morning in Atlantis The Palm Dubai, one of the swankiest hotels in town. As it turns out, the wife of the president of Atlantis The Palm Dubai, Cathy Leibman, had attended our concert at the American School of Dubai. She was so impressed that she invited us all to go to the hotel - for free! 

We arrived at the hotel and were immediately whisked away to a delicious breakfast buffet. We were also given passes to get into the main attraction of the hotel - the water park - for free! After singing a toast to Cathy, we headed to the water park for the day. 

The Penn Glee Club poses in front of an aquarium that was inside the hotel. 
The water park was filled with many awesome attractions. Some of the more impressive slides were the "Leap of Faith," which was a nine-story slide that was a nearly vertical drop; the "Shark Attack," which sent you through a shark-infested tank (obviously, we were in no danger!); and the "Poseidon's Revenge," which puts you in a capsule before the floor falls out beneath you, hurtling you through a tube at roughly 40 miles per hour! 

After returning to our hotel, we changed into our Ties & Tails and headed to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building - it's nearly 2,800 feet tall! We traveled up to the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa and saw breathtaking views of Dubai. We also took tons of pictures, especially because we were in our Ties & Tails - after all, it's not every day you can say that you went to the world's tallest building in classy evening wear! We also got to see the famous water show outside the Burj Khalifa. 
The Glee Club poses outside the Burj Khalifa. 

Don't look down! 

The view from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa. 

The famous water show.
We then headed to the Capital Club, one of the more exclusive places in Dubai. We were invited by Navin Valrani, CEO of the Engineering Services Cluster of the Al Shirawi Group. Mr. Valrani was essentially the reason we had so many awesome experiences in Dubai. We were invited to the Capital Club to perform a private concert for Mr. Valrani and some of his closest friends. We then were fed a delicious dinner and mingled with the guests, telling them all about who we are and what we do. It was a great last gig of tour. 

After returning to our hotel, we had our annual "Last Night of Tour" festivities. We began the festivities at 11 PM and, in typical fashion, did not finish until roughly 5:30 AM. It was a very emotional night - tears were shed, memories were made, and the Club grew stronger as a result. We then headed back to our rooms for bed. 

We only have one day of Tour left and, while we're sad about having to finish up this splendid tour, we're also looking forward to coming home.

We'll see you soon, Philadelphia!

The Penn Glee Club

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 10: Our Penultimate Performance

Many people spent their day sleeping after our long flight. Others went exploring various parts of the city. Some people visited the famous Dubai Mall, while others went to local restaurants. 
Clubbers gather for lunch in the Dubai Mall.
Clubbers pose in the Mall of the Emirates.
At 5 PM, we piled into our bus and headed to the American School of Dubai, where we were greeted by a poster advertising our show! We were all excited to see the poster - it seemed to boost our morale, as well! 

Look what we found waiting for us at the American School of Dubai!
We were introduced to the superintendent and choir director of the American School of Dubai, as well as the men's choir of the American School of Dubai. As it turns out, the ASD men's choir had learned the Club's arrangement of "Country Roads" and was going to perform it with us during our concert. 

The American School of Dubai's campus. Its splendor easily rivals most college campuses! 
At 7 PM, the concert began with the Club running in through the aisles to perform "Chicago," which was met with raucous applause. The concert was a success: our "Boy Band Medley" received a standing ovation. 
The Club performs "Gonna Build a Mountain." 
The joint choirs perform "Country Roads."

After returning to the hotel, some people went to bed, while the majority of people headed to the Mall of the Emirates. The Mall of the Emirates was extremely impressive - not only was there a movie theater, but there was also a ski slope, a food court, and an arcade! Most people wandered around the mall and did a variety of things: some people skied, others went to the arcade. The majority of people went to see "X-Men: Days of Future Past" in 3-D. 

After staying at the Mall of the Emirates until closing time, we made our way back to the hotel to get some rest. 

Until next time, 

The Penn Glee Club 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 9: We Arrived in Dubai!

After receiving breakfast and lunch from the Ndoro Lodge, we piled into buses around 1 PM and headed for Kilimanjaro International Airport for our 4:20 PM flight. We arrived at the airport around 2 PM, and checked our bags in and sat in the waiting area. Some people relaxed before the long flight and some people did some last minute shopping in Tanzania. However, the vast majority of people could be found on their electronic devices. It was the first time in nearly 72 hours that any of us had a stable Internet connection, and the Club was chomping at the bit to check Facebook, email, Instagram, and every other social media site known to man.
WiFi...precious WiFi...
We headed to our gate around 2:45 PM. We ran into a group that was heading back to America – naturally, we sang to one of them! She really enjoyed our arrangement of “My Little Margie” (with her name, Liz, substituted in of course!). Our plane was supposed to arrive around 3:15 PM for boarding. However, the plane didn’t even arrive until roughly 4 PM! As the cabin crew prepared the plane, Clubbers started getting restless. However, we boarded the plane without incident.

Goodbye Kilimanjaro! Thanks for all the adventures!
Amazing cloud cover over Africa! 

After a brief stop in Dar Es Salaam and Doha, most of us arrived in Dubai around 4 AM local time: due to a customs snafu, a few people were left in Doha but will be arriving in a few hours. We went through immigration, exchanged currencies, claimed our luggage, and piled into a bus on the way to our hotel, the Golden Tulip Al Barshi.
The Dubai skyline. 
16 hours of travel can't dampen our spirits! 
After nearly 16 hours of travel, a lot of us decided to hit the hay – we’re really excited to explore Dubai though and, of course, we’ll be updating you with our adventures in this beautiful city!


The Penn Glee Club

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 8: Safari in Tarangire Park

Our first full day in Arusha began at 5 AM, when Tom Peterson (C’15) played his trumpet to wake the Club up. Clubbers groggily filed out of their rooms and into the dining room for breakfast. We then got into buses and headed out to the Tarangire National Park for a safari tour.

A map of the park that greeted us as we entered the Tarangire National Park. 
The Tarangire National Park is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania, with an area of roughly 1800 square miles. It is also home to the most African Elephants per square mile in the entire world.

The baobab tree! 
While in the safari park, we saw a wide variety of plant life, such as baobab trees, which are said to live to be thousands of years old! We also saw an enormous array of wildlife: from African Elephants to lions, from giraffes to impalas, from warthogs to buffalo, and an amazing variety of birds.

A family of warthogs eats.
 A few ostriches notice us as they eat.

A dik-dik. This one is fully grown! 
A monitor lizard relaxing on a rock by the river. 
A family of elephants decides to cross the road in the middle of our safari!
Two lionesses and their cubs relax near the river.
An African Fish Eagle perches in a tree.

A stork takes flight. 
A family of baboons hanging out in a tree.
A herd of impala notice us. Luckily, they stayed still long enough for a stellar photo!
A female water buck.
A family of hyraxes resting on a rock near the river.
We stopped for lunch at one point, and had some unexpected guests crash the party: a group of vervet monkeys ransacked some people’s lunches, stealing some food and causing the Club to fly into a panic.

A vervet monkey. These sneaky devils stole our food!
We spent roughly six hours total driving around the park, taking in the beauty of the region. We then stopped at the gift shop, piled into buses, and headed back to our lodge for dinner.
A few giraffes that we saw at the end of our safari. 

We’ve almost wrapped up this leg of Tour – we’re leaving for the airport at 1 PM today to head to our final destination, Dubai!


The Penn Glee Club

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 7: Descent to Arusha

Greetings from Arusha!

This morning, we woke up to a cloudy, rainy morning at the Mount Kilimanjaro View Lodge, and we were provided a well-deserved hot breakfast. Some of us got to know a few of our hosts overnight, especially Jackson (not Foster!), who speaks very good English.

Some of us went out on another hike around the lodge after breakfast, while the rest played games and sang verses of “Vive l’amour” for the hour. Once we were all back together at the lodge, we had a nice lunch and had the privilege of seeing some local Chagga women performing some traditional song and dance numbers.

The Chagga women perform for the Penn Glee Club.
After that, we visited a local elementary school on the mountain and shared some of our music with the students. They entertained us with their versions of “Old MacDonald” and “If you’re happy and you know it.” Once the performances were done, we donated dozens of workbooks to the sixth and seventh graders.

Members of the PGC interact with the local schoolchildren. It was quite the rewarding experience! 
Then we took our vans from the school back to Moshi to pick up our luggage before heading out to Arusha for our stay at the Ndoro Hunter’s Lodge. We were welcomed by our hosts, Daniella and Elie, before being served dinner. Once we had all had our fill, we went to our rooms in anticipation of a 5:30 AM call for breakfast before our safari.

Kwaheri (goodbye for now)!

The Penn Glee Club

Day 6: Gonna Hike the Mountain (Yeah, yeah)

We started the day by heading out to the headquarters of Building a Caring Community (BCC), an organization that supports local children who have special needs. After attending a briefing that was led by Megan Hussey (C’12), we split into three groups and headed out to three different locations, where we exchanged music with the children. The kids had varying disabilities, from high-functioning autism to cerebral palsy. Some of us also sang to kindergarteners, who followed our bus as we left. We all found it very rewarding, and some people even described it as the best moment of Tour.
Members of the group laughing and singing with the children in the BCC Program. 
The parents of the children in the BCC Program have a shop. Many Clubbers purchased things or donated shillings to the cause. 

After returning to the hotel, we all checked out, grabbed lunch, and piled into buses to head up Mount Kilimanjaro. After we reached the village, the majority of us took an hour-long hike to a waterfall at Kilimanjaro. It’s the rainy season here, so the trails were a little muddy, but never too treacherous. At the waterfall, many Clubbers stripped down to their boxers and took a dip in the freezing-cold water or climbed behind it.
The view of the waterfall. If you look close enough, you can see Clubbers frolicking in the water. 
We then trekked all the way up to the Mount Kilimanjaro View Lodge. Because we had spent so much time having fun at the waterfall, the second half of our hike was lit by the moon, with great views of the lights in Moshi. At the end of the two hours, where we were fed a dinner that we all were very thankful for. After dinner, most of us stayed in huts, while some of us stayed in tents. We then had one of the most well-earned nights of tour yet.

Sorry this is late – as it turns out, there’s actually no WiFi on the top of the mountain! Tomorrow we’re off to Arusha for our safari in two days!

Belated best,

The Penn Glee Club

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day 5: Street Vendors and Star Treatment

The rooftop view from our hotel (No, it's not a painting!).
This morning, we split into two different groups for a relaxing morning. Some of us went to a Lutheran Mass at 8:00 AM this morning with our guide Godson, while the rest of us decided to rest before meeting up for a walking tour of Moshi at 9:45 AM. It was nice to have an easy morning after so many days of packed schedules.
Mid-morning souvenir shopping.
We spent several hours walking to different markets, shops, and souvenir stands, but who knew the shopping would come to us? As soon as we left our hotel, we began to collect a pack of street vendors who were simply intent on making sure we didn't leave Moshi empty-handed. Whether it was safari gear, soccer jerseys, or local artwork, everyone had something to offer.
The street vendors walked with us all day, hawking their wares.

The scenic walk to lunch
Following our souvenir shopping, we got to see the real Moshi on our walk to lunch. It's an incredible experience to be somewhere so far outside our comfort zone. It might sound a little cheesy, but walking the streets of this town has been eye-opening in the best way. Just before we made it to lunch, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some supplies for the rest of our time in Tanzania.
The lunchtime view!
Time seemed to fly by before we received our lunch in a local hotel rooftop restaurant. We had pumpkin soup, beef curry, fish fingers, rice, and salad, and it was all the fuel we needed before heading out to the International School of Moshi (ISM).
First-class travel to the International School of Moshi

The second bus to our concert

It was just a 15 minute ride to ISM, where we had our most well-received concert yet! There were upwards of 200 seats in the space, and nearly all of them were filled by students and faculty of ISM and their friends and family. All of us were reminded of stories of the Japan and Latin America tours, with the ISM crowd cheering wildly for us, asking for all of our autographs, and buying out all of our CDs!
The concert venue at ISM

Moving into the space before the audience filled the seats 
We concluded the evening with an all-you-can-eat buffet in a luxury resort just outside of Moshi. We had spring rolls, beef kabobs, corn masala, vegetable noodles, chicken masala, jasmine rise, buttered naan, fruit salad, coleslaw, and marble cake, with complementary coffee and tea. We couldn't have asked for a better end to an exciting day.
Ending the day with an all-you-can-eat dinner!
Tomorrow, we're off to the Mount Kilimanjaro View Lodge, halfway up the mountain! We'll spend the day hiking around the lodge and getting a closer look at the world's highest freestanding mountain, "the roof of Africa!" We might not have access to the internet there, but we'll do our best to post again tomorrow night.

All the best to our friends at home,

The Penn Glee Club