Monday, September 22, 2014

old and new news

Hello all~

Here is a blog post that was temporarily lost in cyber communication paths. By now you all heard about the hiking trip and the introduction to big blue, but never the less...

From Fisherman's Rest, we were looking forward to venturing south to Mount Mulanje, a green massif rising from the relatively dry plains. We arrived at the hostel the afternoon before starting the hike, taking time to arrange details with our guides, pack our bags, and organize food. And of course we made time for a few classes, delving into Galtung's iceberg theory of violence and reviewing and correcting the first round of Algebra 2 and Precalculus quizzes. We started out early on Monday morning, and we spent almost eight hours on the trail! Traveling around five miles and nearly 4000 feet in elevation, the girls pushed hard and stayed positive despite the tough climb. We were rewarded with some incredible views of the massif and the surrounding flatlands. We passed through bare fields, rocky outcroppings, bushes of purple and yellow flowers, and even several sections of rainforest. Arriving to a warm fire and a cozy cabin, the girls drank hot chocolate, cooked dinner, and bravely shared some of the poetry they had written for Literature class.
Despite the chilly and overcast weather on Tuesday, everyone donned their backpacks for a day hike. The weather never let up, and at one point the group split into two groups - one group who needed to go warm up by the fire, and another of who would go see the waterfall. Unfortunately, when we got to the cliff, we were enveloped in a mist and couldn't see much of the waterfall or the view! Nevertheless the girls marveled at being in the middle of a cloud and cheerily tucked themselves out of the wind to enjoy a morning snack before heading back to rejoin the others. We spent the rest of the day in the hut having a Q&A session with our Malawian guides, Peter and Vincent, listening to more of our own poetry, discussing the stages of group dynamics, and digging into some literature - both our current novel, Zenzele, and the poem "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver. Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon in the mountains.

We headed down the mountain on Wednesday, facing an arduous downhill. We took plenty of breaks to rest our knees, eat, and drink water, and the students in Science class took time to complete a couple of entries in their observation journals. (Our guides' knowledge of the mountain's flora and fauna was definitely useful.) We sang pop songs - this group has some strong vocal chords! - and talked about everything from the social responsibility of pop stardom to the ethics of cutting down timber in the protected forest we were hiking through. I think the girls enjoyed having time to get to know each other in a new way, and they all took pride in their ability to push themselves physically.

When we reached the end of the hike, everyone plopped down on the grass and enjoyed some chill time before meeting Ngwena (our driver), Simukange (our cook), and Big Blue (our truck.) We all cherished our rest that evening before heading north the next day.

And a more recent update over the weekend...

South Luangwa has been a dream. Students wake up with the sun to sit silently on a grassy patch overlooking the riverbanks, listening to Zambia wake up. Herons and kingfishers stand elegantly by the water, as each of us play our new favorite guessing game: rock or hippo? Today ten giraffe walked by. Thirty-five elephant walked single file across the river. Last night students unzipped their tents to peek out with their headlamps, watching two elephant eat the leaves on the trees ten feet away! We are in awe that this is our school. Sunsets are peach sherbet to molten lava orbs descending on the horizon. Meals are lovingly prepared by Samukange, who, along with Papa, has taught us greetings in Shona. Students are slowly overcoming their hesitance to make tea and coffee for their elders, the way it's done in Shona culture. They are vibrant, digging into tough issues, initiating conversations in and outside of classes. Us teachers smile as we walk by, loving their engagement, their respect towards each other, their quest for meaning.

TTS24 is going strong. From our start at Fisherman's Rest, where we dug into issues of service and the idea of 'helping', to climbing Mt. Mulanje, accomplishing it together, and fireside poetry, to encountering Big Blue, and easing into 'truck life', to kayaking to Domwe Island into tranquil solitude among boulders, civet cats, and monitor lizards, to game drives in Luangwe and women's issues in the region, intense discussions, and connections during school visits, to girl's leadership clubs that show that on one level teen girls no matter where are teen girls, the students are thriving. We can't wait for them to share with you their experiences.

Check back later this week for academic updates!

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