Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Activities and Interviews Galore

Rhino Tracking
by Ava S., Montana, Junior

It was mid-afternoon, and the Matopos savannah was backing in the sun.  We were wandering up a shaggy bluff, five hours in to a seemingly unsuccessful rhino tracking mission.  We climbed over rocks and through dense bushes, following our guide Andy like a trail of ants.  Suddenly, Andy motioned for us to stop.  We froze, not breathing, not moving, silent.  The air was still.  Andy began snaking through the brush, following a trail that only his expert eyes would recognize.  We waited, calm and quiet, under a tangle of trees. Suddenly, the line of girls surged forward with an energetic jolt.  Silent expressions of shock passed along faces as the front of the line approached a dark mass in the trees.  Rhinos: confirmed!  Gradually, a glimpse of an ear, a wrinkled body, and a stubby horn came into view.  Heart racing, we rounded a small grove of trees, stopping 30 meters away from seven heavy-set rhinos.  We were in awe.  After five hours of determined wandering through the hot savannah, the rhinos felt like something we had earned; a reward for our hard work and patience. Compared to game drives, were a wildlife experience is around every corner, the rhinos were an opportunity that we had to work for.  Because of this, the rhinos were extraordinary, and we watched them with immense satisfaction.

by Claudia A., Panama, Sophomore
The night finally came and the nervousness was almost tangible.  What will our family be like?  What if they are crazy?  What if they hate us?  What will we eat? Where will we sleep?  We were about to find out.  The ladies came through the door and gave us all embracing hugs.  We walked home with them trying to ask questions, until we realized they did not speak English.  We entered the tin-roofed house, walked through the rooms with pink walls where the TV was on, and got to our room with two twin beds.  We left our bags on the mat and sat with one of the old ladies' daughter, who did speak English. She explained to us that the reason why there were only women in the house was because the five husbands were in different parts of South Africa working in the gold mines.

The next day we woke up and asked if we could shower.  They brought us two blue buckets and two hand towels.  Interesting.  It took us awhile to figure it out but you get in the bucket, wet the little towel, and wash your body with it.  Great learning experience.  When we were ready, we had an oatmeal breakfast, and the ladies were convinced that we were not "pam-pam" (full), but we convinced them that we were and they let us go with a suspicious look.  Between breakfast and lunch, Hannah [Waldo] and I were excited to to start learning and have as many conversations as possible. However, we were reminded that no one spoke English (the daughter had left for work), so we just sat on the entrance steps and saw one of the ladies do laundry.  At first, we felt frustrated: was this all we were going to do for a week?

But as time passed and the bad feelings melted, and we were filled with the realization that there was nothing else we needed to be doing in that moment.  The chickens seemed to be playing tag, and the ladies talking to each other.  It didn't matter that we couldn't understand, it was enough to be there sitting with these ladies whose wrinkles hid so many stories.

The next day we were lucky and we were trusted with one of these stories.  When they were 22, they lived in Mozambique during the times of war.  They had to sleep in trees to avoid getting killed at night and there was no school for them to attend.  Their husband (they share a husband) was working at the gold mines and they walked for two entire days through Kruger National Park to come live in the safety of South Africa.  They did not have much food, but at least they were not in constant fear of being killed.  We could see the pain in their words even before they were translated to us and with this new understanding of where they came from, we felt even more at home.

As the sun went down, Salvation, who was 13, asked us if we wanted to learn how to dance.  Of course, the answer was yes.  She started to shake her hips in a huge traditional skirt from side to side and when it was our turn we couldn't even do it half as fast as she did.  Over time we got better...I think.  The laughs from kids and elders filled the room and they asked if we could show them our dance.  Hannah did not have any interest in showing hers, so we connected my iPod to the speakers.  Salsa music burst out and each of us grabbed one of the girls.  At first, they were confused about the steps, but then they quickly got it and got really into it.  We spun around for an hour until our heads were all sweaty...Bucket baths!

After having "pap" every dinner for a week, our fingers did the movement of eating without even thinking about it.  We had mastered charades, the long-drop toilet did not smell anymore, and we were experts at the bucket baths  We had to leave, but we know we always have a family waiting for us in Islington.

TTS Halloween
Hannah L., California, Junior
Marisa T., California, Sophomore

On Hallow's Eve, cheeky baboons ran about,
And trees cast sinister shadows on the campground.
The TTS girls prepared for a night of mischief and magic.
Once the sun set, our alter creatures came out,
Lions, tigers, and cowboys were roaming about.
We dined on monkey brains and bobbed for crisp apples.
Trick-or-treating occurred, but not house-to-house,
We went from tree to shower stall, to Big Blue, to the laundry house.
Candy was received, but it wasn't a simple task,
We had to sing a lullaby, and make a teacher laugh.
Scary stories were told, filled with ghosts, demons, and fear.
We ran straight to our tents when we saw that the coast was clear.

Interview with Quinnie 
by Ava S, Montana, Junior
Quinnie and a furry friend
If sunshine was a human its name would ne Quinnie Mawhinney. Quinnie is a twenty-four year old Montana native who loves the outdoors and working with teens. At age sixteen Quinnie journeyed with The Traveling School to South-western Africa. She recalls a solitary moment in Namibia on a hill that she describes as “Pride Rock”. Gazing out over the endless landscapes she watched wild animals roaming as the hot sun baked the earth. Inspired by the semester and her passions, Quinnie has returned as a teaching intern adding extra hands to the staff and spreading positivity among the girls. I had the privilege to sit down with Quinnie to ask about her journey thus far.
Since her semester in 2006, Quinnie has continued to find inspiration from her time with TTS. “It re-inspired me to love learning”. She comments. Quinnie reflects that the knowledge she gained on her semester was practical giving her the confidence to travel alone. Because if TTS’ positive influence, Quinnie has returned to give that gift to other girls.
“It feels really wonderful to make a full circle”, she says Quinnie is surprised with how dynamic and demanding the teacher role is. Not only does she co-teach Science, iLife, and Global Studies, but Quinnie also leads crews and manages the TTS blog. However, despite her leadership roles she continues to learn and wants to attend classes. Ultimately, Quinnie is thrilled to be back with TTS, explaining and impacting girls’ lives.
Outside of The Traveling School, Quinnie works to combine her love for the outdoors and teens. She created an Environmental Summit for middle schoolers, a day where students learn sustainable farming and environmental practices. She also works closely with disabled teens taking from outdoor adventures and encouraging them to try new things. Looking, forward, she hopes to het her masters in counseling to continue her interactions with teens. Quinnie says that she is proud of the work she has done and looks forward to continuing the pursuit of her passions.
Quinnie Mawhinney’s compassionable, encouraging attitude has a brightening effect on those around her. I am truly grateful that she will be an integral part of our school our journey and our family here at TTS.

Interview with Violet W
by Maris B, Wisconsin, Junior

Violet reading to school children
I first met Violet when she hopped out of a bright yellow taxicab in D.C. first day of orientation. She had a bright smile and giant duffle to match mine and the other girls. At first Violet came off as shy and to be fair we all were. Later, after talking to her more I learned what an interesting diverse person she is.

Violet lives in Manhattan with her dad and little brother. She loves taking photos and plans on being a photographer when she’s older. She bakes pastries and hikes around the city. I’ve noticed Violet likes small things, for instance she told me “I keep my window open all winter because I like snow”. When I asked her why she said, “Because its quiet and pretty”. She also loves riding the train because she doesn’t have a car and she enjoys watching things blur by.

Violet likes her emotional space. She goes to museums or explores parts of New York. There are a few special places she likes to go. Inwood Park in Harlem for example, or on her road looking at the city and gathering herself.

While in Africa she still manages to get this time in. Every morning at 5:30am, when everyone is still asleep, Violet climbs outs of her tent and finds a quiet place to sit and read a book (more recently Hemingway). On one of these occasions I found her perched on a huge grey boulder looking at the waves at Lake Malawi.

A pivotal moment for her was when she realized that being alone didn’t mean you were the ‘lone wolf’ and that its perfectly fine too not be social all the time. She was happy to understand that emotional space is healthy for a person that can take energy from alone time. She says that being emotionable stable is incredibly important to ones well being and making good choices to protect her emotional well-being is vital.

It’s incredible that Violet has managed to figure out exactly what she needs be it cake or a walk in the park. Violet understands the world’s simple beauty and she knows that life isn’t about moving from one activity to the next, it’s about stopping to enjoy

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