TTS22 Group photo

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thank you for a wonderful semester!

Dear Parents and Blog Followers,

Three and a half months after 16 young girls showed up in Washington D.C. they are prepared to return home young women. In D.C they were wide eyed, scared and  nervous about the trip to come, whether they were going to get along with anyone, how they were going to manage school while sitting in a crazy creek the whole semester, and what about their friends back home and Facebook? Well, we are proud to say all of the beautiful young ladies are coming home just as wide eyed as when they left but with a new, more mature sense of global wonderment. Now you may find them a little more excited about reading, writing, traveling and learning about the inner workings of the world today and maybe less concerned about Facebook... Oh who are we kidding- Facebook is still a big deal.

In the final weeks of the semester the girls worked hard wrapping up their classes with their last TTS exams.  Every girl worked diligently and when all finished you could feel a sense of relief and accomplishment.  Though finals were done for the last few days, the girls were still focused on working on their Zenith project as well as a few exercises preparing them to go home.  Through various activities we helped the girls wrap up their thoughts on overall cultural experiences and what it might feel like when they depart from the group they had created the past months.  A particular activity I led worked with the ideas of what risk and fear are and how they complement everyday life.  Throughout the semester they had taken risks, risks in just coming to TTS and leaving the comforts of their everyday life back home.  The idea behind this discussion is to first show risk comes in various forms the form of physical risk as well as the kind which is less evident such has taking yourself out of your everyday routine and meeting new people learning new things.  The activity was to get the girls to understand they should keep investigating and exploring new avenues of their own life even though they are home and away from Africa.   In the final days we not only had discussions, but activities to allow the girls to come together and spend time without distraction as a group.  We went to an orphanage where evidence of all the girls had learned throughout the semester was evident as the teachers did very little to facilitate interactions between the kids.  Megan, Anne, Bird, Lindsay and Eleanor played in a soccer game while Mara, Emilee, Molly, Juliana and Peri worked on their African dance moves.  On the second to last day we started with a calm breakfast cruise on the upper Zambezi taking in our last African wildlife sightings elephant, hippos and crocodiles even a baby crocodile looks cute!  Our calm breakfast cruise was followed up by the lower Zambezi rafting!  This started with a hike down into the gorge which is a hike not for the feint hearted it is almost a mile down on wood ladders supplementing as stairs.  The true test was the whitewater!  This activity helped not only bring excitement and joy to the girls, but also shows them how much they had come together as team during the semester.  Testing their companionship and strength to support and guide each other through taxing physical demands. Natalie, Ariela and Sarah were in the first raft to flip and each girl supported and each other’s nerves whilst knowing they still had more to come.  Megan, Hannah and Maeve had smile the whole way through jumping in to swim whenever possible.  At the end of the days the girls left with a strong sense of accomplishment and ready for bed! Our final day we spent walking around Victoria falls, packing and a graduation dinner.  At dinner the girls presented envelopes to each other filled with warm fuzzies, letters written for them to read after they left the group.  It was a tearful graduation, but happy as well having realized they had completed their time in Africa together, healthy, happy and excited about the world around and its infinite possibilities.

In all honesty and sincerity we would like to thank all of the parents who trusted us and TTS with your daughters. It has been a magical trip filled with many adventures which your girls will fill your heads with. From days of writing essays in the rain and doing math in the laundry rooms surrounded with giant night crawling creatures to tales of successes and accomplishments on rivers and up mountains. Please listen and learn about how they have lived and enjoyed through hardships and homesickness they have completed a trip of a lifetime and will want to share it.

We thank you and return these girls home to be global citizens. Happy healthy and excited about learning and world surrounding us today.

Brenna, Heather, Sarah and Sylvia

From Brenna: 
Why do these trips?  Why do you leave your life behind for months at a time to continually put yourself in challenging new situations, everyday different?  I ask myself this every time I leave for Africa with TTS.  I am about to embark on four months of mothering, mentoring, teaching, guiding and exploring with 16 teenage girls.  Why not just go on my own to Africa to learn and see it in my own way? There is no single answer to these questions as they are encompassed by many answers and feelings.  I cannot explain why, I can only say it is the strong sensation of sentiment and pride I have for the girls in the end, the growth I see in the group and in every girl, the companionship, eyes opened to the world and its complex diverse and ever changing issues.  The girls come away with new impressions and wonders of themselves and world; this alone sustains my energy throughout the semester.  I could choose a different avenue of work, but TTS brings not only change to students, but change in me as well.  Each girl has her own effect on me and how I learn.  Thank you parents for sending your wonderful children on the semester with me, putting your trust in me and TTS is what makes the experience possible.  Africa has a strange effect on people and it can forever change a person; it has done so to me and your girls accept it and love the power of Africa. 


“Explorers in their books claim to be in Africa to solve a geographic problem or reform a savage country. And yet one cannot help, but feeling that there is still another reason for their journey. A fundamental restlessness, a simple absorbing curiosity in everything strange and new, to satisfy that curiosity they are prepared to put up with anything.”

-Alan Morrehead White Nile Expedition 

From Heather:
I teach for The Traveling School because I want to challenge and inspire my students, but as TTS22 completes our semester in Southwest Africa, I am moved for the second semester at how much my students have challenged and inspired me. When they study in tents or campsite laundry rooms with homework papers lit by headlamps, sometimes with hats and gloves to stay warm and sometimes sweating through malaria clothes, I am inspired to keep working hard toward our goals no matter the distractions or circumstances. When they connect math topics to literature and history lessons, I am challenged to develop more cross-curricular lessons. When they break into impromptu dance parties, I am inspired to take a break from my own work for silly fun, too. When they ask questions I cannot answer, I am challenged and inspired to keep reading, learning and traveling myself. To friends and family of TTS22, thank you for sharing your girls with the Traveling School!

From Sarah:
Thank you friends and family for allowing me to know these young women! I have learned much from the students this semester. They continually remind me to laugh, burst out in song, dance, and ask more questions. Through them I experience things anew. Often, in this line of work the extraordinary becomes ordinary. TTS22 has shown me that yes, rafting Class III rapids is terrorizing, but as a team, we can overcome the fear and come out triumphant. They have shown me that teens can be passionate about history and literature and have the ability to digest graduate-level theories. They keep me on my toes and I am grateful for the past few months. Thank you again.

From Sylvia:
It has been a truly beautiful experience!  But seriously folks,  "these girls......"  What more can I say?  Having accomplished a life long dream to see the wildlife of southern Africa,  I can now die happy!

I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to work with these young women.  Having my own 16-year-old daughter in India all semester, I can understand what parents at home typically experience.  By giving kindness and support whenever possible I have attempted to pass it forward. And now the girls return home changed, no longer their little girls. What I believe we all want for our girls is empowerment and hope.  This is what TTS tries to instill in the girls. I feel honored to have been part of the process.  

And a little re-cap of the final adventures:

December 3, 2013
On our last full day in Africa, as girls and teachers of TTS22 teetered on our own personal borders of our semester in Africa and our return back to the USA, we visited Victoria Falls to see over 10 million liters of water per minute crash down the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. We snapped some final group photos with the nearly 100-meter tall falls in the background and girls chatted quietly about our big travel day tomorrow. Some last minute souvenir shopping was in order at the shops near the falls. Lindsay showcased her bargaining skills to get good deal on presents for friends and family. Eleanor traded hair ties and caribeeners for souveneirs. Before heading back to the hostel for packing and graduation dinner, we walked out onto the famous Victoria Falls bridge for one more stunning view of the Zambezi and a few more photos.

December 2: 
On the morning of December second, we enjoyed a delightful beautiful breakfast tour of the upper Zambezi river.  Numerous species were sighted and included elephant,  fish eagle, hippopotamus, glossy ibis, stilt, open-billed stork, marabou stork, lechwe and some really big crocodiles. The girls took advantage of the leisurely trip and the fresh air to have a braiding fest. A great way to be able to contrast the river's course above and below Victoria Falls.

December 1:
In the last week of our amazing semester we visited an orphanage in Zambia. Five siblings had just arrived due to their parents illegally crossing the Zambian border from the Congo. The parents were put in jail, the children in the orphanage. We tumbled out of the van and spent the next three hours among the 70+ children playing soccer, hanging out at their playground, and learning dance moves. Megan, Maeve, Eleanor, Bird, Anne, and Lindsay represented on the field. Emilee made friends with some pre-teen girls who were busy doing hair. Ariela passed out stickers to the younger kids, which turned into a jumble of children with stickers on their cheeks, foreheads, and arms. Sarah and Kat hung out at the swing-set. Hannah made friends with a little photographer who loved playing with her camera. Mara, Peri, Natalie, Juliana, and Molly got down with the teenage girls. It was a performance like no other. One girl rocked it playing a stick on an upside down bucket as a drum and sang Michael Jackson. Two other girls schooled the rest of us in how to move. We in turn took the stage. The students of TTS 22 have successfully learned how to be thrown into awkward situations and turn them into reciprocal exchanges.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"So, how was Africa?"

(This is a copy of the email I sent out yesterday to parents. As the larger community of TTS22 cohorts, we encourage you to think about how to support these amazing girls as they experience one of life's many transitions. The group is now en route to DC. Thank you all for making this the most followed blog in TTS history!)

Dear TTS22 Parents and Friends,

Wow! It’s hard to believe the semester is wrapping up, fifteen weeks came and went and your daughter will start her journey home in roughly 12 hours. Little do some of them know they are about to go through a 60-100 degree temperature difference less than in 48 hours. Here in the Bozeman office we love the snow covered streets and are bundling up (less enthusiastically) for the daily walk to the post office. Over in Zambia, TTS22 spent a day on the Zambezi – initially enjoying the calm upper waters on a leisurely cruise; they saw a tiny croc which the guide surmised was less than 5 days old. Then, they changed gears and rafted the lower section of the river, crashing through class 2 and 3 waves on rafts. Sarah was impressed with the support the group offered to one another and was thrilled to see each girl recognize her inner strength as she paddled and swam through rapids. By the end of the half day trip, Brenna reported every girl had jumped out and swam through at least one rapid. (The guides know which rapids to let clients swim and which to stay in the raft through.) And after a hot and thrilling river day, they enjoyed a pizza party dinner. They continue to pack in activities and transition talks during the final days. Brenna, Heather, Sarah and Sylvia will share the specific details about the transitions shortly after they land in D.C, but I can give you a few details about the transitions and help you prepare to welcome your daughter back home.

The group arrived in Zambia on Saturday afternoon and settled into a hostel on the outskirts of Livingstone. They cleaned out their truck lockers, swept out the tents and moved into dorm rooms. They said their first big goodbyes to Ngwyena, Benson and Big Blue. Since finishing finals, the group focused on being together and embracing the final days as a unit. Each teacher led a different transition activity to help students think about what going home means. They talked about the fear of transformation, the power of experiential education, how to be a humble global citizen and how to engage in conversations about the semester with friends, family and acquaintances. Each girl trusts that you will be there to listen about the whole journey, but doesn’t know how her friends will react. Teachers helped each student think about how to respond to the very big (and very common) question, “So, how was Africa?” The group talked about how to gauge who wants the 30 second response, the 5 minute response and the in depth response.

For those of us back home, it's also time to focus on the girls’ transition home. The teachers have given each student time to plan and practice her final Global Studies presentation she will give when she gets home. The girls planned their Zenith Project as a way to share their experiences and to find a way to give back to groups and people they’ve met during their travels. The group spent their final days working through transition activities, beginning with reflection and working their way through what it will be like when they actually get home. The girls are excited and nervous to see everyone and can’t wait to walk through their front doors.  They had an amazing semester, and we are all excited for them to share it with you at home in the coming weeks. When your daughter arrives home on Thursday, here are some things to consider in helping her adjust:

1) The girls are often nervous for the first impression when they get off of the plane.  They may have already planned their "flight clothes" and are anxious about what everyone will say.  Despite the fact that they are strong and beautiful as ever, they are scared to hear they are "different" somehow. The girls can be fragile to your comments, and we think parents often don’t give themselves enough credit for how much their words influence and affect their daughters. We're sure you are all very excited to see them.  What we see compared with the girls who joined us three and a half months ago is immeasurable - they are confident, proud, strong, and happy - we're sure you'll find the same.

2) It is often difficult for students to find the words to talk about their semester.  It has been a very full 15 weeks with highs and lows and everything in between.  The stories will come out slowly, perhaps over dinner or during a long car ride. When they download their pictures, it is a perfect chance to sit down and spend a few hours hearing about their adventures.  It will help them if you ask specific questions – What were your Top Ten highlights of the semester? What word would you use to describe each girl? What was your favorite class? Talk about the people who influenced you during the semester. What outdoor activities did you like? Which parts of the semester were most challenging? It may be helpful for them to pick out special photos to create a book from the semester.

3) The girls are very excited for their first meal, to sleep in their beds for the first time, and to see their friends and family.  It is not unusual for them to struggle a bit following all of the excitement of coming home. They have talked about this together, and please let them know that we (at the Traveling School office and their teachers) are all here for them if they have a low point after their return.  They've learned how to take the skills and experiences they had in South-West Africa and transfer them back to their lives at home, and we've given them the tools to help make this happen.  They should have very successful re-entries, and we want to help if they experience any bumps along the way. They may want to seek out opportunities in their home communities for service or continue to study the region or to find ways to talk about their experiences. They might want to find a club or team to continue with a sport they learned throughout the semester.

4) The girls have been working on their final presentations for Global Studies class. This is a crucial piece for the girls to help with the transition home. They have all developed outlines of their presentations and have already practiced several times in class before they return home. The girls are prepared to give the presentation as soon as possible.  As I mentioned, this final activity is an important part of the transition home.  It is designed to give your daughter a formal presentation to share her experience with her peers. The sooner she does it, the easier her transition home will be. Students know the deadline for this presentation and many of you helped solidify presentation dates with their schools. This presentation should be videotaped, uploaded and emailed to the teachers for their final Global Studies grade. If your daughter has any difficulties she should feel free to contact the teachers or our office.

We recognize your daughter’s adjustment to coming home is a significant change. For many of the girls, this is the first (of many) major life transition. She had an experience which will forever be part of who she is. As each girl returns home she will react differently; she might go through a period of quiet mourning and grieving for the end of her Traveling School experience, before she transitions into her next life phase or adventure. As parents, you can support your daughter by helping her to understand transition is a part of life. Right now, she is leaving her Traveling School semester and her TTS22 sisterhood. Soon, she will leave high school. And the love and support from your family will be what helps your daughter work through these transitions successfully.

As sad as it is for us to say goodbye to these 16 amazing young ladies, we know you are all excited to see them back home.  On Thursday morning, one of the teachers will accompany your daughter to her gate in the DC airport. Your daughter will give you a call from the teacher’s cell phone to let you know she is in DC and all set to make her connections. For many parents, this will be an early phone call. The teachers will stay in DC until every student has departed and will then begin their journey back to Bozeman for debrief.  If you remember, we love to hear from you once your daughter has made it home. After you have caught up with her and she has settled back in, please let us know how things are going. We love to hear your reports and updates. 

What the group experienced and learned this semester is priceless, and each of your daughters knows she is lucky you have given her this opportunity. We also feel lucky to have gotten to share the semester with all of you. Thank you for entrusting The Traveling School with your daughters; we look forward to being in their lives for years to come.

Best wishes,

Jennifer, Aunge, Price & Jim

Sunday, December 1, 2013

meerkats moments

Peri, junior, New Jersey
 Meerkat Muesday: a Tuesday in November

    My eyes flickered around the room, focusing on the faces filling the Washington D.C. Orientation. When it came to be my turn to say what I looked forward to most on my upcoming semester, I blurted, “I want to see meerkats!”
    Now the day had arrived: Meerkat Muesday. The TTS girls were up and out by 5 AM, groggily meandering towards our safari trucks, detoured by warm tea and coffee. Still surrounded by placid darkness and a canopy of stars, we embarked on an hour and a half drive to the salt pan.
    The minute a gleaming light broke through the acacias and baobabs, we pulled over to appreciate the African sunrise. After the transient moment of serenity, we re-boarded the truck to continue sliding and bouncing on the gravel road. Trees and bush passed, but all I could focus on were the meerkats, the animal I had been ranting about for almost four months.
    When the trucks slowed to a halt, my eyes dashed to the miniscule tan bodies with long sleek tails. They perked up straight, darting their dark ringed eyes back and forth. I scurried out of my seat, running after them with tears blurring my vision, mesmerized. As a child I used to watch Animal Planet's show “Meerkat Manner” with my dad, engulfed by the kat's complex social structures.
    Going on safaris and bush walks were the perfect opportunity to spot my favorite creature, and I would ask Sylvia or our guides about them at every location. With a week left of our semester, seeing meerkats seemed to bring the trip to and end with a grand finale.
    The girls chased the meerkats, watching them dig for and devour sun spiders, and posed with them for myriads of pictures.  After we were fulfilled with the kats, we headed towards catered breakfast on the salt pan.
    Wading through the fresh rainwater lake and painting our faces with mud for photoshoots all before 10 AM, I could not suppress my smile. Looking around at my family who supported me on one of the most exciting days of my trip, I couldn't believe my dream came true.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble up these Thanksgiving thoughts

Dear Parents and Blog Followers!

Happy Thanksgiving from TTS22!  We are six short days away from returning home to family, holidays, friends, hugs, kisses and America.  The last couple days have been a reflection of what we have been doing the past three months, but more importantly on finals!  Yes, the girls are two math finals away from being finished with school at TTS.

It is a tradition for many of the girls to do a Thanksgiving Day run.  In many towns across the U.S, including Bozeman, it is called the Huffing for Stuffing and is a 5k.  As you may recall one of the group goals before the semester came to a close was for everyone to run and complete a  5k. Well, we did it!  Starting early in the morning to beat the Botswana heat we took off down the dirt road. We ran until Papa picked us up 5k down the road.  With big blue in sight the girls kicked into gear and all finished strong.

A view out of our Thanksgiving Day window: Elephants stand about fifteen feet away at a watering hole, no fence to divide us, while we eat dinner and watch them wander in and out of sight.  Sneaking up on us with their silent steps and splashing themselves to cool off in the humid Botswana air. We are at a long table sharing memories of  what we do and eat on Thanksgiving with our families back home.  Instead of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and stuffing we indulge in kudu, impala, squash malva pudding and custard on out plates. New and old collide and girls leave with full bellies and smiles to their tents under the blanket of African stars.

Hakunamhathata! (Shona for no worries) and as the days speed by the girls are filled with joy and sentiment about going home and leaving each other, the family we have created over the months.  I remind them daily of a quote a smart man once said, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”  -Dr. Seuss

We leave you with memorable moments from the students and teachers they are grateful for having on the trip!

Happy Thanksgiving,

“Playing soccer in the road with the San kids when the truck was stuck.”

“Seeing a giraffe spread its legs to drink at the watering hole.”

“Finally seeing meerkats and having the chance to experience meerkats.”

“Papa finally letting me ride with him in the truck.”

“Finishing up classes under the shade of the 1,000 year old baobab.”

“We were canoeing down the Orange River on the last day of our trip and our guide said we were going through a diamond sensitive area. He made us swim outside our boats so the diamond guards would not see us, but really it was all a joke. There were no gunmen.”

“Riding in the truck with Rohan.”

“The San village helping us push the truck out of the sand in the Namibian desert.”

Sarah White:
“Is thankful for all the new teen fiction trilogies the students introduced to her.”

“Grateful for the the opportunity to spend so many hours with Heather working on her algebra two homework.”

“Sleeping under the stars on the Orange River and my Mom making her first trip to Africa to get a glimpse of what I have been up to over the past 15 years.”

“Hiking up table mountain.”

“Trying lee chi fruit for the first time.”

“Sharing Thanksgiving with 19 of my new best friends.”

“All water is ruined for me now that I have tasted the crisp spring water of the Tsitisikama.”

“ The opportunity to push my limits on the trip both physically and mentally. One notable moment holding a large snake twice my body weight.”

“Repelling next to the waterfall in Waterval Boven. I felt accomplished once I reached the ground.”

“Sunrise walk up Dune 45 and shooting portraits in perfect light.”

Stomping our feet with the San kids at the primay school singing along to “sing, sing, sing to the lord”.

“A night I will never forget is when we had a dance party in the Gryffindor tower during study hall.  I don't know how we got from math to dancing in the kitchen with a strobe light, but I am so glad it happened.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Video

The girls created a super cute Thanksgiving video for you. I've shared it with you through YouTube. It is private so just like the blog you have to accept the invitation. Use the same login information as the blog. Check the "social" tab in Gmail for your invitation.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us in Bozeman! Let the one week countdown begin.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

TTS22 Parents and Friends,

It’s unbelievable to me that next week is Thanksgiving, and then the next week TTS22 will come to a close – where have the past three months flown? I wanted to share a passage from Alexandra Fuller’s memoir, Scribbling the Cat – a must read, along with her earlier book about growing up throughout southern Africa, Don’t Lets go to the Dogs Tonight.  The girls and teachers often use this passage when preparing for their coming home.  I wanted to share it with all you so that you might understand in part the challenge your daughters will face in crossing the ocean and returning home after their adventures in southern Africa. I also think this passage will help to explain to you why I’m so tardy in sending out my blog update from my time with the girls almost 2 weeks ago?! Yikes.

“It should not be physically possible to get from the banks of the Pepani River (read the waterholes of Etosha National Park) to Wyoming (or Montana or NC or New York or Illinois or . . .) in less than two days, because mentally and emotionally it is impossible.  The shock is too much, the contrast too raw.  We should sail or swim or walk from Africa, letting bits of her drop out of us, and gradually, in this way, assimilate the excesses and liberties of the States in tiny, incremental sips. . .”

Anyway, it does seem to take some time for your soul to catch up when make such an amazing journey.  That’s what I think anyway.

Meanwhile, parents sit patiently at home waiting, eager for some word about your girls and perhaps better still, more photographs to prove they are healthy and happy. Well, I can assure you that your daughters are amazing and have formed a supportive community of strong young women. They laugh easily together, put effort into their school work, find time to revel in impromptu dance parties and are sensitive to each other’s moods and challenges. They move together as a herd and just as easily break off into small groups that form and reform depending on who has a free period or needs help on a math problem. You’d be proud to see how your daughters greet Papa and Benson each morning in Shona, and show their respect for their driver and cook through fixing a cup of tea or riding in the front cab of Big Blue when it’s their day to be chieflet. Your daughters are basking in their newfound friendships and soaking in all they can about the places they’ve been and the people they’ve met. The girls are aware that their time together is now short, and though this is bittersweet, they are positively present in each moment they share together all the while eagerly looking forward to being home with their families and friends.

I wanted to thank those of you who joined me on our TTS22 Campus Visit to Namibia to visit the group.  It was amazing, due mainly to your sense of adventure and joy in all we saw and did together. For those who weren’t able to join us, thanks for your support and presence for your daughters from home. Your daughters missed you, though we tried to make these days special for all the girls. Brenna recounts some of the highlights below:

The Campus Visit started with a skit by the girls to share how to travel in southern Africa and ended with a skit from the parents [which I'm still trying to post and is hilarious]. After, the excitement wore off on the first day; we spent time learning about Okonjima’s Africats Foundation and then went for an evening game drive and stopped to watch the sun set. Days at Okonjima were filled with students and parents lending a hand cleaning up the brush from evasive plants, to learning about why cats are endangered in the first place. Peri and Megan especially loved the bush clearing; both felt accomplished at the end and enjoyed the physical aspect of the work.  Every night we spent time with each other on the game drives looking for cats and animals, but finishing our days watching the sun sink beneath the red dirt gave the group a sense of community.

After Okonjima we travelled to Etosha National Park where parents were able to take their turn on Big Blue with their daughters for a morning game drive. Etosha-- -- is famous for its watering holes. During our last night, many viewed four rare black rhinos taking an evening bath as lions watched patiently, waiting their turn to drink. Here too, the group enjoyed time in the pool during our hot days. Juliana, Molly, Natalie, Sarah and Lindsay enjoyed a fun round of the whirlpool game in the kiddie pool which was perfect for a break in the middle of the day when the heat had reached its peaked – over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the animals we saw in Etosha matched the girls’ new totems, and they were quite excited. Anna is the ostrich and enjoyed greeting her family while driving through the park. We were very lucky to see black rhinos and a cheetah with three cubs, along with well over 10 lions and cubs along the way. Lucky us. Though we’re not sure it was luck or Ngwena (papa) and his expertise at finding animals.

The parent trip came to a close early in the morning with hugs to go around. Now we are sixteen students and four teachers with Papa and a Benson. We are back to our small group with more adventures ahead of us in the last few weeks.  

Brenna, Mhofu the Eland

I (Jennifer) was able to spend a bit of time with the group prior to the parent trip. I met up with the entire group in Swakopmund and accompanied the group to the magical orange sand dunes for sandboarding. Ariela took her own route at one point; Mara was sure she would wipe out—and she did on her first run, but not on the remaining 6 runs! Maeve was clocked at over 70kph at the bottom of the fastest run, and along with Sarah and Lindsay, went for at least two extra runs before joining the group for the final ride back to the van.
Emilee enjoying the downhills
Waiting for the next run
Papa (the crocodile) presented the much-awaited totems to the students the night before I picked the parents up in Windhoek. He had Brenna read the girls an explanation about totems first, and then made them promise not to ask him why they were given their totems, “Do not ask me. I do not know,” Papa explained. He then proceeded to tick off each of the teachers and girls, their totems or spirit animal names in English and in Shona, his native language. Papa told the girls from that point onwards, he would know them by their totem names, and he clearly hoped that each student would use these Shona words to refer to themselves and each other for the rest of the trip. Sometimes Papa would describe the animal or its characteristics, but always he would remind the girls not to ask him why, “I do not know,” he repeated with a smile.
Papa giving out totems
Jennifer (Mbizi—the Zebra)

TTS22 Totems:

Natalie, Nhathi the Cape Buffalo
Lindsay, Nzoli the Elephant
Juliana, Mbada the Leopard
Sarah, Nhoro the Kudu

Megan, Chitszre the Honey Badger
Katherine, Ngamo the Gemsbok
Ariela & Aunge, Chipembere the Rhinoceros

Anna (Bird), Mhou the Ostrich
Hannah, Twiza the giraffe & Peri, Mhara the impala
Anne, Mhumhi the Wild Dog
Mara, Shumba the Lion

Eleanor, Tsoko the Monkey
Maeve & Papa, Ngwena the Crocodile
Emilee, Haka the Pangolin 

Brenna, Mhofu, the Eland


Molly, Dendera the Ground Hornbill

Sylvia, Hwata the Secretary Bird
Sarah, Hungwe, the Fish Eagle
Heather, Chapungue, the Bateleur Eagle

Literature & Composition and History updates


Last week literature students wrote Drabble. What, you may ask is Drabble? I asked them to write a story in 100 words, no more, no less. Inspired by the economy of prose in 'The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo', students tried their hand at vivid language in a succinct format. Here are a few student samples.

Juliana, Montana
Sparkling white, lights black night. Frigid wind burns her nose, snow pierces body, scraping. Fingers burn, sizzle. Bones ache, feet dull, numb. tears turn icy. crisp hard snow encases her, sucking life. Eyes reflect a house, warm, glowing. Inside people laugh, champagne-warmed smiles, shiny red cheeks. Cinnamon faintly tickles her nose, spicy, sweet. Gold, silver balls glitter, dangling on a tree. Fire dancing, constantly orange, heats everyone. ragged nails meet crusty snow. Fingers rub raw, white turns red, body inches forward. Ragged breath freezes. Sounds mush together, vision fades. gasps fill silent darkness, frozen tears shatter on ground, then silence.

Molly, Vermont
Age 2
Skipping into the room, plaid dress swaying as she hops from foot-to-foot. Happily oblivious. She looks up, hundreds of eyes fixed with sorrow and pity. As she weaves through the legs of mourners towards the front of the room she smiles brightly, thinking that it is her new dress that is catching all these eyes. Now at the front, she sees a box and runs toward it, curious. when she reaches it and sees her father, she tries to hug him. Pulled away by her mother, this girl starts to cry. She doesn't realize that her life has changed forever.


From our campsite in Namibia we looked across the river to night lights of Angola. What is the current political situation? How has society recovered after the civil war? What type of government do they have? Who is president? Questions filled minds as we looked out on yet another new nation. How little we know, they reflected. How much there is to learn. 

This week students are working on their final project, a map of southern Africa indicating our route, historical events, and their personal journey. I won't say anymore in the hopes that each student will share their project with their loved ones once home.

Friday, November 22, 2013

classes are busy, busy!


"Oh the places you will go"  P.D.Eastman

Imagine sitting next to an Etosha National Park watering hole at night.  You see eleven galloping giraffe startle and flee into the darkness. You marvel at their long gangly legs and the swing of their necks as they loop around to stop and stare back into the darkness.  Hmmm, what gave them such a fright? Your binoculars reveal two lionesses gazing back at the giraffes from near the watering hole.  Apparently they had given up the chase.

Next morning, few animals are around.  In the distance you see a lion pride finishing off their antelope meal.

This has been the nature of our supplementary learning in the Science course.  Classroom time (which never takes place in an actual classroom)  has been supplemented by numerous hours of field observation and experience. Whether poling down the Okavango River Delta or pulling acacia seedlings to stop bush encroachment, these experiences are irreplaceable aspects of the students' understanding of the ecosystems and the science behind their management. 


At last night's study hall, Anne, Peri, Mara, Natalie, and Anna sat on a shared log, ignoring the sticky heat that had us sweating in our malaria clothes well after dark, and concentrated instead on Algebra 2 and Precalculus homework. Throughout the semester, I have been repeatedly impressed with my students' work ethic and dedication to learning despite the many distractions inherent in our non-standard classroom, which may be a patch of grass set just back from the beach at Jeffery's Bay, a circle of camp chairs with a backdrop of the Drakensburg mountains, or a campsite laundry room. In preparation for their recent test, Megan and Anna practiced completing the square while rumbling down the dirt roads of Namibia in Big Blue. When we were delayed with our truck stuck in the sand, Anne and Natalie sought me out for extra trigonometry studying. With only a few classes to go in both Algebra 2 and Precalculus, girls are working harder than ever to finish the semester strongly and prepare for their final exam.

After completing our study of exponential and logarithm functions, Precalculus students have shifted to study trignonometry. Peri's colorful sketches of trigonometric graphs border on art work, as does Anne's unit circle reference sheet. Natalie has memorized the trig values of common angles with practice while waiting in line for lunch, riding on the truck, and other random moments throughout the day. Mara transferred earlier understanding of asymptotes to understand the graphs of secant and cosecant, and Hannah discovered the importance of restrictions on sine and cosine in order to guarantee inverse functions.
Algebra 2
Algebra 2 students have recently completed the most difficult chapter of the semester, which focused on graphing quadratic functions and solving quadratic equations and are now transferring their knowledge of quadratics to study the behavior of polynomials of higher degree. Katherine continues to ask insightful questions that push us to achieve a deeper understanding of the processes we use. Molly made an essential connection between factors and zeros of polynomials, setting us up perfectly to understand the factor theorem.  

Math Concepts

WTO, IMF, GDP, GNP, UN and more are the acronyms floating around in the girls minds the last weeks of the semester. Economics, supply and demand, macro and micro economics have been the overall focus on how these components relate to each other and in the world today. Globalization? Yes, the basic understanding of how the world operates, who operates it and how things get done in today's world. Though all of these organizations and concepts take a life time to understand it is important for girls to at least have a basic knowledge of what facilitates the world. Pros and cons of the WTO is our last subject to cover. Girls will learn both sides facing the WTO and will then be given a current topic and iin teams have to pick a side and debate the issue. This method helps give an understanding that sometimes right and wrong can be a little more tricky and a gray area does exist. It has been a fun semester in Math concepts and I hope the girls leave with an overall idea on what life might be like out from under their parents roof. I know for a fact each girl will be able to balance a budget which may be the most important.

Travel Journalism

After three and half months of traveling and numerous events and memorable moments, the students have a difficult time narrowing down and filtering their experiences into one developed topic. In travel journalism narrowing down the subject matter is the most difficult task especially when the matter spans a 16 week time period. What moment was so profound that an author chooses to write about it? Sometimes it is difficult to say it might be the whole experience, but then how do you write about it in 750 words? For this last article we are using images to conjure up moments. Once you pick your topic and narrow it down the new challenge is then how do you write so the audience stays engaged? In the last half of the semester we have had in class writing workshops paired with photos. Some classes the girls used their own photos while in other classes we worked with National Geographic photos. These classes focused on descriptive writing styles and creating a powerful image and feeling for the audience. One specific class we used poetry and imagery to work on descriptive writing and cut out the use of “filler” words. Another class used point of view writing the goal to understand how to communicate a view point through a photograph and develop empathy, and an ability to understand others by putting yourself in their position. This class is fun to teach from the view of the subject in the photograph, photographer or the audience perspective. As the semester comes to a close I see more and more enthusiasm for photography and writing I hope this continues as they travel!

Global Studies
As we traveled through Namibia, girls learned the history of various groups including the Nama, Herero, and San Bushman. During our stay at AfriCats, several parents joined our group for a walk through the bush with our guide Peter, who taught us about the social customs, hunting methods, and traditions of the San bushman people. A visit to a traditional San bushman village gave the girls a first-and experience with the advantages and disadvantages of ethnotourism, which they had previously read about and discussed with a local artist in Swakapmond. In preparation for our visit to Etosha National Park, students read articles about current issues in conservation in Namibia. Our guides at AfriCats educated us further about issues such as deforestation and overgrazing. We spent one morning cutting thorny acacia bushes to counteract bush encroachment that threatens the habitat of the cheetah, and planted seeds to help with AfriCats' reforestation project. Concurrent with our entry into Botswana, girls studied the history of this country, including its relationship to Namibia and South Africa, where we have already traveled. Although we will not visit Zimbabwe, girls have been reading up on the history of this country as well in order to learn more about the home country of our driver and cook. As we approach the end of the semester, the girls have taken the lead in global studies discussions in order to plan how TTS22 will give back through their zenith project.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Magic of Namibia -- TJ Articles from the coast & the desert

Wet Hugs and Oyster Eating, Anyone?
By Ariela, Junior/Senior, Connecticut 

Diggy lost all feeling in his fin after being caught in fishing plastic. He was rescued, rehabilitated, and shortly after returned back to the wild. Now, he spends his days lounging and using both his fins-- to hug any willing and eager people, like all sixteen Traveling School girls.

Imagine something like this?!
This warm interaction with a loving Cape Fur seal took place on Saturday on the coast of Namibia. For three and a half hours, the girls enjoyed a boat ride for dolphin, seal, and bird watching. Martinette Fourie led the boat tour, and shared the story of Diggy's rescue while dangling fish over Katherine's head, as Diggy lept up and embraced her with two arms. Martinette works for Ocean Adventures, and is an active member of the Namibian Strandings Network, which conducted Diggy's rescue and others in the area. Martinette has been working as a tour guide for three years, stating, “I love my job. I love meeting new people and being out on the ocean.”

Although Diggy's story is sad, it's an uncommon occurrence, as a result of Namibia's extensive conservation acts. Martinette spoke of her pride and happiness toward Namibia's acts, as the girls watched seals bob their heads and flip in the water beside the boat. Hannah, who aspires to be a marine biologist, was greatly impressed, but says, “I was not expecting to hear that. When I saw all the ships in the bay, I thought it'd make the water extremely polluted. I'm glad to hear this is not the case though.”

Hannah was talking of the various foreign ships that come in for a few weeks at a time to fish. The bay also has a big oyster breeding business, that has become a source of revenue for Namibia, (Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). Biologists have implemented a system to breed the oysters in a few months versus the normal three to four years, therefore speeding up the process tremendously and bringing in more money.

For those feeling adventurous, a side plate of these oysters was put out, alongside a complimentary lunch. “The texture is weird to get past at first, but I really like them,” said Mara, pushing another oyster into her mouth. She then threw the shell into the ocean, “Back to where it came from,” as Martinette says.

Although no dolphins were seen, “That's nature for you,” according to Martinette-- and just the way it should be.

Hannah, Senior, Michegan 

The whispers of many different languages meshed together as the tourists unloaded off of their trucks. They were sleepy-eyed and peacefully taking in the serenity of Dune 45... until TTS arrived. Despite the fact that it was 5am, we shrieked in anticipation as we stumbled out of Big Blue and bolted toward the mountainous sand dune.

We scrambled up the side of the seemingly endless dune in a race against the sun to reach the peak. Our calves started to burn as we fought the sand with each step upward but we kept climbing, leaving the mass of tourists standing literally in our dust. At the top we sat side by side watching the sun creep up over the waves of towering dunes in the distance. The pink glow of the sky fell across our faces as we sank deeper and deeper. We were standing on top of the world, yet we were being consumed by it at the same time, being dragged beneath by the tugging desires of the endless mounds of sand.

It wasn't long before our eagerness to charge back down the dune overcame us. When we began to run toward the base, our bodies were moving impossibly fast for our legs to keep up. Most of us ended up flipping through the air, tumbling down the steep face of the dune, laughing uncontrollably as we fell. When our spinning bodies finally reached the bottom sand was stuffed in our pockets and falling from our hair.

After the excitement of the day we arrived at our campsite we could only think of sleep, but tonight we would not be in tents. We grabbed our sleeping bags and scampered up the rock formation nearest to us. At the top we laid out on a flat section and whispered amongst ourselves about the natural phenomenons we had seen. Despite our unwillingness to let the day end, the stars lulled us to sleep as they danced in the open sky above us. We were slowly engulfed in our attempts to create a dream as incredible as our current reality.