TTS22 Group photo

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.