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.

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