Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spain Exchange- Adios

This weekend ended up being the worst part of my experience in Spain. By this I mean that we had to leave our hosts and say our goodbyes which is always hard to do. However, before we said our goodbyes we were able to spend the whole Saturday with our host families. For my last day with my family, they took me out to eat at an amazing restaurant in Griñón. I was surely surprised to eat out with them since all of my previous meals were at their house. After the excellent brunch, we made our way home, and I took my daily midday nap to prepare for the "discoteca" that was on our agenda for the day. Once I woke up, we all hopped in the car for what was supposed to be an approximately 45 minute trip that would end up being a one hour trip due to navigation issues. When we finally arrived we had a blast. I am sure that everyone who also went could agree. After the discoteca which left everyone tired, we each went our separate ways to prepare for the day ahead of us which includes hours of traveling.

Aron Sobers

The weather in Spain is pretty unstable. It would be hot one day where you couldn't even where a sweatshirt but the next day it snowed. In Spain every meal we had was huge except for breakfast. Breakfast time we only had some bread and cheese. The weekend was fun and on our last full day we went to party.  The next morning was a very sad morning. We had to say our goodbyes and get on the bus but it was a time to reflect on the fun we had together in Spain.

Jared White
The girls

The boys and their hosts at the discoteca

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Kenya - Day 9

By: Katerina Silis

Sadly, our visit to Kenya and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy comes to an end today. We woke up at 5:30 like we do every morning, nibbled on our digestive biscuits with coffee/tea, and set off on our last morning game drive as we watched the sun rise.

We spotted buffalo and elands along the dirt road in the midst of other wildlife. Though we had seen cats including lions, jackals, and leopards on our trip, we had not seen cheetahs up to this point. However, on this drive we spotted two cheetahs, one obscured by the grass with penetrating red eyes. Then, we ventured to a peaceful pond where we attempted to observe hippos. When they did not appear, we instead watched spoon billed birds and moved on to take a group photo in front of the scenic view of Mount Kenya to be published in the Lewa yearly report.

Afterwards, we returned to camp to indulge in a scrumptious breakfast prepared by the head of hospitality, Frida. Then, with full stomachs, we took time during our final day to visit an archeological site home to axeheads comparable to arrowheads in North America used in Pre-historic times.

The sharpened stones were fashioned in this "factory" by blacksmiths, making them the first people to use tools. Stanley, our guide who had worked with Lewa for twenty years and Nissa taught us about the different minerals in the area. He explained that obsidian had been used as a currency, and talked about the mineral makeup of different stones. Quartz was found in many of the stones on the site while basalt was primarily used to make the axe heads.

Also, we found the skull of a common zebra in the high grass with the artifacts. We learned that many of the axe heads had been damaged by visitors but were still left out in the open at the mercy of the elements to stay in their most natural form. Basalt axe heads were primarily used to skin animals.

On the drive back, we talked about radio communication with code names for different animals to minimize competition between vehicles and create surprise with different animal sightings. We also talked about "temporin", which is an oily substance secreted by elephants when they are stressed. Then, we tailed an elephant family with two young babies as we prepared to leave Lewa.

Once we arrived at camp, we packed, ate lunch, and left for the airport. We soon boarded the small jumper plane we privately chartered to take us to Nairobi. You had to hunch over to not hit your head on the way in and there were just enough seats for each of us to sit on the plane. We then took off on a bumpy flight with jolts and turbulence that kept us on our toes.

We arrived in Nairobi and passed gated communities while driving to the market where we would master the art of bargaining while buying souvenirs.
From there we took a short trip to an elephant orphanage where we had pledged to support and adopt abandoned elephants to be released in the wild.
Many of these elephants are not accepted by their wild counterparts upon reintegration into nature.

The elephant babies were angelic and sweet. The diet of the baby elephants consisted of special formula milk (not cow's milk) with a secret formula. After our visit, we returned to the mall for our last dinner in Kenya of Italian food and smoothies.

It has been such a pleasure visiting Kenya in what I hope will be one of many trips. The incredible hospitality and kindness offered by our hosts during our stay made us feel at home while in Kenya.

The Lewa wildlife conservancy has taken steps to ensure the protection and care of wildlife coupled with community partnerships that make it a model of effective conservation. I hope that upon our return, the SSSAS community will continue to offer its support of conservation efforts including those in Lewa.

On behalf of the group, I would like to thank Kate Spencer for her infinite knowledge, quips, and spunk, without whom this trip would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Nissa and Moses, our wonderful guides and drivers who made this trip unforgettable. Finally, I must thank Mr. Cotter and Ms. Leins for putting up with our hijinks for eight days.

Kwaheri Kenya! 

Katerina Silis

Kenya - Day 8

By: Carroll Phillips

We started our last full day in Lewa with a morning game drive seeing storks, leopard paw prints, hyenas, and more.

Next Mike Watson, Lewa's CEO, came to our camp and talked to us about the message Lewa wants to convey, what message visitors take home, and how important it is to have good relationships with surrounding communities and the Kenyan government. For example, Lewa provides numerous jobs for people in the nearby communities who in return pass on tips they hear about poachers, helping to protect and conserve Lewa. On the other hand, the Kenyan government adds a bigger support system so together it and Lewa can more easily protect the land and continue conservation. As Mike Watson repeatedly stated "it's all about people and relationships" and that's how Lewa can work so successfully.

We then left and visited a woman named Purity who talked to our group about the Manyangalo project. The Manyangalo project through Lewa provides communities water to grow crops and introduces them to new technologies in agriculture such as the drip water system. Their main focus is providing people with water, but they also help ensure locals have a feeling of ownership over the water so that they will feel responsible for it and maintain it. The Manyangalo project has helped with not only providing water, but also teaching people how to be more independent so they are not as reliant on Lewa.

We then continued onto discussing micro lending which provides loans between $100-$5,000 to a woman or group of women to start their own businesses. They also provide advice and help with planning so the business is successful. Micro lending has helped in empowering women and a cultural shift away from traditional husband-wife roles so now more women are able to make money and support their family. Men know about and support their wife's business which was unexpected for us to hear since the change for women to make as much or even more money than their husband is a hard shift for most men. If the woman can't pay back loan in 3 years 3 months then the time to pay the money back is extended and they pay later. Groups of women taking loans split up the loan and check on each other, holding one another accountable for paying their portion of the loan. Therefore micro lending program doesn't have to check on specific people and has a good built in safety mechanism. It was clear from when we met with the women and went to a shop, farm, and butcher that they were all empowered and want their daughters to do even better.

We then went shopping for souvenirs and relaxed sipping coffee and tea during a rainstorm at Wilderness, one of Lewa's lodges. We spent a lot of time sitting and chatting with Karmushu, the head of Wilderness and discussed his job, where he comes from, and the importance about what Lewa does for the community. This was followed by watching the sunset at the top of pombe rocks with drinks and snacks and then a leopard sighting on the way back to camp. We concluded our last full day with an authentic Kenyan dinner and sitting around the campfire together.

Eastern Europe, Last Day: Krakow & Auschwitz

"Thumbs up" at The Jewish Museum bookstore
This morning's activity was a workshop at The Jewish Museum. It had been raining all day, and we were excited to finally get inside. Indoors, there was a bookshop and small cafe. We took some time to browse the different books among the shelfs. There were many quite terrifying novels/texts describing the Holocaust, however there were also works that looked to find hope in the future. After taking the time to look around, we moved to a room to begin the workshop. We were given biographies of different people or families during the Holocaust. Some of them were Nazi supporters like the insane doctor, Josef Mengele, or the victimized Polish family who lost their lives protecting Jewish friends in their town. We were encouraged to think about each situation from as many points of view as we could. While some of the people were obviously guilty or innocent, it was interesting to look at cases that were more ambiguous. For example, the Polish man that betrayed a family of Jews. While it is awful that he did this, it what important to remember the pressure that he was under during that time and how he was trying to keep himself alive. This workshop was very interesting because we were able to take a closer look at the lives of humans during the war and try to understand what they were facing. ~Baker Casagrande

Prosecution & defense of Holocaust Poles & Germans, part 1

Prosecution & defense of Holocaust Poles and Germans, part 2

Devouring Polish pancakes at the tram stop

Auschwitz I

Our Auschwitz guide

Zyklon B canisters

Suitcases left behind

Execution wall

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

A film by Davis Whitley: Our Group at Auschwitz I and II 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Spain Exchange- last day at school

Today was the last day we got to go to the school. I'm already dreading the moment when I have to leave my new friends and family. Looking back on what I did today, I'm really glad I lived in the moment, rather than being worried about leaving. I enjoyed the last moments I had with my new friends. My favorite part of today was in the morning when we went to an art class and made picture frames for our hosts. I put so much effort into my frame cause I wanted to show how much I appreciate what my family has done for me. I really enjoyed going to younger classes and answering the questions the children asked me. I loved how Sam, Julia, Jordan, Trinity and I sang songs to the little kids. Our cover of The Itsy Bitsy Spider was amazing. I thought all of us could become professionals. Just kidding!  Seeing all of the kids smiling faces put one on mine too. Overall I had an amazing day. I will never forget it!

Mede Alexandre

China - Day 7

Here are some more pictures from the China group from Ms. Vascott.

More food

On Mount Emei trail coming down from the Buddhist monastery.

Today (Friday) on boat to see largest stone Buddha in the world.

Kenya - Day 7

(This post is by Julia Wood.)

Our morning started off at 5:30 to dress for our morning game drive and to fill up on caffeine. Although, getting up at 5:30 is rather easy to the noise of our wildlife filled surroundings. Our game drive was filled with elephants, zebras, buffalo, rhinos, and more. We also witnessed a territorial fight between two male impala. After our game drive and breakfast we headed to Lewa's education center and met with Ephantus, who taught us about the importance of environmental protection and its impact on wildlife. After visiting Lewa's bead shop, we also met with Matthew, Lewa's veterinarian, who taught us his technique for restoring wounded wildlife. We were all stunned to learn that the medicine injected into wounded animals bodies is often four hundred times stronger than morphine. Our last visit of the day was with Phoebe, a nurse, who showed us around Lewa's clinic. The highlight of our day was meeting Kitui, a baby rhino whose mother, Mawingo is blind. We were able to pet and take close up pictures with Kitui. It was especially special to meet him as our group helped fundraise prior to the trip, to help provide Kitui a long term caretaker as his blind mother is not able to always provide for him. Our day ended with another amazing game drive. I am excited to see what our last two days have in store in Kenya, as our experience so far has been remarkable. 

⁃ Julia Wood