Friday, March 30, 2018

Classical Italy Day 10: Last Adventures

The day started with the most relaxing morning thus far. After a supposedly easy morning time of 9:00 am - that proved not to be so easy with the approaching enemies of daylight savings time and automatically locking rooms - we walked down to Piazza Navona to enjoy some free time around Rome as it was the first truly nice day of the trip. Once we regrouped (and after we went over our purchases which included books, movie posters, and expensive jackets) we were rushed back into the fast pace of the trip as we quickly walked to our next sight: the Domus Aurea.

Constructed in 64AD by the 5th Roman emperor, Nero, after he burned down most of Rome, the Domus Aurea (or Golden House) was meant to be a spectacular palace. However, it was buried by the emperor Titus when he constructed his baths and it was forgotten for centuries. This is the state we got to see the site in. Currently under restoration, the site is incredibly exclusive and being underground was incredibly cold (though we mostly enjoyed this due to the day's heat). Exploring the underground rooms and frescoes was absolutely amazing as we got to see both what the Domus Aurea looks like and what a site looks like while being restored. Sadly, though, we were only able to spend about an hour and a half there before we were whisked away to our next site on the Metro.

Inside the octagonal room of the Domus Aurea
After a successful metro ride we found ourselves on the Pincian Hill, a beautiful park that we were able to enjoy as we waited for our 5pm museum reservations for the Borghese Gallery.

Once we got into the Borghese gallery we had approximately two hours to wander and enjoy the amazing artwork including the Bernini sculpture of Apollo and Daphne that is absolutely breathtaking. We then met downstairs at the museum's cafe, where we hopped on a bus to our bittersweet last dinner on the trip.

Bernini's Daphne and Apollo statue
Dinner was fabulous. We were able to eat in the ruins of Pompey's Theater and enjoyed each others company for one more amazing and delicious night. After appetizers, pasta, meat, and some lively discussion, we said goodbye to the restaurant. Overall, the day was the perfect way to end our trip. The mix of free time and the beautiful and fascinating sights topped with the same amazing Italian food we've come to love was an amazing way to say goodbye to a country we are sure never to forget.

Dinner at Da Pancrazio in the basement, which was once part of Pompey's Theater
See you soon America!

-Abbie Henshaw

Classical Italy Day 11: Reflections

At the airport about to leave Rome

As all good things must come to an end, today marks the end of the Italy trip. From hiking Mount Vesuvius to climbing an infinite amount of steps, the general mood today is marked with pure exhaustion.

We started the day with an 8:30 hotel departure. The trip down the street was particularly rocky, as we hurtled our suitcases down cobblestone streets trying not to be a danger to ourselves and the people around us. But luckily after what was technically our second to last walk as a pack of American tourists, we were granted the sweet relief of one last bus ride together.

Once we reached the airport, it was time to reclaim our passports from our chaperones and, unfortunately, say goodbye to Meaghan. It was a grand farewell, filled with pictures, social media exchanging, and last exclamations of newly acquired slang words. Yet we got through it and once we parted ways, we headed through security and plopped into our seats for the free hour before our flight.

That time was filled with a variety of activities from the busy minds of sssas-ers. From AC making a list of viral videos to show Ms. Peckham to Alicia powering through the last 60 pages of Daphne, to me frantically buying last minute gifts for loved ones, you could say we used our time wisely. At 11:35 it was time to board the plane and leave our beloved Italia. After a 2 hour flight, we reached Germany and stayed for a hefty 3 hour layover.

Since bus rides, flights and layovers are a great for reflection, I decided to step into the minds of everyone on the trip by asking them three very important questions.

"What is one memory that you will never, ever forget from this trip?" 

Abbie- All the dinners. I won’t remember them individually, but as a whole the food was always amazing and it was just a great way to close off the day.

AC- Looking at the bones at Herculaneum. It was cool to see the position in which they died because they were all stuck there.

Afua- Evening walks for sure. The beautiful piazzas always make opting for the walk a great idea. When it comes to walking, 5 minutes during the day feels like an eternity, but somehow walking for almost 30 minutes total seemed like a piece of cake (especially when there was gelato involved). The pasta was delightful too.

Jonah-The amazing picture of the Vatican that I took.

Ms. Peckham- I was really impressed by the young women on this trip and how thoughtful they were about the role of women and sexual assault in classical mythology and history. They really made me think and change my perspective on the subject.

"Favorite Meal?"

Abbie- When we went to the cheese house. But the best bruschetta was from the pizza place in Naples.

Ac- The last night was very good, a classic spaghetti with some bacon in there

Afua- Gnocchi from day 2 held my heart. The Cheesecake from the third to last restaurant was heavenly.

Jonah-The lamb from last night.

Ms. Peckham- The meal we had in the mozzarella farm place and Praestrum, freshest mozzarella I’ve ever had. Fried artichoke— that was awesome

"Last but not least, favorite Italian Phrase? Mine was “Andiamo Ragazzi!”"
Abby - I said earlier that the three Italian phrases that I needed to know were “Chocolata Calda” “Bruschetta” and thank you— and scusi.

AC- “Italia!”

Jonah- I didn't really use any Italian on the trip and overall they understood me perfectly fine, but I did say Buonjourno a few times and Grazie.

Ms. Peckham- one of my favorites “in bocca al Lopo” which is what you say when you’re wishing someone good luck, and the response is “crepi.” It literally means “in the mouth of the wolf” and may the wolf drop dead. 

-- Afua Nyantakyi

Final gelato in Rome at Della Palma, which has 150 flavors


Last view of of the city and Vatican from Ponte Sisto

Monday, March 26, 2018

Normandy Exchange 2018: Au Renoir et a bientot

Early Saturday morning, we gathered in the parking lot near le Lycee Jeanne d’Arc to say goodbye to our hosts and board the bus for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Charles de Gaulle airport. I am happy to report that the trip home was wonderfully uneventful, although a few of us did consider making a break for it and heading back to Bayeux while we still had the chance!

I want to share with you a few more reflections that was unable to post earlier:
I have had so much fun in Bayeux so far. My family is so nice. They always ask how I’m doing and after it snowed they made sure I had proper shoes, a scarf, a hat. They’re so sweet. We also play games together just about every night. French board/ card games are so cool. I am so grateful that I got a family like them!
Seeing the American Cemetery was absolutely breathtaking. It was so nice to see the flags being taken down with Taps in the background. I loved all of the interesting information that I got from our tour guide and the museum. It was really moving to hear some of the stories of the people who are buried there.
(Jadyn Chandler)

I have noticed that people come from different places from Europe. Specifically Britain. I have met two people so far who have UK heritage and have a British accent. What I have also noticed is that they keep up with our news more than we keep up with theirs. They seem to know about the mass shootings and gun control, which we ourselves are struggling to get control of. They don’t have the same issue of mass shootings because they are not allowed to buy guns in France. 
(Jordan Walker)

Here are some highlights from my past few days in Normandy for the blog 
-a group of students got together and had pizza, after dinner the American correspondants taught their french counterparts various “classic” American dances such as the cha cha slide and the Cupid shuffle, it was a great bonding experience and a unique side of American culture for the exchange partners to see 
-Seeing the abbey of Mont St-Michel was amazing, the architecture and sheer ingenuity of building atop a rock were very impressive, getting to experience such a culturally iconic place with our correspondants was very enjoyable.
(Lilly Cady)

Being in a French English class and a French Spanish class was an eye-opening experience.  Seeing them learn another language—our language— in the same way we learn theirs was a great reminder of how alike we really are.
(Christian Corpening)

This trip has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have bonded with my host family and enjoy our dinner time conversations very much.  They ask me questions about America, and I have learned a lot about French culture.  C’est vachement cool.

As for me, I come out of this experience with feelings of friendship and respect for our partner school in Bayeux, and renewed love and admiration for our own students, who represented our community and our country beautifully. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment I spent in their company, and I am extremely proud to be associated with this wonderful group of Saints!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Classical Italy Day 9: The Fun Never Stops in the Vatican

Today was the sole non-travel day when we left Italy behind, traveling on foot to the smallest nation in the world: Vatican City! The day was long and grueling, but well worth the effort, as the sights we saw were utterly breathtaking.

The day began with an eight am wake-up call, the latest we’ve woken up yet, (Hochberg was truly generous, letting us sleep in!) We immediately got walking, heading toward St. Peter’s Basilica.

Throughout the day, Meaghan was the MVP; without her managing our tickets, reworking our plans, and ensuring everyone stayed together, we would’ve been lost, both literally and figuratively. Her patience and coolness made the day enjoyable for everyone. Once we got to St. Peter’s, she let us shop and roam the grounds while the chaperones waited in line for over an hour. We went to bookshops, bought rosaries, and drank some much-needed morning Fanta. Unfortunately, as we are right before Holy Week, and also in spring-break season, it was incredibly crowded. People were bustling everywhere, pushing and shoving, but as Meaghan said, “The fun never stops in the Vatican!”

Once inside the Basilica, we were given the option to either climb the hundreds of stairs to the top of the Dome, or stay on the ground and tour the chapel. Surprisingly, a majority of the group decided to take the climb. Thus, Ms. Peckham, the Hoch, and ten students, myself included, worked their way through the warped walls to one of the most beautiful views in the city. From a Birdseye view, we could overlook the entire Vatican, as well as several of the Roman attractions from previous days. Many pictures were taken, as the outlook was spectacular.

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from the top of the dome

Tired but happy at an amazing McDonald's near the Spanish Steps 

The famous Laocoon Group in the Vatican Museum

After a moment, we descended, stopping halfway down to catch our breaths. A pesky yellow jacket landed on a group member’s coat, but was swiftly dealt with by Ms. Peckham, without much event. Then, we met up with the other group on the ground and explored the chapel, taking pictures of the beautiful marble and artwork. By this point, everyone was exhausted and quite hungry.

Noticing this, our chaperones leapt into action, scheming up
for a two-part lunch/rest power plan. First, we stopped at a café near the entrance to the Vatican Museum. Here, some people ate lunch, either pizza or paninis, while some simply got gelato, or nothing at all. Next, we rushed over to the Museum, as not to miss our reservation, and upon entering, we immediately rushed to the cafeteria. There, the rest of our group got lunch, and we took a forty-five minute break to get off of our weary feet, take a nap, or otherwise care for ourselves. Afterwards, we went up to the Museum.

Pushing our way through crowds once more, we admired all the famous Vatican artworks in awe: we saw the Laocoon statue, the School of Athens, and the Tub of Nero, to name a few highlights. Additionally, there was a brief dispute regarding the function of a sarcophagus that looked suspiciously similar to a bath. Finally, we came to the final stop at the Vatican Museum: the legendary Sistine Chapel.
Before entering, Meaghan gave very specific instructions on where to meet after viewing the Chapel, when and who to look for, listen to and stay with. Later, we learned that this was due to an incident which happened on a previous Italy trip, when some students got separated from the group. The seriousness of the instructions was somewhat intimidating, and everyone was careful to follow them precisely.

The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, of course, and we took time to observe all of Michelangelo’s work. The constant auditory reminders to be quiet, which were loud enough to have come from God Himself, allowed for a lovely silence, such that we could all enjoy a spiritual moment. After a good half-hour, we met up and exited the Museum, crossing over the Bridge of Angels. This Bridge has an interesting mythology regarding a plague in the Vatican, and had a great view of St. Peter’s with the setting sun. On the other side of the bridge, we walked to a piazza near our dinner restaurant. We were given about an hour to shop in the nearby stores. Purchases include books, sodas, and Pokémon cards.

Dinner consisted of fried vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and homemade pasta. It was delicious, and a nice way to finish out the day. We all returned to the hotel and collapsed, praying that our tired legs would swiftly recover.

In summary, today was a lot of walking between amazing viewpoints and art. We’re getting down to the last few days of the trip, but our itinerary is certainly not slowing down! Who knows what will happen next?

Certainly not me,

Jessica L. Lopez

Classical Italy Day 8: Roman Everything (Colosseum, Palatine, Roman Forum, and Capitoline)

Our day began with a quick wake up and a regular breakfast: coffee, tea, various breads and bakery treats, what we’ve been accustomed to in the mornings. After we were all up and ready we gathered in the main lobby to hear our briefing for the day. 

Our first item on our menu for the day was the Colosseum, where we had an appointment to make because of the fact that we had a relatively large group. We walked quickly to our first destination on our way to our main stop: the tram stop. Though it was my first time on one I quickly realized that it was basically a slower metro, so I wasn’t worried about it too much, aside from the fact that it was a little difficult to get on because it was so crowded inside the doorway.
The Roman Forum as viewed from the Palatine Hill

The Colosseum

After a quick ride and another quick walk we arrived at the Colosseum, which was also very crowded. We luckily had our passes ready and proceeded inside where we heard Mr. Hochberg read descriptions from ancient authors about daily entertainment in the amphitheater. We then split up and walked around for a while. After about an hour or so we all met up again. After this we walked out of the Colosseum towards a nearby grocery store. Our plan was to find food there and then take it up to the top of the Palatine hill where we would have a picnic.

We made the short walk to the hill and then passed through security to begin our small hike up the hill. It was a very sunny but cool day so our picnic was great. Afterwards we enjoyed translating with Mr. Hochberg a Latin passage from Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita about the founding of Rome on the Palatine hill. After relaxing for a bit we walked around and talked all about the history of the area. We took many pictures of the different sights as we walked and made our way over to the forum, which we first viewed from a very high up overlook. 

Everyone on the Palatine Hill

A picnic lunch on the Palatine Hill

We took a small trip down the trail to the forum joking about our experiences and about the forum as a whole. After we reached the bottom of the trail we were told we had about a full hour to walk around and take pictures of the area. I went and walked, talked, and took pictures with Jonah and Hudson. It was a lot of fun to hear stories about the areas we walked in, and to take pictures where so many people once walked.

After that we met up right next to a massive arch at the opposite of the forum. Where we talked for a bit and then made our way to our next stop, which was a small museum just a little ways away that held the prison that at one point had held St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as Vercingetorix at another time. 

After our quick visit we walked up the hill a bit more and to the Capitoline Museum where we enjoyed seeing sculptures and many busts of emperors, as well as mythological and religious figures. We competed in a fun scavenger hunt throughout the museum. It included pictures, translations, and videos. At the end we walked to Campo de Fiori and walked around until we were ready for dinner. 

We all had delicious meals and by the end of it we were ready to return to the hotel and rest after our long day

Overall it was a great day, and I’m looking forward to all the rest of them.

-Tim Bell  3/23/2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Thailand - Days 7 and 8

The Thailand trip is struggling with technology and internet connection, but here is a picture to update you while you wait for a blog update!

Cuba day 9

Today is unfortunately our last day in Cuba, but it was full of fun activities. We started with a nice breakfast back at the Paradise Hostel. Next we got into some cars and went to the beach. Although it was kind of cold, everyone got into the water, though some sooner than others. After swimming around for a little, we got out of the water, and some took people pictures as others used the time to get a last minute’s tan. After a short lesson about marine biology, we left and went back to Habana. After changing, we got a very nice pizza lunch and some of the best gelato any of us have ever had. We then proceed to FusterLandia, where we saw some amazing mosaic art and looked at some local art in a decorated neighborhood. We finished our journey by going to a local artisan market where we shopped and bargained around for some last minute souveneirs. We then returned back to Paradise Hostel for the much anticipated last salsa class, then lights out will be at 10:00 as we go to bed for the last time, in Cuba. 


I am infinitely grateful to have gone on this trip to Cuba. Before coming here, my expectations for the trip were not as high as perhaps they should have been. I expected to be slightly regretful about missing two tennis tournaments happening in Virginia. I also thought the trip would fly by as another week gone by, as time does in the states; it would be easy and relaxing. Now that this trip is coming to a close, I realize that my before perspective on this Cuba trip and my current perspective on this Cuba trip are vastly different. This trip has been more challenging than I could have possibly imagined. At times I was overwhelmed with feelings of home sickness because I felt there was no where to turn for comfort in a setting without people I knew well, much less a setting that I knew well. Being completely out of my element forced me to experience Cuba in a way that was infinitely important and memorable to me. The trip, despite the challenges, was a very positive experience. I formed stronger bonds with people I already knew from school and with complete strangers. I will always remember our humorous and compassionate tour guide Dayan, who yelled “cuidado” as we dodged potholes and dog poop in the streets of Havana. I will remember the open doors to houses and the friendly Cubans in Viñales. I will remember stumbling over words trying to speak Spanish with my host family in Viñales and sharing many laughs with them. Mostly I will remember the vibrant spirit of Cuba, who’s people are loud, outgoing, and always friendly. I hope I never cease to be impacted by my time here in Cuba.


Kenya - Day 7

By: Laura Bays

I’ve been watching closely as kids let down their guard. Last night, four of the Saints in one vehicle opted to all squeeze into the back seat so they could stand out of the same sunroof on the game drive. Their laughs and whispers reminded me of the students at Leparua School. When we first arrived, the primary students hid behind whatever they were holding, one even crying (likely out of fear). But within a few hours, that same student extended his arms to our Saints to be picked up and swirled around. By the time we left them yesterday, we were moved to the point of tears as two of the kids handed Cotter and Mackie necklaces to remember them by, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Principal of the school has more passion for his work than anyone I know, pleading to us and our Saints to come back and to stay connected. He gave us personalized certificates to thank us for our work there. He seemed well aware that our busy lives pull us away from even the most meaningful connections, and he did everything in his power to build a bridge between our schools that could not be forgotten. It is my hope that we will not forget, and we will all be back again.

It was a stark contrast to then visit with the CEO and be taken to Lewa Wilderness, the home and resort of the original owners of Lewa. The opulence wowed is, especially in contrast to our minimalist tents on this trip. Perfectly manicured lawns and gardens, warm and dimly lit lighting, an infinity pool, ping pong table, tennis court, rooms and dining patios looking out over an elephant grazing... it was proof that the conservation business is thriving and it can be even more sustainably lucrative than inhabiting this land and endangering these animals. Our Saints bought some mementos from the gift store after they enjoyed tea and cake, each remarking that they’d do anything in their power to own or stay in the 1k+/night rooms. After pictures, ping pong, tennis, and laughs it was clear that their friendships are cemented by this trip.

Watching barriers break down yesterday reminded me that all kids are just kids, and novel experiences can be frightening. But if you pursue them anyway, they can expand your world view, and build meaningful connections that can change your life.

Romania: Que ca se “STRIKE”

Thanks to the folks at Air France, we were given the gift of an extra day of travel and time in Paris! Once we were re-booked, hoteled and food vouchered, we dropped off our bags and boarded a train into the city. By 4 PM, we were taking group photos and selfies in from of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. A leasurly stroll along the Seine River led us to dinner at La Notre Dame, narrow streets eating crepes, and the chance to experience the history and architecture of this magical city. Our train ride back to the hotel brought an early ‘lights out,’ carrying us swiftly to sweet dreams of Pro Vita and la Ville Lumiere. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cuba Day 8

Today was the final day on the farm and while today was a moment of relief of our duties of “farmers” after our days struggles and hard work, to me it was a moment of sadness. This was the case because while we were just getting to accustomed to the work that we were doing because of our commitment and dedication to completing the job and not slacking at all; working on what needed to be done was that boost of confidence that we needed in order to complete our job. We were ripped from this experience within a few days which felt like a little amount of time to me. Meanwhile, it was a happy day also because it was Señora Gasper’s birthday as well as the farewell party celebrating the both with a heartwarming feast, including, salami and cheese, an endless amounts of pig meat (plus fat) and tons of cake and cookies. The activities were mainly focused around picking the rotten cabbages from the garden and composting. I worked endlessly pulling cabbages from their roots, picking up and putting them in the wheelbarrows, and hauling the cabbage to the compost station and continued this loop of work for about 3 hours.
After the long haul of farmwork, we were planning to play soccer alongside other Cubans and unfortunately it got canceled after several scheduling errors and ended the day, having a little bit of free time, saying our farewells to our families, and departing for Havana. 


Last night, we all ate together at a restaurant called “El Patio” and enjoyed some delicious Cuban pork and chicken before going out later with our guides to immerse ourselves in the Cuban celebration of Carnival. It was fun hearing the loud music and seeing the people of Viñales partying together and dancing. Though not many people went out at 9:00 to explore the festival itself rather than looking from afar, I went with a few of the chaperones and enjoyed seeing all the flashing lights and feeling the bass of the music hitting my chest as we walked through the crowded streets. After walking around for a bit, we went back and joined our group talking with our guide, Dayan on the roof of one of the hostels. We went to bed later than usual at 10:30 at night, and I woke up late the day after. 
 I quickly enjoyed some pineapple and scrambled eggs before our group went over to work at the farm. I was assigned to tie onions together and hang them to dry in a tobacco house. After working and taking a snack break, all the groups converged together to work on finishing the compost pile with the remaining time we had. After working, we celebrated our accomplishments in Viñales with a hearty going-away dinner with a chorizo/salami style appetizer, pâté, rice and black beans, and eating a large pig (which was mostly fat). For dessert, we had 3 different types of cakes, with one being for Profe. Gasper’s birthday and two to celebrate in general. We said our goodbyes and rode back to our hostels in our taxis to finish packing and to get ready for the pickup soccer game we would have with the Cuban kids our age. But, sadly, the game didn’t happen due to scheduling errors, so we had time to ourselves before packing our stuff on the bus and driving to Havana.


Classical Italy Day 7: Baths of Caracalla, the Catacombs of San Callisto, and biking the Via Appia

Our first day in Roma was filled with activity. We started our day by taking taxis to the Circus Maximus. From there we took a short walk over to the Baths of Caracalla. The baths were truly spectacular. Walking around, we felt like ants because the walls were so high. We explored and saw the awesome mosaics that are left on the floor of the entire place. The most amazing part of the baths is the mystery of how such a grand place had a huge roof at one time. While no one knows the material the roof was made of, it is still a cool experience to just use your imagination. 

Look at the size of Caracalla's baths!

Caracalla's baths

We next visited the San Callisto Catacombs. We got to go inside and experience tombs from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries on the 2nd level of the catacombs. Although most of the bones have been removed from the 2nd floor, we did get to see two skeletons. 

Then we took a lovely walk down to a quick lunch before we split up. One group walked around the Via Appia and enjoyed the scenery, while the other group biked a few miles down the Via Appia. Even though the ride was very bumpy at times, it was still extremely cool to bike down a place were Romans would walk to get in and out of Rome. There were awesome views of the aqueducts from the trail. Another highlight from the ride was getting caught in the middle of a herd of goats. 

Sheep blocking the road

Biking the Via Appia

A bumpy ride

We walked back up the Via Appia to the bus and drove back into the walls of Roma. We visited the Ara Pacis, or Altar of Peace. We then walked around the city and made our way to the Spanish Steps. After having a few minutes to wonder around on our own, we travelled over to the Trevi Fountain. We all threw a few coins into the fountain which made us feel like we were Lizzy from The Lizzy McGuire Movie (please watch the movie if you have never seen it before). We headed towards the Pantheon where we walked around and explored the piazza before an amazing dinner. 

We are near the end of our ride. Notice the aqueduct in the distance.

AC Veith and Charlotte Fontham