Notes from Abroad

Reflections and photos shared by Deerfield students traveling abroad

2018-19: Arizona, Spain, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Panama, Dominican Republic, Spain (Summer), France, South Korea, Croatia & Bosnia & Serbia, China and Korea (Faculty notes)
2017-18JordanTanzaniaThe BahamasPanama, Dominican Republic, Oaxaca, China, South Dakota, United Kingdom
2016-17: Jordan, Panama, South Korea, Tanzania, Italy, The Bahamas, Spain, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Scotland
2015-16: Singapore, Jordan, Tanzania, JamaicaThe Bahamas, France, Spain, China, Dominican Republic, European History
2014-15: Italy, France, Spain, Dominican RepublicOxfordTanzaniaAsia Concert Tour

Parents: Please note that internet and computer access may not always be available to students while they are traveling. If you do not see an update or a photo from your child, it may be because they have not yet had a chance to send something to us.

France #19: Final Reflections (Part 2)

Jarod Harrington ’20:

As our time in France is winding down, Mr. Taft assigned us to groups in order to reflect on our experiences during our time here. We were tasked with finding a café or any place that would allow us to sit down and have meaningful discourse about our trip so far. I was part of the only group of three so Sydney, Maddie, and I wandered through the streets of Tours in the baking heat looking for a place to settle. After finally finding a café that was actually open, we walked in, ordered some refreshments, and started talking. Guided by the questions Mr. Taft provided us in an email, we talked about everything from the lighthearted messing around we would partake in on a daily basis, to more serious topics such as how we’ve improved or changed as people while on this trip.

We started off by sharing our most pleasing experience as well as our most unpleasant. This was my favorite part of the entire conversation because some of the stories were pretty funny looking back on. All three of us agreed that our time in Paris was the most enjoyable, but next in line for the three of us was spending time with our families. We all agreed that the down time we had interacting with our families and getting to know one another were some of the most enjoyable moments. Yes, there were times when things got a little awkward, but it’s from those moments that some of the most rewarding experiences come. This also ties into our most unpleasant moment.

For the three of us we all talked about times, most of which were with friends of our host siblings, when we really struggled to either follow a conversation or hop into it. These were the most uncomfortable moments because being three very social people, we found it hard to accept the fact that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to contribute as much as we wanted to. It’s these experiences though that make me more appreciative of learning a new language. Stepping out into the real world and having these daily encounters is something that can’t be taught in any classroom. Learning a language is all about making a connection. Who cares if you don’t conjugate every verb correctly or don’t word your sentences in the most grammatically perfect way possible. It’s these types of interpersonal interactions, the ones where it’s impossible to escape to English, that make trips like these so rewarding and fruitful.

Jarod Harrington ’20

Caroline Mahony ’21:

As our trip comes to a close, I have time to reflect on my experiences here in France. Our travels have brought us from the D day beaches on Normandy, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the homes of our wonderful host families here in Tours. This trip has been a sharp turn around from daily life at DA. Coming from 6 hours a day of classes, 2 hours of co-curriculars, and required sit down meals, everyone knows that Deerfield asks a lot of all of its students. So, it only makes sense that even though school is over, our teachers expect us to keep up the pace here on our trip to France.

On our first day, after a red eye flight, we were immediately dropped off in the town of Giverny to explore and find some good food for lunch. Two hours later, we were again leaving to go to Monet’s gardens. We were just the slightest bit jet lagged. To round out that day, we took the bus to our hotel by the coast, and had a delicious French meal. Tired as I was, I’m not sure I fully realized that I was ordering veal’s head off the menu. Nonetheless, it was delicious, a great start to my gastronomic adventure through France. I think that I, as well as my group, have come a long way since that day.
Here we are in Tours, each day I wake up and walk over to “English sur Loire”, where Laurent teaches me and my peers new vocabulary and phrases until 12. Then, we have 2 hours free to eat wherever we want before heading over to the Chateau de Tours to meet up and go off on our adventure of the day, be it a chateau, a musee, a bike journey or a boat ride.

This is my first visit to France, and I have learned so much from these excursions. Each place we visit tells us something new about France’s (and Europe’s) past, which we can connect to the present culture today, which we experience personally with our host families. I remember being on the TGV train from Paris to Tours to meet my host family, and I had no idea what to expect. Once I met them though, I knew my family was truly “sympa”. I met my host parents, sister (14), and little brother (7). On that first day my family took me to a “guingette” a French party on the banks of the Loire river. There was dancing, music, good food, and good times to be had. After this, we all slept in late, but woke up in time for a family brunch. That weekend my family had some of their family over, so I also met cousins, aunts, and grandmothers. As I was setting the table, their grandmother came over to me and asked why I was placing the forks upside down. Puzzled, I asked her what she meant. She explained to me that in France, people set forks down with the points facing downward, as to be less ‘aggressive’. This was the beginning of much culture I learned from my family. From my host father, I learned how to cook some quintessentially French dishes, like Ratatouille and apple tarte. From my sister, I learned about French music, from her brother, his love of Legos. My French mother showed me how to throw a party for friends.

In addition to all this, I’ve become acquainted with the cute city of Tours. I have had the opportunity to walk to and from my house each morning, so now I can navigate myself through any part of the city. This is the first time I have ever really walked around alone in a city, and I think I have developed my sense of direction as well as my independence. This trip has helped my French enormously, and also greatly increased my confidence in speaking the language. And aside from that, I have learned so much about French culture, and the everyday life of a “Francais”. I will carry this knowledge with me through the summer and bring it with me back to Deerfield, ready to share what I’ve learned with my peers.

Caroline Mahony ’21

Angélique Alexos ’20:

When I entered high school, I knew that I wanted to be part of a school trip as I love travel and being able to explore different locations and historic sites. Coming to Deerfield and having so many trip opportunities, I was certain that I had to be part of at least one travel experience. The month-long trip to France was, and still is, especially important to me as French is the language I am learning in school and France itself has so many historic sites (and châteaux) to visit and learn more about European culture.

As our group started preparing and the date of departure drew nearer, however, I became slightly apprehensive about being able to speak the language and navigate French daily life. Specifically, I was nervous about meeting my host family, being able to speak and understand French in multiple contexts, and even figuring out what I needed to do to ride the bus from my home to school. I also wasn’t very sure of what to expect about French family life in general. When I travel, it is usually with my family, and we are able to tailor the trip so that each day includes a level of comfort and enjoyment in an area we know little about. In other words, we were tourists seeking to enjoy and understand a new culture for ourselves and from our own perspectives. To be successful on this trip, our group would need to be more than tourists in order to work well with our families and assimilate in French culture, especially in Tours where we had much more independence in our daily lives.

Using that mentality to reflect on my experience on this trip, I can say that I’ve been able to have many new experiences living in France. As a group, we’ve visited many museums, seen different parts of the French landscape through multiple modes of transportation, and, of course, visited some châteaux. We were able to apply historical events we’d learned about in school to the places where those people actually lived centuries ago.

Some of the most memorable experiences were those that I had with my home stay family. I learned how to figure out my bus route and got to walk to school and back home every day, I learned how to make traditional French dishes, and I met sister, Juliette’s, friends and cousins. Yet, within learning all of these aspects of life that were different from my own at Deerfield and with my own family, I realized that we both share a similar fundamental understanding of daily life. We both love baking and watching movies and singing to music in the car. Even in speaking a foreign language, I have learned words and phrases that correlate with those I use when speaking English. For me, that it what makes learning new languages and exploring a culture so special. While it may at first seem as though you are leaving your comfort zone to understand this new language, it turns out that there are many similarities that tie us together.

Madame Nichols (left); Angelique Alexos ’20 (right)

France #18: Final Reflections (Part 1)

As the France trip comes to a close, students reflect on their experiences visiting Paris, Normandy, and living in Tours with a host family, they compare the differences and similarities between Deerfield and Tours, and share what they have learned during their time in France.

Crawford Rice ’21:
As our one month in France comes to an end, I’d like to take some time to reflect on my experiences thus far. To begin with our daily life, the pace and style of Tours has drawn many similarities to that of Deerfield. Our class day is shorter, yet certainly more focused and concise. In the classroom, it has been enjoyable to learn in a more relaxed atmosphere, focusing primarily on our oral and grammatical skills through various games and exercises. The afternoon excursions are a good change of pace, as we visited several ancient chateaux and museums.

Perhaps the most significant change in my daily life has been our freedom to explore Tours after our visits and during lunch. I’ve greatly enjoyed my time exploring the town, and learning more about French culture. Before my arrival at Tours, our group was fortunate enough to spend several days in Normandy and Paris, and visiting the Louvre was a fantastic experience. Although the Mona Lisa was a little disappointing, it was amazing to view with my own eyes many pieces of art I had read about in textbooks. I also found it interesting to explore the city in smaller groups, visiting the Champs-Elysees and other historic landmarks to get the most out of my time there. In Tours, I was amazed by the intricacy and complicated architectural designs of several chateaus, yet the Chateau Chenonceau proved to be my favorite. Located entirely atop a small river, a grand, gravel pathway slowly revealed the overwhelming castle. A helpful audio tour made it simple to imagine what the bustling life of those 1100’s royals may have been like.

Like any month-long trip, there were some low moments. At times, the scorching hot weather made visiting ancient sites feel difficult and repetitive, but I’m very aware that as I age, I will come to appreciate and admire these experiences. As a result of the freedom I was awarded during my time in Tours, I’ve felt more confident in my ability to remain independent during the day. I am sure that my French speaking skills have undoubtedly improved. The nervousness and uncertainty of asking for directions and ordering food has increased my confidence in my own ability.

Lastly, I was fortunate enough to have a supportive home stay family willing to help me learn. There were, of course, awkward silences at the dinner table, and many times when I found myself repeatedly asking ‘pardon’ to my home stay family after not comprehending their question. Stella, my family’s cat, was not exactly fond of me, and has trapped me inside my room for up to an hour at times. I do believe she is starting to like me now, however. I enjoyed playing basketball and Nintendo tennis with Elliot, my ten year-old brother, and board games like Monopoly and Clue with the entire family after dinner. Each of them played an amazing role in making me feel welcome in their home, and I could not thank them enough for that effort. In the car ride home from the train station, my home stay mother told me they would exclusively speak French to me, and my family has held their promise thus far. In summary, my journey around France has had many ups and downs, yet my experience will be a part of my memory for a long time. I am glad that I was willing to apply for the trip, and look forward to continuing learning the language next year.

Crawford Rice ’21 (left); Robert Sawyers ’21 (right)

Helen Lipsky ’20:
Over the past four weeks, I’ve been able to observe and participate in the French culture, allowing me to gain perspective on a lifestyle a bit different than mine back at home and Deerfield.

In general, the most prominent, observable difference between daily life in France and daily life in the United States, more specifically Deerfield, is the pace at which each day moves. The French have a tendency, and most often a gift, to take a slower approach to the day. They culture values and appreciate time with people, friends, and family. You can see this aspect of the culture just through the length of the meals, which tend to be on the longer side with many courses and ample time to socialize. In the United States, and especially at Deerfield, the daily life is structured on a more work-oriented routine, and social interaction is welcomed somewhere in between. Consequently, daily life at Deerfield, and just in general, feels more rushed.

Adjusting to this new lifestyle allowed me to strengthen my abilities to adapt to discomfort. Being in a foreign country for the first time definitely left me with many moments of uncertainty: not knowing how to read that sign on the street, not knowing how to ask for the salt and pepper at a restaurant, not knowing what was considered polite or impolite by the general public. Exposing myself to this constant, omnipresent apprehension gave me an opportunity to strengthen the “muscle” that dictates how easy it will be for someone to learn to see the good in something that might initially make them feel uncomfortable. But, I wasn’t always able to act with this newfound strength. There were times when I was with my home stay family that I found it easier to mind to myself, and I was on the quieter side during almost all of our family meals. This wasn’t because my family failed to make me feel welcome. On the contrary, my host family did their absolute best to perpetuate an environment where I wouldn’t feel judged and where I’d feel comfortable to practice my French. But, during the meals, if I didn’t have a perfect French sentence or question prepared in my head, I would be extremely hesitant to speak. The moment for me to slip my grammatically-incorrect comment into the conversation would pass and for the remainder of the meal, I would just try my best to understand the conversation my family was having on their own. This fear of what other people thought, present not only at my host family’s dinner table, limited my potential improvement over the elapsed four weeks. Nonetheless, this trip was the first time in my life I was really able to strengthen my ability to manage and accept discomfort in an environment that I had truly never experienced when I got off the plane on June 1st.

Julia Ferrante ’20:
Over the past month, I’ve really enjoyed comparing life in France to my daily life at DA. First off, I was shocked to find that dinner is served around 9-9:30 pm in France. I have grown to like this adjustment because I am not hungry for a second meal around 9 or 10 pm. At Deerfield we eat about 4 hours earlier. Additionally, in France, they have a separate course just for cheese! I came to France not liking cheese, but am happy to say that my family introduced me to Camembert, which I now love! I was lucky to have a great host family that made special French dishes for me. I will definitely miss my host family’s cooking!

For me, the best moments have been spending time with my family, just listening and participating in the French culture. It’s been rewarding to learn that my French skills improved just by spending 3 weeks with a French family. I have also really enjoyed the French public transportation system. I feel it is very organized and an opportunity for independence. Lastly, I have enjoyed teaching my family English. For example, we played Scrabble. This was an amazing opportunity to share French and English vocabulary. It is rewarding to feel that we have culture and langue to give to our families as well. I am sad the trip is coming to an end, but look forward to continuing learning French language and culture at Deerfield.

Helen Lipsky ’20 (left); Julia Ferrante ’20 (right)

Lukas Trelease ’20:
For a long time the idea of traveling to another country and living with another family was one of the more frightening things I could think about. In 2015, however, I went to France with my school (at that time Bement) and did a home stay for two weeks outside of Paris. It was an unfortunate experience in which my host brother played video games and the mom preferred to practice her English on me rather than tell me what a coffee machine was in French. I was, in a way, scarred; I didn’t want to do a home stay again. But as time went on, and I heard about the great experiences friends and other students were having through Deerfield programs or SYA, I felt my interest peak once more. I decided to apply for the French trip and hoped that I would a) get in and b) be given a good family, a family that was nice and talked and was interested in the same things I was. And I got what I wanted. My family, a mother and her two daughters, were people who loved movies, books, and theater. So we were similar. But I decided, as I unpacked my things in their house after just coming back from the train station, alone in an unfamiliar room, that I would try, that I would talk.

Talking, in unfamiliar settings with people I don’t know, is difficult for me. If anyone has ever been in a class with me they’d tell you that, in the beginning, I am not the most participatory student they’ve ever met. I guess I don’t want to mess up, say something incoherent or wrong, fail, embarrass myself, etc. But as I brought down my typical Deerfield exchange student gift, maple syrup, I decided to give it a go. If I messed up now I had to live with these people who’d think I was weird for only three weeks (sarcasm)! And, I discovered much more than what their dossiers had said. My family appreciated talking and wanted to talk about politics and global warming and feminism and les gilets jaunes. They liked history and philosophy and music and “A Star is Born”. They could understand why I didn’t like “Bohemian Rhapsody” (the movie) and I could understand why they did (sort of). They loved the Oscars and Saoirse Ronan and Van Gogh and Klimt. All in all we were very similar. We appreciated the same things. And although there was a language barrier and a culture barrier I was able to break the ice faster than I’d ever been able to before.

Communication is pretty magical and it comes in all different forms: spoken language, written language, Morse code, Braille, eye contact, body language, etc. It’s even in the name of the CSGC. This trip was designed around improving our communication both through the French language and to people we’d never met before. On both counts I feel I’ve succeeded. I guess this is cliché and this whole blog may come off as bragging, but the lesson I learned about communication is that it doesn’t take much. Just put yourself out there. Open the door. Fly in the face of discomfort and make it laugh. Talk, not about the weather, but about the world, the real things, etc., etc. For me that worked. Who knows if it will hold for the next time. Because after this experience I definitely want to do this again.

Lukas Trealease ’20 (left); Caroline Mahoney ’21 (right)

Maddie Poole ’21:
Before coming on this trip I had no idea what to expect, which I guess is a good thing because it meant I took everything as it came and with an open mind. Being in France of course has its differences, it’s a different country with a different culture, and a whole different language. However, because I have visited France quite frequently with my parents and brother to visit our family that lives here, I wanted this trip to be different. I wanted this trip to immerse me in French culture in a way I’d never experienced.

Compared to life at Deerfield and life at home there are the simple differences, like the fact that it’s quite rare that the French won’t eat cheese after lunch and dinner. Or that you will never see French girls and women wearing leggings outside the house unless they’ve just come from exercising. Not to mention that the French can somehow wear jeans in 90 degree weather. By being a part of a French family I was able to understand and get a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up in France. Ten year old me who would read books and wonder what it was like to live a different life than the one I had would be geeking out. To put it shortly, living in France on my own for three weeks was a little bit surreal. I got to experience the crisp wind in my hair as my host sister and I rode our bikes back at 11 pm from hanging out with some of her friends. With street lamps lighting our way we zipped past dark store fronts and quiet houses. I couldn’t help but think how this is something I would never experience at home.

First of all I live in the middle of the forest, so the scenery would look quite different, and it would also probably take about an hour to bike to my house from a friends instead of twenty minutes. Experiencing sleeping in Saint-Avertin was calming; however, this calm was occasionally interrupted by other teenagers returning home on bike as well, or someone walking their dog. When this would happen all I could think about was how there could possibly be so many other people returning home by bike at 11:20 pm. My host sister and I returned home with everyone asleep, the parents simply trusting that she would make sure we got home by the time they had agreed.

By living in Tours I was introduced to another mode of independence, also known as the public bus system, something I don’t use very often by living in rural Massachusetts, where really the only mode of transportation is by car. My tendency to lie in bed for an extra ten minutes after my alarm would go off had to be broken after I missed my bus one morning when it happened to arrive three minutes earlier than usual. After a devastating, “Noooooooo” as I witnessed from across the street, not standing at the bus stop, the bus go zooming pass, instead I had to figure out my way to school. Taking a deep breath I thought through the bus routes I had become familiar with after two weeks, called Madame to see if she could let my Professor know I’d be a little late, and made my way to school. Being on this trip has helped to solidify the independence I already had, and my ability to navigate through less than ideal situations, not to mention navigate them while speaking French.

There have been many great moments on this trip. There have been moments of bonding with the group, moments of learning, and moments where I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone. But with my host family what’s been the most memorable is when both cultures have collided and combined. My host mom goes swimming twice a week, and since I do two seasons of swimming-involved sports I was excited to join her one Thursday. What I was expecting was a semi relaxed swim workout that I’d easily be able to understand in French, hopefully aided by demonstrations. What I participated in, however, was a full on swim workout similar to the workouts I have at Deerfield, along with trying to understand the swimming vocabulary that had not been taught to me in my French class. As the practice went on, I became more familiar with the group of people in my lane, and understanding what it was the coach wanted us to do. By the end I was smiling at my host mom, feeling good after a workout since I hadn’t participated in sports for around a month, and feeling closer to her as well. I was able to share passions of mine with them and experience them from the perspective of the French. Whether it was cheering altogether while watching the U.S women’s soccer team win their game against Sweden, or zip-lining and navigating ropes courses at a nearby place in Tours, these moments helped me to increasingly grow closer with my host family and expand my knowledge of the French language.

As this trip comes to a close it’s kind of hard to believe I will no longer be speaking French almost 24/7. I’ve gotten used to eating dinner with my whole host family, and spending time with and chatting each evening with my younger host sisters energetic self. There has started to be a familiarity with my routine here, and the day-to-day activities. But what I’m most grateful for, is how my ability to speak the language more fluidly, comprehend conversations, and formulate my thoughts quicker has constantly been pushed and been improving while being here. This trip is something I will forever remember and be grateful for, and will carry with me as I continue my journey with the French language, and my growth as a human.

Maddie Poole ’21 (left); Lukas Trelease ’20 (right)

 

Nick Fluty ’20:
1. When I wake up every morning at DA, I practically jump out of bed with excitement because I know that in about 40 minutes , I’m going to be chowing down on some eggs. In France, this is not the case. Aside from omelettes at lunchtime (???), French people don’t really eat eggs, or even breakfast for that matter.

2. The greatest moment of the France trip, and probably my life, was seeing the Eiffel Tower in person. I am a huge Eiffel Tower fan, and I was jumping with excitement when I saw the massive wrought iron structure with my own eyes. It was amazing.

3. A moment of personal growth during this trip was being able to actually hold a thoughtful conversation with someone in French. I was a little nervous about staying with a family and only speaking French, but I felt a sense of accomplishment after realizing I can communicate with them.

4. The biggest surprise was the non-existent breakfast waiting for me on the table every morning. I love France, but the fact that a piece of bread qualifies as the most important meal of the day here is beyond me. Another surprise for me was how much fun I’ve had on this trip. I’ve seen and done things that have been so awesome and memorable, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nick Fluty ’20

Robert Sawyers ’21:
From my experience here in France, daily life in Tours has some similarities but also some differences when compared to life at Deerfield. For similarities, the one major similarity between life in Tours and life at Deerfield is the daily schedule. For our schedule in Tours, we always have class from nine am to twelve pm, after class we have a set amount of time to eat lunch, and following lunch we have a special journey visiting a castle, garden, museum… the list goes on and on. Over the course of three weeks, this schedule became fairly perfunctory to me as there was almost no variation to the day except for the special journeys following lunch. This is the same for Deerfield. Deerfield’s schedule lacks variety and excitement and is more of a routine continuing throughout the entire school year. We wake up early to eat breakfast, go to our classes, and finish our day with co-curriculars. However, the main difference between life in Tours and life at Deerfield is the freedom we were given to roam and explore the city of Tours. As I said before, we were given a set amount of time for lunch, and within that time period, we were able to choose any restaurant in Tours to eat lunch.

In addition, after our group excursions to famous sites in Tours, we were given the rest of the day to do whatever pleased us, whether it be shopping, going for a walk in Tours, or buying pastries as a small snack. Another difference is the group excursions in place of co-curriculars. At Deerfield, a main part of a student’s day is their co-curricular after class. Here, we have group excursions after class to sites in Tours. These excursions have included castles, museums, gardens, “fromageries”, a cooking class, cemeteries, and more.

One of the best moments on this trip was visiting Omaha Beach and the American and German cemeteries for World War II. Visiting Omaha Beach was a fantastic experience. Being able to walk in the bunkers and on the beach itself helped me envision the chaotic battle which occurred on June 6, 1944. Following with visiting the cemeteries really brought the entire experience together. The magnitude of the cemeteries honored the soldiers well, and the time we were given to reflect at the cemeteries allowed us to pay our respects to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives on D-Day. One of the less pleasing moments on the trip was visiting the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This was the final art museum which we visited, but with the combination of heat and fatigue from the previous three weeks, it was not one of the most fulfilling experiences.

A moment of personal growth on the trip was my first time riding the bus home from school. Not knowing the correct route back to my house, I had to figure out which bus to take and when to transfer to another bus. Being in France, the challenge of returning home was escalated by having to understand my instructions of returning home in my second language. Reading the bus map, I figured out how to return home safely, and now I am able to navigate my way through the city almost perfectly.

Robert Sawyers ’21

Sydney Gregg ’20:
This past month in France, I acquired more than just better language skills. I learned how to deal with discomfort and how to adapt quickly to new surroundings. Sure, as a DA student, I’m used to being away from home and living with other people. However, this trip I had to learn how to fit in to the daily life of a family, instead of being able to do my own thing in my single dorm room, like at school. Nevertheless, I found the experience rewarding. It’s one thing to visit a country, but being completely immersed in the every-day life of a French family has been something unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Throughout my time as a French student, I’ve struggled with talking in class out of fear of imperfection. However, this trip I was finally able to let go of the stress of feeling my French constantly had to be flawless and just work on getting my ideas across, even if it took several explanations and grand hand gestures. I realized pretty early on that my host family would rather I speak broken French than say nothing at all, and I grew to view making mistakes as humorous and inconsequential, rather than deeply embarrassing. This breakthrough is the biggest reason I saw major changes in my speaking over our month in France.

Of course, there were times this past month when living with a host family was difficult. There were several situations where I felt I couldn’t effectively communicate my thoughts and felt compelled to retreat into iPhone to cope with the awkward silences, rather than persevere through the struggle of keeping up a conversation. The issue of the accessibility of iPhones has something I’ve noticed most when interacting with my host family or their friends. On one hand, social media is something that brings teens together. It’s a great way to find common ground that transcends language barriers, and it brought me closer to my host sisters early on. However, becoming absorbed in our smart phones is also a way many teens deal with awkward situations, and this defense mechanism sometimes threatens to prohibit the growth we experience when we persevere through discomfort and really try to learn more about someone else’s culture. The best moments of the trip were times when I spent quality time with my host family away from our phones, when I found I still was able to talk and laugh and joke with them. Sometimes, of course, we laughed about the language barrier, but, usually, we bonded and joked despite the language barrier.

Sydney Gregg ’20

France #17: Tours, France

Nick Fluty ’20 recounts an afternoon of free time exploration through the city of Tours. 

To everyone who’s never been to Tours, France, let me tell you, you’re missing out. Tours, France is one of the greatest cities I have ever visited. It’s urban while staying true to its historical side, it’s home to a diverse group of people, and there are plenty of museums to visit. The only differences between Tours, France and New York City are the fact that basically everybody here speaks French (shocker!), and instead of the Empire State Building, you look up and see a giant cathedral towering over the city.

Today, we were given the afternoon off, which meant I was able to go deep inside Tours, France and explore the wonderful little one-way streets and their secrets. Today was also, coincidentally, the start of a city-wide sale, which meant basically everything inside any store was 10, 20, 30, or even 50% off! It was time to pull out my euros and spend them. I walked around Tours, France with my friends and went into every store that said “SALE.” My friend Elliot Flagg loves to try on every single article of clothing from each store, so after about 4 and a half hours, we were finally done shopping. The majority of my euros had seemingly vanished, but it was totally worth it. All that shopping made me hungry, and my friends and I decided to take a little trip to our favorite restaurant, Le Bistro d’Odile. Le Bistro d’Odile serves some pretty delicious French food, and before you know it, I was chowing down on some nice canard (duck). Another great day in Tours, France.

Nick Fluty ’20

France #16: A Boat Ride On The Loire

Caroline Mahony ’21 describes a day on the Loire.

This Friday began with our usual rendez-vous , in the parking lot of the Chateau de Tours. We hopped in our teachers’ cars and drove a little way down the road, only to pull into another parking lot, but this time a bit more upstream on the Loire. Some of my friends had brought along their host siblings for the boat ride, and we all waited patiently to depart in the boats. However, we soon realized that one of them was occupied. Near this boat, several men and women milled about with heavy duty sound equipment and serious cameras. We were soon informed that there was only one boat available to take us on the river, so we split into two groups.

My group was the first to go out on the water. The boat was wide and flat, which enabled it to glide through the shallow and clear Loire water. The sun beat down on us, and I made sure to put on my trusty bucket hat and some sunscreen (don’t worry mom). This first voyage took us to an island, where we hopped off the boat. We would wait there for it to return with the rest of our friends. By tacit agreement, we all decided to take a walk to explore our new surroundings. Swatting away annoying ‘mouches’ we made our way to the other side of the island. Naturally, everyone began skipping rocks, seeing how many skips we could get. Soon this devolved into a rock throwing competition, with a few people attempting to throw a rock as far as he or she could.

Soon enough, the other group arrived, and we began the second part of our journey by boat. Our guide pointed out features of the landscape, like a tower that used to function like a lighthouse, letting sailors know where they were on the river. He also showed us a beaver den up close. After this, the boat brought both groups back to shore. We sat at some wooden tables with tree logs for chairs. Madame Nichols, Mr. Taft, and Odile fired up the grill and made sausages and chicken for us to eat. This was accompanied by salad, potato salad, tomato salad, and of course, baguettes.

After our picnic, our group sauntered over to a guinguette, also on the bank of the Loire. Now what is a guinguette? It’s a place of good music, good food, and good times, next to the shore of the Loire. However, it was only 3:00 pm, so there weren’t many people there at the time. This allowed our group to have free rein in the place. Upon arriving, I went straight for the swings, swinging just like I was in elementary school again. Some of my friends started a game of volleyball, while others played ping pong. My first night in Tours, my host family took me to this guinguette, and it was a much different place at night. Music played loudly, couples danced on the dance floor, and food was served to all.

After our picnic, we were driven back to Tours to return to our host families and get a little rest before the Fete de la Musique, a tradition in France since 1982. Musicians of all calibers are invited to perform in the streets for all to enjoy. The Fete is always celebrated on June 21st, the summer solstice, and longest day of the year.

 

France #15: Merci à Tous!

Elliot Flagg ’20 expresses gratitude for an impactful, “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to France.

Life in Tours, France consists of all the authentic cultural and linguistic experiences that one can experience in France without the hustle and bustle that one attributes to a big city like Paris. Our days are full of learning, activity, and well deserved rest that comes with being on summer vacation. Arriving, I experienced many surprises such as the ease with which I assimilated into my French family, due to their unwavering kindness, and the fact that my French family was relatively normal as I hadn’t received any photos prior to making their acquaintance.

However, I’ve learned that with being a visitor in a country there come some frustrations. One of those for me was not being able to fully experience the Fête de la Musique, an annual city-wide music festival in France, with friends because it can be a dangerous time for someone who is not well acquainted with their surroundings like us poor Deerfield students were not. But perseverant, each student was able to experience as much of the festival as possible with the helpful guidance of our host families.

Though there are many similarities between life here and Deerfield, there are many noticeable differences as well, such as the short in-classroom-hours and the longer hands-on-learning-outside-hours. Between museums, biking adventures, boat rides cooking class, and even scavenger hunts through entire cities, we have been able to grasp a hold of every facet of learning possible, much of that included in our hourly speaking of the French language. In fact, some of the most impactful, and even enjoyable, moments of growth for me have been where I’ve been able to just sit down and talk with my host brother Raphael, grappling to keep up with his ease to converse, but simultaneously and subconsciously advancing in my own ability to articulate thoughts.

Ultimately, this trip has allowed me to broaden my horizons and forcefully expand my zone of comfort in a way that will likely impact me for the rest of my life. I have been able to actively engage in a French community; and along with learning about the French language, I have been able to view life as a French student from the inside. This is not an experience I would trade for the world, and it is all thanks to my amazing host family the Chardonnes, our trip leaders Ms. Nichols and Mr. Taft, and the CSGC for organizing the logistics behind this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Thank you all.

 

Spain #15: “Just Like Riding A Bike”

Emma Weech ’21 considers the many factors that have helped her improve her Spanish throughout her time in Cádiz.

Whenever I had to remember a previously learned skill from depths of my memory, my parents would call upon the popular expression “just like riding a bike”. The phrase represents the ease in which one could recall a skill and without worrying about forgetting it. My parents used this convenient saying as encouragement for as long as I can remember – much earlier than when I learned at 10 years old.

Until last week, I had not ridden a bike since that fateful winter of 2013, and I quickly discovered that I couldn’t remember this skill as easily as I could the phrase my parents had repeated so often. When it came time to ride the bicycle, I was ready to throw away the remnants of my near-empty self-confidence. I strapped on a helmet and, after a quick mental pep talk, began to peddle. As one would expect from reading this, I did survive the experience. I’m sure that I appeared – to the average pedestrian – as though I had no idea what I was doing. This observation would be very accurate. As I uneasily swerved through the cobbled stone streets, I could feel my confidence grow little-by-little. Yes, it was terrifying riding near main roads with my questionable technique, but I’d like to think that I improved as the ride went along. Although I never reached the level of a Tour de France cyclist, I am proud to say that I did not once face plant in front of any of the quaint gelato shops of Cádiz.

Much like this activity, many of my experiences in Spain were “like riding a bike”. I’ve been learning Spanish in school for years, and I have the basic tools to communicate with others and engage in thoughtful conversations. Despite this, upon landing in a foreign country whose primary language isn’t English, I was unable to prevent the nerves that come along with social interaction. After spending time at a camp and using Spanglish (a mixture of mostly English with some Spanish here and there), I had to accept that this wouldn’t be sufficient to get the most out of my home stay and classes. At Deerfield, I had become so comfortable in knowing those around me that I had forgotten how the difficulty of socializing with strangers, much less in a different language. I had to relearn those skills and utilize what I’d learned in the classroom in order to form meaningful relationships.

My few weeks with my host parents Mari Carmen and Juan (Mamá and Papá) consisted of, at first, standard questions such as “How was your day?”, but soon progressed to deeper ones about family and values. Similarly to riding the bike through the streets of the old city, I had to find balance in admitting my mistakes and conceding that I needed help formulating sentences. My housemate Ellie and I formed an interdependent relationship of feeding each other vocabulary or hints about grammar when we sensed the other was stuck. I will never forget how my Mamá and Papá titled their heads when I couldn’t quite express my thoughts, or how they gently taught me a more thoughtful way of stating my views.

Mamá and Papá were always patient and encouraging when I struggled to speak with coherence, and it was this patience and kindness that gave me the courage to speak more and improve. This support, along with the daily lessons and educational excursions, allowed me to develop as a speaker and grow more assured in my own abilities. In my opinion, it takes a certain confidence to admit fault and ask for help rather than to shun assistance and seek perfection on your own. As I prepare to leave a city that I have called home for the majority of June, I am incredibly thankful for the teachers, friends, and guides who have made this trip so memorable.

Although I am fully aware that I still have a long way to go before becoming fluent in Spanish, I plan to continuously practice my skills (and not wait 6 years to deal with the consequences).

Emma Weech ’21

 

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #10: The Yugoslav Wars: Who Is to Blame

Chloé Monty ’20 reflects on what she has learned about the Yugoslav Wars and questions who bears responsibility for such atrocities. 

With our time in the Balkans ending, we headed to the Dalmatian coast—to the island of Korčula and the city of Dubrovnik—to catch a glimpse of the sea and some more Croatian sunshine. We spent some time swimming on a pebble beach, enjoying handmade macaroni in a little village, climbing the fortifications around old Dubrovnik, savoring ice cream, and capping off the trip with an amazing three course meal on a quiet terrace above the ancient town’s bustling streets.

The down time in our last couple days gave me the opportunity to reflect on my time in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. I have seen beautiful landscapes, sometimes riddled with shrapnel but stunning nonetheless, and felt humbled by the memorials and monuments we have visited. I have met incredible people—from survivors, to NGO workers, to people who have worked tirelessly for the United Nations. I have learned why the Yugoslav wars started, which groups were involved, and what went wrong. However, I am still struggling to understand who is to blame.

On Wednesday morning, we took some time to discuss the different tour guides we have had throughout the trip and their various roles, and we journaled about some prompts given by Mr. Pitcher and Mr. Lyons. I chose to journal about the quote “If everyone is guilty, no one is guilty.”

Tensions between all groups have been high throughout history due to differences in religion and culture. The people share a common language (written in Latin script by Croatians and Bosniaks, while Serbs use Cyrillic) and have lived, through the centuries, side-by-side in empires and kingdoms and even a communist dictatorship. All of the groups that we have met throughout the trip have called themselves the victims, but most did acknowledge that some people on their side of the conflict—especially high ranking officials—were partly to blame for the war. Many groups also ignored or denied accusations against them. The Serbs blame the Croats for the genocide that occurred in World War II, and claim that what they did to the Croats in the 1990’s was to stop genocide from happening again. The Croats blame the Serbs for what happened in the 1990’s, asserting that they had the right to declare independence—an argument mirrored by the Bosnians. No group wants to fully acknowledge their mistakes and failures, and propaganda continues to fuel defensive mentalities.

Personally, I don’t believe that no one is guilty in the Yugoslav Wars. The blame falls on different groups, in varying degrees. However, I believe that Serbs are the most to blame, regardless of their denials. Serbians attacked Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia because they sought independence from Yugoslavia, exercising a right outlined in the Yugoslav constitution. Furthermore, during Bosnia’s 1992 referendum on independence, a large majority of Bosnian Serbs decided to boycott the vote and refused to recognize the democratic result in favor of Bosnian independence. Also, I don’t believe that the Croatian fascists’ (known as the Ustashe) genocide of over 100,000 Serbs, Roma and Jews in the notorious Jasenovac concentration camp during WWII justifies Bosnian Serbs genocide and “ethnic cleansing” of both Croatians and Bosniaks during the 1990’s. Revenge is not a solution. Revenge and war only increase losses and heighten tensions between parties.

The denial of the Serbs only complicates reconciliation and creates a cyclical blame game. Serbs need to admit to their mistakes, apologize, and educate their children about the atrocities committed in the 1990’s in order to prevent future wars for future generations.

I am eternally grateful that I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the beautiful Balkans with DA and talk to so many incredible people. I will be back!

From left to right: Kendal Duff ’21, Chloe Monty ’20, Sami Dulam ’21, Hannah Roche ’21, Sophia Hamlen ’22

France #14: A Culinary Experience

Stephanie Martinez ’20 shares a day of learning how to cook French desserts.

Our day was centered around food. From the early morning we all gathered together for our morning classes in the city of Tours, but to our surprise we would be doing a lot of the learning outdoors instead of in a classroom. Our teachers had decided that the best way to learn is to actually go out and speak to the people living in the city, so they took us to a food market. We spent the morning searching for fruits, vegetables, any sort of food we didn’t know the French name of, and then asked the workers questions, not only to gain further knowledge about the names of these different foods, but to learn more about French culture and their jobs.

After our morning classes, it was time for our group afternoon activity, which today was a French cooking class. Walking into the building you could feel the excitement radiating from everyone as Nick made another ratatouille joke, and we all hoped to be learning to make one of the great French delicacies. After washing our hands, and putting on an apron, a little disappointed we wouldn’t get to wear the tall chef hats, we learned we would make two desserts: chocolate lava cake, and gluten free macaroons.

We were split into two groups, and everyone did everything: cracking open eggs, stirring batter, and measuring and melting a specific amount of chocolate. After the first ten minutes in these two groups, a small competition started as Elliot was convinced his group had made the better batter for the lava cake. Everyone was working hard and working together. The cooking class did a great job of bringing everyone together, and filled everyone up with delicious desserts.



Click here for more pictures.

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #9: A Beautiful Landscape

Hannah Roche ’21 describes the groups journey from Mostar to Korcula. 

We started with a leisurely morning breakfast in Mostar, surrounded by the rushing stream as we ate, taking in our few moments of relaxation before the busy travel day ahead. We shared one last Bosnian coffee as we sat in a cafe near the Old Bridge in Mostar, where less than thirty years ago, the city that had peacefully coexisted broke out into battle with the bridge at the center, dividing the Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks. A visit to a local former mosque on the Bosniak side of the Neretva rounded out our time in Mostar, and with one last stop to view the bridge, we departed Mostar and got ready for the long day ahead.


After an hour on the road, we stopped in a small village for lunch. Immediately after stepping off the bus, Adam, one of our tour guides, stopped us to point out differences in opposite sides of the town. On one side lives predominantly Bosnian Croats, who display their pride by flying Croatian flags and serving Croatian alcohol brands, and on the other the Bosnian Muslims sit in cafes serving Bosnian coffee. The most striking difference was in the two places of worship. The mosque and the Catholic church sat facing each other, with their clock towers in an open conflict, as if the Catholic people could not read time off an Islamic clock and vice versa. Adam asserted that one tower had mostly likely been built to be just slightly taller than the other.

This division between neighbors that we witnessed all throughout Bosnia only furthered our understanding of why peace today can be so difficult to find in this region. If neighbors are unwilling to be in the presence of one another and if they shield their kids from each other, how can they hope for the next generation to move past prejudice? This question still lingers in our minds and will continue to do so long after we return to the United States.

We drove for a few more hours through the border and back into Croatia, where the terrain was rapidly changing from green to bare mountains, and then to flat, dry plains with wind turbines spinning in the distance. Then, as soon as we had gotten used to the new landscape, the mountains opened up into the ocean, with islands scattered about the sea. The mountains stretched right down to the sea’s edge, making way for a gorgeous view for the few of us still awake from our coffees that morning. We then took another pit stop in Ston, where the longest chain of defensive walls other than the Great Wall of China resides. Continuing on, we drove for another hour, and then took a short boat ride to our final destination for the day, the beautiful island of Korčula. We checked into our hotel and then headed to the beach before finishing out the day with a dinner on the water as the sun set. We are looking forward to spending another day here tomorrow before departing for Dubrovnik. Our days are winding down, and we are savoring each moment that we share together.


South Korea #10: Grateful For This Experience

Julia Placek ’20 and Joshua Oduro ’20 reflect on their time in South Korea with gratitude. 

Julia:

The sweet sound of the iPhone alarm woke us up at 4 AM this morning as we slept on large cushions (surprisingly comfortable) on our Temple Stay’s floor. Hwagyesa Temple, as we had already seen the night before, was beautiful and a source for cultural exploration as we were taught the daily routine of a Buddhist monk, which did indeed include waking up before sunrise.

Walking outside, we made our way to the third floor of the main temple where we were about to participate in a morning chant with the monks and nuns. It was very interesting to see people do something that I had never had any exposure to prior to this trip, it helped me to better understand where some of the Korean culture came from that denounced standing out and self-indulgence (evident in the way most Koreans only have a white, gray, or black car, so they do not stick out). As the monks engaged in their prostrations to the tune of the chanting, we all watched in awe because, together, we were in the presence of something so unfamiliar yet fascinating.

We then hiked the mountain behind the temple to a lookout tower to watch the sunrise and reflect on our trip. From the top, we had a view of all of Seoul, and it made me think of how lucky I am to be spending this time with new friends and relationships in a place so different than the “Deerfield Bubble”. The connections and memories made will last forever through the stories and pictures I have to show for this trip — the lessons I learned from the resilient North Korean refugees to the zesty music producer, Shinsadong Tiger. As the view overcame our minds we all looked silently at the skyline of Seoul. The temple stay was nothing like we had seen, and speaking for myself. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be exposed to a culture so different than my own, because that is what sparks growth. The meditation practices I learned at the temple will definitely stay with me on my journey back to the Deerfield Bubble.



Joshua:

I am extremely grateful to have been able to travel with Deerfield to South Korea. It may seem that I am only saying this to follow a theme of gratitude established at Deerfield this past year, but I want to express true appreciation.

I am thankful for the food we were able to eat. We experienced new foods of all flavors. One of my favorites was Bulgogi, a preparation of beef which we ate twice. The first time we had some, I loved it and the second was even more superb. I am thankful for the people on the trip. Our faculty members, Ms. Wakeman, Dr. Otterson, and Ms. Schloat worked together with Rob, our interpreter, and Starry, an Envoys guide, to bring this trip together in a special way. They made travel efficient and fun and allowed for many fun activities. I am also glad to have been given the privilege of traveling with such an amazing group of peers. I was able to see everyone in a different light, and cultivate genuine friendships with students on the trip. From conversations at meals to leader-designed and student-lead exploration of Seoul, I believe we loved our time in Korea.

Of all our amazing times, three fun activities that will stick with me were the buffet we had at the “Gold Bar” building, going to Running Man, and watching the Twins versus Tigers baseball game. The buffet was in a beautiful building and their food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. The meal lifted our spirits and I remember laughing so hard during conversation that I started tearing up. Going to Running Man was also very fun; it somewhat reminded me of a Chuckee Cheese’s, due to the large amount of children, but I enjoyed myself there. The baseball game was incredible. Everyone got rowdy and invested in the game. Although our team (The LG Twins) lost the game, it was a great time, and I really enjoyed it.

This trip was an experience that I will value for years to come. I have really gained an appreciation for Korea, and I hope to visit again someday.

Spain #14: Gracias, Cádiz!

Michelle Zimmerman ’21 shares a poetic description of Cádiz.

Your toes sink deep into the sand. It is soft and warm here. The wind carries an ancient lullaby from the ocean in its voice. Your friends sit with you and even though the mint in your gum is long gone you don’t even notice. Even your sunglasses cannot dull the golden reflection off the waves.

You walk through the old city. The streets are loud and impossibly intricate. You buy the best cherries you’ve ever had from a fruit stand, and try not to lose your friends in the twists of the narrow boulevards. It only takes two days for you to have them memorized like the lines on your hand.

The gelato vanishes on your tongue. It is quiet but for the cars driving and the faintest murmurs of people walking by. You walk with your friends back home and watch as the sky melts to the same dark color as the dark chocolate ice cream. The stars do not wait for the moon to dance, and when you see them you remember the myths of this small city.

These are the moments that hold on to you, peach flavored Fanta staining your lips and memories, although you remain grateful for the teachers and friends, all those who led you along the way. Everything here has so much history — if you listen, you can hear the walls whispering their stories. Your favorite songs on repeat, which will remind you of this forever. Your tongue starts to get used to the rolling r’s and soft ll’s. It’s not so hard to understand when the people on the bus speak to you. You even dream in Spanish sometimes. It is not what you thought, but you are forever thankful.



Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #8: Stories Of Hope

Angela Osei-Ampadu ’21 shares powerful stories from Yugoslav war survivors. 

Along our journey through the Balkans, our group has been accompanied by amazing tour guides, many of whom were survivors of the war. In Zagreb, we met Luka, who’s humor, thoughtful explanation of the wars, and objective style made him a crowd favorite. In Vukovar we met Tomislav, who’s cool deposition, kind manner, and impactful tour made a lasting impression on us all. In Belgrade we met Alex, who’s passionate manner about the wars gave us all a new perspective into the Serbian side of the narrative. On our way from Belgrade to Srebrenica we picked up Arna, who remains my favorite tour guide of all. She welcomed us with a big smile that never seems to fade and her gentle demeanor had a way of making these complicated war stories easier to understand. She accompanied us all the way to Sarajevo, one of the last stops in our examination of the war.

Arna always wore pink, a bright and hopeful color. Her big smile never faded and her humble hands welcomed us again, for the final time. In our last night in Sarajevo Arna acted not as a tour guide for us, but instead allowed us to ask her any questions about what it was like to be a war survivor. In a downtown hotel across the street from the site of Sarajevo’s annual film festival, while sipping Bosnian coffee, black tea, lemonade, and Coca Colas, we listened carefully to her story of survival.

Arna started by telling us about her first memory of the war in Sarajevo. She and many other citizens of the city joined the April 4th, 1992, Peace March, in an effort to stop the fighting. She saw a girl, around her age, get killed, the first victim in Sarajevo. Serbian snipers targeted civilians and the protest quickly dispersed as people ran for cover. For the first time, Arna learned she was in direct danger and became a prisoner to the safety and confinement of her apartment as Serb forces took Sarajevo under siege. Her demeanor changed as she relived the war and described the horrors she witnessed. I began to feel sorry for her.

Arna said no one ever expected war to happen in Yugoslavia, a country in Europe on the brink of the 21st century. Her mother, who she calls a hero, and a walking history book, has lived in Sarajevo all her life. Her mother has experienced six different regimes in Yugoslavia and endured the conflicts that came along with these changes in power. Her mother never thought her children would be forced into another war. Before the war, Arna says Yugoslavia was peaceful and no one ever thought of the differences between neighbors. Few cared about religion or ethnicity. During and after the war, religion and nationality became very important to everyone’s identity. She and many people around her, found themselves praying more and clinging to religion for hope for their country.

When the floor opened for questions, we began discussing the role of women during the war. Arna said that women were the unseen heroes, who kept their families alive and tried their best to make them happy. Women provided the soldiers with food and water. Unfortunately, these same heroes suffered immensely during the war. Bosnian Serb troops raped thousands of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) women, who have yet to receive justice. During this discussion, an immense sense of hopelessness became tangible in the room. We sat there in silence for a bit, the silence a constant reminder of how little we can do to change the past. Yet, we also pondered how we might affect the future. Arna finally broke the silence and said, “after the war comes the war of remembrance. It is very important to remember the stories of those who suffered during the war, it is how we can help.” I admired the hope she had created in such a situation. This hope began to fill the room.

Arna says artists are some of the best healers after war. They have the ability to create and capture stories of the lives of those affected by the war and to share them with the rest of the world. She told us that when “No Man’s Land” won an Oscar all of Bosnia celebrated. She also admires Angelina Jolie’s effort to spread awareness of the Bosnian War through her movie “The Land of Blood and Honey.” However, Arna knows that art alone cannot heal Bosnia. NGOs such as The Catholic Relief Agency, which Arna worked for, do outreach work and aim to help rebuild Bosnian communities. Arna’s hopes that more young students and activists like us continue to visit the Balkans and learn about the wars. Arna believes our perspectives, and voices, have an impact.

We cannot forget the war stories of former Yugoslavia. How we remember the past will shape the direction of the future. The “war of remembrance” is the only battle we have the ability to influence today as we learn about the multiple memories and meanings of this war. Mark Twain once said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” We heard this quote many times in our journey through the Balkans. It is a reminder of the atrocities that are bound to occur if we do not look to the past as a caution for the future. Arna is hopeful for a new page in Bosnian history. I am hopeful too.

South Korea #9: Learning Valuable Leadership Skills

Nasir Barnes ’21 reflects on a visit with Yong Kim, CEO of Hanwha Asset Management and Head of Friends of Deerfield Korea.

From blocks away, we could already see the towering golden pillar rise up from beside the Han river. It perfectly reflected the skyline on its massive golden face as we slowly drove across the water. After another ten minutes on the bus, we arrived and could take in the tower up close. We entered the building, noticing our golden reflections as we passed through the spinning doors. Immediately we were greeted and led to the elevators, which shot us fifty three stories into the air in no time at all. We were in the headquarters for the Hanwha bank, a company run by a Deerfield alum and head of the Deerfield Friends in Korea named Yong Kim. We were there to learn about the economic history of Korea and how Hanwha began.

When we arrived to the fifty third floor, I was immediately taken aback by the view. You could see all of Seoul and really take in the size of the city from inside each and every office on the floor. We entered a very professional conference room and sat around the table. We were given a detailed presentation on Korea’s economic history by Ms. Hee-Young Kang, a senior member of the equity division (who attended Choate, but we’ll forgive her for that) followed by questions. For me, the most impactful part of the presentation was the questions we were able to ask. We learned a lot about how the company made its money through investments, how the Korean economy and other Asian economies are affected by the U.S. economy, and some ideal traits of a leader with a similar background to us.

Looking back on the conversation and relating it to the trip’s overarching theme of leadership, I took away that hard work and grit will take you farther as a leader than most other skills. Talking to a Choate alum who now holds a high position in a bank for an hour about economics, politics and her personal story really put into perspective the opportunities we have been given as Deerfield students and the opportunities we will have in our futures.

Spain #13: Cultural Distinctions

Harry Niles ’21 describes the cultural differences between American and Spanish television. 

When arriving in Cádiz, there were many differences between the United States and Spain. First of all, you eat dinner at 10 o’clock and a normal sleep time is 11:30. Secondly, siestas are crucial routines during your daily schedule. But maybe the most apparent of them all was Netflix. When talking with other students, I began to observe how the platform is viewed differently across the seas. It’s almost as though you are using a website completely different than in the States. Now it may-be the contrast between copyright rule, but there seems to be a large cultural difference between the two viewing platforms. First, is the sheer number of television shows and movies offered between the two nations. Secondly, is entertainment interest in Spain. Thirdly, the cultural barrier between the two nations creates a large separation in popularity among programs.

Looking at statistics and numbers one can notice how there is a clear disparity between the shows one is able to view. There are approximately “237” Television Series, according to finder.com’s article titled Netflix International: What movies and TV shows can I watch, and where can I watch them?, on Spanish Netflix while a grand total of “1326” in the United States (from the same article). So in America, viewers have a larger number of programs to choose from, while in Spain they’re a select few offered to viewers. This large disparity allows for a smaller viewer interest and membership, causing for a smaller focus in society.

Secondly, is the entertainment divide between the two nations. In Spain, when asking other high school students, the popular show seems to be “La Casa de Papel” otherwise known in America as “Money Heist”. Many Americans may not know about this television series but in Spain it’s all the rave. Both adult and teenagers seem to share the common interest of a single TV series. While in the US, teenagers may be more attracted to comedies, such as: Brooklyn 99 or Victorious (Both featured on Spain’s Netflix), and adults may enjoy watching Modern Family (again a show featured only on Spanish Netflix). So, the programs offered to viewers in Spain are more well suited to those living in the United State’s but due to issues concerning copyright they aren’t displayed on the streaming platform’s US website. So when monitoring entertainment interest we can notice how there are fewer shows of interest curated towards Spanish interest on Spain’s Netflix.

Lastly, is Spain’s cultural difference. In Spain, I have noticed how social experiences typically take place outside. On the streets and in the parks are typically where people will communicate and discuss. Families will host parties, holiday festivities are celebrated, small talk between friends, and the occasional intimate conversation all take place on the streets of Cádiz. While, in the United States, most social interactions take place in living rooms and kitchens. So this contrast would clearly indicate why the streaming platform is less popular as Spain’s culture is to socialize mainly outdoors where there is no need for technology’s influence.

From my trip abroad, I have learned a great deal about the hold television posses over many, including me, in the US. I will come back with a greater interest to socialize outside and reduce the amount of time I may spend viewing television shows indoors. There is so much our world has to offer, so why watch Netflix?

 

France #13: The Wine Making Process

After a tour to a wine cellar in Vouvray, Crawford Rice ’21 has a newfound respect of the wine industry.

Our day began in the classroom, as we discussed our previous day’s expedition, and continued our focus on grammar and vocabulary. At 2:00, we departed for a wine cellar just over ten minutes from the heart of Tours in the town of Vouvray. Upon arrival, we were shown a short video detailing the creation of wine, from beginning to end. I was shocked by the sheer magnitude of the process, and the level of detail put into each bottle.

In the beginning, grapes are grown for several seasons in preparation of an intermittent hand-picked harvest, ensuring that each patch is fully ripe. After harvest, the grapes are squeezed, and the process of fermentation begins. Wine, to my surprise, is confined to the cellar for at least one and a half years, and often can remain for many more than just that. As the wine nears removal, the act of removing built up residue within the bottle begins, which can be completed through a series of manual turns, or more expensive mechanic and automatic movements.

After this, we entered the frigid cellar, amazed by the extent of the cave. Spanning over three kilometers in distance, this particular wine cellar in Vouvray houses over two million bottles of wine at any given time. As we approached one clump of bottles, we attempted to determine the number in just that group. Three thousand, five thousand, even ten thousand was thrown out in guessing. Yet, we couldn’t be further from the truth. The correct number: over 102,000. The columns of bottles stacked on top of each other spanned thirty-four rows back, and seemed to be no outlier among the others.

Of course, we weren’t allowed to taste any wine, but were able to smell various perfumed drinks, as well as try the cellar’s own sparkling grape and black current juice, which most everyone enjoyed. As we departed the cellar, I believe each member of the group had obtained a new understanding and respect of the wine industry.

South Korea #8: A Mindful Experience

Raheme Taylor ’20 and Shane McCarthy ’21 share their first day at the Hwagyesa Temple.

Raheme:

Today marked the first day of our temple stay, and the day itself involved all of us stepping out of our comfort zones and exploring. From weird but traditional chicken soup to meeting really nice nuns and monks, today had it all. When we arrived at the temple, I was a little bit worried. We were told that the food here is completely vegetarian, and I didn’t want to accidentally mess up during our meditations in a way that would be disrespectful to the nuns and monks. I was also worried about location, as I was expecting it to be remote. But these worries were erased as soon as we got adjusted and learned the schedule.

Our quiet walking meditation was actually pretty nice, as it was a great way of being unplugged from our phones and social media for a good portion of our time here. Hiking was absolutely worth it, as at the top and end of the hike there was an amazing view of Seoul and other mountains in the distance. Although there were a couple times I nearly slipped on the way down, I would be willing to go on that hike again in the future.

To keep up with the theme of being unplugged, we did a half hour long form of meditation called prostration, where we were able to examine our morals as human beings. There were exactly 108 bows in total, the same number of beads we used to make necklaces, which will help us perform the meditation whenever we have time to in the future. Overall, today was great, as I believe people should immerse themselves when learning about new cultures by being vulnerable and open minded. You can’t knock it until you try it.

Shane:

When most people think about a temple stay thoughts of long meditation and inner mindfulness crawl into their mind. However, even though we practiced silence and inner reflection during our temple stay, the moment that affected me and the group the most was the hike to the summit of a nearby mountain. Coming into the temple stay, there were definitely feelings of anxiety and doubt clouding everyone’s heads. So, when we were greeted with welcoming smiles from everyone we met, a weight was lifted off our shoulders.

After everyone settled into our rooms, we were introduced to Jennifer, who taught us the basics of temple practices. Then we were introduced to our first nun; this nun showed us around the beautiful temple grounds, highlighting the temples own fermentation pots, where they fermented things such as soy sauce and Kimchi.

Once our tour was completed the nun told us we were going to go on a “walking meditation,” which the whole group, including myself, believed was going to be a short walk in the woods where we could reflect in silence along with the nature. However once the walk began our perception of a “walking meditation” completely changed. We were lead by the nun into the woods surrounding the temple, which quickly increased in incline. She led at an impressive pace for someone her age, bounding up rocks half her height with relative ease. The surrounding nature was tranquil, with the path following beside a small stream, crossing it several times. The running water filled our otherwise empty minds with a rhythm to trek along to.

As we continued onward, my calves started to tense, and I began to wonder what the final point of this hike would be. I was told it was going to be the summit of a nearby mountain; thus, I began to doubt the purpose of this hike — these thoughts flooded my empty mind. I continued onward up the steep mountain, thoughts of doubt continued through my brain, until I turned the final corner and I was greeted by a view like no other. In front of me, lay the whole city of Seoul and more. The sky was cloudless as my already heavy breathing was taken away from me by the view that sat in front of my eyes. My mind was instantly clear of the thoughts of doubt, and I felt free from all pressures, while I stared out at the whole city of Seoul for the first time.



Spain #12: Dress Up and Story Time

Samara Cummings ’20 reflects on a special moment shared with her host mother. 

When I first met Maribel, my host mother, she picked me up at the bus stop and walked me home. I was so eager to get to know her that by the time we finished the fifteen-minute walk and arrived at her house, I knew her favorite foods, her pet peeves, the names of her family, and her favorite things to do in Cádiz. Essentially, I had made the effort to know the most mundane and surface-level details of my host mother.

However, as time went on I began to ask questions about her childhood and her family. I learned about how art has significantly influenced her family because numerous members of her family pursued careers as photographers and painters. Not only did this explain her beautifully adorned house, but it prompted me to ask if she had pictures of her family or their art. She grabbed a plain, black book from the shelf. In the album, it became evident to me that the benefit of having a bunch of photographers in your family is that no moment of your life goes undocumented. As she danced Las Sevillanas, a common dance in Andalusia, Maribel could be spotted in many pictures sporting a brightly colored dress and a matching flower in her hair.

Through the afternoon, these photos elicited various names and funny stories. When I finished looking through the photo album, she gently closed the black book and slid it back into its place on the bookshelf. Coincidentally, I took a Sevillana dance class in the following days and showed off my new moves to Maribel. She laughed as I stumbled through simple steps, but made a good effort to practice the dance.

Today, Maribel told me to change into a pretty floral dress when I came home for lunch. When I met her in the living room, she had a fragile shoe box on her lap. I asked what was inside, she opened it. To my surprise, it was where she saved her old accessories for Las Sevillanas. As I bent my head down to Maribel, she carefully pinned the huge red flower on top of my head, and added various red and white decorative combs to my hair. She handed me a large pair of earrings that tugged at my ear lobes. When she stepped back to look at me, she nostalgically smiled as the grand accessories and bold colors reminded her of the nights when she dressed up with her friends to dance Las Sevillanas and the days when she prepared her daughter, Olga, for her dance recitals.

After a second of losing herself in these memories, Maribel snapped back to the present, noticed my chapped lips, and gave me lip gloss. Her warm hands wrapped around my shoulders, she looked me in the eyes, and she said, “Buenísima. Guapísima.” As Maribel embraced me and shared a special part of her culture with me, I found the excitement and pride in learning about the stories of others.

South Korea #7: Gratitude & Cultural Differences

Lily Steinwold ’21 shares a powerful experience while visiting the DMZ (North Korean Demilitarized Zone) and Chase Mathis ’21 describes the differences between Korean and US culture.

Lily:

After a restless hour on the road, our bus pulled into the parking lot of what would soon lead us to the North Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ for short). Everybody immediately exited the bus and began wandering around; on the outskirts was an amusement park that had been closed due to weather conditions. Around it sat a couple of food stalls and souvenir shops for all of your tourist needs. A few of us decided to walk beyond those attractions up a set of uneven stone steps. In front stood a massive modern building with an observatory at the top, so you could peer down at the wildlife surrounding the Southern side of the border.

But that’s not what I first noticed. I was disturbed by the sounds of screaming halfway to the top of the stairs. The screaming of children filled my ears, and I began to panic. Where was this coming from? What was going on? Is it safe? We were less than three miles from one of the most dangerous countries on the planet, so my mind went to a hundred different scenarios. In front of the big, modern building there were two people holding signs. The signs I could not read for they were in Korean and the people turned out to be wax sculptures, but the sound persisted. It moved on to the sound of a woman wailing and my discomfort deepened. At the feet of the sculptures lay a speaker pumping the cries into the air. The floor that the sculptures stood upon was made up of writing on colorful pages. I was drawn away by the sounds, but in by the colors and, in this odd tug of war, I ended up walking in front of a plaque explaining what it was I was witnessing. It read “The Archives of the KBS Special Live Broadcast Finding Dispersed Families.”

The colorful pages I was standing on were actually posters made to find lost family members. I hadn’t even realized that after the armistice was decreed the creation of the border separated husbands from wives and children from grandparents. This was a monument to those silent victims of the war, of whom only about 10% would ever be reunited with their lost family, and the pain they felt.

Upon reflection, I feel grateful for my own family and how we remain united. I know my fellow group members felt this similar theme of gratitude and today’s trip to the DMZ will continue to impact us and our views of the world around us.  

Chase:

Midway through my experience in South Korea, the Deerfield Group and I have noticed from the first day that South Korea and America are very similar. I even wondered at the start why our group travelled here. Why come somewhere that looks like America? South Korea has huge glass skyscrapers on almost every block, wide streets, and very clean sidewalks. Mixed in between the modern buildings are ancient temples and palaces. The contrast between the two is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Despite the glaring similarities, there are some interesting differences in Korea which illustrate certain key aspects of Korean culture.

The first thing I noticed was the color of the cars. Everywhere were black, white, and gray cars. I thought that it was just me, but our group’s tour guide pointed it out and explained the reason behind it. Korean culture is based around community, and “fitting in”. Therefore red, blue, or green cars are a rarity. The resale value of those colorful cars is too low to make it practical to buy one anyway.

The second difference I began to see later on in the trip, was the lack of trash cans on the street. There are a couple reasons why there aren’t any trash cans. Culturally, Koreans rarely bring food outside of restaurants and cafés. Compared to America’s culture of quick, take out food Koreans enjoy spending their time in the restaurants. Interestingly enough, I ordered Starbucks and was shocked to find that they served the coffee in glass containers, not plastic ones. You will rarely see someone drink or eat on the go here. The second reason why there aren’t any public trash cans is because–in an effort to encourage recycling–Koreans are taxed on how much garbage they have. Therefore, Koreans could cheat the system and put their garbage in public trash cans on the street. Despite the lack of trash cans, the sidewalks are cleaner than any American sidewalk I’ve seen.

The last difference is one I just found out about today. A member of our group asked our tour guide what the foamy stickers were on the sides of the car doors. After that, I noticed the blue foam everywhere. Half the cars on the street had this sticker, sometimes two, on the side of their cars. Our tour guide explained that their purpose is to avoid bumping and scratching other people’s cars while parking and maneuvering. Like I mentioned before, Koreans are collectivists and, therefore, care about their nation and other people as a whole. The spongy blue stickers don’t necessarily protect yourself from getting scratched, but they protect the cars around you when you open your door.

The small differences between America and Korea is what really shows Korean character. Our trip is all about leadership: studying it, seeing it in action, and being leaders. To connect the two topics, I believe is not only important to see the big differences in leaders, but also the small ones.

France #12: Chaumont and Chenonceau

Lukas Trelease ’20 describes the magnificence and beauty of Châteaux de Chaumont and Châteaux de Chenonceau.

Châteaux. Castles. We have seen a fair amount on the trip so far. You have probably already read about Villandry, the castle with the spectacular gardens. But I’ve been to two more since then: Chaumont and Chenonceau.

Over the weekend, my family went to Paris to see a play, a one-man show starring one of their favorite actors. But, since they had preordered tickets and there were none left, I stayed with our guide for the trip, Odile. Odile is, as Madame Nichols often proclaims, “a riot.” But “a riot” with a beautiful home. Her gardens are beautiful, almost as beautiful as Villandry, and her house is half built into a cliff. I expected the weekend to be one of long breakfasts and walks beside the Loire, but Sunday morning Odile, her daughter, her husband, her German friend, Madame Nichols, her husband, Mr. Taft, his wife, and I were at Chaumont, a château on the Loire about 34 minutes outside of Tours.

Owned by Catherine de Medicis, the infamous political strategist of the 16th century, it is a classic castle with thick stone turrets and a black slate roof. Impressive and imposing. But the real reason we came to Chaumont was for the gardens. Every year the château holds La Fête de Jardins or festival of gardens. Twenty-five gardens are created by different artists all working with the annual theme. For this year: paradise. From gardens that sang, to gardens that burned, to gardens that hung, to gardens that evoked the smells of a veritable Eden, the exhibit was spectacular (please look them up online for a more accurate description. I think there are pictures too!)

The next day, Monday, the whole group went to Chenonceau, arguably the most famous of the Loire Valley castles. Controlled by numerous politically powerful women, often mistresses of kings, Chenonceau is built across Le Cher, a river that flows just south of Tours, like a building and a bridge combined. The decor is obviously antiquated and not exactly my taste (too flamboyant and gaudy). Rooms that are black and green and red and orange and gold. Gilded and inscribed with initials from bygone kings and queens whose stories are relayed to me in French through the tinny voice of an audio guide. Yet, sitting at a nice café in the castle’s shadow, I can appreciate the history that lies in the stones and the wooden walls, and in the river flowing underneath.

In comparing these châteaux, I find some similarities. They are both magnificent and powerful stone structures that commanded their surrounding territory for centuries. Political intrigue, scandals, and death have plagued these halls since their creation sometime in the 1100’s. And that’s just it. Coming from America, even having grown up in an “old” town like Deerfield, I am stunned by the age of these places. How old and how storied they are. Although completely different in structure, architecture, and modern use, these two châteaux, and Villandry as well, appeal to me as something ironically new. Being in Europe, visiting châteaux or ancient art in museums or walking on streets who knows how old, I can really appreciate the true ancient nature of our world. I know people say that humans have only been on this world for a fraction of a second or whatever, but I’m impressed with the impact we’ve made, with the history we’ve generated and will leave behind forever.

Lukas Trelease ’20

Spain #11: Speaking The Language

Grace Russell ’21 reflects on the patience and encouragement she has received from the Cadiz community while trying to improve her Spanish speaking abilities.

Moments after stepping off the plane in Jerez after a long night of traveling, was when our group first met the incredible Juan. After helping us carry our bags to our bus he continued to introduce himself to our fatigued group. Despite our tiredness we all immediately appreciated his comforting demeanor and patience. Since this day, Juan has traveled with our group to Wakana, and then to Cádiz where he has shown us just about every corner of the city.

To our group Juan is so much more than just a tour guide. Juan is always tolerant of our many mistakes while conversing but always speaks to us as he would other fluent Spanish speakers. He never underestimates our potential and is always willing to have more profound and personal conversations with us, even if it takes us a little longer to compile our thoughts in Spanish. As those who are still working on mastering this language, this is very encouraging. Just yesterday during our afternoon excursion to a town nearby, Rota, Juan told our group that he could tell that we were transitioning between walking and running in our Spanish speaking journey.

Ellie Shilling ’21 (left), Grace Russell ’21 (right)

In the subsequent days to our departure for this trip I was definitely nervous and doubtful about my Spanish speaking abilities and was worried about my competence when it came to communicating with the Cádiz natives. This worry now seems foolish as everyone we have met here has been patient and encouraging of my hope to improve my proficiency of this new language. Over the past two weeks here all of our teachers in our school, including Juan, our host families, and the locals we have encountered in our daily life, have helped me overcome my worries of making mistakes and taught me that the best way to improve my Spanish, is to just speak.

Spain #10: Grateful For This Experience

Jing He ’21 reflects on the rewards of living with a host family and getting to experience Spanish culture.

I had one goal for this summer: go abroad. (My sub-goal was to secure a warm location that was conducive to tanning and it is with great pleasure that I say, it was fulfilled). Though I am not sure where this exact feeling stems from, I envy people that had gone on the Spain trip. Their return always made me wonder what it is that changed them: is it the way they carried conversations? More fluency and accurate pronunciations? Time to practice the language? Some sort of enlightenment that only those who went would know?

I have been taking Spanish for four years now, though recently, I feel as if I have hit a learning plateau. That is in no way to say that the Deerfield’s curriculum is not challenging: my grammatical and comprehension skills have grown tremendously throughout the years. Instead, it is the fact that my experience with the language has always been confined within the four walls of a classroom.  Cadiz was what brought me out of it.

For me, one of the most rewarding experiences is living with my host family. Because of the language barrier aside, we have so many things to share with each other. I came to learn that Alberto, despite being the jokester of the family, is a brilliant man. He can carry conversations of all kinds, from the geography of Spain to explaining something as complex as politics to Samara and I (and most importantly, how to eat bread the right way). Maribel, on the other hand, balances the power couple dynamic out with her motherly figure. I find that I can always come to her for advice, from how to deal with the nerve-wracking feeling when grades were released, to places where Samara and I can find the best churros.

I also saw how my host family live their day to day: Alberto goes out every day to buy freshly baked bread, Maribel has her dinner every night at 9 pm, and the cutest grandchildren of all time, Hector and Alma, brings them flowers on their way home from school. While these things may seem insignificant to me two weeks ago, it is something routine to them and details that have brought us closer.

During these two weeks, I have also realized things about myself: I tend to conjugate and speak more eloquently earlier in the day and less at night. This, however, did not interfere with our conversations. My host parents made me realize that the misconjugation of a verb or an imperfect sentence structure is not the end of the world.

Confidence and spontaneity are definitely two words that describe this trip. This past Wednesday, we learned to dance Flamenco. Even the small glimpse into the dance in the short hour was an equally incredible and chilling experience. I still remember the performance the week before: what struck me was the power and the way she stomped her feet to the beat; flamenco gives you a means to take control of your feelings and express yourself in ways that words fall short—just like the words to describe my experience with flamenco are so hard to come by.

From left to right: Ellie Shilling ’21, Mark Chung ’21, Jing He ’21

From left to right: Jing He ’21, Emma Weech ’21, Michelle Zimmermann ’21, Mark Chung ’21

Cadiz is simply an amazing city. Sure, the pigeons here sometimes make me a question which one of us is the superior species, but there are so many things that made it worth it. From siestas after lunch to spontaneous conversations, I came to realize: ultimately, it’s everything that we learn from the experience, rather than the outcome, that makes it unique.

France #11: Goats & Cheese

Helen Lipsky ’20 describes an afternoon of cheese making at a local fromagerie.

Adjusting to life in Tours, France, is at times difficult, but primarily fun and engaging when given the opportunity to explore in more ways than one. The adjustment process has been greatly expedited with various afternoon excursions that allow us, the students, to understand the Tours lifestyle from varying perspectives.

On June 14th, all of us had our regular three-hour morning classes. In my class, we went through the activities our teacher, Emilie, had planned for us, and she asked us what we wanted to do. All of us expressed an interest in learning a bit more about contemporary French music, so we watched the music videos and discussed the meaning of around three or four classic French pop hits by the Belgian singer, Stromae. After these three-hour sessions, thirteen Deerfield students travelled to a nearby town in order to get a focused-look into a practice born primarily from the French culture, cheese-making. Well-fed after ample time to get food in the local Tours area with our friends, we hopped into various cars with Madame Nichols, Mr. Taft, and Odile, and headed out to a goat cheese fromagerie.

Greeting us with many exciting surprises, the fromagerie had prepared for our arrival two bottles of homemade apple juice, made from apples grown on the farm, as well as two baby goats to hold. The baby goats were surprisingly calm and unsurprisingly adorable. They were very young and just born the previous Sunday. Next, one of the fromagerie’s calmest goats was brought out for us to milk. Starting with a demonstration, Noah, a boy who worked on the fromagerie, handed us a one cup of fresh goat milk and asked the group if anyone wanted a taste. A bit reluctant at first, we looked around at each other. However, Madame Nichols quickly explained to us that if we wanted a turn in milking the goat, we would have to try at least a sip of the milk. That convinced the majority of the group to get in line for a taste.

With this exciting and definitely new experience under our belts, it was time to learn about the entire cheese making process. We got a close look into two crucial parts of the farm. First, we stepped into where the milk was first taken from all of the goats, able to hold around twenty goats at a time, and then the room where the cheese was actually crafted from the milk. In order to maintain a sanitary environment in the second room, all individuals were required to put plastic over their shoes. With all our questions answered, we returned back to our cars where a plate of three different types of cheeses were waiting for us, varying in mildness and the extent to which they had been aged.


As we left the farm, we thanked the cheese-experts and were given the opportunity to buy some high-quality goat cheese for our homestay families, who were waiting for us as we arrived at our houses for the night. On the way back to the center of Tours, where all of us could either catch our buses or walk home, Mr. Taft allowed us to play some of the music we had heard in our morning classes, creating a full-circle of all that we had learned over the day about the life and culture in this otherwise new-to-us country.

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #7: A Divided Region

Adrian Yao ’20 reflects on the conflicting views between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs.

This was our second day in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH), and we spent the morning at a Bosnian café-garden (aided by Turkish coffee and tea) discussing and reflecting upon our experiences so far. One of the most prominent questions that came up was the international community’s role during the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, and its continuing influence today in shaping the Balkan region.

Unlike Croatia and Serbia who have fairly homogeneous populations in terms of ethnicity, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BIH) ethnic make-up consists of about 45% Bosniaks, 36% Serbs, and 15% Croatians. Interestingly, one’s ethnicity essentially determines their religion, so the religious make-up in BIH is very similar to its ethnic make-up with Bosniaks predominantly Muslim, Serbs predominantly Orthodox Catholic, and the Croats predominantly Roman Catholic. This religious diversity is a dividing factor between the ethnicities in the Balkans, with presidents and politicians appealing to ethnic and religious differences to fuel nationalism. The dangers of excessive nationalism are perhaps best manifested in the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in east BIH from 1992 to 1995.

To give some context, BIH declared their independence and separated from Yugoslavia in order to become their own country in 1992. There was one big problem. Significant chunks of BIH had a Serbian majority population, so Yugoslavia’s (which was controlled by Serbs) argument was that independence was unfair for the Serbs living in BIH who wanted to remain in Yugoslavia. A civil war broke out and many Bosnian Muslims living in Eastern Bosnia (bordering Serbia) had to escape their homes due to persecution by Bosnian Serbs who wanted their area to be ethnically “clean.” As a result, the United Nations declared six “safe havens,” where refugees could come and be shielded by UN troops. Srebrenica, protected by a battalion of Dutch troops, was one of those “safe havens.” The evidence thereafter is murky but my interpretation of the events is that in order to protect their own lives, the Dutch troops turned over most of the refugees to the enemy. The Bosnian Serb troops divided men and boys from women and children. In July of 1995, the Bosnian Serb troops killed over 8,000 men and boys, hiding their remains in mass graves throughout the region.

In the afternoon, we met with Hasan Nuhanovic, a former interpreter for the Dutch UN troops in Srebrenica and survivor of the genocide. After the war, he sued the Dutch government for not upholding their responsibilities and the court ruled in his favor. He said that Dutch witnesses lied blatantly in court about their involvement in handing over refugees to the enemies. Even today, he says, nations like the US and the Netherlands still deny that they acted too slowly when they had strong evidence that the Bosnian Serbs were committing ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Perhaps even more worrisome is how history about this time period is interpreted differently by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs. BIH essentially has two governments, one governed by Croats and Bosnians and the other by Serbs, and the stories they tell about the genocide are different. In fact, we met young liberal Serbians who worked for an NGO that tried to stop discrimination, and, surprisingly they insisted that genocide never happened. I fear that the Bosnian genocide could become a forgotten part of history. If the anguish of survivors remains unrecognized and the lessons of these events unabsorbed, history will repeat itself. Ultimately, Hassan thinks that change can only happen if BIH joins NATO and the EU. However, he admits that it is difficult because the Bosnian government is half controlled by Bosnian Serbs who follow the wishes of the Serbian government, still harboring raw memories of the NATO bombings of Belgrade in 1999. Hassan says that change within the government will be difficult, and that the international governments and NGOs must do more to bring justice and reconciliation to this divided region. After a long day, we rested up in our hotel to recharge for the next day.


South Korea #6: Leadership Qualitites

Gabriella Hu ’21 and Emma Haddock ’21 reflect on the lessons learned from their day spent with Shinsadong Tiger, a South Korean music producer, and at Coupang, an online service provider company.

Gabriella:

We eagerly hopped off the small bus in the parking lot of what seemed to be some ordinary, white office building. A large Banana Culture Entertainment sign on a white brick wall and Shinsadong Tiger’s team awaited us at the top of the stairs, building up our curiosity and increasing excitement. In the studio, the widely-known K-pop producer’s warm smile welcomed us from a large leather chair in front of a huge computer monitor and more keyboards than he could play at once. Immediately, I could feel his joy for music and how proud he was to be showing off his work for us radiating from him.

The most important lesson I learned from our brief interview with Shinsadong Tiger was to celebrate the highest highs and accept failure as a part of the journey. Despite his casual look and young appearance, he has acquired a lot of experience and wisdom over his 18 years as a music producer. Throughout his career, the Tiger admitted that he has experienced a lot of hate from the public and many of his songs have not succeeded. Out of 100 songs, 99 of them may fail, but the one that becomes super popular is what he focuses on and celebrates. Shinsadong Tiger is more successful because he decides to take these songs that failed in the public eye and learn from them to improve how he targets his style to his audience.

We have often discussed the question, “What defines a good leader?” on this trip. The ability to accept failure and move on, as Shinsadong Tiger has taught me, is something that I will add to my list in the future. His success as a leader in the music industry is a real life demonstration that his method works. As students, leaders, and people, this advice — to celebrate the few successes that we may experience rather than dwell on the many failures — is essential. Leaders will fail over and over, again and again. It is important to acknowledge that it will happen and, although it may drag a person down in the moment, one should not let these low points define them.

Emma:

The South Korea trip has been a culturally immersive roller coaster with today being no exception. We met with a K-pop producer, had an amazing lunch with Deerfield friends who live in South Korea, toured a Coupang fulfillment center, visited an indoor market, and finished the day with some well-deserved Shake Shack, a rare break from a continuous onslaught of traditional South Korean food. The main two learning experiences of the day contrasted beyond the obvious difference of places.

The experience with the K-pop producer was an intimate question and answer discussion. The producer, known as Shinsodong Tiger, talked about the industry and answered all of our questions, covering a multitude of topics such as Korean market trends, and his favorite U.S-based artists. More than that, he talked about his views on the creative process he uses and how that manifests itself in the development of the groups and individuals he works with. His leadership style is focused on a personal level of progress involving keeping the artist’s feelings at the forefront, compromising when possible, and using an enthusiastic, emphatic approach to his job. We all left the experience, whether or not aware of it at the time, thinking that Shinsadong Tiger is a good leader, for whom happiness seems to follow.

Our next experience at Coupang, the South Korean version of Amazon growing at an exponentially faster rate, was not only different in substance but also in the takeaways of what leadership in action can present itself as. We spoke with Siam, a manager who oversaw, improved, and solved problems at four different facilities simultaneously. The tour and question/answer session focused, unsurprisingly, on more logistical and concrete solutions, rather than the previous creative process conversations. The demeanor of Siam, though, was very different regarding his employees and other hot button social issues. When discussing his employees, it was solely in the interest of avoiding problems, not improving or developing them individually. It was a conversation geared much more towards the bare minimum. When discussing the effect large ecommerce companies such as Coupang have on edged-out smaller businesses, he gave a surprisingly stark answer of blatantly saying he didn’t care. His jarring, yet honest and composed manner of leadership, one that didn’t warmly greet or acknowledge his employees, seemed a polar opposite to our experience earlier in the day with Shinsadong Tiger. Even with the two greatly varying experiences, I didn’t think much of it. One leader seemed warm and supportive, and the other seemed colder, yet just as, if not more, effective. Nevertheless, both were successful.

Later on though, we debriefed and discussed the leaders we’d seen today. I expected the typical praise and compliments before heading to bed; however this wasn’t the case. Many people seemed to be against Siam as a “good leader.” I was confused by these opinions based on the definition of leadership we were given in order to facilitate conversation. Both were effective and successful, yet only one had many of the qualities we thought were essential for any good leader, such as empathy or kindness. It posed a question I couldn’t answer. Should a leader act in the interest in those he or she is leading, or representing? At first, it seems as though Siam was not the better leader, but he had the duty of representing the interests of the company financially and the people he was leading, such as the workers in the fulfillment centers. Tiger simply had to have the best interest of his artists in mind. Before we broke for the evening, Ms. Wakeman had us write our own definition of leadership. I struggled after my new revelation whether to put a leader’s duty of whom he or she’s representing first or whom he or she’s leading. The answer I came to, however, is that leadership and the unavoidable choices that accompany such a title must always be a personal journey, using values and priorities one has attained. One definition of leadership cannot encompass all effective leaders. To remedy this, when being the leader you choose to be, simply always try to be a better one.

France #10: Touring Paris

Jarod Harrington ’20 recounts an “enjoyable” day visiting the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées.

Today was a bright and early start for everyone as we had to wake up for 7:30 am. After some rolling around in bed I finally found my will to get up and head down the long, cramped set of winding stairs leading down to breakfast. I was overwhelmed with exhaustion from our seemingly nonstop itinerary from the day we stepped foot in France; however, along with the exhaustion that I felt, I was also eagerly anticipating the events we would partake in for the day.

As soon as we finished breakfast we departed from the Hotel Americain, got on the metro, and made our way to the Louvre. Now, I had always heard that the Louvre is a big museum, but words do not do it justice. Four sprawling floors of paintings, sculptors, artifacts, and everything in between. On our way from the metro station to the museum Madame told us two things: stick to one part of the museum because it is too large to roam through the entire thing and see everything, and the Mona Lisa is very underwhelming. Despite her forewarning, I made a bee line to the Mona Lisa. Yes, I know she is small and you have to stand a good distance away from her, but c’mon, you can’t go to the Louvre and not even try to see one of the most famous paintings on Earth. So, a few others and I made our way through the endless amounts of paintings and sculptors throughout the Louvre and finally came upon the Mona Lisa.

I had an image in my mind of what I thought the Mona Lisa would be like, and I can’t say I was even close. It truly is nothing special. I’m going to be completely honest about it, it was small and hard to see and there were tons of people surrounding it which made it even harder to see. Sure, Mona isn’t anything special, but I can walk away saying that I saw her, which is good enough for me. The rest of the Louvre was debatably more interesting than the Mona Lisa, the endless amounts of sculptors and paintings was so incredible that even I, someone who isn’t very interested in art, found myself in awe of almost everything that was in the museum. What astounded me even more than the works of art, was the sheer size of the museum. We had 3 hours to roam around, and even then, we didn’t see even half of the museum.

After our journey throughout the Louvre, we had a few hours of down time to do whatever we wanted, in groups of course. My group decided to make the short walk from the Louvre, past the Obelisk, and onto the Champs-Élysées. Nick Fluty, Elliot Flagg, and I managed to find the most American thing to do in Paris. Eat at a Five Guys. After an extremely American lunch, we strolled down the Champs-Élysées doing some window shopping as well as some actual shopping. Our final stop was the Galeries Lafayette. After about 5 minutes of walking through the mall-like building, we soon realized nothing within it was in our price range. While we were on the top floor, Elliot and I looked at some watches. I expected them to be pricey and obviously didn’t imagine buying one, however, the prices of the watches still shocked me. The most expensive one was being sold for 48,000 euros. We left and headed downstairs to the food section in hopes of finding some affordable cuisine. We bought a box of macaroons, ate them swiftly, and made our way out of the store and on our way to the metro station in order to arrive back at the hotel before we departed for dinner with the whole group.

All in all, the trip to the Louvre combined with some shopping along the Champs-Élysées and a very American lunch came together to create a very enjoyable day.

From left to right: Angelique Alexos ’20, Helen Lipsky ’20, Julia Ferrante ’20, Jarod Harrington ’20

 

Spain #9: Personal Growth

Tessa Mannix ’20 discovers a “newfound confidence” in her Spanish speaking abilities.

Upon arriving in Spain, each and every member of our group has been emphatically pushed out of our comfort zones. Whether it has been trying some puzzling meal our host mom explained too quickly, navigating the winding streets of a new city, or habitually eating dinner at a shocking 10 pm, life in Spain could not be more different from the familiarity of our homes, or life at Deerfield.

Amidst the first couple of days in Spain, I felt comfortable with directions, loved the food, and had overcome a tiring jet lag. However, I soon realized where my comfort faded. I could not shake the embarrassment I felt each time I spoke to a Spanish person, always trying to conceal my thick American accent and finishing every conversation with the same apology: “lo siento sobre mi Español, estoy aprendiendo.”
Within the first couple of days, I must have said “lo siento” a hundred times, allowing the insecurities of my speaking ability get the best of me. It was not until the fourth day of classes, when our beloved teacher, Rose Rivera, spoke to us, saying that “we are supposed to make mistakes!” “They are part of the learning process,” she said, “they are expected and they do not bother the people we speak to.”

As simple as it may sound, Rosa’s words have transformed my experience in Spain. I realized that I know much more than I had given myself credit for, which has allowed me to carry a newfound confidence with me across every corner of Cádiz. Rosa inspired me to get over my embarrassment and to turn over new leaves, whether it be speaking to a stranger on the bus, or asking my host mom about Spanish current events. Even if what I am saying could not be further from grammatically correct, I say it with confidence, and more often than not, I am understood.

Within life outside my comfort zone, I have met new people, had poignant conversations, and grown as not only a student, but as a person. I have learnt a great deal about myself and what I am capable of. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity Deerfield has provided, and the countless people that have made this trip among the most special months of my life.

From left to right: Tessa Mannix ’20, Taylor Coan ’21, Michelle Zimmerman ’21

South Korea #5: Dumplings And Storytelling

Oliver Pink ’20 and Ella Holowesko ’20 describe a day exploring Seoul’s architecture, “delicious” cuisine, and an emotional visit with the organization, Teach North Korean Refugees. 

Ollie:

Day 4 of the South Korea trip was filled with many exciting activities along with various delicious Korean cuisine. The group started the day at the Cheonggyecheon Stream where we learned about Eco-Design and the riveting architecture of this part of Seoul. Students were tasked with the activity of drawing what they observed in a certain area of the stream then later explaining the significance of the architectural components. It was particularly compelling to acknowledge the influence both industrialization and modernization have had in the past century on South Korean architecture. This stream flowing through the center of Seoul allows for people to appreciate the essence of nature within the corporate world.

Next, we travelled to Myeongdong to explore many small shops and restaurants. We split up into small groups for lunch with the charge to get out of our comfort zones and experience a new cuisine. The meal culminated in mouthwatering dumplings, succulent fried-rice, exquisite noodles, and lip- smacking chicken that left everybody with a full belly.

In the afternoon, we travelled to Gwangheungchang where we met and heard from students of the Teach North Korean Refugees program. These students told their captivating stories of escaping North Korea and left our group with heavy emotions. My classmate speaks more on this experience in the alternative blog post for the day.

Our final episode of today’s adventure took place in a Times Square-esque marketplace of Seoul where we enjoyed an appetizing dinner. This meal consisted of Korean barbecue where students were given the responsibility of cooking their own dinner! Each table was given the opportunity of grilling pork and beef while devouring flavorful salads. Overall, today consisted of immersing ourselves in a foreign culture while finding appreciation for South Korean cuisine. We look forward to learning about K-Pop and Coupang tomorrow.

Ella:

This afternoon we had the privilege of listening to three North Korean refugees share their paths to freedom through an organization founded in 2015 called “Teach North Korean Refugees.” This non-profit aims to develop fluency in English, so that each refugee has a voice to share their story.

Kin, Yuna, and Eunsun each shared profound, yet jarring experiences of their escapes. While each individual’s quest for freedom highlighted a different aspect of tragedy (ie. the corrupt nature of education, the distorted and controlling government and a deathly famine), the power of story and communication remained a constant throughout each refugees’ experience. For example, Yuna concluded her story by announcing that “North Korea is like a jail cell and the only thing that can unlock it is storytelling and global understanding.”

In a moment of both individual and group reflection, I have come to appreciate the power of this statement. Storytelling, particularly in this context, is indeed such an interesting and remarkable concept to comprehend. Oftentimes the power of communicating through story is overlooked, yet the fact that over 400 refugees have joined forces with this organization in order to share their experience is fascinating, because it reaffirms the powerful nature of telling a story.

While all three of these presentations today stirred up a variety of horrifying, yet inspiring and moving emotions, each story proved the timeless sense of storytelling. It is through the language of communication that human connections are made, that citizens evolve and that our world begins to break down barriers in the quest for change.

I can confidently say that each member of our group left the TNKR headquarters feeling more knowledgeable, curious and enlightened, while holding a very vulnerable experience close to our hearts.


Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #6: Srebrenica & Mostar

Seth Blain ’20 and Alton Machen ’20 consider the importance of gathering facts before “formulating an opinion.”

Seth:

We had an extra early wake up to arrive in our third country of the trip. We left Belgrade and drove along the sheer cliffs of the Dinaridic Mountains into Bosnia and Herzegovina. After driving for hours past gorgeous landscape, speckled with houses and farmland, we arrived in Srebrenica. To the uninformed traveler, such as I was upon arrival, Srebrenica is indistinguishable from the miles of barren land we had spent our morning driving by, but we soon learned that Srebrenica was the site of the largest single atrocity in Europe since World War II. There was a cemetery that commemorated those innocent Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) who lost their lives at the hands of the Bosnian Serb Army, who wished to eradicate Muslim people from the area.

After the cemetery, we visited a memorial that displayed artifacts from the catastrophe, and spoke to one of the survivors of the Death March, Hassan, who ran the exhibit. Hassan recounted his traumatic experience in Srebrenica in July of 1995, where he lived at the time. He was one of the only Muslims to witness the massacre and survive, but in it he lost his father, uncle, and his twin brother. The Serbs took the Muslims by force from a designated UN “safe haven.” Srebrenica was not safe, however, and the Serbians easily captured the Dutch soldiers that were supposed to be protecting the area and used them as hostages.

In school, we learn that history is the set of stories we choose to tell. As we travel through different countries, we see how nationalist leaders in the region pick and choose the stories they tell their citizens, and censor the information they receive. The day before, we spoke with four liberal Serbs, and when asked about the Srebrenica massacre they said that although it was a case of ethnic cleansing, it was not genocide. After learning the whole story about the events of July 1995, it is clear that the Bosnian Serb army did commit genocide. Perhaps the Serbs we spoke to did not share this opinion because of a deep nationalism and a duty to defend their country, or perhaps Serbia purposefully did not expose them to the truth of the events that occurred. When Serbia gets to tell the story, they make the atrocity seem less severe than it was, to push away some of the blame. Hassan’s main goal, however, was to share direct evidence of the genocide, including videos of the executions themselves and his own personal account. Once presented with this overwhelming evidence, it is almost impossible to argue that what happened in Srebrenica was anything but genocide.

When learning about history, we must take into account who is telling the story, and consider what parts of that story are being highlighted or forgotten. We must interpret all evidence for ourselves, and form our own sense of the meaning and significance of the past.

Alton:

Contrary to yesterday, the schedule included a lot of driving today. Our lessons brought us south towards the Adriatic Sea, with a stop at Tito’s notorious secret bunker on the way. We continued our theme of dissecting differing perspectives with this chapter of our story in the hottest city in Europe, Mostar.

The day started early this morning when the group took an hour-long drive that led us from the elevated city of Sarajevo, 64 km to the southwest, to the mysterious small town of Konjic, Bosnia. Although most slept on the way there, the scenic drive through the Dinaric Alps showcased snowy mountaintops and the beautiful clearwater Neretva river. After three days in the crowded city of Sarajevo that has a population of over 438,000, the group was surprised when our phones read “No Service” in rural Konjic. What could a town that had seemingly nothing to do with war on the surface add to our greater understanding of the Balkans? Well, we soon found out when we went through a secret door in a small house that led to former Yugoslavian president Josip Tito’s 4.6 billion dollar atomic bunker.

After hearing countless people from the region attest to Tito’s greatness, this is the first time we experienced the negative side of Tito. Construction of the bunker, done in complete secrecy, started in 1953, and didn’t finish until 1979, just one year before Tito died. This essentially means the bunker served no purpose. Additionally, Tito built an 8 billion dollar underground airport and an underground port that was never used. Although many of these purchases were funded by foreign governments such as the Americans, they were unnecessary and selfish. Tito’s fear of the Soviets initiated these rash purchases and he prioritized his safety over that of his people. It was interesting to hear someone criticize Tito, as he had been praised by nearly everyone we had spoken to for his charismatic leadership qualities and willingness to include the people in his successes. Hearing that he made a bunker for himself and not the people of Yugoslavia portrayed a different story of Tito than the one portrayed at his grave site and museum in Serbia. There, we learned that Tito shared the personal gifts he received from world leaders with the people of Yugoslavia in public displays. Today, exemplified yet again, that it is important to gather multiple perspectives before formulating an opinion.

After leaving the bunker, we had lunch in the mountains with a beautiful water-front view. We had Bosnian lamb, and after the meal we watched the process in which the lamb was slowly cooked and rotated. Continuing to move south and lower in elevation, we eventually arrived in blazing hot Mostar, known as the hottest city in Europe. The Bosnian city features a huge Catholic church, which immediately raised questions for our group. We expected a city full of mosques and Islam, but the huge cross on the mountain and Catholic church told a different story. We later learned during our tour that prior to the conflict of the 1990’s, the city was majority Muslim. But, through ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Croats during the war, Mostar is a divided city now with Croats living west of the old city and its famous Ottoman-era bridge, which Bosnian Croats destroyed during the battle of Mostar, and which the city rebuilt in 2004. There is much to unpack in Mostar, and we will speak to a war survivor tomorrow. We will keep in mind the other perspectives we’ve accumulated so far, and put together our opinion on what we think happened and its significance.

Dominican Republic #12: Final Reflections

At the end of the trip, faculty trip leaders Sheryl Koyama and Bob Graves, asked students to provide final reflections on what they had learned and experienced during their time in the Dominican Republic. Below are excerpts of students responses.

Francis Gannon ‘21:

“Before visiting the DR with Deerfield, I was fortunate enough to have visited the country with my family. My memories of this place only consisted of nice resorts and beaches. I assumed that the rest of the country would be somewhat similar. I knew that there would be poverty, but I never thought it would be that bad. So, when I first came to San Juan de la Maguana, I was shocked. Immediately, I felt the need to help the locals. Now, after seeing all the DR, I have a much better understanding of all that happens here. I have left this place with an additional understanding of myself. I have learned to appreciate and be thankful for what I have. Secondly, I have been exposed to a selfless community that has inspired me to bring some of these experiences to DA. This trip has taught me so much and inspired me to do better.”

Raymond (Tripp) Hindle ‘21:

“I used to think that the DR was just another third world country. I was right and wrong. The DR is full of people with class and character living in tins of plywood and metal. I used to think that the people of the DR were uneducated and dumb. I was wrong. The people of the DR are educated to survive the island which they live on. They thrive in so many aspects that I do not and will never. Their sense of community and family is like none I have ever been a part of. Their sense of joy and love to our group and the people that helped with the build was incredible. I now think that my views on the DR and its people have changed immensely. I now feel as if the people that I worked with this week have given me more appreciation of who I am as a person and I want to become. This trip has opened my eyes and view on life and am looking forward to using what I have learned from the people of the DR and bringing home to DA and my family.”

Garret DeMallie ‘21:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was just a poor country full of unrelatable people. But, this is not the case. From the first day of the trip, I witnessed the joy and livelihood of the DR. Everyone we passed in the bus waved with a big smile. When working on the site, I was able to converse with locals and learn about their lives. The children were enthusiastic and always playing games. They had favorite activities, sports, and singers. Now I know how similar we all are. Although the locals weren’t as fortunate as those of us from the U.S., they were still caring and relatable. Now, I think of the Dominican Republic as a vibrant place, full of outgoing people, always willing to help with a smile on their face. Dominicans that were previously strangers quickly became friends.”

Kailen Coelho ‘20:

“One of my favorite things about the Dominican Republic is how genuinely kind, caring, and welcoming all of the people are. It is a place where people look out for each other just as much as they look out for themselves, which I think is such an admirable thing… One characteristic that really showed over the course of this trip was my ability to work hard and willingness to help or cooperate with others. Every time we stepped onto the work site, I did my best to get involved and to give my all in every job I was assigned. I also learned a lot about the importance of teamwork in the real world. We were very lucky to have such a cohesive group of people who were able to communicate and work together in an easy and efficient way. Furthermore, I learned that I am a very easy going and flexible person. There were several occurrences over the course of this trip that we had to do activities I normally would not do, but since we were immersed in the culture, I stepped out of my comfort zone and ended up loving every experience. Overall, this trip was extremely humbling and I have learned to appreciate my own life and the people I love so much more because there are people in the world who have so much less, yet they never complain about their situations. I am excited to continue giving back to those in need and learning extremely valuable life lessons in the process.”

Emma Earls ‘20:

“This trip has been a life-changing experience on so many levels. I have changed as a person because of what I’ve learned, and I have grown in compassion, in determination, in understanding, and in so many more ways. Coming into this trip with no idea of the physical labor we would have to do, I never would have thought I’d be able to do it. My perspective of work, both regarding my own capabilities and the larger meaning of what this job was has changed for the better. I connected with members of a community whose language I did not speak, and came to care about the kids like they were my own little cousins. That world, it’s houses and food and attitude towards life, is so completely different from my own, but I quickly came to not simply appreciate it, but love it very dearly.

Being immersed in that lifestyle wholly connected to the country, made this trip one of the most surreal and rewarding experiences of my life. My attitude towards life, my perspective of the world around me, and my compassion as a human being have all shifted for the better because of the connections I’ve made in this beautiful place.”

Talbot von Stade ‘21:

“Before the trip, I thought I knew how people live in poverty and without resources, and I thought I knew what it meant to have a meaningful purpose. I expected feeling like a stranger, and as an American, would make me resented for having lighter skin and appearing as if I automatically came from privilege to the Dominicans. Before this trip, I didn’t understand what it meant to appreciate and value every single thing one has. The Dominican people live for their family, village, children,… There was a unique unity of humanity and simplicity in which there were no socioeconomic or racial hierarchies. We were a group of people building a house for a family to have a brighter future. This trip has taught me shelter and nourishment is far from automatic, and I now realize the incredible privileges I have had access to. We have discussed the definition of community, and mine has been incredibly altered by this experience. I have learned the importance of connecting with a group of people to achieve a goal and share life-changing experiences only the 17 of us will remember. This trip fevered my love to travel, be able to speak Spanish, and my responsibility to give myself to others as my role as a human being in this world.”

PJ Embree ‘21:

“I used to think that third world countries were a lot different. I wasn’t too sure on what exactly I thought, but when I actually got to the sight and saw how they lived and interacted with one another, my whole life changed. I learned that these places aren’t as advanced as what I am used to, but the love and sense of community is palpable. Everyone knows each other and actually visits one another rather than just sitting behind a screen. From the outside it may look like a littered grouping of tiny houses. But after diving head first into their world, I realized that it is so much more than that. I now think that these places are the most loving in the world, and everyone should experience them.”

Lucy Miquel ‘20:

“I have been on sports teams since I can remember, but I’ve never experienced team work like I have on this trip. I learned what it means to dig deeper into myself for something bigger than just a sports game. I wanted to do my best for this family and for my classmates and the trip leaders, more than that though, I wanted to do my best because everyone around me was as well. The support from others in the community from Deerfield pushed me to be better. I also made a lot of friendships on this trip and I made it my responsibility to include everyone. The long, sweaty days just showed me what I can do when I have a team full of people supporting me all the way. I also learned that language is not needed for connection. I got to be fully immersed in a culture I was not familiar with, and I still got to establish amazing connections with the local people, which I will never forget.”

Caleigh Manguilli ‘20:

“I was for sure pushed out of my comfort zone, staying in a country where everyone spoke Spanish, a language that I barely know and it was for sure a little intimidating trying to work and build a house with people you can’t really understand. But I worked through that and despite the large language barrier formed some incredible connections with the people in this community and even learned some Spanish! This trip was a very surreal experience that I am incredibly grateful for.”

Jackie Morrissey ‘20:

“Before this trip, I never really saw how simple it can be to help others and to live a fulfilling life. When I applied, I thought that building a house was an enormous and difficult project to take on. But at the end, seeing the finished home, it didn’t really feel like it had been that hard. With so many people pitching in small efforts, the work went fast and it was never a huge task for a single person. Instead, it was a community task where everyone put in a little bit of work, and at the end we had made a huge impact. Even though the jobs I did were all relatively simple, like moving blocks and cement, in the end I felt that I had made a genuine impact on the lives of the family we build a house for. After the trip, I am inspired to put in little effort to improve the world each day so that by the end of my life, I will have been able to make a positive change with the accumulation of my efforts.”

Kate Landino ‘20:

“This trip pushed me out of my introverted comfort zone. I had to socialize with people I barely knew everyday. It was terrifying, but by the end, even Mrs. Koyama would agree that our group was not only cohesive, but best friends. I was forced to communicate to Spanish native speakers without the safety of Mr. Correa to translate. I’d say my conversational Spanish improved, but more importantly, my willingness to fail. I wasn’t afraid to say the wrong thing or ask a friend for help in translation. I’m really proud of all of us for taking on this challenge and for finding a new family by the end.”

Emma Kimble ‘20:

“I feel like being in the DR has broadened my perspective immensely. It has also changed my beliefs about achieving happiness and making change. I used to think that having a title or huge amounts of wealth is what constituted for happiness, but seeing each member of the San Juan community work as a team, regardless of title or economic status, disproved this. Everyone was so happy, motivated and hardworking, and it meant a lot to see that. We were able to give Lina and her family a home not by being called the leader, but by doing our parts to work hard and also immerse ourselves in the culture around us.”

Connor Guest ‘20:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was a country where tourists went in the winter to get away from the cold. I now think that this country is a whole lot more. The experiences of the trip allowed me to broaden my views and exposed me to a new lens of people in the world. Not only that I was able to gain a greater understanding of some of the issues that plague the globe today. Previously, I had never been to a country with such high notes of poverty, and what I was able to see was that there are larger issues in the world than the minuscule problems Americans have everyday. I used to think that working hard was something to do only when needed, but now I have gained a new view from the will the people have all the time to improve their lives, and that’s what I will take away. ”

Regan Hoar ‘20:

“With complete honesty, I can say I was nervous to go on this trip. I was worried how I would adapt to a different country. However, I learned to be carefree and have the most fun. We all worked very hard at the work site and from that I learned the importance of perseverance and dedication, especially when helping others out. Normally being hard on myself, I began to laugh and not be afraid when making a mistake either working or speaking Spanish; this made the trip much more fun. As working days passed, we worked and spent time more cohesively, so the sense of teamwork really shone through on this trip.”

Aidan Philie ‘20:

“I used to think that the Dominican Republic was just another typical Caribbean Island where tourism is off the charts. I now think and realize that it is so much more than that. I now think that the DR is an amazing place with amazing people. I felt a sense of community like none other. The people of the DR opened their arms to us in loving fashion. I now think that the DR is more than a typical island, it is a place people call home. It is a place where everyone helps everyone. The DR is a community and I am happy I was a part of it for a week. I used to not think much about the DR, but now I fully understand how wonderful of a place it is.

I have grown in the fact that I now understand a different culture, a different lifestyle, and a different group of people. I have gained a lot of knowledge on this trip, knowledge about the DR, but also knowledge about myself. I have lived a different lifestyle for a week, and I have changed because of it. I tried new things, and lived outside of my comfort zone for a week. I am grateful for this trip for allowing me to grow and learn.”

Click here for more pictures of the DR trip.

South Korea #4: An Exciting First Day

Wilona Wiafe ’21 reflects on the meaning of leadership, and Alice Hryhorovych ’20 recounts a busy first day in Seoul.

Wilona:

“Deerfield Academy prepares students for leadership in a rapidly changing world.” This is a phrase that is immediately seen at the top of Deerfield Academy’s mission statement. Yet, I have always wondered: How does Deerfield manage to prepare 600 students to become leaders?

Sunday, June 16th. 1:45 pm. Students and faculty on the trip have gathered at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Felipe, one of our tour guides with Envoys, asked students to share one of our three goals for the trip. Immediately, my mind went to leadership. I knew if I took nothing away from this trip, I wanted to at least come back with one new method for becoming a better leader.

Leadership in context to the United States is significantly different than the rest of the world. Already, on my first day in South Korea, I have seen leadership in a different light. Although I have not been here very long, I have gained a sense of the culture in South Korea. Based on the people I have been around, I have noticed that Koreans believe good leaders must be approachable. Walking around Insadong, I noticed a sense of warmness among the people. Despite the obvious language barrier, whenever I approached someone in the market, I recognized that a quality that must have been instilled in South Koreans at a young age is kindness. Their kindness makes them extremely approachable. Leaders must be empathetic. One who wants to become a leader must understand those they are leading. Lack of understanding between leaders and their people is one of the fundamental reasons for why countries fail. If we all gain the ability to empathize, we can make the world a better place. Deerfield is preparing me to be the best leader I can be by granting me this amazing opportunity to travel to South Korea, and I am so excited for the rest of the trip!

Lily Steinwold ’21 (left), Wilona Wiafe ’21 (right)

Wilona Wiafe ’21 (left), Ollie Pink ’20 (right)

Alice:

Surprisingly, not many of us were falling asleep or jet lagged even though the US is 13 hours behind. When I say surprisingly not asleep, I mean that if we could sleep and walk at the same time we would, but June 16th was a non-stop adventure with little time to even think about rest.

Full of energy, we met 15 Deerfield faculty members who were on a professional development trip in Asia and went to the Hanok village where we all got introduced to some Korean traditions. Surrounded by the traditional houses which were the defining elements of the village, we took part in a Korean Arts and Crafts lesson. Throughout our experience in the village we learned more about Korean mythology and the ways people used it to represent certain virtues and values. We had a chance to choose one of four mythical animals that were meant to protect the king in the four cardinal directions to create a bag or a T-shirt. Proud of our accomplishments (read “a failure to not get paint over the lines of a sketch”), we headed down the village streets (considering renting the 7$ Korean dresses to take pictures).

The day continued with a visit to a Korean restaurant; even though Korean food is very different from what we are typically used to, we diligently cut the meat with a spoon and stabbed dumplings with chopsticks. While having fun doing scavenger hunts prepared by two student groups after lunch, we also learned about Buddhism, visited a temple, explored the narrow streets of the Insadong Market, and watched a Korean martial arts show.

Language barrier, however, accompanied all of our adventures. Here is a transcription of our attempt to purchase a scarf in the market:

-”What is this?”
-”8000 won.”
-”Is this popular?”
-*calls her son on the phone to translate*

So after such an exhausting day, we couldn’t be happier to have a dinner hosted by Friends of Deerfield Korea. Parents, alumni, new students, and our group all had a great time sharing our experience in Korea, meeting friends who graduated, welcoming two rising 9th graders, and singing the Deerfield Even Song.

A great day behind and many more adventures ahead!


Click here for more pictures of the South Korea trip!

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #5: Drawing Parallels Between Wars

Sophia Hamlen ’22 reflects on her visit to Serbia and the varying war perspectives of the community.

After a well-deserved night’s rest, we started off our first full day in Belgrade with a hotel breakfast. Due to the NHL Finals (broadcasted at 2:00 am Serbia Time), the Bruins fans of our group struggled to smile their way through breakfast, battling both an upsetting loss and sleep deprivation. Nonetheless, after seeing Belgrade from a river cruise the evening before, we were all excited to explore the city and its history.
Following breakfast, we met with our guide for the day, Stephen, who led us through the city center towards Kalemegdan Park, where the Belgrade Fortress is located. Built by the Romans in the 2nd Century, The Belgrade Fortress stood tall through many foreign invasions. It offered breathtaking views of the Danube River and the city of Belgrade.

Due to the 95 º weather, we skipped out on a long walk, instead, packing ourselves into a crowded Belgradian bus to our next location. We arrived at our stop, which was only a couple minutes walk from the Church of St. Sava, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world. The Church is one of the most important landmarks for Serbians, who are predominantly Orthodox Christians. Upon arriving at the church, many of us were awestruck by the vast, white-marble walls and turquoise domes. The church, which is still under construction today, began construction in 1935, but due to World War II, The Communist Revolution, and the wars of the 1990’s, construction of the church was constantly halted and recent constructions did not begin until 2001. Though not fully completed, the interior of the church was breathtaking; Religious artwork covered the walls and intricate chandeliers adorned the ceiling.

Following our visit to the church, we were all ready for a hearty lunch. We enjoyed a traditional Serbian Lunch of a Mezze platter filled with various garnishes, meats, and cheeses, a Mediterranean Salad, grilled vegetables, and various grilled meats. At my end of the table during the meal, we discussed the parallels between events in Serbia’s earlier history and the events involving Serbia during the Yugoslavian Wars of the 1990’s. One parallel we discussed was Croatia’s role in WWII, which mainly targeted Serbians, and how that may have influenced Serbia’s decision to attack Croatia in the 90’s. Another point we touched on was the long-time rivalry between The Ottoman Empire and Serbia, and how that might be parallel to Serbia’s attacks on Bosnia during the 90’s. Following the meal, we had a round-table discussion as a group consolidating all we had learned about Serbia throughout the day, while also drawing more parallels about the wars.

Following a discussion-heavy lunch, we boarded another bus to Marshall Titio’s grave, also known as the House of Flowers. Josip Baz Tito was the former president of Yugoslavia, whose death was one of the primary causes for the wars of the 1990’s. The House of Flowers offered an exhibition showcasing Marshall Tito’s international gifts as well as his burial site. I especially appreciated how the exhibition offered us insight into Tito’s four decades of rule, revealing how Yugoslavia’s socialist state operated before the outbreak of violence in the 90’s.

Before making our way to dinner, we met with a group of Serbians that had experienced the war as children. This group of Individuals were some of the most progressive in all of Serbia, yet they still struck our group as rather defensive about Serbia’s role in the wars of the 1990’s. Thomas Lyons asked whether or not they believed Serbia’s actions towards Bosnia and Croatia were considered genocide, to which they answered no. Their answer not only surprised me, but also made me realize the importance of perspective. I think it’s great that during our visit of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia we are encountering vastly different perspectives on these wars; ultimately I hope to build an understanding of the war based on a multitude of points of view.

We ended our day in Belgrade with a traditional Serbian Dinner. Reflecting over the past day, I saw this as an extremely important day in our attempt to understand the wars of the 1990’s. This was the first time we learned of the war from the perspective of the Serbians, who much of the world perceives as the main perpetrators of these wars. The role of perpetrator and victim also took new meaning within me. Upon discussing the parallels between events of history and the events of the 1990’s during lunchtime, I realized that the roles of perpetrator and victim are highly prone to reversal. Within their history, Serbia could be recognized as both a perpetrator and a victim. Drawing parallels between events in history and putting deep thought into perpetrator-victim roles are two skills that will help me as we travel to new locations like Bosnia, and also as we return to Croatia.

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #4: Varying Perspectives Of The Yugoslav Wars

Sami Dulam ’21 considers the different perspectives of the Yugoslav wars.

On our official fourth day in the Balkans, we were able to experience a last glimpse at eastern Croatia before departing for Serbia. The group and I awoke to an early breakfast at 7:15 am in Vukovar where we ate traditional eggs, yogurts, and fruit overlooking the Danube. The sun’s rays and mosquitoes’ pestering only grew stronger with each passing minute, so we applied some sunscreen and bug spray and then were on our way through the streets of Vukovar, a Croatian town overrun and destroyed by Serbian forces in 1991.

Our local guide, Tomislav, took us to the hospital where doctors treated the wounded during the 87-day Serbian siege of Vukovar. We walked through the rooms where, during the conflict, beds filled with patients were stacked three high to the ceiling. Doctors and nurses packed the spaces in between each column with incubators for newborns or IV fluid bag stands for those who needed them. These doctors and nurses worked long hours, and many of them kept their own children at the hospital through the night in order to care for as many wounded as possible. As we walked out of the hospital, I noticed a large Red Cross with holes in it hung above the door. My fellow student asked Tomislav what it signified, and he replied that it represented how the Red Cross organization sign on the roof of the hospital during the siege was blasted with holes by Serbian bombs.

When Serbian troops captured the hospital, they dragged 300 patients out to a field and executed them. Tomislav took our group to the memorial that marks the site of these brutal killings. I felt that the Red Cross filled with holes symbolized the life of a Croat fighting for the pride of their own country. The cross evoked stories I had heard the past few days about those people who fought fiercely against Serbs who were once their neighbors. Just by seeing that symbolic Red Cross with the holes, I almost felt that I had seen the hospital being bombed by airborne Serbs while helpless injured laid inside. I wondered how these atrocities could occur, how people could be so inhumane without even an inkling of contemplation. But then I remembered. We were in Croatia, after all, hearing a Croat perspective. This was not the full truth of what happened during the Yugoslav wars, only a portion of it. In order to come up with my own truth of what had happened, I would need to hear a variety of perspectives.

After visiting the Vukovar’s hospital and city center, our group hopped on the bus to embark on a trip to Belgrade, Serbia. As my eyes groggily opened after a nap on the bus, my gaze landed on a city skyline of tall glass buildings on the left. My head swiveled to the right as I saw red-roofed buildings with carved columns on the other side of the bus. “Old meets new” was my first thought about Belgrade.

After checking into our hotel, we quickly met our local guide, Alex, who took us to see NATO bombing sites in Belgrade during the Kosovo War in 1999. Alex told us he was in seventh grade at the time and vividly remembers the bombings. He went on to describe his fears during the crisis: “Will my dad be sent off to war? He wasn’t made for war. How will I take care of my little brother and mom?” He made sure to state that he believed no lone person or country was at fault during all the warfare, but I could tell deeper feelings stirred in his eyes as he said those words. He talked about how Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia, used propaganda through media to corrupt the minds of Serbian civilians and their own beliefs.

After Alex shared his perspective of being a Serbian child during the Yugoslavian wars, Mr. Lyons asked him about what he thought NATO should’ve done during that time. He responded that he believed, as did many Serbians, that the NATO bombings were unfair to the people of Serbia. As an American born and raised, my confusion about the truth grew. Weren’t NATO’s bombings necessary to stop Serbian aggression in Kosovo? I started to reflect on my own perspective as I continued to hear Alex’s. What is the truth? Who gets to decide? Does any group get to decide? I knew the only way to form my own answers was to interact with more perspectives of different people and identities. After a river cruise through the Danube and traditional Balkan dinner, I headed to my hotel room. As these thoughts that I had generated stayed heavy on my mind, I drifted into sleep until the next morning where I would hopefully be able to discover more perspectives to carve out my own truth about what happened during the Yugoslav wars.

 

 

 

 

South Korea #3: Seoul Arrival!

At the end of a long day of travel and a delicious first meal in Seoul, which included bulgogi bibimbap, dumplings, soup, and Korean pancakes, trip leaders asked the students,”What are you most looking forward to doing and/or seeing while we are in Korea.” Below are students responses:

Alice Hryhorovych ’20: “I’m excited to travel to the Insadong market to try new foods and take a closer look at the Korean culture.”

Shane McCarthy ’21: “I’m looking forward to interacting with the North Korean refugees. I hope to be able to bridge the language gap and make meaningful memories.”

Chase Mathis ’21: “I am excited to meditate in the temple, because it will be fun to watch the sunrise at 4 am.”

Ollie Pink ’20: “I’m most excited to learn about and appreciate the South Korean culture while becoming closer friends with my group members.”

Josh Oduro ’20: “I’m excited to see more of Korean architecture. From what I’ve seen, the city is beautiful, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Insadong market will look like.”

Emma Haddock ’21: “I’m excited to explore Seoul – the temples, markets, and more.”

Lily Steinwold ’21: “Self reflection and meditation after the trip will be very rejuvenating.”

Ella Holowesko ’20: “I am looking forward to working with North Korean refugees and learning more about their stories.”

Gabriella Hu ’21: “I look forward to reflecting and relaxing at the Buddhist temple.”

Wilona Wiafe ’21: “I want to get some cool pictures and videos of Insadong.”

Julia Placek ’20: “I am excited to explore the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and to see what it is like.”

Raheme Taylor ’20: “I’m mostly looking forward to experiencing all the different sites and learning more of the language. The site I am looking forward to the most is the DMZ.”

Nasir Barnes ’21: “I am excited to see the Insadong market – the layout and architecture will be interesting.”

Tomorrow, we will meet up with the Deerfield faculty group to explore Hanok Village, a Buddhist temple in Jogyesa, and the Insadong market.

 

 

South Korea #2: Leadership In Action

Trip Leader, Heather Wakeman describes the rewarding experience of traveling abroad with students. 

When I am on call for trips, I go to the bus and/or van in front of the MSB to see students and faculty off on their travel programs. I sometimes provide some snacks, greet parents, and address any last minute burning student questions, usually around food, money, phone use, and free time: basic needs for the nervous or anticipatory adolescent traveler. I urge students to write good blogs (a touchstone for families, a barometer for the trip, and an important reflection tool for students), and hope their DA education has helped prepare them with tools to lean into the discomfort of travel, debrief awkward cross-cultural encounters with empathy, humility and a good sense of humor, and make their most of the experience with good decisions along the way.

To my colleagues remaining on campus, I say I am off to “launch a trip” when I head to the MSB. It sounds like a NASA event, as if we are sending our students into space having spent years planning for a mission, and in many ways, I find it fitting. There is a ton of preparation, people, and resources that go into a van pulling away and students heading off to various places around the globe; these programs are a major investment in our students. Ultimately, though, as I wave good-bye and the bus pulls out of Albany Rd, I am always reminded that the experience is created among students and their teachers abroad, and those experiences are the ones I am most passionate about supporting in my role at Deerfield. When I am in the field with students, though, I am most happy.

I have been in Korea already for 3 nights, and while I did not get to participate in the meaningful send off for my own program, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 13 students and two of my colleagues to Seoul. I’ve been wondering the same questions I always do before a trip: how would this group get along, would they be exhausted from a 14 hour flight, are they excited to be here even though school feels so far away already? This morning, I immediately felt the warmth and enthusiasm of this group, and those questions were met with answers. They were mixing and mingling, had slept well, and were fired up.

What was incredibly unique and powerful about today is that 10 faculty members are here on a professional development trip in Seoul to deepen their understanding and empathy of Korean culture, while also participating in a Deerfield CSGC Travel Program. Today, they engaged in the full experience alongside our students. It was powerful to watch students and their teachers, advisors, coaches, and new faces share in a new place, engage in conversations about our day, and learn together.

On this trip, all of our experiences can be viewed through one of three lenses of inquiry: seeing leadership in action, leading your peers, or reflection. Today’s main focus was on leading peers. Emma Haddock & Gabriella Hu planned a dynamic “selfy” scavenger hunt at the Jogyesa Temple to teach the group more about Korean Buddhism. As it was happening, my heart burst with pride and gratitude for these students and teachers jogging side by side from various important sites on the grounds that Emma & Gabriella had learned about from thousands of miles away. They led the activity bringing expertise and fun.

Next, Julia Placek & Nasir Barnes took our group of 30 to Insadong, a traditional crafts market in the center of Seoul. Splitting the group again into 5 groups mixed with both students and faculty, Julia & Nasir charged their followers to purchase an artifact and have a conversation with a shopkeeper about its story and significance in Korean culture. Many teachers said it was the highlight of how they engaged so far on the trip, which again was thanks to the students.

The authentic responsibility that these student lessons provide for sharpening skills as a leader by being responsible for the quality of their peers’ engagement and experience is rewarding to be a part of. When I tell students who are headed off into the world on those MSB departure days to “make the most of their experience,” I recognize that through the nervousness, jetlag, and discomfort that comes with travel, providing the opportunity to practice how to make the most of an experience is essential. Leadership development requires continued practice, resilience, and an opportunity to be pushed outside your comfort zone, whether that be being in a new place or learning side-by-side or teaching teachers, and today our students thrived. The unique opportunity to see worlds collide: Deerfield Academy and Korea, students and faculty, in one place, with a shared purpose was incredibly powerful and meaningful.

I am so excited for the next 7 days with students, and while those 10 faculty members are headed to China tomorrow, I know the students will continue to be just as stellar as they were today, even without that extra pressure of teachers. It’s a great group of students, and I continue to be grateful for the trust families put in us and investment they make so they may have this opportunity. Thank you.

France #9: Château de Villandry

Angélique Alexos ’20 describes the groups picturesque bike excursion to the Chateau and Gardens of Villandry.

To end a busy week of school and trips around Tours where we delved into everything from French grammar and culture to stories about historic ruins and the layout of Tours itself, we embarked on a bike ride. Travelling across the French countryside would allow us to be more familiar with our location beyond the bustling city of Tours where we had spent most of our time this week.

To begin our excursion, we traveled to a small town nearby to pick up our bikes and gear for the day. Unlike the activities of the previous days, today we would be experiencing some different aspects of French culture in our gray helmets and slightly suspicious looking bright yellow vests. Don’t worry, no strikes occurred over the course of this day. Perhaps we looked like quite the group biking single file and accompanied by our guide, Odile, who was driving along with us in her car, but rest assured we were not thinking of harming the nature around us. Instead we were in search of other goals.

On the bike ride, there was much to see as we passed lush valleys of poppies, little brick houses, and clusters of cows and horses. Periodically, we stopped to walk by the Loire river and regroup as some of us enjoyed slowly pedaling through the pathway more than others. However, at whatever speed we biked, to say that the scenery around us was beautiful would be an understatement. By the time the first part of our ride was over, we had seen many aspects of the picturesque countryside of France, but we were to experience even more at our destination: Villandry. We stowed our bikes and took a small intermission at a nearby restaurant to eat lunch (which included, of course, lots of French bread) before entering the second chapter of our trip.

At Villandry, we walked among the peace and beauty of the gardens, shadowed by the towering chateau itself. Ironically, though we were not wearing our yellow vests for this part of the trip, we may have caused what could be called a slight disturbance playing in the children’s playground in the gardens. It was probably from all the excitement as we were surrounded by an immense garden containing sweet smelling roses, herbs and medicinal plants, and even cabbage and spinach! It would be pretty easy to picture a life in the chateau with this garden just beneath.

But as all parts of history come to an end at some point, it was soon time for us to head back to the bikes and pedal back to where we had started. Although we stopped once, in a very French manner, to see if a bakery we had spotted on the way was selling bread, our return was one of speed and amusement. The adventure came to a close as we hung up our “gilets jaunes” and had a quick rest at a nearby café before returning to Tours. Afterwards, we each headed to our individual homes to begin an exciting weekend with our families.

Faculty China & Korea #1: First Day

The Faculty China & Korea program has arrived in Seoul. Follow their journey as they travel throughout South Korea and China for the next two weeks. 

Rebecca Melvoin, History & Social Science Teacher, shares the groups first day in Korea and a visit with TNKR (Teach North Korean Refugees). 

Our first day in Korea began early for many of us as we adjusted to the time change. (I think we all developed greater empathy for our international students as they have to wrestle with jet lag several times a year.) We began the morning by driving by the Blue House, which we learned is the equivalent of the White House in the United States. We then toured in one of the five ancient palaces. We observed and learned about the Chosen Dynasty and about the cultures/traditions from ages past while also being surrounded by a vibrant, modern city. It is remarkable to see a neon billboard behind the walls of the palace and see the contrast of the 21st century juxtaposed to that of the 14th century.

In the afternoon, we spent time wandering through a traditional market selling an assortment of goods before going to TNKR, which stands for Teach North Korean Refugees. There we talked to three defectors/refugees from North Korea and learned their stories. We heard about their hardships in North Korea as well as getting to Seoul. When asked what they wanted us to take away from our time with them, they said to appreciate that which we have. To live in North Korea is to live without freedom and that is, perhaps, something that we can sometimes take for granted. We were encouraged to help North Korean defectors, or reunifiers as they preferred to be called, and to tell people their stories.

For me, it brought up so many questions about geo-politics from the Cold War era. Had the US and the Soviet Union not been competing for global power, how might that have impacted Korea and allowed it to be reunited once it was free from Japanese colonialism? The stories also made me think about immigration in the US today. When people come to the US seeking asylum, do we welcome them or turn them away? Do we learn the stories of those who are trying arrive or turn them away based on politics? There are so many more questions that were raised for which I don’t have answers, but just a desire to know more.



South Korea #1: The Journey Begins!

Today, the South Korea: Leadership In A Korean Context program departed to begin their journey! For the next couple of  days, 13 students and three faculty trip leaders, Heather Wakeman, Julie Schloat, and Nina Otterson, will travel through Seoul.  Throughout the experience, students will study Korea’s remarkable economic journey in the post-war period, while strengthening their skills and deepening their understanding of leadership in action in the world. The group will analyze the benefits and costs of this development to modern Korean society, and will explore the tension between cultural traditions and the forces of modernity within the country. Visiting sites, participating in cultural experiences, and meeting with business people, government officials, and non-profit leaders, students will gain a more textured understanding of leadership in a South Korean context. Throughout the trip, students will have the opportunity to lead their peers and/or see leadership in action.

We look forward to reading their upcoming reflections blog posts on Deerfield’s Notes from Abroad!

Spain #8: Culture Shock

Sarah Wright ’20 discovers the warmth and beauty of Spanish culture.

Prior to traveling to Spain, I had never been to Europe. In fact, my journeys outside of the borders of the United States had never taken me across an ocean. As we prepared for the trip and I learned about my host family and the activities we would be participating in, I began to form an image of what Cádiz would be like. Information given to us by our teachers combined with my knowledge of Europe and Spain (mostly gathered from artsy travel blogs though let’s say from history classes) formed my idea of Cádiz. And let me tell you, I was so wrong.

Driving into Cádiz from our orientation in Jerez, I whipped out my phone prepared to take photos of matadors walking their bulls down cobblestone paths, as flamenco dancers stomped and swayed on every corner. But the image on my phone had apartment buildings, where castles should have been and people were walking small dogs down sidewalks instead of chasing bulls on horseback. I was shocked.

Sarah Wright ’20

As we became acquainted with the city, and our new homes, we were introduced to “Cádiz Antigua.” This area, also known as “El Centro,” featured the stunningly aged buildings and cobblestone walkways that I had imagined finding in Europe. And, as we walked down the streets gazing up at the rooftop gardens and peering into small cafes, I realized that Spanish culture was not something that would present itself to me the second I entered the country’s borders.

I have found the most important pieces necessary to form a full picture of the culture of Spain in the most unexpected places. I have found it in the layers and layers of history that we discuss as we stand atop the physical building of culture upon culture, Phoenician upon Roman, upon Muslim upon Spanish. I have found it in the warmth of my host mom, as she repeats her question to Taylor and I for the fourth time, each time slower, and each time with a wider smile. I have found it in the aromas rising from pans of paella and croquetas. I have found it in the kindness of the students at Salesianos, where we take classes, as they laugh at Harry’s statement that he wants to be an “avocado” instead of an “abogado,” or lawyer. I have found it in the yells of “ole” and “agua” that ring out as a flamenco dancer finishes her performance with a stomp and a twirl of her skirts. I have found it in the laughs that ring through the streets late at night as people sit on patios with their friends and family. And, I have learned that Spanish culture is deeper than flamenco dresses and bull fights. It is an ever-present connection that somehow links buildings older than the United States and smartphones playing Reggaeton.

There are no words that can properly describe this connection and there is no way to see it. But, as we take the bus from our apartment building to the cobblestone patios of small cafes, I feel the warmth of Spanish culture all around me.

From left to right: Samara Cummings ’20, Tessa Mannix ’20, Sarah Wright ’20

Sarah Wright ’20 cooking a traditional Spanish meal

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #3: From Crows to Kalashnikov’s

Throughout the last couple of days the group has visited Jasenovac and Vukovar, Croatia, making stops at several memorial sites, Christian Odenius ’22 reflects on his experience.

From a country of daffodil-colored highway tollbooths (modern ones, to be sure) and quaint city marketplaces, you’d expect a rich history; one of warfare, yes, but also of immense prosperity. And you will find such a history in Croatia. Croatia served as the Austro-Hungarian front line in its battle against the Ottomans, and it has been a cultural melting pot since the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans in the fourteenth century. But it wasn’t until this twenty-first century that you could say Croatian goings-on might be considered current events rather than history.

According to our tour guide in Zagreb (smart dude, Luka was), the nineteenth century began with World War I and a hasty entrance into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with rival-state Serbia. In the following decade, a Serbian parliament member killed five of his Croatian colleagues in cold blood, triggering the rise of a Yugoslav dictatorship. In the 1940s, Croatia’s Ustashe regime declared its independence and allied itself with the Third Reich. Nazi officials noted the cruelty of Ustashe concentration camps—though they were a Nazi invention. These camps detained Jews, Gypsies, and Serbs as they worked and awaited their slaughter. Toward the war’s end, Ustashe soldiers laid ruin to their concentration camps to destroy evidence of their war crimes. We visited the Jasenovac Camp Memorial and found what might as well be pastureland. Chaos was everywhere and every when, but such history now camouflages itself among the green landscape and a world of drab journalistic vernacular that includes such phrases as European Union and coalition-government. Those institutions, those beacons of order, did not exist in the twentieth century.

Then the nineties—inescapably recent. For the US, they were Pulp Fiction and the Internet. For Croatia and Croats in Serbia and Bosnia, they were bloodshed and torture, often in death camps. The Yugoslav War seared itself into the Croatian consciousness, civilians and all. Luka told us that, all of a sudden, his children’s sticker collection moved from the subject of animals to the military, and, rather than trade crows, children traded Kalashnikov’s. The war was an ubiquitous presence and too tragic to ever have been a current event, except to us Americans.

Click here for more pictures of the trip.

France #8: Adventures in Tours

Robert Sawyers ’21 shares his first impressions of Tours, where the group will spend the next couple of weeks living with host families.

Two days ago marked the beginning of our time in the French city, Tours. After eating our final breakfast in Paris, we packed our suitcases and rode the bus to the train station, where we were freely allowed to explore in order to find some lunch before boarding the train. With a variety of small restaurants, including boulangeries, a sushi shop, a Starbucks, and some convenience stores, we split up into little groups and dispersed about the train station for an hour and a half before meeting up to board the train. Loading our suitcases onto the train and finding our seats, the train rolled out of the station and we headed off to Tours.

Arriving at the train station in Tours, we met our guide, Odile. Odile, a close friend of Madame Nichols, guided us through the busy people in the train station, and soon we entered the grand lobby where our host families were excited and eager to greet us. Hesitant but prepared for a new experience, we anxiously departed with our respective families. Since Monday, June 10, was a holiday in France, we had an extra day to get to know our families and immerse ourselves into French culture.

Today, June 11, was the beginning of the three weeks of our time in Tours. With class starting at nine a.m., we diligently gathered outside of the English-Sur-Loire building, eagerly waiting to meet our teachers and learn the fascinating history about Tours. When entering the classroom, we were presented our first task – a quiz. Wonderful! We just finished exams, and now we have another test… they never told us about that! The quiz was composed of fifteen short sentences in English, and we were tasked with translating each sentence into French.

Robert Sawyers ’21

After completing the quiz, we were split into two groups and headed off to our separate classrooms to begin our first French class. With class ending at 12 p.m., we walked to a creperie to eat lunch. Most of us ordered either a burger or a galette (a crepe with buckwheat instead of regular wheat), and then a dessert crepe. After lunch, we explored the city of Tours, seeing different monuments and the “vieille ville” – a small square of old fashioned buildings and now, some boulangeries and other restaurants providing places for people to dine throughout the day. Getting comfortable with the city, by the end, we were able to navigate our way through the complicated streets. Apart from the light rain, it was a wonderful beginning to our future adventures in Tours and our home stay.

Students take a photo around the Balzac in honor of Madame Lyons. From left to right: Nick Fluty ’20, Elliot Flagg ’20, Angelique Alexos ’20, Robert Sawyers ’21, Caroline Mahony ’21

From left to right: Robert Sawyers ’21, Angelique Alexos ’20, Lukas Trelease ’20

From left to right: Robert Sawyers ’21, Lukas Trelease ’20 Angelique Alexos ’20

 

 

Spain #7: Meaningful Conversations

Taylor Coan ’21 comes to “appreciate the deeper level of learning that living with a host family provides.”

When I found out that I had been accepted to this trip, my immediate concern was about communicating. I don’t have a flawless accent, I can’t roll my r’s, and I tend to mix up conjugations frequently while speaking. I worried that my host family wouldn’t be able to understand me, and that our house subsequently would be filled with a lot of awkward silence. This fear trailed behind me throughout the rest of the school year, an occasional worry that I brushed off because this trip always seemed so far away. It didn’t really hit me that I was going to have to primarily speak Spanish for the better part of a month until I arrived in Cadiz.

In Wakana, it was easy to forget that we were in Spain. The only people at the camp were from Deerfield, besides the two or three employees of Wakana or MundoLengua that accompanied us. We talked in English for the most part, with a Spanish word here or there. The reality of the situation finally registered with me when I stepped off the bus in Cadiz and saw all of the host families waiting for us. I was really in Spain, and I needed to rely on my prior knowledge of Spanish in order to form a relationship with the people here.

After a week living with the families, I have grown to appreciate the deeper level of learning that living with a host family provides. When talking to my host mom, I don’t have time to form a sentence in my head before saying it, I simply have to speak as I think. It was hard in the beginning, but my host mom is so patient and kind that I never felt embarrassed about my lack of accuracy. I now look forward to our meaningful conversations after meals about Spanish politics, Sarah and I’s lives in America, and her family that is scattered all around the world. I’ve learned that the people here are also extremely friendly. They talk to us on the bus, kindly speaking at a slower pace than usual so we can understand them. They ask about our trip and our homes in America, and it’s cool because we get to learn about people that we otherwise never would have met. I’m really excited to learn more about my host family, as well as interact with more people through MundoLengua.

Taylor Coan ’21 (left), Harry Niles ’21 (right)

From left to right: Tessa Mannix ’20, Taylor Coan ’21, and Michelle Zimmerman ’21

Spain #6: Spanish Beyond The Classroom

Mark Chung ’21 describes the importance of a full immersion when learning a language.

Over the past few days, we have experienced the deep and multifaceted aspects of Spanish culture, from its love of food to its rich history of growth. This weekend was no different, as we explored the streets of Seville for two days. Throughout this trip, we explored Andalucia’s unique position as a crossroads for Christian, Islamic, and Jewish peoples and their individual cultures, looking at their subtle influences in architecture, language, and art. Learning about this history was particularly fascinating, as I saw how ultimately, people of seemingly opposing traditions were able to develop such a deep culture. Today, we got back to our regular schedule in Cádiz, starting off with our daily morning classes. Beyond grammar and vocabulary, I have found that our lessons in Spanish culture have helped me the most throughout this trip.

Last week, we spent a class discussing Spanish idioms, working together to discern their meanings. This lesson in particular allowed me to realize how much I took language for granted. In our everyday lives, whether it be at Deerfield or beyond, we inevitably find comfort in our mother tongues, not realizing the deep nuances that are often difficult for those learning the language. We looked upon our page of nonsensical phrases, puzzled. As we worked through the activity, I began to appreciate the challenges of learning languages at a deeper level. In order to truly understand a language, it is critical to explore the culture and history of the people behind it, and this experience has allowed me to begin to scratch its surface. At the beginning of this trip, I had set out to learn about Cádiz’s unique slang and local language, and I hope to further explore this in the coming weeks.

For me, some of the most valuable experiences throughout this trip have been in immersive situations. Whether I was ordering tapas, speaking to locals on the bus, or explaining how I wanted my hair to be cut at a barbershop, I have found myself constantly challenged to broaden my experiences with Spanish to beyond the classroom, placing myself in scenarios unable to be taught through textbooks or vocabulary lists. Although I try to push myself to speak Spanish more, I have all too often defaulted to speaking in English with my peers. The many situations I have found myself in, where I had to find ways to overcome the language barrier, have encouraged me to look more into how language defines people. Throughout the rest of this trip, I hope to not only develop my communication abilities, but also find a deeper appreciation for Spanish language and culture.

Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, & Serbia #2: And So It Began

Thomas Lyons ’21 shares his first impressions of Croatia.  

12 am-4 am is a time reserved for the adventurous. Ultramarathon runners attempting to escape the heat of the day’s sun, farmers up with the rooster, long distance truckers searching for exit signs, Deerfield students pulling late night study sessions. Gazing into those early summer morning sunrises are sacred; they connect the few that are awake. Today, (or yesterday? two days ago? I’m not sure, jet lag is throwing us all for a loop) the members of our trip got to witness the birth of a new summer day. Slightly past 11 pm, (Eastern Coast Time) through a smudged airplane window, we watched as the sun rose. How many sunrises had Bosnian refugees or UN officials seen rise over the broken streets of Bosnia, Serbia or Croatia? How many are left to tell those stories? Today, the sun rises over nations separated by both political borders and history; in the 1990’s, the sun rose over a recently broken Yugoslavia and the rays illuminated Serbia’s violent attempts to create the Greater Serbia. During this trip, we will have the opportunity to not only trace the course of the conflicts, talk with survivors and historians, but see how these conflicts affect current relations throughout the Balkans and what the 90’s Yugoslavian wars reveal about the dangers of nationalism today.

Once off the plane and in Zagreb, Croatia, we stopped at Karijola (a pizza restaurant) for lunch. Once pizza had been served and calories proved a temporary antidote to jet lag, we began regaling each other with stories from our middle school days. One story struck me as particularly relevant to our trip. A friend told us that in her New York middle school, a student brought in a kitchen knife and was cutting the zippers of peer’s bags. Though slightly disturbing, the story was a comical one and ended in a student alerting the teacher about the incident, the adult negated the problem and the story ended. However, what if there is no teacher to tell?When your neighbors do more than just cut the zippers off your back packs, when they kill your children and rape your partners, when they send you to concentration camps and leave you in mass graves, what happens when the teachers are looking the other way?

In Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass, George Keeney, the state department representative for Bosnia recalled, “My job was to make it appear as though the US was active and concerned about the situation and, at the same time, give no one the impression that the US was actually going to do something significant about it”. Keeney later resigned from his diplomatic position out of principal. Maass writes, “As evidence of widespread torture and murder cascaded into his (Keeney’s) lap in the following weeks, the State Department refused to say “genocide” was occurring. Why the strange reluctance? An acknowledgement would have lain the groundwork for requiring the government to take action in line with its legal obligations under the 1949 UN Convention on the Pre-Obligations and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” US officials, unwilling to risk the lives of American boys, consciously attempted to uphold a blissful ignorance of the full brutality of the wars. When Bosnians requested arms and foreign intervention (some even asked American fighter pilots to bomb their cities so they could finally be at peace), the US’s neutrality effectively empowered the perpetrators.

Exploring the complexities of the wars, we arrived in a bunker turned museum exhibit where Luka, a local tour guide and son of a Croatian soldier, shared with us a documentary of the Yugoslav fighting. Ideology and narrative fueled the Yugoslav wars just as much as guns and men. Articulated in the documentary, the power of the battle of perspective became clear when Serbian and Bosnian newscasters giving different reports, sentence for sentence repeated the other’s statements, switching only the country’s names. For example, the Serbian reporter might say “photographs show no evidence that Serbian military committed attacks against civilians” and the Croatian reporter would say “photographs show no evidence that Croatian military committed attacks against civilians”. Though similar, stories and propaganda served as a potent method of inspiration and indoctrination for both sides.

Thomas Lyons ’21

Given time to explore the city, I found myself at what I can best describe in English as a fresh juice/balls of fried dough food stand (my Serbo-Croatian is limited to “hello” and “thank you” at the moment), a strangely enthusiastic man in his late 20’s greeted us (enthusiastic, we learned, because we were his first customers of the day…it was 4:30 pm). We asked him if he knew anyone who fought in the wars. “Practically everyone who’s now over 40” he replied. It is hard to imagine a city where every member of a generation fought. But Zagreb doesn’t have the feel of a war-torn community. Beyoncé songs and Nike ads fill the city streets of Zagreb, and, though more graffiti filled and grittier than the alleys of smaller US cities, one could easily confuse the two upon first glance.

However, even in the developed Balkan’s countries, over 20 years after the wars, tensions between Serbia and Croatia remain high. Mak, our local tour guide, warned Deerfield students who bought Croatian soccer jerseys not to wear the shirts during the portion of our trip in Serbia. Even just a part of the flag on a jersey is enough to bring back strong emotions about national identity, ethnic cleansing and conflict. But the stray heated encounter with a passionate veteran or nationalist is rare; the majority of the public memory that lives in Zagreb resides in museums. In fact, the city has the most museums per square meter in the world. In the museum of war photography, we saw the conflict and suffering through the eyes of photographers on the ground. In Vukovar 18 taken by Charles Morrison, an Elderly Croatian civilian is bloody and wounded after being forced out of his basement by a hand grenade. He sits on a stump outside his house among the rubble, arms outstretched, frail and pleading, begging for his life in front of a Serbian soldier with a gun. The rubble is what remains of his house, but it is also symbolic of the country. How did the Balkans arrive in this situation? How did neighbor turn murderer? How do good, ordinary people commit terrible acts of atrocities? Right now, we have many questions. Keep checking in as we struggle to find what inspires what Maass describes as the “wild beast” living in every man.

Click here for more pictures of the trip.

France #7: Meet & Greet

Students gather at a host family afternoon tea meet and greet. Between today and tomorrow, students will be moving in with their homestay families, where they will spend the next three weeks strengthening their language skills through daily classes with Terre des Langues, our partner in Tours, and through afternoon cultural activities and site visits.


Spain #5: Weekend Trip to Seville

David Chen ’20 considers the importance of Spanish culture through its architecture, dance, and religion.

This morning we travelled to Seville, another more central city in Spain, to explore more about the culture and language. As we walked through the many parks and plazas, it was reminiscent of the ‘old part’ of the city in Cádiz that we had explored earlier. The storefronts also had a similar architecture and layout compared to those in Cádiz.

The architecture in Seville was extremely interesting, as we passed by a building that seemed to be made mostly of wood, that stretched across one side of the street to the other. There where a lot of interesting little details that seeped into the architecture of the city; one of these was at Plaza de España, a giant palace that outlined the many cities and provinces in Spain. Our tour guide, Jésus, told us that the shape of the palace, which formed a ‘c’ shape, was supposed to reflect the attitude of the Spanish government to the countries on the American continent. The shape symbolizes a hug, and the palace faces a river that eventually leads to the Atlantic Ocean, and the continent of America. The Spanish government wanted to have good relations with other countries at this point in time, and their architecture reflects this desire. This was one the things that I noticed while visiting Spain: the architecture is often influenced by many little things that occur during the time period.

Another realization that I have come to is that religion is truly an important part of Spanish culture, while visiting the cathedral. The halls were tall and the marble floors imposed the grandeur of the church and religion in Spain. Inside the cathedral lied the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and Jésus (our tour guide) reaffirmed the fact that Columbus travelled to America not for religious reasons, but for economic reasons- to find a more efficient trade route to China and India. However, his tomb was placed in a grand cathedral- which begs the question: why is Columbus’ tomb placed in a church? Though I do not know the answer, I assume that at least part of the reason is because of the immense influence and power that the church had and still continues to have on Spanish culture. Though the church is now mostly visited by tourists and Spanish students such as ourselves, the immense detail and apparent opulence of the cathedral depicts a time where this edifice was the center of cultural and communal life in Seville.

We immersed ourselves in another important part of the culture, dancing! We watched an amazing flamenco performance, similar to the group that came to Deerfield earlier in the school year. However, there were more types and variations of the dance that we watched, and it was just as striking as the first time I saw it, if not more. The outstanding speed at which the dancer’s feet moved combined the complex rhythms of the clapping, singing and guitar playing was mesmerizing. Unfortunately, we did not get to dance ourselves, but it illuminated another aspect of culture in Seville and more broadly, in Spain of the power of dance. One of the only rules that the dancers had was that we could not take photos or videos, because we should experience the dance live and not experience it behind a screen. There was this sense of community and family that was incited by all parts of the performance, which was only enhanced by the occasional cheers of ‘ole!’ from members’ of the group when another was performing. The dance brought people together and I understand why it is such a big part of the culture. I look forward to learning and exploring more of Seville before returning to Cádiz!

France #6: Paris

Sydney Gregg ’20 describes a day of sightseeing in Paris.

Today, the group visited the Musée Rodin, where we got the chance to follow an audio guided tour through a beautiful museum and garden filled with the artwork and sculptures of Auguste Rodin. In each room of the museum, often the audio tour chose to talk about only a few of the pieces out of the many on display. The structure of this type of tour meant we could learn the background or artistic techniques behind certain pieces from the guide, but we also got the chance to analyze other works on our own. After the indoor museum portion of the tour, we wandered to the gardens where some of Rodin’s full-sized sculptures were on display. Here, students got the chance to marvel at the real-life versions of certain sculptures we’ve frequently seen referenced in culture, such as Rodin’s most famous sculpture “The Thinker.” With many more museums to visit in the days to come, I’m sure this won’t be the last famous artistic work we visit in Paris.

Sydney Greg  ’20

After a fairly quick (by French standards) lunch, in the gardens of the Rodin, the group made our way by foot to the famous Tour Eiffel. Arriving way earlier than our scheduled time on our tickets, and greeted with a long line, the group settled into an hour and half of waiting, using the down time to further bond with one another, as well as reflect in our journals about our last few days in Normandy and our arrival in Paris. Finally, 4 pm struck, and our group squeezed into an elevator that took us to the second floor, where we then transferred to a different elevator that allowed us to visit the summit. We arrived at the top of the iconic structure to a steady breeze and a breathtaking, panoramic view of Paris. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how sprawling the city is when our group is focused on just navigating the narrow side-streets near our hotel, so the clear weather conditions allowed all of us to appreciate the closely-set buildings that seemed to fill the landscape as far as the eye could see. I, personally, was especially excited, because from the top of the Eiffel Tower I could scan and pick out my old neighborhood toward the outskirts of the city.

After snapping more than a few photos, the group took the elevator back to the second floor, where we chose to then take the stairs back down to the bottom of the tower. About halfway through our descent, however, we all became absorbed in our phones, as we had received the wonderful email from Mrs. Kocot informing us grades and comments were available on DAinfo. For the last hundred steps down to the ground, I alternated between checking my grades and reminding myself to pick up my head and take in the view.

Once all of us miraculously reached the ground, despite having walked halfway down the stairs not looking at anything but our screens, the group walked along the riverbank of the Seine back towards the hotel. This was my favorite part of the day, because the weather and temperature were absolutely beautiful, and the water and historic buildings lining the river glistened in the late-afternoon sunlight. We traveled along the Seine until we reached the metro, where we caught a train back to our hotel. The cars of the metro were so packed due to rush-hour that I thought for moment I wasn’t going to make it on the train. Luckily, Ms. Nichols and I found some empty room one car over from the rest of the group, but for a moment I was having déjà-vu of the time as a nine-year-old I accidentally got separated from my mom in the metro and got on the train without her. Don’t worry, Mom, I stayed with the group this time (and I still remember what to do if I ever do get separated)!

Click here to see more pictures.

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia #1: Taking Off!

Today, 11 students, Joe Lyons, and Conrad Pitcher departed from Boston to begin their trip to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia!

Born in nationalist dreams that sparked the First World War and saw its destruction in the civil wars of the 1990s, Yugoslavia embodied the hopes and horrors of the 20th century, and foreshadowed our current time. According to David Brooks, “[Yugoslavia’s] civil war in the 1990s was the most important event of that [decade]” because “[i]t prefigured what has come since: the return of ethnic separatism, the rise of authoritarian populism, the retreat of liberal democracy, the elevation of a warrior ethos that reduces politics to friend/enemy, zero-sum conflicts.” This trip will explore the origin and consequences of the forces Brooks highlights, forces made all the more complicated by the different narratives the region’s ethnic and religious groups possess of Yugoslavia’s complex past. Students will come to appreciate the forces that molded this past, and how that past shapes the identity and policies of those now living in the region.

We look forward to reading their upcoming reflections blog posts on Deerfield’s Notes from Abroad!

Dominican Republic #11: Community

Garret DeMallie ’21, Connor Guest ’20, and Francis Gannon Jr. ’21 describe the “meaningful” connections they’ve made within the community and the “life lessons” they’ve learned during their time in the DR.

Garret:
In the past week, I have experienced how easy it is to make connections. Even after completing my third level of Spanish, I feel silly talking to the small children at the work site. But through hand motions, my classmate’s translations, and a bunch of guessing, I was able to have fun and meaningful conversations with the locals.

While waiting for a truck of kids to return, the rest of us sat on the back patio admiring the work we had complete. Then, three of the children peeked over the corner to have a chat. They sat next to us, smiling as usual, intrigued by our hats. One of the children picked mine right off and plopped it on his head. He repeated, “Sombrero” over and over, pointing at my hat each time. We both had a chuckle as he placed my hat crookedly on my head. We exchanged names and favorite things, him smiling intensely all the while. I pointed out his Batman shirt and he told me he was his hero. He began to punch the air, emulating Batman beating up the bad guys.

I learned many things from Louis, even with my “Mal Español,” but the most interesting thing to me was how he managed to be so happy in a life much less fortunate than my own. I never saw him without a smile, never saw him complain, and always saw him willing to help. Through my conversation with Louis, and ones with the other children, I learned the importance of appreciation for what is given, and the importance of community. The place Louis lives is filled with amazing people who are always willing to help, and I am glad to have been a part of that experience this past week.

Garret DeMallie ’21 (left), Trip Leader, Bob Graves (right)

Garret DeMallie ’21

Connor:
The house we built became a home. The community in which we built the house accomplished one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen. Building a house is an impressive feat, one I did not think was possible in a week before travelling to the Dominican Republic. The speed and efficiency in which community was able to construct the house was astounding. The number of people working towards a common goal is something I have only witnessed on one of my sports teams.

This past winter I was a part of the closest hockey team I have ever been a part of in my 15 years of playing hockey. But that team- although the best team I’ve been a part of- was no match for the team that made up this community. Each individual at the work site had a role and did it to perfection. From the masons, to the cooks, to the little children helping out most of the time- fooling around the rest of the other time- the community worked harmoniously towards the common goal of constructing the house.

This is the same way a team works towards a championship. Jose explained to us that in order to have a house constructed for your family in the Cambiando Vidas program, you are expected to help out on the previous build and the following build. The word ‘expected’ is the wrong word because every single person wants to help out with the house from simply wanting to support their community. This brings me back to how the house became a home. I define a home as the place where someone feels most comfortable, and the most impressive thing is that everyone at the work site felt comfortable and included there. At that moment, the house became a home and will continue to be one in the community for years to come.

Connor Guest ’20

Connor Guest ’20

Francis:
This trip to the Dominican Republic for me has been rewarding in various ways. Before the trip started, I was unsure what I would get out of my experience. All I thought about was the work that needed to be completed to create a house. Even before the trip started, I lost sight of the many other reasons I decided to sign up for this trip.

However, one night at dinner, the local trip leader, Jose spoke to the group about how Cambiando Vidas started. Jose’s speech finally made me realize what I have received from this experience of building a house in the Dominican Republic. The main point of Jose’s speech was to explain to the members of the Deerfield community that we must reconnect with genuine human interaction free of electronics and distractions.

Additionally, Jose talked about helping people out and being selfless rather than being egotistical. After listening to Jose, I felt inspired to act upon Jose’s talking points. The next morning with a new understanding of why I was here, when I got to the work site, I immediately noticed the community’s collective selflessness. All of the locals here put the needs of others in front of the needs of themselves to strengthen their tightly knit community. For example, the friends of the people we built the house for went out of their way to take time off from work and their lives to come support the family and help build them a home.

Also, I realized how much the locals invested in interactions and experiences with each other. They took the time to go out of their ways and connect with people. For example, when driving, all the locals honk their horns at each other to say hello. If needed, they will slow down and have a casual conversation with someone on the side of the road, not worried about being late or wasting time, but just living in the moment and being invested in each other. This is one of the most significant things I have learned when traveling to the Dominican Republic. In the beginning of this trip I thought that I was the one that was helping the locals by building them a house, however in reality the locals taught me a life lesson about being selfless and investing in genuine experiences with others.

Francis Gannon ’21

Connor Guest ’20 (left), Francis Gannon ’21 (right)

Dominican Republic #10: Unplugged

PJ Embree ’21 reflects on the importance of unplugging from technology and having face-to-face interactions.

I have been to camp every summer of my life since I was six. Starting off as a couple of days, all the way to months at a time. Each time I went back to these camps I had learned something new and carried many stories with me, but the only string of connection that I had with all of them was that I wasn’t allowed to have my phone or any kind of electronic device. At the beginning I didn’t understand why I had to give up my phone. It had become such a large piece of my life that I couldn’t remember what life was like without that constant dinging from a notification. This recurring event happened for 9 summers and I always thought of it as a punishment until today.

Earlier today, the masons were packing up some of the extra wood, and invited a few students to take a quick ride to another campsite to drop it off. Immediately, I jumped at the idea and was already in the back before everyone fully turned their heads. I didn’t really know where we were going, but being as we were in a place surrounded by ever-flowing valleys and acres of exotic flowers I couldn’t imagine that it was going to be an unpleasant experience. Everyone soon got in the truck and we started our journey into the unknown. That familiar dirt road slowly became a victim of memory. Stalky plants blurred across our eyes as various figures were washed away by speed. Little kids playing with each other as their parents tended to their private farms. No screen in sight. It occurred to me as we approached the target destination that this place was simply blissful and it was because they didn’t have or want the imprisoning contract that is technology. They didn’t waste away their mornings and nights scrolling through identical applications or brag about how many episodes they watched that day.

The little boys and girls greeted us with genuine smiles and open arms instead of crowding around an intoxicating screen. They hadn’t taken the bait. What once seemed like a punishment, turned into a realization. My parents used to take my iPod and tell me to go outside when I wasn’t behaving, but here they probably punish their kids by locking them in their rooms as their friends play outside. I used to reminisce on the times I ventured outside as a kid and always thought that it would be a thing of the past and the future would be repetitive controller clicking. But, after seeing how easy it was for the kids to entertain themselves it came to me that having fun wasn’t playing video games in a dark room all day, but it was more than that. I realized that constantly looking down at a phone is like looking away from a movie while watching it. No one would do it, yet we still do it for hours. I made it a goal to cut down the amount of times I whip out my phone when I get a ding.

All those summers I dropped my phone in the plastic bag with a feeling of being lost and unimportant and I would spend my days thinking of the time I would reunite with my phone. Now I miss those days, not because of the actual experience of going to camp, even though it was fun, but because I miss the feeling of not having my phone and finding fun in the middle of nowhere, just like those kids I saw on the ride. It’s not about being connected with people hundreds of miles away from you, but rather than the person across the table.

From left to right: PJ Embree ’21, Emma Kimble ’20, Lucy Miquel ’20, and Kailen Coelho ’20

From left to right: Emma Kimble ’20, Jackie Morrissey ’20, PJ Embree ’21

Spain#4: Leaning Into Discomfort

Sydney Bluestein ’21 describes her first day at the Salesianos School, where students will spend the next couple of weeks taking language and culture classes.

Upon our arrival in Cádiz, I watched the deep orange and yellow sky from the ninth floor of my apartment. My stomach churned with butterflies, as I was nervous to go to a school where I would be labeled an outsider because my tongue could not roll r’s with ease. What would the school kids think of me? Will they think my clothing is strange? What if they are unable to understand me? However, when I arrived the next morning to the catholic school in Cádiz I was greeted with nothing but smiles as school children were excited to learn about the Americans.

I heard distant foreign conversations, while roaming the unfamiliar white walls, which I failed to understand unfortunately. The classrooms did not offer the typical wooden tables and chairs that I was used to, but rather those made of metal. Each time I moved, my chair squealed as the metal met the perfect marble tile. After the typical “ice-breaking” activities, we were allowed a thirty-minute break to do with as we pleased. Much of our class decided to explore the nearby plaza. It was once the gates closed with a thud that I realized this was my first time alone in a foreign country. There was no one to oversee me, no one to tell me how to order my food. I felt free. Those butterflies which were once in my stomach now represented my liberty.

Yet, in just a short thirty minutes we returned to the school to find out we were going to be meeting other school children that were similar in age to us. We were to have conversations in both Spanish and a bit of English. Of course, the Spanish would benefit our learning experience as would the English enhance theirs. However, at that moment the butterflies had returned inside of me, as I feared they would not understand my American accent, a sign that I was not perfect. I entered the plaza where we were to meet with an uneasy look on my face. However, gladly, I left feeling more confident which is the point of studying in Cádiz after all.

After my first conversation in Spanish with three boys who were avid enthusiasts of soccer, I hesitantly asked if they understood what I was saying. They responded confidently saying that they understood each word and that our accents were not even “tanto extraño” (that strange). With that little boost of confidence, I proceeded to learn that most students longed to travel to New York City and loved artists such as Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. Most students loved sports, the most popular being soccer and basketball and the occasional karate. But more frequently, I heard that boys loved to play video games. It seemed life in Cádiz did not differ drastically to life in Deerfield or in the United States.

Although I was thousands of miles away from Deerfield and home, these conversations made me feel welcome. Here were kids who lived nearly the same lives as us, the only difference being their primary language. Though this was a large obstacle to overcome, the longer I remain in Spain, the more confident I feel in my abilities to communicate and survive in a foreign country. It is with this confidence that I look forward to branching out and trying new things. There are definitely parts of Spanish culture which I am not yet familiar, but with the help of my host family and Mundolengua, I hope to try as many new things as a month will allow me. Hopefully lots of those things will be delicious food…

France #5: Exploring On Our Own

Maddie Poole ’21 shares a lesson learned during a trip to a French pharmacy.

This morning, we gathered together our luggage, made our way to the bus, and had our last breakfast at the farm we had been staying at before leaving for Paris. After a bus ride filled with intermittent naps we arrived in Paris and said goodbye to our bus driver, Omar, who had faithfully been navigating our big bus through the narrow streets of Normandy the past three days.

After settling into our rooms and having a delicious lunch at a small restaurant, or as Madame Nichols called it “a typical Parisian restaurant,” we were handed pieces of paper and a mission. Written on the papers were instructions for a scavenger hunt, and a list of things to find. For example, a pharmacy, a metro station, a café with outside seating, and many more. We split up into our groups and were sent off to explore on our own.

Deciding to disregard any maps, paper, and digital (there wasn’t any cell service for apple maps) my group enjoyed the adventurous aspect of the activity and chose to turn right out of the hotel and see where it brought us. Our first stop was a pharmacy and what we noticed was how small they were. French pharmacies seemed to be solely for the purpose of purchasing medicines, health related products, sunscreens, shampoos, bug sprays, etc. Which is something that is quite different from the huge American pharmacies such as CVS, where you can buy prescribed medicines,  chips,  makeup, and everything in between. There is also quite a difference in the way that the French package their products, which can sometimes be misleading, something I experienced first hand when wanting to buy shampoo.

When we were in Normandy the farm didn’t supply shampoo and conditioner, or soap for washing. So, in hopes to purchase some, Julia, my roommate and I, headed to the pharmacy that was only a couple minutes away. We easily found some conditioner, but wanted to find a shampoo in the same style of bottle. I spotted a bottle that was just what we were looking for with the word shampoo written across it. It had white and lavender coloring and was lavender scented, “Perfect!” I thought. Little did I know that also written on the bottle along the side, in calm, nothing to worry about colors and lettering, were the words “for lice and lice eggs.” Julia and I proceeded to buy it, not realizing what it was. We returned to the farm and Madame looked to see what we bought. She examined the bottle, made a sound, and then glanced at me, “Maddie, do you know what this is?” I looked confused, it was shampoo, there wasn’t anything wrong with it, was there? “No…it’s shampoo right?” She laughed, “Shampoo for getting rid of lice eggs Maddie.” My face flushed red, how incredibly stupid. I felt so embarrassed until I thought about it more.

See, in the U.S something like lice shampoo is advertised very differently. You can easily recognize it in the aisle with  images of lice on it and big red lettering. Knowing that this was lice shampoo relied on me knowing two key words, and looking very carefully since the bottle looked just like any other shampoo. Which goes to show a difference in culture, in France, having lice is something that just happens, it’s more normalized. Whereas in the U.S it is something to fear, it is a bottle with big red lettering. We returned the bottle at the pharmacy, where I explained the mistake to the pharmacist and how a bottle for lice looks very different in the U.S. Despite the embarrassment, it was a great learning lesson, and shed an unusual light on a cultural difference between the two countries.

There are many differences you can notice and learn by exploring. We also noticed how the French don’t get coffees or drinks to go, instead they sit at a café for an hour or two, chat or read a book, and sip at their drink. They set time aside for social activities such as eating or drinking, you won’t see a French person rushing in a meal while walking down the street. In comparison to how Americans like to squeeze as many types of products into one store, the French have many different stores for all the different kinds of products. Yes, you have your super markets, but you also have your cheese stores, meat stores, bakeries, and pastry shops.

The scavenger hunt we were presented with was important, because it gave us a chance to venture out on our own and to look for certain aspects of French life style. When visiting another country, it is easy to get caught up in all the impressive museums, monuments, and attractions. What often happens is that you only focus on all the important things it has to offer instead of taking the time to notice and reflect on the small, but important cultural differences about each country. Doing both things is important, but one often gets more attention than the other. I at least know that mistakenly buying lice remover made me reflect on French and American culture, and will be something I remember longer than a painting in a museum.

Dominican Republic #9: Teamwork

Emma Kimble ’20 and Regan Hoar ’20 express gratitude for the personal “growth” and “lasting relationships” created with the Lavapié community.

Emma:
While I have never been the best Spanish speaker, at the Lavapié work site the language barrier that was initially a daunting obstacle to me disappeared before my eyes. Today, our group was split into two teams and tasked with filling both side rooms of our house with mountains of concrete. It was overwhelming, messy, and difficult, but I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun. Each one of us, Deerfield students or San Juan community members, joined together to make a seemingly impossible task a highly coveted one. It didn’t matter that I often couldn’t keep up with the rapid Spanish speaking of our friends at the site; we were a team.

It was not until that moment after the race, covered in sweat and wet concrete, laughing harder than I ever had, that I realized what an incredible gift this trip has been to me. I am often hesitant to admit when I am truly proud of the work I’ve done but throughout this trip I feel like I have grown in countless ways. Each one of us has pushed our limits and worked incredibly hard to build a home for Lina and her family. In the process, we’ve formed relationships to last a lifetime. I have gotten to know people I previously knew only in passing, forged connections with those I never expected to cross paths with, and grown to respect and love each member of this team. I’ll remember each person I have met here forever and I am so thankful for the opportunity to grow, learn, and help change the life of a family here in the Dominican Republic.

Emma Kimble ’20

Emma Kimble ’20 (left), Francis Gannon ’21 (right)

Regan:
Immediately on the first day, I could tell that the people would be the most influential and memorable to my experience on this trip. Yes, the views are amazing and breathtaking, but these are the people that have been nothing but hospitable and grateful for what we are doing for them- creating a home.

A few hours into day one, A few little kids tugged on my shirt and soon brought me into a game of theirs, which consisted of stick fighting in the street. The following three days, we played around with a flat basketball and anything else we could find. I never had more fun playing with them. I soon realized how great the community is- they take advantage of any little thing they have and do not need more. They make the best of every situation. Even through the toughest parts of the workday, any kid or worker around the site had a smile on their face. We were constantly offered help with any job, food and juice, or just someone to talk to. For me, that is what made me so appreciative of being here. We are so lucky to be here to make an impact on this community’s life and form forever lasting relationships in our memories.

Regan Hoar ’20

Dominican Republic #8: Simplicity & Happiness

Talbot von Stade ’21 considers the meaning of “working and living for family and community.”

Last night at La Espia, a restaurant in San Juan, José told the story of the beginning of Cambiando Vidas, and his words have remained in my head since. He told us: “You stop being a person and a human being when you no longer live and work with the purpose of helping other people.” He showed us that there is heart and a deeply rooted love for his community within every cinder block he lays to build a new home.

My perspective has greatly shifted to looking at the Dominican lifestyle and sprawling countryside as a lens of simplicity and humanity in which the goal is not to succeed the most. On our drives through the countryside, every student marvels at the way the little children wave and cheer when we drive by and how the whole community shows up, the majority of them not being paid, to build a new home for a family. There is a universal understanding and sense of empathy on every road you travel on here because locals sit on their motorcycles talking, little children walk to school together holding hands, and people whistle to each other, which magically hides the lack of materialism in America.

Watching the Dominicans hug each other on the street corners when we pick up ice for the work site in the morning, or the little boys carry the younger children of the community home makes me realize how different childhood is in the United States. José’s words have altered the way in which I look at our own society, after witnessing the simplicity here. Driving past the rice fields and children racing on horses has showed the natural simplicity that allows this community to exist perfectly. The lack of resources and iPhones is replaced by the foundation of Jose’s words in that the Dominicans work and live for their families and for the community.

From left to right: Talbot von Stade ’21, Lucy Miquel ’20, Emma Kimble ’20

Garret DeMallie ’21 (left), Talbot von Stade ’21 (right)

Talbot von Stade ’21

Spain #3: Cádiz!

Ellie Shilling ’21 shares her first impressions of Cadiz and her homestay family.

After spending two nights in a camp on Wakana Lake, we finally arrived in Cadiz yesterday afternoon.

The camp was super fun, as we got to bond and do many different activities like kayaking, swimming, and archery. However, when we were in Wakana it seemed like everyone was anxiously waiting for the main event of the trip, arriving in Cadiz and meeting our host families. We had many conversations about what it may be like when we arrived at our new homes, but nothing could ever completely calm our nerves as every homestay experience is different.

I could feel rising anxiety among my peers on the hour long bus ride from Wakana to Cadiz. However, when we arrived, our new Mamás were waiting to greet us with open arms. After sharing the traditional greeting of two kisses, we all headed our separate ways to our respective houses. At first I was a bit nervous, because I am very outgoing and like to talk, but didn’t want to overwhelm my new family. However, my host mom, Mari Carmen has a very similar personality to my own, and is extremely talkative and patient.

When we arrived home we met our host dad, Juan. Juan is more quiet than Mari Carmen but is also super nice. During dinner we all talked for three hours, and he opened up and became a lot less shy. We even figured out that we both play/played field hockey!!

I make a lot of mistakes while talking to my host parents, but they always try to understand and never encourage me to give up. Mari Carmen always tries to give me time to correct myself so that I can learn which is extremely helpful.Despite all of my verbs not being conjugated correctly, and my tenses probably sounding like a scratched record, I think that we have found an effective way to communicate between talking it out, talking slowly, and using a hand gestures.

I also like having a roommate because if I forget a word I can always ask her, and we both push each other to speak Spanish even when our parents are not in the room.

I can’t wait to see what is to come next.

Dominican Republic #7: Working Toward A Common Goal

Lucy Miquel ’20 and Emma Earls ’20 reflect on the “amazing” and “unique” opportunity of building a house, while learning about a new culture and making new friends. 

Lucy:
How many times do we get to do this in our lives? This is what I asked myself as I stood, handing concrete buckets up to a mason in the 95 degree Dominican heat. I took a second and looked around the bustling work site. There were people passing buckets to each other, carrying wood panels, sifting dirt, and even some women were passing out juice to the very sweaty and very overheated workers. I saw laughter between the Dominicans and the Deerfield students. I saw local kids, as small as 4, trying to help us out by picking up shovels that were much too heavy for them. I saw the older men helping those same little kids. I saw me in an assembly line, working with solely locals. How comfortable I felt in that moment when we didn’t speak each other’s language, yet our connection was so evident.

At lunch, the kids from Deerfield and the local kids all sat together, eating from the same pot. The conversation was so effortless, nothing particularly complicated, but we were all enjoying each other’s company. We were making gestures to the kids and they to us to attempt to communicate, but none of that mattered because we understood each other on a more personal level than what was actually being received or lost in gestures. There’s something to be said for human connection without words. There was a mutual respect between our two completely different cultures all thanks to the same dedication to improving someone else’s life through our actions to build this house. We all could relate to one another, without verbal language, with no barrier whatsoever. How many times do we get to experience anything so unique in a lifetime, is the question I’m asking myself now as I sit back and reflect on my day.

Lucy Miquel ’20 (left), Garret DeMallie ’21 (right)

From left to right: PJ Embree ’21, Emma Kimble ’20, Lucy Miquel ’20, Kailen Coelho ’20

Emma: 
We took a ride in the back of a pickup truck this afternoon. Six of us packed into the truck bed, cross-legged on top of stacks of wood we were clearing away; none of us knew where we were taking the wood, but we were all happy to go along for the ride. We loaded the wood and ourselves in, and one of the workers started the engine. The back of the truck was the perfect vantage point to see the landscape sweeping by.

Sometime between looking out towards the mountains and waving to the locals, I came to a realization of sorts. I’d known logically that this experience was once-in-a-lifetime, that it was going to be incredibly influential to me as a person, that it was going to change the way I looked at the world, but even though I knew all that logically, it hadn’t truly clicked yet. Looking out at the village, though, I realized how incredible of an opportunity this trip has been. I’m in a foreign country, completely immersed in its culture and lifestyle. I’m getting to know a great group of people, most of whom I’d barely talked to before we came here. I’m actually making a difference, an important one, to this community.

Moments like hoisting yet another bucket of concrete towards the workers on the roof, eating the fresh mangoes we picked off a neighbor’s tree, and this pick-up truck ride are the things that have made me realize that this trip, and the service we’re doing on it, are going to change the way I look at the world. I’m already so grateful that I was lucky enough to get this opportunity, and I know that I will remember it for the rest of my life. This afternoon, the reality of this trip finally set in. So, from the back of a pickup truck, I realized exactly why I had come on this trip and exactly how life-changing it was going to be.

From left to right: Emma Earls ’20, Tripp Hindle ’21, Connor Guest ’20

From left to right: Emma Earls ’20, Kailen Coelho ’20, Garret DeMallie ’21

Click here for more pictures of the house build.

 

France #4: Normandy

The group spent the day visiting the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the Germany Cemetery in Normandy. Below are reflections of their day.

Helen Lipsky ’20:
Today, the group visited the cemeteries in Normandy, France that commemorated American and German lives lost in France during World War II. This experience was particularly powerful for me because it was a clear visualization of the detrimental effects of the war, as we observed hundreds of graves lined up after one another in both of the cemeteries. The American cemetery was just behind Omaha Beach, known as “Bloody Omaha” due to the extreme violence that occurred there on D-Day (June 6th, 1944).

From afar, all of the American graves looked the same, but, in a way, each told an individual story. If you were to go directly to the graves, you could read the names of the lives lost, each on their respected graves, and also their date of birth and death. These small pieces of information offer more personal meaning to all of the context that most students read in their textbooks and on their homework assignments while the school year is in session.

Sydney Gregg ’20:
The biggest difference I noticed between the American and German cemeteries was how subdued the German cemetery felt compared to the American one. The American cemetery was lined with pristine white gravestones, all out in the open to catch the light in the sun, which makes it impossible to miss. While the whiteness of the graves and the perfectly cut grass can give off a slight sterile feel, the openness of the cemetery was very representative of American pride regarding World War II. Americans are obviously very proud of the role we played in the war, especially of the sacrifices our men made in Normandy, and the grandness of the cemetery reflects this.

On the other hand, the German cemetery was located farther inland next to a highway, instead of a beach, and trees shaded the lined gravestones that laid flat on the ground. I think the modesty of the cemetery showed the Germans understood, after the war, that the French probably did not view them very positively and that it was more respectful for them to keep their cemetery smaller and tucked away in the countryside, instead of out on display like the American one.

Julia Ferrante ’20:
Today, we visited both the American cemetery and the German cemetery for the soldiers who stormed the beaches on D-Day. It was interesting to compare the American and German economies through the cemeteries. The American cemetery is located next to Omaha Beach, the beach where the majority of American soldiers arrived on D-Day. Yet, the German cemetery is not located on the shore. This in part is due to the fact that America paid a large amount of money to have the American cemetery located next to Omaha Beach. The American cemetery is very organized and uniform. Each grave has either a white cross or a white Star of David. At the German cemetery, each grave has a plaque, with crosses scattered throughout the cemetery. I am glad we got to visit both cemeteries as part of our reflection on World War II and our time in Normandy.

Madeline Poole ’21:                                                                                                                                                                       To me the most interesting thing about visiting both cemeteries was being able to see the contrast between the two. At the American graveyard the graves were placed in very neat, orderly lines that had a distinct and symmetrical pattern. All of the graves were made out of a white stone which I found interesting since white is often thought of as a “pure” or “innocent” color.

There also wasn’t a lot of variety among the religions of the fallen soldiers, all the graves were crosses except for a handful of Stars of David. The way the cemetery was planned out and the ambiance it provided was one that felt very pristine and enormous. In contrast, the German cemetery had a very different ambiance. The graves were small crosses close to the ground made of a brown stone, with groups of five black stone crosses dispersed evenly among the graves of the soldiers.

There were often multiple soldiers to a gravestone and often unknown soldiers, where as at the American cemetery from what I could see there was one soldier per grave and they were all named. At the German cemetery, there was a monument in the center that we could climb up and look out over all the graves. Between the two cemeteries, the German cemetery had a sense of being sadder, and less something to behold. It seemed to be more of a place to mourn the loss of the fallen. Whereas at the American cemetery with the way the graves were presented and set up made it seem like a place to appreciate, acknowledge, and celebrate the service and lives of those lost.

Jarod Harrington ’20:

Today we visited both the American and German cemeteries from World War 2. Both had the same impact on me as a whole, but in profoundly different ways. I connected on a deeper level with the graves at the American cemetery. Maybe that was because I knew the places on the gravestones, or because I knew more about the stories of the soldiers than I did of the Germans.

I think that the largest thing that stood out to me was how each cemetery appeared to be treated. Before we went to the German burial ground I asked Mr. Taft if both of the cemeteries were run by their nation’s respective governments. He told me they were, and it was clear to me that it seemed the United States cemetery was more cared for. The stones were in better condition, the grass was freshly edged and manicured. This was in stark contrast to the German cemetery. The stones were eroding away, the grass was cut but clearly not diligently looked after, and there was little to nobody there compared to the American cemetery. These differences showed to me the way each nation thinks about the war. To Americans, the pure white crosses and stars of David each represent a different individual, braver than any of us could ever imagine, storming the beaches of Normandy fighting for their nation and the lives of millions back home.

However, the German stones resonated with me differently. For me it seemed that to many Germans they represent men who, although not all willingly, fought for a cause so evil at its core that for many it seems not worth being proud of. On the surface, both cemeteries seemed to elicit the same feelings from me, however, after thoughtful reflection, they struck very different chords at a deeper level within me.

Nick Fluty ’20:

Today, June 4, 2019, I had the great opportunity to lay my eyes upon Omaha beach and the American cemetery for the soldiers who stormed it on D Day. The American cemetery had a deep impact on me, and I was very moved when I saw living veterans who stormed Omaha beach on D Day walking around. We also went to the German cemetery, and the vast differences between the two were clear. It seems as if the German cemetery is a very simple one in the sense that there are plaques for each soldier on the ground and a little lookout spot in the middle. On the other hand, the American cemetery had crosses all around the grounds, symbolizing each and every soldier who fought and died. The crosses lined up above the ground also made it seem like they were looking back at you, making it even more moving when you saw the rows upon rows of crosses that seemed to never end.

Elliot Flagg ’20:
There were stark contrasts between the American and German cemeteries in Normandy. Characterized by open, well cut, green and grassy fields filled with pristine ivory crosses and Stars of David, the American cemetery – just over the dune of Omaha beach – was a beautiful tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the fighting of both D-Day and the liberation of France. Similarly, due to preparations for a major celebration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the picturesque fields were cordoned off and stages set up in anticipation of the thousands of incoming visitors.

As I gazed into the rows of graves, I noticed the names, statuses, and dates of birth of presumably every soldier that took part in this legendary event. Yet, the same cannot be said for the German cemetery which lies further inland. Dark and somber as a result of a dense cover of trees, small, dark grey cross-shaped plaques are laid in rows with the occasional groupings of five upright crosses. Less recognition, and certainly less money was utilized in the memorial to the Germans who fought against the Allied Powers, entertaining the notion of who really gets to tell the story after war: the winners or the losers … and how do the defeated get remembered? Though each stone in both the American and German graveyards symbolized a life lost, the extent to which they are remembered is shattered by the ideas upheld in future generations.

Robert Sawyers ’21:
When visiting the American cemetery, I expected a humble site whose purpose was to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the greater cause in World War II, and more specifically, D Day. However, when I saw the rows and rows of crosses and Stars of David, my initial reaction was one of pure shock. The tombstones were aligned in a way that you could only see the first row, but as you walked further along the path, each step only revealed more and more rows of crosses and stars. I was greatly humbled to see how many American soldiers had sacrificed their lives for their country.

Another factor which added to the pleasure of my experience was how groups of soldiers from different armies marched around the cemetery to show their respect for those who died on June 6. An unfortunate aspect was how we were unable to see the names of soldiers because there were ropes prohibiting us from walking on the grass. Overall, the American cemetery is one which shows great pride and honor, and the beautiful location which the cemetery resides in only adds to the greatness of the cemetery. As for the German cemetery, there was great contrast in the design and tone. As stated before, the tone of the American cemetery was more upright as people seemed to respect and honor the soldiers rather than mourn their deaths.

On the other hand, the tone of the German cemetery was quite somber, shown by the large shadows cast by the trees and the poor brown and black colors used to construct each tombstone. However, I was able to sympathize with the German cemetery more than I expected as I was able to see the names and dates of each soldier. To my surprise, I found a handful of German soldiers who died at the ages of 17 and 18, and being 16 years old, I easily imagined how devastating the war must have been for the younger soldiers.

Both cemeteries do their job well. They honor the soldiers whose lives were lost during the war in ways which enhance the cemeteries to be unique, and complement the soldiers respectfully.

Lukas C. Trelease ’20:

Looking out across the sheer number of graves at the American Cemetery in Normandy—the rows and rows of white crosses peppered with the occasional Star of David—the humanity that lies beneath is difficult to find. I found myself detached from the fact that each represents a young man who had a family, dreams, and aspirations. So, I tried to find it.

In order to do that I decided to first consider the questions “for who?” or “for what?” In a film we watched at the Juno Center, a museum dedicated to the Canadian military that fought at Juno Beach, a quote struck me: “pride in one’s family, in one’s country has turned fatal for these young men.” Who or what exactly was each of these men fighting for? Their family—mothers, fathers, children, partners—or something more abstract—the oppressed, their country, their flag, democracy, freedom? Here I found a connection between myself and the marble stones, separated from us by thin, white ropes and long, hand-cut lawns.

I think of my parents back home in the U.S. and the life I live, the life I’ve yet to live. These crosses and stars are an important lesson. I hope we can avoid such tragedy, such loss of life, in the future. I hope that everyone has the chance to realize their dreams before death or pride inhumes it all.

Angélique Alexos ’20:

One of the most interesting aspects of traveling in France is that many places we visit are rich with years of history. The stories we read and talk about in class are brought to light here with monuments, museums, and words that add emotion and understanding to the facts in a textbook.

On our travels today, that connect of fact and story was experienced as I walked around the American and German cemeteries in Normandy. Sentences I read and highlighted for class took shape in rows of crosses, Stars of David, and plaques on the ground that represented those who sacrificed their lives for their countries. However, walking among both cemeteries, I experienced different understandings of the ‘sacrifice’ those who lost their lives had felt. Unlike the American cemetery which contained white crosses and Stars of David and was crowded with people, the German cemetery had dark crosses and plaques and was much quieter.

It was harder for me to put myself in the place of the German soldiers who had gone to war, but there was still a level of respect at the Germany cemetery as roses and flowered wreaths dotted many of the rows. Although all soldiers went to war to achieve some goal and to make some sacrifice, I can only interpret their ‘sacrifice’ from what I have experienced and the country I am from.

Thinking back to the history I have learned as I sat in the American Cemetery with my back to Omaha Beach, I realized I could never fully understand the violence that had occurred decades ago. All I could fully comprehend as I watched the groups of people file by was the wind against my back and the calm lapping of the sea in my ears.

Crawford Rice ’21:
My initial reaction to the American memorial was one of shock. The sheer magnitude of the cemetery seemed unbelievable, as the white crosses and occasional stars of David’s spanned hundreds of yards. I enjoyed walking around the path, although the president’s expected visit to Normandy brought a substantial crowd and prohibited us from stepping on the grass. However, I found it difficult to connect on a more personal level with the memorial. I couldn’t quite identify my emotions. They weren’t wholly somber, neither were they joyful. More prominently, the spirited and grand approach brought about a sense of curiosity within me.

When we arrived at the German cemetery, it was immediately clear that the Germans had committed significantly less resources to the project. It was smaller, the tombstones were less impressive, and the entire property carried an eerie feeling. Yet as I walked above the thousands of graves, I was able to notice the inexcusably young ages at which some soldiers died. Several German men had only just turned 17, and countless others were eighteen. Comparatively, I was able to connect at a deeper level with the German cemetery, yet both were interesting to explore.

Caroline Mahony ’21:
Today began with a cloudy sky and cold, crisp morning air. After breakfast, we boarded the bus and drove to the American WW2 memorial. Upon our arrival we could see that preparations were underway to make the site ready for the reception of the president, who would come later this week. Multiple stages with screens were set up, and behind the graves, I could see many tents set up with cameras, presumably for the press. As we came closer to the graves, we noticed to our dismay that a fence surrounded them, so that we could not walk among the graves and read the names on them.

All of this felt uncomfortably commercial. Large groups of people milled about the paths circling the graves. There were many school groups of young children, as well as groups of young men and women dressed in military uniforms. I saw badges for the U.S., U.K., and French armies on uniforms. As for the graves themselves, they were aligned into perfect rows, starkly white against the green of the perfectly manicured grass. It was hard for me to imagine that each one represented a human life cut short by war, that all of these young men never had the chance to live out their lives or grow old because they had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

After this experience, we again boarded the bus, this time on the way to the German cemetery. Immediately, we noticed that this cemetery was not set on a huge plot of perfectly groomed land as the American cemetery had been. It was quite close to a highway, and we could hear cars rushing by as we walked to the entrance. By the entrance, a sign was posted to gently remind visitors that not all men buried here knew the cause they were fighting for, or wanted to fight at all. It was interesting that a sign like this was posted here, but not at the American cemetery.

As I entered, I noticed that these graves were small and flat on the ground. Some stones contained one name, but many were shared by two. The graves were in a clearing surrounded by trees, and as I walked, reading some of the names, I could hear birds singing, people walked slowly and quietly through the graves, paying their respects. In my opinion, this cemetery was more peaceful than the American one.

Stephanie Martinez ’20:
The American memorial was full of seemingly endless crosses and everything looked perfectly placed and extremely well kept. The memorial overlooked Omaha Beach and there was a vast amount of people visiting the area. After spending time to look around and pausing to absorb everything, I had many different feelings towards the space. I was saddened by the amount of people that died solely on this on day on this one beach, but I was grateful that America had the money to recognize all of the soldiers that died during this war.

I also noticed that there were Jewish stars of David as well as Christian crosses as memorials. This made me reflect about the thoughts of the Jewish American soldiers who fought in this war. I assumed it would be far more dangerous for these particular Americans if they were captured as prisoners of war, and this just saddened me even more.

The German cemetery was completely different from the American one. It seemed emptier – from the number of people visiting the cemetery, to the number of soldiers that died. After walking, looking, and reading plaques, I felt that the German cemetery was a little more personal. There were less people so you could walk without being disturbed by noise. It didn’t seem as if everything was for display like at the American cemetery. I enjoyed being able to see both of the cemeteries, but I personally preferred the German one.

Dominican Republic #6: “Siempre”

Kate Landino ’20 reflects on the kind, generous attitude of the local community. 

Driving through Santo Domingo headed inland, I had mixed emotions and expectations for the Dominican Republic. The plane ride was just a taste of the kind, nurturing nature of the people here. I sat next to this older woman, probably about 50, who only spoke Spanish, but wished me good luck when I told her why I was visiting.

With Jose as the golden standard of selflessness and friendship, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from others. The bus ride was my first glimpse into a foreign country and contrasted heavily with the privilege of living in the States. We started out by sandy, blue beaches with palm trees swaying in the breeze. Quickly, though, we passed oceans covered in trash and thick brown dirt all the way to the horizons.

Looking out my window, the views drastically changed from scenic Jurassic-Park-like mountains to 300 square foot huts crafted of 30 different materials. I may not lead the wealthiest life back home, but the ride alone was humbling and emotional.

I am partially fluent in Spanish, at least conversational (Thanks, Mr. Correa!), and tried to speak with as many people on the trip as possible. The first day on site, I sat with the young boys for 20 minutes trying to explain different words in English. I asked if anyone spoke English and one said, “A mi no me interesa.” This means “I’m not interested,” or “It doesn’t interest me.” This was one of the first times on this trip that something about my culture and everyday life turned into something unfamiliar and of less importance. Many of the things I am used to make me different here – and I think that’s amazing. I think it’s easy to grow comfortable in what’s “normal”, and to challenge that definition is how we grow as people.

Later that day, the group went to dinner at a local restaurant called “El Espia” or “The Spy”. After I finished eating, the waiter cleared my plates. Of course, I said, “Gracias,” and he quickly replied, “Siempre.” Usually, a “De Nada” would suffice, but there was something refreshing about his unusual response. Before that moment, I was uncomfortable asking people who have so much less than we do to do anything for me, especially clean up after my messy dinner plates.

Hearing that he’d “always” be willing to help revealed the complete selflessness of the people here (or that he’s good at his job. That’s up to you to decide). Whenever anyone gets hurt or can’t carry something alone, at least three people rush to help. Though I don’t know his name, he taught me that the people with the least are often willing to do the most to help others. I can’t say if I was exactly surprised by the empathy and kindness by locals, but I can say that, if I take anything home with me, it will be the spirit and attitude towards life that these people have so graciously shared with me for just a few days, Siempre.

Dominican Republic #5: Overcoming Language Barriers & Making New Friends

Aidan Philie ’20 and Caleigh Manguilli  ’20 reflect on a “satisfying” first two days. 

Aidan:

I have loved the trip so far. The Dominican Republic is a very interesting place. I also have loved working on site this week. All of the builders have been very helpful in showing the students how they can help.

My favorite part so far, was seeing the amount of progress we made after the first two days. The house went from just a foundation to a full frame. It was so satisfying to look back at the end of the day and to see how our hard work paid off. I am very grateful to be apart of this build as it is something I will never forget.

Meeting the people of the Dominican Republic has also been awesome. The kids are very funny. I have even been able to practice my Spanish with the kids. It needs some work. Overall, I have had a great two days and I look forward to the rest of my time here. It is a great trip.

Aidan Philie ’20

Caleigh:

When I had first arrived here in the Dominican Republic, it was very intimidating not speaking much Spanish. Our first day at the work site yesterday, it was quite hard to understand what everyone there was saying and what they wanted me to do. Although it is still a little bit of a struggle in terms of communicating with people, one of the kids I met took a lot of this intimidation away.

During our lunch break yesterday, he sat next to me and we started playing together despite the language barrier. I talked to the little boy in what little Spanish I knew and we just played some hand games but after that he stuck to me like glue. The rest of the day yesterday he would take my hand or my arm and take me around the work site and would follow me around as I was moving buckets of concrete or blocks.

Later in the day before we left, he and I were hanging out under the tent with other students and some of them were able to translate for us, and he told one of my friends that I was his new best friend. The next day, when he came back to the work site as soon as he saw me he sent me a huge grin and waved. He continued to stay with me while I was working and would try to help me lift things even though he was only around 6 or 7. We spent lunch together again and were able to hangout when things were slow in the afternoon, and I just found it to be one of the most amazing things to become so close to this little kid despite this huge language barrier. This little child genuinely brought so much comfort and happiness to me. It was a great two days so far, getting to build this house and build such great bonds with the people.

From left to right: Garret DeMallie ’21, Caleigh Manguilli ’20, and new friends.

Click here for more pictures of the build.

France #3: Juno Beach

Julia Ferrante ’20 reflects on a special visit to June Beach.

Upon waking up this morning, we were pleased to find our jet lag had gone away. After a lovely French breakfast at our hotel in Normandy, Hotel Le Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer, we greeted Omar, our bus driver, for a ride to Juno Beach.

Upon arriving at Juno Beach at approximately 9:15 a.m., we began our private tour of the German bunkers, the beach, and the museum. Our tour guide spoke French-Canadian and English when we did not understand critical points of history from Juno Beach. It was interesting to hear our tour guide speak, as many of us had never heard a French-Canadian accent, which we found very different from the accent of our Deerfield teachers.

Although seventy-five years old, the bunkers were in good shape. We discovered the techniques the Germans used while building the bunkers, including a passage that allowed air to flow effectively, but when a grenade was thrown into the passage, it came out and hurt the person that threw it. We were also very lucky as Helen Lipsky’s brother, Theo Lipsky, came to Juno Beach to speak with us.

Theo graduated from Deerfield Academy in 2012 and West Point in 2016. Theo spoke to us about his experience at West Point and the decisions he made to join the U.S. Army. He also discussed the idea of “American Exceptionalism” and how it is nice that our school took a trip to visit Juno Beach, as many of the Allied soldiers were Canadian, not American. He also spoke of the enormous loss the Soviet Union experienced during World War II.

Helen Lipsky ’20 and Theo Lipsky ’12

It is important to remember that Russian soldiers were not welcomed home after the war, they were instead sent away as the Russian government feared they were contaminated with capitalist ideals. Theo is now a U.S. Army officer in the 173rd airborne. It was also very special that we went to visit the museum a few days before the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The 75th anniversary is especially unique as it is one of the last major anniversaries where veterans of D-Day will be alive for the remembrance. After a special day at Juno Beach, we are off to a farm in Normandy!

France #2: Notre Arrivée

Elliot Flagg ’20 shares highlights of the groups first full day visiting Normandy and Giverny.

Our group arrived in France early Sunday morning where we were pleasantly greeted by an hour-long customs line. Conversing in line, attempting to both distract ourselves from the fact that it was 1:00 AM in Deerfield and attempting to kick start the rusty cogs that were our French speaking abilities at the time, we gathered our belongings and got on the road in our too-big-for-small-French-streets bus along with bus driver Omar.

A short two-hour drive and we were in Vernon, a small town in Normandy, welcomed by the blistering sun of a 32º C – or 90º F for those of you still in the US – day. We were each handed a bit of money then sent out into town to get some lunch before our afternoon tour, still struggling to even form proper English sentences. Tents, Boulangeries, Medieval re-enactments and even a live petting zoo filled the street of the seemingly small French town of Vernon as thirteen, culturally shook Deerfield students fought through the language barrier to obtain their first meal.

In retrospect, this was a fantastic first lesson in self-sufficiency when dropped in the middle of a foreign country. Because the packed action of this small town did not stretch further than six or seven street blocks in any given direction, we all found ourselves back together in a shaded region of a park with various food items in hand. Some students even wandered down to the local river, which they later discovered was the river Seine, dumbfounded at the realization that this legendary river went through any other place in the world besides Paris.

Returning to the bus two hours later, and with full bellies, our group made its way to the neighboring town of Giverny where one can find the world-renowned Monet’s Gardens. There, we were met by a tour guide who led us through the intricately designed rows of flowers, towering bushes, groves of bamboo and even around Monet’s personal pond full of his famous waterlilies. We learned about Monet’s early life of struggling poverty and how with time he emerged wealthy and famous, perfecting his new form of illustrating the sky’s reflection on water as if it were an image.

Sun-kissed and feeling newly cultured, we then returned to our bus and travelled up north to the Atlantic coast of France, where we spent the night. Our group enjoyed a delicious dinner together in the hotel and some even got the chance to explore the local town before bed. After a long first day, we all enjoyed a pleasant sleep with the sound of waves crashing outside our windows.

 

Spain #2: Arrival

Trip Leader Haley O’Neil, shares the groups arrival into the Wakana Camp in Cádiz, where they will spend a two day orientation before moving into their homestays.

After a long journey to southern Spain, students relaxed and recharged at a rural hotel in the countryside of Cádiz. They got their first taste of typical Spanish foods including ensalada mixta, tortilla española, and flan, hiked, paddle boarded, and swam, and started to prepare for the three weeks that they will spend with their homestays.

Tomorrow the group will head to Cádiz city where students will meet their host families and spend their first night in their new homes.

Dominican Republic #4: A Rewarding First Day

Kailen Coelho ’20 and Tripp Hindle ’21 describe a first day of hard work and making new friendships.

Kailen:

Day 1 in the books and to say I am exhausted would be an understatement. But it’s the best kind of exhaustion because I am so proud of how hard we worked as a team, and of how much we were able to get done in just one day. The work we do is definitely tough but it is an incredible feeling to know how much of a difference we are making in this family’s life with each brick we stack or each bucket we fill with concrete. Despite the sore muscles, cuts on my arms, and destroyed clothing, today was one of the most rewarding days of my life and I am so excited to make more progress on this house!

Overall, it’s already been a great trip with such great people! None of us were that close before this trip but we’ve all really bonded as a team in the few short days that we’ve spent together. My roommates, Lucy and Emma, and I have barely spoken all year, but last night we pushed our 3 beds together to make a “megabed” and stayed up telling stories until 2:00 am. Currently, as I’m writing this blog, all 9 girls are scattered across the megabed eating fruit snacks and recovering from our workday. I am super thankful for the friendships I’ve already gotten from this trip and can’t wait to bond more with our team.

Speaking of friendships, today at the work site, I was filling buckets of concrete from a wheel barrel with Miguel, an 8 year old boy from the local village. In the hour and a half of us shoveling concrete into buckets, Miguel and I really started to bond over our aching backs and messy clothing. When no one was looking we’d splash each other with concrete and throw rocks to see who had the strongest arm. Although I was covered in concrete and could barely lift my arms by the end, the smile on Miguel’s face while we worked together all day made it all worth it.

Tripp:

Having done work like this before, I thought I knew what to expect. However, now that the first day of work is done I can honestly say that this is the hardest work that my passion for service has ever put me through. In this blog or entry I will not tell you about the work that I have done or will do because I feel that is what everyone else will write about. I will tell you about my new amigos that I met today through my passion for baseball.

The Dominican Republic is one of the most well known countries for baseball. For instance the New York Yankees just drafted a 16 year old recruit into their farm league system. Today, I got to see this raw talent for myself. I speak very little Spanish and so in the beginning it was hard for me to talk to this boy. However, I found out that he was 11 years old and was a pitcher for his town team. He threw the baseball harder than any other 11 year old I have ever met from the left side, meaning he was left handed. This experience with this boy was really quite eye opening because it taught me that I do not need to know Spanish in order to communicate and share my love for baseball. While this whole game of catch was going on, my trip mates were hard at work lifting and stacking bricks, so reflecting on it I kinda felt bad. This is just one of the few memories and stories that I hope to make on this trip and today I can say was a great start to my time here in the D.R.

Dominican Republic #3: A Kindhearted and Generous Culture

Jackie Morrissey ’20 shares first impressions of the DR and a warm welcome from the community.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I applied for the DR trip, but it wasn’t quite this. Through the four hour drive from the airport to San Juan, almost everyone fell asleep, except me. Somehow, though, I was never bored even with nothing to do. The roads here are their own form of entertainment. Life in the Dominican Republic is far different than life in the US.

For one, the people here seem to have no fear when they drive. In each town, there were people standing in the road trying to sell us fruit and other goods from outside the bus. One boy even climbed into the bus to sell us pineapples while we were stopped (we did buy a few.) None of the people on the side of the road even flinched when the van drove inches away from them. It was like they had total trust that everyone would go past them without hitting them. More different still was the motorcycles. On all of the roads, everyone drove their motorcycles squeezed in between the cars. Most of them didn’t even wear helmets.

However, though I was initially confused and a little worried about what my experience on the work site would be like with the differences in culture, that all changed once we started working. Before we arrived to the build site, there were already people from the community gathered there to work on the house. Even the kids from the town were helping to carry cinder blocks and mortar to the masons. Everyone was extremely kind and helpful.

Once, when I was carrying a piece of wood and I slipped and fell in the mud, several people around me put down what they were doing to ask if I was okay and to help me up. For lunch, several women from the community cooked food for everyone. It was almost 100 degrees outside in the afternoon, but all of them worked hard over the fires to make sure everyone would have food to eat.

However, what was interesting about their helpfulness and generosity is that it’s taken as a given. When you need something, someone always seems to be there to help. They never expect you to thank them, and they probably won’t say thank you when you return the favor. But you can tell that everyone in the community is working hard to help their friends and neighbors in any way they can. Kindness here is very straightforward, and it is always both given and received. There is something special about this that made me feel like I was among friends and family, though I hardly knew most of these people and we couldn’t always understand each other.

Dominican Republic #2: Building a Team

Trip leader Sheryl Koyama describes what it is like prepping a group of students, many who do not know each other, for a week building a house in the DR. Through her reflections, she notes how the students are recognizing the importance of a team. This will be her 10th build in the DR with Deerfield kids. 

Typically a team leader may not write a blog, and if so, only at the end of the trip.  However, being an early riser, not to mention that there has been a car alarm going off outside my window since long before 5:00 am this morning, I thought I would share a few thoughts.  As a parent myself, I know how anxious families are to hear how their electronically unconnected students are doing. Here’s the Spark Notes–they are fantastic!

This is my 10th trip to the DR with Deerfield students and I will confess that I went into the trip with some trepidation.  Each group has been different. Some have truly bonded as a team while others all got along but associated more closely with a smaller group of 3-4 students, despite our best efforts to form connections among all of the students.  Fifteen students is the largest group I have brought down here. Exacerbated by the fact that I was on sabbatical in 2017-2018, I didn’t feel feel that I knew this group well at all. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach two of the students this year, I have crossed paths with a handful of others, several I recognized by name and a few I had not seen before our first team meeting in February.  At that meeting it was clear that every student had at least one close acquaintance in the group, but that they were also quite unfamiliar with one another. Our second team meeting in April with the Director of the local Center for New Americans was better, but still somewhat stilted and socially awkward.

Friday night our exam-exhausted, but nonetheless excited group crowded around one table at our hotel in Boston for more orientation activities.  After a rousing game of “Fun Facts No One Knows About Me” which ranged from. “I like dogs” to “I have a twin” to “I’ve watched my parents vaccinate donkeys in Africa,”  we settled down more to serious goal-setting for the week. In addition each student named one student they did not know and the mandate from Bob Graves and me was that they had to have a significant conversation with that person in the next 24 hours.  

5:30 am came early yesterday, but we arrived at Logan in plenty of time (more time than necessary, in the opinion of the students) but the they used the time to get some breakfast and spend some quality time with their phones, and one another in small groups, before boarding the plane.  All went well on the flight, we met Jose Abreu, the Dominican Director of Cambiando Vidas, at the airport and boarded the bus for the 4-hour drive through along the southern coast and then north into the center of the island and the town San Juan de la Maguana. The students settled into their triple rooms, chosen by Bob and me to put students who did not know each other well together, and then we left for dinner with family we will build with this week–a single mother and her three children Erik (12), Ramon (5) and Analee (4).  When we finally returned to the hotel at 9:40, we sent the students off to bed to rest up for the long day of work today. However, they asked for some time to spend together and quickly all gathered in one room. The 10:00 curfew we had set came and went. We are all next door to one another in our small hotel and Bob and I agreed that ½ an hour less sleep was a good trade-off for the bonding that was happening among our laughing students. At 10:30 we finally sent them off to their own rooms. In just 24 hours something magical had happened–the group had become a team.

Our theme for this week is “Home.”  In our goal-setting session on Friday night a few students said, “I don’t want to build a house, I want to build a home for a family.”

They get it.  

Thanks for sharing your children with us.  We’ll do our best to keep them safe, healthy and happy.  It’s going to be a life-changing week.

PS The car alarm is still going off.

 

 

Spain #1: Language & Culture Program Begins!

Today, the Spain: Language & Culture program departed Deerfield’s campus to begin their journey to Cadiz, Spain! Over the next month, students will commit to live their lives in Spanish as they become part of a Spanish family and explore the country of Spain through various site visits and weekend excursions. With daily language and culture classes, students will increase their fluency in Spanish.

We look forward to reading their reflections on Deerfield’s Notes From Abroad website and Deerfield’s Bulletin.

France #1: Bon Voyage!

This afternoon, 13 students, Yanik Nichols & Steve Taft departed campus to begin their trip to France! Over the next 4 weeks, students will immerse themselves in French culture through a homestay program and a week spent traveling around Normandy, Giverny, and Paris. Throughout their trip, students will hone in on their language skills and build lasting connections with their homestay families.

We look forward to reading their reflections on Deerfield’s Notes From Abroad website and Deerfield’s Bulletin.

 

Dominican Republic #1: The Journey Begins!

Last night, the Dominican Republic travel program departed campus to begin their journey! For the next week, 15 students and two faculty leaders will partner with Cambiando Vidas to participate in a house-building project. By Thursday afternoon, the house will be finished — complete with running water and electricity. On the final night, the team will share the first dinner in the house with the family and the 100+ members of the community who worked on the house. This will be Deerfield’s 11th house build in the DR.

While this trip is “unplugged” (students will not have access to cell phones or internet during the trip), we look forward to reading their reflections on Deerfield’s Notes From Abroad website and Deerfield’s Bulletin.

Tanzania #12: Saying Goodbye

Ellia Chiang ’21, Hanna Deringer ’20, Christina Halloran ’20, and Mason Zhao ’20 reflect on the meaning on making new friends and the difficulties of saying goodbye.

Ellia:

Looking up and seeing a full moon reflecting upon the lake, I sat next to MB and Nikhil. Each of us were quiet and lost in our thoughts as the chatter of the Maasai and the sadness of the girls filled the air surrounding us. We had already finished our last good-byes to the girls for the night and were waiting for the rest of our group to finish. It was extremely hard saying bye to the girls, even only knowing them for a short amount of time, having already established a deep bond with each one of them. From working with them in the classrooms, to hearing them sing during prayer time, to our dance parties and games of “mingle-mingle” and “mama in the kitchen”, to telling stories and jokes to each other, every single experience has drawn us closer to the girls of JBFC Mainsprings and to the students of St. Joseph and Mary. So, it was heartbreaking to say our last good-byes.

I have learned to love and treasure every one of these special moments with the girls, students, and members of the Deerfield community. I will always remember Namisi braiding my hair after dinner, breakfast at Papa’s, the beautiful singing of the girls, Winnie, the cutest three-year-old girl, who always sat in my lap during prayer time, playing cards almost every day during break, singing throw-back songs with Lexi and Mason during the safari, giggling at pictures in books with my reading buddy, and the hugs from the girls throughout the day. These ten days have impacted me so much and have made me realize how important it is to love and accept others as the girls had immediately taught us the first night.

As I drove back home yesterday, it felt strange looking outside. I had become so accustomed to seeing the farms and paths- filled with children walking to school cheerfully waving to us, to women carefully balancing buckets on their heads. It is with heavy hearts that we say good-bye to Kitongo, Tanzania.

Hanna:

Our group had an action-packed last day filled with a variety of emotions. Even though we were all excited to connect with family and friends back home, we all knew we would miss JBFC Mainsprings greatly. Things came into perspective as we had our final prayer time with the girls. Laughing, singing, dancing, and eating some rice beans were all a part of the night. Sentimental and heartfelt letters were exchanged between friends from both groups and though we had only known each other for a little under two weeks, it felt like we had been a small family for a lifetime. Before saying our last goodbyes to the girls, we spent the day playing soccer, eating the chickens we had all personally helped to prepare, and traveling to a nearby government school to compare and contrast with the JBFC school. While every moment from the day had a memorable and fitting end, my personal favorites were the moments leading up to the end of our last soccer game with the girls.

We started our walk from the guest house chatting endlessly with the JBFC girls. I looked around and noticed everyone smiling; though this was small, it made an impact on me and proved that the love we all shared for each other was real. As we approached the soccer field, I was stopped by some of the local children because of my water bottle. The preschoolers were astonished by the colors and patterns. I tried my best to communicate with them since they only understood Swahili, but it was no use. Even though we could not fully understand each other, that did not stop us from holding hands and laughing about how interesting my water bottle looked and how funny it was to be skipping on the dusty path. They walked me to the soccer field and then said their final goodbyes.

We played soccer until prayer time, wishing that time would stop so we all could keep having fun. This was one of the final activities we would have with the girls and none of us wanted it to end. Deep down, as much as we loved prayer time, there was a common feeling of sadness as we all knew it would really be our last hoorah together. Despite these emotions, we all played our hardest, laughed our loudest, and spent each moment as best we could. I will always miss the girls from JBFC and I think I speak for everyone on the trip in saying that they will forever hold a special place in all of our hearts.

Christina:

As the enormous, bulging sun peaked over the distant mountains, everyone smiled, laughed, and hugged as we took in our final moments in this amazing place. Watching the glowing ball sprint up the horizon line, silence fell over the group as we reflected on the past 10 days in Tanzania. Our family descended down the rocky hill for one final meal at Papa’s: the classic toast, eggs, potatoes, fruit, and, of course, papaya juice. The minutes ticked down. Most of the JBFC girls stood between us and our looming departure time with tears streaming down their faces and long hugs being exchanged one last time.

Throughout our time here, the girls hugged us every time we saw them or left them, so it was hard to imagine how emotionally wrenching these final goodbyes would be for us. Despite just spending a short time here, relationships and memories were created that will last forever. These incredible girls made an impact on all of us, and will continue to inspire us to be hard working, be kind and respectful to everyone, be tough, never complain, and never give up. I will forever remember the girls, the things I have learned from them, and the overall experience of traveling to a new world in Kitongo, Tanzania.

Looking through the crowds of girls dressed in their familiar school uniforms of royal blue collared shirts and red or tan skirts (depending on their age), I felt a shudder of sadness as I realized my reading budding, Getrude, was not there; I surmised she must already have ventured to school. As we drove past the school on our way out, however, Getrude came running out of the students gathered to say a final goodbye. We embraced one last time; I still cannot believe that I will likely never see her again.

We finally pulled out of JBFC and onto a familiar main road: the same road we ran on every morning to start our days. Every time, a herd of students heading to the government school (located very close to Mainsprings) ran with us, some holding our hands and others smiling and laughing, just happy to be there and fascinated by us strangers. Almost every morning, the same girl held my hand as she ran to school. Although she couldn’t speak much English and I could only say a few words in Swahili, with a very thick American accent, we had an instant connection. These special connections, which are enough to create a lifelong friend, are not always made through similarities or even spoken words, but simply a smile or another kind gesture.

This familiar place, the welcoming ambiance, and the incredibly kind and amazing people are things I will never forget. Every child who I high-fived, every passer-by I greeted with “mambo,” every student who smiled at me will forever be etched in great detail in my mind; these are the moments that have changed me forever.

Mason:

Goodbyes are hard. Goodbyes are harder when you know you’ll never see her again. Some goodbyes last until the next one occurs, while others mingle with eternity.

You said your temporary goodbyes to the younger girls, to Hawa, Bella, Zai, Doto, Kulwa, Bahati, Wande and Samantha. Your interactions, starting now, will be in the form of pen and paper until your next encounters. You said your temporary goodbye to Africa. You smiled as she ostentatiously displayed her beautiful sunrise, and screamed when she released a thunderstorm. You laughed as you learned her language, mispronouncing and butchering words as you went.

You said your final goodbyes. That was the last time you saw Lau—her contagious smile, commanding voice, that smirk she always made to flaunt her basketball prowess. That was the last time you saw Yamisi, yet you still don’t know what she was gossiping about that night. All you have to remember her by is her laugh. That was the last time you saw Emma, the girl whose voice you envied due to its ability to convey a harsh stipulation in the tone of a gentle soothing.

I’m keeping the individual stories to myself—those were mine to make and mine to keep. But my experience with the girls at JBFC can be summarized with, believe it or not, a Chinese song. Although the extent of my ability to speak mandarin is very limited, I do know the first phrase of my favorite song. It looks like this: 朋友一生一起走, which is roughly translated to: friends will walk with you your entire life.

Everyone knows that our group—the 60 or so of us congregated in the center of campus, will never physically reunite again. But our shared experiences within the past two weeks will walk with us forever. Every single moment of discomfort, contentment and sorrow has taught a lesson. Yet, as I attempt to summarize the experience I’ve just completed, I’ve come to a realization that words cannot justly sum up the journey.

I came into this trip expecting awkward moments of silence and detachment from language, yet never encountered either. The bonds we have formed have taught me lessons such as the importance of a smile, that shared discomfort means increased confidence, and to never touch a dog after it runs through agricultural byproduct. Each lesson is engraved somewhere within me, and each connection I have formed with a JBFC girl will stay with me a lifetime.

For more pictures of the Tanzania trip, click here.

Arizona #12: A Final Reflection

“This journal entry is a series of poems and short narrations written about my experience in Arizona. In the works, I discuss what I saw and what I felt,” Adebisi Akilo ’21

Here I’ve Seen

Needle-like palm trees whose palms are notably dwarfed, maybe as a result of the Arizona climate. I do not think they are native here, in the midst of the shorter, sturdier trees whose green leaves have the wingspan of great, great birds, the palms are painfully displaced here. They seem unnatural here, in this place they are almost-alien

-the Arizona palms

Here I’ve Seen

A man standing, his arms raised up, held by the master strings of animation. A stance of submission, his palms face me, weaponless. His face unmoving yet humbled. But, he is not defenseless. Thousands of sharp blades stand erect in rows, innumerable, like the soldiers of the Persian Calvary. His defenses are not down, and mine, shouldn’t be either.

-a Saguaro cactus in the desert

Here I’ve Seen

Things borrowed and things stolen, redistributed amongst pockets of dust and triangles. All structures alive and animated, but muted, out of respect for the death that hangs here, frozen and lifeless, but roaring.

-Frank Lloyd Wright House

Here I’ve Seen

The mountains that used to be gods
But now they are just stone
Still insurmountable
Still holy

-the mountains

Here I’ve Seen

Her white mouth
Mutated in its whiteness
Infirmed by its arrogance
Widening slowly around every grotesquely exaggerated syllable
Swallowing you in its whiteness
Her tongue lashing around in its mouth
Pulling on strings of saliva spelling out
“I HATE YOU”
And that is understood in any language

-a dialogue between a white, American woman and a non-English speaking African woman

The Desert Makes Everything Simple

The world is broken up into square plots of land
Some pale and arid, other parts dark, and rich, and deep
Still nothing, still dirt
But we’ve got the fences drawn up so high that we can’t see
we are living the same

All drawn to the same oasis and the same charms
All yearning for more than just desert
In the middle of one of God’s most unforgiving climates
we all yearn for more, still

And the white borders of our square plots lie flat
and unyielding like bones
They were put here long before we knew this place
And so, the raging sun torments them
and they will eventually return to dust, like everything
else that passes through this desert

But we calcify these white bones with walls and fears and delusions
And sickly, we scorn the natural order of the Sun that is Lord
over all life

Even though, we too, will return to dust, in this desert
Still nothing, still dirt

Cuerpo – (n.)

Meaning body or corpse in Spanish. The rotting ones line the desert creating a mucous membrane on the once porous border. And to think all this flesh would satisfy the desert. Millions of bodies of water evaporated like a singular raindrop. And to think all these bodies would satisfy America. But a cauterized mouth is never fed. And even emaciated, she is beautiful. All the fire in her eyes, as though they hold thousands of embers, as though she pulled the vitality out of those fallen people, because she did, and we let her. And she is still so beautiful with pert lips, sealed. Showing sometimes, her rows upon rows of white teeth. You would never have guessed that behind those white teeth, are the whispers of sins, decaying and scarred over. But you will never see them. You will never get past the charm of those eyes. So, listen for the voices. They are wailing.

There has been so much death.

-thoughts after speaking with representatives of Colibrí Center

A Split Body

This is a twisted homecoming. I had to watch as Nogales split herself into two, the Lesser Half and the Greater Half. And a fire runs right along the seam, engulfing the people on either side. Families bound in legislation and technicalities, suspended by the desires of the ill-intentioned. Sneering men and their guns are the law here. We speak in hushed tones, as they pass. There are bodies buried underneath the medley of rock and sand beneath my feet. The tears of their families send this desert wasteland into bloom. Blood runs red in the rivers, regardless of the nationality of its host. I know fear, like I know my name. This is a warzone heritage, but it’s mine.

-seeing Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora written from the inspiration of a Mexican migrant who lives in Nogales

 

 

Tanzania #11: Animal Migration and The Meaning of “Karibu”

Jeffrey Chen ’19 shares highlights of the groups second day at The Serengeti National Park, and Maddy Sofer ’21 recounts a welcoming return back “home.”

Jeffrey:

After spending a relaxing night at the Serena Lodge of Serengeti National Park, we set off eastward onto the second half of our two-day safari. Not long after our departure from the lodge, we encountered a group of baboons enjoying their family time by the side of the road. Despite the presence of multiple safari vans surrounding them and the clicking sound of camera shutters, the baboons didn’t seem to be bothered by our short visit. After a quick round of photos, we continued on with our trip through one of the bumpiest paths in the safari, quite literally. Thanks to Edward, our experienced driver, we made it through the valley and entered the elephants’ habitat safely.

As we moved further eastward following the rising horizon, there were fewer and fewer trees in sight, and five minutes later we were left with nothing but a boundless grass plain, a beautifully cleared sky, a refreshing morning breeze, and a curvy road stretching in front of us. Soon, a long file of elephants appeared before our eyes, pacing peacefully towards the river in distance. We lowered our voices and stood on our seats in the van to watch the elephants making their way to their resting place. Everyone seemed to be infected by the elephants’ calm postures and blend into the peaceful scene of nature.

Engines were fired up again when the elephants got out of sight. We started driving south toward the migration location at the eastern corridor of The Serengeti. On our way, we came across several hills that belonged to the lions out on the plain field, who were chilling comfortably in the shades when we spotted them. Edward told us that lions can last three to four days after a successful hunt; I suppose that was not very long ago.

The highlight of our day was when we spectated the migration of zebras and wildebeests, which is considered one of the most well-known migrations in The Serengeti. Every March, thousands of zebras and wildebeests would form an enormous herd to travel from the southern part of The Serengeti to the northern border of Tanzania with their new-born babies; and by the time they arrive at the north in mating season around June, their babies would be old enough to mate; and eventually the zebras and the wildebeests would head back at the end of the mating season to have their babies back in The Serengeti. As to why the two species would collaborate, nature says that zebras know the route to the northern border, and massive packs of wildebeests would make zebras’ travelling much safer.

As I stood quietly in the cross-country vehicle and watched groups of zebras and wildebeests getting started on their annual journey, I was impressed by how every member that The Serengeti houses has its own way of life away from human interventions. Whether it was the two baby baboons that were wrestling on the side of the road, or the sleepy lion that shied away from our cameras, or the vigilant zebra that stared at our van the entire time, they are all a part of a sustainable system. This safari experience has not only led me to observe the harmonious relationship between the wild animals in The Serengeti and the nature that breeds every one of us on earth, it has also reminded me the essential role of natural rule that plays in our own world.

Maddy:

Through the dusty window of the safari car, the now-familiar sights of the school and girls’ home reappeared as we entered the Mainsprings campus. The two-day safari was an incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating experience with modern luxuries that we do not get to experience here in Kitongo. As we sped away from the hotel this morning, I felt as though we were leaving a modern life that I had quickly adapted back to. We were all sad to leave the hot showers, buffets, and comfortable beds that the hotel provided us.

However, I found myself surprised by my eagerness and joy upon returning. I had spent almost two whole days in the car among my four peers, Dr. Hooker, as well as our knowledgeable driver, Edward. We had talked, sang, played cards, and seen numerous animals together. Now returning to the Mainsprings campus, I spotted the cement buildings and glittering lake. We were greeted by many hugs and warm welcomes as we unloaded our belongings and brought them back into the guest house.

One resonating phrase we often hear at Mainsprings is “karibu”, which means “feel at home.” I think of home as a place where I feel welcomed and loved; places such as where I grew up and the Deerfield campus. Arriving back in Kitongo, I finally felt back at home. The girls with their inclusive and friendly personalities were infinitely more welcoming than any luxury that a hotel could provide.

The girls here at JBFC and this trip as a whole have taught me so many lessons, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that any place can feel like home, even if it is nearly 8,000 miles away.

Tanzania #10: Generosity, Kindness, and Welcoming Hearts

Lexi Roadside ’21 reflects on her time with the JBFC girls and their warm caring culture.

As the steaming sun beamed through the hot air, the 5th hour of our adventurous Safari trip passed. The drone of the massive tires over the rocks harmonized with sounds of murmurs of students awaiting the sight of any new animal. This quiet music left me much time to reflect on the previous six days and five hours. I realized how much I had changed over such a short time because of the kindness and sincerity of the Mainspring girls, Tanzanian adults, and Deerfield group.

Upon my acceptance to participate in this trip I was filled with apprehension and just as much excitement. My biggest worry was not being able to talk to my closest people because I wouldn’t have my phone; luckily, this was the loudest wake up call. I have now been here for a week and have not missed my phone at all. I miss my friends and family often, but I have made such a close family here that I have been fully engaged in this new one. When the time to pack came I was filled with anxiety about what to buy, wear, and bring. Traveling is a huge stressor for me because I always feel as though I will be forgetting something or will not be prepared. I was also very worried about the social scene on this trip. I knew four people before the plane took off on Sunday morning, but none of them were my best friends. I was scared that I would not build any relationships with those around me. However, once I stepped on the plane my worries quieted; but they were soon silenced when I arrived at JBFC. As the days went by, I became more and more comfortable with the group of people from DA that I felt that I could rely on them a lot. If I forgot anything I felt comfortable that they would help me out, if I needed to talk I knew that they would be there to listen, and if I needed a friend that they would be there. As my worries about the group diminished, my excitement for being with the girls increased.

I did not have many expectations before going on this trip which I think made it the most fun. I could not wait to spend time with the girls and get to meet people from across the world. Since I had never been to Africa before, I was ecstatic to learn how others live, especially if I would be able to engage in their everyday life. Even in the first few minutes on campus, I was surrounded by girls hugging me and introducing themselves. I was shocked because I had never been invited so openly anywhere before. After getting to know them I realized that unlike their greeting, they are not much different from the people I am surrounded by on a day to day basis. The only things that differentiate them from us is there welcoming generous spirit. These girls don’t have much, but they are willing to offer it to any guests they have. They share their food, songs, games, and string for friendship bracelets openly. I do not know if their openness comes from their culture, being that I have only met welcoming people here, or from the fact that they know how it feels to want someone to take them in. Having the privilege to experience someone else’s culture is something that I will never take for granted.

Besides how much I have changed and learned over this trip, I also had the time to realize what my favorite parts have been. Every interaction I had with the girls was something to remember. From the way Winnie—a three-year-old JBFC girl—runs with her tiny little legs into my arms as I enter the gates every day, to the way Kulwa—my 15-year-old reading buddy—finds me at the start of every event and wraps her thin arm through mine as I ask her about her day. Kulwa is my reading buddy who I saw three times during this trip.

Although we are called reading buddies, we only read for the first session and just talked for the other two. Getting to hang out with her one on one has been such an influential part of my days because we relate as peers so we can easily talk about similarities and differences about our lives. She does not only introduce me to her culture, but asks about mine. Kulwa is someone I am glad I could be friends with and one I hope to stay in contact with. She is also one of the girls who leads prayer every night. This is a time where the JBFC community comes together through the leadership of the girls to worship the lord. Being a Christian, I love to hear all the girls’ harmonious voices collectively praising the same God that I do countries away. I love how many events are led by the girls, not only prayer.

The empowerment and the leadership quality of kindness is obvious in these girls, which is probably an effect of being told that they are leaders. The only difference I have noticed between the JBFC Mainspring girls and those I am surrounded by at home is how outwardly generous and welcoming they are here in Kitongo. I have, already, and I think we can all learn immensely from these beautiful girls.

Arizona #11: Nogales

Xochitl Paez ’20 recounts an impactful experience visiting the Nogales U.S.-Mexico border.

On Sunday morning our group departed for Nogales (Arizona). Before this trip was made we were given a bit of backstory on the way this place came to be Nogales, Arizona. Many years ago, Nogales (Arizona) and Nogales (Sonora) were one town. About ten years ago, a fence was put up. This fence was meant to deter people from entering the US illegally. Ever since then there has been two separate Nogales towns, one in Arizona and one in Sonora. Upon entering Nogales, I was immediately struck with a sense of familiarity. Although I have only been to Mexico once in my life, the feeling I got from being here could never be forgotten.

Being in Nogales felt like being in Mexico. Everyone there spoke my first language, Spanish, and everyone there looked like me. They were family. They looked like aunts and cousins and people that I often saw back home in my everyday life. One thing I did take note of however, was how empty it felt. Most businesses were shut down and the streets weren’t as lively as I imagined. It was as if everything that once made this place beautiful was sucked right out and shut away. Heddy and Eric who we had previously had dinner with gave us a tour. As we strolled through the small town, they explained to us that since it became increasingly difficult to cross over to Nogales (Arizona) from Sonora, less people came over to do their usual shopping so these businesses were no longer being supported and had to shut down.

Slowly but surely, we began to approach the fence. As we got closer to the border I felt myself getting more anxious by the second. Border patrol’s presence could be felt more and more. Growing up in a community that was predominantly Mexican, and almost everyone being an immigrant, anything that had to do with law enforcement and immigration was deemed dangerous. These people had the power to rip the American Dream right out of your hands. I looked towards Eric and asked him how he was feeling. He told me that he was also afraid, he was ready to run he joked, but I knew it wasn’t fully a joke. I stood in front of the fence just taking all its ugliness in. This was the physical manifestation of the hate in the hearts of so many. The barbed wire stuck out at me like knives. Speaking to border patrol about said wire, the officers mentioned how even the barbed wire wasn’t really effective, people would still cross, it would just take them a few seconds more. These people were desperate to escape their situations.

As we debriefed with Heddy and Eric, they answered some of the questions we had. I remember someone asking what made them stay in Arizona. Heddy told us about the culture shock she and Eric experienced in Virginia which they moved to when things got ‘hot’ in Arizona. She mentioned that the cons outweighed the pros; she needed to be with her culture and her family. Eric and Heddy returned, even though Heddy mentioned that she often feels scared for the well being of her husband, saying, “Here you are hunted”. As soon as those words left her mouth tears were brought to my eyes. Real people here live their lives in fear, always looking behind them because they are afraid of being taken away from the only life they know. There really is an emergency at the border, but not the one you’d imagine. Nearly 3,000 people have died while crossing over to this country in search of a better life. Our response shouldn’t be to build a wall, it should be to have some humanity and lend a helping hand to our neighbors.

Tanzania #9: Serengeti Safari

Nathan Hu ’19 describes an exciting first day in The Serengeti.

We started our morning a little earlier than usual today. In order to get out to the Serengeti early, we left the Main Springs campus just after 7 am and had to wake up at 6:15 am. While many of us were groggy in the foggy morning air, we had the pleasure of watching a mirage of reds, oranges, and yellows skip off the tranquil water of Lake Victoria. The sunrise was the perfect way to start what would be one of the most interesting days of the trip so far. Edward, George, and Jesse, our drivers, picked us up in three dark green safari cars with expandable roofs and plenty of windows to take photos; we were ready to safari.

Most slept as our three safari cars trekked to the Serengeti through a variety of towns and villages lining the roads. We were able to see a number of different types of farms including sugar cane, rice, and corn, none of which were maintained through permaculture, as well as people bringing their crops to sell on bikes, motorcycles, and their own backs. We also observed the making of charcoal through the billowing towers of smoke rising from either side of the paved highway.

Before even officially entering the Serengeti, we spotted our first animals of the day. A flock of baboons squatted in the trees while we watched and waited for our drivers to complete our papers before entering the Serengeti. Their hairy figures and bare bottoms were the first beasts to draw our cameras from their pouches, but they would most certainly not be the last.

Herds of zebras, wildebeests, and different types of antelopes began to fill up our SD cards as we journeyed through winding trails lined with grasses, trees, and bushes that all worked to hide the animals we sought to discover. After chasing some stray zebras back towards their herd, our driver, Edward, took a sharp left and yelled at us to be quiet. A short bout of shushing followed before Edward pointed toward a poignant red pigment hiding beneath a thick of trees. Driving at a snail’s pace compared to our previous speed, black and white stripes started to outline the dark red in the undergrowth. A leg. Then another. Then a bloody face turned and looked at us, rising from its content position of licking the innards of a zebra. We found our first lion of the day. The female had just killed one of the zebras from the herd we had just chased after. Shortly following Edward’s sighting, we discovered the rest of the pride with two more zebra bodies. Three male and two more female lions dove into the chops right before our eyes. To make the picture even better, four crocodiles limbered out of a nearby river to bask in the sun, not more than one hundred feet away from the lions and us.

The day finished with giraffes sticking out their grape colored tongues at us, warthogs squealing and running in small groups away from the clanking of our car, monkeys climbing trees to make eye contact with us, massive hippos bobbing in the receding water, and all shapes, sizes, and colors of birds flippantly fluttering in and out of cover around us.

The safari was a part of this trip that I had been looking forward to for a long time. So many species I had never imagined seeing would appear before my eyes in their natural habitat of the Serengeti. There were definitely aspects of the land I did not expect such as the dense tree and shrub cover, but overall everything met and exceeded any expectations I had. The tranquility of driving 50 km/h in a bouncing Toyota truck while on the lookout for animals seems ironic, but being able to reflect on everything we have done so far as well as the natural beauty of Tanzania was truly an enlightening experience.

Arizona #10: “A Common Hope”

Grace Mazur ’20 comes to understand that although the immigration system is a complex issue, connecting “with our why,” is “what’s going to carry you through your challenges.”

Today, more than 65 million people are displaced around the world.

So read the flyer of the event we participated in today, called “Walk a Mile in a Refugee’s Shoes.” We had visited the IRC (International Rescue Committee) two days earlier to learn about the experience refugees face and what the process of becoming a refugee is like. On this beautiful Thursday, a group of us headed over to this event, where a field was set up with several tents. Some familiar faces from the IRC directed us to Border Patrol, the first station, in which volunteers handed us identification cards and told us to know the information on it.

At the second station, a large group of us squeezed into a small tent, representing the shelters in refugee camps. The next tents presented challenges related to food, water, access to medicine, and education. I know I take these things for granted, but I don’t know how much I do. Each of these things I see as basic necessities present real challenges for real people. The weight of this still hasn’t fully hit me.

I didn’t just learn more about the issues presented by the realities these people experienced. I learned about the people themselves. The cards we received at the entry station represented actual people who currently live in Tucson. At the shelter station, we talked to Emmanuel, a young man who fled the Rwandan genocide at the age of 17, was separated from his family, and waited for 20 years in a refugee camp before being granted refugee status in the United States.

At the education station, Meheria told us to close our eyes and imagine going to school for years, then all of a sudden being forbidden to go to school because we were women. She told us to imagine not being allowed out of the house for the same reason. What would we do? We thought about it. We then opened our eyes. “This story is my story,” she said. She fled her home country with her mother after the Taliban took over the government. They found a male stranger also fleeing, and they pretended to be a family. She said she thought they were going to kill her at each checkpoint they reached.

This has been an emotionally challenging week for all of us. As each of us learns about this complex issue from another perspective, whether it be from a conversation with a dreamer or with a Red Cross volunteer, we are challenged to not just accept it, but to apply it. It has been hard to process. Sometimes, I am unsure of what to do with the information.

When we arrived at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce later in the day, the people there greeted us warmly. I quickly got the sense that these four people functioned as a family, and that they were inviting us in. As they spoke with us about their work promoting business opportunities for Hispanic people and for women of color, they gave me hope. They were so encouraged that we were simply there, asking questions, engaging with them, and genuinely interested in what they do. In talking about the success of one client of theirs, they said “We were part of the dream,” a part of his story, and that gave them hope. They urged us to connect with our “why,” saying “that’s what’s going to carry you through your challenges.”

At times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all that we are learning. I have learned about so many facets of this issue, and each of them presents its own problems. 65 million is an overwhelming number, especially after conversing with just two people who have been resettled in the United States.

I have learned that there is a lot of injustice in the complex immigration system, though I know I have only just begun to learn about it. In learning the stories of the people around me here, I am connecting with a why. I believe this “why” can carry all of us through our challenges as we work together to fight for a just world. This issue can’t be solved through one person, nor even one organization. Countless times, the people we have met with have told us that we are their hope. They, too, give me hope. We all bring a different “why,” and we need to as we work together for a common hope.

Meeting with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

 

Arizona #9: A Monastery Visit Leads to A Spiritual Grounding Experience

Jasmine Baldwin ’20 reflects on her visit to the San Xavier del Bac Monastery.

On Friday we traveled to the San Xavier del Bac Monastery on the Tohono O’odham Native American Reservation. When arriving, we were lucky enough to receive an unplanned tour, given we didn’t have a reservation during the Monastery’s busiest tourist season. The San Xavier del Bac Monastery dates back to the 1600’s. It started off as a small church with missionaries sent to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism. King Ferdinand began to suspect the missionaries of becoming more loyal to the Pope than the King and demanded that the missionaries return to Spain, but many of them were old and most likely didn’t survive the journey. In the 1800’s, Franciscans built the church that stands today and many Native American influences can be seen in the church’s art.

Being in the monastery helped me ground my spiritual self within my body. I’m a Christian, and sitting in the pews to pray gave me the opportunity to process all of my encounters and experiences on the trip. In the midst of this humanitarian crisis in the Americas, I thought about where my place is in this larger picture. It’s easy to wish that I could change everything over night, but the more challenging path is to make a difference where I can. Whether that is educating my community back home in Tampa, or encouraging productive dialogues and organizing events in the Deerfield Academy community. Whatever I end up doing, I will make sure that it helps people gain back their natural senses of humanity and empathy by humanizing humans. We all share the same blood; therefore there is no reason to hate our neighbors for we are much more similar than we think.

Tanzania #8: Making New Friendships Through Song, Dance, And Punnet Squares

Ellia Chiang ’21 reflects on the powerful meaning of a simple hug, and Mary Blake Zeron ’21 describes her day teaching a Biology class, helping cook lunch, and attending a school assembly.

Ellia:

Hand in hand, Namisi, one of my JBFC friends, and I wandered through the village as she pointed out different sceneries of the school and of the shops. Along the way, we exchanged stories and I learned that many of the girls adored Korean dramas, which was something that I definitely related to. We soon reached and climbed the rocks, which showed a view of the fields and the sparkling lake. I once tried to follow Namisi onto a massive rock, but I ended up sliding back down to the bottom, which earned quite a bit of laughs from the girls and from myself as well.

Later in the day after cooking chapatti (with Lexi, Maggie, Mason, Nathan, and Nikhil) and hand washing our laundry, we headed out of the house to Papa’s Restaurant for a performance led by members of a local tribe. Rachel, another one of my new friends, darted to the trees along the path and presented a small guava to me and we proceeded to walk over to Papa’s with our guavas in our hands as we linked arms together.

Guided by the beat of the Sukuma drummers, the dancers moved in synchrony as they all beamed at us. The elders had bells on their ankles that jingled every time they moved which harmonized with the drums, whistles, and singing. While we watched and clapped, enchanted by their dance, Rachel and Namisi excitedly braided my hair as Selma, a JBFC girl, clutched onto my arm. So, there I sat content, next to Lexi and Selma, watching a beautiful performance in the drizzling rain and gentle breeze. It seemed almost as if the rain had come down as a call from the drummers and dancers. Soon after, the dancers motioned our group to join the dance. We created a circle, each member of the Deerfield community between the dancers and girls of JBFC as we passed around smiles, laughs, and dance moves. After the dance ended, Lexi and I decided to walk over to the dancers and drummers to introduce ourselves and say “asante sane”, which in Swahili means “thank you very much”.

Every night, when we are about to leave the girl’s homes to return back to the guest house, we are always circled and warmly embraced by the girls, who wish us a “good night”. The other day, Selma ran over to me and kissed me on the cheek- she whispered in my ear that she would be thinking of me all night so that she could dream and see me in her sleep.

In my time here so far, I’ve discovered that happiness can be found anywhere. Holding hands. Making friendship bracelets for each other. A smile. Playing kickball and soccer. Braiding hair. Singing songs. Giving a hug. Truthfully, I have never given so many hugs as I have here and I have found out that a hug, as simple as it may be, is powerful in connecting people.

Mary Blake:

The electronic beep on my watch woke me up at 6 a.m. to start my day. After Christina, Ellia, Mr. Emerson, and I got ready for our morning run, we met Jonas on the front porch for stretches. We started to run as the cooler temperature and slight breeze greeted us, and let me tell you, running in a skirt is not that easy. Contrary to the blasting music coming from my headphones in America, pounding feet and heavy breathing surrounded me in Tanzania; my usual run on Mill Village turned into a dirt road with dust flying up behind us.

After ten minutes, we could see the sunrise to our left— gigantic and bright orange. On our way back, we were greeted by school children. Before we knew it, Ellia, Christina, and I were running hand in hand with the kids. When it was time to say good-bye, we received more hugs than we could count. Back at the guest house, I took a cold shower—one of the many things I have grown to love. A couple of nights ago, I showed Emma, one of my JBFC friends, how to do Punnett Squares in genetics, and the following day, she showed her teacher, Mr. David. I was then invited to Biology class. I had to miss breakfast at Papa’s, so I loaded up on granola bars.

Emma and her best friend, Elizabeth, walked with me to school to make 8 a.m. class. I went into a classroom of about twenty 17 and 18-year-olds expecting to take notes, but Mr. David gave me his textbook and led me to the white board. I taught the class about blood types, red-green colorblindness, and Hemophilia. I stood before the class for over an hour, and when it was time for me to go, two students went to the front of the room to express their thanks. After a couple of class pictures, I made my way to the dining hall to help my community service group.

The first thing I did was cut up kale. The students would form a line outside the kitchen to receive their breakfast porridge, and some would enter the kitchen to get their guava, picked from trees around campus, cut in half. Once my hand started to cramp, I washed what felt like an endless supply of cups. We had lunch with the students and participated in their Friday assembly afterwards. The students grouped in front of the stage by grade sang the African Pledge and Tanzanian Anthem. The Deerfield group was asked to go on stage, and after introducing ourselves, we sang The Fight Song and The Evensong. Fun Friday activities began with an intense basketball game and tennis match.

We headed back to the guest house to get dressed for Village Night, something I was told to look forward to.

Panama #6: Gratitude

Selena Martineau ’19, Elsa Marrian ’21, and Kristine Yang ’21 share a final reflection of a “phenomenal” time in Panama.

After a phenomenal trip in Panama, we reflected over all the joyous moments and learning experiences. This triggered our moments of gratitude inspired by Deerfield’s theme this year.

We are grateful for our parents for allowing us to attend a school that supplies an opportunity to travel to a new country. We are grateful for the CSGC office, the Envoys leaders, Ms. Valk, and Ms. Hemphill for the gelato and guiding us across the country. We are grateful for the group of nine that made the journey unforgettable. We are grateful for Centro Mamoni for welcoming us to their humble home in the spectacular jungle and for inspiring us of passion to better the world. We are grateful for the in-the-field learning opportunities and hands on research. We are grateful for being an unplugged trip that allowed for more authentic interactions.

Most importantly, we are grateful for Panama for welcoming us into their incredible country with extensive landscapes. We hope you enjoyed our blogs! We are excited for a 4 am wake-up call tomorrow, peace out!

 

The Bahamas #8: Sustainability and Night Snorkel

Janis Chen (’20) shares two of her experiences at CEI: learning about sustainability and snorkeling at night.

Poo-poo Garden & Biodiesel:

At the center of the Island School is the Poo-poo garden, where human waste is treated and used as fertilizer for plants, such as banana trees, in the two wetland gardens that surround the flagpole. In the afternoon, we met with Mike, director of the Center for Sustainable Development, in the Poo-poo garden and learned about septic tanks and the ways wastewater is managed on campus. It was intriguing to learn about what happens to the water we use since we have been taking Navy showers, and we knew all the water on campus comes from rainwater cisterns. After learning about the Poo-poo garden, Mike gave us a tour of the biodiesel production plant where cooking oil from Princess Cruise Line ships, methanol, and sodium hydroxide is used to make diesel that is used by all the land vehicles on campus.

Night Snorkel:

Ella, a junior girl who’s at the Island School for a semester, was my partner for the night snorkel. Around 8pm, after dinner, chaperones and 28 Island School and DA students were aboard Reef Rat speeding towards Hoops to go night snorkeling. At first, I was nervous because I was scared of not being able to see much. Ella like all the other Island School students, was so kind and energetic and quickly helped me overcome my nerves by making me laugh. During the snorkel, we saw a sea turtle swimming around the ocean floor, looking for a shelter for the night, and sleeping Surgeon and other species of fish, and whenever we pushed around the surface water, we experienced bioluminescence, light emissions produced by organisms which make the ocean seem like it is glowing. I had never felt so connected to Earth than when I was sitting on top of Reef Rat when we were heading back to campus after snorkeling. Seeing the moon, the stars, and the silhouettes of the cliffs, feeling the breeze, hearing the sounds of the waves, and having DA and Island School people around me was so wholesome and joyful. I experienced a sense of calm and admiration for Earth I had never felt before. Night snorkeling really made me realize the beauty of Earth and the importance of us to be aware of our impact on our planet.

Arizona #8: Stories from the Desert

Orlee Marini-Rapoport (’19) writes about her hike in the desert, as she reflects on how the experiences of this trip have shaped her understanding of immigration.
Barefoot and shivering in multiple layers of clothing, we crossed three ice cold streams before sunrise yesterday in the Catalina State Park in Arizona. We were surrounded by saguaro cacti in an area of the desert that’s considered “easy hiking” — level, sandy, and cool. But at that moment, the five-mile hike we had embarked on seemed so difficult. Our feet became increasingly numb as we walked in between the streams, dreading the next crossing. A few people noticed that it felt as if we were walking on burning hot sand. I personally felt as if I were walking on tiny shards of glass as my feet adjusted to the water temperature, then attempted to readjust to the outside temperature, and then attempted to readjust to the water temperature again. This was an “easy” trail through the desert that provided amazing photos of the sunrise and a waterfall, yet we were struck by how difficult and uncomfortable it was. On the hike, I was reminded that the desert in Arizona isn’t just unbearably hot: it’s also freezing cold with rocky, steep trails (or no trails at all), and the conditions change all the time. One night it can be 20 degrees and just a few days later it might be 80 degrees. We were there for only two hours or so, with plenty of water, an abundance of warm clothing, and full stomachs. And we ended our hike on our warm, comfortable bus.
But so many people who walk through the desert aren’t as lucky. At the Colibri Center for Human Rights and the Red Cross, we learned more about how migrants, oftentimes from Central America, cross the border in the Sonoran Desert to reach the U.S., sometimes after being denied asylum by border patrol. We met with a couple that is personally connected to undocumented people, and they reiterated to us that the vast majority of migrants are looking for safety and security for their children, often leaving war-torn nations. Their children’s lives may have been recently threatened or government corruption may have left the parents unemployed or in danger.
Many migrant families have to cross the border in the harshest area of the desert, where patrols are less likely to find them. These families have traveled an unimaginable distance on foot. They have traveled in unimaginable temperature conditions, extreme hot and cold. They have traveled for well over a month, leaving their home country of Honduras or Guatemala and more. Many will die in this part of the desert. When their bodies are found, the Colibri Center will work to identify the deceased so that their loved ones can be notified. Yesterday, we met Alvaro Enciso, a man who places a wooden cross at every location where a migrant’s body is found in the Sonoran desert.
If families are instead lucky enough to be granted very temporary asylum status, they will face detention centers. On Thursday, we volunteered at a shelter, a former monastery. After more than five days in the detention centers, the families are relieved to be moved to this shelter, this safe place. This place is where we had the opportunity to work with asylum seekers, recently released from the immigrant detention centers, where they were quite literally locked in cages. Some members of our group served as translators for the medical doctors who were examining some of the children. Other members of our group prepared the cots for dormitory, and other members, like myself, handed out food. At the detention centers, the migrants had been served American processed food — cheese and crackers — which often makes the children sick because they’ve never eaten something so processed before. Now, the children reached for the orange slices in my hand and smiled, asking for water. I handed the parents orange slices as well, but they instinctively gave theirs to their children. They have given, and continue to give, everything so that their children can have the best life possible. They are safe for now. They have endured the detention camps to reach this safe place. But their journey is not over yet.
This trip has deepened my understanding of immigration at the border. This isn’t a political issue. This is a humanitarian crisis.
    

Arizona #7: Dinner with a DREAMer

Ingrid Matteini (’21) shares what she learned after hearing a story over dinner with a DREAMer.

Last night we had the honor of eating dinner with DREAMer, Eric, and his wife. We listened with gaping mouths as he told us his experience of being a Mexican immigrant living in a border state. Eric’s story has been long and frustrating with many years of harassment and discrimination. The xenophobia of law enforcement and other people in his community has pushed him so close to the edge that he has considered moving back to Mexico many times.

One of the stories that stood out to me the most was when Eric was driving and was pulled over by a racist police officer because of the color of his skin. Eric was driving without his license because it had expired with the expiration of his DACA. The officer proceeded to handcuff him, sit him on the side of the road, and call border control and backup police officers. Eric was interrogated while the officers stood above him. His legality to be in the country was questioned by the officers who strongly believed this in their self-proclaimed superiority. Eric’s car was towed from him and he was left stranded on the side of the road. His family had to pay a large fee to the towing company to get his car back.

Eric is no stranger to the racism of law enforcement. When he was fourteen years old, his two older brothers, his two cousins, and him were pulled over for the same xenophobic reasons. However, this time they were brought to jail. When he tried to explain that he was a minor, the officers refused to believe him. Their reasoning was that he was “too big to be a minor.” He was harassed through the bars of his jail cell as the guards called him “fat,” “dinosaur,” and racial slurs. The officers also threw frozen burritos at him and his brothers, who had been separated from the rest of their family. Eric explained that if they weren’t paying enough attention, the guards would throw the burritos at their heads. At night, speakers would blast coyote noises into the cells so loudly that he couldn’t talk to his brothers. It wasn’t until Eric’s lawyer told law enforcement that he was a minor that they started to treat him better. He also mentioned that the guards relaxed their grip on him and his brothers as soon as the guards heard them speaking English.

With the tension building on the topic of immigration because of the current administration, we had lots of questions regarding how this closed-border view on immigration has affected the mindsets of American citizens. Eric explained that since the

beginning of Trump’s presidency, people have been emboldened to use racial slurs. Law enforcement and border control have spent more time in LatinX neighborhoods patrolling and essentially hunting for migrants to harass and even deport. Most migrants are aware of how poorly they are treated in America, and still make the dangerous journey to this nation, which speaks volumes to how desperate and urgent their situations truly are.

 

Spain #9: The People

Matt Popkin (’19) and Sam Crocker (’19) reflect on the powerful memories and connections they have created while in Spain.

Part I Matt Popkin (2019)

It was an eventful day – to be sure – but, as always, we had a great time. In the morning, we visited the town of Alba De Tormes which is the final resting place of St. Teresa. After spending so much time focused on the story and legacy of St. Teresa, to finally be physically close to her was surreal in a lot of ways. I’m personally thankful that I was able to see how being near the Saint affected those on the trip of the Catholic persuasion. Looking at them, being overcome with emotion and faith, was something I had never quite seen before. I’ll always be thankful that I was able to witness such a special moment in the lives of some truly wonderful folks. My favorite part of Alba De Tormes, however, was not seeing the remains of the Saint, but eating pastries in the town square and sitting on the park bench with Mr. Taft. These moments of connection are so special and unique to this trip and I cherish each and every one of them. For me, sitting on that bench in this corner of the world far from home was just as powerful as being in any church, synagogue, or mosque. In that moment the connection between myself, my newfound brothers and sisters, and the energy that binds us all was in perfect harmony.  Call it what you like, but in that moment, I felt truly at peace. I think at Deerfield peace can sometimes be hard to find, but I could sit on that bench for a hundred years and be happy. As my time on this trip comes to an end, I’m just so thankful that I found this peace with these people in this place. It has been truly wonderful.

Part II by Sam Crocker (2019)

After Alba De Tormes, we drove to a city called Salamanca, home to not only the oldest university in Spain, but also one of the oldest in all of Europe, as it was founded in 1134. In Salamanca we listened to a presentation about the history of the town, which dates back to the Celtic era. Afterwards we had a walking tour of the city. It was alive with activity in all directions, from the university students relaxing in the park, to musicians playing at outdoor cafes. We saw small plazas, one huge plaza, Romanico and Gothic style cathedrals (one was partially leaning, thanks to a massive earthquake that took place a year after its construction was finished), and hidden, shady gardens overlooking the terracotta roofs of the city. Personally, my favorite part of the visit came right after we split up into small groups to explore the city on our own as we looked for places to have lunch. Despite all dispersing in different directions to survey different parts of the old city, somehow we all wound up back together after only about half an hour. We spent most of the rest of our free time talking and laughing together. I think this is a really apt snapshot of the dynamic of the trip as a whole. We all come from different backgrounds, carry different experiences, and share varying interests. But somehow, all our personalities seem to have come together perfectly. It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of. As we ready ourselves to say goodbye to Spain, I think I speak for everyone when I say that it was the people that made the trip what it was: incredible.

Panama #6: Visiting Taboga Island

Selena Martineau (’19) Mufaro Mazambani (’19) and Zo Williams (’19) describe their day traveling to nearby Taboga Island

After a refreshing breakfast, we went to the port where we embarked on the ride of our lives. We were taken across the seas to a Taboga Island on an authentic boat that was open to the waves. As we approached the tropical island, we were welcomed by the colorful patchwork of the village, but surprised to see smoke drifting from the very top of the island. As we later found out, the fires were set to drive iguanas down the rocky mountain and into human hands where they would be either killed for food or sold as pets. We ate (not iguanas) at a charming café that welcomed the sea breeze, where there was no scarcity of island vibes. After a relaxing walk through the town, we donned our snorkeling gear ready for a good time, and a good time we had. We still managed to laugh despite chilly and cloudy water. We then climbed aboard the boats ready to make the trip back to Panama City. We remarked on the impressive number of huge container ships waiting to go north through the Panama Canal and we reflected on all of the journeys that we’ve made this week.

The Bahamas #7: Down Island

Charlie Sinnott (’21) and Zach Davis (’20) share their experience traveling Down Island on Eleuthera, visiting an ocean hole, the Bethel farm, and Navy Base Beach.

Part I by Charlie Sinnott

We began the day with a sleep in, which gave us much needed rest for our full day trip to Northern Eleuthera. Our first stop was at a large ocean hole, where we got to see schools of fish and even a sea turtle. The species were put there in order to spark tourism in the area, but we learned that the sea turtle was definitely not supposed to be there, as they needed to feed on sea grass around coral, which was impossible to find in the enclosed swimming hole. After we finished cliff jumping and snorkeling along the edge of the hole, we loaded up to head to our next stop. Out of nowhere, our trip leaders from the Island School came running with the turtle in their hands. Colin, one of the trip leaders, had caught the turtle in the swimming hole, and we quickly drove to the nearest beach and set the turtle free into the ocean where it belonged.

 

After that heroic turn of events, we drove to an island farm run by the family of Sim Bethel ’20. Upon arrival, we met Sim’s father, Clyde, and he showed us the various fruits and vegetables that were being grown on the farm. We got to taste fresh bananas and pomegranates, which were a very nice touch to the tour of the farm. After our tour, we were treated to lots of pizza, cinnamon rolls, and fresh coconuts taken from the farm. The pizza and the fresh food on the farm, along with the fantastic tour, was a very nice gesture by the Bethel family and it set a very good tone for the rest of our day.

 

 

Part II by Zach Davis

Following our trip to the ocean hole and to the Bethel’s farm, our journey led us to the ol’ Navy Base Beach. Along with our hearty crew, our dear friend Sim joined us to the beach for the afternoon. At the beach, we spent the majority of our time body surfing

Zach Davis (’20)

the tasty waves and soaking in the sun. Along with time spent on the beach, a few of us participated in an incredibly competitive game of spikeball, featuring the best of the best gameplay and a gorgeous setting. A friendly oceanic neighbor joined our squad in the water as we glided through the crisp waves. His name was Chip and he was a dolphin. Taken by surprise, a shocked Francis yelled at the top of his lungs, “Oh my gosh! It’s a shark! SHARK!” We were all taken by surprise by Chip the dolphin as he swam around us enjoying the oligotrophic waves. When it was time to say goodbye to Chip and the beach, the gang took off towards the caves of Rock Sound after dropping Sim off at his house. These caves were hollowed out limestone caverns that held the habitat for bats and other nocturnal creatures. This concluded our down island trip. When we returned to campus, dinner was served. A nice evening was spent sitting next to the beach on picnic tables, as the sun set over the Caribbean. The team concluded our day with a night presentation on Lighthouse Beach, by the founder of the Island School, Chris. We felt as if it was very informative, especially because we are headed to Lighthouse Beach tomorrow for our end of the week beach day. Excitement can be smelt throughout the Island School Campus as we get ready to experience one of the greatest beaches that the Bahamas has to offer.

 

Arizona #6: Benedictine Monastery

Alexander Bautista (’21) describes his volunteer work cleaning and translating at the Benedictine Monastery, a place that offers shelter and resources for immigrant families. 

Today, we were given the opportunity to go to a Benedictine Monastery in Tucson, Arizona. This monastery once housed nuns. However, as the nuns aged and slowly left the monastery it became desolate. The area where the Benedictine Monastery is located is a hotspot for asylum-seeking immigrants who are crossing the southern border. Their first action as they enter the U.S legally is they turn themselves in to the Border Patrol and tell them they are seeking asylum. The border patrol takes the immigrants to detention centers in order to be processed. The amount of time this process takes varies depending upon the detention center. It is important to note that these detention centers are not pleasant places.  Some immigrants are provided only crackers and water to eat and drink. If they are lucky, they have enough room to sleep comfortably.  Unfortunately for many asylum-seeking immigrants, they don’t get that privilege. Following their Border Patrol processing the people in question are able to leave. However, where are they supposed to go? Sometimes they are dropped off at a bus stop and left all by themselves. Remember, these are people who have never been to the United States and they have no idea how life works or how to get to their destination. They often do not speak English.  This is where the Benedictine Monastery comes in. This monastery was transformed into a shelter for immigrants so they have somewhere to stay following their release from the detention center. The Benedictine Monastery welcomes the families and provides them all the basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. They also allow them to call their families, and provide what is needed to make the trip to the next destination. This could be to a family member who lives in another state, or to someone who has sponsored them. The Benedictine Monastery does their best to assure that their transition from their home country to their final destination in the States is as painless as possible.

 

Our group went to the Benedictine Monastery to volunteer for a couple of hours. We cleaned cots and pews because they have to be disinfected so families don’t get sick. We also sorted sheets, blankets, and articles of clothing so that they can be washed. We basically did whatever the employees needed us to do to make the room ready for a new batch of arrivals.

Finally, Xochitl and I were given the opportunity to translate for the medical examiners. When the asylum-seekers arrive at the monastery they go through an orientation. This orientation includes learning about life in United States, the rules one must follow when in the monastery, and what their next steps are after leaving the monastery. Following the orientation, medical examiners come to check on the immigrants.  They gather basic information, make sure they have all their papers, and check their health. Since the doctors that came knew very little English, they needed translators. Xochitl and I volunteered. Because of this, we were able to learn more about their stories coming into the United States and their interactions with the Border Patrol. The family that I met was from Guatemala. There were three kids, the mother, and the father. They had travelled for six days until they arrived at a southern port. They were detained by Border Patrol and brought to a detention center. During their time in the detention center, the littlest one, Genesis, got sick. She started having a fever and an upset stomach. The mom had packed formula, but the border patrol officer threw it away and gave her a different formula. The problem was that the baby didn’t like the new formula. She threw up when they tried feeding her. She also didn’t like the peanut butter crackers that were offered, so Genesis ate nothing for those four days. All she had had was water. As the days went by she started getting sicker and some of the other children weren’t feeling too well either. Finally, they were released and sent to the Benedictine Monastery. By the time they arrived, they were malnourished and their three kids weren’t feeling well. Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I had heard. This family has been through so much and their first experience with authority was a terrible one. They didn’t deserve all that they went through. No one does.

 

Overall, volunteering at the Benedictine Monastery taught me a lot about the circumstances that immigrants go through just to get to America. Not only do they have to travel through numerous countries with barely anyone to help them, once they get here they are treated as criminals. Whether you agree with the current administration’s policies or not, you have to respect the resilience that these immigrants have. I know I have the upmost respect for these people who sacrifice everything just to have a chance to enter the United States.

Spain #8: Avila

Kelly Lahart (2020) and Emma Reavis (2019) describe their first day in Avila as they journeyed by foot throughout the local mountains and town. 

Part I by Kelly Lahart

Today was our first full day in Ávila, and we were happy to wake up to sunny skies for our hike. We departed our hotel at 9 a.m., and the bus took us on a scenic drive to our hiking spot. On the ride, not only were we impressed by the beautiful Gredos Mountains but also by our group’s a cappella rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

When we arrived, we met our guide, Santi, who helped us navigate the trails. Our 5-mile hike lasted 3 hours. It began with some of us searching for the perfect walking stick to carry along the trail. On the first part of our hike, we enjoyed time chatting with each other as we walked through the trees, across the rocks, and over a river. Then, we stopped to eat lunch next to the river.

At lunch, we were challenged to complete the second part of our hike in silence. Inspired by Saint Teresa’s focus on the “interior life”, this challenge gave us an opportunity to observe the beauty around us while being more attentive to our own thoughts. In our daily lives at school, it can be hard to find activities that we truly approach with full focus (or full presence) due to other distractions and responsibilities. Because of this, I found this quiet time to be a special moment on the trip because I was able to appreciate the sounds of the running river and the sight of the tall mountains surrounding me with full focus.

Part II by Emma Reavis (2019)

After a reflective experience in the woods, we took to the streets of Ávila with Mercedes – no, not the luxurious car, but our tour guide – who gave us a luxurious tour of Ávila. The tour included a wealth of information about Saint Teresa and Mysticism.

We started our tour with a climb of the Muralla de Ávila, the castle walls that protected the Medieval city from enemies during the time of Teresa.  Walking on the top of the wall, we reflected on some of the descriptors that best embody the life of Teresa, including: an agent of change, a knowledge seeker, and a brave person.

We then attended Mysticism Interpretation Centre which took a pluralistic approach to explaining Mysticism through different themes within each room of the museum. Beginning in the basement, or room one, with the theme of tradition, up to the 2nd level, being knowledge of self, to the 3rd level, being enlightenment or union with God, and then the 4th and final level, being action – which implied a return to the world to teach the path to others.

The final site on our multi-stop tour included viewing the Baroque styled Iglesia-Convento de Santa Teresa which was built by the Order of Discalced Carmelites on the site where Saint Teresa was born in order to pay the highest respects to Saint Teresa herself.

Through each step of our hike and tour of the city, the story of Saint Teresa resonated with us all as we took notice of her unwavering humility and desire to always better herself and those around her – all attributes that can be practiced and taken back to our own lives no matter our religious backgrounds.

Tanzania #7: Village Night

Addie Seegilson (’20) describes teaching an arts class to kindergarteners,  followed by sharing a meal with a family during Village Night as she adjusts to Tanzanian customs. 

The young kindergarteners squealed and smiled as we entered the room. Michael, Ellia, Mason, Christina, and I were given the job of teaching arts and crafts to the hyper youth of JBFC. I knew we had our work cut out for us when multiple girls began to grab at my arms and hands, getting in fights to be the center of my attention at a given moment. We collected flowers, leaves, and wood chips, and when the children began making their masks, another competition emerged: who could make the mask that impressed us most? I judged every mask in the room, repeating “so beautiful!” after each one was presented to me. Although we were all so tired by the end of the class, we had successfully handled the kindergarten students and taught them how to make masks.

The day continued and after an informative assembly and exciting basketball game, it was time for dinner. Since it was village night, the group prepared to walk to the homes of villagers to receive dinner and learn more about life here in Tanzania. We walked with our reading buddies, laughing and chatting as we made the journey to an experience that we would never forget. We were welcomed into the home of a carpenter, and he and his wife were delighted to have us there. I introduced myself in broken Swahili, the best that I could manage after our one lesson the day before. The woman smiled and sat us down for a feast. The meal began in a very different way then it does back home: the first course was donuts. Donut after donut was piled on to my plate, and since it is rude to decline food in the Tanzanian culture, I prepared for the demise of my stomach before the meal had even started. The next round began, and mounds of rice, beans, vegetables, chicken, fried chicken, and beef were served to me as I sat in my seat, already in a food coma from the donuts. By the end of the night, I could barely move. We trekked back to the guest house, dropping off our reading buddies at their dorms on the way back. All the girls swarmed and wrapped their arms around us, a loving end to another fulfilling day in Tanzania.

Panama #5: Vibrancy in Panama City

Abby Fernald (’22), Sam Bronckers (’20), & Grace Honos (’22) describe the energy of Panama City after spending the last 5 days in the rain forest.

Today we left the jungle behind and bumped along the mountainous terrain before moving into the outer-city suburbs. Upon arriving at our hotel, we had a much needed break — downtime, which consisted of hot showers and naps. When our naps were over we began a groggy walk toward the old city for dinner. As the street lights lit up so did our eyes as we gazed upon the ocean and the city. The soothing odor of the local cuisine and the vivid music made Panama City truly came to life. We experienced the vast contrast between the new part and the old part of the city as our surroundings changed from tall skyscrapers to almost European-like churches and charming squares. The joy of the people who surrounded us in the streets was infectious, and any tiredness we were experiencing quickly disappeared. The city seemed to come alive at night and energized us as well. After our long walk to and around the Old City, we stopped to eat and consumed a significant number of pizzas, followed by yummy gelato. We are looking forward to getting some rest as we have an exciting day ahead, and will be heading to the Taboga Island to snorkel tomorrow.

Tanzania #6: “Joyful Spirits”

Nathan Hu ’19 reflects on a day of hard work and the “constant excitement and passion” the JBFC girls permeate, and Maddy Sofer ’21 finds similarities that make a strong connection with her reading buddy.

Nathan:

A 6:30 run with our beloved Jonas once again started the day; this time though, our numbers dwindled to six. We had a more strenuous, longer run in the blistering, rising, Tanzanian sun, but we reaped the same rewards of seeing a magnificent sunrise and running with Tanzanian children as they completed their daily trek to the public school next to our camp at JBFC Mainsprings. This experience was once again beyond rewarding, but our later arrival because of the extended run put a little more pressure on us to shower and change quickly. The abundant droplets of sweat slowly sauntering down my face in the burning rays of the early morning sun have made me appreciate the cold showers before breakfast every morning.

After another great breakfast from Papa’s, we continued to the morning work rotation. Today, I had the privilege of helping to prepare lunch for the school kids at the dining hall. We began by doing the dishes, that allowed us to get to know the staff of the dining hall. We eventually transitioned to actual making of the meal. I, along with one of the other mamas cut up the kale leaves for the meal’s vegetables. I started off, excited to help prepare the vegetables I had been eating the past couple of days, but quickly learned how tiring the process is. As my cutting pace continuously slowed because of the burning sensation filling my wrists, the mama across from me seemed to speed up. Their relentless work towards making porridge or cutting kale displayed their desire to make the kid’s experience as good as possible. They offered us the opportunity to stir the porridge pot, but the sticky substance proved too strong for any of us to stir and we had to return the paddles to the good cooks. After completing the making of the meal, we had to serve the warm sustenance to the eagerly awaiting students. Even serving food took a significant amount of wrist strength as the mamas served plates of food almost twice as fast as me to the 1st and 2nd grade students smiling and holding their empty hands out to us. After we finished serving four classes of students, we headed out to another managers lunch.

Our last experience of the day came after prayer time with the girls. Their contagious excitement once again boiled over during our variety of games including one familiar to us, kick ball. The girls cheering us on as we kicked the ball and chanting “cheencha, cheencha” every time we scored a run gave us the shots of energy we needed to continue, smiling, after our days of helping out around campus.

The constant excitement and passion of everyone on this campus towards us, newcomers whom they have only known for three days, and towards trying to give/get the greatest educational experience possible has left me dumbfounded. The hours of working and hard work have done nothing to quell the joyful spirits of every person we have interacted with. I personally realize that when being at Deerfield or at home, there is no excuse for me to ever don a frown as these kids are constantly turning the corner of their mouths upwards despite any hardships present in their life.

Lexi Roadside ’21 and Nikhil Barnes ’21 take turns stirring the porridge.

Maddy:

At 5 pm every other day, we meet with our reading buddies for an hour. The goal of a reading buddy is to develop and foster a genuine connection with a JBFC girl through reading. We were to find a book at each girl’s reading level in the school’s library, which consisted mainly of donated books—famous childhood stories such as Frog and Toad, Biscuit Goes to School, and many others.

My reading buddy is called Joan. She’s small in size with warm brown eyes that reflect both innocence and mischievousness. Joan is a sweet, quiet yet sassy six-year-old. She enjoys drawing, talking with friends, and singing. Upon first meeting her, she appeared shy, but after talking with her for a mere five minutes I could tell that was certainly not the case. In our first few minutes together, she eagerly picked out multiple thin, paperback books. She was timid when it came to reading the book out loud to me, but once she began, I could see her talkative and extroverted side. We strayed from the book and into more intimate topics such as her life at school and which girls she considered to be her best friends.

She asked me to bring a pen and some paper to our most recent meeting. Her little hands grabbed the black pen out of my grip and she proceeded to draw on the pad of notebook paper. She copied down the words from the story we were reading as well as some of the images. This led into her asking me to spell my name for her to write and then scribbling her own next to it. She flipped the page, humming Swahili songs, and continued with her art. She drew a house and people, much like I would’ve done as a kid.

Although we have only met with our reading buddies twice, the connection that I have made with Joan is unlike any other I’ve forged on this trip. People often perceive African children as displeased with their situation and living in destitution. Joan and the other girls don’t necessarily enjoy the same amount of material wealth as Americans, but they have proved to me that they are some of the happiest people as well as similar to us Deerfield students. Joan too lives at her school, gossips with other girls, and stresses about schoolwork. I have seen our similarities through these two brief sessions, and realize that our connection is not only centered around my job as her reading buddy, but also through our shared passions.

Lexi Roadside ’21 and Maddy Sofer ’21.

The Bahamas #6: An Endangered Ecosystem

Andy Kim ’21 and Ethan Chen ’20 reflect on the many factors contributing to a declining marine ecosystem.

Andy: 

Another activity that we participated in was a lionfish dissection. Before we got into the actual dissection, we first learned about the lionfish itself. Lionfish are an invasive species here in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean – they are actually native to the Pacific, where they are part of the ecosystem. If they live in the Pacific, how could they have made it all the way to the Bahamas? Scientists hypothesize that it was humans that brought them to this part of the globe. An irresponsible lionfish owner may have gotten tired of its stripes and decided to dump it into the ocean, or an aquarium may have lost a few lionfish through a natural disaster.

Regardless of how they got here, lionfish have become a formidable presence here in the Bahamas. Since being first reported in South Florida in the 1980’s, lionfish have now been spotted all over the Atlantic and below, from the coasts of Bermuda, Brazil, and, of course, the Bahamas. This rapid increase in population was due to a variety of factors. One main factor was that lionfish have a lot of offspring. One female lionfish can produce millions of babies in a year. Another factor is that lionfish do not have a natural predator in the Caribbean. This massive domination by the lionfish has several adverse effects to the ecosystem here off the coast of the Bahamas.

Because there are a lot of lionfish, their prey, juvenile fish, have been decreasing in population. This, in turn, increases the amount of algae on coral, simply due to the fact that there are significantly less juvenile fish to peck at the algae. This blanket of algae over the coral has led to coral reefs slowly dying, which we saw with our own eyes.

The conclusion was that lionfish are destroying this ecosystem. Therefore, it was the ideal fish to catch and dissect. Lionfish are very imposing fish. They have long and pointy needles all around it that eject poison if pressure is felt; they also have stripes going all across its body, which tell predators, even sharks, to stay far away. In the inside, it is even more fascinating. It has a swim bladder, which inflates and deflates to help the fish move in the ocean. It also has a spine going through the back of the fish, which we were told made it hard for lionfish to be prepared to eat.

The lionfish dissection was an eye-opening experience to an invasive species and to fish anatomy as well. My goal is to contribute to decreasing the lionfish population by ordering one when I can!

Andy Kim ’21 dissecting a Lionfish.

Ethan:

After an exciting run-swim which, believe it or not, consisted of running and swimming, we took the vans to the opposite side of Eleuthera to the Atlantic coastline and the Cotton Bay Beach for our beach-cleanup. Arriving at first, the beach looked fairly clean, as we learned later that two other groups had cleaned that same beach previously, so I did not expect there would be much to do. However, after really opening your eyes to look at what is underneath your feet, you realize just how awful plastic pollution really is. Even after the two other groups cleaned up the shoreline, we still managed to completely fill up two garbage bags and bring back a few larger items that would not fit. I, myself, found around 5 plastic bottles, 2 shoes, a large bucket, and a 20-foot-long nylon rope along the shore. Grabbing this stuff off the sand, I noticed that much of it did not require much force to shatter into pieces. This really made me think, how long has this plastic been here?

We learned in an earlier lecture that plastic can take up to 40 years to decompose, so some of that stuff that we picked up today could have been from the 70’s. As well, this process of plastic decomposing and crumbling into smaller pieces is an equally dangerous part of plastic pollution: microplastic. Sifting through the sand, I was amazed by the amounts of tiny, ant-sized pieces of plastic sitting in the sand, and I found myself sitting in the same place for 10 or 15 minutes and still finding more and more. This microplastic is extremely dangerous for humans and animals alike, and it often finds its way into the stomachs of birds or turtles.

Cleaning up this shoreline was truly an eye-opening experience, and after some time to enjoy ourselves at the beach, we found ourselves back at the Center for Sustainable Development to sort the plastic. It was interesting to note how much of the plastic we were able to recycle, because most of it had been so broken up that the chemical makeup was unknown, most we had to just throw it back into landfill, and this just goes to show how difficult it really is to recycle materials. What really is the purpose of all this plastic in this world, and is it worth the cost to the environment and biodiversity of places like the Bahamas? After this beach cleanup, I am going to be more aware of my own plastic use, limit it, and look towards a better solution for the future.

Arizona #5: “Justice And Dignity”

Jane Mallach ’20 shares a powerful learning experience on the missing and unidentified immigrants crossing the U.S.- Mexico border.

This afternoon we headed to the Colibrí Center for Human Rights. Once inside, we were led into a conference room to learn about the organization. Two women who worked there, Leah and Stephanie, enthusiastically presented to our group. Colibrí, an NGO that began in 2006 to work to address the high numbers of unidentified bodies of those attempting to cross the border. In fear of being deported themselves, undocumented immigrants are often afraid to report missing family members. Colibrí believes every person’s story and truth should be taken with justice and dignity.

We were surprised to learn that the border isn’t inherently dangerous and deadly, but rather the government has chosen to make it this way. “Prevention through Deterrence” is the name of the border security protocol creating an incredibly dangerous journey for migrants. The rationale is that by making the border as difficult to cross as possible, people will be too afraid to attempt it. But, with the closing off of the previously pass through ports of entry, those desperate to cross will do so through extreme dangerous remote parts. Barriers have been increased in many cases as a symbol. We were shown a picture of what has been added to the fence at the border recently such as mesh in between the slats of the fence so families separated by the border can’t even see each other. They have also added extreme barbed wire. We will be going to that very spot on the border on Sunday and will get to experience it for ourselves.

Colibrí informed us that over 7,000 people have lost their lives crossing the border. But, this is the number that border patrol reports, and it is estimated to be much higher. Once a family reaches out to Colibrí about a missing family member, the organization first conducts an extensive phone call. Through that phone call they try to obtain as many specific details as possible that might help with identifying a body, whether that be tattoos or a missing tooth. Once that 30 minutes to an hour phone call has been completed the organization tries to do initial comparisons to found bodies. If that proves unsuccessful they then try DNA collection of family members in attempt to find a match. If they are able to identify the missing person, Colibrí then switches to their social work side and helps to support the family.

Many families within the network in similar situations have banded together and formed a support system for one another. Although Colibrí is doing such hard and necessary work, of the around 4,500 missing people that were last seen crossing the border, only around 100 have been identified. The fact that Colibrí must exist, dedicated to returning the bodies of migrants to their loved ones, is telling of the current state of American immigration.

Spain #7: School Exchange In Simancas

Morgan Moriarty ’22 describes an “exciting day” at Colegio Juan XXVIII in Simancas.

Our last morning in Simancas concluded with a delicious breakfast in our inn. Rolling out our suitcases through the streets of Simancas, we hopped on the bus and headed out for an exciting day at the Colegio Juan XXIII. The students at this school, from grades K through 10, were extremely welcoming and ecstatic to learn about Deerfield Academy. After small introductions on the steps of the school, we each sang one of our school’s songs, which for us was the Deerfield Cheering Song.

Next, we went into their auditorium for an all school meeting and got a deeper understanding of their school through videos and student presentations. After showing our video in return, Quinn and Nick danced to Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” to present one example of the arts at Deerfield. It was incredible! On a similar note, Matt free styled (hip-hop/rap) and the students loved it. The meeting finished and we headed outside for a recess. The kids made made us feel like celebrities and invited us to sign not only their arms, but also their foreheads! We broke into small groups and visited different grades to tell them about our school. We then ate a lunch full of a variety of different foods and played games with the 10th graders. To finish off a great day at Colegio Juan XXIII, we expressed gratitude with an exchange of gifts and kind words.

Not only did we have a bite to eat at the school, but we also made a short drive to a butcher shop. The traditional Spanish shop gave us a small town feeling after spending most of the morning in the larger city of Valladolid. We tasted different meats, cheeses and even had a blind tasting!

Soon after, we headed towards Avila, and stopped en route in Segovia to look at the massive Roman aqueduct. After taking some photos we made a quick pit stop at a frozen yogurt place. Yum! With Mr. Flaska as the host, we played a game of Family Feud on the ride to Avila which was very fun and competitive. We ended the night with a meal at Larepera in Avila and headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, excited for the next day.

Panama #4: The Continental Divide

Kristine Yang ’21, Elsa Marrian ’21, and Daniel Kang ’21 share the groups exciting last day at the Mamoni preserve. 

After a long day of water sampling and hiking through serene jungle along the Continental Divide, it was time to cool off and take a dip in the confluence of the Mamoni and San Jose rivers. While venturing through the meandering river, we spotted a trapped sloth, desperately hanging inches above the water. Its lack of movement and algae-covered coat misled us to assume it was dead. Moments before we turned away, one languid movement surprised us. Eager saviors of the Mamoni Reserve team jumped into action and heroically relocated the sloth into a safe habitat, away from barren rocks. We could not tear our eyes away from the once in a lifetime spectacle.

Under the equatorial sky, two raging rivers meet as one.
Rays of golden sunshine warm its rushing streams.
Nine ecstatic students plunge in for fun.
The scene, unable to be created in their dreams,
Blessed their eyes and winter-deprived lack of sun.
They enjoyed the sun, but no majestic sight could outshine the DA dream team!

We will forever treasure our Mamoni experience in our hearts as we spend our last night in the jungle, before heading back to Panama City tomorrow.

Arizona #4: American Hard Work

Maya Laur ’20 shares a reflection from her visit with Pima Vocational High School.

We walk into the first classroom on the left of Pima Vocational High School. White Tiled floor. Cushioned chairs. Papers strewn across tables in the back. Posters advertising the importance of “Enterprising” and “Work Ethic.” I sit down next to Alexis, a Junior at the school. “I’m Maya.”

“Hi, I’m Alexis.”

We smile nervously at each other. I regret wearing my bright green Deerfield sweatshirt. I hadn’t meant to draw attention to myself. Now I realize I’m wearing my prep-school identity as a label that only highlights how the two of us are different. But, Alexis is unfazed.

“What’s your school like?” she leans across the table.

I tell her that I’m taking Spanish at home, that I don’t board at Deerfield, that I live on a mountain in the woods. She tells me that she loves to go hiking on weekends, that she works two jobs to support her siblings and single mother, that she’s a daughter of immigrants, that she looks forward to school every day. I lean in further.

Sometimes at Deerfield, I forget what it means to work. My definition of the term is limited to tests and research projects and logarithmic equations. I forget that outside our bubble, hard work is not measured by how many logarithmic equations I complete or how many hours I spend on my essay. At Pima Vocational High School, it’s a matter of how many jobs one holds, how many siblings one supports.

A teacher of mine once told that the students at his former school in a lower-income community of Maine worked much harder than we did. Now I know what he meant. Although not everyone at Deerfield comes from privileged backgrounds, quite a few of us do. I’ve had to juggle multiple projects before. But I’ve never had to juggle two jobs and six classes. I have a job in the summer but as soon as school comes around I can set it aside and focus on my education. I am one of the few in this country who gets to choose when I work and when I don’t. I am one of the few who gets to choose whether I spend my money on groceries or save it for college. I don’t speak for everyone at Deerfield. But, I do know this: I am not the definition of hard work. Yes, I do four to five hours of homework a night. Yes, I stay in class until every last one of my questions is answered. But, these are not burdens. They’re privileges. I can afford to devote four hours a day to homework. I can afford to stay in class for as long as I want to.

Alexis, on the other hand is the definition of hard work. She doesn’t need the posters on the wall of her high school classroom to tell her what it means to buy dinner for her family or drop of her siblings at school in the morning. In my eyes, my teacher was right. Alexis works harder than I ever will. But, is that how our country sees her? Does our country really reward hard work, when all I’ll I have to do to guarantee that I’ll go to college is write a couple of essays ,and when Alexis had to drop out of school for a year just to take care of her family? When her mother crossed oceans to give her a better life, our country labels Alexis “lazy” because she’s 19 and still in High School.

I realize my Deerfield sweatshirt is fitting. For, me, it’s a mark of my privilege. It’s something I should acknowledge and own. Yet, it shouldn’t be a marker of hard work. In this country, hard work shouldn’t necessarily look like me. It should look like Alexis, sitting across from me in Pima Vocational High School, white tiled floor, cushioned chairs, advertising the importance of “work ethic,” on the wall.

 

Tanzania #5: An “Integrated Community”

Mason Zhao ’20 comes to realize the issues that lack of transportation poses to school children in “rural Tanzania,” and the importance of an “integrated community.”

Four A.M. wake-ups call for six A.M. runs. With the guidance and support of our truly beloved Jonas, seven of us—Mr. Toby, Christina, MB, Michael, Jeffrey, Nathan, and I, went on a morning jog. In addition to noticing how unfit we had become after a truly grueling exam season, two aspects made this jog particularly unique. The first instance occurred around the second mile. While running in the eastward direction, we faced a perfectly picturesque view of a sunrise—in the span of three minutes, the sun had completely risen above a steep hill. A combination of birds flying in the distance, cows grazing through yellow-green plains, and the glaring sun created an inspirational setting for our run. Furthermore, this exact scene is what I imagined throughout my childhood as an ideal landscape, and looking at it in real life was a surreal experience for the entire group of joggers.

The second instance occurred during our final mile. While running back to our Guest House, a group of forty or so primary-school students joined us to create a Forrest Gump-esque scene. These kids, dressed in monotone uniforms of black and green, managed to stay with us for the final duration while hauling pounds of books in their backpacks. This fact of matter attests to our aforementioned lack of fitness and impressive endurance the students had developed. However, we were soon to learn from Jonas the brevity of their situation. Lack of transportation to nodes of education exists as a significant threat to rural Tanzania. In many cases, such as those of the kids we jogged with this morning, students walk upwards of ten miles to get to school. This is concerning, not only due to the lackluster conditions of roads and the dangers that exist for an elementary schooler to walk around twenty miles daily, but also because fear of safety causes parents to pull their kids out of school, which increases illiteracy rates and exacerbates extreme rural poverty. The Mainsprings organization is working extremely diligently to mitigate these effects, mandating initiatives such as funding school buses for all schools in the vicinity. Further initiatives must still be implemented to improve conditions, as school buses are still crowded and not all students have that accessibility.

In the end, we dropped the kids off to school and continued running back to the Guest House. The rest of the day was filled with excitement. More interactions occurred with students at the Joseph and Mary School, including a midday snack which eventually procured to me, Addie and Christina getting distracted from our community service and sending the primary school children back to class. During after school clubs, we played futbol with members of the local community and Mainsprings girls. I scored a hat trick to secure the win for my team, and might consider turning pro. The infatuation of futbol as part of rural Tanzanian culture also intrigued me. In a whole-school poll, every member of the Joseph and Mary School seemed to have an opinion on Yanga or Simba—the two best teams in the Tanzanian Premier League. The existence of this game as a culture fuses the community to an integrated community.

The night ended with dinner at Papa’s, and we’re excited for what we have set for tomorrow!

Tanzania #4: Building Community

Hanna Deringer ’20 shares highlights of her first day with her reading buddy, and Christina Halloran ’20 reflects on the warm affection of the Mainsprings community.

Hanna:

The highlight of my first day here in Tanzania was spending time with my reading buddy. After a riveting permaculture lesson with Mr. Max, the group took a small break and then traveled to the school library to meet our reading buddies. When I first met Somida, I was nervous because I wanted her to like me. I could tell she was shy but definitely had a lot to say. She chose the book, Judy Moody and tried to get me to read the entire book to her but we both knew that wasn’t allowed. We compromised and switched off reading each page to each other. Somida flew through every page reading almost perfectly, yet I was not completely sure she understood what was happening in the book, even if she knew how to say the words. I then asked Somida to explain what had happened in each chapter and for the rest of the time we both worked together to try and help her fully understand the book. Though it was only the first session, it was a quite humbling experience. I enjoyed trying to teach Somida reading skills that she could apply in the future but I more enjoyed getting to know such a bright, kind, young girl.

Somida then lead me to the assembly hall where prayer time would soon begin promptly at 6 pm. As we walked along the dusty path to prayer time, Somida told me more and more about herself. We chatted about our favorite things and as we spoke I felt the younger children come up from behind me to hold on to my hands or anything they could attach to. Before I knew it, three preschoolers were latching on to my backpack, my hips and both of my hands. Prayer time was amazing. The girls sang with passion and a true love for each other. I struggled to understand the Swahili but tried my best to hum along with them. After prayer time, we had a fresh dinner with rice, beans and veggies. Shortly after, everyone broke out into song and danced at full volume. As Somida and I bonded even more through music, I thought about how this small building managed to hold an enormously happy and lively spirit inside. We concluded the night with a fun game filled with laughter, joy and more hugs.

Christina Halloran ’20 and her reading buddy, Somida.

Christina: 

After scrubbing clean the cups that previously filled the students’ mid-morning snack of porridge, Addie, Mason, and I stepped out of the kitchen and into the main room of the dining hall to talk with all the young kids. While our job was to help out the cooks, with a moment of pause from work, we decided to interact with the boys and girls in matching uniforms of royal blue tops and red skirts or pants. They immediately ran to us and surrounded us, holding our hands, grabbing our arms, and touching our backpacks, smiling and laughing all the while. I was joyfully overwhelmed by the affection all the children showed towards us and the curiosity that glowed in their faces. A few of them chatted with me, asking me what my name is and asking me about my watch. Before we knew it, the kids were slowly congregating towards the exit to head back to class. Not being able to say goodbye and unable to unhinge their little hands from our hands and arms, we continued walking with the students until we ultimately made it back to the school. As we posed for a picture outside of the classrooms, one of the girls gave me a kiss on my cheek. We finally had to say goodbye to all of our new friends, promising that we’ll see them again at lunch and giving them fist bumps and high fives before leaving.

As my hands and arms were gripped by the little hands of the children, I couldn’t help but smile and be intrigued by their kindness and curiosity. They were not afraid to interact with us strangers at all, rather they were so excited and interested to touch us and talk to us. Every day I become more and more impressed and amazed by all of the compassionate and warm hearted people who don’t think twice about treating us in the best possible manner. I often feel like I am a superstar as all of the children I pass say hi to me and often give me a high five. Thinking about their lives and backgrounds, I find it even more incredible that they are all so kind and welcoming to us. I will never forget the moment I finally had to wrench my arms away from the students as my arms hung through the bars of the window into the classroom. They couldn’t seem to let go and neither could I, despite the fact that we had met just minutes ago. I think the people here at Mainsprings have been my favorite part of this trip so far; they are truly one of a kind and I cannot wait to make more memories with them.

The Bahamas #5: Exploring A Coral Reef

Francis Shea ’20 shares an exciting day of snorkeling.

When Robin asked the group at one of our pre-trip meetings what we were interested in seeing while in the Bahamas, I promptly expressed that I wanted to see living coral. The bleaching of coral is caused by the global rise in sea temperature and coral is dying at extreme rates. Approximately 80% of all the reefs in the Caribbean are dead. So today, we traveled on the Reef Rat to a coral reef.

After I jumped in, I was immediately disheartened by the abundance of dead coral. Yet, I was still overtaken by the natural beauty of the remaining healthy coral organisms. I had never seen so many different species of fish congregated in one area. As I snorkeled around the reef, I realized the importance of this ecosystem and how it is the home of so many fish. After about 40 minutes of exploring the reef, we got back in the boat and made our way back to the Island School. Reflecting now, I realize how much of the coral is dead and at this rate, there will not be any left in the near future. Coral is in grave danger and without immediate action and initiative, future generations of humans, especially those who economically rely on the ocean, will suffer to maintain their livelihood. As Zach Davis ’20 told the group before snorkeling, “coral only covers 1% of the ocean floor, but holds 25% of marine life.”

From left to right: Kaelene Spang ’19, Janis Chen ’20, and Izzy Hamlen ’20

From left to right: Kate Hickey ’20, Erin Howe ’20, Mira Binzen ’20, and Zach Davis ’20

From left to right: Andy Kim ’21, Jaxon Palmer ’21, Ethan Chen ’20, and Abby Persons ’21.

Arizona #3: Inspiring Hope Through Conversation

After many discussions and conversations on immigration, Fernanda Ponce ’19 comes to understand that in order to “create solutions,” one “must keep learning and asking questions.”

“They are my hope.”

Annie, one of the staff members at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said this to Laura, one of our group guides as she was taking a picture of the “store” that Annie runs at the center.

As I looked around the table, at the people who I just had spent the last hour exchanging conversation and song in English and Spanish over some of the most delicious Mexican food in Tucson, I could not help but smile and nod quietly to myself in agreement. I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to know these wonderful, kind, and passionate individuals who have been teaching and inspiring me on this trip. They are my hope too: hope that in the near future we will find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, especially those related to immigration not only in the U.S. but all over the world.

***

 

 

We started off our day by discussing what we had learned from our conversation with the immigration lawyer the day before. The group made observations about the types of temporary visas that exist in the U.S., prejudices against individuals want to immigrate to the United States when they apply for visas from selected countries, the fairness of the legal system, how to potentially fix the laws currently in place, and how to talk to people with different world views. After the discussion, it seemed as though we had reached a couple of conclusions: 1) the world is a complicated place and we have barely touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding it and 2) in order to understand these issues and create solutions, we must keep learning and asking questions (which we have plenty of). With that in mind, I approached the day with an eagerness to learn all about Tucson and take advantage of all the opportunities for engagement and learning the city would provide us.

In the morning, we visited an exhibit at the University of Arizona art museum called “f***nism”, which displayed the work of a diverse group of individuals about what feminism means to them, and what it means to be a woman within the contexts of their lives. As a student of art at Deerfield, I found it incredibly insightful to see how stroke work, space, color, patterns, and medium could convey such layers of meaning, and contribute so much to informing and connecting people’s identities. I relate this to some of my upcoming projects and the trip’s theme of immigration in that to change laws and bring more equitability to the systems in our country, change must start at the basic human level, with stories and experiences shared verbally, through literature and art.

 

Speaking of stories: as I was sitting in the conference room of the IRC, listening to Katrina, a nutritionist at the center and our guide, answer our questions about refugees and asylum seekers, and the processes they must follow to gain admittance to the United States, I imagined the stories of the individuals whose pictures of success were on the wall. Where were they from? What circumstances led them here? And I thought of those who are trying to build their own story of success, even though they and their family have no name yet, only a code and place of origin on a whiteboard in the hall. These are the people out of the millions who apply to the United States who can be said to have won the “lottery”. As Katrina pointed out, under the Obama administration, 100,000 refugees were admitted each year. Now that number has dwindled to a mere 45,000 refugees, even though the United States can take many more, if the President decides it. So many more people that can receive the help they need to escape war and build the better life they and their children deserve.

John, a friend of Laura’s Skyped with us following the visit to the IRC and gave us some more of the behind the scenes work at the refugee camps he worked at in Greece and France. He explained the ways in which families withdraw money from the bank in their home countries in order to carry thousands of dollars to be taken to other countries, and perhaps from there make the dangerous journey on boat to the islands of Greece. Sometimes, the people who can make this journey are also people who have the means in their own country, which adds a layer of complexity to this issue. (What about the people who don’t have enough money to travel?) John also explained how the process for gaining refugee status in Europe is much faster than in the United States, because Europe accepts almost 100,000 refugees a day, at least when John was working at the camps in 2016.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure what to do with all of this information, because as I saw at the IRC, there is a way to make this issue feel local and close to home when there is a location for refugees a short drive in Tucson. But at the same time, thousand of miles away, there are individuals who I have no way of contacting, the ones who need to be informed of their options and opportunities, who deserve a better life in the States, but will not receive it due to factors outside of my control.

It is at this point that I come back to the internal conclusions of our group from the discussion, and the people I am surrounded by. These are the minds that will shape the future, and although the experiences of today in the IRC and the conversation with John can be overwhelming and frankly frustrating, I trust that my classmates and I will have come out of this trip with a guide and foundation to begin to ponder how to address these pertinent issues.

Panama #3: Making New Friends

Selena Martineau ’19 , Muffy Mazambani ’20, and  Zo Williams ’19 share a day in the life of a student who attends Escuela de San Jose, a small rural school in Panama.

We trekked on foot from the Centro Mamoni to the nearby village in the blazing sun with the steep hills and rolling pastures that opened before our eyes. We wrestled with riddles as we dared to test our perseverance. And finally, when we arrived at the school, we were greeted with shy faces but warm hearts.

After a spirited game of duck, duck, goose, or more commonly known as pato, pato, ganzo, students from both schools opened up. Despite the language barrier, the students did their best to introduce themselves to their new friends. This new friendship was fortified through the planting of cucumbers and tomatoes followed by an intense game of tackle: where the two-foot tyrants dared to pull the Deerfield students to the ground.

Energy was then revitalized with a fresh meal, water, and good company. After some relaxation, the kids rejoiced and celebrated over a game of football (translation, soccer). The game ended in a tie, students departed, and one child left on his horse, a common mode of transport for rural Panama. Although we lacked clear communication, an incomparable bond was formed. Despite being the volunteers at their school, the students of Escuela de San Jose were the ones that taught us more valuable lessons and we will always remember the children’s bright smiles.

Selena Martineau ’19

Elsa Marrian ’21

Sam Bronckers ’20

Grace Honos ’22

Spain #6: Song and Laughter

Caroline Skillman ’19 reflects on the “simplicity” of building relationships through great food, good music, and shared stories.

This morning, after breakfast in our Simancas hotel, and after getting two of our friends out of bed after they overslept, we departed and drove to Valladolid to visit cloistered nuns in one of the major Discalced Carmelite convents started by Saint Teresa of Avila. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, since cloistered nuns do not usually receive visitors or come into contact with the outside world as an important aspect of their committed life. Paco Diez, an amazing musician and historian, scheduled this special visit for us. After talking with the nuns for a long time about their daily lives and their reasons for joining the convent, as well as their spiritual connection to Saint Teresa, we drove to Paco’s musical instruments museum.

Paco maintains and curates this museum, which is connected to his home, and he has a vast collection of historical instruments from all over the Iberian Peninsula. He picked up and played every instrument with such ease and precision: flutes, drums, guitars, fiddles… it’s better not to list the instruments he does play because the list of ones he doesn’t is probably shorter. After a tour through his museum, we went to his bodega. His bodega is nothing like what we consider a bodega in the US. Bodega here in Spain means wine cellar, so his bodega was far underground and cold, outfitted with a kitchenette and space for eating, and big enough to fit our 16 person group.

After a wonderful meal of chorizo, bread, salad, and chicken, we sat around and listened to Paco play guitar and sing. Then, it turned into hours of all of us singing, mostly our group musicians Morgan and Sam, but also a few others – including Jordan Romm, our friend who helped to organize the entire journey. This experience, in Paco’s bodega, with all of us together singing and having such genuine fun, uninhibited by technology, and absent of other thoughts, was such a special moment on this trip.

Our incredible Wednesday was capped off by dinner in the Plaza Mayor of Simancas where we shared stories, laughed (as we do a lot), had good food, and toasted to each other with the Sandal of Simplicity, the symbol of our trip.

Spain #5: Walking in the Footsteps of Teresa of Avila

Quinn Soucy ’19 and Nick Ortega ’19 share an exciting day “walking in the footsteps of Teresa of Avila” through Simancas and Valladolid.

Another beautiful day in Simancas!

We started off the day going through the Spanish National Archives, located in Simancas, where we were able to touch and see documents that dated back to the 15th century. During our viewing of these documents, Valentina noticed that she may have accidentally ripped a document that dated back to the 17th century, which we learned would have put her in a Spanish prison for 7 to 9 years. Thankfully, the document was already damaged prior to her touching it.

In the castle, which held the archives, Quinn was excited about the fact that she was able to live out her childhood dream of being a princess for a day. Unfortunately, she was disappointed to learn that there was no dungeon in the basement. At the end of the tour, we were able to examine letters written by European royalty concerning Teresa of Avila. This was important because we were able to see how officials viewed Teresa and the changes she was making to the Carmelite Order.

Afterwards, we made the brief, 15-minute bus ride to Valladolid, where we bought food in an outdoor market while various students were able to practice their Spanish by asking for different vegetables and fruits. After a brief cup of espresso (which ended up being many cups of espresso), we headed to the 5 Gustos restaurant where we were given a lesson on how to prepare food that was popular during Teresa’s time. Once it was cooked, we were then able to eat the food we prepared.

Leaving the restaurant, we then listened to professors from the University of Valladolid talk about the life of Teresa, and the historical events that were taking place in Spain during Teresa’s life.

For a break before dinner, we took on the welcoming streets of Valladolid where we were able to roam shops and buy delicious treats. We then met in the square of the town where we danced to the theme song of “Friends”, and attempted to take a freeze frame photo (unfortunately we were unsuccessful).

At dinner, we tried various tapas and laughed about stories we shared while indulging in delicious food. We tiredly headed back to the hotel, hopeful of what the rest of the week would bring.

From left to right: Sam Crocker ’19, Quinn Soucy ’19, Hayden Sawh ’22, Nick Ortega ’19, Valentina Saldarriaga ’20