El Onceavo Día

by Hadley Cohen ’19

Today was the first day of our second week of school. It is starting to hit me that we are leaving soon because the days keep flying by. This morning we had our normal breakfast at 7, of rice and beans, eggs and ham, and mangos. The juice of the day was my favorite, flor de Jamaica. After we had breakfast the first grade class showed up to walk us to class. Jordan and I spent the morning with our preschoolers, drawing, coloring, and playing with playdough. The greeting of hugs every morning has become a part of my daily routine, and I will miss it so much.

After spending the morning with the kids we went to our dance class. In the beginning dance class was really difficult because of the heat, but now we are becoming accustomed to it and it is becoming more fun. We learned the last part of the dance that we will perform on the last day. After dance class we went to lunch], which consisted of macaroni salad, plantain chips, rice, and steak.

Today instead of going to the high school, we went to the albergue of the hospital for children with cancer. At the albergue we played with the kids and painted. We painted the playground and the front of the hospital. This was really sad but happy at the same time. Even though the kids were sick, they were able to still have smiles on their faces and play with us. After the albergue we came back to the house for dinner. Dinner tonight was empanadas, rice, and tomatoes. When I got home after dinner I played with my 1 year old host brother and then passed out from the long day.

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What to Pack for Boarding School

340-Amber Salazar

by Amber Salazar ’19

I have been a boarding school student for 2 years now and it seems like each year I somehow manage to forget to pack something important. I’ve always wished that there was a list of things that I should and shouldn’t pack, but I can never seem to find one that is as handy as I would like it to be, so I am going to make a list of my own. Here are the essentials of packing for boarding school.

  • Pack lots of clothes! While you are packing it may seem like you are bringing way too much, but trust me, you’ll need it. Lately the weather has been unpredictable, so make sure to bring clothes for both warm and cold temperatures.
  • Pack different types of shoes. Sometimes you will need sneakers, if it’s cold out you may want to wear boots, or when it’s hot you might want to wear sandals. It is very convenient to have a variety.
  • Bring decorations! The majority of dorm rooms are very bland, so that you can customize it to your liking. Lots of people hang up lights, posters, pictures; really anything that makes it feel more like home.
  • Remember to bring school supplies. You are going to a boarding SCHOOL, after all. Pencils, pens, notebooks, binders, etc.
  • Toiletries! This is probably the most easily forgotten thing to pack. Since you will be living at school, you will need a toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash, deodorant, etc.
  • Bring food. You will be hungry sometimes! If you want a late-night snack or something small to eat in the middle of the day, it is nice to have something to eat in your room.

Overall, the boarding school experience is AMAZING. When you pack the necessary items, the experience just becomes even better.

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by Alyssa Fread ’18

This morning after a late start, we arrived at the work site to find an enormous pile of dry wall waiting for us to move into the house. Although mildly dangerous, we quickly turned the job into a race, or a more pc name: competitive walk with a winner, with people teaming up in pairs to pretty much run holding enormous rectangles of sheet rock. Even though we all had two people to work with, Lorenzo beat out the competition by a mile and shifted into fourth, out of apparently eighteen, gears and won just working by himself.

During our break Lorenzo led us around for a tour of Tutwiler, where we saw a bunch more homes, the community center, and the funeral home for Emmett Till. It was crazy to see the state of disrepair the funeral home was in, basically one step above falling down, with really only a sign to commemorate the site. If you go around back, you can see the hearse in the garage. One great thing we saw on the tour were the plans to create a really large park. Lorenzo said that within three to four years, the park would be completed with baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and pools, all of which I think would make a huge difference to the community. I would love to check back in four or so years from now and see the finished park and if it’s changed anything for the people of Tutwiler.

After yet another aggressive game of Egyptian Rat-screw, half of our group left to make a grocery run to the Dollar General and the other half stayed behind to play a four on four game of football. Although my team was stacked, with me, Kailee, Lorenzo, and Beau, the other team, Brendon, Jacob, Susie, and Max, somehow managed to beat us out for the win. By the end of the game we were all dead tired, but returned to the work site to finish all of the windows and fiberglass for the walls and ceilings. It was a great feeling. After finishing our work for the day, Sara, one of the nearby homeowners who also had a house built by Habitat for Humanity, offered to have us all tour her home. It was really cool to see what we were working on in relation to the finished product, also she decorated impeccably with a strong burgundy theme that added a very stylish vibe to the house.

We all cleaned up and went to the community center for a pot luck with a bunch of people from the town. The food was fantastic, and although I wouldn’t know because I’m a vegetarian, I was told the fried chicken was to die for. It was really great to meet the families who would be receiving the houses we were working on and made the effort we were putting in all the more meaningful. Overall this was a great day. The more time we spend here the more I don’t want to leave and I can only hope that when we have to move to Clarksdale for our second worksite, we have just as good of a time as we’ve had so far.


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El Decimo Dia


by Alyssa Taliaferro ’19

This morning was pretty great because we all got to sleep in a little more since we didn’t have to meet to for breakfast until 7:30. After eating breakfast we all piled onto the bus and made our way to pueblos blancos. We arrived at this ceramics school where we had the opportunity to buy different ceramics pieces. A man there went through the process they use to make all of their ceramic pieces. It was really cool because they didn’t use any electricity. They used their feet to turn the wheels, natural pigments to make the paints, and rubbed seeds on the pieces to make them shiny.

Next we went to Catarina where we had a great view of Laguna El Apoyo. We went through a guided tour of the area where we learned the uses of all the plants. There was this one plant who’s name translated to skunk because of its horrible smell. Everyone in the group was trying to get me to sniff it because it is supposed to help with congestion. We also stopped to look at all the monkeys that were sleeping around in the trees. After our tour we stayed in the area to some souvenir shopping.

We went back to Masaya but this time visited another market for those who still wanted to do a bit more shopping and then made our way back to Rafaela’s house for dinner. My host mother picked me up at around 6:30. I went home, caught up on the 3 journals I had forgotten to write then went to sleep.

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Haiti Day 1

Day 1

by Jackie Coren

The students on the trip are Nadia Arenas-Purvinis, Andrew Arth, Michelle Bronsard, Rebecca Campbell, Brandon Christian, Eamon McEwen and Khy Zungu. The leaders are Jackie Coren, Barb Kibler and Rosey Rosetty-Wagner. One thing we learned at the outset is the Taíno, word for Haiti, which is Ayiti (“High Places”). The Taíno were the indigenous people of the whole island and the preferred name here. For our first week in Ayiti, we’ve been in the mountain village of Gwo Jan at the N a Sonje community. N a Sonje means “We will remember,” and the foundation’s mission is to introduce visitors to the people, language, culture and history of Haiti in order for Haitians and visitors (particularly from the north) to come to know each other as real people despite more prevalent stereotypes. All work activities and learning sessions are designed around this idea of building relationships and a wider community. The founder and director of N a Sonje, Carla Bluntschli, is a committed and imaginative teacher and a veritable Energizer Bunny!

Language and Culture:

In addition to the initial greeting from the Carla’s “team” of local Haitians in the first evening the students met their “twins.” Each GS student is paired with a young person in the village with whom they do language and cultural activities together as “siblings” and as a large group. They have all become good friends and it’s wonderful to see that. Our first evening all together was spent listening to personal stories from Carla’s team and the “twins” of what it is like to live in Ayiti and of our sharing why we have been drawn to come here. Everyone spoke freely and movingly and the evening set the tone for the rest of the stay here.

In their own words—Michelle and Rebecca:

A striking part about our trip has been learning about the culture and Kreyol language of Ayiti. Ever since we arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport, we have been greeted in an extraordinary manner. In Ayiti, we learned that it is customary to greet everyone you meet with a smile and a “Bonjou!” This tradition in itself is representative of the Haitian culture of community, integrity and respect. When we first arrived, in order to participate in this culture, and “feel the ground and be on the same level as the local villagers,” Carla had us get out of the van in the mountain village of Gwo Jan where we are based, and walk the remaining ¼+ mile. Upon arrival, we met with local members of her team and our “twins” (“marasa”). The twins are local village youths who take part in the N a Sonje Foundation community. They have become good friends. The existing language barrier was partially broken through mutual Kreyol and English exchanges and lessons. To practice and develop our knowledge, we played charades and a form of “Hangman” in the opposing languages. Overall, the experience with our twins and the Gwo Jan village has allowed us to gain and deepen our insight into the rich Haitian culture.

Food and Village Encounters—Khy and Nadia:

To accomplish the tasks mentioned below, we both worked in the kitchen at N a Sonje and also walked to various homes in the village–about 1/4 mile up and down some steep footpaths. All of the food we helped prepare appeared at one time or another in a meal we ate.

In their words:

On Sunday, we split into 2 groups of 4 to do 4 different activities. We rotated after about an hour at each station. One stop was coffee-making at the home of a villager. We learned how to roast the beans from berries, then coated them in sugar. We waited for them to cool, then ground them with a wooden mortar (hollowed out tree trunk) and pestle. It tasted delicious. This was the same coffee that we drink at N a Sonje.

Another stop at a villager’s home was cassava breading-making which was amazing. We watched how it was made and each of us had a turn at grating coconut with a grater made by punching holes into the side of a used metal can. Cassava is a root that is grated, pressed, and dried. The bread, a sandwich-like bread is our group’s favorite so far. It’s usually eaten with sugar and coconut, and sometimes with herring, onions, and tomato. In our group, cassava bread is also used for our breakfast and night. Nadia, the “pickiest eater” of the group, said that the herring cassava was her favorite. Another stop was roasting and grinding peanuts for peanut butter; and at another, we sorted beans and grains of rice.

Other food we eat included rice, beans, sweet fried plantains, pork, beef, chicken, salad, freshly-roasted and ground peanut butter (another station), breadfruit and freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice.

 On Education– Eamon and Brandon:

Tuesday, March 13, was our “Education Day.” Eamon and Brandon write about House of Hope, a school at the Foundation Ecumenic for Peace and Justice. This program is for children and youth living as indentured servants or “restaveks.” As most restavek children have minimal to no schooling, the Foundation works to provide a primary education to children living as restaveks. We had a long session with older children and youth and adults in a vocational sewing program in which we exchanged questions and views on a range of topics, from the personal to the political. It was a wonderful exchange. It’s important to know that the restavek situation is not an officially sanctioned program, but rather an unfortunate consequence of the economic realities of the country. There are a number of social programs working to reduce the number of restavek children and hopefully some day eliminate the practice altogether. After this we went to Quisqueya University and met with Sara Wolf (’99).

 In their words:

We went to one of the best private schools in Port-au-Prince. At the school, we visited with some of the students. They were well-versed in the politics of Haiti. The students we met with were in grades 5 and 6 and also included profession classes. In the profession classes, we found that ages ranged from teenagers to adults who have children. The school seeks to ready the students for society. In grades 5 and 6, the school teaches many common courses, such as math, cooking, language, etc. While we talked to them, they brought up the topic of second-hand clothing. Many people in Haiti buy second hand clothing [donated from other countries] because it is much cheaper than buying new Haitian-made clothing. As well as taking away from the local economy, the clothes take away from the culture of the Haitian people. They take these classes so that they can be able to make and sell their own clothes which have traditional designs. We also went to another school and learned [from Sara Wolf] about an innovative education experience she and her team have created for Haitian schools. She told us about a morning routine which excites the kids about learning instead of through fear. They gained support from companies like Kellog and partnered with the university they are stationed in. They do data collecting on the education system in Haiti and are starting a data center, which is the first of its kind in Haiti. They are teaching educators around the country about the new process of teaching, which through the data, they proved has been working. The Ministry of Education in Haiti has not done enough in recent years in the way of improving education, so InnovEd has taken initiative to better the education opportunity in Haiti.

 History—Kairo and Andrew:

In addition to Kairo and Andrew’s account, the students re-enacted a guided mimed historical play that Carla and her team created called “Three Innocents and a Spirit.” Over and over in our conversations with people, the history of Haiti is emphasized, and the importance of recounting and remembering. N a Sonje means “We will remember.”

 In their words:

On Monday, March 12 we focused on the history of European colonialism in relation to Haiti. Carla read excerpts of Christopher Columbus’ personal journals, Howard Zinn’s interpretation and other historical texts. The overlying theme of the lesson that we were taught was telling history from non-traditional perspectives. After completing these readings, Carla led us in a discussion in regard to these alternative perspectives, lending additional facts when necessary. For example, we discussed the United States occupation of Haiti, specifically the negative impacts this even has on present-day Haiti. As this topic is rarely emphasized in the American education system, our knowledge of this was quite minimal. This led to not only an intriguing discussion, but an overwhelming informative one as well. In addition to learning and gaining knowledge, our lessons were also emotionally enriching. For instance, Carla passed around a real chain and shackle, found and dug up from the land nearby. It was from the days of brutal slavery in Haiti. This deeply impacted our group as we all saw and held it and reflected on the severity of slavery in Haiti and its effects on the people today. All in all, our new-found knowledge and appreciation of Haitian history will be something that not only impacts the remainder of our time here, but on our lives when we return back home.

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El Noveno Dia

by Jordan Valdepeñas-Mellor ’19

Today, I was ready for a full day of fun because we had many fun activities planned. We were going to a pool somewhere and we got to bring members of our family with us. I like to wake up an hour before we have to show up at Rafaela’s house, so I woke up at 6:30. Unlike Alex’s mango-filled nights, my house tends to be a lot more quiet. We showed up at Rafaela’s, and had the usual gallo pinto, with the addition of a very tasteful, marbled bread.

After breakfast, we had to get ready for the second-longest bus ride of our trip. But when we arrived at the Centro Ecoturístico Flor de Pochote, the views were amazing as we were at the top of a mountain, with heavy winds. We were all surprised to find that before swimming, we had to go through 7 team bonding exercises which, if I’m completely honest… not my scene. But when we finished, we had an amazing lunch consisting of our choice of meat. After lunch, we took the afternoon to swim, talk to friends and families, look down the mountains, relax, and have fun. When we left, we stopped by a small marketplace, where we bought things made of wood. The bus ride back was long, but if one were to look out the window, one would find that the mountains were nothing short of gorgeous.

We got back to the house around 6:15, and ate quickly because our friend from the school was throwing a party for us at his house. We did have rules, of course, as we had to return to the house at 9 to check in with Sole and make sure we were all alright. Each of us made sure that no one would break any rules that could get us in deep trouble. The thing I loved most about the party was the music. We played a mix of songs both from the U.S. and Latin America. It’s fun to try and dance to a different beat, whether it be salsa or the macarena.

Life in Nicaragua is just great because we all get the chance to show our leadership and responsibility. Spanish-speaking is still a bit difficult for some of us, but we came here to improve and I believe that everyone in this group is improving dramatically, and that’s just awesome. The heat has also been a huge challenge, and it is hard to realize how often we need to drink water to stay hydrated, the water is usually lukewarm and that prevents people from wanting to drink but deep down we know that we need to drink. So far I have had an absolute blast here and I do not want it to end!

Signing off,


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El Octavo Dia

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by Alexandre Cartier ’19

Today was very similar to every other day, the night was sprinkled with mangoes falling on my roof. I woke up at 5 to the delightful sound of my alarm clock as we had to be at Rafaela’s house at 6am. After I took my morning shower and got my backpack ready for the day, I helped a bit my family to prepare for their day of selling tamales which are a corn and beef filled leaf pocket classically from Nicaragua. I set up the outside table for the restaurant part of the store. My host father then brought me to the house of Rafaela where we had a quick but as usual delicious breakfast of galletas and juice. We then took a bus with many of our Nicaraguans friends to go to the finca where we were going to do service for the day.

After a 1:30 ride where i shared with sole the difference between the US, France, and Chile (in Spanish of course) we arrived at a very simple house where many women started their usual day of work. They explained to us what they did here and why. We found out that this was an organization only made of women where they proved to other people that agriculture can be made with respect to nature and my women but at the same time be effective as a real business. They explained to us they techniques that they used to corn both corn and beans which is to created multiple beds of plants with a tree at each end. They then showed us what the GS group from last year did which was a pig pen.

We then separated into two groups to each go to a field and create one of the corn and bean bed. This seemed very easy but considered to heat which made us be tired very quickly and made the ground be extremely dry took us a good hour to finish. Then we harvested a large number of beans in order for the workers to plant them later. Because of the heat we were unable to stay for the afternoon and do more service so we left and had a very good lunch made of classic rice, meat, and corn tortilla.

As we had the free afternoon we decided to do to visit the close-by city of Leon (which in Spanish means Lyon). We stayed at the main plaza of the town where many little pop up stores were so many of us bought more souvenirs and refreshments. Near the plaza was also saw the beautiful cathedral in the center of Leon. We then returned to the house of Rafaela, the bus ride was extremely silent as everybody was sleeping from this morning’s work. We ate dinner very early at 4:30 and then talked for an hour until our host families came to pick us up. My host mother came to pick me up at around 6:10.

When i arrived at the house all of the family members were starting to leave to their respective houses. Most of the 800 tamales were almost sole. I helped to clean around and then went to my room where i talked for an hour with my host brother. I then quickly went to bed as I was very tired.

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El Séptimo Día


by Eva Coleman ’19

Today was like every other day; I woke up at 6:00am and then showered to prepare for the long day awaiting. Then my host sister Scarleth braided my hair and we left the house to go to breakfast. We got to the house very early around 6:45 which left me plenty of time to talk with my friends. We eat breakfast at 7:20 which was rice and beans, with pancakes and juice. Then we got time to relax before we left for the Nicaraguita school. Everyday 10 minutes before we go to the school the 3rd grade or 4th grade walk us to the school.

Once we got to the school we went right into our classrooms and began working with the kids. I am in 5th grade here so all of the students in my class are around 8,9,10. We started class with a little bit of math but then 15 minutes in all the classes went outside to play games. It was similar to a field day where all the grades compete against each other. We played a lot of games that were similar to relay races. It was fun to see the kids having fun and enjoying themselves, and the students from George School also got to participate which was fun.

After this we went back to class and I had science class with my students. Then we had recess where the kids get to run around and eat lunch. I usually spend recess with the girls and we play games as well as talk. A lot of the kids want to know more english and ask me how to say certain words in english. After this we went back to class for 30 minutes and then went to dance class. Today dance class was really short and we got to dance with the 4th graders. Then we walked back to Rafaela’s house for lunch.

After lunch we got on a bus to go to the Market in Masaya. It was probably a 45 minute bus ride to get there. Once we got there we had to get in groups of 4 with 2 people from George School and 2 students from Nicaragüita. We had 3 hours at the market and got to walk around and look at the different shops. The market was very crowded and had so many different things to offer.

After the market we got on the bus and went back to Rafaela’s house. We got back at 5pm and then ate dinner at 5:30. Today was also Danny’s birthday which we were all excited to celebrate. After a dinner of rice and beans, meat, and salad we had a special birthday cake for Danny. Then we all got to hangout outside and relax after a long day of work while we waited for our host parents.

I got picked up at 6:45 and then went home with my host sister. We went to the market and bought bread and then I learned how to dance with my host sister. We listened to music and went on a walk around the block, I had a great time. Then I sat outside before bed and wrote in my journal. At 9:30pm I went to bed so I would be ready for the next day.

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El Sexto Dia

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by Brandon Stolz ’19

Today began as usual for me; I wake up, take a nice cold shower, and get ready for the hot day. Today Eva and her host parent walked passed my house and asked if I wanted to walk with them to Rafaela’s house. I accepted and we walked the short trip.

At the house we ate breakfast discussing what we were going to do today. Sole talked about how we were going to the Orphanage in the morning called Hogar Belen. We were all excited to go when we filed into the bus with other kids from the Nicaraguan school. It was a long bus ride because all of the traffic so it took us about 40 minutes to get to Hogar Belen.

When we finally arrived at the orphanage the sun was very hot as usual and we were told to leave our bags in a room. When entering we soon learned that the children in the orphanage were handicapped. We spent the entire morning carrying, playing, and coloring with the children. During our visit we performed our dance that we did at the school, the cotton eyed Joe. We then did the macarena with the students of the Nicaraguan school and many of the kids were enjoying the dancing.

After dancing with the orphans we left and went back to the school where we had our dance lesson. We all managed to learn a little bit more of our dance by the end of our class. We then went back to Rafaela’s house for lunch and a much needed break.

We were all all relaxing after lunch when more kids from the school showed up at the gate of Rafaela’s house signaling our time to leave and go back to the school. At the school Malory and I went to our 10th grade class where we were discussing about sexuality. After this class we had gym where we played soccer in the street. We played soccer for a while until the final class.

During the final class, the school had a little party for us. They served us chicken tacos that were so good. After eating there was a little dancing.

The party soon ended and we went back to Rafael’s house and ate even more, we had hamburgers and fries. When I went back to my host family’s house I played soccer with them and ate dinner again with my family.

Jordan then came by my house and asked to play soccer with some other kids. We then all played soccer in front of my host family’s house for a few hours until we were tired. I then went to my room and went to sleep.

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Mississippi Day 4

by Caleigh Hoffman ’18

Four days in and I am an expert at installing windows. We spent our first night in the dorms, woke up and had cereal and baked oatmeal, and started work earlier than previous days because of this. One house got painted a lovely beige while the other house finished installing very large windows and putting up wall installation. We finished work early for the day and had a quick lunch of PB&J and chips. After lunch we spent a quick hour and a half playing Egyptian rat-screw, a card game involving speed that I excelled at losing at.

After we finished our game of cards we got in the vans and headed to Sumner, Mississippi to the courthouse where the two men who kidnapped and killed Emmett Till were tried and acquitted. We went to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center where we learned about the town and county’s relationship with the Emmett Till trial. The two men who killed Emmett Till were acquitted; they later confessed but received no consequence. They were acquitted by a 12 person jury of all white men. We toured the courthouse that was remodeled to look like it did in 1955 when the men were tried. We also learned that a statue outside the courthouse of a confederate soldier was put there even though no one in the county fought in the civil war. We then explored the town a little and went to the bridge overlooking the Little Tallahatchie River, where we also learned that the town was split between the white neighborhoods on one side of the river and black neighborhoods on the other. In 2018 the town still has some degree of segregation. I thought it was so interesting to learn of the outrage the wider US felt over the murder of Till while Tallahatchie County mainly felt apathy.

After visiting Sumner we started our dinner of stir fry and Valerie made a pecan pie and a peach pie (for Pi Day). We played some more cards after dinner.

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