Tag Archives: service

Friday in France

by Cynthia ’18

Today I woke up to our last day of service. I was sad to leave the kids behind, as I had finally gotten to know and love them. I gave a few last piggy back rides and even received a few works of art before I left. This service experience is one I will truly remember.

After school, our French hosts took us out for a picnic where we had snacks, played Truth or Dare, Never have I ever, and just enjoyed being outside in the 60 degree weather. Then we headed to town to get some pizza, and we debated if “Texas Pizza” was really Texan. We finished our last night going bowling and Paul won both rounds.

Overall, it was a fantastic last day and I’m sad to be catching the plane tomorrow afternoon to return home. But in two weeks I will be seeing these new friends again, so it’s not all sad.

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Thursday in France

by Julia ’18

Waking up in a French household is like waking up in a movie filled with bread, nutella, kuegelof, various jams and jellies, and seeing the sun rise up from Alsace mountains… and more bread.  That’s how my day begins. Then I go to my service site at the école maternelle Charles Kienzl.

This morning Cynthia, Ethan, and I helped the children with various games, puzzles, drawings and reading books. There is one student in the class, Léon, who is constantly full of energy. The highlight of my day is being able to calm Léon down for a few minutes before he is off again. After the morning service, we met Ben, Paul, and Tucker and our French hosts at the lycée to go to lunch. The lunch at Kastler offered a variety of cheeses, bread, and yogurt. After lunch before going back to our service sites, we played card games. Then it was time to go back to our écoles for the afternoon with the bigger kids. In the morning, we help with the three-year-olds and in the afternoon, we help with the four- and five-year-olds. The older classes are learning math and doing several activities involving numbers.

After the second half of the day ended I went back home with my correspondante, but not before going to her German class. Once back home we ate dinner, played piano, and sang in a mix of French and English. Afterwards, we had dinner and then it was time for bed.

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Final Day in Nepal

There was great rejoicing yesterday when the group arrived in Pokara at the campsite so we are all together again.  We said an emotional farewell to the porters and cooks who cared for us so well.  Today we also said goodbye to our wonderful Sherpas. They have been at our sides through service, ball games and trekking.

We flew from Pokara to Kathmandu, checked in at the hotel, returned camping gear, took hot showers and then went off to Thamel for some shopping.  We had a delicious dinner, continuing our ritual of sharing highlights of the day.  Such a mix of regret to leave this beautiful country with eager anticipation to be reunited with family and friends.  We head home tomorrow night.

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Nicaragua March 17

Dear families,

I believe you would have been so proud of your children today. Today was their final day in classes at La Nicaraguita, and their job was to graciously and patiently receive the outpouring of affection that was likely coming their way. And come it did. The students in the preschool and elementary school showered your children with hugs, kisses, high-fives, selfies and many keepsakes and hand-written notes that communicated their tremendous appreciation for two weeks of companionship and attention. Attached with this blog are pictures of each of the GS students with their respective classes.

Tonight, we party. That is, the host families and the schoolteachers join us at Rafaela’s house for a celebratory supper and banquet-style appreciation of all concerned. And, yes, in case you wondered, there will almost certainly be dancing.

Tomorrow, we get up early and head homeward to Philadelphia, by way of Miami. It is sure to be a bittersweet departure from Nicaragua, but at the same time we are all looking forward to coming home (teachers included). Consequently, this will be our final posting from Nicaragua. We hope you have enjoyed your children’s writings, as well as Cheri’s magnificent photos. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to learn and grow alongside your sons and daughters. ¡Adiós!

Tom (and Cheri)

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Nepal

I got my Kindle charged up again.

I spoke to Scott this morning and he says that the group got WiFi access last night so parents heard from them. They are doing well with arduous climbing.  Thanks to Steven for posting photos.  The kids are relieved to have seen grades and heard from colleges and job contacts. The senior nerves have run high as they think about how close they are to the next stage.

Health and food:

We have had a lot of respiratory stuff. I think now that it was from the dirt and dust in Kat and Pokhara. They have all the streets torn up with laying water mains and other construction which takes forever. Many people wear face masks.  We encountered it as soon as we got back to civilization yesterday. Wish we’d known that at the outset.  We worked to get everyone strong again for trekking. I think only 1 person may have had genuine travelers bug, but that was a wake up to really wash hands before eating, after work and toilet, and after playing with kids or dog.

The cooks are feeding us well.  The day starts with tea. Breakfast always includes a porridge, bread, egg, tea.  Lunch started with juice then a protein (tuna, beans, chicken spam),a bread like Nan, two veggies, salad, fruit.  Return to camp for tea or hot chocolate before dinner. Dinner included a carb, a protein, soup, salad and 2 veggies with tea and pudding or other dessert. Heavy on the carbs and deep fried but that was fine when we were burning the calories.  Lots of Nepalese flavors. A fave is the chick peas.  And buffalo. Heavily vegetarian which was fine. Kids talked about how much better this was for them than junk food, but the list of what they crave when they get back is growing. The cooks avoided chicken due to bird flu outbreaks in some local areas.

I think it will take multiple showers and laundries  to get Nepal out of your kids and their clothes.  Few had ever worn the same clothes for a week, at least since camp.  But why get everything filthy?

The work day ran 9-12 and 1:30-4.  Except when it rained. After tea til dinner was free time for journals, cards, or games with crew and children. Or naps.  Lots of cards played.  Lots of chatter about school, college, summer, grades…

Most days were clear in the morning and cloudy after noon. It feels like we had rain every day by dinner.  One all-day rain that trapped us together in the dining tent with a single kerosene lamp. Fortunately the sleeping tents stayed dry.  The views in the am are magnificent.

Mornings and afternoons we got a basin of warm washing water.  One the sunniest day several washed out a few clothes as well.  About 11:30 I heard yelling from the work-site (I was in camp) and the kids were lined up on the hill: “Susi, bring in the clothes” which I did in time.

Nothing like washing up facing a gorgeous mountain.

The second day we did yoga at sunrise. This was on my list.  After that it was hard to get up and the crew needed to reclaim the tarp we used in the pasture for a rain fly.  Some took a wander before breakfast and saw beautiful birds.  A cuckoo called all night. Only other wildlife sighting? One deer.

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Washington DC

by Sam M. 

At the end of the shift we wash our hands again, wash the floor again and enjoy a surprise meal. We will be back tomorrow to help prepare another meal.  

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Nepal Images

airplaneboudhanath sightseeing 1boudhanath sightseeing 2boudhanath sightseeing 3boudhanath sightseeingbreakfastdoor paintinggroup photoInteraction with the students of Jan Priya Primary SchoolInteractionKHANI GOAN, Dhampus Views and Campsitenew school block 1new school blockOld School Block 1Old School BlockOld SchoolOld School1paintingpashupatinath sightseeing 1pashupatinath sightseeing 2pashupatinath sightseeingpokhara airportPROJECT WORK 1PROJECT WORK 2project workretention wall 1retention wall 2retention wallSchool After PaintingSchool After Retention WallsSchool Before PaintingSchool Before Retention WallsTOILET

View from the Old Schoolwelcome dinner 1welcome dinnerwelcome program

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France

by Ethan Vegotsky ’18

Today was a good day. I woke up before my alarm, which was a good sign for the day ahead of me. My correspondente and I ate a small breakfast before leaving for school. On the bus I kept a short conversation with my correspondente and before I knew it the hour long bus ride came to an end. I met Tucker at the gate before school and was happy to see a fellow George School student. After talking with Tucker for a bit, it was time to head off to my service site.

Today I worked with younger children, and although they were very cute they cried a lot more than the other children, which made it a more difficult task. Even though taking care of the younger children was more difficult, the morning class went by pretty quick.  Then we walked back to the lycée for lunch. As always, lunch is the highlight of my day, partly because I get to see my American friends, but also because I get a small break.

After lunch, I walked back to the service site and I was assigned to work with the older kids. The afternoon was good, as I had fun with the older kids at recess and in class. When I finished my day of service I walked back to the Lycée and attended French class with my host. In the class I struggled to understand what the teacher was saying, but I enjoyed the experience. After class, it was time to take the bus home. When we got back we ate dinner, which was quite delicious. After that I wrote my journals and laid on my bed thinking about how the trip is almost over, yet it has just begun. I also began to think about all of the snow that Newtown probably has right now when here it is sunny and pleasant.

All in all a great day in France!

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Nepal: The Work

The work:  The Dhampus community decided to build a new primary school after the quake (although the old one is serviceable).  Our funds built a retaining wall and the foundation, and a group from Malaysia paid for the rest of the building and furnishings. The retaining wall had already collapsed after 3 months, close to the back wall of the school. We had to take apart the rubble, stack the rocks to the side, then the workers brought in rock cages which should be sturdier, but had to be filled. So up and down a steep hillside of steppes. The math wizards estimated 1700 rocks varying from a half to 50 pounds. Hours of assembly line passing.This project allowed for some creative time-filling with song, chatting, watching the family plow and plant the steppes below, watching the weather change over the mountains as we passed rocks.  Another group painted so the building went from grey concrete to white, Brown enamel and turquoise in the week we were there.

Another fun part was working alongside the local workers who spoke varying levels of English, mostly none. We learned to count in Nepali as well as a few other words. Tezin was a great asset with her fluent Hindi.

The other part of our work was with the children. We went up to their school twice (there were 2 national holidays and 2 strike days last week, as well as exam day).  The kids had great fun playing, teaching English words and demonstrating their Napali. It was fun to see the hats and shirts we gave on various people all week. Several of them would race down to our camp after school to try to get into a soccer or volleyball game with the students and staff.  Many students found a child or two they connected with. One moment for me was trying to encourage a little girl to join in the “pictionary” activity with the enthusiastic boys, but she refused until Kiani put a pen in her hand. The second trip she was tending her little brother who desperately wanted Mom to return from her blossom-collecting trip up the hillside with her class. This 8-year-old carried that 2 year old around for 30+ minutes.  The kids seemed to flow between rooms freely, often to connect with siblings who both tend them and push them aside.

It was wonderful to have 8 days in this village. It gave a chance to feel we made a difference, long enough to make wilderness camp feel like home, and to deepen the group.

Even by Nepali standards this village is poor. Many families consist of children and grandparents and Maybe even mom.  Dads are in the cities or abroad earning money.  People are small and health/dental care is distant. The dirt road did go to the new school, so access by jeep and motorcycle is possible.  Most families had chickens, goats and a pair of oxen/buffalo.  Growing dry rice, corn, veggies–still too early to tell what else. Most tools are wooden. For example the family plowing involved a pair of oxen pulling a single blade plow that dad stood on to dig deeper. After a few passes, he switched to a furrowing tool and wife followed behind with a sack of seed corn on her back.  The two girls hacked at edges the plow had missed with a hand hoe and the son played with the baby, dragging him around on the unused tools.

One man invited us to see his home, so we took time out on our rain day.  A single room downstairs with a large bed, open fire (smoke preserves beams from termites but makes it very dark), a few handcrafted cupboards and shelves. There is a separate tiny marital bedroom off the pitch, and a toilet room.  Upstairs is storage.  Other family use a bedroom.  Much goes on on the porch, from threshing rice to other tasks. The women haul great loads of greens to their animals from the woods.  Washing is done at cement platforms where the water hose comes out, run down the hill from a spring.  The children in this school were pretty grimy, at least by Friday.  Each village has a community organization that collectively makes decisions, and clearly community is critical.  None of our students had known people who appeared so content with so little.  Will smart phones change all this?  Will any young people return to village life after going away to school?

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Nicaragua March 14-15

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by Alexander F.

Tuesday afternoon:

After a morning of sports and excessive heat, everyone was feeling somewhat tired, however we had to go out again for a similarly sports-filled afternoon. There were many games with the older classes such as panuelito (Nica version of steal the bacon), over/under, relay races, and, of course, chimbombas (balloons). For the games we participated in, the Nicaraguans won all but one, which was chimbombas. Later, we went to a meeting with parents of students benefiting from U-Nica, an organization that Cheri and Pauline (a former GS colleague) started in order to sponsor students at La Nicaragüita. Two of the students performed a traditional dance, and each family had a chance to express their appreciation for the scholarship. (If you are interested in knowing more about the program, contact Cheri. Several of our group are excited to pursue this.)

Wednesday morning:

We returned to our respective classes which were ending at 10:00 a.m. After we said our goodbyes, we headed off to the beach on the Pacific Ocean. The drive was fairly long, however it was made more interesting by conversations with some of the students of La Nicaragüita who were accompanying us (the 11th graders). After arriving at the beach, putting on copious amounts of sunscreen and having a quick snack, we headed out to the water. We stayed out, riding the waves and playing with Phil’s soccer ball in the water, and eventually returned to the shade. Around this time, the group began to split up. Maia and Alex paid for a horse ride on the beach and cantered off. At one point Greg and Cheri went shell hunting. Nicolo and Alyssa went on a long walk with Stephen (one of the Nicas), and Tali enjoyed the hammock in the shade alongside the Nicaraguan teachers. After I briefly went back into the water with Tom, we took several group photos. Before we went to the bus, however, someone in our group had paid a Nicaraguan vendor with an interesting product: his “singing” talent. Suffice to say it was interesting, and though his performance did go on for quite a while, his Michael Jackson impersonation was spot-on. We took the bus back to Rafaela’s where we had a delicious chicken dinner. From there, went straight to our next “encuentro” with the 10th grade at the school. More food and drink! In this party especially, there was a massive amount of dancing and we all left sweaty and happy. By 7:45 p.m. we were back at Rafaela’s, where our families picked us up to walk us home.

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