Tag Archives: summer 2018

China 2018

Our first days in Beijing were a new experience for many of us. As we walked into the airport, everyone was excited to be in China. Even though most of us could speak Chinese, we found it quite hard to interpret what people were saying until Larry, a rising junior who lives in China and also attends George School, arrived. He helped us through tough times and used his Chinese to make our lives easier. The first site we visited was the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall took years to build and is known to take people 2 years to walk the whole thing. The steps makes it even harder because some are very steep and dangerous while others are out of order and broken. Our time in Beijing had become more satisfying as we went to the world’s biggest square, The Tiananmen Square. Later during the day, we went to one of the most famous sites in China called the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the household of the emperors which lasted from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty which is around 500 years. The history of the Forbidden City was very influential as our tour guide explained its significance.

Jordan ’20

As we closed out our days in Beijing, the adventure and amazement with the city did not cease. Thursday morning found us at the Beijing Panda Zoo (after we became full of breakfast, of course). The main attraction of  lazy, yet very cute little bears made for an adorable gift shop and an outlier experience in our temple-dominant sight seeing. Both religious and political temples were painted with bold and consistent colors of red, blue, green, gold.  The temples were all beautiful, and almost identical, presenting differences in surrounding aura. You could sense the kind of power illustrated on mere things like architecture, layout, and color, resulting in our group becoming professionals in the field of ancient Chinese tradition. To close out our big city tourism, we stuck to the basics of Asian art by visiting a museum and then turned things transitioned to modern art as we strolled through a super urban art gallery; graffiti, sculpture, fashion— the works! Concluding it all, parents of Beijing-local GS students arranged a lunch in our honor and as a means for us to practice more of the beloved language. As hectic and busy as it was, the highlights of the city tours will remain engraved in memory. I am both sad to leave the city, and excited to delve into service, the Golden Dragon Tour Bus of Beijing will forever feel like home.

Reagan ’19

My first impression of my host family was great. I had been talking extensively with my host brother before the journey so when I met him I was already very comfortable talking with him. My host family lives in an apartment similar to the one my family lives in so I am in a comfortable and familiar environment.  His mother does not speak any English and his father only knows a few words, but I did not find this to be a problem. They are very kind and remind me of my own parents. They are also very accommodating as despite me volunteering to do things such as my own laundry and the dishes, they insist that they will do it for me. Spending time with my host and his friends and family has felt natural and overall I believe I have had the ideal start to our stay in Yangzhou.

Praveen ’20

When I first arrived in my host family’s house, I was greeted warmly by the mother of the house. She asked me to take off my shoes and gave a new pair of slippers that she had bought me for my arrival. I was shown to my new room, given a new mug, and told to sit down on the couch. My host sister started explaining the activities we had planned for the day. We started off by watching re-runs of the World Cup that had played the night before, and then proceeded to lunch. Her mother had prepared duck, duck eggs, shrimp, fish soup, rice, and some vegetables for us to eat. My family quickly took notice of the foods I seemed to enjoy more and continued to serve them throughout the following days. Me and my host sister then napped for a few hours and had an afternoon snack of cantaloupe before heading to a popular shopping street. There I was able to witness much of the Chinese culture including the different styles of dresses and foods they had in China. This was followed by dinner with my host sister and her friends. After a long day I was able to go back home and rest with my host family while watching a new World Cup match. Over the next few days me and my host family bonded a lot together. When it came time to do service without my host sister around, I felt slightly weird not having her there and quickly embraced her the next time I saw her. I told her that I missed her and she said she had been thinking of me all day and missed me,  too. I feel so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity in China to get to know and appreciate my host family and Chinese culture.

Jamila ’20

See pictures here!

 

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Rwanda

by Rishi Madnani ’19 

This morning, we met to have breakfast at 6:30 AM and left the Friends Peace Garden in Kigali for Akagera National Park at 7:00 AM. We are spending two days (one night), Saturday and Sunday, in Akagera to do wildlife safaris in which we can see lots of different animals such as zebras, giraffes, lions, hippopotamuses, elephants, and more. The ride there was around two and a half hours- two hours on flat road and a half hour on the “African massage” road. Once we arrived, everybody was in shock. The game lodge where we are staying is incredibly luxurious, especially compared to our previous accommodations on this trip. The lodge has a pool, a restaurant, wifi, large and comfortable rooms, and incredible facilities. We got there at around 10:15 AM, and had around an hour of free time before our behind-the-scenes tour of the park at 11:30 AM. In this time, students marveled at the lodge and some even took a swim. In the tour, we learned all about the operation of the park, including the animals, finances, management, and more. Immediately after, we had lunch in the lodge’s restaurant. The options for lunch were multiple variations of personal pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers. Again, this was a huge change, because we have been mostly eating traditional Rwandan food for most of our meals. The food was great, and the view that the restaurant overlooked was even better. Then, at 2:30 PM, seven members of our group embarked on a boat safari tour in the lake here in the park. The other ten members embarked on a short game drive (in a jeep) through the park. Tomorrow morning, the seven will do the short game drive, while the other ten will do the boat tour. I was part of the short game drive today, which lasted three and a half hours. The top of the jeep opened, allowing us to stand and look out of the top for the whole drive, which was very fun. We saw many animals, including zebras, baboons, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and multiple species of birds. It was ridiculous to see them so up close in person- for once, it felt like we were in the “Africa” that everyone imagines. The hills and plains in the savannah seemed to be endless, and the sunset was beautiful. We got back at 6 PM and had dinner at 7 PM in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was in the form of a buffet, and the food was delicious. It had internationally-recognized foods and even had a dessert section. None of us have had real cake in over two weeks, and I think I can speak for everybody when I say it was a divine experience. Curfew is at 10:30 PM tonight, rather than 11, because we have to get up at 6:30 AM tomorrow for more game drives and boat rides. The Akagera game lodge is proving to be a fantastic way to wrap up our time in Rwanda.

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Cuba

by Sara Shreve-Price

It was another busy day in Cuba for the George School crew. We woke up early to have breakfast and be on the road by 7:30am. Today we focused on cultural exploration. We spent most of the day in Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city.

We visited the main cemetery and the monuments to José Marti, Fidel Castro, the Buena Vista Social Club’s Company Segundo, and main other prominent Cubans. It was interesting to see the different customs here in terms of memorials. We also saw two museums.

Lunch was delicious as usual. Then we had the afternoon to explore central Santiago de Cuba. Many of us went shopping and looked around the city. The students enjoyed siestas during the ride back to Holguín.

After dinner we had an evening meeting during which many of us reflected on how much more complicated the world is than it first appears. Finally, a few of us went to choir rehearsal while everyone else played card games and chatted. Now we are hanging out in our rooms getting ready for bed (which honestly looks a little more like a dance party than whatever you as a reader are imagining). Then we are off to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow.

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Cuba Day 8

I woke up to Sara’s wake up call. I was running relatively late this morning.  We ate breakfast as usual and dove into hard work. Today, we started plucking wheat out from the ground; however, this did not take long and our truck arrived outside. It took about 10 minutes to arrive at our destination, we stopped by a government building with people waiting for us.

Our activity today was meeting “young communists” who were about 40 years old. One of them was a History professor at Holguín University.  He passionately talked about the rise of the Cuban system and how before the Revolution, the dictators were manipulated by the United States. One of the interesting things he said was that every year Cubans submit a plea to the United Nations, and within the proposal they ask to lift the Cuban Embargo that has devastated the Cuban economy decades. Every country in the UN voted for the embargo to be lifted, except Israel and the United States. Many of us were shocked. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition between Cubans in Cuba and Cubans in the United States, because they both have reasonable opinions about the government.

Being from China, I personally love the political system here where there are no social classes in Cuba. Education, health care, housing, and more are all provided by the government, which embodies the true definition of communism. In Cuba, there are no illiterate people and they have the most doctors per capita. This is truly a unique country that is progressive in human rights and equality. Moreover, Cubans do not believe in working for money. I know. It is a rather unique definition of freedom, but they believe there is no dignity in life once a person is enslaved by monetary limitations. He said a newly drafted constitution is in play and the first article is going to be about working for the sake of service and for the people. This sounds like a Utopian society where everyone lives equally, but let us see how it plays out.

Admittedly, I wanted to ask more questions, but it was 12:40 and I was too hungry to stay there any longer. We went back to the church and did more work after eating. One of the better experiences today was after dinner.  We all went salsa dancing at Leo’s dance studio. We had so much fun and the day finally came to an end.

I would love to talk to the students here in Cuba that are my age so I can get to learn about their perspectives of the education in this country. It was a tiring but fruitful day and I am willing to experience more of this country as we now only have 7 days left. I have fallen in love with Cuba and I will make sure to come back to visit Havana and this Church again.

See photos.

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Rwanda

by Nora

As you may have heard, Sofia, Camille, and I have a buggy and dank room. Nonetheless, we woke up well rested and excited to start the first work day in Byumba. But, as I turned to remind Sofia to get up, I saw a twitching, dying grasshopper. Then, Camille asked me to turn around to kill a spider on our bed. It was a buggy start to the first work day at Byumba.

At the library, we quickly organized ourselves and got to work. A group of us cleaned the walls, another bought paint, and the rest helped design the pictures for the walls. As soon as the paint arrived and wet walls dried, we began to paint. Now that we have had a set of workdays under our belts, painting went much faster. We finished the main room of the library, the hallways of the library, and almost all of the outside’s painting and design.

After an accomplished day at work, Jeffrey, Ashleigh, and I decided to run back to the guest house. It was mostly downhill (the main reason we ran back and not there) and many Rwandans laughed at us running by. We arrived before the bus (with the rest of the students) arrived!

I am looking forward to another work day and run tomorrow!

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Rwanda Day 6

conflict in rwanda

by Shumpei Chosa ’19

Before we left Musanze to go back to Kigali, we stopped at a children’s library in Musanze. We donated 3 suitcases full of books, writing utensils, and soccer balls that we had collected or bought with our fundraiser money. The people at the library were very thankful with what we had brought them because so many children in Rwanda can benefit from them. It’s incredible how there are so many people and organizations trying to help children to get education. 

 

On our 2 hour bus ride back to Kigali, I was looking out the window and I was reminded of how beautiful this country is. There are endless mountains and everything is built on hills. I noticed that so many houses were built on steep hills and I was wondering how people get to those houses. 

 

Back in Kigali, we had our first day of HIPP (Help Increase Peace Program). It was our first opportunity to discuss the 1994 Genocide with local people and it was an eye-opening experience. One thing that I thought was particularly interesting was when one of the facilitators asked if conflict is a good or a bad thing, many Rwandan people thought it is a terrible thing, but many of us had the idea that it can be a good thing if it results in positive outcomes. I am looking forward to exchanging more ideas about peace and learn about the genocide from a local perspective. 

 

The highlight of my day was watching the World Cup at a local restaurant. I never thought people in Rwanda would be so passionate about soccer so I was really excited to be able to watch the Portugal vs Spain game with our guide Fiacre and many screaming local men surrounding us. Towards the end of the game, two men started arguing loudly about Messi and Ronaldo. It was the same exact argument that I have with my friends and it was really cool to see the world connect through soccer. I am excited to keep following the World Cup here in Rwanda. 

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Arizona Day 1

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by Charlie ’19

Over the past four days, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the kids in Kayenta. We’ve helped them in their classes, through lunch and recess, and getting on the busses to go home. Today we organized a field day for their last day of summer school. There were many relays, games, and a water station so that they could cool down and keep hydrated. They seemed to really enjoy playing with us and I loved cheering them on when the succeeded (especially when they were afraid to make mistakes. They are not only adorable, but their unabashed excitement and friendliness has warmed our hearts. There were some tears today when we had to leave (from both us and them), but a few of us made plans to be pen-pals in the upcoming year.

Fiona, Mitch, and I have been staying with Lena, who helped organize our trip and works at the school. She has been so caring and warm towards us, and her very young and incredibly cute granddaughter comes in almost every night to make sure that we are ok and that we know to take our shoes off. Although we haven’t spent much time there, we all got a chance to talk with her and she told us about her parents.

We also have visited and hiked in various parts of the reservation, including Canyon de Chelly and along the toes (rocks shaped like toes just outside of Kayenta). We visited Monument Valley and purchased traditional jewelry and ornaments. It’s been incredible to be so immersed in the Navajo culture and experience the kindness of everyone here. It’s saddening that we don’t get to spend more time here, but we are excited to continue with our journey to Page and Flagstaff.

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Rwanda Day 1

Rwanda

by Camille Drury ’19

At 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 9th, I woke up with my suitcase ready. All of us traveling to Rwanda met at Drayron Circle hoping to leave at 5:45a.m. The drive to JFK airport was long and sweaty and to no surprise the 12 hour flight to Doha, Qatar, was also long. From Doha we traveled 6 hours to Uganda, and then 30 minutes to Rwanda. This is my first time out of the United States and the journey to Rwanda was nothing if not tiring, but something on the plane rides forbid me to sleep.

I was excited and nervous to go to a place I had never been and more importantly, to meet new faces and cultures I would never experience back home. When we all arrived in Rwanda we were Flores by the beauty presented in front of us and the immense friendship that was extended to us by everyone. When taking the van to the Peace Garden were we are sleeping, I realized how peaceful the city is and even more, how silent  it can be in the hills were we are staying. Today completed our first work day of the trip, were we went to the Peace Center Library for Children to paint the walls and clean the new computer room. I enjoyed painting and found myself not thinking of it as work, especially when all the children came out of class to play. All of us on the trip were swarmed by children, running, laughing, high-fiving, and even saying “I love you!” We had never seen children so full of life such as they were, and they had never seen teenagers such as us. Deciding to partake in the service trip was daunting, as the history invites preconceived assumptions or opinions about both the country and the people. However, it takes an unfathomable amount of love, courage, and strength to look beyond hate, and that is exactly what this country has done.

See more from Rwanda on Instagram!

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