And the Adventure Begins….

We had all lugged our massive bags down the stairs to central where we met the rest of our group. Then we couldn’t find Tom. Well, he showed up just in time and we all laughed, wondering how often that would happen on our trip. We heaved our luggage into the van and headed on our way to the Wilmington Train Station. The train was delayed a whole hour so I spent my time people watching. After a not-so-long train ride, because I slept most of the way down, we arrived at Union Station. We left the station and walked probably what was about 15 blocks to the William Penn House where we were staying. This a Quaker hostel where people stay while they are doing service in the direct community. After finding our beds and getting settled, we went to search for some food. I’m not going to lie, food is probably the thing I am most excited about. Not to mention creating friendships with the other people on this trip. The group walked up 7th street and the onto Pennsylvania Avenue where we found this incredible Mexican place that was similar to Chipotle called District Taco. If you’re ever in DC, I recommend it. We walked back to the house in the bitter cold, and decided to have a game night. So, we picked the best ice breaker game ever, Apples to Apples. We are already connecting as a group and it looks like we have a lot more fun times ahead of us.

Up, Up, And Away!

That time is finally here! Tomorrow I will be leaving to go to Ghana. We will leave from Westtown at 1:30 PM, and drive to JFK airport in NYC. Our long 10 hour flight takes off at 8:45 PM. The excitement has been building up inside me for this whole week and knowing that the day is finally here is extremely hard to bear. In Ghana I will be able to learn about a culture, and way of living of which I have never experienced before. It will be total cultural immersion, and the lack of technology from our daily lives, will be a great addition to the experience. My goal is to get to know the students of Heritage academy, and to enjoy the course which I will be teaching them.

I have chosen to teach a course called “Environmental Problems Around the World.” The goal of this course is to inform the kids about the environmental problems that have been affecting our world for so long. I am telling them about all kinds of places, for example: the Alps, pollution in major U.S. cities, coral reefs, rain forests, and the poles suffering from climate change. I hope that they take away some valuable information that will make them see the world in a whole new way. We are living as one, and it is very important to know about each others problems.

I finished my lesson plans this week, and I can say that I am exuberant to get into the classroom. The plan is to teach for 10 or 11 days, with 2 courses a day. I also believe that while doing this, I will also learn so much about myself. I will gain important traits which I will use in college and life after my schooling.

I will see you all when I return! To my Westtown family, I love you guys. Have fun on your projects if you are going on one; and to the kids staying at school, try and have fun. See you after Spring break!

Bye mom and dad! ❤

A Return to My Birthplace

My name is Jeremy Graf Evans, and I was born in East Jerusalem. That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say, so props to my parents for giving me such a unique opening statement. It serves a fantastic purpose in games like “Two Truths and Lie” or when asked for a “little known fact about you” when playing name games. However, it means a lot more than that. It means a deep affinity for the area and everything that is going on there. As physically distant as I am from it, I declare it part of my identity. I spent barely any more than a year there, and yet it has led me to feel a certain loyalty to it, particularly to the Palestinian side due to the fact that it is where my family was based. It hasn’t been very difficult to keep it present in my life, or in my mind as we all often see the region in the news. I have taken the Hiroshima to 9/11 Advanced class at Westtown, where one of the main capstone projects of the Winter Term attempt to formulate a peace plan between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well as the Arab nations nearby, a difficult task to say the least. If it were easy, it would have been done. In other walks of life I have enjoyed remaining connected through our 2009 Christmas family trip returning to visit family friends as well as being able to meet the annual sophomore who comes to Westtown from Ramallah Friends School. Ramallah Friends (RFS) is Westtown’s Quaker Sister school in the West Bank and is also where my mother taught in their years living there, before I was born (AKA The better years, although they wouldn’t admit it). RFS is where we will be matched with host families in the second half of our trip.

Really, amidst all of this rambling that I can go about forever, I’m going to attempt to keep this concise in saying that this trip is going to be fantastic. I am ecstatic to be able to share this part of my identity with so many of my great classmates, as well as learn everything that I do not know about the area, while enjoying the irresistible food. When I am too tired to put together my thoughts about the politics, I would not be surprised if I take a little break to blog about the food. In short, it is my favorite. I hope I will be able to harness my energy to be focused on the vitals, and yet it is so hard to know how to prioritize what to focus on, as it is a 24/7 whirlwind of things to be present for.

I hope I can use this blog to process my thoughts, to inform others, and to have something to look back at and reflect upon. Tomorrow begins the 2 week journey back to my Birthplace, and I could not be more excited to see what I come back with.

Lights, Cameras, Action!!

Hello!

My name is Geoff, and I’m about to embark on my senior project. With only a few days remaining until I go, my anticipation is building with every passing moment. For my senior project, I will be spending three weeks in New York City interning with Jigsaw Productions, a documentary film company that has won Academy, Emmy, and even Writer’s Guild awards for their work. Over the course of my internship, I will be partaking in activities such as photologging, transcribing interviews, running errands, and attending daily question and answer sessions with the staff of Jigsaw.

This project is a dream come true for me. Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated with the art of storytelling, whether it be through writing, artwork, songs, or film. In addition, I have also been passionate about activism and spreading awareness of various social and environmental issues such as hydraulic fracturing. Documentary films in particular have piqued my interest as a way of accomplishing both. They allow you to tell a story while also spreading a message to others. In addition to the content of my project, I am also excited about the location in which it is taking place. The constant energy of New York City has never ceased to amaze me, so I look forward to spending three weeks immersed in it.

My hope is that this internship will help me to know whether I would like to pursue a future in film making, or if this isn’t really my calling. I also hope to gain insight on the film industry and how documentaries are created, from concept to reality. For instance, how do you attain funding, who do you pitch your ideas to, how do you assemble a crew, and how do you make your vision of a film into reality? On the other hand, my main concern going into this project is that I won’t get the depth of knowledge I’m hoping to attain. However, I know that regardless of my exact experience during my senior project, I will learn an innumerable amount about myself through this internship. For this reason, I am incredibly excited to start my senior project and to delve into the film industry.

A mere three days until my project begins. Let’s get that camera rolling!

Cheers,

Geoff

It’s Ghana be hot-o!

Ghana 2008 709I love the snow.  I can’t believe we’re expecting the biggest snow this season on Monday and I will be missing it! Instead, I will be with 14 awesome seniors and two colleagues (one of whom is my hubby!) sweating, teaching, learning, guiding and exploring in Ghana.  To put more emphasis on something in Ghana, you add an “o” to the end of it.  ie:  really, really, REALLY hot becomes hot-o.  Or, we’ve had a lot of snow-o this year.

Having lived in Ghana for a year when we started Heritage Academy, I learned to pick up some of the local dialect.  There is nothing like seeing the look on local’s faces when I fling a little Fante.  I slipped back in to Ghana dialect on the phone tonight when talking with Kwesi.  It made me excited to see friends and family again and share the experience with our seniors.

It never ceases to amaze me how much Heritage has gown in just under 10 years.  Heck, I can’t believe it’s BEEN just under 10 years-o!  I was wowed two years ago when I went and saw the high school for the first time.  I can’t wait to see what awaits me this time.

There’s a simplicity to life in Ghana that I long for here.  Yes, It’s frustrating at first when the light goes off in Ghana, but once I remind myself to just kick back and relax and be in the moment, it actually feels like a luxury in a way.  Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to putting my phone down and not checking email, texts, Facebook and Candy Crush.  The human connection and simplicity are what awaits us.  Bananagrams, here we come!

While I’m not a fan of heat and sweating-0, I can’t WAIT for the first step off of the plane in Accra when the Sub-Saharan heat hits you in the face and then the smell of things burning in the air blows by.  If I could bottle those feelings and sensations, I would-o.

Obroni, bye-bye-o.

Melissa

(Above photo is two of the three cooks at Heritage.  Every day they provide a hot meal for about 1300 students).

Image

Our dog, Io, is worried. He has seen the duffle bag come out of the closet. What’s happening? I am getting ready to head off with a wonderful group of twenty members of the Class of 2014 on a Senior Project in Israel and Palestine. In my twelve years here I have been on one other Senior Project, to New Orleans to do relief work after Hurricane Katrina in 2006, and I loved it. Senior Projects exemplify the action-based, experiential learning we do at Westtown, and ever since this trip was conceived and approved six years ago, I have wanted to go. But it has never seemed quite the right time. Each time I’ve considered it, I ended up saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.” But this year, with the support of the Head of School Advisory Committee of the Board, and of my administrative colleagues, I planned to go, and I have been attending the planning meetings, along with my wife, Aminda, for the past two months. A former religion teacher, I am fascinated by the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sites we will see in the Holy Land, by the opportunity to learn about the contemporary political, cultural, and religious situation, and to visit our sister school, Ramallah Friends, in Palestine. I have so much to learn from the people we will meet, and from the students in the group, and our leaders, Jon and Melissa Evans, who lived in Jerusalem for five years and have a wealth of friends and contacts in the region, and History Chair Deb Wood.  This morning in Meeting for Worship, I was moved by the Upper School choir’s beautiful singing: “I want to be ready to walk in Jerusalem, just like John.” Yes, I want to be ready, mentally, spiritually, with a open mind, open hands, and an open heart. I’m sure it will be a life-changing experience for all of us. Now I’ve got some packing to do. Don’t worry Io, we’ll be back soon!  John Baird  

Update on my trip!

My mom and I are commencing our 4-week-long trip Tuesday. We start in Pittsburgh because my brother is having a huge surgery on his meniscus. My mom and I are going to take care of him and his puppies for a week to make sure he is okay. My mom and I will be cooking, and I will be taking pictures and recording the recipes the entire time. From Pittsburgh, we go to State College to see my grandparents, Mama Trudy and Papa Sam. Mama Trudy is one of nine, but a lot of her siblings are no longer with us, so it is important to get a lot of recipes and stories for her to make up for her entire side of the family. Continue reading “Update on my trip!”

Packing for Ghana!

Packing for Ghana!

Hi, I’m Laura, and in about 70 hours I will be boarding a plane to Accra, Ghana. I’ve always loved the idea of sharing something about myself with others so that they can benefit from my experience (however small that may be), and so that’s why I leaped at the opportunity to go teach at Heritage Academy. I’ll be teaching math – surface areas and volumes mostly – ending in a final project in which  the students measure our classroom to figure out how much of what materials we would need to build a house or building.
I’ve never taught anything before, so I’m definitely nervous about putting myself in front of a class of twenty young students, but I’ll do my best.

For this blog, I’ll be doing a photo journal, with a picture for each post. So here goes.
What I’m taking to Ghana: a camera with an empty memory card, one and a half suitcases full of donations, a few pounds of sunscreen and bug spray, and a few changes of clothes.
I can’t wait!
Laura

Intro

Hey I am Ella Gibney a Westtown School senior. For my Senior Project I will be living at home in New Jersey and commuting into New York City every day to my internship.  At my internship I will be working at a film studio called Jigsaw Productions. I will be surrounded by and working beside a successful film production team. As well as interning, I will be working on my own screenplay, one that I have been working on for a while.  I will also be working on a photo project that includes posting photos on a Tumblr page. I will post a link on this page as soon as get it up and running.

My March will be filled with a lot of work and new experiences. I am extremely nervous going into this internship because I have never done something like this before. Overall I hope to learn a lot about film production and whether or not it is something I actually wish to pursue.

Till next time,

Ella

Almost Time for Peru!

I cannot believe in a few short days I will be in PERU!!!! I am so incredibly excited. In Peru we will be living in the Sacred Valley, learning about culture, living with a host family, doing service and exploring the amazing country! It feels just like yesterday I was sitting in Collection as a freshman listening to all the amazing things the seniors would be doing on their projects, and here I am! It seems so surreal that in just a short 48 hours I will be in the airport starting my journey to South America. I chose this project because of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it presents. I have such a desire to learn about different cultures and meet great people from all around the world.

One thing I am so excited for is the “Unplugged Challenge”.  This is a rule regarding technology, that’s pretty simple: it’s not allowed. I, too, find myself constantly using my mobile device or in need of a computer. I love the idea that we will spend all two weeks just taking in the beautiful country with nothing but our eyes. Continue reading “Almost Time for Peru!”