Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our final adventure

Greetings Parents and Friends,

Our TTS18 community has returned to Maun from our final adventure into the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan National Park and Planet Baobab. We spent two nights camped under spectacular, blooming baobab trees and enjoyed each others company. Students wrapped up finals smoothly and enjoyed the few days of relaxation. Our final adventure yesterday began with a sunrise ride in open air safari vehicles through the National Park. We made our way to a Meerkat colony, where students got up close and personal with a meerkat family. The photos are spectacular! We journeyed next to the salt pan, that is as large as the country of Switzerland! Our final stop in our day (between breakfast and lunch out on the drive…) was to a 4,500 year old Baobab tree, known as Chapman’s Baobab…McCall was excited!

In addition to this final adventure, we’ve spent our days discussing the transition home. On the parent blog are some of the thoughts and concerns that we’ve discussed within our community. The girls are both excited and nervous to return home. They are excited to see friends and family and pass on their knowledge and stories, while also nervous about leaving each other and nervous about how to best share those stories.

Please visit the parent blog for more information on how to support your daughters' transition. Thank you sharing your beautiful, loving, intelligent daughters with us for the past 3 and 1/2 months.

-Leah, Aunge, Caroline, Brenna

Monday, November 28, 2011

On Etosha National Park and The Okavango Delta

Etosha National Park

The sun beat down on our big blue overland truck as we inched closer to the two lions and their cubs. I could feel the sweat beads slide slowly down my neck as I pressed my eyeballs deeper into the round lenses of my black binoculars. I turned the dial on the top of my second pair of eyes, trying to focus them on the beasts. A quick, sharp intake of breath told me a cub had emerged from the bush, though I had not seen it. I was still struggling to focus my binoculars on the animals. A sudden hush had fallen over the other ten students who surrounded me.

We were half way through our second safari of the day and I felt somewhat exhausted. We had attempted to eat rusks and tea at 4:40 the same morning, and then hopped on the bus, some of us falling right back into our sound slumbers. Others of us clustered around the front windows, peering out into the early morning sunshine. Suspense hung in the air as we sped along the dirt road of Etosha National Park in the Southern part of Namibia. Our group was not whole, five lucky girls dwelling with their parents. The remaining girls jokingly called themselves the orphans, some of us feeling slightly jealous of the girls with parents. At the end of the day however, our group was reunited each one of us with a different astounding story of an animal. -by Jessie, OR

A Day in Etosha National Park

My classmates and I woke from our tents at the crack of dawn for tea and rusks before setting out on a morning game drive in Etosha National Park in Namibia. From the windows of our truck, we watched the sky transform into orange with the rising sun. The morning consisted of only antelope herds and we were losing hope. Then the bus jolted to a stop and the bus driver yelled 'lions!' In the distance two female lions were surrounding their kill with blood stained on their faces. The late morning and afternoon was spent at the campsite either studying or swimming in the pool. In the evening, we once again climbed onto the blue overland truck for a game drive. Cameras were out and jaws were dropped at the sighting of three lion cubs with three females and a male lion. A running baby giraffe and zebras were also the excitement of the evening. On the way back to the campsite, everyone participated in a dance party on the truck. We danced and sang to songs such as “Welcome to Africa” and “Take Over Control”. Back at the campsite, I completed my homework while waiting for the famous African sunset and animals to arrive at the campsite watering hole. At the watering hole, I watched two kudus fight each other while three elephants were drinking and splashing water with their trunks. I then headed back to my tent in the dark and said, “rarashakanaka.” -by Hannah, WY

Out of the Depths

As our guide dipped her long wooden stick into soft marshy mud and propelled us forward, I knew I was in for an incredible experience. Our mokoro was padded with thick grasses, collected from the delta to stop water from seeping into our boat. With each push, she jutted us forward about ten feet. A thick array of water lilies in white, pink and purple, along with lily pads lined the top of water. Setswana, the native language, could be heard echoing down the channels of the delta.

“Hippo,” someone suddenly whispered, as our channeled flowed into a large, clear body of water. At first my eyes scanned the surface of the water and I saw nothing as our guide stuck to the edge of the pool. Even though we couldn't see the hippo, she understood one thing; hippos are more deadly than crocodiles. As our boat moved around the side we suddenly heard a spout of water erupt from the lake and I quickly turned my head. To our left, twenty feet away a hippo head emerged from the depths of the water. I had heard about hippos’ size but had never imagined them to be so giant. The hippo’s head was easily half the size of my body. The eyes which turned to me gave me a look as if the say, “Get out of my territory now!” as her yellow teeth protruded from her mouth in a yawn. I suddenly noticed our ten-foot boat sunk till only two inches showed above water. I nervously turned to my guide to ask a question and remembered she did not speak English. As our boat polled down the channel opposite of our entrance I gave one last look to the hippo as she sunk back down to the depths, and thought what other adventures lay ahead of me? - by McCall, MT

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A few more class updates from Aunge & Caroline

The precalculus class worked through their fourth chapter over the past few weeks. They studied exponential and logarithmic functions and developed an understanding of their inverse relationship. The students mastered techniques to change between the two equivalent forms and use properties to solve exponential growth and decay problems. The class has now moved onto studying trigonometric functions using the unit circle and coordinate plane. They are developing their understanding of the properties of each function and how each one is graphed with the appropriate domain, range, period and, when applicable, asymptotes.

Languages of Southern Africa
The language class continues to explore the way cultures are evolving and changing. The students recently interviewed volunteers, workers and travelers at the Cheetah Conservation Foundation and Etosha National Park to gain perspective on how cultures are changing and what people view as the most important aspects of their own culture. To prepare for their final German exam, the class played a fun game of German Simon Says in a pool to learn directions while beating the Namibian heat wave. The class is now working on their final project, a play addressing the world with various cultural influences and perspectives. They will perform the play in front of a captive TTS audience later this week.


The end of the semester approaches, and our literature class has begun reading The Second Coming of Mavalo Shikongo. This critically acclaimed novel by Peter Orner tells a story of love, loss, and the importance of place through short vignettes. The story takes place in the early 90's, immediately after Namibian independence and is set at a boarding school in the middle of the Namibian desert. The novel reads as a kind of ode to a seemingly forsaken land, one marked by drought, starvation, thirst, violence and the extremes of temperature and emotion. The characters have a love/hate relationship with the harsh landscape. As a way to regularly respond to what they read, they students are keeping a character journal in which they record various aspects of characterization. They are also working on the first drafts of three short vignettes describing a person, place, important object, memory/moment, or conversation from their semester. These vignettes will serve as their final writing assignment. They will also have a final exam on the novel.


In the past few weeks, TTS18 History students finished small units on Nambian Independence and the Bushmen of Southern Africa. The latter coincided with a Global Studies unit on Vanishing Cultures. Students pondered how indigenous cultures could enter the modern world in a way that does not leave them stripped of their identities (and, thus, self-worth) and stricken with poverty and the social ills that come hand in hand with a devastating lack of resources. This conversation was punctuated with a visit to a San village. As we leave Namibia and cross the border into Botswana, we are preparing for our final exams. In history class, the students will write an in-class historical essay on an aspect of colonization's effect on African cultures in Southern Africa. This purposefully broad topic allows the students to write about a theme from the semester that interests them. They will also complete an annotated map of Nambia and Botswana.

TTS18 Gives Thanks!

Here are messages from each girl, written on Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing your daughters with us on (for some of them) their first holiday away from home.

Dear Family,
As I write this from Botswana I'm so thankful you sent me here! I
can't imagine Thanksgiving without Cliff and I fighting with Chad
about something in the kitchen...But I know we are thinking of you
guys! And I'm going to miss getting up butt crack of dawn to go black
Friday shopping with you guys! And I will miss some pumpkin pie :)
Much Love Cassy

Dear Mumps, Paar and Benjamon the lunch lady,
I miss you guys so much! I just wanted to dwell and say I am thankful
for you sending me here and being really awesome. I am thankful for
you guys buying me the horny toad (which I am wearing and haven’t
washed since Cape Town). And thanks for always being there when I need
you to dwell!
Love you guys!

Padre, Madre, and Jess-
Thank you so much for sending me off to Africa for a semester even
though it was a bumpy road to get here. Thank you for hangin in there
with me when it got tough and for the good times too. Thanks for love,
family, and helping me get where I am today. I'm thinking of you guys
everyday and having an incredible time! This is AFRICA! Miss you and
love you!

Momma, Dad and Booboo
Thank you so much for letting me go on this incredible experience. I
want to say thank you for teaching me all the things that I know.
Thank you for staying with through all the bad and good times. Thank
you for are all the love, the family, animals and giving me room to
grow. I am thinking of you everyday here and I miss you and will see
you in 10 days! I miss you and love you.
Love you tons McCall.

I am thankful for so many things in my life right now. Of course my
wonderful family who has supported me so much in this whole process
and has always been excited to hear from me. Especially to my mom who
has done all the forms and paperwork for my semester in France. Thank
you so much!!!!!
Also just to be here and all my wonderful classmates and teachers.
Thank You!!!!! Happy thanksgiving! I love you all!
Xoxox Nell

Mommy, Daddy –
Happy Thanksgiving, tell my beautiful Aunts that I love them and that
I will miss stuffed portobello mushrooms! Hug my little brother (whom
I'm thankful for, but you don't have to tell him that, jk). Anyway,
thank you for everything; for getting me out of the door at thirteen
because without that push I wouldn't be here in Africa right this
second typing to you from a swank hotel lobby. So thanks, I love you!
Don't get too stuffed and drive safe on the way home!
See you! <3333

Mom and Daddy,
Happy Thanksgiving!! I can't believe I won't be there this year, but
I'll be home soon and I can NOT wait to see everyone. Thank you so so
much for enabling me to come spend half of my junior year in Africa..
I have learned an immense amount of things which I will carry with me
for the rest of my life. SEE YOU IN 10 DAYS!!!! You better save me
some of Aunt Fani's pumpkin soup :).
LOVE YOU xxx! (and you too I Adam, I guess)

Happy thanksgiving Mom, Pops, and Een!
I am so thankful that I am in Africa right now, learning and seeing
so many new things! It is tough being without you three, but I know
this is something I have to do on my own and I will be home really
soon! Tell everyone who's over that I say I love them and miss them
and I hope Mom doesn't put popcorn kernels in the turkey (Nani knows
all about that)!
Much love,

Hey everyone!
Happy thanksgiving! I wish I could be there to spend this holiday
with everyone, but Africa is amazing and I am so very thankful I am
here right now. I love and miss you guys! 11 days!!!!

Mamacita and Ole' Gappy (Schana/ Ana),
Happy thanksgiving! I am going to miss getting taken out of school
early to clean the house (OK, that was one time, but it was awesome)
and the house being crazy crowded and eating your blueberry pie with
the dandy designs. An African thanksgiving is pretty cool as well :).
I am incredibly thankful to be here, to have you two as my family and
my bros, and for being a Brease. LOVE YOU! HAPPY
Emmy Brease

Jambo! (too bad they don't speak kiswahili here)
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all enjoying this fine holiday. I
am going to miss getting up early and going to serve at ARC and then
spending all day waiting to go to the Rutman's for dinner. I am super
thankful for being able to spend the past fourteen weeks in Africa.
Thank you so much for letting me have this experience. Please give Ann
a big squeeze for me...remember her? I love you all muchly.
Halle Schirmer

Hey Family!
Just wanted to say I love and miss you guys. I'm so glad I am able
to be here in Botswana (ahh!), and that everyone has supported me in
this adventure of mine. I bet dinner in Cotuit is going to be AMAZING
as usual. Mmm thinking about it makes me hungry. Thanks you so much
for absolutely everything! Hugs all around!
- Liza

Mom! Dad!
Happy Thanksgiving!!! I just wanted to say thank you for everything
this year and I'm so happy to be here! Enjoy that turkey and stuffing
and delicious foooood! I'm going to have an incredible Thanksgiving
with my TTS family this year :) See you soon!
Love, Tate

M and D, Erin and Rachael,
I hope you are all enjoying upside down turkeys and gluten free
stuffing. I am so thankful for you guys and all the opportunities I
have received. Shout out to Madi, Katie and Abby, Can't wait to see
everyone and eat Christmas pudding. Miss you!!!
Love, Alipunjha

Madge, Padge,Linds and Gare
Sad to be missing the thanksgiving in Palm Springs. I am so thankful
for all you do for me, and being able to be here in Botswana. I hope
you guys have the best day and say hi to Grandma Rickie and Grampa
Jack for me. Seriously can't wait to see all you in a couple weeks.
Love Always/Arctic Tundra,

This is my first ever Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for being able
to celebrate it with my second family here. I am also thankful for all
my family waiting for me at home. Miss you and love you all!
Lots of Love, Nellie

Okavango Delta

We are back from our trip into the Okavango Delta, one of the largest inland Delta's in the world. It was a spectacular trip. We explored the Delta from mokoros (traditional dug out canoes), navigated by a poler (community member skilled in steering a canoe using a long pole), and guides. We traveled through lily pad covered waters, listened to the territorial hippo call, and observed a herd of elephants and a dazzle of zebras. Our evening was serenaded by traditional song and dance of our polers and guides. Overall, the students loved the experience. It provided time to relax, enjoy the rhythm of nature and take a breath together before final exams, papers and projects this week.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Class updates from Leah

Algebra 2

The end is in sight as students wrapped up Chapter 5 on quadratic functions with a take home quiz and a chapter test last week. Chapter six on polynomials started with classifying polynomials, adding, subtracting and multiplying. With just a few sections left, we will round out with long and synthetic division of polynomials and expanding binomials with the help of Pascal’s Triangle. Students will have a take home chapter test to wrap up their semester of Algebra 2. As a final assignment, students will also analyze the benefits and challenges of having kept a personal budget for the semester.

Natural Science

Our final unit on Conservation Biology and Land Management has been perfectly bolstered with a visit to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Etosha National Park and our Okavango Delta trip. For their final project, students will compare and contrast the variety of land management techniques and strategies used in conservation practices in Namibia and Botswana. We have learned about the main issue of conservation in southern Africa as maintaining large mammal population numbers. While at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, students met Laurie Marker, who started the organization. We had the rare opportunity to see the ambassador cheetahs on their daily workouts and observe a study of clocking the cheetah running speed. The students completed an in depth journal entry on various aspects of the cheetah and what CCF has done to assist the declining population numbers. Students learned about what the cheetah needs in terms of habitat and ecosystem services and how subsistence farming and livestock grazing relates to the cheetah habitat. Students have taken their knowledge of environmental issues and land management practices to look at an environmental issue in their hometown or home region. As we begin to transition home, students will bridge their knowledge gained here with awareness of their environment back home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Academic updates from Brenna

Travel Journalism

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Traveling through Namibia we have had the privilege to visit a school, help teach at an orphanage for the HIV/AIDS and disadvantaged children, learn about cheetahs and drive through Etosha National Park. As can be imagined it is hard to decide which activities or opportunities to write about when all carry a certain amount of emotion and lessons for our journalists. The students are now writing their third and final article on their experience here in Africa and the difficulty is not how to write the article, but what to write about. Every student has had different experiences, but the challenge is how to share what they have been doing with people back home. Why did they decide to study overseas? This is a question many people ask, not just to the girls, but the girls ask themselves. As the semester comes to a close, I have asked the girls to reflect on their decision to join The Traveling School for a semester and how society might ultimately benefit from their travels in Africa. Each of the Travel Journalism students has to answer one question in this article: Why do we travel?

Physical Education

The combination of early morning game drives and a heat wave across the country of Namibia has disrupted our daily workout program. At the Cheetah Conservation Center we had a soccer field we decided to play Ultimate Frisbee on as well as build strength with some plyometric workouts. However, the past couple days, temperature extremes have made it difficult for us to enjoy land-based workouts. Most of the campsites will have a pool, so PE will be focused in the water for the remainder of the semester.

Math Concepts

Math is everywhere. Whether people like math or not we have to use it every day. The past few Math Concepts classes have focused on the economies of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. The girls all gave presentations on these different countries looking at their trade, imports, exports, unemployment and production of the country. From there we moved into the global market and have been talking about the World Trade Organization and globalization and how both play major roles in both society and markets in today’s world. This week we will scale back a bit from global markets and mass production to non-profits in southwest Africa and the pros and cons of how these organizations impact the countries we’ve traveled through this semester.