Greetings Traveling School Friends and Family!
As many of you are preparing to return to school and getting ready for fall colors, this semester's Traveling School students are already into their first week of classes. But it is not just about being in class. We are in class in ZAMBIA!
The flight over was uneventful but long, as you can imagine. Even with the few delays, the students were remarkably upbeat and patient with the whole process. One could even go so far as to say the flight itself was a great time for people to begin getting to know each other.
After an overnight layover in Johannesburg, we returned to the airport to complete the journey to Zambia. Although, it must be said that a number of students hesitated at the thought of leaving the incredible buffet breakfast served at the airport hotel! Trays of beautiful fruit, sliced cheeses and meats, eggs as you like, the works.
Group travel during these first few weeks as the students are learning to work together means that we move slowly and carefully, paying special attention to our surroundings and to one another. It is an important process, one we take seriously. That does not mean however that we cannot have fun. For example, before our long flight overseas Ariane and Jen led a wonderful impromptu stretching class right there in the gate. There is no doubt it helped all of us deal with the long hours on the plane.
Once in Livingstone, we caught up with the bus sent over by the hostel to retrieve us. It turns out there was one other fellow catching a ride to the hostel with us. As I chatted with David on the drive through town, I began thinking about the possibility of inviting him to address our students in the first of many experiential education opportunities. It turns out David was coming to Livingstone to address a coalition of Southern African copper mine managers regarding environmentally sustainable mining practices. He was very excited for his presentation because, if implemented, his project could not only help the environment, but it could also provide jobs and clean up the pollution problems facing many regions of Southern Africa.
This is the definitive “Aha!” moment of the Traveling School. One of my co-teachers, as we discussed it later, wondered aloud about the chances of meeting a person like that. I responded that the chances are in fact quite high. There are people all over Africa doing incredible things for their communities and for the planet and the Traveling School is like a magnet, drawing those people in. I have no doubt that David is but the first of many creative, intelligent, motivated people we will meet on the way.
Two nights later, before we had even begun official classes, David addressed our students. He talked about the aforementioned project as well as several others he has sponsored over the years. I was surprised at the caliber and quality of the questions the students posed. It was an outstanding conversation. Economics, culture, industry, environmentalism.
Later, David pulled me aside to express how pleased and inspired he was by our students. I think the Traveling School has a new cheerleader!
Over the next few days, we took some rest time to get our energies back up and to continue working through our orientation materials. On Sunday afternoon, we volunteered at the Lubasi Orphanage here in Livingstone. Before heading over we had a conversation about what to expect and how to handle things if it begins to feel too intense, namely grab one of the teachers and take a break. I know that these experiences can be challenging and would like for everyone to feel supported.
The conversation ended up being unnecessary. Every single girl jumped right in. Whether it was walking through the garden hand-in-hand with the children or playing netball or learning some of their local childhood games, our students showed incredible bravery and tender heart. I was floored. And yet, I had a sense it would go just like that: courage and compassion. That night at dinner, everyone was buzzing, telling stories about the day and their new friends. If any of you are interested in checking out Lubasi Orphanage, go to lubasihome.org. It is a beautiful place for children without safe homes that depends on the local community for funding.
Yesterday was our first full day of classes. Yay! My favorite part! Again, everyone seems to be diving in. This morning for P.E., we went running at the Livingstone Country Club Golf Course, a bright red sunrise bursting through the trees. Not a bad way to start the day.
After a few classes this morning, the students and other teachers departed for Victoria Falls. Students in the Natural Science course will do their first field journal entries and students in Travel Journalism will begin working with their digital cameras on landscape portraits. I can't wait to see what they come up with.
These young women are bright, funny, adventurous, and compassionate explorers. What a great start for everyone!