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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Transition Home

Dear TTS 20 parents,

Silence is a rare thing here at TTS 20, but it has permeated through the hostel walls lately as gals cradle their text books studying for final exams.  But, the silence doesn't last one second past the study hall “bell” when the energy returns and laughter, singing and general hysterics replace the quiet melody. 

These last days are bittersweet, and we are trying to soak them up together.  I am amazed at this group and the way they have held each other up and pushed each other to another level.  They cheered nervous peers up rock faces and mountain tops or through tree top canopies.  They leaned on one another for support and amazed every one of us with their curiosity and intrigue about the world around them.  I get chills each time one of them makes a new realization that transcends their previous knowledge.  Whether it’s Alex cheering Francesca down the side of waterfall or Abby lovingly grabbing Meg L's hand during the turkey trot, these girls are recognizing their unique support system of sisterhood. 

And it is this sisterhood that makes the final days amazingly painful.  The reality of the end is slowly sinking in and each one of your daughters is realizing the difficulties of leaving South Africa and their TTS family.  In the final days we will wrap up finals and continue to chat about how to re-enter home life.  For TTS20, Africa seemed like a harsh environment three and a half months ago and now similar anxiety is weighing heavily on their shoulders once again.  They are nervous about how family and friends will perceive their new global awareness.  They are nervous to share their stories and try to show people their Africa.  They are nervous about re-entering school in a four walled classroom with 25 other students.  But... they are extremely excited to leap into your arms and give you a big hug!  They are excited to be loved on like they are kids again, to sleep in their own beds and to share home cooked meals with you.  They have their outfits picked out, their proud walk practiced, and their pride radiates from their smiles.

Over the next few days, we will practice responses to the generic question, “So, how was Africa?”  We will address the fears of re-entering school and teenage life.  And we will delight in our stories of travel.  I bet your daughter has already hinted to you about some of her feelings about graduating TTS 20.  Over the next few days, I encourage you to send her a message congratulating her on finishing her final exams and conquering this expedition.  In the message ask her about how she wants to spend her first few days at home – it might surprise you how many gals want to be around family only.  While I encourage you to have a welcome home shindig for your daughter, recognize she might need a few days to process before she is ready to be the center of attention.  She might want to sort through all of her duffle bag, pictures and souvenirs immediately or she might to put it all in the corner tightly zipped shut.

And, most of all, I can't imagine this expedition without your daughter.  She has amazing gusto and strength.  I admire her determination and her sense of self.  She added laughter and energy to the group.  Francesca's impersonations and voices, Brooklyn and Mckinley's improvisation skills, Jane, Abby and Meg L's love of shopping and markets, Alex's George W debate voice, Lily and Kelly's love for outdoor adventures, Payton's laughter and Shroder's sense of wonderment made this adventure unforgettable.   And with the Truly Supers leading the charge, we delighted in newness under the red Zambian sun, danced through the pristine Mozambican waters, giggled along the South African roads as a cohesive unit ready for anything. 

Thank you for sharing your daughter with The Traveling School.  I can't wait to see the next steps she takes – I imagine each of them to initiate an extraordinary path in life. 

Hugs to all of you amazing parents!
Aunge and the Truly Supers

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