2016 Upper School Intersession Trips

Last Updated: Monday, March 21 – Thanks to all the groups who sent in updates and photos throughout the 2016 Intersession week!

SSFS students learn about the world by being in the world. Intersession is an important component of the emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning at SSFS. It is a one- to two-week period in the spring in which all Upper School students and faculty participate in special projects locally, nationally, or abroad. Trips might involve community service, outdoor education, arts activities, scientific exploration, cultural and language immersion, historical or informational trips, or a combination of the above. All Upper School students are required to participate each year, and all students participate in at least one service intersession during their four years of high school.  You can see full descriptions of the 2015-16 trips (listed below) here. (The * denotes a service intersession.)

  • Head Start *
  • Service That Benefits the Local Latino Community *
  • New York- Chicago: A Cultural Odyssey
  • Rocks and Reefs: Science Immersion in Bermuda
  • Good Morning Vietnam
  • Let’s Go to the Movies
  • Great Britain Quaker Pilgrimage
  • National Treasure/Geocaching
  • NOLA: Service With a Side of Southern Culture*
  • Beach, Bay & Rainforest: Exploring Puerto Rico
  • A Taste of Art
  • West Virginia: Food, Security & Economic Justice*
  • Theater Intensive*

Monday, March 21

Some updates from Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend posted below:

England (sent from Marzi B. on Sat, March 19): The UK intersession is finally wrapping up our trek around Great Britain. Currently at St. Paul’s Youth Hostel in central London, we have been to two countries, four hostels, and on countless trains in the last eight days, as well as several castles dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries and many historic Quaker meeting houses. Other highlights include the hills at Furbank Fell, where George Fox gave his first speech, and wandering around Piccadilly Circus on Friday night. Our last full day here is Saturday, when we will be touring the Globe Theater and lunching at Borough Market before visiting Parliament in the afternoon and riding the London Eye at dusk.

New Orleans: Post from Lauren Shiflet from Friday, March 18:

Today, we bid farewell to New Orleans with a boat tour of swamp, bayou and marsh land near Slidell, Louisiana, along the Great Pearl river.

We’ve learned a lot together, this week. This was a shared experience beyond gardening, painting, landscaping, changing lightbulbs, cooking and how to ride the streetcar. In New Orleans, when you’re willing to lend a helping hand and a smile, you are ready to receive the histories of a genuine, friendly people who love their city, and always find time to welcome strangers from Maryland with hospitality, and (if you’re lucky like we were!) a backyard picnic of red beans and rice.

Until again we meet, New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Bermuda: Blog Post #2  from Adam Keller, for 3-15 to 3-17

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On Tuesday, the group woke up bright and early to quickly eat, grab their gear, and get onto a boat. Following a long ride to the coast of Nonsuch island, we all had to swim to the shore while our guide, Kyla, was able to pull our gear alongside in a kayak. She then gave us a tour of the land including a brief history of the creatures inhabiting it and the people who have worked on the island. Next, we ate our packed lunches by the beach and soon decided to jump in the ocean to seek possible warmth from the cold, rainy weather. This turned into a time to enjoy each others company and play before we all were needed to pick up trash from the beach area. We also worked in groups to perform transects to collect data on the amount of microplastics that were washing up on shore.

Shortly after, we all trekked back into the island with trash that we would eventually give to Jeremy Madeiros (the island warden, a conservation officer) to properly dispose of. We came to another side of Nonsuch where a ship had long ago been purposefully sunk and was currently a welcoming environment for awesome oceanic creatures. The group took the next couple of hours to snorkel around the site, before Kyla helped us swim back to the boat. But not before hanging back to snag a few Lionfish, which are invasive to Bermuda.

The next day was another bright and early one, and had our group taking a BIOS bus to a trail that would lead us to some caves. Our guide, Dreddy, showed us some of the dry and wet caves on the island. He let us snorkel in a wet cave and a Cassiopeia filled mangrove pond and stopped often to teach us about the flora and fauna.

After lunch, we walked over to Whale Bone Bay again to do a solitude sit. Everyone picked a spot to sit on their own and watch the sunset. This took a while and when we all silently collected back together many people were overcome with emotion and shared in meeting. After this we jumped into the ocean for our night swim with special waterproof torches. We saw awesome fish and a beautiful starry sky. We walked back with only a couple minor injuries.

On Thursday morning, we met up with Kyla again to visit Cooper’s island. The bus strike had been going on during this day as well, but thankfully the BIOS bus took us to the site. Our guide showed us around the land from an old NASA building (now public) and helped us remove some of Bermuda’s invasive plant species. Then we planted and named some endemic cedar trees to help strengthen the coast line.

In the evening, we took the BIOS bus to St. Catherine’s fort and walked down to Tobacco bay to snorkel and relax. Fish and a little squid were seen by many. Nicky was also stung by a jellyfish, but is okay now. There were exhilarating currents and everyone had a good time relaxing on the beach and nearby rocks.

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Taste of Art: Kexin Zhang sends in several images from their week of silkscreening, studying art, and enjoying local cuisine at local restaurants:

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Friday, March 18

New Orleans: “Today I found out that I am not actually a bad chef. We took a cooking class and we learned how to make etouffee and bread pudding. I originally thought I could not cook at all but I learned I am not bad at cooking.” -Emma

Photo (from Ghislaine D.) “Eating what we cooked ourselves during our cooking class…”

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Service That Benefits the Latino Community (by Eduardo Polón and Claire Donahue:

After a gratifying albeit exhausting week of serving as Volunteer Assistants in the bilingual preschool classrooms of the Spanish Education Development Center, our group settled on a fun list of Essential Preschool Spanish:

  • The Basics: sí, no, gracias, por favor
  • The Commands: no más, silencio, vámonos, siéntate, ven aquí, no lo toques, mira, hagan fila, no te lo pongas en la boca, comparte, ahora hay que lavarse las manos
  • The Questions: Cómo te llamas? Qué es eso? Qué tienes? Qué color es? Qué pasó? Necesitas usar el baño? Qué quieres hacer?

We are jokingly convinced that, with this “essential vocabulary” most anyone can survive a week in a classroom of adorably rambunctious preschool Spanish-speakers.

All joking aside, while all week long the faculty and staff at the Spanish Education Development Center have gone out of their way to express their appreciation to SSFS for volunteering our time this week, we feel equally grateful for having been welcomed by the SED Center with such open arms. Consequently, on this last day together, and as a modest token of gratitude, our group decided to make a small donation of desired materials to each preschool bilingual classroom in which we participated. Items ranged from rolls of clear contact paper, reams of colored construction paper, glue and glitter to packs of markers Play-Doh and storybooks.

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Fittingly, the capstone culinary reward for this past week’s service at the SED Center was a broad showcase of traditional Spanish tapas at La Tasca in downtown Washington, DC. From Mongolian, Indian and Nepali to Ethiopian, Jamaican and Spanish, we hope that by exposing students to these diverse cuisines we have helped broaden their cultural perspective and introduced each to a few new delicacies along the way.

In the end, the emotional arch of our shared experience has been a full one. Understandable early uncertainty and cautious optimism surrendered quickly to anticipation and excitement; committed investment was rewarded with a reciprocated joy that comes from helping others, exacerbated by the fact that those “otros” were such innocent “niños”; and, alas, by virtue of forging special relationships, there is an inevitable parting sweet and melancholic sorrow that comes from having to say “adiós” to those wide-eyed faces with such broad smiles. Nonetheless, we can find solace in an earned satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that is the result of our collective endeavor and meaningful contributions this week.

It is said that “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” If this is true, we hope you enjoy our intersession’s tale via the photos posted on the 2016 Upper School Intersession Blog page, accessible from the SSFS homepage. To learn more about the SED Center, visit www.sedcenter.org.

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Vietnam (from Elle W.): On our second day, we headed east from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, to Ha Long Bay. As we arrived, we were stunned by the beauty of the untouched and serene bay.

Vietnam_03182016-2_image2After a delicious lunch on the boat, we headed to 1 of the 1,969 islands in Ha Long Bay where we walked through a cave, swam in the chilly water, and kayaked around the island. Later that evening, we learned how to make fried spring rolls and ate them on the top deck of the boat as the sun set. At dinner we enjoyed a lovely, authentic Vietnamese dinner, accompanied with the staff performing a dance to the Usher song, “Yeah x3.” My favorite part of the cruise was the next morning when we did thai chi on the top deck with our cruise director, Jackie. Another really fun and relaxing part of the cruise was when we took large row boats around one of the fishing villages. Our visit to Ha Long Bay was one of the most amazing and breathtaking of the trip so far and we will always remember this secluded paradise.

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Thursday, March 17

Updates received after 5 pm on Wednesday, as well as from today…

Service That Benefits the Latino Community (by Eduardo Polón and Claire Donahue, photos by Julie Mendez):

LatinoService_03172016_9_DSC5151On our penultimate day of service in the bilingual preschool classrooms at the Spanish Education Development Center, the morning program has become our daily routine: Circle Time, Warm-up, Small Group Activities & Choice Time, Language Cluster, Outdoor Play, Story Time & Discussion. In an attempt not to cause too much disruption from the children’s daily routine, we bow out at Lunch and Nap Time.

Today’s delectable reward was an introduction to traditional Jamaican cuisine at Negril, in downtown Silver Spring. From curried dishes, handheld roti and patties to oxtail, fried plantains and Jerk chicken, the group’s collective willingness to try new foods and expose themselves to new aromas and flavors is a credit to their openness and cultural curiosity.

 

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Vietnam: Photos sent from Elizabeth Glabus of students on China Beach, and in Vietnamese soccer kit –

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New Orleans: (From Muhammad) Today, we first went back to Green Light New Orleans-this time for a different service. We switched out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs, which help save money, energy and they last longer. We started our work day with 10 houses total for both groups. Some houses took longer than others to change the light bulbs.

03172016-image1After we finished our work for the day, we returned to the bunk house to freshen up and change for the upcoming concert. We took the Canal street car to the event. There, we were entertained by the music of The Bucktown Allstars and Bonorama. There were stands for food, drinks and souvenirs. After the concert, we went shopping in the French Quarter.

We ended the evening with a messy, yet delicious, situation of Beignets. We then returned to the bunk house to prepare for our next day!

Photos from Lauren Shiflet show students enjoying beignets at Café du Monde, changing out lightbulbs, and shopping in the French Quarter.

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9th Grade – Florida: From Karen Cumberbatch:

It is hard to believe that four days have passed on the ninth grade Intersession. Days two, three, and four were adventure-packed with trips to a turtle hospital to see sea turtles being cared for and rehabilitated  for release back into the wild, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters to see fish swimming in the coral reef, kayaking among the mangroves, and later picking up trash in another section of these magnificent trees.  The evenings have been spent having great group pool tournaments, ping-pong matches, card games and storytelling on the beach as the sun sets.

This evening we will spend time in Key West experiencing the sights and sounds of that eclectic, energy-filled beachside town.  One signature activity will be the $10 most kitschy, absurd item contest. The winning group gets bragging rights.

All in all it’s been a glorious trip.  The students have been fantastic – interested, eager, cooperative, fun, and all-around great to be around. The camaraderie built among the group has been great to watch. As always Intersession has proven to be not only an opportunity for students to experience a new setting, but also to make connections with students with whom they may not have previously been friendly.  I’m sure everyone will be just a little bit sad leaving this warm and wonderful tropical paradise.

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Photos sent by Johanna Modak –

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Intensive Theater/DC: After teaching our LS theater class, we headed over to the Olney Theater for some service work. We painted three rooms in the actor housing. After dinner at Panera, we headed back to the Olney Theater to see Marjorie Prime.

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West Virginia: Transplanting seedlings at Big Ugly, WV Community Center

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England: Photos and text sent by Gwen Handler –
We have been a very busy group of travelers. We spent three days in Bath visiting the sights. Then a day trip to Wales to visit the Welsh folk museum, and Caerphilly castle. Tuesday morning we were back on the trains (5 in all), to Kendal, which is the jumping off point for the Quaker country. We have visited Brig Flatts Meeting House, Fox’s pulpit, Swarthmore Hall, and an extra site not visited by us before. Our guide at Swarthmore Hall took us to see the first burial ground where there are more than 200 unmarked graves of the earliest Quakers, including Margaret Fell. The site is a beautiful spot overlooking the Morecambe bay. Thursday we are headed south to York. All is well.

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Wednesday, March 16

Service That Benefits the Latino Community (by Eduardo Polón and Claire Donahue):

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With a couple of purposeful days of volunteering in the bilingual pre-school classrooms at the Spanish Education Development Center under our belts, relationships have taken root. With winter seemingly behind us, and a welcome, warming sun all aglow, how fitting that we are reminded, in the faces of each of these precious, impressionable, and starry-eyed children, that hope truly does spring eternal.

Still another meaningful day of service to others was rewarded with yet another culturally enriching lunch experience, an Ethiopian feast at the aptly-named Addis Ababa, in Silver Spring, where, among other tasty items, the group was introduced to injera, Ethiopia’s famed spongy and sour pancake-like bread which serves an additional utilitarian purpose as one’s utensil.

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NYC/Chicago: Photos sent via Shinae…
Jeremy Gordon SSFS class of ’13 joined us in the Windy City, and NYC with Michael Kingon ’85:

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West Virginia: Preparing for the day ahead!

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New Orleans (sent via Connor P about activities from Tuesday, March 15):

Today we worked with Green Light, a non-profit organization dedicated to make New Orleans more green, to build gardens outside four local New Orlean homes. We met with the residents who had recently been trained to start their own gardens. It took us nearly an hour to complete the first garden. Now with much more confidence and experience we were able to complete the second one in under 20 minutes. After a long day getting our hands dirty, our chaperones decided to treat us to a slurpee. We went to google maps for directions to the closest 7-11. Unfortunately we ended up at a house with 711 as the address. We came back to the hostel for a fast rest then off to the French Quarter in a street car. We ate a delicious dinner at Fiorella’s where we ordered way too much food for us to handle. Some of our students gave their leftovers to the homeless on the streets. We then took an awesome voodoo tour of the quarter, learning about the history and architecture of the town. Then back home we went!

… and from Lauren Shiftlet: We worked with Green Light New Orleans, today, building gardens for city residents. We coordinated raised bed placement, oriented and mapped the garden, dug and built the bed, placed a layer of protective mesh over the yard dirt, mixed nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer into the bed and, finally, planted seeds and seedlings. We completed four gardens! These residents are now able to grow a variety of healthy veggies to harvest-pole beans, chard, okra, peppers and more!

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Vietnam: Kayaking through Halong Bay!

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Theater Intensive (sent via Julie Borsetti Tuesday evening): Each day in the morning, we meet to learn and practice 3-4 theater games that we plan to teach to the second grade in the afternoon. Then we take some time to discuss the previous night’s show. Throughout the week, we are also studying Othello before we see it at Shakespeare Theater on Thursday.

After teaching our second grade drama class on Tuesday, we headed downtown to the Folgers Shakespeare Library for a tour. One of the highlights was seeing the historic theater and seeing Shakespeare’s first folio. Then we had dinner at Jenny’s on the Wharf before seeing The Lion, a one-man show at Arena. Another great day!

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Tuesday, March 15

More updates from the groups! Please note that these will be posted as received. (Some posts may refer to events and activities from previous days of the Intersession trip; updates received after 5 pm will be posted the following day).

Geocaching (sent by Francis Koons): Day two for the Geocaching Intersession took us to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. We started off the day finding a cache atop Signal Hill Park, overlooking the beautiful harbor. We then trekked around the harbor to find the tiniest of caches yet! Despite its diminutive size, Josh was able to spot the cache using his detective sleuth. Our next cache took us to a historic church where Delvin used his “sheer talent” to spot the hidden treasure. We rounded the corner to finish off a packed morning of uncovering hidden treasures in a small park situated next to an alley. We DNF’d on a puzzle cache inside the Harbor just before lunch, as our stomachs won the battle with our brains. Full of lunch, we headed back to campus to eat some leftover pi(e) from yesterday’s Pi Day celebration and plan our geocache strategy for discovering Fairmount and historic Philadelphia tomorrow.

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Service That Benefits the Latino Community (sent by Eduardo Polon and Claire Donahue):

Having made such a positive first impression yesterday, it was no surprise to be welcomed with such youthful enthusiasm and loving open arms upon our return today to the Spanish Education Development Center. Quite simply, the children adore our volunteers, and rightfully so.

LatinoService_03152016-30_photo-5Similarly, some of our students observed how warmly received we were yesterday by our adult hosts, both faculty and staff. Having established a cooperative relationship with the SED Center that dates back to 2002, SSFS has earned the Center’s respect and appreciation. While the SED Center depends largely on the generosity of volunteers, SSFS is applauded time and again for the outstanding quality of its exceptional student role models. Whether it’s measured in our students’ initiative, courtesy, patience, willingness or joyfulness, SSFS students do seem to distinguish themselves among their peers.

Perhaps this admirable distinction can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that SSFS is as much a community as it is a school, whose potential for influence on our interconnected campus, a population that ranges from Pre-K to Grade 12, is wider-reaching than most schools. Perhaps, too, it is the result of being a Quaker institution whose testimonies — Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship (a.k.a, SPICES) — permeate both consciously and unconsciously the way we “let our lives speak.” Whatever the alchemical combination, this group of 17 volunteers is certainly carrying the torch as proud and worthy SSFS ambassadors.

Another meaningful day of service to others was rewarded with another culturally enriching lunch experience, this time in downtown Silver Spring, at E-Gharib Kabob for some fine Nepali cuisine.

To learn more about the SED Center, visit www.sedcenter.org. Photos from Tuesday below:

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West Virginia: The following photos of the group visiting the Battle of Blair Mountain site were sent by Dave Burgevin:

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… and some more photos sent later in the day by Miriam Rock of the group  double digging while preparing the beds for members of the local Logan community to plant, and gardening with the BAPS, a local youth group whose acronym stands for Believing All is Possible:

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Vietnam: Elizabeth Glabus sends along a picture of some of our students doing tai chi on the cruise in Halong Bay:

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9th Grade Intersession/Florida (from Karen Cumberbatch about events from Monday, 3/14):

9th_Florida_03152016-2_IMG_2270The ninth grade Intersession arrived safely in Florida after a 3:30 am start. Traveling with 60 students through the airport can be a trying experience, but the ninth graders made it almost enjoyable because of their cooperation and enthusiasm.

Not wasting a moment, we spent the morning in the Everglades searching for alligators (we saw a couple!) and speeding through the tall grasses in an airboat. It was truly a thrill ride. Several students even held a small alligator.

We next spent some time feeding tarpon. This fish can grow up to eight feet and weigh more than 250 pounds. Students fed the tarpon small fish and watched the gargantuan tarpon open their gaping mouths. An amazing sight!

 

New Orleans (from Ghislaine DeCock about events from Monday, 3/14): Today we went on tour throughout New Orleans. One of our stops was to a cemetery which we got to walk around and see the different types of burial sights. These different graves showed different classes in these people’s lives. We learned multiple facts about New Orleans and why they have specific ways in treating the dead. The cemetery was a very interesting way for us to further our knowledge about New Orleans history.

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Bermuda: Adam Keller sends the following blog post for 3/12-3/14:

We arrived at our destination of beautiful Bermuda to clear skies and open eyes. As we stepped out of the airport and into the tropical world, we were all in good spirits. Our excitement was packed into cabs and matched with a quick ride to our beach-side resort-like home-away-from-home at BIOS. We were greeted with open arms, and our scientific vacation was under way.

After squeezing into skin-tight swim suits, we jumped into the canal and tried out our snorkels. The water was chilling but we persevered upstream to test out our new gear. Once Olivia had lost both the snorkel and the mask, we decided it was time to head back. As we scarfed down some homemade food and headed over to learn about the trip ahead of us, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset to end the day.

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On our first full day, we were heading over to the South Shore to enjoy the beautiful pink beaches. As our guide, Kaitlin,  took us to the closest bus stop, Asa found his way back to Africa by touch red sand that had been blown across the Atlantic and deposited in Bermuda.  As we coasted through the winding streets of St. George’s, we bonded with the locals and soaked in our surroundings. Brightly colored houses were followed by brighter beaches, and blue sky blended into the blue sea. Our destination quickly appeared, and we all rushed off the bus. Over the next 6 hours we traversed rocky terrain, relaxed on fine and cool sand, explored underwater worlds full of vibrant creatures, and jumped into clear coves, with a few cuts and bruises in between. The afternoon and evening rolled in with the tide, and the day was completed with scientific notes and the day’s events in pictures.

bermuda_03152016-5_IMG_2646Day two got us up bright and early to hop onto the Research Vehicle Rumline and take a 45 minute trip to the rim reef: Bermuda’s edge. Filled with dozens of corals and creatures, the rim reef sprawled on for miles of light and dark sea. We took the plunge and saw what we could. The result was much the same as the day before: vibrant fish darted back and forth through the intricate natural maze as we tried our best to follow, eyes forward and cameras pointed. By 11 am, after almost 2 hours of snorkeling in open waters, not a phone was injured, but a few faces were turning green.

After relaxing at BIOS for a few hours, we embarked on a “quick 15 minute walk“ to Whale Bone Bay (spoiler alert: it wasn’t 15 minutes) to observe some more pristine beaches. Needless to say, after waking through roads, trails, and forests, we found a quaint little island where we spent the majority of our time. As Sarah, Madeline and Adam swam around the shore, Ben M. took Lindsay on a not-so-voluntary trip to the water in which, after tripping and falling into Lindsay, the pair became soaked. It was around that time we declared the end of the escapade, and we headed back to BIOS ready for yet another perfect dinner, and a calm end to a full day.

More photos from the group below:

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Theater Intensive: Service in the morning, dinner and a show in the evening. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed a visit to the Fords Theater Museum, which has lots of interesting historical details about Lincoln’s presidency and untimely end. Afterward, we attended a musical, 110 Degrees in the Shade.

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Puerto Rico (photos by Olivia M. of San Juan and the black sand beach):

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Taste of Art (photos by Julie Mendez): Screenprinting!

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England (from Elizabeth Thornton): We made it to the first hostel, and then we went to explore Bath. What a long day!

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Also, photos from Stonehenge and at the hostel by Gwen Handler:

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Monday, March 14

Intersession week is off to a great start! We received emails over the weekend and today from trips in Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, NYC-Chicago, and New Orleans.  

Vietnam (from Saturday, March 12): Hello from Hanoi! We have arrived safe and sound- all are well and very happy to be here. As you can see we were warmly welcomed by Quang’s lovely family and the kids were so thrilled and excited. We will keep you posted … And now it’s time for us to say good night!
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View from breakfast in Vietnam:
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Puerto Rico (from Sunday, March 13): We made it safely to Puerto Rico on Saturday. Today we toured San Juan, including the El Morro fort. Although there was some rain this morning, the day was perfect for touring the city, established in 1493. We enjoyed a typical lunch that included mofongo, the signature dish of Puerto Rico (plantains are the main ingredient). The students have been practicing Spanish with each other and learning a lot from our in-country guides. One “fun fact” is that the words for hurricane (huracán) and barbecue (barbacoa) come from the indigenous taíno language. Weather permitting, we hope to spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach!

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Some student-written blogs about their time in Puerto Rico so far:

Puerto Rico – 3/13/2016 (Rohan): Our journey began  at the Sandy Spring parking lot at 3:45 A.M. (!) before heading to BWI airport, where we flew to Philly for our connecting flight. After a 3-hour layover and a 3.5 hour flight, we finally reached San Juan, Puerto Rico at 3 in the afternoon. We had a couple of close calls with the whole group making it to flights on time, but we somehow made it to San Juan as a complete group. We met our tour guides, Ari and Scott, at the airport and headed over to the “Big Yellow House” in Cerro Gordo.

The vegetation and greenery on the drive was absolutely gorgeous, and we tested some of our Spanish skills by interpreting the road signs and billboards. With the Big Yellow House right on the coastline, we spent our free time in the afternoon on the beach. Much to our liking, we were the only ones on the whole beach.

After our long day, we were treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal of Mango marinated chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs from our in-country guides Ari and Scott. We concluded the day by individually sharing our “roses and thorns” for the day, and getting a good night’s rest before the first full day of our exciting week to come.  Although tired, we are all very excited to be here!

Puerto Rico – 3/14/16 (Olivia and Jessica): Today began at 8:30 AM when we ate a breakfast of fruits, yogurt and cereal on the second floor deck overlooking the pastel houses on the horizon at the “Big Yellow House.”  Once it stopped pouring, we piled into our “wa-was” (vans in Puerto Rican Spanish) to go to Old San Juan. The clouds cleared up along our car ride so we could get our first clear view of Puerto Rico.  It was gorgeous.

Arriving in Old San Juan, we were immediately struck by the detailed windows, narrow cobblestone streets, and bright-colored buildings. We were allotted one hour to explore the streets in groups of three. Many of us bought souvenirs as well as snapped photos of the gorgeous color schemes.

At 12:00 PM we met back up at the central fountain and met our tour guide, Alvin, for the first time. Having not eaten since 8:30, we were all starving.  Alvin took us to lunch at a local Puerto Rican restaurant, Jarritos. The food was absolutely delicious, especially the Mofongo (a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from mashed plantains).

After lunch we gathered outside of the restaurant, reapplied our sunscreen, and began our tour of San Juan Viejo. We started our tour by exploring the oldest and most popular tourist fort in the western hemisphere, the huge fort called “El Morro.” We got a beautiful view of the Coast as well as the City. After we left the fort, we continued on our site-seeing tour around San Juan.  A few of our favorite places were the Governor’s Mansion and San Jose Catholic Church.  San Jose Catholic Church featured the remains of Ponce de Leon!

We left San Jose around 4:00 and came home to a newly rained-on beach. The sun came out and we all put on our bathing suits and went into the warm water.  We then came back to the house and enjoyed a nice pasta dinner.  To close the evening we introduced our leaders to a meeting for worship and thought about gratitude.  It is currently 8:02 PM and pouring rain in Cerro Gordo, Puerto Rico but we are all absolutely happy here.

 

New Orleans (from Sunday, March 13): Today is our first day in New Orleans. The weather is cool and humid. We arrived at approximately 5:30 pm. J and Lauren drove the students to the Hands On bunk house. For dinner, we went to the Mid City pizza house and tried different kinds of pizzas. We are all looking forward to tomorrow’s trip.

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NYC-Chicago (from Sunday, March 13): At the Met!

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New Orleans (from Monday, March 14): Ready to begin our day’s service with Sustain the Nine!

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West Virginia (from Monday, March 14): SSFS students participate in panel discussion with four AFSC activists and work in community garden with Logan High kids:

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National Treasure/Geocaching (Monday, March 14):

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The Geocaching Intersession got off to a great start today. Covering close to 3 miles on foot before lunch time, we split up into two groups- Team Diameter versus Team Circumference in honor of Pi Day. Team Diameter began the morning with the lead, finding 3 geochaches in the L’Enfant Plaza area prior to lunchtime, while Team Circumference found two well-hidden caches. It was off to the National Museum of the American Indian for lunch before resuming to the Museum of Natural History to find some more camouflaged  caches in surrounding the building. With some solid mileage in our legs, and some caches in our logs, we had a great time exploring the hidden treasures in our backyard.

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Service That Benefits the Latino Community (from Monday, March 14, sent by Eduardo Polón and Claire Donahue):

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The SED Center Intersession began in earnest today. Located in Washington, DC, the Spanish Education Development Center is an award-winning, non-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of low-income residents since 1971.

Honoring a longstanding partnership that has seen SSFS send students from the Upper School to volunteer in the SED Center’s bilingual preschool classrooms since 2002, today’s 17 high schoolers were given a quick tour before splitting into six groups and introduced to their respective classrooms for the week, ranging from toddlers to 4-year olds.

After a meaningful day’s work and play, the group rode the Metro to Chinatown where, in this intersession’s spirit of celebrating multiculturalism, they were rewarded with a well-earned and delicious lunch of Mongolian barbecue at Tony Cheng’s, winner of Washingtonian Magazine’s Blue Ribbon.

To learn more about the SED Center, visit www.sedcenter.org. More photos of the day below:

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