Today was the live without boarders day, where we visited the school and gave each child a backpack. We were able to spend time with the families and play with the children, from dancing, playing with hooks hoops, to making a conga line. The kids even preformed a rehearsed dance for us. The GPS students very quickly bonded with the children, and were able to get to know many of them more personally.
In the afternoon, we were able to release newly hatched turtles into the ocean and a turtle sanctuary. Fortunately, every single baby turtle made it across the beach and to the water without being eaten by a bird, unlike some unfortunate turtles last year.
Unfortunately, Sunday was our last day on safari. On Sunday, we were at Ngorongoro Crater park; in order to see the best animals, we had to wake up at 4:45 to get to the park before sunrise!
While driving down to the crater, my safari vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, listened to Regan’s Lion King music to pump ourselves us. Our driver, Ollie or Babakuku (Grandpa Chicken) told us that Pumba means “foolish one” in Swahili, and we already knew that simba means lion. We were so excited as we headed into the crater while watching the sunrise.
The first animals we saw in the crater were different types of birds, from guinea fowl to an awesome secretary bird posing on a tree. We also saw some warthogs, wildebeest, impala, zebras, and more early in the morning. Unfortunately, we also saw a hyena that was sick and struggling to move. We really hope that the hyena did not have to suffer much longer. Luckily, we did see some healthy hyenas.
We were so excited to see some elephants on Saturday, and today we saw even more! Regan counted 42 elephants.
One of goals for Sunday was to see cats, and we were so lucky to see approximately 19 lions!
One of the highlights of the day was seeing 4 black rhinos! Black rhinos are critically endangered animals, and many tourists don’t have the opportunity to see any black rhinos, so we are incredibly lucky to have seen four. Unfortunately, black rhinos are also victims of poaching, so we chose not to post photos to protect them from poaching.
We also had some emergency bathroom issues while in the crater. Also, when we stopped for lunch, a huge bird swooped by and took Ophelia’s chicken!
We are so fortunate to have been able to experience these three amazing days on safari; it was absolutely unreal.
After departing from Ngorongoro Crater, we headed to the Smith Campus of the School of St. Jude, which is the secondary school campus. We stayed there for the night and enjoyed our last dinner cooked by Peter–delicious beef and pasta and veggies.
On Monday, we spent the morning at Cultural Heritage, which includes cultural art exhibitions, shops, and cafes.
The Cultural Heritage Gallery
Our facilitator and one of the interns at the school, Wens (Wenseslaus), wrote us an amazing card that we got to read on the way back from Cultural Heritage. We miss Wens and all of the other St. Jude Staff a lot and are so grateful for how hard they worked and how much they helped us throughout our stay at the school. Our 10 days in Tanzania were a life-changing experience and it is, in a huge part, thanks to everyone we met in Tanzania. We’ll be thinking about all of you. Thank you!
When we got back, we had lunch and then went on a tour of the Smith Campus with Wens and Innocent.
After that, we had a couple hours to pack or socialize before heading to the airport. No one wanted to leave Tanzania, and we were even joking about “accidentally” dropping our passports out the window.
All jokes aside, our journey was very successful; we got through each flight and customs without a problem and arrived at Culver at around 6 PM.
Thank you so much to everyone who followed our blog in the last few days! Also, thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and to everyone that allowed us to go on the trip!
This morning breakfast wasn’t until 9:30, and service (for those that wanted to go to church) wasn’t until 11:30 so everyone was able to have a relaxing Easter morning.
The morning was amazing. I don’t think most of the team expected anything special but we woke up to treats outside our doors before me even made it downstairs. At breakfast, there was a new kind of juice, pears and kiwis, chocolate kinder eggs wrapped up at everyone’s table, and even special little cakes. The cakes were citrus infused with sugar on top and reminded me of American coffee cake, but sweeter and with much more flavor. There were also new guests that joined us for breakfast, and although they didn’t speak English I think watching a group of teenagers put together little toy cars from chocolate eggs and laughing with each other entertained them language barrier or not.
It was by far the most fun breakfast our group has had. Everyone was laughing with each other until the cat fight.
The convent has a cat named Jerry who is very sweet, but there is also a stray cat who looks similar to Jerry who is very mean and tries to get in the convent. That morning the two cats were getting into a fight outside and all of us eating breakfast burst outside to protect and cheer on Jerry. He got scooped up pretty fast and neither of the cats were seriously hurt but it was fun to watch all of us rally behind Jerry.
After this, some members of our group made a connection between the stray cat tricking them into believing he was Jerry and then turning out to be mean with some of the pictures painted in the chapel of Orvieto. They know call the stray cat, the Antichrist (he isn’t really that mean don’t worry).
After breakfast the group split in half. Some went to service at the chapel in Spoleto and others got in another nap or started on packing early.
Service was beautiful. The bishop came out, and there were beautiful singers, and nice smelling incense. There were also many people who brought their dogs into service, and lots of little kids. After church the whole group got together again to go to lunch one last time.
Some of our group thought it was the best lunch they had had there yet. Then we all went back to the convent and changed to do some last minute shopping if we still needed to, or to just explore the town. Some of us said goodbye to our favorite shop keepers with heavy hearts, and got the last gelato or pizza of the trip.
Then we all took some time to pack up our stuff and the only person who was seriously behind when they came around to check was me. Mr. Wight bought a scale that checks bag weight so that was being passed around a lot to make sure we all stayed under 50.
Then we went to our last dinner. Everyone was excited about pasta with a white cheese sauce because we were told that fetichini Alfredo isn’t actually Italian, just American. And although this is still true, this pasta was pretty close and we were all really excited.
Then we went back to the hotel for one last team Italy meeting in the convent. Most of our moods were crushed to learn we would be meeting downstairs at 4:30 AM to make it to our flight. Most of us tried to go to bed but it was a rough night of sleep for everyone.
Quote of the day:“No wonder these are illegal” -Mr. Strati after watching Gabe go at his kinder egg with a knife at the table to get the toy car out as fast as possible.
We woke up at 5:15 on Saturday and had a great breakfast at the hotel before heading to Lake Manyara, a national park near the edge of the Rift Valley, a little after sunrise. Lake Manyara is a wonderful park with freshwater lakes, forests, as well as open grassland.
Safari is what many regard as the quintessential African experience, and our day at Lake Manyara definitely lived up to our expectations. Regan was especially excited because of our first elephant sighting; later in the day, we were right in front of two elephants crossing the road, which was absolutely incredible. Though we did not get to see the lion or leopard we were hoping for, we saw other amazing animals, including the vervet monkey, lots of zebras, and some groups saw a dik-dik. We also saw a bunch of hippos peeking up from the lake.
Here is Regan’s reflection about the elephants:
Regan Murphy ’18
My goal for this entire trip was to see an elephant and to my excitement, we accomplished this goal. On the first day of our safari, I desperately looked out the window with my binoculars pressed up against my eyes hoping to see an elephant. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any (real) elephants on the first day, but I was hopeful we would see one on day two. The next day rolled around and I listened to Disney’s The Lion King through my headphones on the drive down to Lake Manyara. I was feeling really optimistic and told my car that I had good vibes about this park and was confident we would see an elephant today. About 15 minutes into our drive, our vehicle, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, came to a rolling stop as we approached a large rock. To my surprise, this rock turned out to be a real African Elephant. Mrs. Strobel shouted back to me and said “Regan, elephant, 8 o’clock!!!!” I sprung up from my seat and looked through my binoculars; I finally saw an elephant in its natural habitat and I was in shock. The elephant adjusted its body to a position where you could finally identify that it was an elephant. I wanted to make sure I captured the moment, so I took way more pictures than one person would ever need of an elephant. Thankfully, this was not the only time we spotted an elephant during this adventure. I kept track of all the elephants we saw today and I recorded 16 elephant spotting’s in Lake Manyara. My favorite ele experience occurred an hour into our drive. We were swerving around one of our cars because they were driving too slow, when we happened to see rocks rustling through the vegetation. Two GIANT elephants leisurely strolled passed our car. They were not even 5 meters from our car when they casually walked down the road and through the bushes in a majestic manner. I took an incredible video of the elephants and was so amazed at the calm nature of these creatures. Erin whispered to the elephants “Do you want a Pringle?” as they passed our car. I will never forget this moment and feel so blessed to have witnessed such a beautiful animal. In total, we saw 58 elephants during our three day safari.
Here is a list of the animals we saw today:
silvery cheeked hornbill
yellow billed storks
southern ground hornbills
After driving around the park, everyone participated in the tree top sky walk. Here’s Lily Thorgren’s reflection on the activity:
Lily Thorgren ’21:
“The highlight of my day today was the tree top sky walk. We climbed up stairs onto platforms and then onto shakey bridges. The bridges increasingly got higher and higher. Although I was timid, I went onto each one. It was really exciting to get a new view from new heights. My ultimate favorite time on the bridges was the facial expressions of comedian, Erin Postma.”
After the tree top walk, we returned to our hotel for a great lunch. Then, we headed towards Ngorongoro Crater, where we stayed for the night. On the way, we stopped at a couple stores to pick up souvenirs and snacks.
At a shop, Tom bought a spear, which was one of his goals for the trip. He bartered a lot on the spear. Later, when we arrived at the hotel, Tom decided to “sacrifice” Jason in order to see a rare black rhino on safari.
We had an early night to prepare to wake up extremely early the next morning, as the best sightings often happen very early.
Funny moments of the day:
Erin and Sierra played a practical on Evan. We had arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater and were admiring the view from the top the crater from a railing. Evan let Erin use her binoculars and quickly gave them to Sierra to hide them. “Evan, did you like your binoculars?” Erin asked Evan while looking over the banister. He quickly started to search for them over the railing before they told him they had taken them.
While taking pictures at the top of the crater, a party from Zimbabwe started taking pictures with the non-black members of our trip.
Today was the last day of Team Greece’s incredible GPS trip; enjoyable in its own right but marked somewhat by a vague sadness.
The Greece team rose relatively early and ate breakfast at our hotel before spending the day exploring Athens, with special attention payed to the Acropolis. We started our day by walking to the Acropolis Museum, and enjoying a guided tour of some of the artifacts recovered from the Acropolis and the surrounding area. For many students the tour was a refreshing return to Freshman Humanities; the artifacts and statues we saw reflected many of the artistic concepts and historical realities we learned about. After touring the museum, the group hiked up the the Acropolis itself. Students got to explore some of the raised city center, in addition to taking photos and admiring the incredible view of the city.
After descending from the Acropolis, the entire group enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant in the Old Town, and then had the afternoon free to shop and explore around the hotel. Everyone met back for dinner at the hotel in the evening, and went to bed early for an extremely early flight tomorrow.
Today was Team EU’s final day in Reims, France, and it was one of our busiest days yet.
We began with a visit to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, where four Culver Military Academy alums are buried. Here, the Wreath Laying Ceremony was carried out, with four Culver students (Dylan Lewandowski ’18, Andrew Crowell ’18, Isabelle Landy ’19, Gretchen Issom ’20) taking turns laying a wreath as well as reading out words of remembrance over each gravestone of the Culver alums. To wrap up the ceremony, Taps was played by John Youngs ’18.
As one of the students who participated in the Ceremony, I believe I speak for everyone when I say how thankful I am for having been given the chance to honor these brave men, and how it was a memorable way to express our gratitude for their sacrifice.
When we left the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, it was nearly lunchtime and we made our way into town to stop at the museum café, which was exactly as it sounds. After enjoying a lunch of baguette sandwiches, we had some time to explore the “museum” side of the restaurant: a large private collection of personal belongings of many soldiers.
Our next chunk of time was devoted to roaming the new Verdun Memorial Museum. This museum explains in detail the battle at Verdun, dwelling on the effects it had on the French and German armies. It is an engaging museum that covers topics from how soldiers spent their free time, to the systems of medical care on the front lines.
The final stop was the L’Ossuaire de Douaumont. This is a French memorial to their soldiers who lost their lives during WWI. While we have mainly visited memorials of American forces in WWI, it was just as important to recognize the effects WWI had on all involved parties, and to show respect to the French soldiers as well.
When we returned, our hotel had set up a petting zoo in the lobby (in honor of Easter), and it was hard not to smile at the rabbits, chickens, and goats. This not only brightened the mood, but helped pass the time until dinner.
At 7:30 pm, everyone sat down to a lovely dinner at the hotel, reminiscent of our very first night in Ghent. A last-minute no-cell-phone policy was enacted to make sure we all were involved in conversation.
During tonight’s reflection, we agreed it is an emotional experience to see rows upon rows of gravestones, or names etched in walls, and realize that these were all once people, seldom older than the high school students that make up our group. It is important we make sure to be appreciative of the time we live in, and remember those we lost. This in part comes from understanding our duty, and how these men were carrying out theirs. Should the time come for us to do the same, we shall also rise to the occasion.
Some of the other gratitudes expressed included many appreciative remarks for our chaperones- who have been our tour guides, our mentors, our parents, and so much more for the entirety of this trip.
Tomorrow is the final full day before departure, and we have every intention of making the most of our time together before this journey concludes.
On Friday the group was getting rowdy and amped for our safari.
We split into 4 vehicles:
Mama Dee, Tom, Henry, Ophelia, and Ariana with driver Isaac
Ms. Raquel (Sophia’s mom), Apple, Ally, Sierra, Grace, and Sophia with driver George (Evan joined on Sunday)
Mrs. Strobel with Regan, Kaycie, Janelle, Erin, Lily, and Evan (Friday and Saturday) with driver Ollie (we called him Baba Cucu which means grandpa chicken)
Papa Jason with Mimi, Regina, Leela, Ben, Diego, Jacob with driver Edwin.
We made our way to Arusha National Park and at the entrance we saw a fake elephant, which Mama Dee thought was real at first. Once in the park, we saw a herd of buffalo and zebras.
We continued on for a while and saw a baboons that were playing in the road. After the baboons, the sightings were not too interesting until we reached the giraffes. We found two giraffes very close to the road so we got a really good view of the giraffes. Throughout the entire safari we saw about 300 water buck and Erin was getting very frustrated and overwhelmed with the amount we were seeing.
Here is a list of the animals we identified:
black and white colobus
After the safari we all napped during a 2 hour drive to the Lake Manyara hotel we stayed at. The hotel was absolutely amazing. The view was beautiful and everyone quickly took advantage of the pool. We ate dinner and then got to see a traditional African dance performed in one of the rooms of the hotel. It was incredible how fast their hips can move.
After everyone went to their rooms, my room had a catastrophe. There was a lizard. Lily tried to catch the lizard but it was too quick and moved out of sight. Without being able to see it, we were all freaking out so Lily decided to call the hotel desk and have them send a security officer. The security officer showed up and searched our room for the lizard. He moved our bed half way across the room and eventually he found it. He moved away to grab his stick to try to catch it and the lizard disappeared again. After 5 minutes of searching, Regan spotted it by the door. Instead of pushing it out the door, the security officer committed man slaughter and wacked it with a stick until it was dead. We all grieved for the rest of the night until we fell asleep ready to wake up at 5:15 the next morning for day two…
Erin Funny Moment of the day… when we sat down for lunch Mama Dee said we saw a tiger to which Erin responded “yeah, because it’s not native to India.” Then we brainstormed the cats native to Tanzania and realized it was the rare Serval Cat (our car never saw it).