Last Day

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.

Our Last Day in France

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.

Day 1 on Safari in Tanzania

Guest blogger: Kaycie Schlichenmaier

Photos by: Mrs. Strobel and Apple Li

On Friday the group was getting rowdy and amped for our safari.

giraffe

We split into 4 vehicles:

Mama Dee, Tom, Henry, Ophelia, and Ariana with driver Isaac

Mama Dee's Group

Ms. Raquel (Sophia’s mom), Apple, Ally, Sierra, Grace, and Sophia with driver George (Evan joined on Sunday)

Raquel's group

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)

Angie's vechile

Papa Jason with Mimi, Regina, Leela, Ben, Diego, Jacob with driver Edwin.

Papa J's car

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.

Ele group photo

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.

baboon

colobus monkey

giraffe 2

zebra

Here is a list of the animals we identified:

  • black and white colobus
  • baboon
  • blue monkey
  • cape buffalo
  • zebra
  • warthog
  • bushbuck
  • waterbuck
  • maasai giraffe
  • guinea fowl
  • harrier hawk
  • Serval Cat

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.

lodge

pool

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).

 

Saying Goodbye and Back to Athens

We started our last day in Samos at 7:30 A.M. The breakfast was delicious (as always) and prepared us for the long day ahead! After an hour, we headed back to the Archipelagos Institute for a few more activities. We were then split into three pre-made groups to mix the typical groups up. We participated in three interactive workshops:

Workshop 1: We walked along the beautiful Aegean while learning about the preservation of deep-sea habitats. We learned about the importance of seagrass and algae for maintaining life in the seas. They act as nursing beds and food, respectively, for invertebrates and fish that live amongst them. In order to have functional food chains, we must continue to work towards this problem through replenishing lost resources and conservation.

Workshop 2: The groups sat down with leaders of the Institute to discuss plans to promote their sea-saving agenda. Ideas ranging from an Instagram/Snapchat account, merchandise line, and reaching out to local Greece schools stuck out the most to the leaders. However, they challenged us to see how we can make changes in Culver. This was especially effective because it allowed for us to commit to real changes on our campus. Whether that is using reusable mugs rather than the Dining Hall’s Styrofoam cups, looking into it conservation as a senior service project, or just “plogging “ (picking up trash while jogging with friends!), we all want to bring what we’ve learned about conservation back to campus.

Workshop 3: Here, we got to collect microplastic samples and listen for dolphin noises in the water. After driving to a nearby dock, we spent an hour on the water. The first half of the time was dedicated to collecting surface level microplastic samples. Between the three different groups, we collected more than twenty pieces within ten minutes of being on the water. This hands-on activity added a level of reality to the issues we’d heard so much about. The second half, we listened for sea noises by placing a basic microphone underwater. Many just listened to the sounds of the sea but, a few lucky ones heard the sounds of dolphins.

After our workshops, the Archipelagos Institute prepared us a scrumptious meal yet again. We had gyros, french fries, rice, and greek salad for lunch. Afterward, we had an hour to roam around the site a bit. We spent the time skipping rocks, reading, and just enjoying the overall atmosphere. This time was completed with a ton of goodbyes to our new friends. The mood was light and jolly as we traded Instagrams and emails. We then headed to the airport to take a short flight to Athens.

The flight was short and so was our transit to our newest hotel. We had a little time to freshen up before our dinner in the hotel. While many of us were all dressed up, we enjoyed the pasta, pork and rice, and a pecan pie. Following dinner, we enjoyed a walk in town to get (handmade) ice cream and window shop at the Plaka for an hour. We then returned to the hotel to get rest for our early morning Acropolis tour tomorrow!

-Sobé Uwajeh

Siena and Florence

2/29/18 and 2/30/18

Siena and Florence used to be known for their competition. Once, they were so against each other that when Florence built a bigger church than Siena, Siena made plans to double the size of theirs. In retaliation, it is rumored that Florence deliberately spread the black plague to Siena. Over these two days team Italy got to compare these famous rivals for ourselves.

Day 1, Siena 

Breakfast was at 8:30 this morning to give an extra hour of recovery to everyone that was sick. Thankfully everyone has made a near full recovery and only one student stayed back from Siena. Then we got on the bus and although most of us fell asleep during the long ride, if you were lucky enough to stay awake the view of the mountains and Italian countryside outside of the bus windows was positively breath-taking.

Since our tour guide, Andrea, was sick today, we were lucky to have his sister Ariana step in and show us around Siena. Our first stop was the Duomo (church) which was incredible. What made this church unique was the vast amounts of black and white: you could see the colors of Siena not only chasing each other up the pillars, but also in beautiful images on the floor. After the breathtaking church, we were able to learn more about the amazing history of Siena.

Siena has always competed with Florence, but interestingly enough, Siena also competes with itself. There are 17 different neighborhoods that all compete with each other within Siena. Each neighborhood has a lot of pride, and that pride also comes with individual mascots, flags, and beautiful statues or fountains. My personal favorite was the turtle, but I know the unicorn, horse and snail neighborhoods were big hits with the team.

We also learned that on a larger scale, Siena stopped competing with Florence so heavily after the black death wiped out half of their population. This is why they never finished constructing a larger church, but the one they have now is beyond incredible already.

Despite all the death, today the city is alive and bursting with people bustling in and out of shops. With everything from spices to high-end fashion, Siena was a marvel to see. All the different neighborhoods and winding streets provided something for everyone.  Becky Young bought some beautiful flags, the Coulsons purchased an elegant tablecloth runner, Wills bought himself a very Italian button down shirt (which he immediately changed into), and most of the team invested in some killer gelato.  e discovered lots of new flavors like melon and blue vanilla. Maddie Rahe discovered that after today her favorite gelato flavor is mint.

To end our beautiful day of sight seeing, we all went back to dinner at the Clitunno and the different shopping groups intermingled to talk about their adventures.

Day 2, Florence

Breakfast this morning was at 7:30. Everyone is nearly fully recovered and we were all pleased to discover an Italian off-brand Nutella to put on our bread. Then we all headed on the bus for the long drive to Florence.

As usual the view of the mountains was breathtaking, but to get through the 3 hour drive we stopped at a gas station to get some coffee and paninis. The team is still not over how amazing gas station food here is.

When we made it to Florence, Andrea was back to being the best tour guide ever (we all legitimately adore him)! He happily grabbed the mic on the bus and told us about Dante and all the artists the ninja turtles are named after. He talked about the Medici family, their roles in Florence, and showed us where to stop the bus to get a great picture of the city.

Then we saw the Duomo (church) before we split up into our usual shopping groups to go explore Florence. The city was incredible, and so were the sales. Becky found another amazing flag that Andrea loved, Ellie found herself a gorgeous Italian blouse,  Lance and Joe bought fancy socks, Jin found Italian fingernail clippers for her grandmother and bought 4, and Mrs. James found a pantsuit that she is positively in love with. The highlight of the day was definitely watching Tommy bargain down the price on his beautiful Italian leather jacket.

For lunch in both Florence and Sienna, we were packed sandwiches from Spoleto, fruit and bottled water. None the less, multiple groups stopped to grab some fantastic Florence cuisine because the food here is so good it’s hard to only eat 3 times. Groups also saw David and other incredible artwork. There were also lots of pictures taken by the river, which is the second largest in Italy and has multiple beautiful bridges running across it.

We left Florence with our hearts full, but our wallets slightly empty. It rained a bit on the way to dinner, which was a reminder of how lucky we have been with the weather here. Tonight was the first time it has rained all trip.

Ultimately, although some of us preferred Siena, and some of us adored Florence, both cities had incredible things to offer.

Bouna Sera,

Team Italy

Quote of the day: “Don’t touch the leather!” -Tommy Green speaking to the rain about his new jacket 

Day 7

Sadly, today was the last full day of the Mexico GPS trip. The teams were able to visit two houses that were built the previous year during spring break. In addition, we spent the afternoon at the closing ceremony, where the teams and their families took pictures, are delicious food, played with the kids, and finally, said goodbye. It was a wonderful way to end this trip on a positive note and allowed us to enjoy time with our families outside of the construction sites. Overall, this has been an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Back to Samos!

Today was another great day for the Greece GPS team.

This morning, we ate breakfast at our hotel on Lipsi before boarding the same ferry that had taken us to the island. We all enjoyed the unexpected opportunity to say goodbye to some of the students we had made friends with before; a number of the students stopped by the ferry on their way to school.

After boarding the ferry, the group settled in for another five-hour ride to Samos. We again used the time to help the experts of the Archipelagos Institute survey local marine life and pollution; recording data about dolphin and marine bird sightings in addition to trash and boat frequency.  The highlight of the trip was two dolphin sightings; those on the upper deck got to watch Common Dolphins playfully follow and jump around the ship.

Once the ferry arrived in Samos, we met our bus and traveled back to the Archipelagos Institute’s main base. There, we had lunch, reviewed the results of our beach cleanup, and listened to a series of informative presentations regarding microplastics.

After leaving the Archipelagos Institute, the group enjoyed free time in Samos and a dinner at the hotel, enjoying a delicious meal and the opportunity to swim and go shopping in town.