TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tandana and TTS Ties

The Traveling School has enjoyed a close connection with the Tandana Foundation since its beginning. 

Tandana's founder, Anna Taft, taught 3 semesters from 2004-2005. Anna's relationships in Panecillo inspired TTS alumna, Laura Nichols, and has influenced her life's course for the past 10 years. 

"My time in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru with the Traveling School was marked by a series of highlights: the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, the Cordillera Blancas, Lake Titicaca… However, the place that I remembered most was the small community of Panecillo outside Otavalo, due mostly to the connections already established by my Traveling School teacher, Anna, and solidified by the contagious smile of Don Vicente, her host father who graciously shared his home with us for an afternoon during our time in the Otavalo area." Click here read Laura's story.

Anna Taft began The Tandana Foundation in 2004 and has served as Executive Director since its inception.  After graduating from high school in Ohio, Anna spent four months in Panecillo, Ecuador, where she taught at a local elementary school and  built the connections that inspired her to start Tandana.  In 2002 she graduated magna cum laude from Whitman College with a bachelor's degree in politics and a minor in environmental studies.  She has worked for The Traveling School, teaching Spanish, history and literature while guiding high-school students through the Andes and New Zealand. Anna also spent eight summers leading teenagers in wilderness and community service programs for Deer Hill Expeditions in southwest Colorado.  In 2006, she spent four months in Mali, learning  about a completely different cultural world and contributing to community projects.  Anna is fluent in English, Spanish, and French, and she is conversational in Kichwa and Dogon.  She enjoys backpacking, rafting, reading, and writing.  Anna founded The Tandana Foundation to increase opportunities for cross-cultural sharing in experiential education programs.  Anna enjoys offering others opportunities to grow through new experiences and reflection. She appreciates the power of cross-cultural friendships to change our views of the world and help us better understand what it is to live as a human being on this Earth.

Monday, February 24, 2014

From Quito to Agualongo and More

Activity Blog February 21, 2014

"My art is a way of praying, and of screaming at the same time...and the greatest consequence of love and solitude." Oswaldo Guayasamin 

The group encountered Ecuador's most famous artist, Guayasamín, last week in the nation's capital of Quito. Students were shocked by his paintings full of tear-filled faces and contorted bodies. Inspired by the struggles and anguish of oppressed peoples everywhere, Guayasamin's haunting paintings moved the students, fueling discussion of Latin America's political upheavals.

Madre y Nino, 1989
One quote of Guayasamin's in particular stood out to the students, and they frantically scrambled to write it down in their journals: "I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a child with no feet." This quote made the students think deeply on the concept of perspective, and how vital it is to keep perspective throughout our trip and their lives.

That afternoon we climbed  stairs and ladders of the Basilica de Voto Nacional to the heights of the clock tower where students could see a 360 degree view of the sprawling urban area. Impressed by the types of architecture, we contemplated different forms of urbanization.

Our final days at the Hacienda were bittersweet as we said goodbye to the first friends we made in Ecuador. On our last night there Beth led an amazing reflective experience where the students wrote down the emotional baggage they had brought on the trip. We then walked into the courtyard where a large bonfire awaited our slips of paper. Each student and teacher threw their baggage into the fire, and sat silently under the stars together. The ladies left at the end of the night were resistant to leave the fire, as they were staring at the embers, lost in thought.

We traveled to Otavalo, and into the small hillside community of Agualongo de Quichinche to meet our new homestay families. Vickie, Grace, Anne, and Kate lived at the top of the hill in a house overflowing with children. On Sunday their Quichua family dressed them up in traditional indigenous clothing to go to mass. Alizah and Lindsey lived near the community center; their favorite moment was teaching karate to their 7-year old homestay brother. Scout and Hannah lived in the center of town as well.  Initially shy, these girls were bursting with questions by the end of their stay.  Teacher Kate stayed with Lena and Sophie and had a blast gathering and carving sticks to roast s'mores with their homestay mother on the last night there.  (In fact, all of the girls has the opportunity to teach their host families how to make this delicacy, familiar to us, yet completely unusual for them!)  A tiny boy reviewed colors and numbers at Courtney, Erin, Charlotte, and Heather's house; and one of Charlotte's oral history interview questions induced an unexpected forty-five minute life summary from their host mother.   In a hilarious language miscommunication, Susannah, Rebecca, and Maisie invited their family to make s'mores with them "before" dinner, instead of "after" dinner...Chocolate appetizers and new vocabulary have never tasted so delicious together! Allie, Caroline, and Feyza were swept into the lives of three tiny boys, and spent their time in Agualongo learning how to play "Lobito," and how to cook "quimbolitos."

Our time with the community presented us with exciting opportunities to work with and learn from the local people.  On our first full day, we were fortunate to experience the epitome of Ecuadorian community building: "la minga." For a minga, the townsfolk send at least one representative from each family to take part in a day of community work projects.  Our students were honored to be invited, and happily picked up shovels, potato peelers, hoes, firewood, and chickens.  We helped set up the wiring for lights on their soccer field, placed new tiles in the community center, cleared irrigation ditches, and assisted in the preparations for a grand communal feast.  Once ours tasks were complete, we all sat down together to dine on a traditional meal of chicken soup, rice, beans, and "cuy." Typically  reserved for special occasions, eating "cuy," also known as guinea pig, was a novel experience for many of us!

Later in the week, we invited our host families to join us for a picnic at the Lechero tree.  Perched at the top of a nearby hilltop, the tree is said to have medicinal properties...we certainly enjoyed the view from our eating spot, as well as the chance to observe and contrast how the Quichua people carry out a picnic.  In an ultimate display of potluck posterity, all families bring a dish to dump out on a blanket.  The dishes are mixed together by a community member, and everyone scoops up a bowl-full.  We had brought bread, fruit, cheese, peanut butter and jelly, which didn't mesh as well with the other ingredients, but everyone enjoyed them anyway (separately)!  After the picnic, we watched a flight demonstration of various birds of prey at a condor rescue park.  Not only does the condor fly on the Ecuadorian flag, the majestic bird is considered to be the king of the Andes. The day provided fun-filled bonding opportunities for our students and their Agualongomanta families.
On our final day in the community, the students presented a song in Quichua that thanked our families for the chance to work, eat, and learn with them.  Many of girls were ecstatic to be presented with "cintas," traditional hair wraps, which they wore proudly as we boarded the bus back to Otavalo.

The Spanish immersion continues this week: the girls are enrolled in intensive Spanish courses with native speakers.  Soon, we will venture into the cloud forests where we will investigate local economic enterprises and dive into the concept of eco-tourism.

Pagui, ari tuta! (Thanks, good night!)

Your favorite TTS teacher team

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gutting Chickens, Building Fences and Groupstays!

Buenos Dias! Today the group says good-bye to their groupstay familes. For the past week, students have lived in small pods with various families in a rural Ecuadorian village. Their host families shared their daily life routines with the girls, from waking with the sunrise, to washing clothes on a pila, to cooking over an open fire. Students learned new games from the kids and how different daily living conditions can be in different parts of the world. Anita Taft, former TTS teacher and founder of the Tandana Foundation, taught the group Quichua phrases and explained pieces of their history. She became an instant friend to this TTS group as they dug ditches, stirred cement and prepared food for the community feast after the Saturday minga. (A minga is community service day where at least one person from every family helps in a communal project.)

 After learning about the hacienda systems in Guachala and seeing numerous rose plantations throughout the valleys, these gals are witnessing the complexities of our global community. Throughout the groupstays, TTS gained another perspective of life in Ecuador. Many of you may have seen the recent article in the Washington Post about the oil industry in Ecuador. In Ecuador, oil boom creates tension details the efforts of the oil industries to extract oil, the indigenous struggles and Ecuador's request for help from more developed countries.  

Students will learn more about the oil industry in the upcoming weeks when they head into the Oriente. In Global Studies they will read and discuss Savages by Joe Kane to explore one perspective on oil in Ecuador and contrast this perspective with numerous articles from National Geographic, The New York Times and more. Hopefully, they will also watch the movie Crude. To culminate their unit on Ecuador and Oil, TTS23 will hold an Oil Day, an interdisciplinary day discussing oil from all angles - science of extraction and processing, economics of oil, history of oil and its' modern uses. They may role play different characters and be interviewed by inspiring TJ journalists... at the end of the day, everyone will have a new perspective on their lotions, clothes and cars with a deepened awareness of oil. 

As a vicarious participant of TTS23, we encourage you to read Savages, watch Crude and research other aspects of oil in Ecuador so you can amaze your daughter with your knowledge when she returns home. However, she might challenge and amaze you with her awareness and expertise on the subject.

If you are looking for other ways to follow the group, check out Queen of Water and House of Spirits, both of which the Lit & Comp class will read this semester. 

Check back for the newest photo album from the Agualongo area. Some photos are from past semesters and are intended to give you an idea of where the group is. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Call for Mail!

Dear TTS23 Parents, Family and Friends,

You may already know that Aunge will join the group in Ecuador for the Galapagos Campus Visit Trip. She’d like to extend an offer to all families to deliver up to 6 cards or letters to your daughters for you. If you would like to collect letters or cards from yourself, friends and/or family and mail them to the TTS PO Box 7058, Bozeman, MT 59771 (they must arrive no later than Monday, March 10th), she will get them to your daughters (teachers included!!). Please don't send packages at all. Please send nothing bigger than regular office sized envelopes, as Aunge will need to pack light enough to meet the weight restrictions for her luggage. We'll collect your letters, cards, photos, newspaper clippings and hand deliver them straight to your daughters. 
TTS Home Office 

P.S. If you are heading to the Galapagos please bring your daughter's letters with you. Again, please don't bring any care packages. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

I tried to chirp in when the phone call came, but I failed at blogging.  To sum it up, I was anxious about skype and spent a good two hours trying to make certain Erin would call the correct account, know her password and username (which she did not), have money on the accounts, and make certain I was logged in so I could hear it ring.  The bottom line, all went smoothly and it was heaven to see her smiley face and hear her little voice being with that familiar, "Hi momma!"  I was so thrilled that I forgot to ask many questions of detail, but her face said it all.  Now I just play that memory over and over in my head anxious to hear about the home stay.

Speaking of home stays and reading subject studies, I sure hope Erin gets a course in orderliness and cleanliness.  As much as I miss her, I was delighted to get her bathroom sanitized and know it will stay that way for 3 more months.  I was also delighted to slip into her closet and pile of clothes and make a mass removal of anything I know she hasn't put on her body this school year.  Although she is a minimalist and living out of a backpack suits her, she fails to get rid of anything she doesn't wear anymore. That opportunity has come for me to find endless clothes to pass along to goodwill.  Good luck to the teachers and girls that get the opportunity to share space with Erin.  I hope you have a good sense of humor. :)

Momma Megan

Friday, February 14, 2014

Peek into some of the classes

Every few weeks we will post academic updates to help you understand what your daughters are doing in their classes. Check back for more class updates.

History and Government
The Honors History and Government course began with students exploring the grounds of Hacienda Guachala. They encountered photographs from the 1800's, plaques explaining land and labor relations, the old horse stalls, the old jail where indigenous laborers were tortured, a wing where workers were forced to weave and embroider 14 hours a day, a run-down church, a chapel with a decaying mural, and other remnants of life in the Hacienda system.

Their studies continued when the Hacienda owner Diego spoke his history. Then we received different perspectives when we visited the Quichua people of the Highlands, many of whom were forced to work at the Hacienda in exchange for a small plot of land. History students have touched the stones of Pre-Incan astronomical sites, and learned about the social life of indigenous populations. They have eaten meals in houses built in the traditional Highlands style with mud and grass roofs, and are practicing asking better, more poignant questions to each person they encounter.

Last class we played a historical version of Taboo, with students becoming familiar with key terms for the semester: Encomienda, huasipunguero, mestizo, indigena, CONAIE, Cayambis, Pizarro, hacienda, mita, IMF, land reform, development, World Bank, and many more. Class readings began with Pre-Incan civilizations, into the Incas, and they are just about to step into the Spanish  conquest. What is the legacy of colonialism? Why was there so much political instability in the 20th century? How am I related to Latin American history? These are a few of the questions students will explore this semester.

Coming up we will visit Otavalo, and step in the history of the world-famous Quichua weavers!

Literature and Composition  
Students in Honors Literature and Composition have almost completed the first novel of the semester, Queen of Water. The book is teeming with relevant issues such as child servitude, indigenous/mestizo tension, and class relations. Next week we have the opportunity to meet Maria Virginia, whose life unfolds through this biography and students will be able to ask her firsthand what it was like to be taken from her family and grow up working for others.

Each class begins with 10 minutes of journaling for students practice the art of writing, uninhibited by form. Additionally, students have already written two poems. The first was an introductory poem, about their real names, who people think they are, and how they view themselves. Some shared their words before dinner as part of our evening ritual in front of the fireplace. The second was a 'Found' poem. Students pulled 50 words from the novel, cut them out, rearranged them, and cut more words as they played with shape, emphasis, lyricism, and meaning.

Next class I will introduce the analytical essay, the first major assignment of the semester. As students grapple with their topics and develop their mechanics, we will read poetry from Neruda, and short stories from Latin America. Through all of this we hope to grow literary skills and release inhibition, immerse in creativity, and understand form.

Global Studies 
Global Studies helps students frame their experiences throughout the semester. So far it has encompassed many of the orientation activities such as team building games and cultural simulations, and also the debriefs we have after each guest speaker or site-visit. Students have peppered our speakers and guides with critical questions, from the Hacienda worker Luis, to the scientist Josue, to the director of equatorial research Cristobal, to the Hacienda owner Diego, to the eco-tourism proponent Patricia, to the Quichua mother Carolina, to the NGO worker dedicated to indigenous rights Jose and have started to understand the complexities of the global community.

One of the highlights of Global Studies is Oil Day, a day dedicated to sharing work students have prepared around oil issues in the Amazon region. Students teach each other through their poetry, mathematical projects, science lessons, and by participating in a big debate or town council on current issues.

The course lays out larger themes that tie each of the individual classes together such as globalization, human rights, oil exploration in Ecuador, climate issues and carbon footprint, tourism, and leadership. Many of these themes have already come up in class discussions. the Global Studies curriculum ends by not only giving students the tools for re-entry to their home culture, but for collaborating on a final project to put what they learned into practice post-TTS. 

Math Concepts
Ecuador is an ideal spot for our course as it constantly provides us with tangible examples of economics in action. Already we discussed minimum wage (now $360/month, up from $318 last year), trade agreements (and Ecuador’s relations with the US & China), dollarization and the subsequent elimination of the former national currency, the Sucre (25,000 = 1USD!), and the national debt (now a key factor in the ongoing oil extraction debate). Before leaving the Hacienda, students successfully completed their first quiz on the laws of supply and demand, production possibilities frontiers, elasticity, and marginal utility. Grace and Courtney are now undertaking their own economic study: collecting data on market basket costs, housing conditions, and access to social services. They’re comparing and analyzing such economic indicators in each new place we visit and looking forward to sharing the preliminary results with everyone soon!

Intermediate Spanish
¡Saludos desde Cayambe, Ecuador! Greetings from Cayambe, Ecuador! Intermediate Spanish is off to a fantastic start. After a diligent review of regular, boot, and irregular verbs in the present tense as well as a discussion on family vocabulary, the girls enjoyed putting their Spanish skills to the test. We read a few short scenes from a play in class, and Kate did a fantastic playing the role of “El Tigre.” Blanca, one of the kind cooks at Hacienda Guachala, spent an afternoon with our class, teaching us how to make traditional Ecuadoran empañadas, a fried flour pastry filled with the queso fresco for which Cayambe is so well known. All the girls partook in mixing the dough, stuffing the filling, and carefully folding and decorating the shell. Allie showed off her cooking skills and finished making our afternoon snack, expertly frying nearly 50 empañadas for everyone to enjoy. The girls wrote out the recipe in Spanish and will look forward to making the tasty treat for family and friends upon their arrival back home.

Honors Natural Science: Biodiversity and Climate Change

Where to begin? The northern region of Ecuador has provided us with a most ideal foray into the natural sciences and the themes of biodiversity. The girls are already becoming quite adept at the art of scientific observation. They recorded several entries in their science journals, creating records and illustrations of the vast number of plant species we have encountered thus far. Gabriela, a member of the family that owns the Hacienda, gave us a wonderful tour of the gardens, sharing with us the history of the flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables at Guachala. She explained to us the intricacies of the grounds, noting which plants were native and which had been imported, when, and why. She pointed out aloe plants and explained how the plants are harvested in a unique way in Ecuador. Later on our tour, Gabriela even picked some vegetables exclusive to the region from the extensive garden for us to enjoy at dinner that evening. In addition to dutifully keeping up their science journals, the students have been reading essays from Tropical Nature, and are working on presentations on the regions diverse biomes.  


Classes, classes, classes!

Check out more class updates below! Sounds like this group is making the most of their surroundings and thinking about academics from various angles.

Algebra 2
On the first day of Algebra 2 class, students reviewed modeling data with linear functions as they derived the formula to convert from degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit in order to better understand the chilly temperatures reported here at our temporary home in the mountains outside of Quito. In subsequent classes, students created a library of basic functions, including linear, quadratic, cubic, square root, and absolute value functions and investigated how changes to the equations transformed the graphs. Grace, Anne, Caroline, and Lena color-coded graphs to observe patterns and wrote equations to describe functions after transformations were applied. Charlotte, Allie, Maise, and Kate looked deeper into the connections between horizontal and vertical stretching and compression of graphs. On a visit to the Capilla del Hombre museum in Quito, students observed Guayasamin's famous painting, Los Mutilados, which consists of six separate movable panels. After the tour guide's claim that there were more than two million possible configurations for the painting, girls from all math classes worked together to calculate the exact number of possible configurations, agreeing on a total of (6!)(4^6) = 2,949,120 possibilities.

During the first weeks of precalculus, students have worked on individualized plans to meet their needs based on their work done in their first semester. Hannah built upon her previous knowledge of solving systems of linear equations to interpret graphical repsenentations of systems in two and three variables and to solve systems of non-linear equations. She created sketches to illustrate possibilities for solutions to systems of three linear equations in three variables. [[insert images of Hannah's sketches here]] Sophie recalled right triangle trigonometry and applied her knowledge to derive the unit circle definitions of trigonometric functions. The unit circle definitions will provide a foundation for her further study of trigonometry. Erin and Rebecca are developing their mathematical reasoning through investigations requiring them to consider and generate examples of polynomials, observe patterns, and predict behavior of polynomial equations.

Beginning Spanish
The girls of the beginning Spanish class have quickly moved past "Hola" and "Buenos dias" to constructing dialogues to introduce themselves and ask basic questions. In addition to practicing numbers, pronunciation, greetings, and basic expressions in class, girls collect new words in their journals that they learn through immersion experiences each day. Recently, Nancy and Kati from the hacienda's kitchen staff were kind enough to give our class a dual lesson in bread baking and Spanish, with delicious results! Hannah, Courtney, and Rebecca lingered after class to talk to the women more about their families and home towns. Girls are preparing for their upcoming group stay experiences by practicing question words and family vocabulary.  

Students started their journalism careers with an assignment on what they might know best: themselves. We challenged ourselves by only having 350 words to summarize our life stories! The girls creatively approached this assignment, recalling first memories, school switches, and tough moments.

“The sunlight beams onto my face and warms my freckled cheeks. The clunky door rises and invites more light and fresh air into the garage. My feet pedal on my tricycle like there's no tomorrow. Suddenly I'm free from the musty, shady garage and the darkness is behind me. I don't know why this memory is my first. Maybe it's a metaphor, for escaping sadness and finding happiness. Maybe it's meaningless. What I do know is that this memory took place in Rhode Island, the place where my childhood took place. On October 1st, 1996, I woke up my mother in the wee hours of the morning with contractions...” - excerpt from Courtney's life story

This assignment ushered in fruitful discussions on the purpose of journalistic writing, and the power of stories that can affect a change in perspective. The essence of news and information gathering dominated our next classes; we've recently begun the process of becoming proficient interviewers. By asking effective questions throughout the semester, we will be able to garner useful information about the stories we want to cover.

Our stay at the Hacienda provided ample opportunity for students to begin mastering their cameras' settings. The girls are dedicated to practicing aesthetic picture-taking, because they are excited about putting together their photo portfolio: one of our final projects in this course.

Guachala is a brilliant location to begin our studies of Advanced Spanish. The students were nervous and excited to begin their first assignment: conversations with folks who live or work here at La Hacienda. They spoke with cooks, guides, and cleaning personnel about various topics, including the minimum wage in Ecuador and life in Cayambe. Sophie was inspired and challenged by an in-depth conversation she had about the educational opportunities available for people of varying economic means. Upon reflection on their preliminary experiences, the girls were bursting with topics to cover in our class this semester: from specific vocabulary to complicated grammar. The girls are dutifully bringing at least three new words to each class, and we are currently jumping into a critical review of past tense verbs.

Julieta, a seven year old girl, was kind enough to teach our class two important lessons. Firstly, she instructed us on a wide array of vocabulary. Secondly, the girls learned how helpful children can be in becoming comfortable with a foreign language! In addition, the lovely women in the Hacienda kitchen were kind enough to teach our class how to cook “tortillas de quinoa,” delicious patties made of quinoa, green peppers, carrots, oatmeal, flour, eggs, cheese, and spices. I am excited to observe how my students' skills and confidence increase during the homestay and immersion experiences that are coming up!

At over 9,000 feet above sea level, our physical education class at the Hacienda started out with breathless exhilaration! Despite the early wake-up calls, we have been impressed with the positive attitudes we've observed during class. The girls are motivated to stay on track in terms of physical fitness, because we have some challenging hikes coming up on this semester. We've eased into our work-out schedule with morning core strength building, runs, plyometrics, games, and pool time. We were pleased to find that Kate had found her calling when she jumped into the role of instructor to lead water aerobics!  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

and then there was Internet access . . . .

Hey Everyone!

I am in a tiny internet cafe in Otavalo, Ecuador! The key boards are totally different, and the three years I have spent in Spanish class seem like one week. I have a hard time understanding everyone and they with me! I only have few minutes before I have to head back to my hostel but I wanted to say hi to all of you, even if we couldn't do it face to face! I am definitely having some homesickness and a little culture shock, but other than that I am having a blast! I have made so many friends already and I am learning new things everyday. Everything I learn is so practical. Like the drilling of the oil in the Amazon and the difference between Spaniards and the Quichua people. This week I am living with a Quichua family who so humbly offered me and some of my classmates this amazing experience!

I will surely write all about it but for now, for those of you who have no read The Queen Of Water, GO BUY IT! I am almost done and it is a great easy read. I get to meet the woman who is the main charactor of this true story soon! She lives here in Otavalo!

Got to head out!

Love you all!
Kate, Junior, MT

Phone Call Anyone?

Good morning parents!

Can you believe your daughters have been in Ecuador for 10 days already?! Today is the first travel day for the group, and they will relocate before beginning groupstays this weekend. It is the first time the girls have had to re-pack their bags, include all their textbooks, and move from one hostel to the next making sure they check under beds and behind doors for all their essential items. It is no small feat to move 23 ladies, 46 personal bags and the school library/group gear from Point A to Point B, yet within the next few weeks, these ladies will move like an efficient machine (well, that's the hope anyway.)

Not only is the group moving locations today, they will also try to phone home this afternoon. YEA! The teachers hope to have the girls call between 2-6 pm Eastern time today. Don't worry, in case your daughter misses you this afternoon, the teacher plan to make time for another round of calls after dinner and also on Friday morning. Hopefully, you will be able to pick up your phone when you see a unique number pop up on screen. 

As you can imagine, the girls are as excited as you to talk about and share their adventures. Some may be nervous, some may become emotional as soon as they hear your sweet hellos and some may not know what to say. We encourage you to share a few stories about home/weather/friends as they yearn to know what's happening back home but don't always ask for the details. Ask your daughter a few key questions to help her share the details you are anxious to know and be prepared to simply listen as she tries to summarize classes, peers, teachers, Ecuador, food, the hot springs overnight trip, speaking Spanish and everything else into a 20-30 minute call.

Remember, don't worry if you miss your daughter's call, she will try again - it might be a half hour later or Friday morning, but our goal is for everyone to be able to connect. The teachers will help each student dial the phone numbers via Skype or in a phone cabina as it can be slightly confusing to dial internationally on the first attempt. Please let us know if you don't connect with your daughter in the next few days and we will make a plan to connect you in the upcoming days.

Good luck and enjoy hearing about your daughter's semester. Check out the blog beforehand if you get a chance for a sneak peak of their adventures. We also posted a slideshow of photos on the blog - it's on the right side of the screen. If you click on any of the photos in the posts or sidebars, they will zoom in so you can have a better view.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jennifer, Aunge, Jim and Price

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From The Middle of the World

Dear TTS Friends and Family,

Our home base for the past week has been an amazing historical site, Hacienda Guachala. The Hacienda has housed royalty, presidents, the French geodesic mission to find the equator, the first slow food festival in Ecuador, and now us. The owner of the Hacienda, Diego, is the mayor of the region, and gave us an in-depth lecture on its history from the 1400's to the present. We were overwhelmed by his vast knowledge and life experience as an engineering student at Stanford in the 60's to his current position as a leader of indigenous movements in Ecuador. 

TTS23 at Mitad del Mundo

We spent one of the first afternoons walking to a nearby flower plantation learning about one of Ecuador's main exports. Across the street from the Hacienda are many rose plantations which we weren't allowed to visit due to their hectic schedule in preparation for Valentine's Day in the U.S. We visited a blue flower plantation instead, which are also exported to the U.S. Students asked our guide Luis thoughtful questions in Spanish about the irrigation system, the wage of the workers, and everything that goes into the life of a flower. Many began to think in new ways, tracing items they see in stores back home to their origins. We spoke of the refrigeration it takes to deliver flowers across the world, the trucks and boats and planes and fuel, the human labor, the working conditions, the pesticides, health effects, environmental damage, and much more. 

After many exciting classes, students visited Mitad del Mundo, a sundial marking the equatorial line. The director of Quitsato, a scientific organization researching the equator, gave us an astronomy lesson, teaching us about the rotation of the earth and  the history and etymology of orientation and directions. Most importantly, he challenged our perspective on how we view the world. Ask your daughters about this when they get home!
Oyacachi Hot Springs

Patricia & TTS23 Group
This past weekend we went on our first overnight trip to a town famous for their hot springs. First we stopped in the highlands, marked by intensely green fields, chilly wind, and Quichua people sporting peacock-feathered fedoras and gold necklaces. A Quichua woman named Carolina led us to the top of a hill with indigenous ruins that are thought to be astronomical markers. Again, the students peppered Carolina with thoughtful questions about her culture and the region. After a fabulous lunch prepared over hot coals, we crossed over into a new region, a mix between the rainforest and the highlands. With thick white clouds above us, we soaked in the hot waters of the area, giddy with the natural beauty. From our campsite we could see Orion and Sirius straight overhead. The students managed their first camping experience together very well, setting up their tents in no time, and celebrating Scout's birthday with chocolate bon bons and kind words said around the circle. The next day our guide Patricia took us to an archeological site near the hot springs in a national park. she told us how the cows and pastures within the national forest we walked by were operating because the chocolate company  Nestlé made a deal with the government. She also showed us houses from hundreds of years ago, with living roofs and windows intentionally placed so the light filtering through indicated the time of year. After only a week the students have not only dipped their toes into asking critical questions, camping, and living out of a backpack, but they are also versed in riding public transportation!

Basilica Voto Nacional
Tomorrow we head to Quito for a day trip in the city. We'll climb the bell tower of an ancient church to see the city in its entirety, have a talk from an expert on indigenous rights, eat lunch in the plaza, and visit the museum of Ecuador's most famous artist-Guayasamin.

The students are getting the idea that at TTS learning never ends. It's a beautiful process to be a part of. 

Much love,
From all of your daughters and the teacher team

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How did it go?

Please take few minutes to reflect on the application and enrollment process now that your daughters are getting settled in Ecuador. We truly appreciate your feedback so we can continue to improve and streamline our systems. The survey should take 10 minutes at the most, and we'll leave it active until February 28. 

We appreciate your responses.


Jennifer, Aunge, Jim and Price

Monday, February 3, 2014

Here's to the next sisterhood of traveling backpacks

Our alumnae are amazing! I want to share this with you to show you the amazing clan and sisterhood your daughters just became a part of! The memories of overstuffed packs is still fresh in our minds. Let's see where their adventures take them and who helps TTS23 open their hearts and minds to a big, big world.

(TTS21 traveled through Central America last spring and continues to inspire one another with Facebook posts and mini reunions)

Dear tts21,
A year ago today the girls we were landed in Guatemala City with packs we could barely carry and all our comforts confined to 80 liters. Sometime during those 4 months we became Zapatista groupies, grass root enthusiasts, parasite carriers, and most of all a borderless family. One time we were asked to write a Where I’m From poem- we wrote about everything from southern drawls, to white picket fences, to homemade cookies and jackson hole skiing. Now when people ask me where I’m from, I have a lot more to explain than a yellow house in Maine. Fifteen amazing women, Lucia, Ramon, Alfredo, Merian, Delfina, Isabel, Lisa, Mitch, Anna, and so many other free spirits, independent travelers, and warmhearted locals became the family that I am still homesick for today.

A year ago when I first tried to pack those 80 liters, I could barely fit in a 3rd shirt, yet somehow those packs brought back so much more than the material objects we came with. So here I am, looking at my empty pack a year later and wanting to fill it again- fill it with rainy season flood memories, and the sound of Lucia yelling “mi amor,” fill it with canta, no llores and fair trade passion. Fill it with adelante and presence. My pack may be empty but my hearts full with all those things. You guys inspire me to keep it that way everyday. Thanks for being an only child’s 14 sisters. 


Safe and sound at the hacienda

Good morning everyone! I received an email from Heather this morning saying their travels went smoothly and everyone is up and at 'em today with nervous smiles and excitement. For many years, we have arranged transport with a wonderful Ecuadorian family, and this year, Humberto, Ligia (his wife), and their son all came to the airport to meet the group. Humberto drove the group to the Hacienda last night and helped load and unload the huge pile of bags. He will drive the group throughout Ecuador and will share many stories along the way.

TTS23 slept in late today and enjoyed a late breakfast in the sun room overlooking the cobblestone courtyard. I imagine the group is now playing some goofy get to know you games to break the ice and start building a cohesive unit.

If you want to peek into the Hacienda, check out this link (you might have to copy and paste into a new browser):

This is the oldest hacienda in Ecuador and some buildings date back to 1580. I imagine Sarah, the history teacher, will find some wonderful places to introduce the group into the history of Ecuador and the hacienda system.

Stay tuned to the blog to gather more tidbits about the Miami orientation.

Here's to a wonderful semester!


Miami Group Shot

Miami group shot: L to R starting bottom row: Vickie-T, Susannah, Heather-T, Scout, Caroline, Allie, Rebecca, Hannah, Lena, Charlotte, Lindsey, Anne, Maisie, Feyza, Sophie, Kate-T, Erin, Kate, Courtney, Alizah, Sarah-T, Beth-T, Grace

Sunday, February 2, 2014

So all of the girls arrived in Miami. A couple of them hadn't arrived yet when this post-swimming test photo was taken. The weather in Miami was in the low 80's so much nicer than most of the rest of the U.S. We met in the lobby at 7pm and made the short walk to a restaurant in the Marriott. After burgers, quesadillas, or Cuban sandwiches we went back to the Mangrove Room to learn more about the staff (amazing staff!) and see a few photo highlights of what the girls will see on their trip.

The teachers that will accompany our daughters on this amazing, life changing experience are very well qualified - both in world travel and in experiential teaching. I'm very excited for the impact this trip will have on the girls as they learn and bond together.

Just another hour before we say our final farewells. The pack checks have been done and the backpacks are stuffed and ready for the journey.

Have a wonderful trip girls!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day before Departure!

I would normally hesitate to write, particularly given the eloquent and thoughtful posts already written. However, Jennifer urged parents present in Miami to write so that those who are not here will have a window to their daughters' time in Miami. Although I have not met all of the girls and they have not all met one another, they seem well on their way to becoming a great group-perhaps forming smaller units before becoming a whole. The teachers each seem to have lived more in their short lives than I have in so, so many more! I think our girls are in amazingly talented, resourceful and caring hands. I hope they each have one of many experiences of a lifetime. I look forward to saying goodbye  tomorrow so that the day my own daughter returns and I can hug her and learn from her is that much closer :)