2019 Upper School Intersession Trips

Click to Learn More About Upper School 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 2018-19 trips (listed below) here. (The * denotes a service intersession.)

  • 9th Grade Trip to Florida
  • A Taste of Art 
  • Belgium: Art, History, and Chocolate
  • Charleston, SC, and Sea Island Habitat for Humanity *
  • Civil War and Civil Rights
  • El Camino de Santiago: Hiking Spain's "The Way of Saint James"
  • Head Start *
  • New York City: Cultural Center of the World
  • Potpourri of Service*
  • Paint the Desert: New Mexico
  • Quaker Legacy of Social Justice
  • Rock and Reefs: Science Immersion in Bermuda *
  • SED Center: Service to the Latin American Community *
  • SSFS and Friends: Let Your Lives Speak Through Service *
  • Vietnam
  • West Virginia Trip *

Students and faculty leaders send blog updates from their trips throughout the Intersession week (March 18-22, or later for trips that extend into spring break). These updates will be posted daily on this page throughout the week in reverse chronological order. We always look forward to hearing about the amazing and transformative educational adventures of the students during the week.

  • Trip updates are posted daily throughout the week of March 18-22. You many need to refresh this page to view the latest posts.
  • More photos are available to parents, faculty/staff and students via our password-protected photo sharing service on Vidigami. To access Vidigami: login to the Parent Portal page and click the Photo Galleries - Vidigami link. Online instructions are here. Once you are logged in, click this link to view the Intersession albums, or click the square SSFS logo at the left and scroll down to the blue "Off-Campus" section. There is a folder called Intersession, and separate folders for each Intersession trip.
  • See descriptions of 2019 Intersession opportunities here

2019 Trip Updates

Harry Leeser

Hello again! It’s been a few days since our first update, and we’re only a few days from returning, but we wanted to let you know about what we did in central Vietnam as soon as we had the opportunity.

Our time in central Vietnam began on Wednesday the 20th after we arrived in Da Nang following a rather lengthy delay of our northbound flight out of Saigon. However, our late arrival did not stop us from thoroughly enjoying an early dinner of local Da Nang style noodles. We then drove south past China Beach, the site where the first American combat troops landed in Vietnam, to the City of Hoi An, a historic port city with heavy Japanese and Chinese cultural influence which is obvious in the local architecture.

We began our first full day in Hoi An with a bike tour through the surrounding area and observing local life. After lunch we walked through the historic district of Hoi An, seeing the Japanese Covered Bridge and exploring the history of the city and the divide between the two halves of the old city, the Japanese merchants on one side of the river and the Chinese merchants on the other. We finished the day wandering through the local market, continuing to improve our bargaining skills.

After another restful night we got on the bus and began our day visiting local marble sculptors before visiting the Marble Mountain, home to beautiful pagodas and caves full of breathtaking statues of the Buddha. It was quite the climb up the long flights of steep, stairs, often hand carved into the mountainside, but it was certainly worth it. Once we had all made it back down the mountain we got back on the bus reluctantly and drove out to the Ba Na Hills, where we took a 15-minute cable car ride up to the peaks for lunch and marveled at the gorgeous views of the jungle below. After lunch and a stroll along the Golden Hands Bridge, we headed back down the mountain for the drive back to Hoi An, where we ate dinner before spending some more time in the night market.

This was our last night in Hoi An, and after an early breakfast the next morning we drove up through the Hai Van Pass, home of amazing views “where the clouds meet the sea”. We stopped briefly at the summit and enjoyed the cool mountain air before the trip down the other side into Hue, the capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen Dynasty. We visited the expansive and majestic tomb and palace of the 4th emperor, as well as the beautiful tomb of the 12th emperor, the last Nguyen emperor to be buried in Hue. His son, the 13th emperor, abdicated soon after he took the throne, giving complete control of Vietnam to the French colonial rulers who had already been Vietnam’s true rulers in all but name for some time.

Our hotel in Hue is a part of Vietnam’s Tourism college, and serves as a practical training ground for future hotel managers, and is just a block from Hue’s “walking streets,” which are closed to traffic in the evenings for the night market. Our second day in Hue began by visiting the imperial citadel. The traditional Vietnamese architecture was gorgeous, but there were obvious holes and missing buildings that had been damaged by the American bombing of the city during the Vietnam War. We also visited the Thien Mu Pagoda, home of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who self-immolated in Saigon in protest of the Diem regime’s persecution of Buddhists. Finally, after a trip down the Perfume River on a dragon boat and a late lunch, we relaxed in our hotel before enjoying our last evening in central Vietnam strolling through Hue’s walking streets.

The next day we flew north to Hanoi, and began exploring northern Vietnam, but that is a story for another day that you’ll get to hear once we get back…just as soon as we get over our jetlag.

Harry Leeser

Greetings from Vietnam!

It’s been a whirlwind since we first set foot on Vietnamese soil just over a week ago, but now we have a chance to take a quick breather and let you know what we’ve been up to!

2019 Intersession - VietnamAfter we completed our travel marathon, landing in Saigon late of Friday the 15th, and attempted to get a good night’s sleep, we started Saturday the 16th with a delicious Vietnamese breakfast, which included local yams doused in coconut milk. Then, with overnight bags packed, we hopped on a wooden long boat to cruise through the Mekong Delta towards the city of Can Tho. Along the way, we stopped in a village to visit a candy workshop and see how local coconut candies are made. We all sampled the various candies ourselves, and can certainly recommend them. We also enjoyed coconut milk straight from the coconut, as well as lychees and local bananas, which were extraordinarily refreshing in the heat and humidity of Vietnam. Finally, we made it to Can Tho, where we enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Mekong River.

2019 Intersession - VietnamWe woke early the next morning, and headed out on the river to visit a floating market before it closed at 9:00 am. We also made a stop at a local land-bound market before we returned to our hotel for breakfast. We then drove to the village of Dong Thap to visit Mrs. Tran Thi Kim Thia, a woman who, despite living in poverty, offers free swimming lessons to children in the area, since drowning is the number one cause of death for children in the Delta. We brought with us some money, as well as swimsuits and towels which we donated to Mrs. Tran to help her in her mission to stopped drowning deaths in the Delta.

After another restful night back in Saigon, we began the morning of the 18th by heading North to the region of Cu Chi just outside Saigon proper and visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Tunnels are a labyrinth of more than 200 kilometers of tunnels and bunkers throughout Cu Chi. They were built and used first by the Viet Minh in their fight against the French, and expanded by the Viet Cong when fighting South Vietnam and the United States. The adventurous among us had the chance to crawl through a few hundred feet of these tunnels, which are barely 3 feet tall. In the afternoon we visited Chloe Nguyen’s old school where we spent time with members of the school’s English club. We enjoyed lively conversations, as well as friendly games of basketball and soccer, with the high schoolers who were eager to test their English skills with native speakers. Everyone had a great time!

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

The next day was our last in Saigon. After breakfast we visited the War Remnants Museum. The Museum is a powerful trip through the French and American Wars of Aggression in Vietnam. It is amazing and humbling to contrast the viewpoint the Vietnamese people have of the war with our own as Americans. We then went to the Reunification Palace, formerly known as Independence Palace when it was the seat of the South Vietnamese government, which served as the seat of the French colonial government before that. The building is the sight of the iconic moment from the end of the Vietnam War when a North Vietnamese tank commander lowered the South Vietnamese flag and raised the flag of the now unified Vietnam, which still flies there today. Our final stop in Saigon was a local market for a shopping excursion, where we learned who had good bargaining skills and who is still learning the ins and outs of shopping without fixed prices.

The next day we left Saigon for Hoi An, and we’ll let you know about our time there when we have another break.

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainHaving reached our destination yesterday afternoon and basked in our accomplishment, we were anticipating two full days in Santiago de Compostela. However, in the original design of this trip, efforts were made to weave in an additional special excursion to Cape Finisterre on our penultimate day in Galicia. For budgetary reasons, that idea was scrapped. Believing that no pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is truly complete without a stop at this final coastal destination for many pilgrims, our thoughtful guide, Bruno, took pity on us, told us to keep faith, worked his magic, networked his contacts, and volunteered his services to make this lost dream our reality. In the end, it only cost 10 additional euros per person. Gratefully, our group unanimously jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Having devised a plan to save money by buying picnic items for lunch at the cape, our morning began with a visit to El Mercado de Abastos, a bustling, outdoor market with stands selling spices, seafood, cheeses, meats, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Armed with loaves of fresh bread, slices of a mild Galician cheese, cured Jamón Serrano, and some fresh fruit, we boarded a minibus and headed west, to the “End of the World.”

2019 Intersession - SpainThe origin of the pilgrimage to Finisterre is not certain. However, it is believed to date from pre-Christian times and was possibly associated with Finisterre's status as the "edge of the world". On route to Finisterre (about 80km from Santiago de Compostela), we made brief stops at the seaside town of Carnota to see an impressive granite horreo, the largest in Spain — an old method for drying corn — followed by a photo opportunity at the Edenesque Ézaro Waterfall.

The coast, known locally as the Costa da Morte (Death Coast), has been the site of numerous shipwrecks and founderings over the centuries. Today, it is dotted with the most picturesque and multicolored seaside villages — Cee, Corcubion, and, of course, Finisterre —reminiscent of Prince Edward Island, as depicted in Anne of Green Gables. Cape Finisterre has several beaches, including O Rostro, Arnela, Mar de Fora, Langosteira, Riveira, and Corbeiro. Many of the beaches are framed by steep cliffs, leading down to the Mare Tenebrosum (Dark Sea), the name of the Atlantic in the Middle Ages.

Finisterre Lighthouse, what some pilgrims refer to as true kilometer zero, lies 6km beyond the town that shares its name. To reach it requires one final challenging but rewarding hike out onto and then up the peninsula, passing the sacred Piedras Santas, several rocks in this area associated with religious legends, such as the "holy stones", the "stained wine stones", the "stone chair", and the tomb of the Celtic crone-goddess Orcabella. At the summit, where we enjoyed our picnic lunch, the vistas are breathtaking, with the protected bay on the south side, Mar do Fora (Outer Sea) to the north, and Finisterre Lighthouse at the western tip of the peninsula. Upon reaching kilometer zero, one can see the soot and ashes atop the rock outcroppings, at the base of the lighthouse, where some pilgrims purposefully burn their clothes or shoes in a ceremonial climax.

2019 Intersession - SpainToday we travelled to the End of the World and back. Tomorrow will include a guided, morning walking tour of Santiago de Compostela, followed by some well-earned afternoon shopping, before our Way leads us home where we, now a little wiser, will resume our respective journeys come Monday afternoon.

P.S. Because our itinerary on Sunday results in our final checkout by noon, lack of reliable WiFi outside the hotel, and a subsequent overnight bus ride to Madrid in order to catch the first leg of our return flight home Monday morning, please note that this will be our intersession's final blog entry. It is hoped that these modest efforts helped bring you just a little closer to us on our Way.

 

 

2019 Intersession - Spain

2019 Intersession - Spain

Frank S

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaThe last day of our Intersession was very eventful, with an array of emotions. The students were primarily excited to spend their last days together as closely-knit family. The bright faces walked through the hallway gleaming as each and every student realized the good they had done in the previous days. This included digging the base for a house, detecting each and every flaw in the foundation of the house, and lastly, painting every detail of the house. The morning was relaxing and the schedule was designed so students could replenish their energy and/or reflect on their previous work.

The students were met with a pleasant surprise as they woke up to freshly-cooked bacon, eggs, and bagels. The students were instantly met with delight and pleasure. As breakfast came to an end the next spontaneous adventure that would take place was a magnificent boat tour. We arrived at the boat tour with curiosity sparked and ready. The boat tour allowed students to experience the sight of dolphins and pelicans on the way to search for seashells. Many of the students found sand dollars and other seashells that were bursting with beauty as they walked along the island.

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaEventually the fun must come to an end forcing the students to face the truth of going home. The trip leaders allowed the students to get one last taste of Charleston by grabbing a bite to eat on Folly beach spending a special hour breathing the air. The students packed up and headed for the flight. On this intersession students will remember the importance of family and and the true difference little things make in a person's life. The effect could be life-changing. Personally I am thankful for the amount of time I spent experiencing new people in and out of the Sandy Spring community and overall changing the life of people.

 

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Pippa C and Jake

2019 Intersession - BelgiumWe spent the day in Leuven touring the city where Ghislaine went to college. We started the day touring the historic library of Leuven University with beautiful architecture. We were able to enjoy the serenity of the library as students studied. We were given free time to find lunch which was followed by a guided walking tour by Ghislaine where she reminisced on her exciting days as a college student. We finished our day by eating a delicious meal recommended by Ghislaine’s daughter at De Kansel. 

We visited Brugge today, the cultural capital of the world! We saw some art at the Groeningemuseum, especially some modern art (which was really confusing to understand). After that, we had some free time where some friends and I visited the Museum of Torture—very cool! Following a beautiful horse & buggy ride around the city, we had a delicious dinner at Malpertuus, and headed home for the evening. Delightful!

2019 Intersession - Belgium

Ariel Voorhees

2019 Intersession - SED CenterPlaying is hard work indeed!  This week our early-childhood-education volunteers found out just how draining it is to be the center of attention for several toddlers at a time.  Each morning’s Metro ride has grown a bit quieter, each morning’s walk a bit more sedate.  But when the SSFS volunteers enter their classrooms, the energy and volume immediately switched on.  As one volunteer put it, “It was really fun, but every day I’d take a fat nap when I got home.”

Throughout the week, our sophomores have built relationships with three- and four-year-olds in their classes.  They’ve also become more capable and confident caretakers.  One volunteer wrote in a final-day reflection, “I love these kids with all my heart. I felt like a mother this week.”  Another wrote, “I could tell near the end of the week I was being listened to more than before.”  A third reflected, “Compared to the first day, the last day was much easier physically and mentally.  I think this has been great.” During lunch on Thursday, one volunteer raised a toast—unprompted—to celebrate a toddler’s ability to count to ten for the first time!

The goal of this intersession isn’t only play—it’s about learning new skills, embracing new experiences, and encountering real-life challenges.  The Springers have undoubtedly gotten the message!  One wrote, “Over the course of this week I have learned a lot of non-verbal communication skills.”  Another appreciated a small triumph: “I still don’t understand what they are saying, but now I can understand them through their facial expression.”  Others commented on the SED Center’s unexpectedly intense use of Spanish: “I surprised myself with how much Spanish I understood” and “Through immersion, I learned a great deal of Spanish vocab, and skills that would help me communicate and convey my ideas to the kids.”  Lastly, “[This experience] helped me expand my disciplinary skills… It’s hard to teach kids to share, but when you do, and when they listen to you, it’s worth it.”

2019 Intersession - SED Center

Nearly every volunteer’s reflection included some appreciation for the incredible patience and strength it takes to work with small children.  “I salute everyone that works in childcare because it’s so difficult. You need to be all energy all the time, and that is not easy,” one volunteer wrote.  A third summed it all up by saying, “I really enjoyed this week and had lots of fun, but the main thing we need to have is patience.”  

Bringing their learning full circle, another wrote, “[After] experiencing these kids, I apologized to my mom about how rowdy I was as a kid.”  Valuable life lessons?  Mission accomplished. 

2019 Intersession - SED Center

2019 Intersession - SED Center

Miri M

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceOn Friday, March 22, we returned to the neighborhood of Ft. Totten in Washington, DC, this time to Food & Friends. There, we were debriefed, given our hair nets, and then split into groups. We sorted food into bags, packaged cold cuts of fish and chicken, and labeled packages. The food would be delivered by other volunteers to individuals living with serious illness. The vision of Food and Friends is "A community where everyone who is seriously ill has the nourishment they need to manage their illness.” After our service, we spent our last lunch together at an Ethiopian restaurant called Addis Ababa in Silver Spring. The food was great, and we got to eat with our fingers.

 

 

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

 

Jeremy Adkins

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil RightsMarch 18 brought an exciting day to the group as students visited their third battlefield site of the week: the site of the Battle of Antietam. Met by Park Ranger Hannah Stine, students were tasked with cleaning and waxing signs and waysides at Burnside Bridge, the site of a Union charge that helped turn the tide of the battle. Hiking the 1-mile loop in the surrounding area, students were afforded the opportunity to gain the perspective of the Union soldiers who were fighting for what would soon be a critical political victory for Abraham Lincoln, as Union success inspired Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. 

On Thursday, March 19, the group ventured into a third state, and visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, home of the battle that turned the tide of the war in the Union’s favor. The group viewed a 30-minute documentary before taking a battlefield tour that allowed the students to embrace the gravity of the situation at Gettysburg: If Gettysburg falls, the Union dissolves. This firsthand experience afforded the group the opportunity to appreciate the great sacrifice made at the town of Gettysburg by Union soldiers. They also visited the site where Abraham Lincoln issued the Gettysburg Address.

On the final day of Intersession, the group travelled to Washington, DC, to visit Ford’s Theatre. Sitting in their red, velvet seats, students heard a presentation from a Park Ranger about the day that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. They then visited the “Aftermath Exhibit,” and toured the events from 1865 through the present day. The group learned the values that Abraham Lincoln stood for, as well as how these values of equality and freedom inspired future generations, including the late Dr. Martin Luther King. They heard the story of how and why the Lincoln Memorial was consistently selected as the site for African American leaders such as singer Marion Anderson, Dr. King, and others. It wasn’t too long before the students visited the “Leadership Room,” and began exhibiting the values of Lincoln himself. An exhibit with white dry erase boards asked pointed question:

“How do you practice integrity?”

“Where do you see courage?”

“How do you define equality?” 

Eager to answer these questions, students realized that the dry erase boards were covered in inappropriate comments and images from previous student groups. Without hesitation or even a suggestion, SSFS students took it upon themselves to erase the derogatory remarks, and they then replaced them with the values of Abraham Lincoln and those instilled in them through their education at Sandy Spring Friends School.

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainWith yet another unusual day of perfect weather for this usually rainy region and chilly time of year, we embarked Friday morning on our remaining 22.7 kilometers, bound for Santiago de Compostela, under a warming sun, cloudless sky, and cool breeze. Despite our fourth consecutive half marathon in front of us, quickly the theoretical became real, as we marched one by one through each remaining hamlet -- Pedrouzo, San Antón, Amenal --, past kilometer markers 20, 19, 18. Noticeably more pilgrims merged with us, as yet another route -- the Camino del Norte -- connected with ours --, past San Paio and kilometer marker 11. Along country lanes and forest paths, we all pressed onward, together.

Reaching the town of Lavacolla, we giggled like young school children upon learning of its all too frank origins from our guide, Bruno -- Lava Colas (Butt Washing) -- ascribed this pragmatic name for its proximity to the holy site and pilgrims' understandable desire to arrive clean and presentable after months on the dusty and dirty Camino. Onward to Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy), so named for the emotion felt by those, who on arriving there, were rewarded with their first view of the cathedral’s spires. Then on to El Monumento del Peregrino (Monument of the Pilgrim) whose two iconic figures signal, like any well-orchestrated crescendo, the end is near.

2019 Intersession - SpainWith Santiago de Compostela now in plain sight, the excitement grows palpable, as it's all downhill from here, following in the footsteps of millions of others before us, entering the city limits, drawn to the Plaza del Obradoiro where all routes converge, the Camino del Norte, the Camino Francés, The Camino Portugués, and the Vía de la Plata. In fact, the whole downtown area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is here, at kilometer marker 0, that we all suddenly stop walking, jaw-dropped before the impressively colossal Cathedral. Our awe surrenders to such unadulterated joy and satisfaction for what we have accomplished together that it manifests embraces of one another. It is a magical moment, one that if you are here is hard to describe and if you're not is equally hard to appreciate, because “many have trod on the Camino, but none have done so in your shoes.”

After seven days of walking a total of 128 kilometers, today the Camino led us all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Walking the Camino, we exercise our bodies, but also our minds, as it teaches us lessons about ourselves and the world we live in. “Don’t come to the Camino looking for answers. Instead, come with an open heart and you may be surprised by what you find.”

2019 Intersession - Spain

Josephine B and Anna W-L

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaOn the morning of March 21st, we got up and extracted ourselves from the house in time to get to the worksite for a final day of work. Once we got there, we were eagerly greeted by Doug, Mike, and Yasmin who gave us tasks such as painting, siding, digging, and caulking. We worked very hard all day, then broke for lunch and went to Three Little Birds café. The slogan of the café was “Peace, Love, and Pancakes” which made Leah very happy. Once we got back, we did some cleanup of debris on the worksite and then went back to the tasks that we were working on beforehand. After going back to the house and showering as well as having some free time, we went to dinner at Maybank Public House. The food was great, and we got to go out for ice cream afterwards at Ye Ol Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. Overall, it was a very rewarding day, especially since we were able to leave the worksite feeling incredibly accomplished and satisfied with all of the progress we had made. We would like to give a big thank you to all of the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity staff for their work in the community. And, another thank you to Leah and Tobi for organizing such an amazing trip.

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Ellen Wang

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceOn our fourth day of Intersession, we took the school bus to the Capital Area Food Bank in the Ft. Totten neighborhood of D.C. The Food Bank is a large organization which provides free food to smaller organizations that directly serve people experiencing food insecurity. We enjoyed the speech from the staff telling us how this organization works. After that we worked together on an assembly line to classify different kinds of cans and pack them into boxes. They will be provided to soup kitchens and other places that prepare and serve free meals. When our work ended, we made our own lunch in the Food Bank with the food we brought. When we returned to school, we wrote letters to all the organizations and volunteers who guided us to show how appreciative we are for their welcome and help. We hope that more people will continue to donate and volunteer at their organizations. 

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

Rebekah Choi

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceToday, our intersession visited Rock Creek Park in D.C. First off, one of the staff members of the conservatory gave us a bit of insight regarding the environment we would be working in, and additionally she reminded us about the environment of the greater region of the DMV. She questioned us by asking, “do you know what a watershed is?” Such questions reminded us about the uniqueness of the region we live in that includes a watershed, rivers, and creeks. This information made me feel, once again, thankful for the uniqueness of the environment around us. In order to keep our environment and waterways clean, we began by removing trash and pulling off invasive ivy which was harming trees. By doing so, we help make forests cleaner and safer for animals, and allow trees to thrive. Removing the ivy was much more difficult than we anticipated, but it gave us a sense of teamwork. As we worked together in small groups, students bonded by talking, warning each other of slippery areas of the forest, or of thorns that would lie in our paths. We were there for each other when we grew tired or felt challenged, and we continued to make conversation as we did our work. I came to realize that being outside, bonding, and helping the environment is such a simple idea, but often an idea ignored in the world we live in. SSFS students felt good knowing we were bonding with each other while helping maintain a safe environment.

Emily G.

2019 Intersession - BelgiumToday we visited Sint-Victor school in Turnhout. We spent the morning meeting students in their 5th year (11th grade). After getting acquainted, we split up into groups to go to class. Those of us that take French went to the French class, everyone else went to English. We then joined together to eat lunch in the dining room and then headed to the National Card Playing Museum. We learned how cards are made and were shown how all of the machines work, even ones from hundreds of years ago. We then got into small groups to go around the city on a student-led tour. We said goodbye and exchanged social media info with some of the students over a delicious snack of homemade deserts from the families of the Belgian students. We then had free time, and we had the opportunity to spend it with some of the students. We went to their favorite local Cafés and shops. We ate at De Cinema for dinner and slept well on the train back after a day of making new friends. 

2019 Intersession - Belgium

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainToday’s 23.8km hike from Castañeda to to the hamlet of Rua would mark our third of four consecutive walks of over a half marathon in length, along rural paths and surfaced country lanes, through a series of vegetable orchards, meadows, and oak groves, then pine and eucalyptus woods. Aware that we needed to help keep spirits up, we planned a series of special surprises along The Way.

After a welcome buffet breakfast and much-needed team stretch, we resumed our pilgrimage westward at 9:00am. By 11:00am, we reached the city of Arzúa, home to our trusty guide, Bruno. Originally from Belgium, Bruno has lived in Spain since 1978. He is a kind, gentle, and inquisitive soul, and has quickly endeared himself to our team, and become a cherished member of our family. The opportunity to see Arzúa through Bruno was a generous offer too good to pass by.

Upon entering Arzúa, Bruno led us off the Camino briefly, encouraging us to let our noses follow the heavenly scent to his favorite spot in town, a wood oven bakery where the old bread maker gave us a behind the scenes tour and sold us the freshest baguettes and loaves of rosca (not unlike sour dough) still cooling for less than a euro each. We couldn’t believe our good fortune! From the bakery, and with loaves in hand and mouth, Bruno led the group back onto the Camino to surprise number two: a brief stop to tour his charming, second story, two bedroom apartment, on Arzúa’s main strip, with postcard-like views of Galicia that stretch over 20 kilometers on one side and a window to passing pilgrims on the other. As one might imagine, his apartment is decorated with stunning photos and exotic mementos of his many guided travels, from Spain and China to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan; from the Camino to the Silk Road. 

2019 Intersession - Spain

Aside from being a well-travelled guide, Bruno is a kind of Renaissance man: a philosopher, linguist, Bible scholar, and author. He’s also becoming a sort of Camino celebrity by virtue of a growing project he initiated a couple of years ago: El Muro de la Sabiduría (The Wall of Wisdom). With neither a political or religious slant, nor financial incentive, Bruno has created a wall of famous quotes and self-generated questions right along a stretch of the Camino shortly past Arzúa to stimulate thought and generate conversation around the value of travel and the pursuit of global harmony. We made a surprise stop here and held a spontaneous Meeting for Worship to reflect on his work. Examples include, but are not limited to…

  • “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only the first page.” (St. Augustine)
  • “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” (Mark Twain)
  • “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” (Gustav Flaubert)
  • “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

All three surprises were well received and accomplished their goal of elevating spirits, as we pressed onward through Green Spain.

Beautifully verdant, Galicia doesn’t get this lush without rain. Four times more than Manchester, England, it can rain upwards to 300 days per year in parts of this region! Whoever coined, “The rains in Spain fall mainly on the plains” was…a dumb poet, because not a single droplet has fallen this week, with no forecasted rain in sight. Can I get an “Amen?!”

Continuing to be blessed by atypical Galician weather, we arrived under sunshine to the charming Hotel O Pino by 5:00pm. Our rewards: a shower, some precious personal time to decompress and/or reconnect electronically with loved ones back home, and even an indulgent Spanish siesta before dinner at 7:30pm.

The mention of dinner demands a dedicated cultural sidebar on food in Spain. Little has surprised us more than the heaping portion sizes exacerbated by three-course lunches and dinners (i.e., Primeros, Segundos and Dessert), each of the first two courses a meal unto itself. Overwhelmed by the quantity served and the ensuing guilt for our inability to oblige, our guide, Bruno, explained to us that this exaggerated abundance remains a response to the end of the Franco regime and his decades-long austere policies.

2019 Intersession - SpainFrom the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 to his death in 1975, Spain was ruled by Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the longest ruling dictator in European history, and from Galicia no less. For nearly forty years, Franco’s rule brought with it a period of great austerity, including heavily regulated and rationed distribution of and accessibility to staples and comestibles. In the wake of his death, and to this day, many local restaurants across rural Spain continue to overcompensate by providing their customers with a remarkably disproportionate amount of generosity. Fascinating. Fattening too.

Here are just a few of the Spanish and regional delicacies sampled thus far:

  • Churros con Chocolate
  • Pulpo a la Gallega
  • Pimientos del Padrón
  • Torta de Santiago
  • Jamón Serrano y Jamón Ibérico
  • Queso de Tetilla
  • Caldo Gallego
  • Tortilla Española
  • Empanadas de Atún
  • Paella Tradicional

The foodies among our readers are invited to research.

Tomorrow we conclude our Way like pilgrims, but as we read today at El Muro de la Sabiduría, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Steven S. and Adeline W.

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaMarch 20th descended on our lives and we celebrated with a hard day of work in the neighborhood. Whether it was house siding, painting, or building frames, everyone in the group contributed through dedicated behaviors. Some individuals unfortunately fell ill in the morning; however, the community gathered and healed the injured. The group had never been more closely together than this. Many troops worked together on this great day to perform several activities. They pushed through a low temperature of 60 degrees fahrenheit. The siding team had a major mishap and needed to reside it. One member was cursed with eye allergies, but bounced back in an impeccable manner by our medical team. Overall, it was an exhilarating day full of great ups and downs in which we all grew from plebeians to patricians. Thank you for reading. Hold us in the light as we hold you in the light.

Johanna Modak

A few more photos in from Johanna today of the 9th graders at Crane Point and doing community service, and from Kerry with the students who are snorkeling and on the beach!

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

 

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkWednesday in New York found us walking up Fifth Avenue with the opportunity to glimpse cultural sights like the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Plaza, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Radio City Music Hall. A stop in Ellen’s Stardust Diner brought delicious milkshakes served by aspiring Broadway stars who serenaded us as we snacked. Then, we went on to the Museum of Modern Art, home to some of our favorite paintings by Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, and Monet as well as more contemporary works. Seeing famous artworks in person after studying them in books has proven to be fascinating – we’re often surprised by the size, large or small, and textures of the real-life versions. After the museum, we took a quick shopping break before moving on to a final dinner together.

2019 Intersession - New YorkOur crowning performance for the trip was Blue Man Group. During the show, we were climbed on, blasted with noise, and covered in piles of toilet paper – and we loved every minute of it! Thanks to the Blue Men for hanging out for pictures after the show and for a reminder that performance art can be great fun. As we head back to D.C. on the train Thursday morning, we’ll have a chance to reflect on all the powerful visual art, architecture, dance, music, and theatre we’ve been lucky to encounter in the amazing city of New York and on all the memories made together. Thanks for a great trip, everyone! 

 

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

Nancy O'Leary

Nancy O'Leary shares that the Belgium trip is going well, although internet is spotty. A selection of photos that have been uploaded to the Vidigami album is below, along with observations from Day One.

2019 Intersession - Belgium

2019 Intersession - BelgiumThe waffle shops in Brussels can fill up the whole street with the sweet smell of Belgian waffles and chocolate. I find it particularly wonderful because the whole street smells like pastries and chocolate even in the open air. There are tourists and locals together in line for waffles. Not a lot of people push each other around and everyone is very kind and accommodating. It surprised me how many people were bi- or trilingual.

Shops are very put together and the employees are kind and cheerful. Dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe was long but very good. By the end of dinner, we were all exhausted and had a good night sleep .

2019 Intersession - Belgium

 

Aron B and Benjamin U

On the morning of Tuesday, March 19, we woke up prepared to take on the long day. Our journey started at 6:45 am, with no delightful breakfast, premade. We departed from the Habitat for Humanities house and arrived at the worksite at approximately 8:00 am. After given a brief introduction, we immediately got to work digging the foundation for a house. We worked tirelessly for the first four hours with the site manager to dig out a 40 by 24 inch canal. Due to the frigid weather, we decided to venture out for lunch. We went to a local cafe called Black Magic. There we enjoyed a succulent lunch, then proceeded back to the worksite. There we stayed for about two hours before completing the final details for the foundation. Afterwards we split into two groups, one going to the store to acquire necessities for the group to last til our departure. The other group returned to the house to prepare for our second night in downtown Charleston.

Intersession 2019 - South CarolinaWe arrived around 5:50 in downtown Charleston to procure the dinner of your choice and then met up at St. Johns Lutheran Church at 6:45 pm in order to observe our group leader, Leah Niepold’s alma mater, Hamilton college choir perform an astounding acapella set of songs. Afterwards we were provided light refreshments and a space to meet and greet with the choir. We spoke with the acapella group for ten minutes about their college experience, and their journey into the musical arts, before proceeding home in the vans for a refreshing good nights sleep in order to prepare for our work-filled day tomorrow.

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainUnderstandably sore, from the accumulating physical toll, our morning mental fog would surrender by breakfast’s end to another glorious day. Weather has a measurable effect on the spirit, and we remain blessed thus far to be uplifted by the inviting warmth of the sun. Also feeling the proverbial burn, the team coordinated a morning stretch before resuming our Way.

Driven by endeavor, today’s walk would be our second of four consecutive half marathons (22.8km to be precise), from Palas de Rei to Castañeda. While an indisputable challenge, success would mean that our destination of Santiago de Compostela would go from a distant dream to a tantalizing reality, leaving us 46.5 kilometers away and two days to get there. 

Undoubtedly, the Camino de Santiago has a defined target on which pilgrims are singularly focused. However, the journey — that is the process — is often the most satisfying and revelatory part of any trek. To say the least, there’s a lot to be learned along The Way. In Quaker terms, eventually the way really does open. In our case, The Way has been opening. For example, the mundane seems exceptional in the wake of our long walks, food tastes better, a smile warms more, kindness is precious, a shower heals, rest is a reward, and sleep’s a gift. Virtues like gratitude and humility rise to the surface, just as perspective becomes clearer.

Among the rolling green landscape of the lush Galician countryside, dotted with farms, stonewalls, and tiny Romanesque churches, lies the town of Melide, renowned in foodie circles for two very different culinary treats: octopus and the famed, tiny, green Pimientos del Padrón. As the saying goes, when in Melide… With a spirit of adventure, it was wonderful to see so many students go from suspect to aficionado in their first reluctant bites of each.

In Melide, the main branch of the Camino Primitivo — the earliest of all the pilgrimage routes, coming from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela — merges with our route, the Camino Francés. Understandably, the closer we get to Santiago de Compostela, the more pilgrims we encounter and the more friends we reconnect with, leapfrogging one another at our respective rest stops and, in many cases, staying at the same albergues and hostels. Not all of us are on Intersession, but we are all on our Way.

2019 Intersession - SpainThe Camino teaches the valuable lesson that appreciation requires perspective. In order to really appreciate comfort, it helps to really experience discomfort. Our reward for today’s toll was being the exclusive guests at Pazo de Sedor, a seventeenth-century manor house founded by Francisco González do Vilar, in the town of Castañeda. This traditional Galician noble house has been restored to perfection, from its singular balcony that runs the full length of the building, and crowned by a large Baroque chimney, to a spectacularly grand, stone, main staircase and “lareira” with its enormous fireplace and two wood ovens.

May tonight bring sweet dreams, as tomorrow will see us working our angels overtime. As we reflected together last night, “coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” Onward, together.

2019 Intersession - Spain

Meghan Cassidy

2019 Intersession - A Taste of ArtTo start the third day, students finalized their drawings that will later become screen prints. We travel to Pyramid Atlantic in Hyattsville to get started with this process. We stopped for delicious coffee at a local coffee shop and then took a tour of Pyramid Atlantic. What a beautiful artist space! Students started the process of turning their prints into screens. We then went to a local art supply store, and everyone picked out art supplies or small pieces of art. We then went to Busboys and Poets for lunch, and enjoyed the bookstore.  We can’t wait to see how the screens turned out, and tomorrow we make prints! 

 

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

Ilene Lees

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social JusticeToday we drove to A Wider Circle in silver spring. This organization helps people in need of clothes, household items, and furniture. There are over 50 employees, and they treat all clients with dignity and respect. Junior Joel Azar said “I liked helping the pregnant woman who came in looking for items for her baby. We not only gave her clothes, but we helped her decide what clothes and accessories she needed. She is expecting a baby this weekend.” We spent the day organizing clothes donations, moving furniture, and organizing the children’s toys. This is an amazing organization and we were grateful to help them today. 

 

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social Justice

2019 Intersession - Quaker Legacy of Social Justice

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkOn Tuesday, our New York cultural tour took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s greatest – and largest – museums. While we had a few hours for exploring, days wouldn’t be enough to encounter all of the extraordinary artworks at the Met, so we split up so that each student could explore individual interests. Several reported being startled and even emotional to see the real-life versions of artworks they had previously been introduced to in Arts and Ideas classes or through popular culture. Degas, Vermeer, and Chinese traditional arts were big hits. After a dim sum dinner, we headed back to Lincoln Center for a concert of chamber music featuring a variety of pieces by most of the great Russian composers (Rubinstein, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky). Highlights included Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio and Shostakovich’s Jewish Folk Poetry, written as an act of solidarity with Russia’s Jewish community in 1948 but not performed until 1955, well after Josef Stalin’s death. We look forward to more cultural explorations tomorrow – and to continuing to put our new skills at hailing taxis and navigating subway turnstiles to use.

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

Claire Donahue

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceThe goal of Potpourri of Service is to expose students to a wide variety of local community service opportunities. Our group gathered early Monday morning for a bus ride from Sandy Spring to SE Washington, D.C., a distance of barely 30 miles but in many ways another world. After a short orientation to the William Penn House on Capitol Hill by Executive Director Andrei Israel, we made lunch and then walked to Union Station. 
 
Arriving at Forest Glen, we took another brisk walk to “A Wider Circle." There we joined other volunteers in supporting A Wider Circle’s ambitious mission of ending poverty. Students worked at various tasks from moving donated furniture to sorting baby clothes and cleaning floors. We were so impressed by A Wider Circle's commitment to providing quality and choice to families living without basic necesiities, and their firm belief that no matter what walk of life people are born into, everyone deserves dignity.

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service
             
After dinner at Union Station, we returned to William Penn House, exhausted by all our walking! The evening was low-key, with some time for reflection on the day, an introduction to the concept of “food deserts,” and relaxing in the comfortable living room. Everyone was “tired... and also very tired,” so Cathy and Claire didn’t have to convince anyone to go to bed early! 

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of ServiceThe next day we had a short Meeting for Worship before breakfast, and got ready to leave at exactly 8:29 am and 59 seconds to catch the Metro bus.  We walked to D.C. Urban Greens Fort Dupont farm, where a small but welcoming group of farm staff set us to work preparing garden beds and moving compost. We enjoyed seeing how a small green space can make a huge difference in the ability of local residents to access affordable fruits and vegetables. We were grateful to have a beautiful, cool, sunny day to dig in the dirt, and even more grateful that most of us have easy access to healthy food. Our work ended with lunch at Eastern Market, which was definitely not a food desert! Tomorrow we look forward to another outdoor work day, with Rock Creek Conservancy.

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

2019 Intersession - Potpourri of Service

Jeremy Adkins

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil RightsVenturing into yet another state, students on the Civil War/Civil Rights intersession travelled to Manassas, Virginia, to visit the site of the very first battle of the Civil War. Upon arrival, the students were met by Park Volunteer Audrey Sisel, who directed the group to their service project of the day. Tasked with the beautification and trash clean-up of one of the most popular trails at the park, students explored the site of Bull Run River while ensuring that their National Parks are in pristine condition. Following the service period, the group went to the visitors center where Audrey explained the first battle of the Civil War, and how it came to host even a second battle. Bearing witness to both of those battles was Jim Robinson, a freed African American, whose house sits on the battlefield. Students were treated to a walking tour of the battlefield that eventually led them to the ruins of Jim’s house. There, they learned how he married a slave, purchased her so that she could be free, and he attempted to purchase or secure most of his children. When the war raged in his front yard, twice, he awoke to two separate Confederate victories. Before the end of the tour, students were invited to reflect on the perspective of Jim Robinson, and how he, as a freed African American, might have felt after witnessing an army that was fighting for the enslavement of his people, win two major victories at his doorstep.

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War/Civil Rights

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainToday began with a morning, guided walking tour of historic Lugo, the only city in the world to be surrounded completely by intact Roman walls, along a 2,117 meter circuit, ringed with 71 towers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quite impressive to behold. Afterward, we transferred back to Portomarín, and resumed our Way where we left off the day before, along the banks of the Miño River. 

It was officially time to bid adieu to our “training wheels.” Since our arrival four days ago to Madrid, we have had the luxury of having access to our very own Rocinante, our trusted “steed” in the form of a comfortable bus and our faithful and rather karmic driver, Jesús. From here on out, while our primary luggage will continue to get the royal treatment, by way of a luggage service, we no longer have the fortune of tagging along for the luxurious ride.

Having already passed our “warm-up” walks, today would also be our longest to date — 22.9 km — and, without the fallback of a bus any longer, we were all understandably feeling as anxious as we were excited about the challenge ahead. Of course, not having available such a luxurious convenience makes the choice before us quite easy and singular: walk on. It’s really that simple…and it is what we each signed on for. Be it interpreted literally or philosophically, there are multiple truths to the notion that “moving forward gets us closer.”

It didn’t hurt that we had a picture perfect day — neither too hot nor too cold, and the sun accompanied us every step of the way. So, with one foot placed in front of the other, we marched wherever the yellow arrows and scallop shells pointed, through verdant forests, grassy meadows, fertile orchards, and simple stone-built hamlets, scattered over a deeply rural landscape. The beauty of Green Spain’s rolling landscape is so intoxicating that the accumulating physical toll appears almost to ambush you. After another heaping lunch, we powered through, pressing onward, until reaching our destination: charming timber cabins in Palas de Rei. If a little weathered and weary, our collective feelings of accomplishment dwarfed our fatigue. 

Through lush Galician countryside, today we walked 22.9 more bucolic kilometers. Having reached the geographical midway point of our shared adventure — kilometer 64 of 128 — something inspirational and gratifying has happened. We have become a team: loyal to and concerned for one another while collectively driven to accomplish our goal. Beyond good humor, the key ingredient that binds us together is the difficulty tied to the objective, as it’s precisely the challenge that makes what we’re doing special and worthwhile. Perhaps this is in part what Maryland author John Barth meant in his acclaimed novel The Tidewater Tales when he wrote, “We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.” In other words, there are some things worth the sacrifice. Our team has agreed that walking the Camino de Santiago is among them. Tomorrow our Way continues.

Meghan Cassidy

March 18

We started our week down in D.C viewing wonderful art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Freer gallery. Lozano-Hemmer’s "Pulse" is absolutely worth a visit!  We then lunched at the Capital Grille--what a treat!

March 19

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, we had a wonderful opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at some pieces by renowned artists: Ansel Adams, Picasso, Julia Mehretu, Andy Warhol, Joseph Stella, Rembrandt, and Edgar Degas to name a few. Students were able to spend time with the pieces and use magnifying glasses to examine them more closely.  Not your typical museum experience! We also spent time with an art conservationist who walked us through the process of what it takes to preserve art through generations. We then went for a delicious lunch at Golden West cafe and a stroll around the eclectic Hampden neighborhood shops.

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art2019 Intersession - A Taste of Art

Julie Borsetti

Julie Borsetti sends on photos from our local service Intersession "SSFS & Friends" from Monday and Tuesday. Some of the group worked with the Pre-K class, and some helped maintenance by spreading mulch along a path. 

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

2019 Intersession - SSFS & Friends

Kerry Foley

Kerry Foley and Josh Moffitt sent over a few photos of the 9th graders enjoying their time camping at the beach and feeding the tarpons at Robbie's!

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

2019 Intersession - 9th Grade Florida Keys

 

 

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkOur second day in New York started with a subway trip to Columbus Circle, where we had a little time to explore the urban oasis of Central Park (art in itself) before heading to the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. Our first stop at Alvin Ailey was participating in a Zumba class that was attended by not only members of the community but also some dancers from the famous company itself. Kudos to those who made it through the entire high-energy class without a break – Maeve, Zoe, Tim, Pam, and Sibyl, plus your uncoordinated but dedicated SSFS teachers! After the class, we were greeted by SSFS alumnus Michael, a pianist with the Ailey company, who gave us insight into one of the many ways a love for the arts can become a career. Further insight into arts education was provided by our tour through the school and its beautiful rehearsal spaces. Most of all, we gained insight into the ways the arts can affect society; Alvin Ailey and his colleagues were true pioneers in civil rights and modern dance, and we were lucky to have this opportunity.

2019 Intersession - New YorkIn the evening, we travelled to one of the most celebrated performance spaces in the world, the Metropolitan Opera House, for Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. While the plot started a bit slowly for some of our novice operagoers, the drama soon picked up, and we were all startled by the story’s end! (No spoilers – ask your student.) We were especially impressed by the stunning scenery (recreations of real sights in Rome) on the huge stage. For Tuesday, we look forward to experiencing more visual art, some chamber music, and plenty of friendship and camaraderie.

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

By Alisha L and Lara C

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaOn Monday we woke up to the sound of smoke alarms from the wonderful breakfast Frank, Ben, Kelise, Arron, and Kennedy made for us.  After breakfast we all got into the vans and headed to the Habitat for Humanity orientation, where we learned many things about Charleston and the community. We then continued to our work site where we met our leader Doug. He showed us some quick building tips and sent us off to different assignments to the houses. We drove home for lunch, and returned for the rest of the work day, seeing many accomplishments with the houses! Afterwards, we drove to the beach and enjoyed the breezy scene. That evening we all relaxed and made tacos at home. 

2019 Intersession - South Carolina2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Eduardo Polon

2019 Intersession - SpainFollowing another lovely continental breakfast, our morning kicked off with a short walk about Villafranca del Bierzo. Having arrived the night before, we strolled along the banks of the crystalline river that raced alongside our accommodations and whose rhythmic flow lulled us all to sleep the previous evening. Our guide, Bruno, led us to a picturesque lookout of all the town, where a stretch morphed into an impromptu mini Meeting for Worship, before we all boarded our bus and climbed upward, pushing onward, westward.

Up and up we drove, switch-backing for the next forty minutes out of the valley, until reaching the summit at O’Cebreiro, the highest point on our journey. Sprinkled with hobbit-like dwellings called Pollozas, this Tolkienesque mountaintop village is best known for its centerpiece, a lovely 12th Century Romanesque church that claims that its exquisitely simple goblet under glass is...The Holy Grail! With our Pilgrim’s Passport in hand, this holy place to so many around the world seemed a more than fitting locale to choose our own unique scallop shell: symbol of the Camino de Santiago. If we were tourists before, now we were officially pilgrims.

2019 Intersession - SpainFrom there we began a beautiful descent, out of the mountaintop, through blossoming meadows, this time on the other side of the valley, and eventually, to our surprise, past palm trees, and into Samos. Here we roamed around the Benedictine monastery, one of the oldest in western Christendom, and then made our way by bus to a drop off near the quaint, countryside town of Mouzos where we continued our way along the Camino through a Maryland-like landscape whose resemblance was comforting to the mind and warming to the soul.

Day 3 of our trek along the Camino also brought us into Galicia. This verdant area of the country is aptly nicknamed Green Spain. In complementary fashion, our soundtrack continues to be Celtic music, as this area is so heavily influenced by its neighboring island ancestors. Most every tavern we pass, restaurant we enter or store we peruse echoes with lilting harps and Irish flutes that rise and fall to the beat of syncopated drums, a perfect soundtrack to help push us onward on our inspired mission. It all really comes together quite epically.

2019 Intersession - SpainWhile our walks prior to today were warmups, today’s march out of Sarria marked our first official day on the Camino as pilgrims. Another natural step up, totaling 15.3 km, we were feeling pretty accomplished and tired upon our crossing of the Miño River at Portomarín. In fact, our walk culminated in a rather dramatic scene, ascending a tall staircase and posing with arms above our heads and fists clenched, reminiscent of that famous, celebratory moment in Rocky. It was precisely while basking in our glory that the accented voice of a non-native English speaking pilgrim graciously wished us “Buen Camino.” Thanking him, we inquired about his journey. He was a young Croatian man, traveling alone, who had begun his pilgrimage in Moscow 7 months and 16 days ago! Of course, he equally inquisitively reciprocated. Honestly, if sheepishly, we replied that today marked day one for us and that our coach bus was awaiting to drive us to our hotel in Lugo. Someone once said, “you can look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.”

Tomorrow our pilgrimage begins in earnest, as we plan to walk the remaining 92.2 km from Portomarín to Santiago de Compostela, starting with a 22.9 km stretch to Palas del Rei. In fact, each of the next four days will challenge our team with treks greater than a half marathon. Perhaps, when we inevitably begin to ache and feel sorry for ourselves over the next four days, we will find some perspective in the afterimage of that Croatian pilgrim, as tomorrow will mark 7 months and 17 days for him, walking alone, on the Camino de Santiago.

* Note: Many students have uploaded their photos to the Vidigami photo album; current families can log in to the SSFS website and view their spectacular photos here

Jeremy Adkins

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil RightsToday, students from SSFS met with Park Ranger Samantha Zurbuch and Park Volunteer Dave Cahan, who guided them through a series of service projects at Harper’s Ferry National Park. Divided into two groups, students hiked through the park cleaning litter and debris, as well as cleaning the John Brown Fort, and cleaning and waxing park waysides. Harper’s Ferry was the first stop on this Intersession due to John Brown’s Raid. Hoping to inspire a slave rebellion, John Brown led a group of abolitionists to seize the weapons armory, and revolt against the soldiers stationed there. His rebellion failed, but the ideology that inspired the raid laid the foundation for the Civil War. Harper’s Ferry is also home to the first historically black college, Storer College. Founded in 1865, Storer College sought to provide higher education to the 30,000 freed slaves of the area. Its doors closed following the passage of Brown v. Board of Education, and the W. Va board ended Storer College’s annual financial stipend.

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil Rights

2019 Intersession - Civil War & Civil Rights

Intersession 2019 - Civil War & Civil Rights

Ariel Voorhees

2019 Intersession - SED CenterTwenty sophomores boarded the Metro at Glenmont station on a Monday morning, March 18. Some were nervous, some smiling, some excited, and some sleepy.  After a quick orientation to the system map and Metro etiquette, they embarked toward Petworth, DC, to begin their week-long volunteering residency at the Spanish Education Center. Celebrating its 48th year of service to the Latin-American Community in NW DC, the SED Center hosts education programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and adults. This residency is the continuation of a long-standing relationship between SED and Sandy Spring Friends School. 

2019 Intersession - SED CenterAssigned in groups of three to work in classrooms of three- and four-year-olds, the Sandy Springers quickly sprang to action. “The kids are really nice; they all just wanted to hug us the whole time. Some of them were kind of shy at first but opened up as the day went on,” one sophomore wrote in a first-day reflective journal entry.  Their main job was to serve as assistant teachers and to propel the curriculum of developmental and educational activities. “The main teacher had so much on her plate; she had to take care of everyone, and I’m sure it’s very stressful! I really hope I can come back after Intersession to play with the kids, improve my Spanish, and decrease the stress of some of the teachers,” another Springer wrote.  

While some of the teens had a lot of prior experience, several who were working with young children for the first time learned how difficult it can be. “Since it’s the first day, I was a bit exhausted, but I think I had fun,” one wrote.  Another shared, “The kids were fun, but they don’t listen.” In the words of a third, “Being firm with the kids is hard, so you need a good middle ground.”  

2019 Intersession - SED CenterBut in general, the Sandy Springers appreciated the sweetness and love that the preschoolers freely gave. “On the walk to the playground, I was surprised that they really wanted to hold my hand tightly on the way.  We raced together and I let them get on my back to run around the playground at least fifteen rounds.” Another sophomore wrote, “Chasing and being chased by the kids on their tricycles was easily my favorite part. I was honestly worried about them running in to me, but it was fine.” Along the way, the SSFS students were able to practice their Spanish in order to communicate with the children and the instructors. 

After spending the morning with their preschool classes, the Sandy Springers helped serve the preschoolers’ lunch and said goodbye until tomorrow. Then the group traveled to downtown Silver Spring to sample Greek food, the first of five ethnicities represented in our lunch restaurant selections. Next up: Japanese sushi, Venezuelan arepas, Indian street food, and Spanish tapas. 

We had a great first day learning outside of the typical high-school classroom, and we’re eager to learn more as our relationships deepen and our confidence grows throughout the week!

2019 Intersession - SED Center

Vietnam Intersession Students and Staff

The Vietnam Intersession students and staff sent on some photos from their trip during some downtime. High-res versions + more photos are available by logging in to the School website and then accessing the Vidigami album

From Fernanda V - In the market with a baby named Duc Tri:

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Sebastian G - This picture was early in the morning. We all got up early and took a boat up the Mekong delta to visit the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Brodie S - This is a photo of our connecting flight to South Korea. I took it when I got up to stretch my legs. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Brendan P - This was taken at the Floating Market in Can Tho, Vietnam. We were on the boat early in the morning to see all of the people buying and selling things on the water. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Gillies A - 6:27 am, on the way to visit the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Quinn F - We were at the floating market and we tried pineapple and got to see how people buy and sell things on the floating market. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Harry L - The reason this picture is awesome is two-fold: Alan's face, and the pure bliss between Alex and Musa. 

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Fatima J

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

From Alan B - This is a picture from the Can Tho region in South Vietnam. This is my view of the Mekong Delta from my hotel room. After a long and tiring second day, it was nice to relax in our hotel rooms.

2019 Intersession - Vietnam

Preston and Jasper

2019 Intersession - South CarolinaToday we continued to get settled into our house, sleep in, and continue to enjoy good food. We had a lovely brunch at Ms. Rose’s, met with an alumni of SSFS, and then continued into Charleston to watch one of Leah’s old a capella member’s a capella group, the Charlestones. They performed three beautiful songs for us in a private performance to welcome us to Charleston. We then had free time to explore the lovely downtown of Charleston, and we then visited the beautiful Aquarium of South Carolina. Here, we saw many animals including an ecstatic sea otter that was happy to see some new faces. We then continued to have a bit more free time to explore more of the downtown and have dinner. Many of us went to Beech with amazing Açaí bowls and Poké bowls. After the delicious food, we continued to explore more of the local stores and the amazing Charleston market.

2019 Intersession - South Carolina

Anne Pulju

2019 Intersession - New YorkThe New York group arrived in the city Saturday afternoon and has already enjoyed a whirlwind of culture! We were all thrilled by the high energy choreography and the positive message of the Broadway show Kinky Boots on Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we explored modern American art at the Whitney Museum (currently featuring a special retrospective of Andy Warhol) and then found a unique perspective on urban architecture by walking the High Line, a former elevated train track that has been turned into a remarkable park. In the afternoon and evening, it was back to Broadway again for The Band’s Visit (a thoughtful exploration of an Egyptian band’s visit to a small town in Israel with beautiful use of traditional music styles) and Mean Girls (luckily, we don’t have any mean students in our group!). On Monday, we’ll have the privilege of not only touring the Alvin Ailey Dance School but also taking a class there before we move on to more museums and the opera. 

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

2019 Intersession - New York

 

Eduardo Polon

Feeling rejuvenated from a well-earned night’s sleep in our wonderful hospedería in beautiful León, the third day of our intersession began with an 8:00 am smorgasbord breakfast of buttery croissants, homemade Spanish Tortilla, hot chocolate, coffee, pound cake, lemon tarts, fresh breads, and morning spreads, followed thankfully by a guided walking tour of León, from its great cathedral, with fabulous stained-glass windows, one of the world’s masterpieces of Gothic art, to the Royal Basilica of San Isidro to see the remarkable frescoes in the Pantheon of Kings, one of Spain’s great Romanesque treasures; and the Caja de León, one of only two Gaudi works outside of Cataluña.

2019 Intersession - SpainThe second part of our morning consisted of a short bus ride to historic Astorga, where we explored the town’s extensive Roman ruins. Exploited for gold, Astorga was chosen by the Romans for its critical location in the region. From the Legion walls and the Forum in honor of Octavius Augustus to the complexity of the bath house and sophisticated sewer system, Astorga serves as a powerful example of just how far west the Roman Empire reached. Equally interesting, but much more delicious, was the realization that Astorga happens also to be considered Spain’s chocolate capital.

Today also marked the official start of our long walk westward, with its eventual final destination of Santiago de Compostela. Following a short transfer and stroll through the charming village of Castrillo de los Polvazares, one of Spain’s best preserved medieval villages, our first official walk westward on the Camino as pilgrims began with a gentle walk, a sort of preliminary test, to ensure we were all working together, on the same page (read “pace”). Passing with flying colors, our reward was a delicious lunch in a charming Spanish tavern…on St. Patrick’s Day no less!

After lunch, a second walk would better test our stamina: a jaw-droppingly picturesque, 7 km ascent, passing through the stone hamlet of Foncebadón, gently climbing, under a dramatic sunset, to one of the simplest, yet most ancient and symbolic monuments of the Camino: La Cruz de Ferro (The Iron Cross). Here pilgrims throughout the ages have placed stones, creating a huge mound at the base of the cross, each representing someone’s prayer. Having carefully chosen our own stones along the way, each of us left our own prayers atop the mound of wishes. This was a very special moment both collectively and privately.

We descended the mountain by vehicle, past dramatic switchbacks and stunning vistas of the valley below, through Manjarín, with its medieval pilgrim’s refuge, quaint Acebo, and Ponferrada, with its famous Templar Castle, to our final destination of Villafranca del Bierzo, known as Little Compostela for its profusion of historic buildings. In all, today we covered some of the most beautifully varied terrains and locales in the region. Feeling accomplished, and following another delicious three course dinner that ended after 10:00 pm, we walked back together to our hostel where the owner, anticipating our needs from the briefest of inquiries at check-in, went out of his way to arrange the lobby furniture in order for us to conduct our evening reflection, before laying our heads down for another well-earned night’s sleep.

Frank Sheffield '20 and Brandon Riley '20

South Carolina Intersession 2019Today, as Habitat for Humanity connoisseurs, we were ready to make the world a better place. As a group we arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport at 10:00 am. Our faces gleamed in the light as we saw our amazing Sandy Spring Friends School friends. One could tell the group was bursting with excitement from anticipation of the trip. We eventually made our way to the terminal and excitedly walked to the gate. The group boarded the plane as engaged and focused individuals. The flight was very interesting: specifically, the takeoff. At first the plane took off normally and gradually sped up. After about a minute into the flight, the plane hit some turbulence while accelerating to its cruising height. Some of us were frightened for their lives, and some people started to have life-changing realizations. Luckily, the turbulence was over quickly.

South Carolina Intersession 2019As a group we landed and jumped on the van to get some much-needed food. We embarked on the route to Boxcar Betty (check them out at boxcarbetty.com) The sandwiches that the students ate were described as exceptional, phenomenal, and transformative. Next, we were off to see the house that we were inhabiting this week. The house was amazing, but we desperately needed to fill the kitchen. As a group we went to the Bi-Lo grocery store and picked up each and every item we desired. We made our way back to the house and reflected on our anticipation of the days ahead.

PS: Thanks Leah and Tobi [trip leaders] for your investment in our future making us better people as a whole. Also thank you to all the SSFS parents for allowing us to grow as people and embark on this incredible experience.

South Carolina Intersession 2019

Eduardo Polon

2019 Spain IntersessionOur first blog posts come to us from the "El Camino de Santiago: Hiking Spain's 'The Way of Saint James'" Intersession! 

March 15th:
With a highly anticipated, albeit long, overnight of travel ahead of us, including two flights — from Washington, DC to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and then on to Madrid, Spain — our Spanish adventure began with a 1:30pm EST departure from SSFS in order to arrive in time to Dulles International Airport with the requisite three hour check-in expected of all transcontinental flights, let alone student group trips. From unexpected flowing Beltway traffic and easy check-in to an uneventful security check and smooth boarding, all went as well as could be hoped for. Our plane was as spacious as the service was exemplary. Between cat-naps, laughs, decent food, and great movies, time passed relatively quickly.

March 16th:
After a brief layover Saturday morning in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, our weary but excited group reached Madrid around 12:15pm local time, though it felt to us like 7:15am EST. Greeted by our driver, Jesús, we boarded a private bus and headed four hours north to our first stop: León.

Arriving to an unseasonably warm and perfectly sunny day, the Spanish countryside is lush green this time of year, reminiscent of Ireland. By 5:30pm we had finally reached the beautiful northern Spanish city of León and met our Camino de Santiago Guide, Bruno. Quickly we checked into our charming albergue, whose vista is of a two thousand year old Roman wall that puts the youth of American history into perspective. 

After dropping off our things in our rooms, we stretched our legs with a beautiful walk through Old León and picked up our official Pilgrim Passports. Tomorrow morning, we’ll get a proper guided tour of the city. Our reward for weathering a long day of travel with a great attitude came by way of a delicious three course dinner celebrated with a deserving toast and followed with our first evening meeting and reflection. Salud, buenas noches y Buen Camino.​​​​​​