Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Expedition Ethiopia: A School Built

On our last day in Ethiopia, the contingent from Saint David's School, New York City arrived at the Saint David's Kalina School.  Led by the three Student Council Presidents Colin '11, Jack '12 and Skakel '13, the contingent was met by an excited mass of children, family members and teachers.

It was a hot and dusty day, but none of it tempered the spirits of those visiting or those being visited.  This first clip is upon arrival:

At Kalina today and at Mimi's school yesterday we were greeted with traditional dance and song.  A few short clips follow to illustrate.  Ethiopian dance is all about the shoulders, neck and head:

Between the two visits, Colin, Jack, Skakel and I managed to catch lunch in Mek'ele where we reflected on the trip to date.

The boys each expressed feeling moved by the impact of their hard work and the work of their respective classes and the Saint David's students.

They were proud of their efforts and the obvious impact their efforts have had on the education of children in another part of the world--a part of the world that could not have achieved their dreams without the help of others.

At the schools, the boys took every opportunity to spend time interacting with the children.  Colin took some shots on goal with some of the boys.

Skakel drew a crowd that tried its best to share names.

Jack wrote with chalk on the board, showing a small group of 2nd graders just how it's done.

This last short chip shows the boys being introduced in the classroom.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Down, One to Go: The 7th in Salamanca,

This blog entry is adapted from a letter I just received from Tour Leader Dr. Gilbert:

The boys had a tremendous first week, capped off by a wonderful weekend. On Friday, the 7th graders played indoor soccer, or "futsal" with a group of local students and really enjoyed seeing how their skills compared to the faster paced play of the local Spaniards. One of their baseball catchers even volunteered to cover the net and made 2 out of 4 possible saves!

Yesterday and today were special days as the group traveled to Segovia, Avila, Ledesma, and Arribes del Duero in Portugal.

Early Saturday morning, some of the boys joined in for the classic churros & chocolate treat from Graci's around the corner from the residence. They then headed off to see the aqueduct and the Alcazar (castle) of Segovia. Their guide was so entranced by the boys' curiosity and great listening skills that she accompanied them into the castle to continue sharing her expertise on her own time.  

The group then split up in cohort groups to enjoy a Segovian lunch at different points in the city. This combined with some souvenir shopping made it possible for the boys to practice their burgeoning language skills with the locals. 

They capped off the end of the day with a walk around the town of Avila, visiting the reliquary of St. Teresa (boys especially enjoyed seeing her finger complete with ring). They finished by marching along a kilometer of the medieval wall that still surrounds the city. The boys imagined hot oil and archers beside them as the enemy approached and just what it would take to want to mount an attack on such a structure. 

By evening, the group had tasted cinnamon almond cookies typical of the area and stopped for their group photo at the four posts where it is said that St. Teresa kicked the dust of Avila off her sandals as she was leaving town, in disgust, because the locals refused to support her work in founding a new order.

Today, the group began its day with a tour of the medieval city of Ledesma, where tragic histories & black legends abound. It was fascinating for the boys to see the whole town on the outskirts celebrating the running of the bulls (many towns celebrate their own version of Pamplona's more well known one on the feast of their patron saint). 

After a tour of the different Christian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters, the boys paused for a classic "tortilla de patata" made by the local restaurant freshly for them!  Many of the boys are now converts to this delicious, ubiquitous Spanish food. 

The afternoon was spent picnicking in Miranda do Douro, Portugal which gave us a wonderful view of the gorge canyon we were about to travel on a boat. With a sports break and a newly discovered water ball game, the boys ended up having lots of fun. After their tour on the ferryboat, the boys were treated to a showcase of birds of prey including 3 different types of owls, a gyrfalcon, a bald eagle, a royal eagle, and 2 types of vultures. Many were able to hold the creatures and have their picture taken.

Some of the boys have been heard speaking to each other in Spanish in the dormitory and the teachers rejoice in how eagerly they share what they have learned in our ticket game--the group plays cultural Q & A with raffle tickets for a souvenir raffle on the last day. 

Tomorrow, the 7th graders will visit the market where they will be in charge of purchasing the ingredients for a paella we make at the school on Tuesday night.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kalina, Day 6

The group woke early this morning for its 2 1/2 hour drive south from Mek'ele to Kalina. A beautiful, clear sky morning greeted us. The rainy season, it would appear, remains late. It was a fresh 16 degrees Celsius. 

Save the Children in their 4X4 led the way as we moved in convoy up and over the Gira Castle Mountains and through several small villages. Children frequently ran onto the road calling "Chinese, Chinese".  

To many of the locals in this remote region of Tigray, the only foreigners they see are the Chinese whose government is working on rebuilding old roads (ones built by the Italians during their occupation), and building new roads. 

The smell of Acacia wood (introduced from Australia in the late 1800s) burning in breakfast fires filled the valleys and plains as we moved through the canyons. 

Unlike Bahri Dar, Addis, Condar, and Lulibela, most of the dwellings in this region are made of stone, chiseled and laid to form houses where it's found. 

Christian farmers dominate the highlands in the center north, while Muslim herders and traders occupy the lowlands in the east, where we are now. 

We saw herds of camel and cattle and many small markets at crossroads all along our route. 

Our convoy pulled off the main road around 8 am and drove the last part of our journey to Kalina on unpaved road. 

The approach to the school was surrounded by large cacti 8 to 10 feet high on both sides of the road. 

A light, grey dust billowed around and behind the cars as they made their way toward the school's main entrance. 

As we approached children singing and chanting "welcome guests" streamed out of the school's front gate--the movement of their feet added to the clouds of dust already hanging in the air from our vehicles. 

Popcorn was thrown in the air like confetti at a wedding. The boys carried long wooden rods as they marched and chanted; the girls danced, clapped and sang. 

After the initial welcome and presentations the children lined up and filed into their classrooms. 

We were then greeted by the village elders and parents. With the help of our translator we exchanged formal welcomes, introductions, and gifts.  We explained the course of events over the past 6 years that led to this day and expressed our profound gratitude for such a warm welcome. 

To conclude opening remarks and on behalf of the faculty and the school, I presented the Principal with a pair of books, both Saint David's publications that chronicle the history of Saint David's and the hymns and prayers important to the school. He was thrilled. 

The Student Council presidents presented Saint David's hats and t-shirts to the Principal. He then put the hat on his head, with pride. 

Saint David's parents presented sweets to the Kalina parents. 

Our Save the Children rep Cheryl Anderson also presented a gift to the head of the PTA. 

After the formal ceremonies, we moved into the classrooms for a tour and interactions with the children. 

Saint David's Kalina School consists of a main classroom building, an admin block, and latrines. 

To conclude our visit, the Kalina teachers invited us in for a traditional coffee ceremony complete with incense.  It was delicious. Best coffee ever. I was asked to cut the freshly made bread to begin the ceremony and we also all enjoyed popcorn and fresh goat's milk. 

The Principal came to say a final goodbye and expressed his gratitude. 

A teacher. 

Herding by our cars. 

More to come when I get home. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mek'ele, Day 5

Colin '11 is leading us in a game of Spades at our Mek'ele hotel while we wait for the rest of our party.  It's been a long, complicated, but productive day.

Ethiopian Air, using their infinite wisdom, decided to cancel our early morning flight.  We had to unexpectedly revert to plan B.  I took the three presidents and Mr. Dearie with me on the next available flight out of Addis, while the remainder of our contingent did their best to make the most of an extended stay in the nation's capital. They'll be arriving late this afternoon. 

In the meantime, the boys and I, after arriving in Mek'ele in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, visited Dagia Reinhold School, about 5 miles outside Mek'ele. 

The trip though took some time. Our van couldn't quite make it all the way to the school due to crater like ruts in the earthen road. We got out and did the last stretch on foot. 

It was all worth it. Our welcome was spirited and warm. The children were excited. They ran from their classrooms to greet us with traditional greetings in song, chanting, and dance. We then visited their classrooms and shared time together. 

It's hot and very dry. Vegetation is sparse, topography mountainous, and the predominant lifestyle is centered on subsistence farming. 

Mimi O'Hagan, a wonderful friend of Saint David's, helped build this school. Tomorrow, we will visit Saint David's Kalina School.  The purpose of our trip. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lalibela -- Addis, Day 4

The Roha Valley at 6:30 this morning, looking north from Lalibela, the main town in Lasta, located in the North Wollo Administrative Zone--700 km north of Addis. Beautiful day, 15 degrees. 

Two generations of Saint David's boys. Behind them the Roha Valley looking north from Lalibella. 

The teachers representing the Saint David's school faculty. 

The entire contingent with our guide Mulugeta. 

Leaving Lalibela for return to Addis aboard our trusty Toyota 'Manhattan,' ironic.  

It's a spectacular drive down the mountain road from Lalibela. The countryside is dominated by ploughed fields and small village communities. 

The fields are still ploughed, as they have been for centuries, by a single blade pulled by two oxen controlled by a farmer with whip. 

All the houses are traditional. Remarkably beautiful. 

This afternoon we visited Lucy at the Ethiopian National Museum and Trinity Church, home of the Patriarch, in the heart of Addis.