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Endnote: Describing the Indescribable

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By Allea Martin '05

Allea Martin ’05 looking down from the top of Macerata’s bell tower

In my 21 years, I have rarely found myself at a complete loss for words. However, in the last six weeks since I returned from studying abroad, I’ve found myself frequently and completely paralyzed by the question, “How was Italy?”

It seemed like answers should flow from me like a river of marinara. I spent months learning about the Italian language and lifestyle. I nestled myself deep into the culture of Macerata, the small hill town in the Marche region where I lived with three young Italian women. I loved, in an intoxicated, head-over-heels kind of way, Macerata’s people, food, buildings, art, churches, and—most of all—language. And yes, Italian is the most beautiful and romantic language in the world, if there was ever any doubt.

Yet despite my fervent, three-month affair with Italy, I could not seem to articulate any of these feelings upon my return to the United States. How could I, in one sentence or less, capture the depth and the beauty of Italy? My first impulse was to respond in Italian. I believed that the meravigliosos and bellissimos could convey meaning better than any English word I knew. Since I didn’t want to be annoying and rude, I found myself instead responding with one-word descriptors like “wonderful,” “incredible,” or “fabulous.” Still, these words seemed lacking, as though I was somehow giving an incorrect answer.

View from a castle of the Marche region

I knew, for example, that one single word could not begin to capture the way I felt about Italian people. Words like “wonderful” didn’t illustrate the love and respect that I felt for Filiberto, the program director and stand-in father for Macerata students. Filiberto is easily the most intelligent and cultured person I’ve ever encountered, not to mention he presides over the largest stockpile of jokes in the world. Could anyone else understand how amusing it was hear him replace phrases like “at a later time” with the more comical “in a second moment?” I felt even more daunted in attempting to describe my roommates’ generosity and kindness. Could another person really comprehend the bond that had formed between my roommate Chiara and me as we sipped espresso and discussed our favorite books?

When I failed to reply to broad questions about my trip, friends and family members began to ask about more specific aspects, usually food or architecture. This was no easier. While “incredible” certainly could describe the food, it could not convey the extent to which Italian life centers around and gathers life from food, cooking, and eating. When asked, on a few occasions, to name my favorite meal, I became a mumbling idiot, changing my answer at least 10 times over. Similarly, “fabulous” might shed a tiny, keyhole-sized spotlight on the intense beauty of Italian art and architecture, but it could not encapsulate the emotions contained in church frescoes. Nor could it adequately explain the way I lost my breath when looking out across the countryside from the top of Macerata’s bell tower.

Allea’s favorite street in Macerata, where she walked every day to get to class

I felt trapped by my own intellect. I grieved my inability to express the fascination invoked by my cinema teacher’s flowing lectures, or the different but equally mouthwatering smells coming from each floor of my apartment building on Sundays. I longed to tell of the giggling, confetti-throwing children who had run through the streets during Carnevale, and of the beautiful, designer-clad parents and grandparents who scurried after them.

If I couldn’t describe how much I loved Italy, how could I explain how much Italy had changed me? Had anyone else ever experienced the freedom and happiness of traveling alone on a train, watching the sun set over picturesque farmland? Could anyone relate to the feeling of triumph that I experienced after I began to not only participate in, but to actually understand conversations in a second language? I felt as though Italy had picked me up, pointed at all my best qualities and said, “You can keep these. But the rest of them have to go someplace else.” Thus I found myself as I’d never been before, exploring things I never could have imagined, and feeling fulfilled beyond my greatest imagination. The possibilities seemed truly endless.

The truth is that no one can ever understand Italy’s magnificence without spending time there, and even then, each of us sees through different eyes. I have come to accept this, and be grateful for the experience I had. Now when people present me with those dreaded three words, I have a new response. Rather than fumble around for an answer, I simply smile and say, “I loved it.”

A child in costume during Carnevale
Article copyright Allea Martin. During her time at Catlin Gabel, Allea Martin ’05 served as president of Oregon’s Model UN program, for which she was awarded a scholarship upon graduation. She continues to study culture and international affairs at the University of Oregon, and will graduate in the spring with a degree in political science.

Witnesses to History

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Reflections from Catlin Gabel students and teachers on their "people to people" trip to Cuba

A group of 25 Upper School students and four adults had the rare chance to see history in the making when they traveled to Cuba for 11 days during spring break, at a time when Cuba began to see great changes. No high school group had visited Cuba since U.S. travel restrictions were tightened in 2004. Trip leader Roberto Villa, an Upper School Spanish teacher, was able to secure a humanitarian visa for the group, and they brought 1,200 pounds of medicine and other supplies. Their non-political aim was to connect with the Cuban people. They came back with many stories, a few of which follow.

29 students and teachers visited Cuba in March and April. Here are some of their stories.

RIFVKA SHENOY ’09

When anyone asks me what my favorite part about Cuba is, I can give them a one-word answer, people. You never get into a taxi there or sit down at a restaurant and not engage with your taxi driver or your waiter. The most memorable time for me in Cuba was our last night in Havana. A group of us were sitting on the Malecón, the city’s long sea wall. Throughout the course of the three or four hours we sat there, people would mill past and begin speaking to us. A boy our age who had difficulty speaking memorized each of our names and birthdays. A group of musicians came up to us and serenaded us. But the part that made me cry was when I talked to an old woman.

I gave her a bar of soap instead of buying the goods she was trying to sell me. She inhaled the scent of the soap deeply and thanked me. She told me that in Cuba they couldn’t find things like that. When she found out I was from the U.S. she told me about her daughter who lived there, an artist who had injured her hand working in a factory. The old woman told me that she used to be an art teacher, and pointing to her goods added, “Circumstances have led to me selling this.” As she was talking, my eyes started welling up and I realized how much I didn’t want to leave these people here. Everyone always said the problem is between the governments, not between the people. They have dealt with so much and yet they never hated us for being from the United States.

On Havana's sea wall

MADELEINE MORAWSKI ’09

On our visit to Cuba, the value of seeing firsthand the way the government affects the daily life of every person was immeasurable. While we saw no advertisements for products, the side of the highway is sprinkled with billboards and communist slogans both encouraging people to be like Che, their “example,” and denouncing the U.S. government. I was unprepared for the complete devotion many Cuban people have to both Fidel and the Revolution. However, we also met many Cubans who greatly desire change and are desperate for an improved economy. It was incredibly interesting to visit during a time when many changes are in fact being made, such as the lifting of restrictions on buying cell phones and computers.

The people we met were some of the friendliest I have ever encountered. The Cuban students were as curious about the United States as we were about Cuba. After speaking with all the kids who seem so similar to us, it was strange to consider how different our lives actually are. We also had many conversations with people we met on the streets or along the Malecón that revealed the struggles they face with the economy.

I realized that while Fidel Castro should not be supported, the United States should do its best to aid the people of Cuba and promote understanding. I believe this understanding can be gained through trips such as ours that rely on interaction between individuals, regardless of political beliefs. One of the hardest things about leaving was the knowledge that I might never have the chance to return to a country that is so beautiful and welcoming.

A quiet moment on the trip to Cuba

RACHEL JUNE-GRABER ’09

One of the highlights of the Cuba trip for me was attending Shabbat services at the synagogue in Havana. We had visited Beth Shalom earlier that day to drop off donations, and the Jewish students had been invited to return for services that evening. I was amazed at the beauty of the synagogue and the obvious love and care that had gone into its well-being. When I first arrived, I was nervous being on my own, but as soon as I got inside I was greeted warmly by the young man who had given us a tour earlier that day.

Many people crowded around inside and out, all dressed up and talking happily. The people were warm and inviting, and many times I was greeted with “Shabbat shalom.” Soon, the service started, and a young cantor with a stunning voice began to lead us in prayer. During the service I was able to follow along easily because the prayers were in Hebrew, the same ones that we sing at my own synagogue in Portland. I felt a strong connection to the people around me, and completely comfortable in the elegant sanctuary. It might seem that going to a Shabbat service just like one I might encounter in the United States would not be a uniquely Cuban experience, but I had never had the opportunity to attend services outside of Portland, and it was amazing to feel at home 3,000 miles from Oregon.

Becoming friends with Cuban history

BHAKTHI SAHGAL ’09

The bus rolled gracefully on the one-lane highway as we played cards, talked, and looked out the window at the beautiful scenery. Fields of tall green grass were filled with cows grazing lazily in the sun. Headed towards the outskirts of Havana, we were on our way to visit the Che Guevara Institute. Finally, we turned onto a small, windy, red dirt road, and pulled up to the front of the high school. It was a large red building with a larger-than-life mural of Che Guevara himself on the front steps. As we filed off the bus and entered the school, a large crowd of kids had gathered, clad in their baby blue and navy uniforms. As we were led to the small one-room library, we looked as curiously at the kids as they looked at us.

As we moved down the hall, kids stopped what they were doing and turned to look at us. Students shyly came in and out to peer at us and whisper to their friends. Yet these looks were not ones of contempt. When introduced, we were greeted with smiles and hugs by people we had never seen before in our lives. After standing awkwardly together and trying to carry on conversations, we decided to play a game of soccer outside.

Some ambitious classmates went directly onto the field, while I, along with some other friends, stood on the side of the field talking and looking around. Almost instantly a boy came up to us with a soccer ball and asked us if we wanted to pass it around. We played timidly in an awkward silence, but within a few moments we were laughing and running around. Soon, other students had also come over to join the circle. A few of us pulled out our cameras, and we all began taking pictures with one another.

“Como te llamas?” I asked him. What’s your name?

“Reñan” he said. “Y tú?” And you?

“Bhakthi” I said.

“Bati? Qué?”

“No. Bhakthi.”

He smiled. “Aha, tuanis. Quieres venir conmigo?” Oh cool, you want me to show you around?”

And just like that, we became friends.

Playing soccer with students from the Che Guevara Institute
Experiencing the warmth of the Cuban people

CHRISTOPHER SKINNER ’09

I initially set out on our Cuba trip with the belief that the United States should simply drop the embargo, as it would bring economic benefits to both us and the working-class Cuban. However, I now strongly question whether I truly want that to occur. A former government official told us he suspected the Cuban government would limit the role of capitalism if the embargo falls, allowing only certain businesses and deciding where and how things such as hotels would be built.

I look at Pinar Del Río in all its jungle splendor and Trinidad, the quaint colonial hub on the ocean, I look at Old Havana in all its antiquated grandeur, and I wonder how they would seem with hotels blocking their shores and marring their landscapes, disturbing the natural tapestry. I look at the strong, well-built young men, and the thin, attractive young women at the school and I think, how would they be with McDonalds, Burger King, and Starbucks on every corner? How would the people react to the polarization of wealth that could occur from capitalist investment? Would that great culture, that great natural pride fade, along with all those smiles on faces? I do not know. No one knows.

For all those great things I worry may be destroyed, I realize that Cuba suffers from tainted education, universal yet low quality healthcare, and most of all, severe, painful poverty. Capitalism coming to Cuba, in many ways, is inevitable. I simply hope it does not wash away the culture of an incredible place, and the vitality of an incredible people within which any of us could find friendship and love.

Roberto Villa with students from the Che Guevara Institute

ROBERTO VILLA, SPANISH TEACHER

Many incredible and meaningful moments characterized our visit to Cuba: a visit with noted film producer Humberto Solás, a visit to the central hospital in Old Havana, a meeting with the Young Communist League, and all our interaction and conversations with the Cuban people. The one experience that stands out in my mind is when we visited the Che Guevara Institute, an agrarian and sustainable high school one hour east of La Havana.

We learned that the Che Guevara students are pretty much the same as Catlin Gabel students. They wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and share the same dreams and hopes for the future. The Cuban students are faced with many of the same issues that our youngsters deal with in our society (peer pressure, parental expectations, and boy-girl relationships). They are resilient, happy, patriotic, and very much involved in their education.

Leaving the school was very difficult and emotional for everyone. In just five hours, Catlin Gabel students managed to establish what we hope will be long-lasting friendships with their host peers, and there were many teary eyes when we finally had to say goodbye. As we boarded our bus we rolled down the windows and waved to all the students, who were standing in the hallways waving back, a heartfelt goodbye. ¡Hasta la próxima!

Dance, the universal language
The group brought 17 duffle bags of humanitarian supplies

Days of Discovery

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Learning through Experiential Days, Breakaway, and Winterim

LOWER SCHOOL EXPERIENTIAL DAYS

FOSSIL HUNTING AT CAMP HANCOCK AND BEYOND

A 5th grader loving her time at Camp Hancock

At OMSI’s Camp Hancock, near the John Day River in eastern Oregon, we hiked and explored a gorgeous high desert landscape underlain with myriad fossils. Students discovered, touched, and dug up such things as fossil katsura tree trunks, oreodont skeletons, calcite crystalfilled equisetum stems, nimravid skulls, dawn redwood twigs, leaves from an ancient rainforest floor, and the shoulder bone of a great raptor with wings as much as 30 feet across. The children smeared their faces with red, brown, and green mud made from paleo-soils millions of years old during hikes, while the skies filled with snow flurries, rain showers, and sun.

We followed hikes the next day with a trip to the John Day Fossil Beds visitor center, where we could see fossils and reconstructed habitats, and comments like these abounded: “Hey! Look! We were just there—right there!” “We saw that yesterday in the Nut Beds!” Other highlights included learning to make string from native plants; a visit to a rock shelter with walls containing pictographs made from blood, fat, rock powders, and charcoal; and learning to use an atlatl to throw spears. Evenings were filled with after-dinner dish washing for 100 people, sing-along campfires, story telling, meeting Mariah the great horned owl, astronomy discoveries, playing the Hancock Trivia game, and a fabulous night hike.

Things kids learned: how to wash dishes fast and efficiently, make a bed, pack a bag, and sweep up a cabin; how natives moved seasonally through the landscape; that smilodonts preyed upon oredonts; that early horses, the size of cats or terrier dogs, lived in rainforests and had four toes; that central Oregon was once tropical ocean front, with avocados, bananas, and palms; how juniper trees preserve water in the dry climate; how to identify mule deer versus elk scat; how and why scientists collect, protect, and preserve fossils; and that not all really amazing fossils are from dinosaurs. So, how cool is that?

—Scott Bowler, Lower School’s “Mr. Science”
A 1st grader prepares to decorate a chair autobiographically in "My Life as a Chair"

ADVENTURES WITH FAIRIES AND GNOMES

A cupcake left for the fairies

Our children brought and shared books, gowns, experiences, wands, stories, enthusiasm, and hopes of finding a gnome or fairy. Our expectations were simple: to build relationships among peers of different ages, while exploring and identifying native habitat. After stories from around the world of gnomes and fairies, we headed off into various woods where we “walked like foxes,” not disturbing native life, participating in and deeply observing our surroundings.

Students learned about “manners” in the woods and streams, leaving no trace, something that the fairies would appreciate and the gnomes would respect. We baked cupcakes to give to the fairies, “because they are greedy and have a taste for sweets.” Some students created a fairy language, with translation keys, to write messages to the fairy folk. Others documented their days in drawings and detailed writing, finally publishing their findings and research in a shared newspaper full of beguiling class quotes and musings. We constructed colorful, jingly wands and pointy red hats. As we ventured out, students counted, collected, and pressed native plants to include in scrapbooks. They made copies of photographs, poems, and recipes to include.

The last day we practiced the life skill of quickly changing from muddy hiking gear to luncheon attire on a bus, to make a special date at the Heathman Restaurant. As we reviewed the different manners appropriate to fine dining, the students shared what they knew to be necessary: do not pound on the table when you want your food, remember to say please and thank you, don’t kick the table or your friends, try a bite before you say no thank you.

During Experiential Days students jump in, take healthy risks, and bond with one another. Maybe it is because there is magic in the woods, but more likely, I believe, with full, uninterrupted days given to exploration and creation, real magic happens.

—Mariam Higgins, 4th grade teacher

 

COWS!

A student gets slimed, a badge of honor

"I was slimed three times!”

This was the magical moment I was waiting for. By our fourth day, one 7-year-old who had been a bit insecure about getting dirty could not get enough of the cows. We had talked all week about “getting slimed”— cows have wet noses and are incredibly curious, and “sliming” is their way of interacting with you. We wore it like a badge of honor.

These 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders learned about every step of the cheese-making process, watched the making of queso fresco, and ate cheese. We blind-tasted tiny cups of milk to identify which was whole milk, 2%, 1%, skim milk, half and half, and goat’s milk. A veterinarian told us how a calf is born, how and why cows are dehorned, how their four stomachs work, and how newborn calves have virtually no immune system and would die without drinking their mother’s rich colostrum milk.

One of the greatest lessons was about systems—we literally followed the process of milk from udder to grocery shelf. John, our organic dairyman, brought the children into the pasture and dug up the earth so the children could explore the soil, earthworms and all. He helped them see the connection between our earth and the food we eat, and why his cows are pasture fed. We talked about how his farm was different from the big, commercial farm we had seen. We learned about the concept of interdependency—and the consequences of choices we make—at its very basic level.

When we helped empty last year’s swallow houses, a student announced that she found what might be a dead baby bird inside one. A dead baby bird?! Everyone gathered around, wide-eyed, while Farmer John casually explained why many of the baby birds don’t survive. After a few minutes of furrowed brows, the children went back to their tasks. I learned about life and death on a dairy farm growing up, something I realize our youngsters don’t “get” as readily in the confines of city living. Life and death are all over farms. It’s simply the cycle of life

Our learning was deep and rich—and every bit of it experiential. Ask any one of our “cows” kids about it and they will go on and on. I was astounded at the connections they made in their learning. How could it be that children could learn major life lessons in just four days?

—Vicki Swartz Roscoe, head of the Lower School

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL BREAKAWAY

COSTA RICA TRAVEL

Middle School students and teacher David Ellenberg work hard in Costa Rica

Dropping off brave students at homestays scattered throughout Monteverde, climbing a high tower dwarfed by tropical jungle to begin a zip-line tour, thrilling to an encounter with Capuchin monkeys checking us out from perches in trees, pausing with journals to sit and reflect on all the Spanish phrases washing over them: these are some of the many images I conjure from two weeks in Costa Rica, over Breakaway time and more, with eighteen 8th graders.

Global travel is a challenge to provide, yet the payoffs are immediate and extensive. Students quickly transition from unsteady newbies filled with trepidation to comfortable travelers who know their way around a town with no street signs or numbered addresses. Seeing them process so many unknowns and work through unfamiliar situations, I find their personal growth truly inspiring.

—David Ellenberg, MS world history teacher
These students were part of the FooDelicious group, which explored commercial food through visits to a bakery, wheat lab, donut shop, cheese company, pasta restaurant, and beachside candy shop. They came to understand where the typical foods they eat come from and how each component of the process is linked.

SHAKESPEARIENCE

Learning about Shakespeare through an acting workshop in Ashland

Live theater in Ashland, Oregon, opened the bill of this trip, exposing Middle Schoolers to a worldclass ensemble with first-rate music, costumes, staging, and venues. Diversity was key to the works they saw: Fences, a contemporary American play, The Clay Cart, a traditional East Indian play, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream— set in a 1970s disco, which the students really connected with. To further immerse them in the Shakespeare play, an Ashland actor and teacher led a workshop explaining Shakespeare as a person, discussing the play’s plot and historical context, then involving the students physically through movement and acting.

Hands-on fun continued at the science museum in Ashland, which is totally experiential in its nature. “You have to touch and move everything, and the students loved it,” said trip co-leader Mark Pritchard, Middle School music teacher.

One important lesson of Shakespearience for students was learning to stay within financial limits. They stayed in a dorm at Southern Oregon University to save money. They had a strict group budget for eating out, so everyone was responsible to the group and had to make good decisions, both monetarily and in terms of healthful eating. “The other fundamental lessons were learning to act responsibly in public, support each other, and do the right thing so the group represents the school well, and we stay welcome,” says Mark.

 

HOOP DAYS, a joint project with the Middle School and the 5th grade

Visiting the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trailblazers

Hoop Days was the most wonderful four days EVER! I got to meet Jerome Kersey and wear his NBA championship ring! I got to go to the Blazers locker room and see Brandon Roy’s locker and touch his shoe! I learned all about the Rose Garden arena—did you know that Paul Allen built a secret apartment in it so he could spend the night after the games? I learned how radio and TV broadcast sports and I got to design my own shoe at Nike and meet with a designer who talked to me about it. It was also great to learn basketball tips and tricks from Pee Wee Harrison, of the Harlem All-Stars. This is just some of what I got to do.

The places we went all said they loved having the Catlin Gabel students, and even though they never did this kind of thing before they would love to do it again next year!

—Matthew Bernstein ’15, who had the original idea for the Hoop Days experience

 

UPPER SCHOOL WINTERIM

BECOMING A WORLD-CLASS NEGOTIATOR

Online meeting with students from Gaza

Upper School history teacher Peter Shulman and IT director Richard Kassissieh first gave us a quick overview of the history of Israel and Palestine, focusing on land ownership and the conflict over thousands of years. We took in a lot of information that day, and we gained a lot of understanding for both sides of the conflict. Our teachers also had us go around the room and explain who we are here and now, what we stand for, and where we come from. As people spoke around the room, every person had something special and unique about their origin and what brought them to where they are. Despite our different backgrounds, we all wanted to learn more about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The next day we met at 7 a.m. to speak with a group of students from Gaza through Skype, an online audio and visual connection. Remembering the experience continues to remind me how I want to change policy and injustice in the world as I continue to grow up. We were told that the group that we’d be speaking with was made up of Palestinian students my age living in the Gaza Strip, where attacks on both sides of the conflict continue to cripple the two fighting powers and prevent them from reaching an agreement.

As I walked into the room that morning, our mentor Richard, who is of Palestinian descent, explained the guidelines to my peers and me. “Withhold any questions you might have in regard to internal fighting between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. As you know, Gaza is very small and very isolated. Words fly fast to the ears of harm-doers and direct, honest answers about these questions might have serious consequences for these students,” Richard told us.

The question that one of the Palestinian girls asked that will remain in my memory was, “Does the conflict here in Gaza, where we live, affect the daily lives for you guys?”

At that moment I felt embarrassed because it didn’t really enter into my mind daily. I attend school with the freedom to learn what the teachers have the autonomy to choose to teach us, and as citizens of the United States we have the freedom to travel. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, and sat in front of the screen. I played with my hands, rearranging my scarf, and began to bite my lip, nervous and full of anxiety, thinking that the girl on the screen must hate us, the Americans, who get to be free.

I was wrong. She looked at me as a peer, a teenager, just like her. I found the words tumbling from my mouth easily as I addressed her.

“I go to school, and I never have to worry for my safety. My family and I don’t live in fear. The conflict doesn’t really cross our minds at all; in fact, many of us, in this room, never knew how profound and wrong the world still is in your part of the world. I know about it now, though, from taking this seminar, and I will do what I can to make your voice heard,” I said, wanting to speak more, but I didn’t.

Next, another one of my peers spoke from his heart, “I am sorry. I’m sorry that you can’t go to the movies and play with your friends in safety. I just want to say that our leaders’ actions do not reflect how the people in this classroom feel, because I know I’ll follow this conflict and have your life conditions in my mind from now on.”

The girl on the screen, a citizen of the world just like us, replied, “What you just said is enough. The fact that you understand what we are going through every day here in Gaza makes me have a smile on my face.” As she made this statement, the dimple in her cheek was visible. As she sat, wearing a headscarf that covered her hair, her body language shifted, her arms opened, and she sat forward in her chair; she was happy.

I noticed that the teacher coordinator beside her began to cry. She told us, “You see, the Palestinian youth never travel or meet anyone who isn’t Palestinian. I was lucky. I was able to travel, and I have friends who are Israeli and from other places around the world. These students do not even have that; they are isolated from the world.” I have an opportunity to make her problems and concerns heard.

I have the opportunity to learn and get an education that fits my characteristics and interests. Now I can look at the conflict from both sides, understanding that the conflict is not based on religion, but on land and power. Dialogue with these students made this conflict more real in my mind than I had ever previously imagined.

I know that my role in the lives of others will continue to strengthen and grow through my education. I hope to help the students who are not being given the chance, like my peers in Gaza.

—Aurielle Thomas ’08

 

MEXICO CLIMBING AND CULTURE TRIP

Upper Schoolers reaching the summit of Iztaccihuatl

Nine intrepid students and three adult leaders traveled in central Mexico for 10 days during Winterim to combine cultural exploration with a mountaineering adventure. The group gained an appreciation for the rich and deep culture of the country during their stays in Mexico City and the small town of Tepotzlan. The trip culminated with an ascent of Iztaccihuatl, a 17,373-foot peak.

The Mexico expedition achieved some deeper goals, too: students learned to live and work together; they were challenged physically, socially, and culturally; and finally, they came to understand more than they could before about the communities and people in a far less developed country.

—Peter Green, outdoor program director
Community service is an important Winterim option. Gwen Survant-Kaplin ’08 and a group of students helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity and worked at a building materials recycling center.

 

PORTLAND: THE CITY BY DAY, THE CITY BY NIGHT

Students learn how the fire department works

This year for Winterim, I had the rewarding (and somewhat taxing) opportunity to take on the responsibility of a student organizer. It all started when student activities director Mark Lawton asked me if I’d like to investigate “what makes Portland tick.” His idea was nebulous: travel around the city by foot, by bus, and by sheer ingenuity in order to get a feel for the kinds of minds behind our social and civil services, entertainment, and media organizations, and to see what really goes on behind the scenes. After recruiting my friend Rohan Jhunjhunwala ’11, we joined Mark and librarian Sue Phillips to begin the daunting task of scheduling trips to such places as fire departments, bowling alleys, fine dining establishments, Portland Impact, the Portland Planning Bureau, and the newspaper headquarters of Street Roots and the Oregonian, in addition to the Oregon Department of Transportation control room and the newsroom of television station KATU. Even before we set out, I became adept at navigating the information superhighway in order to locate interesting people to speak with, getting in touch with and speaking to important city officials, and juggling the agenda as it evolved out of the minds of the four of us.

Imagine how rewarding it was when it all finally came together, when I realized that our grand scheme no longer looked good simply on paper, but had taken on a life of its own. What really struck me was that wherever we went, there were people who enjoyed what they did, who took great pride in telling us all about it. Their excitement transferred onto us, and we found ourselves filled with questions such as, Whose responsibility is it that individuals who have been arrested maintain their human rights? How does a homeless newspaper operate? How are you making the Pearl District more environmentally friendly? And the most important question, How can I get involved and make a difference? By taking a bit of a risk in order to answer a deceptively simple question, our small group came away with a deeper understanding of the community at large, and thereby armed ourselves to make a positive difference in it.

—Josh Langfus ’11
Counselor George Thompson ’64 and arts teacher Tom Tucker ’66 led “Guitars, Guitars, Guitars!” Students of all levels improved their guitar skills through workshops with visiting musicians and hours of playing music together.

"Students watch history unfold," about Cuba trip

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Portland Tribune article, March 08

"Catlin Gabel students anticipate cultural exchange during Cuba trip"

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Beaverton Valley Times article, March 08

Becoming a World-Class Negotiator

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Online meeting with students from Gaza

Upper School history teacher Peter Shulman and IT director Richard Kassissieh first gave us a quick overview of the history of Israel and Palestine, focusing on land ownership and the conflict over thousands of years. We took in a lot of information that day, and we gained a lot of understanding for both sides of the conflict. Our teachers also had us go around the room and explain who we are here and now, what we stand for, and where we come from. As people spoke around the room, every person had something special and unique about their origin and what brought them to where they are. Despite our different backgrounds, we all wanted to learn more about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The next day we met at 7 a.m. to speak with a group of students from Gaza through Skype, an online audio and visual connection. Remembering the experience continues to remind me how I want to change policy and injustice in the world as I continue to grow up. We were told that the group that we’d be speaking with was made up of Palestinian students my age living in the Gaza Strip, where attacks on both sides of the conflict continue to cripple the two fighting powers and prevent them from reaching an agreement.

As I walked into the room that morning, our mentor Richard, who is of Palestinian descent, explained the guidelines to my peers and me. “Withhold any questions you might have in regard to internal fighting between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. As you know, Gaza is very small and very isolated. Words fly fast to the ears of harm-doers and direct, honest answers about these questions might have serious consequences for these students,” Richard told us.

The question that one of the Palestinian girls asked that will remain in my memory was, “Does the conflict here in Gaza, where we live, affect the daily lives for you guys?”

At that moment I felt embarrassed because it didn’t really enter into my mind daily. I attend school with the freedom to learn what the teachers have the autonomy to choose to teach us, and as citizens of the United States we have the freedom to travel. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, and sat in front of the screen. I played with my hands, rearranging my scarf, and began to bite my lip, nervous and full of anxiety, thinking that the girl on the screen must hate us, the Americans, who get to be free.

I was wrong. She looked at me as a peer, a teenager, just like her. I found the words tumbling from my mouth easily as I addressed her.

“I go to school, and I never have to worry for my safety. My family and I don’t live in fear. The conflict doesn’t really cross our minds at all; in fact, many of us, in this room, never knew how profound and wrong the world still is in your part of the world. I know about it now, though, from taking this seminar, and I will do what I can to make your voice heard,” I said, wanting to speak more, but I didn’t.

Next, another one of my peers spoke from his heart, “I am sorry. I’m sorry that you can’t go to the movies and play with your friends in safety. I just want to say that our leaders’ actions do not reflect how the people in this classroom feel, because I know I’ll follow this conflict and have your life conditions in my mind from now on.”

The girl on the screen, a citizen of the world just like us, replied, “What you just said is enough. The fact that you understand what we are going through every day here in Gaza makes me have a smile on my face.” As she made this statement, the dimple in her cheek was visible. As she sat, wearing a headscarf that covered her hair, her body language shifted, her arms opened, and she sat forward in her chair; she was happy.

I noticed that the teacher coordinator beside her began to cry. She told us, “You see, the Palestinian youth never travel or meet anyone who isn’t Palestinian. I was lucky. I was able to travel, and I have friends who are Israeli and from other places around the world. These students do not even have that; they are isolated from the world.” I have an opportunity to make her problems and concerns heard.

I have the opportunity to learn and get an education that fits my characteristics and interests. Now I can look at the conflict from both sides, understanding that the conflict is not based on religion, but on land and power. Dialogue with these students made this conflict more real in my mind than I had ever previously imagined.

I know that my role in the lives of others will continue to strengthen and grow through my education. I hope to help the students who are not being given the chance, like my peers in Gaza.

—Aurielle Thomas ’08

Global citizenship is good for business

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Recently, I enjoyed speaking to the Oregon Forum, a group of local entrepreneurs interested in social change. They asked me to reflect on global citizenship.

I considered several questions: What is global citizenship? How do we teach it in schools? How could businesses that must have employees with global understanding partner with us to ensure that students graduate from secondary schools and colleges with these competencies?

In order to move forward we must redefine citizenship beyond our own borders; adopt positive dispositions toward cultural differences; speak, understand, and think in languages other than our native tongues; gain deep knowledge of world history and geography; grasp the global implications of health care, climate change, and economic policies; and understand the process of globalization itself.

How are we doing nationally? Things are changing slowly, but as a nation we fail to foster global citizens. A thorough study from the Committee for Economic Development on Global Leadership cites alarming gaps in children’s learning. The No Child Left Behind Act, adopted in 2002, holds states accountable for student achievement in reading, science, and math. Unfortunately, as schools devote more time to these subjects we see a reduction in foreign language classes and social studies classes where global issues are explored. Only one-third of 7th to 12th grade students, and fewer than one in ten college students, study a foreign language. Seventy percent of students in secondary schools who are enrolled in a language class study Spanish, and only a small percentage go beyond two years of study. Few students in high school or college gain proficiency in any second language, and very few students learn the lan-guages that the State Department believes crucial to national security—Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Farsi, Russian, and Turkish.

State high school graduation requirements call for minimal coursework, if any, in international studies, world history, geography, political science, or area studies. Only one percent of college undergraduates study abroad. Teacher educa-tion programs provide few classes in teaching global topics. The media’s coverage of international affairs, trends, and issues is minimal. During her trial, over fifty minutes daily was devoted to Martha Stewart on most networks, and less than three minutes to the conflict in Darfur. We ought to worry about where students gain information about their world.

From a business and economic perspective, the challenges to our economy are enormous. The international workforce needs language competencies beyond English because most United States growth potential lies in overseas markets. In 2004, 58 percent of our growth earnings were from overseas. For example, 70 percent of Coca Cola’s profits are generated outside the United States. Studying languages and acquiring cultural competency are clearly eco-nomic necessities if Americans hope to compete on the international stage. A European business executive speaks an average of 3.9 languages, and an American executive speaks an average of only 1.5. Business decisions are made quickly, and the number of people involved in making wise business decisions must include teams of people who are multinational and multilingual.

American businesses lose an average of $2 billion per year because their employees are provided with inadequate cross-cultural guidance. For example, Microsoft Windows 95 displayed Kashmir outside the boundaries of India. Mi-crosoft had to recall 200,000 copies of the product. In a software package marketed in Turkey, Kurdistan is listed as a Turkish state, although it is a crime to even talk about Kurdistan in Turkey. An American-made video game mar-keted to Saudis included violent scenes accompanied by chanting from the Koran. Business loss is a direct result of these cultural gaffes. Moreover, America’s reputation is damaged when we are perceived as negligent and indifferent to other cultures.

The Rand Corporation surveyed 16 global corporations, which rated job applicants from American universities as the graduates with the least developed international skills. An executive from a top global corporation told Rand that American graduates are, “Strong technically, but short-changed in cross-cultural experience and linguistically de-prived. If I wanted to recruit people who are both technically skilled and culturally aware, I would not waste time looking for them on U.S. college campuses.”

The statistics about our students’ and work force’s global citizenship are discouraging, but there are many things schools and businesses can do to improve the situation by working together. Here are several suggestions:

  • Harness the expertise of bilingual and non-English speaking employees currently in our work force. Non-English speakers and multinational people hold 48 percent of both management and professional service jobs in the United States. Let’s learn from their experience about how to become competent in other cultures.
  • Business leaders need to pressure school boards to include international content at all levels of curriculum. The No Child Left Behind requirements can be addressed by incorporating cultural topics into reading pro-grams.
  • Press colleges and universities to form partnerships with elementary and secondary schools to provide teacher professional development in global education. Colleges and universities could tap their international students and professors to work in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Business leaders should insist that teacher education programs, as well as college programs, have strong inter-national components.
  • Corporations should play an active role in supporting educational initiatives that will produce graduates with cross-cultural competencies.
  • Expand the training pipeline at every level to increase the number of Americans fluent in foreign languages, especially Arabic and Chinese.

Catlin Gabel is working to foster global citizenship, and we are excited to be part of the local, national, and interna-tional dialogue on creating global citizens.

"Coloring Our Maps: Professional Development and Global Vision"

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Article by Lark Palma in Independent Schools magazine

Exchange students expand our world

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by Lark Palma

We are fortunate this year to welcome six exchange
students from four countries to the Upper School. I am
grateful to the generous families who are hosting exchange
students, and especially to the student hosts who will serve
as cultural guides and navigators this year.

Surely our exchange students will come away from their
year at Catlin Gabel with a better understanding of the
United States than they had before. They will learn about
our culture in general: Halloween, mid-term elections,
North American football. They also will come to know
Catlin Gabel’s culture: the Rummage Sale, calling teachers
by their first names, collaborative learning.

Our exchange students will learn a great deal from us
during their year at Catlin Gabel. At the same time, we
have so much to learn from them. We gain knowledge
from reading about world affairs and studying the history
of other countries, but nothing compares with sharing
firsthand stories. World affairs examined from personal
experience expands our points of view tremendously.
Briefly, I would like to introduce you to our students from
abroad. They hope to find ways to share some of their
experiences with teachers and students at all grade levels,
further benefiting our community.

Tumisang “Chop” Mothei, a senior, lives in Jwaneng,
Botswana, on the perimeter of the Kalahari Desert. He is
a member of the Mokgatla tribe and attends the Maru-a-
Pula International School, which is fashioned on the British
model. Chop loves music and has been a DJ at a local club.
Thanks to the Butman family for hosting Tumisang.

Dastan Salehi was born in Iraq to a Kurdish family who
fled to Turkey when he was a baby. Life in Turkey was
very hard for Dastan’s family, and they sought permission
to emigrate to Europe. They were given permission to
enter Denmark, where he has lived most of his life. When
the Danish public schools deteriorated and racism toward
dark-skinned people increased, Dastan’s family moved to
Valencia, Spain, where he was enrolled first in a British
school, then an American school. A self-described soccer
fanatic, Dastan, a sophomore, has been an awesome
addition to the varsity boys’ team. Our thanks go to Carla
Wentzel and Fred Miller, who met Dastan’s family in Spain
and are sponsoring his year in the United States.

Vivi Feng’s Chinese name is Yuan Feng. A junior, she
goes by Vivi in English because V is her favorite letter,
which, she says, “shows my personality: vivacious, vibrant,
and valiant.” Vivi is keen on art, especially calligraphy,
which she has studied since she was eight years old. She is
enjoying the opportunity to play several sports and plays
volleyball for the Eagles this fall. If only we had a Ping-
Pong team – she is very good at table tennis. Thanks to the
Roe family for hosting Vivi.

Cui Xialong and his family hosted current senior Andrew
Jones last year in China. We are so pleased that Andrew
and his family decided to reciprocate by inviting Xialong to
spend his senior year in Portland. Xialong is from Beijing,
where his favorite thing is the food. With 15 million people
in the city, it is not surprising that Xialong’s school has
2,000 students who study math, Chinese, English, physics,
chemistry, biology, and politics. His favorite subject is
math. He plays basketball and soccer and loves to sing.
Influenced by Andrew, Xialong’s favorite band is Green
Day.

Pia Hoppenberg, a junior, hails from Hiltrup, Germany,
a suburb of Münster, where she attends Kardinal-von-
Galen-Gymnasium, an Episcopal private school. She
enjoys studying languages and is adding Spanish this year
to her repertoire of German, French, and English. Pia plays
volleyball at CGS. Thanks to the Orban family for hosting
Pia.

Fabian Weiss lives near Frankfurt in Hofheim, Germany,
where he plays soccer and tennis and studies piano. Fabian
speaks several languages including English, French, and
some Spanish. A junior this year, his favorite subjects
are history and biology. He plays soccer, is a fan of snow
skiing, and has a keen interest in acting and listening to
music (mostly Beatles and indie music). The Davies family
graciously hosts Fabian.

In addition to our six exchange students, junior Luke Jin
from South Korea and senior Lorenzo Rabello from Brazil
are in their second years at Catlin Gabel. Luke lives with
the Gross family, and Lorenzo lives with his older brother,
who works for Nike.

Increasing the scope of our exchange programs enriches
our community. This involves not only hosting exchange
students, but also sending our own students abroad during
their junior year. This year’s senior class includes four
students who studied abroad last year through the School
Year Abroad program (SYA). Evan Matsuda (Spain),
Colby Mills (Italy), Andrew Jones (China), and Stephanie
Roe (China) returned to Catlin Gabel this fall full of
stories, self-confidence, terrific second language skills, and
broadened outlooks. Their enthusiasm for their host
countries is infectious. Their classmates benefit from their
new perspectives on cultures, history, politics, and different
types of schooling. I encourage freshmen and sophomores
to talk to our exchange students and to the seniors who
lived abroad last year to find out if a year abroad suits their
sense of adventure and academic goals.

This year four juniors are studying abroad through SYA,
and Ele Wilson is spending the year attending school in
Greece and living with relatives. When Ele, Robert Bishop
(China), Kay Cadena (France), Emma Northcott (Spain),
and Angali Cadambi (Spain) return next year, our global
perspectives will be enhanced all the more.

Catlin Gabel is lively with young people who are reaching
out, learning from each other, and bringing the rest of us
along with them on their global adventures.

Bio information, provided by the exchange students, first
appeared in CatlinSpeak, the Upper School newspaper.