Friday, August 22, 2014

Summertime in the desert: A new way of life

Janine '15 participated in the Summer Signature program and designed an experience at a kibbutz in Israel.

Hi, I’m Janine and this summer, I spent most of my time in the desert. For 6 weeks, I learned Chinese and Arabic in Provo, Utah, but here I’m going to talk about my Summer Sig experience in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel.

desert and date orchard
I’ve always been interested in Israeli culture, as I have family living in Jerusalem and have spent time in their city whenever I have visited. However, while Jerusalem is certainly unique for its religious significance, I wanted to explore a different part of the country. With this goal in mind, I found myself considering staying on a kibbutz with my “outlaws”, or my uncle’s brother and his family, in Ketura, Israel--about a mile from the Jordanian border and 3.5 hours by car from Jerusalem.

Camel pets on kibbutz Ketura
So, what is a kibbutz? A living structure almost exclusive to Israel, a kibbutz is the ultimate democracy. Essentially, kibbutzim run on communist-like values: members turn over all their savings to receive a specific salary based on family size and needs, adults are assigned jobs--usually agricultural--to work, and in the beginning of the kibbutz movement, even the children were shared among all members and spent their nights in children's house. There is no kibbutz president or set government; the "CFO" and other lead positions are elected by the community and rotate among members every few years. Kibbutzim value opportunity and equality over all. There are about 250 kibbutzim in Israel today.

While I could be telling you about the time I was labeling bottles in a shed when a salamander jumped out of a box onto my worktable and led me to label the remaining bottles with my backpack on in case I needed to make a quick escape, I thought I would touch on the economic and social structure I experienced while there.

In terms of economics, the kibbutz's principle of economic equality for all directly competes with the notion of the American Dream and the self-made man. The very mention of these communist values makes any captive audience I have cringe and ask why anyone would voluntarily give up their affluence, thus limiting future opportunities to travel or indulge themselves. With a pre-determined dividend, kibbutz members get what they need and not much more; this means no smartphone, no name-brand clothing, no excessive family vacations. But this also means there's no socioeconomic divide. So this microcosm of kibbutzniks--as they're called--are truly living in utopia.

A walkway through part of the kibbutz
As a side note, I was able to visit a nearby kibbutz named Kibbutz Samar, which the internet has nicknamed the "anarchist kibbutz". There, members can keep their savings from before, but must turn over their salaries into a communal bank account from which anyone can take any amount of money they deem necessary. I interviewed a member from there,and she said while the lack of rules and structure is an obstacle, it is worth the enlarged freedom.It might seem crazy, but somehow it works and this kibbutz has been thriving since 1976.

Nonetheless, the real distinguishing characteristic of kibbutz life to me is the sense of community that exists. Kibbutzim originally served as somewhat of a refuge for Jews all over the world after the Holocaust. Although their whole life previously had crumbled, the kibbutz structure provided creature comforts and a new support system for those who had no family left.

Grofit, a nearby kibbutz
In a sense, that caring mentality hasn't changed a bit. I was welcome to tag along and be an awkward seventh wheel with my family. I attended parties, meetings, and holiday celebrations as if I had lived on the kibbutz my whole life. I even got to celebrate a harvest festival called Shavuot there, a holiday typically best celebrated on kibbutzim because of their agricultural roots. Although I did not stay up all night as my cousins did in order to emulate the Israelites' anticipation in receiving the Torah, I attended services and cheese tastings with members of the community. In a sense, I felt like I was at Peddie: no person or activity was off limits to me. I was able to do what I wanted--within reason--and someone was always there to back me up.

All in all, I experienced a whole new way of life while on Kibbutz Ketura. It was a whirlwind exposure to religion, freedom, and community.   I was able to discover a whole new part of a land I thought I knew, and I look forward to returning in the near future.

my desert sweet 16 experience!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A fond farewell to the Fringe

Emma '15 says a bitter-sweet "see you later" to a wonderful experience.

I tried to write this last night. I really did. But looking through the pictures from our trip, combined with my body clock still insisting it was four in the morning instead of eleven at night made it impossible to get anything done. I was too tired and melancholy.

In all honesty, I wasn’t ready to leave Scotland, and I know my fellow travelers felt the same way. My parents say that’s the sign of a good vacation, and I see where they’re coming from, but it doesn’t change the fact that boarding the plane home was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time.

I’ve been thinking of what I could say in this blog post since the moment we left on the bus to get back to Peddie. Sometime this afternoon, I realized there is no real way for me to describe how this experience changed me. I can’t bring you back in time to join us on our morning runs, or trek up to Arthur’s Seat, past the impossibly sky-high hills and jagged rocks that lead to one of the most astounding views I have ever laid eyes on. I can’t grab your arm and lead you through the crowded streets of Edinburgh. I can’t guide you up the Royal Mile and watch as you are approached by hundreds of beautiful people; some wearing colorful costumes, others dancing on their toes between the tourists, others singing so loudly that their voices rang through the entire street, but each one pouring their heart into their work.

You could almost feel the passion radiating off of them as you walked. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Without realizing it, my friends and I were carrying piles of flyers, all of them making us wish we could stay in Scotland for months, laughing together and seeing play after play until we were too tired to keep our eyes open. I can’t give you my memories, or help you see through the eyes of my friends as we sat watching Chalk About; a play that was inexplicably fascinating. Every one of us was completely pulled in and enthralled by the dancing and the complexity of the actors’ life stories which, for one of them, was told entirely in German, yet as easy to understand as if he was speaking English. I can’t perform the play Thrill Me for you, so you would know what it was like to be chilled to the bone for an entire hour as goose bumps crawled up your arms and you edged towards the end of your seat. I can’t describe the overwhelming happiness we felt after talking to some of the actors in person, or sitting in the stands of the Tattoo, shivering from the cold but not caring at all as we clapped along to the sound of bagpipes and steel drums.

What I can do is give you advice. I can tell you that our experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was one none of us will ever forget. We made lasting friendships, built our confidences, and saw some of the most humbling works of art in the world. Do not make the mistake of missing this opportunity. At some point in your lives, whether you are an arts student or not, go visit the Fringe. Bring your families. Bring your friends. Do not deprive yourselves of having the same experience we did. If you go, I can promise you will come back a new person. You will see things that redefine beauty and meet people that change the way you view different cultures. But most importantly, you will meet people who are almost impossible to leave.
Our last night at the Fringe was bittersweet. As we gathered in the boys’ dorm lounge and laughed together as we tackled each other and sung songs on the couches, I couldn’t help but think of how much we would all miss each other. The rest of the summer wouldn’t be the same without JR’s humor, Katie’s willingness to step up and lead, Alex’s bubbly personality, Felicity’s unbelievable acting skill, Josie’s ability to approach any situation with a level head and calm demeanor, Kelsie’s curiosity and enthusiasm, Catherine’s intellect and kindness, Cassie’s eagerness to explore, Chet’s willingness to make friends, and of course, Mr. Jaski’s and Ms. Sherman’s passion for the arts. For those two weeks, these people helped me forget all of the stress and worries that I had left behind in America. We made new friends, and the connections that we made to Scotland and its people made it nearly impossible to say goodbye. Instead, I decided to do something that my mom has told me to do ever since I was little.

Never say goodbye. It’s too permanent. Instead, say “see you later,” because real friends can never actually be separated, no matter how far away they are. 

Addendum: Kelsie '16 was so touched by Emma's kind words about everyone in the group, that she wanted to be sure something was included about Emma too!

From Kelsie '16:  Let's not forget about Emma, with her motherly instincts and ability to take the reins and lead the group where we needed to go. At the same time, she was silly and fun - we'll all remember her reaction whenever we came across an actor on The Mile! Thank you for always having your camera at the ready to capture the wonderful moments and create memories.  See you later. :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

A wee bit of Scottish dancing... (video)


In praise of the a protein source

Courtney Jackson is a member of the English Department and a foodie who enjoys cooking as much as she likes reading...and plans to add insects into her diet.

This Spring, the students in my spring term English elective, The Literature of Food, (and I) tried out a new food. We tried crickets. But before I tell you how they tasted, let me first tell you WHY we tried them…

The Literature of Food focuses on sustenance and sustainability by exploring the politics, economics, social and environmental aspects of our food systems. We considered terms and labels like organic and local, free-range and natural, we investigated the GMO (genetically modified organism) debate, labor issues connected to different forms of agriculture, nutrition, and the overall sustainability of what we put on our plates. After teaching the course over the summer for the past two years at The Advanced Studies Program at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, I was excited to have the opportunity to teach a more concise version at Peddie this year and am pleased to say that it was a lot of fun!

The term began with us reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and discussing the ethics of eating meat by considering its environmental impact, the treatment of animals, health reasons, and cultural norms. From there, we read excerpts from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and then finished with The Locavore's Dilemma: Praise for the 10,000 Mile Diet, which is written by two economists who advocate for the global food system and aim to dispel several “myths” of the locavore movement, in order to consider other perspectives and think more critically about what each side of the local/organic debate has to offer.

Edinburgh photo essay by Felicity '15

Felicity '15 shares a few photos from the group's trek over the hills surrounding Edinburgh.

We begin our trek up the mountain: 

Making our way up:

Beautiful views of Edinburgh and the castle once we finally make it to the top! The climb was definitely rewarding:

Heading back down, tired but accomplished:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Traipsing around the Trossachs -- continued adventures in Scotland

Kelsie '16 describes the frenetic pace the students are keeping during their trip to Scotland and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Today was very interesting but also exhausting.  We got up pretty early and then hopped on a bus at 8:45 with the Loyola kids, from the first day we arrived, and other students from Louisiana, I believe.  We headed up to see Stirling Castle, which had some pretty amazing architecture for the fact that it was built 500 years ago by King James V.  We got to look around there for a while and had some beautiful views of the land surrounding the castle.  We also saw the Trossachs which is where the highlands meet the lowlands, and that was also breathtaking.  We stopped to have lunch in this tiny town and it had an adorable strip mall and right behind it was a little lake that we sat beside to have lunch.  On the way back we stopped a few times for various reasons, the first was to see a family of cows in a pasture.  The second was for a beautiful view of a loch with a mountain and one house nestled between the mountain and the loch.  The third stop was a place where they had ponies, sheep, and ducks in pens and you could pet them and there was also a great gift shop.  Finally we returned at 5:30 and had a little time before there was a show a group of us wanted to see.  It was put on by a school in California about a boy who was disturbed and brought a gun to school and it was about them dealing with the after effects of that.  We had to rush to go see the other show we had paid for which was quite interesting and very hard to explain but it was about the ups and downs of life and having a singing career and the interpretation of that.  We eventually got back to campus at a little past midnight and headed off to bed for another busy day tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bringing down the house in Edinburgh

More news from Edinburgh from Chet '16:

Today we had our first performance. Nearly a full house!!! The show went very well for a first run-through. We were praised for not only our talents, but also the use of space, light, and our costumes (which one woman said looked like were straight out of a Wes Anderson movie).

Tonight, we see the Military Tattoo, which is one of the key sights to see in Edinburgh. We are all very excited and grateful for such a wonderful opportunity.

Ala Viva