As a teacher with THINK Global School, I am given the task of exploring not only my own academic interests to design my own curriculum but also to explore the world. I am currently living and learning in my seventh country since starting at TGS in 2012. Designing my IB Social and Cultural Anthropology and Global Studies classes through Argentina, Bhutan, USA, India, Tanzania, and Japan I have had the very rare opportunity to immerse myself and my students in cultural experiences.
Our weXplore program encompasses our academic and non-academic adventures throughout the countries that we are living in. I have fostered the spirit of adventure in new students and pushed older students to not let theirs falter while battling the rigours of the IB Diploma, but I have never answered the question of why I explore.
Firstly, let me say that I agree completely with Dr. Robert Ballard who said that “everyone is an explorer, how could you possibly live your life looking at a door and not go open it.” We are living in an age of globalization, where the doors have been flung open to the world.
Multinational corporations are continuously spreading and as you can see while walking down any street in a metropolitan area that cultural diversity is a norm. Growing up in Long Beach, New York only 45 minutes away from Manhattan I was exposed to both of these effects of globalization. No doubt, this peaked my curiosity in anthropology and inspired me to start teaching the IB social & cultural anthropology course at Mountain View High School in Virginia.
Early in teaching the course I realized that I needed to live my content, not just read about it. At Weismann Teen Tours, tour leaders were responsible for preparing and leading tours at sights scattered around our month long Euro-tour. I spent countless hours preparing for my series of tours and without it I am not sure I would have had my first great travel experience. This moment came a moment after I finished my tour of the Coliseum in Rome, when I had not only my 20 teens, but approximately another 25 English speakers whose guide didn’t show up that morning. Ballard also said that,
“Exploration is still the epic journey, to dream, to prepare yourself, to assemble your team of argonauts, to go forth to be tested mentally and physically by the gods. To pass the test, be given truth, and then come back and share the new wisdom.”
While this was not a physical test, and I didn’t know it then, this was my first moment exploring.
After two years leading these trips, I had a thirst to continue my travels, to learn more and share more. I began leading annual trips to El Progresso, Honduras to build schools and work with the amazing organization, Students Helping Honduras. In 2010, I was given an opportunity to continue my international school building in what now is the country of South Sudan. Here I was given my first true physical test traveling, and where I was able to experience firsthand some of the problems that millions of Africans face daily. Unclean water, extreme poverty, and a lack of basic sanitation all helped to change my paradigm and understand the plight of the other. Hungry and hot, my team and I worked for two weeks constructing a school and leading a teacher training at Harvester’s Orphanage in Yei, South Sudan. My team and I purchased a live cow to feed the some 300 orphans from a Dinka tribesman, bearing the forehead scarring depicting his transition to manhood. I had done it, I came face to face with my content, but that was only the beginning.
“Exploration is an obsession. The more I discover, the more I want to know,”
said famous palaeontologist Maeve Leakey, who has spent a lifetime digging for human origins in the Lake Turkana Basin in Kenya. The moments in Rome and the chance exchange with the Dinkan tribesman only added fuel to fire for my own exploration. I was happy to return to the African continent with THINK Global School’s intersession in Tanzania, where I met and spent time with Maasai men and women at their boma. Meave’s husband, also a very famous paleontologist, Richard Leakey said,
“It seems so totally wrong that the African people are lacking the real sense of being important to the planet. Here is a continent that should be looking at its prehistory and saying ‘This is where everyone began.'”
The reason I travel and explore, is to keep meeting ‘the other’, to learn how similar we all are as members of the human family and to share these experiences. From mountain-top taverns in Bhutan, to La Bombanera in Buenos Aires, to my current cold and rainy city of Auckland, New Zealand, I will continue to seek out our cultural similarities and share them.