A trip of a lifetime:
December 8th, 2018 / Anya Bhargava
This past summer, I went to Ladakh, India for a nine-day cultural exposure/climate change awareness camp with sixteen other kids (with an organization called Journeys With Meaning), none of whom were from the United States. Ladakh is located on the foothills of the Himalayas, bordering India and China, and is incredibly scenic. Honestly, when my dad told me about the camp, I was a little apprehensive, wondering whether I’d easily connect with kids who have a different culture than I do. I was worried about the non-Western toilets, cold showers, no heating or air conditioning, and other trivial things like that. Once I landed at the campsite, called the Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, all my worries disappeared.
Some of us met and immediately became close at the Mumbai airport, and the others I met at the Ladakh airport. We spent the first day sleeping, getting used to the extreme 3000-meter elevation, and getting to know each other. We all became extremely close within the first 24 hours, which was a pleasant surprise for all of us. The next day, we met the SECMOL students (an alternative school for kids with fewer opportunities to get a good education) and really got to know them. I realized that, despite our many differences, we had many things in common with the SECMOL kids, from our favorite sports to favorite subjects in school. The Journeys With Meaning kids (JwM-us), did various activities with the SECMOL students, including playing games, eating meals, and just talking to us, which was helping them improve their English. We tried to learn some Ladakhi (the primary language spoken in Ladakh), but it's safe to say that they’re much better at English than we’ll ever be at Ladakhi.
SECMOL also promotes environmental awareness and teaches about the effects of climate change. It is a completely self-sufficient camp, getting its electricity from solar power and other clean energies. Everything is made with biodegradable materials, making sure that no waste is created. It taught me a lot about how poorly humans are treating our planet and how a few minor tweaks can make such profound positive impacts on the environment. We had discussions about how to reduce our own environmental footprints and what we could do to influence others to make the same sort of change. I learned about some statistics which made me realize that climate change is not a far off problem; it has already done so much damage and is continuing to do more at an accelerating rate. The JwM kids went on an amazing trek up one of the mountains, where we saw crystal clear streams and got to enjoy the fresh air. It was definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had.
After SECMOL, which is where we stayed for the first five days, we stayed with a family in a village close by. It was a really cool experience to stay with a real Ladakhi family and learn about their village and culture. Their hospitality was out of this world. They were so friendly, welcoming, and were ready help us with anything we needed. I even got to hold their one year old baby girl, which made my heart melt.
Ultimately, Ladakh, SECMOL, and this entire experience turned out to be nothing like I expected. I had so much fun, developed a new passion for helping the planet, and made some amazing friends, who I hope to stay in touch with for years to come.
December 29th, 2018 / Kennon Cummings
When spring break is brought up, what comes to mind for most people is a week of fun and serenity. Maybe your idea of your favorite spring break consists of fruit smoothies and beach houses, or maybe it’s a snowy day in the mountains.
Mine, on the other hand, is very different.
We’d been in Costa Rica for a few days, and things had been amazing-- full of swimming, good food, exploring rainforests, and so much more! Now, there had been a little detail my parents mentioned a few days before the trip that I was dreading. We were scheduled to go on a zipline course later in the day-- one that included a whole section of ‘superman’ ziplining. Now, if you don’t know what a superman zipline is, it’s basically a kind of zipline where instead of you being set up in a ‘sitting’ position, you’re essentially set up like a human battering ram… which looks ten times more terrifying than regular ziplining, something that was already scary to me. Reasonably, I was extremely nervous.
When we got to the course, I was in utter terror to hear that our superman line went right down the side of a hill. I was sure I wasn’t gonna be able to do it-- what if my harness broke halfway down? What if the wire snapped in half?? The overwhelming amount of anxiety I was feeling became so irrational, I started to think I couldn’t even make it on the easiest of the ziplines.
Fast forward to me, in the setup area, being hooked up to the superman line while crying. The view of the line was less than pleasant-- a diagonal drop down to another station that seemed like it was hundreds of miles away. My fears had gotten the best of me-- instead of going out of my comfort zone and trying something new, I was trying my absolute hardest to stay inside it. Finally, after what felt like years, I felt a tug at my harness, and---
I know how cheesy it sounds when I say this, but-- I really did feel like I was flying. The suddenness of it all caught me off guard from crying, and instead, I just looked around me. The view was breathtaking, to say the least. I could see the ocean from where I was, and the entire island around it-- all the stations, forests, and beaches I had seen on land were twice as pretty in the air. It was amazing!
After a while, I finally landed at the next station with a huge smile on my face-- I actually did it! By moving a little bit out of my comfort zone, I experienced something I truly loved.
My Minimester trip: Ecuador & the galápagos.
April 25th, 2018 / Julia Monroe
The trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos with Steward was probably one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences that I have ever had. Since this was my first time traveling out of the country, I was very interested in learning more about the culture of a South American country and its differences compared to the society of the United States. When I discovered that I would be staying with a host family while we were in Quito, I was fascinated by the idea of communicating with them in Spanish, as they were not familiar with many English terms. The experience of talking with and understanding someone who spoke in their native language was difficult but also wonderful at the same time, since I was able to comprehend most of what my host mother told Alex Wilkerson and I, who was another Steward student in tenth grade who stayed with me.
I would say that my favorite part of the trip was spending time on the beach while we were on the Galápagos islands. Before this experience, I had never seen water as blue as the ocean there. Additionally, we were able to go snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, which was extremely interesting because of the different underwater wildlife that we could see as we were swimming above them. Other animals such as large iguanas and huge tortoises were spread all along the islands in many areas near the water. The weather was so hot and sunny while we were in the Galápagos, which was ultimately the perfect climate to swim at the beach there.
While we were in Quito, I had an incredible experience at the school that we visited and the time that we spent talking to the students throughout the day. Although it was sometimes difficult to communicate with other students, anyone would have been able to notice the connections that we all made while playing soccer and basketball and laughing with them. It definitely showed that people of all backgrounds and languages could come together and have an incredible time! This was a great first time leaving the country, and I could not have had a better trip with Steward!
Have you seen the beautiful murals all over Richmond? If you haven’t, I’d suggest that you take a drive and see at least a few - they are super cool! These projects must have taken days, if not more, and the number of these murals is quite impressive. The addition of these wonderful works of art really liven up the already unique city of Richmond, and certainly make artists like me very happy to see them. No two murals are the same; you can find a lot of variety and different art styles throughout the paintings!
A few of my favorites are the more cartoony pieces, but multiple styles of art are used all over the city, including abstract colors, realistic humans and scenery, simplistic but automatically identifiable animals, and so, so much more. It’s really exciting that the artists behind all of these keep coming up with new and interesting topics, while new artists become inspired by these works and join the growing creative force that details the city.
These murals make use of wasted space, making ordinary walls and buildings into a colorful explosion of art. It’s obvious that I’m not the only fan of them, either-- the popularity of these works of art is causing new murals to appear all over Richmond. A good example of these new installations is in Greengate, one of the newest additions to Short Pump, where several murals were painted for the suburban area to feel more ‘city-like’ (and it works! It definitely feels very urban) . Hopefully, in the future, more creative decorations like murals can spread throughout the city, capturing both the feel of Richmond itself and the amazing artists that inhabit it.
April 8th, 2018 / Kennon Cummings