‘Possibilities We Can’t Even Envision’

On his first trip to China and India as Country Day’s emissary, Head of School Steve Lisk experienced a taste of the rich cultural bounty open to students.

While this was Lisk’s first trip to Asia on behalf of the school, it was the ninth for Special Projects Administrator Shelly Landau and International Student Liaison Helen Najarian. In addition to reaffirming existing relationships in China, the trio also deepened our newest one, with an independent school in India. The goal was to expand Country Day’s connections to schools abroad, increasing the opportunities for LCDS and international students to benefit from the exchanges. The resounding success yielded “possibilities we can’t even envision,” Lisk said.

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Candles — Prime!

“We want to build out our Global Program depth to offer our students a richer experience as they go through LCDS, and foster increased trust between schools and understanding between cultures,” Lisk said.

As part of that effort, Lisk’s first destination was Shanghai, home of one of our global partner schools, SMIC, as well as the parents of several current international students. One of the things that struck Lisk most in meeting our Chinese parents was the similarity to the value our American parents put on education.

“These families recognize that our [school] system is vastly different than theirs. The strength of American universities and colleges is also well understood and so parents who want to provide their children the best undergraduate opportunities know that attending a secondary school like Country Day is the best way for them to accomplish this. The Chinese families feted Lisk with gifts and meals, and conveyed gratitude and warmth about their children’s experiences at LCDS.

“One of the things we have going for us as a school, and there are many, is a remarkable name brand,” Lisk continued. “The word-of-mouth advertising that happens among similarly education-minded families is an asset that you can’t put a price on.”

He continued, “Trips like this one in October are emblematic of the evolving role of independent school heads. The rising tide of globalization has made foreign travel and education attainable for an ever-increasing number of people around the world, and Country Day is poised to reap that benefit both for our own students and those of partner schools as well.”

Our newest partner school is the Navrachana International School Vadodara, in Gujarat, India. NISV shares values and a mission remarkably similar to Country Day’s, though Lisk was fascinated by the many ways those shared fundamentals animated a distinct and different school experience.

Our introduction to Navrachana came thanks to Peter and Leigh Rye, parents of Caitlin ’06 and Oliver ’13, whose international business gives them close ties to the area. This beginning with NISV continues a tradition of serendipitous global connections for LCDS, beginning with John Jarvis’ alma mater Kelvinside Academy and continuing with the retired headmistress of SMIC, who happens to be Najarian’s aunt.

On the last Friday of their trip, Lisk, Landau and Najarian took in a genuine treat.

“We’re sitting in the audience and they’re staging a performance of ‘Don Quixote’ with a thousand students on a stage made of bamboo and rope. The feeling of community was overwhelming and the show of school spirit was truly impressive. It just drove home that people around the world live lives of meaning, but it’s different, it’s rich and it’s enriching. I’m excited for our students who’ll be exposed to this wider world,” Lisk said.

He wanted to give special praise to Shelly Landau and Helen Najarian, or “Shelen” as the globetrotting pair are affectionately known. Without their efforts, whether driving students to visit colleges or calling on families half a world away to let them know their kids are in loving hands, the school would quite simply be a different place, and not for the better.

“They’re extraordinary. It’s hard work what they do, and they take on their roles guided by a clear love of our school,” Lisk said. “I’m incredibly grateful for both of them.”

Too True to be Good

By Amelia L. ’21
Photos by Abigail G. ’20 and Konrad L. ’19

To a tourist, the city of Cape Town feels like a city that is almost too good to be true. It boasts the majestic vistas of Table Mountain and the stunning beaches of Muizenberg. When I first arrived, I was in shock at how beautiful the scenery was; it felt like I had stepped into a storybook.

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However, a few days into staying in Cape Town I began to realize the pain the city, and the country as a whole, continues to face due to the lingering effects of apartheid.

As part of this institutional segregation, blacks were forced to live in areas away from cities called townships; they were not allowed to work or even travel to certain sections of cities; and they were not only censored in their ability to express their pain, but censored from communicating with the rest of the world as well.

While whites lived in well-policed estates and went to good schools, blacks were relegated to a substandard education and life in crime-ridden areas.

Everyone seemed to be distrustful of one another. Every single building, office, restaurant and home had some kind of fencing around it, shutting it off from the rest of the world. These realities shocked me, because this level of racism and segregation had never been a part of my daily life before.

I started to realize the parallels between South Africa and the legacy of Jim Crow in the United States, and was finally able to empathize with what had been in front of me all my life.

I began to ask my fellow students at Herschel Girls School about apartheid, and soon realized how helpless the youth felt. They felt that, despite their best efforts, there was ultimately little they could do about the discrimination blacks face because it was built into the system they’d grown up in and so deeply rooted in South Africa’s history. How could they possibly undo this tightly woven shroud of racism that covered nearly every aspect of daily life?

Despite these daunting hurdles, the students did everything they could to change the status quo, from community service to political activism. They wrote to their representatives and sat in on parliament to understand the decisions that were being made that affected them. They also had many clubs dedicated to speaking of racism, discrimination and current events in South Africa, and effecting positive change in all those areas.

I’m so thankful that I was able to go to South Africa and discover this all for myself. It was truly an eye-opening and life-changing trip.

Putting The Beautiful Pieces Together

Combining a photo essay with an intimate written portrait, Cristian T. ’18 presents the story of his month in Spain as an exchange student.

I could stand there for hours, days, staring up at Picasso’s “Guernica.” My host family had taken me to visit the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid on this Saturday night in March. On one of the walls, a number of photographs were hanging, showing the progression of Picasso’s piece. I got to see how “Guernica” changed over time and came to be what stood there towering over me.

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My host mother directed me through the photographs. She pointed out that the bull’s eyes were not originally crossed, how in an early incarnation the eyes stared straight ahead at the same point. Picasso decided to change this and make its left and right eye stare out in two different directions. As I stood there at the far right and stared up at the bull, it stared back at me. She explained to me how by doing what he did, Picasso was putting the viewer into the piece, making us a part of it rather than just observing it. In this room I realized that I want to achieve the same with my art. I decided that when I begin college in the fall, art will be my major and not my minor, even if that means taking on a double-major.

I’ve always had a passion for taking photos. I started out just using my phone, but it wasn’t until I got a camera for Christmas in 2015 that I was able to take the basic photography class sophomore year. With a camera in my hand, I get to see the world anew. Looking through the viewfinder, I see the visual speak to the invisible.

Photography can not only capture people’s emotions or the mood of a place, it can evoke and change feelings by hitting the shutter button, by the act of taking the photo itself. Having a camera in my hand gives me space to think both strategically and spontaneously, and allows me to piece together a puzzle that depicts something far beyond what the eyes can see.

I recently spent a month in Spain as part of the LCDS-CVE exchange, attending the Colegio Virgen de Europa in Madrid and living with a host family. I was sitting above the dining commons beside the international flags when I first read about the program last summer. I applied in August and found out I had been accepted within the first few days of school.

It was the one of the most exciting pieces of news I’ve ever received, and an opportunity that I got more from than I could have ever imagined.

With my host family, we traversed arches and doorways that showed us Spain’s past, present and future. Underground parking lots and subway stations connected me to each city I visited. Each train ride felt like a pulse through a city’s living heart.

Together, we stared up at Muslim, Jewish and Christian ceilings. With every excursion, they taught me more rich history of the Iberian Peninsula they call home.

This experience only strengthened my desire to study and document different societies and cultures. Being able to mix my perspective with different customs and ways of living gave me renewed clarity as to the life I want to live in the future.

I know I want to return to Spain and live there again, but I also intend to explore Latin America. For a time, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do both, but this exchange taught me to strive for both. I want to build for myself a bridge of understanding between these disparate regions united by a common language.

I want to visit the birthplace of my parents and ancestors in the Caribbean, and explore the relation of my family to the people who made me feel like family on the other side of the Atlantic.

My travels took me into Madrid a number of times, and I also toured Toledo, Granada, Barcelona and the small town of La Iglesuela. But for as beautiful as these places were, it wasn’t that beauty that made my experience what it was. It was the people who made a whole out of the beautiful pieces, my host family.

It was watching movies and TV shows, and singing along with them in the car. It was sharing a place at their kitchen table and in their conversations. It was every time I asked them what a word meant in Spanish, and every time they wanted someone to practice their English on without fear of judgment.

It’s hard to believe that a handful of days one spring could pack in so much meaning and affect me so profoundly. I now have a stronger sense of what I want to do after graduating from LCDS. I want to live and explore these regions more deeply, and experience new cultures with an open mind.

And I know that art will be an integral part of that journey.

High Times in the Scottish Lowlands

By Frannie T. ’22
Photos by Eddie P. ’22 and Ms. Formando

The trip started off great. If we understand great as missing our flight and having to spend the night at an airport hotel, then it was great indeed.

Even with a less than ideal start, everything worked out in the end due to the patience and hard work of Miss Formando and Mr. Mylin. After two days of airplanes, airports and lots of waiting around, we finally arrived in Glasgow.

As we exited the bus, we were greeted by our amazing host families who had gotten up at midnight to face the cold and welcome us. Despite the time and temperature, it was great to finally meet the people we had been talking to for so long. After all the introductions were made, everyone was very excited to get out of the cold and get a good night’s sleep.

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We spent our first day in Scotland shadowing our hosts at school. The similarities and differences between LCDS and Kelvinside struck us immediately. One of the biggest similarities was the spirit. Everyone was welcoming and excited to meet the newcomers. One of the most obvious differences was the uniforms. All ages wore a very formal outfit of a white button-down collared shirt, a necktie and blazer with the Kelvinside logo. Black pants for the boys and kilts for the girls.

The next day we toured Glasgow with our hosts. Our first stop was the Riverside museum where we saw everything from antique cars and motorcycles to old double-decker buses and a model of an old city street complete with shops and horse-drawn carriages. Afterward we walked through the historic campus of the University of Glasgow and toured the city’s beautiful West End.

The next morning was perhaps the saddest part of the trip. It was the day we had to leave our host families. After many thank yous, hugs, and some tears, we left Glasgow behind and headed off for York.

Everything about York was charming. Even the train ride, along green fields with coastal views, was idyllic. Our first stop was the magnificent York Minster, and the view from atop its tower. (Which managed to be awesome in spite of the decidedly not awesome 275 steps we had to climb to reach it.)

Fountains Abbey was another building that encapsulated the beauty and history of York. The snow that had just settled on the ground that morning gave the grounds a peaceful feel as we walked around the ruins. My favorite part of York, besides wandering the cobblestone streets, was the ghost tour that we took on our last night. It was a fun and scary way to learn some of the obscure history of the city.

The next morning, as we waited for the train that would take us to Edinburgh, we used Mr. Mylin’s new game of “suitcase curling” to help beat the boredom and stay awake. We all fought hard for the coveted title of Suitcase Curling Champion but in the end, Peter R. emerged victorious.

First up on the agenda when we got to Edinburgh was a tour of Edinburgh castle. When we finally arrived after a long hike, we were greeted by a beautiful, sweeping view of the city. The castle itself was an interesting blend of old and new. For instance, you could visit the still-functioning barracks then turn around and see the oldest building in Edinburgh. After the castle we walked down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace, the official home of the British monarch in Scotland.

The best part of the Royal Mile was visiting the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. For our last meal in Scotland, we opted for traditional Scottish fare, with most of us trying haggis for the first time.

And then it was time to go home. None of us was ready to leave such a fascinating and beautiful country. The time had flown by so quickly that the whole trip seemed like one big, blurry dream. We all would have loved to stay another day, or week, or month. And as the plane climbed into the air and we all waved goodbye, my only thought was, “I can’t wait to go back!”

London, Stonehenge and Shakespeare, Oh My!

By Delphi A. ’18
Photos By Hayden F. ’20

We got through the security at Philadelphia International Airport with plenty of time to spare so Ms. Wolanin separated the 13 of us into two groups — Delphi Red Boots, and Mitch Mahoney — and sent us on an airport scavenger hunt. We had to ask strangers to name Shakespeare shows, take a photo defining ufology and many other quirky or theater-related prompts. Back at our gate, the scores were tallied (Delphi Red Boots was in the lead). Seven hours later, we landed in London.

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Since it was morning local time, we had to push through the haze of exhaustion that hung over us and do a walking tour of the city. Our amazement quickly overpowered our tiredness. We rode the Tube and took a double-decker bus. We saw the statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square and almost got drenched by a fountain. From the top of the London Eye we could see over the tops of many of the buildings we had seen on foot, and huge expanses of the city we didn’t have time to see close up. After a dinner of meat pies and mashed potatoes, we made the way to our hotel and our rooms. We had been awake for around 32 hours.

The next morning we set out for some of the major landmarks, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Westminster Abbey to start. From there we headed to Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen, whom we were lucky enough to see. Many photos later we were on our way to Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favorite home, a building with 1,000 rooms. We got back to the city with just enough time to grab some delicious hamburgers before popping over to a local theater to see our first show, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of “Hamlet.” Intense and emotional, the show left us with lots to discuss.

The next morning we had a theater workshop that began with us warming up our bodies by jumping in unison and then in rounds. As more steps were added we learned that the simple act of jumping and clapping can be quite difficult. Next, we attempted to copy the walk of someone in the room, learning not only how challenging it is to imitate such a seemingly simple action, but also how our own way of walking may be unique. Finally, we attempted to tell stories using only our bodies frozen in a scene. As actors who spend a lot of time memorizing lines, it was eye-opening to tell a story without any sound.

After an afternoon that included a trip to the British Museum and some spirited Scrabble in a café basement, we made our way to the next show, “The Play That Goes Wrong.” The comedy about all the things that can go wrong during a performance hit close to home for all of us actors and technicians. There were many moments when we thought, “That has totally happened to us.” It was relatable and had me in tears of laughter.

The next day we left early for Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. First, we stopped at Anne Hathaway’s cottage. (Not that Anne Hathaway.) Shakespeare and his wife grew up in the same town. Next, we headed to Trinity Church, the final resting place of the Bard himself. We stood in reverence barely a foot from the stone marking Shakespeare’s grave. It had been raining when we entered the church, but when we left the sky was clear.

From where his days ended, we then journeyed to where they began. Our tour through the small home that Shakespeare grew up in included a sing-along with a man dressed in Elizabethan attire and playing a Renaissance instrument. Before we left, we ran into two Shakespearean actors who performed a monologue before asking some of us to join them in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” not realizing that many of us are going to be in our own production of that show this April. After dinner back in London, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery, where we spent the remainder of our time before seeing “Mamma Mia!” Bright lights, with songs that make you want to dance, “Mamma Mia!” was a truly exhilarating experience that had us laughing and smiling.

The next day began with Ms. Wolanin’s proclamation: “It’s Globe day!” After a tour of the reconstructed Globe Theatre, we took an acting workshop in which Hayden F. ’20 and Ben K. ’21 got to perform the iconic balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet.”

That afternoon we went on a tour of the city through the lens of Harry Potter, visiting many of the films’ locations and discussing the places that exist only in the magical world of green screens and movie studios. After that we got the chance to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral to participate in Evensong, an evening service.

After dinner, we headed out on the second themed tour of the day, but this one was much darker. As we walked down the back alleys of Whitechapel, a district in London’s East End, we heard the gruesome and bloodcurdling stories of the Jack the Ripper murders. We headed back to our hotel, hoping not to have nightmares.

On the way to Bath, we stopped at Stonehenge for a tour and plenty of photo opportunities. We discovered you cannot actually touch the stones as there are still many artifacts beneath the earth that we could disturb by walking above them. It was still very eye-opening to stand so close to such an ancient structure. In Bath, we saw the interior of the well preserved Roman baths. A monk stood by the main bath, blessing all travelers. The next morning we got a chance to visit a henge with stones we could actually touch, in the small town of Avebury. The wind whipped our hair around us as we strolled the beautiful countryside. It seemed we were as far from the city as we could possibly be.

Back in London, we made a fast shopping visit to Harrod’s, took the obligatory photo walking across Abbey Road, then we spent some time at the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221b Baker St. We went to see platform 9¾, and as we were leaving Kings Cross, we were caught in brief hailstorm. We ate a delicious curry outside the Tower of London, and then headed to our final performance, “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery,” a dark comedy with an even darker twist in the second act. The show drew us in and made us gasp.

As we went to bed our on our last night, we played cards and reminisced. The feeling was unanimous that the trip had been a both educational and magical experience.