Our Last International Stop – Haiti

Our Last International Stop – Haiti

Jul 11

Hey guys!

So, we left Panama for Port-Au-Prince, Haiti! Arriving in Haiti was really intense from the minute we stepped out of the airport.  It was super hot and there were ten guys immediately trying to grab our bags and help us for a tip.  Luckily our friend, Pastor Olrich was there to meet us.

On the drive home to his house, we really saw the damage of the earthquake:  people living in huge tent cities, buildings too dangerous to live in, and the Royal Palace in ruins.  While we stayed with Pastor Olrich we visited several schools.  We hung out with the kids and my dad taught an acting workshop.

After a couple of days, we headed to Jacmel on the opposite coast to work at The Jean Baptiste Dessaix Music School.  While we were there, we filmed a parade that the school band led, and worked with other volunteers from Boston.

I also had the opportunity of playing alto saxophone at the school.  It was really an honor to work with Gessait Pierre… a great teacher and also to hang out with such great musicians at the school.

On our day off, we went to Basin Bleu, a beautiful pool of water, 75 feet deep, that’s bright baby blue with a huge waterfall that you can jump off of. My dad also taught an acting class at a local theater called The Spare Change Theater Company.    We really enjoyed working with all the actors.  It was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

We had a great time in Jacmel, but after two weeks it was time to go to the Foyer Maurice Sixto School back in Port-Au-Prince.  The school was started by Father Miguel, a catholic priest.  It was created for kids in domestic servitude.  The school offers these kids classes in music, acting, dance and soccer. My dad did an acting workshop for both the students, and also a class for the teachers.  We were able to see performances, a band concert, a soccer game and were even able to visit a few different schools that they work with.

We will definitely be going back to Foyer Maurice Sixto.  We left for the airport after another painful good-bye and boarded the plane to Florida.

 

 

We spent a few days in Ft. Lauderdale to recover.  Now we are in Mississippi staying with family.  All of our family flew in to have a reunion.  It’s been really cool.

 

We begin working with two organizations here in Mississippi this week. More to come…

From Cusco to Lima with a Journey to Machu Picchu!!!

From Cusco to Lima with a Journey to Machu Picchu!!!

Jun 11

Hey guys! So we’ve spent the last three weeks at Casa De Milagros in La May, Peru.   Casa De Milagro is a home that was started by Mama Kia, a woman from the U.S. who came to Peru to save orphans from the streets of Cusco.  There are 25 kids living there now and it’s run by one of the first kids that came to the Casa, Michael.

The Casa is a big, historic house in the middle of The Sacred Valley with a view of the river in the front and a beautiful cliff with a waterfall in the back.  It’s a half hour walk into the nearest town and about the same by car to the school that the kids go to.

The youngest one there, a little girl named Soledad is five and the oldest, Michael is twenty.  There are twenty five kids, two dogs, and a cat living at the Casa.  While we were staying there we got to do lots of stuff with the kids:  play games, watch movies, break two piñatas, go to the local pool and go on hikes.

 

 

 

 

One day while the kids were away at school my dad and I hiked up to the Inca ruins at the top of the mountain behind the Casa.  On the way up, we had to hike through bushes, and then climb up a steep path to the top.  The elevation is extremely high in this part of Peru, and breathing in really tough.  The hike took us seven hours.  We saw the Inca ruins, a sort of mini Machu Picchu.  Then we headed back down to the Casa.

Our stay at the Casa was nothing short of amazing and I’m going to miss the kids there so much!

 

 

 

 

We took a train and a bus further into the Valley and actually visited Machu Picchu.  We spent the day there walking around in amazement.  It’s so beautiful and it’s shocking that the Incas were able to build this city without modern tools.  They had to move gigantic boulders, create sundials, and a very advanced water system.

It was all so amazing, until the last ten minutes of our visit, when I fell right off some very step stairs right onto a big chunk of Inca stone.  The Incas weren’t big on handrails.  I luckily didn’t get too hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we returned to the Casa and spent one last night before saying good-bye.   We spent a couple of days in Cusco, where we saw a beautiful show of traditional Peruvian dance with Mama Jenny from the Casa.  We also went to see the Cusco Planetarium where we saw close up views of the Southern Cross and Saturn!

Then we flew to Lima where we enjoyed being at sea level and saw this very cool city.  We got a 2am flight through Columbia to Panama City.  Now we are staying outside the city for a couple of days to check out the Panama Canal and prepare for Haiti.  I’m sad that our year is almost over but I’m really glad to be on the way home.  I write again soon.

Jackson

Antarctica and South America!

Antarctica and South America!

May 06

Hey Guys.  Since my last blog, we have flown to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world. It was so great to step off the plane into cool air after a month in the outback of Australia.  While we were in Ushuaia, we arranged for our trip to Antarctica… the last boat of the season.

Because our boat didn’t leave for two weeks, we decided to head up to Buenos Aires to work with L.I.F.E., a organization that works with kids in the disadvantaged suburbs of Buenos Aires. We helped out with birthday parties, after school programs and did activities with kids in the homeless shelter.  The kids were really fun to work with.

I made a great friend of one of the boys, Brian, who adopted me as his big brother.  He was a really special kid.  It was really hard to leave.

Before we left, my dad found out his friend was in Buenos Aires who was on tour with Roger Water’s The Wall and we got invited to the show in a huge Futbol Stadium. We had 18th row center seats and got to go backstage before, during intermission and after the show.

We got to hang out with the band and actually go onstage right before the show in front of 60,000 people. It was awesome.

After saying good-bye, we flew back down to Ushuaia to get on our ship headed for the end of the world.  The trip was so amazing.  The first few days we crossed the Drake Passage and then made our first landing on an island.  On the fourth day, we stepped foot for the first time on mainland Antarctica.

Everything in Antarctica is so beautiful…  The snow covered rugged mountains, the gigantic white and blue icebergs, and the wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw so many cool animals: leopard seals, fur seals, sea lions, whales, and all kinds of penguins.  I even join a group of people to swim in the ocean.  It was freezing, but now I can say I swam in the Antarctic. It was a remarkable experience.

The trip back through the Drake Passage was not so great. We hit a huge storm and most everyone, including me were sick as dogs.  The waves were so huge that they were crashing over the deck of the boat.   Overall, it will be an experience I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got back, we had the opportunity of donating two bicycles to kids in need in Ushuaia.  That was really cool. Then we flew to Buenos Aires, saw an incredible music show in one of the oldest theaters in Buenos Aires and then got on two buses at midnight, overnight to arrive at The Refugio de Monos in La Cumbre to work with Howler Monkeys.

Working at The Refugio de Monos has been one of the highlights of my trip around the world.  We worked hard. Up early, picking leaves for the monkeys, hiking deep into the forest to feed them, observing the howler monkey groups, feeding llamas and pumas, and playing with the baby monkeys.  We also took care of dogs, cats, geese, wild horse and donkeys.  They were long days but ever minute was truly amazing.

 

We got to spend a lot of time with the director of the project, Alejandra Juarez who is a very cool lady.  She has been working rescuing and rehabilitating animals for many years.  I also hung out with her daughters, Mayu and Malen, who were both super cool.

 

 

 

We have just left the Refugio after spending three weeks there.  We are sad because it really felt like we were a family, working with the animals and spending time together.   Now we have just come from the salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia which was really beautiful and tomorrow we head to Lake Titicaca (yes, it’s a real lake) and then on to Cusco, Peru to begin working with Casa de Milagro, an orphanage just outside of Cusco.

More to follow.

From Rwanda to Zanzibar!!!

From Rwanda to Zanzibar!!!

Dec 11

Hey guys!   We have just arrived on Zanzibar in Tanzania, but wanted to report a bit more on our journey in Rwanda as internet was scarce in our last few weeks.   Since my last blog we were in Musanze, Rwanda working at a primary school called, Mwiko.   It has no running water and limited electricity.

We stayed with our friends Francis, a teacher at Mwiko and her husband, Danny.  Mwiko is a school for kids in Grades 1-6 in the mountains about an hour outside of Musanze.   It sits up on a hill between two lakes and the drive there through the village is beautiful.  The kids were really great to work with.  We did an acting class and everyone had a great time.  We did lots of improv and games from my dad’s acting class back home.  We filmed alot of it and my dad put together a little movie with video of the kids talking, playing music and also a clip of Francis talking about the needs of the school.  We showed the students the film the last day we were there and they really loved it.  We really miss Mwiko.  It really is an incredibly special place.  The kids were so energetic and fun and everyone’s smiles just lit up the whole place.

After Musanze, we spent a few days in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.  We went to the Genocide Memorial Museum which was really intense.  Nearly a million people were murdered during the genocide in Rwanda.  Really sad.  We also were invited to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and got to meet his Excellency, U.S. Ambassador Koran.   He was such a great guy.  He told us some interesting stories of his work and travels.

 

While we were in Kigali we also did a 2 day acting workshop for kids with HIV.  It’s an organization called WeACTx.  The kids were very cool.  We danced, sang, and even played frisbee.  This is a picture of me trying to get the frisbee off the roof.  :)

We really miss Rwanda… it is a beautiful country.  But now we are on Zanzibar which is beautiful as well.  It’s an island off the mainland of Tanzania in east Africa.  The beaches are beautiful and the weather is warm.   We are working at a little art school in the village of Mangapwani.   It’s awesome.  More on our visit here to follow!   Jackson

In Rwanda!

In Rwanda!

Nov 18

Hey Guys! We’re at The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village outside of Kigali, Rwanda.

This is our second week here and we are having a great time!  It’s so beautiful here.  

 

It’s called, “The Thousand Hills of Rwanda” and now I know why. When we flew into Kigali, it was already dark so we didn’t get to see anything but when we woke up and went outside.  It was amazing.

Agahozo-Shalom is located in the middle of these beautiful green hills and there’s a huge lake near by.  Everything is so clean here.  And the air is so clean and fresh.   This school was built for kids that were orphaned from the genocide.  Nearly a million people were murder in the Rwandan genocide and many children were left without families.

We have written a play with the students.  There is actually no school for the performing arts in Rwanda, so the subject of our play is about the 1st High School of Performing Arts.  It’s sort of FAME meets Glee.   The school has three departments: theater, dancing, and music and they are getting ready for a huge international competition.   Everyone was a bit shy at first, but now they are all really excited about it.  We have put in all the traditional dance and music of Rwanda.  Watching them dance and sing is amazing.  It’s so cool to experience their culture through their music, dance and spoken word.  The kids here also really like modern music, so we’ve been mixing hip-hop which sounds really cool.

We had a great time in the rehearsal process and we performed the show last night. It was really amazing.  It blew all of our minds. They were fantastic and they all had the best time. What a great experience to watch the show start as just ideas and end up being a full show.  Wow!

The school is down the road from a little village called Rubona.  We walk down there and it’s really cool.  Kids who live in the area always follow us and laugh and smile at Buck.  We also visited the weekly market the other day where they sell clothes, vegetables, fruit, and food.  We ate Samosa there and they were delicious.   Here they mostly stick to a diet of potatoes, bananas, rice and beans.  They cook the bananas so they almost taste like potatoes.  We also have fresh grown pineapples here from the farm… so good!

Our time is coming to an end, because we are working at another school in Northern Rwanda for 10 days that has no running water or electricity. Should be a cool adventure.  I’ll keep you posted…   Jackson

The Nile, The Museum, and The Pyramids!!!

The Nile, The Museum, and The Pyramids!!!

Nov 03

Hi!  We’re at The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda.  After I wrote my last blog when we were in Cairo, we went to the Egyptian Museum.  It was so cool!  We got a guide and he told us about all kinds of artifacts, tombs, and we even saw some mummified pharaohs.   It was really interesting to hear about all these things from thousands of years ago.  We also went to the square where there were shootings during the conflict a couple of weeks ago.  That was kind of spooky.  Also saw The Nile.   Was amazing to think of the history of the Nile and we were right there…

After that we went to the Pyramids of Giza for Buck’s birthday.  It was so amazing!!!  The pyramids are so huge and impressive.  We got to go inside two of them to see the tombs.  The Sphinx is there too, right in front of one of the pyramids. We had a really great time.  I just wish I could’ve seen them back when they were built. 

We filmed some stuff there  for the website which should be up shortly.  The next day we saw some of the first pyramids ever built on our way to the airport. 

We flew all night and through the next day and now we are here!  Some of the kids arrived back from vacation yesterday and we are doing a workshop with them and writing a one-act play that we will perform before we leave later in the month.  Very exciting.   I have to go… I’m off to our first rehearsal with the students of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.  More to follow…