Category Archives: University of Maryland

becoming a kid again

When do we grow up? That is similar to asking when our day begins; does it start when we arrive at our destination, during our journey, when we wake up, or possibly long before we ever knew it would come? Growing up is a state of mind – one that we embody based on societal pressures, our relationships with other people, or the circumstances that we are handed in this everlasting journey. We feel compelled to move onto this next level of our life, one defined by “grown up” activities, but we never stop and actually smell the coffee that everyone is drinking. But when the cards are not in our favor – and eventually when it is time to meet our maker – we decide that it is appropriate to celebrate and enjoy what we are given on a daily basis. But why wait? There is no time like the present, and it is indeed a gift. Adulthood is not an inevitable part of our lives, it is a mere construction that we have stuck with for way too long. Being a kid is our most natural form, one filled with affluence, beauty, excitement, and pure joy, and we must let these virtues enter our lives. Be conscious of happiness and you will flow along with the world, like a rock in a stream.

This week is focused on an environment of absolute bliss – to pay attention to the celebrations of life rather than its tribulations, and suddenly the tribulations do not seem so horrible after all. And in order to do that, we must become kids again, growing backwards to reclaim the wonderful world we all share.

smiling now and excited for tomorrow,

the kids of forest view lane

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alternative winter break videos

Here are some of my favorite videos from our trip.  Check out the Atlanta Alternative Winter Break YouTube Channel for even more footage from Atlanta.  There are interviews from team members, montages from our service sites, and of course, bloopers!  Thanks to everyone who made this such an awesome trip.

Thanks to everyone who made this trip so great!

hello home

After navigating Atlanta’s streets for one final time, we arrived safely at the airport.  As I flew back to D.C., I watched a lot of the videos that I filmed during the week and thought about all of the fun times.  What I’ve found most rewarding about the Alternative Break trips is that I’m able to share a special experience with a group of Terps.  As I mentioned in my last post, this trip to Atlanta is not the end.  It’s just the beginning of fun times as a team.

As soon as possible, I’ll be putting together a video of everything Atlanta.  Also, I hope to go back through some of my blog posts and add photos.  In the meantime, whether you’re a friend or family member of a trip participant, make sure to ask to hear stories from Atlanta!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and check back soon for videos and photos.

goodbye atlanta

Wow!  Really?!  How is this week over already?  Looking back, our days have been packed with rewarding volunteering, fun group activities, fulfilling discussions, delicious food, and music-filled van rides.  As we prepare to leave Atlanta and end our Alternative Break, it’s crucial for us to remember that this can’t be the end.  I’m headed back to campus with a new group of friends, memories, and stories to tell.  In many of our discussions throughout the trip, we’ve talked about ways that we can continue to participate in service back in College Park.  We have a lot of great ideas and I’m ready for us to carry them out!

The rooms we’ve been staying in for the last week have notes and drawings on the walls from past visitors.  We’re taking part in this tradition by leaving our two cents on the walls.

We’re off to take one last adventure to the World of Coca-Cola to learn about the history of this Atlanta mainstay.  Let’s see who in our group is brave enough to try the Beverly.

shabbat shenanigans

Emory was a blast!  We brought our fun with us to Emory Hillel on Friday and Chabad at Emory on Saturday.  We arrived to the Hillel House late Friday afternoon and met with the Executive Director, Michael.  We dropped off our suitcases and then Michael took us to their new building which will be complete this spring.  Services and dinner were located in the Student Union.  After dinner we showed-off our signing skills by getting a group of Emory students to join us.

Then we added back to the Hillel House and locked ourselves in for the night.  We played more charades and also spent time learning about each other.  Even though most of us have only known each other for a few days, everyone was very willing to open up and share personal stories.

We made our way to Chabad for a delicious Shabbat lunch.  The Lipskier family was extremely gracious as they welcomed us into their home.  We ended Shabbat festivities with a text study lead by Shira.  Shira wrapped things up just as beautifully as she kicked off, a full six days ago.

A gigantic thank you to Emory Hillel, Chabad, and all of the students that we met!

Una Dia Perfecta a la Playa…

Hola! Things have been great here in the Dominican Republic! Yesterday was a fun-filled day full of ice cream, teaching, adorable children and SUN!! Finally the sun came out to brigthen our day even more! In the morning we did some planning for our lessons that would come later in the day and took a walk into town to get a ice cream at a local shop. The ice cream was delicious and a great snack on a hot, sunny day! In the afternoon we taught the children here at the orphange some more English, which all went well even though the kids were a little crazy- they still  learned a lot. We did not have a planned activity at night with the kids but of course still had tons of fun hanging out and playing with them. We layed on the basketball court with the kids and star gazed (while getting attacked and stepped on by some cute ones!).  The sky was so clear and the stars were so bright. – it was awesome. Then we did our group reflection to finish out the day and off to bed.

And then today, Friday, we woke up to another beautiful, sunny day. We woke up a little earlier today and had breakfast, french toast yum, at 7:30. At 8, we got on buses to take a trip to Jaibon and visit the other orphange that Orphange Outreach is involved with here in the Domincan Republic. The bus ride was about an hour and fifteen minutes long. We arrived at the orphange, and started teaching right away. In our groups, we went into three different classrooms; two first grade classes and one seventh grade class. The classes were very excited to have us there since they don’t get many English lessons. It was also interesting that the school on the orphange property was for children who lived at the orphanage as well as children who lived in the surronding town. After teaching, came some fun and games at recess followed by a tour of the orphanage. It was a great morning and really cool to see the other orphanage!

Then we headed back toMonte Cristi for a delicious, authentic lunch at a restaurant in town. There was a large buffet prepared for us with empanadas, rice, beans, stewed eggplant, chicken, meatballs and goat. Our plates were piled high and our stomachs were very full. Following lunch we headed to the gift shop in town. Many of us bought souvenirs and gifts to bring back home to our family friends. Then it was off to the playa- which is the beach! We got to the beach and some of us hiked a trail up a small mountain. The hike was fun and the view from the top was beautiful. We could see the ocean, an interesting island and in a far off distance the mountains of Haiti. We then all swam and played in the waves along the sandy shore. Well actually, there wasn’t much sand but a lot, a lot of rocks. We left the beach to get back to the orphanage in time for Shabbat.

After our showers, getting clean and getting into nicer clothes, something other than our Orphanage Outreach t-shirts, we made our way to the rooftop to start our Shabbat. We started with the lighting of the candles, and did a small group reflection and a meditation exercise. Then we had a really nice dinner set up for us where our Shabbat continued. We said prayers for the kiddush and “challah” (a plain white roll took its place). Then it was time to eat! For dinner we had rice (a staple in Dominican cuisine) and a stew/soup.

Following our Shabbat service and dinner, we had a reflection with all of the volunteers here this week where we shared some special moments we had – “AHA” moments where we realized something about why we were here or learned something new. After the large group reflection, we reflected some more with just our group. This was one of our longest (over 3 hours!) and most personal reflections of the week. It was very nice to see people let their guards down, share personal stories and open up to the goup. Its great how in just a week, the fifteen of us have become so close.

Adios!

El Quince.

it’s a beautiful day

Since we’re headed to Emory for Shabbat in a little bit, we only volunteered for half a day today.  We visited a children’s home that provides shelter, enrichment activities, and a variety of other services to orphaned children.  After touring the beautiful grounds, we got right to work.  We raked a large field that was covered with leaves until we got there.  Special shout-outs to Ellen and Alison for being superstar rakers!

Today was the first time we had weather that Gita and I were hoping for when we picked Atlanta for our trip.  In between the raking we took breaks to play stickball.  Breaking a sweat from playing hard and working even harder was a great way for us to end the week of community service.

We got back to SafeHouse a little bit ago and Vince from E2L joined our group for an evaluation and lunch.  Everybody is getting prepared and dressed for Shabbat.  I probably should start getting ready too.  I’ll write again once we’re back from Emory.