All in the Family: 10 Travelers Over 30 Years

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Throughout our 64-year history, Putney Student Travel has developed strong connections across generations of alumni families. Since the earliest programs journeyed across the Atlantic in the 1950s, we’ve been joined by friends, siblings, children, nieces and nephews, and even grandchildren of those travelers from the early years. As the Putney Student Travel family has grown up over the years, it has done so alongside our alumni families. We were recently reminded of this when we received a call from Stephanie Schaeffer, who traveled with us on our Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland program in the 1980s with Jeff Shumlin as one of her leaders. Stephanie, whose last name back then was Cohn, was calling to inquire about the very same program for her teenage daughter, Caroline. Stephanie’s older daughter also participated in this program in 2014 and her siblings Jonathan, Kimberli, and Matt traveled with us on many different student travel programs in the 1980s as well. Stephanie’s husband Robert Schaeffer and her brother-in-law Tony are also alumni of Putney Student Travel, as are her nieces and nephews on both sides of her family. Her daughter Isabelle was the 10th member of the family to travel with Putney! Stephanie and Jeff, Co-Director of Putney Student Travel and son of the organization’s founders, relished this shared familial history over the phone. We later got in touch to interview Stephanie on the role Putney Student Travel has played in her family.

Stephanie's extended family. Seven of the family members in the picture have traveled on Putney programs.

This is a recent photos of Stephanie’s extended family. Seven of the family members in the picture have traveled on Putney programs.

In what ways have the Putney Student Travel alumni in your family carried their experience with them into their adult lives?

As an adult with a family of my own, I love to travel and realize that the way we travel now is built on the foundation of both my husband’s and my own Putney experiences. We love to explore a country in an authentic way — nothing is better than wandering aimlessly in a new town and asking locals where they like to eat. We don’t like to be tourists who are rushing to make sure we see all the most popular sights, but rather we love to explore and get a feel not only for the town or city we are visiting but for the people who live there as well.

Stephanie, left, on her Putney program in the 1980s.

Stephanie, left, on her Putney program in the 1980s.

I remember back to my Putney program and the week-long bike trip in Holland, how each day a different person would have the map and have to figure out how to get to the next hostel and decide where we would be stopping for lunch. There was no right way to get to the next place and the group placed confidence in the day’s leader and each day was an adventure. We never worried about what we might be missing by taking a certain path — but rather we relished what we saw along our way. If something piqued the interest of the group or even one person — whether it was a wonderful cheese shop or windmill or quaint town along the way — we explored it, and often this unexpected experience was a highlight of the day’s journey.

This is how my husband and I like to travel today. We take our family to wonderful places, but we aren’t tourists staying in the fanciest hotels. We prefer to stay in places that are more authentic to the region and prefer to walk around and explore a city rather than sitting in a bus or car and looking at the famous sites out the window.

Stephanie's nieces Madison and Cameron on our Community Service Tanzania program. The two applied independently of one another and were pleasantly surprised to find themselves in the same program!

Stephanie’s nieces Madison and Cameron on our Community Service Tanzania program. The two applied independently of one another and were pleasantly surprised to find themselves in the same program!

As an alumna and also a parent of Putney Student Travel participants, how would you say the experience has evolved over the years?

I think that the core of a Putney program hasn’t changed from 30 years ago when I was on my trip. The experiences continue to focus on adventuresome travel for curious students. The students who choose to go on a Putney trip today are truly grounded and interesting students who have a zest for adventure. They are open to exploring new experiences fully — whether it be sleeping on an overnight train on a triple bunk bed, living with a family who doesn’t speak English in a homestay, carrying their own bags from bus or train stations up cobblestone streets to a hostel, navigating the Paris metro, or appreciating art in a museum. The varied experience of Putney’s trips makes them exciting and interesting — that definitely hasn’t changed over time.

Stephanie's daughter Isabella, second from left, in the Alps on our Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland program.

Stephanie’s daughter Isabelle, second from left, in the Alps on our Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland program.

What sort of advice would you have for someone preparing for their first Putney program?

The best piece of advice I can give is: don’t go with friends or anyone you know! Putney trips are small groups with wonderful leaders who make sure that the group dynamics work well and that everyone is engaged and having fun. It’s a wonderful experience to make new friends from all over. You likely have gone to the same school or camp for a number of years and haven’t had the experience of making new friends as a teenager. It’s great practice for college when you will likely go with no one you know and will need to know how to make new friends.

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An Interview with Alan Huffman

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We are excited to announce that Alan Huffman will join us as the guest writer for our 2015 Writing in the American South program. Based in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta, this two-week summer program for high school students is designed to give young writers individual and small-group instruction in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, writing for stage and screen, and more as they explore and engage with the region through dynamic, field-based writing exercises. We caught up with Alan to talk about his writing practice and philosophy, his relationship to the Mississippi Delta, and what he’s looking forward to most about collaborating with Putney this summer.

Born in Jackson, MS, Alan now splits his time between New York City and his home in Bolton, MS. He is the author of  five nonfiction books, and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, the Oxford American, Outside, Newsweek, Washington Post Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. During our conversation, Alan shared his thoughts on the interrelated nature of travel and writing, the South’s power to evoke great storytelling, and his advice for young writers and travelers.

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Alan Huffman at his historic home, Holly Grove, in Bolton, Mississippi. The house, which belonged to the family of a childhood friend, was built in 1832 on the Red Lick, MS, plantation whose owner inspired Alan’s 2004 book, Mississippi in Africa. It was given to him in 1990 with the stipulation that he dismantle it, move it to his own property (60 miles away), and restore it. // photo by James Patterson

Much of your work emanates from times in your life when you left your home and immersed yourself in the stories of others. What kind of effect do you feel these experiences, and the experience of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, have on an individual’s writing?

The story that formed the basis of my book Mississippi in Africa began in Mississippi, in familiar territory, but led to a decidedly unfamiliar place, to a region of Liberia known as Mississippi in Africa. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the United States in the early 19th century, and the region called Mississippi in Africa was essentially a parallel Mississippi — a place they patterned after and named for their former home in the U.S. More than a century later, the subjugation of the indigenous tribes led to civil war. My desire to follow the story all the way through landed me in that war zone, which was as far outside my comfort zone as I’d ever been.

The basic premise I work from is that everyone knows something I don’t know. Everyone has their own piece of the puzzle. But it’s about more than the minutiae of a story, about all those individual pieces. It’s also about seeing the bigger picture taking shape. Part of the reason I come and go is to get a different vantage point on things. It’s like when you travel to an unfamiliar place: Upon your return, home looks different, too.

You have spent a fair amount of time in the Mississippi Delta (where our Writing in the American South program will spend much of its time) and now live quite close to there. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship to the area and what made you want to stay?

My paternal grandparents lived in the Delta, so I spent a lot of time there growing up. My first book was a collection of my grandmother’s photographs from their time there. As I got older I began to see what an archetypal place the Delta is. Everything we associate with the American South is writ large there, for better or worse. The area where I now live is about a half-hour away, but it’s basically the same world, and I stayed because I knew I could never exhaust the raw material available to me.

Many people see the Delta as a bleak place — a flat, sparsely populated region with great disparities in wealth and education, where great literature has historically been coupled with high illiteracy rates, and which has a notoriously conflicted racial history. But those paradoxes lend themselves to rich, complex stories. All great literature is about what Faulkner described as the human heart in conflict with itself, and you’d have to search far and wide to find a place with more conflicted hearts than the Mississippi Delta.

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The historic cabin where Alan and his dog lived for seven years while Holly Grove was restored. In 1996, after the restoration was complete, Holly Grove was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. // photo by Alan Huffman

What, in your view, does the region have to offer young writers?

In the world today, it’s much easier to control your sources of information. You can hide Facebook friends whose comments you find offensive. You can follow only those Twitter feeds that reinforce your personal views. You can carefully groom your influences as a writer, approaching storytelling from whatever academic paradigm you choose to superimpose upon it.

Yet all great writing is about revelation, and you don’t get that by limiting your exposure or strictly controlling your approach. In a place like the Delta, you can’t really insulate yourself from different kinds of experiences or from the conflicts they inevitably entail. It’s always right there in front of you. You have access to every kind of human drama on any given street or gravel road. All you have to do is be there and be open to the stories.

We often begin our Putney programs by sharing our hopes and fears for the experience ahead. What is one hope and one fear you have about the program?

My hope is that the students will see that a great story can come from anywhere — from the ruins of an old house, from a fragment of overheard conversation, from a glimpse of someone’s life that’s very different from your own. I don’t really have any fears about the program; my only concern is that the exercises be useful, that it be fun, and that we all grow as writers.

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Alan has very kindly invited us for a visit to Holly Grove, an inspiring setting for writing exercises and workshops! // photo by Alan Huffman

What are the non-writing elements of the program you’re most looking forward to?

Everything I’ve read about in the itinerary sounds interesting, but most of all I look forward to seeing an otherwise familiar place through fresh sets of eyes.

Many young writers have questions about where to find inspiration and what to do with it once they’ve found it. Can you talk a little about how you generate project ideas and your first steps toward approaching them as a writer?

My inspiration typically stems from a need to solve a problem or to fill a gap in my own understanding. In the case of my book Sultana, which is about a maritime disaster that occurred at the end of the American civil war, my interest was piqued after I heard about an Arkansas farmer who had plowed up some charred timbers from a wrecked steamboat. I was curious about the boat, and as I dug into the story I found that more people had died as a result of its sinking than had died on the Titanic, and that most of them were recently-released Union Army prisoners of war. I thought of the survivors, who had endured war and prison only to find themselves aboard a burning boat on a flooded river in the middle of the night when they were supposed to be on their way home. I wondered how they had survived the series of onslaughts, and what had happened to them in the years after. So I went from that simple prompt — a few pieces of charred wood — to focusing upon the lives of three men who endured pretty much everything the world can throw at you.

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Holly Grove in 1984. // photo by Alan Huffman

What advice do you have for young writers? How about for young travelers?

The best advice I can offer — and it applies to writing and to travel, is to be open to people whose lives are different from your own. Doing so will not only expose you to other pieces of the puzzle; it will tell you things about yourself.

Give us a book that is in your personal “canon” that maybe never made it to anyone’s top-10 list. What is it about that book that you connect with?

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer. Dyer went to considerable effort to avoid completing a book he’d been commissioned to write about D.H. Lawrence, mainly because he wasn’t interested in telling readers what he already knew. Instead, he pushed into the unknown, open to whatever new and interesting distraction presented itself, and ended up writing a truly great book about the search for meaning in life, about himself, and, ultimately, about D.H. Lawrence. It’s a perfect example of trusting a story even when you feel you’ve lost your way, and then finding your way out.

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Holly Grove today. // photo by Alan Huffman

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Co-Director Peter Shumlin’s 3rd-Term Inauguration

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On January 8, many of us, along with Shumlin family members, made the trip to the statehouse in Montpelier to see the chief justice of Vermont’s Supreme Court administer the oath of office and to listen to Peter’s address from the floor of the House of Representatives. There were honor guards, music, and enough pomp and circumstance to go around.  Those of us who have worked with Peter for so long in his primary role as an international educator were filled with pride, but also with confidence that Peter’s extensive experience in international programs and his appreciation of experiential learning will continue to bring a unique perspective to getting creative things done for Vermonters.

Governor Peter Shumlin delivering his 3rd term inauguration speech.

Governor Peter Shumlin delivering his 3rd term inauguration speech.

Once the ceremonies were complete and the last hands shaken, the Putney delegation retired with the governor to his office overlooking the golden dome of the Vermont statehouse to relax and reflect.  Peter spoke about the daunting challenges facing the State of Vermont, the nation, and the world, and how slowly the wheels of progress move when compared to the significant change we can effect in the relatively short course of a Putney program.  Providing that transformation to Putney participants will continue to be our mission, and we know it will inform Peter’s strategy as as he toils away more slowly in a broader arena.

Putney directors and family traveled to Montpelier to support and congratulate Peter.

Putney directors and family traveled to Montpelier to support and congratulate Peter.

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Top Destinations According to The New York Times

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The New York Times came out with its list of the 52 best travel destinations for 2015, and we saw a lot that looked familiar! From recently unlocked treasures to new takes on classic destinations, we here at Putney are constantly pushing to charter innovative programs off the beaten track. Here are some of the destinations our programs will call home this summer, in the order determined by The New York Times list.

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1. Milan, ItalyThe New York Times put Milan in the top spot for 2015, focusing mainly on the city’s culinary wonders. Milan will host the 2015 World Expo, featuring food, nutrition, and sustainable practices. Although our Farm to Table in Italy program settles in the countryside rather than the city, the focus on food is the same!

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2. Cuba – With a thaw in U.S.–Cuba diplomatic relations and the dawning of a new era upon us, it’s no surprise The New York Times ranked Cuba so highly. We’re thrilled to be one of the only organizations with the proper licensing already in place, and can’t wait to experience this exciting moment in Cuba and America’s relationship on our Cultural Exploration Cuba program this summer.

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16. Lower Manhattan, New York – Although New York City needs no introduction for many of our students, we love showing some of our Pre-College at Amherst College students around for the first time. With Pre-College at Amherst College students joining us from all over the U.S., and about 30 percent from abroad, our weekend excursion to New York City is often a highlight of the program!

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17. Tanzania – While Tanzania has burst onto the scene as a top international destination, we’ve been heading there for adventure travel and community service programs since the 1970s. The New York Times article focuses on the emergence of luxury hotels, but we’re fine with our village living on Community Service Tanzania!

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23. New Orleans, Louisiana – “Resilient and renewed” is how The New York Times describes the Big Easy, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new Writing in the American South program explores this vibrant region of the country with our base in New Orleans. We’ll get to know the city, hone our writing, and even learn from some of the premier writers that call New Orleans home.

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24. Peru – With a focus on community-based tourism projects on the north coast, The New York Times is sure to stress that there is an incredible country beckoning beyond Machu Picchu. We completely agree, and have been running service programs in tiny indigenous communities for years. Take a look at this video from Community Service Peru to learn more.

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41. Switzerland – Switzerland is one of the first destinations ever visited by Putney Student Travel participants. Our inaugural Cultural Exploration Europe program in 1951 took to the Alps and the surrounding Swiss and French countryside. Sixty-four years later, adventure awaits Putney students headed to the Swiss Alps.

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 43. Danang, Vietnam – Our Community Service Vietnam program explores the region surrounding Danang, Vietnam. Volunteers on this particular program build a house from start to finish alongside a local family.

A night shot from our trip to Shanghai's World Financial Center, the highest observation tower in the world.

46. Shanghai, China – Shanghai, host to our Pre-College Shanghai program, features an incredible blend of cutting-edge innovation and centuries-old history and culture. Our students explore both the old and the new in Shanghai through the lens of their interactive seminar group.

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48. Rome, Italy – Our Pre-College Florence program bases itself in the vibrant university city of Florence, and takes trips to explore the breezy beaches of Cinque Terra and the majestic antiquity of Rome.

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Happy Holidays!

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Tasting Catalunya: Introducing Farm to Table in Spain

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We caught up with Putney Student Travel Director Patrick Noyes after his recent trip to Barcelona to finalize details of our new Farm to Table Spain program for high school students.  Patrick lived in Spain for five years, and many of the chefs, farmers, and producers our group will be working with are personal connections of his – so we asked him if there was anyone new he met on his travels about whom he’s particularly excited. Here’s what he had to say:

“The Pyrenees and northern Catalunya are one of my favorite regions of Spain, and while I haven’t been to every tiny village on each peak and in each valley, I thought I had a fairly complete picture of what the area had to offer – but nothing prepared me for Cal Serní. Our group will be spending three days in this meticulously restored 15th century manor house as the guests of chef Josep Maria Troguet and his family. Eighty percent of all the food consumed at the manor house by its 18 nightly guests is produced right on site – meats, cheeses, vegetables, olive oil, you name it.  Let me walk you through a few facets of this hidden Spanish gem.”

The approach to the complex..everything you see is Cal Serní

The approach to Cal Serní is steep, winding, and cobblestoned. Everything you see here is part of the manor house complex. All told, there are 8 different levels to the house, from the root cellars to the attic terraces.

LOTS of sculptures point the way...

Josep and his family are close friends with many artists. Commissioned sculptures such as this one can be found in almost every nook and cranny. There is a particularly interesting water fountain sculpture dedicated to all 120 chefs in Catalunya who have been cooking in the same restaurant for over 40 years.

Some of the gardens that provision everything

Josep, his wife, and his son, are responsible for growing, harvesting, and cooking everything that Cal Serní produces. In order for so few people to accomplish so much, every watering, weeding, and fertilizing system is custom-designed. Josep is rightly proud of his accomplishment and eager to share his innovations with our group!

A Wood-fired oven and grill - ready to fire up for a loaf of bread or some delicious Catalan calçots.

A Wood-fired oven and grill – ready to fire up for a loaf of bread or some delicious Catalan calçots.

The view from one of our rooms.  The village where Cal Serní is perched is literally the end of the road.  At night you can see the lights from 33 distinct villages in the valley below.

The view from one of our rooms. The village where Cal Serní is perched is literally the end of the road. At night you can see the lights from 33 distinct villages in the valley below.

The dining room.  Just big enough for our group, with not a chair to spare!  Josep will be preparing a 20-course tasting menu for us and explaining the ingredients and techniques he uses for each dish - many of them are his own unique creation!

The dining room. Just big enough for our group, with not a chair to spare! Josep will be preparing a 20-course tasting menu for us and explaining the ingredients and techniques he uses for each dish – many of them are his own unique creation!

Everything you see in this picture, from honey to olive oil, beans, and preserves, was produced at Cal Serní.  The tour of the bodega is both fascinating and humbling.

Everything you see in this picture, from honey to olive oil, beans, and preserves, was produced at Cal Serní. The tour of the bodega is both fascinating and humbling.

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Of course, there is an herbarium connected to the bodega. Josep collects, dries, and jars over 30 herbs, spices, and medicinal plants…all harvested from the gardens of Cal Serní and the surrounding hills.

If there’s anything modern about the house, it’s the three kitchens.  This one is used as a prep kitchen for many of the sausages and preserves produced at Cal Serní.

If there’s anything modern about the house, it’s the three kitchens. This one is used as a prep kitchen for many of the sausages and preserves produced at Cal Serní.

High above the manor house, at the end of a long dirt road, Josep maintains a farmhouse with flocks of sheep and goats, guarded by enormous white Pyrenean Mountain dogs.  Our group will venture up here for a rustic peasants’ feast with the mountains as a majestic backdrop.

High above the manor house, at the end of a long dirt road, Josep maintains a farmhouse with flocks of sheep and goats, guarded by enormous white Pyrenean Mountain dogs. Our group will venture up here for a rustic peasants’ feast with the mountains as a majestic backdrop.

Finally, the man behind this special hideaway  - Joseph  Maria Troguet.  He is eager to meet our group and share his passion for food and Catalan culture!

Finally, the man behind this special hideaway – Joseph Maria Troguet. He is eager to meet our group and share his passion for food and Catalan culture!

Join us this summer on Farm-to-Table Spain to meet Josep, his family, and many other fascinating people involved in the culinary world of Catalunya!

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#GoPutney2014: Student Photos from Summer 2014

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We’re big on appropriate use of social media and technology here at Putney, and together our leaders and students set firm guidelines each summer regarding where and when it makes sense to update our friends and family back home with a quick post. We believe an understanding of this appropriate use is an integral part of traveling today, and we love it when our students use social media as a tool rather than a crutch. Because our teen summer programs are biased toward living in the moment as well as capturing it, we manage to capture some incredible moments! Check out some of our favorite photos posted on Instagram this summer with the hashtag #GoPutney2014. See all of the photos here and click here to follow our Instagram handle.

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Emelie Boucher LLEC Jan Wolf CEVNM Jenni Pietromonaco - CSIND Julia Adams LLSPB Luc Wittenberg GACAM Mia Boulukos GACAM Nathalie Griffiths CSCRSophia Hunt GACAM Ziad Ahmed CSCR

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Partner Village Featured in Major Documentary

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We here at the barn were thrilled to learn that one of our partner communities in Costa Rica is the subject of an important new documentary film! A Small Section of the World, directed by Waiting for Superman producer Leslie Chilcott, tells the story of how a group of women in the small farming community of Biolley banded together to run their own coffee mill and take control of the future of their village. Their work from this tiny Tico town has had lasting effects all over the world, inspiring women in rural communities to advocate strongly on their own behalf and sparking an international movement in the name of properly sourced and sustainable coffee.

Over the course of more than five summers working with Biolley on our Community Service Costa Rica program, our students have learned a tremendous amount from these women and we’re proud to call them members of the Putney family. Kristin Westby, a veteran Putney leader who led our Community Service Costa Rica program in Biolley in 2013, said, “From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, the community of Biolley welcomed us with open arms and continuously presented opportunities for our students to learn about their culture. Students cooked alongside Yeimi and Laura, played endless games of ping pong with Alex, ventured through the rainforest learning about fruits, wildlife, and hidden waterfalls with Pablo, and worked on valuable construction projects with Hector and Miguel, while exclaiming “Qué chiva mae!” with Miguel along the way.”

Check out the trailer for the film featuring an original recording by Grammy winner Alanis Morissette and Costa Rican superstar Carlos Tapado Vargas, and click here to find out how to see the film in its entirety.

Some of our favorite student and leader photos from Biolley:

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The Return of our High School Summer Program in Cuba!

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It is with great pride and excitement that we announce the return of Putney Student Travel’s high school summer programs in Cuba! For four years beginning in 2001, Putney ran incredible summer programs for high school students focusing on the arts, Spanish language, and authentic interaction with Cubans from our base in Havana.  In late 2004, however, the U.S. government tightened restrictions on people-to-people educational exchanges, one of the only legal paths for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.  Today, after years of diligent work (and a healthy dose of patience!), Putney has obtained a license for people-to-people educational exchange once again.  This summer, together with a crew of passionate travelers, we’re headed back to Havana!

In a series of two week programs based in Havana, our students explore this fascinating, rapidly changing country through the lens of a field-based workshop and real interactions with the Cuban people. Workshops are field-based and focused on Cuban Music & Dance, Spanish Language, and Documentary Media.  Putney Student Travel Co-Director Jeff Shumlin says, “We’re very excited to reinstate our Cuba program and offer this incredible opportunity to a new generation of students.” Putney’s philosophy of active engagement and interaction with local people aligns nicely with the U.S. government’s requirement for people-to-people educational exchange, one of the few ways that U.S. citizens can travel legally to Cuba. Going far beyond the limits of a typical teen tour, this unique program for high school students affords an exclusive and rare opportunity to experience this rich and textured country.

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We recently reconnected with several alumni of Putney’s Cuba program from the early 2000s, and they shared some thoughts and memories with us from their experiences. “There are so many vivid memories I have from my time in Cuba,” says 2003 alumna Elizabeth (Keltz) Robinson. “I remember salsa lessons on a roof top in Havana, home-stays in the countryside, learning about the culture firsthand from Cuban students, strolling along the Malecón, street artists and music, mud baths at the mineral springs, visiting Hemingway’s old house, hiking through tobacco fields, and learning about Santería in Trinidad. It was a truly remarkable group of instructors and students, and probably the most enchanting, profound travel adventure I have ever experienced.” Elizabeth now works at an environmental consulting firm in Lexington, Kentucky, and serves on a committee for a non-profit focused on sustainable urban food systems.

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Andrew Reich, also an alum of Putney’s Cuba program, said, “I do a good deal of traveling, but my time in Cuba with Putney is far and away my most memorable trip.  It was such a privilege to be able to learn and explore in a country that, unfortunately, most Americans don’t have the opportunity to visit. The leaders were engaging and capable, and they made sure that every participant had a memorable experience. I really wanted to learn about Cuban jazz.  By the end of the trip, I performed on stage at two historic Havana jazz clubs and even got a private lesson from a local jazz saxophonist.  (I still can’t believe this happened– if I didn’t have photos, nobody would believe me.)  My Spanish improved drastically.  We studied the language with a hands-on, experiential approach, and it was that full immersion that brought me to a new level of fluency.  I never expected I would be putting my Spanish to use in my career, but it actually has been a great asset. The people on this trip were incredible, and I was so glad to see that the other students had the same passion for learning and experiencing Havana as I did. We lived and experienced Cuban culture, but not before delving into the complicated historical and political context.  We didn’t ignore the elephant in the room– we addressed the issues head on and had rewarding and informative discussions so that we could better appreciate and understand what we were seeing and experiencing.” Andrew recently graduated from Columbia University Law School and is practicing law in New York.

We’re thrilled to be able to introduce a new generation of Putney students to Cuba this summer.  If you want to learn more about our summer program in Cuba, or how to join us this summer in Cuba, please call or email today!

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Five New Faces in the Putney Barn!

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susannah headhotThe Putney Barn is buzzing with new energy this fall, with five new full-time staff members joining us over the past few months! With backgrounds ranging from travel-writing, to teaching, to nursing, and work experience spanning from Tanzania to Thailand to the Himalaya, the Fab Five — as they’re known around here — bring with them incredible insight and excitement to the Barn. We’ve had a great time getting to know them, and now hope to extend that joy to you. Without further ado, we present to you our five new members of the Putney Barn. Get to know them!

Anna Kayes

Anna Kayes with local friends on our Community Service Dominica program.

Anna Kayes with local friends on our Community Service Dominica program.

Anna is a graduate of The College of William & Mary. She joins the staff after a year teaching English in India and Thailand and a stint at an educational provider based in Boston. She directs programs in the West Indies, Alaska, Thailand, and London, and also works to coordinate Putney slideshow presentations around the country with alumni families. She has twice led our Community Service Dominica program.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “My favorite moments to date have been the goodbyes at the end of the Dominica program. Its been moving and rewarding to see the tearful send-offs and know that the Putney students built strong relationships not only with one another but also with the local Dominican kids.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Picking blueberries for the first time at the orchard near the Barn with new friends. The blueberries were falling off the bush, it was a clear night, and the sun was setting over the mountains.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Snow boots, cross country skis, a hefty block of Vermont cheddar and a Netflix subscription.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “The Thai phrase — “a-rai gor dai” which translates loosely to “anything goes.” I probably used this the most, and learned the most from this phrase, throughout the year I spent teaching in Thailand. It was a healthy reminder each day to enjoy the journey and not get caught up in the minutia (and chaos!) of teaching.”

John Linsley

John with community contacts in Tanzania.

John with community contacts in Tanzania.

John holds a Bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and a Masters in International Relations from Syracuse University. Before starting at Putney, John worked as a teacher, dorm parent, and program manager for an undergraduate study abroad program based in Montana. He has also guided whitewater kayaking and wilderness programming for high school and college students. John oversees programming in Tanzania, India, and South Africa. He also lends a hand with outreach and works with our team to make sure our programs are active, educational, safe, and fun. He has led many Putney programs in Tanzania.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “My favorite moment while leading a Putney program was reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341’) with my co-leader, Erica, and all twelve of our students on the summer 2012 Cultural Exploration Kilimanjaro program! During the eight-day climb up the Shira Plateau/Western Breach Route we spent a night above 18,000’ in the summit crater, walking among glaciers, exploring Kili’s ash pit, and watching Mt. Meru peeking through the clouds in the distance. The memories from that trip will always stick with me!”

Best Vermont Memory to Date:  “Trail running along Windmill Ridge to the Pinnacle! It’s amazing that this run is just a few steps away from the Putney Barn.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “I plan to bulk up on a lot of Vermont cheese to increase my body’s insulation.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: Hamna shida, which is Swahili for “no worries.”

Ryanne Fujita-Conrads

Ryanne with a coordinator from one of our Ecuadorian communities.

Ryanne with a coordinator from one of our Ecuadorian communities.

Ryanne is a graduate of Reed College and joins us after teaching and traveling in Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, and Southeast Asia. She works in outreach — visiting high schools to speak with prospective students and managing Putney’s social media presence — and directs programs in Costa Rica. She has led Community Service Ecuador.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “Sharing a hearty lunch with our Ecuadorian friends after a hard day’s work. I love the hustle and bustle of the whole community coming together — caked with sweat and mud — laughing and joking with one another, the air filled with a mixture of English, Spanish, and the smell of fresh fried patacones.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Picking blueberries at Green Mountain Orchards, paddle-boarding on the Putney pond, and bonfires. I can’t pick just one!”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Cross-country skis, good friends, and a crock pot.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Dios le pague,” literally “may god repay you” in Spanish. In Ecuador they use this phrase as a deeper, more thoughtful form of “thank you”. I like the idea that someone’s actions may be so great you will never be able to repay them.”

Annie Agnone

Annie exploring the coastal cliffs of the Emerald Isle while leading our Writing in Ireland program.

Annie exploring the coastal cliffs of the Emerald Isle while leading our Writing in Ireland program.

Annie joins Putney from the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She taught college-level writing courses and (with the help of a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant) drove over 20,000 miles around the United States at night to photograph and write about nocturnal culture. She manages Putney’s photo technology and directs our Writing programs, as well as other Pre-College and Cultural Exploration programs in Europe. She has led programs in Italy, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “I had a student who was smart, funny, and kind, but who had been bullied a lot in school. On the last night of the program, we each shared one intangible thing we would be taking back home with us. Hers was the knowledge that people are good, and that she could trust them. Hearing she felt that way was definitely a highlight of my leading experience.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “Tubing the West River with friends on an unseasonably warm day in late September. It was sunny and hot (85 degrees!), but the leaves had already changed color and we could see the geese heading south in Vs as we floated downriver for 10 miles.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Attack it head-on! I’ve got snowshoes, a crock pot, and a four-wheel drive vehicle. Let’s do this.”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Fare e disfare è tutto un lavorare, which means ‘making and unmaking is all work’ in Italian.”

Susannah Poland

Susannah with her Language Learning France co-leader at Putney's leader orientation.

Susannah with her Language Learning France co-leader at Putney’s leader orientation.

Susannah was previously working in Washington, D.C. as a researcher for the chief curator at the National Museum of African Art. Before moving to Vermont, she broke away from the museum world to conduct research on Mount Everest in Nepal. She followed an international team of climbers on their expedition to Everest’s summit, and documented their operations for a study of decision-making in extreme environments. Susannah directs programs in French-speaking countries and manages Putney’s partnerships with schools. She has led Language Learning France.

Favorite Moment While Leading a Putney Program: “I led our Language Learning program in France last summer, and by the end of our 5-week journey together, each of my students said they were DREAMING in French! Everyone was shocked by their personal transformation. I couldn’t have been happier.”

Best Vermont Memory to Date: “In October, a farm near our Barn offices produces over 90 different types of heirloom apples, and there is an old apple guru in town who can identify every one. It is the most joyful, spectacular harvest. We hosted a pie-baking party and baked and ate pies all day.”

Defense Plan for the Winter: “Woolly long johns and hot toddies!”

Favorite Saying in a Foreign Language: “Ah la vache! – which is French and literally translates to “Oh, the cow!” It’s used in the same way some people say “Oh my God!”

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