Friday, March 6, 2015

And we're off!

GCP departures update

GCP Fiji made it out of Dulles airport to LA yesterday despite the snow and are currently en route to Fiji.

GCP Cambodia, Philippines, and Malaysia departed campus this morning at 8am for the airport where they will fly first to Seoul, South Korea.

GCP Nepal will depart campus this afternoon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

GCP Bolivia has arrived

Just received word that the Bolivia group has just landed at Dulles.

Bolivia's Adventure Team

There are some experiences that just can’t be documented. If I had a picture or video of what happened after we saw the sand dunes or behind the waterfall we visited I would. I can post the pictures of what we saw and the touristy group photos we took in front of various attractions but I can’t post pictures of the experiences I had. While this trip has been filled with incredible sight seeing, food consuming, and friend making, nothing will beat the physical memories I am making.
Tuesday, Mar. 11: After a day of many frustrating curve balls we arrived at our final attraction of the day. It started with a 15-minute hike under a light drizzling rain on a muddy path and ended at a rather small, muddied waterfall. Just as we were finishing up our photo shoot on the shoreline, Nate had an idea. Within minutes Nate, Grace, Seth and I stripped down to our underwear to wade into the muddy water and explore the cove behind the rushing waterfall. As we got closer to the falls the current got increasingly stronger. Nate took the lead followed by Seth and Grace. As I made my way toward the falls my adrenaline began to pump. With the water spraying relentlessly into my eyes, my group mates ensured I made it into the cove safely. Sitting on a bed of wet rocks and sticks in nothing but a thong and a sports bra, behind a vicious waterfall, I couldn’t catch my breath or find the words to describe how I felt and the experience I was having. Not only was this occurrence not documented but also it’s been days and I still can’t find the words to explain how amazing of an experience this was.
Thursday, Mar. 13: Another experience that was not documented but equally as inexplicable was on our drive back from the sand dunes we visited. Descending from the peak of the dunes was only the first task to complete on our way back to the main road. The next task was a two-mile hike through swampy puddles, mini sand hills, and tall bug-ridden grass. When we finally got back on our trusty bus, all that was left was a ten-minute drive back to the main road. The path we had so swiftly conquered on the way to the dunes was slightly more treacherous this time. Dipping in and out of each mud puddle our eyes were wide with fear that the worst would happen, and it did. The bus got stuck. Our tour guide quickly escorted each of us off the bus and on to the side of the dirt road. Frantically translating the bus driver’s orders, our tour guide told us we needed someone to push. Instantly, almost every member of our group ripped off their already wet and muddy shoes to trudge into the puddle to push. Collectively, we were able to push the bus back behind the puddle. On the second attempt to plow through the mud, the bus got stuck once again. The driver thrust the bus back and forth as we continued to push and run, trying not to get run over. Finally, with only four of our strongest team members pushing, the bus drove free. It was an incredible feeling to have come together with a group of people, who were strangers only a few days prior, eager and willing to work together to overcome an obstacle we never could have foreseen.
I have done my best to describe two of my favorite memories from my trip this spring break, but these words seem weak in comparison to being in the moment itself. No words, no pictures, and no videos could ever do any life changing experiences justice.  
GCP Morocco

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make a blog post during my time in Morocco, so I thought a reflection was in order.  I could talk about the surreal feeling of traveling from deserts sands to snowy mountain caps within a few hours.  I could also talk about the art and communication of bartering with the local vendors.  I even could go on about the amazing mosaic and marble factories who create some of the most stunning art in the world with only their hands.  I never thought I would experience any of these amazing things, but I decided to post about a universal truth I learned 4,000 miles from home.
A resounding fact left in my mind is simply that people are people where ever you go.  The landscapes, clothing, food, art, and culture as a whole were quite different in Morocco, however the human interactions and behaviors I saw and got to be apart of were oddly familiar.  I witnessed families who invited our group into their homes for tea and food and there was a comforting kindness and sense of community that was awesome.  I also encountered vendors and salesmen who would try to swindle and leave you none the wiser.  In Marrakech we even witnessed a staged fight as a diversion for pick pocketing.  The massive metropolises of Casablanca and Marrakech were mecca business towns operating all day and all night.  Then there were the smaller farming towns who moved at their own pace.  These examples may be extreme on either end of the spectrum, but it was amazing to see and experience a culture so different and yet so familiar.
I would like to thank Shenandoah University for offering this once in a lifetime learning experience and I would like to thank Abdel and my entire GCP group for making the experience so 'awesome!'

-Mark Koons

GCP returns - update

Yesterday (Sunday), the groups from South Korea, Costa Rica, Morocco and Albania arrived and are now back on campus.  The Bolivia group made it safely to Miami but had to spend the night there due to their connecting flight being cancelled.  They are confirmed on a new flight that arrives in Dulles this evening.  Updates will be posted here and on the GCP Facebook page.

Bolivian Days, Bolivian Nights: The Recap Through My Eyes

This trip, by far, has been the most interesting one I've ever been on. I've met some pretty cool people, eaten some delicious foods, and explored a world much different from my own. While on this trip, I took into account the discussions we had at each meeting for GCP. We discussed body language, interaction, the difference of cultures, in-group/out-group, and much more. I paid a lot of attention to in-groups and out-groups in Bolivia, as well as my own group. I watched as the similar people bonded together and never separated, while making it difficult for the out-group to join the in-group. I absorbed the culture, knowing that this isn't just a vacation out of the country. It's a new experience; it's a new ride; it's a new world. At times during this adventure, I lost site of why I was there. I lost sight of my purpose. As well as having fun, I was there to learn, share, and explore. The things I've seen in Bolivia are things I'll never forget. I went to a foreign country for the first time with a group of strangers. Two days into the trip, we were good friends. Four days in, we were great friends. For the Bolivia group, however, the adventure isn't over. Because of the snow in D.C., we're still in Miami with a confirmed flight to DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) Airport, then to Dulles. Yes, it's inconvenient, but it's better than being in a foreign country and being shuffled around like this. As we sit in Miami International Airport, we continue to think of the things we take for granted, such as clean water, soap, and toilet paper in the bathroom. We remain ever thankful and hope for a change for the better in Bolivia. With all of the beautiful pictures taken and experiences gained, this will make for a wonderful iMovie!