Admin Note: No doubt it’s operator error … but … what I try to create visually (layout) in the “draft” portion of this software is “not always” what shows up in the “published” version. Photography can simply “zip” all over the place. Gaps of “blank space” can appear. I’ll always try to close a BLOG post with “until next time” (or something similar) …so …scroll until you find that and you’ll know you’re done.
It happened last year many thousands of feet above sea level…atop Mt. Etna while I was watching the “teams” work on a volcanic challenge. So … there we were about 500 meters underground, in the depths of a seemingly endless salt deposit that was formed some 6 million years ago (so…so…sooooo very hard to wrap your mind, let alone your arms around the magnitude of that number) and WHAMMO…right out of left field … like being hit in the head by a pop fly while you’re not paying attention to the game because you’re admiring the hotdog you just decorated with a with some sort of “Expressionism” cacophony of condiments …WHAMMO .. my “long gone from this Earth” mother shows up for another impromptu reunion. My mom was a bit of a 1930’s enigma/rebel/out-of-the-box kinda gal. A valedictorian “geologist” from Bryn Mawr. Growing up with mom …whether walking down a city street … or tromping around anywhere …just because tromping around is what you do … she always made sure that I didn’t miss the little things. So … she stooped by just to make sure I didn’t miss anything in this fascinating geological marvel. She asked me to remember to “always touch,” “try to smell,” “rub or scrape” ..and so on. So for a few moments …in a torrent of flashbacks I was in a couple hundred different places at the same time …”reaching to do what my mom always asked me to do.” (If this makes any sense). I ran my hand on these walls that were some kind of geological tapestry of light and dark colors salt and clay … I touched, rubbed, scraped … and smelled (yes, you could actually “smell” the salt) … I did my best, mom. Without getting to soppy here, I had to choke it back for a couple of minutes. (Signora Lucia is a mom ..somehow sensed it … and provided a reassuring hand on the back) Mom pulled this stunt on me last year…. but I was sitting on the lip of a crater…all by my lonesome …so the “watershed” event was completely personal. This time … I’m in the “essence of claustrophobia” … 1,500 feet underground … in a salt mine …really! …. “not” alone by any means. It’s simply amazing how much pain you must inflict on yourself by biting your tongue to stem the “flood” of emotions during a Deja Vu. Mom … you are, were, and always will be … the Salt of the Earth. Make no mistake … although there was no way to circumvent the obvious “pun” … none was intended.
Ok …. so how are the “studenti” …in a word … fabulous. Attacking challenges with vigor … representing “mom, apple pie, and the girl/by next door” about as well as anyone could imagine. Yesterday’s trip to the Piazza Armerina (4th century CE Roman villa) was almost and “impossible dream.” 18 … rising 9th graders exploring one of the greatest displays of mosaics on this planet, referring to iPad maps and background, searching a particular scene on the Piazza floor. Wow! And …get this!! … You almost could have heard a pin drop. FOR REAL! One of many … makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck moments that seem to be “just another day” normalities on the Odissea Italiana. A few captioned photos to follow:
It’s very difficult to get a feel for what’s running through your son’s/daughter’s mind at this point. I’m not sure that it will ever become “transparent,” (Yikes! what am I saying … not sure that doesn’t fall under the category of … “be careful what you wish for”). But … he or she is smack-dab in the middle of ….. ONE ….overwhelming …tangible …palpable … in-your-face “contact” with what I can only describe as “History you can touch …and feel … and breathe … and absorb” … AFTER ANOTHER. What I can see (so far) is a degree of engagement, and fascination, and “buy-in” that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. At Cave di Cusa, the look on her face, the movement of his hand, probing into the cracks and crevices of a partially “cut-out” (by whom and with what I might ask) column piece (… a huge monolith … a chunk of history … 2,500 year’s old! …2,500 year’s old!!!) that was destined to be moved (somehow … and it wasn’t in the back of a large truck) miles and miles to Selinunte to be used to construct the array of temples … that “look” on her face, and “touch of his hand” speak volumes. It’s hard to convey in words … you’re just going to have to roll with me on this … it’s simply a thing of beauty. Okay ..okay … I’m going to get off my pedagogical horse (I know … my horse is more of a pony) and return to a more BWIIC”ish” persona.
Did I tell you how much fun your Bulldog was having. So … put this one away in your bag of “questions” for the future. See if your son /daughter can confirm that it’s a really good idea that they do “not” allow pets (“dogs” in particular) into eating establishments in the the good ole’ land of the fee and the home of the brave? My sense is that you’ll get a long and quite humorous (at least I think it was humorous) earful from the breakfast scene at the Crystal Hotel. It’s the best part of international travel (ok … “a” part … I’d be crazy to say “best”) … seeing life from another angle.
Hey! … Did I tell you that we wrapped up the day with a “swim call” in the Mediterranean Sea … and make no mistake … there wasn’t an Italian for 50 kilometers that was even “thinking” about “thinking” about getting into the water … it was jusssssst a little “brisk” by Mediterranean standards. I’m here to tell you … that “brisk” ranks right up there with “Our current presidential election scene is just fine” …as an understatement of epic proportions. So … captioned pics will follow to try and keep the “feel” going for you.
It’s hard to know where to begin. It’s 2230 Trapani (Sicily) time and your Bulldogs have been working hard, let me repeat for effect…working hard since whenever he/she woke up on Sunday morning until this very moment. They’ve been “at it” for … well in excess of 30 hours.
I suppose I should sugar coat it and avoid mentioning “turbulence” on the transatlantic hop…but in keeping with the spirit of the Academy Honor Code … I’m coming clean. It was jussssssst a little bumpy for in excess of 4 of the 8 hours of flight time across the big pond.
Turbulent enough the make the “sleeping on an airplane event” …that much more challenging. But, that was then and this is now. Your son/daughter is in Sicily! They’ve been fed, watered, and put to bed.
A few pictures (with captions) will follow. Perhaps you’ll be able to get a feel for the “character,” the “personality” of the day! They were so good! They were so competitive (in a healthy way). Sorry for what sounds like some kind of touchy-feely love fest. I’m not “Mr. Feel Good.” What you see is what you get. I saw it…and you’re getting it.
Till next time … BWIIC is headed for a little slumber.
Welcome to the Odyssey Blog. Typically, a majority of the Blogs will be written (I prefer the terms…woven, spun, concocted, fabricated, bunches of words hastily slapped together at random…etc.) by The BWIIC (Blogger What Is In Charge). Please feel free to hold Signora Professoressa Lucia (Mrs. Pollio) personally responsible for assigning me Signore Professore Alfredo (Mr. Poole) the BWIIC responsibilities last year, and then choosing to ignore the relentless public outcry to have me removed and then …. yes and THEN …. allowing me to have “one last try” to redeem myself. So … I’m back… in all “stream of consciousness” … lot’s of little dots between phrases … fasten your seat belts … no one ever accused me of being terse … really! … you need a sense of humor … there’s always the delete key …. g-l-o-r-y! If you start reading a Blog entry and it seems … strangely readable … or flows with some degree of logic … follows basic rules of grammar… and/or simply seems “different” …then it’s your first clue that Professoressa Lucia could not “take it” any longer, has taken corrective action, and temporarily assumed BWIIC while I sit in “time out.”
“It’s hard to tell a Ham from a Spam without a program Maam!”
To keep you on your toes, your Bulldog has assumed a new Italian/Sicilian identity. Typically your daughter/son will be referred to by her/his Odyssey name. So that we are all on the same sheet of music here is a “roll call” broken down by “teams.” Your son/daughter will work within his/her respective team to complete various “challenges” throughout the Odyssey.
We (Pollio, Pollio, and Poole) hope that between the Blog entries and the Twitter/Instagram feeds that we can keep you at least “somewhat” connected to your daughter/son that you have so kindly agreed to share with us for this capstone adventure ……… “In Siclia e oltre!” Next stop ….. “Erice!”
Announcing the Inaugural Voyage of the ‘Eighth Grade Odyssey’
Sicily was colonized by the Greeks in the Eighth century BCE and invaded by the Eighth Grade on June 7. 15 students in Royster Middle School participated in a study abroad adventure in Sicily and southern Italy as part of Norfolk Academy’s Global Classroom initiative.
The objective was to give students an up close and personal view of the ancient world.
By the end of Eighth Grade, they have studied Greek mythology, Greek drama, ancient history, the laws of physics as described by Greek philosophers and scientists, the mathematics of Pythagoras and Euclid, the literature of Homer, and, of course, they have studied the Latin language of the Romans-the direct heirs and innovators of the Greek genius.
So they left the books in the classroom and made antiquity their playground as they climbed on the ruins of ancient temples, sat in the theater where Plato sat, leapt from the altar of the largest Doric temple ever constructed, re-enacted the Roman invasion of Greek Syracuse, confronted philosophers, poets, and playwrights on their own ground, swam in three different seas, hiked in the craters of Mt Etna, and ate their weight in gelato.
Their guides on the journey were a Latin teacher (Heidi Pollio), a science teacher (Woody Poole), a professor of Classics (Dr. David Pollio), their leadership skills, their imagination, and their own sense of adventure.
They brought iPads and used them as resources for research, for challenges at sites, for documenting their journey, and will ultimately use them for creating a work of art describing what they have learned.
It was a ten day Odyssey of mind, body, and spirit, and an adventure of a lifetime.
Is this year’s rising Eighth Grade up for an adventure? We’ll have to wait and see. Stay tuned for next year’s installment, ‘Odyssey 2016,’ accepting applications this fall from the class of 2020.
BWIIC editorial note … be it jet lag… lack of computer acumen …or simple ignorance … I have been unable to master the photo within text formatting mysteries of this software. What looks letter perfect in draft … has no relation to appearance in the preview or published version. So …if it looks a bit out of whack … in the final product ..you can rest assured that it looked borderline perfect prior to hitting the publish button.
It’s 2144 (Wed. back in Norfolk / Va. Beach) and I’m reeling a bit from the cumulative effects of an Odyssey …as well as …. the horizontal rain and (believe it or not) hail that literally erupted (no Etna/Vesuvius pun intended) with a horizontal
and high kinetic energy vengeance about 30 seconds before we stepped from the safety of the intra-terminal bus at Leonardo da Vinci airport and made our way to the covered safety of the terminal 5 approach covered walkway. There’s a lot of “glad to be home” punctuated by the frequent “I can’t believe it’s over” refrain.
Allora! …. So there we were on Tuesday night. The Bulldog Team was enjoying his/her last full Italian dinner in all it’s splendor (5.7 lbs. in 10 days of splendor for the BWIIC that is ….yikes!) when a classic wedding reception”ish” ring of metal rapping on crystal broke the silence 130 db (110 db is the threshold of pain) din.
The BWIIC asked each team mate to take a moment and write a “word or fifty” into a file on the laptop. I originally thought I would use names but opted to remove any suggestion that the thoughts would be part of some comparative event where the most eloquently crafted (albeit less than heartfelt) paragraph of “solving world peace,” “epiphanies,” and “cathartic moments” would garner a few final points toward total victory on Mt. Midoryama. The team responded well and within a few hours…. the guts of this final post (from the BWICC at least) were typed, saved, and ready for compilation/publication.
What follows are the thoughts, reflections, humor, and perspective that each member of the team chose to express. Whether it be two or three words (my favorite being “gelato is very good”… profound by any measure) or a 100+ word carefully crafted paragraph …. each one is a gem… a jewel …a legitimate treasure. In no particular order and scattered amongst a collection of pics …. here weyou go: (fyi … photos are low calorie eye-candy, and most likely have little to do with the important part of this posting… “The Mouths of Babes …. Stuff.”
“Gelato is really good.”
The Odyssey trip was absolutely incredible. Before this journey I had never seen ancient Greek and Roman structures before. I have a new perspective of these amazing civilizations and how truly spectacular their work was. Before I only knew of their cultures through pages in a book, but now I have personal experience with their creations and ideas. To genuinely understand their genius, I had to remind myself that these people were humans just like myself, with ability similar to mine. To see a complete city like Pompeii, It gave me a personal perspective on how amazing the Romans were and why these two cultures continue to spread influence to this day.
These past 9 days have been an experience of a lifetime. These are some of the inside joke-quotes that have made the trip extra special:
“Hi, welcome to chili’s”
“look at all those ruins”
“somebody come get her, she’s dancing like a lizard”
“I’m in Italy, just caught a lizard, I’m in Italy, having fun”
“Coach Poole, are you wearing my shirt?”
Despite hours of driving, losing my phone,scraping up my elbow and knee, and the constant packing and unpacking, this trip has been an amazing experience. I have grown much closer to so many people and learned so much in a new and exciting way. seeing lessons taught in school applied to the real world was incredible and i am so happy to have had this experience!
My favorite quote? Probably “It should be Schema, not Scopa” – (Scopa player …late at night)
This is the story of the time we went to Italy. it was scary at first but we …olived .
What a trip… (I will not try to emulate Mr. Poole’s style of writing) This “Odyssey” has given me a needle to pop the protective bubble of N.A. and the U.S.A. Venturing into a different society, where weird customs (pickpocketing/bartering), amazing food (gelato, pasta, and coffee), and a odd language are present, have opened my eyes to the amazing nature of the world we live in.
I always thought that other countries would have incredibly different traditions that would blow me away, but I didn’t realize their true gravity. Also, underneath this new experience, my interest in the ancient civilization that has made the modern society we live in was given more food than it could
handle, in the whirlwind of temples, amphitheaters, and 2,000 year old cities. This trip would be categorized as a delve into the world of “different”, and has opened my eyes to the beauty of what was, what is, and what could be.
Today was day 9 without food or water, Mrs. Pollio and Mr. Poole are continuing to starve us. I’ve just managed to take Mr. Poole’s laptop to contact the outside world for one minute while he’s asleep. All 15 of us have been locked inside a dark cage for the past couple days. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m starting to miss my parents. Sometimes, just sometimes, I think I can
see the light, but it’s just my brain playing tricks on me, I’m hallucinating. J-joshing (just joshing). These past 9 days have been magnificent, with all of the temples, ruins, volcanoes, and hiking, I never want to leave. With Alastair’s sense of humor, “someones” schemyness on every single girl, and getting to know other people better, I’ve had the best experience.
Aleas Jace (Throw the dice). -me
Despite the number of times I have hit my head, I still remember some parts of this trip. This trip has been such an amazing adventure, and I have become so much closer with these 18 great people. I will always remember this wonderful trip to Montana, or wait…was it Italy…I can’t remember 🙂
This trip has been phenomenal and I can’t wait to tell my family about it.
Piece of Advice:
When walking down Mt. Etna, Mrs. Pollio is great at holding your hand for stability.
“Two roads diverged in an Italian wood, and I, I took the one traveled by the hungry American, and that has made all the difference (in my stomach).”
“Italian coffee is really good”
and when it was all said and done …
Love you all … BWIIC…
Note: There is no way whatsoever that I could say the right words to put a capstone comment on this capstone event. For one … this was not my gig …. this was the product of Senora Lucia’s passion, drive, commitment, execution …(you get it). I can only offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks that this opportunity to share something of this magnitude with your Bulldog fell into my lap. Wow!
At some point after I hit the “publish” key …. Senora Lucia will put the finishing touches on the Blog … Arrivederci !
Before this post gets to the “spin around Etna” photo portion … I am compelled by feelings both obligatory as BWIIC and personally (we’ll get to that) to “try” and paint a picture of Mt. Etna (“who!” and I am intentionally using “who” …I will refer to from this point on as simply “Etna”) in words.
Salvo, our Vulcanologist(yep! I…the BWIIC am 62 years old … a science guy …and had never met a Vulcanologist …a real one until a day or so ago…. as a matter of fact …every time I heard Senora Lucia or Dr. Donato mention the word I would have an inner smile and visions of some Leonard Nimoy”phile” at a Trekkie gathering in Sioux Falls, SD) was the real deal. And by “real deal … I am not referring to his expertise in the field of Vulcanology. Without question …it was epic..titanic… (fill in your own word if needed). The “real deal” aspect of Salvo was this “infectious” passion about Etna that seemed to emanate from him …as if …. we were watching some computer generated portion of an episode of Ancient Aliens (these would be …really good ancient aliens) on the Nat Geo channel.
Salvo introduced your Bulldog to not only “appropriately complex” technical data, facts, timeline, and historical significance …. but he was able to weave this very hard to describe “relationship that clearly exists” between Etna and the people who live around her, work with her, and breathe the air she breathes. To Salvo ..(and countless others) his life is shaped by his personal relationship her. At times … it was palpable …good palpable…great palpable.
On a couple of occasions for the BWIIC it was very close to tear-up uncontrollably and break down in front of your son/daughter …palpable. Both my parents have been hanging around with God and all the other Mom’s and Dad’s who boarded that train …for a long time. I chat with them …. when you least expect it. So … there we were …. nope … there “I” was calmly snapping pics and listening to Salvo describe the different nuances of her personality that can be learned by what hue of make-up she has chosen to wear. A brown-ish smokey-eye shadow for iron II (or III) oxide) … a lively, fun shade of “blondes have more fun” yellow for a sulphur (when in Europe ..spell as the Europeans) compound. So there I was … and WHAMMO … “Oh hi Alfred” … Muriel Humbert Poole shows up on one of the lava bombs next to me …hits me in the head with a 2″ x 4″ (with a Big Pappy sort of swing) and I go from the inside of one of her (Etna’s) craters to tromping around with mom in some sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic … area of geologic significance. Mom (in 1939) graduated valedictorian from Bryn Mawr with a degree in …yep … g-e-o-l-o-g-y. 1939 … clearly the “path less traveled.” She always traveled with her geologist’s hammer (sits in a drawer near my desk for the emergency mom fix as needed) and talked…and taught …. and questioned .. my sister and me through countless walks, hikes, treks all over the planet. She (Etna) had made it abundantly clear … that she truly was a far more than a simple volcano …she was part of so many lives of so many people…. a almost intimate part that is almost impossible for me to even begin describe … a part that shapes perspectives, thoughts, interactions, choices … virtually every aspect of the unique culture that exists in her sphere of influence. In any event … thank you Etna.
I “know” that you daughter/son felt something ..at some point … most likely they don’t even know that it happened or that they felt it …but at some point it will peek out and say “Hi.” Salvo was so full of passion …passion…passion ..and more passion. He was so full of passion that he “had to” take us on a jaunt down the outside of a huge crater to a lava cave/hole/thingy surrounded by incredibly beautiful flora …some backlit by the rays of the sun. (FYI … Senora Luchia, Dr. Donato and the BWIIC will never …e-v-e-r! forget the climb back “up” the side of the crater… as a memory it will bring a smile … but as a current event on the day … it was as close to being “voted off the island” as you could get.)
Although I’ve digressed (significantly) and blabbed about Mom …way too much …I’ll reign it in and state for the record … YOUR VERY OWN BULLDOG was treated to an experience that will remain with them for the rest of her/his life. Talk is cheap! I get that. But this is anything but simple talk …and cheap at that. This is as real as something so intangible can get. The energy was overwhelming. There was far more than the simple energy of the molten magma. It was Etna’s energy that touched your Bulldog. “Her energy.”
I’m throwing in the towel … I’m beginning to feel like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of a……” I don’t want to be found in the lobby in a few minutes making a model of her out of pastries, mortadella, and pasta.
I have a feeling that when we return home and you ask your child, “How was the trip?” or “What did you see?” the answer is going to be something like, “The trip was great. We saw some really cool old stuff” and then the conversation will launch into the silly things, the funny moments connected to their friends on the trip, and the minutia that is more a side note than a main theme.
In a few days some things will start to bubble up to the surface and you will catch snippets of the experience. “We swam in three different seas,” “We sat in the theater where Plato sat,” “We went up 6,000 feet and hiked in and out of craters on Mt. Etna.” The pictures will help remind them where they were and what they saw. Their journals will offer another vehicle for memory and perspective. But, largely, it will be a jumble of places, food, monuments, ideas, facts, feelings, and people.
They have been swimming in a sea of history, art, architecture, philosophy, mythology, literature, science, and Sicilian/Italian culture. They have had full days of activities and arrived tired at the hotel only to shower and rest for a few moments, then dress for dinner at 9pm. I wish you could have seen them at dinner! Not only were they trying new things, finding new tastes, discovering new flavors, but they sat and talked and enjoyed life and conversation and each other for two or three hours, which is the Italian/Sicilian way. Despite the fact that sometimes their volume reached middle school refectory levels, we received compliments on their behavior from people of all different nationalities. Time after time, someone would approach our table, ask what we were doing in Sicily, pepper us with questions about our school, our program, our students and walk away impressed with and envious of them.
In fact, I am envious of them. They have made an Odyssey, an epic journey that will color all their experiences in the years to come. And, like Homer’s epic, it will take a lifetime to understand it and appreciate not only what it was, but also how it has changed them.
So be patient with them and their cursory retorts. Just ask them about the small things and you might start to see some of the big things.
We’re talking about another spectacular day in Sicilia. Agrigento …ancient ruins… hiking…. photo-ops of epic proportions … crowds (for the first time) … huge, almost gargantuan temples, middle school adolescents, vivid imaginations, cameras on cell phones …..and…. “prone” modern sculptures (anatomically correct…. prone modern sculptures) woven into the fabric, the landscape of antiquity: each, in their own “special” way …. complimentary …like … a PetsMart chameleon is … to a 4 meter Nile Crocodile …. or like that initial sensation of complete and utter thirst-quenching when that first sip of ice cold fresh lemonade envelops each taste bud …. is …. to knocking back a warm can of Draino. Are you working on that visual … yet. And … get this …. the small little speed bump I’m not so delicately dancing around has absolutely nothing to do with “What could possibly go wrong?”
Look at what was happening … although this is a completely posed picture …not a single aspect being candid (other than the 2,500 year old column thingies in the background) … about 5 minutes before this pic was organized and taken… teams Alpha, Beta, and Gamma were stage left in the shade of a smyrlacius oblongata (bogus Romulan name for “tree” of any type) reviewing the timeline, the key players, and the pivotal moments in history that took place right beneath each Bulldog’s feet. It was one of those hard to articulate moments when you are overtaken, perhaps overwhelmed, by the feeling …the sensation…. that God really wanted you to find your calling, your passion …and teach. Look! … I’ve never been known as Mr. Feelgood … these love-fest events are not my thing … but …having said that … it is truly a thing of “rare” and delicate beauty to watch the Mom & Pop team of Luchia and Dr. Donato ply her/his trade on your daughter/son. Ok ! … I’ve had enough of this… let’s snap out of this funk … FOR THE RECORD! … “I’ve carried both of them …on my back…for most of this so called Odyssey thing.” Ok … now that the truth is out … I am set free from the bonds of guilt and I am finally able to move on to the focal point of this post (the statue/sculpture is just a warm-up … it is not really where this is going … but … ). It Was just a tad humorous.
My immediate question is … why is the line of students not uniform. “Gap ! Why?” “Hat! Why?” “Picture! Why?” (I did my best to initiate a conversation about the Rodin museum in Philly but mentioning Philadelphia only served to derail the moment further as the conversation quickly turned to Cheesesteaks and soft pretzels.) BUT … let’s move on to the actual focal point of this post. I like to call this next (above the fold) section … the Headmaster Hop (student derived name) …and the quaint “Year of _______” phrase they created as a companion. I belive they settled on “The Year of Liability.” I didn’t quite “get it.” Until … I had about a nano second to observe the “lay of the land” and then it hit me like a jolt of 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power on the Back to the future” set. The rest of the story will unfold in photo-essay format:
KEEP SCROLLING PLEASE … 🙂
So … the classic Clint Eastwood question remains … “Do you feel lucky?” … Did any of this actually happen ? Or was it simply an attempt to garner a bit of attention (ya! …that’s jusssssst what I need. I’ll close with that same Eastwood classic. “Do you feel lucky!! Do ya!
Ciao …. ! Alfredo
To embark on an interdisciplinary, capstone study-abroad program in southern Italy and Sicily for Norfolk Academy 8th grade students.