Tuesday, 23 August 2016
8/16 Update
Written by Josh Seamon   
Monday, 15 August 2016
NZ2017 - 081616
I hope you've been having a grand summer! Mine has been full of family, travel, and relaxation.

Now that summer is winding down, we're just about to get back into getting prepared for our upcoming trip to New Zealand! Want to get even more excited about the trip? Spend some time on this site!

Remember, all current trip information is online at NewZealand2017.org.

Here's what coming up:

Early September: The meeting schedule will be released. We will be meeting approximately every 3 weeks until we depart. It's looking quite likely that we will meet at 7:15am in the morning on weekdays (in the dining hall) as this has proven to be the only time when the entire group can get together. Are there any weekday mornings (days of the week) that absolutely don't work for you on a regular basis?

September 5th: The first trip payment of $1,884 is due in the Business Office by 3pm. You can make your payment in a few ways:

1) Checks should be made out to “The Williston Northampton School” and handed off to Mr. Seamon. Please make sure to write the trip participant’s name in the memo field of the check.
2) Payments can be made from student accounts or via credit card, wire transfer, or other electronic means by contacting the Williston Business Office. Payments should be made to the “New Zealand Trip” account. If you make your payment directly to the Business Office, please make sure you notify Mr. Seamon of the amount and date of the payment.

If you applied for financial aid, please note:

1) The most aid any one applicant will receive is around $400.
2) Financial aid decisions will be made by the Advancement Office in mid-October.
3) Awarded aid will be dispensed by the end of November.

See you in a few weeks!

Last Updated ( Monday, 15 August 2016 )
5/15 Update
Written by Josh Seamon   
Sunday, 15 May 2016
051516 - NZ2017 Update
Our first trip meeting was held on Thursday morning, 5/13! Here's what we covered:

We paired up and introduced each other in small groups. Each of us then stood up and introduced ourselves with some basic information and at least one embarrassing facts. Next, we talked about some of the things we're most excited about (seeing Auckland, leaving the continent, tubing under glow worms, walking through Hobbitown, hiking, photography) and some of the things we're anxious about (the unpredictable, getting sick, the long flights).

I then went over some important dates (HW due on 5/20, trip payments due 9/5, 10/17, and 11/28), and everyone took a names quiz, which we as a group almost perfected. Good work! I told the kids that I'm looking to fill two last spots on the trip roster. If you know anyone that you think may want to join the trip, please have them email me. Also, our second trip chaperone won't be filled until the fall.

Here's the homework that's due by 5/20:
- Email me ( ) a scan of the photo page of your passport
- Open up the trip OneNote notebook online using this link. Only trip participants will be able to open the notebook. One you've opened up the notebook create a new page in the "Collaboration Space" section and say "Hi - This is [your name]!" on the page.
- Install WhatsApp on your phone. We'll be using this app to communicate as a group during the upcoming year.

We are not going to meet again as a group until school starts up again in the fall.

Please make sure you check your email over the summer!

Please note that from June 9th through August 29th, the best way to reach me is via my GMail address:

NZ2017 - First Group Meeting

5/11 Update
Written by Josh Seamon   
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
051116 - NZ2017 Update
Our first trip meeting is coming up on Friday, 5/13 from 7:45 to 8:15am in the Cox room in the dining hall. The meeting is only for students. Please make sure you are seated and ready to begin the meeting right at 7:45am.

New tasks to be completed by Friday, 5/20:
- Email me ( ) a scan of the photo page of your passport
- Open up the trip OneNote notebook online using this link. Only trip participants will be able to open the notebook. One you've opened up the notebook create a new page in the "Collaboration Space" section and say "Hi - This is [your name]!" on the page.
- Install WhatsApp on your phone. We'll be using this app to communicate as a group during the upcoming year.

See you on Friday!

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 May 2016 )
Last chance to apply!
Written by Josh Seamon   
Wednesday, 04 May 2016

I am looking to fill two last spots on the New Zealand trip roster! This is your last chance to join the 12 students who have already locked in to going on the trip!

If you're interested in applying to fill one of these two last spots, please email me directly by Monday, 5/9 at .

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 May 2016 )
New Zealand applications due today
Written by Josh Seamon   
Monday, 02 May 2016
NZ2017 - 5/2 Update
Applications for next year's spring break trip to New Zealand are due today (Monday, 5/2)!

Trip Application | Trip FAQ | Trip Itinerary | Trip Launch Announcement

During the trip we will:
- Travel around both the north and south islands
- Visit scenic small islands
- Learn about environmental conservation
- Surf down sand dunes
- Learn about the Maori people
- Swim with dolphins
- Walk through Middle Earth
- Go white water rafting
- Go on one of the best day hikes in the world
- Traverse the Adrenaline Forest (Zip lining + more!)
- Float in underground river caves illuminated by glow worms!

Let me know if you have any questions. ( )

New Zealand 2017

Here we go!
Written by Josh Seamon   
Thursday, 24 March 2016
NZ2017 - First Page
Complete trip information is avaible through the menu over on the left.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until Monday, May 2nd at 3pm.

New Zealand 2017!

NZ2017 Flyer

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 April 2016 )
The journey home - 3/21-22/16
Written by Josh Seamon   
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
The journey home

The whole group!

Media, Round 14
3/21-22/16 - The journey home (Photos)
3/21-22/16 - The journey home (Video)

3/23 @ 6am - The Williston Northampton School (Google maps link)

All trip photo albums
Trip video playlist

Mr. Seamon:

Our last night in Madagascar was quite comfortable. Our hotel was nestled into a corner off of a small alley, which of course Manu had no trouble navigating. Our day on the 21st began with a nice late wakeup call (8:15!) and by 9am everyone was downstairs enjoying another huge, wonderful breakfast.

Everyone was well rested and a bit less giddy than the evening before, and ready to begin our journey home. While we ate I put out four cards for each of the kids to sign for each of our amazing local leaders -- Mialy (our tour escort), Jarry (Mialy's assistant), Manu (our driver) and Tchery (Manu's assistant). We then had about an hour to rest, relax, and run through some return trip prep, like applying more red duct tape to our bags, before Mialy and Jarry arrived at 10.

Everyone then started working through the first phase of our goodbyes. The kids all wanted photos with our esteemed leaders and lots of hugs were given out. Soon after Manu showed up and with Tchery's help, we loaded up the bus and headed out. A short while later we stopped at a post office and several kids and Ms. Hanley jumped out to mail some post cards. Manu did some more driving magic and parked the bus right in front of the place while lots of stamps were applied with paste to the cards.

Soon after we were at the airport where we unloaded, took some more photos, and said some more goodbyes, this time to Manu and Tchery. Inside the airport we found the right desks and settled in for an hour wait until the desk opened. We used the time to fill out our trip evals, journal a bit, and read. At about 1pm we said our final goodbyes to Mialy and Jarry, got checked in, cleared security, and and hunkered down at the gate.

All of a sudden we were making our first steps back towards the US. At the gate no Ariary was accepted, but that didn't stop the kids from loading up on lunch and snacks. After a short 30 minute wait we cleared the gate and walked out to our plane and were in the air for our 3.5 hour flight to Joburg.

At JNB we quickly cleared the transit checks and found our way to our previous home away from home, the international wing of the Joburg airport. After finding out gate, the kids were given some time to get more food, and then we regathered at the gate. An extra security check later along with a bit of milling around, we were on the plane getting comfortable for the long ride home.

The flight was quite smooth and turbulence free. Many kids slept and also enjoyed the same buffet of movies as our flight out. We touched down right on time at JFK and in record time cleared passport control, got our bags, and cleared customs. We picked up the bag I had left with our coats in baggage storage, took the airtrain to the shuttle pickup point where we found the waiting Days Inn shuttle. 10 minutes later we were back at the hotel where we loaded up the bus and hit the road north!

Everyone was pretty excited about the bright sun and crisp weather. The bus was a mix of high energy and napping. Before getting back on the road after lunch at a large rest stop, I gave out the letters the kids had written to themselves at the beginning of the trip. I then had them think about how they would fold everything they had learned and experienced on the trip into their lives. The kids shared some of their ideas for how to make that a reality and then we got back on the road.

Shortly after 12:30pm we rolled into Sawyer House to a waiting crowd of parents and siblings. We took one last group photo, chatted a bit, and then everyone scattered. With that, Madagascar 2016 came to a close! Magical Madagascar! What a place!

To everyone: Thank you, thank you, thank you for an utterly amazing experience. I had the time of my life traveling with all of you!

Back to Tana - 3/20/16
Written by Josh Seamon   
Sunday, 20 March 2016
Back to Tana


Media, Round 13
3/20/16 - Back to Tana (Photos)
3/20/16 - Back to Tana (Video)

3/20/15 @ 7pm - Gassy Cove Hotel, Antananarivo (Google maps link)

All trip photo albums
Trip video playlist

Ms. Hanley:

This morning we bid a very early farewell to Tulear and, after an extensive fruit, bread, and omelet spread at the Victory hotel, boarded a bus to the local airport. The airport itself was an efficient and fairly modern one-room space (although there were two doors at the front—one for arrivals and one for departures—that led to the same place). The check in process was also quick and easy. Turns out, we had planned well to get there early as we were soon followed by two large busloads of French tourists and their piles of luggage.

The kids napped on benches, some having not gone to bed as early as recommended, others not having sleep well, and a couple of poor souls who didn't feel well. Bryan, Henry, and Lu were having stomach issues of various intensities, so I went around dispensing Alleve and Pepto from the first aid kit prepared by the school nurses.

We took two quick, hour-long flights to Tana with a brief 10-minute layover in between. For our stop, we were shepherded into an even smaller airport and handed "In Transit" cards for re-boarding.

Once in Tana, we drove straight to the lovely Gassy Cove Hotel for lunch (tucked away down a side street but with a pool, A/C, and a great view) and to put the three sick ones to bed. They stayed in their rooms, napping and reading, while the rest of the group headed back out for a city tour.

As we made our way into "old town," passing a French memorial to the fallen Malagasy soldiers in WWI, we stopped at a viewpoint of the south east of the city. Mialy pointed out the quarter where her house was, in Soavinandriana, which used to be home to the nobles in the time of Malagasy royalty. In the upper town of Anduhalu, we saw the stone podium where the king once made speeches, the Grecian-style hall of justice (now just pillars and a stone foundation) and the Queen's palace, which burned in the 1990s and is still under construction.

Driving through the city, we went by the zuma (aka "fried egg") market, the largest open air market in the city, and Josh H. noted that "it looks like it's just all clothes." "Most of the things you are seeing at the market are coming from China or Thailand," Mialy said. Kevin raised his fist in commerce triumph. "Very proud," he said.

At the old railway station, since converted into upscale shops, the kids found soaps in local flavors, such as coconut, vanilla, and banana. Since it was Sunday, all the city dwellers were out on the street and a large group of dancers were entertaining them with a traditional Malagasy performance, complete with red outfits and straw hats.

Our final stop, and the most exciting for the kids, was at the tourist marketplace, a long row of tiny shops crammed from top to bottom with any and every kind of souvenir a person could ever want. The kids picked up a few last-minute gifts, like paintings and shot glasses, and worked on their burgeoning haggling skills. Everyone left pleased.

We're now back at the hotel and ready for an early dinner and an early night. Since our first leg of the journey home is in the afternoon, the kids will get to sleep in a tiny bit before we grab all our souvenir-heavy luggage and head to the airport.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 March 2016 )
A city of ancients - 3/19/16
Written by Josh Seamon   
Saturday, 19 March 2016
A city of ancients


Media, Round 12
3/19/16 - A city of ancients (Photos)
3/19/16 - A city of ancients (Video)

3/19/16 @ 9pm - Toliara (Google maps link)

All trip photo albums
Trip video playlist

Ms. Hanley:

For our last day in Ifaty, we ventured beyond the Bamboo Club to see some of the natural wonders this arid part of the country has to offer. In Madagascar, the lemur ranks second to only one other: the baobab tree. Dotting the southern landscape like big, friendly giants, the baobab is known for its longevity and generous nature. Not only are the softball sized fruits edible, but the trees are also living sponges; by cutting a small hole in their sides, locals can get water when there isn't any elsewhere.

We had seen stand-alone baobabs before, but had never walked through a true "forest" of them, or seen the many different varieties (Madagascar has six of the eight baobab species in the world).

To see the baobabs up close, though, we first had to reach a local park. That was accomplished by way of four carts, drawn by pairs of oxen. We met our carts, and the drivers, in front of the hotel and loaded up. The carts, although fairly small and colorfully painted, were also surprisingly comfortable. They had been lined with foam and pillows and seated four each. The oxen had ropes through their noses that tied behind their horns and were attached to long reigns. They were quickly maneuvered into their wooden yokes—and we were off!

The drivers kept the oxen going by way of a system that involved pulling them by the tails, giving them a light swipe with a very tiny branch and calling out various versions of yup! and gah! This kept the oxen at a trot, which was surprisingly fast and smooth. After a short road and a few jostles, we arrived at our destination.

Reniala was a small park, but we quickly found what made it so incredible. As we walked along red sand paths, marked by white limestone boarders, boababs greeted us at every turn. Our first stop was a 700-year-old tree where our guide explained that boababs grow a millimeter every month (or 12 millimeters a year). Next to the old giant was a tiny boabab seedling, barely ankle high after a solid 15 years.

The boabab were growing among other desert plants: enormous cacti, wickedly throned scrub, and similarly large and long-lived trees with various medicinal properties. Our guide found a Madagascar hissing cockroach, which is as large as it is harmless (as it eats baobab wood) and got it to make sounds for us. We also found a hedgehog after the nocturnal creature tumbled out of a bush in its sleep. It curled up when we took a look and then made a dash for the safety of the scrub.

At one point, the guide found an incredibly large and very wicked-looking tree spider on a piece of bark. Although the spider hardly moved (and likely was relying on camouflage to hide), our group's arachnophobe Bryan, managed to have several frights where he believed the spider was sneaking up on him (Zach did his part to create this illusion). Bryan made some fabulous leaps out of the way and finally hid behind a tree.  The spider, though, never moved and we finally put it safely back to its hidey hole.

Our most impressive visit of the 45-minute walk was to a baobab that was 1400 years old. The trunk was so big around that our entire group, hands joined, could barely encircle it.

On our way back to the hotel, the ox carts took a detour to show us the village. We got to see the simple reed and branch houses where local people lived. Four of our boys also had a young hitchhiker on their cart, a child who turned out to be afraid of the zebu and leaped off at the first opportunity.

We had a few hours to relax at the Bamboo Club, soaking up the last few moments of the tropical beach scenery, before hopping a bus for the hour-long ride to Tulear. (Along the way we passed mangroves and some salt farms, too.) When we arrived in the city, we had a quick visit at the local market (though not much was happening on a blazingly hot Saturday afternoon) and then saw Independence boulevard and the huge port, where a lot of shipping traffic comes through.

At our hotel, the Victory, the kids went to their rooms and immediately began screaming—they finally had air conditioning! This was a huge highlight of the evening and they talked about the glory of cool air (plus how much they liked the frosty local Cokes) all through our dinner at the restaurant.

The group headed in for an early evening to give us a head start on the morning. Tomorrow we'll rise at 5 a.m. for our 8:45 flight back to Tana as we start the long journey home.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 19 March 2016 )
Another day in paradise - 3/18/16
Written by Josh Seamon   
Friday, 18 March 2016
Another day in paradise

Beach dinner!

Media, Round 11
3/18/16 - Another day in paradise (Photos)
3/18/16 - Another day in paradise  (Video)

3/17 @ 10:30pm - Bamboo Club, Iftay (Google maps link)

All trip photo albums
Trip video playlist

Ms. Hanley:

Today we switched the scuba diving groups from the day before. Destiny, Zach, Sima, Gabby, Tom, and Matt came with me, while everyone else stayed poolside at the Bamboo Club with Mr. Seamon.

Our group started with a mini lesson in front of our guide, Cedric's, dive shop. Each person donned flippers, mask, and tank and tried swimming along in the shallow water just off the beach. That step complete, we loaded up on his motorboat for a trip back out to the reef.

When Gabby popped up near the boat after her session, the first thing she said was "that was the coolest thing I've ever done!" The scuba diving was a particularly special experience: we all got to go down with Cedric in pars and explore the sea floor and the reef. We touched sea anemone, spotted a Morey eel and manta rays, saw colorful fish and black sea urchins, and generally had a great time bobbing along the sea floor.

Sitting on the boat between trips down was slightly less interesting, but we had brought along labawani (the local colorful scarves sold up and down the beach) and the more sensitive skinned among us were wearing long sleeves and hats.

By lunchtime, we had pulled back up to the dive shop on the beach, where we met with the rest of the group, and had lunch in the open-air restaurant next door. We dug our toes in the sand and tried local lobster, fish, and pasta.

The rest of the day was set aside for resting on the shore. A large portion of the group committed to an ongoing and hilarious game of Marco, Polo in the restaurant pool. Hilarious because it ended up being a "silent" game; instead of calling out the usual refrain, all the participants yelled directions to the seeker, trying to help him or her catch everyone else. Henry was particularly magnificent as "it," doing crazy dives and twists in an attempt to touch people (who weren't remotely near him).

The kids also watched, curious, as Bamboo Club staff prepared an outdoor setting of poles, lights, tables and chairs. As it turned out, this was a surprise dinner party that our tour guide, Mialy, had prepared for us. Instead of dinner on the hotel porch, we had a feast on the beach. The buffet-style meal included beef, fish, and squid skewers, grilled right there, plates of rice, vegetables and pasta, skewers of fruit, and coconut flan.

Our party included a boombox, so a couple of waiters from the Bamboo Club showed the kids local dances, which the group did around a beach campfire. After dinner, the kids took over the music and, as a team, performed the Macarena, Cotten-eye Joe, Cupid Shuffle, the Whip and Nae-nae, and any other dance they could think of.

Eventually, this enthusiastic dance performance dissolved under the heat of the tropical night. The kids came back to the table, laughing and sweating, and then sprinted to the ocean as a herd to cool off. Their last stop was the hotel pool for a quick dip before bed.

Tomorrow we'll visit our last national park before making our way to Toliara for an overnight before our flight back to the capital.

Last Updated ( Friday, 18 March 2016 )
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