Teaching Traveling: Welcome to teacher-traveler Alexandra! Alex, tell us a bit about yourself and explain the context in which you decided to travel.
Alex: My name is Alexandra Zinnes (Alex) and I teach 7th and 8th World Studies at the Friends School of Atlanta, a Quaker School. I myself am Quaker educated (at Westtown School in Westtown, PA) and am a member of the Atlanta Friends Meeting. My travel experiences are a coming together of my spirituality and faith, my love of exploring other cultures and their histories, my passion for learning and sharing what I learn, and an emergent sense of my desire to serve my community and the wider world as a peacemaker.
I had always wanted to be someone who traveled a lot, and even had a long-held desire to live and work abroad, and while I had some significant travel and study abroad experiences prior to 2010, well, life happened and I guess you could say I went through a bit of an international traveling dry spell for several years. Fulfilling this deeply felt desire to encounter the world is in part the emotional context for my recent travel experiences.
TT: What was the spark that led you to begin your travels?
A: In fall of 2010, I found myself conducting some research in preparations for a unit about Cuba. While reviewing material, I felt this intense longing well up inside me. I have always had a thing for Cuba. As a young girl, I remember listening to my parents’ Latin jazz albums, my head against the speakers, as if the music could go into my body. I remember watching I Love Lucy reruns and being mesmerized when Ricky Ricardo sang “Babalu”. Maybe it sounds like a cheesy reason for wanting to go to Cuba, but my curiosity was piqued. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned I couldn’t go, and it was when I got older still that I learned why. More than anything, it made me sad and angry that what I believed were destructive policies were obstacles to exploring such a vital part of the world.
In the middle of my lesson planning, the memory of my longing to visit Cuba came up and it was then that I received a leading – which is what Quakers call a spiritual impulse to take action – to explore the world of international Quakerism in five locations with unique Quaker histories: Cuba, Costa Rica, Kenya, England, and Israel and Palestine. Since then, I have travelled to all five countries partnering with and encountering a variety of Quaker institutions witnessing the diversity of experience in the global Quaker community today.
TT: Amazing! Tell us a bit about each of the trips, their Quaker history, and what you did in each country.
A: In June 2011, I went to Cuba with the Global Service Program at the George School, a Quaker School with a long history of taking students around the world in a variety of service programs. How Quakers arrived in Cuba is a long-story, but the short version is they arrived at the invitation of United Fruit Company in 1905. Our trip took us to the eastern end of Cuba in Holguin, the epicenter of Cuban Quakerism. With our Quaker Friends, we served and built solidarity that transcended political context. I witnessed so many experiences of joy and friendliness in the midst of adversity on this trip that will always stay with me.