For most of us, customizing a car might mean upgraded wheels or a new stereo. Not for Ben Levite. For his Senior Project at Waynflete, the 17-year-old imported the front end of a Honda Civic from Japan, then used the components to reengineer his own car as a right-hand drive. “I can remember his classmates saying, ‘Wait—you did what?,’” says faculty member Sue Stein, who advised Ben in his final two years at Waynflete. “The student center was packed and people’s jaws were dropping. He was in the winner’s circle that day.”
I am writing from Tel Aviv, Israel. This year I am on a gap year before I begin college at Davidson College in the fall. This year I have gone from the tips of the Himalayas to floating in the Dead Sea. I lived on a farm in Nepal, and a tent in Botswana. I traveled on a painfully crowded ten hour bus ride in Nepal, and long-tail boats in Thailand. I ate dumplings on the streets of Bangkok, nearly ate cat in Vietnam (more to come later), and ate several falafel pitas in Jerusalem. I have visited ten countries, and experienced countless new ideas, people, and lifestyles. A good way to look at this year is that I have reinforced the idea that there is always more than one right way to do anything- to live, be happy, be successful, and be impactful. Of course, I already had this idea from my time at Waynflete, which encourages members of its community to learn from those that are different from them.
So far my year has been broken up into four main parts. Part one was backpacking for roughly four months throughout Asia with a good friend. We visited Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore (but only because we missed our flights and had to spend the night). In Nepal we began with a week in Kathmandu, two weeks of hiking the Annapurna circuit trek (a trek that centers around the Thorong-La Pass, the “highest pass in the world,” at over 17,000 feet), and spent 3 and a half weeks working on an organic farm in rural Nepal. If you want to see the video I made from the trek in Nepal, follow this link. The trek was truly the most beautiful experience I have ever had in nature, and the farm was where I made some of my closest friendships on the year, with the sons of the owners of the farm—Bigyan and Bibek. In Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam we backpacked all around. Highlights included the plethora of street food markets, exploring the tropical islands of Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and floating in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Part two, I spent two weeks with my family on a safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe seeing absolutely incredible wildlife in an environment like nowhere else in the world. It was birthing season for many animals, so we got to witness baby giraffes, hippos, elephants, cheetahs, and more. After the safari I spent almost two weeks in Cape Town, South Africa, in my opinion, the best city I have visited.
Part three, for two months I have been interning at an organization for immigrants assistance in Tel Aviv. Here I have been living in Tel Aviv, taking hebrew lessons, and working to help new immigrants to Israel. I have also been traveling around the country on weekends, and have really enjoyed it. Highlights have included a trip to Hebron and Bethlehem in Palestine, and exploring the old city of Jerusalem. Soon I will be spending a week in Jordan before returning home for the first time since September.
Part four, returning home to work at a law firm in Portland. Next, in early April I will be venturing out on a cross country road trip, focusing primarily on national parks in the southwestern states in the US.
To give you all a sense of one of the many ways my Waynflete education has helped immensely on my travels, I will share a story from Vietnam. We spent a day in Danang visiting a nearby waterfall. At the waterfall we encountered a group of young Vietnamese men having a barbecue and hanging out. As we walked closer, they invited us to join (through hand motions and smiles). None of them spoke english, and none of us spoke Vietnamese. As it turned out, one of them spoke some Spanish, so I translated the english from my friends through him, and he would translate the Spanish into Vietnamese. This fragmented exchange of words was comical to watch, and painfully slow. Nonetheless we all had a good time. They even offered us some of the food they were barbecuing. However, as it turned out, one of the men had decided to cook his own cat and share it with his friends for a nice afternoon by the waterfall. If it had not been for the Waynflete Spanish department teaching me several words in Spanish, specifically the word for cat, I may have confused it for chicken, or fish, and could have eaten something I really did not want to. So to all my Spanish teachers, thank you. Even at a waterfall in Vietnam I needed the vocabulary I learned from you all.
Waynflete has prepared me in countless, and sometimes unquantifiable ways. I know that I would not be able to absorb experiences and information with an open and curious mind without the impact that Waynflete has had on the way I think and act. I hope everyone at the school is doing well, and I will be sure to visit when I return home in just a few weeks.
Picture Caption: I am at the Thorong-La Pass, the “highest pass in the world,” at over 17,000 feet. The trek I did in Nepal centers around the pass, so you start at a low elevation, climb to the pass, and then back down again (over 2 weeks). I took off my glove to take pictures, I think. And the person in the picture is my friend Logan from camp, with whom I traveled in Asia, and who I will be taking the road trip with as well.
Bonnie Docherty ’90 has a long-held passion for the study of history. Her interests were nurtured in Waynflete’s Upper School by teachers like Karen Whitney and Alice Brock, and she planned to eventually pursue a doctoral degree. But after majoring in history and literature at Harvard, and a three-year stint as a journalist, Bonnie’s inquisitive nature began to pull her in a different direction. She wanted to be “present at the creation”—not removed from historical events, but on the ground when history was being made.
Josh Broder, Waynflete Class of 1997, Army Veteran, and owner of Tilson (a local telecommunications company) gave an amazing talk to the Upper School Assembly on Tuesday. You can watch the video here. Josh’s full bio is below.
Josh was also recently featured on the Huffington Post in an article titled “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO: Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson.”
Remember to honor all our veterans this coming weekend!
Joshua Broder ’97 serves as CEO of Tilson, a Portland-based information technical implementation company, which under his leadership, has grown from less than 10 employees to 360, earning a top spot on the Inc. 5000 list for the past consecutive seven years. Josh led several large, successful Recovery Act-funded technology infrastructure projects in for Tilson that included fiber optic broadband smart grid network deployments. Josh cut his teeth in leadership as an Army Signal Officer on missions in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan running the tactical communications network for U.S. Forces. Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College. Josh is a graduate of AT&T’s Operation Hand Salute at JFK University with a certificate in entrepreneurial studies. Josh serves on boards at Skowhegan Savings Bank, Kleinschmidt Associates (a Pittsfield, Maine-based multi-national engineering firm), the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and software start-up NBT Solutions. Josh is is married to Eliza Ginn ’00 and his son, Clayton, is in Kindergarten in Mrs. T’s class (Josh’s K teacher).