Monthly Archives: March 2014

Filming Puerto Rico with #RBQuests

By: Lisa Niver Rajna

Recently my friend, David, told me, “Walk through the open doors.” It reminded me of the inspiration from the gate at the University of Pennsylvania: We will find a way or we will make one.

I spent last week in Puerto Rico filming with Richard Bangs and White Nile Media in conjunction with Orbtiz and the Puerto Rican Tourism Board. I enjoyed everything from kayaking at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar to meeting golf greats and brothers, Jesus and Chi Chi Rodriguez as well as taming the “Beast,” which is the name of the highest zipline on the planet at Toro Verde.

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Everyday had a highlight of a different kind as meeting people and hearing their stories was incredible. I loved working on the different video segments as we searched to elucidate adventure, family and LGBT travel. Meeting recently or nearly married couples for our romance segment was sweet and diving to 94 feet with sharks and eels was unforgettable.

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Traveling has always been a part of my life. It was a treat to be part of this team and I cannot wait to see the ten video segments unfold in the hands of a professional editor. I plan to share them all with you as soon as possible and am so excited to see how they all turn out.

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I learned at the University of Pennsylvania that I could make things happen from founding a magazine for the College of Arts and Sciences with a few friends to doing medical research. I created a thesis that brought together ideas from several departments and figured out that even on sunny days in February a California girl needs a coat in Philadelphia. All of my experiences have shown me that when the door opens, you should walk through to the other side.

Thank you for all your support of my site, WeSaidGoTravel, my YouTube channel that just went over 190,000 views and this next journey. More details on my #RBQuests adventures, see the posts from last week: Old San Juan, Livin’ La Vida Loca, Meeting Sports Giants, and Adventures in Western Puerto Rico. Coming soon is the Go Pro underwater dive video as well as Go Pro video from the BEAST!

See more from Puerto Rico on our #RBQuests Tagboard at https://tagboard.com/RBQuests/161971.

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Sunrise Wyndham Grand Rio Mar
Ramon Lisa Agua de coamo
Ramon Hooping Agua de coamo
Lisa and Juan Mr Gay World
Jose Enrique
Frank Ed dive boat Copamarina
Edward Copamarina
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Did you know that the Penn Bookstore has a rewards program for Alumni?

By: Jason S.

Well you do now. And the first perk is 25% off spirit gear for just signing up. So go out and get that Penn hat you’ve always wanted. It’s Friday and you deserve it.

 

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Penn Alumni Travel Cuba 2: Part 2

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Author: Alyssa D’Alconzo, GED ’04, GRD ’11

As Faculty Host and Penn Professor Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw’s recent post suggested, Cuba was an economically, politically, and culturally fascinating country to visit. There was something new to see, learn, and experience around every corner, and we certainly made the most of our time in Havana. What follows is a brief overview of our day-by-day itinerary. The memories, feelings, and lessons we took away are difficult to articulate in a blog post, so I encourage you to experience it yourself on the Penn Alumni Travel 2015 Cuba departure!

Saturday, January 18: MIAMI/HAVANA

We had a fantastic group of Penn Alumni and friends on our trip.

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After convening in Miami, we flew to Havana and connected with the rest of the support team for the week.

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Front: Bus Driver Jaoquin; Center: (left to right) Tour Guide Yuni, Tour Director Ute, Professor Gwendolyn, Staff Host – me!; Back: Translator John

We checked in to the Saratoga Hotel

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for lunch and began the first in our series of lectures. Pepe, the former deputy minister of foreign affairs, gave us an introductory lecture on Cuba’s current economic and political reality and joined us afterwards for dinner at El Aljibe, a State-run restaurant.

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Sunday, January 19: HAVANA

Our first full day in Havana started with a lecture from architectural historian Miguel Coyula

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and continued with a walking tour of Old Havana.

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It was during Miguel’s talk that we learned about “fan lights”, arches filled with stained glass, which we saw all over the city.

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After learning why Miguel considers Havana a little piece of Europe in the Caribbean,

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our tour concluded with lunch near the cathedral. Moneda Cubana was our first visit to a paladar, a restaurant in a private home that operates with the special permission of the Cuban government.

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In the afternoon we visited the homes and studios of some of Havana’s leading artists. The arts have long presented Cubans with an opportunity to cautiously express their views on society, and we had fascinating conversations with Maria, Frank, Adrian, Alex,

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and Kdir.

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In the evening, most of our group took the opportunity to listen to and dance with the famous Buena Vista Social Club!

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Monday, January 20: HAVANA                                              

Our morning lecture on this day was by Maria Antonia Fernandez Mtinez who discussed rural and urban agriculture in Cuba.

We continued to the small, hilltop village of San Francisco de Paula to see Finca La Vigía, the house where author Ernest Hemingway lived for 20 years

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and saw, on the grounds, his fishing boat Pilar.

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On our way back to Havana, we stopped for a brief visit to the village of Cojímar, the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.

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We stopped on the drive back to Havana for lunch at a paladar, Doña Carmela, before returning to the hotel.

Rounding out a busy day was a private, after-hours tour of the Ceramics Museum,

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an incredible private classical guitar concert by Luis Manuel Molina, and dinner at a nearby restaurant, San Felipe.

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Tuesday, January 21: HAVANA

Our wonderful faculty host Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw was our lecturer today!

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After learning about art depicting Colonial Cuba, we journeyed to the Museum of the Revolution, which vividly describes Cuba’s history from Colonial times through the winning of independence to the revolution.

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With a bit of free time afterwards, some guests paid a visit to the Hotel Nacional, a historic hotel once frequented by famous actors, artists, athletes, writers, and mobsters.

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Later that evening we visited the Ludwig Foundation for the Arts for a presentation on Cuban Art.

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The Foundation President hosted a cocktail reception and homemade buffet dinner on the penthouse terrace, and we dined with young Cuban artists.

Wednesday, January 22: HAVANA / MATANZAS / VARADERO

Time to hit the road to see more of the country! Departing for Matanzas, we stopped en route at the Bacunayagua Bridge, the highest in Cuba, with beautiful, panoramic views of the nearby valley.

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Upon arrival in Matanzas, we toured the Castle of San Severino, which included rooms exhibiting Santeria (an Afro-Cuban religious tradition) and slavery as part of UNESCO’s project “The Route of the Slave.”

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We continued to the homes/studios of two artists, Daylene, a photographer, and Borodino, a painter,

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before enjoying lunch at the beautifully restored Xanadu, the former Dupont Mansion built in the 1930s.

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Finally, we arrived in Varadero to rest for a night before more sightseeing in Matanzas.

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Thursday, January 23: VARADERO / MATANZAS / HAVANA

Making our way back to Havana, we stopped at the Pharmacy Museum in Matanzas

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and attended a private, a capella choir concert.

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A visit to Ediciones Vigia, where handmade books are created, followed

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and preceded a stop at the studio of local sculptor Osmany Betencourt aka Lolo.

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Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw led a talk about the Havana Bienal on the bus ride back to Havana.

Despite being tired from traveling, some passengers visited the Tropicana at night!

Friday, January 24: HAVANA

Our last day in Havana came quickly but also brought one of the highlights of our trip — attending an informal rehearsal of the Contemporary Dance Company of Cuba at the Teatro Nacional.

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We spent the remainder of the morning at the National Museum of Fine Arts with a curatorial tour focusing on its Cuban art collection.

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In the late afternoon, we drove by classic car

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to attend a private concert by Ars Longa

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at the Church of San Francisco de Paula

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before our farewell dinner at another popular paladar, San Cristobal.

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Saturday, January 25: HAVANA / MIAMI

We bade farewell to our fabulous tour guide, tour director, architects, artists, museum directors, students, and each other and departed for home.

Our time in Cuba was spectacular! If you would like to experience it yourself, e-mail Emilie LaRosa (emiliek@upenn.edu) to be placed on the priority reservation list for our next departure, February 14-21, 2015 with Professor Sharon Ravitch.

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Filed under Alyssa D., Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

A Long-Expected Party

Author: Patrick Bredehoft

 

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

~Benjamin Franklin

Today, the Interview Program staff is preparing for a party.  Or rather, 52 parties.  Between April 3rd and 27th, alumni from around the world will be hosting local events to welcome the newest cohort of admitted students to Penn.  These events are sponsored by generous Penn alumni from dozens of interview committees (from Phoenix to Pakistan), and while each event will undoubtedly have a slightly different flavor, the common celebration of a Penn education is sure to be a constant.

We’re also doing our part to ensure that each admitted student event is stocked with red-and-blue party supplies, by shipping boxes of Penn-themed gear to more than 15 states and 20 countries.  So, if you happen to hear a chorus of “Hurrah, hurrah, Pennsylvania” coming from somewhere in your town during the month of April, don’t be surprised.  In fact, we’d encourage you to join in the celebration, and to help us welcome Penn’s Class of 2018 to the four incredible years that lie ahead!

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Filed under Interview Program, Patrick B., Sweeten Alumni House, Uncategorized, Volunteering

And The Winners Are…

Author: Janell Wiseley

The fourth annual Penn Alumni Travel photo contest has come to a close. The votes are in and the winners have been notified!

The contest was open to all participants who have taken a Penn Alumni Travel trip. Photos were judged on creativity and quality, as well as relevance to the specific category.  All photos were judged by Alumni Relations staff, Penn Alumni Travel faculty hosts, and our 2013 passengers.

You can view all photo contest submissions here.

Penn Alumni would like to congratulate the following winners

Grand Prize Winner &1st Place in the Culture Category: Women Dying Alpaca Wool, Sacred Valley, Peru by Barbara Holland, L’86

Grand Prize Winner &1st Place in the Culture Category: Women Dying Alpaca Wool, Sacred Valley, Peru by Barbara Holland, L’86

1st Place People Category: Two Gentlemen of Trinidad, Cuba by Barry Keller, C’60

1st Place People Category: Two Gentlemen of Trinidad, Cuba by Barry Keller, C’60

1st Place Places Category: Machu Picchu just before Close by Margaux Viola

1st Place Places Category: Machu Picchu just before Close by Margaux Viola

1st Place Nature Category: Zebras in Tanzania by Sydnee Alenier, Penn Spouse

1st Place Nature Category: Zebras in Tanzania by Sydnee Alenier, Penn Spouse

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How Penn’s Research Inspires

By Robin Tauber Plonsker, C’86

On April 21, I will be running the Boston Marathon as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT). This will be my first time running the Boston Marathon (something I’ve always aspired to do), but not my first time running for TNT. I have been a supporter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ever since my husband Ted’s lymphoma diagnosis. Ted has been cancer-free eight years now, but my involvement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has only grown. I started as a volunteer, have run several marathons for TNT, and am now an employee, thrilled to be working to support a mission so personally meaningful to me. It also gives me a chance to see firsthand the amazing breakthroughs being made right now in blood cancer research–research that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is funding.

In fact, one of the most exciting research breakthroughs is happening right here at Penn. A team led by Carl June, MD, has developed a new treatment for leukemia that involves genetically engineering patients’ own immune cells to seek out, target and kill cancer cells. This new therapy has been tested in leukemia patients for whom all other treatments had failed. The results of the study have been nothing short of astounding, with the majority of patients–including children with the most common form of childhood cancer–achieving complete remission. This is research that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recognized as promising and worthy of support as far back as 1992, long before it achieved the success it is having today. In fact, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has committed $20 million to this research over these past 12 years, including a current $6 million grant.

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This remarkable new treatment developed at Penn is now being tested in other types of blood cancers and is a bright ray of hope for those battling these diseases. But there is more work to be done. There are more than a million Americans living with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. Many are still desperately in need of cures. I am running the Boston Marathon to help raise the funds needed to find those cures. If you would like to help by making a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, please click on this link to my fundraising page:
http://wch.lls.llsevent.org/rplonsker

Every donation helps accelerate finding cures for blood cancer patients. On their behalf and mine, thank you.

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Have you registered yet?

Alumni Weekend will be here before you know it! Make sure to register today.

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The countdown is on – 8 weeks to go!

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