Flying Jayhawks take a drive on the wild side on Tanzanian safari

Posted on Mar 18, 2018 in Alumni News and News

Tanzanian safari | Flying Jayhawks
The safari vehicles—sturdy Toyota Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs that let us stand and drink in the vast panorama of grass and sky surrounding us—were circled up on a dusty Serengeti track, miles from civilization but mere yards from a parade of elephants tearing into an acacia thorn bush with ravenous gusto. We were close enough to hear the crunching of every leafy, spikey bite.

Rowe McKinley, e’70, b’71, one of 16 Flying Jayhawks on the “Tanzania Safari During the Great Migration,” grinned and called out what many of us were thinking at that moment and many others on the February trip: “Just like in Kansas, right?”

Yes, a journey halfway around the world to the African savannah produced surprising echoes of life back home. Bouncing across Serengeti National Park on roads that ran from gravel to mud to faint two-track paths at times felt a little like driving in the Kansas Flint Hills. Except this sea of grass is larger—12,000 square miles spread across Tanzania and Kenya, compared to 9,900 in Kansas and Oklahoma—and mostly flatter, with vast, treeless open plains broken only by the occasional kopje, rock outcroppings of 500-million-year-old granite that are favored perches of the big cats that call Serengeti home.

Much, much more common, though, were other-worldly moments of awe.

The big cats—lions and leopards—had a lot to do with that. Along with the African elephant, the Cape buffalo and the black rhinoceros, they make up the “Big Five,” the exotic bucket-list quintet that big-game hunters coined to highlight the five toughest animals to hunt on foot in Africa. We were shooting only with our cameras, but the Big Five still loomed as must-see fauna, and our guides made sure that crossing paths with each was at the top of their to-do lists.

Tanzanian safari | Flying Jayhawks

We knew we were living charmed lives when we spotted the toughest get on that list—the shy, mostly nocturnal leopard—less than an hour after we arrived in the park. Guides often spend their last day with a tour group trying to hustle up a leopard encounter; we were still shaking off the dust of our bush flight, buzzing from our first wildlife sighting (a bulky antelope called a topi) from the tiny airstrip’s terminal, when an excited burst of Swahili on the Toyota’s shortwave alerted our guide, Neiman, that elusive chui was lounging in a tree not far up the road. And just like that—after 20-plus hours of flight time across three continents, a couple of bus rides and short bush-plane hop—we found ourselves hot on the trail in a surefire African safari.

Over the next week we saw three more leopards, countless lions (including a mating pair that fulfilled their biological imperative with complete disregard for the giggling gaggle of spying tourists), and dozens of elephants ranging from massive solitary bulls to large clans of cows and calves. Alerted by vultures dropping from the sky, we converged on a pair of cheetahs lounging in the shade, their bellies swollen from feasting on a young eland whose parents retreated forlornly in the distance. We intercepted the great migration of wildebeests and zebra and sat idling like drivers at a rail crossing, watching as long trains of the grazers moving in search of fresh grass rumbled across the road in front of us. Somehow, amid a teeming swirl of thousands of the animals, we were able to focus on one wildebeest as she gave birth and, within minutes, nudged her newborn to its feet.

Tanzanian safari | Flying Jayhawks

As the days passed, we grew adept at identifying the many, many different African antelope, from the dog-sized dik-dik to the massive waterbuck and the ubiquitous impala. We spotted a few solitary black rhinos and great herds of Cape buffalo, including one bull that nearly crashed our al fresco dinner when a ranger chased him away from the swimming pool, where he and a mate had come to drink. Side-trips to Olduvai Gorge, a Maasai village and the Kibaoni Primary School, where Jayhawks donated more than 30 pounds of school supplies, put us in touch with Tanzania’s human culture, both ancient and current. And back at the lodges after a long dusty day on the safari trail, we gratefully accepted the warm hospitality of our hosts and the good company of our fellow travelers, who included groups from Johns Hopkins and Ole Miss. The dark nights occasionally rang with the calls of baboons and lions, and a skyful of stars—some familiar, some unknown to us—lit our way.

On our first night at the Serengeti Serena Lodge, one of five lodges and hotels we stayed at on the 12-day trip, we gathered for a welcome reception on a terrace overlooking a beautiful valley where the sun was setting behind green hills. We watched as a local band serenaded Fred, e’67, and Juilane Chana, d’68, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. On our last night there, the lodge treated us to a surprise barbecue, in recognition, our Gohagan tour director Lydian Eijsbouts related, that we were “a special group, always smiling and happy.” As we lingered after dinner under the cooling night sky, in the flickering light of bonfires set to create a festive mood (and to ward off the very real threat of marauding wildlife), we could hear a chorus of many singing voices coming nearer and nearer. Soon a line of lodge staff—bartenders and waiters and chefs in their tall white toques—paraded into our gathering, serenading us with a Tanzanian song as they passed around a cake festooned with a single Swahili word: Kwa heri. Goodbye.

Tanzanian safari | Flying Jayhawks

As the song faded away, a lone voice piped up with a familiar refrain. Slowly at first, and then with gusto, the whole table joined in. “Rock chalk, Jayhawk” rang out across the African night, as our hosts smiled in surprise. We hadn’t really understood the words of their song, and likely they were mystified by ours. But the feeling behind both was clear enough: The world is full of wonders, and aren’t we lucky that, together, we’ve shared a few.

—Steven Hill

The Flying Jayhawks trip to Tanzania took place Feb. 1-12, 2018, and was hosted by Steven Hill, associate editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. View more pictures from the trip on Flickr. Pictures may be downloaded for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.

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Jayhawks explore Baltics and more

Posted on Nov 16, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks group on the Baltic Treasures tour
A group of Flying Jayhawks embarked on the Baltic & Scandinavian Treasures cruise August 22 to September 2, 2017. The 10-day adventure across Eastern Europe included time in eight countries for the 24 Flying Jayhawks on the trip. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and network programs, hosted the trip and provided us with his account of the journey.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Many from our travel group met each other at Chicago O’Hare before the long flight to Copenhagen: The crimson and blue gear helped our travelers pick each other out! Our time in Copenhagen was limited to a short bus ride to the ship for embarkment, but we got a glimpse of the city and enjoyed a nice Jayhawk welcome reception at the Horizons Lounge.

Flying Jayhawks at the Baltic cocktail reception

Warnemünde, Germany

The Flying Jayhawks departed early from our port in Warnemünde for tours in Berlin and the historic city of Rostock. Highlights in Rostock included the Rostock Astronomical Clock located at St. Mary’s Church and a river cruise back to the ship.

Klaipeda, Lithuania

Guests were greeted to Lithuania with a traditional folk-style band right on the port.  The excursion included a stop at the Palanga Amber Museum, where our host shared that the mansion where the museum is housed once belonged to her ancestor – the Countess. A brewery stop provided the opportunity to sample Lithuanian beer and snacks (pig ears, anyone?), while shopping at a nearby market closed our stay.

Riga, Latvia

The stop in Latvia’s capital city of Riga was brief on a quiet Sunday morning, but those on the “Charming Riga” excursion toured some of the nearby sights, including St. Peter’s church. A flute player in the town square cleverly serenaded the many cruise tour groups with a rendition of the Titanic theme song, “My Heart Will Go On.” An evening happy hour provided the Flying Jayhawks an opportunity to relax and meet our fellow travelers.

Helsinki, Finland

Monday morning in Helsinki started with a stop at Senate Square and the striking Helsinki Cathedral. After viewing the Sibelius Monument and the Temppeliaukio Church, many travelers took the opportunity to enjoy some free time. They checked out Market Square and watched various street musicians perform.

Helsinki Cathedral | Flying Jayhawks Baltic Treasures tour

St. Petersburg, Russia

We spent Tuesday through Thursday in the cultural capital of Russia. The Yusupov Palace and Canal Cruise took several Flying Jayhawks to the site of Rasputin’s assassination. This was followed by a boat ride through some of St. Petersburg’s many canals to the Neva River. Viewing sites included Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac’s Square, and the Church of the Savior on Blood. Wednesday included the evening opportunity to visit either the ballet or an evening of Russian song and dance. Thursday included a visit to the Hermitage Museum, capped with a Flying Jayhawk family photo and dinner in the main dining room.

Tallinn, Estonia

Our stop in Tallinn happened to fall on the first day of school, so local schoolchildren in their traditional first day dress colliding with camera-wielding tourists made for some funny encounters. The tour around Old Town included learning quite a bit about the history of this historically well-defended city, incredible panoramic views, and visits to local shopping and restaurants.

Stockholm, Sweden

Our Baltic voyage concluded on Saturday morning in Stockholm where we said goodbye to the Oceania Marina. Those who stayed in Stockholm before flying home saw the Stockholm Palace and found Swedish Meatballs in Gamla Stan.

Flying Jayhawks on the Baltic Treasures cruise

Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. You can download photos for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Baltic Treasures

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Flying Jayhawks enjoy sights and sounds of the Mediterranean

Posted on Nov 7, 2017 in Alumni News and News

The Flying Jayhawks’ latest group of travelers took a cruise to experience the history of the Mediterranean. From October 7 to October 17, the 10-day adventure across Italy, France and Spain brought the Flying Jayhawks to 11 historical cities to experience their sights, sounds and culture. Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, hosted the trip and shared his story of the trip.

Day 1

We arrived in Rome to the best good news-bad news situation that could have possibly happened. The bad news: The ship wasn’t ready. The good news: The ship wasn’t ready. This could only mean one thing: a guided bus and walking tour of one of the most historically prominent cities in the world. The first stop was the elegant St. Paul’s Basilica. As we walked through the hallowed halls, we were transported into the pages of a Dan Brown novel. We spent the afternoon with a full drive around The Colosseum.

As we arrived at the ship it looked like a line to enter Allen Fieldhouse because of all the crimson and blue. However, no one in this line was entering the famed cathedral of basketball. Instead, this line of 44 Jayhawk faithful was geared up to board Oceania’s MS Riviera. The night was capped with a welcome reception where everyone officially met.

Day 2

We arrived in the Port of Livorno and guests had the option to tour Florence, Pisa or Tuscany. Many of the guests traveled to the the picturesque landscapes of Cinque Terre. The excursion included views of the terraced cliffside homes that overlook the sea. We were able to explore three of the five villages.

Day 3

Adventures in Italy continued as we arrived in Portofino. Upon entering this fishing village, you are greeted with views of vibrant colors that adorn the buildings lining the port. We were welcomed by local waiters offering an assortment of wines. An evening happy hour provided the Flying Jayhawks an opportunity to relax and get to know our fellow travelers.

Day 4

The favored vacation spot of celebrities like Jay-z and Beyonce, Saint-Tropez, France, welcomed the flying Jayhawks with its very best! Jayhawks were able to chose between many day trips, including the walking tour Highlights of Saint-Tropez and the Peninsula of Hilltop villages. After the excursions Jayhawks had ample free time to explore the city that used to be a military stronghold.

Day 5

Our first stop in Spain felt like we were walking through the set of Game of Thrones. Palamos felt like a town that has not changed in centuries. As you looked down you saw cobble stone streets, buildings covered with vinery and flags hanging over the streets strung between buildings.

Day 6

Barcelona, or as it pronounced, “Barthelona”, did not disappoint. Most of the excursions included some aspect of the notable architecture that is seen throughout the city. This city epitomized the culture and energy of the Catalonian region of Spain. The buildings looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The pictures that the Flying Jayhawks took don’t even do the city justice. When the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família came into view jaws dropped. Although construction of Sagrada Família started in 1882, the massive structure will not be completed until 2026. When we arrived back on the ship, a private reception was waiting for the KU travelers.

Day 7

The Flying Jayhawks indulged in some of the best food the planet has to offer, paella. The traditional rice dish was created and perfected in Valencia. After fighting off the food coma we were able to zag our way through the streets and markets of Valencia, the third largest in Spain. The city was truly the intersection of urban contemporary and historic rustic.

Day 8

Although short, our trip to Palma de Mallorca was incredible. Many of the Jayhawks took this day as a day of leisure while others took time to explore nearby underground caves. We may or may not have gotten in a little trouble for yelling Rock Chalk just to hear it echo in the cave.

Day 9

Our last full on the trip. We arrived in Marseille, one of the largest ports in all of France. Many Jayhawks decided to take a journey to the home of Vincent van Gogh. (Now when I say home, I actually mean the mental institution he lived in!) As we returned to the ship it was group photo time!

Day 10

The cruise director told us “You don’t gotta go home, but you sure can’t stay here.” As I disembarked and reminisced on the the trip I realized that over the last 10 days I met and got to spend time with so many great Jayhawks! I heard a thousand stories of KU past and present, ate some of the best food of my life and got to see locations that I couldn’t believe were real. Here’s to the next one!

Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. You can download photos for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Mediterranean Radiance

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Haggis and More: Flying Jayhawks soak in Scotland’s charm

Posted on Sep 27, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks | Scotland | photo courtesy of Chris Lazzarino

Don’t eat haggis for breakfast. Ever.

That was the stern warning from Alice, the Flying Jayhawks’ Edinburgh-based tour guide for a weeklong glide through the understated wonders of sunny (!) Scotland.

Alice had haggis on her mind because it had recently come to her attention that our hotel—a charming, 19th-century school just a few blocks downhill from the magnificently restored Stirling Castle—had recently begun offering haggis at its breakfast buffet. She never explained exactly why this was such a bad thing—“It’s just not done,” she said, utterly exasperated—yet Alice was clear: She was none too pleased about the cultural faux pas.

Alice did not have much to worry about. We did not eat the haggis at breakfast. Most of us sampled the native dish at our welcome dinner, which featured a “Haggis Ceremony,” complete with a bagpiper, a big knife, and an energetic narrator who told us much about … well, we’re not quite sure of the details, because his Scottish brogue was a bit thick, but he was friendly and fun and a good time was had by all before finally falling into our beds for badly needed sleep.

Scotland’s beloved delicacy

Enough with the haggis. But as long as we’re on the topic of beloved national delicacies, did we mention the Scotch? That’s whisky without the “e,” and we sampled the good stuff after a tour of Scotland’s oldest working distillery, Glenturret, just outside the town of Crieff. It’s a single-batch distillery that offers its lovely golden elixirs as its own (expensive) label, but also sells much of its production run to The Famous Grouse, a blender that has become the biggest-selling brand of Scotch in the world.

Back to the beginning

But that was a highlight of Day Seven. Back to the beginning. Our travelers commenced their Alumni Holidays International journey by gathering at Edinburgh International Airport. The 19 Jayhawks were joined by smaller groups from Johns Hopkins, McGill, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State universities, and we all made our acquaintances during an hour-long bus ride from Edinburgh—which was awash in festivalgoers attending a slew of international events in the Scottish capital city—to Stirling, an old, hillside town awash in history and our home for the next nine days.

Led in grand fashion by travel director Carole Petipher, a high-energy Brit who specializes in all things French yet delights in her occasional assignments to Scotland, our merry band spent the morning of our first full day touring Stirling Castle, childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The “stirring vistas from the ramparts” promised in our brochure delivered splendidly, despite a cold rain that dampened no moods.

If we feared that first morning’s weather might have been an omen, we were wrong. Except for one or two brief, fast-moving storms, our nine days in Scotland were so sunny and delightful that the locals seemed a bit out of sorts. Scots are so used to complaining about their weather, we were told, that they refuse to cease their grumbling just because a little bit of sunshine.

After starting our days with history lectures from a retired local professor straight out of central casting—John was upset not about breakfast haggis, but rather the U.K.’s shocking vote to leave the European Union—we continued our journeys through the towns and countryside surrounding Stirling: the magnificent Loch Lomond in The Trossachs National Park, the golf mecca of St. Andrews, battlefields and monuments, castles and palaces.

Flying Jayhawks travel group in Scotland | Flying Jayhawks | courtesy of Chris Lazzarino

Highlights of the trip

Aside from the friendships forged among fellow travelers, the trip’s highlight was attending the legendary Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, aptly described as a “compendium of precision marching bands, drill teams, pyrotechnics and Highland dancing performed on the floodlit esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.” Those AHI brochure writers, they’re good, and they’re right. Wow. Just … wow.

The “military tattoo” ceremony originates from 18th-century regimental bands that struck up their tunes to alert garrisoned troops to “quit the saloons and return to the barracks.” That part of the custom, however, seems to have been lost to the haze of history, because nobody in Edinburgh that night—absolutely nobody—was quitting anything or returning anywhere. We attended on the final night of the monthlong series of performances, an evening that also marked the end of the Edinburgh International Festival, featuring opera, music, theatre and dance performances throughout the heart of the gorgeous old town, as well as the cultural stalwart’s now-thriving cheeky cousin, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, described as the “largest arts festival in the world.”

On the day of our visit, literally millions of festivalgoers flooded Edinburgh’s cobblestone sidewalks, making navigation difficult yet filling the crisp air with an energy that cannot be replicated.

Such are the joys of travel, those special days and nights when you see, hear, taste and feel things that cannot be described, only experienced. Join us for your own adventure of a lifetime. Become a Flying Jayhawk and see your special corner of the world with your own eyes.

—Chris Lazzarino

The Flying Jayhawks trip to Scotland took place August 23-31, 2017, and was hosted by Chris Lazzarino, associate editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. Pictures may be downloaded for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
Flying Jayhawks: Scotland

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Traveling Tegs: Flying Jayhawks embark on ‘Great Journey Through Europe’

Posted on Jul 27, 2017 in Alumni News and News

A group of Jayhawks from across the U.S. took on the “Great Journey Through Europe“, an eleven-day trip from June 15-25. Included in the group was Tegan Thornberry, director of membership and business development. Here’s her account of the cross-country trip.Matterhorn

Day 1 & 2

We arrived in Geneva, Switzerland and enjoyed a scenic transfer to Zermatt. The afternoon was spent settling into the Hotel Alex and meeting everyone at our first group dinner. The next day was open for us to explore at our leisure and take the Gornergrat Bahn railway up to view the Matterhorn. We lucked out with a beautiful clear view of the peaks of the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn. Some of our more adventurous passengers even hiked down from one of the last rail stops back to town.

Day 3

Off to Lucerne! We loaded up to Andermatt on the Glacial Express, the slowest high-speed train i’ve ever seen. A quick lunch break at the Hotel Drei Konig before loading on the buses to check into the beautiful Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne. For dinner, a group of KanBraska (we combined with the group from the Nebraska Alumni Association frequently) enjoyed a traditional Swiss fondue outing.

Day 4

The 14th century wooden Chapel Bridge highlighted today during our morning walking tour of Lucerne. Armed with two sets of Gondolas, we reached our next stop: the top of Mt. Pilatus. We enjoyed a three-course lunch with a view and some free time to explore before heading back down the mountain via the world’s steepest cogwheel railway.Germany

Day 5

We continued our trip to Basel to board our Rhine River cruise, but not before a scenic stop in Bern at the botanical gardens high above the city. Lunch was at the Kornhaus Keller Restaurant followed by a walking tour of Bern. It was a hot day for sure, but it was an interesting city and the number of fountains with potable water came in handy: not a given in Europe!

Day 6

This morning at breakfast, we were surprised by a ransom note. Some of our cutout Jayhawks had gone missing! They were being held captive by one of our Nebraska neighbors, but which one? We continued our day with a walking tour in Strasbourg, France. That evening we had a number of Jayhawks living aboard join us on the ship for a reception. We had three alumni who attended graduate school at KU: g’68, g’90, and g’08 graduates. The hours flew by sharing stories of our time on the Hill. I’m not sure which group enjoyed it more, the Flying Jayhawks travelers, or the Jayhawks living in Germany! We love being able to connect Jayhawks around the world.

Day 7

Today was all about a city tour of the Heidelberg and its landmark castle. The fortress is 700 years old, sits 70 meters above the Neckar river, and houses the biggest wine barrel in the world. At night, we set sail to Rudesheim. Before our day ended, we got our Jayhawks returned to us along with another note! It would take me a couple of more days to figure out who exactly was behind the capture.

Day 8

All aboard the Winzerexpress! We loaded up on two trains and went through town and through the vineyard, ending at the tasting cellar. Prost! It was an entertaining demonstration by the Vineyard owner. As fun as the vineyard was, we had to get to Koblenz for a tour. Much of the city was closed off for a charity race that day with over 7,000 runners. We still enjoyed the walking tour and took advantage of some free time before sailing to Cologne.


Day 9

Day 9 marked our last day on the ship. Our stops included a walking tour of Cologne, and small group visit to its famous Cathedral. This evening we gathered for the Captain’s Farewell reception and dinner. On this last day, we found out the culprit behind the hostage Jayhawks was a sweet woman from Nebraska named Nancy. She celebrated her 80th birthday on the trip and was the last person I would guess to be behind the mischief.

A number of our passengers participated in the Amsterdam extension, but it was time for me to head home and back to work. It was a great journey full of laughs with great Jayhawks. Thanks to all who came, and I hope you can join us on our next adventure!

Our Flying Jayhawks!

—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as director of membership and business development and hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Timeless Treasures.” She also brings cookies to the office every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the new 2018 schedule, visit

Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.

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Shenanigans abound when former rivals travel abroad

Posted on Jun 22, 2017 in Alumni News and News

An old rivalry was renewed as Jayhawks made the “Great Journey through Europe.”

Participants on the Flying Jayhawks tour found themselves traveling with some Nebraska Cornhuskers, who pranked the KU crew by holding Jayhawk decorations hostage.

But, our friendly neighbors to the north quickly returned the beloved birds.

Do the Jayhawks have plans to play any tricks of their own? The Huskers are anxiously awaiting any good-natured retaliation, and in the meantime, the groups are no doubt trading stories about the good old days when the two schools belonged to the same conference.

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Jayhawks explore ‘Timeless Treasures’ of the Mediterranean

Posted on Jun 6, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Scenery from the Timeless Treasures cruise in the Mediterranean Sea | Flying Jayhawks
A group of 30 Jayhawks from across the U.S. explored the Mediterranean on a seven-day cruise from April 28-May 6.

We began our journey in Athens, Greece– embarking on the ship headed to two of the Cyclades group of islands. First stop, Mykonos.

Travelers selected from a number of excursions this day. More than half the group explored the ruins on the small island of Delos, just off the island of Mykonos. The lions of Apollo guard this island, and a number of intricate mosaics are still intact.

The rest of the group explored Mykonos, famous for white homes with blue shutters and the iconic windmills. The maze-like streets, originally designed to ward of pirate attacks, offered a variety of shops and restaurants.

Mosaic in Delos, from the Timeless Treasures Flying Jayhawks cruise in the Mediterranean

Our next port of call was the island of Santorini, which offered picturesque views of the white cave homes and blue domes. We visited the quieter town of Oia before heading to the more well-known capital of Fira. Cobblestone streets wind between shops and cafes with stunning views.

After cruising a day at sea, we made it to our next destination. Malta is a small island nestled to the south of Sicily and north of Africa. The Dingli cliffs provided breath-taking views. Tours included visiting catacombs and the village of Rabat, and we spent our free time in the capital of Valletta, accessible by elevator from the harbor.

Sicily means “Land of the Godfather.” The largest island in Mediterranean is notable serving as the backdrop of a number of scenes in the “Godfather” movies. Sicily was its own country for centuries before the Italian unification in 1860. It is still home to a proud culture, and residents identify more strongly as Sicilian rather than Italian.

Scenery from the Timeless Treasures cruise in the Mediterranean | Flying Jayhawks

Our last stop was Sorrento, Italy. My high school Latin teacher, Mr. Wilson, would be so proud and excited I was able to visit Pompeii! It was fascinating to walk around a town that has been uncovered after being preserved by the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. I found it so interesting to see how Roman life was frozen in time.

We disembarked in Rome. A number of our passengers stayed on in Rome, but it was time for me to travel home. It was a fantastic week with some amazing people. Some I have traveled with in the past, and others I hope travel with us again in the future.

Until next time, arrivederci!

—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as director of membership and business development and hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Timeless Treasures.” She also brings cookies to the office every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the new 2018 schedule, visit

Watch the slideshow below to see photos from the trip, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr. Photos may be downloaded for personal use.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Timeless Treasures

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Jayhawks venture to world’s largest rainforest ecosystem

Posted on May 9, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Amazon River Expedition Flying Jayhawks group, photo courtesy of Steve Pennington

A group of Jayhawks cruised the Amazon River, the longest navigable river in the world, from Feb. 24-Mar. 5, 2017. The travelers sailed on the M.V. Zafiro, one of the newest small expedition river vessels specifically designed to navigate the upper Amazon and its tributaries. The vessel carries 36 guests.

The trip included two nights in Lima, Peru; one night in Iquitos; and a five-night cruise.

Steve Pennington, c’72, g’75, shared the above photo taken during the trip, his eighth Flying Jayhawks adventure.

Pictured left to right: a naturalist from the cruise ship, Rick Miller, Pat Louden, Pennington, John Louden, Susan Miller, and the Gohagan tour guide.

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Flying Jayhawks not the only birds in Antarctica

Posted on Apr 5, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks in AntarcticaA group of seven Jayhawks traveled to Antarctica for the trip of a lifetime Feb. 9-22, 2017.

The seventh continent is truly the most remarkable of all. Every view is magnificent and no two are similar. Since the Jayhawk flock traveled during the Antarctic summer, it was not as cold as one might think, and thanks to the suggestions of the tour company, they were well prepared.

If you have forgotten what serenity means in this world of constant communication, you will find it in Antarctica. With no telephone, television, or internet connection available, the group took time to watch seals float by on ice patches and see 2000-pound “adolescent” seals yawn in the sunshine. They meet another kind of bird—the famous penguins— and saw birds fishing and gliding during sunrise and sunset. Whales helped guide the ship through narrow passages.

According to Kay Brada, c’61, it was the trip of a lifetime. “But if you are into museums, churches, coffee shops and gift shops, this isn’t the trip for you,” she said, adding that travelers should put this trip at the top of the bucket list.

The trip was hosted by Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership and business development. Watch the slideshow below to see photos of Antarctica’s breathtaking beauty, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr. Travelers are welcome to download photos for personal use.

Flying Jayhawks 2017: Antarctica

Travel the world with fellow Jayhawks! For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program visit The 2018 travel schedule will be available soon.

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Alumni travelers explore Cuban culture

Posted on Feb 7, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

As 14 Flying Jayhawks prepared for our trip to Cuba Jan. 6, tour director Antoinette Ford of Gohagan & Company wisely urged us to “be flexible and have open minds and hearts” during our visit to the island nation, which is struggling to accommodate the dramatic influx of tourists from the United States. We soon learned that the Cuban people welcome Americans with open arms, eagerly sharing their extraordinary culture and history. But Cuba’s aging infrastructure, dual currencies and years of isolation from the United States make for an unpredictable, challenging adventure.  One of our local guides joked that the unofficial motto of Cuba is, “It’s complicated.”

Joining us on our journey were 26 Traveling Owls from Rice University and 12 alumni of Vassar College. In addition to making new friends from across the United States, we treasured the opportunities to meet and talk with Cuba’s citizens, including our local guides, musicians, dancers, artists, community leaders, farmers and the owners of several paladars, local Cuban homes that have become restaurants.

Our adventure began with six nights on the majestic M.Y. Le Ponant, a three-masted French sailing ship making its first Cuban voyage. For three nights, the ship remained in Santiago Bay, on the southeast coast of the island, as we enjoyed daily excursions. We visited San Juan Hill, the pivotal site of the Spanish-American War (known to Cubans as the Spanish-Cuban-American War). A lively performance by local musicians and dancers  provided the perfect introduction to Cuban culture. We also toured the magnificent Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, which includes the mausoleum of José Marti, Cuba’s national hero and a literary legend in Latin America, as well as the grave of Fidel Castro. We were fortunate to witness the changing of the guard.

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

Other sites in Santiago included the cathedral and shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba. Outside the city, we visited the 16th-century Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, a Spanish fort more commonly known as The Morro. Brilliant sunshine made up for the buffeting winds as we enjoyed the breathtaking views of Santiago Bay and an exquisite a cappella concert in the fort’s chapel by four Cuban women, Vocal Vidas.

As Le Ponant sailed from Santiago, the ship’s crew hoisted the KU flag and we enjoyed a glorious day at sea before arriving in Cienfuegos. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city features a picturesque square bordered by the historic Teatro Tomas Terry, where famed tenor Enrico Caruso and other legendary stars performed. We also visited Santa Clara, where we learned the danzon, a traditional Cuban dance, from senior citizens at Abuelos de Fiesta, and toured the Che Guevara Monument and the History Museum of the Revolution.

After leaving the ship, we traveled by bus to Havana, the highlight of the first day was a visit to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s stunning home, which boasts lush gardens and spectacular views. While our guide enjoyed telling us that actress Ava Gardner once skinny-dipped in Hemingway’s pool, most of us were more interested in seeing the famed author’s retreat, with its hunting lodge décor, historic photos and, of course, his typewriter.

The next morning began with a tour of the city in the vintage U.S. cars that local drivers have carefully and painstakingly preserved. Riding in a ’57 pink convertible Chrysler New Yorker sure beats a tour bus. We then walked the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, including the Plaza de la Cathedral and other squares where restoration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s colonial structures will continue for years to come. In a Havana suburb, we marveled at the wondrous, whimsical mosaics by artist Jose Rodriquez Fuster, who has adorned not only his home and studio but also his neighborhood with joyous, colorful sculptures in all shapes and sizes. Fuster’s eye-popping art lifts the spirits of residents and tourists.

Flying Jayhawks | Cuba | 2017

From Havana we ventured to the Vinales Valley, which sits amid dramatic hill formations that are part of the Sierra de los Organos mountains. A local organic farm has become a favorite tourists’ lunch spot, known for tasty all-natural smoothies (rum optional) and delicious family-style meals. Our last stop was a tobacco farm, where Senor Benito explained the process for growing, drying and rolling the leaves that become Cuba’s famous cigars. A few travelers shared a smoke with Benito, who also welcomed us into his home for coffee.

After a long day, a few of us rallied for an evening at La Tropicana, the famous night club where extravagant (and decadent) entertainment first flourished in the 1940s during Havana’s heyday as the forerunner of Las Vegas.

As U.S. tourism continues to soar, Cuba no doubt will change drastically in the years to come. The Flying Jayhawks counted ourselves fortunate to visit the island as a new era begins.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Jennifer Jackson Sanner is senior vice president of strategic communications and advocacy and editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. View more pictures from the trip on Flickr.

This marks the third trip to Cuba through the program: Danny Lewis, director of donor relations, hosted a trip in 2013, and Michelle Lang, director of alumni programs, hosted a trip in 2015.


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