Scarsdale Family Scales Mount Kilimanjaro, “The Roof of Africa”
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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While most Scarsdale families spent their summer vacation at a beach, lake or the Scarsdale Pool, the Paquin family set their sights on a far more ambitious plan: to climb Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Here is their story as written by 16 year-old Chloe Paquin followed by an interview with her mother, Claire.
Reflections of a Non-Hiker. By Chloe Paquin
Please don’t get the wrong idea. We are not a hiking family. If you had told us all ten years ago that we would successfully summit the tallest mountain in Africa, not one of us would have believed you. But that is when this plan was hatched.
Ten years ago, when my dad turned 40 years old, he decided to celebrate his birthday by finding a physical challenge to set him on the right fitness path for the rest of his life. As a former Division 1 ice hockey player, his athletic drive was too intense for him to be satisfied by simply working out in the gym. He wanted something more. So, he gathered a group of friends and, along with my mom, they began training to climb the Grand Teton in Wyoming. Shortly after their successful summit, he climbed Longs Peak. Then came Mount Washington, Mount Whitney, Mount Fuji, Mount Rainier, and Castle Peak. But still, it was not enough and so his new dream was born: climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits, and do it with his family by his side to celebrate his 50th birthday.
As much as my dad talked about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro over the last decade, we never thought it would actually happen. When I was six years old and my younger sister, Ursie, was four, we didn’t know what he was talking about. We couldn’t even pronounce the name of the mountain. It wasn’t until a decade later when my mom started procuring tons of hideous hiking gear for me and Ursie, that we realized this was real. But even then, it felt so far away. Until it wasn’t. The moment we had all been dreading - well, with the exception of my dad who has been annoyingly enthusiastic about this whole thing - was finally here.
“Is everyone ready?” our guide inquires, probably rhetorically, but I answer anyway, “Not even close, but let’s go.” Our eight-day long hike of the Lemosho Route begins in the woods. We walk for hours and hours up and down hills, each one a small mountain that we must conquer on our way to the true summit. As we labor our way forward, we are continually reminded by the guides and porters that we need to go “pole pole” which means slowly in Swahili. After climbing Kilimanjaro countless times, they no longer need to take their own advice, and we are reminded of this each time they speed by us. We are going pole pole in our newly procured hiking boots and they are flying past us in everything from mismatched Crocs to destroyed oxfords to ruined running sneakers. All while carrying 30 pounds of gear on their heads. It’s somewhat embarrassing. We are struggling and they are swiftly running past us not breaking a sweat.
Eventually, we reach the Mkubwa forest camp and it is time to rest until the sun rises the next morning and we are back at it, one step at a time, slowly moving closer to our goal, which right now, seems unreachable.
Days pass like this. Day one: Mti Mkubwa Camp. Day two: Shira One Camp. Day three: Moir Hut. Day four: Barranco Camp. Day five: Karanga Camp. It’s torture.
On day six, the imposing mountain rests peacefully in front of us, far enough that we are engulfed in discouragement and hopelessness, but close enough that we can discern the image of a sleeping woman, her curves outlined in stone. Peaceful and impossible. She is resting. We are not. And will not for at least two days. As the sun rises in front of us, the moon sets behind us, simultaneously. A feeling of renewal burns within me as the sun illuminates my face. My discouragement fades away along with the night. We can do this.
“I can’t do this,” I say to our guide. Every ounce of hope I had this morning is gone. We have been walking straight uphill for four hours in the scorching heat, and we still have two more hours until we reach camp. The trees are gone. We are surrounded by dirt, dust, and lava rocks. The last remaining vegetation dissipated days ago, as did our will to continue. But we must. We have come too far. Going back now would be like erasing time. The last six days would be meaningless.
Tonight is summit night. We leave from Barafu Camp. Fifteen hours later we will be in the exact same spot. But feeling completely different.
One step in front of another is a simple mantra. For us, it’s not that simple. When I was six years old, being 16 years old seemed unattainable. Like a time that would never come. Just like the mountain: vast, surreal, distant. But now, it feels closer and more reachable. In only a few hours, we will have conquered it.
Those were the longest few hours of my life. Even under my six layers of thick clothing and the puffiest jacket you could imagine, I am frozen. My hair is an icicle, pressed up against the side of my face, and my fingers are numb. Our guide told us earlier that we “may not be able to feel our legs” on the way up. I wish this were the case. Instead, I feel pain and fatigue with every step. I force myself to keep moving, even though every muscle in my body is begging me to stop. As I am staring at the ground, blocking out everything and everyone, watching my feet reluctantly take step after step, I hear my sister let out an immense sigh of relief. I pick my head up and read the sign: Congratulations you are now at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, 19,341 ft, Africa’s highest point. We did it. It’s hard not to smile.
I crack a smile and then it hits me. We have to go down. We had climbed 4,010 vertical feet on the final ascent from Barafu Camp. Now our guide is telling us we are going all the way down to Mweka Camp. Today. That’s 9,200 vertical feet down. One day, 13,210 vertical feet of hell.
The porters sprint past us. They are flying towards home as I lunge and absorb my full body weight through my feet, knees, thighs, and hips with every step. The pain of the descent and an 18-hour summit day radiating through my muscles and bones.
In the end, we did it. I did it. Through sheer will and perseverance, not hiking prowess, we attained what appeared initially impossible. I feel accomplished. I’m proud that my family endured and fulfilled my dad’s dream together. It feels so good that we made him happy. But don’t expect me to do it again. Because I am not a hiker. Or maybe I am.
In order to learn more about the logistics of traveling to Tanzania and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, we spoke to Chloe’s mother, Claire Paquin.
Not your usual summer vacation, the trip required research, planning and training. As it was Claire’s husband JP’s dream to climb the peak with their daughters, ages 16 and 14, he took the lead on investigating guide companies that could shepherd them on the climb. He decided on Abercrombie and Kent, who provided the guides and even a cook, to lead the family of four up the mountain.
And how to prepare for the journey? Ursula, a freshman, and Chloe, a junior at SHS are both varsity athletes so they had their youth and strength on their side, but did they have the motivation to make the arduous climb? Though Claire and her husband, JP, had done some major hikes, the girls were entirely new to hiking. The family went on a few local hikes to test out their hiking boots and get an idea of how it might feel to spend the day on foot and carrying a hiking pack.
Getting to Tanzania from New York was a challenge in itself. In order to reach Kilimanjaro, the Paquins first boarded a 13 hour flight to Doha, Qatar. Once in the Middle East, they transferred to another 9 hour flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport, then another hour car ride to Arusha, Tanzania. Paquin says, that including the transfer time in the airport, it took 36 hours to travel from their home in Scarsdale to their destination.
In order to get acclimated, the family spent two nights in Arusha. The first was spent touring the area and learning the history of a rare gem called Tanzanite, which is only found in mines at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. On the second day, their guides took them on a prep hike to assess their level of fitness and to see how capable they were. An unexpected bonus that day was that the plains of Mount Meru were filled with wildlife including buffalo, giraffes, warthogs, and baboons. A government ranger, with a rifle on his shoulder, accompanied them that day to protect them from the wild animals. The family felt like they worked a small safari into the trip.
The next day, after a briefing by the head guide and a comprehensive gear check, they were off on their eight day adventure. Paquin says that the climbing was manageable but that the altitude can be debilitating for some. Fortunately, the family took Diamox, drank tons of water, and spent a lot of time hiking between 14,000 and 15,500 feet so were not sickened by the altitude.
On the first five days of the trip, they began their days at 5 am, with breakfast prepared by the cook at 6 – and a 7 am departure.
They wore multiple layers of clothing and peeled them off during the six to eight hours of climbing per day. On most days, they climbed all morning, and by mid-afternoon were resting at their next camp. Though the altitude kills your appetite, they were instructed to eat as much as possible at each meal – as at those heights “you’re burning calories like crazy,” said Paquin. Their chef, named “Good Luck,” prepared delicious soups and curries and was even able to accommodate a picky eater, making French fries and pizza for the teens.
Water was provided by the guides who collected water from the streams, treated it, and supplied it to the hikers who carried five liters in their pack at the start of every day – a three-liter Camelback and two one-liter Nalgene bottles. Water was essential to combatting altitude sickness so it was imperative to always be drinking and have plenty for each day’s hike.
Temperatures dipped into the twenties and thirties at night and the guides gave them hot water bottles to warm their sleeping bags. Tents were erected each night and they slept in their clothes and hats. During the day, conditions on the trail were extremely dusty - and red clay dust covered their clothes and got into the air they breathed. The guide often wore buffs covering their mouths to protect themselves from inhaling too much dust.
But the first 5 days were just preparation for the toughest part of the trip, an 18-hour summit day. Paquin said, “On day six, we climbed 4-5 hours to Barafu Camp which is at 15,330 feet. We had lunch and slept. We were awoken for dinner, slept again, and then ate breakfast at 10 pm that night. At 11:30 pm, we left for a seven-hour climb through the night and reached the peak at 6:30am, just as the sun was rising.”
The sense of relief and excitement when they got to the summit was palpable. Everyone else around them was smiling and cheering, so excited that they had succeeded in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain in Africa, often referred to as the “Roof of Africa.” The Paquins hugged and kissed each other and hugged their guides, too. Paquin said there was no way they could have accomplished it without the support and help of the guides.
From the summit elevation of 19,341 feet, they then down-climbed until 1 pm, rested for an hour, ate again, and then hiked down for another five hours. She said, “In one 18-hour period, we climbed up 4,010 feet and down over 9,000 feet. It was absolutely exhausting. My entire body was shaking after the effort.”
Though the weather had been sunny and dry for the most part, on the day they reached the top, the rain started making the descent wet, muddy, and slippery.
The four of them succeeded without injury, fulfilling their JP’s dream to reach the summit together. When they got back to Arusha, they were reunited with the clean clothing they had stored at the hotel and spent two more days in Africa on Safari at the Ngorongoro Crater and in the Serengeti National Park.
Claire said the kids were strong-willed and stoic and that they all feel very proud that they were able to achieve this together. She says, “Once you accomplish something like this, no one can ever take it away from you.”
Claire Paquin runs the award winning interior design firm, Clean Design Partners, www.cleandesignpartners.com. In conjunction with her trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, she raised funds for the non-profit, SheJumps, whose mission is to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities to foster confidence, leadership, and connection to nature and community.
Class of 2024 Chalks It Up
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Who would guess that hundreds of 17 year-olds would wake up before 7 am to chalk the entrance of Scarsdale High School?
There wasn’t a sleepyhead among the crowd of the SHS Class of 2024 who turned out for the annual chalking rite at the Brewster Road entrance on Wednesday morning September 6, 2023.
Wearing bright white T-Shirts that said, SENIORs 24, groups of students selected sidewalk squares and got to work on their chalk designs, most celebrating their arrival at their senior year.
Colorful designs and lettering reflected on their progress from kindergarten to senior year, with phrases like Season Finale, Best for Last and Time Flies along with beautiful illustrations of a Pac Man screen, and much to do about 2024. One couple got creative and figured out that wetting the chalking made for a vibrant display. A group of math students took a different road and used their area to write the solution to a mathematical equation! Impressive! In addition, they decorated the long curb leading from the Brewster Road circle with Einstein’s Field Equation. We predict great things for these mathematical artists!
Also noted was the fact that seniors are sporting backpacks fit for kindergartners. The current fashion is for seniors to use backpacks picturing Peppa Pig, Oscar the Grouch, Mickey Mouse and all the favorites of their younger years. Check out this display.
Kids were in great spirits and it was wonderful to have a normal start to the school year after the debacle of COVID. Wishing these kids a fun-filled senior year.
Community Saddened by the Passing of Former Scarsdale Mayor Bob Steves
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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A treasured member of the Scarsdale community and a volunteer extraordinaire has passed away. On Sunday July 30, 2023 former Scarsdale Mayor Bob Steves died at the age of 77 at his home in Harwich MA. The cause of his death was glioblastoma which he battled for about a year and a half. Beside him were his wife of 51 years Kathy, daughter Karen and son Michael. His son Matthew predeceased him in 2017.
Surprised and saddened, friends in Scarsdale remembered him as selfless, kind, willing and generous and remarked on the outsized impact this unassuming man had on the community.
During his years in Scarsdale, Steves held many key volunteer positions and with his wife Kathy was awarded the Scarsdale Bowl in 2017. Though it is unusual to find someone who served on both the School Board and the Village Board, Bob did both for two terms on each board. When there was an unexpected vacancy on the school board after Bob’s six-year term, he even agreed to stay on for a seventh year. Not only did he serve, but he led the Village’s top boards as President of the Scarsdale School Board and as Mayor of Scarsdale from 2013-14.
Among his long list of additional civic activities, Bob Co-Chaired the Student Transfer Education Plan (STEP), served as a member of the School Board Nominating Committee, on the board of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service and Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee. Outside of Scarsdale, Bob was a Board member and President of the New York Epilepsy Institute. Bob was universally respected as a leader and selfless volunteer in the community. As Co-Chair of the Public Library Capital Campaign Committee he helped to raise funds to build Scarsdale’s new library.
He did it all while holding a demanding job and was always humble. When he learned that he was to be awarded the Scarsdale Bowl in 2017, Bob said, "I was almost speechless—very hard for me –when the Committee showed up at the house. To say I was deeply moved would be an understatement. Volunteerism is the heart and soul of Scarsdale and it has been its own reward. I'm especially pleased to share this honor with my wife. I've looked to past Bowl recipients as role models and look forward to serving that same role.”
In addition to serving Scarsdale himself, he partnered with his wife Kathy to run community events for the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, hosted a visiting student for STEP and ran a massive sale of used books at the Scarsdale Library every August. The work was both time consuming and physically demanding but they never complained or said “no.”
As a couple, the Steves supported each other's work in a low-key, behind the scenes way. For example, when Kathy ran the book fair at the Scarsdale Library, Bob was there working as a cashier or hauling books. When Bob was running a STEP event, Kathy set it up. Their partnership was dedicated to the best interest of the community. Accepting the Bowl Award they said, “We are truly delighted and honored to be this year's Bowl recipients. We share a strong belief that service is an essential part of being a member of a community. We have benefitted greatly from working with so many great people who also share that belief."
How did the two get hooked on volunteering? Kathy explained it was all due to a peanut hunt. Shortly after they moved to Greenacres with their young family, they were asked to help organize the annual July Fourth celebration. They began by scattering peanuts on the field and three decades later ended up running the town.
At the 2017 Bowl dinner, daughter Karen Steves shared some memories of what it was like to grow up in a home of uber volunteers. She noted her parents' amazing work ethic and her mother's high standards and drive for perfection. She called Kathy an "optimistic tough cookie who sees problems and tries to fix them," and laughed about her Dad's ability to find common ground with anyone, anywhere. Together she said her parents have "championed countless endeavors," and showed their children what it meant to be part of a community. Though they have accomplished so much she said they are "humble" and "don't take themselves too seriously."
Also at the Bowl dinner, neighbor and long-time friend Deena Rosenthal remembered this about Bob: She said, “Early last September a friend of mine invited me to a dinner which a friend of hers, who uses a wheelchair, would attend. The problem: how to get the wheelchair up a single step into her home, Challenged to think of a solution, I came up with a MacGyvered plan for a ramp, but I had the sense to run it by Bob first. He listened to me attentively, but with what I later realized was a bemused expression. "I don't think your plan is going to work, In fact, it may turn out to be somewhat unsafe. Let me think about this tonight." The next morning, outside my back door was a proper wheelchair ramp. When I saw Bob later that day (it was, after all a Book Sale day), I said to him, "You had a ramp in your basement?" "No," he laughed, "but I had the lumber and I built it for you. It is safe, sturdy, and will do the job." Who else do you know who has the supplies , the skill and the heart to build a ramp for the friend of a friend of a friend?”
Scarsdale Mayor, Jon Mark, credited Bob with "laser focus on budget line items and valuable guidance to other Board members," and his "ability and willingness to listen." He remembered building a deck at the teen center by hand with Bob and current Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert and said, "It was also a great lesson for me to see a community leader of Bob's stature work as a member of a team." He continued, "Bob's community service sets a high, virtually impossible bar to exceed. As has been noted, he is the only resident to have served as both Mayor and President of the School Board – though not at the same time... He has done so with grace, fairness and always with a desire to do best for the Village."
Accepting the Bowl award, Steves noted the "selfish side" to volunteering, calling it an "unequaled opportunity to grow as a person," and to meet and learn from wonderful people. He said, "Being a volunteer gives you a better understanding, more meaningful insight into those with whom you serve... an insight that allows for mutual growth."
He urged everyone in the room to reach out and invite others to help, saying "Don't be afraid to ask someone to help, they just might be waiting for a chance to serve."
Steves had a long career in public finance including positions at the NYS Comptroller’s Office, NYS Housing Finance Agency and at the City University of New York where he was the University Treasurer. He was the Assistant Treasurer of Fordham University from 2004 to 2018. Upon retiring, the Steves moved to Harwich, MA where he and Kathy worked on restoring the 1850 house they had bought in 2015. Both he and his wife Kathy were extraordinarily capable around the house and undertook many major projects themselves.
Commenting on his passing, Terri Simon, who served on the School Board with Steves said, “What a sad loss this is for all of us. Bob was a completely lovely person, outstanding for his years of dedication to the community, his intelligence, integrity, decency, good humor and humility. Since we first met in 1989, with kids in the same first-grade class at Greenacres, through many overlapping volunteer activities (including six years of late night Board of Education meetings and, after his service as Mayor, collaboration on the Campaign Committee for the new library), my admiration and affection only grew for this special and exemplary guy.”
Dara Gruenberg, who currently serves on the Village Board said, “Bob and I worked together as co-chairs with Betty Pforzheimer on the Scarsdale Library’s Capital Campaign to reimagine our library. With dedication and humility, Bob was a shining light, devoting countless time to uplifting our community throughout his decades of service. His unwavering willingness to contribute was a testament to his resolute spirit. Above all, Bob was a man of profound integrity and an embodiment of generosity. In a quiet, unassuming way, he impacted lives, leaving an indelible mark on our community. His gentle spirit and his impressive legacy will continue to resonate with all who had the privilege of knowing him.”
Andrew Sereysky, who worked with Bob for many years, had this to say: “Bob was quite simply a wonderful, caring and thoughtful human being who dedicated himself to making Scarsdale a better place to live for all residents. My introduction to Bob was in 1994, the first year we moved to Scarsdale. Commuting together on the Hartsdale platform he thought, as a new Greenacres resident, I should join the Greenacres Neighborhood Association which I did. Little did I realize that his suggestion was the beginning of my civic volunteering and service to Scarsdale which continues today, 29 years later!”
Michelle Lichtenberg served with Bob on the Scarsdale Bowl Committee and remembered him this way: “Bob was such a kind, gentle, thoughtful soul, as well as smart and pragmatic. He did so much for Scarsdale. He was much loved and has a wonderful legacy, from Greenacres Association, STEP, Board of Education President to Mayor of Scarsdale. When we moved to Greenacres in 1991, Bob was our older son Andrew’s Cub Scout Den leader and helped make the transition from the City much smoother. Whatever Bob did, he did it with compassion and a twinkle in his eye.”
A funeral mass will be held at 11:00 am on August 11th at Holy Trinity Church Harwich. There will be a private interment on Friday August 18 at 1:00 pm at Gate of Heaven Cemetery. A Memorial Mass will be held at 10:00 am on August 19th at IHM in Scarsdale with a reception to follow.
What's In For Fall?
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 707
Summer wasn’t long enough for me to wear my great warm weather wardrobe – and now, well before Labor Day, temperatures have cooled and I’m thinking fall fashion.
Who better to ask for what’s in for fall, then Abbey Solomon at Scarsdale’s own shop for fashionistas, I Am More Scarsdale. We asked Abbey what she has in store for fall and did some research online to identify some trends you can consider when mining your closet for fall looks or shopping for new additions.
Here’s what’s in:
Suits for women have made a comeback. Magazines are showing models in all kinds of blazers, some with padded shoulders and paired with pinstriped pencil skirts and baggy pants. Take a look at this camel blazer.
The White Shirt
Also back in style are white button-down shirts, a wardrobe essential for the season. Wear it to work or wear it with jeans. A simple staple has made its return.
Most of us associate floral fabrics with spring or summer. This year, its winter floral dresses, filmy tops and more. Say it with flowers.
Shimmer and metallics are the rage as well. Think about brightening your look with a sweater embellished with sequins or a pair of baggy track pants in shiny silver or gold.
Colors for 2023 include red – red coats, red dresses, red hats, red velvet anything. If you can pull it off, you’ll stand out. A new shade for the season is butter yellow, soft and easy to wear. And this year, it’s apparently in to pair blue and black so think about wearing a navy blazer with black trousers.
For sweaters – we found two additions that we’d like to add to our wardrobes. The bulky knit cropped cardigan, and the longer cashmere cardigan with a collar.
The Denim Shirt
A new twist on the ever popular denim jacket is the denim "Western" button down shirt that will substitute for a sweater on cool fall days. And what about jeans? For this season, invest in a pair of high waisted, wide-legged jeans.
Have you spotted any fun fall trends? Please share them in the comments section below.
Who is Rajarshi Bhupendra Modi?
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 4827
We stopped by 17 Heathcote Road to take a look at a new sign which is the subject of much curiosity in Scarsdale.
It’s remarkable because while most try to conceal their homes and identities this sign does just the opposite. The large royal blue sign with gold lettering at the foot of the driveway announces the name of the new owner, where he’s from and provides the identity of the designer who ostensibly designed the house. It looks more like signage for a business than for a residence.
Property records show that Rajarshi Bhupendra Modi purchased the 9,886 square foot home on just over 4 acres in May 2021 from local developer Shlomo Freidfertig for $8,500,000. The house was built in 1928 and has 7 bedrooms, 8 full baths and 2 half baths as well as a pool, a tennis court and a 4-car garage.
Information on the internet says that the new owner is a 74 year-old Singaporean businessman who is looking to invest $1 billion in the U.S. over the new few years. The home is held in the name of Beyond 100, which is possibly the name of one of the Modi’s businesses.
His profile on Wikipedia says, “Bhupendra Kumar Modi (born 2 January 1949), known informally as Dr. M is an Indian-born Singaporean businessman, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder-chairman of Smart Group of companies, the founder of the Global Citizen Forum and the global chairman of the Foreign Investors India Forum. He is also the Honorary President of the World Federation of United Nations Associations.
In January 2023, Modi was bestowed with the title of Raja-Rishi on the occasion of his 74th birthday. The title means “royal sage” and describes “a person who has attained all material possessions but has a high level of spiritual knowledge that enables him to remain detached. This is an acknowledgement of the life and work of Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi who has been known as the ‘Man of Many Firsts’ for bringing several new technologies such as India’s first mobile call, first photocopier etc. These technologies have revolutionized the office automation and mobility landscape of the country, laying the foundation for a digital India.”
On Heathcote Road, just beyond the large blue sign, the gates to the house have also been painted blue and gold, perhaps the work of designer Sussanne Kahan. Her website says, Her website says, “Sussanne Khan has practiced the art of design for 15 years. She is the founder of India’s leading conceptual interior design store, “The Charcoal Project”. The store came to life in 2011 and changed the meaning of curated interior design in India. A victim of a curious mind, Sussanne used her imagination and talents to create diverse design stories inspired by the history of art and architecture through the ages. Her signature is a seamless blending of industrial masculine tone with feminine classical shabby chic. Sussanne Khan obtained an Associate Art Degree in Interior Design from Brooks College, Long Beach, California in the year 1995.
Has anyone met Mr. Modi in Scarsdale? Does he intend to live in the house? Do tell!