Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weeks 5 and 6: A Retrospective

Dear All,

pardon the delay, as you know, once you fall behind, it is hard to catch up. A German saying is appropriate: "Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen". Hopefully sincerity will compensate for tardiness.

Following our time in Berlin, we slipped right into a soccer frenzy. The US Women's Team fought its way into the semi-final, and in order to enjoy this match together (as we had in Berlin), arrangements were made to view the game at one of the students' host-family homes. We were graciously invited to enjoy the game on the garden terrace equipped with a large projection screen. Snacks and drinks were lovingly provided and to finish things off, we ordered pizza and decorated each other with red-white-blue war paint. The kids had a large time and thus we spent a wonderful evening together. That the US won that night, was just the cherry on top.

With red-white-blue paint flowing down the drain, the kids dusted off their wizard hats and readied themselves for the Harry Potter finale. The students were especially excited, because the film premiere was two days earlier than in the US - so they were to see the final installment before any of their friends back home. We had a fantastic time watching the finale as a big family.

On friday we were off to Cologne without a break. We arrived early to immediately begin our guided tour of the Cologne Cathedral and the immediate parts of the city. One easily gains a sprain in the neck, trying to take in the site of this great cathedral - the largest Gothic cathedral in the World. As one of Germany's most recognizable landmarks, the Cologne Cathedral attracts about 20,000 visitors a day - so include us 17 in that number! The students  were contemplative and in awe . For a teacher it is especially rewarding, when students quietly aproach one to reflect on the surroundings, to ponder what this experience means to them and for all the other people throughout history. Once we concluded our walking tour, we took a short lunch break and collected our strength for the next mission at hand - the soul-shaking climb to the top of the cathedral, which stands at 157 meters. Umm, that's 516 ft!

After every single one of us mastered the climb to the steeple, we were off to the next stop. This time the students had a choice. Half of the students went to the chocolate museum (yes, it is as delicious as it sounds) and the other half opted for the Kolumba museum, a modern museum sponsored by the Catholic bishopry and that is built around the ruined remains of a church bombed during WWII. Once the tours concluded we met outside of the Cathedral before announcing two hours of free time. As an additional option, we offered the students to join the instructors on a tour of the Schatzkammer (Treasury) beneath the Cathedral. This was an additional opportunity to explore some of the historical treasures of Cologne, which every student decided to join. This is very telling of the eager character of our students, is it not? Towards the early evening we were on our way back to Krefeld.

You might think that the weekend would offer the much sought after opportunity to sleep, but one of the host families arranged yet another alternate activity for our students. On saturday, the host families joined us at the Krefeld Beach Club for a grill party and volleyball. This was a wonderful opportunity for the host parents to mingle and share their impressions of their students and exchange some ideas for any last minute trips.

On sunday we were again invited to view the World Cup finale. Adorned with Americas colors, we enjoyed an exciting game, in which Japan finally came through as the winner. Though the students were sad to see the girls go home with the 2nd place, they proved to be gracious winners.

Finally we entered our last full week of school and starting with Monday, we all sensed a shift in the atmosphere. The students began to realize that our time together was nearing its end and that it would soon be time to say our good-byes. Our students seized the opportunity to enjoy the joys of Krefeld one last time. The students met every day in some capacity. They planned to play soccer in the park, tasted a plethora of new ice cream flavors and chowed down a Doener at every opportunity. The afternoon school activities were in full force in anticipation of our pending farewell festivites. And on Friday it was time for our final tour - this time to Aachen.

Needless to say, our trip to Aachen served as the grand finale of our tour. Upon our arrival we set off on a thoroughly guided tour of the Aachen Cathedral, the seat of Charlemagne, who for many is considered the Father of Europe. It was great to see the students apply the wide spectrum of their experience to this final event. Half an hour into the tour, our tour guide had not even realized that he was speaking to American students! We concluded our tour in the treasury and then headed to the city hall to enjoy some free time for lunch. Afterwards we headed to the Couven Museum, which is an original Rococo style home with all its delicate eccentricities. When we concluded the tour we left the students to their own to shop for any last minute souvenirs and be together. Eventually we met again to journey home via train and many of us had a good heart to heart. It was time to begin to say our good-byes.

This concludes the report of the last two weeks.

All the best for now,

Your Krefeld Team.

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