Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Final Countdown.

Dear All,

the last days are here. Last week we tried to jam in as much as we could. Our students insisted on living in denial about the impending departure - they could not come to terms with leaving friends and new family behind. Together, we powered through a busy week, lots of practice for our final recital, finalizing our courses, and as a finale one last, wonderful trip to Cologne.

This trip was marked by our students' independence. They were so at ease with themselves, each other and their language skills. I think, they've all required German sarcasm (believe, it does exist). It was wonderful to watch them.

While in Cologne, we enjoyed a cathedral and city tour. After a short break and snack, we climbed the Cologne Cathedral....500 something steps, you'll have to ask the students, they counted each step. Exhausted and over-heated, we finally made our way back on the ground, where the students did like the natives and jumped into the great fountain behind the cathedral. This was one of our random and unplanned adventures, which turned out to be a total hit.

As a group, we then walked the Roman ruins - an old street, a mosaic, and some city walls. Our students then decided between visiting two museums, The Roman-Germanic Museum and KOLUMBA, the museum of the Cologne Diocese. After a sufficient amount of intellectual stimulation, our students had some free time to explore the city for themselves and do their last minute shopping for souvenirs and gifts for home. Don't be surprised, if your gifts are all from Cologne, ha!

Usually our students enjoy the weekends away from school and teachers, but on Saturday, the host families organised and sponsored a Beach Volley Ball tournament for the kids and their host siblings. The students also made plans with each other and their families, every moment was booked up.

By the time we reached Monday, our students attitude had changed. They now seem prepared for their departure and are looking forward to their return home and seeing their loved ones. They feel secure that their relationships and friendships in Germany will last and that they will visit Germany again.

Tonight it is already time for our Farewell Party at Castle Linn. Our students have rehearsed for many hours to present the host families with a wonderful programm, which they planned themselves as a sincere thank-you. The students also planned an after-party at one of the host parents' house and a pajama sleep-over party for the girls.

The countdown goes,

you missed them. We will miss them.

Until soon, home, in good ole Indiana.


The Krefeld Team

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"I left my heart in Berlin"

Dear All,

our Fourth of July festivities were a huge success. All host families were in attendance and contributed to a gorgeous potluck feast. Even the students prepared home-style dishes and most host parents were careful to honor the colors red, white and blue. It was wonderful to see (and eat). The students serenaded the audience with the American national anthem, some "minimalist" poetry and carols - we really had a large time.

That night our students were supposed to get rest, because we were due at the central train station in the wee hours of the morning, in order to embark on our three-day journey to Berlin. Regardless of the little sleep our students apparently had, they were so excited throughout the four-hour train ride to our nation's capital. It was a blast. Upon our arrival, we first checked into our youth hostel on the Wannsee lake (simply gorgeous, with sail boats and a beautiful view) and settled into our rooms. Soon after, we hopped back on the train on our way into the center of the city and boarded a city-tour bus that took us around the entire city. It gave us a great overview and first impressions of one of the largest cities in Europe. Afterwards, our students had some free time and liberty to explore the area around the Potsdamer Platz for themselves. As a finale to the long day, we enjoyed a show by the Blue Man Group. It was a hit and the students were howling with amusement. Afterwards they confessed that this was one of their favorite experiences in Germany.

The next day, we visited the Jewish Museum (designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, whose design for the Freedom Towers was also accepted as plans for the memorial for September 11th) and it made for one serious history lesson. Our students behaved wonderfully and with the utmost respect and curiousity - nothing else a teacher could ask for. Afterwards, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie, where the students were free to eat lunch and roam about. Afterwards we walked further along the main roads and eventually made our way to the Reichstag (our parliament building), but not before stopping at significant points of interest, such as the newly premiered outdoor installation "Topography of Terror" and the Holocaust Memorial. Finally, we reached the Reichstag and climbed atop the fascinating dome and caught a wonderful view of the city. It was a fortune that we did not have to wait long in any lines, because as we were climbing the dome, the fan mile was already filling with hundreds of thousands of people in anticipation of the Spain/Germany semi-final game. We opted to watch the game near our hostel, but not before we were decked out in German shirts, war paint and flags and twigs of oak trees. We do not have to go into the details of how the game ended - the German octupus Paul had warned us all. There were some (many) tears. At this point, we ought to congratulate our sister program in Spain on becoming the World Cup Champion of 2010.

Thursday was a day of walking. We basically walked about the entire city and sort of let our interests guide us. Just by chance, inspired by curiosity, we enountered one of the best exhibitions (motions and art) we could have hoped for, while visiting the Bugatti store to oggle at the most expensive cars in the world. Afterwards we picniced in the city and eventually made our way to the Berlin Cathedral. This stop was especially interesting to many students, because it was a Lutheran cathedral and not Catholic (at this point, they've seen a lot of Churches) and also houses a crypt beneath it, which is home to several Prussian kings and queens, about whom we've learned in our classes. We also climbed on top of the dome and enjoyed yet another amazing view of the city. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day.

We eventually made our way back to the central station, where we grabbed some "grub" and got on the train. We anticipated that everyone would be exhausted and fall asleep - wrong! They are like Energizer bunnies, they keep going and going and going...

Berlin was truly a wonderful trip and so much fun. Some even said that they left their hearts in Berlin and plan on returning. What a success!

For now we wish you a wonderful time until your kids are back...there is only little time left and the next week will be bitter-sweet, "Parting is such sweet surrow..."

All the best from Krefeld,

The Krefeld Team and Co.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hot Summer!

Dear All,

Yep, it's time again. We are currently enduring a sweltering heat-wave, but that hasn't slowed us down.

We started the week off with a classic game of mini-golf - thankfully under a canopy of thick oak leaves and some ice-cream to cool us off. On Tuesday, we planned our regular creative activities, during which time we rehearsed for our small poetry jam and performance of the American National Anthem, with which we plan to grace (why are anthems always the most difficult to sing?) our host families come tomorrow at our slightly-delayed-but-just-as-special Fourth of July party. Perhaps, today, on the 4th, our students are remembering home and missing family and friends with a little less inhibition....

On Wednesday, it was finally time for our long distance field trip to Aachen - our first of three major trips. In our courses, the students had learned about some major historical figures that helped define Europe, most significantly Karl the Great (or Charlemagne, as you might know him) and Barbarossa. The most dramatic venture was to Aachen's Dom/Cathedral and the Schatzkammer (treasure vault). Our students' jaws were dragging along on the floor - they just couldn't conceive the treasures they saw, and to stand so close to Karl himself! It was so wonderful to see the students listen attentively to our (fabulous) tour-guide, take photographs and thoroughly enjoy learning about German culture and history. The students really observed the fine details, too, and independently took note of shell-damage on the outside walls of the cathedral - a sad reminder of World War II. They are really putting the pieces together - a demonstration of their maturity and sensibility for Germany's complicated history. Our trip to Aachen was a wonderful preparation for our three-day trip to the nation's capital, Berlin, this Tuesday.

We can only venture to guess what the students did this past weekend, but our best bet is that it involved ice-cream, water and the World Cup. Once again, our boys (yes, we, like the rest of the nation, claim them to be of us), celebrated a major victory. Yet another four goal game, this time against Argentina. Germany will enter the semi-finals against Spain (our highest competition) on Wednesday, when we are in Berlin. We hope that you will be watching these last two games and cheer on for Germany - it is a comforting thought to watch such a spirited and positive sport, knowing that across the great pond, your loved one is watching, too.

Well, this will have to do for now. There will be lots to tell after our trip to Berlin, but we only want to provide you with the guarentee that your children our enjoying a great time, without robbing them of their stories to tell you when they return home.
We send you the warmest greetings from hot Germany,

The Krefeld Team & Co.