Monday, May 2, 2011

Free Travel - Round Two- the UK

We didn't have to leave until about 2:30 in the afternoon so had a leisurely morning of getting the facility ready to leave, as well as ourselves. We tried to pack extremely light as we were flying Ryan Air and our backpacks will be counted as our ONLY carry-on and can only weigh 10 kilos (about 20 pounds). No purse. No checked bag. So we will be a bit sick of of these few clothes and such we packed after two weeks!

We took a train from Verviers to Achen and another one to Brussels. We finally got to our airport and hoped to eat dinner there but there wasn't much there. We got an expensive microwave cheeseburger for JM and Cliff and I opted for granola bars in our backpacks.we finally went through security when our gate was finally posted. It took forever. We finally get almost to our gate and are stopped to make sure we had only one bag each and that the bag weighed 10 kilos or less. Mine did not. It was three over! That's what happens when you have the mommy bag and a wonderful camera that is a bit heavier than e regular little cameras. So worth having it though. We finally got things juggled between the three back packs and got through to our gate. There we shuffled things back to my backpack so Jon Michael's was notso heavy for him to carry. I know. Dumb, right! We finally got on our plane to Edinburgh and got there about 11:00. Then we took a taxi to our B&B. It was so quaint. We fell into bed and are looking forward to breakfast in the morning since our food tonight was limited!

Night before free travel

April 21, 2011

Finished giving finals this morning. Several kids were finished yesterday and so left early this morning (5:30!). Many more groups left as the day went on. By supper, there were only about five students left and the Thompson clan. We finished up leftovers for dinner and then everyone went about doing laundry and packing. Later we got fries and cokes and spent our evening watching Sound of Music. Two of the girls there went with me on the tour and we had great fun telling bits of the trivia and facts we learned during the tour. The five girls are out early tomorrow. It was a fun memory of our last night before free travel.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Germany- Travel Day

We ate breakfast at the hostel and then took three subway trains to the train station. Then we boarded a train and rode for five hours to Cologne, Germany. Standing on the platform waiting for our next train we met the group of students that had gone to Prague and the McLaughlins with the group that had stayed in Frielassing when we went to Berlin. We were all together again and traveled together to Aachen and then changed trains one last time to get to Verviers. We were so glad to get back!

When we got back the McLaughlins got an email from his sister telling him that their mother was in critical condition and suggesting they come on home. It has been hard on them to decide to go but we convinced them we would be fine. They will be leaving on Monday and we will finish out the last few weeks without them. Prayers would be appreciated on their behalf.

Germany - Day Seven

We arrived in Berlin by about 3:00. We had spent all day on trains getting there. Then we took three different subway trains to our hostel.thank goodness it was right at our hostel. This was doubly important since when we emerged from the subway the wind was blowing so hard it took your breath away. It was bitter cold and blowing so hard it about blew you over. We walked leaning way into the wind. We dropped our backpacks off at the youth hostel. We discovered it was very youth oriented and Cliff, Jon Michael, and I were in a room with a sink but we had communal bathrooms down the hall. At least they weren't coed!

We left the hostel and went in search of the Berlin Wall. We walked forever since our group tends to get lost but we finally got there and took pictures. Then some went off to buy tickets, some to explore, and JM and I set off to find the Hard Rock Cafe. We ate a wonderful American meal (I had nachos complete with guacamole and sour cream!)with the gang and had a blast. Then our family and four students took off to see Blue Man Group. It was the same as the New York performances we have seen with a few exceptions. They played with the German language some. It was a blast and it was so neat to see it through Jon Michaels eyes. He loved it!

It was late by the time we get back to the hostel and even though it was loud, we fell asleep with no problem.

Germany - Day Six

Germany - Day Six
April 11, 2011

It was nice to have a day to sleep in. This was a day of free travel and many students took full advantage of it. We had a group that left for Prague yesterday and also the McLaughglins and a couple of students went to visit friends on a military base not far away. We had e rest of the group. Some went hiking, Cliff went to Vienna, some went in to Salzburg to shop, and a good portion of those left stayed and studied, feeling the time pressure of one week of classes with finals and papers and projects. Becky was one of those students and she watched after Jon Michael this afternoon while I treated myself to the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg. I was joined by two of the students and we had a lovely afternoon visiting all the sites in the movie. I loved every minute of it. Before I left, my folks gave me some money just for things I normally wouldn't splurge on myself for. this gift has bought this tour, a concert and autographed cd by the violinist, some jewelry and a few other things I probably wouldn't have bought for myself otherwise. I appreciate both thhe money and the loan of my Dad's great camera that he uses to take weddings with. I'm getting pictures I never would have gotten with my little camera. 

It was a wonderful day and I smiled all day just enjoying the lovely countryside, the interesting stories about the country and the filming of the movie, and the great company. It was a bit strange to go from the enormous gravity of Dachau yesterday to the light and fun emotions of the Sound of Music tour today. But life is like that. Emotions and circumstances can change on a dime. I'm just glad I get the chance to experience it all. Bed comes soon tonight since we leave for Berlin at 4:30 am! Back to Verviers on Wednesday. 

Germany - Day Five

Germany- Day Five
April 10, 2011


How do you begin to write about a place such as this? I'd studied about it in school and again when I was a National Pilot Teacher for an adult education curriculum linking the steps that led to the holocaust to those that led to the hate crimes happening in Tennessee. But even that didn't prepare me for walking through the compound, the crematorium, the museum. How can you prepare yourself for standing in the disrobing room, the gas chamber labeled "shower" room with fake shower nozzles, the rooms where the bodies were piled, and the body shaped ovens created for only one reason?

This time I also had my children and husband with me. Jon Michael and I had several long talks about what it was and what he was likely to see there. I left the choice up to him. He decided to go and I left him with the option of leaving at any time just in case. I appreciated how well the memorial site showed the gravity of what happened here without exploiting the horror. I couldn't have taken him any younger or another child that didn't have the maturity he has. Becky was deeply affected by it as well and we are still processing with her and some of the other college students. You want to shield these children from the face of such an evil as this, but you want them to know, to remember, to honor those lost, to know that good was still present in the midst of such evil. The film emphasized that the death toll would have been even higher had they not helped each other and sacrificed for each other. It does make you want to hold each other tight and be thankful, though.

One of the most meaningful events of the day was the worship service we had in one of the small chapels they have there for remembering, worship, and meditation. John gave a brief talk about a God who allows suffering and read some passages, including some from Job. Then he compared the death and suffering of these innocents to Jesus who was innocent and yet suffered and died for our sins. It hit me then that he also died for the sins of those who DID these terrible things. What a loving God we have! We sang songs like Holy Ground, The Greatest Command, and In Christ Alone. The words of the last two verses of In Christ Alone were very powerful. "No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand!" We took communion and I felt it in a different way than ever before. The closing prayer was led in a rough, raw voice by a young man who had been deeply touched but still pushed through with heartfelt love and faith. It is an experience none of us will ever forget.

I had just finished reading a book called "Sarah's Key" that was about a 10 year old girl who had been in the round up of Jews in Paris and sent to an internment camp. It covered the story through her eyes, a child's eyes, that made it especially poignant. A couple of the kids bought it at the gift shop and one has begun reading it. One of my counseling students is writing her report on Logotherapy and Victor Frankl who survived one of the camps. These will all impact their lives. It gives me peace that these tender hearts were touched...outraged...ignited by what happened here. The knowledge will help make sure nothing like this will ever happen again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Germany -Day Four

Germany -Day Four
April 9, 2011

Today was our trip to newschweinstein castle, the castle that Walt Disney modeled the Cinderella castle after. It was like stepping into a fairy tale. We rode a horse drawn carriage up most of the way and then walked through four floors of beautiful furnishings. The view out every window was gorgeous. Then we rode the carriage back down. The rest of the day was spent on trains and buses getting to and from the castle. It was a four hour, fairly uneventful trip getting there but we had a doosy of a time getting back.

It started when we came down the mountain to hear our bus left for the train station in five minutes. W ran to catch it only to find that they had to repair some tracks and the train station was closed. However, the train company sent a bus for us to take us to a working train station elsewhere, free of charge. So we rode for almost an hour to another train station. Our train took us to Munich where we  had missed our intended train and so had about 30 minutes to grab dinner and get on the next train. When our train left, they announced that it would only take us so far and then we would have to get off the train and travel by bus to another station due to track repairs. They crammed us on these buses, our entire group was standing, packed in like sardines. We rode that way in that hot, crowded bus for about 35 minutes. If I had fainted from the heat I would still be standing because there was no place to fall. At one point we couldnt find Bishop, the McLaughlin's youngest son but then we located them. His mom, Debbie, had stayed at the hotel as she was really sick and running a fever. His dad and I had looked after him today. I had last seen him with John but they had gotten separated. We finally arrive at the bus station and pile off. Then we all puke on to a crowded train and spread out all over the train but at least we all found seats. W finally got home about 10:15. They kids had a singing in the grounds of the church across the street with some young girls that had met several of our past groups and asked if we were going to have a singing like other groups. Or kids were happy to oblige! Now we are exhausted and heading to bed for much needed rest.