Something really lovely has just happened. Another school exchange, with new friendships made and understanding deepened.
My experience with school exchanges now goes back almost 30 years. I went on one to Germany after learning all of two terms of German, and it changed my life. Unsurprisingly, my ability to speak German was less than limited at the time. But the experience I had with a wonderful family, who just looked after me like I was one of theirs, was something which taught me more than I can probably ever understand. Back then, the trip there involved a train to the south of England, an overnight ferry (not in beds, on those chairs that you can theoretically sleep on) where I learned that I really do suffer from motion sickness, and another train journey the next morning. I can still remember the smell as we stepped off the train in Essen and I knew we were really somewhere quite different. And two weeks later, I was in love with Germany. Without that school exchange, I would never have continued with German for as long as I did, would not have spent many weeks touring most of Germany with the “boy” I had done the exchange with, and would not have ended up living there for several periods of a year or so, including the year when I met Camille. Our children would not have all the friends they do in Germany and they undoubtedly would not speak German today. Actually, they wouldn’t even exist, so that would be something of a moot point.
Since then, we have had more exchange pupils stay with us than I can easily count. Three sets from the one school in Coburg in Bavaria where LoLo just spent her exchange and from where our lovely exchange girls came, one with an Austrian school where our involvement wasn’t quite planned, our year with Maria from Berlin (we still have the photos around the house and on the fridge, even though it was seven years ago), and some shorter ones with people whose families we (meaning Camille, via her sewing courses in Berlin) knew.
Each one has been different, this one has been the most photographed.
Here are just some of the highlights:
The local sheep were being shorn and we ended up with a fleece:
Oreo milkshakes were a big hit:
As were the pancakes:
The Marmite less so:
We had a short harp lesson:
Met Dumbledore and Harry Potter:
…and only got into trouble once:
Broomstick lessons were apparently very funny…
…and effective – Abbi learned how to summon her broomstick:
We had the best weather on a beach in Scotland in 19 years:
and even remembered the marshmallows this time:
And in the space of 48 hours, we celebrated Christmas, Halloween, Easter and Valentine’s Day (this might not be obvious from the fancy dress competition below, which involved wearing clothes our girls had used when they were about 5):
And then suddenly it was all over, but if you have to leave, you can at least do it in style:
With a combination of smiles and tears:
Before they were all gone:
When exchanges work, they really work, and this one was really special. Everyone ends up pretty exhausted and full of smiles and happy memories. This week, we needed that.
LoLo, of course, had her own set of experiences in Coburg, but that’s her story to tell. I thought this picture said it all: