Sunday, 16 February 2014

Tulips from Amsterdam

Florist in Zoetermeer
Well not quite Amsterdam but Zoetermeer in the Netherlands where I spent last week on a school trip.  We took a group of students to a Model United Nations conference there and had a wonderful time.  The students stayed with host families and I spent the week with Annet, another English teacher, who speaks flawless English and has bookshelves which resemble mine.  She and her family made me very welcome.  On the second night of our visit she also hosted a party for the 25 or so teachers from France, Spain, Gemany, Turkey and India, cooking typical Dutch winter food.  This consisted of pea and ham soup and then various mashes - potato and curly kale; potato and carrot were familiar from my childhood in Ireland, but not potato and apple!  We had a great evening getting to know each other - I even had a go at speaking French and a tiny bit of German remembered from school.

Our students, a party of year 10s and a couple of sixth formers, joined in the conference enthusiastically after getting over initial shyness.  They each represented a different country and they helped draft resolutions on human rights issues and then debated and voted on these. I was very proud of them - these were girls of all abilities (and one boy) - yet they all contributed.  As the Secretary General ( a sixth former from Alfrink College) said, the conference won't change the world, but it did change those who took part.

 We also visited The Hague, which proved to be a more attractive city than I'd realised with a historic centre and many beautiful buildings.  While we were there, we went to Humanity House, a museum owned by the Red Cross which promotes human rights issues.  There we heard a speaker from the Democratic Republic of Congo talk (in French again) about his experiences as a human rights activist there and how he was lucky to escape with his life.  He and another speaker from Kenya reminded the 'delegates' at the conference that they were the 'happy' 5% and that most people in the world don't have the same rights and privileges as we do.

On our final day we squeezed in a short visit to Amsterdam en route to the airport.  Some of the students very excited about this because it's the setting for some of the novel 'The Fault in our Stars'.  We had a walk around and looked at Anne Frank's house from the outside.  Queue very long and we hadn't booked.  But it was a fitting ending to our trip, seeing the house of a girl their age who was treated in such an inhumane way.

Next year my daughter will be in the year 10 and will, I hope, get the chance to go on this trip. It was a real education for those involved.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a most interesting trip. Couldn't help noticing that the flowers are cheaper than here but I guess that's hardly surprising as so many of them are grown in Holland.