Today we went with the host students by train to Titanic Belfast. This is where Titanic was built. Everyone enjoyed themselves and it was nice to have a day out with the host students. We then went to the city center and was able to do a lot of shopping. The shops here are vey nice!
Many of the students will definitely say that today was their favorite day so far. We met at the school and they sat in on house assembly. This school has houses just like Hogwarts! Then we took a small bus 2 hours away to Giant's Causeway which is amazing. It is a series of geometric basalt rocks that were once inside of a volcano. After the volcano became dormant, 60 million years of weathering has left just the rocks that were inside the lava column. And it is right on the shore! So amazing! Then we went to Carrick-a-rede rope bridge that is this super high bridge that takes you over to a small island that is still use for fishing. It is pretty intimidating to cross. We then had dinner as a group and everyone went back to their host families.
What a crazy busy day today. We met with the mayor of Bangor today. Then we went on a beach survey at Groomsport Beach when the tide was out. Then the students shadowed their host the rest of the day.
What an amazing day! We started off in the school and I finally was able to talk to all of the students and everyone was having a fantastic time so far! I still don't know all the details of what they did over the weekend but I am sure I will find out soon! We went on a business field trip to Tayto Castle, which is a very old castle that was converted into a potato chip factory 60 years ago. Very impressive. We at tons of crisps (chips) and the tour was fun and we got to wear some funny aprons and the boys had to wear face nets because of their facial hair. If only I could have taken pictures! We then went back to the school and shadowed the students for the last two blocks. I got to stay and help judge a house buns (cupcake) competition. I could not believe how amazing and creative those cupcakes were. Students were at their host families tonight. I had dinner with the Principal, Mr. Thompson and then went to see a primary school play that was amazing. Today was very busy and tomorrow will be even busier!
Today is day 2 and Sunday of our Northern Ireland Trip. I have not heard anything from the students (which is good because they all have my contact info if they need it) which means they must be having a good time. I will see them tomorrow! I did hear that some were headed to Dublin for the day because their host families had arranged for the visit before we left. I can't wait to hear what they have been up to. Today my host family, took me all around Strangford Lough, through Castle Ward and across the ferry to Portaferry and back around to Belfast and Bangor. We went to the Belfast Market in the morning. I finished the evening by having dinner with the other Vice Principal of Glenlola Collegiate School and his family. The weather was fantastic today and the scenery is so beautiful, it is like we are in a movie. Castle Ward is a location where many scenes for Game of Thrones has been filmed. I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!
We have arrived in Northern Ireland! We had a couple hour delay leaving Norfolk heading to Newark due to not having a plane yet. We made it to Newark, everyone was scrambling to charge their phones and devices. We all got something to ate and we sat, slept and played Uno (even with the Costa Rica rules) while we waited and waited and waited for our flight that was also delayed and didn't end up leaving until after midnight (it was supposed to leave at 9:20pm). Mostly everyone slept on the flight and we had a smooth trip through the border and met our screaming with excitement host families. I haven't heard any complaints via email or text from students so everything must be fantastic! My host family has been fantastic and took me on a quick sight seeing trip through Belfast, where I took many videos from the passenger seat of the car. Some students will be visiting Belfast tomorrow or even visiting Dublin. I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!!!
We still had a day but we were already saying good bye to the 17 year old city of Modi'in. So new that in Mini Israel it didn't have a name! For most of the cities I remember colors; for Modi'in the color is green. The green of plants, trees, and flowers. Bright pops of green against the white modern walls of a city under construction. In fact the sound track of Jerusalem might be Shabbat prayers, Haifa the sounds of a mosque, but Modi'in is filled with the sounds of building. Earth moving equipment, jack hammers, and shouts in Hebrew fill the city during the day, but at night the silence of the desert flows in along with the dark.
The pizza didn't go as planned since the oven wasn't working, but with a quick phone call pizza was delivered by a guy on a motorcycle, and the students sang songs, played with the wii and xbox, had epic games of ping pong and pool. Greg is the undisputed champion of pool from the American team while Marielle and Franchesca were battling for the best singer. I'm not sure any of the Americans should give up their day jobs for a singing career though. :)
It was a fun party that didn't feel like the end, mostly because we still had Haifa to look forward to tomorrow.
One of my many favorite activities has to be our service project here. We drove out to a Kabutz which is like a commune for those who remember the 1970's. Large farms are tended by the community and all produce is shared. Our farm was owned by one man and all expenses to run the farm are paid for by him. All food grown however is given to the needy in Israel. Today our job was to pick clementines for about 2 hours and we set to with a will.
A few boys lost focus throwing rotten fruit at each other, but even with bees and spiders, we prevailed and picked 660 lbs of clementines, which is enough to feed 75 families. Interestingly, most farms in Israel don't use pesticides. Nets are used to keep bugs and birds from the produce instead. We rocked the picking and washed the dust from our hands before heading home.
Currently, everyone had free time to visit schools and shop before heading to our farewell party at the Modiin community center. Two days until we head home.
I wasn't as sneaky today or the students are catching onto my tricks because I have fewer nice pics of the students in Jaffa. Jaffa Port is 4,000 years old. The views are beautiful of the Sea, and the old, super old, and down right ancient hang out happily next to the newer more modern buildings that are part of Tel-Aviv. Jaffa and Tel-Aviv are like VA Beach and Norfolk except they are not separate cities any more. Jaffa is super old while Tel-Aviv is like a hip college student or entry level techie. Somehow it all works.
If Jerusalem is cream, Masada is brown, then Tel Aviv is a rainbow. A rainbow of colors, styles, and shapes, Tel Aviv is a nice change from the pops of color in the old cities. Everywhere you see graffiti art works, small galleries, and neon lights. The glow of the city at night lights up the streets until it is swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea. Frantic and hopping at night the students dipped their toes in the Sea and nibbled ice cream cones near the shore.