Take a glimpse into the world of Sister Cities of Nashville Student Ambassadors on their summer abroad experiences. View all original blog posts here. View Sister Cities International’s post on medium here.
Eghosa Eguakun, Tamworth, Australia, June 24, 2016
Today in Tamworth we spent a portion of the day learning about aboriginal culture!
We started at TAFE where Lenny, our guide, was able to explain to us the culture of the aboriginals and how they strive to be the one, a whole community. He invited some students and a teacher to speak to us about different aspects of the culture such as dancing, singing and playing instruments. We were lucky enough to be able to have a didgeridoo, a wind instrument, played for us! A didgeridoo generally produces one note however some can slide allowing for more notes and tones to be achieved. The ones that was played for us were in E and D. After that introduction to aboriginal culture, we made our way up to the hills to view rock paintings. These drawings have been dated back 700 years and unlike most art from many years ago, the meaning of the paintings are still known today! The history of these people have been passed down orally for generations allowing for the knowledge to expand and stay rich through the years. Before we left, we completed a smoke ceremony where a light fire was started and the smoke was used to cleanse and brighten our spirits before we left the ceremonial area.
In the afternoon, we were able to see that opening to the Australian Youth Quarter Horse Event and as a person who has always been interested in equestrian, I really enjoyed watching the cool moves the horses were able to complete. Overall, today was action packed and left us knowing more about the original people of Australia and the different aspects to their very in depth culture! I am happy that we were able to enjoy today despite the frigid weather!
Michelle Reyes, Tamworth, Australia, June 23, 2016
Today’s Aussie weather didn’t stop us from our plans in Nundle. We got to see one of the last spinning mills operating in Australia,in which some machinery were nearly 100 years old. We also learned of the famous woolen socks. Another fascinating place we went to was the gold mining museum, which is a entrance to an actual mine but was turned into a museum (a reconstruction of an authentic mine). It also showed how hard times were back in the gold rush. We went gold-panning as well but since Wednesday was raining most of the day it made the river to high and dangerous for us to go panning in the river. Therefore we panned in a big sink, but after many attempts we only found a speck of gold (or nugget as someone from the regional council mentioned).
To wrap up our day we stopped at the Chaffey Dam. It was a beautiful scenery which may be solitude at the moment but during the summer many Aussies come out to swim and camp out.
Even though we didn’t get to gold pan in the river it was fun to hang out and get the concept of gold panning. We still enjoyed ourselves by the amazing country view and the warm bond fire.
Magdeburg, Germany, June 9, 2016
We started the day at a kindergarten, where the students enjoyed remembering their youthful experiences. Their mascot is the raven (die Raben) with the red and white striped sock.
The children at the kindergarten greeted our students with lots of love and hugs! Next we spent several hours at a step down retirement home, where we were treated to a lovely lunch and tour. The tenants sang several German songs to us and finished with a surprise ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ian who turns 17 tomorrow! I was so proud of how our students presented themselves — especially at the retirement home, where they held hands with 80+ year olds and did their best to sing along with the Germany songs! Parents — you should be super impressed!!!
Sophie Taylor, Caen, France, June 11, 2016
Friday, June 10th, we visited Mont St Michel in Normandy (NOT in Brittany, though the Bretons would beg to differ). Some say it is one of the Seven Wonders of the world. We nerds decided that it was the living, breathing equivalent of Hogwarts!
Mont St Michel is an entire village and abbey built on a ROCK! As we learned from our guide, Marie Coquelin, it is rumored that Saint Michael himself requested that a church be built on this rock. It was very important to the builders of the church, and later the surrounding village, to make sure nothing happened to the original rock itself; the rock is considered sacred, and can be found sticking out of the streets and the walls where nobody dared to try and level it off.
Our tour took us from the top to the bottom of the mountain. Like the hierarchy at the time, the abbey and monastery near the top of the mountain were reserved for the church members only. The rooms of the abbey on the middle level were reserved for nobility and military. Finally, on the ground level of the rock was the village and the church for the common people. On our tour, we learned about the daily life of a Benedictine monk. It was inspiring to learn that these monks would sacrifice basic comforts and needs such as heating, socialization, sleep, and decent meals for their faith. The abbey itself was extremely beautiful and awe-inspiring; I wouldn’t mind being a monk and sacrificing basic comforts just to live there!
After the tour of the Abbey, our group of Americans were set free to explore the surrounding village. We admired old graveyards and secret gardens, walked through the tiny but crowded streets, and of course hit the shops for some amazing French ice cream.
That night, my host sister Cecile took me to her friend’s party. Friday was their last day of school (much later than in Nashville) and we celebrated a lot like Americans; we ate pizza and played Just Dance 4. Before that, though, we watched the France vs Romania Euro 2016 match. We were of course supporting France, and that meant lots of French flags everywhere and body paint in bleu, blanc, et rouge. Vive la France.
Hunter, Mendoza, Argentina, June 14, 2016
Sunday morning I woke up to certainly I had woken up late. The group and I were meeting to go up to the Andes for the next two days, but me being forgetful, I forgot the meeting time. Though everything was fine and I even tried a McD breakfast(quick note:the McD in Argentina seems much nicer than America´s). On the bus, silence and cheesy pop music played as we were all tired, even Grace and Stella went to a quinceañera the night before and danced their heart out. Though, it was quiet fitting as the Andes were breathtaking. Mendoza is very close to the Andes and driving through the snow-covered peaks was like nothing else.
No picture on an iPhone could do it justice. After trekking the roads of the mountains, we stopped to put on our snowsuits and climb to the mines. The mines we explored were the first Silver mines in Argentina. We were given helmets for the low rocks and a head light for the mine. The tour was very intriguing, especially with the lights out. Our tour guide suggested we turn out or head lights and stand in complete darkness. With the lights out our other senses heightened; either hearing or even smell some of my travel buddies said. Leaving the mine, the hike back was just as beautiful, and many photos were taken and added to our beloved photo circle. We piled back in the bus and headed to the Hotel.
You can ask anyone, I despised that building. It sent bad vibes and when exploring we came across some strange things. A pure white smoky bathroom, a scary employee, dark floors, the list went on. However the whole group had fun with HeadsUps, a charades game with either animals or U.S. presidents. And when we went our separate ways with our room buddies and most fell asleep right away, unfortunately I did not. The creaks and thuds and slams of unknown sources allowed me 5 hours of sleep and a terrified body. Let´s just say I was the most excited to leave in the morning.
This morning, June 13, was our full last day in Mendoza. With tired eyes we left the harried hotel and drove to a ski lift resort. I have never been on a ski lift so this as new experience for me and others. But the fun came at the top. Well, more like war. Having the great joy of having 14 year old boys on the trip, we of course had a snowball fight. But then it escalated to a snowball war. World War lll broke out on that snow. Let´s just say me and my small country were beaten. Very badly. Soaking wet in our snowsuits and pictures of the summit, we dragged our cold bodies down the ski lift at the end of the war.
Hot tea and good talks at lunch prepared us for our next and last activity; zip lining. I had been zip lining before but never to the extent of the Andes. I, being a scaredy cat, went so slow on the first line I barley moved. Something about a line and a harness rubs me the wrong way. In the fun of it, Señora Gonzales came in too hot and hurt herself in the first line and she as brought to first aid after the second line. Seeing our beloved chaperone like that hurt all of us. We all feeling her pain went through the last lines. I loosened up little by little as time went on. I never regretted a moment.
So, in conclusion, the Andes were a wonderful opportunity for laughs and bonding and risk taking. And a sight and even a camera can’t capture. You have to see it to believe it.