ETS Europe Trip 2004


These pictures were compiled from a number of different digital camera's so that sequence of the pictures is not very chronological.  I am still waiting for a number of the chronicles to be sent to me.


Chronicle for the first Day in

Friday morning we awoke at 4:30(am) and commenced our journey to England.  Without causing any accidents on the freeway (miraculously), we arrived and the San Diego airport at 6:30, ready to fly. 
By chance (or design), we ran into the Hellands who were a couple gates away from our own!  We didn't have the same flight [:-(], but we would be landing in Heathrow within minutes of each other.
After a short hop to San Fransisco (in which we met up with my Oma and her friend Aunt Dottie), our real travelling began.
Being stuck on a 747 for 9 hours wasn't my idea of fun, but it wasn't torture either - plus, keeping in mind our destination alleviated some of the tedium.  So, I sat through 3 movies, read every magazine I could get my hands on, listened to music, played solitaire, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep. 
When we finally landed - at 6:30am - I just couldn't grasp that I was in England!!!! 
After finding the Hellands and Brenden McHugh,  sufferring through an hour-long passport line, finally locating our luggage, and fighting through the mob of tourists [:-P], we boarded the Tube. 
45 minutes (and several breath-taking scenes) later, we disembarked at Russel Square.  After a "ten-minute walk", we arrived at our temporary abode: St. Margaret's Hotel.  We ran into a certain "Mr. Hinrichs" there, and unpacked - no time for relaxing, though!!
While Mr. H took his ease, and Oma recovered from jet-lag, the rest of us headed out to see the sights!  The Hellands, Brenden, Aunt Dottie, and my family had purchased tickets for a tour during the final hours of the Royal Family's Fabrege (Fabrige?Farbige? Febrigi?) collection.  The Queen's Gallery is an exquisite example of Neo-Classical architecture, but it's contents were dumbfounding.  With over 300 pieces, this collection is (I believe) the largest privately-owned Fabrege collection in the world.
Fans, miniatures, animals, flowers, and of course: eggs! I would have a heart attack if one of those showed up in my Easter Basket!  Each and every one given such detail - the overall effect is incredible.
When we were finished gawking (and wondering what the punishment would be for handling an egg without permission), we took our separate ways.
Mrs. Helland, Justin and Brenden tromped off to the British Museum and British Library (and had other escapades which they will tell about!) while the rest of us smart people had a bite to eat before calling it a day - more like two days, actually.....

News from Mrs. Helland:

Well, we are still in one piece. I say this with some amazement, as I drove to Thirsk yesterday. Thirsk is a little town on the way to York (so over the Pennines, into southern Yorkshire), whose charm for us is its Birds of Prey center. Debi Parker also rented a car, so we went in tandem.

We were late - it took three hours - for their class, but the class had only toured the facility and met all of the amazing birds. Our five - Justin, Amanda, Brenden McHugh and the two Parkers - joined right in at 11:00, and before I knew it were wearing hawks on their arms. The young man who led the class dropped out of school at 15 to become a full-time falconer (Jon - get ready to be approached about this from you-know-who), and has a real gift of gab. It was wonderful listening to the Yorkshire accent and dialect ('We watch the Gulden Eagles - they'll eat owt, even t'othr beerds'. Yuu Ameericans call t'ese hawks, bot theer realy byuzzards), and his bubbling enthusiasm for his profession. Two falconers - Ben, who may be 21, and James, 18-ish - took charge of our group until 3 pm. They looked every bit the falconer, in green pants, pale green shirts, green vests, leather food satchels across their shoulders, and, of course, various gloves. They did a bird show of sorts, where they flew red and black kites, Harris hawks, owls, eagles of every sort, and falcons. The kids took turns with the glove, so all through the show they had the birds landing on them (even me. I got to get friendly with a horned owl).

After the show, James took us out walking the footpaths in the fields. Two Harris byuzzards flew along with us, going from tree to tree and hedgerow to hedgerow. Every once in a while they would take off in pursuit of a hare (the mad-as-March hares were frolicking in the fields all around us), then come back to someone's glove for a snack. Each hawk had a bell on it, so we could tell exactly where it was. They also have tracking devices, in case they get frisky and take off.

The day ended with the kids being allowed to hold the golden eagles, then Ben flew the Bald Eagle for us. He and James hung around for an hour or so chatting and answering questions. My three young people were enthralled. Amanda wants to do this as a hobby. Oh, really? I wonder if Abilene allows 'pets'.

We came back straight away after the class was over - I had hoped we could do some more sightseeing in the area, but the class went later than we thought, due to the graciousness of the personnel there. We were very reluctant to leave all of them - they were so charming and interesting to listen to. Ben gave Justin some recommendations about acquiring falconer gear, and was full of marvelous stories. Quite the guy.

Our return, like the trip out there, was mercifully uneventful in all the right ways. I have adjusted to driving a standard on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road (the automatic never showed up), and am even contemplating driving up to Hadrian's wall today. Several of us have cars now, and we will be going as a sort of group. The scenery is breathtaking - green fields divided by stone walls and hedgerows, countless sheep, stone houses guarded by lofty churches whose steeples reach upwards as if in supplication for the people below.

Last night we joined the Scottish Country Folk Dance group here in Windermere for an evening of Scottish dance. They started off with the Virginia Reel, of all things, so our kids just joined right in. The men in their kilts are so graceful when they dance: Scottish dancing is done on the ball of the foot - the heel never touches down - and is very light and airy. The ladies wore skirts - some plaid - and those that had to be 'men' wore plaid sashes so we would know who was who. They danced from 7 to 10, so our kids were quite happy. The dances are a cross between the Regency dances we've been learning and our folk dances. Hmm... are they really 'our' folk dances then? They are beautiful to watch, and of course Fritz will now incorporate them into the group's repertoire. They ended the evening with Auld Lang Syne, and Fritz asked if the kids could give them the gift of a song in thanks. We sang Dona Nobis Pacem for them, and they were most delighted.

So I guess I don't need to tell you we are having a very rich time here. A lot of our group went for the walks that the Lake district is famous for, and were blessed by the beauty of the area. Some shopped (that is SO shopping), but I think our encounter with the Yorkshiremen was the very best.

The trip so far has been quite smooth. Our group all showed up at the train station in London, which was pretty amazing, so Fritz is in good spirits. We are all healthy so far, and are all under the spell of Windermere, the most charming of towns. The kids have all connected and bonded (even though they don't really know how to socialize, heh heh), and it is a most compatible group. The only problem we are having is the too-much-to-see-too-little-time-to-see-it-all syndrome.

Well, I shall send this, and get to breakfast to plan our route up to Carlisle and Hadrian's Wall. One man wants to take the motorway and GET THERE, while we all want to meander up through all of the small towns and SEE EVERYTHING on the way. Being homeschoolers, I suspect we will all head in the same direction and perhaps connect somewhere along the way periodically. I hope all is well with you all. We will stay in touch as best we can



English Trip: Day II

     Her hair was black, her eyes were black, everything about her was black. As we drew to our lips the steaming tea which she poured from her decanter, we pondered the mystery of her homeland. Spain? Brazil? Indonesia? Our polite probings were met with laughter and a coy smile. Peru? we persisted, forgetting our tea. Scandinavia? one random guess flew. As she gathered our utensils and turned towards the door, she satisfied our query over her shoulder.

     Unfortunately, we can't remember what she said. But the tea was good.

     For us, the day started the night before. Waking with a shout, as if shoved from sleep by a menacing foe, Brenden grabbed the alarm clock.

     "Oh...oh no," he panted, gaping into its glowing face. "This is bad."

     Pulling the sheets closer to his chin, Justin groaned. "What...?"

     "It''s just..." Brenden grappled with his semi-unconscious state, reaching for words through the mists that obscured his thoughts. Justin squinted at his watch.

     "Oh, shoot!" he exclaimed, finally grasping Brenden's reason for anguish. "We have to meet our!"

     Hair gelled, clothes donned, and bags packed, all in two minutes. We stumbled down three flights of stairs and into the lobby, which, to our surprise, was empty.

     Peering into the lounge, we found that its lone inhabitants were an old man and a rather risque movie; no ETS types there.

     "It's 9:45," Justin said, looking back at his watch. "Everyone should be here by now." Glancing toward a glass-panelled exit, street-lit darkness met our disbelieving eyes. Approaching the door with all the trepidation a twilight-zone's prisoner would feel, we watched the pedestrians pass back and forth. To our stunned minds, they seemed to be puppets propelled by the jerkings of an unseen force. Hoping that an adult would have more sense, we cautiously knocked on Mrs. Helland's door. To our dismay, her clock read the same. A freak of the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps? But aren't we in the Northern Hemisphere all the time? We quickly dropped that hypothesis and agreed that someone should inquire at the desk. Brenden (of course) was volunteered. Doing his best not to lose face, he propped his elbow nonchalantly on the counter and smiled affably.

     "I must ask a rather embarassing question," he said, attempting a persona of suave debonair. "I know it's 9:45, it AM or PM?"

     "It is most definitely PM," she replied, extending to him the same look she might give a saturated pub-crawler.

     "Thank you," he said, turning with as much regality as he could muster.

     Mounting the stairs and passing a hysterical Mrs. Helland, we retired to our room, muttering caustic remarks about jet-lag while dropping into bed for another eight hours that would salve our bruised dignity.

     The day's events, however, were less traumatic. After safely joining our fellow travellers at Euston Station, we began an uneventful four hours of cards, snacks, and inspirational landscapes. Arriving at Windermere, the evening was spent exploring its quaint surroundings, dining at Little Chippy's, dancing, singing, and retiring in anticipation of what a new day would bring.

-Reporting from across the pond, Brenden McHugh and Justin Helland


England Trip: Day III

     For us, the day started this morning, to our great relief. After a quiz-drive with Brenden as a guinea-passenger (or passenger pig, if you prefer alliteration), Mrs. Helland deemed it safe to allow her own children into the car. To couch it politely, braving English roads is an unsettling experience for American travellers. It's all on the left side, of course, which demaneds instense mental gymnastics. As if that weren't bear enough, these Brits park on both sides of two-lane streets. It's all about turns, you see. Upon reaching a cluster of parked vehicles, you must brake and allow others to pass (though if you arrive first, they must do you the same favor). The real dilemma presents itself when you arrive at the same time, which often results in clipped side-mirrors and hub-caps. We won't even mention the stress caused by brushing indigenous stone walls. But, "things can always get worse." The Hansons, not as blessed, popped two tires on a road stone.

     Our final destination was the Bird of Prey center. We were guided by several fellows with colorful Yorkshire dictions, prefacing many a fact with, "To be honest witch yew..." We fed hawks, took them for walks, and stared into the eyes of killer eagles. To be honest witch yew, it was quite fun; especially when the birds decided to be "naughty wallies," as one of the instructors titled their occasionally ornery behavior.

     Returning to Windermere, we walked down to the lake, where Brenden decided to take a swim, indulging in what he anticipated to be a hedonistic pleasure. Well, the hedon lasted no more than a minute. Dinner followed, then Scottish dancing with a local Scottish country folk-dance group, which thoroughly removed the Lake's chilling touch. And then, bed, in anticipation of another day well-worth being discovered. Well-worth its hilarious agonies, loveable faults, and complicated joys.

-Regards  from the Old World, Brenden McHugh and Justin Helland



England Trip: Day IV

By Mary Wesolek

      The day started as all gathered in the dining room for breakfast. Everyone was planning their next adventure in Windermere.

      Some traveled the town, full of shops and restaurants waiting for your arrival. The people here get in early morning walks to work, school, or even for some light errands. All seem content with their surroundings and are happy to give directions.

      Others piled into cars for a very scenic drive through lots of turns and traffic circles to reach Hadrian’s Wall and some Roman forts. With Mr. Hinrichs leading, we seemed to lose him quite easily. With the help of going around traffic circles, Mr. Hinrichs seemed to end up finding us after two or three round-abouts.

      When everyone finally arrived at our destination of choice we were met by some very cold winds and nippy air. All bundled up ready for the short hike to the wall and fort. When all arrived there many photos were taken and all seemed to be bearing the cold quite well. There were a few who could not handle the cold and walked to the small museum to get warm.

      After all had finished with exploring, it was decided that lunch was in order. Hot drinks were the largest attraction for everyone.

      With lunches done, we all piled back into the cars for more of a ride and more times of trying to keep Mr. Hinrichs within our eyes at all times. We failed again!

      Upon arriving at Carlisle Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned, we learned that we were too late. To our dismay, we took another *"10 minute walk" to a nice bookstore filled with books, sheet music, old records, and some CD's.

      After we had all gotten our fair share of time, we got back into our cars and headed home. We again lost Mr. Hinrichs and found our way back using a very trusty map and good olde English street signs.

      We arrived back in Windermere ready for our dinner meal and decided on Little Chippy's. Fun was had by one and all as we discussed many topics over fish and chips for most.

      We then came back and thought to sing some good church hymns and a few Christmas songs as well. Laughs were shared with all and when the time for bed arrived all were ready for a new day filled with more adventures.



*Mrs. Hinrichs’ note: Those of you who have gone on ETS trips will remember that Mr. H. usually states that a destination is “only a ten minute walk away”.  Generally, this means that the destination *could* be ten minutes away, but could also be an hour’s walk away… J


England Trip Day: # ?


Monday - March 15, ‘04

Audree Heath


Today was our very last day together in England.  It is a rather clichéd thing to bemoan but I really can’t believe the trip is almost over and I’ll soon be separated from all the people and things I’ve grown accustomed to.  But, even though we were sad the trip is ending, we all put on a brave face and didn’t allow a spirit of melancholy prevail today.  Actually it wasn’t very hard to ignore the inevitable because it still seems rather laughable that something as tangible as our time together will be so rudely cut short tomorrow.  Thus, purposely oblivious to these darker themes, I cheerily started the day with my very last English “brekky”, a nutritional bowl of Sugar Puffs. 


Our schedule of activities began at The Globe, an authentic reconstruction of William Shakespeare’s original theater.  Our guide, Tas, is an actor himself who has worked on various plays performed in this modern Globe.  He began with a brief history of the building, first explaining what it was like in Shakespeare’s time and then describing its authentic reconstruction in the late 20th century.


Next we were turned loose to explore the Shakespeare museum on our own.  Yet, as anyone who has gone sightseeing for an extended period of time will tell you, most tourists approaching the end of a trip are susceptible to severe cases of TFADD – Tourist Fatigue Attention Deficit Disorder.  My own case of this disease was so severe I found it nearly impossible to read an entire museum plaque before passing out.  From the way they kept walking into walls and such, I suspect many of the other students had the same problem.  The most memorable thing we took from this hour and a half spent with important Shakespearean paraphernalia, was how funky Asher Strassner looked dressed up in the suit of armor we found lying around.  And yes, it is unusual to find a suit of armor just lying around in a museum.  I don’t know where they got it, but hopefully it wasn’t anything too important.


After lunch, Tas rejoined us and led us through an acting workshop based on scenes from “Hamlet”.   We split into groups of two and started with a simple exercise.  My partner was the lovely Ann Strassner.  Trying to make our inflections as varied as possible we took turns saying two simple words: “yes” and “no”.  It seems like an effortless concept, but it was actually rather challenging and even chaotic to have everyone doing this simultaneously.  Next, Tas had us do the same verbal exchange using our bodies to communicate as well.  It was interesting to see what added significance we could convey simply by walking around and waving our arms a bit.


Finally, we were ready to try some of the actual lines from Hamlet.  Two or three teams each got the same set of lines but there were four different sketches in all so when we performed them they were supposed to make some sort of sense, if everybody went in turn which they didn’t.  Next we tried a longer dialogue whose whole purpose was to convey the fact that the weather was very cold and the time wasn’t quite twelve.  Personally, I found it more challenging to deliver these rather mundane lines than to ham up some particularly emotional scene.  It just goes to show that a good actor should be able to do both.  After all, if an entire play leading up to a dramatic finale is incredibly dull, no amount of hurrah at the end can make up for it. 


For our last exercise, we grouped into teams of 6 and performed one of the final scenes in the play - the one where everyone gets killed off except for a few actors who just weren’t lucky enough to score a death scene.  In my own group I played Laertes, which I considered a choice position since it meant I got to have a sword fight with Hamlet, be killed by a poisoned sword, and give a dramatic death speech.  What more could a girl want?


All three groups did a great job with their sketches, but it was interesting to see the different interpretations of the material.  My own set’s skit was fated to be comical if only because we hadn’t gotten through the whole thing even once before we performed it for everyone.  Sure, I really can’t pass judgment on it since I was lying dead on the floor most of the time, but I’m afraid I wasn’t a very good corpse since it made me shake uncontrollably with suppressed laughter.  Yet, everything turned out well in the end because, no matter what else he criticized, Tas said he liked my gory death scene.  And why shouldn’t he?  I modeled it exactly after all the old westerns I had ever seen where the guy who gets shot goes through the whole twisting, squirming, and gasping for his last breath routine.  Shakespeare isn’t the only outlet for dramatic ability. 


We all came away from the workshop flushed with laughter and merriment.  But now our last day was more than half over which was not a happy thing at all.  The itinerary called for a trip to an old medical operating theatre but several moms and daughters opted out to go for a final afternoon tea instead. (I asked John M. later about the operating theatre but I haven’t the foggiest notion what he said.  Another proof of my tourist attention paralysis) We figured we’d stumble upon a little tea place as we made our way to rejoin our group at the Imperial War Museum, but unfortunately we couldn’t find one.  This part of town seemed mostly filled with taverns, sit down restaurants, and such.  I ended up getting a chocolate doughnut and a Coke.  It seemed like an appropriate way to begin my transition back to Americana.


We arrived at the war museum earlier than the rest of the group, but thankfully it was interesting enough to hold our attention… at least for a little while.  It was full of tanks, planes, guns, and all sorts of other stuff that made everyone wish their little brothers were there to see it all.  (This was the only time such a strange phenomenon occurred on the trip.) 


There was also a neat interactive section about submarines.  Even though it was geared to the level of a 10 yr. old, we had fun trying out the sub bunks and whispering through those periscope thingymabobs, because that was pretty much the level our minds were operating at on this point of the trip.  Thankfully there weren’t any real children around or we probably would have frightened them off. 


There was another display recreating trench life in WWI, complete with sounds, lights, and even smells.  Actually the smells were ghastly and made it hard to concentrate on anything else.  The lower level of the museum positively reeked of gunpowder and oil and I caught whiffs of it on everyone’s clothes long after we left.


Next on the schedule was a flight on the world famous London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel type structure which is anything but an amusement park ride.  Its large glass capsules were big enough to comfortably fit our entire group in one flight.  It took 30 min. just to revolve once around the giant wheel, giving us a breathtaking view of London along the way.  We went up around 7pm and it was already pretty dark.  The Thames was directly below us glittering in the city lights reflected from both of its banks.  We could see Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all vibrantly lit up for the evening.  It was an astounding but touching way to say goodbye to this lovely country that has played a part not only in so much human history but now in our own memories as well.  (No wonder the Eye is England’s most lucrative tourist attraction!)


We came down from the heavens to the reality of earthly creatures.  We were hungry.  Some of us stopped at McDonald’s on the way home, not just to acclimate ourselves back to our own culture but because it was one of the cheaper places to eat.  Though by cheaper I mean a $6 meal instead of a $14 one.  Plus it doesn’t do any good if you eat 3 meals anyway. 


When we got back to the hotel we discovered they were still beating that dead horse called Hamlet, that is, ahem, they were still finishing up our reader’s theater of Shakespeare’s great play.  Although it was frustrating that Mr. H chose to completely occupy our very last night together with Shakespeare and thereby effectively shoot down all more healthy group activity such as a friendly game of Mafia or “Shuffleduck”, we latecomers stumbled in like so many prodigal sons and sat with our backs to the wall as if waiting for the firing squad.  We received several disapproving looks from Mr. H, all well deserved since we were making a ruckus trying to find the right page and basically found everything worthy of hysterical laughter, and hysterical laughter, as a rule, is hard to suppress.


Thankfully Mr. H assigned me a part and thereby gave me an outlet for my energies.  I was the role of the 1st Clown, though I wasn’t a court jester but a gravedigger.  I had a humorous dialogue with Hamlet in which my rather lowly and boisterous character sang uncouth songs, threw skulls around, and generally made a commotion.  Personally, I know I didn’t do the part particularly well since most of the time I had no idea what my Shakespearean lines meant.  This always makes it rather difficult to read them well.  Nevertheless, simply by talking loudly, hiccupping robustly, and singing terribly I seemed to amuse everyone.  I hate to suggest that the mental agonies of the Hamlet reading had made them forget what truly good humor is like, but I can give no other explanation.


It was already 10:30pm by the time the marathon Hamlet reading ended and the “I survived Hamlet 2004” t-shirts were distributed.  But we weren’t about to let our very last night be stolen away so easily.  We stayed up past midnight taking pictures, sharing contact info, and saying goodbye to one another.  It would have been incredibly sad if it hadn’t been so incredibly surreal.  I don’t think anyone actually believed the 24hr. party we’d been living for 10 days wouldn’t go on for ever, always, and eternity. 


How could we go back to the way things used to be when we sat all alone in a dark room doing our GBT reading?  How could we ever eat another bowl of sugar puffs without having each other’s smiling faces across the table?  How could we ever walk down the street again and not feel completely naked without 40 people following us?  How could we survive when we were separated by thousands of miles, hours of flight, and even the Atlantic Ocean?  How could we eat, sleep, breath, laugh, dance, sing, or be emotionally stable again without each other?  (No, forget that bit about emotional stability.  That didn’t apply to the trip either.)


It was a truly tragic separation as we said goodbye to each other, to Mr. Hinrichs, to England, and as poor John had to say goodbye to Subway.  But, after our show of despondency made especially poignant by the acting class we’d all had that morning, we wretched ourselves away and forlornly retired to our own rooms.  For the first time I made it through the labyrinth of corridors to my 3rd floor room without getting lost, but there was no one to share my joy.  It was a brutal moment.  (See, Shakespeare isn’t the only outlet for the dramatically inclined.)


Since I was leaving the hotel by 7am the next morning, I knew I’d never see everyone all together again.  As I dropped off to sleep I was so tired I didn’t have any particularly profound thoughts.  But if any of us had enough mental stamina to reflect on our time together (though I doubt it), I’m sure it would have gone something like this: 


“golly gee, we’ve had a lot of fun together on this trip and I’m going to miss everyone.  But, though I’d never admit it, it’ll sure be nice to have my own bathroom again, to eat off the 99cents menu at Wendy’s, go to bed early, sleep in late, have my own bed, ride in a car instead of walking everywhere, and avoid all museums for as long as I live.  Sure we’ve had an awesome time here in England, no one who wasn’t here could understand.  But we all miss our homes in the good ol’ US of A and we’re coming back, tired and grumpy yes, but we’re coming back!”


Homeless in London....