Notes from the Ringers
The notes that follow are from the ringers and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the adults (chronologically advanced persons) on this trip. The comments that follow are (almost) unedited.
We had an early start this morning, leaving by 7am for our first performance of the morning. After some creativity in building our tables to ring on, we opened the service. Past that, it is unclear how many ringers remembered the rest of the service when not playing, as our early morning translated to some dozing off! The audience was so thankful and interested, though, and we were disappointed to leave so quickly (due to a very tight schedule) after the service to sprint to our next performance at the church around the corner. We all were, though, quite proud of our 10-minute pack-up, walk, and un-pack at the next church, which I believe sets a record and new standard. We performed throughout the service and then took advantage of the many (cheaper) shops close by to get some lunch. Now most have crashed, and I suspect I am one of the few still awake (for now). I would share some photos if my camera worked and if I had any other photos other than Franny and Steven enjoying a delicious lemon from lunch.
July 6th, 2008
Our journey to Europe was not so easy, but by the time we arrived in Germany all of us ringers and chaperones could see that this trip was worth the over night flight. Stepping out of the plane I looked at my surroundings, and I loved the fact that I was seeing so many different types of people, and hearing all different kinds of languages because in America that is not always common. Although Gorlitz, Germany was very beautiful and had nice host families, so far I have really loved Prague the most. This is no surprise to me, because being an energetic young lady, I love being in a place where the energy is coming from most people (example: a big city like New York, or Los Angles). In addition, I love all the architecture because it is so different then my normal surroundings. Prague is the most beautiful and diverse city I have ever seen. It makes me want to see more big cities throughout Europe.
Today, we woke up around 6:30 (if you showered the night before), and left the hostel around 7:00. We arrived at the church around 7:30ish and began to set up for the worship at the church. Although it was a catholic church, and they don't usually clap for performances, they gave a big cheer to our bell performance, which made us all very happy. Unfortunately though, we had to leave very quickly because our other worship was about 15 minutes after that one. It was crammed but we made it in time, and set up fast. After worship they had great refreshments for us. Then, we all went to lunch and split up in to two groups. I loved the restaurant we ate at, but more importantly, I enjoyed the company of the four other ringers, and three chaperones. It truly felt like a "family" dinner. Those moments make me miss home less, but I do miss my family and friends still. I just finished playing Ultimate Frisbee with the guys, and it was so much fun. Surprisingly, I wasn't actually that bad better than a couple of them, but not many. The Frisbee went over this gate at one point of the game, and Spencer risked a lot and climbed over to give us back the Frisbee. He is not injured and is fine, but it was really funny what the guys would risk and do to get the Frisbee back. I do understand though, because the game is very fun. I will keep posting blogs!
Today has been one fabulous day....it all started with us getting up nice and early and walking 10 minutes to the bus...with a big smile on our faces because Pat managed to run straight into a pole... haha. however, it was also a wonderful morning because we had no idea where our first gig was..but we found it alright. we had a fantastic first concert. especially since we played festive chime about 10 times faster than we usually do because we had to head to the other church which required a 10 minute walk but really 20 because we had the bells to roll over the oddest stones. the second service was my favorite by far for three reasons. one, the lectures were in English, two they had junk food for us and three i got to work out by holding a 25 lb 9 month baby for about half an hour. the highlight of my day was having lunch with Steven Taylor and Mr. Bus Driver Mark... starting with me being "mean" according to Steven but i call it me being nice and friendly. once we got our meals it went down fast with a lot of enthusiasm and energy from the table. but the true fun started when i managed to ask the waiter who was flirting big time with me if i could buy a lemon. He returned with my lemon telling me that it was free. Steven dared me to bite right into the lemon, of course i listened and did it, handing him the lemon and making a huge mess on the table. at the return of "Tomas" our waiter he asked what had happened to my lemon sharing the video of Steven and i he laughed and walked away. two minutes later he returned with another lemon and told me to bite into it....as i started to he flipped his cell phone out and started to record me. after biting into my lemon Tomas started to clean my face with a napkin. how embarrassing, but fun! its been a very long day so the girls and I managed to make friends with the receptionist and now that's all we do talk to him. he is very nice and has done a lot for us as a group. I have had all of this fun today and it's only 5:20...its been a long day. I miss you Pittsburgh!
It has been an eventful day today. The 8:30 service which went until about 9:45 was great, with a very nice translator who helped us a lot. I think it also made a record for our fastest-cleaned-up gig. After running to our next church "10" minutes away (which took all of us together five minutes), we set up faster than imaginable and tried to act natural. I had a great lunch with "Mr. Bus Driver" (Mark), Franny, Joyce, etc. Our waiter was very nice and fun, too. We all needed some relaxing, so that's what I've been doing for a little, but I'm ready for whatever else is ahead of us, too!!
So, it is official that i am the world's biggest klutz do to the fact that i walked into a pole head first on our way to the double concert morning. Other than that it was a good day, the clean-up/sprint up the road/set-up was insanely fast at about 10 minutes. Later in the day we went and played ultimate out in the street with about 8 of us and i once again showed how smooth i am by accidentally throwing the Frisbee over a 15 foot high gate. No worries do to the fact that Steve and i simply hoisted Spencer up and over the wall to get it and then he just climbed back up the other side. As a last night treat we went out for more gelato and it was right after the rain storm and there were massive puddles all over the streets so naturally being the children we are we decided to have a water fight by jumping in puddles and kicking water at each other for the entire walk up. More surprising was that Jim, not Jim Carr but the other Jim, joined in and ended up more soaked than any of us. The only casualty was franny in this war so no worries until next time...
your resident klutz
July 9, 2008
So about half of my trip so far has been spent trying to capture pigeons. I have yet to get one though a did manage to touch one earlier in the week. Krakow pigeons are far less intelligent than the Prague ones. I also got one of the nuns at the nunnery to say "oh my god" when she looked at my sandwich. Which i think shows what a truly awesome sandwich it was. Also, while shopping in Krakow, we attempted to purchase a mini cannon (fully functional) for 400 zlots. Really the only thing stopping us was the fact that it would have put our luggage over the 50lb limit on the way home. In Krakow we've been living off of kebabs which invovles giant spinning towers of meat and bread. On that note i'm going to finish because i'm writing this on a bus and polish roads are really really bumpy.
Pigeon Master Sam
One of my favorite parts of the the trip so far has been climbing church towers. The second hike up to the top of a tower happened yesterday at St. Mary's Cathedral in Krakow. Our journey started with a tightly spiraling stone stairwell and then gradually evolved into wooden steps which some of us were not too sure were completely stable. But, they've survived hundreds of years of travellers, so I figured they could hold. After 140-something steps, we reached the top. There was a trumpet inside the room at the top of the tower that is played every hour to commerate a trumpet player shot in the neck with an arrow during a battle. Oh, and while I'm talking about legends, we saw a dragon. Well, a statue. Krakow was plagued by a dragon that nobody could figure out how to slay. Until one brave knight figured out to put gun powder in a sheep. When the dragon ate the sheep, his organs became enflamed. To ease the burning, he drank water. Unfortunately for the dragon, he drank so much water that he exploded. Everyone lived happily ever after. And now there are a lot of dragon souvenirs in Krakow.
This trip has been an incredible experience to this point. The cities that we visited were amazing. Prague was an unbelievably beautiful city. The cathedral within the castle was built at an astonishing scale with a lavishly decorated interior. Krakow is equally impressive, but in a slightly different way. The entire palace complex was much more grandiose than the castle in Prague. The main cathedral had the tomb of a saint prominently displayed in the center of its floor. Other than the sights, the simple personal interactions have been intriguing, ranging from chasing pigeons, considering purchasing firearms, and giving out gold stars.
July 17, 2008
Today we left Poland and are returning to Germany for our final days here. The Czech Republic and Poland were gorgeous and an amazing experience both historically and culturally. Krakow has been my favorite city so far because of the beautiful architecture and amazing history. However, every city we have visited has been amazing. With only a few days left, I think were all dreading having to leave but anxious to return home at the same time. Were all trying to make the last few days count while looking back on all the fun we have had so far (i.e. jumping out windows). I am looking forward to Berlin and our eventual return back to the states.
The trip so far has been absolutely amazing. Not only have we been able to experience all of the different cities and cultures of both Poland and the Czech Republic, but we have also made lasting memories and friendships with the people we were with. I went on this trip having my best friend with me, knowing that I could count on her if there was anything I needed. But as the trip went on I realized that I can count on anyone in our group. I know that while I was walking around in the different cities I could go up to anyone and have a conversation with them. Also, after experiencing a little medical problem, everyone in the group made an effort to help me during this time. So rather than saying that everything is beautiful and all that other stuff I wanted to say, this trip has brought me so close to the people around me and that after returning home, I will feel so alone without these amazing people around me 24/7!
So where does one begin to try and explain all of the experiences and emotions that have been experienced on this trip? I've realized that you can't, all of the beautiful cities we've been able to see and all of the people that we've been able to touch only begin describing this trip. We took many day trips to beautiful places and walked around small towns and huge cities, but one particular day trip has been ever present in my mind since. When we toured Auschwitz and every person on this trip was differently affected, that day in particular stuck with me. I had to come face to face with the harshness of human kind and the tour made you recognize your own mortality. While touring, I was pondering what if the only thing left on this earth to remember me by ended up being my comb, toothbrush, or glasses in a museum? I thought that my grasp on the Holocaust was very good prior to touring, but afterwards I realized I knew next to nothing. You understand how large Auschwitz is, but when you walk down the road between barracks that so many had walked before you, the vastness of Auschwitz II - Birkenau is unbelievable. When you see all of those personal items like shoes and hair and you know that what you are seeing is only a small portion of the items, you realize any one of those people could have been your friends or discovered some medical cure, but were deprived of the right to live. That day trip changed my perspective and the importance you place upon various conflicts and problems in your life. Every single person took something inspiring away from that visit and I cannot thank the Brown family enough for giving me the opportunity to grow as a person. On a lighter note, everything we've seen is so beautiful and being able to absorb everything about the culture has been so wonderful for me. I've grown so close to all of the members on the bell team and we've bonded to almost become our own little family. With only two days left I'm trying to remember as much as I can about this trip, for there won't be another time where we are all this close.
Although Liz just wrote about Auschwitz, I'm going to do the same because we all got something different out of it. The particular day that we happened to visit, the weather decided not to like us. It poured! And it poured for the entire duration of our visit. We were soaked, cold, and in general, completely miserable. At least that describes how I felt and I'm pretty sure most felt that way. While we were walking back to the bus though, my thoughts changed from grumpiness and complaints to the sudden realization that wow! if I thought I was miserable, I wasn't even close to understanding how those in the concentration camps felt! They had it hundreds of times worse than I did. After that realization, I stopped feeling bad for myself pretty quickly. I'm almost glad it was such a miserable day because it put situations in perspective and I got a lot more out of the visit because of those feelings. The rooms filled with personal items were also incredible. Imagining that huge number of people is nearly impossible, but seeing so many of their belongings made it more possible, although just as horrible. With respect to the bell trip as a whole, I have loved getting to know the amazing kids on this trip. That's probably the part of this tour that will stick with me the longest, although sightseeing and learning about the history of these countries is more important and almost as memorable. I can't wait for another year of bells with this awesome team. So much fun!!!
I really enjoyed our stay in Berlin. It's a very lively city with a deep history. The German hand bell group of Berlin that we visited called themselves Bells Angels. (Why don't we have a cool name like that?) They played a few pieces for us while some of the chaperones set up our bells. The way they ring is very interesting. Bells Angels had seven ringers who stand at a table facing each other in a circle. All of their music had organ accompaniment from their director, who also composed much of the music that they played. I really enjoyed his music, and for that he gained my admiration right away! When the German ringers saw how different our set-up was, they seemed very interested and listened to us play some of our pieces for them with much excitement. That made it especially fun for them to jump in with our group to try out our style of ringing. After our rehearsal we had an absolutely delicious barbeque together. One of the Bells Angels guys was an excellent griller who filled us with as much steak, sausage, and cheese patties we could stuff ourselves with. The German kids were very friendly and outgoing and after some introductions (and some struggles to pronounce their names), and our traditional ice breaker game of Stella Ella Ola, our groups combined easily. I even got to practice a little bit of my German (though they all put me to shame with their good English skills). I'm so happy that we made new friends and I hope we'll get to hear from and possibly see the Bells Angels again.
Liz Peters (LP)
This trip was incredible. Nearly every aspect was enjoyable. From the ringing to the historical tourism, I enjoyed everything that this group participated in. The cities that we visited were incredible, and I experienced places that I will never forget. Above all though, I got to know a lot of people very well, and that was possibly the most rewarding experience of all. I learned a lot about Europe, I learned a lot abut people, and I learned a lot about myself. Through all that, though, I enjoyed nearly every second of the trip with only a few minor exceptions.
We're on our way home now, and I honestly couldn't be more excited or more sad at the same time. After living out of a suitcase with large groups of people for over four weeks now, I'm thrilled to go home and take a shower without having to worry about someone barging in on me. At the same time, I know how difficult it will be going to sleep in an empty room without anyone to laugh with right before I go to sleep. As much as I may be looking forward to personal space, I know by the second day home I will miss all of the people on this trip. Yes, we did tour some amazing cities and see astounding sights, but even if we were all living together in Pittsburgh, I still think we would grow just as much as a bell team; the fact that we had the privilege to tour Europe in the process just makes it that much more incredible. That being said, I can't wait for next year. Although we will miss our only senior, Franny, it's great that all the rest of us will return, and I think it will make for a more cohesive group that ever. Kudos to all the chaperones and adults and donations that made this trip possible, and thanks to all the ringers for making it a great trip!
The plane just hit turbulence. It feels good to be only hours away from getting home; after a certian point my luggage just ends up smelling too bad. I'm very satisfied with the trip. There are many things that happened that make great stories. Whether its Joyce spending more than enough time locked in a bathroom in Prague, or Sam finally getting his hands on a pigeon, this trip to say the least has been memorable. My favorite part would have to be our stay in Zelow, Poland. After arriving in our big maroon bus, we did not know really what to expect. We were openly welcomed by the churches ministers, who were married. The building was very homely, and we all had a great time there. Not to forget, while we were there, I think the whole bell team would agree, we were served the best meals we've had all trip. Rehearsals with the local bell team went well, and we all got along. It was a great time and it made me excited for summer 2010.