Dear All Readers!! I am sorry for the delay in my posting...the most exciting things have been going on and I have not been reporting them as promised....well....I have an excuse....
THE GROUP HAS ARRIVED!!!!
It is so exciting! Vipin and I got up at 5am on Wednesday for the ride to the airport...hitting just a bit of the morning rush hour traffic when we were nearing Munich...thankfully there is this wonderful exit where we go around most of that and head north for the Johann Strauss Munich Airport. Our driver Reinhard was amazing (more later)...when we got there it was 8am ..just minutes before the first flight from JFK was due to arrive (at 8:10am)...but then we discovered that it was delayed in landing about 45 minutes (found out later that they had to sit on the runway for 2 hours...but made up for some time in the air)!
So, we had enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a sweet treat from the bakery...right beside us! How nice that they put it there right by the flight arrivals waiting area! We actually love this little airport bakery and enjoy watching the morning rush of people getting their various delights for their morning pick-me-ups. Everyone from businessmen travelers to flight attendants to the guys that wear the orange pants and direct traffic on the runways go to this place...which is just a corner shop with a few standing-only tables and a small counter with three chairs. But the coffee is always hot and rich and good and the bread....well, I don't know why we can't have bakeries like this back home.. the baker (quite the master I might add...and a joy to watch perform his trade) was making these bread pretzels and then covering them with a mixture of what we think were pumpkin seeds and maybe several other types of nuts all sort of held all together with a honey/brown sugar mix....so good! They had breakfast sandwiches that looked out of this world...and...oh...THE GROUP....(What time is it?)
The JFK flight was finally descending and the Boston flight was actually a bit early...so it looked like we would have everyone down (cross your fingers) around the same time. So we drank our last sips and headed the seven or eight steps over to the 'official' waiting area....trying to peek in to the baggage claim room every time someone walked out making the sliding doors open for a few seconds. First a group of kids came out, but not our group... we knew that right away because they were young, too young for CSA! Next batch...no, Japanese businessmen, not ours.....next batch, no, they had a dog with them....can't be ours.....then, (after this went on for what seemed to be an hour but was really just a few minutes)...there's Bill Schneberger!! Without a beard!!!! First thing out of Vipin's lips, "Wow, he looks younger!" They all started coming through...smiles and excitement on their faces....seemingly happy to see us even though they didn't know us! "Welcome to Germany!" Time for a group photo!
Then on to the bus...all luggage in tow! Thankfully the Munich airport offers free carts...and the bus was just a stones throw from the exit! Already I could see them scanning for new and interesting things....signs in German, advertisements for things they weren't familiar with...a shop with tiny dirndls on display, did they notice the bakery?? Then we went outside...a little cold and yes, a slight, very slight drizzle...it probably felt good on their skin after being on a plane for 8 hours. I asked the students to set their bags on certain sides of the bus with the hopes that unloading later would go smoothly. Then everyone had time to go on the bus, stow their hand luggage and return inside the airport to freshen up before the Boston flight's group arrived....or so I thought...we went back into the airport and who do I see but Dr. Donaghay! The Boston group was already in, out and with luggage claimed!! So perfect! All luggage in and accounted for (always nice, thank you Lufthansa)! We got everyone on the bus and were on our way!
First I welcomed everyone...I know they were exhausted and excited and that's hard on the body. But there was also so much to go over... I handed out their individual CSA Welcome Packets...and Vipin gave everyone a Mozarttaller....delicious chocolates made right in our village of Groedig...yes, we have our very own chocolate factory! I did mention that they have hazelnut in them...as this year we have several participants with nut and food allergies! Then I went on about the contents of the packets.... so much information, most important...their CSA Student ID cards! Second most important, their Emergency Contact Sheets...with my mobile number as well as contact numbers for the staff!!! Then on to the other things.....the "Sonya Map" of our village...a hand made and sort of sloppy one but I know, as every year, it becomes their trusty friend especially for the first few days. I went over all the things they needed to know upon arrival......then, let them rest and enjoy the scenery and I heard someone say "Wow", which is really all I needed to hear!
Along the ride two girls were feeling a bit ill, it's such a long flight and even if one is used to air travel it is difficult to adjust. But they were real troopers....we made it to our lunch stop, the Seiseralmhof in Chiemsee... with time for another group photo! then we went into the restaurant (complete with a view of the lake). We had Wienerschnitzel and Pommes! Topped off with ice cream! I helped them with ordering their beverages (no menus in English!!)....no Diet Coke to be had, but some of them tried Spezi (a sort of coke mixed with lemon soda) others tried the Johannesbernsaft or the Johannesberngespritz ...a delicious, but strong berry juice (I recommended the spritzer to weaken it...one of my most favorite drinks!) Some of the college students had a beer....wow...so strong and good! I saw many smiles, I heard lauphter at tables with students that did not know eachother 10 hours before!!
Then we went back on the bus for another half hour drive to Salzburg, and our village Groedig! Crossing the boarder from Germany into Austria doesn't involve a thing anymore, the bus just has to slow down a bit. Then we arrived...pulled up and parked right next to the school! Well, the plan was changed a bit for the unloading of the bus. I had hoped to unload everyone but all those staying in the Hotel Groedig and those staying in what I started referring to as "The House of Nine" (Frau Ziegler's house, where 9 girls are staying), but my colleague, the wonderful Frau Maria Reitinger asked if we could have the bus do several drop-offs, and thankfully Reinhard, our very strong bus driver, was happy to accommodate...which meant pulling suitcases out and putting them back in until everyone had theirs. He really got a workout!
The first participants to meet their Austrain Hosts (a.k.a. Haus Fraus) were Jocelyn, Bianca, Lea, and Kayley....because we were by the school (the Groediger Hauptschule) and Frau Helminger literally lives right beside it (in a house that has every thing in place, as in every flower petal is perfect, any brown ones must be plucked away)...so close they were able to just roll their suitcases over to the house...but first, they so kindly lined up and shook her hand and announced their names and even said a few words in German!!!! I have to admit, it choked me up...they made me so proud. I could see how pleased she was. (Now a side note, just today I met with Frau Reitinger who is my liaison with all the Haus Fraus and she informed me that Frau Helminger told her that these girls are the "most tidy of girls" that she has ever had stay with her from our group!)
Next came Silva, our youngest and most stylish of all the Haus Fraus (I've never seen her without wearing lipstick ....and she is always dressed well, and frequently in white linen)...she runs a delightful apartment house called Haus Susanne (Susanne is her mother) and off went Christine, Christina, Amanda and Jessica. Then petite Frau Graggaber drove up and took away David and Justin...so quickly I hardly saw them go! Then Reinhard packed up the unclaimed suitcases and drove us to our next stop...Hotel Groedig. Unloading is always difficult here because of the traffic, but luckily the city bus stop is right across the street...so we did our best to get everyone with their bags and across the street to the hotel with as much ease as possible. Vipin got off here to help everyone with room assignments, luggage and such....
It was at this time that I received a call from my Mother with news that my poor little LuLu had broken her leg! I was literally in the middle of the street holding the phone with my left hand while my right hand was out holding back traffic for Dr. Donaghay to cross with her bag! I couldn't believe it! OH MY!!!!! But I could not handle that call at that moment....LuLu is going to be fine....I'll call back when I finish....off to Pension Bachmann....At Pension Bachmann (with Fraus Stephanie and Anna Ziegler) the Schnes (Bill and Nancy Schneberger) got out along with Andrea, Alice and Maggie...who stay at the Gertraud Ziegler farmhouse next door (actually, the entire field is Ziegler land...including "The House of Nine" Zieglers)...all luggage accounted for, Reinhard still packing bags in and out...but happy to see the numbers dwindling....and on to the Pension Christophorus....where we dropped off Tori, Colleen, Melissa and Jillian....all these girls seem to totally already be best friends (giggling as they struggled with their huge suitcases)!...they also kindly lined up and greeted their Haus Frau, the rather formal, but quite sweet Frau Klappacher....then...off to "The House of Nine"....such a picture, postcard, perfect place, with flower baskets in every window, the type everyone must picture in their minds when one says "Austrian Farmhouse" and Frau Maria Ziegler is the best (she has graciously done my laundry for me in previous years and has gone so far as to even iron my underwear!!! I didn't even know that was possible!). Chickens were pecking around beside the barn, a cat curiosuly watched us from against the house, cows were eating inside the barn, the little dog came out to greet the girls...here we have Talin (Zarig's sister, Zarig came with us two years ago), Emma, JessicaK, Apollonia (I love that name!!), Diana, Catherine, Elizabeth, Kaleigh and Nicollette....they were in good hands..Frau Ziegler wisked them off inside and up to their rooms.....Reinhard was exhausted....and I needed to get back to the hotel and call my Mom!
So I was thinking....they are all in, they are getting settled, the two that were feeling ill are much better now, they all have some time to rest before we meet back at the Hotel Groedig for our walking tour of the village....let the summer begin!
I'll continue their story later...have to go now....keep checking back for updates! In the meantime, know that we are in Salzburg, Austria, sleeping at the foot of the beautiful Untersberg mountain in the quaint village of Groedig....and dreaming of.....no...... we're not dreaming....we're already in the dream!!!