Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tuesday 26th April 2016

We started the day with a bit of an eye opener at IBM in downtown Washington DC, the students were given an overview of where IBM have developed from - basically hardware, as in machines that punched cards, to typewriters, to the first computers right through to where they are now - in a significantly different but related field. In the last 100 years they have moved through major "technology" developments and are now involved in cancer treatment through the development of "Watson" a tool to help doctors sift through the mass of publications and empirical research to best help the patient with the exact type of illness they have and the treatment that would best suit their needs - in other words they have taught a computer to think.
They gave many other examples of how they are using software like Watson for the benefit of the human race. A few of the students really came into their own and asked intelligent and articulate questions to the presenters, which was awesome to see.

After a bite to eat the students all took off to various Smithsonian Museums - of which there are plenty, including Air and Space, Natural History, African Art, Native American Indian Art etc, there are 19 in total - just a few too many to get around in one day even with our expertise in "doing" museums.

Pizza followed and then the night tour of Washington DC, which was bus tour of all the main buildings and sites around the city, sights include White House, Capitol Hill, the Martin Luther King memorial, Lincoln memorial and the Reflecting Pool, WW11 Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery etc etc. It was a balmy evening after the heat of the day which made for a great last evening together. All the students are in good spirits and most are looking forward to getting home to see their pets and sleep in their own beds!!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Monday 25th - Anzac Day

The commitment was outstanding this morning! At 4:30am, 25 students and 4 adults set off from our Hostel for the Anzac Dawn Parade. We had a 35 minute walk to get there and it was worth the effort to remember our soldiers sent off to war in such an excellent location. We watched the sun rise through the trees as our students did their country proud by supporting the event.

We did, of course, have to come back for a catch-up on sleep before continuing the day's adventures. We picked up few "concrete pills" for those that were struggling to get moving after their snooze. Not many were required!
After a short visit to see the whitehouse, we headed off on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour around Washington which gave us a good initial view. Washington has a very relaxed feel compared to the busyness of New York.  The streets are wide, the buildings not as tall, and no where near as many people.  Many of the monuments and building are named after past presidents.  We have been trying to guess what will be erected in memory of Barack Obama.

After lunch downtown, students had time to visit Madam Tussaud wax museum and to explore the city.  The Movie of The Jungle Book was excellent in 3D and was a good chance to relax.  Mrs de Boo led the teachers in a bit of shut-eye during the movie - turns out they may have been a bit exhausted!

We ate at a variety of places for dinner and have been pleased with some of the good choices the students have been making!

Friday Ahoy Food Tour

The Hospitality and Digi-tech students joined forces against the Italians as went on the Ahoy Food tour of Little Italy. We met at the 'mafia' headquarters of Ferrara Bakery where they tried to 'sweeten' us up with their famous 'Cannoli", a crispy pastry tube filled with ricotta and chocolate.
We then moved across the road to Alleva Dairy, which is the oldest Italian cheese store in USA. We sampled fresh mozarella wrapped with prosciutto. Everyone enjoyed that sample. Our next stop was a fresh pasta maker, and many of the students had not had gnocchi before and said they will be ordering it next time when they go to La Porchetta at Riccarton Mall! Our guide was fantastic, as she spoke with her arms and put on a wonderful dramatic "Italian ' accent, when she described the food and the regions, as our last stop was 2 different cheeses and olives. The tour ended with fascinating stories of the mafia and 'unsolved' murders that happened a certain
restaurant. We returned to our 'headquarters' to order our gelatos and drooled over their dessert pastries. Lucky for the glass protecting the food from their heavy breathing and drooling.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

More photos from Amish country

Sunday 25th - Transfer day NYC to WDC

School trips like this one always seem to be exercises in problem solving. Our bus was due at 9am, and after several pointed conversations we were assured the bus would be there in 15 minutes, well the 15 minutes turned into several lots of 15 minutes and the bus finally arrived at 10.35 only 10 minutes ahead of when the bus company thought they were picking us up. After several other phone calls the day was rearranged so that we could stop where we needed to.

After 3 hours on the bus we arrived in Amish county at a place near Lancaster. We met though a connection that Dee had, Eric and Diane, they joined us for lunch where we encouraged the students to try some different foods, largely based on German cookery. Eric and Diane then hopped on the bus and directed our driver around the local countryside, Eric was very knowledgeable of the Amish and how the various communities had established themselves based on their beliefs. The students learnt quite a bit about the family set up and expectations of children, teens and adults, how they live and work, how they get to experience life away from the Amish between the ages of 18 and 21 and then have to decide between their church and family and a different life (if they choose the different life they are cut off from the family and community entirely, which may well account for why most of them return to their families). There are a lot of expectations around behaviour, and traditional gender assigned roles exist within the family and community, not sure many of our girls would cope with that, I know I wouldn’t.

Saturday 24th April

And the heavens opened, but not enough to prevent us from getting to central park bright and early for our bike tour. After we found the bike shop which wasn’t quite where we expected it to be, but did have a fabulous view of one of the most ornate and rich apartment blocks in NYC, Antoan (a native Bulgarian) very efficiently passed bikes out of the shop, which gave Grant a chance to catch up with the 4 students who were having a bit of a slow start, one had even laid down on his bed fully dressed and nodded back off to sleep. Must be pushing them a bit hard!!

Sergio was our guide for the next few hours, he told many a story of the comings and goings of Central Park and how it was such a dangerous place during the 70’s, with a regular murder being common place. NYPD is extremely prevalent and we even saw a lady about to be booked for smoking in Central Park where it is not allowed, NYPD are literally everywhere, sirens blare day and night and I’m sure they are at least 3x as load as the ones at home. The rain cleared up and the students had a great time racing around on the bikes with much merriment, it was a great way to start our last day in the city. 

Following this we stopped to watch a group of street acrobatic/breakdance type artists, Jack got pulled up to help and for a while we were wondering how they were going to flip across 7 grown mens heads and one boy. But after much banter they cut it back to 3 guys, so Jack escaped.

Then came another bridge walk, the Brooklyn bridge is quite different to the Golden Gate, entirely different structure and a lot more people out for a Saturday stroll or bike ride. The views of the city were great in all directions. Some carried on to the flea market after this and the rest of the group returned to the Hostel for some rest and packing.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Friday split morning activities

Garment District Tour

We met our tour guide Rebecca in the heart of the Garment District for our 2 hour long tour of the area, her insights into the area were rich in historical facts, some of which contrasted starkly with the information we were given the other day by our tour guide at Macy's. The area covers a number of blocks and has certain parts allocated to fabric shops of all sizes, another for trimmings, another for the central offices of retailers as well as designers. Rebecca is a costume designer for both theatre, opera and TV, and spends some of her time designing and some of her time acting as a runner for other designers, where she has to collect various materials from all over the district in a hurry usually. One dress she worked out came in at a mere $15,000 and was to be used in an opera.

After this we met the rest of the group at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). FIT caters not just to potential designers but also to the communications industry and graphic design, media etc, so a broad base. We were given an overview of how this works and then a tour of the campus by existing students.

After this we let them all free for a couple of hours shopping around Times Square. It has to be said it actually feels pretty safe around here - there are so many people around and such a vigilant police presence and they are very active in keeping tourists safe. The 4 of us adults went to the M&M store to research some new house T shirts, John is doing a lovely job of modelling Grants one there.

Dinner followed at Bills Burgers by the Rockefeller Centre - amazingly we just walked in and they managed to seat us all, no mean feat with a party our size. Flynn enjoyed his time on the girls table.