|Hoogvliet Metro station in the wintry afternoon sunshine, looking towards De Akkers.|
The excitement of being away from home is always too much for some students. Despite all the warnings from Julian and myself about not staying up all night, some students just could resist the temptation.
It is Friday 10th February, it is still freezing cold and I am waiting with the group on the platform at the Eendrachtsplein Metro station in central Rotterdam. After a night with very little sleep thanks to the noise of twenty hyperactive students, everyone is looking somewhat bedraggled.
After a wait of fifteen minutes, whilst a forgetful trio of students ran back to the Home Hotel having left part of their camera equipment there, a train arrives. The 7.30am train has the ultimate destination of De Akkers, but we’re only travelling on the C Line as far as Hoogvliet, an outlying borough of Rotterdam where our partner school Einstein Lyceum is located.
Everyone in our group welcomes the Metro journey. For a few of us it offers an opportunity to see Rotterdam and the surrounding area from a high vantage point above the many docks and streets that the tracks cross. For the majority of the group it provides the gentle rocking motion required to drift into a peaceful sleep.
Those still awake are treated to a morning drenched in sunshine that seems to contrast greatly the reality of the ongoing bitterly cold weather. To the other commuters on-board the C Line we provide only a fleeting distraction from the normality of their daily routines as the students chatter away in English about parental discipline.
Upon arrival in Hoogvliet, we are met by Ilse and Barry, both of whom are teachers from the Einstein Lyceum, and led along the meandering and icy suburban pathways to the doors of their school – all the way preventing the students from venturing onto the frozen ponds and waterways.
The school itself is a much more modern affair than our own building back in Hammersmith, and inside it seems light and airy when compared to the dark corridors of Edwardian architecture. Our students are momentarily awestruck. The colours of the rooms are bright, the Dutch students curious and reassuringly, as we begin our tour of the school, it is clear to see that the demographics of our group of students aren't too dissimilar to that of the Einstein Lyceum.
For the morning, our students engaged themselves in a couple of specially prepared lessons and then set about filming college life, which for one budding cameraman meant a group of sixth form girls! Before long, and with little or no prompting from Julian, Pia, or myself, the students were getting along great, making arrangements for the following day’s trip to Amsterdam and heading to the shops on their lunch break.
So, once the lessons, the filming, the eating and one final group photograph was taken, we start the walk back to Hoogvliet Metro station, reflecting on a good morning’s work. The students, who are just about hanging on to consciousness by this point, decide to buy a rose for each of us teachers by way of thanks for arranging the trip, and five minutes later, the train rolls into the platform. Within moments all and sundry fall into a Metro-induced doze, declaring that a much earlier night will be had this evening.