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Visiting our Lao friends in England – 28-29 July 2017

The three of us are on our way to England to see the four of you!
Friday, 28th of July
Our intention to go to London had only one object: To see if our Lao student-teachers feel well in Broadstairs and to see how they live. Therefore three of us – David, Silja and Anika from Team III – jumped on a plane on the 26th of July to London. 
After two days of sightseeing in London we left the hostel at Camden Market and took the train to Broadstairs. David had organized the tickets and Silja found the way to the right platform. A two-hour train ride in a very crowded train was ahead of us. Crowds on trains to and from London are normal: The so-called “DFL”s (“down-from-London”) commute to London every day, up to two hours each way, because salaries in London may be large, but rents are even larger. Logically, the prices for property in coastal towns have now also rocketed in the last few years.
When we arrived in Broadstairs it was quite cloudy and the train station was surprisingly small. With all our luggage, we walked to Hilderstone College, which was not far: There we were supposed to meet the Lao teachers. You cannot imagine our heartbeats when we walked into the lobby of Hilderstone College – we were so excited to see our Lao friends again after 5 months! It was a breathtaking moment when we saw their faces lighten up when they saw us. At the same time, it felt very unfamiliar to see them in „normal“ clothes and not in their uniforms or Lao sinhs. 
We were introduced to Lynne, Head of Marketing, who had helped them settle when they first arrived, and then walked to Souvanh´s English home. His host family warmly welcomed all of us and from the very first moment we knew that he was in good hands. Well, it was 4 p.m. when we arrived there, and in England this means „tea time“. So we had a typical English cup of tea (black tea with milk), with scones and biscuits on the side. Then Ally, Souvanh´s host mother, took us to her friend Jeanne’s house, where we got a room for the night. 
We spent the rest of the day walking through the town and along the coast in Broadstairs.
We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. In the evening we played pool in The Dolphin Inn, a popular pub, and enjoyed our time together with a few beers.
We were happy to hear that all of the Lao teachers were enjoying their time in England and that they had made new international friends, whom we also got to know in the pub.
Saturday, 29th of July
On the next day, Hilderstone College offered a tour to Cambridge. Very spontaneously, we decided to join our Lao friends. Unfortunately, the college coach was fully booked, so we took an early train from Broadstairs back to London and moved on from there to Cambridge. 
We had received a map from the college and were supposed to meet the college crowd at a certain bridge. The Lao teachers waited at the other side of that bridge while the rest of the crowd went on a guided city tour, so we did on our own tour. We walked into the city, were able to deposit our luggage in a camera shop and strolled along a food and street market, where our friends enjoyed buying souvenirs. Along the shopping street there were many street artists like magicians, singers, or dancers, and our Lao ladies were also very taken by the glamorous jewellery shop windows. 
On our way back to the coach, we took many pictures in front of the very old buildings and colleges, but this day was not about getting to know the history of the city or visiting touristic sites – rather a day to enjoy that we were back together and that we were all the same on this special weekend: international friends and tourists 😉 ! At the end of the day we waved them goodbye and took the train back to London. 
We can proudly say that the Lao teachers did a fantastic job of studying and living in a foreign country. We are very happy that we were able to partake in their experience and got to know some of the people they are surrounded with during this very memorable stay.  It was an amazing trip for us, too, and we enjoyed every minute with our Lao friends. Now we look forward to receiving them once more in Karlsruhe on their way back home.
Text by A. Broghammer
Photos by A. Broghammer,  D. Schrep, S. Schäfer and anon. passers-by
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