"Ladies and Gentlemen - Please fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing at the Heathrow Airport shortly." This announcement sent shvers of excitement running down 23 spines. The landing was smooth. The weather was chilly. The time was 20:00 Hrs GMT.
WE WERE IN ENGLAND!
PEACE - which stands for PROGRAMME FOR EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL EXCHANGE, was started between Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School (TWGGS), Kent and our own Bhavan's Vidya Mandir, Girinagar when a small team consisting of Principal Mrs. Angela Daly and Mrs. Dorothy Swann (Geography teacher) visited our school in 1994. Since then, the friendship between TWGGS and BVMG has grown stronger with every passing year.
The PEACE 99 TEAM-the sixth generation of this proud heritage, visited England from the 7th to the 25th of July. The team consisted of three teachers - Saroja Miss, Usha Miss and Nirmala Miss - and 20 students ( 8 boys and 12 girls). I was one of the lucky 20.
Landing at the Heathrow Airport on the night of the 7th of July opened up to us a whole new world. Everything seemed so different and novel- the roads (WOW!), the weather (Brrr...), the people and even the sun, which was shining brightly even at 8 in the night (Now we know why they call it "The empire where the sun never sets"!)
We were welcomed at a simple yet elegent ceremony at TWGGS. The team leaders - Saroja Miss and Sandeep Mohandas (Std. XII) spoke at the function.
We attended classes at TWGGS. One noticeable fact about their educational system is the total absence of 'competition' and the presence of calculators. The facilities provided by the school are enormous. There are labs and working rooms for almost every subject. There is a wide range of subjects like Sociology, Drama, Literature, Music, Arts, History, Geography, Science, etc. for the students to choose from. Computers and TV sets are present in almost every classroom, thus showing the importance given to visual learning. There is little pressure on the students to study. A lot of emphasis is placed on 'self study' and so the library is a much frequented place.
A lot of importance is given to sports. The students play tennis, cricket, rounders, basketball, rugby, etc. The school grounds are lovely, green and windy.
The school and our hosts had arranged to take us to many places. These included Hever Castle, the Pantiles, Madame Tussaud's, Windsor Castle, Penhurst Place, South Downs, HOuses of Parliament, Greenwich, etc. We enjoyed every moment of these visits - whether it be feeding pigeons at Trafalgar Square or watching "Beauty and the Beast" at the theatre; visiting Dungeness Power Station or saying "HELLO!" to the Big Ben. Shopping went on in full swing despite the fact that 1£=Rs. 69.25. Travelling in The Tube (Underground Railway) of London was lovely. The only problem was that we had to put on seatbelts every time we travelled by road. Safe as they are - they are uncomfortable too!
THE FASHION SHOW AND OTHER EVENTS
TWWGS conducts a fashion show every year and both the students and teachers take part in it. Since this year, the show coincided with our visit, we were lucky enough not just to witness it, but also to take part in it. This was a golden oppurtunity for the display of the various attires of India.
The school also arranged a special assembly in which we performed both music and dance items. We also participated in a special reception arranged by the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells.
Three weeks passed supersonically fast. We made a lot of friends. All our hosts were extremely loving and caring. Some of them even prepared Chappatis and other Indian dishes to ensure that we would feel, in every way, at Home! In short, we had a lovely time. That homesickness was nowhere near was evident from all the red and moist eyes seen at the farewell function. We reached home on the 25th of July, with memories to last a lifetime!
VOTE OF THANKS
On behalf of allof us, I sincerely thank our Principal, teachers, everyone at TWGGS and the Link group for having made this trip both possible and enjoyable. A ton of thanks to Mrs. Tara George and Kerala Travels for everything they did. Last, but certainly no the least, we thank the almightly for having co-ordinated everything to run smoothly with no mishaps.
May this bond of friendship between the QUEEN
OF THE ARABIAN SEA and THE GARDEN OF ENGLAND