There and Back Again

An account of the Jeppe High School for Boys Academic Tour to Europe

 

 

 

By Jonathan Bosch

 

To be honest, I have no idea how to begin writing this. This report, an essay to describe my experience on the Europe tour, seems almost as daunting as my trigonometry exam. The more I stare at the blank page in front of me, the more it seems to mock my loss of words.

The story begins nearly a year ago, when some of the boys were first called to a meeting in the school hall by Mr Faltemeier. It could only be about one thing: the legendary academic tour to America, where every second year the school invites the top achievers to go abroad. Well, we were half right. It was about the tour, but the tour wasn’t going to be in America anymore. In fact, it was going to be in Italy, Switzerland and France instead.

You can just imagine the excitement that buzzed in the class for that whole week. Every conversation had something to do about Europe in it. It was the beginning of a long wait.

Skipping ahead a bit, I remember getting on our plane. It was a bit crowded, and I recall trying to get to your seat without getting in the way of the people walking down the aisle. The reality of the situation hadn’t quite hit us yet; In less than 24 hours, we would be setting foot on European soil.

But that all changed from the moment our plane landed. It must be something about the air in Europe, because from the get go it was amazing. In our first day alone, we visited the famous Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and had real Italian pizza (It’s as good as they say).

Italy for me was like the artwork it is famous for: beautiful to marvel over. Every fountain has its own history, and the buildings are like sculptures to gaze at. And the food, don’t even get me started on the food. I must have put on at least 8 kg eating “Buffalino” sandwiches and olive bread.

One thing we learnt quickly: In Europe, there’s Wi-Fi everywhere. I mean it, EVERYWHERE. The trams have Wi-Fi, the Hotels have Wi-Fi, the busses have Wi-Fi, the restaurants have Wi-Fi, and even the tourist sites have Wi-Fi. I’ll never forget “Pisa-Tower-Wi-Fi” popping up on my phone.

Soon we moved on, to Switzerland. I was lucky enough to have visited this country before on the Pipe band trip, but it was still something to marvel at. We stopped right next to Lake Geneva, and spent the afternoon watching the magnificent fountain and buying overpriced chocolate.

Since I was a little boy, I’ve always wanted to visit France. Something about the idea of metre long bread rolls, berets and snails just seemed to intrigue me. I must say, I wasn’t at all disappointed when we moved on to France. There are so many experiences that will forever remain in my memory. Like trying snails for the first time, accidentally flinging my snail across the room, visiting the Eiffel Tower, seeing Napoleons tomb… I was, and still am, at a loss for words.

France is also where we visited the British School of Paris, where Jeppe old boy Mr McCanin works. We were lucky enough to see how school takes place in Europe, and were hosted by families of children who attend the school.

The thing that struck me the most was the musical centre. Imagine a classroom, but each desk has its one, full sized electric keyboard. And wait, the next room has computers with headphones and midi-keyboards set up for recording music. Further exploration showed sound-proof studios for peaceful practicing, and I swear there was a piano in every room. I was lucky Shaun was with me to remind me to get to lunch, or else I fear I would still be lost, walking perplexed in that glorious building.

In the 20th century, the world was affected by two of the most destructive conflicts to ever hit the globe. South Africa, like the rest of the world, was also impacted. Many Jeppe Old Boys gave their lives for the war effort in 1914 and 1940, and we were fortunate enough to visit their graves and pay our respects. The most significant site was perhaps the famous Delville Wood, where South African soldiers stood their ground against massive German fire, and despite great losses managed to keep hold onto the territory. I was lucky enough to pay homage by playing the national anthem on my bagpipes, as well as a tune I had written specifically for the occasion.

But, all good things must come to an end. Before we knew it we were sitting on the benches at the Charles le Gaulle Airport near Paris, waiting to go home. On one hand we were happy to be going back to our families, but on the other we wished we could stay for just another week or two.

And so I finish as I began, lost for words and full of reminiscence. Looking back, I will never forget my experience on the European Trip. From those early morning wake up calls, to the late night music sessions on the bus… It was truly amazing.