Monday, March 25, 2013

Eating Waffles and Talking Politics

March has been a busy month of moving around and hanging out with other Fulbrighters. It started off in Belgium and Luxembourg with 40 other Fulbrighters who represented the European nations they were studying in. This trip was AMAZING and I am so grateful to have been selected to represent the Finland crew at the seminar.

We started by being whisked off on a bus to Luxembourg. I would love to insert a picture here of what the small, yet financially powerful country looks like. However, I did not manage to take ONE single picture of what it looks like outside! Granted, I was there less than 24 hours, but it was a jam packed 24 hours including a visit to the Ambassador’s house (where I didn’t get to take my camera) and hearing a case at the European Court of Justice. I did manage to snap a few pictures in the courtroom where we heard a case being tried about copyright laws between a coffee shop in Amsterdam, Red Dog, and the American based company Red Bull (also sold in Amsterdam). 

It was fascinating to think about the justice system from the EU perspective and even had an opportunity to debrief with one of the justices afterward. Imagine getting to sit down at a roundtable with a Supreme Court Justice and talking about the way decisions are made on the court- amazing opportunity! It was a treat to understand this system from an inside European perspective.

After Luxembourg we headed to Brussels to spend more time thinking about the EU and NATO and the role that each of these global organizations play in the decisions being made. It was an impressive itinerary full of meetings with the decision makers and the people close to them. What impacted me the most was the time that we spent with Ambassador Ivo Daalder.  He spoke very candidly about his job and his role in building consensus among the NATO decision makers. It was a unique chance to understand the reasoning and methodology behind the decisions being made in this collective defense organization.  These sessions definitely got my brain spinning with new ways and ideas to teach this stuff!  Foreign policy is a unit in class that I never give enough teaching time to because it seems overwhelming to figure out how to break it down. Now that I have such a better understanding of how things work, (although I do feel like I should spend a lot more time reading up on the news!) I think I will be able to tackle this topic with a lot more gusto next time I teach it. 

The most amazing part of this seminar had nothing to do with the time we spent in sessions or even the speakers that we heard, it was being able to hang out and get to know some amazing Fulbrighters who are thinking and studying some amazing topics! This week was enriched by the conversations on the bus, out munching on waffles (YUMMY!!), drinking the Belgian beer, and simply hanging out walking around the beautiful city! There are truly some amazing people who pushed the conversation and added perspectives from each of the countries they are studying that made this week unique. Being around likeminded people is always an encouragement and I think a lot of these friendships are going to go beyond conference buddies! 

Here are a few shots from around town. We had beautiful weather and I could not have enjoyed the sunshine more!

Walking around Brugge 

Chocolate!!  I officially fell in love with Belgium chocolate!!
My friend Marisa joined me for a few days after the conference and we took a side trip to Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank House.  Truly an amazing city and an incredible opportunity to stand in the place that she lived for years and to hear her words come alive from her diary.  It is always in these moments that I am proud to be a history teacher and to have the opportunity to bring these moments alive for students.  

Anne Frank House

I love sunny days in parks!

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