This time we're looking at the 2008-09 school year.
Our group out here in Colorado is continuing to grow a little bit at a time. We had more students here in our part of the Western Kansas group and I supervised 3 girls this year. Jenny was here in Colorado Springs, (from Sweden), Marie stayed in Denver & was from Austria and Dani was from Venezuela and stayed in Conifer. All the girls, as well as the rest of the kids here had a good year.
We started off our school year with our annual Kansas/Colorado rafting trip. We average about 50 people per year on this trip and have a great time is had by all. This is a great time for our students to get to know each other, (if they haven't already met); often, these kids were at language camp, so it's a great time to hang out and compare great host families. This trip is a full day on the water in the Brown's Canyon area near Buena Vista, Colorado...that's pronounced Bue Na Vista, LOOONG U there. The story is that the person who named it didn't like the Spanish...or something like that.
For my part, I decided not to host this year. The biggest reason I didn't host was because I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Europe in September. This is one of the Greatest things about being a host family or in my case, a host Dad. Since I hosted David & Mattia last school year, I had an opportunity to spend 1 1/2 weeks in Spain to start off. David and family live a bit outside of Madrid. Luckily, the flight to Madrid was uneventful, if a bit on the long side. It was great to see David again, as well as Juan and Chus. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet Natalia, David's sister, but that was because she was in North Dakota for a semester. I had great tour guides and I spent several days doing a bit of shopping and taking in El Prado Museo. It was pretty amazing. I think it's been a long time since I've been in a museum and was very impressed. Of course, I got the biggest chuckle out of Juan, when he explained why the portraits of the "royal men" looked a touch less "manly" it was because of (a tiny little bit of) inbreeding...reminds me of an old Robin Williams bit about Prince Charles' ears...anyway. As fun as the museum was, the highlight of the Spain leg of the trip was the 2 days we spent in Rioja. That ROCKED!!! We did wine tastings, had amazing food, visited some of the coolest old castles and bodegas and wineries in the area.
I also spent 1 1/2 weeks in Italy with Mattia & his famiglia; his parents Anna & Paolo and his brother Jacopo. Of course, it was great to see Mattia again & meet everyone else. Mattia's family lives outside of Rome in a cool quiet little neighborhood. I got a chance to see SO much history. It was pretty amazing to stand in one place and see actual layers of history. I went to the Colosseum, the Pantheon & the Vatican Museo. I have to admit, I was slightly apprehensive about hanging out near the Vatican, but the Museo was unbelievable. The sheer amount of historic pieces was mind boggling. The final "exhibit" was the Sistine Chapel. I was actually speechless. I thought, "Oh My God" and then thought that was a little odd...The pictures and stories and what you may have heard just don't prepare you for the real thing. It was so much more than I expected. I should step back for a second and admit that I'm a dork, (I know...anyone who knows me already knew that), after spending over a week with David's family & listening to lots and lots of Spanish, apparently, some of it sunk in. Mattia asked me a question and I thought I'd be "cool" and answer him in Italian. Nice thought, however, I answered in Spanish. He was so disappointed... I guess, if there's a good thing here, it was that after spending a week and a half listening to and learning Italian, I did the exact same thing, (in opposite), when I answered David in Italian. Double Duh.
While I was in Spain, I received an interesting email from my counterpart/sister Lori. I think her words were "EF is going to ask you something when you get back...Please say yes." Well, they did & so did I. I accepted the position as RC in Colorado. Also, as things tend to happen, there was a meltdown for a host family & student I was supervising. I HATE when that happens. Don't worry, things worked out. It was a learned experience for all and I have definitely gotten some insights from the ordeal.
After accepting the RC (that's Regional Coordinator) position things got very busy, very quickly. Luckily, we were able to "hang on to" Tim, Nikki, Mike and Deb and they have been tremendous assets. One of the things we did was to rename our team. I'm not a big fan of naming the group out here, Team Finkbeiner or Team Joey for that matter, so we went with United Colorado.
This year was the beginning of our United Colorado team meetings. This year, we had a Spring meeting in Breckenridge. It was rather small, but very informative for all and the first shot at creating a good team that works together!
We wrapped up another year and were working on placing students for the next school year. When the system works, we are working nearly year round to find great host families for our nearly 3000 students. In fact, during this time, I had already decided on the students I would host. I will gladly recount that on the next blog.