Despite being pretty tired and jet lagged our entire group made the most of today and began getting to know one another. We had fun playing icebreakers and name games – there is such a diverse group of students and it was exciting to hear about some of the opportunities they’ve already had and their plans for the future.
We decided to walk to the Cloth Hall for our tour of the In Flanders Fields museum so we had a chance to see some of the outskirts of the town. The students were fascinated by the architecture – so much so that we had to make sure they weren’t so excited that they stopped to take pictures in the crosswalks! We made it to the museum just in time for a rain shower but our first stop was climbing the Cloth Tower so we got a little wet. As we were climbing the steps the bells started chiming to mark 4 o’clock and we were in the belfry as they chimed again for 4:15. We had a conversation about the importance of bells at the time of the war because wristwatches were only just invented so they made up a significant part of European town soundscapes. We also talked about church bells being melted down for ammunition during the war, so the ones the students were seeing were not originals. They were very interested to see the photograph I showed them of the Cloth Hall destroyed during the war for a visual comparison to the beautiful structure it is today. And even though it rained on us the look out at the top of the tower offered stunning views of the city – and our first views of the Menin Gate.
While walking around the museum I had the opportunity to point out some particularly interesting artifacts that I remembered from the last time I was there to the students walking by. They especially liked the shell casing art, Last Post ceremony bugles, and pressed poppies from the first Vimy pilgrimage. One student said she felt a bit overwhelmed by the museum and didn’t really know what to focus on within our one hour time, so she liked sticking with me to hear about my highlights of the museum – in my own experience it’s always nice to go with someone who has been before so I’m glad I could take the opportunity to share what I learned last year!
Before leaving, I made sure to purchase a few poppy themed items at the gift shop, including an umbrella which I think will be useful this week!
We returned to our hotel for dinner (there have been excellent vegetarian options here so far!) and checked in with all the students before wishing them a good and early night – and sound sleeping before another busy day tomorrow. I’m going to take our own advice and sign off for now!