Monday, July 4, 2011

2011 Tour - Day 9: From Bristol to The Dragon School

Blogger's Note:  As often happens on Tour the days get shorter and the ability to post each days activities becomes slightly more difficult as the time passes.  The Blog for day 9, 10 and 11 will be posted today with links to the photos.  Thank you to our media team (Wendy, Sue, Suzie and the numerous others who supplied photos), for making the Tour Blog a success this year.  Please read and enjoy the rest of the entries.  ~ Doug


During the early morning drive back to Totterdown Church in Bristol, two youth greeters on each bus made the daily rounds, giving each person a warm hug. On the Gold Cricket bus, greeters were Noah and Hannah Zecher-Freeman. This was a very special day for Hannah. Everyone on the bus sang an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” in celebration of her 17th birthday!

We arrived in plenty of time to prepare for the 10:00 worship service at Totterdown Church. On this sunny morning, light was streaming in through the beautiful Gothic windows of the church, highlighting the dark green cushions and the wood pews. Our visit to this church was a time of true community in Christ, as a guest lay leader gave the sermon and our visiting youth sang their praises to God our Father. The lay leader also told a children’s story about an elephant to demonstrate that God’s love is immeasurable. We have felt this on tour as people have opened their hearts and homes to us every step of the way. Our choir and orchestra participated in the service on several musical numbers. Our newest piece, Bright Morning Stars, was performed beautifully with Joshua Boulden singing the tenor solo. This song links the imagery of dawn and moving stars to the internal movement of spiritual renewal. When you hear the song, you feel this welling up inside you.

Following the service, we enjoyed a delicious Indian meal prepared at the church by the Eurasian women of the congregation. They lovingly served us a full hot meal of tandori chicken, pulaw rice, spicy vegetables, roast potatoes, salad, yogurt sauce, lemon tart with cream, and éclairs. To sisters Aroona Smith and Anita Lewis, and the other women and young girls who volunteered Рwe loved the meal РThank You!!

We drove a couple of hours east to Oxford and The Dragon School, an elite boarding and day school for girls and boys ages 4-13. Our two-day stay in Oxford included meals at The Dragon School with nights spent in host homes.

We received a warm welcome from John Madden, Music Director at The Dragon School. He provided maps (very helpful) and an introduction to the school. We saw a short film that gave us insight into daily life at this school of 850 pupils. The school was founded in 1877, and paintings of their past Headmasters looked down on us as we learned about their program.

School terminology can be confusing, and here is a brief English translation from US to UK:
US private school = UK public school (e.g., The Dragon School)
US public school = UK state school
US elementary school = UK primary (or pre-preparatory) school (ages 4-8)
US middle school = UK preparatory school (ages 8-13)

The Dragon School is socially-minded and aims to develop the whole person. Arts and athletics are at the core of the curriculum along with academics. Students who board at the school have “house parents” who ensure that school is an extended family and truly a second home. The Dragon School has an amazing arts program for string instruments, harp, brass, and pipe organ. Their 50-member children’s choir was a finalist in the 2011 BBC Songs of Praise competition. In the video shown, the choir sang “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” with inspiring tone. Sports include cricket (boys), rounders (girls), and tennis (both boys and girls). The school also offers fencing, rowing, cooking, and climbing. Among alumni names, we recognized actors Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson.

By afternoon the weather had turned incredibly warm and sunny, with temperatures in the 80’s, or 27 degrees centigrade. (One host home gave us a tip on a rough conversion from centigrade to Fahrenheit: [(Centigrade degrees X 2) + 30] = approximate Fahrenheit temperature.)

With a couple hours of free time, some took the 20-minute walk into the town of Oxford to explore churches or visit Blackwells, one of the largest bookstores in the world. Most headed in another direction, to the scenic River Cherwell. The Dragon School is adjacent to “pleasure grounds,” a wooded park-like setting with beautiful poplars growing near a pond that led to the river walk. We spread out to enjoy playing games, splashing in the water, running, or just chilling on the river bank. We saw families of ducks paddle by and many pleasure boats punting down the stream. The greenery and water were the ultimate refreshment on this warm afternoon.

Dinner was served in The Dragon School cafeteria. We learned that “eating irons” are silverware. The main dishes were jumbo fish fingers and a tomato/eggplant dish. A wide assortment of cooked vegetables, salad greens, fresh fruit, cheeses, yogurt, and desserts were offered. We decided the students at The Dragon School must be quite happy indeed.

In the evening we attended a Piano Extravaganza recital at The Dragon School with over 80 short pieces performed. Music is clearly a focus at the school, which we can surely appreciate! We also saw colorful artwork on display that students of all ages had created. After the recital, we were assigned to host homes. Our host families are a mix – some with an association through The Dragon School, others through St. Andrew’s Church only a few blocks away (where we will perform tomorrow night). Another fulfilling day had passed, and we looked forward to staying two nights in a row with our new families.

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