June 30, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


My daughter arrived back from Europe last Tuesday night with only minutes to spare before it would have been Wednesday. It was great to see her get off the bus with a big smile and a tinkle in her eye. I donít think I would be that way after being up for over 24 hours. Being where we are makes any trip a very long journey. She was so full of energy that we stayed up until 2AM to here about her 21-day trip of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

It had taken Alexa a long time to save for this trip. Money from as far back as third grade went into her savings account. Some money came as gifts, some from her playing violin for various events, some from her allowance and some from good old Mom and Dad. After years of slow accumulation it all went down to a paltry $36 after paying for the tour fee and buying about $1500 in travelerís checks.

I still remember the day she left with her class. Of course, for any group trip from Ely, in requires you getting up at 4AM. That is just one of the small prices we pay for living in Paradise and being so far from modern things like International Flights.

I am lucky enough to have been to Europe twice. The first time as a student traveling by myself and the second time as a newlywed on a three-country honeymoon. Europe is one of those places where there is magic. Unlike Disneyland it is not manufactured. It is the product of thousands of years of history that relate so closely to our civilization. So much of what we are and how we think has come from the soil of Europe. Much at great cost. The wars, persecutions, passing empires and barbarism took its toll on Europe. I really looked forward to my daughter being able to go to Europe and see the roots of our culture.

Another thing about Europe is that it is just different enough from our country to offer a new perspective on how life can be. I had hoped that Alexa would really pick up a lot of German, but in every retail environ she went to English was the language of the day. It is difficult to learn a language when most of the signage is in English. However, the cultural differences were pronounced enough to allow her to appreciate both sides of the Atlantic.

Alexa has studied violin since she was four years old. In Austria she got to see Mozartís home and hear one of his symphonies. It was great to hear her talk about how exciting it was to see and hear classical music in so rich and formal a setting. From her talking about that experience I know the trip was worth it.

New ideas, new foods, new sights Ė that is what Europe is about. I am proud that my daughter used this opportunity for widening her horizon. Many of her classmates that went along did the same. Some used this rare opportunity to exhibit an incredible amount of immaturity and destructive behavior. The stories of that crowd are quickly making the rounds and that is too bad. Every group has its screw-ups and distracters, but this group had some real losers. I feel sorry for Mr. Braff having to tolerate them during the 21 days of travel.

My daughter is old enough to need to see that side of human nature as well. The world is made up of the good, the bad and the ugly. As my daughter approaches her Senior year, she needs to have the knowledge of more than what they teach in the classrooms of Ely. I am glad she has come back a better person, for that is a priceless gift that no parent can buy cheaply.


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