Journal 2012 Adult Exchange
Journey to Schenectady from September 20 to October 1 2012.
Thursday September 20.
We left from Nijkerk railway station with some group members at about 9 o’clock. Also present were Edith Terschegget, chairman of the Nijkerk-Schenectady foundation and Truus Doornhof, one of the members of the board. At Schiphol Airport we met Peter de Vries, our guide, and some other members of our party. Three people had travelled earlier to the USA and we were to meet them at Schenectady on Thursday night. Only then would we be complete as a Group.
Flight KL641 took off at 13.25 and around 15.30 (local time) we landed at JFK Airport. Customs (that took a while), luggage and then to the exit where we found some people from Schenectady, who gave us a hearty welcome. Some of us were pleasantly surprised to see old friends again. In the Brown Coach (our means of transport throughout this week) we could indulge in fruit, some sweets and bottles of water. At the First Reformed Church we were met by our hosts. For some it was meeting again old friends, and for others a warm welcome from hosts who would very soon turn into friends. The atmosphere of hospitality and warmth was overwhelming. A bite to eat and some cider to drink, and although everybody was getting tired, there was a lot to tell each other. We al received a very nice and handy present: a small, black rucksack with the emblem of the Schenectady-Nijkerk Council: Lawrence the Indian. In the rucksack more presents: paper, biro, badges, leaflets etc. and, last but not least, a full program of the coming 10 days.
It was clear from the beginning that lots of work had been done by the organisation. Everything went well, not only that first evening, but that whole week everything was perfectly organised. It was not long before we all went ‘home’ with our hosts and were able to talk briefly about our first impressions and go to bed.
Friday September 21.
Shortly before 10.00 a.m. we were expected at Schenectady Town hall. We were welcomed by a lady, who took us to the meeting room of the Mayor. Refreshments were offered and later it appeared that we were allowed to take home the mugs with the Schenectady emblem. The Mayor, Mr Gary McCarthy, arrived shortly after. After some words of welcome, Peter de Vries thanked him and offered presents from the Nijkerk-Schenectady Council. The whole meeting was very cheerful as, apart from the “Nijkerkers”, also some Americans were present (all in all there were 10 of them). A picture was taken on the stairs and we were shown the more interesting parts of the building.
|With the Mayor of Schenectady|
We then left for the premises and buildings of General Electrics, a multinational which is well-known all over the world. Nowadays, one of their major concerns is renewable energy, especially wind farms. For security reasons we had to show our passports and then we had a guided tour. We were allowed to enter the computer-room where wind turbines were kept under control, and we were even shown where these parks were in The Netherlands. Very interesting, not only for us, but also for our American hosts, who hardly ever are able to enter these premises. Outside we took pictures and saw many solar panels.
Our drivers then took us to Glenville, where, in River’s Edge Lighthouse, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, presented to us by our hosts. More surprises to come: because, during the afternoon, we were the guests of Schenectady Yacht club. We boarded 5 yachts, all different in size, but equally luxurious and 5 very capable captains gave us a hearty welcome. The sun was shining, and so we had the loveliest trip on the Mohawk River. How beautiful the world was and we all felt very privileged. Through a lock and passing young people gliding over the water. The scenery was stunning and although there were quite a few yachts, the Mohawk River does not seem to suffer from industrial transport.
At 5.45 we all arrived at Larry and Jennifer’s place in The Stockade; they were so hospitable as to offer us a view of their house, many cocktails, wine etc. and snacks. It was peaceful to walk through the garden and enjoy the still warm weather. After a while we walked to the First Reformed Church, where a Dinner by the Bite (similar to a Tapas meal) had been prepared for us by some volunteers. A great opportunity to get to know the different hosts and volunteers, who had done such a great job. Finally, for dessert we went to the beautiful home of Glen and Elena Alvarez in Union Street to conclude this Progressive Dinner. Tired after a wonderful day full of impressions, we were really grateful for all the attention that had been paid to us and the hospitality that had been offered. Back to our host-families after a happy and satisfying day.
The programme for the weekend of September 22 and 23 was organised by the separate host families and, as afterwards appeared, the several activities were very diverse. It is impossible to give a full account of all those activities, but, as Nan wrote, she cherishes the memories of that first weekend. The stories told afterwards were not only very diverse, but without any exception, very enthusiastic.
Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 September.
A visit to Niagara Falls. We left at about 7.30 a.m. from our meeting point: the First Reformed Church. Michael Brockbank was our guide, and the Brown Coach our means of transport. Before long coffee and donuts were offered to us, and we all received a black rain hat matching the rucksack we had received earlier, as this hat also showed the emblem of Lawrence the Indian. Fortunately, the weather was good and the route quite interesting. After some short “comfort” stops and a longer lunch stop, we crossed, by 13.30, the Canadian border and got sight of the Niagara Falls. Wearing raincoats we made the “Journey behind the Falls”: a walk in the spray of the Falls with the water thundering in our ears. Very impressive.
The coach took us to our hotel, The Oakes Hotel, overlooking the Falls. We received our keys, went to our rooms and had free time till dinner at about 18.00. Dinner was at Alfredo’s, a cosy place where we got plenty to eat and had time to talk about what we had just seen. After dinner some people went to the Falls to see the beautiful lightshow.
After a good night’s rest we had breakfast at Rosie’s Inn, opposite the hotel. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and we realized that we were beginning to know each other well. At nine we were on the coach again, heading for the American side to explore those parts of the Falls. It took a while before we were allowed to enter US territory again (the Americans are very good at procedures and formalities). At the mooring place of the Maid of the Mist we put on our ponchos, blue ones this time, before boarding the ship. Packed together we sailed under and through the Falls, a unique and impressive experience. But more was to come! Another equally impressive experience;
|Nigara Falls with Rain coats|
The Cave of the Winds. In our yellow, plastic ponchos and on plastic flip-flops we walked along landings and stairs, meanwhile being sprayed with water from the Falls and with the roaring thunder of the water in our ears. Some daredevils went to the highest platforms, where the spray changed into a complete shower! Rather wet, but really happy, we finally said goodbye to the Falls.
As we had a long journey ahead of us and we were supposed to have dinner (BBQ) in Syracuse, we reluctedly boarded the coach. It was difficult to leave this Wonder of the World, but we were all very glad that we had seen this magnificent sight. In Dinosaur’s Restaurant it appeared that spareribs are not so “spare” as far as meat is concerned. We could choose how much we would like to eat, but some people, unintentionally, ended up with a plate full of meat; too much to swallow for even the ones with a big appetite. After these 2 days we were glad to be ‘home’ again with our host families.
Wednesday, 26 September.
This day a visit to OLANA, the house where Fredrick Edwin Church (1826-1900) lived and worked. He was a painter who was very successful in the days of the Hudson River School, and with the money he earned he bought some land on which he had a beautiful house built with a view of the River Hudson. He lived there together with his family. The guided tour, in small groups, was very interesting and we looked at the outside and the inside of the house of which many fascinating stories were told. The painter himself was responsible for the architecture and many Moorish influences and details could be spotted. Also the garden was beautiful and when we saw some deer quite close by we were delighted. A marvellous place to spend some hours.
In Highland we were welcomed by Ron and Donna Lagasse. Donna was born there and to Ron it’s second home. We were offered lunch in Coppola’s Restaurant. A lady from the Historical Society gave a short presentation about the history of the region. As it was Sjaak’s birthday, we sang Happy Birthday for him in Dutch, as we are used to do in The Netherlands. A short ride, and there was the Footbridge across the Hudson. Originally built as a railway bridge, which contributed a lot to the development of the surrounding area, it now is the longest footbridge in the USA. We walked halfway (we had such a tight schedule that time was very limited for this walk) and were thinking of Henry Hudson, who, centuries ago sailed along the very same Hudson.
The next item on our programme was a visit to Wicklow’s Orchard and Fruit stand. An orchard, fields full of pumpkins and a shop with local products. We all went for a traditional hayride and sang alternately Dutch and American songs. As it was a hayride we asked where the hay was and, especially for us, a handful! of hay was put at our feet. It caused a lot of fun and with a ride through the pumpkin fields we felt a bit like little children again.
The day ended at the home of Van Calhoun and Sue Seneca in Chatham. We ended that fantastic day with a meal as some people like such a beautiful day to end. There were already some American drivers and hosts present who had helped preparing a lovely dinner. It was a smashing party and their beautiful, old and spacious house was completely filled with people chatting and eating, and most importantly, enjoying themselves.
Thursday September 27: Albany Day.
This day, after an hour’s drive, started with a visit to the Governor’s Mansion. A fine building, beautifully situated on a hill. Apart from the garden we were shown some rooms on the ground Floor. In 1959 Princess Beatrix stayed here as a guest of the governor, and in 2009 Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima visited the place. As the present governor actually lives on the premises we were not allowed on the first floor. It’s a huge building and has been extended over the years. Nowadays there are 39 rooms. The most famous governors are the ones who later became President of the USA such as both Roosevelt’s (Teddy and Franklin).
On to the state library of New York. Again we needed our passports. After a short delay (elevator 14 kept some 10 people prisoner for about 20 minutes) something very special was shown to us: original documents from the 17th century, handwritten in the Dutch language of that time. But we could read them! The edges were black because of a fire in which many archives were lost, but not the Dutch ones. They were blackened but because the English documents, while burning, fell on top of the Dutch documents and, in this way, the fire was smothered. Lucky us! At the moment many of these old documents are being translated.
|Albany, Fort Orange|
At 12.30 p.m. we arrived at the New Netherland Museum. Lunch was ready in the main hall, but there was a surprise for us in store: Chip Reynolds, captain of The Half Moon, the replica of Henry Hudson’s Halve Maen was present and he told us about the history of New Netherland. Very interesting. There were speeches, a raffle was held and some attention was paid to Marian’s birthday. Many people had gone to great length to make us feel very honoured guests. Something which we cannot stress enough.
Afterwards a visit was paid to the Half Moon, where we found Henry Hudson himself. We could see for ourselves how the people in those days lived on a ship like this. We saw beaver fur, used for trading, and all kinds of weapons. Nowadays the ship is used for educational purposes. Students can sail along as part of the crew. Not a trip for pleasure, but quite an experience. Later on we made a walking tour through town of which the most memorable place was the spot of the former Fort Orange. Our guide told us a lot about “has beens”, places where famous sights used to be.
Back to Schenectady to the First Reformed Church where our hosts were waiting for us. A great day, but I think that everybody was glad to spend an evening at home with our hosts, have dinner at their place and relax. Time for writing postcards and an early night.
Friday September 28: a day in Lake Placid.
We left at 7.30 to Lake Placid. The weather was not too good, actually, it was raining, but the coach was cosy enough with coffee and sweets. After 2 hours we arrived at L.P. a town where twice the Olympic Winter games were held. We had time to walk around and see the stadium and the skating rink. Also shopping was a possibility. Later we enjoyed a very nice lunch in the village church. Afterwards a ride with gondolas to the top of Whiteface Mountain. It had stopped raining earlier and now the sun came out. What a sight: lakes, mountains, clouds and some sunshine. High up the scenery was stunning!
Then to the landing of the Lake Placid boat trips. Although it was rather cold we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful colours of the trees. The season of the flaming leaves and it was one of the best days to be on the lake and watch the colours both on the mountains and reflected in the lake. A guide told us about summer camps along the lake. Well, they were the biggest, most luxurious (and expensive) houses you could imagine. People who can afford a house like this must be well-off and the high taxes won’t be a problem for them.
Late in the afternoon we boarded the coach again and went to Saratoga Springs, where, in Longfellow’s Restaurant, we were treated to a lovely dinner. We couldn’t count the number of lunches and dinners anymore that were offered to us. We felt again very spoiled. Before returning home, the Dutch went to the coach to rehearse a song which we intended to sing at our farewell party on Sunday. The Americans had to stay in the restaurant for a while, but that didn’t seem to bother them. They were quite curious what was going to happen, but they had to wait till Sunday to know more about it. As always, we were in high spirits when we were on the coach going home.
Saturday September 29 and Sunday September 30.
A weekend spent with our host families. I’d like to mention a very special party on Saturday night. Amy and Wayne Brule and their guest (Coby) went to Sally and Bob Clark and Nan, their guest, where we found on the table a complete Thanksgiving Dinner with all the traditional food, such as stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin mash and a dessert made of nuts. The table was laid with beautiful linen and decorated with flowers. It was really giving thanks for the gift of friendship.
Sunday 30 September; Farewell Dinner. The people from Nijkerk had invited all the hosts and volunteers, who had, somehow, contributed to make our stay such a success. The location was Maybee Farm, an old farm wit hits own history. Especially for those who had not been here before a short guided tour was given and afterwards we enjoyed the food which was catered by the Turf Tavern. Tradition has it that the Dutch entertain the people present throughout dinner. Former events were a (Dutch) farmers’ wedding, and “Sinterklaasavond”, similar to Santa Claus, but with presents and little rhyming poems. This time we had chosen a modern, but special, version of the fairytale Cinderella. A short hilaric performance as the actors were not allowed to show any emotion while reading their very short texts. Our orange clothes added to the atmosphere and it looked so weird that the audience were even laughing after the play was finished. Many compliments to us from the Americans, and, especially to Nan, who had come up with the idea and had translated the whole play.
Jan Cozijnsen told us in a funny way what had struck him most during this week. The blue ponchos (in Niagara Falls) with the knots on top of the hoods were but one example. The evening was concluded with barn dancing. Most of us took part and Lon Penna and his wife were the ones who told us what to do and they also sang the traditional dance-songs. Great fun again and so we ended this day as we had ended so many days during our stay, in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Finally we sang again the song which Nan had made to the melody of Funiculi Funicula, the song with which we had started our Farewell Dinner, now a real farewell, but we will meet again, don’t know how, don’t know when….
Schenectady, our Sister City
Hello Schenectady, our sister city,
we came from far, we came from far.
We have to leave you now and that’s a pity
How sad we are, how sad we are!
And now we wish to thank you for the friendship
The hours we shared; we felt you cared.
Your hospitality, we felt it deeply
Our gratitude, it must be aired:
Schenectadians, Scotians, Niskayuna’s,
We’re so happy, listen to our tunes
Schenectedy, Schenecte da, Schenecte day, Schenecte DO!
You’ll stay in our hearts, because we are so in LOVE with you!
(Sung by the 2012 adult visitors)
After that we went home to our hosts’ place.
Monday October 1.
|Skyline New York City|
We said farewell and promised to meet again in Nijkerk in June/ July 2013 during the festivities in our town.
Although sad we were looking forward to our stay in New York City, wondering why only so few people from Nijkerk had seized the opportunity of a visit to Schenectady.
Conclusion: Taking part in an exchange like this or hosting guests from Schenectady ….
More people from Nijkerk should take that opportunity.