The final blog in our Apprentices in Antwerp series, charting the experiences of our TRO Apprentices helping run our recent specially commissioned Read to Lead courses in the city, comes from our most recent Apprentice Zoe Jermy. Read on to see what Zoe thought of Belgium compared to her usual workplace in Wirral…
My trip to Belgium was good. I enjoyed the place as a whole; it was beautiful. The buildings were amazing and looked all medieval. On the way there the plane landing was a bit harsh; everyone was muttering to themselves about it but I got there safely in one piece. Helen and I went to find our bags – I found mine really quickly while Helen was looking really hard for hers (in the wrong place). We then waited for Casi in Amsterdam airport while having a nice cold coffee. Casi turned up and then we had to wait around for our train to Antwerp. The train arrived and some guy who worked with the train was pushing people on and shouting at Helen and Casi “Let this lady on!!” meaning me, it was funny. The train journey went well and we got to Antwerp and went to our first hotel – the room was lovely and modern. We then went to have something to eat in a little cafe down the road. The place was nice and it even had a little disco ball in.
On Monday morning we met in the hotel lounge to talk over the plan for the first day. The weather wasn’t sunny but it was humid. We went looking for somewhere to have breakfast and found a little café over the road. I had a croissant and a yummy hot chocolate. It was real chocolate, not that rubbish powder stuff – it was the nicest hot chocolate I have ever tasted. We then had to carry a really heavy box each to the next hotel; I was not amused, my arms were twitching once I put the box down – it was a nightmare! My arms hurt for two days! We dropped the boxes off at the big hall and unpacked everything. We were running a Masterclass on shared reading with speakers of a foreign language. It was all a lot to take in and I had to give a case study about a woman who speaks a different language at home but speaks English in the group. I was nervous about the whole day.
On Tuesday morning we ran a showcase about who we are and the work we do. The showcase was good as I learnt some more about TRO and some stories of group members that were sad but also fantastic. In the evening Casi and Helen delivered a showcase demonstrating how shared reading can be used in educational settings while I took some time out. Helen and Casi knocked to ask how I was doing and brought me pizza to my door – yum yum!
Wednesday morning we checked into our other hotel and it had two beautiful gardens. I got given an apartment (that I wouldn’t shut up about for days!) – I was well chuffed. It had its own little kitchen, table and chairs, two little couch chairs with a little table in-between them, a flat screen TV and also an iron. I well would have moved in if it was on the Wirral. The sun started to brighten up over the next few days when we started to do the Read to Lead training. I had to be a facilitator in Casi’s group. I was nervous but the people in the group were all so lovely and friendly. After work Helen and I went to an Italian place that was really nice; I had pizza but it was huge so I couldn’t eat it all.
On Thursday we met in the garden and talked over the plan of the day. I caught some sun too (shocked). We saw a little bit of the square and then went back to our hotel. That evening we went for a meal with a lady called Geert, who had organised for us to come to Antwerp and deliver training after meeting Jane last year. We went for pasta in the middle of the square – I didn’t know any of the meals but picked a cheese and spinach one and it was nice. We went for a walk on the last night and walked past this building full of flags. It was awesome. We also saw some statues – one of a man pulling his pants down (!) , one of a man with his head and hand chopped off and another guy throwing his hand. I think that is what Antwerp means – to throw the hand – I don’t remember but it was something like that.
We then walked towards the river and saw the huge new Museum so we went up to the very top of it and the view was incredible. I saw some ugly flying bug and freaked out: I was saying “eeeewwwww what is it?” We then looked around for somewhere to eat; we found some open space that was a warehouse and we saw written on a board that it burnt down had been done up to how it used to look. We then found some nice little place to eat and I ordered a grilled salmon salad, which it was lovely. Afterwards, we started to walk back to the hotel but got lost and then realised we walked around in a big loop. It was nice to see the place before it was time to go home though.
The next day was nice. In the morning I was brave and went for a little walk and saw the beautiful garden down the road. I then met Casi and Helen and got to work. I was helping with the practise shared reading exercise – it was fun! I loved all the different poems we read together and I also told everyone a little bit of my story and what I want to do in the future. Then all three of us got given a big sheet of paper with loads of thank you’s from everyone.
At the end of the day some visitors came from a local publishing company to celebrate their 5th birthday. We had our picture taken holding the free books they had given out and we all got a free glass of champagne! We said our goodbyes – I now know its 3 kisses that you give to say goodbye. Then Helen and I left to go to the train station and had to dodge and weave people – it was so busy and the sun was blasting down. The journey on the way back was fine, though we weren’t sure where to go for the plane. Once we were on board we had some Prosecco to celebrate a week of hard work – it was yummy!