THIMUN in The Hague

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Netherlands  , Zuid-Holland,
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teachers working in International schools are required to host various after school activities, and one of the joys and/or challenges are the opportunities run activities that include taking students on trips. Some trips are awesome and others let's just say are hard to forget...

For the past three years I have been training students in the diplomatic procedures and processes of the United Nations, via the Model United Nations (MUN) club at my school.  The students that join this activity are usually extroverted individuals with a flair for public speaking, as well as a desire to understand the inner workings of the UN and their resolve to help bring positive changes to the World. Students that excel in the necessary skills are then given the opportunity to participate in various MUN conferences that are hosted from various schools around the globe. 

My school hosts an excellent conference called MUNESCO, so good that last year we were reviewed and given a prestigious affiliation with THIMUN (The Hague International Model United Nations), being the world's first and most recognized MUN conference for high school kids. This year I had the pleasure to take two delegations of students to the Hague for a total of 16 delegate representatives.  Unlike years prior, many of the students that qualified were younger and less experienced.  They proved that age and experience are not always the necessary components for success, as they did very well within each of their committees.

Although the conference days can be long and sometimes arduous, we are given time to head out into The Hague to see the sites.  Aside from these breaks, we arrived one day early so we could bring our students to Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank House Museum and the Van Gogh  Museum, as well as walk some of the canal laden streets.  Many of my kids wanted to slip into the famous Red Light District, where pornography and prostitution are treated from a unique perspective... my answer was a quick NO!  Not that I actually have much of a problem with it, for I find that most of the countries that I have traveled to have some sort of prostitution market, from the brightly colored balconies found in many Middle Eastern countries, to the massage parlors tucked in the back streets of Asian cities, to the  "women of the night" walking the streets in many Western nations. After a few students continued to hound me to at least walk through a few of the streets, I threw out the statement that has become my trademark... Time & Place people, Time & Place!!!  In my opinion this was not the right time nor place for me to be introducing them into this side of Dutch culture.  Being the diplomats that my students are, they of course pushed the issue further, wanting a more definitive answer. I told them that I was not about to take a stroll with my students through the pages of a "come to life" porno magazine... as very little is left for the imagination within the visual shops and auditory streets of Amsterdam's Red Light District... I managed to point out a few distant neon SEX signs, telling them that, okay now you can go back and tell your friends that you saw the Red Light District... spurring a bit of laughter as well as a few frowns...

It always intrigues me, this fascination that we humans have with sex... I wonder what our reactions would be if we were to observe other animal species with parallel obsessions about sex... what would we think if we watched giraffes spending much of their day peeking at each other's privates, or if seals sat on the beach dreaming of what lies under each other's flapping folds, or even what our reactions would be if we observed a mound of gesticulating kangaroos getting off in an orgic tumble... What would we think???  Oh and by the way I figure that "orgic" is not a recognized word, but it does seem to fit... so as an adept destroyer of the English language, as an American of course, I am adding it... and maybe someday it may find it's way into Webster's updated version... go ahead and dream of what the definition might state...     

Instead of educating them on sex ed, we headed to the opposite side of town to tour the Anne Frank Museum... my students were solemn while touring the annex that hid the family... for some time, until an informant pointed the way through the hidden bookshelf door that led the nazis to their "hiding place".  A few of my kids, about the same age as Anne, became overwhelmed with the sadness of the events that led to her capture... resulting in them finding a quiet place within the museum to shed a few tears as they tried to wrap their head around the cruelty of the Nazi's regime...  After spending a bit of time processing this heavy place we headed over to grab a bite to eat... which allowed the kids to take the time to sit around and share their thoughts and ideas with each other.  

After eating we headed to the Van Gogh Museum, with many students seemingly enjoying it as well... as it houses the largest single collection of his works, with over 200 paintings and 500 drawings as well as many of the tormented laden letters he wrote to his brother Theo.  One of the students in the group became somewhat of a curator, leading others around while explaining the history of the man and his art... as she is currently earning her International Baccalaureate in Art.  I find that traveling with my student's lets me to get to know the "real" them... allowing for a better understanding of why they "tick" the way they do... and watching Ece take on this role gave me a peek into her possible future.  

Although Amsterdam was our day away from the THIMUN conference, we still had time to take in other cultural treasures within Den Hague.  My favorite was the Escher Museum, housed in the Queen's old winter palace.  I fell in love with his works many years ago, as they are as orderly as they are warped... often bringing the word oxymoron to life.  The museum owns all of his works, and they are displayed in a way that allows one to freely move from room to room in a chronological order, allowing for observations of how his work morphed and changed as he grew and expanded into it... in case you are interested in seeing this graphic artists work, click into the following link...

One evening Feray and I spent some time grabbing a bite to eat and heading over to the Maurithaus Museum, where we could view Vermeer's famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring. I found this portrait to be much more captivating than The Mona Lisa by da Vinci... or any other portraiture that I viewed thus far in my perusals through various museums around the world... and being that the piece was completed around 1665 makes it all that more impressive.  I have always enjoyed Dutch and Flemish artists and whenever I pass through Holland I have the urge to take in a few of the masterpieces that still remain in the tight patriotic grips of this nation. Years ago I bumped into a quote about art that has stuck with me ever since... It is by Stella Adler... and goes as such...  "Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one."  Powerful works of art do this for us... be they movies, poems, a beautiful face, a good book, a poignant play, a great slap shot in hockey or of course a masterpiece painted by an old world master... as this one did for me...  

Another one of my favorite experiences was heading over to the Van Oorschot house to spend an evening catching up while enjoying a South African meal.  When I first started teaching in Turkey I had the opportunity to teach three Dutch students that had recently moved from South Africa, Joost, Minouk and Tim. This being the case I also had the opportunity to get to know their parents during conferences, afternoon tea, afternoons at the pool, and the many expat football games at the base in Ankara... as we sat around watching our kids play, often on opposing teams.  They are an awesome family... and any time spent with them is guaranteed to entail much laughter, especially via the kids charismatic personalities.       

In closing I would like to state a few more highlights during this journey... my daily jogs from the inner city of Den Hague to the outlying sand dunes ringing the rough and tumble North Sea; the endless conversations with teachers from around the World as we sat around in the director's lounge, waiting for our students to complete their committee's deliberations; the early morning walks from our hotel to the conference center, while watching hundreds of city dwellers carefully pedal their way to work and school; the quaint and tidiness of the streets, homes and parks throughout the city; grabbing cups of coffee or chai with Feray and learning more about Islamic Turkey from her "liberal" viewpoint as a Turkish minority; staying at the quaint "old world style" and always friendly Hotel Petit in Den Hague... highly recommended for anyone spending time in this great little city; watching my students roll into the hotel on time as the big hand on the clock quickly tick tocked into their curfew time; having moments of "real" conversations with many of my students, instead of the mostly "academic" ones I need to have while in school....................... and most of all arriving home at 5:30 a.m. and slipping into bed to catch up on a few of the many hours of lost sleep during the week long school trip to Holland.
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Nikki Shackelton (Roberts) on

Lots to say, love reading about your adventures, the boys are SO big. Email me please (cause i lost yours)

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