My soon to be sister-in-law (but she’s felt like a real sister for years now) recently took a trip of a lifetime. When I asked her to write about it for Wonderlost, she happily accepted! Read below to learn about Lisa and her adventures as a teacher – specifically about her most recent trip around Europe.
Eva: Tell us about yourself!
Lisa: I’m Lisa Desberg, and I’ve been teaching English at Wilmington High School in Wilmington, Massachusetts for 14 years. I think teaching English is a lot like teaching life, but now that I’ve had the opportunity to travel with students, I know that traveling with students is really an experiential life adventure. So much to learn inside a classroom, but there is so much more beyond the confines of those 4 walls. I love both aforementioned aspects of teaching, and I’m grateful to have access to teach and learn alongside students in both settings.
E: Where has teaching brought you?
L: While an undergrad student at Boston University, I planned to student teach in Australia my senior year; unfortunately, I wasn’t afforded that opportunity due to too many applicants and not enough spots. After getting over the rejection, I vowed to teach abroad right after graduation and combine my love of teaching and travel. I did! I taught English in China, and it forever changed my passion and perspective of teaching. Upon my retirement (many, many years from now), I plan to once again go and teach overseas.
Teaching brought me to the far east when I was just beginning. Since then, teaching has brought me to various places in the New England area to visit author birthplaces, museums, and the ilk. Just a few years ago, teaching brought me to Costa Rica. Along with a spanish teacher and an art teacher, I chaperoned a 10 day eco/educational tour to Costa Rica where we patrolled the coastline at night in search of nesting or hatching sea turtles, explored the rainforest, experienced the thrill of rafting the rapids of the Sarapiqui River, learned about rural Costa Rican life first hand as we spent a day and night with a family, explored an organic farm, visited Arenal Volcano National Park, flew through the air on a zip line canopy tour, and hiked the trails of Rincon National Park. When I left Costa Rica, I cried. I loved the land, the people, the feeling of being there so much that it was hard to leave a place where I felt a deep connection.
I have also accompanied a colleague who is a french teacher two Canada on two occasions — once to Montreal and once to Quebec City — for a lot of sightseeing and hands on activities like learning how to make a french omelette or participating in a traditional evening of dancing and dining at a sugar shack. We are currently in the process of planning a trip back to Montreal.
E: Where was your most recent trip?
L: Last month, 5 colleagues and I took 38 students on a WWII themed trip to Poland, Germany and France. We visited Krakow, Auschwitz, Berlin, Aachen, Normandy and Paris. Boston based travel company Explorica allowed us to customize the trip across Europe. Here is the itinerary.
E: Which city was your favorite?
L: Ahhhh . . . All of them! I can tell you I didn’t expect to immediately fall in love with the flair and funkiness of Berlin; I was expecting to enjoy learning about the history at each and every city corner but didn’t consider the energy and the vibe that Berlin readily emits. The culture, the arts, the academia, the politics, the media, the science, the recreation . . . it’s all there and it’s unique and it’s mostly manifested by the the vibrant population you’ll enjoy interacting with while there.
E: What was your favorite memory?
L: Our group — specifically our students with those in the military — had the honor of laying a wreath at American Cemetery in Normandy. The national anthem sang from the speakers and every American visitor placed their hand over their heart. It was an emotionally overwhelming and positive experience.
E: Which part had the most impact on you and the students?
L: I, along with 15-20 students, toured Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau with earphones on and a guide who led us through what we were seeing; he talked to us sans bias and said only the facts. We were in awe of the horror of what happened on that unholy ground. It’s not easy to describe the horror, but it’s quite easy to see the horror of the site has remained in tact since 1947. During and after this experience, I wondered . . . why did this happen? How could people (not other-worldly monsters) do this to other people? How could others know and not do enough to stop it? Why is this still happening in other parts of the world? Read more about the concentration camp here.
E: Where did you eat your most favorite/unique food/meal?
L: Mauerpark (which translates to “Wall Park” referring to it’s status as a former part of the Berlin Wall.) The food options abound in this flea market which is open only on Sundays and is popular for locals and tourists alike. You can have a few beers, a few glasses of wine or hit a multitude of ethnic food stands and munch on a bratwurst, a falafel, a Belgian waffle with any and every topping imaginable, a bahn mi sandwich, a Ugandan delicacy, handmade noodles and the list continues. And while stuffing your face with unique fair food, you can roam the stalls for vintage fashion, vinyl music records, handmade art, antiques, knick knacks or you sit on the dyke and people watch or listen to the impromptu karaoke show where hundreds of people jam alongside each other. The combo of food and flair made this a fun meal to have in Berlin!
E: Where is the one place you’d go back?
L: I would go back to all of them, and I think one day I will. It is my hope that I can visit Normandy for a week or ten days to go once more to the D-D Beaches and the cemetery and also to the historic castles and quaint villages. I’m big into taking my time when planning trips, so although I know I want to return, as of now, I’m not certain what I want to specifically see. I do know that the vibe I felt there is something I want to feel again . . . while sipping on champagne and nibbling on a baguette and soft cheese.
Thank you Lisa for broadening our horizons and adding great content to our travel blog! To stay in touch with Lisa, follow her on Twitter at @LisaDesberg.
Have any of you been to the places mentioned? What did you think?