Sunday, April 5, 2009

Full Circle

Dear Rotary Friends:

We have now come FULL CIRCLE. The Incoming Team UK has just departed for home.

As Team leader for the GSE Outgoing Team from District 7770, I can attest to the fact that we all enjoyed a month of hospitality from our colleagues of District 1070. On return, I was given the opportunity to coordinate the agenda for the Incoming Team. I have developed an enhanced appreciation for all of the behind-the-scenes work which is required to put a visit together. I want to thank once again DG Iain Vernon, GSE Coordinator Colin Bain and all of the coordinators and host families who made our visit spectacular.

We hosted the team in my area, the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, for their first stop of their stay. The leader and the members were an absolute delight. We designed a very fully agenda for them and they held up well. We have closely monitored their exploits on their excellent blog site - . From the entries, I think it is safe to say that their “Adventure of a Lifetime,” was every bit as fulfilling, satisfying and exhausting as ours.

Many of our host families re-joined the UK Team at our District Conference in Columbia, SC. Both the Outgoing and the Incoming Teams were provided ample time to make PowerPoint Presentations to the assembly. 3 members of my team attended, and everyone took the opportunity to Party Hearty.

I want to share with you some awesome news. The District Conference was one I will never forget. During the Saturday Night Banquet, awards were presented. To my great surprise, I received the Rotary International Service Above Self Award for my mission work in Haiti. This is presented to only 150 Rotarians. I was INCREDULOUS.

In researching this honor, I have learned, “The Rotary International Service Above Self Award is Rotary's highest honor for individual Rotarians, recognizing those who have displayed exemplary humanitarian service with a focus on active involvement in helping others through Rotary.” We have had only 9 members of District 7770 (S.C.) receive the award since it was instituted in 1991.

On this past Friday, my team joined many Rotarians in Charleston for the going away party. Everyone again enjoyed true Rotarian hospitality. It was so sad to see them go.

The following morning two team members, Mary Dolan and Eric DiLorenzon, ran a Half Marathon across the Cooper River Bridge. I have yet to hear their results.

This will be the final entry in our GSE Blog. Thanks again to so many who made our Rotary GSE experience so memorable.

Bill Greene
USA Team Leader

PS Bob Parfit from the UK deserves special recognition. Without a doubt, he is the most prolific emailer I have ever seen. He often sends a half dozen witticisms to us each day. We have thoroughly enjoyed his sense of humor and insights on a variety of subjects. Bob, please, keep it up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dat,dat,dat,dats All Folks !

I have returned safely, though exhausted, from England.

My only two regrets from the trip are:

1. We could not take our alternate members and team leaders with us.

2. Time constraints would not permit my team members to join me for my last 3 days sightseeing in London.

I had a ball, albeit alone. I stayed in the theatre district at the Strand Palace Hotel, on the advice of a Rotarian friend. I learned that a significant amount of money buys a very small room in London.

The first day, I took the open top, double-decker bus around the city. That evening, I got a ticket to see a Broadway play, “The Jersey Boys,” considering myself to be from New Jersey. I then strolled around to see the night sites.

The second day, I was still permitted to ride the bus, so I saw the remaining western portion of the city. I went to the Tower of London, and viewed the vast royal jewel collection with the Beefeaters’ tour. After earlier visits to wonderful cathedrals (Peterborough and Lincoln), I was blown away at St. Paul’s in London.

The third day, I went to the Natural History and Science Museums and Kew Gardens (botanical gardens). I took a train ride to a hotel near Gatwick to stay the night, and left without incident the following morning, for the long journey home.

I want to recognize each of the members of my team: Mary, Colette, Joe and Eric.

I believe the secret to our success was our recruiting. We had 18 candidates for 4 positions, so we were able to choose the best of the best. We really experienced no significant problems. The members were outgoing, intelligent, respectful and appreciative of all that our hosts provided. They bonded well and were supportive of one another.

Their “stage presentations” were resourceful, humorous and articulate. They were excellent representatives of the USA and of the Rotary clubs which sponsored them. I want to thank them for all of their individual efforts to make us a success. I believe our most important performance was at the District Conference. The praise we received made me very proud.

On the day before our departure, District Governor Iain Vernon presented me with a gift of a beautiful flower vase, with an etched glass Rotary wheel and the District 1070 insignia. The attached card thanked the team for a job well-done.

I have hurriedly uploaded more than 1,000 photos to share with those who have followed our blog. Unfortunately, my camera and computer did not keep them in chronological order. Feel free to download and use our photos from the following sites:

Our team members will be available for presentations at Rotary clubs in District 7770 in the coming months. We have wonderful stories to share, and welcome invitations from clubs that have interest in GSE.

Regrettably, we are only permitted to be members of one GSE team.
But, we have returned from our adventure with memories and friends who will last a lifetime.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wrapping up

As the journalist in this group and a lover of words, it would seem on the surface as though it should be easy to summarize our trip, summarize our experience, summarize what we learned. But, as I sit at home in Sumter, South Carolina, a day after returning from a whirlwind four-week tour of England, I find myself at a loss for the right words. It's impossible to capture and convey all that I'd like, but I'll do my best.

I should start by saying, first and foremost, this trip proved to be life-changing for me and my teammates. I think no one would argue we are walking away forever changed by this experience. But now I must back up.

It's amazing how quickly the four weeks went by. It's even more amazing when I think this trip only materialized for me and my teammates four and a half months before we boarded a plane for England. We interviewed for spots on this GSE team back in April, and shortly thereafter, we were notified of our selection. Prior to that point in time, none of us knew one another and none of us knew we'd be traveling across the Atlantic in the middle of September for a month-long stay.

But as the weeks of summer progressed, our team began to meet, began to make our plans, began to create our group presentation. And on Sept. 12, we gathered, no longer strangers, at the airport in Charlotte and embarked on our journey. Four weeks later, on Oct. 11, we gathered once again -- and this time not just as acquaintances, but as friends -- and returned back to the States.

So much happened in between.

During the four weeks my team and I were in England, we stayed with eight different host families, immersed ourselves in the country and the culture, took part in vocational experiences and toured buildings and towns and cities steeped in history.

Our trip was to Rotary District 1070, situated in the East Midlands of England, and therefore the spots we visited, for the most part, were within that district. We stayed in Peterborough, Lecicester, the Deepings, Sleaford, Stamford, Northampton, Wellingborough and Brackley, with a weekend stop in the coastal city of Torquay thrown in the mix.

What made this trip truly exceptional -- at least in part -- was that we did stay in people's homes, rather than in hotels. We gained so much from this. The people we stayed with opened their homes to us as though we were family, sat down with us for meals and engaged us in riveting conversation. The kindness and hospitality we were shown was incredible.

And when we weren't at home with our hosts -- enjoying delectable English cuisine -- we were seeing the sights or learning about our careers in that country. Days alternated between tours of churches, cathedrals, castles and museums and visits to places of work comparable to our own back home. So much learning took place on both accounts. We amassed a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the rich history of the buildings and cities we visited. And our vocational visits allowed us to compare notes with how we did things back home. We gained information to take back home that will aid us in our careers and tried to pass along some helpful hints of our own.

And now, after a month of meeting some of the kindest people I've ever met, learning more than I thought was possible in four weeks' time, accumulating memories I'll keep with me forever and making several terrific new friends out of my teammates, I'm back home. I now am charged with the seemingly impossible task of expressing my gratitude to everyone who made this trip possible.

I am so incredibly grateful to Rotary International and all of the Rotarians who enabled me to have this experience. I have been impacted both personally and professionally, and I will forever be indebted.


Conference at Torquay

The gala at The George Hotel on the Saturday of conference weekend:

Our big presentation at the conference:

Beautiful Torquay!


Some shots from our time in Northamptonshire:

The view just outside the cottage where I was staying -- what a beautiful village green!

Stowe Gardens:

(I felt adventurous when I saw this tree -- it's the perfect tree for climbing!)

Our walk through North Brington:

This is Althorp, Princess Di's brother's home and where Diana lived for a while.
This is the church with Diana's family, the Spencer family's, crypt.
The Northampton group taught us how to play skittles!

Some vocational shots

One of the best vocational visits I had was to the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. I was there almost a full day, and I got to speak with editor Peter Clarke, several reporters and staff members, and even went over to court with the court reporter.

I loved the old equipment they kept on site as a reminder of days gone by!

And we're back

I can't believe it -- four weeks of immersion in the UK have come to an end. It went by so fast, and yet, it also felt like we'd been there forever and had made friends we'd known for years. I'm sorry I was unable to update more often; my limited computer/Internet access made it tough to find ways to update. But I promise to post more pictures, as well as a final synopsis. GSE England's still going strong!