It was fun, it was exciting, it was sleepless, it was sad.
For the Inbound Class of 2004-05, the weekend of May 13-15 was their last
group get-together. These students are nearing the end of a long journey
that began with their arrival last summer when they were all strangers to
each other and to their surroundings. Now, many months later, they have
become good friends, and they have grown and learned and changed together.
The weekend began in Gainesville at the home of Bob and
Sherry Rella. As always, Bob put on a great meal, and organized the entire
weekend for us. Guests that first evening included representatives from the
Alachua County school board and county commission, along with School
Superintendent Dan Boyd. The students were hosted in homes around
Gainesville on Friday night, then came back to Bob's for breakfast Saturday
morning, before loading up and heading west for the Gulf Coast.
Our home base was in the town of Steinhatchee, with
housing, boats, and hospitality provided by John and Kennette Hayter. A
three-boat convoy headed out the Steinhatchee River and into the Gulf of
Mexico. We found a sand bar to stop and swim at, and then navigated to
Grassy Key, where Chef Tibor grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and one redfish
on the deck of the pontoon boat.
Back to Steinhatchee for dinner Saturday night (Tibor
again took charge, this time serving up barbecued chicken and fresh corn on
the cob), and then lots of talk and just hanging out. The early crew went to
bed around 2:00 AM. Others did not ...
After breakfast on Sunday, we headed back to Gainesville
and spent a few hours at the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit in the Florida
Museum of Natural History. While there, a few students became TV stars,
interviewed by Gainesville TV-20 about their year in America.
And then came the hardest part - saying goodbye. Everyone
recognized that this was the last time they would all be together. In fact,
some of the inbounds had a week or less remaining here. Tears flowed, along
with promises to keep in touch and to get together again soon ... 2006 in
Europe? 10 years from now in Brazil? How about a reunion in Florida?
To the Inbound Class of 2004-05, we just want to say that
we love you all, we will miss you, and, yes, always remember you.
Congratulations to you all on a terrific year. We hope you accomplished your
goals and dreams, and you're always welcome to come back.