Author Archives: Craig Chapman

Arrival!!!

Posted by Craig (Colin’s Dad) Here’s a few pics from the airport, when Colin and his mates walked through the gate, to lots of cheers and the sound of noisemakers!

Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!

Hearing the first stories

Hearing the first stories

Bubble shower from little bro'

Bubble shower from little bro’

Day 11: Getting back on track!

Posted by Craig (Colin’s dad):

After the detour from the original itinerary, they’re back on track and at this moment, asleep in Melbourne. Colin has said that “the Internet here sucks,” which is why he hasn’t been able to yet return to his earlier posting frequency. He’s also indicated that he has “about two hundred” pictures that he’ll be posting upon his return.

For your reading pleasure, this arrived this morning from one of the leaders:

Hello from Melbourne-

The last time we talked to you we were on our way to the Parliament House in Canberra. After a personal tour, we learned so much about the Australian Government. It is amazing how much our two countries are similar! After the Parliament House, we made our way to our Farm-Stay.

Our Farm-Stay family so so kind. Honestly, we don’t know if we have ever met a family who has done so much in their power to satisfy us. We had so much fun feeding the baby lamb with a botle [sic], going for a hayride to learn about Australian farm life and visiting an Emu Farm. You wouldn’t believe how big the eggs were! We had a bonfire both nights under a very clear Milky Way. The second night, our family set up a screen so we could watch “Slumdog Milliionaire.! We also hiked a mountain and met three Aussie teens. Our delegation had so much fun making comparisons and sharing life experiences.

As you know, the girls had a tough first night. Please be assured that the four leaders and delegation manager addressed the issue first thing in the morning with the farm-stay family. We assure that if we knew the girls were as cold as they were, this would be a non-issue. By 9AM (Aussie time), we had the situation corrected for the second night. [Name redacted], our farm-stay “mother,” came into the girls’ barn every hour to be sure they were comfortable for the second night. Additionally,. [Name redacted], our home-stay “father” stayed up all night to assure us of the safely to keep all 6 heaters on and our children warm at night.

The 2nd morning, all of our students, to the best of our knowledge, showed up to breakfast with smiles on their face.

Last night they stayed at a dorm at a very cool-looking place called Sovereign Hill, which is a theme park and museum in Ballarat (link | link | link), dedicated to the life, times and history of the Australian Gold Rush, and much of yesterday was spent as “free time” on the grounds of the museum.

Now…I want to apologize in advance for having to conclude this post on a slightly less pleasant note, as I feel it’s become necessary to publicly address a troubling dynamic that arose as a result of Colin’s early farm-stay tweets.

Firstly, on the purpose of this blog:

Colin has a responsibility to his sponsors to blog about his experience as it happens, and do so honestly, accurately and thoughtfully. He has done this in a manner that is both professional and beyond what would be expected of your typical American 15-year-old. Most importantly where he has erred, he’s corrected himself of his own accord and in the process, learned the lessons and value of confirming facts before publishing them.

This blog is NOT an official news source, and while Colin’s experiences may be consistent with those of the rest of the delegation, it is just as likely that they may not be!

So to the readers of this blog and followers of Colin’s tweets I will say this: you should think of these channels in the same context that you would think of any other travelogue or restaurant review. These are the reports of the personal experiences of one delegate, so keep in mind and understand that every report may not be sweetness and light. Unanticipated challenges may arise that the leaders and delegates may have to contend with, and some of them may present an unexpectedly dramatic turn to the overall experience.

If this happens, the people actually on the ground deserve the patience of us readers (some of whom I’ll acknowledge as fellow parents), and the good faith that events on the ground are either already under control or if not, will be appropriately corrected.

In other words, we parent readers need to commit to the ideal keeping our composure, and not immediately turning on the program, the facilities, the leaders, the delegates, each other, and most especially Colin or me (e.g. don’t kill the messengers!).

Instead, if you have concerns or are worried about something that you’ve read here, please alert or engage the program office directly and express your concerns to them.

Above all, do not act as a self-elected spokesperson for the whole delegation. Accept that others may not share your analysis of developments or your opinion, and as several parents have privately expressed to me, may actually look upon honest, unfiltered first-hand reporting as a very good thing indeed.

If anyone feels they cannot conduct themselves in this manner, for the sake of (and on behalf of) Colin, his mother, the delegation leaders, the People to People Student Ambassador Program and myself, I respectfully suggest that you should not be reading this blog. Instead, I suggest that you wait for the official updates from the delegation leaders to arrive in your Inboxes, or for your children to call home, and you can speak to them personally and get their own first-hand experiences.

To the degree that I have personally failed in this ideal, I myself apologize, and have removed portions of certain posts from the past few days that may call into question the unequivocally positive light in which I hold the program and Colin’s experience.

Many thanks!

Yerong Creek Update

Posted by Craig (Colin’s Dad): Judging by Colin’s latest tweets, it looks like after a difficult start to the day, that things have worked out rather well!

I still maintain that the Farm Stay was a letdown by any objective sense. But for my own part, it seems to me that People to People acted in good faith and made the best of a difficult situation. Namely that AU and NZ (esp. the State of Victoria) have per-capita H1N1 infection rates more than 3x the U.S. and U.K. (here’s an up-to-date map), and cancelled the home stay segment out of concerns for the safety of the delegates.

Beyond that, they promptly corrected the situation with the heat, thanked Colin for bringing it to light, apologized for the negative experience, and isolated the one sick child (who frankly could’ve become ill for any number of reasons).

Let’s face it: people become ill even 5-star accommodations, sometimes. What matters is how those in a position to correct things respond to the issue. I’m satisfied with People to People’s handling of the situation, salute their crisis management protocols and their prompt, decisive attention to the matter.

Let’s remember: life is not risk-free, and let’s hope for better experiences from here on out!

It was still bloody cold this morning, though…Brrrrrrrr!

Yerong Creek Farm Stay (Updated-4)

Posted by Craig (Colin’s Dad): The delegates are staying in a place called Yerong Creek that, judging by Google Maps Street View, makes Gowanda look like New York City! We’ve had a small personal mishap and won’t be home for awhile. Complete details will be posted later on.

UPDATE (9:30pm): Sorry to worry some of you. The “small mishap” had nothing to do with the delegation’s experience. Dee just needed a couple of stitches to close a bad cut

I’m glad that Colin is working on looking on the bright side with the kids and the family being so nice. But frankly, our boys have had their fill of “farm experiences” from four years of Waldorf, and in my opinion, a farm is a farm is a farm, no matter where in the world it is.

Even so, I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, and the assumption of good faith.

That's right folks. It was below freezing last night.

Report that it was below freezing last night. Brrrrr!!!

UPDATE (1:05am): Colin has corrected the illness reports (only 1 girl too ill to participate), and P2P has both thanked him for bringing the heating issue to light, and promised to correct the situation. Because of his reporting, the girls will have heat tonight, which promises to be colder still.

No wireless service

From Craig (Colin’s Dad): Apparently, the itinerary change means that there’s no cell service in the area where Colin & his delegation presently are, and will continue to be for the next two days.

I am awaiting a callback from the program office for details about the location of the farm stay, and what kind of experience it is. I will post them here when they become available.

But, I consider it almost certain that we will have no updates from Colin, until they get in range of Melbourne.

Day 5: Canberra

Yup, it's me!

(Post scheduled in advance. For current updates and pictures, follow me on Twitter!)

Today is Australian history day on our tour, as we spend our first full day in the Australian Capital. In fact, just like in the U.S., the Aussies have their national government seated in an autonomous area. In America, it’s the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), and in Australia, it’s the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra, A.C.T.)

Here’s our itinerary of today:

  • We’ll learn how Australia has participated in armed conflicts all over the world at the Australian War Memorial.
  • We’ll go on an interactive tour of the Australian Institute of Sport, Australia’s training ground for its elite athletes.
  • Tonight we’ll enjoy a traditional Aussie BBQ at Gold Creek Station, and experience a sheep and cattle dog demonstration. (SHEEP! My mom would love this!)

3rd Meeting

Hey guys,

Thanks for all the donations and pledges yesterday, all we have left to raise is $2400!

Yesterday we had another meeting with the people to people delegation. For economic reasons, five more of the delegates have dropped out 🙁

We discussed hotel behavior, packing and the home-stay visits. After watching videos on these topics, the parents went over to sign waivers and the students had an icebreaking activity. We all took an m&m and we had to talk about a certain topic. I had skill that I’m most proud of, and it would have to be my debate skills.

After that we read the waivers our parents had signed. Kind of creepy, as one line mentioned all the exciting new ways to die on a surfboard (dragged out to sea, being run over by another surfboard and the ominous “encounter with an ocean creature.” Less creepy (and kindof cool) is how the host family might ask us to pan for gold in the backyard: an activity that the Aussies call “fossicking”).

Our next (and final) pre-journey meeting is June 6th, and we leave in only 68 days!