16 December 2006

A Very Special Visitor

The U.S. ambassador came to Tapa Gümnaasium December 6. I invited her. Afterwards, I was very proud of the students and extremely impressed by the ambassador.

The ambassador arrived as classes were changing. When the school mascot (Tapsi, there in the picture in the front, on the left) and the school director (in a suit and tie, next to Tapsi) and Tapa's mayor (in a suit and tie, fifth from the left) and I (in a suit and tie, too, in the back on the right) appeared in the school lobby, the hallway and stairwell quickly became clogged with curious students.

The director had to clear a path for the ambassador to walk down as she came in the main door. The second she walked through the door, she took right to the kids. She stopped and turned and looked at all of them lined up and said "good morning." She told one girl she liked the Santa's cap she had on, and talked a few seconds with one boy, and told another girl she had nice ponytails.

So a government official and 45 minutes to talk, together with an auditorium full of teenagers could be a disaster. Not in Tapa. When the ambassador told the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students that all of her colleagues were killed in the WTC on 9-11 and the only reason she was still alive was because she wasn't there that day, you could have heard a pin drop - the kids were so attentive.

I had a class with 11th graders before the ambassador arrived. So I told them we needed some "plants" to ask questions if she indeed called forquestions. It took us 30 minutes to get decent questions (something other than Do you like Estonia?) and then another 15 minutes to get three volunteers to ask them. So, after her presentation, yes, the ambassador asked for questions. One second went by, two, three, four, and a then hand shot up. It was one of my "plants," who was afraid she was going to stumble on the word "politics." But no problem. She asked the ambassador if it was difficult being a woman and working in politics. The ambassador went over and hugged her and said something to the effect that "we women have to stick together"!

It was all - everyone was - really, really great.