That hit me. 20 years since that 1998 trip. Well, yes. The math does equate to two decades.
Umph. I'm old.
I immediately ran to my photo album from that time (remember those?) and walked down memory lane. I was 26 years old, finishing a 2nd Masters degree in Environmental Studies, and surviving as a first-year teacher at the J. Graham Brown School.
It was then I learned that I was to find housing for 10th graders from Denmark as part of my job. I couldn't find housing for all the kids and ended up taking in two in my own home: Louise and Flemming. They won me over and I knew that no matter what I was going to find a way to visit them in their home country.
The exchange for them with us in Louisville, Kentucky and for us with them in Roskilde, Denmark was irreplaceable. For a decade, I loved bringing in more and more generations of the the Brown/Lille Skole family together for international and cultural experiences.
I had long side burns then and a pony tail. I used a frog backpack and was still curious about the world and travel - having the opportunity to bring my own students was absolutely amazing.
It was also a different time - no cell phones, no internet (actually, they were first appearing at the end of my career in Kentucky), no populist movements (although they were beginning), and absolute trust and collaboration between teachers of two nations.
Lars, Vibeka, Tom, Preben, Ulla, Stefan, Kristin, and Gunar were my mentors, my friends, my joy, my inspiration, and my hosts. I loved having them in my home as well. They were introduced to me by Bonnie, a kindergarten teacher, and Maie, a librarian, who carried the exchange torch before I arrived.
Oh, the stories that could be told: first loves between the kids, crazy American and Danish parties that put us all on edge, world dialogue about democracy, pickled herring, Hans Christian Anderson, rafting Beargrass Creek - it was a beautiful time that, I admit, would not occur with the ways our societies evolved. Although everything was beautiful, our worlds changed and the liabilities, I imagine, would be too extreme to do such a thing now (or maybe I've just become too old to take such risks).
Phew. So much is happening right now in preparation for next week's summer kick-off, but I am thinking about 20 years ago when I was younger (much younger) and this exchange meant the world to me. I have so many memories and the Great Whatever has taken so many lives that were HUGE in my world with Denmark.
I would, however, do anything to once again visit my friends in that nation. They were always wonderful, admirable, hard-working and optimistic colleagues.
I am heading into work this morning totally nostalgic for a time that once was.