Seen and heard from A to Z …
The most logical way of serving lunch and dinner for 700 people is the buffet solution, and the organisers had arranged this very well: there was a cold buffet for the starters, a warm buffet for the main course, and a third buffet for the desserts – and all of the buffets were doubled up in order to avoid the inevitable risk of long queues. At midday after the opening ceremony the doors to the dining hall were opened and there was an indescribable dash for the food, with some people rushing as if their lives depended on it! This behaviour was really quite difficult to understand, coming from catering professionals. Fortunately later on, at subsequent lunch times and dinner times, there was less of a rush for food.
President Louis Robert had said so in his welcome address: the delegation which had travelled the furthest was from Colombia – they had a 10,000 km journey. The head of the delegation was Sébastien Longhurst from the SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje – www.sena.edu.co) – Colombia’s national training agency. The students who had travelled so far made a great impression at the opening ceremony with their traditional costumes and hats.
The sublime concert performed for the conference participants by the ARSISE NOORTE KELLADE ANSAMBEL was given a second time specially for the residents of Kuressaare.
This was a fine opportunity to allow the locals to share in something that was happening in their town. You can’t help noticing 700 participants who are in a small town for four days! So why not share the pleasures whenever possible, and plan in advance for a very large attendance at a highly unusual event? Indeed for a single performance the beautiful Church of St Lawrence would have been far too small.
I bet that, just as during the first concert, you could have heard a pin drop during the breath-taking performance conducted by Aivar Maë!
A fine example of cross-border cooperation: they don’t hesitate to cross the Baltic Sea to help each other out. The two teachers and seven students from the Orebrö school in Sweden made a much appreciated contribution to the organisation. Not surprising, since the two are partner schools!
A handicraft exhibition enabled conference participants to appreciate how well-developed this sector is in Estonia and on the island of Saaremaa. Among the items on display were woollen hats which, far from being traditional fashion items, were of highly imaginative design. Rather like these Viking helmets tried on just for a laugh by two conference delegates!
As usual, Neeme Rand gave the participants a few things to do before they set off home. Among them was his advice not to forget to pay their extras in the hotels where they are staying – because it’s the same old story every year: when they check out, some people forget to pay these self-same ‘extras’. It seems that the reminder is a timely one.
The transfer from Tallinn airport to Kuressaare went off without a hitch on the evening of October 14th - except that, when the bus reached the point where it was to drive onto the ferry to cross the stretch of sea between the mainland and the island of Saaremaa, the ferry had just left! So the participants had to wait for almost an hour before they could go on board.
Gilles Honnegger is back in action
He may have taken retirement, but his sense of the situation is still spot-on! The tireless man from ACCOR was back in action in Kuressaare, and he certainly didn’t want an empty chair and silent microphone following Frédérique Poggi’s departure and in the absence of her replacement Céline Jeantet-Gorre. But in his usual forthright way he had no compunction in asserting on several occasions that the collaborative scheme with the ACCOR group for professional placements for teachers had reached a crossroads. Indeed the enthusiasm of teachers requesting placements is met with a positive response from hotel directors; but unless there is more effort on the part of the AEHT, offers of placements will be reduced to a bare minimum. In other words, Gilles Honegger seemed to be saying: get off your backsides!
As everyone knows, Italy has a massive presence in the AEHT – no other country has a greater number of member schools. One explanation of this is the way that vocational education is divided up (more schools in one geographical area). But, going by the calendar of activities presented at the General Assembly, Italy is also a country which generates a large number of projects. And we mustn’t forget that this country has already hosted three Annual Conferences (Sciacca, Arma-di Taggia and Jesolo Lido) and one Christmas in Europe (Senigallia). Throughout the AEHT’s proud history scarcely a month goes by without an Italian school offering yet another activity for the AEHT. Alfonso Benvenuto, who is responsible for thus energising his constituents, can look back with great satisfaction at his successful unification of the Italian membership.
Here’s a new word for the English language! In future the often complacent English will change an A to an E as a way of remembering the happy times they spent in the great little Baltic country!
Mrs Mailis Reps, vice-president of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Estonian parliament, was already familiar to some participants: during Christmas in Europe held in Kuressaare in 2002 she had put in an appearance as Estonian Minister of Education. At the time she was 29 and undoubtedly one of Europe’s youngest ministers. Seven years later here she was again, with the same determination and the same enthusiasm, taking centre stage at the AEHT closing ceremony to declare her firm support for all the development work carried out the Kuressaare AMETIKOOL.
Naturally the AEHT’s officers take advantage of the Annual Conference to organise the year’s work. So two important meetings were held. One of these was the Presidium meeting involving the President, the Vice-presidents, the General Secretary and the Translator/Interpreter, held on Wednesday October 15th at 2.00pm and including several external participants.
the Presidium hard at work, with some external contributors.
The second much larger meeting, that of the Executive Board, was held on Thursday October 16th and brought together all the national representatives who were present in Kuressaare, for the purpose of preparing for the General Assembly the following day, and to elect a new vice-president responsible for higher and continuing education to replace Alfonso Benvenuto who retired on September 1st 2008.
The new Housekeeping and Room-service competition. For several years this area of work had not been offered as a part of the European competitions. This contest requires competitors to lay out hotel rooms with the furniture and other accessories. Sometimes you hear the expression ‘the right man in the right place is often a woman’. But this time it is more appropriate to invert the expression, saying
‘the right woman in the right place is sometimes a man’. The male winner of the competition, from Switzerland, was, it is true, accompanied by a charming female candidate from another Baltic country.
Every participant found in their hotel room a little hessian bag containing the usual information kit: the conference programme, tourist brochures, their pass card and a badge – as well as a small pouch containing an ‘emergency poncho’ to provide for all contingencies. It is certainly true that the weather in Kuressaare is rather unpredictable in the autumn, and that some participants I met walking between their hotel and the sports centre had sometimes put on their poncho!
Kuressaare is a small town and this meant that the inevitable shuttle buses between the hotels and the venues for the competitions and the meals could be kept to a strict minimum. Usually the shuttles are a nightmare for the organisers, but this time, given the short distances, the shuttle buses operated only on the morning of the first day so that everyone could find their way on subsequent journeys. So when Neeme Rand was giving some housekeeping announcements before the opening ceremony, he said, with his characteristic sense of humour, ‘You can do everything with your own feet!’
Two AEHT partners installed their display stands in the large hall of the Sports Centre. One stand was for Colombia, and displayed a host of gadgets, posters, teaching materials, prospectuses, bags, etc. Sébastien Longhurst (representing the SENA), who was in charge of the stand, was delighted how much interest Colombia (his adoptive country) attracted.
The other stand bore the name of the famous Grand Marnier brand, and was staffed by Serge Sevaux who had his work cut out to provide explanations and tastings of the house specials!
|the Colombia Stand||the Grand-Marnier Stand|
Students - they were everywhere
For the school’s ‘human potential’ it was ‘all hands on deck’ always and everywhere throughout the 21st Annual Conference: at the opening ceremony they carried the flags, sang in the choir, played in the role-plays, paraded in the fashion display and took part in the show; they were on duty every day for the self-service meals, and were on hand in the ten or so Kuressaare hotels to deal with the day-to-day details of welcoming the participants; and there they were in the transfer buses and on the excursion coaches – and the icing on the cake was when they joined forces with all the restaurant and kitchen brigades for the table service at the final dinner. They were simply ... fantastic! All the school’s students were asked to take part – a sort of ‘made by the students’ conference. And the students from the Tallinn school were mobilised to form the welcoming groups and to handle the transfers from the capital to Kuressaare.
He wasn’t wearing his emergency poncho that day, but with a determined gait he was making his way in the rain from the Sports Centre to the AMETIKOOL’s KRTC ( Kuressaare Regional Training Centre). When asked about the changeable weather he smiled broadly and replied, ‘I feel at home’ – he was Irish!