Friday, August 22, 2014

Adventures with Filippo: Summer's End

I am a local school teacher. I have weekends off, but my husband, Don, works weekends, so these are the last whole days we have together until my next school vacation. We have been making the most of them, and of our time with Filippo, our new exchange student through AFS Intercultural Programs.

Wednesday we spent the morning at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, "One of the Seven Engineering Marvels of the Modern World," when it was constructed about fifty years ago. Its official name is the Lucius J. Kellam, Jr., Bridge-Tunnel, although nobody calls it that. It connects nearby Virginia Beach with the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland. It is scenic, beautiful, historic, and worth the rather hefty toll that most travelers pay.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel crosses two channels and an inlet between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic

The Chesapeake Bay is North America's environmentally estuary. It's important. Save the bay!

There is a rest station partway along the journey where we stopped, visited the fishing pier, and visited the Sea Gull Pier Restaurant and gift shop. We also walked around and looked at some of the vessels of various sizes heading to the harbor or the sea.

We pose on the pier with our new friend, Miguel, another visitor from abroad. Filippo is 2nd from the right.

Norfolk is a major harbor. It has the world's largest naval station and is important to commercial shipping as well. We had the opportunity to watch an aircraft carrier heading out to sea, probably the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, named after the former president. Due to the sharp eyes and loud cries of a group of children, we even spotted some dolphins breaching the water not far away from us.

The U.S.S. Harry S. Truman was easier to spot than the dolphins!

The visit gave Filippo a chance to see U.S. patriotism in action.

Filippo and Don check out the aircraft carrier.

The sign near Filippo expresses support for U.S. troops. Many families in our region have ties to the military.

A ship heads through the channel. Under it is the deep tunnel where we drove Filippo in our car. Part of the bridge is in the background.

In the afternoon, Filippo and I worked out at the local YMCA, and Filippo made an appointment to return for some training on how to use the exercise equipment there.

Yesterday our whole family, Filippo included, headed for Virginia Beach. Filippo has been very eager to see the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful day, with rather gentle surf, cool but not cold water, overcast at first, but with sunshine breaking out by early afternoon. Even the jellyfish were on vacation, and I, for one, was thrilled with their absence. It was a perfect end to our summer together as a family. Soon I will be back to my teaching job, Filippo will be starting high school, and the hazy, lazy days of summer will be a quickly-fading memory.

The trips to the Bay Bridge Tunnel and to the Beach are examples of how hosting an AFS student is a richly rewarding experience. We enjoyed showing the beauties and excitement of our region with Filippo. But by doing so, we realized that we had missed visiting these favorite places. We especially decided that from now on we need to make at least one visit to the local beaches every summer, despite the fact that we dislike the work of getting ready to go as much as the tourist traffic. Some experiences are worth a little effort.

After the beach we were hungry, so we visited the all-you-can-eat buffet at Golden Corral. Afterwards we visited with our new AFS Liaison. Then Don and Filippo headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for some more male bonding time over television and American football. It wasn't a Redskins game, so I heard the local fans were not as rabid. No surprise there.

All I can say is, we are tired, and we are all going to sleep well tonight!

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