Following last year’s successful exchange to the Czech Republic, 12 youth lifesavers and 4 youth leaders are travelling to Germany for the second leg of the exchange. THW’s Stolberg group will be hosting groups from Germany, the UK and the Czech Republic between 9th and 16th August. The exchange is filled with different activities from sightseeing, learning about each country’s culture and learning new lifesaving rescue techniques. THW are an urban rescue organisation who respond to disasters, such as the outcomes of earthquakes in urban areas. So this exchange will show the youth lifesavers a very different side to rescuing compared to RLSS UK’s activities. To keep up to date with how the exchange is going then keep visiting our blog for daily entries written by those on the exchange.

Day 1 – Saturday 10th August

Written by Holly (Blyth LSC) and Monica (Dearne Valley LSC).

Today we went to the city of Cologne, where we had a tour around the cathedral – we were told it took over 500 years to build. We were shown around the city, while being told its history. After the tour finished we were allowed to explore the town, where we went shopping on the high street and enjoyed performances by talented street performers.

On the way back to the hostel, we were all put into different buses. In our buses, we enjoyed dancing and singing along to the radio with the people from Germany. When we got back, we had food and then played group games and teambuilding activities outside, which helped us to develop friendships within the groups. In our groups, we all had to race against each other in different ways. Before we went to bed, we roasted marshmallows over the campfire.

Day 2 – Sunday 11th August

Written by Kirsty (Blyth LSC) and Jordan (South Worcester LSC).

Today we travelled to the Movie Park, a theme park north of Dusseldorf. The journey took 3 hours, after we went the wrong way and drove around the park a few times! We split into our groups and we were allowed to go around the park. After lots of queuing, we went on loads of different rollercoaster’s and had a Subway for lunch.

After our Subway, we went on an Ice Age ride, which involved a boat trip around a 4D show. Unfortunately the whole show was in German so we didn’t understand a word! Afterwards we went on the Dora the Explorer ride, a log flume. On this ride everybody got soaked and Kenny screamed like a little girl as we went down the biggest slide.

At the end of the day we did the British thing and queued some more just to get some free caramel spread, which turned out to be very nice. On the way home we stopped for a toilet stop yet again, it seems to be becoming a tradition now!

Day Three – Monday 13th August

Written by Lauren (East Kilbride LSC) and Lee (Blyth LSC).

We started the day with team building and group games. The main game was flags and we played two other games which were “Cross the River” and “Find the Sweets”. We had to find all of the sweets which were hidden throughout the site. The last two games were similar to those that we played at our teambuilding day in Scotland.

After we finished with the games, we had to finish our presentations about RLSS UK for later on in the evening. After lunch, we went to the open air swimming pool, where we learnt different lifesaving techniques e.g. towing and strokes. We then played water polo with mixed German, Czech and British teams.

For us the highlight of today was the water polo, as it allowed us to get to know everyone better. The bus journeys were funny because there were four Germans in the back playing funny music and we were all singing and laughing. Later on in the night Sandy organised a party for us all. While dancing at the party, all the German, Czech and British guys learned different types of dancing – we all had a good time. Ondrej, our Czech friend, did many impressions of Kenny, one of our leaders – these were really funny.

Day Four – Tuesday 14th August

Written by Zoe (East Kilbride LSC) and Luke (Dearne Valley LSC).

Today we went to THW’s training centre in Aachen, where we were trained in a variety of THW’s rescue techniques. We took part in 3 activities: the first activity was a tower representing a building, where we used a ladder and stretcher to lower the casualty to the ground – it was an interesting experience.

Another activity was to crawl around 60 metres of tunnel and go down several different routes – this was like a collapsed building. Personally (Zoe), I am quite claustrophobic and found it too cramped and small; it was also very dark so I found it very hard to complete the task. It took a lot of determination and effort to crawl through the long tunnels. We also tried out the hydraulic cutting machine and pumps to move heavy debris.

After lunch, we assembled into mixed German, Czech and British teams and took part in a simulated underground and overground rescue, in conditions that resembled the earthquake in Haiti and other natural disasters. We then travelled to THW’s Stolberg base where we viewed their special equipment and had dinner.

We feel the whole day was a huge success and it taught us various new skills that we have never encountered before.

Day Five – Wednesday 14th August

Written by Kieran (Blyth LSC) and Amy (East Kilbride LSC).

Kenny came in early in the morning to begin another German day. He walked over to our beds and shouted “Hello!” in his usual squeaky Scottish tongue, which is often difficult to understand for people of other nationalities. He then grinned, as he enjoyed his evil exploits such as this and then joyfully exited the room on his little Scottish legs.

We then all showered (separately of course!) and brushed our teeth. Kenny enjoyed brushing his teeth with his new toothbrush, which he had brought in Cologne and is still very protective of. Everyone then got dressed and after a discussion about a certain “dance”, which Alan did not understand, we all went to breakfast of bread and various toppings and cereals.

We then packed our bags for a day of rowing and swimming. However, before we left Kenny announced that we had to play a game, while all the leaders had a rest after the night shift, which had left them weary despite the fact it was one of the quietest nights. The aim of the game was to collect 26 items – one for each letter of the alphabet. After about 10 minutes of searching, most teams gave up on the outside world and all adopted the same strategy – raid the kitchen. After the game was over and various items including a watermelon, onion and tea bag had been returned to the kitchen, we walked to the lake.

Once there we were divided into three large groups for three little boats. On the journey down the lake, three little boats became two! One boat had to be rescued by the DLRG. Once at our destination we all went swimming in a special part of the lake, which must be the only part of the lake deemed safe by the German government.

Josh was one of the first people into the water; however, he was soon stopped by “a gigantic fish”! He then spent the rest of the time in the lake trying to impersonate the fish by swimming under the water and grabbing people’s feet, while the rest of us jumped off the small jetty supervised by the DLRG lifeguards. After we went in the lake, we all decided to go and get lunch out of a restaurant. We got a range of meals from chicken nuggets and chips to kebab. The food was really nice and we all enjoyed it.

Half of us took the boats back to the camp and the others got taken back in the truck. The boat trip was slightly more successful this time, despite the journey taking much longer than the first. We did make it back to the other end of the lake with both the boats we had set off with. We then returned to the camp, via the buses, for a dinner of vegetable soup accompanied by a large sausage.

Me and Luke were captured by the little northern mountain man “Kenny” and told we had to clean the boys bathrooms, toilets included. We were not impressed; however, after an impressive demonstration of cleaning techniques from little Scottish Kenny, we were able to complete this complex and horrendous task under the careful supervision of Kenny, Andrew and big boss Alan.

We then had a small amount of free time, which was spent playing on the seesaw and stealing Lauren’s shoes. All the British people, and one of our adopted Czechs, filed into the social room for our usual lecture from the big boss. Here we heard what Ondřej had written for our guest blog and we were informed of tomorrow’s visit to Montshau and the two of us were informed that we were to write this blog.

Day Five – Wednesday 14th August

Written by Ondřej Brunn (pictured below) VZS (Czech Republic)

The day was started when I heard the well-known voice of little Kenny, which woke me up. Kenny was in usual form. He was running between out beds and shouting “Get prepared for a breakfast guys” (by Scottish accent). Then we got up and brushed our teeth, while we was still listening [to] his mountain English.

Then we went for a typical German breakfast – the Swedish tables. After that me and Lee had to go to the kitchen to help with the cleaning. It was a good experience to try something new. Now they have the cleanest kitchen ever.

After we finished cleaning, the well-known voice told us that we will play the game. It was the game where we had to find an item for each letter of alphabet. Now we know how they spent the winters in Scotland. Most of the teams has same strategy – found everything in the kitchen. I was in the team with Kieran and Leah (the favourite girl of Luke). It was quite funny because we could used all three languages. We’ve got some interesting items for example “Reinigunsmittel” (cleaning product in German), “duevo” (wood in Czech) or watermelon. Then we prepared our bags and walked to a lake.

During this trip we have to follow a pace of little Scottish tourist [Kenny]. Its unbelievable how fast he can move his legs rapidly. If he will be few inches taller he will be the next gold Olympic medallist. After we came to the lake, Germans showed us three little boats. We’ve been divided to three huge groups for those three little boats. I was in the group with Zoe, Andrew O’Riley and some other people. Because leaders was tired from sending us to beds they went on motorboats.

After ages of paddling and sinking one boat, we arrived to our destination. We parked the boats and then went to little lake where is allowed to swim. After swimming me, Josh and Luke went for great Döner kebab. It was so tasty. After we came back to others and showed them how great the kebabs were, they decide to get their own. After the every stomach was satisfied we played a beach volleyball for a while.

Then we (boys) have to paddle back. Lee was lazy, so he stayed with Zoe and other girls and talked with them about shopping. This group went by cars to camp. The brave group (boys) paddle back to starting point. Then we was picked up by THW cars.

After we came back to camp we had a dinner. Sausage in soup. It was eatable then Andrew make a bandage for my wounded left hand. He is very good at that. He could be doctor.

After I went to social room and started to write a little paragraph for the RLSS UK blog. With a lots of help of Zoe it will be the most legendary paragraph in history of RLSS UK. We (Czechs) are leaving tomorrow. It was a great camp there.

Now the goodbye party starts.

Day 6 – Thursday 15th August

 Written by Andrew (Blyth LSC) and Josh (East Kilbride LSC)

The Last day!

We got woken up as usual by Kenny and had our usual European breakfast of bread, different meats and cereals. At 9:30 we left for Monschau a little town not far from our camp.

When we arrived at Monschau, we were told we had free time so started walking around the town in one big group; soon we had passed all the shops and came to a café near the edge of the town. This is where the group split into two.

The first group for the rest of the day was me (Andrew), Kirsty, Kieran, Amy and Lauren. We went and played poo sticks in the river, which the girls thought was very immature and then we went to look at the town some more. We came across a very small, hidden sweet shop – inside were loads of different sweets, but the most important for tonight’s camp fire were the gummy Smurf sweets.

We left the shop and walked up to the market to see what else was there. On arriving we saw Kenny holding Martin’s arm in the air as Martin had cut his finger. It was quite funny as Martin is double the height of Kenny, so when he sat down and stuck his arm up Kenny could barely reach. While bandaging him up, we saw a bakery where Kieran, Kirsty and Lauren got some breakfast as they were still hungry.

We walked around for a bit longer and then it was about dinner time, so we went to the chip shop and got some chips – they were lovely! We walked up the street and bought some bubble wands at the toy shop – as we are actually 5 years old! For the next half hour the bubble wands entertained me, Amy and Lauren and by this time we were back at the bus ready to go back for lunch.

The second group consisted of Zoe, Lee, Holly, Josh, Jordan, Luke and Monica who didn’t wander around the town but stayed in a café. In the café they ordered food and drinks and talked about the town and what they enjoyed about the week. Josh was just leaving the café and spied two cakes at the counter and thought “those cakes look lonely might as well eat them”. So he bought both cakes and sat down with the group again and magically the cakes disappeared. They left the café to come to the mini buses and were laughing at how immature we were, because we bought bubble wands but still wanted to play with them.

We arrived back at base around 1 for lunch. Today we had fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce, it was beautiful. After lunch we started playing games such as bull dogs and tag, but in the end we played flags again, because it is possibly the favourite thing of the whole trip.

Later on we had a break, but then the leaders Kenny and Andrew started playing as well. Kenny and I were team captains and we picked the teams. My team was Me, Zoe, Josh, Micah (THW), Phillip (VZS), Christian (THW), Kieran and Jordan. Kenny’s team was Lee, Kirsty, Holly, Lauren, Amy, Monica and Andrew. In the end my team won 3 points to 1 and then we had a nice relaxing night.

Unfortunately the Czech team left for their 16 hour bus journey home – there were loads of hugs and I’m sure some tears from Ondrej!

Time passed by and people were talking about what was funny and what they had enjoyed. THW had organised a bonfire; it was amazing the fire was really bright, as it was 11 at night and we all just sat around as a group with marshmallows. The last picture of the exchange was taken around the fire of the whole British group together, which I think showed how close the group had become and how good friends we are now at the end of the week.