German exchange students tour Emmaus as part of a three-week visit
Decked out in a firefighter's regulation helmet and turnout jacket, chaperone Silke Jostmeier is not one to shy away from the chance to try something new. Gamely, she slips her arms into the straps of an airpack, its paint chipped in places from use by members of the Emmaus Fire Department.
"Wow! That's heavy," Jostmeier said about the 40-plus pound tank suspended on her shoulders and back.
Jostmeier and 13 students from Rahden, estimated population of about 16,000, a town in northern Germany, visited the Emmaus Fire Department April 9 as part of a walking tour of Emmaus, taking in such sites as the Emmaus Police Department, Emmaus Borough Hall, God's Acre, the cemetery home to the earliest settlers of Emmaus, and the 1803 House, one of the oldest buildings in town. The tour group met the likes of Emmaus Mayor Winfield Iobst, Emmaus K-9 officers Craig Blose and Zandor and officers and volunteers from the Emmaus Fire Department and Emmaus Ambulance Corps.
Upon meeting visitors at the firehouse Iobst gave a hearty handshake and greeting to each of the three young men in the tour who all stood from their perches on a bench outside the fire department to meet the mayor. Iobst greeted the visiting young women with equal aplomb.
Iobst has often led tours of students, he said, calculating the April 9 tour was the first in about six years or so. German students and French students have visited Emmaus over the years, Iobst said.
The current student exchange is organized through the German American Partnership Program, a short-term exchange program between Germany and the United States. Accodring to its website, GAPP is funded by the German Foreign Ministry with help from the U.S. Department of State.
Meghan Pribicko, a German language teacher at Emmaus High School, organized the exchange after visiting Germany, said program co-advisor Dawn Laubner who teachers social studies at the high school.
The German student group currently includes 14 students enrolled in the equivalent of freshmen and sophomore years in high school, said Jostmeier who accompanied the group from Germany.
The walking tour included 13 students. One student was given the opportunity to travel to Gettysburg with an Emmaus High School field trip the same day, Laubner explained.
The German students and Jostmeier started their journey to the United States with a one-hour flight from Hannover Airport, the major airport nearest to Rahden, to Frankfurt and then a direct nine-hour flight landing in Philadelphia April 5, Jostmeier said. The group's stay includes trips to the Wildlands Conservancy and the Crayola Factory near Easton, a day trip to Philadelphia, and classes at the high school.
According to organizers, 11 Emmaus High School students will travel to Germany in June as part of the exchange program. Like the German students currently visiting Emmaus, the students will live with host families and attend school. The Emmaus High School students did not take the walking tour of Emmaus April 9.
The walking tour April 9 took the visiting students to the police garage at the Emmaus Police Department where the students got to sit in the back seats of police vehicles, test the heft of riot gear, and meet Officer Craig Blose and Zandor, a German Shepherd K-9 officer, born in Holland, who responds to Dutch and German commands.
The tour also included a stop in the police department holding cell where visitors learned those in custody are often held until paperwork is completed before moving the person further up the law enforcement food chain.
"Where is the next big prison?" a visiting student asked in careful English.
A description of the Lehigh County Prison in Allentown elicited a few wide-eyed stares.
The students took a seat for a needed rest in borough council chambers where Iobst talked briefly about the history of Emmaus, explaining his own family line extended to Germany and members of his family found their final resting place in God's Acre, a stop on the tour, where the family name is spelled J-O-B-S-T.
Students asked about the meanings of the flags in the council chamber, recognizing the U.S. flag but stumped by the Pennsylvania and Emmaus flags.
The tour broke ranks on the Triangle so students could grab a quick lunch before the tour group reconvened to head to the 1803 House and other points.
"I always look forward to that," Iobst said of the tour.