A group of 20 children from the Athlone Academy of Music recently returned from a culturally enriching tour to Slovakia (see People's Post Athlone, "Music academy goes abroad", 16 January 2007).
The youngsters, ranging from five years old to 19, performed at various schools across the country over a two-week period and also teamed up with local schools to share their love of music.
According to the academy's director, Sam Jonker, among the many places the group visited was the small village of Terchova, where they became the first South African music academy to perform for the local people.
"We had a very warm reception everywhere we went and received a lot of media attention, on radio and in the newspapers," he says.
Although the trip was "very nice", Deidre Brown (18) from Montana says, however, that the locals' hospitality could just not quite measure up to that of of native Capetonians.
"In Slovakia the people aren't as friendly as here in Cape Town and they mostly keep to themselves," says Brown.
Nevertheless, this did not deter her and the rest of the group from having "a ball of a time" and Brown says sledding in the mountains at Terchova was the best part of her trip.
It was the first time Brown had ever seen snow, and one of the many activities organised for the group by Terchova's Mayor, Viktor Vallo.
The group also had to become accustomed to the cuisine, which was very different from South African cuisine - mainly greens and health foods.
"The people there eat very healthily. For breakfast they served green pepper, tomato and cucumber with cheese and salami. They are also very fond of lemon tea," says Jonker.
He adds that virtually none of the locals can speak English.
Even though communication was done through interpreters, good bonds were formed on the trip with some of the local people.
He hopes to in time, strengthen these ties of friendship.
"We hope that this relationship will grow and that we can learn even more about each others' cultures," Jonker says.