Friday, August 3, 2012

Retro Vacation Photos {Washington D.C}

If I could go back in time and change one trip, it would probably be this one.

Nearly every trip I took during college, was taking in the summer. Except for my Washington D.C. trip. I had the opportunity to travel over spring break with People to People. As a teacher-leader, I would supervise a group of gifted middle school students and facilitate educational experiences.

Since I had never been a teacher, or done my student teaching, I didn't have much experience supervising students, but I wanted to put this on my resume. And I had traveled in groups before so I basically knew a few tricks on how to make things go smoothly for myself.

Oh how wrong I was.

The trip got off to an OK start. I remember having a middle seat on the flight to D.C. and beside me was a college boy who was on his way back from Cancun. He told me about how he had just gone on a spring break vacation it sounded like one long PARTY. I told him that I was going to D.C. to supervise students. Without pay.

We flirted and chatted, he was a student at George University in Washington D.C. and he was pretty cute. I thought how lucky I was not to be seated beside an old man with bad breath. I don't remember the kids name, except that he was really hoarse. He could hardly talk because he had laryngitis. I assumed it was his body rejecting the week of heavy partying that he had done and we joked about it.

After the flight, we said farewell, and my group went to the hotel to meet our students. The first few days were pretty exciting.  The itinerary for the week included the Colonial Williamsburg in VA, Capitol Hill the White House and Congress, an Embassy visit,  Holocaust Museum, the Spy Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Mall and Memorial Parks and more things that I can't even remember. The weather was chilly. March is not the ideal time to visit Washington D.C., it was rainy and cool with gray skies nearly every day.

As part of the experience, 3 teachers rode on a tour bus with their groups of students and we had one professional tour guide who would talk over the microphone and give us information about each location.

It was a really incredible set-up...if you ever have the change to travel with People-to-People, or your kids do, definitely take advantage.

A couple of days into the trip, I started feeling sick. My throat started to get sore, I had no voice and my head felt like I had a bad bad head cold. There was no time to rest and no time to recover, the trip was GO GO GO. One of the only days that I had free time, I remember walking along a scary bit of road from our hotel to either a drug store or a convienence store to get some over-the-counter non-drowsy medication.

By mid-way through the trip, I was very miserable. Luckily, I had a really good group of kids. They were smart and well-behaved and none of them gave me any trouble. They were all from nice families, and they were really sweet. One boy was devastated after we visited Colonial Williamsburg and he lost his dad's digital camera. We looked everywhere, but could not find it.

One day, we had a special visitor on our bus. The program had 3 Key Facilitators, and they took turns riding on the tour buses. One of them was a big guy who we will call Ken. I can't remember his real name. Ken rode on our bus for the day and I was so proud of our kids for being good at the monuments and it seemed like a successful day to me. That evening when we got back to the hotel for large group activities, Ken called myself and the other two teachers in for a special 'talk'. He told us that our bus was one of the worst he had seen. The kids talked while the 'guide' was talking and they were disrespectful. Ken explained that we weren't enforcing the expectations that the organization had for their student groups and he would be riding with us again the next day to make sure that we could improve. He said that students should not be wearing head phones or playing gameboys while on the bus, especially when the tour guide was speaking.


Our tour guide was very relaxed and funny. He never once acted like everyone should be taking notes....he gave silly anecdotes and helped pass the time, it wasn't like there would be a quiz afterwards. Needless to say, the three of us were devastated and insulted. I spent the entire evening crying my eyes out. I felt so guilty and ashamed, I felt like it was all my fault.

The next day, we tried to be better leaders. We loved our student groups, but we made them put away all of their electronics and we were very strict about 'talking' while the tour guide was talking. It completely ruined the trip for me. It added a ridiculous amount of stress and frustration. We had great groups, ours were not the crazy out of control behaviors.

After the long crying session, my illness spiraled into something much much worse. What had been a sore throat and a head cold turned into a very painful earache. By the last day, I had two ear aches. It wasn't pretty and I couldn't sleep at night because of the pain.

And on the final day, I had to board an airplane, and change altitude with two very painful ear infections. Looking back, I can probably attribute my illness to the jerk who had spent his spring break on a very wild vacation. When I got home, I remember that I had to take antibiotics to clear up the infections. I was miserable because I had to go right back to school.

Honestly, I did not take as many pictures on this trip as I have on other trips. It wasn't a fun vacation. But it was a learning experience. I didn't do very much journaling on the trip, but there are so many things I will never forget.

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