As a foreign language teacher I planned field trips annually. Despite the challenges I continued to plan some kind of trip every year relatively close by or abroad…whether it was to Mexico, San Antonio, downtown Houston or to a college hosting a special event, my students wanted to know, “Where are we going this year?” Steven Spielberg once said “I want to make movies I would want to watch; that my family can watch.” I always wanted to plan a trip that I would like to take, one that even my daughters would take with us (my students and me).
Filled with motivation, convinced of their value, among the trips I planned were several to Mexico.
However, not everything went according to plan on those trips abroad. I’m going to recall some of the experiences that could have marked my last trip. They involved trips that I would label “reality field trip” experiences. I can only laugh about some of those now, but I sure didn’t laugh about them when they happened. When I think of them now, I wonder, “Why did I keep planning the next trip?” I’ve given each unforgettable experience a title just to prepare you a bit for what’s coming.
You spent all your money the first day?!!! One trip took my students and me to Mexico. We arrived late in the morning, had a Mexican lunch around 2:00 then went shopping. That night we went out to dinner and the twins on the trip came to me announcing they couldn’t pay for their dinner. They had spent ALL their money that afternoon at a jewelry stand. Even after careful planning before the trip including conversation about the difference between dollars and pesos, the importance of budgeting…WHAT? Thank goodness my own credit card was healthy, so they became my “wards” for every meal. I was reimbursed when the bill came in at the end of the month. Their parents informed me that their daughters were going to be doing a lot of babysitting to pay them back what was not budgeted for the trip.
From point A to point B, I lost my ticket. Still another trip, I told the students to meet me at the airport on the appointed day and time. There was a meeting before the actual day to check for passports, go over checklists, proof of citizenship, etc. Thinking I had thought of everything, I kept the plane tickets to distribute at the airport. I did not want to pass out those tickets and face a family or student who had somehow misplaced their ticket before the trip. So think-of-everything-me sat myself in seats right in front of the check-in counters. I handed each student their ticket that they only had to walk from my seat to the ticket counter. And then it happened…one student and her parents came to me in a panic saying they knew I had just given their daughter her ticket, but SOMEHOW the ticket was lost from my seat to the counter. This time our travel agent’s healthy credit card paid for a new ticket on the spot and the agency sorted out the discrepancy after the trip. Still don’t know what could have happened to that ticket…it’s a mystery…although I have searched in my mind for logical explanations.
You mean hotels don’t include laundry? Still another trip took us to Mexico City to a moderately priced hotel. We had a wonderful trip with all the activities falling into place throughout our week’s stay. The day we were to leave, a tearful student came to me to report she was faced with almost $50 extra in laundry fees. WHAT? Guilty me. I had warned students about not incurring costly phone bills by using the phone. In fact I had the local and long distance blocked on each student’s room. They could only call each other from room to room. Yep, Guilty me…I was guilty because I had not specifically said, “Don’t send your clothes out to be laundered.”
“But I thought it was included in the hotel service,” she cried. (Live and learn; it’s not.) She, also, had some babysitting to do when she got home after I let her parents know what had happened. Thankfully another parent on the trip and friend of her family, bailed my tearful student out. I came to find out over the course of many trips that some wonderful parents as chaperones helped out tremendously.
Illness, food allergies…food aversions, roommate issues. Why did I keep planning the next trip? I wanted them to see Chichén Itzá a Mayan citadel on the Yucatan. I wanted them to climb “El Castillo”, its pyramid.
I wanted them to visit the Mayan observatory, the “juego de pelota” (ball court), and the sacred “cenote” (well) where sacrifices were made, both human and precious metals.
I wanted them to see the immense stone pillar that supported an equally immense stone circle that dropped water like a rain fall in the center of the Museum of Anthropology. I wanted them to run through the water in the heat of the afternoon sun.
I wanted them to listen to the “Jarabe Tapatío”, Mexican hat dance, at the Palace of Fine Arts and take pleasure in their clapping rhythmically to the dance and music.
I still hear from several of my travelers, especially at Christmas time. I look forward to their Christmas cards and the joy they share with me in reporting that their own children have traveled and are traveling abroad.