Sunday, January 8, 2017

To Ecuador With 16 Students



"It's only an adventure when something goes wrong," said a wise traveler who learned to adapt and ultimately find joy in the diverse, exhilarating moments inherent to international travel.

...and...especially when we throw in a mixture of student who may have never left the country.

We are having a blast--with some close adventures.

We've had one student leave his/her passport and money bag in a different terminal...another student who left his/her passport on the table in the hotel...yes, just ask Mrs. C (my teacher partner) about her emergency taxi ride back to the hotel with just one illegal u-turn.

After we got the student checked in, the agent said, "Now, you better run!" Did we ever. And we were smiling the whole way.

However, we weren't smiling the previous day when the gate agent in Miami announced our flight from Miami to Quito had been canceled. It was a Pamplona running of the bulls for Mrs. C and me as we tried to beat the rush of a hundred plus most-fit-ever Miami-ans who were trying to reach the re-booking desk a quarter of a mile down the terminal--before us.

Fortunately, it was a false alarm as the gate agent had announced the cancellation, and it wasn't ours--but only after the death run to rebook 22 people. Thank goodness one of our chaperones was paying attention when the gate agent corrected herself five minutes later. The flight canceled was to Veil Colorado and we were thankful we didn't belong with all the Floridians who weren't headed for their luxury ski vacations, but instead in the company of amazing teenagers on our way to the land of volcanoes, monkey fruit, and precious children living in orphanages.

What a pleasure it's been seeing our students handle new situations: watching some take the long, lonely walk to the intimidating immigration agent knowing it's either the first time or previously in the company of their parents; or watching the most guileless of all get patted down at security.

So far the trip has been an investment to just get here. A late night flight to Miami, a day in the Miami airport, a flight to Quito requiring a night in a hotel, and finally, our last, short 6:00 a.m flight to Cuenca--our destination. 
Which is why, in retrospect and in my current thoughts, I believe that foreign travel is so important to a child's development; I even see in part why I am the person I am today~~I traveled extensively as a teenager, and travel adventure (because something always goes wrong), requires patience. Canceled flights, babbled languages not understood, connections with people who are so different from ourselves; the humility from not holding the foreign world in the palm of one's hand when a teenager most often thinks he or she does.
I see the students' dependence on others; they must listen or get lost; they are vulnerable; they don't know it all. 
All teenagers should be raised in a foreign country.
Chuckle, chuckle.

But perhaps, that's what growing up is: a foreign country and precisely the reason why we are here to guide them.