Now it’s history

Regardless of what signs and gates were put up, my students, and a lot of other people quietly walked into the World War II memorial.  Although Abe was covered up in the background, the kids still took their once in a lifetime pictures.  In all actuality, their pictures are much more “once in a lifetime” than any other ever taken at the same spot.  It was history in motion.

Of course the government has reopened, but their will always be the few weeks that it was closed, and in terms of history, hopefully that is a once in a lifetime ordeal.


Living History

From the Outside Looking in.

Freedom behind bars

I have been to Washington DC before, I know how powerful it would have been for the students to stand where Dr. King gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech, I know how emotional it can be watching the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, I even enjoy watching people try to do those dumb “fit the capital building in your hand” pictures.  My students on the other hand, have never seen or can relate to those experience, not even now, after a trip to Washington DC.

In the midst of what ended up being a life changing week for the students involved in the International Emerging Leaders Conference was the weekend in Washington DC.  This should have been a highlight of the trip, most of the students will not have the chance to be in America anytime soon, let alone the capital.  Living in Morocco for the last two school years I have become displaced from the everyday news outlets of America.  I still follow what I can but I do not have the background noise of having the news on as I get up and as I fall asleep.  For a week I enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at my hotel, but did not enjoy the daily news.  Each day the counter on the bottom right corner of the TV showed “Days to debt ceiling, Government shutdown day # ___”.  Everyday as I tried to eat my cinnamon raisin bagel I had to explain to a different international colleague what was going on, and why it was happening now.  As I described the topics that have become the catalyst in this shutdown I was neutral as possible, because it is not morally right to describe things from my 25 year old, science teacher living abroad angle.   Only knowing my colleagues for a few days, I have the upmost respect for them, and it would have been wrong to give them only one side of the story, after all we are teachers.

As the week started I was optimistic that the museums would be opened by Saturday.  The Collegiate School had set up tours and museum visits for a jam-packed weekend to end an amazing experience.  With the government still shutdown the tours were cancelled, the museums were empty, and even Abe Lincoln was covered with a black cloth.

Signs were everywhere, gates ran across all of the national parks and monuments, but the day was jumpstarted by student insight.  As my four students from Morocco stepped into the middle of the WW2 memorial a protest of 20 veterans was ending in the Atlantic side of the memorial.  One of my students reluctantly asked if that was what a protest was in America, because it was not to impressive.  Teacher mode kicked in, and I described how meaningful it is that WW2 veterans would make it down to the memorial just to talk for a few seconds.  It may not have been 5,000 teenagers screaming for new rights, but it was just as powerful.     The day continued to walk on the fine line of enjoying the capital and being annoyed at what was going on around us.  Students began to take pictures around the signs, and truly have some once in a lifetime pictures.  Luckily, high schoolers have a tendency to make the best out of any situation, and instead of doing the adult thing and complain the whole time, they really enjoyed themselves.

**Since I was going to write about it anyway, I put this in for a writing challenge that you can find here:

Lessons from a Jetlagged Teacher

The week started off in true traveling with Mr. C fashion, a nervous sweat filled visit to the airport with an out of left field cancelled flight that resulted in a 10 hour layover.  To give the Sparknotes version of the traveling fiasco, myself and 4 students got to the 2nd leg of our journey in Frankfurt before a flight got cancelled and what were transported to what seemed to be a reality TV show.  As we sat in the Frankfurt airport, looking to get into Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, it was recommended that we take a direct flight into a different airport in the US then hop on a connecting flight into Dulles.  That seemed reasonable enough, going into somewhere like Newark, although New Jersey is not the worst thing that can happen.  Upon further review, the German gentlemen who may or may not have actually worked for Lufthansa (or some B- class TV station) started printing out tickets for my crew to get on a direct flight to San Francisco, and then wait 6 hours to get on a plane from San Francisco to Dulles.  I opted not to use the first few words that popped into my head… I mean, I was a chaperone, responsible for young’uns and have to keep a cool exterior.  To say the least the guy really does owe my students some candy for saving him from some serious verbal abuse.  After a few seconds of weird somewhat crazy giggling to myself I told him that we were finding another way to get to Dulles, one that did not involve wasting 16 hours of anyone’s time.  As the group got a better flight path I thought we were in the clear…

As awesome Lufthansa employee number 1 sent us off on our merry way he forgot to look at the flight plan that he put some of us on.  As we got to the check-in desk Lufthansa employee number 2 looked at our tickets, and could not print a boarding pass because the flight has a waiting queue of 25 people that were in the same position as us.  Seeing that I had trouble brewing in my eyes, employee number 2 had to call the bullpen and in came the lefty.  As we dove into employee number 3 we finally got someone who can work the Google machine and she was able to put us on a flight that actually had seats.   Luckily that was the last of the real issues with simply getting to the US, and once we got through the baggage claim the actual conference was amazing.

Getting to the conference tidbits:

1)   This is the second time Lufthansa has gave me the short end of the stick, the “Star Alliance” needs to do a blood pact, because right now the companies really don’t take care of each other.

2)   The first life lesson my students learned on this trip was how not to act when a flight gets cancelled, I was very annoyed but kept it calm on the exterior.  I cannot say the same for what seemed to be everyone around us.

3)   Lufthansa employee number 3 was about as close to getting a kissy face from me than anyone is ever going to get, a very positive way to end my experience with this fiasco.

A few things my students have to try in the US

This week I am going on a work based trip in Richmond Virginia and Washington DC with 4 students.  We are going to an Emerging Leaders Conference to discuss environmental issues and hopefully some conservation policies.  Beyond that 3 of the 4 students have not been to the US, and there are a few things they must do to make this trip a success.

1) Put Franks Red Hot on a sandwich. 

2) Eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. 

3) Be on an American Highway. 

4) Watch a game of American football with a family that likes different teams.  

5) Eat normal, mass produced high school lunch. 

6) Put their favorite band on pandora, and listen to it for at least one hour

I’ll let you know how it all works out. 

The way the other half lives (not the good half)

This weekend was a real dose of reality, tucked away in the Atlas mountains was a berber village that welcomed about 20 staff from GWA.  A very scenic hike was followed by thyme tea and homemade (like bashing with a mortar) jams from cactus and blackberries.  The village was still getting used to indoor pluming and electricity, only having the former for about half a year.  The houses had dwellings on the first floors for animals that included goats, cows, and chickens.  A very memorable weekend to start a great stretch of traveling as the school year opens up.