Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why the hills are alive with the sound of whining

It's day 12 of the trip right now (is that all?), and I can't think of where to begin. With the unexpected phone call to my hotel room the morning of my last day of freedom in Paris, saying, "Surprise! One of your students arrived a day early and you have to go pick her up at the airport right now"? Or how about the airport pickup the next day, otherwise known as The Day I Spent Eight Hours in Charles de Gaulle Airport, Oh My God. I was there from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., dashing from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 and back again, as it just so happened that each successive student arrived in a different terminal than the one before him. The trip between terminals required a 10 minute train ride and a 20 minute walk, each time with more students trailing behind me, Pied Piper-like, with all their collective baggage, until I started stashing them at strategic points throughout the airport, leaving them with snacks and words of comfort like, "Wait here, I'll be right back!" and then, two hours later, trying to remember where I had put them. Do I talk about how then, after all that, I had to wait in an hour and a half line for RER tickets to get us out of the damn airport, and how every minute I waited I trembled in fear of a hungry, tired, cranky teenaged uprising? I could talk about Paris itself, I suppose, which turned out to be quite lovely, once we all finally left the airport, with trips to the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, Versailles, and a Seine bateau mouche tour on the night of the summer solstice, an experience so perfect it requires its own entry.

I should probably talk about Chamonix, and the 5-day circuit hike of Mont Blanc, and how it was the most physically and mentally challenging experience of my life to date. I received my little "diplĂ´me" and honestly, I'm probably more proud of it than I am of my high school diploma. High school schmigh school; I hiked Mont Blanc, and I have the aching joints and sock tan to prove it. The scenery was amazing, as you might expect; almost too much to take in. I took pictures, but I doubt that they can do
justice to the grandness of it all: that no matter where you are, you are surrounded by mountain peaks in all directions, the vastness, and how the mountains tower over you, the tinkling of the cow bells, like I was starring in a modern-day version of Heidi, one where helicopters buzz overhead and the countryside is dotted with American high school students scampering around the Alps in hiking boots and bikini tops. So yes, it would have been nearly sublime, if I hadn't been immersed in a private world of my own pain, and the incessant nagging questions of "how much fuuurther"? from 11 students.

Things I've learned on this trip so far:
- I don't really need as much sleep as I think I do
- The necessary art of doing my delicate business using both squat toilets and the great outdoors
- That which does not kill me will still make me beg for a quick and merciful death

I haven't had much time to post lately, obviously, so I need to wrap this up and attend to my duties as baby-sitter, nay-sayer and general all-around bad guy to 11 10 students. (Don't ask). For now, I leave you with this moment of zen:


  1. Are we there yet? Huh? Are we there now??

    Well,anyway, you are surviving and, apparently, thriving. I wish I were 25 again. But without the student escort. And with a million euro.

    I have to go now and sell my child to buy a gallon of gas so I can buy food for the rest of us.

    Stay well.



    PS-This post appeared on my screen on July 2 so the Internet connections are really slow! I guess Europe is farther than I thought. :)

  2. See, this is why I am allergic to camping. And airports. And teenagers, when they're whining.

  3. So I guess you haven't lost any passports or emergency money or laptops yet?

  4. So glad you're safe and having an...interesting time!
    Can't wait to hear all the stories.

  5. Beautiful Shot. Tres Julie! Hehe. Like I know more french than "Merci Au Revoir!" (aka what you say to shop owners while leaving without buying anything).

    You Rock, Rach. Can't wait to chat.

  6. At the airport pickup, couldn't you have sat midway between the two terminals and just cried? That's what I would have done and hoped that my wails would have lured the curious kids my way.

    I guess not.

    I hope every other day is better. Not "every other" day meaning every alternate day. Because that would just suck for the non-other days.

    I'll just stop typing now. A bientot.

  7. M- I wish I was 25 again too! But 16? I've always experienced mild nostalgia for my teenage years until this trip, and now suddenly...I wouldn't go back to that for the world.

    28 is better, if for no other reason than I am in my hotel room right now, and I am totally eating cookies for dinner. Sometimes I love being a grown-up.