The week leading up to my first trip since returning from our around the world trip, I started getting that anxious anticipation of packing my green backpack and setting out on another adventure. This time though, it was an adventure with 44 other teachers, students, and parents. You could consider it more of an educational village taking over the narrow streets of France.
Bienvenue en France
Before we even set out on our trip, our first of many hurdles presented itself, our flight between Omaha and Dallas was one of many flights that had been cancelled on American Airlines. So with some quick thinking, we rented a bus and headed directly to Chicago. Without losing stride, but losing several hours of sleep in the process, we left Omaha at 5 a.m. Realizing how precious sleep would be, I tried my best to sleep, but my inability to sleep on any moving public transportation and the combination of incessant anxious chatter of students and other teachers, quality sleep was hard to come by.
Our flight from Chicago lead us to London Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest hubs in the world. I imagined Heathrow would be a spacious and expansive airport. I found it to be an airport of constant corridors going around in circles with hidden turns to get you to scratch your head, look over your shoulder, look at your boarding pass for the fifth time, and continue walking tentatively as if you were walking towards someone who is going to surprise you. I know know what a mice feel like in a maze. Needless to say, we ended up going through the same secruity line twice to the bewilderment of the security personnel and the students. We the chaperones found it to be pretty amusing, but the students not so much.
By the time we arrived in Nice, we had taken 4 flights and had been travelling for over 24 hours with a total of 43 people. To add to our rocky start, one student's bag was sent to Dallas, a destination that we hadn't visited, but the bag had still mysteriously found its way there. It eventually would arrive 5 days later in Paris. Another student was sick and vomiting, and this all happened in the first day and a half of our trip. What more could happen? Well, it did.
Who knew that New Mexican would find his way over to France wearing the same goofy ol' clothes?
Beginning our second day in France, we busted out of the confines of Nice to the ancient walled village of St. Paul de Vence. As we walked through the city to the southern edge where people are able to walk along the fortified wall. We reached a narrow section of wall that crossed over the entrance to the city, but that was closed off by a gate. Despite the the iron fence, three students had the bright idea of jumping over this fenced off area to walk along the ledge of the wall with a 20 to 25 foot drop to the cobbled stone road below. The first student landed safely, but the second didn't. With the student's feet crossed when he landed, he slipped, and started sliding over the edge. Luckily, the student turned their torso and grasped the ledge, and then fell. All of us rushed to the scene as I arrived first, we called for an ambulance, and I immediately ran to find the student's parents. WIthin two minutes, an ambulance was on the scene. Fortunately for everyone involved, the student's parents were both on the trip, and France is a country known for having excellent medical care. In the end of the day, the student was very lucky, even considering a shattered ankle and broken lower vertebrae, because it could have easily been much worse.
View from St. Paul de Vence
The mood of the trip immediately turned somber. We went on to Cannes despite the circumstances. The Cannes Film Festival starts in May. Activity around the Promenade Anglaise was pretty busy. After the days events I grabbed my prerequisite Magnum ice cream bar, and began walking some of the back streets of Nice all while looking for an ever evasive toilet. So as I was walking, an older French woman was sticking her head out of a her hotel. I quickly asked her if she knew where I could find a quick place to empty my bladder. She gladly let me use her bathroom. Relieved, I started walking to the front door when a medical student from Washington D.C. entered the hotel. She was looking for an apartment for the upcoming festival for her friend. The only problem, the medical student didn't speak French, and the French lady didn't speak English. I jumped in and served as urine-free translator. As a result, I earned my bathroom privileges by translating for them.
Next stop: the 68' Winter Olympics