You Call This a Shower?: Part 4

You’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen them all.

So, yeah, I was the one who got lost, and I’m still embarrassed about it to this day. You can believe my crew never let me live it down either. When we got up that second day in Shannon, Ireland, I felt like death warmed over, but I took a long shower and pretended I was in the rain forest. You know, because the water pressure was horrible and was more like a mist than anything else. I couldn’t help still feeling dirty even after a long shower, but it was better than nothing, I guess.

The bus took us through Limerick where we stopped to stretch, and on to Killarney, which was a magical place. We started our tour at Ross Castle where our tour guide told us so many historical stories of the 15th century castle. I also went by myself down the street to an ATM to get out some Euros for the tip for a guide I hadn’t known we’d have. It’s also when I started worrying that we hadn’t placed enough in our account to deal with the cadre of guides we would use along the way, but I put it out of my head for the moment. When I headed back to the castle the group was ready to move on.

Climbing in the national park.
County Kerry.

Being such a large group, though, several of the leaders wanted to go to the national park while others wanted to visit St. Mary’s Cathedral. I led the smaller group to see St. Mary’s, and that was what eventually led to me getting lost. See, they were doing some roadwork and the bus was going to meet the first group at the park in two hours’ time, then come back to get us at St. Mary’s. On our way to St. Mary’s several of my group members said they were hungry and wanted to go to Subway to get some food (yes, there is a Subway in Killarney). I wasn’t hungry so I said I would just meet them at St. Mary’s and use a few minutes of my alone time to do a little sightseeing in Killarney. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 4”

Year One is Paper

“We practice the most concealment from ourselves when we avoid sharing with others.” – Theodicus Exactly one year ago today I started Sam’s Online Journal with the singular purpose of continuing my daily writing, and it has grown into so much more. It’s easy to think about it now and think how idealistic I was … Continue reading Year One is Paper

You Call This a Shower?: Part 3

I almost fell right after this photo.

After such a long transatlantic journey and an introduction to so many new people, it was easy to forget that I was responsible for 12 students across the world from where we lived. We arrived at the Shannon hotel in the early morning hours and were given our rooms. Now, instead of being able to sleep for eons like we all desperately wanted (we were a scraggly looking crew after the long bus and plane rides, and it being early morning), we had a grand total of one hour to clean up and get ready for our first bus tour. I used the time to make sure I knew where all my travelers were bunking, to call the first person in the phone tree to let them know we were there safely, and of course to get clean.

Now, I had been to Europe before, on a trip to Ireland with my new wife for our honeymoon in 2003, so I had been introduced to the “shower culture”of the Emerald Isle, but it had been so long ago that I forgot what it had been all about… until I turned on that water in the hotel room in Shannon. Then it all came flooding back, no ironic pun intended. To say the water pressure was lacking would be putting it a bit accurately. If it had been dripping on me, drop by drop, I would have probably felt the exact same way I did standing under what was called a shower, and I had my doubts. But I didn’t have much time and had to keep moving, not at all feeling refreshed yet on the move anyway.

Then back to the huge bus, one of those that settled down before the door opened, and to our clearly Irish bus driver and clearly British tour director. But our group was clearly American so we started talking and we didn’t stop until we got to a roadside cafe in the Irish countryside, a charming little place that served “breakfast & lunch” on a regular basis, but I remember thinking they would make more money if they served dinner too. We were responsible for our own lunches, so each of my group members went into their previously concealed fanny packs (I made them wear those) to get out those new Euros that we all still didn’t quite understand the value of. Which brought us to one of the biggest debates I had with the parents and students before we even left for Europe. Alcohol control. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 3”

You Call This a Shower?: Part 2

The Heathrow shuffle.

I knew I was still crazy, but it felt like a good kind of crazy the closer we came to getting on that airplane for a six hour trip fast forward in time across the Atlantic. And then the day had arrived, the one I had been waiting for an entire two years, or even since I first left that booth at NCTE (the national English teacher’s conference) in late November, 2005, and we were loading up on the Greyhound bus headed for New York City: me, 12 students, and 3 chaperones. The bus was a concession we had to make because I had unwittingly secured us a tour out of the NYC without first finding a way for us to get to the NYC. We somehow got sixteen seats on the bus, though, and made our way to the city that doesn’t sleep, with our plethora of bags, ready for our great adventure.

Part of the crew.

When we got to New York City it was a quick trip from the bus station to the airport, but our times were really close so we had to hurry. Little did we know then how much of a story rushing would be for us during the rest of the journey, but we made our first flight with no real problems. It was the changeover I was most worried about, however, as we had to fly to London first, then cross through the airport to board the plane to Ireland, all in a matter of two hours. The biggest problem was that we would have to go through customs in London, then all the way across the airport to the Ireland terminal and through security before being able to board the next plane. Our tour guide would meet us once we arrived in the Shannon airport and take it from there.

But our plane got into Heathrow late, and the queue for customs was longer than the line for a Justin Bieber concert, not to mention that two in our group were waylaid at customs for whatever reasons. Passports were in order, we weren’t even staying in England, and they had to put our trip on pause while the rest of time moved on. I kept checking my watch while the customs agent tried to explain something I would never understand anyway. Eventually we kept moving, but by that time our group was champing at the bit knowing how little time we had. Once we left customs we sprinted for the Aer Lingus counter to check in and get our boarding passes, and when we were about halfway there we heard that boarding had started. Yikes. We picked up the pace, got there in record time, got our passes, and headed through security. Where we had another issue. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 2”

You Call This a Shower?: Part 1

On the road in Ireland, 2008.

I must have been crazy.

At least that’s what everyone told me when they found out I wanted to lead a group of students on an educational tour of England, Ireland, and Wales. But I never felt that way until we actually got there, and I realized the awesome responsibility that had been handed to me by virtue of my decision. I mean, I knew it was a huge deal, and I had to do so much preparation it was ridiculous, but being singularly responsible for the well-being of 12 teenagers a world away from their parents, yes, an awesome responsibility. And it was some of the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. It all started with an English teacher’s conference, if you can believe it.

For the first time since I became a high school English teacher I decided I wanted to go to the national conference. It helped that in 2005 it was in Pittsburgh, which wasn’t so far a cry from upstate New York where I lived and taught, so I petitioned my school and they said it would be worthwhile, paying for my travel, my expenses, and the conference itself. Of course it was all under the condition that I give an in-session presentation for other teachers when I returned. Woo hoo! Vacation! And I really mean that because I love love love conferences, getting to meet so many different people and participate in discussions, watch lectures, and just get my “nerd on.”

Free books!

But there was one thing I hadn’t anticipated, it being my first English teacher’s national conference, something I learned the very first day from some other new teacher friends of mine: THE BOOTHS. Wow, I had absolutely no clue that there were going to be booths where book companies, other educational companies, vendors, and salesfolk gathered and they herded us teachers through like cattle. Every single one of the companies were hawking their wares like used car salesmen, and it was a whirlwind of sights and sounds. Oh, and free books. I picked up a huge bag from one of the major book companies, and all I had to do for it was listen to a spiel and promise I would let my school know the good deal they could get if they went with that company. Then I filled up my huge bag with tons of free books that vendors were just giving out.

Um, but I’m getting off topic. The national conference was fun, and I went to two others after it, but that’s not my story right now (don’t worry, I’ll fill you in with another blog post on the subject). Really, the relevant part of the conference story was the travel booth, a place that intrigued me when I first passed by on my way to the Nicholas Sparks book signing (yes, yes, Nicholas Sparks was there). There were two young ladies there who seemed more laid back than other books, then I saw why. They had a sign-up sheet where if you just put down your information you could win a trip for two to many exotic places. Of course the sign-up sheet was a mailing list that meant they could bother you anytime about leading a tour for them. I felt it was a good trade-off so I signed up, but that was the trick. They were talking to me the whole time and had pretty much sold me on the idea of leading an educational tour by the time I was done signing their sheet. Man, they were good with the ol’ bait and switch! Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 1”