Thursday, November 21, 2013

Discovery Week

I thought about titling this blog “Why I will never be able to work in America again” but I thought that might border on braggadocios. And well, you know what they say about saying “never.” And so, Discovery Week won.

As you may remember from previous posts, our school has a tradition in the high school to take a week off from regular classes and “discover.” Teachers design courses ranging from learning how to cook here in Seoul to camping in the deserts of Oman. I’ll be the first to admit that planning a trip with 15 teenagers can be stressful and that spending a solid week with my hormonal, sans-prefrontal cortex students isn’t exactly the portrait of a holiday.  But, come on. Who says “no” to hiking in the Himalayas? Not this Colorado girl. And so, off I went.

The last time I went to Nepal, we stayed relatively close to the foothills near Kathmandu. We went off the beaten path, so to speak, though the actual path we followed was well worn by the locals traveling from village to village. This time, we took the most scenic flight I have ever been on to the town of Pokhara and took off on our hiking from there. This distance gave us spectacular views of the Annapurna Range though we ourselves never got much above 6,000 feet.

Now, a trip like this sounds amazing on paper. Exotic culture, spectacular mountains, “fancy camping” (as I like to call it), what is there not to like? In the planning stages, you have to know that your wild card is always going to be the group of students traveling with you. Their attitudes and behavior can make or break any trip, no matter how well-planned.

One of our campsites

These kids are used to traveling. Just like us, their parents take every chance they can get to check another country off the list or go back to their favorite Thai beach. They are the hipsters of the travel world. “What? You haven’t been to Burma? It’s really great this time of year. I wouldn’t go in the summer, though. Too touristy.”

They can be tough to impress. Not only have they been everywhere but their parents are often CEOs or dignitaries of some sort and are therefore *ahem* well off. When they travel, they go in style. Business class or bust, baby. So when I am imagining flying to Nepal with these guys, knowing that we will be sleeping in tents, without showers, and either using the glorious forest floor or (if we are lucky) a squatty potty to “take care of business”, I am a little skeptical. How are they going to react?

And so, here I am today to confess to you that I sold these kids unbelievably short. They were incredible. They were as thrilled as I was when we got to our first campsite and found squatty potties available to us. They even came back and told the rest of the group that they had to go check out just how clean said services were.  
The actual view from the squatty potty

They raved about the food prepared by our tour guides and thanked them profusely for everything that they did for us.
Yep. He made a cake in a portable kitchen. A CAKE!

When it came time for some manual labor at one of the village schools, they didn’t bat an eye about getting dirty and working hard all day. Even to the very end on our red-eye flight back to Seoul, they were bright and cheerful and ready to face the day.

I guess that the “discoveries” made during Discovery Week aren’t limited just to our students. I’ve mentioned before how TCKs (third culture kids) are different. After this trip, I think I’ll be proud to have a couple of them in my house.