Saturday, March 7, 2015

Straight Up Trippin'

I have dreamed - and continue to dream - of being a travel writer.  I don't mean the kind who travels full-time, because I know myself well enough to realize that 3 weeks of flying solo is about as much as I can handle before I need at least one familiar face.  But occasionally when I'm writing about my travels I'm kind of clever (when I'm not being obscene) and maybe one day maybe someone will figure that out, so I keep plugging away at my blog.  I have also dreamed at least twice of being a tour guide.  I would either make a fantastic guide, or a terrible one.  Fantastic, because I'm pretty damn good at making plans and finding my way around.  Terrible because my style of travel tends to involve feeling places out and reading about them later, if I'm so inclined.  I actually loathe guides for this reason, and I only allowed Evil to hire one when we were traveling in India is because she promised hers was willing to shut up and take our pictures, if that was what we wanted.  But whether I make a great one or a horrible one, I'm giving it a shot anyways.  As I've mentioned, I organized a school trip for my darlings to Turkey.  I've been there before, in 2008, and have wanted to return ever since, and although I'm not going back for what I wanted to go back for (namely, visiting Pamukkale and Cappadocia), I can't wait to go back.

Well, on my way back from Greece I had a 20-hour layover, so I took the opportunity to get out and double check on a few points of our itinerary.  I've been meaning to write about making this trip happen, and I guess the time has finally come.  We leave four weeks from today, so I suppose it's about bloody time.

I was aided and abetted by the fact that I'd been at the school for almost two years when I first mentioned the trip to the Powers that Be, so I'd had some time to prove that I wasn't
a.) some idiot who couldn't handle the logistics of a simple field trip, or
b.) some freak who was going to sell kids off in another country.  The real planning finally started last May, when I realized that flying our kids to Turkey would only cost a little more than flying them to Hong Kong (my original plan), and they were a lot less likely to have been there.  There have been concerns since I started planning - my principal had heard about protests last spring and in the fall everyone was panicking about ISIS being on the border - but we re-evaluated in January and everyone agreed to go ahead and proceed with the trip.

There is probably a lot I should have done over the summer, but the sum total of work I did towards this end was buying the Lonely Planet guide to Istanbul.  Getting back and getting into my classroom again helped kind of light the fire under me, and I put together a brochure with information for students and their parents, as well as a slideshow with the info, which I shared in an assembly and during two parent info nights.  This meant some persuasive writing about why this was good for our students with links to curriculum ("Because travel is cool" doesn't quite cut it), putting together a workable itinerary with room for the students to give input if there was something that they wanted to check out (but only in the evenings), researching hotels and bus companies because we needed to get in from the airport and wanted to take a side trip to visit Gallipoli and Troy, checking out costs for different sites (some of which may be incorrect - I visited the Basilica Cistern on my way back from Greece and I'd had the wrong admission price for it) and putting together a trip budget, which was based on 20 students and two chaperones...since we are now down to 12 students, a lot of the money they've fundraised has to go to that difference.

And speaking of fundraising, I've spent just about every Monday morning since October helping my kids run a coffee shop, which offered Starbucks brew, cookies Engrish was kind enough to bake, as many different varieties of cupcakes as I could come up with (Dreamsicle is this week's invention), tea, hot chocolate, and smoothies, which the kids have to bring fruit for.  We've raised about $1000 with only about 40 minutes a week, and the kids have had a lot of fun with it.
Right now I'm bogged down with the last minute logistics - getting payments in, last minute checks, getting medical info and notaries, because apparently you can't leave the country with minors unless their parents have given you temporary guardianship.  Champ has helped a lot in this area - since she's in charge of our sports teams she's already dealt with it marvelously and has let me tweak some of her documentation and answered all sorts of questions at all hours of the day.  Our Go-To Girl has also helped a lot - Turkish Airlines, for example, is a lot easier to deal with in Mongolian over the phone than it is via email, and she's helped us order our hoodies.  I wanted something that would help me spot our kids in a crowd so this is where the rest of the fundraising money is going.  They'll also be part of the school uniform for next year, so the kids were pretty excited that they were getting them before everyone else, and I hope the parents will appreciate one thing they don't have to spend money on.

Currently at the top of my to-do list is finishing a travel journal for them with some information on the sites we're visiting and space for writing and drawing (with exercises to help them get started).  This will also include safety and cultural information that I'll go over with them in a meeting before we go.  Originally I thought we'd have this meeting in a local Turkish restaurant, but I'm thinking it may just be better to do it after school some evening.  After that, I'll just be getting final information in and triple-checking everything.  It's been a lot of work and a lot of stress, but if any kids have ever deserved it, these kids do.  I can't wait to share traveling with them, and I hope they'll enjoy it.

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