Europe

After the Pax Lodge activities, we boarded our bus to find our own lunch spot.  (Bela and I spotted a Pizza Hut sign, so we went four flights below street level for some tasty food.)  There was time to spend a few pounds after lunch, so we did some shopping.  Traffic was “chockablock,” so we were a bit delayed after we met up again at the bus and proceeded on a three-hour tour.  Unlike Gilligan, we did not get stranded.  We did, however, get wet.

I learned that snapping a decent picture is nearly impossible through a window while zooming by the attraction…in the rain.  I also learned that taxis had high ceilings in them to allow men to climb in without removing their top hats.  Despite the fashions of today, tradition is tradition.

We got out near Buckingham Palace for a photo op.  Bela stayed on the bus, but I took the cameras and represented the García family.  Janet, the tour guide, and our bus driver, Noel, were very nice and helpful.  Our time in London was precisely scheduled—much to my dismay—so we spent quite a chunk of time walking.  Dear Rich, our babysitter full-time guide, walked like he was late for a fire.  By the time we arrived at our supper destination, The Jugged Hare, Bela was in tears.  Her ankle brace had rubbed a blister on her, and her hip was throbbing.  At this point, Bela was ready to go home (as in back to Nebraska).  In spite of the drama and fatigue, I took some cool pictures that I’ll share.  More later!

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I found a cool car place and took Bernard Bear.

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I love this building.

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The queen was not in residence.

Pax Lodge and Bernard Bear

The next day was reserved for a trip to Pax Lodge for a special pinning ceremony.  I surprised Ysabela by buying a Bernard Bear from the hotel, so he went with us; the bears were being sold to raise funds for a children’s hospital.  People buy a bear, tour London with him and take pictures to share with the hotel staff.  The hotel has a wall dedicated to Bernard’s travels.

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I stayed around Pax long enough to get some pictures, then I took off for the nearest café!  I did take Bernard with me since Bela and the other girls (from various tour groups) were playing games and learning more about the Pax Lodge history.

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Bela and Sierra

I learned that the flags on the building represent the home countries of the directors and the volunteers.  Any Girl Scout can apply to volunteer at Pax Lodge.  The young ladies we met were quite enthusiastic and happy to share their experiences.  I was fascinated by the pins on the board.  Before I went for coffee, I bought a bird for Ysabela.  They were made by a volunteer with scraps of fabric and embellishments.  As a quilter, I love that idea.

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I walked a few blocks with Bernard tucked in my purse to find coffee and some quiet time.  When I travel, I need time to myself to process what I’ve seen and experienced.  I met Luz at the café.  She spoke Spanish, so it was nice to visit with her.  She was very kind.  I stayed there long enough to savor my coffee and write in my journal.  I made it back to the lodge by eleven, and we headed out on the bus to explore and eat lunch on our own.

Luz and bear bear and coffee

 

London!

One thing that really surprised me in London was hearing many languages being spoken.  I had expected to hear a lot of the Queen’s English, but that was simply not the case!  I enjoyed the diversity around me, and so did Ysabela.  That being said, now back to our adventure….

While Rich dashed off to purchase tickets for Mamma Mia (for 38 pounds each), I took advantage of some shopping time after Bela and I sampled fish (haddock) and chips.  Ketsup cost extra, so we did without it.  It was much like the batter fried fish we get at Long John Silver.  We went to the M&M store and grabbed some neat things along with the chocolate.  Bela got chilled from the rain and wind later, so she unwrapped her blanket and used it like a rain coat.  We bought two on sale for three pounds each when I paid for Bela’s huge bag of candy.

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Bela was so tired by late afternoon, but she wasn’t alone; my feet ached, but we still had to keep moving on and off the metro.  The poor kid actually fell asleep while Rich tracked down two of the girls who got misplaced.  It took him about an hour to get back with them.

At least Bela’s shopping trip was successful.  She was pleased to find a flag and a London iPhone case.  I couldn’t find a case for my phone, so I was a bit disappointed.  We made it to Hult for supper where we had pizza.  It was pretty tasty after such a long day.  Some of the older ladies and I were nearly worn down to a nub after so many hours spent walking around London.  We made it to the hotel (finally) around seven.  (Keep in mind that we flew out Sunday after lunch and it was now Monday night.)  I was rooming with Laura, a Girl Scout leader.  Laura had emailed me prior to the trip to introduce herself which was kind of her.  I was thankful that Laura had a spare adapter so I could charge my phone!  Bela was rooming with three girls from the Texas group.  They had been discussing anime all day, so they had bonded a bit.

We hit the showers, then I perked up enough to go to the hotel bar for some American coffee.  It only cost me a pound.  I smoked a couple of cigarettes, then dropped off Bela’s medicines.

On my final smoke break of the night, I met a girl named Charlie Alex.  Her boyfriend, George, was caring for his little sister—Marla, two years old, green eyes, red curly hair.  Her picture was adorable.  Charlie asked me questions about the United States, and I listened to her explain why she was unhappy with the decision to leave the European Union.  She opined that it will limit economic opportunities for her generation.  Chatting with Charlie was a nice ending to a very hectic day.

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10-Day Whirlwind Tour

I have been away on vacation with my teen, Ysabela, for 10 days, but it feels like a lot longer!  I’m happy to be home and blogging again.  In this series of blogs, I will go over the trip day by day to share the experiences with you all.  I kept a journal just for that purpose since I had so many people interested in our travels.

July 10, 2016: We were lucky enough to be transported by friends to the airport, so that saved me a lot of parking fees and stress.  We made our flight, but it was a bit sketchy.  Dawn, one of the flight attendants, was there, but she wasn’t a bit helpful.  The plane shook and made odd noises—enough to alarm Bela.  I reassured her, but I was a bit concerned until things evened out.  Since our flight took off late, we barely made the connecting flight in Chicago.  We were the last ones to board.  That part was very stressful, as you can imagine!

After we got settled in on the flight across the pond, Jeffrey Alan made us feel at home.  This plane was so much different from the others we have taken!  First class was WOW!  Bela and I decided that one day, we will travel to Europe in that section!  We kept going to the “regular people” seating.  Each row was divided as such: 3-4-3.  Dinner was a sight!  I chose pasta, Bela wanted chicken, so we were both satisfied.  Each tray had the main course, a small bottle of water, a roll, salad with pomegranate acai vinaigrette dressing on the side, a small wedge of cheese and crackers.  I ate almost everything while I watched Allegiant; Bela tuned in to see a Goose Bumps movie.  We had time on the flight for about three movies if we stayed awake for the entire seven-hour flight.  We definitely felt spoiled.  Supper made us look forward to breakfast!

Flight information showed Chicago to London as 3939 miles which translated into seven hours and 20 minutes.  I enjoyed my headphones and blanket.  Daddy’s Home was my second movie choice.  I did end up sleeping some.

July 11, 2016:  We landed in London around nine in the morning (their time, not ours).  It took forever to get through the passport check.  Once we escaped that, all I wanted was a smoke!  I left Bela with an EF Tour lady while I found a smoking area.  After so many hours without one, I felt a bit dizzy afterward.

The EF Tour lady took Bela to Richard, our babysitter/guide/go-to guy, and he finished collecting the rest of our group.  We dropped off our luggage at the bus while he passed out our Oyster cards.  Oyster cards are used for public transportation.  We saw a lot of the metro today!  We literally walked miles.  One lady had a FitBit and said we had already walked almost three miles, but she didn’t have it on all day.  We definitely got in way more than 10,000 steps.

We saw buskers in Trafalgar Square and hoofed it over to Covent Garden to view some awesome statues.  Our final destination for the day was Premier Inn in the Shoreditch area of town.  More pictures and info to come!

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Taking Things for Granted

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I realize that I am lucky to have been born in the United States.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of my good fortune until I lived in Mexico for a few years.  Don’t get me wrong—Mexico is a great place to live, absorb culture and increase language competency.  I’m not writing to bash any country.  I’m just pointing out that a trip to the post office can be a radically different experience depending on the location.

What I mean is here in the U. S., I have a car and a good job.  That gives me the ability to go to the store when I wish or to the post office.  I remember when I was in Mexico I’d chat with friends and family who would remind me to check the mail.  That could be a major day trip in some cases in Mexico.  The small town where we lived didn’t even have a post office.  I had a Suburban to drive, but I didn’t always have the pesos to put gas in the tank.  That meant I had to spent a few pesos to ride the bus from the village to the city of Mérida.  I was also at the mercy of the bus schedule.  Usually one left on the hour if the drivers were on time.

The bus trip itself took about 45 minutes each way on a good day, not counting traffic or maybe oppressive heat.  (Sometimes the heat alone would leave me melting in my hammock!  Forget travel on days like those!)  Are you with me so far?  We haven’t made it to the post office yet!  To get there, I would have to get off of the bus at the corner about ten blocks away from the actual post office.  I’d either wait for a city bus or I could walk.  If it was a cooler day, I’d walk.  I knew I was getting close when I passed the police station.  Once at the post office, I’d chat with Doña Landy as I checked the mail.  The ladies there took good care of us.

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Since Mexico is a warm place and I spent time walking, I’d need to get a Coca Cola before boarding another bus to go to the centro (downtown area) to take the bus home again.  I always thought it best to make a morning trip to the city if I had to go.  At least that way, I might be home by early afternoon before the full heat wave hit.  By the time all was said and done, a simple trip to the post office would have cost me a lot of effort and probably at least half the day.

The next time you check your mail, remind yourself that things aren’t always as easy as they seem.

Planning

For all of those people who don’t know how teachers roll, let me give you a bit of insight.  After the initial rejoicing at the end of the school year, many of us use our vacation time to attend workshops or take classes to improve our practice.  Those workshops may last one or two days, depending on the topic, but the thinking process lasts a lot longer.  Putting all of the learning and thinking together to create classroom activities takes even more of our vacation time.

That’s been my experience, especially after the Martina Bex Comprehensible Input workshop last week in Lincoln.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I spent this week rehashing and rereading the handouts she provided for us.  Now I’m almost ready to start choosing vocabulary to use in my own stories.  Then comes the actual writing process.  I’m sure I’ll have a few false starts, but the results will be worth the time.

For more information about Martina Bex, visit her at https://martinabex.com/.