Though I’d taken traveling bands of journalism students to conventions all over the country, I’d never officially taken a group out of the country – and never on purely a pleasure trip – until June 2009.
There was that time in 1995 when I took a gaggle of girls to San Diego; the first thing we did after checking in at our National High School Press Association convention hotel was ask for directions to the best way to get to Tijuana, Mexico. The concierge gave us his spiel about how they could not in good faith recommend that we cross the border, though if we were determined to do so, the best way to get to the train station was X-Y-Z. These were the pre-passport-for-Mexico-and-Canada days, so it was easy.
The girls had begged to go south of the border, but all they really wanted to do was go to the Hard Rock Tijuana, which was accomplished pretty quickly. I think we took the bus back, and when we got there, the little chick who’d missed the early morning flight was waiting in the lobby. Jessica’s power had gone off in the night so her family didn’t wake up to make the early flight. We had to leave without her.
Those were the good old days, though, and the airline just put her on the next flight. But this was also pre-cell phones, so we couldn’t contact each other, and she’d been waiting in the lobby for quite a while when we got back. The hotel wouldn’t even let her into one of our rooms until we returned.
Anyway, from the time I was a teen myself I always knew I’d take students on an EF Tour someday (my family couldn’t afford to send me when some of my classmates went with one of my favorite teachers). Newspaper staff students had been mentioning it since I started at Central High School in 2005, but in the end, it was one newspaper staffer and three yearbook kids, whom I’d had in Journalism One, all newly graduated, who crossed the ocean with my sister-in-law, Kitty; a staffer’s mom (who turned into my dear friend Kim) and I.
Planning such trips starts a year out, and right after we booked it, Kitty learned she had breast cancer. Instead of canceling, she made the trip her recuperation goal and made the trip her first public appearance sans wig. She was brave in more ways than one.
We were quite a pair on the flight over – Kitty had to put her arm in a compression sleeve for high-altitude swelling prevention and I was in a compression leg brace for my torn hamstring. Eight days before the trip, I had a rather bad accident, so we were both banged up. But what do you do but go and enjoy?
We left Little Rock the morning of Monday, June 15. (Kitty’d flown to Little Rock from Yakima, Washington, to fly out with us.) The previous Sunday, June 7, if my math is right, I’d taken my tumble.
Sister Cathy and I were walking Tess at McArthur Park (this was pre-Zuzu and after darling Toby). Tess had been angelic on the walk – unusual back then – so I was caught quite off-guard when two big honking geese came charging out from under a bush at us. She hit the end of her leash so fast all I could do was make sure I got to the grass before falling.
While going down, I had visions of the trip flitting by along with “don’t hit your face, don’t hit your rotator cuff, don’t get hurt – you’ve got kids counting on you!” I got two out of three and took the weight of the fall on my left ribs, which tore the cartilage between them. The impact was so hard that my right leg flew across my body with such force that it tore my hamstring straight across.
My right foot was level with my left shoulder. I am not limber.
Plagues me to this day at times.
Cathy ran to get Tess, who was in the pond by then, and I hobbled over to a bench. We called John who came to get us – they tried to take me to the ER, but instead settled for us calling our ER doc friend when I refused.
By trip time, my leg had turned black down to my ankle and the swelling had started to go down. I didn’t tell anyone I was injured until we saw each other at the airport. My two boys, Nick and Andrew, were so sweet and concerned about my ribs that they carried my purse at times on the trip.
We left Little Rock at 11:15 a.m. Monday and arrived in at Gatwick Airport in London the next morning around 7 a.m. We met up with the other members of our large group – strangers who stayed that way, but we’ll come back to that – and our darling tour director, Kathy. It wasn’t long until we were watching the changing of the guard.
More to come. Quite a bit more. We packed a lot into that trip.