It wasn't the best start to a school trip. The storm was forecast for Thursday not Wednesday, but the torrential rain started just as I got home from school and meant that the pre-planned dog walk aiming to keep my canine companion happy while I finished packing had to be abandoned. The toilet in the en suite had to be isolated as it sprang a poorly-timed leak and the school emails just kept pinging away as I tried to close my suitcase. I had a Camembert sandwich for tea and at least the taxi arrived on time, but it was one of those fake London cabs where you have to sit in the back behind a presumably bullet-proof glass screen and the driver doesn't talk to you, so it was a lonely drive to the airport. This taxi driver was unable to find a pen to fill in the CabCharge voucher and this Year 9 level lack of organisational skills further annoyed me. I must have been tired. And when I arrived at the correct terminal, nobody was there. In retrospect, this had always been the plan. I would arrive 3/4 hour early, sort out the baggage tags so they were ready for the kids, refresh my memory on everyone's medical requirements (happily nothing too interesting or gory there) and be fully organized when everybody arrived. So my feelings of abandonment were hardly justified. And, thankfully, as soon as the students and parents started arriving, it suddenly felt like a proper school trip and all was well with the world.
All passports were present, every necessary form had been signed and we were ready to travel. The boys were slightly less excited than I'd hoped when presented with a rather nice (though I say it myself) hard-backed journal sourced from my favourite Officeworks outlet, but I remained confident that they would soon realise the benefits of regular journaling and undoubtedly reap the rewards of a little writing practice during our time away from school.
Checking in luggage was quick and easy and no sharp objects were discovered. The whole process was remarkably event-free (these boys have evidently travelled before!) and it wasn't until the plane took off later in the evening that I realized that it was nowhere near full, which may have accounted for our speedy check-in. We congregated in the seated area by the departure gate and it was quickly apparent that with such a small party, practising numbering off was unnecessary. If one of the six were not present, this was immediately obvious. Mr Evans had suggested we wear our Guildford apparel and when I was approached by one of the customs officers enthusiastically waving his apparatus, I anticipated the usual explosives/drugs swab of my luggage and was pleasantly surprised that he actually wanted my business card so he could enquire about GGS scholarships for his son. We agreed he would contact me on our return to Perth and I made a mental note to make an immediate suggestion upon our return that Mr Webber set up some sort of rewards scheme for travelling staff and students whose actions lead to potential enrolments.
We passed a pleasant couple of hours waiting to board - the obligatory safety speech was delivered (thankfully a precis of the 20 page risk management form that had been submitted prior to departure) and it was made clear that we would all, naturally, be polite, mature and full of common sense at all times. We would not leave our luggage unattended, scare little old ladies with our loud voices, nor swim without a qualified lifeguard. (The topic of this last point was discussed at length given that three of the boys travelling with us hold a bronze medallion and one has lifeguard training). After a brief wander around the terminal, a visit to the bathroom and an unexpectedly animated game on Mitchell’s laptop which I vetted for appropriateness (it appeared to involve shooting a cartoon carrot and was at face value seemingly harmless, if a little strange) it was time to board.
It was an Airbus. Without wanting to sound like a real estate agent, it had noticeably higher ceilings which definitely made it feel less claustrophobic than is usually the case. I'm not convinced the legroom was significantly greater than normal, but this isn't something which has been of particular concern to me personally, so it may be that I just couldn't tell. William settled down with a good book and Zach seemed almost pleased that his screen wouldn't work properly, which confused me slightly until I realized it meant that he was offered a bulk head seat which definitely had oodles more legroom. Duty of care meant, of course, that Mr Bacon followed him quickly to the bulk head and took advantage of the spacious nature of the seat next to him. Noah was asleep before we'd even left the runway (on a number of occasions he demonstrated a remarkably impressive way of folding himself in half and instantly dropping off) and Emerson looked to me as though he napped, but was apparently only "resting his eyes".
The range of films available was phenomenal, even if it made me feel old because I hadn't heard of most of them. At the airport, the best method of avoiding jetlag had been helpfully and clearly described by parents who travel more often than I do. It involved going to sleep at the destination's night time, whether or not you wanted to. This would mean staying awake until the second flight from Dubai. Unfortunately, having been up since 4am for several days in a row, I didn't last much beyond the first ten minutes of "Hampstead" before I was snoring away, the sounds of my newly purchased 'sound cancelling' headphones (half-priced yesterday in JB HiFi) knocking me out even before Mr Bacon had finished his riveting explanation of the Physics behind noise cancellation. It was only a power nap, though, and I fortunately woke up in time for a nice meal. The bonus of being a vegetarian on a flight is that you get to eat first. The disadvantage is that you then have to sit with the debris of your meal for what feels like a very long time afterwards. The lamb sausages seemed to go down well with the boys and the air hostesses assured me that they were trained to spot under 18's and not offer them alcohol from the trolley, so I could be confident that the students would not be offered beer, however tall they were.
The flight passed uneventfully, as did the brief stop in Dubai airport. Suffice it to say that in my mind, it didn't compete with Changi airport. I don't think many places can. But we boarded the next flight, another Airbus (I felt worryingly blasé already about 'just another Airbus') and set off for New York. This time the flight felt quite different. Various students found better seats again (Emerson scored one with so much legroom even I was impressed) and those of us who were too tired to scout around for an empty seat on what was a very full flight, remained sitting in the back row of our section, right next to the toilet door. There are many things that could be written about the experience of sitting right next to the toilet door on a very full long-haul flight, but I shall spare you the details. We played lots of multiplayer trivia quizzes, mostly won by Ashton and Mr Bacon, and decided it sort of counted as studying (perhaps). We arrived safely in New York, negotiated the lengthy and unwelcoming queues of tired people having their intent to visit the United States questioned and were driven in the dark through horrendous New York traffic to our hotel in North Haven. This was after about ten minutes spent convincing our driver Russell that although my name was not the one he had listed, we were probably the correct group for him to pick up given that there were no other obvious groups of eight from Guildford Grammar School waiting for him.
More to follow tomorrow after (hopefully) a much needed good night's sleep. The boys are tired but well and ready for the adventure.
Director of Teaching and Learning | Science Faculty
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