When I didn’t wake up until 5 o’clock this morning (my usual waking time at home) and discovered the temperature was minus 4 degrees, I felt the need to celebrate both the good night’s sleep and the impressive winter temperature. An early morning walk was in order. With various layers on (I’m telling myself that I’m looking fatter solely because of the layers of thermals rather than the fries with cheese) I asked the woman at reception where would be a good place to go for a walk. She looked dubiously at me and asked if I had a car. I tried to explain that I wanted to go for a walk rather than a drive, for some air and exercise and to perhaps have a look at some local parks (I felt that saying I was interested in birds and plants might be a step too far, when she was already looking at me as if I were dreadfully foreign and strange). A passing man overheard the conversation and told me that it was too dangerous to go walking. After some discussion it transpired that he didn’t mean dangerous in terms of dodgy locals or hypothermic temperatures, but because I might get run over by a train or arrested for trespassing on the train track. I convinced them both that I would keep well away from the train track (it’s not difficult to spot, if I’m honest) and they pointed me towards a park about a ten minute walk away. I got the impression that perhaps people here don’t walk very much. But I was happy – warm in all my layers and pleased to have an hour of freedom in the fresh air all by myself (Mr Bacon was back at the hotel so there were no issues of duty of care in terms of abandoning the students J).
My suspicion that walking was not normal here was reinforced by the lack of any pavements, the complete absence of any other human life and the need to clamber over various fences and roadside edges to get anywhere. But the park was worth it – I watched grey squirrels running around, took some frosty photographs and happily indulged in leaf crunching, a favourite activity from my childhood. There were very few locals about and only one dog to pat (I miss mine and hope she is coping OK without me) but I spotted some interesting fungi, treated myself to a hot chocolate at Starbucks and felt suitably American.
The boys looked quite rested at our late, 9 o’clock breakfast. The juniors had the morning off to study and planned to take the shuttle bus in to Yale at 11 am for their collaborative writing task and team debates – just as the seniors did yesterday. Their ball tonight (apparently more of a social than what we might call a ball) is from 8 to 10 pm. The seniors had their scholar’s bowl competition (a kind of quiz with clickers) and a showcase debate to watch before returning to the hotel and getting ready for their ball, which is from 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm – interesting timing when we have our Boston trip starting at 7am the next day and definitely an opportunity to sleep on the bus journey to Boston. Breakfast involved further interesting discussions on the life cycle of the dung beetle and why breeding pet fish might cause issues for parents. Quite different from my normal bowl of Special K and a chat with the dog, who is infinitely less capable of such thought-provoking conversations at that time of the morning.
All eight of us ended up travelling into Yale at 11 am on the shuttle bus which miraculously (and for the first time) was ready with a driver at the pre-booked time. The junior team went off for their competition and the seniors had a couple of hours free, which we spent happily browsing in a large Yale bookshop. Emerson, Zach and Ashton are all excellent shoppers and we looked at books, Yale apparel, board games and stationery for quite some time before re-entering the frozen zone (as I have come to think of the outdoors) and wandering to a dairy shop which the boys remembered from their last trip. I have to say they were right – the ‘grilled cheese’ (aka toastie) was marvellous and the person behind the counter was delighted that he had predicted I would have an English accent before I even opened my mouth, which I found a little strange.
The afternoon clicker quiz started well over an hour late, which was by now not entirely unexpected. The appalling organisation of the event has been impressive to witness and the teachers I have spoken to have expressed their frustration when their offers to help organise it efficiently and on time over the years have apparently regularly been declined. But the quiz was great fun and I only missed round 3 when I must have fallen asleep briefly. The boys were pleased with their performance and even more pleased with the allocation of alpacas (thankfully fluffy ones rather than the spitting type) which they get to take home. Zach had thoughtfully brought an empty case with him for the very purpose of being able to transport shopping and treasures home, which may come in useful following another little shopping excursion we have planned for Tuesday. He is clearly an experienced packer given that he was also able to provide me with a spare US socket adapter and still have two for his own use.
We raced back to the hotel to have a quick rest, shower and get changed for the ball. Ashton organised that we would have an hour’s rest and then reconvene to discuss what food would be necessary to sustain us for the rest of the evening.
The ball finishes at 11:30 pm, so I shall report on its happenings in tomorrow’s blog – I suspect I shall be too tired after that to write any more today. And Mr Bacon is going to send in details of the junior team’s day and how they went.
Dr Julie Harris
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