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Published: March 26th 2013
I knew that taking 14 middle school students from Venezuela to Washington, D.C. would be both a challenge and an adventure. And I knew that the most challenging part would probably be getting from Venezuela to D.C. - but I was
hoping that it wouldn't be quite
so challenging. Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong", and we certainly lived that out on our way from Anaco to D.C. It started with our flight out of Barcelona being delayed three hours. Annoying, but not too big of a deal as we were spending the night in the Caracas airport anyway (and to be honest, I expected a delay of some kind). Night in the airport = I try to sleep and the students try not to sleep, which gives you very tired children for an entire day of travel 😊 We, of course, got to the check-in in Caracas with plenty of time to spare...at least until Felix, one of my students, was told that he was not yet assigned a seat and might not have one. They would let us know at 6:30, and if there was no seat for him, he would have to wait
View of the Capitol
Looking at the Capitol building from the steps of the Library of Congress
for the next flight...the next morning. Stress levels rise exponentially. The students handled it very well - falling asleep on the floor while I paced the floor. Luckily, they gave Felix a seat, and we flew through customs, except for a minor paperwork problem with another student, Henrique - thankfully, his mother is one of the parents that is with us. Then, we sat in the plane for 45 minutes before we took off. Although it was a welcome extra bit of sleep, it meant that when we landed in Atlanta, we only had 1 hour to get off the plane, pick up and drop off our bags, go through security, change terminals, and board our flight to Washington. We almost didn't make it. I can honestly say that I never want to do that as the only teacher on a trip ever, ever again. I think I have started going grey from the last 24 hours.
But, since we arrived, things have been going great. It is clear that the students are not used to walking - either far or quickly, so today almost killed them, but it was a good day. We started by learning
how to use the Metro system and taking our first Metro ride. Then we arrived at the Library of Congress. So many books! I could live in that building!! There are about 850 miles of shelves in the Library and, on average, 11,000 new books are added daily. My favorite part - aside from the beautiful architecture and the many quotes simply about books, reading, and writing, was the Thomas Jefferson Collection. During Jefferson's life, a single book could cost a normal man's salary. How would I ever survive???? And Jefferson had about 2,000 books that the Library of Congress bought from him! My favorite parts about his collection was the way it was organized and the variety of books he had. The collection was organized in a way that Jefferson described - partly alphabetical and partly by category. I thought it was very cool that they tried to keep it organized the way it would have originally been organized. The books he had: both old books - like Plato's Republic - and books that would have been contemporary for him. He truly was a man who never stopped learning. They had his copy of Utopia open, and memories of
my Paideia class and, more recently, the BBC show The Tudors came rushing in. After the Library, we went across the street to Congress. The visitor's center is very well set up and - something that I really loved - had more pictures than writing! Visiting Congress made me want to be a more active citizen - even though I really don't like politics. After lunch at union Station (where some of us also bought warmer clothes), we went to the Air and Space Museum. So cool!!!! I loved seeing all the Apollo Mission artifacts - though after seeing how they had to go to the bathroom, most of the students decided that they probably didn't want to be astronauts 😊 Coming out of the Apollo exhibit, I really wanted to watch Apollo 13. I got a touch of home when I saw the Spirit of St. Louis hanging above me and had to take a picture with it. Then, Kevin and I visited the World War One and Two exhibits before most of the kids went on the flight simulators. Our last stop of the day was a brief visit to the Natural History Museum (where we will also
start our day tomorrow). Kevin and Alondra had done research on the Hope Diamond and everyone was thrilled to see it. We also saw some rocks that glow in the dark! I wish I could have found some like that when I was collecting rocks as a kid! Overall, it was a great first day in our nation's capitol, and I can't wait for tomorrow!!!
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