It is pretty remarkable to see a group of 15 students travel so well together. Travel can be an art form, a delicate balance of understanding quirks and embracing patience. For 34 hours, the students were wonderful, taking everything with a shrug of the shoulders and an adventurous set of eyes. When customs in Sydney threatened to force us to miss our plane, they simply smiled and said "whatever." When the drug dogs found beef jerky in one of our bags, they waited patiently while it was confiscated. As we ran to the Quantas transfer station, they laughed as though it was just another day in the life of a traveler. As the folks at Quantas tried to convince us that the only way to Cairns was three more additional flights, they optimistically thought of all the extra movies they could watch. And finally, when they stepped out of the airport in Cairns, there was a brilliant sigh of relief that the adventure could begin in earnest. In such a short period of time, these students became professional adventurers, master travelers, and most importantly, a cohesive group.
I am often asked why these trips are so important to my yearly teaching at New England College. To answer this question, all I need to do is picture the smiles as students plant trees in the pouring rain, watch as they plunge into the town infinity pool in downtown Cainrs, see the looks of awe as they witness a new culture for the first time, and watch the way in which students start as strangers and become a single unit in a very short period of time.
As we move through this trip, the students will provide a great deal of reflection on the daily endeavors. Each day is jam packed with educational talks, service projects, learning opportunities, shopping, looking at the southern hemispheres constellations, sitting around a campfire, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef (to name a few). They will enlighten you with the brilliance of what makes each day so special. I'll chime in every once in a while to reflect on the group as a whole.
You will be happy to know that everyone is happy and healthy.