Never again will these teachers taste those tiny sliced tomatoes and baked croissants, those plump sausages, the toast always fried and never toasted, those grainy rolls of mystery “meat” loaded with the consistency of cardboard, those goopy eggs with pepper to mask the obvious incredible taste, those soft batches of ham (or “bacon imposters” as I like to call them) Oh, and Baked beans. Who could forget those baked beans? OooOoo. When we return, we will have to explain how we used to eat baked beans for breakfast to our friends at home, to which they will respond, “Who are you?” It was bittersweet.
After breakfast, the teachers made our way to another location for our last class in England, hoping it would be less sweltering. The night before, there was a showing of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s rom-com, Silver Linings Playbook. However, tricky iTunes with the brains of the late Steve Jobs knew somehow we were broadcasting it for a public audience, and it blocked the viewing. That’s OK, because someone narrated it last night. I’m hoping it was Kevin, with the voice of an angel and a penchant for all things juicy.
Los maestros spent an hour in this room, waiting for the AC to pick up as one waits for a child to be born. Ruie and Kevin both started class with recapping what a great two and a half weeks it has been, and asked for suggestions for next year’s class.
Number One: The breakfast. The class voiced their opinion that the money for breakfast be spent on cards instead at Tesco, which would offer more of a variety and at a better price. “But the baked beans!” said no one. “I will miss those eggs” was unheard of. “Well worth $18 American!” was a thought that was never formed.
Number Two: Laundry. Justin C recommended not doing laundry, and suggested bringing lots of clothes (read: underwear, drawers, pantaloons) instead. He and Amy and Elliott had spent $30 on laundry, which could be spent on 2 whole candy bars at the Harry Potter Studio Store. Not to be outdone by any machine, both Curtis and Juicy J washed their clothes in the sink for Free 99.
Number Free (Three): Next up, we talked about some of the excursions the next year’s group could go on. Ruie called Oxford “a disaster” because there were so many people: the sidewalks were jammed full of visitors and graduation guests. Cambridge, she relayed, would be a better alternative.
In addition, the trip to Oxford was supposed to be a global experience, of sharing cross-cultural conversations with the University of Surrey international students, but even that turned out to be a cluster-funk. For one, some of their company did not want to participate in exchanging any niceties with Americans. They had either refused us seats in favor of their boyfriends / girlfriends or they did not fancy conversation time.
Some of our lot sat next to someone who did not want to sit next to them and made it clear by putting on headphones. But did anyone inquire whether it was really us? Maybe we give off a smell, a faint American smell of musky meat? Just kidding, it was definitely this international kid.
Still, not everyone had a terrible time with the international kids. Jill spent the entire day being integrated in a Chinese clan. She will now be known as Jill Fung-Chung. Spencer Zigga-Zigg-ahhh got a homecooked feast made by no less than 8 Chinese women who all glowered over his cover of Avett Brothers’ “If I get murdered in the city” and consequently all wanted to be his lover. If Spencer does ever get murdered in the city, there will be no less than 8 Chinese women moaning at his gravestone.
Other suggestions were trips to Bath and possibly neighboring hamlets, like the one Amy and Sarah went to, engulfed in lavender fields. Stephanie suggested HighClere, made famous by the raunchy Downton Abbey, and Jill had an idea: Since both the tickets for Winchester and Highclere were valid all year round, half the group could go to Winchester, and the other half could go to Highclere. Everyone thought this was a pleasant idea. You go, Jill Fung-Chung!
It was time to recap all the scribe reports from the days prior (scribing about scribing!). We heard excellent updates from Spencer, Anne, Adrienne, Amy, Lauren, Jill, Elizabeth, Curtis, and Justin R. Elizabeth, in particular, knocked everyone out of the park, by imitating Will Smith (minus all the recent movies of the world ending, I mean old school Will Smith) Elizabeth throws down a rap in her scribe report to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air Theme Song (rhyming with “Chawton’s Heir”—genius!).
Now that Elizabeth humbled everyone in the room, we each penned ourselves a self-renewal contract. Ruie instructed us not to put things like “I will lesson plan” because that’s like saying “I will be a teacher”. This was for ourselves, for our own self-improvement. It reminded me of a quote from my main man, Billy Faulkner: “Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself”. This was drastically different from what my father told me one day while we were watching a Miss America pageant: “YOU NO [sic] GET FIRST PLACE, YOU GO HOME AND CRY”.
Next, we indulged in the art of being succinct. How fitting that on our last day, we learn how to write summaries. Summaries are great because they are overarching and concise, get to the point, and are suitable during moments in which one can say, “aint nobody got time for this”.
With that, the class was over. Mike advised everyone not to be late to the caravan because this sucker was not going to miss his flight. He said it in a Hulk like way, like when Edward Norton says you wouldn’t like it when he was angry. I believed him.
MeiGuo Laoshi (The American Teachers) had the afternoon free to pack their bags and do some last minute shopping, getting their moms Mrs. Darcy shirts or having one last drink at Chancellors’.
We reconvened at five to share one last dinner. Ruie drank her wine, and judging from her face, she was finally relieved to be free from entertaining Edward, the 9 year old son of Kevin’s long-time pen pal. Edward was wild and spirited, refused to go to sleep, before he was ready, and enlisted Ruie in a whole night of making fart noises. Whether it was real gas or fake flatulence, one could never tell.
As per Lisa’s suggestion, everyone shared one favourite thing we learned or experienced from our trip. Curtis said how in our Library visit, how great it was that we examined language change as a natural part of life, and that no one could say your English is wrong if it is the language that you speak. This was made more surprising considering we were in England, the birthplace of the English language.
It amazed me and others just how nice everyone was. People would be willing to help out individuals stranded in the northern English countryside, or give away their ticket for us. Folks would comment on our accents and admire Jill on actively writing instead of typing away at our phones.
You could walk to where you needed to go, because not everything was easily accessible or in drive-thru form. Amy relayed that it was very much a biking culture, as fit people would do their part to save the environment and their bodies from obesity.
Everywhere around us was culture and history. Instead of 44 Presidents, they had history of Kings and Queens to memorize, dwelling in palaces only a bus ride away. Our residential music teacher, Colleen, was surprised to hear about the REAL Penny Pocket and what was really her locket.
Natalie took the time to see that stores closed strictly at five and rarely were there shops that stayed open 24 hours. This allowed persons to enjoy each others company, of their friends and family.
And all the while, as Sarah G. recognized, kids were still kids. No matter the culture, the activity and spirit of childhood is still as resilient ever.
During dinner, the educators shared one aspect from the technology portfoilio unless their computer was ravaged by a virus.
Started from the bottom, now we’re here. Though we will go our separate ways, we thought of all the people we met:
Colin the Grease-loving, ice-cream-making bus driver. Chris the bartender. Harry Potter. Kate Middleton waving through the glass of a security car. Julian, the beautiful tour guide extraordinaire and novelist.
And how we’ll probably never see them again, but we’re glad we met them anyways.
It was clear we would keep England with us in our hearts—never waning, our collected casks cascading towards dusk and held instant like the British summer—we as cats and dogs in a ‘90s movie, were homeward bound.