Thursday, May 31, 2012

New York - Day 1

(Big kudos to Ben for the idea and the setup of the Twitter feed for this trip.  I don't know how many of you were following along, but the students and I had a lot of fun documenting the trip on the go!)


After a bleary-eyed early morning, we arrived at the airport and met up with the final two students joining our group.  Really, the entire journey-to-New-York process was smooth and uneventful.  Upon arrival we found our tour guide, Tim waiting at the baggage claim area as promised.  The other half of our tour group, a large contingency from Nebraska, were coming in later in the day, so Tim took us out to meet Bill, our bus driver, and we headed into the city.

Quickly figuring out my comfort level with the city, Tim and Bill dropped us off outside of the Apple store on 5th Avenue.  We set up a rendezvous at the nearby Mariella Pizza for dinner, then I led my troops out into the city.

Lunch was high on our agenda, but the students were soon distracted by the sight of FAO Schwartz.  I set up my three rules of the trip (1. No one goes anywhere alone,  2.  Stay aware of where you are and what's around you, and 3. Don't be stupid) and let them loose to explore the store.  To my delight, they followed the rules and met me at the appointed spot right at the time I requested.  That boded well for the rest of the trip.

We walked downtown a few blocks and I pointed out some of the sights of 5th Avenue in my search for a place that would work for lunch.  I suggested trying the street vendors, but the students were still a bit city-shocked and I could tell they needed a break to absorb; so we ate at a Cafe Metro where we had the entire downstairs seating area to ourselves (well it was 2:30 in the afternoon at that point).  I then led them back up to Central Park where they got to play on the swings, relax on the grass, and even attempt to climb a tree or two.  They loved it, and I patted myself on the back for figuring out a way to ease these mountain kids into the city.

Our dinner appointment nearing, we walked through the southern end of the park to swing by Dylan's Candy Bar before meeting up with Tim and company again.  As we waited outside the pizza place, we wondered about whether we'd be able to spot the Nebraskans.  Suddenly one of my kids exclaimed, "You've got to be kidding me."  There, coming down the street, was a hoard of people in matching fluorescent orange t-shirts, Smithsonian lanyards, and bright blue-and-orange backpacks.  Just before the wave of orange Midwestern hit, my kids quickly turned to me and thanked me profusely for not making them wear matching outfits.

Tim led us inside where everyone grabbed a slice of pizza and a soda.  The kids made half-hearted attempts to mingle, but everyone was still pretty standoffish.  Once we finished dinner, the Nebraskans branched off to visit the Candy Bar and I led my kids down the street to see Serendipity 3, mostly because it's there and we didn't have anything else we could do in the time Tim had allotted post-dinner.

Once the groups reconvened we met up with Bill and the bus again and headed down to Times Square.  The Nebraskans had tickets to see The Lion King, while we had opted instead for the off-Broadway play Potted Potter.  I assured Tim we would have no problems getting to our show and entertaining ourselves afterwards, so we ditched the rest of the group and headed out.  With about 90 minutes until curtain, per their requests I took the kids to Toys R Us, Forever 21, and the Disney Store (with a much anticipated run-in with the Naked Cowboy en route) before leading the group to the theater where I met up with my parents, my aunt and cousins, and Grandma Cook.  They were also in NY for the holiday weekend and had jumped on board when I offered to get group tickets to this show.  I was glad I got to see them, if only for a little while.

The show itself was fantastic, in part because the actors happened to pick a young firework of a boy from the audience for their interactive Quidditch match.  It's the kind of show where you can tell how much fun the actors are having, and I enjoyed seeing how much they were improvising.  The audience, including my students, absolutely loved it, and my students have been quoting the prophecy ever since ("One of you shall live, and one of you shall die!").

After the show the students begged me for more time at Forever 21, so we headed back there.  The boys had no interest in that store, so I took them across the street to a few of the better theater-specific souvenir stores.  We met up with the girls again at the appointed time, then found Bill and the bus.  With a few minutes still before the Nebraskans showed up, I ducked out to the nearby street vendor and got a knish for the students to try.  They were wary at first, but decided it was quite tasty and many of them dashed off the bus to get their own late-night treat.

Once everyone was back on board we headed out to the hotel in Jersey.  The Nebraska chaperon and I went in with Tim first to get the room keys and to meet the security guard Smithsonian hires to keep watch in the hallway all night.  I got the room assignments and discovered that all of my students were on the 3rd floor while I was on the first floor.  My chaperoning instincts kicked in first, and wariness flared at the thought of being so far away from them.  But then I looked at the big, beefy security guard and thought, "Hey!  I can be far away from them!"  There have to be some perks to going with a big tour company like Smithsonian, right?

And so, with my students presumably tucked into their beds by the big, beefy security guard two floors above me, I unpacked and very, very quickly fell sound asleep.

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