The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley – Robert Burns 1785
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – Charles Dickens 1859
I’ve got a little black book with my poems in.
Got a bag with a toothbrush and a comb in.
When I’m a good dog, they sometimes throw me a bone in. – Pink Floyd 1979
So while I was last writing about metaphorical storms, real storms were headed for the same airports as the students. It was a long day but now everyone is where they’re supposed to be and classes begin in a few hours. The flight I most expected to be delayed, Chicago, got here right on time. Almost everyone else got here late. There was nothing to do but sit or stand next to the exit and scan every face that came through the door. Finally, after almost four hours of waiting, Mara, Emma and Helena came rolling through with their big luggage and tired smiles. It was, for me, a lot of fun to see my people finally begin to arrive and describe their ordeals in Spanish. Maggie, from the Chicago flight, slipped through while we were yukking it up and, according to her, looked at a hundred bald guys before she finally saw my bald head walking by. She cracks me up! How she knows that I won’t freak out and give her an F on everything, I don’t know. I need to start wearing ties or something.
After collecting everybody from Terminal 4 that was going to be there for a while, we went to Terminal 1 and found that bunch standing under a big “Lost and Found” sign. You just can’t plan something so perfect! Someone in the group has a good sense of irony. I hope someone got a picture.
Somewhere around 10 or 11 we had all but two. Chris was on the plane with the longest delay and Kylie got to Lisbon too late for her connection and spent the day waiting in line for a different flight to Madrid. She did a good job of it but I had to cut the bus loose to get everybody else to Toledo, to their families, and something to eat. So I wandered around, slept some and read some for a few more hours until finally Kylie came through the door grinning and we took the train back. It was a really long and anxious day until we got to Toledo and, consulting a list I had, we took a taxi from the train station to her family’s house. There was a typo in the address and we had to guess at which button to push and while I was having a strange conversation with some poor woman who answered her intercom, “dad” and “sis” came walking up behind us. They were waiting for us at the train station but we didn’t know that and they didn’t know what we looked like.
But anyways, what a great family! They were super nice to Kylie and invited me to have dinner with them. While mom was preparing dinner, dad took us in his car on a tour of Toledo where you get some really nice views like the one attached to this article. I think that Toledo at night is the prettiest city I’ve ever seen. No exaggeration. Beautiful! He took us to an old restored inn, a tapas bar now, with a roaring fire and really, really good olives. We had something to drink, nice conversation and then went home to a real meal and more getting to know each other. Good people! Good food! A really nice way to end a pretty stressful day. It was great watching Kylie use her Spanish in her new home and I also enjoyed spending time with her all the way back to Toledo.
I hope that circumstances allow me to get to know my students better than I usually do on campus. Months ago when I was interviewing candidates for the program, I allowed time for each student to ask me anything they wanted. One of my questions to each of them had been “What one thing about the program interests you most?” When I asked Mara if she had any questions for me, she returned my own question and caught me by surprise. It is a complicated answer about wanting to work on something important to my sense of why I became a teacher in the first place. In short, it is something personal and hard to explain in a few words. As frustrating, tiring, and just plain long as today was, it is days like today that I’m looking for from the program. Not the waiting part but the being in the right place at the right time when, out of the blue, something really special happens part.
We’ll see what happens today when classes begin.