The best laid plans…

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.  As Pink Floyd says, sometimes life throws you a bone!

We’ll see what happens today when classes begin.

4 thoughts on “The best laid plans…

  1. Keith,

    My name is Sean Miller. I am Siobhan’s dad. She is the youngest of our four children. Each of our kids has done a study abroad program. One in Ireland, one in Chile and one in Australia. I have to say your program is the most well organized I have seen. Thanks for all your preparation and your enthusiasm! It’s contagious!

    My wife and I plan to meet with Siobhan this summer at the end of her stay. You have certainly built up our interest and excitement. I hope we have an opportunity to meet you when we arrive. If not, keep up the terrific work!




    1. Hi Sean,
      Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate hearing that. I haven’t worked so hard on something for some time and , while I hope it shows, everyone should know that it has been personally rewarding, paying me back everything I have put into it. I really intended to make this a blog about the students with the idea that it could help keep family and friends informed about what’s going on but also attract other students to the idea of studying abroad. So far my posts seem more like me talking about me and I hope to improve on that. I look forward to meeting you all when you come.


  2. Mr. Woodall –

    My wife and I want to thank you for putting on such a great program AND for taking such great care of Kylie on what would be her first nightmare of a flight delay, on her own and on her first time outside the United States. It was so nice to hear that you waited for her and helped her find her way to her host family (I have heard nightmare stories from other universities’ study abroad programs). And we were so happy that you were able to spend some time with her and her host family the first night.

    We were able to make a trip out to visit Kylie and tour Toledo, Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid from March 01-10 and simply LOVED Toledo most of all. So much to see, so many friendly people, great food, and to watch Kylie speaking to the locals in their language was simply awesome. My favorite part was when she walked by a little store and the store owner called out to “KEELY” (they seem to pronounce Kylie differently than we do), ran out and gave her a kiss on the cheek and introduced herself to us… followed by an excited bartender yelling another hello from the bar down the street (not sure why the bartender knew her so well) – the people are so friendly and welcoming. And her host family is amazing, the university was impressive, and the side trips you have planned are unbelievable.

    Thank you again for putting on a great program… even though I got my minor in Spanish at Ohio University already (many years ago), I may just have to re-apply to OU just to take your study abroad program next year.

    Thank you again!
    Glenn Somodi


    1. Thanks for your kind comments Glenn. It was my pleasure having “Keely” along. The bartender thing, yeah, somethings are better left alone. She probably helped him carry in a heavy box one day when she happened to be passing by.
      I would welcome another “adult” along next time. It wears me down being “the bad guy” all the time. When my friend came to visit, several students informed him of my overbearing and controlling ways while on our excursions. I’d like to see how they would get 30 people across town, walking through city streets, to visit places where we had a 10 minute window for starting our tour. Anyways, it was all great and thank you for helping Kylie be a part. She certainly added to the experience for everyone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s