Well, another school year, another meeting about Project Week. Last year, I chronicled DiploBoy 1’s field trip to Kerala. ( https://diplomom.com/2015/02/06/field-trips-in-expatland/ and https://diplomom.com/2015/02/22/phone-calls-from-the-field-trip/ ) Somehow, I missed the run-up to this and there had actually been a presentation and meeting on the trip earlier during the year where parents were apprised of the suggested itinerary and given a chance to provide feedback on the choices. I was probably trying to unpack and missed the email. Or I just ignored it. Let’s give me a little leeway and go for explanation number one, OK?
Last Tuesday, DiploDad and I rushed over to the school campus from the Consulate to hear all the details about this year’s trip. I was already a seething pool of envy and frustration. Envy because this year my now 12yo is going to freaking JAIPUR, and frustration because I’ve already planned a trip to Jaipur over the Christmas holidays. I give up, DSB, you win. You’re the better vacation planner. Now, if you would just permit parents to go on these trips, I’d find a way to forgive you. Sigh.
We were the second set of parents to arrive. My friend, H, who is a teacher at the school, was already there with her husband. We headed upstairs to the library to see the presentation from Jungle Lore. Given that last year DD and I could barely contain our amusement at some of the questions from other parents, we decided that it was better if we took a seat in the back so that we could snicker unnoticed. Well, almost unnoticed. I was pretty sure that the principal, Mr. Ed, would shoot us the stinkeye. Of course, the fact that he is “Mr. Ed” is enough to send me into gales of laughter, so he’s probably used to eyeballing me. (For you whippersnappers and non-Americans, see why my I’m laughing by checking out this — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mister_Ed )
I never claimed to be a complete grownup.
DB1 is in the younger group of kids, so the details for his trip were given first. Grades 6-8 are going to Jaipur and Ranthambhore. http://www.ranthamborenationalpark.com/ Jaipur, http://www.jaipurtravel.com/ , is one of the places most foreign visitors head to, and is probably responsible for a lot of the Indian stereotypes. It’s a cultural mecca, known for gems, tigers, palaces, and Maharajas. In short, it’s unadulterated awesomeness for any non-Indian to visit. DB1 is visiting it twice in four months.
The kids are going with the same outfit as last year, Jungle Lore. http://www.junglelore.net/index.php As usual, they sent along one of their guides, and XXX has a long relationship with the school. He started off telling us all about tigers.
Tigers are bigger than DB1 and they have teeth. I’m not really worried about the safaris in the park, but I’m less than thrilled with the “nature walks”. Tigers mean business. And unlike the local Jaipurians, they are NOT vegetarian. A group of 11-13 year-olds would be easy pickings.
My mind was wandering all kinds of scary places and I realized that we’d moved on from discussing tigers and were not talking about accommodations. For the second year in a row, DB1 is staying at nicer hotels on his annual field trip than I did on my honeymoon.
One other parent was questioning this equity too, but out loud.
Mr. Ed: “We think it’s important for the kids to be comfortable, because it IS a learning experience, and they will be learning and our all day so that when they come back to their hotel, they should be able to relax.”
Me: (To DD) They can relax in a damn tent.
DD: Weren’t they passing a decommissioned prison on the way?
Me: That might work nicely too.
Mr. Ed: (Growly frown in our direction)
We settled back to listen to the tour for years 9 and 10. They are going to Kaziranga. http://www.kaziranga.co.in/
I love how they always manage to walk right in front of your jeep and cross the road, don’t you? Anyway . . . .
As the slide show began, the temperature in the room dropped about ten degrees (Fahrenheit – seriously, I still think in Fahrenheit). My friend A’s lips were pursed. Not a good thing, because she is one of the most easygoing people I know. The mother in front of me crossed her arms and stiffened. I was wondering what was going on when the mother in front of me shed some light on it.
MIFOM: What are you going to do about the militants?
(Wide-eyed glances between DD and I.)
Mr. Ed: Excuse me?
A: Yes, the militants. You’re saying it’s a good idea to take our kids where it’s dangerous, and on a five-hour drive from the airport where they land?
Mr. Ed: Well, I –
Jungle Lore Guy: That’s not anywhere near Kaziranga where we are going to be. And we monitor the situation all the time. It’s not a problem.
Me: Which trip are YOU going on? (laughter)
Jungle Lore Guy: This one, I guess.
Ha. If he wasn’t already, I fixed it for him. You’re welcome, Jungle Lore Guy.
This went on for about ten minutes. Mothers (mostly) shot questions and drove home two points: (A) they thought that there were plenty of other nature reserves that would be just as good for a trip that were less remote; and (B) if the kids did go, they’d either wind up dead or joining a separatist group. It could happen.
In fairness to the moms, I can understand why they would be concerned. It’s a five-hour trip from the airport to the reserve. Frankly, I’m not sure why on earth one would subject him or herself to this trip on a bus with 20-30 teenagers, but hey – that’s why I didn’t go into teaching – because that’s not my idea of fun. Moreover, Kaziranga can be dangerous – the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers consider that their turf, and occasionally there are issues in Kaziranga, including poaching and violence against officials there. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/assam/terrorist_outfits/KPLT.HTM
Finally, Mr. Ed cut off all discussion and requested parents to email him their concerns and questions. I’m sooooo glad my kid isn’t going on this trip.
The third and final trip is to the Andaman Islands. http://www.andamans.gov.in/
The 11th and 12th graders are going SCUBA diving. Yeah, you read that correctly – SCUBA diving. Their eco-trip (ha, ha, ha – riiiiight) is going to be spent getting their diving certification. At this point, I was so jealous I could barely see past my nose, so I zoned out while Mr. Ed & Co. told the parent all how FABulous this trip would be and what a GREAAAAT opportunity it was for their kids. I also noticed how he was the trip leader for this one. Nicely played, Mr. Ed. Then again, you are named after a horse, so you should have some things work in your favor.
At the question and answer session, the worrywarts came out again.
Parent Guy: Can you back that photo up a bit?
Mr. Ed: Sure.
PG: Is that a saltwater crocodile I see? Do they have saltwater crocodiles there?
Mr. Ed: (rolls eyes)
DD and Me: Sndddxxxxx! (sound of us snort-laughing into our hands)
Finally, they started discussing some other program that involved trips, but only if your kid was in 9th grade or above. So DiploDad and I got to skate out a half an hour early.
Me: What did you think?
DD: I think that if I had to choose, I’d pick the tigers over the saltwater crocodiles and the militants.
Me: Me too, honey. Me too.