I have often said that traveling abroad with students is very much like child birth – very painful in the moment, but then you come home with the baby and forget the pain.
I have returned home with my
baby babies, and already, less than 48 hours after arriving, the painful moments are slipping from my memory. The exciting moments were documented on the College’s blog role, so as to keep students’ families apprised of our doings. (Click here, here, here, here and here.)
In fact, my students are no longer babies. They may have been closer to that state before we traveled, but they were forced into independence, into solving problems in Spanish, into choosing what to eat and figuring out what is was that they were eating, into facing physical pain and injury without the guidance and advice of a mom or dad figure who knows their entire medical history. For most students, this was a first jaunt into foreign lands without those parental figures taking control and providing a framework.
The first day we walked the Camino, the students were a bit stunned to find I had set out before them. They were confused by this, not thinking that I go to bed before them and wake up before them, or that I had to get to the next stopping point to make sure arrangements were right and class for the evening was prepared. But they pulled together as a group, organized themselves, and set out for the day. They knew what to expect, and they all found their way to our hotel 25 kilometers later.
Traveling in a group is always challenging. There are those who like to make decisions, or those who prefer another to make the decisions. There are the quick packers and the slow packers. There are the picky eaters and the adventurous I’ll-try-anything eaters. Some respond to homesickness by getting snippy, while others may resort to tears.
We were fortunate that this course was about walking the Camino de Santiago. One fundamental understanding on the Camino is that each pilgrim is walking a different road. We all bring unique and complex life experiences to the task, and for that reason, we cannot judge other pilgrims. It would be easy to look at those around you and say “You didn’t walk as far as I did”, or “You didn’t walk as fast as I did”, or “You only spoke English the other day”. When it comes down to it, however, we can never fully comprehend another pilgrim’s journey.
Now we are home, back in our creature comforts, with foods we know and a language we use without having to think. Back in our known world, we can now unpack our dirty laundry, and the sensations, smells and learning that happened while we were away.
What a cute baby!