Note: I am leading Lamar University’s study abroad group to my home town, Brighton, to study travel writing and photojournalism. As well as writing features about Brighton and beyond, I’m keeping a diary, of sorts, about the class experience. Here is part 1.
BRIGHTON, England — The students were given pretty clear instructions — sleep on the plane. It seems like an easy enough instruction to follow. It’s only four simple words after all. But did they? Hell no! Every time I opened my eyes as we wended our way across the Atlantic, I saw the same thing — the bright lights of movie screens shining on wide-eyed faces (except for Susan, our seasoned traveler and post-grad student who never stirred that I saw).
By the way, my sleep plans were ruined by sitting next to Olivia, who will be editor of the University Press in the fall. It was like sitting next to a large fidgety five-year old. For some reason her carry-on consisted of a massively over-packed backpack that she insisted on keeping underneath her feet, which meant that every time she wanted anything (which was often), she would open her legs and strain to drag it upward like she was giving birth to a small rhino, elbows and legs akimbo and bumping me all around. Then she dropped her glasses, which required crawling around with my phone’s flashlight to find them. Then she dropped her phone which slid god-knows where.
But we made it to England and through Gatwick Airport at amazing speed. At the train station we initially went to the wrong platform. No problem, just back up the stairs and cross over. Of course, we lost three of the students who decided to take the elevator to parts unknown because Abigail has the same amount of luggage that Lord Wotsit from “Downton Abbey” employs 30 servants to carry on his latest excursion to the country. But that’s why we have WhatsApp and we were soon reunited.
On the train, I saw a few eyes begin to droop and I knew I would soon be the villain of the piece. The quickest way to get over jet lag, going east, is to stay awake until bed time in the country you are visiting. That meant, despite the fact they had been awake for many hours and it was 2 a.m. in Texas, they had another 12 or so hours before I would let them sleep. I had warned them we were going out on the town as soon as we got to the house.
We arrived at our Airbnb, which is excellent, and everyone claimed their rooms without fuss. My sister dropped off the groceries I had asked her to get and we headed down to the sea front. At first, the adrenaline of being in England kept everyone going and there was much excited chatter. We walked around for a few hours and an eerie silence fell over the group. Then the chatter was replaced by mumbling and whining. They didn’t have to keep telling me how tired they were, I knew. I could tell by the zombie-like shuffling and the glassy eyes. “You’ll thank me tomorrow,” I said. I could tell they didn’t believe me but I didn’t care.
After dragging the students up and down the pier, we met my mum and dad for fish and chips (it is my traditional homecoming meal). Claire dozed off during the conversation while maintaining her smile. Like the Cheshire Cat, all that was left was her grin.
We arrived back at the house and they rushed to their rooms to sleep around 8 p.m. That’s fine, they would soon be on the correct schedule. Apparently, they woke up at 2 a.m., while I slept through to my usual 6 a.m. quite nicely.
Of course, that’s because I slept on the plane.