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 2.
BRIGHTON, England — The Lamar University students’ first full day in Brighton consisted of a journalistic scavenger hunt. I gave them 14 clues and they had to do some basic research to find the location and little bit of history, then take a photo of themselves at the required location. The goal was to get them to have a working knowledge of the town and figure out the bus system.
While they were off, I took the time to do a bit of wandering around the old home town. Even though I had done a fact-finding mission for the class last year, things change all the time. While visiting Foundry Street, where my maternal grandparents lived when I was a child, I was disappointed to find that one of the answers to the clues the students had was no longer there. The pub, now called The Foundry, used to have a light outside with a glass shade with “Pedestrian Arms” printed on it. That was the name of the pub when I knew it.
I remember us kids playing in the narrow street while various parents and grandparents enjoyed a beverage inside. Every now and then a parent or grandparent would come out and ask who wanted a bag of crisps or a lemonade? We’d raise our hands and they would return a few minutes later, cigarette hanging from the side of their mouths (it was the early ’60s) and hand them out. Half an hour later it would be someone else. It was that sort of community.
Things change but memories remain. I messaged the kids and told them to forget that clue. On to the next thing.
They messaged that the current owner of Laurence Olivier’s house, which is a noted location, ordered them away from the house. I said they had every right to be on the street taking their photo. It turns out they were on the front steps doing a video. Teachable momaent: there’s a fine line between public access and private property.
While the students roamed around, I wandered the streets. I turned down Middle Street to see the Hippodrome. The facade is graffiti covered and it has been vacant since 2007. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones played there in 1964. Walking around Brighton, one is reminded of the passage of time. The town is both new and vibrant, and decaying at the same time. That is the way of history. I hope they find the money to renovate it, but who knows.
I met my sister for lunch in The Lanes, then met the students at their next clue. I had walked about four miles by then. I was excited to see how far they had got. They were less than hallway through, even though it had been about four hours. I don’t think the clues were that difficult and prefer to believe it was their own incompetence, so let’s go with that.
I had a cuppa and a pork pie at the Open Market, once a traditional open-air market food but now transformed into a covered area with a variety of shops and stalls. The students found various foods, including a Korean place and a Mexican tacoria which was recently opened by a Mexican who had worked at the university for 25 years. There’s a story there that Cassie and Susan plan to write so I won’t steal their thunder.
The next five clues were taken care of in less than half an hour, partly because I was with them. I thought they had suffered — and learned — enough.
Then it was back to the house to relax. My nephews Ashley and Daniel popped by for a visit, and the students ordered Indian takeaway, which has surpassed fish and chips as Britain’s go-to cuisine.
Two days in, and we had averaged about six miles walking a day. I have yet to have a single complaint about it (although Abigail quickly found out her favorite shoes were not the best for pounding the pavements). In fact, the group are excited about the amount of exercise they are getting, even if the wind and inconsistent drizzle conjure up a few chills.
The students seem to be enjoying the trip, but the best part for me is getting to share my home town with them — and getting to see things through their eyes. Seeing their excitement allows me to re-discover this wonderful diverse and cosmopolitan town. The teacher who cannot learn from the students is a poor teacher.