“Are You Insane?!” Going to London with 14 Teenagers

Sorry about the lack of recent updates. I’ve been running in circles in recent weeks and haven’t really had a free moment. And here is why…

The first week of May, I was in London. Yes, for an entire week. My 4º ESO students had their end-of-year trip, and I volunteered to be a chaperone. Yes, I volunteered to take a group of 15-year-olds to one of the biggest cities in Europe for an entire week. Not insane, I promise–I mean, think about it. I got a week off of school to travel (admittedly working far longer hours than I normally do in exchange) and got a cheap-ass trip to London. It’s a win-win situation for me!
(I must note, the camera is still pissed at me for dumping Belgium beer on it, so no pictures until I get it fixed)

The adventure started on Monday the 30th, with my being late to the airport. Not that it mattered, because the Santiago Airport is the size of a medium sized Walmart and you can walk through security with no problems. However, because the universe will always complicate matters, our flight was delayed for 3 hours; yay, sitting in an airport with bored teenagers! Following this boredom, where I kicked their asses at card games, we made it to London. As a final bit of stress to the afternoon, I had to wait for 30 minutes to get through immigration, while getting shit from the flunkies because I didn’t know the address of the hotel I’d be staying.
Following airport annoyances, I began the process of controlling the kids, which is a bit like herding cats…In our first hour in London, they managed to get lost on the Metro. I will forever remember the terrified sad look on Belén’s face as the doors shut in her face, trapping her and three other girls on a train without anyone else. Luckily, metros are pretty idiot-proof and I didn’t lose any students. And for the rest of Sunday, we wandered around the West End and ate Chinese food (delish).

On Tuesday, I pried my ass out of bed (in my single room, yes!) at the ungodly hour of 7:30 and devoured breakfast while noting that the kids looked even more tired than me. It turns out they’d stayed up until 4 a.m. talking and playing games, que sorpresa, no? María Jose the math teacher was less tolerant than I of our kids’ stupidity and grumpily vowed to tire them out so that they would sleep. And so, off we went to take a bus tour of the city in one of those double-decker buses. I never take these bus tours, but considering how huge London is, it seemed like a good idea. I got rained on for 3 hours, because in London it rains a lot, surprisingly. We then wandered out to Greenwich to see the Meridian and the Royal Observatory (vaguely interesting for being a line on the ground) and then raced back into the city. We misjudged the metro stop and ended up running, yeah running, from one side of the Thames, over the Tower Bridge and down to the boat dock to make our boat trip down to Big Ben. The boats were full of tourists, naturally, and snarky guides who made the kids crack up.

Wednesday was museum day, which was super fun for me and evil torture for the kids, mwahahaha! We went to the National Gallery first, which is a giant art museum, and spent the entire morning roaming the building. It was a little much, even for me. By the end, when we were looking at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the kids were slumped on the bench, or the floor, looking like they wanted to die. After a lunch in the square, we headed off to the National History Museum, with my feet throbbing and my caffeine addiction giving me a phenomenal headache. We abandoned the kids to the dinosaurs and we teachers found a ton of coffee. (Sidenote: British coffee is TERRIBLE!! As in, I had to drink Starbucks all week, because it was the BEST I could find in the entire city!!) Upon leaving the cafe to hunt down our bratlings, we found them collapsed on a bench, not 10 feet from where we’d left them. Special…
“You didn’t see anything?”
“No. No, we see things,” they insisted. “But we tired now.”
Whatever kids.
After being completely museumed out, we went in search of food. Or rather beer, because we only had a short time before our musical started, an the place my co-workers headed, after dumping the kidlies, was a pub. Yum yum British beer! We then made it to the theater to see Shrek; yes, Shrek is a musical now. And they show it on Drury Lane, perfect (if you don’t get the joke, you fail). It was epic, pretty hilarious: Farquad was fabulous (in more ways than one) and they had the dragon SING!
My sleepy self made it back to the hotel, completely wiped out and not sure which direction was up…

Thursday morning I decided that I couldn’t stand another 16 hour day of babysitting or I was going to snap and shove all of the kids into the Thames. So I begged off the trip to some science museum and headed off in search of coffee and shopping. I found myself in Camden Town, which is huge, epic version of the Saturday Market, complete with all the freaks and weirdos that you can find in London. I made friends with people selling cool clothes and spent too much money on street food. After getting all shopped out, I headed back to the center to meet up with my responsibilities in time for our tour of Westminster Abbey. I found everyone hiding from the rain next to a grocery store.
The Abbey itself was interesting, though completely overcrowded. I nerded out over the Poet’s Corner, naturally.
We then went on the London Eye, which is a giant Ferris Wheel thing right off the Thames. Apparently the locals think it’s ugly as f**k, but as long as tourists will pay 20 bucks a person, it’s going to be around. Now, I loathe Ferris Wheels with a passion; they irrationally creep me out. However, I went up in this thing, which is enough like a Ferris Wheel to annoy me and make me nervous, even though we were in a bubble with absolutely NO WAY for me to fall out. However, the view was definitely worth dealing with my paranoia.

Friday was British Museum Day! Which means, 6 hours in a museum looking at all the things England “obtained” from other countries over the centuries. Fascinating really, ancient creepy mummies and Easter Island statues, as well as pretty much anything the British Empire could get its sticky fingers on. I “lost” the kids pretty early on, and enjoyed my museum without the addition of grumpy teenagers. I kind of fail as a chaperone, I guess…
We went to an Indian restaurant that night, and to my delight they actually knew how to spice things! Of course, because I’m used to Spanish definitions of spicy, my curry set my lips on fire and made my eyes tear up after 4 delicious bites. I think I scared my poor Spanish coworkers.

Saturday I froze my ass off while watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace. As the entire world comes out to watch, most of what I saw was the back of people’s heads, and grumpy policemen ordering me to get my ass out of the way. However, there were some good views of guys in giant fluffy black hats, haha. We then wandered off to Kings Cross Station and saw Platform 9 3/4, which isn’t anywhere near the actual platforms, but is really a tourist spot right next to the donut shop. Still, I was nerdishly pleased. We then wandered off to the Tate Modern Art Museum, which was full of really weird modern art: think sculptures made of light bulbs. Or, my favorite example of post-modernist anti-form pretentiousness: A piece of paper in the shape of a hexagon that was glued to the wall. Oooh! Aaah!

Sunday was our last day in London and we managed to, by threatening mostly, get the kids to be packed up and ready to leave the hotel on time. And then we went off to go shopping in Camden Town!! Woohoo, more shopping for me! On the way over, we met some Steampunk freaks on the metro, one of who decided she was going to be our new best friend. She picked the shyest kids to talk to, and I giggled as my poor innocent students, from a tiny village in north Spain, tried to figure out how to react to one of London’s more interesting citizens. We let them lose in Camden, with strict orders to not get lost or kidnapped, and then went shopping. We found a shop that specialized in rave clothes (think neons with UFO-style, futuristic) that also had a fetish shop in the basement. I also managed to buy some books in English, and devour a delicious Turkish snack.
After leaving Camden, we went back to the hotel, grabbed the luggage, and raced off to the bus station, only to be told that we were early for our bus to the airport.
When we FINALLY got to the airport, I had a headache and a half waiting for me. I had to wait in a long line to get my boarding pass stamped, and then security was a wait of American-proportions. Plus, for some reason, my luggage set off the anti-bomb technology of Stansted Airport. So…I had to wait while some over-friendly dude rooted through every single item in my backpack, trying to figure out what was so dangerous about my makeup and books. He kept calling me “madame” which was just annoying.
I finally made it to the plane, all the while mocking the kids who were wearing 5 layers of clothing to make their suitcases light enough to pass Ryanair restrictions. And then…back to Spain!! And bed!! And decent coffee!!

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2 thoughts on ““Are You Insane?!” Going to London with 14 Teenagers

    • If that’s a nickname for the weird guy in a trench coat, selling God knows what in Soho, then yeah sure..

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