For many, the Country Trip was the highlight of the IXs. The nature walks and hikes were the most fun. I still remember the trek through the woods. Never before had our teachers allowed us to be as physical and adventurous as we could be then. We were climbing all over the place, crawling through rotted tree trunks, walking across fallen logs, and balancing on rocks that dotted the stream.
The teachers advised against going on the rocks, but of course we did. I jumped to one just as a classmate, Lilly, did. Now, I have no idea why, but Lilly decided to mount this rock holding an eight-foot-long stick. One thing led to another, and Lilly spun around, holding the stick, sending me clumsily falling into the stream. I didn’t have a lot of extra clothes, so I ended up wearing polos for the last couple days.
On the topic of fun school trips, I’ll turn to the biggest trip of them all: the XIIIs Chicago adventure. We had to arrive at school by four in the morning. This meant that some people had to sleep over with kids who lived closer to C&C. My friend, Marco, slept over. Slept is the wrong word, as we went to bed at eleven and woke up at three. Let me stress that, we were on our feet from three in the morning, and it was busy from the start.
Marco and I got up at three, skipped food, didn’t take showers, and were off to school in the eerily desolate streets of late night New York. We got to school at 3:15, said our goodbyes to the parents, and got on the bus. Getting through airport security was easy enough, except for Marco losing his boarding pass. The plane was…fine. As soon we stepped onto the tarmac, I could feel it. We had been warned about the Polar Vortex, but I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was. Tyrone, as one of our many chaperones, wore crocs. In negative twenty-three degree weather.
However, we didn’t have much time to worry about the cold because as soon as we dropped our stuff off at the hotel we were on the move. Walking, busing, freezing for forty minutes. We eventually reached our destination, a Chicago themed museum, and could finally shed the three layers we all had on. Of course that didn’t mean we could relax. As soon as we were in there, the teachers gave us an assignment. I forget what it was, and I spent the many hours we had to do it making fun of 1940s jazz songs. Eventually I tried to work on it and wandered off into the museum. Eventually a teacher found my ADHD-addled, tired self, standing there forgetting what I was doing. On the bright side, I didn’t have to share my assignment.
The night culminated in a trip to Second City, the heart of Chicago’s comedy scene. Second City produced big names like Tina Fey, Steve Carell, John Candy, and the guy who played the voice of Shrek. We took a tour, and went to watch a show. As we were sitting down, I distinctly remember this Stan Lee-looking dude saying as we walked in, “These guys won’t get the jokes.” I looked him straight in the eye, and I have never seen a smile evaporate from somebody’s face so fast. I said, “We’ll see,” and the guy laughed, so I think that was a win.
As the crowd settled and the actors took their places, I didn’t know what to expect. By the time it was underway, all of those hours of trudging through frozen mud in downtown Chicago were worth it. I didn’t mind walking back to the hotel through negative thirty degree weather one bit. When we were all safely in our rooms, sleep didn’t come for another hour.
The next day I woke up with the flu, and I stayed in for the Science Museum, like, the one thing I wanted to go to. I stayed in for the next two days as well, without a care in the world. It was actually pretty nice. When I saw my family for the first time in a week, one thought flooded my head: “I hadn’t called home that whole time.”