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Places to Go, Experiences to Share

[Editor’s note: Viajante ambulante is the pseudonym of a second-year ESL teacher in a Queens middle school.]

During my first year of teaching, I took a trip to Cuba and started up a pen pal program between my students and Cuban students. Seeing how interested and curious my students became after I shared photos and stories from my travels, I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences from this summer, which took me from New England to Israel, Egypt and Mexico.

I started my whirlwind vacation soon after the last day of school in June. I went to Burlington, Vermont where I was pleasantly surprised to see Lake Champlain. I had first heard about this pristine body of water as a student in 2nd-grade social studies at P.S. 4 in Staten Island. Seventeen years later, as I sat on a dock and looked out onto the dark-blue water, reflecting a gray evening sky, I smiled and wondered how many of my students will one day find themselves in one of the places I’ve shown them.

I soon returned to New York to catch a flight to Israel where I took part in a Taglit/Birthright-Israel tour. The tour ran us around the country so fast that we could barely tell what day it was. We floated in the Dead Sea, hiked through deserts and visited Jerusalem.

After the tour was over, a friend invited me to see Egypt. Our first adventure was an excursion to Mount Sinai. The biblical history had drawn us there, but it was the night sky with its countless stars that I’ll never forget.

Just outside of Cairo we made our way to the pyramids. At the Red Pyramid, we stared in awe at hieroglyph-filled tombs after descending sixty-five meters below ground, sweating bullets and crouching backwards through a dark tunnel.

After a day of rest and sailing on the Nile, I headed back to Israel and visited Haifa and Tel Aviv where I met friendly locals who enlightened me with their perspectives on the struggle between Israel and Palestine.

After such an intense and exhausting month, I needed a vacation from my vacation. So I headed for Puerto Escondido, a sparsely populated beach on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. Next, a friend and I took a bus to el D.F., aka Mexico City, where we spent three days trying to squeeze all the major sites into the short time we had. We saw the pyramids outside of Mexico City and went for a gondola ride along the canals at the city’s edge. We made sure to taste pulque, the drink common in pre-Colombian times, and happened upon a square in which several hundred mariachi bands gather weekly to play.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with my students and hearing about their summer adventures, large and small. I plan to have them write a page or two on their vacations, and I hope my travels will serve as a good jumping-off point.

As we share our stories in the first days of school, I am excited to see their curiosity for new places grow.