Today, we had a very early wake up call. 5:30 a.m. Mr. Sanders was not happy with that time. I was pretty comfortable with it. We get up so early for Disney. We had breakfast and gathered like herds of cattle to go to the airport! We were taking the first steps to the great, white continent.
Ushuaia was much colder and windier than Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, I was in shorts and t-shirts. Ushuaia was cold – like 40 degrees. And, there was wind! We were given a tour of Ushuaia and the Tierra del Fuego National Park. We were in the province of Tierra del Fuego. Argentina has “provinces” and not states like we do. The tour guide talked about various trees and the flora and fauna of the area. I was surprised to learn that fallen trees took a long time to decompose. The tour guide said up to 70 or 80 years.
From there we went on a catamaran. We ate lunch and then sailed from the port seeing various birds. A naturalist (Andy) who I have become friends with claimed that he saw a penguin! We really didn’t believe him. It was great to have a naturalist right there. Andy would explain what the different birds were and if someone had a question, he was right there to give answers! The boat took us to a dock where we met up with our busses and our luggage. Awaiting us was a grand, beautiful ship.
We boarded the National Geographic Endeavor; that is the official name of the ship. After finding our cabin, we met with passengers to get to know each other and socialize. People have come from so many different places – New Zealand, San Francisco and London. So many people have chosen to make this expedition their trip of a lifetime- I feel so blessed to be able to do this.
As I write this, I am a little nervous. We met our mentor, Eric. He welcomed Mr. Sanders and I but was quick to explain that we are going to be experiencing some rough waters crossing the Drake Passage. The boat is trying to beat out a storm before it hits. They guarantee some rough water! Hopefully, the seasickness medication that I took the moment I got on the boat will work!
This is Andy Szabo showing us the penguin that he spotted!
Today, I was joined by my expedition mate, Mr. Tyler Sanders. He comes from New York City! He will be with me for the entire month! I have not seen him since last year - good times and good friends with another Grosvenor Teaching Fellow!
Today we had a great mix of things. We went on a walking tour. This was a 45 minute excursion around the city blocks of our hotel. We were given some history of the wealthy families who made and owned mansions in this district. We had a tour of a very famous cemetery and saw the grave of Evita Peron. We went to an incredible cathedral, saw the President of Argentina's office. She is a woman! Then, we travelled to a colorful "shanty" district called, "La Boca." What a cultural day! Enjoy the photos!
I landed early in the morning - about 8:30. It took a while to get through the passport line and customs. I easily found the recommended car service to take me to the hotel. I was immediately smacked in the face with a new culture - money, language and way of life! The person told me that it would cost an amount in "pesos" - the Argentinian currency. I didn't think to find out what the conversion rate was before I paid the amount! Bad Mr. S.! I stepped outside and felt/saw the sun beaming down and toasting my soul.
NO snow. NO cold. It was amazing! Warmth. Sunshine. Ahhh.
I got to the hotel and was hungry. My Spanish was off to a rough start with the car driver. I walked into a mall across the street from my hotel and had some coffee and "mini burgers." Think like a meatball on mini-buns. The Spanish was again - horrible. Feeling defeated with communication skills, I came back to the hotel and realized I needed a nap. I woke up and felt much better. I asked the concierge where I could go for other meals and a map. I needed a map! So, let the adventure begin. I stopped for a nice "Spanish" style meal - though it wasn't as good. I had tortilla and cafe con leche. And, my Spanish seemed to improve - or at least be understood better by the waiter. Here are some photos of the food and cafe.
I walked around the city for several hours taking in the sounds, smells and life of Buenos Aires. I had my handy map with me and strolled along. Snapping pictures of magnificent buildings and parks along the way.
So, today I had my first ever time in First Class - well I haven't gotten to the plane yet. I am in Miami Airport in the "special lounge." It makes me wonder how I never travelled this way before. Upgrades are the best!
I met a very interesting man here. I overheard him talking to someone saying that he was going to the North Pole. I thought that was odd and ironic. We began to chat. It turns out that he has an 8 year old son. He is a retired military pilot from Europe and travels 250 days a year for his job now! That is a lot of flying!
He told story about how he was going to see... SANTA CLAUS! For real! It was a fantastic story about how his son wanted proof that there was Santa and he had reasons to go up there for work. So, he decided that he was going to do what it takes to let Santa know about his son! I thought it was amazing and was so happy to see the spirit of the season in full force! Wow!
In case you were wondering, first class at night looks like this to Mr. S. !
One day to go! In less than 24 hours, I will be in the air traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wow! What a whirlwind of a week. We had lots to juggle with eSpark rolling out, code.org and putting everything together for my departure. I was visited by many people during the day and after school. I feel so grateful to everybody for their support and kindness. I will miss the kids so much! My worry has moved from getting things ready for school to hoping and praying that I have everything that I need! Bags are packed and I am ready to roll out of the gate!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.