Although I will write about the actual field trip experiences in a separate blog, I thought the bus ride to and from Mersin warranted its own page. I have chaperonned many 8th Grade field trips so being invited to attend this class trip was exciting for me. 8th graders are fun to take on trips and the Turkish students are no exception. As a matter of fact, when they arrived with their back packs, their carefully planned non-uniform outfits, sunglasses, cameras, purses, wallets, bags of snack food, fingernails painted in bold colors for the girls, and the lack of extra clothes or jackets for the boys, I could have been with any group of 8th grade students in America.
But here are some of the differences:
First -This bus had 3 drivers, 1 tea boy/apprentice driver, and a bed located behind the driver's seat so the drivers could switch out driving and sleep between shifts. This was a 2 night-1 day trip.
Second- We left at 11:00 p.m. so bus became kind of like a hotel, except that we were with 8th graders so really they didn't really sleep that first night. They were too excited.
Third -The tea boy/apprentice driver has three jobs. 1) He serves tea and coffee. I like this duty. 2. he gets to start the bus so it's all warmed up for the real driver(s). 3. He's just a little older than the students so he joins in their fun. (See 6 and 9 below.)
Fourth -The bus stops every two hours for tea/smoke breaks and at sunrise for a trip to pray at the mosque. I guess I slept in spite of the noise the first night because I don't remember most of the stops.
Fifth - It's OK to pick up strangers/hitch-hikers, especially if those people can act like a local GPS the bus driver.
Sixth - Sitting is optional but dancing in the aisles to loud Turkish pop or Turkish folk music is a must. Imagine squeezing a middle school dance into a single, narrow bus aisle and turning the music up loud and you've got the even activities. When the driver hits the brakes or swerves quickly, we each grab on to each other or a seat and hope we don't fly through the windshield. I've got to admit that I really enjoyed dancing on the bus. It's very liberating!
Seventh - From about 3 - 4:30 am there was total silence on the bus because all the students fell asleep. Then, the bus stopped for the prayer call and the "faithful" (well, actually, only three teachers got off the bus and entered the mosque to pray.)
Eighth - I think we were all asleep to too tired to think, because we drove another 20 kilometers down the road before anyone noticed that we'd left one of the teachers praying at the mosque. So, the bus pulled a u-turn and 20 minutes later we retrieved him. Everyone, including the left teacher, thought this was really funny.
Ninth - One of the male middle school teachers is perfect for his job. He walked around with a can of shaving cream at 5:30 a.m. and sprayed a glob on the heads of every sleeping student. Watching them wake up, stretch, brush their hair out of their face, rub their eyes awake all while unknowingly smearing shaving cream all over themselves was hilarious. Some students had totally painted their faces white before they recognized anything was amiss. A few were not too happy and paybacks to the offending teacher including shaving cream fights in the aisles and water fights at the bus stops occurred for the remainder of the ride home, but the prank was worthy of "Candid Camera."
Except for the wild partying in the aisles, our bus drivers were very conscientious and courteous of traffic laws and lane stripes...not always common in my experience. So, it was a good trip.