The task: get 72 students and staff to Cape Town and back for a boat ride out to Seal Island and a tour of the bird sanctuary - all without losing my patience, my stomach, or any of my students.
I think I must have been delusional when I planned this. Taking 72 people anywhere is pretty much a logistical nightmare - toss in a bunch of foreigners with zero to intermediate level English in a city with the one of the highest crime rates in the world and you’ve got a real recipe for chaos.
Somehow God gives grace though and grace in abundance. It always turns out to be great fun. And I always get a kick out of all the quizzical looks we get as we drive by singing and laughing at the top of our lungs in a bus marked “School for the Deaf.”
The highlight of the day was definitely the boat ride though. Now when I set out to plan this trip, I read the words “seal island cruise” and pictured something along the lines of a leisurely morning out on a ferry boat circling a little island and watching furry sea creatures bathing in the sun. With this in mind, I got all the students on the boat, grabbed a cup of coffee and hopped on board just before we pushed off. Not two minutes later I abandoned my coffee as intense nausea set in and what I imagined as a leisurely cruise turned out to be a wild jaunt through stormy seas. Every time we crested a wave, the whole school “ooohed and aaahed”. Seconds later, we would plunge down to the bottom again sending our stomachs into our chest and everyone would scream and giggle with delight. The further out to sea we went, the greener I got until I was doubled over and seriously regretting ever having planned this! As we circled the island navigating treacherous rocks, the captain had us all crouch down just in case the boat “rolled” and someone fell out. With one hand on my back to keep me from going overboard, he shouted out orders to my slightly dazed students to get down and hold on. Just as visions of some sort of cross between Gilligan’s Island and Titanic began to play out in my mind, we cleared the channel and reached quieter waters. So much for a leisurely cruise! The most I saw of the seals was in the pictures afterwards!
When we finally reached land, we disembarked in varying degrees of sea sickness – some of us rushing to the toilets to dispose of our breakfasts, others popping motion sickness tablets and chugging orange juice. Let’s just say it was a morning, we won’t soon forget!
My stomach is still recovering from the “cruise” and my voice is still recovering from the vocal capacity required to get 72 people successfully on and off boats and in and out of restaurants and bird sanctuaries. Next time, I think I’ll make them all wear matching orange t-shirts, like a sea of traffic cones to warn the people around us. Or maybe I ought to just invest in one of those tour guide flags or a megaphone…or maybe just a pair of sea legs.