Monday, September 27, 2010

The Trip of a Lifetime

Day 15 of this challenge is supposed to be a fanfic, but I don't do those... so here's something I wrote myself for Creative Writing this past semester. It's about the trip to Ireland my high school band took. Enjoy : )

The Trip of a Lifetime
By Julie Carter

“Are we driving to Ireland?” Kelli, a freshman, asked as we sat in a circle in the band hall, discussing the plan for the biggest trip of our lives.
“Yeah Kelli, you can drive to Ireland,” my best friend replied sarcastically. “Good luck making it across the ocean!”
I was 16 years old and traveling out of the United States for the first time. My high school marching band had been invited by the Lord Mayor to march in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin and, by some miracle, our uptight band director had agreed. As a member of the color guard, I was fortunate enough to be part of the parade as well. The Band Booster parents had been referring to it as “The Trip of a Lifetime.
When we arrived in Dublin, I discovered that my suitcase was the only one on the entire plane that hadn’t quite made it onto our connecting flight from London. Although I was flustered filling out the necessary paperwork to get my suitcase back, I was able to reassure my color guard instructor that yes, I had indeed packed my uniform in my carry-on bag. If nothing else, I would still be in the parade. Fortunately, my suitcase was delivered that night, so a spandex uniform that made me look like Wonder woman wasn’t my only wardrobe option. It also restored my faith in Aer Lingus after our terrible landing that day. I had been dozing when we skidded onto the runway practically sideways, bouncing everywhere, and I had sworn we were crashing. Why we trusted Irish pilots during the week of St. Patrick’s Day is beyond me.
Before we departed for our weeklong trip, my friend had declared that she would find the greenest hill in the country on which to be married someday. As our bus to Kilkenny Castle took us along a winding road with views of beautiful green hills on both sides, all I could think was that she had a lot of options to choose from. Although I enjoyed touring Kilkenny Castle and walking around the expansive grounds, what I and most of my friends remember best about Kilkenny were the cute boys that were on their lunch break from school while we explored the city. Much to our surprise, the majority of them were brunettes with blue eyes instead of the stereotypical Irish green-eyed redheads. While I vaguely remember the interesting shops we saw and the ancient-seeming cobblestone streets and alleys, I believe we spent most of our time there giggling and following the uniform-clad young men through the streets. And I think that many of us vowed to move to Ireland for good.
Our hotel was full of twisting corridors and confusing staircases and passages. Somehow my best friend and I found a back way into the dining room where the entire group ate dinner together every night, saving us the trouble of pushing our way through the main doors and fighting for a good table. Some of the food was unusual, and our table spent an entire meal poking at our food and debating about whether the meat we were eating was chicken or fish. I’m still not sure. I mainly survived on bread and, of course, dessert. Every night the dessert was brought out on rolling carts and positioned in specific areas in the dining room. We learned where the best places to sit were and slowly scooted our chairs closer until it was time to make a mad dash for the desserts. The best ones always went fast. We didn’t have much free time at the hotel, because the days leading up to the parade were spent rehearsing in the ballrooms or marching around the parking lot. The endless rehearsals spent with the director screaming at us through the megaphone were probably meant to keep us out of trouble, but several groups of students still managed to have parties in their hotel rooms. I didn’t go to these parties, but I was very glad when it was Saint Patrick’s Day and we could be in the parade instead of rehearsing more.
As we rode the busses from our hotel to downtown Dublin, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had been in many parades before, but the 4th of July parade in little Coppell, Texas, didn’t quite compare to the Dublin Saint Patrick’s Day parade with 600,000 spectators. Ireland was still pretty chilly in March, and while the morning of the parade was sunny, I was quite cold in my sleeveless uniform. I kept warm by bundling up in one of the chaperone’s heavy coats until right before the parade started. I was accustomed to wearing crazy outfits as a part of the color guard, but I can only imagine how unusual we looked to these people in our red and yellow skin-tight body suits, complete with purple capes and silver buttons. Let’s not forget about our hair in buns, purple eyeshadow, and red lipstick. A whole group was already gathering as the band split to warm-up in sections. They watched as we practiced basic spins and tosses, clapping every time we all caught our flags together. I wasn’t used to that reaction at all. In Texas, hardly anyone paid attention when we were on the field performing at halftime, let alone acting excited when all we were doing was warming up.
We lined up in the street in our parade block, even though we proceeded to wait around for a while longer. Marching band is a lot of “hurry up and wait.” People were handing their babies to drumline members to take pictures of them. Based on the number of cameras that were on us throughout the parade, I have to wonder how many total strangers have pictures of me somewhere. We finally set off through the streets of downtown Dublin, playing an entire American patriotic melody. The guard spun silks designed to look like the Texas flag, but with the red and white stripes in reverse order so that it wasn’t considered disrespectful to be spinning them. I became tired of replying to my band friends that yes, we did know that the stripes were reversed on our flags and that they were supposed to be that way. We had a choreographed routine to the music, which we performed over and over throughout the multiple-mile parade. I had no idea just how tired my arms would become or that by the end, our flimsy tan jazz shoes would be so dirty and torn from the epic parade that we would all have to throw them away.
The sides of the streets were so crowded in some places that it was difficult for me not to hit the spectators or another guard girl with my six foot flag pole, but by no means did I stop spinning. When we passed through several streets that were lined with buildings, forming a crazy wind tunnel, I ran after my tosses at all costs, not daring to be the one that dropped my flag in the middle of the street. In between all of this, I tried to smile as widely as possible and actually look at the crowd. I knew I would never have an opportunity this unique and exciting, and I wanted to enjoy it. I couldn’t believe how the streets were packed with people, several rows thick, all straining to catch a glimpse of the big white band as we marched by. I knew we had to be one of the biggest groups there, and was excited to find out that we won an award for being the best band in the parade. I was completely blown away to see people on the rooftops, cheering especially for us. One man, seeing our flags, yelled “Take me home to Texas, baby!” I had almost forgotten where I was for a moment, but Texas seemed so far away right then. I was young, but I saw for the first time what a big world it is. I may not have found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or met a leprechaun, but I was in a beautiful foreign country and a part of the coolest thing I had ever done. I understood what the Band Boosters had been talking about all this time and, even though my feet hurt enough by the end to want to be carried up the hill to the bus, I bet I could have kept going for several more miles.

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