From Teacher to Tour Guide

The end is coming! The end is coming!  No, it is not the end of the world, although there always seems to be a wacko or two pushing that theory to make a buck off of unsuspecting believers. Rather, the end of my temporary retirement is (hopefully) within sight. I’ve got applications and resumes submitted for two job opportunities in Chengdu, China, and with that move looming in the not too distant future, I am eager to see what I’ll be doing next.

While my background is in education, my year in Washington DC has helped me discover a different calling- tourism! Over the last year (yup, it has almost been a year now!) we’ve had a variety of guests come stay with us in the mo-partment. After investing in the fanciest air mattress Target had to offer (okay, that is not entirely true- I think we went with the middle of the line, store brand option), our place has been a revolving door of friends and family. With the last set of visitors arriving this week, I feel like going from volunteer tour guide back to a regular 40-hour a week job is going to be a rough transition.

The only thing I am lacking to make me a true tour guide is either an umbrella or a brightly colored flag so that my travel buddies can fall into line like ducklings as we wander (or waddle!) from site to site.

I’ve been to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum more times than Americans have been to the moon. Air and Space seems to be on the top of everyone’s list, which is fine by me, as I can sit and watch the video screen showing air traffic over the US for hours on end. (There is something hypnotizing about those little yellow planes filling the skies in more and more abundance from the east coast to the west coast as the day goes on. If education or tour guiding doesn’t work out for me, maybe I should look into a career in air traffic control!)  After touring the building numerous times, I have my favorite displays, first and foremost being the sets of stewardess uniforms on the first floor. I love to see the progression of the fashion over time. These glass cases make me nostalgic for a time I never knew- the time when flying was as much as part of the vacation experience as the destination itself. Airports used to be places to wear your finest clothes, pearls and heels where a must when flying to a far-off destination. Now, with airlines becoming more concerned with cash than class, it apparently has become appropriate to go to the airport decked out in one’s finest pajamas!

My feet have made the monumental walk around the Tidal Basin with various visitors many times. I’ve gotten the pathway from the Smithsonian Metro station through all of the major memorials and back forever imprinted on my mind. It’s an invisible tattoo for my brain. Plus, after a few death marches with the early guests, I’ve learned to pack snacks! It is pretty amazing how excited full-grown adults are when I suddenly pull a Ziploc bag full of Twizzlers or cookies out of my bag. Nothing says “I’m in my nation’s capital” quite like wandering the expanse of land from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, all while nibbling on red licorice vines.

I always thought I would teach middle school until I retired, or at least until I no longer found myself stifling giggles at the randomness of 8th graders. Instead, I have found myself exploring new cities and hauling friends and family along with me. We’ve gotten lost a few times, but those off-track excursions have often been just as awesome as whatever was on the original plan. If my current job prospects don’t work out the way I am hoping, maybe it will be time to invest in that cute little flag and start my own guiding business!

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