We were on the sixth grade trip. It was the first day and we had just taken a lovely boat ride through a cave. In places the ceiling was low and I had to duck. Colorful lights showed off the contours and unusual shapes of the walls and ceiling. I was sufficiently awed.
Now we were donning life vests for a trip down a river on bamboo rafts. The male teacher and I had quickly sized up the situation — boys, water, rafts — and knew that wisdom called for a chaperone on each of the boys’ rafts. The girls would have to ride with just their oarsman.
Here’s snippets of the conversation aboard our raft:
Boy 1: We’re going too slow.
Sumner: How do you say, “Go faster in Chinese?”
Boys 1, 3 and 4: Quie dian.
Me: Please don’t say that. He’s working hard.
Boy 5: Then why are the girls catching up?
Boy 1: No fair. We got a slow driver.
Me: Hey Sum, remember Tom Sawyer?
Me: Do you guys know about Tom Sawyer? We’re like Tom.
Boy 6: This is so boring.
Boy 4: There’s nothing to do but float along. Can we swim?
Me: No. Do you guys think you could make a bamboo raft?
A few boys: Probably. Wouldn’t be hard. Oh yeah, no problem.
Me: How would you do it?
Boy 3: The girls are passing us!
Boy 7: My shoes are getting wet.
Others: Mine too.
Me: How fun is this. They’ll dry.
Boy 6: Look. The girls have a water gun on their boat. No fair.
Boys: Let’s catch up and grab it.
Boy 1: Yeah, and squirt them.
Boy 3: Yeah, but they might scream.
Boy 4: This is boring. Too slow.
Me: Look at all the ducks — and so many ducklings! Wow.
Boy 5: Why aren’t we going faster?
Me: When was the last time you were on a bamboo raft?
A few: Never.
Me: The driver’s sweating. I bet he’s got big muscles from pushing us.
The boys glance at him momentarily.
Sumner: The girls are leaving us. We’re going to be in last place.
Boy 4: Grab the water gun!
Boy 5: Can’t. They’re too far away.
Boy 7: Look, a plastic water bottle. Get it.
Sumner grabbed it from the river and began to fill it with water.
Me: Don’t put your fingers in your mouth now. The water may be really polluted.
Sumner: Look, a shrimp! (He got it in the bottle)
Boy 4: Let me have it.
Sumner: No, it’s mine. (He fished and got two more)
Me: Cool. Do you think we could eat them?
Boys: No way. They’re gross.
Me: I love shrimp.
Boy 5: We’re way behind. Our boat is too slow.
Boy 7: My feet are totally wet.
Me: This is so much fun.
Boy 1: How much longer?
Boy 6: Look. We’re about to run aground.
Boy 3: Can we jump off and swim to shore?