It was my responsibility and pleasure to lead the final day of expedition, the journey home to our friends and family. After an emotional goodbye to Ben at the hotel in Hanoi, the leader handover from Lizzie to myself occurred slightly earlier than usual, whilst on the bus heading to the airport (as opposed to the usual midnight handover). I forewarned the group earlier in the day that I was going to be on top of them with regards to passports and bags etc and I’m sure they would agree with me when I say that I did just that. From the second the bus door closed I called a passport check as well as reminding people to check for phones and carrying out our consistently problematic “numbering off” system.
A somewhat restless, music filled 45 minute bus journey later and we reached the airport where we did a bag check and another passport check before heading to the check in desks. After about 40 seconds in the queue, a staff member came over and moved us to another queue designed for ‘groups’ where we then stood waiting behind a family that I’m fairly sure must account for 30% of the population of Asia. Once everyone finally checked their bags we split into two smaller groups to walk through security.
One tedious security experience later and everybody made it into duty free without issue. We gathered at the gate 1 hour and a half before boarding was due to start so everybody split up and attempted to spend the remainder of their vietnamese dong to varying degrees of success. After some serious déjà vu concerning the same terminal in the early hours of the morning an entire month ago, everyone returned to meet at the gate armed with bags of snacks more or less on time (which is a pretty incredible feat for our group). Once aboard the plane and everybody played the traditional plane game of “how confused can we make the flight crew by swapping all our seats” we departed with only mild panic from myself and Holly.
The flight was about as tedious as it sounds; over 12 hours of attempting to sleep, watching movies and trying to bargain with flight crew for vegetarian meals. That said I think everyone was just grateful for some time to relax a bit, and it gave us all a chance to reflect on our month away and get excited for coming home. The plane landed (after we circled London a few times) and miraculously the arms of mine and Holly’s chairs remained intact. Once back in the UK all that was left to do was a lot of waiting: we waited at customs as Evans, Emily and Alfie all experienced issues with temperamental machines. We waited for our baggage whilst being repeatedly told to move by employees trying to access the carousel next to us. And we waited for the bus outside the airport for an undefined amount of time until the driver of a massive coach told me he was there for balcarras. All aboard our very final party bus (which I may add was the nicest bus we have been on so thank you to Critch for that) and we set off for a fairly emotional journey filled with snacking, blog writing, reading the anonymous messages we all wrote for each other and lots of singing. We pulled up to balcarras singing ‘the cup song’ and with a several people in tears upon the sight of their families, we disembarked to join our parents.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to spend a month with such an amazing group of people on another continent.
Everyone has had ups and downs but I think we have all been pleasantly surprised with how well we have pulled together as a team and supported each other when we have needed it, both as individuals and as a whole group.
On behalf of the 13 students I want to say one last thank you to Ben, Critch and Evans for keeping us all safe, and for doing so in a manner that allowed us to see you as members of the team rather than teachers, we all really appreciated that style of group work on our expedition.
And one final thank you to all the friends and family that read the blog and kept nagging us to keep posting, it’s been a pleasure to share our amazing journey with all of you.
Let’s do it again sometime 😁