Familiar sights often look better to us when we take out-of-town guests to see them. The enthusiasm of others makes us appreciate our hometowns more. This happened to me today, when my co-teacher and I invited our adult Talk Time class (English conversation) to get some real English practice by boarding an express bus and accompanying us to downtown Seattle. Of the fourteen in our group, only one had visited Seattle, even though all had lived in the area for one to three years, and none had ridden the bus.
We visited two hotels to see decorated Christmas trees, a suite full of teddy bears of all sizes and colors, and mouth-watering gingerbread and candy creations made by teams of architects and chefs. We stopped to drink coffee and thaw out in a shopping center (the outside temperature was in the 30’s fahrenheit).
We didn’t cover too much territory, because it was hard enough to corral, let alone to herd, fourteen people. I only got us lost once. As soon as one group was ready to move on, another group wanted to use the restroom. I can’t imagine what real tour guides must go through to avoid losing tourists. We had only enough time to sprint past the Peruvian street musicians, the farmers’ market, art museum and symphony hall on our way to the return bus stop.
The “students” pointed to things I stopped noticing long ago or didn’t see because I was looking straight ahead: the star on Macy’s department store, two window washers scaling a skyscraper, flags from Japan and Korea flying above the entrance to a hotel, and a specialty food stand selling Japanese-style hot dogs. Five students were adventurous enough to stay behind and go home later on their own. On the trip back I asked the others if they would come to Seattle again and what they would see. All said they planned to come back and to bring their children with them. Getting twelve relative newcomers to feel comfortable using public transportation and ready to visit Seattle again made my co-teacher and me feel like today had been a success.
I’m ready to return to town and pay attention to more of the sights I normally miss, to see them with new eyes. But this time I’ll go alone. It is a lot easier than stopping every few blocks to count to fourteen.