For almost a month before leaving on the 2017-18 trip, students tried to figure out its destination. The most common guesses, Nashville and Atlanta, were proven wrong on the morning of Tuesday, March 13. Kingfishers loaded their bags onto the bus, which began to drive in an unexpected direction: north. On the drive, we stopped for lunch at McDonalds before arriving at the hotel in Durham, North Carolina. Since we were too early to check in, we headed over to our afternoon tour of the nearby Duke Botanical Gardens. Dr. Gates split the school into five groups, each one led by one chaperone and one senior. He then challenged the groups to take a picture with the weirdest plant they could find. Most groups took pictures with The Big Easy, a stick sculpture by Patrick Dougherty. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and unloaded before grabbing a quick dinner at Wendy’s. “We’re going to a hockey game!” Logan squealed as we pulled into the parking lot of the Carolina Hurricanes’ home stadium. The school was on the edge of their seats in the third period when the Boston Bruins scored goal after goal. Eventually winning 6-4, the Bruins crushed the Hurricanes’ previous three-point lead. Exhausted from the long day, we returned to the hotel for the night.
The next day, students were up early. Kingfishers piled on the bus and traveled to Duke University Chapel. “I want to get married here,” Cathryn said, looking around the chapel in awe. After the end of our tour, we drove across campus to the Duke Lemur Center, the largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar. The school split into two groups to tour the center, though students without uniforms stayed on the bus with Dr. Gates. Since it was a cold day (about 38 degrees at the time of our tour), most of the lemurs were inside. However, students were able to go behind the scenes to see the lemurs in their indoor habitat. “It’s doing yoga!” several students exclaimed when they saw a lemur sunning herself in her window. We were even able to see the nocturnal lemurs, which were up and active due to a reversed light cycle in their habitats. Following the tour, students bought T-shirts and stuffed animals in the gift shop. Before lunch, we sneaked in to the Duke basketball museum in the Cameron Center and tiptoed up the stairs to see the Coach K Court.
In utter defiance of the cold weather and piercing wind, Dr. Gates brought a picnic lunch, which students ate behind the North Carolina Museum of Art. Huddling together to keep warm, students quickly scarfed down their sandwiches and weighted their plates down to keep them from blowing away. “I was freezing!” Margaret exclaimed. “And I never get cold!” Eager to leave the freezing weather, students crossed the parking lot and began browsing the exhibits in the museum as soon as they finished eating. The groups had a scavenger hunt while they toured the museum: a challenging feat when Dr. Gates refused to spell the items for which they were searching. “Kana kun” (which Dr. Gates refused to spell), a sawfish mask, a porcupine quill, a piece of art at least 100 feet long, and a piece of art exactly 18 by 30 feet. “I found the porcupine quill!” Camper hissed to her group. “Come on, we can’t let Team Butterscotch see!”
After leaving the museum, the school arrived late to a baseball game between NC State and UNC Asheville. As NC State approached the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead, students began to worry the game would proceed much like the hockey game the previous night. “I thought they were going to pull some insane comeback,” Avi said. NC State, unlike the Hurricanes, held onto their lead. Kingfishers celebrated the victory as they hurried back to the warmth of the bus. For dinner, we ate arepas, a traditional Venezuelan dish. “I want to see you trying something new,” Dr. Gates said before we entered the restaurant.
On Thursday morning, the only clue to the day’s activities was an ominous warning from Dr. Neubauer: “Bundle up and remember your long socks! You never know how cold it’s going to get.” After the previous day’s events, everyone took this to heart. Kingfishers wore all the layers they had. The long socks warning made sense when the bus pulled up in front of an ice rink. “Yes! Ice skating!” came the excited cry from the back of the bus, while others expressed concern. “I’ve never been ice skating before,” said several students. Some made stacks of buckets to lean on for balance while Dr. Gates taught more experienced skaters to skate backwards. Kingfishers fell left and right, but everyone had a great time. Students had to try more new things at lunch, as we ate at a Korean restaurant.
We had such a good time there we were almost late for our next activity: a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. We went to the movie at the science museum but one everybody fell asleep. We saw an exhibit on mazes, then looked for the ‘most artsy’ picture while exploring the rest of the museum. Exhausted, we relaxed at the hotel for an hour and a half before leaving for dinner. “We’re going to try something new today,” Dr. Gates said when we boarded the bus. “We’re going to eat together.” Everyone left their phones in a basket before leaving the bus, much to the distress of some students. “I’ve gone to check my phone three times,” Isabella said. “and it’s only been five minutes!” The food – house-made burgers, soda, fries, and ice cream – certainly made up for it. The school crowded the back patio of the restaurant as everyone enjoyed the delicious meal.
The last morning of the trip, Friday, we visited UNC Chapel Hill’s campus. We drank water from the well in the quad, meant to give all visitors good luck. A few students browsed the campus store while others visited the attached Starbucks. Interested students toured the UNC Basketball Museum (no sneaking necessary) before piling back on the bus for the last time and heading home. The finality of it hit the seniors. “I can’t believe this is our last trip,” Chris said. “Me either,” Avery Rose echoed. On the drive, the excitement of the trip boiled over, causing a constant stream of noise from the back of the bus. When we arrived back at the school at about 6pm, the Durham trip had officially ended. We are already looking forward to next year’s trip!