I spent the night in the home of Neil Branson, a cyclist, traveller, track coach, and retired high school counselor. He’d offered me a place to stay through couchsurfing.org, and when I arrived, he treated me to a sandwich in the local tavern. After I explained my story, he asked me to return the favour.
The next morning, Neil drove me to the local high school and whisked me into the photography studio just moments after third period began. I shook the teacher’s hand and loaded up my kickstarter.com video. I introduced myself and began showing photos to a class of mostly disinterested students: one student kept his back to me throughout the entire period. For some time, I had wanted to talk about travel and photography in a school and, afterwards, I found myself disappointed by how the session had gone. I went for lunch with Neil and we sat in the sunshine, eating burritos.
I came back to the school for fifth period and received an entirely different reception. This second class was totally with me: they asked copious questions about why I was walking, about travelling in India, about photography, and I tried to answer as truthfully as I could. As I spoke, on-break teachers strolled in through the back door to join the session.
When the bell ended the class, a number of students stuck behind to ask further questions; the teacher handed me $20 to buy some gas for my stove and I got a hug from a particularly interested, articulate student with one arm.
That night, I hiked up to Tillamook Head and slept alone in the forest, listening to the sound of tall trees waving back and forth in the high winds.