Continuing with the week of “lasts,” today I wore my YES blues for the last time. This past year I had the absolutely amazing opportunity to be a part of Disney’s Youth Education Series team, and I got paid to lead groups of kids through the parks and teach them stuff. What kind of stuff, you ask? All kinds! I hopefully imparted some educational knowledge through my programs at Magic Kingdom, where I taught about how we use the laws of physics to create special effects and thrill rides. I attempted to give kids a greater sense of cultural awareness and global responsibility at Epcot by leading them around the World Showcase, allowing them to speak with a cultural representative, and talking about how cultures develop (and how they are all similar). I taught some cool Disney history when I taught about Walt’s vision for his parks, how he came up with the idea of audio-animatronics, and how much he wanted for Epcot to be a little patch of peace and harmony as a global community. I spouted off random Disney trivia when applicable, because I really can’t help myself. And I had a darn good time doing it all. It was truly one of the most amazing opportunities to come my way. But as with all things, that time is at an end. Today I was scheduled to facilitate my last Global Citizenship class in Epcot, except the group never showed up. So that was a huge bummer. At least I got to see people and say goodbye.
Then came my daily adventure: saying goodbye to Epcot. I finally went on Ellen’s Energy Adventure (all 45 minutes of 80’s style glory, and of course the fabulous Ellen DeGeneris) and that was awesome. Super retro, but awesome. And I trekked all the way around the World Showcase so that I could watch the American Adventure one last time (and I didn’t cry! That’s an accomplishment, folks) and managed to catch the Voices of Liberty as well (they did make me cry, but that’s nothing new). After I walk out of that show, I always feel super proud to be an American. It’s great. But it also means so much more to me now because it was the capstone moment of Global Citizenship, after which we talk about what makes up American culture, and how we’re a melting pot of so many different cultures, and all the struggles that has posed for our society, and how we’ve tried to overcome them, but how we still have things to work on . . . it’s beautiful. I also have seen that show enough times to have it entirely memorized.
And then I went to complete my last two bucket list items: show-request a Jungle Cruise skipper, and go to the new Trader Sams Grog Grotto in the Polynesian (which is Jungle Cruise themed, so it made sense to do them on the same day). One of my friends that I worked with during my college program on Main Street recently got a job as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise, and I absolutely love the Jungle Cruise, so I knew I had to ride on his boat at least once before I left. And I had never done a show request before, so that as exciting. It worked out perfectly. I arrived at the Jungle Cruise just after he had gotten his assignment to take over the next boat, and a few minutes after I got off it started to thunder. So the timing couldn’t have been better. And it was so much fun! It was the best last trek around the jungle I could have asked for.
Then just as the storm clouds were rolling in, it was off to the Polynesian Resort! The Poly has undergone quite a number of changed over the past year (or more? It’s been a while). The entire lobby looks different, the pool has gotten a makeover, the cast members at Captain Cooks have different costumes, there’s now a walk-up window just for Dole Whips (which is necessary), and perhaps most importantly: there is a brand new bar/restaurant called Trader Sams. If you have ever ridden the Jungle Cruise, you may remember that Trader Sam is the head salesman in the Jungle, offering you two of his heads for one of yours. So Trader Sams Grog Grotto is a quirky place, set deep in the heart of the jungle, with a few lone skippers as waiters and waitresses. All of the drinks have punny names (like my Hippopoto-mai-tai), and when you order the drinks strange things begin to happen. For instance, my Hippopoto-mai-tai must have scared some hippos, because the waiters began shouting that there were hippos in the trees! How do you get a hippo down from a tree? With two shots (*cue gunshot noises*) of rum! And the ceiling suddenly lights up as if they have opened fire on the trees. And each drink has its own fun effects that you really have to experience, instead of just read about. The only drawback? It’s incredibly small. It’s probably the same size as a large bedroom, maybe. And it probably only seats like 30 people. There’s plenty of seating outside, but it’s certainly not the same experience. And if you’re going to pay $17 for a drink and a souvenir glass, you also want the experience to go with it. At least, that’s my perspective.
I met up with three of my coworkers from the Youth Education Series at Trader Sams; we were all interns together, and although we’re beginning to forge our own paths in the world we’re still attempting to spend time hanging out every so often. But one of my friends saw me and commented, “Wow, you look so much like a tourist!” And I had to laugh. She was certainly correct. For once I was wearing sneakers instead of sandals, I was wearing a baseball cap, I had my pin lanyard around my neck in addition to my camera, and I had my park backpack casually slung around my shoulders. Normally I try my hardest not to look like a tourist, but today I didn’t care. Why? Because today I was much less concerned about how I looked, and much more concerned with taking in as much of my surroundings as possible. I stopped frequently to pin trade with cast members. I took photos of things I thought I would want to remember. I finally bought the bracelet made of recycled Disney park maps that I have always wanted to by. I said yes to buying the souvenir cup at Trader Sams ( and I never buy the souvenir cup!). And so today I embraced my inner tourist. And I’m okay with that, because today I accomplished my goals as a cast member. I wouldn’t have it any other way.