Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summer Camp: First Impressions

My summer camp is located near Vienne, which is about 20 minutes south of Lyon by train, and when I arrived on Saturday afternoon I was greeted (more like grunted at) by a shady-looking character who didn't really speak English or French. During the course of the 30 minutes journey from Vienne to Tour de Buis, I was convinced I was being kidnapped. My camp director, Ishta, the one who had picked me up, told me in very, very poor English that he was Egyptian, that he had crashed the car on this stretch of road the year before (which I believed because he drove like a maniac), that Armenians were bad and steak was good. I arrived at camp a little shaken and very worried, where I was greeted by the other counselors who had been there for a couple of weeks. They commiserated with me, saying how difficult it was to have a director they couldn't communicate with. One girl, Taylor, punctuated every sentence with a "that's so cute!," regardless of what we were talking about, and the other counselor, Harry, said they were going to a nearby village to see a Renaissance Faire. I decided to go with them, only to find that the village was about 10 miles away, and they were planning to hitchhike. Since I was the only French speaker amongst us, I negociated both rides we managed to pick up on these small country roads.

We finally arrived at Revel-Tourdan, where we saw that it wasn't so much a Ren Faire as a village heritage celebration. We saw a couple of performances and took a tour of the village before meeting up with two other counselors, Adam and Mojo. Mojo is deaf, and communicated by signing and writing in a little notebook. Mojo is the sister of Ishta, and at least "speaks" better English than he does, but still makes mistakes. When she wasn't looking, Adam and Taylor made fun of her behind her back, saying that it gets really frustrating having to read everything she writes in her poor English and how they didn't really like her. I found them really cruel, especially when they would play pranks on her like stealing her pen, throwing her notebook in the bushes, and imitating her when she wasn't looking.

Ishta came to pick us up from Revel-Tourdan, but his car only had one seat besides the trunk, so Mojo and another counselor, Ivy, climbed into the trunk for the 20 minute trip back to camp. Shocked is the least of my expressions at this point.

At dinner that night, I saw how cruel and possessive Ishta was over Mojo. He would yell at her, force her to serve others food before herself, and no one stepped in to make sure she was treated fairly. I decided I would email the camp coordinators and see what I could do about this problem. That evening, after dinner, we held a team meeting. Mojo went up to the board and wrote:

"HA HA, you've been punked!"
And then in an Australian accent, she said, "I'm really sorry, but I'm not deaf. And Ishta's real name is Paul and he's from California."
I was furious and relieved and embarassed all at the same time. I'm not sure how to feel about this whole thing. Taylor, Adam, Mojo, Ivy, Harry and even Paul are all really cool people, but I still feel a little offended that they pulled such a prank on me. I'm also really impressed that they managed to keep this up for over 7 hours! To be fair, I wasn't the only one taken in, as the other two counselors who arrived yesterday were also prey to this practical joke. But they arrived much later than me and didn't have the same immersion as I did.
Otherwise, camp is a little more disorganized than I expected. My room was filthy when I arrived, because two counselors had just left that morning and the cleaning staff is off duty on weekends, and no one seems to be able to tell me what I'm supposed to be doing with the campers tomorrow, but I hope to find out tonight.
It sucks being away from Andrew, but I know he's having a good time, too. I know for sure that I'll be here for two weeks, and then afterwards hopefully we'll be reunited here or at another camp. Again, no one seems to really know what's going on.
The other counselors are all really great, but much younger than me, less serious, enjoy drinking a lot and staying up late. I don't *quite* fit in, but then again, I can't think of a time in my life when I ever did, even before I was old and married. I've just never liked partying. They all decided to hitchhike to Vienne today, which is about 30km away, pretty far, and I didn't feel like going because I'm worried about being stuck half-way with no way back to camp, in the pouring rain, in the middle of the countryside. I feel like a stick in the mud, but I wish the counselors were interested in the same stuff as I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment