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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday, June 27th



Monday our first session of campers went home, which meant that we had a three day break before the second session of campers arrived. So what did I do? I finally was able to go to Boston for the first time since arriving, slept, visited Salem MA where the witch trials occurred, and went latin dancing in Cambridge.

There is a wonderful family that has been taking care of me named the Carmacks. They have not only given me--formerly a complete stranger before arriving--a ride to church every Sunday, they have fed me, given me a place to hang out on my day off (Sunday) where I have cell phone reception and don't have to muck around a cabin. On my free day off, the mom and daughter took me to see the sights. We first visited the Boston Temple, and then did something that made me tremendously happy: we found a Venezuelan restaurant! I haven't had Venezuelan food since I was in Venezuela, and the pabellon criollo, quesillo, and jugo de parchita tasted completely authentic! After that delightful experience, we took a swan boat, walked through the Boston Commons, and did some outdoor shopping in Faneuil Hall (which I pronounce Feng Shui because everyone says Faneuil differently as to confuse a person), and then returned back to Ashby.

Visiting Salem wasn't quite what I envisioned it to be....It was interesting but not as comprehensive historically as one might think. Much more touristy and make believe than I expected versus. facts and artifacts. Latin dancing was nice, because I sure have missed it--but the percentage of Latinos wasn't as high as it usually is dancing in Arizona.

But what do I not miss about Arizona? The heat!!! It sure can rain here, but I'd still take it any day over an AZ summer. Last year in the newspaper an old man in the Phoenix valley committed suicide, saying, "It's just too hot to go on."

Well, on to camp news. I think this session will be amazing. We have more kids--almost twice as many first years, for which I'm a team leader, but I'm just happy to be here from day 1 of this session, so that I can gain more of a relationship and rapport with the teens.

I pray every day for charity for the teens, so that I can respond to them in the most positive way possible (especially when they can be difficult), and I find that it makes a monumental difference for me. I'm already hearing some of the stories: one girl's father is in jail for life, one teen is trying to deal with their dad deciding to become a woman, one is homeless, etc. I'm grateful this is a five year program, and not just a summer camp that will come and quickly go.

I have a special assignment to watch over a teen named Carlos. Carlos is 14, and recently immigrated from El Salvador to meet his family here. He understands some English, and speaks less, but he is trying with everything he has. I speak to him in Spanish to make sure he understands the rules, to check in, and so that he knows he has someone he can fully explain himself to. His eyes light up when he tells me about his country, or when we swap stories about Latin America. His cabin mate, Feysal, is also an immigrant--he comes from Africa and has been here for about a year. While his English is much better than Carlos', his accent is still strong. But I have been so proud of that cabin, and the way that the other boys have been patient with Carlos, especially, helping him pronounce his English words.

My health has improved since the last blog...I have a feeling I'll struggle with it a little bit, but I think it's manageable. I'm definitely looking forward to the next four weeks!

Photobucket Album

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Life at Camp

Well I'm finally getting a chance to write! Things are definitely intense here, but I really like it. There are several times a day I think, "I love my job!" It can be hard at times, too, but this job is maybe the only one I've had where I would seriously consider coming back next summer.

Let's see....let's start with Trek. Every session (there are two sessions per summer) each year of campers goes on a trek. My year, the 1st year "Flints," go for three days and two nights. So last week we left with twelve 13-year-old girls who have never been hiking before, with 40 pound external backpacks and a trek leader. I could feel that I was getting sick, so I dosed up on the DayQuil. It was challenging, as it was my first day after the 4-day training, and I was thrown right into the team leader position to supervise 12 girls and 3 team leaders who had already had two weeks to bond with each other. I was trying to not focus on being sick, but by 7 or 8 at night, the DayQuil had wore off and I had fever and chills. One of the group counselors who is CPR/First Aid certified took one look at me and called the camp to have them come pick me up. In the end, I ended up spending 24 hours in the nurse's office-most of it sleeping-and then I have continued to work. It's been a little bit tough trying to recover from "acute pharyngitis" (what urgent care told me I have after 4 hours of waiting on Sunday) here, working all day long with only a year and a half break per day, but I am slowly doing it.

The C5 program is really quite amazing. The camp is all about leadership or self and community, and everything relates to learning leadership life lessons. We address lessons like teamwork, communication, and perseverance, as well as more serious issues like non-violence, the environment, etc., and what they can do to change their world.

Things I have done in my day include the following: "positive disciplining," or helping the kids that are acting out realize that they are good people that can make better choices, encouraging others, checking in with kids and counselors, teaching a daily leadership course, playing 4-square, leadership meetings, joking around, singing camp songs, making posters, hiking, biking, observing activity blocks, and much more.

The teens are amazing, and I really care for them. It's so rewarding when one of them opens up to me or says, "Melissa, I like you, you're fun." This Monday the session will go home, and many of them don't want to. Some for good reasons--they've had fun and learned about themselves and their communities, and others for worse reasons--things are better here than they are at home. They don't face violence, gangs, or drugs here.

My time is going pretty quickly, though I must say I'm looking forward to a session break next week for three days!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My sudden move to Massachusetts

In the last ten years since graduating high school I've lived in Colorado, Utah, Hawaii, Virginia, New York, Venezuela, and Arizona. I haven't stayed in any one place longer than 2 years at a time. Needless to say, I'm comfortable moving. But I don't think any life change has come as suddenly as this week: I was offered a job in Mass. on Monday and leave Friday!

Here's the story: I have been working on-campus at ASU this summer, but only have an allotted 16 hours a week, due to campus-wide budget cuts. It's pretty tough to make ends meet on a 16 hour a week salary, especially after paying an $1,841 dental bill in May, so I have been frantically trying to find something to supplement this income. I really had done everything in my power--I sent 24 applications for summer internships, called 10 temp agencies, spoke to people I know, even updated my facebook status.

Well when it rains it pours, so I went from no offers to two full-time offers. One was temp work doing 8 hours of data entry for Edward Jones, and the other was the possibility of a position in Mass. The position is assistant team leader for the C5 Foundation, previously called Camp Coca Cola (which is ironic, since I don't drink caffeine, but hey). I knew the job, which is working with high potential youth from risk-filled, impoverished environments, would be challenging yet rewarding. I would only have one day off a week, there is limited cell phone coverage, and I wouldn't have a social life--all of which I could have by taking the data entry job.

In the end, I decided to go for the Mass. gig, because I knew it would be like a second mission. It would be challenging, and days would be long, but I would be (hopefully) making a difference, being a mentor, and working on personal weaknesses and limitations. It's also like a mission in that I have one day off a week and little to no cell phone service! So here is my snail mail address/contact info:

Melissa Walker
C5 New England
731 South Rd
Ashby, MA 01431
(978) 386-5633

I think I'll still have email access, at least once a week. I'll probably use the 1.5 hour daily break to run, write in my journal, or read.

My job description states:

The Assistant Team Leader, in conjunction with the Team Leader supervises up to 6 cabin counselors who in turn each supervise 5-7 youth involved in a 28-day leadership experience.

The assistant team leader participates fully in activities and helps youth establish a connection between camp activities and learning about leadership. The Assistant Team Leader helps to deliver the daily leadership curriculum to the teens in the program and assumes Team Leader responsibilities in the absence of the Team Leader.

In addition to this, and co-teaching a leadership course, I will be co-teaching a music class, and participating in hiking, swimming, archery, team-building activities, community service, etc. I'll have to live in a cabin with people I've never met before and watch lives change!