The Land of the Stately Pines and the Land of the Upright People

For 8 consecutive summers, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Interlochen Arts Camp as a camper. I was also fortunate to spend 3 summers as an Intermediate Girls Counselor. This past summer, I did not return. I decided that after I graduated I was either going to continue looking for jobs or see what would happen with Peace Corps. I got my invitation to serve April 7th, and I’m currently in BF training to be a volunteer.

As my training continues, I find more and more similarities to being a Peace Corps Trainee and a camp counselor.

During my first summer, our first session went great. I had a great co-counselor, and a great group of girls. Changeover weekend (the weekend between sessions was a nightmare) I worked that Saturday at the Boat Cave lifeguarding, and then volunteered to supervise ropes course. Everything was fine until later that night when I was called into my director’s office. A counselor decided to leave, and would I be comfortable moving into a cabin by myself with younger girls provided I had an extra counselor stay with me that first week. That was around 8pm at night, with a brand new batch of campers arriving tomorrow at noon. I said I would do it. The rest of the session was filled with a lot of stress, counselors leaving early, and me juggling my lifeguarding and being a single covered counselor.

I was surrounded by supportive coworkers, and I also had all of the knowledge from being a camp counselor. I also learned that no matter what you have to be ready for anything. A girl faints during line-up…what do you do? The girls are getting catty and it’s time for the “Respect Bunk-talk.” My girls are fighting about which song to do I-IDOL and what do bribe the judges with… Oh there’s an LSP (lost swimmer procedure). (speaking of which…)

My last summer at IAC I was convinced I was going to get the LSP. For those of you who do not know, the LSP is a long complicated procedure to match up a lost swimmer with their badge on the badge board. It involves lots of searching and makes everyone miserable. After one “real” LSP and lots of false alarms about the drill, I was working at JIG Waterfront when the High School Girls Waterfront Director said that she heard 4 airhorns…oh crap…LSP on the boys’ side. I promptly cleared the waterfront, closed it, and started running towards my car to drive to the boys side…only to find that my car was not there…at that moment I became very frustrated and continued to run. (Mind you, I am not any kind of track star, so running involved short sprints coupled with hyperventilating). When I got to JIB Waterfront I was too exhausted to do the deep water dives, and was told to wait. I was so angry because I felt like I was entitled to the LSP, and when it was time to do the actual drill, I could not even help out.

So Sara…What’s your point?
My point is that even when you have prepared to do something many many times, there can obstacles in your way. I did my job and closed my waterfront and got all of the campers out safely. I also had to be flexible. Oh yeah someone borrowed my car…guess what? You are now going to be in a cabin on your own…there’s a power outage and the toilets don’t work…(another reason why latrines are better)…your cabin has mice in it…Front of house is angry at the intermediate girls again…someone got stuck in TC and their car died…

Most of the time when I was student teaching I had to ditch my lesson plan and do something else. I had to be flexible. I am so thankful for my camp counselor experience and Interlochen has been a huge part of who I am. It provided me with brothers and sisters for life. Even though I was working there this summer, I left several messages on answering machines wishing people a good camp season, and hoping everything went well.

Being in Burkina means that you have to be flexible. This may mean going in a hole, eating strange food, double language days, the exciting adventures involving public transport, and being sick. It’s not ideal, but you have to deal with it, it’s not the end of the world and it makes you a stronger person for it. One of the benefits (I hope) of living in a training village (i.e. not a large city) that I will be more acclimated to my site which also does not have running water, toilets, or electricity.

Much like Interlochen, I have many support systems including the staff, my fellow stagieres, and current PCVs. Flexibility means nothing if there is no support system.

In closing, I miss the sunsets over Green Lake, Monday Night Bowling, marriage pacts in Traverse Bay, Dress up your counselor, Michigan cherries, WYSO and Jung-Ho, I-Idol, and final campfire. Part of my soul is there, and will be there forever and always. I will always wave my red socks with pride, and I shall sound the call to dear old Interlochen, shrine of the muse divine.

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