Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)
The first day of my sixth year of working at an English summer camp in the Pyrenees was, well, memorable to say the least.
It started off normally enough with the “good mornings” and handshakes with the parents as they dropped of their children. One father almost broke my hand and I couldn’t help myself from commenting on what a strong handshake he had. But I shouldn’t waste time on what could have been a measly few broken bones when there are blood and guts to get to.
On the way to dinner the children go in small groups and follow a teacher down the stairs that lead straight to the pool, but for as long as this camp has been running (since the 80s) kids have turned left to enter the dining room.
I was upstairs on crowd control when apparently one happy go lucky boy didn’t turn left and didn’t see the glass door separating the bottom of the stairs from the pool area … and walked right into it, shattering the glass in the doorframe and taking the brunt of the impact with his knee. I so wish the waitress hadn’t felt the need to later share with me what his skin looked like, flapping in the wind.
Well that seemed bad enough for Day 1 … but then I offered to trade my duty with another teacher so he could watch some important football match with the older kids and I’d help put the younger ones to bed.
I brought down the box of games for the kids who weren’t interested in watching the match. As I set the box down and pulled out Jenga, Connect 4 and others, kids took them back to their tables.
Suddenly, it seemed like the world stood still for the next three minutes – as one kid with shaggy blond hair stood in the middle of the game area, in the back of the room, legs spread apart and mouth wide open with vomit shooting out as if surging from a fire hose. It wouldn’t stop. I knew I had to act the teacher, the model, pretend there was nothing to see, but it was like a train wreck – only worse.
I went to the front desk to ask for someone from housekeeping, but horrifyingly found out that no one’s on at 10 pm. So instead he sent me to the dining area to get a mop.
All I’m thinking, while wanting to burst into tears at my doomed fate is, “I’m supposed to be upstairs with the minis, I was just dropping off the games!”
The dining area staff found my storytelling very entertaining (which I was obviously thrilled about – comedy first) but all they offered me was a small garbage bag and some plastic gloves – not the hazmat suit and gas mask I had requested.
When I got back to the TV room, I saw that an angel was just finishing cleaning up the crime scene. It was Angel, the front desk clerk who stepped up and became my new personal hero, saving the day and me from having to clean the “charco de vomito” (pond of vomit), as I later heard him describe it.
Day 1 done … hopefully just 13 luckier ones to go.