Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Camper


American Women's Club English Camp Jan.2013
I've always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with kids. I think they're adorable and all, but but there's something about their tiny hands and un-jaded attitudes that puts me ill-at-ease. So it came as a great surprise to me that I love teaching English Camps. Teaching camps is my favorite part of Peace Corps that isn't going on vacation. When I visit a different site for two to three days to teach kids about the environment, sexual health or ASEAN I am in my element.

For those of you who don't know, I twice played the part of Leper #2 in my church's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was less cringe-worthy than you might think, because although my voice is nothing to write home about, our small Lutheran Church attracted a handful  of really talented people. At age-fifteen I sang the hell out of my solo, "See my eyes I can hardly see...See my stand I can hardly walk." And at age twenty-one, while most things religious in nature now give my anxiety, I still harbor warm feelings towards this Andrew Lloyd Weber Masterpiece.

 The point of this Superstar non sequitur, is that in one of the more moving scenes, Jesus sings a song that I relate to as a volunteer. Please laugh along with me, as I make this grandiose comparison. Before the crucifixion as he prays in Gethsemane, Jesus sings the following lines:

"Then I was inspired, now I'm sad an tired...Tried for [one] year, seems like thirty, seems like thirty..."

Okay, that it is it. That is the one relatable moment in the life of Jesus Christ. Also, I changed the word, three to one, because I've only been here one year. But the sentiment holds. I arrived in Thailand with a BS in agriculture and boundless enthusiasm. My development classes taught me that the odds were stacked against me, but I knew I would be an awesome volunteer. So I tried really hard, and continue to try really hard. And it's tiring, and I don't feel so inspired. 

Which brings me back to English Camps. At English Camps I get to be the volunteer I want to be the rest of my days in rural Thailand. I get to show up in another province and give all my energy and love to a bunch of really deserving kids. At Camp I am so cool, in December fourth graders literally got up out of their seats and cheered when I taught them origami, this is Dead Poets Society-kind-of shit (minus Robin Williams, who is horrible). I leave all my exhaustion and recycling project-failure back at my own site and get to be the kind of American goodwill ambassador Peace Corps can be proud of, and I can be proud of. 

It's a cliche but these camps rejuvenate me. I head back to Nakhon Ratchasima at the end of the weekend ready to take on my own Peace Corps assignment.  I hold my head a little higher and try once more to drum up interest in project to reduce Dengue Fever. 

Then I fall back into my old ways. My attempts at projects feel futile, I pass by the community kids without engaging them, I turn down another invite to have dinner at my Lao-speaking neighbor's house. I fall back and sit back while listening to Gethsemane on repeat, waiting until the next English Camp and my chance to shine. 

PC Volunteers at Camp







2 comments:

  1. El, my name is Charles Boesen. Your mom and I were neighbors/friends when we were very young and living in Robbinsdale, MN. I now live in Appleton, WI, were your uncle, David, lived for a while. Your mother posted your blog on FB and I have read a good portion and I wanted to tell you I really appreciate your writing, and your adventuresome spirit. Take care and I wish you well.

    My blog is: www.MyCubanBlog.com

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