Joyeux Anniversaire!

Jeremie loves catching bugs, frogs, etc.

Happy birthday to me!  Somehow the word got out, and everyone has been giving me birthday wishes.  For the first time in my life, I heard Joyeux Anniversaire sung to me this morning by all the boys in my tent.  In fact, I’m sharing birthday honors today with two others at the camp: one of the counselors for the ado boys and one of the ado girls.

Today is blisteringly hot.  Sunny with a touch of excessive humidity makes our plans for a swimming pool day with the juniors sound just about perfect.  All the kids are occupied right now in the morning reunion (basically chapel, but a bit more informal), and I have about half an hour before the afternoon activities commence.  I’ve found that on most days, I have an hour or two in the morning when I can work on things relatively unmolested.  Otherwise, I have to wait until after everyone goes to bed.  Pretty much the rest of the day is quite busy.  But I’m a bit ahead of myself.

Obviously, I’m a bit behind on my blog.  Once camp started, I got swept away in the flurry of activity, using what little free time I have to just keep up with the thankfully light demands of my clients.  The whole reason why I keep a blog during these sort of trips is to create a record that will supplement my unreliable memory.  Well, it’s been a week since I wrote anything, so my memory is already failing me a bit.  That’s probably good for those poor readers who get stuck reading my lengthy posts.  So, a brief summary of the past week…

A few days ago, Babette and I took our day off and spent the day with David Price, the young missionary I met here last year.  He drove us back to the chateau ruins we had discovered together a year ago.  Our old friend was there again, continuing his solitary work on the restoration of the medieval ruins.  It was fascinating to see the progress he had made in a year, mostly with work done on the bridge that crosses to the main tower.  I once again marveled at the novelty of this man and this place.

We also visited  several other interesting ruins.  One was an old Roman villa, situated in the middle of some corn fields and next to a small river.  Another was especially enchanting, crumbling ruins of a mountainside fortress approachable only by the same ancient, moss-covered paths that have been used for the past 2,000 years.  Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the fortress was used as a prison for some lady for several years.  She was eventually released, but died only a few months later.  The setting was particularly evocative, with the surrounding mountains and two tiny villages in the valley below.  Some people had arrived on horseback, contributing to the authenticity of the scene.

The camp this year is quite different from my experience last year.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been assigned to work with the junior boys.  There are about 20 junior boys, split into two tents.  I’m the monitor for the tent with the younger of the junior boys.  Their counselor is Lorena, a girl from Elsalvador who has been living in the Paris area now for several years.  Because she’s a girl, they did not relegate her to sleep in a tent with a bunch of boys.  No, that’s my job.  It’s at times like this that I’m glad to be gifted in getting decent rest regardless of my accommodations.  Still, my nights have not been without adventure.

We’ve enjoyed quite a mixture of weather.  The days are often sunny and quite warm.  A couple of nights earlier in the week we had some terrific thunderstorms with winds that swept away chairs, clothing, or pretty much anything that wasn’t firmly tied down.  I actually like sleeping in the tent while it’s raining.  There’s nothing like the white noise of rain on a tarp to give you a blissful night’s sleep.

I’ve noticed that I’m only a marginal step away from being a regular counselor this year.  In fact whenever either of the two junior boy’s counselors take their day off, I have their duties for the day.  This includes teaching the petite dejeuner de coeur Bible class in the morning.  With my ability to form complete sentences still somewhere between the level of a 3-5 year old, I find this a remarkable responsibility.  Somehow, I seem to be curiously popular with the kids though, and they ask me every day if I’ll be teaching their lesson or if I can sit at their table for lunch.  I can only guess that my American accent and regular verbal blunders must be a source of constant entertainment for them.

The mood of this camp is a bit different from last year as well.  At least from my perspective.  Things seem quite a bit stricter this year.  This could be because I’m working with juniors, and things have to be a bit tighter with preadolescent boys.  Still, I think the leadership is keeping a tighter rein on things in general.  In some cases, excessively so.  For example, when we go to bed, I’ve been instructed and led by example to not tolerate even a minute of goofing off.  It’s to be silence right away.  Pillow fights are strictly forbidden, something I didn’t know right away.  I allowed a fight to carry on one morning for a bit, but the other counselor arrived and confiscated everyone’s pillow until the next day.  One evening we enjoyed a barbecue outdoors.  The camp director must have had a long day, and by dessert time he laid down a law that there would be no talking or you’d be sent straight to bed.  How unnatural a scene it was for 20-some 8-12 year olds sitting in a large circle, eating s’mores in complete silence.  After the second kid was sent to bed, I’d had enough and went off to do other things.  Still, most of the kids seem to be having a really good time, and for the most part, things are going well.

I can understand the motivation for some of the strictures with the camp director.  If anything serious happens to one of the kids, he could very well end up in prison.  So for example, when we walk along the completely deserted country roads for a picnic destination, he enforces tight protocols because if one of the kids were to get hit by a car, he’d be the one going to prison.  Still, it seems a bit comical to stand guard at a road crossing where you can see for a quarter mile in each direction that there’s nothing but sleepy cows in a nearby field.

A few nights into camp, I discovered that one of my boys has a bed-wetting problem.  Oh, the joys.  I was still resting in my sleeping bag, waiting for the trumpet reverie when I can wrestle my perennial late-sleepers awake so they don’t miss breakfast.  Some of the other kids were getting ready and I heard them asking… um, Bob (I’ll use my old standby generic name to protect the identity of the embarrassed) if he had soaked his bed.  It had been raining the night before, and he was attempting some feeble lies about the rain entering through a gap in the tent, making his shirt wet.  They asked him if he were coming to breakfast.  No, he wasn’t hungry.  I don’t think he was fooling anybody, but they eventually left, and as soon as they disappeared around the corner, he sprang up from his bed and danced his way into the far corner of the tent where he promptly finished peeing before I could stop him.  He must have thought I was still sleeping, and he looked a bit ashen as I gathered his sleeping bag and mattress for cleaning and had him grab some things to go get a shower.  I told him to please not pee in the corner of the tent again.  Ugh.  At least that corner has no floor, so he had just peed on some grass.  Still, that’s not exactly the smell I want to have evaporating into the air.  More important, I didn’t want him to lie about things.  I could totally understand the embarrassment, and I tried telling him that it was no bid deal.  It’s not good, however, to get into the habit of lying about things.

The next night I made sure he went to the bathroom right before bed, and I moved my spot so I was sleeping next to him, telling him to let me know if he needed to get up during the night.  At 5 am, however, I discovered that these preparations weren’t sufficient.  It had become quite chilly during the night, probably in the 40s, and I awoke to discover Bob crouched by the edge of his soaked mattress shivering in his underwear.  Poor kid.  Poor me.

4 Responses to “Joyeux Anniversaire!”

  1. Dad Says:

    These are great! Thank you!

  2. Lydia Says:

    Aw, poor Bob!!!! As a mother, my heart ache for him. He’s probably SO embarressed and not sure what do to. I know it’s hard and unpleasant but be kind and gentle to him (for me)! 🙂 You always are, Kenny. You said it right, Poor kid! Poor you! Hang in there… and here’s to a ‘dry night’! Sleep well!

  3. Amanda Harwelll Says:

    These are great pics. Thanks for sharing them. I love the one of Babette in the flowers and also the one where she’s giving you the “Look”. I’ve seen that look before let me tell you…:)

  4. Ken Says:

    😀 yeah, I’ve been very kind and gentle. and my method of waking him up at 2 or 3 am each night has worked well!

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