Returning to Toulouse; Trains on Strike

Arnold and Marvin are here from last year.

Arnold and Marvin are here from last year.

About half of the campers had already arrived on Sunday, a full day early.  I met a few of them the next morning as we got settled in.  My first task, however, was to return my car to the Hertz office in Toulouse.  It was a beautiful day and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive along narrow country roads, bordered by bluffs and deep ditches.  I sped by rolling hills dotted with giant marshmallow rolls of hey and sloping fields afire with a million brilliant sunflowers.  Every now and then I’d pass through a quintessential  French country town with wonderfully cramped streets and a cluster of crowded, stone buildings, rich with the patina that comes only with genuine antiquity.  Eventually the country gave way to some larger towns and then the auto route that allowed a rapid approach to Toulouse.

I had some difficulty approaching the train station in Toulouse, as the GPS tried taking me on roads that are now one-way in the wrong direction.  In fact, it seemed that all the roads had do not enter signs.  I finally found a narrow street that brought me way out and around to a point where I could approach the station.  I found a gas station to fill up the tank before returning the car (saving me about 150 Euros penalty) and dropped the car off in the Hertz garage.  The office itself was closed for lunch (from 12 to 2!) so I dropped the keys in a box and hoped there would be no problems.Next I went to the ticket counter to find out when the next train left for Boussens.  No trains today, they are on strike.  There was a bus that covered the train’s route, leaving in just over 2 hours.  The bus ride itself would take twice as long as the train.  I grabbed some lunch and did a little walking before joining the confusion at the bus station.  I grabbed the very last available seat on the bus, sitting for 20 steamy minutes before we finally pulled out of the station.  I dozed off a bit during the ride, but a screaming baby fought with her mom in the seat behind me most of the way.  I was rather pleased when we finally arrived in Boussens.  I waited about 20 minutes in the baking sun until my Sephora arrived to fetch me.  As we pulled away, she gave a sympathetic wave to the guy who had been sitting next to me at the station.  She had dropped him off a couple of hours ago to catch his ride back to Toulouse after dropping his daughter off at camp.  I learned that the trains were currently on strike only on Mondays until whatever issue is causing the problems gets resolved.  Seeing as camp starts and ends on Mondays this year, this has turned out to be rather inconvenient.

Back at camp, I arrived in time for dinner and the evening activities.  We had our first service outside, sitting under the deep indigo of dusk skies.  Samuel, the camp director, called all the workers to the front, and I was the first worker to introduce myself to the camp, catching me a bit off guard.  I kept it brief, but managed not to get myself stuck mid-sentence.  I was assigned to be a monitor for one of the junior boy’s tents.  Last year I had worked pretty much exclusively with the ados (teens), and I had imagined that I’d be doing the same this year.  Last year, however, had only about 8 juniors, whereas this year there are 28.  Working with the juniors should still be fun, though it feels a bit more like babysitting.  Also, this will keep me from working much with any of the people I knew from last year’s camp.  Along with Matthieu and Timothee Chenier, Marvin and Arnold have returned from last August’s camp.  But they are all ados, so I probably won’t see them a whole lot.  Still, I felt fortunate to at least be working with the kids.  Babette will be working in the kitchen, the one job that keeps you away from the kids the most.  She seems to be pretty  happy anyway, clearly willing to help wherever she is needed.

As the evening drew to a close, I got myself settled in my tent, prayed with the 8 boys I have under my guard, and then left them to go back to work on my computer for a while.  Each night one of the animateurs (counselors) takes turns sitting outside the tents, keeping the boys from goofing off.  This liberates everyone else from having to stay with the tent, allowing us to go back to the workroom to plan activities, socialize, or do whatever we need to get done.  I caught up on some work, including this blog, finally heading to bed after 3.
Ahhh, now this seems like an appropriate way for me to start off two tiring weeks of camp.  Sleep no more than 4 hours each of the first two nights.

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