summer camp blues.

23 February 2012 § Leave a comment

I showed up late to the last day of kids’ camp in Boquete. For six weeks (jesus, i’ve been here SIX weeks!) we’ve gone to help out the menopausal women handle the children of gringo expats and the local orphanage, all of whom peacefully play together in harmony and with respect for each other.


Halfway into a game of soccer with a 24-year-old retired motocross rider and a group of 7-year-olds who play better than I ever have, I found myself diverting one kid’s fists from swinging at another, who apparently had been making fun of him. He ran away from me, screamwhining that he hated everyone.

Soon enough, I had him sitting down and talking with his arch enemy, while I played mediator and tried to remember the things that adults are supposed to say when kids are fighting. I thought I failed miserably, but at least they were playing frisbee again. Or soccer. Whatever keeps them occupied.

In being the only male above the age of fifteen and under sixty consistently attending the camp, I’ve been roughhoused by twenty boys post-chocolate-pudding-relay, was thrown in the pool more than a few times, and even played translator for the short-haired white women who live in Panama permanaently and speak about as much Spanish as Speedy Gonzalez. I’ve spent lunchtimes skipping eating so I could sneak more food to the orphanage kids (which isn’t as heroic as it might sound, if you knew what was being served), and showing insecure six-year-old girls yoga moves and doing the Time of Your Life move from Dirty Dancing one too many times an afternoon, mostly because it’s the only way they stop complaining that they think the other girls will make fun of their shoes.

It’s been a trip, and nearly the most rewarding part of my volunteer experience, unless you include that afternoon in the kids’ cancer ward at the hospital in David. The things I learned about my mortality that day – what with watching a kid who probably had fewer breaths left than he did hairs on his head get excited over a story being read to him, asking questions not about how fucked up and unfair the world is for landing him in that sterile and soulless hallways of nurses’ desks and clipboards, artificial art and disgusting food, but about the story about the salamander in the frog suit, or the little boy on the moon, whatever the book was, and how those things are possible, and where can he go to see them? When’s the next flight to the moon? Soon, my friend. Soon.

We had cake and ice cream today, and I gave as many kids as I could a second plate of tres leches. I knew it might make them sick later, but at the time it just made them smile.


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