July 29, 2011

Loss of power

There's lightning over the Caribbean almost every night right now. I had never gotten a picture of lightning before so one night I went out and opened the shutter for about 30 seconds and behold: lightning, captured digitally. Lightning sure is pretty and all, but it's the thunder I really like. You see the lightning flash, and you can stand by the shore and picture the shockwave coming at you over the water until the thunder rolls up overland and echoes off the mountains. The good ones shake your bones and make everyone stop for a minute and look. I love it. Thunderstorms are premier entertainment.

They're no surprise right now. At the end of summer, the atmosphere gets all agitated and active. It's hurricane season, after all. I set my homepage to the National Hurricane Center and curiously look at the map everyday to see if there's anything interesting out there. Today, there is:

That red circle out there will probably become Emily, and Emily may or may not become a hurricane, and that hurricane may or may not visit us in Puerto Rico. As a midwestern boy, the prospect of experiencing a hurricane is exciting. But ask me again in a week.

Earlier last week, following an afternoon thunderstorm, I was in my apartment when the power went out. Not a surprise, not a big deal, it will come back. Get on with life. A little while later, I stepped out and saw that everyone was gathered around something. I had apparently missed some hubbub or something. Dave was sitting in the backhoe, in front of a snapped power pole, with wires draped over his roof, and over the top of The Big Van too. He'd hit the power pole, but we won't go there. He and the passengers of the van were stranded.

It was a holiday. I don't know why, but it was. So it took a long time to get the power company out to do anything. Eventually, the cops came out, and some other people too, but it was Pam and Jon who freed everyone from their electrical prison by rolling up in Dave's cart and letting them step out onto it.

They didn't get the power back right away. It was just our little camp that went on without it. Luckily, summer camp - especially a day camp like we were running - runs mostly outdoors, so during the day all you need is sunshine and a breeze and everyone's fine. Let me understate something immeasurably: sleeping at night in humid 80 degree weather without a fan is uncomfortable. I'd rather not need to do it. It is not the ideal sleeping situation.

I heard cheering when the power came back yesterday. Had my fridge had anything worth saving in it, it would have gone bad. But after four weeks of summer camp, it was like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of fridges. Some old eggs. Condiments. A bunch of cheese slices. A pitcher of water. All very replaceable. I restocked it today. But then there's that whole potential-hurricane Emily thing on the way.

Let us hope Emily stays away, but let us be thankful she waited until camp was done.

July 18, 2011

On Sickness

It didn't take long last week for me to lose my voice. It was probably Tuesday when I started getting hoarse. It never really left, not to the point where I had to whisper and gesticulate everything, but I was noticeably lacking in the vocal faculties.

One thing I was able to squeak out was when I told Theresa that this meant I'd probably get sick. Theresa rightly argued that it wasn't the lack of voice that would get me sick, but stress - it was stress that made me lose my voice, and it was stress that would probably get me sick.

That, and germs.

Kids bring germs. We probably ought to have biohazard suits. Even then - who knows what kind of crazy bugs they're bringing with them. We take whatever precautions we can, to stop colds, flu, lice outbreaks, what-have-ya. But stuff gets through.

By the time Thursday came, I had the runny nose, and that lasted through Friday into Saturday. Congestion. Cough. All that.

Let me amateur-psychoanalyze this thing out for you. When a full-blown cold takes my body over, I eventually start to lose my mental and emotional balance. To a certain extent, the spiritual balance too.

I think that when you're sick, and your body has begun to divert energy from your brain to fight the illness, the first thing to go is humility. When you are visibly sick, everyone suddenly thinks they're a doctor and you've lost all sense. And it gets really, really annoying.

Now, I'm a grown man. I've had many, many, many colds that have done many awful things to me. I've also dealt with more than my fair share of allergies. In fact, I spent the better part of my Junior year of high school with a box of kleenexes in my backpack.

So I know how to medicate myself. The last thing I want is everyone giving me medical advice. Actually, the last thing I want is everyone telling me how horrible I look while I'm trying to look decidedly non-horrible. And this always, always happens when I stagger out of my house, usually with most of a bottle Dayquil in my system, mustering composure, propping up my eyelids, trying not to look like a zombie as I wander out for food or some such basic need. Not an easy thing to do clutching a roll of TP.

I especially don't like medical advice from teenagers. You are 15. I know Vitamin C is good for me. Don't tell me to go to bed.

On Saturday morning, I emerged for the debriefing meeting for the week. There was going to be pizza after the meeting. After weeks of rice and beans and chicken, I wasn't about to let some stupid old cold keep me from delicious pizza. And then there started a long succession of people telling me how horrible I looked while dispensing unproven medical advice.

I've already been sick a day and a half. I'm coming out of it. Already took my Airborne. I have more DayQuil in me than I should.



Of course, I was more diplomatic than that. At least I think I was.

I went to the meeting. I got my pizza. And I was miserable. I became, I think, a very unpleasant person. Any humility had long since departed. Anything I'd put into the schedule that wasn't well received, I took personally. My patience was gone, I really just wanted to be out of there. I definitely couldn't handle listening to anyone speak Spanish. "Just tell me what they said and let's move on." Jokes were no longer funny - there went the sense of humor. I can't say what all else disappeared.

We piled in the van and drove back from the Laundromat and Domino's. I don't remember saying anything, just thinking that the pizza wasn't good enough to warrant me being out of bed right then. It was Domino's, after all. So when we got back, I handed off the keys and walked away from them all before anyone could tell me what to do. It was my way of saying, "I know. You were right. Shut up. I'm going to bed."

July 6, 2011

The first leg

...of the marathon.

Yeah, as I'm starting to write this blog, I'm pretty sure it's gonna be one of those life update posts where I don't get on a soapbox or anything. I don't think.

Starting in early June, I started to be busy. Staff training was a few weeks away. Lots of teaching materials to write, lots of schedules to make, details to figure out, people to call, camps to keep marketing. It's weird to have to plan to plan. With all of these details in my head, it's challenging to put this whole mental mess of summer into some kind of sequential, logical gameplan. Especially for a summer you've never seen.

But every summer in camp is one you've never seen, I guess. But that first one, it's a real bugger.

Even as I write all of this, from the lobby of a McDonald's, basically pushed out of camp by those I'm working with to preserve my own sanity, I have about 70 billion little things in my head.

Still gotta plan the games.

Didn't get out the chiquicampa flyers.

Fall retreats aren't that far away and NOT A THING IS DONE FOR THOSE, OHMY-

Stop it.

My brain needs a break. Let it rest. Camp will happen regardless. The big stuff is taken care of. The staff are here. The campers are signed up (around 90 right now, but a lot of them just show up without calling.) The devotional booklets are printed BUT THEY STILL NEED TO BE STAPLED.

I'm learning about delegating responsibility. My first thought with every task is just to do it. I used to feel guilty about delegating. Or at least, nervous about passing stuff off to newbies. Doing everything yourself is never good though. It gets messy. Overwhelming. Stressful.

Especially that last one. If effective delegation were an artform, I'd be a four year-old with finger paints, helplessly hoping to grow into a Picasso.

And so staff training started on Friday. And pretty much since then, I've been running, with this constant noise of to-dos in my head. OHHH, FORGOT ABOUT THE STAFF TRAINING EVALS-

No. Cut that out.

And today is day six. We've covered a lot of ground, and skipped over a lot of ground that, I hope, we'll come back to later. Our staff stays over on the weekends, which means we have some duties on Saturdays as well. Not really a day off in the whole month. So you've gotta pace yourself. If you're not careful, you can crash.

So they kicked me out. And to think, on a night when the Tigers had already played a day game.