July 23, 2012

The End is Near

Last week, as we wrapped up our high school camp, I stood in front of a packed house of campers, counselors, dores, and parents. We'd watched our final video, I'd handed out the spray-painted medals with the theme "¡G├ínatelo!" scribbled in Sharpie, and made our final announcements. I bid the campers adios and had just started to send them off to the Multipurpose building to wait for their parents when I saw Jerry and Julio coming up. "One more thing," they said.

I knew what it was. I handed off the mic and nonchalantly wandered back toward the projector screen or something to poke around and look busy while they talked. Jerry told them in his Bolivian Spanish, the non-native-speaker type I can mostly understand, that they had one more announcement. He called me over, and put his hand on my shoulder. I remember what he was talking about but I have no idea what he said, because I was in that face-beet-red Oh-crap-Oh-crap-Oh-crap they'retalkingaboutme state.

"Something something we have an announcement something thank you for all your hard work something something Agosto." Then I was looking at all of the faces in the crowd, looks of surprise and inquiry for many, and indifference for some. Here was a room full of people thinking about me and my time here and what I've been doing for the last two years. I looked at him. "Un placer," I said. 

It's been a pleasure. Not much else to say. After all, Yo soy un hombre de pocas palabras. Used that in a joke at closing the week before. Didn't say it this week, but I thought it. In Spanish.

I thanked them. They prayed for me. I got the mic back, told 'em I wasn't gonna make a speech or anything, but I was sure gonna miss everyone when I left at the end of August. I made a few more announcements to the padres as the kids walked out, then dismissed them. In front of our multipurpose building, as the campers filed out, there were lots of bendiciones from parents, from kids, the many I've gotten to know in the almost two years I've spent here.

"It won't be the same without you!" "I'm gonna miss you!" "Are you gonna come back to visit?"

I wasn't sure they were really going to make an announcement or anything. I didn't expect it, I didn't revel in it... I wasn't sure how to handle it. Really, I could only stand there and think about how much I don't like attention, and how awesome I must be to not like attention, and - how does anyone really like being the center of attention anyway? Why would anyone want that?

I've invested myself here for nearly two years, grown accustomed to the culture of the camp and the island. I've met a lot of people. It hasn't always been fun, or easy, but it has always been good, right, appropriate for me to be here. My only regret is not spending more time working on my Spanish.

For goodness sakes, people, if you're gonna live abroad, you gotta learn the language.

Camp is a bubble. It's wonderful for the kids but often difficult for staff. I am eager, excited, nervous to get back to my home, to my family, to Michigan. What a wonderful state it is.

But going home is inevitably going to be hard, and I am most definitely leaving something behind here. So many relationships, friends, memories. The landscape, the community. The Climate.

Oh, man... winter. I haven't seen you since 2009.