Friday, August 28, 2009

Homeward bound

Are you confused by that title? I am. You see, since the age of 15, the longest I have stayed in one location has been 2 years. In that 9 year period, I have lived in 4 different countries and at least 12 different towns (maybe more, but I lost track after the 12th). So at age 16, home was a little village in France called Wailly. At age 19, home was alternately Brussels, Belgium and Brookline, Massachusetts. At 21, it was Jamaica Plain. And this year, home is 3 places: Brookline, Chop Point, and Haiti.

This particular homeward bound is to Haiti. I have tickets for September 7th and I will be there all year, with a little vacation at Christmas for my brother's wedding. I am going to continue my work in the Ravine on Delmas 31 and with the youth group at Quisqueya Chapel, and in addition, I will be working with Angel Missions Haiti, an organization that obtains medical visas for children with medical conditions that cannot be treated in Haiti. Their office is on Delmas 91 and I will be both living and working there.

My connection to Angel Missions was the USNS Comfort. I met Vanessa Carpenter, the woman who runs Angel Missions while I was working with the Navy and I started doing some minor work with her in the few days I had left before my departure for the US. Now I have the opportunity to continue that work.

My first engagement upon my return to Haiti will be once again with the US Military. The day after my arrival, I will ship out to Jacmel for 3 weeks.

I will be working with US Army medical personnel doing a medical operation in or near Jacmel. At this point, I don't know many of the details, but I know that Vanessa will be with us for the first few days and after that, it will just be me and the Army. I will probably be doing the same work that I did with the Comfort: mainly translation, referral to local resources, unraveling mysteries of Haitian culture, and gathering information for patients who may need medical visas. I'm a bit nervous because I don't know exactly what to expect, but Comfort was such a great experience for me that I am mostly excited about this new venture.

Since I am not living at Faith Hope Love Infant Rescue anymore, I will not be seeing those darling babies or Kervens as frequently as I used to. However, I will still be able to visit them reguarly since my new residence is in Delmas and since my church is just down the street from Dorothy's. I may have to steal Johnny J every now and then...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chop Point snapshots

The special moments, the crazy times, the peaceful scenery, the close relationships. As always, a piece of my heart stays in Maine.

How big is your skipping stone?

Kids Kamp

Second Session ended with the usual teary good-byes and promises of next year. 2 days later, we were handed our last batch of campers: the 8-12 year old monsters...I mean, darlings. They are cute as a button, friendly as can be, enthusiastic beyond belief and they wear us out! After spending 7 weeks with wonderful but generally mellow teenagers, the sheer noise and energy of Kids Kamp often threatens to send counselors into early retirement.

Personally, Kids Kamp can either be very refreshing and rewarding or the ultimate stress machine. Last year, I had 2 diabetic campers, a case of cleaning products sprayed in the eyes, and 1 post-corneal transplant, so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This year, my biggest complaints were a recurring anxiety attack and a nasty case of brown tailed moth. So I had more time to just play with campers and time to assist the staff.

You see, in addition to the counselors, we have 7 or 8 junior counselors (JCs) who help during Kids Kamp. They each have a group of 10 campers and they are responsible for moving those campers from activity to activity and for crowd control at each activity. Most of the JCs are 14 or 15 years old and the majority were campers during one of the summer sessions. Therefore, I know them well and I love being able to spend time with them during the day.

Our most precious hour of the day is rest hour. The campers go to their cabins and the JCs are allowed to have their rest hour in the infirmary with me. It was our chance to reconnect, to talk about how things are going with our campers, and to be refreshed.

It always amazes me to see how swiftly the Kids Kamp kids trust the counselors and to see how some counselors just thrive on the energy and affection of those younger children. But the best part for me is watching the JCs. Since I don't have my own cabin of campers, the JCs unofficially become mine. Some of them have been with me all summer and it makes me so happy to see them stop being campers and become leaders. It seems like they flourish and mature overnight. Suddenly, they are the ones being called out of the audience at a moment's notice to act out a part in a skit, and they are the ones being sent to check all the cabins to make sure everyone is present. They are the ones enforcing rules about life jackets, and they are the ones holding the campers' hands during bouts of homesickness.

I've seen a JC get in the cold Kennebec to swim alongside one of his scared campers. I've seen a JC getting hugged by each of her wet campers, one by one. I've seen a JC playing in the mud with toy trucks because that's all his toughest kid wanted to do. I've seen a JC bandaging a bloody toe. I've seen a JC losing at a game that he could easily win so that his kids can taste victory instead. I've seen a JC holding a crying anxious camper and telling him that everything's going to be OK.

My JCs make Kids Kamp what it is and I am so proud of them.

Boston trip

Like last summer, I led a trip to Boston for some of the Chop Point campers. Unlike last summer, this year's trip was so popular that we had to split the kids into 2 groups so that we had 10 people for day 1 and night 1, 21 people all together for day 2, and then 11 people for night 2 and day 3. It was a logistical nightmare, but in the end, it all worked out and we had a great time.

That first group was hilarious. They were always doing something that made me laugh, whether it was playing in a fountain or posing with statues, feeding the birds or getting a spontaneous nosebleed, racing the tredmill runners at a Fitness Center or biting peoples' elbows.

The greatest source of hilarity came from Raelyn, my highly allergic camper, and Savannah, a first year camper who had seemed very shy. We were sitting on the T shortly after arriving in Boston when I realized that the girls were speaking with British accents. I asked about it and their answer (in a British accent) was, "Don't you remember, Mummy? You and Daddy (indicating my 18 year old co-leader Benjamin) adopted us through the foster care system in England. Just like you adopted all the other children: Christoph and Georgi from Austria, Arthur and Ludovic from Belgium, Pierre Etienne from France. Cole is your only biological son."

And just like that, we became Team Foster Care. The kids called me and Benjamin "Mummy and Daddy" the whole time and we would do roll call by nation, "Team Austria, are you here? Where's Team Belgium? OK, we've got half of Team England; someone go find the other half!" It was ridiculous and very entertaining.

Back at my parents' condo for the night, the boys settled in to watch a very manly movie. I believe they chose...cough...Enchanted. Meanwhile, Savannah and I dreaded Raelyn's hair! Cole watched, took photos, and modeled hats.

In the morning, I got to take Team Foster Care to my favorite pancake restaurant, Sorella's. It took them a long time to prepare our 10 meals, but my foster children stayed busy.

We did, of course, experience Boston too. We visited Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market, walked through the Boston Common and the Frog Pond, rode the swan boats, and shopped on Newbury Street. We sampled canolis, played in fountains at Copley Square and the harbor, and ate a very fancy Italian dinner at a restaurant in the North End.

With the large group of 21, we went to the Museum of Science. Our favorite part was definitely the musical stairs! If you haven't been there, check it out next time you come to Boston.

We also took the kids to Fenway Park for a tour of the oldest baseball stadium in America. I think my co-leader and I enjoyed it even more than the kids!

I love leading trips because I have the opportunity to spend time with a smaller group of campers in a context very different from camp. Even when we get back to camp, the memories and the inside jokes keep the unity alive. Case in point: all of the members of Team Foster Care still call me Mummy.