Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy campers.

With my boys ~ Brahim (left) and Abdsamad ~ on the beach in El Jadida.

Summer camp in El Jadida. Seems so long ago now, though it was only just before Ramadan. Is it OK to simultaneously celebrate the facts that (a) it was, as per usual, much more fun and rewarding than I'd anticipated, while (2) I never, ever have to do it again?

(Note: Go here for a full description of the experience that is U.S. Peace Corps English Immersion Summer Camp in Morocco.)

This year, I won the coveted role of "librarian," generally considered the easiest gig at camp. Widely considered to involve little to no work ~ no lesson plans to prepare for English teachers, nor craft projects or other plans for club leaders. Just sit back and check out the occasional book. Right?

Actually, for those two or so hours every day, I felt like I was more than earning my paycheck* for a change. In addition to the expansive library of English books provided by the U.S. Embassy, this year we also had a shelf full of books in Arabic ~ much more accessible to the average camper.

Browsing the stacks.

For 10 days, I collected collateral (ranging from a dirham to a frayed friendship bracelet to top-of-the-line cell phones and one girlie magazine, the latter subsequently confiscated) in exchange for books and board games. And what started as a friendly competition ~ for each book read and summarized to yours truly, a camper could earn points for his or her team ~ quickly became yet another lesson for the teacher.

The kids ate those books up! I had crowds of teenagers fighting to be the next to sit with me and describe the trials and tribulations of Tommy the Turtle. Moroccan kids rarely have access to books for pleasure reading, and while at first it was all about the points, over the course of camp I developed a steady corps of regulars who were obviously in it for the sheer fun of reading ~ and of sharing what they'd read. Best of all, some of my most dedicated readers were the official camp "troublemakers" ~ the ones you wanna smack upside the head and instead karate-chop the air beside them, grumbling, "Why, I oughta ...."

Not during library time. During library time they were quiet angels ~ except when jockeying for position to be the next to read to me (one young lady, doing impressions of various volunteers one afternoon, characterized me by swinging her hands in giant circles and screaming "Line up! Line up! You have to stand in line!"). And if I asked one of them to help me straighten the shelves or put something away, you'd think I'd given him a gold medal. It was fun, all in all.

Immersed in reading.

In other successes, the two scholarship boys I brought from my dar chebab shone as brightly as I'd hoped they would. By the third day of camp, each had already won Star of the Day honors. Brahim, especially, was taken under the collective Peace Corps wing, with Seth and Christa turning him into a mad Frisbee champion and Marissa coaching him to Rubik's cube solution success.

Abdsamad, meanwhile, got a taste of life as a typical American teen. He was mopey for a few days in the middle there, and I couldn't coax him out of it. Marissa, in trying to commisserate, asked him one afternoon: "What's the matter ~ girl problems?" To which Abdsamad threw up his hands and essentially said: "I don't have a girl ~ that's the problem!"

Here are a couple of videos of my boys:

And, if that's still not enough for you, Moroccan television station 2M (that's deuxieme, 'round these parts) visited camp one day and spent some time in the library: Click here and fast-forward to about 11:50.

Oh, camp. As usual, the best group of volunteers I could've worked with, and not too much work at that, and that part of my Peace Corps service is over now.

* We won't note here that I'm not actually earning a paycheck, so much.

More camp photos.

The cistern in El Jadida ~ gift of the Portugese, made famous in Orson Welles' "Othello."

Jeremy and campers getting crafty.

Marissa launches a sneak Super Soaker attack on kids returning from the beach.

Anthony and friend examing escargot.

Last-night photo shoot.

1 comment:

william said...

You've got some really nice pictures again. The one with the columns is great. If you want help toning and putting them in some kind of show when you get back I'll help you.