Friday, May 8, 2009

Spy Camp

Carcaraes, a hotel surrounded by beautiful grounds where Colonias de Immersion al Idioma holds most of their three day immersion camps for young Argentines who come on schools trips to get immersed in English language and culture. I arrived late Monday night after two bus rides and a lot of traffic. We ate alfahores, talked about the camp, and went to bed. I was already exhausted seeing as how I'd taught a class at 8 am and I had not taken a nap.
We woke up early the next morning to get ready for the arrival of the kids. There were 54 of them and we had to get together folders for them, name tags, other counslery stuff. They were divided into color groups as well as spy groups. I was assigned to the CIA, and the other counselors had the FBI, Scotland Yard, the KGB, and MI5. We breakfasted alone for the last time, and then reported to our stations just as the kids arrived.
I had volunteered to work customs and had no idea what i was getting myself into. It was my job to confiscate all contraband from the kids. This meant anything with English had to be removed, bagged and labeled. Sounds easy enough, but when kids start begging to keep their hair gel things get sticky (hehe). After that was thankfully done we started spy camp. We didn't start activities with our agencies until nightfall, and instead did activities in our color groups. We did games like the the human knot and the human chair (the human chair was terrible, didn't work and I almost crushed a pre-teen. I became an instant favorite because my intro rhyme was...well it was awesome. I only remember the first line:
Yo my name is Julia and I hail from the States,
I came to Argentina to meet some new mates!
I think it was the delivery that sold the deal though...
Meals are eaten in the hotel's restaurant with specially created menus of "US, English, Irish and Australian" food. We had fried chicken and baked potatoes for lunch, a kind of Shepperd's pie and roast beef for dinner, and eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast. I say the least I ate too much, and was never hungry. Part of this had to do with the fact that we ate at US times. Breakfast was at 8:30 am, lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 6:30. Of course there was a snack before bed, and endless amount of hot chocolate and coffee. I gained weight...and lucky for me my jeans stretched a bit (for all worried parties I'm back in BA and back to normal with a mix of Frisbee and healthy homemade food.
The first night the campers had to break into their agencies and crack a code to find their agency leader. I was informed that I had to wait for my campers to find me under a bench near customs. As I wondered out into the dark without a "torch" (flashlight those of you with a US lexicon) and found that it was impossible to hide under a bench and instead wedged myself under a table in between the table and the bench. And there I lay for...a long time. I was in the dirt with spider webs for company and getting cold not to mention the fact that I was about to pee myself.
Finally, the figured out where I was and with some awkward maneuvering I pried myself out from under the table and helped my group create a secret handshake. I then told them two true facts about myself that would later be used to confuse them further on which one of us was the terrorist they they had to find and capture in order to save the world.
The following day was full of more of the same. James Bond theme music, rolling on the ground to get to the next pillar, and even some Frisbee with the kids while the rest of them were being interviewed for their "jobs." The camp does this activity where the kids apply for jobs and then get to do them. They could be a radio DJ, run the bank or the store, or create a newspaper. I elected myself to bring the disc to Cacareas, but there were only two discs for over thirty kids, and for the most part they ended up kicking it like a football (wow, sorry, I meant a soccer ball) and laughing at people who couldn't throw it. Very bad spirit if you ask me. But in the end I got a game going girls vs. boys, and while none of them fully got the concept they had a good time.
The second night we had an extra special activity: Casino Night!!!!! All the kids had brought their fanciest dress and after a camp fire they showered and dressed for an evening of gambling and entertainment. I was the blackjack dealer in my black DVF dress, black tights, porteƱo black wedges and white scarf for warmth. The added height proved to be fatal for my back seeing as I was bending over the table all night pretending I knew how to be a blackjack dealer and giving out chips I had won when I felt it was appropriate. Then the British councilor named Joanna sang Diamonds Are Forever like a professional lounge singer and then it was time for cake, hot chocolate and bed.
The last day we finally did the mission that Will and I had come up with. The mission was based on the idea that a bomb was somewhere in camp and that people had gone missing trying to find it. The Irish male counselor had gone off in search of the bomb, and unbeknownst to the campers Will had taken the spokespeople from every group off on a survival mission of sorts. The kids really were worried. Where were their friends? Where was Fiachra, and where the devil was our director?
The mission went well even if the orienteering activity was a failure because apparently I don't know how to use a compass (I do now), but in the end they found Fiachra bound and gagged in a shed and suffering from memory loss. It was great. Finally, after I auctioned out the last of the clues and all of the kids piled on top of Fiachra when they found out he was the terrorist we kissed them all good bye and put them on the bus.
Forty minutes later we were in Fernando's car being driven back to Buenos Aires. I was overwhelmingly exhausted and slept lightly for a short period of time, but spend most of it chatting with Australian Sonia, looking at the flat countryside that surrounds the capital, and fighting the urge to gasp every time a car cut us off or we swerved around another car. People here drive like maniacs...
I have now finally recovered from my sleep deprivation and hopefully will have a meeting today with Fernando to go over a schedule for the upcoming months. Yay for a new job!


Ann Behar said...

Sounds like fun but very hard work! Thanks for all of the great details, Jules.

Shelley Rolf said...

You go girl ! It sounds fantastic. Can't wait to hear about the next camp. xoxxo