About a month ago I started a job, that enabled me to do two things I’d never done before: Live 30 days straight in the lowest populated area I’ve ever lived and second live in close proximity to nature. Nature is all around at all times, yet this was the type of nature where trees out numbered buildings and people. Where few if any cars could be heard at any time. And worst of all, wifi was only available where we had our meals!! As hippie as I like to think I am, this last one took a few days to get used to. Adding to my aggravation was the fact in the last moments of packing up my backpack I decided I would not be needing my mac or camera. WRONG, but so right. Sure staying up to date on the daily feelings of my facebook friends, and the occasional email from Michelle Obama could seem important when you fare isolated, it is not. I now had an opportunity to experience a world cut off from social media and connect with the natural world around us, and most importantly myself.
As we traveled to Guijo the city was replaced by nests of villages dispersed along the mountainous landscape. We entered one and then another without seeing a living soul. We arrived to the campsite and at once I realized what exactly I had gotten myself into. The camp is large enough to hold 200 or more children at anytime. It is located along the río de Tormes and has spectacular views of the Sierras de Béjar. For me, the most disappointing aspect of my new home was that our cabin had 4 bunk beds, one normal bed, and one bathroom. Since moving to Spain, I have had to become accustomed to sharing small spaces with many people, but this exceeded anything I could ever imagine.
Our camp was an English nature camp. Students ranged from 10-13 years old with levels ranging from low to very high. Each camp had 50 students and lasted from Sunday to Saturday. In the morning, I taught classes and then later my students would go to activities such as sailing, archery, kayaking, or climbing. Our curriculum was based on exploring the natural world around us. Exactly, my cup of tea! Sparking curiosity and thought in my students was so gratifying on a spiritual level. It was the first time since having coming to Spain, that I was deeply fulfilled by what I was teaching.
We were 5 teachers, 3 of whom were black American women including myself. The kids had quite the time getting our names straight. Most of them had never talked to a black person before, let alone had all day access. I got lots of interesting questions mostly regarding my hair. One of my favorite students asked me why my hair was so strange. She couldn’t understand why I would want to wear my hair this way, and not wear it the normal way like hers. Now some people may get offended by a question like this, (actually one of my coworkers did get offended) but not me. This question excited me. I explained that my hair was not strange, but different and that the world was made up of different people. She was a blonde girl from Burgos, and I was black woman from Chicago and here were are friends. I’m not sure if her 11 year old brain could grasp this concept, but I know for a fact having a conversation like this is what helps grow cultural understanding. She is no longer a person who has never met or spoke to a black person. She knows that even though I have “strange” hair, and look completely different than her we can still have a connection.
After we put the kids to bed, we filled our evenings getting to know all the staff of the camp. Our nightly meetings were usually under the night sky, with beer in hand, the occasional guitar playing, and the exchange of experiences and culture. For me, working in this camp was more than just a job. I had time to be with myself in the most therapeutic environment one could imagine.by