With bars on the windows and door, grey paint peeling from the walls, and a weathered tin roof, I wondered if I was on a vacation or a sentence at a prison camp. I didn’t see any of the spiders when I walked in, but I did notice that the beds were so close together that I couldn’t even walk to mine. It didn’t smell bad yet, the smell of five boys living in a tiny room hadn’t permeated the walls. This was home-sweet-home for a few days.
I was kind of fond of it. My feelings changed a little when the toilet clogged up.
Not too long ago, I was leaving on a trip and I didn’t know where I was going (read that here). Now that I’m back, I know what the destination was. Some would call it Hell, but I prefer to think of it as the closest I’ll ever come to being a Hungarian at summer camp. It was a place right outside of Miskolctapolca in north-western Hungary.
As I said, it was me, 30 kids who are learning English, two mothers who don’t speak English, and one bus driver who doesn’t even pretend to speak English.
Being a teacher, I was sent to be an authority figure who watched over the kids and kept them under control. Ironically, I was much more like a confused child with multiple mental disabilities. Instead of giving instructions to the group, I had to wait patiently through (at least) one round of translations before they got to me. I only let certain kids explain it because others might’ve, well, liked to play practical jokes on me.
As I explored our… camp? residence? prison? place to get out of two days of school?... I found some intriguing things. There were maybe ten cabins, but I didn’t count. A basketball court shared the same floor of rough grass as the volleyball net. A raised (to be level) wooden floor with a tent around it housed some picnic tables and a foosball table. Each cabin had a table out front, and the whole area was surrounded by a fence. We had the place to ourselves. That was good because mayhem broke loose when we arrived.
Some of the kids were horrified when I stretched out at a table and started grading papers. Running around with the excitement of teenagers released from school looked fun, but I had to keep up my appearance of responsibility. And, kids always want their assignments to be graded and handed back. They can be quite greedy sometimes.
The kids may have escaped some classes, but I was still learning. For example, a few years in business school trained me to be on the lookout for any popular products. On this trip, I learned that you should invest in spray deodorant. The boys were using it like there’s a prize at the bottom of an empty can (is there?).
Next, the outdoors is no longer equal to peace and quiet. Tiny, battery powered speakers can let out an impressive volume of sound. Combine this with the mp3 player attached to the hip of every kid and there’s always music. Loud music. Sleeping wasn’t easy.
The final thing that I learned is that I have pretty eyes. I always had a feeling about this one, but the girls confirmed it for me – about 700 times.
The big question is this: Did I ever try to kill a teacher in high school? These kids did. I’ll tell you about that next time, though, I want you to have something to look forward to.
Hungarian word of the day:
Pronounced Poke, and it means “spider”. The first morning in the cabin, I found a big spider crawling on my camera bag. I suppose he just wanted to take some pictures.