The sky was grey and swollen as the campers rose, and light droplets occasionally fell to blot the campers’ T-shirts. As we trudged up to the kitchen, carefully planting our feet on the stepping-stones amidst the sea of mud, freezing cold and with damp clothes, we all decided it wasn’t going to be a fun day.
And yet we couldn’t have been more wrong! We started off early with some campfire songs to get the blood pumping, then had a steaming hot breakfast that warmed up our bones. Now feeling warm and comfortable, we cleaned up the dining hall and proceeded straight to arts and crafts – using old rags, we created bean bags to use for tomorrow’s games. Most of the campers created pretty good bags, considering everybody had to sow their own sacks – the few that had trouble were helped by the councilors, and by the end of the hour-long class, everybody had a pretty decent bean bag that they happily threw around.
Afterwards, we had our Natural Healing lectures, where two Mayan guides showed us how to harvest natural medicine from the jungle – what trees to pick for certain symptoms, when to pick them and which parts of the tree to use. Towards the end of the class, the guides brought out five cups of tea, comprised of ginger, lemongrass, serosae, oregano, and the infamous jackass bitters. Five campers went up to taste the teas – four were fine, but the poor boy who tried the jackass bitters nearly threw up – of course, after that it became a challenge and most of the boys had to have some. Let me tell you – if someone offers you jackass bitters tea, run away as fast as you can! For a millisecond it’s perfectly bland and you swallow – then your taste buds perk up and suddenly you feel like the food in your belly is trying to claw its way up your throat, which is trying to seal itself from further horrors. Your tongue shrivels up and dies, your guts disappear, and your teeth involuntarily clack down to prevent any more of the “healing” tea.
In other words, you want to throw up.
As the class finished, went to our cabins and got our bags that were full of water and swimsuits. Then we followed the guides through the jungle path to the lodge – on the way, they showed us the medicinal and dangerous trees on the path – first, the guides pointed out the dangerous plants, like the black and white poisonwoods. Afterwards, they listed the antidotes and showed us all the trees and vines good for fevers, cuts, bruises, boils and any other maladies. Unfortunately, halfway to Chaa Creek Lodge, it started raining and we had to run for cover. We took shelter under the Ixchel Pavilion, where we answered a few questions from the guides. By then it was time for lunch, so we made our way to the Dining Room, where we were served a delicious meal of barbecued chicken and creamy mashed potatoes.
As we finished lunch it started pouring again, so we went to the Conference Center to change in our swimsuit and wait for it to calm down. When it finally did, about and half an hour later, everybody was raring to go!
When we finally reached the pool, we were hosed down to strip off the dirt and we immediately dived in! It was great fun as we splashed around and swam around in the clean, clear warm water that had been cleaned with salt so there was no chlorine-tinted water running in our eyes. As the campers horsed around and played Chicken Fight we all had an amazing time and when we got out an hour and a half later everyone was exhausted but happy, wearing dripping swimsuits and sunny smiles.
When we got back to camp afterwards we quickly changed and the groups split into their groups for their first song rehearsal. At the end of the week, the groups will compete for ultimate dominance! The groups all hid from each other because they were afraid the other teams would seal their songs so half the class was actually spent running to the other cabins to make sure they weren’t cheating. It was like a huge game of Hide-and-Seek, and all the groups had loads of fun. Unfortunately, one of the campers – Adilei - got extremely sick and had to go home…
Afterwards, we had a volleyball game that was extremely fun – nobody kept the score so of course, both groups knew they’d won. Nobody could agree, but both teams made some truly spectacular serves and saves.
Then it was time for dinner! It was really good, rice with salad and stewed chicken with potatoes. After that came a slice of chocolate cake that everybody demolished!
After dinner we had campfire – we sang, cracked jokes and popped popcorn (without a lid no less) over the campfire! Popcorn went everywhere, but everyone had a good time, surrounded by the soft darkness and leaping, sparking flames.
It has stopped raining for now, although It’s still pretty cloudy. The night is free and open when the glowing moon breaks through the chain of silvery clouds, dark and oppressing when the clouds smother the moon. The animals (including the campers) are silent, resting in their cozy burrows as a cool breeze caresses their faces. The jungle is a living, breathing entity, with its own moods. Chaa Creek, located right at its center, at its heart, is apparently in its good books! At Chaa Creek Summer Camp, we don’t strive for excellence, or even for enlightenment!
We strive for unity. Unity within ourselves – unity among ourselves. Unity with our surroundings, the wild, untamed and yet perfect jungle.
Come back tomorrow!