Last day of camp.
There’s always a feeling – of release, of relief, of ending, of starting over. Suddenly, going home doesn’t seem so fun after all. Suddenly, you wish the camp lasted two weeks instead of one – or even better, a month! A year! Let it go on forever!!!
Our 2016 Belize Eco Campers bid farewell to their peers
At Chaa Creek, that feeling multiplied a hundredfold. After only eight days of magic, the spell ended and we were looking ahead at boring old home again. Yes, Chaa Creek was physically hard and demanding – climbing up mountains, horseback riding through the jungle, trekking through the bush, playing dodge ball, Maya Ball, having water-balloon fights, swimming and canoeing through the river and splashing around in the pools…
But we did it in a group, and suddenly it wasn’t so hard anymore. It became a sort of contest, a great big game – who could climb the fastest? The highest? Swim the longest, ride the best, trek the most without slipping?
And it’s a funny thing about competition. You get tired. Oh, yes, you get exhausted, wiped out, dead on your feet. But it becomes the warm ache of triumph, of accomplishment, of wow-did-I-really-just-climb-this-Everest-of-a-hill-?, instead of the hot, angry burn of I-can’t-believe-they-made-me-climb-this-pile-of-mud. You challenge yourself, and in doing so, you find yourself – you come to terms with what you can do.
Going home felt like the last page of a good fairy-tale – the last page of the last Harry Potter book. You know it has to end, but how can it? What have you done to deserve being ripped out of the perfect dream that is Chaa Creek?
The campers woke early, much earlier than normal. As we climbed the hill to the dining hall, the crisp wind pushed against the smoky clouds above us, and a light yellow glow started to reach out from behind the river. It was going to be a sunny day.
Breakfast was eaten with only the occasional murmur of ‘I’ll miss you so much!’ and ‘I can’t believe it! The week’s just zipped past!’ the campers slowly rose to take their plates to the kitchen, our Camp Director, Levi Baldwin, told the campers what a pleasure it had been spending a week with them.
“The week has gone by too fast.” He admitted. “But it was easily the BEST WEEK OF THE YEAR!”
All the campers clapped and cheered, and we sang our favorite song around the campfire one last time, with loads of dancing and grinning. As we finished, the clouds ahead finally gave up and allowed the golden rays of the sun to fall on the camp, making the dewy grass glow and the dark wood of the campfire benches glimmer. It looked so amazing I could almost believe we were in a computer and had just been Photoshopped.
It didn’t take us long to pack. We all held on to one camp T-shirt and our friends and group mates wrote all over them, scribbling contact numbers and silly comments.
That’s the beauty of Chaa Creek – the magic of it. In just a week, children of all different ages, from all over the country, all belonging to different ethnic groups, had bonded quickly to kids that they’d never seen before! The challenges that Chaa Creek brought was like degradable glue – you only needed it for a while; afterwards, the kids stuck together by themselves.
As the parents slowly trickled in, we practiced our songs and skit for the last time, to produce one last show for the parents. Ms. Debs, the Camp Director’s mother, was our MC, and she choreographed the songs into dances and made sure everything was running smoothly.
By eleven all our parents were here, and we started off with an incredible song called ‘I Got My Letter To Eco Camp’ by the Toucan girls that went along to the tune of Pitch Perfect’s ‘Cup Song’. It went down really well and all the girls could really sing – they performed perfectly!
Then we moved on the Howler’s ‘I Gahn Da Eco Camp’, to the tune of ‘I Gahn Da Manatee’. It was perfect for the occasion and all the parents were smiling and singing along. Afterwards, we performed a skit by the “Howler-guires”, a joint effort between the Howlers and the Jaguars about Natural Medicine. Everybody liked it, and they received a huge round of applause.
Then we moved on to the awards! Our most ‘memorable’ camper was Mark ‘Mango’, while athletic, academic and swimming awards were also handed out to the campers.
And then… it was over, just like that. Bang, suddenly the campers were leaving with their parents, and as the trucks drove away we knew that was the last time we’d see some of them.
It reminded me of a question Jared, our Head of Media at Chaa Creek and my mentor, had asked me earlier. “Alex, are you ready to go home?”
“I’m ready to go.” I’d answered. “I just don’t want to go.”
And I think all the campers felt that way.
I can’t think of what to say now. What is there to say? The perfect bubble of happiness that had enveloped us all has finally popped. I suppose I’ll say my thanks.
To Mr. Mick and Ms. Lucy Fleming, of course. I still can’t wrap my head around their unbelievable generosity. Imagine, bringing in kids from all over the country and giving them eight days of the finest food and accommodations, giving them literally a five-star experience, for nada. Just out of the goodness of their hearts. All you have to do is write an essay, and all it has to show is that you’re ready and willing to learn. I honestly believe that they are some of the most generous people in Belize. Please, even if my writing is giving you head-splitting migraines, like and share the page – because then next year, Chaa Creek Summer Camp will get much more donations and sponsorships. Chaa Creek is one of the best things to ever happen to Belize – please, help them just get better and better!
To Jared – thank you so much for allowing me to butt in and potentially blow up your website. I’ve never enjoyed writing so much, and you’ve given me my first real taste of journalism – and photography! Seriously, thank you for everything. You’ll always be my biggest memory. (Only campers will get that joke!!)
To Mango, for allowing me to draw an Avatar Ang symbol on your head every night. And for just being so dang funny. To Maggie, for the massages! They were great. Seriously, you could be the first masseur/chef. Hannah, for the singing. Christian, for the terrible jokes. Jackson, for the perfect Peter Griffin impersonations. Egg, for the laughter. Sam, for allowing us all to look over your shoulder as you made your amazing videos. Levi, for the funky dancing and singing. Ms. Lily, for the Jaguar tattoos. Christian #2, for the nerdy conversations, like who would you want by your side in the Hunger Games (I’m still going for Artemis Fowl)!
Chaa Creek Summer Camp was the very epitome of a perfect summer camp. Thank you, everyone, from Docio and his family who fed us, to Jared who got the word out. (Imagine if I hadn’t put that comma – Docio and his family who fed us to Jared – ha ha!)
Eight Days at Chaa Creek Summer Camp, and there is only one fault I can find.
It didn’t last long enough.
Thank you for reading!
Note From Camp Coordinator Jared: For those of you wondering where Day 7 went; it’s literally gotten lost in cyberspace. Somewhere between all the games, presentations and camp parties the “save” button never got hit, you all just have to rest assured, that as with every other day, we had fun until we collapsed in our beds and woke up wishing for more.
I cannot thank everyone enough, from my employers Mr Mick and Ms Lucy, to my very own mentor at work Roberto, Levi, Lily, Docio, literally everyone who was front and center or behind the scenes, all you wonderful parents, and who could forget those absolutely astounding campers. As I have said to someone in an email earlier: There really aren’t words to describe how great camp was, or how much it sucks that it’s over. I’m glad for the experience, I’ll keep each and every one of you in my memories, those of my very first Belize Eco-kids Summer Camp.
Until next year.