Reflections on being a Camp Counselor, Part Two

Going off of the information from the previous post, I would like to continue on the story of my journey with the Italian high school students.

The relationship with the students was what I’d call a mixed bag, but generally a good one. At the first all of the students were of course very curious of their American hosts myself, BrownEye, and the BlueOne. Nearly every one of them wanted to know us and such to the point where we were the main attractions at the first disco (dance) that was hosted by the camp (which I will go into later).

Throughout the two weeks BrownEye, BlondeOne, and myself led them through multiple excursions through San Francisco, culminating to day trips to Santa Cruz and the John Muir Woods and the seaside town of Sausalito. Through these trips we maintained cordial relations with most if not all of the students, yet as I realized from the middle onwards, inevitably cliques reformed according to who knew who before the trip and the three of us gravitated towards the groups.

Like high school students.

Yes yes, I know it sounds petty (that was the least of it), but after seeing BlondeOne and BrownEye go off into “cultural exchanges” in the middle of the night – I realized that I had to “pick a group” to hang out with. Though this social observation, done at first out of the fear of loneliness, turned out to be a wise choice. There were a group of kids who I met that I started just hanging out with. Towards the end I had become their favorite “tour guide” (I think that was the word) as well something of a buddy – these kids are still in high school and quite honestly it felt that I belonged with them.

So yes, I found my clique which unfortunately alienated me from getting to know any more of the high school students that were with the group. I remember only able to name the clique that I was with (12 people) and maybe a dozen more from the other groups (10). In all I probably only had conversations with 1/4 of the group of 100 – not including the teachers. Kind of sad considering my professional job was to provide a welcoming environment to all of the kids. But by that point, there was so only so much I could do.

Nonetheless, all in all relations were cordial. They were all high school students filled with curiosity, life, and spunk and truly believed and embodied a “care not” attitude towards most things.

~

Which leads me to my second and probably should have been the most important relationship of all; the one with my co workers BlondeOne and BrownEye.

I don’t know where or how to begin, but I guess in the end of it all I admit I should have done better. Meaning I should have trusted my intuition instead of being judgmental, despite many of the things that they did over the two weeks that we lived and worked together that annoyed me. I regret a lot of the things that I did and said.

BlondeOne is a 22 year old senior from San Francisco State. The moment that sent our professional and personal connection spiraling downward (and never recovered from thereafter) was actually the first day we met! So it turns out she was one day late for the prior agreed upon meeting date with myself, BrownEye, and my boss. My boss bluntly stated in the beginning that perhaps this is a sign that BlondeOne isn’t reliable. I subsequently agreed that BlondeOne wasn’t perhaps the best person to trust on in the upcoming days. Well BlondeOne arrives the night before the day the kids arrive and I’m not in the best mood. She has lots of luggage from her parents car. Instead of a helping her with her luggage, I simply turned my back to her out of spite and allowed her to lug them herself.

Goddamn I know I can be a cold person, but looking back now I realized what a dick I was to her.

Looking back it was just that moment that our professional relationship went down the tube along with anything personal that might have happened between us. From that day forward everything that we did in our presence was awkward. Just plain awkward; it was a disaster. Sure we cooperated professionally, but living with someone who you inadvertently pissed off is never a good situation. It culminated to a rude talk between us a few days before the kids left and honestly although we “settled” things, the wounds were still fresh (I reopened them because of direct approach to solving problems) and the lines had already been drawn.

It an unforgettable experience – for all the wrong reasons.

~

As for my boss, it was great actually. Damn, Sicilian women are something else! Imagine what would be the American equivalent of a Type-A alpha woman. She stands at maybe 5’5″ (165cm) but I saw multiple occasions when through the wonderful situations of cultural conversational misunderstandings where she intimidated men twice her size. It was like watching a mongoose scare away elephants!

I laughed when I saw this and had to include it here. But seriously, how would you get anything done?

That attitude withstanding, it was also an interesting experience working with her since you know, she’s Sicilian. For example, her work style; apparently it’s not unusual for a Sicilian boss to simply say

“Okay, this is what you need to, now do it.”

It took me a few days to get my head around it, but I realized that my boss actually meant for us to accomplish our task(s) intuitively rather than giving us a set time, date, person, place or thing to do. Doing things intuitively was something that I simply regarded as “Okay now you’ve given me some perimeters to complete my task now I can do anything to accomplish it.”

What drove me nuts initially however was the fact that she never gave us (BrownEye, BlondeOne, and myself) a set time to have the task completed by – if anything it was just a day. When I finally got my head around understanding her style, I just did it at the earliest possible situation. This subtle fact about Italian professional work style was missed by BlondeOne and BrownEye who, despite me trying to explain it them, were frustrated by this cultural item till the last day of the camp.

Hah, losers

That’s what you get for not researching your part. I guess they never got over their “American style professionalism”. Anyway, in the end, she was good to work with. A bit intimidating but 1.) I realized it was the Italian personal space thing that she was exhibiting and 2.) I have no problem talking to a serious person up close and personal.

Anyway, this is but the second part of my series. Am looking forward to doing part 3.

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