My alarm rang at 7:15am. Considering bed time the night before, this was a bit early for my sensibilities. That being said, English class began at 9:00am and I did not have even an inkling as to what I was going to teach. I also had a lot of coordinator-related tasks to get through early in the morning.
I groggily marched to the community bathroom and was slapped hard in the nose by the smell that encased me. Campers did not take long in defiling our shared potty space. Teeth brushed and bladder drained I headed back to the room. I opened the door, and what was left of my nostrils was burned off by the musk of seven dudes in a tiny space for a night. As I acclimated to the stink and started setting out a lesson plan, Big Aaron’s ass trumpet played long and loud to rouse the rest of the boys. Floyd and Justin each joined the symphony with musical anal expulsions of their own. Boys of all ages will laugh at a good fart at just the right time, and we were in stitches. Boys will be boys.
I took care of my duties for the morning which primarily consisted of a meeting with Ismail and working with Adil on trying to secure all of the supplies that the other volunteers had asked for. For the first time in my Moroccan camping experience when supplies were asked for, they were promptly delivered. Hamdullilah- All praise be to God!
Breakfast is always the same at these camps. Bread and jam washed down with coffee and/or tea. Can never have enough tea. I squeezed in with a group of boys from Tinjdad, and the conversation was focused on my not speaking Taschelheit- the local Berber dialect.
“Because I studied Arabic.”
“But you live in Goulmima. They speak ‘Schilha’ there.”
“Schilha is better that Arabic.”
I have learned that this is a fight not worth fighting. Berber pride is strong in this area, and towns like Tinjdad and Goulmima are entirely Berber. I finished my tea and started gathering my stuff for class.
Gathered outside the high school we were ready to give class assignments. Scott Robinson was up first. He read off the first couple of names on his list horrendously. Mercifully a Moroccan English teacher named AbdeSalam snatched his list and finished off. The other five English teachers didn’t even try. We just handed our lists right over.
Once assembled, I brought my kids into the classroom. I felt just okay about what I had planned. I had the very bottom of the totem pole and I have a lot of experience with this crowd, so I figured I would be okay.
“How are you?”
“Fine thanks. How are you?”
Oh shit! That alone was supposed to take 45 minutes. Time to think quick. Directions. That’s what I’ll teach. Directions. We did the cardinals and ordinals, and we made maps of their towns. I gave them vocabulary on things they didn’t know. “Yes. In English we say High School and not Lycee. And that there. Oh wow… hmm… well… In English that is called a whore house but don’t tell anyone where you learned that.” I started running short on material for the last few minutes, but the kids never knew the difference.
Club time followed English, which in Charley speak meant free time. I still had a lot to do though. The most pressing matter for me was the competition I had proposed for the entire afternoon. In my head I had visions of the Maccabia Relay from my days as a camper at the JCC Ranch Camp. A day long color war where participants competed in spirit, smarts and skills. The idea did not translate well. I was becoming more and more nervous that people, particularly the Moroccan staff, would not buy into it at all. Oh yeah, there was one more problem. There was no plan.
Brainstorming session. Floyd and I sat down on a couple of beds and faced the realities of the situation. Mostly he listened to my scattered thoughts and tried to help me organize them. I am not often called upon to use my brain here, and was glad to see that it still held some semblance of function. Eventually we decided we would have four teams differentiated by different colors and three different competitions. There would be basketball and an English game running concurrently, and a big theater competition at the end.
I was placed in charge of the Black Team with Caitlin and ‘Smail from the Moroccan staff. Actually we were in charge of the Second Black Team. Apparently there is a shortage of colors in Morocco which nobody told me about, so we had two blacks a white and a red. Grrrr….
We headed toward the hoops at the high school and were quickly greeted by blackboards stripped of their rims. The strain of putting this competition together paired with this unpleasant surprise had me on the verge of tears. That is when ‘Smail saved the day. ‘Smail-on-the-Spot is a gym teacher and had an inventive spin off of keep-away which we played in the place of b-ball. Despite it being ‘Smail’s game, and that he was on our team, it did not keep our team from being unceremoniously smashed.
English competition was next for us and we busted out our not-so-secret weapon. Layla Hachimi. The touchdown tosser’s older sister is an English superstar. Layla was by far the best speaker at camp. We were leaning heavily on her knowledge of the language and her Jordanesque drive to win. The final question was to name as many animals as you can that begin with the letter ‘T’. Our opponents were Floyd’s Red Team, and Yousra, a gifted student in her own right, read off their list.
“Tiger, turtle, turkey.”
That was plenty good. Give yourself 30 seconds and see if you can’t do better. That is when Layla, clad in black baseball cap, black hoodie and black jeans approached the judges table.
“Tiger, turtle, turkey, and…. (wait for it) tortoise!” Floyd was flabbergasted. The red team looked distraught. Meanwhile my smart, if not athletic team mobbed Layla in a display of pure joyful exuberance.
Tea break. Can never have enough tea.
The plan from this point on was to give everybody 30 minutes to prepare a small skit on an agreed upon topic- The Environment- and another 30 minutes to perform it and declare a winner.
In our designated classroom we struggled for a few minutes trying to think up a skit. That is when Caitlin stepped up to the plate with The Giving Tree. Oh baby. It was a beautiful thing. A skit that could be done with few actors and with Layla as the narrator; we were going to be golden and on our way to a glorious win. We worked it out for about the full preparation time when the axe fell. The Moroccan staff got it into their heads that it would be best if we didn’t perform our skits tonight but rather at the Final Spectacle. I could see the logic in this idea, but I could also see that it would never happen. Stupidly I agreed knowing full well the consequences and abandoned the rest of the competition. In retrospect it was a bad decision. The kids had a great time with what they got out of the competition but had it been carried out to its conclusion, it could have been memorable.
We ate dinner and headed over to the auditorium for Moroccan Folklore night. I love Moroccans. Let me preface what I am about to say with that. I love Moroccans. But. And this is a big but. Their parties suck. The music is not really rhythmic, the dancing in not inclusive, and some of the traditional dress borders on the absurd. Part of the festivities was a mock wedding, and true to form the bride and groom were the two most unhappy looking people in the room. I just don’t get it.
I was happy when it was over and returned to our extra stinky room once again. I threw on my hoops shorts and snuggled up for another episode of the Sopranos.