I was extremely happy upon waking up because I knew it was the final full day of camp. I even took my ritualistic nasal assault at the bathroom in good spirits. Nothing could rain on my parade.
I bet you can’t guess what we had for breakfast. Give up? Well is was bread and jelly with coffee and tea. You were way off right? Well you can never have enough tea. On this morning I sat with a group of boys and the drum. One boy, Aymed, was a wizard on the durbuka, and I put my head right up close to the drum and let him blast beats into my ears. Good fun. Also, at breakfast, superstar day got underway.
Superstar day is the last day of camp, and is named thus (by me, just now) because from the moment you first see the kids you feel like the biggest rock star on the planet. Kids came up to me and the other volunteers and asked us to sign their notebooks and give them our e-mail addresses. They jockeyed for position like kids along the first base line at Coors Field for Todd Helton autographs. “Me next. Charley me next. Oooh Charley!” There are few people better at remembering names, but even so I often had to open my comments with “Hey friend,” or “Hey guy,” or “Hey you.” Everybody wants an autograph, and everybody wants a picture. I must be on 105 different camera phones with my eyes crossed and my tongue to my nose or giving big kisses on the cheeks.
“No Charley. Not like that. Just be normal.”
“What? This is normal.”
“Please please please.”
“Okay.” Even then, they still probably got my crossed eyes at least. It really is an ego trip to be so popular. It is crazy how much impact we have in such a short time. There are not a lot of opportunities like these camps for kids to be on their own and see what they are made of. They fully invest themselves into their experiences and friendships, often without realizing it until the end.
Next up was English class. Big Aaron was nice enough to let me use his computer for music despite the fact that after a week of camp it was having minor strokes left and right. We worked on emotions again and then finished up by listening to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. I don’t think they were as into it as they were Bob Marley, but it was good either way. At the very end of the class I thanked them all for their participation in my class. It dawned on them that there would be no more English classes and there was another big rush for autographs.
Club time was cancelled in order to prep for the Spectack. There were dance routines and plays going on left and right and I drifted from one corner to the next trying to get a preview of the evenings festivities. After I satisfied my urge to eavesdrop, I went back into the room and clowned with the other volunteers for a while until lunch.
Lunch was unremarkable and therefore you will get no remarks from lunch. Then, following lunch was a couple more hours of Spectack prep. Most everybody had their stuff straight, so we more or less hung around and signed autographs and took pictures until Spectack time came.
Once it was finally time to get the Spectack underway, one of our public school vans came around and started shuttling us off to a big dance hall type room a couple of kilometers away. I was on one of the last vans to arrive and I rode over with Scott and Alex.
Now this next part is going to sound disturbing. That is because it is, in fact, disturbing. I do want you to remember, however, that these gents have been in Morocco for over a year and more than two in Scott’s case. Keep that in mind when judging their actions. Also, keep in mind that as disturbing as it was, it was also funny as hell. The thing is, during the camp they got very into “man touching.” I know. WTF right? When they would see one of the Moroccan staffers they would give regular handshakes and then it would become less and less regular. Scott’s technique was to shake and then with his left hand put it high up on the man’s arm and try to get in position from there for some more creative touching. Alex, being very tall, often went for an arm around the shoulders and then used his free hand to pat a chest or hold a free hand. The whole week they were trying to one-up each other and it was becoming quite ridiculous As we pulled up to the big hall Alex made a bee-line for the counselor Zakaria and got to touching. It was a hilarious display of man-touching the likes of which had not yet been topped. He went in for the shoulder wrap and was soon patting him on the chest and playing with his hair, then moved his arm around Zakaria’s waist. I’m sure the whole Moroccan staff was dreading their approach more and more as the week went along.
Finally all the campers and staff arrived and we even got some love from the town big-wigs. The Mayor of Errachidia and his staff showed up in their suits and took a table up front and center. The whole affair was done with a lot of class. Each table sat maybe 12 folks and we were kept in good stock of pre-shelled peanuts and soda pop in fine crystal. There were some introductory words said by the Mudir and myself, and then it was showtime. Performance art has not really reached the level of art form out here, but the kids did their acts and were heartily applauded for their efforts.
About two thirds of the way through, the Mayor decided he had seen enough. He and his staff stood and walked out to talk with the Mudir. After a couple minutes someone came and snagged me and told me that the Mayor wanted to meet with me and the other volunteers. At first he spoke to us in French because, well we were almost all white people and that’s what white people speak right? No. We soon convinced him to speak to us in Arabic which was much better. Then, as he was going to leave we decided we should get a big group picture. So, being the top dog American I was placed center stage. I had the Mayor to my right, and the Regional Delegate to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to my left. That is when man touching started. Scott and Alex stood behind me. As we were posing for the picture I felt two hands on my hips, and they were slowly moving up my flanks and then back down my sides. It was too funny, but the wrong time and place so I was unbelievably uncomfortable. Then the camera didn’t work right away. I stood there with my hands crossed in a regular photo pose, the whole time getting felt up like a high school girl in the last row of an empty movie theater. Finally, we got the shot taken on at least a dozen cameras and I had a final word with the mayor. As I turned away I saw Alex and Scott standing with the other volunteers laughing their heads off.
When the Spectack was done, I walked with a group of volunteers and students back to the Centre with a solid appetite all built up. Once we returned we learned that the one thing you can’t have a Moroccan meal without, bread, was not ordered for the evening so we would have to wait while it was rounded up around town. Gulp. To tide us over we had tea. Can never have enough tea. As we waited there was an improv talent show organized for the kids that turned out to be a lot of fun for the most part. Some things still bug me about this country, and when there was a skit prepared and done about Palestine where Israel and America get knocked off, and it gets one of the biggest rounds of applause, that bugs me. Whatever. Floyd and I decided that we needed to participate as well. As my ankle was still not ready we couldn’t do our dance routine, but we went to our old standby. The theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Yeah buddy. This is a song that we have done so many times we can play off one another and switch up lines. Needless to say, this rendition was off the hook. Iiiiiiiiin West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground….. We even finished off with a Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff handshake.
For the first time in recorded history there was a shortage of bread in Errachidia, so calls needed to be made. Eventually we got a baker to go back to work for us and we finally ended up with bread and dinner at 11:00 pm. Not the best bit of planning ever, but everybody survived. As I ate I signed a few more notebooks. I was happy in the knowledge that by mid-day Friday, Spring Camp would be just another memory.
Soon after dinner I headed off to bed to try and read some For Whom The Bell Tolls. That dirty dog Pablo went and stole all of Robert Jordan’s dynamite and tried to sabotage the whole bridge blowing mission. He really is a bastard that Pablo. I left myself a few chapters to finish the next day and made sleepy face. Zzzzzz….