Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bye Bye Campers!

Well, we sent off the lats of the campers today. This week was certainly our most challenging by far, but I think it was well worth it.
We had two long-time SSP churches come this week, along with a Presbyterian church whose original mission trip plan got canceled. They were going to to to Tijuana, but they decided about a month ago not to go due to the uprising in crime and drug wars. This is where the issue lay: they were expecting something completely different.
In Mexico (a phrase we often heard from both campers and counselors alike), they built an entire house from roof to foundation in one week. When the came here and were plunked down in a different desert with only a can of paint and some brushes, these glorious expectations of home building were not met. It was a funny group, they marked on their evaluations that the night-time programs were too forced, but they were not spiritual enough. We talked about scripture both in a larger group setting and smaller, sang from the songbook (which is a little outdated and could use some revision) but they were dissatisfied. We had constant battles with them trying to explain that there are more ways to worship God than just through throwing scripture at them and singing contemporary worship. To add onto this, their youth leader and his wife were moving to Tacoma and decided that this was their last shebang. The new youth leader was stressed on multiple levels; trying to connect with his students, trying to adapt to the SSP antics, and struggling with what we as a staff saw as a too idealistic view of ministry. Because of all these things, we felt constant criticisms from both the leaders and the campers. This made it to be one of the hardest ministry things I've ever done.
The criticism and disrespect we saw from both the campers and the youth leaders of the group was too much for us all. We lost hours of sleep trying to figure out how to adapt to fit their needs, trying to accommodate them as much as we could without forgetting the other two churches. Most nights we were lucky to get into bed before 12.30, and twice it was past 1. That is especially rough when you have to get up at 5.30 and have time only for a one hour nap.
So after many highly emotionally discussions, tears, and sinful grudges being held against almost any and all who attended this particular church, we had had enough. Phil was our advocate, and pulled the three youth leaders aside before breakfast and talked to them. Things ended up going really well, they in no way meant to disrespect us, it was just the way that they dealt with things at their church. If there was a problem in their youth group, they quit what they were doing and talked about it. Since the SSP staff did not do this, many of the campers felt that they were unheard when they told us that they wanted more scripture study. But we had to take it with a grain of salt, trying to help them understand that there were two other churches there already who were doing great, and to make any major changes in the program would be very disruptive to them. Both sides apologized for the mistrust and unloving manners in which we had treated each other.
The campers were still hard on us. A few of them were starting to understand where we were coming from and giving us a little grace, but for the most part they just complained about anything they could. SSP had an outbreak of the norro virus a few years back (its the one that cruise ships get where it spreads like wildfire and everyone gets barfy and diarrhea), and because of this we have a very strict sanitary policy when serving food. Nobody but staff is allowed to touch serving utensils, katsup bottles, salad dressing, etc., and before meals they must all wash their hands and then squirt them with hand sanitizer. On so many of the evaluations we had today, they complained that they are fully capable of pouring their own dressings, etc. Tehy must have forgotten the reason behind these good intentions, we had told them on the first day why we are suck sticklers about it.
Even though this week was tough and I cried a lot, it was completely worth it. As much as they tried not to, we are convinced that they all had a good time. The other two churches had a great time. And to top it all off, four people from different churches either rededicated their lives to Jesus or gave it to Him for the first time. Praise the Lord!
So we have two more days in the desert of McDermitt, NV, then off to debrief in Sacramento. Hope to see you all soon!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Following Things May Be Hazardous to Your Health

These are the top seven most dangerous things we came across this week:

The Refrigerator
Yes, the fridge. Here's the story: It was Monday afternoon; Kelley, Phil and I were prepping for our stir fry dinner. I was in the back room of the kitchen that is our pantry, dish washing place, and has a fridge and a freezer. Our fridge is a bit old-school, one of the ones with the cooling elements exposed on the inside top of the fridge compartment. I had just washed off some dishes and my hands were wet as I reached into the fridge. I was stretching past a pile of leftover grilled cheese sandwiches and got stuck to the cooling element! Yes, my left index, middle, and ring fingers all were stuck to the inside of the fridge. All I could think of (past the mounds of pain I was experiencing) was the scene from A Christmas Story when the kid was sticking his tongue to the frozen telephone pole...I yelled to Kelley and Phil, Phil thought I was joking so he didn't do anything. Kelley came in, took a look, grabbed the spray bottle with bleach water in it, and sprayed me free! My index finger is almost completely free of any burn, but my middle and ring fingers look like I grilled them. I'll take a picture and post it later. I got a blood blister and anther normal blister and some nasty scabs/soon to be scars. The moral of the story is: look out for your cooling elements next time you reach into the fridge.

Small Town 4th of July Celebrations
In all of the McDermitt, NV, 4th of July weekend festivities, there is a rodeo on Saturday followed by a round of carnival games for the kiddies and later by a dance/block party for the adults. We walked the fifth of a mile to the Say When Casino to get dinner and were stopped by some of the locals who were sitting on the outside deck of the bar in town. They promptly informed us that it didn't really matter what age we were and that we were all welcome to join the jello shot competition when it came time. We are pretty sure that all but one or two of the people out there were quite snookered, as they made some inappropriate comments towards us ladies. We politely excuse ourselves to dinner, and enjoy a meal. We decide to walk back to our school afterwards, hang out for an hour, then go to the dance. Cowboys, country music, broken bottles, and booze. They had it all! The same drunk local kept hitting on us, and unfortunately he had been one of the ones at the bar earlier. He was asking all the girls in the group for their "dance cards," especially "the one with the glasses." Unfortunately, I am the only one who wears the glasses. Quickly I sat down on the curb with Mallory and mumbled some lame excuse. After about the twelfth time getting rejected, he finally left me alone. Moral of the story: Stay with friends and come up with a lame excuse when drunk men hit on you.

The Water in McDermitt, NV
Oh, the water. We got a notice from the school secretary Wednesday night at 7.30 that the water in the McDermitt watershed had been tested and found with traces of ecoli bacteria. SAY WHAT?!? It was a "suggested boil order," saying that all water that was to be used for cooking, drinking, and washing dishes needed to be boiled for a minute before use. What a stress! We took all the camper's cups and shoved them in our dish sanitizer as fast as we could without them seeing it. We told their leaders as soon as we got into the staff/counselor meeting at nine, plan in hand. We told them everything we knew, but refrained telling the campers that it was specifically ecoli. We had a somewhat melodramatic and hypochondriac group this week, so we felt that just telling them that it was a bacteria would be enough information. Their counselors were sent home with notices to inform the parents exactly what it was, what we did, etc., so I guess they will find out sooner or later! This is what we did: our tribal contact had given us the key to the senior center on the reservation, and they are for one reason or another in a different watershed than we are. We took one of the trucks and filled it with all our water jugs to be filled up there. We were boiling water for people to brush their teeth with, as well as running all the dishes a second time through our sanitizer. Kelley and I were going to go to Winnemucca the next day on our grocery run, so they gave us $100 to buy bottled water. 25 flats of water later, we still haven't found out any updates on the water situation other than the fact they sent in a second sample and results will be in by Monday. So far nobody has gotten sick, but we still have four days left in the gestation period. Moral of the story: Don't drink the water...but do because we don't want you to get heat stroke.

Second Helpings at Meals
This week the campers were ferocious when it comes to eating seconds. We run it so that every camper and counselor has to go through the line. Then the staff team (that is me and my new friends) gets to grab their plates of food, and two stay behind to serve seconds. As the staff who aren't serving again walk to the tables, we all yell "SECONDS!" at the top of our voices. Every day this week we had people (including adult counselors) who would run to get to the food! Once I had to get out of the way of someone who was booking it back to the table. At our water day, we had people hanging in a pack, ready to rush/fight their way to get to the small amount of leftover potato salad and burgers. We were slightly frightened and asked them to stand a little further away. Yes, they ran when we yelled. Moral of the story: Maybe Kelley and I should stop making such good food. Then nobody will want first servings, much less seconds.

At water day we encountered a few leeches in our swimming hole. The girls screamed, the boys just laughed and slapped them off. It wasn't all that many, only four, but still dramatic enough for some people to not get back in. When we got back to camp, we checked Wikipedia to see what exactly happens when you are bitten by a leech, only to find that it is basically harmless. They just suck enough blood (a teaspoon at most) to satisfy them, then fall off. The only thing you should not do when coming in contact with a leech is to try to "burn" it off. When a leech comes into contact with abnormal heat, it vomits the blood back into its victim along with some other nasty stuff and can create a mean infection. Moral of the story: Just let the leech do it's thing. All will be fine.

Sleep Deprivation
This is quite a normal occurrence at SSP, especially for the chefs. A bedtime for staff any earlier than eleven thirty is a luck thing indeed. Three times a week we get to wake up at 5.30 to start cooking breakfast. The other days we get to sleep in until 6.45, but we still need naps. Sometimes even a two hour nap barely holds me over until the sun slips down behind the horizon. Yesterday we had pancakes, overslept half an hour (woke up at 6 on accident), didn't get done with breakfast and dishes until nine. Then Phil and I made roughly 90 enchiladas for dinner and finished around 12. Ate lunch, then went to each of the camper's work sites and handed out the traditional Friday Otter Pops. Got back around 3, cleaned up the mess we made trying to roll the enchiladas. 3.45 rolls around, and I asked Mallory if I could sleep until 4.15, fifteen minutes into free time when we were to be hanging out with campers. She said it would be fine. I laid down, and napped...until 5.30 when Kelley woke me up because dinner was supposed to be on the table in 15 minutes. Thankfully she got the memo that the enchiladas were just sitting in the ovens and were ready to be cooked-they still turned out great. Moral of the story: sleep whenever you can and for as long as you can. It will soon be a commodity.

Three Times the Normal Amount of Asthma Medication*
*Don't worry Mom, this wasn't me. It was one of our hypochondriac campers.
We had one of the biggest hypochondriacs this week. She had a whole host of things that were wrong. She had Type 1 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and moderate asthma. On top of these things, she came from a very loving-deprived home, and desperately sought attention for any reason possible. Dale, her youth leader, told the staff that she pretends to be sick for attention, and she herself told one of our supply coordinators, Jennifer, that she loves being in the center of attention. Overreacting + attention deprived = bad combination. Either way, she was having a small bought of asthma and took her medication. When it did not work immediately, she decided to take another dose of her inhaler. When this one did not work, she took another. Three times her daily amount needed in less than an hour and a half. Her blood pressure and heart rate both skyrocketed and she had a small panic attack. We called the EMTs, but they were an hour away in Winnemucca. So Dale decided that it would be best to meet them halfway, transfer her into the ambulance, and have her other leader Ashley follow in the car. Ashely told us later that the ambulance driver told her to keep up. "Keeping up" meant 95 MPH! Well, she made it to the ambulance, to the hospital, calmed her down, got her heart rate and blood pressure down, and sent her on her merry way. Moral of the story: Don't overdose on your medication.

Tomorrow we are welcoming our last week of campers for the summer! Hopefully this group won't have a need for our friendly neighborhood EMTs like the last two.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Theme Days, Invisible Co-Chefs, and Miracle Food

So our first week is almost officially over. Its both a good and a sad thing. We all are definitely ready for a break and lots of time to catch up on lost sleep, but these campers have been so good we just don't want them to leave!
So what is with the title? Let me tell you! We've decided that in order to spice things up, we will have "theme days." We are still throwing around a few ideas for some of them, so if you have suggestions, feel free to comment! We have Musical Mondays, where campers have to get into their work (site specific) groups and report on what happened during the day-in the form of a musical. This is performed after dinner during our night time program. Tuesdays we haven't quite figured out yet. Wednesdays are "Would You Rather" days, where you ask things like "Would you rather have the arms of an ape or have a unicorn horn sticking out of your forehead?" Thursdays are knock-knock jokes, and then Fridays are traditionally where staffers (and those campers who know or remember) wear a yellow shirt. But this summer our staff has come up with not-joke Fridays. This is somewhat sarcastic but can be quite funny. So someone can say to me, "Tamsen, I though dinner was lame tonight...NOT!" Don't be disappointed, it is much better live than when it is read.

Something else that we have discovered is that many people don't realize that my co-chef Kelley exists! She has been forgotten or called Katie many times this week, both in smaller groups and in the larger group as a whole! So we were joking around that I actually steal all the glory and put her to work doing the dishes in the back room. Then we decided that for the next group of campers who come in, she will wear a shirt that says, "I'm Kelley, NOT Katie." We may or may not actually make her one, but it would be quite funny.
Miracle food, you ask? Some say it is. One afternoon while prepping dinner in the kitchen, one of the campers Eric came in to talk to Kelley and I. We were in there with our site director Mallory, and he poked his head inside to see if we both were there. He said, "The food has been so good this week. Its so healthy that it cured my acne!" Too bad the kid had perfect skin to start off with! His counselor told us yesterday that he also told her that it has had another pro: its made his bowel movements more regular. I guess that isn't necessarily something that we planned on, but if it keeps the customer satisfied, I think we are doing our job.

Here are some more pictures to enjoy!

This is an inside view of our kitchen: Katie on the left (she's our musician for the week), and Kelley on the right.

Some of our campers and staff on water day!

Scenery around the creek we swam in.

Shelley and Tracy-the leaders from Reno. Tracy is a real life-cowboy, boots, accent, ranch, and all!

So we did have a pop-up tent at water day-but it blew off the cliff and into the water! It didn't hurt anyone, but was very close to hitting Amy, Kelley and myself off the 20 foot ledge into the water! It flew right over our heads.

A picture from our after dinner hike. It was beautiful!