Saturday, March 27, 2010

Two Survival Weeks

(Side note to all the camp people: I'm writing from Abby Bob's computer in Haifa. I just came here from Yogev's house. I also just ran into Shlomi, the waterfront/sailing guy from 2006. He recognized me on a bus.)

As many of you know, three weeks ago the hype was electric with anticipation for Survival Week. The week is one of the most built-up at the Mechina, and graduates are instructed not to tell anything--from where it is, to what it includes, to how it's administered--to the current year. As such, I can't really say a lot here about what's included, because there may be people reading who are coming to the Mechina next year or in a few years.

I will share a few small things:
a) The only thing I heard about Survival Week was a tip from Daniel Gastfriend: "The ultimate rule of Shavua Hesardut, and of life: when things are difficult, help someone else." I had that advice in my mind for all of Survival Week, and can't count the number of times it saved me from yelling at someone or from complaining. Because it was clear that there were people for whom the week was harder, and when you're helping them you're not thinking about how hard it is for you or how much you ache or how much you just want to get to the final stop for the night.
b) Survival Week was a lot different than what I expected, and I'm still digesting the whole thing. There were parts that I liked more (the day when I arrived at 3:15am at the final stop for the night, the last day) and parts that I liked less (never mind, I won't go into details here).
c) 7.5L seems like a lot of water when it's on your back, but when there's a heat wave, it really is a normal amount
d) The memory card that I had with on Survival Week is messed up and will let neither the computer nor my camera read the information stored; I have no pictures from the week.
e) The amount of sweat my body produces--even when it's chilly, and in the middle of the night--is incredible

As soon as we got back to the Mechina, we began preparation for what some of the madrichim called "the REAL survival week": the camp we put on for kids in Kiryat Gat (note to Gideon: we had kids from the Mercaz Klitah, which means that I worked with the same kids you did!). That week I wasn't actually in classes very much, because one of the days I was toranit (cleaning, organizing meals, etc.) and another entire day I spent or driving to a doctor's office (it was closed) or being visited by a doctor at the Mechina, or at the ER at Barzilay Hospital in Ashkelon for my elbow (I fell on asphalt playing touchdown and scraped my elbow, then it got infected and gross. It's doing very well now, after two weeks...)

In any case, the Kaytana (camp) was a lot of fun. I got second graders (I think the best age ever!) and wored with Eitan and Alon. The thing is, we weren't told the ages before hand, and the cos were changed day-of-game, so at the beginning I was with Yisrael and none of the activities we'd built were age-appropriate. However, once I was with Eitan and Alon and we knew what ages we had, e managed. For the first few days we just played tag and soccer when it was up to us to occupy them (there were also activities that were planned for us: a clown, a magician, Field Day, etc.). Then we were supposed to plan a Passover-related activity for them; something with content, which we thought was impossible, because they can't play tag for 45 minutes without getting antsy, let alone sit on their bottoms for 45 minutes. We joined up with two other groups and made a Passover play of the story: Yotam narrated in the background, and we acted in front. Every few minutes we'd have a song-break or a "What do you guys think?" break, and they loved it! And somehow, we were able to do a substance-filled activity with them!
We took them to the Israeli version of KiddyLand, where everyone except the kindergarteners and the first graders were released to drain their energy however they wanted. In any case, I ended up walking around with a few of my kids glued to me, the ones who said "this is boring, this is for little kids" until we came to the pool of balls (like the McDonal's Funhouse) which was probably the coolest thing in the place. I managed to not have my elbow bumped up too much (although kids do like to touch things with bandages on. Ouch!) I enjoyed being there a lot, even though the kids didn't want to be rounded up when we started herding them to the meeting spot.

I had to fight with them to put seatbelts on on the bus. And for the boys to stop throwing the soccer ball on the bus. But I prefer the boys--who threaten to beat each other up--to the girls who say "It's a pity I came, why do we always play boy games?" and then sit out (causing the other girls to trickle slowly to the sides...) Anyway, I had a very nice conversation with a little girl named Shelley on the way to Beit Chalomotai, and the same on the way back with Bar (one of our cutest. He's missing every second tooth, I think). At the end of my conversation with Bar, he said "but why does the kaytana (camp) end tomorrow? I want it to be for all of Passover break!" which is once of those things that makes a counselor's soul smile. I think my proudest moments as a counselor, though, were my heart-to-heart conversations with two seven-year-olds. (Also when they told me they were born in 2002...)

On the last day came some staff from the Madatech (the science museum in Haifa) to do something that's "like magic... but real!" And the kids' eyes were glued to the color-changing, foam-producing, fire-igniting beakers. We hardly had to remind them to be quiet. They were fascinated (much more so than by the "magician" or the "clown"--who just put on music and danced with the kids).

For our last activity with the kids we played charades using all the activities and things we'd done the entire week. Eitan and I had stayed up till 2 the previous night writing cards to each kid, which we handed out with a printed picture of our group (Hawaii) and the lyrics to our song written out as well.

I was exhausted every day after the kids left at 1. It was an exhaustion like none I've ever experienced before; more tired than after each day during (the original) survival week, although let it be known that I probably sleep-walked sometimes that week. But after the kids left each day I was ready to drop. That said, I never managed to sleep during our break. Or I was planning an activity for the next day, or I was reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, or I was getting my elbow taken care of, or I was wandering. I found a cool spices and dried-fruits shop (the smell....) in the shuk near the mall across from where the camp was, and I went twice (once with Eitan, when we discovered it) and once with the Haifa crew, where we inhaled for 10 minutes before walking out empty-handed (and then Ron and I couldn't deal and came back 15 minutes later to get dried pineapple--unsweeted, dried mango, and dried pomello).

I really enjoyed working with younger kids, despite how shocked I was at the way they talked to each other and to other counselors. Kids in Israel start swearing early, and certainly learn how to be chutzpanim earlier than American kids. They have no shame in pulling the "I'm going to call my Daddy" line or the "who are you, telling me what to do" challenge of authority. They call each other names (benzona) and decide for themselves what the rules are. These kids are 7, and they handle each other in a way that even my Chalutzim campers didn't when they were annoyed with each other! Somehow, though, they manage to have cute faces, which kept me from sending them home.
HAPPY PESACH! This year in Jerusalem :)

1 comment:

  1. If she had read this when you wrote it, Gillian would say that second graders *are* the best!! Ellie might swear in response. Actually she wouldn't because she is not an Israeli kid, and her mother would yell at her.