I spent the weekend trying to keep 60 hormone racked teenagers from procreating. One of the boys still ended up with a hickey but so far there are no indications that that the conference produced offspring.
I was able to fill all four spots and took 3 girls and 1 boy to the camp. It was a last-minute frenzy to get them all there. I didn't have all four confirmed until the Thursday afternoon. We left at 8 am Friday morning. The camp was in the mountains of Heredia North of San Jose. We spent four days and three nights emmerced in teenage drama. I was assigned a group so I and a principal from Lìmon were in charge of eight girls. I ended up loaning away nearly all of my clothes at one port or another because although we had advised, insisted, and even demanded they bring warm clothes for high altitude cold, rainy weather, most of the kids brought shorts and skimpy tank tops. I think for the most part, they just have no concept for the idea of cold. Where a lot of the kids are from, you remedy getting a chill by putting on a t-shirt.
The camp was emceed by a local company and they were really amazing. We did all the camp stuff: sang songs about chickens and boogers, clapped and chanted, danced, hugged, cried, had bonfires and s'mores, hiked through rain and mud, had a talent show. It was utterly exhausting but the kids ate it up. On the last day, I got up at 5:30 a.m. and didn't get to bed until nearly 1 a.m. the next morning. When I finally got home in the middle of a downpour, I collapsed in my hammock and went to bed at 8 p.m.
It was really an incredible experience for the kids though. Not just getting to go to a new part of the country that they have never seen and most likely will never see again. The day to day lives of many of these kids is racked with a miriad of third world social problems and broken dreams. The opportunity to participate in the insanity of being a normal hormone racked teen-ager is as foreign to many of them as if they had camped on the moon. The kids started crying Sunday afternoon because they knew they would have to say goodbye Monday morning.
Unfortunately, this may have been the last youth conference for a long while. Peace Corps has limited camps to one per year period. Last year, the Youth program hosted two, splitting the boys and girls, and the Rural program hosted a Women's camp. Now with the new Micro-development program, we will have three programs fighting over the chance to host one camp. Burreaucracies want measureable results and it's tough to prove that kids didn't get pregnant or start taking drugs, or drop out of school because they spent a weekend in the mountains and realized that another reality was possible.