scouting stars

April 14, 2013

I think I’ve known, for most of my life, that I’m a bit on the dorky side. For a brief period, in later elementary and middle school, I remember being concerned with popularity, preoccupied with whether the cool kids knew I existed, or cared. But that quickly subsided as I discovered that, in fact, I was much more interested in the company and activities of the kids who didn’t really care so much what others thought of them, but who pursued their own [potentially quirky] interests, and enjoyed them. Once I had come to this realization, I enjoyed a very active and fulfilling high school experience.
Now that my own school experience is very long past, I find that most of the time I don’t even think about the nature of my own work, surrounded by youth. Well, I guess I think about my work; what I don’t so much think about is how these young people are going through all the angst that I am so very grateful to have left behind.
But occasionally, like this weekend, there are opportunities to really get involved in their lives, and spend time musing more on the relational aspect than just on the work/schoolwork portion that normally consumes me:
I am currently on the road, with a busload of youth, on the way back to school from a weekend outing. The logistics of it were 9 middle and high school girls heading to another village to get their international service award for Girl Scouts. I was actually never a scout myself, but willingness to lead, plus experience as a camp counselor, made it easy for me to settle into the role for this trip. And I loved it. I laughed at myself several times over the course of the weekend, for my stereotypical dorky-ness as a chaperone. Last night, for instance, as we sat down for dinner, I announced that I wanted to hear everyone’s “two stars and a wish.” Explaining this exercise I picked up from the workplace, I asked them each to share 2 highlights from the trip this far, plus a wish for the remainder of it. Then I shared my own.
One of my “stars” came from the activity we had done with a local school there that day. 75 young students had come to participate in what we had planned as a culturally educational, plus just fun, day together. For the games, we had them rotate between 5 different stations, each of us manning one activity. Mine was the piñata. We had prepared 2 for each group and we explained to each of them how the game worked, letting them share the candy once the piñata had burst. My star, though, came from watching how the girls with me collaborated as we went, improvising so as to best mesh with the actuality of the day. So we ended up alternating between traditional bat-swinging and punching-bag methods. We also added in some racing for the candy, then offered the broken piñata as a price to the person who had successfully demolished it. And we were quite pleased afterwards to hear many of the children announcing that piñata was their favorite activity of the day. A funny twist came the next day, when we took an outing to the town square to play a photo scavenger hunt. One team discovered, hanging from a tree in the square, one of these same piñata portions, proudly waving in the wind! That “star,” then, was an affirmation of the girls’ ability to collaborate and improvise well.
My second “star” stemmed from the morning hike we had taken the girls on, before the afternoon event had begun. I simply explained that I love the sorts of conversation and bonding that comes from outdoor excursions together, and that morning had been no exception. Another aspect of it that I had particularly enjoyed was realizing how many random tidbits of information there are to learn when. Nearing the top of the hill, I asked why there were so many graves up here. Turns out it is tradition to bury one’s ancestors in the hills, up where they will not be disturbed.
At another point in the hike, I saw more to ask about: the incense placed at the foot of some trees. One had a sign next to it, that my coworker told me read, roughly translated “Incense deposit for the Mountain Gods.” All in all, informational and relational aspects combined, a definite star-worthy hike in the hills!
Then came my “wish.” It was less of a wish, really, and more of a “hopeful expectation.” Every time there is this sort of intensive time together as a group, my favorite part of it is at the end, as everyone begins to share jokes and memories, realizing how close they have grown. Yes, my wish came true ☺
Most are now asleep. Some are reading. All are quiet—remarkably so considering the generally boisterous nature of this particular group. And some of us are mentally preparing ourselves for the next busy week of school that will arrive in a few short hours’ time.
As the bus arrives back at school, a few of us wait for straggling parents to arrive. Two girls sit on the sidewalk, perched on their backpacks as they share the headphones to one’s music. Looking at them, I ask, Are you tired? One looks up at me. “No. Just sad.” Sad it’s over? I ask. “Yeah.” I know, me too, I tell her. Me too.


2 Responses to “scouting stars”

  1. sbtilton said

    Hello,I enjoyed reading, as usual. Seems like you are happy and well ~ so glad for that :)
    MicheleDate: Sun, 14 Apr 2013 10:32:21 +0000

  2. Hi Anna, and back to your shoe pictures! Love it! Wow, what a rich trip you all had, in every way. Keep living your wishes!

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