This past Thursday, I piled into a big yellow school bus along with 39 students, my fellow teachers, and several other adults for the 45 minute ride out to a small camp near the hamlet of El Hatillo north of Tegucigalpa. Every year, Escuela Yeshua goes on ‘encampamento’. Here, the students get to spend time in the clean country air having fun with the teachers and each other. For the better part of Thursday and part of Friday, this was our home.
I arrived at the school around 7 on Thursday morning. Slowly, the students started arriving. BY about 8:30, we were ready to leave. One small bus took the suitcases while the large bus carried the students themselves and the adults. El Hatillo is located up out of the valley where Tegucigalpa lies. The altitude here is several thousand feet, hence it is noticeably cooler than in Tegucigalpa. I was fine at evening when the temperature probably dropped below 60 degress Fahrenheit, but some of my coworkers and some of the students broke out their winter hats, gloves, and coats!
Thursday started with some games and meetings in the auditorium on the premises of the campground. One of the first things we did was divide the students present into 4 teams, each team with 3 adults as advisors of sorts. Each team was given a ribbon of a different color. The students each tied their ribbon around their wrist. Teams won fake paper money based on their performance in different activities. Whoever had the most money by the end of our time their was the winner. This also affected who got to go into the dining hall first. Whenever the students were needed for something, be it a meal, activity, or their undivided attention, Mr. Garcia would blow his whistle. Then students would come running or listen up, whatever was the case.
Later in the afternoon after lunch we went on a short hike. But just before we got to our destination, we had to turn around and go back a ways. The frequent rain during the rainy season had made a slope we had to climb too slippery for many of our kids. The woods seemed to be full of insects, something akin to mosquitoes. I seemed to be the only one there who wasn;t getting bitten like crazy. I guess I just didn’t taste quite right!
The highlight of this afternoon was a game consisting of an obstacle course. The different teams competed as they got muddy trying to crawl on the ground during part of the obstacle course. To make matter even messier, it started raining partway through out time outside. Afterwards, everyone got hosed off and had fun sliding down a slope as they were hosed. By the time everyone had showered and changed into some dry clothes it was time to eat again.
That night, there was a talent show. In addition to the groups acts, some students did individual acts. After the talent show, we had a bonfire. After some singing and some prayer, someone produced a bag of marshmallows and I had myself a marshmallow. Between the smell of the wood smoke, the cool air of the mountains, and the marshmallows, I almost felt as if I was back home in the northeastern United States.
After having my marshmallow, I headed into the dorm-like building for some much-needed sleep. My roommates for the night consisted of two of my students from first grade and two from second grade, as well as one of the other adults along with us. After lots of laughter and noise from my roommates and the little guys in the next room (the walls were super thin!) I managed to get some sleep. I awoke the next morning to find that the corrugated metal roof over my head had one or two leaks in it. Tiny drops of water were falling right by my head!
After breakfast and some more activities, I got to play a game of soccer with and against some of my students and fellow teachers, plus a few others. I had a lot of fun, even though I missed a very easy goal attempt! I was having so much fun I lost track of time until the whistle sounded for lunch. Shortly after lunch we packed up the busses and by later afternoon, we were back in the noisy, smelly city. I was glad once again that I had been able to get out of the city and be out in the woods. It was something which I definitely miss about living where I live now. Now that I know what to expect, I am really looking forward to encampamento next year!