I was not particularly looking to escape, but the opportunity presented itself. Once the school year was over in Madrid, concluding my first year as a Language and Culture Assistant at an elementary school, I headed to the North of Spain. I was going to work at an English outdoor summer camp for a month. It was ideal, really. Madrid gets unbearably hot in the summer, its dryness, pollution, and temperature making every part of your body sweat as you breathe in heat and exhale more heat. Everyone told me to “get out!” so I did. And I was getting paid to do so!
The camp was located in a small town in the region of Cantabria called Entrambasaguas. However, our excursions took place in Santoña (famous for its anchovies) and Cantabria’s capital, Santander. During this month, I unplugged as much as I could from society. We worked from 8:00 am – 11:30 pm, with small breaks here and there, but always on call for the campers.
My first impression of Cantabria was joy at how much green my eyes were seeing! Our campsite had a beautiful view of mountains I don’t get to see in pollution-covered Madrid. “This is like a really sad Hogwarts,” said Ross (the Irish camp counselor with the monotone-voice-sarcastic-jokes that made everything better, and hilarious for me! We were sleeping on bunk beds, in rooms with no real windows, and dirty lockers). Then there was Ivan with his tie dye t-shirts, and dreads, introducing the counselors to an almost-impossible-to-figure-out coconut word game that could rob anyone of their sleep. “If this is a coconut, is this a coconut?” He would ask us as he pointed to random, unrelated objects. Once you figure out when to answer “yes” and when to answer “no,” you feel like a god! (It took me two, grueling weeks…with A LOT of help from those who got it). “I don’t know, man,” All-American-Soccer-Player Matthew would say. “Matt, do you want to play?” “Nah. I’m good,” in his Southern drawl. Monitor British Bradley, sitting next to me as I write this post, is suggesting I include how attractive tanned, beach blonde, physio Matt is.
When in Santoña, my favorite excursion was surfing at Berria Beach. I never considered this sport would be so up my alley, but…actually riding a wave (even if it was only one wave I rode successfully) was enough to get me hooked! “I think I need to move somewhere I can surf. Settle down. Buy a board. Never leave,” I might have said out loud to someone. Then there was the horseback riding at the beach (not as fun when your kids are trying to get the horses behind you worked up), and zip lining in Santander. The most stressful part of the job was getting dozens of children to walk from one location to the other without getting hit by a car. And trust me, that was enough for me to be done for the day.
During these excursion days, and pool time hours, I became closer with British Bradley, and California Diana. Conversations would start with Bradley saying something outrageous like, “What’s your advice for living?” You know…advice for a happy life. Every person’s answer varies, and soon enough we were drifting from the children’s planet into adult world. Though Bradley did ask an outstanding 8 year-old feminist what her advice for living was once. Her answer, “Recycle.” Very deep, if you ponder further. I won’t share my friends’ answers out of respect for their privacy. And if you’d like to know mine? Then I guess you’ll have to ask me directly 😉
So the time went. Camp food got boring, and I bought every interesting sauce I could find at the market. Nights were spent chatting until late hours or sound asleep as early as midnight. Our skins got darker (or burnt). By the fourth week I was falling into the inevitable exhaustion that comes from taking care of a dozen kids – that are not yours – for longer than a day. But it was also great. I got paid to have fun, to bring excitement to these kids’ days, and to forget about the troubles of my city life away from home. I laughed before I could finish my morning coffee, and became friends with people I may have never met otherwise. This will be the year I am going to remember as the time I fell in love with summer months.