Today was the last official day of camp, so there were several special things planned for our campers. Little did we know it would be so memorable!
We got up extra early in order to serve breakfast at 6:30, the goal being to get campers on the bus by 7:00. We quickly prepared and served their breakfast sandwiches, but not quick enough it seems. Yellow and orange piled onto one bus while blue and red climbed onto the other and counselors made sure we weren’t leaving a head behind. Around 7:30, we finally headed out from the school on our special field trip.
ARBA MINCH BOUND
“Arba Minch” means forty springs in Amharic and is known for its national park full of wildlife and a unique mountainous landform dubbed by locals as “The Bridge of God,” as it connects the two lakes, Abaya and Chamo. We were headed there in order to take campers on a boat tour to see hippos and crocodiles like the ones they had pretended to be in our “Lions, Hippos and Crocodiles” game. We reminded them, though, that they weren’t actually lions, and both hippos and crocodiles could eat or at the very least injure humans, so we warned them to keep a respectable distance.
It took approximately four hours to get to Arba Minch from Wolayta Sodo, with a minimum number of kids experiencing illness. Sometimes we did chants on the busses to help pass the time. But by the time we arrived at Lake Chamo, though, it was show time. We broke off into ten groups and then group by group we all clambered onto a boat. I polled my group out of curiosity asking who had actually been on a boat before. Of eight students, only one raised his hand, and he explained that he had been on a boat on Lake Hawassa. I told him I’d been to that lake as well and saw hippos there, but that this one would probably be slightly different. “Also,” I added, “there are no crocodiles in Lake Hawassa.”
Aside from some great animal sightings, including herons and other birds, and of course close up encounters (almost too close for comfort in some cases) of crocs and hippos, our boat ride was more or less uneventful, as it should have been. I recall mentioning to campers on my boat, after watching a crocodile slide lazily off of the shore and into the water, that maybe it was swimming beneath us as we spoke. It wasn’t until we all got back onto solid land and waited a while for the last two boats that I realized how true that statement was. Lakes are deep, and what we could see of the hippos – mostly their ears and noses poking up out of the water – was equivalent to what one sees of an iceberg and betrayed nothing about their actual massive size.
Our last two boats were delayed because they had had quite the harrowing experience with these hippo icebergs. Our wonderful photographer, OhnSoon along with Kat and fellow camp blogger, Adi, had thought their trip would be pretty benign as well. What they hadn’t expected was that their boat would unwittingly sail over a submerged hippo who decided it was time to come up for a breath of air. The subsequent collision rocked the boat something fierce and OhnSoon was terrified someone was going overboard. Thankfully, aside from a few screams and tears, everyone survived. The boat, which consisted of campers Berehun from Yirgalem, Mihret, Tsegab, and Hibist from Hossana, and Bethlehem, Cherinet, and Mirket from Durame, somehow managed to make it back to the shore intact. Jackie’s group, who had witnessed the whole thing in her boat, was also delayed returning because of the incident.
“Scariest moment of my life,” said Jackie about the encounter. “I didn’t know how I was going to tell my kids’ parents that they were eaten by hippos.”
LUNCH AND A RETURN TRIP HOME
After the excitement of the morning, campers and counselors both were ready for some good eats. We took them to the Tourist Hotel, which provided tibs and bayonet. For those non-Ethiopians reading this, tibs is a meat dish eaten with injera, while bayonet is somewhat akin to what you might get at an Ethiopian restaurant, namely injera with several different vegetarian “wats” or sauces on it, including lentils, cabbage, and potatoes. As an added treat, each student was allowed to drink one soda, and we recognized OhnSoon’s boat for their courage in the face of their hippo encounter, particularly Bethlehem, who kept a cool head and saved OhnSoon’s life, according to OhnSoon. After lunch, we prepared for the long trek home. It seemed to take longer to get home than it took to get to Arba Minch, but we did manage to get home before dark, and get home slightly ahead of schedule. Because it was so popular, campers continued to work on their friendship bracelets until it was time to prepare for dinner.
CEREMONIES AND S’MORES
After dinner, there was some short camper time when they had a miniature dance party in the hall. The dance party came to a close when Emily and the rest of the counselors arrived with a stack of certificates and photos to distribute to campers. It was Camp GLOW graduation night, and each camper was called up individually to receive their certificate and a photo of them at camp, as well as a group photo. At the end, we also recognized counselors and non-PCV counterparts and thanked everyone for their tremendous efforts.
When the ceremony was over, campers were directed to the volleyball field where Dan had started a camp fire (because what’s camp without a camp fire?). As we enjoyed the light and heat it provided, a second American delicacy was introduced to the campers: s’mores. American counselors illustrated the best ways to roast marshmallows to make them perfect for the cookie and chocolate sandwiches they were about to enjoy. Campers had a great time roasting and munching. Even fasting Muslims decided to make one and keep it for the morning. However, since s’mores never last long around me, I’m not sure how well that would have tasted the next day. Still, campers seemed to really enjoy this new sweet, as did the Ethiopian counselors.
When the fire was dying down, it was time to return to the hall to watch a slideshow and video presentation created by our personal Stephen Spielberg, OhnSoon Kim. Both the slideshow and the video can be seen on this blog, and you can experience our week at Camp GLOW just as the students relived it this Friday evening. The video and slideshow truly encompassed the spirit of what we were trying to do, as well as the reality of what actually happened, from the good to the hilarious. The presentation was so good that several students asked for a copy of it.
OUR FINAL LIGHTS OUT
At the end of the day, we all have to sleep, but there was only one more sleep until we all said goodbye. It hadn’t hit campers yet, but it certainly would the next morning. Campers retired much later than usual on account of all the evening activities, but we all laid our heads down for our last night at Camp G-GLOW Sodo.
- Carlin, Camp Blogger