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Monday, 19 July 2010

It's Monday and the summer camp is over and out for another year. WC Fields said never to work with children or animals but maybe he should have put the adjective Spanish in front of those two nouns. That's unfair though as the kids just get on with things and it is the adults that drive you round the twist. Mainly the Brits and the Irish who think they have come for a holiday and soon realise that children are hard work and in Spain chaos is sometimes the very thing that will sort it all out in the end. I had to explain this to one of the teaching staff, a lovely Irish girl who had been residing in a God forsaken place in Spain called Ciudad Real not noted for its loveliness as a town, who although having spent some time in Spain, hadn't really been exposed to the gritty reality that is found in places like a summer camp. It's all very well hanging out in bars with like minded adults and putting up with the odd noise etc but once you are living and working here it is often a shock. I am amazed at myself for keeping cool as the camp often resembled a scene from The Lord of the Flies. Children in general are, depending on their age, living on another planet and it is this world that often shocks adults who can't remember what they were like when they were a nipper. Throw in a heat wave and children who carry either an anarchist or surrealist gene and there will never be a dull moment. The best thing to do is put on a 'show', a play of some sort and let them shine.

The other thing with Spanish kids is that they don't notice if things aren't working like a video player or a tele or if the chairs are broken. The 'recreation' room at the summer camp looked like a cross between an old people's home and a lunatic asylum from the seventies. The class windows are the same as last year, meaning they don't open, and the bright orange crimplene curtains were infested with mosquitos. For children this is fun as they tried to outdo one another with the amount of insect bites and general damage they had done to their bodies by falling off broken furniture or stumbling down piles of pavement left, presumambly for them to play on. The best bit was when we were told, not asked, to do an 'Earth Day' which by its very nature is a day of teaching kids how to look after the environment and all it entails. This is easier said than done when you are trying to stop Miguel and Jaime from cutting a bee's head off with a pair of scissors. My threats of decapitating them with some pruning shears didn't put them off either.

Earth Day ended up outside in pursuit of bits of nature we could use to decorate the mural we would then do and soon involved discovering a mountain of rubbish next to the classroom. 'Will this do?' they would ask as they produced various bits of crap perched on the ends of sticks. I did enjoy the conversations I couldn't help but overhear as we ambled along with five and six year olds discussing which 'side' they were on, Rajoy's or Zapatero's. The conclusion was that they all believed in Rajoy's side and then all went on to sing some old songs that insult Franco and his wife.

I am used to the school where the camp takes place, being permanently 'en obras', or falling apart so it doesn't bother me and in fact most of the time I don't notice but the visiting teachers do and every year they are by the second day, about to run away or take action. My explanations of 'this is how it is' just make me look like an insensitive bastard so I have to combine a concerned outlook with a practical one. The best thing I said to one of them was 'look, I live here, you will be back in Dublin in two weeks' which seemed to sink in.

The other thing that the visiting teachers are concerned about is the level of swearing used by all the kids and which somehow is socially acceptable although parents will tell you otherwise. If you tell a kid off for saying 'esta es una mierda', 'this is a pile of shit' when you are trying to do an activity they look at you like you are mad. It also applies to other swear words. I have yet to find the ultimate taboo but it certainly isn't the one that involves shitting on God.

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