Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer music choices

Hmm I think summer has started. The dilemma of the choices is back!

We could go to :

weekend 27-28-29 June:
Graspop (metal) in Dessel
Couleur Café (world music festival) in Brussels
Parkpop (Dutch music) in The Hague (NL)

weekend 3-4-5-6 July:
Rock Werchter in Werchter
Beleuvenissen in Leuven (Friday evening)
Colora festival in Leuven (Saturday evening)

weekend 11-12-13 July:
Beleuvenissen in Leuven (Friday evening)
Colora festival in Leuven (Saturday evening)
Cactus festival in Bruges
Belgian Rhythm & Blues festival in Peer
Werchter Boutique in Werchter (Sunday)

from 10-20 July:
Gent Jazz festival in Ghent
from 19-28 July:
De Gentse Feesten (one of the biggest city festivals in the world) in Ghent

weekend 18-19-20 July:
Beleuvenissen in Leuven (Friday evening)
Colora festival in Leuven (Saturday evening)
Dour Festival (Alternative music) in Dour
Rock Herck in Herck

weekend 24- 25- 26-27 July:
Beleuvenissen in Leuven (Friday evening)
Colora festival in Leuven (Saturday evening)
Suikerrock in Tienen
Sfinks festival (world music) in Boechout

From 1 - 10 July:
Lokerse Feesten in Lokeren

weekend 1-2-3 August:
Folk Dranouter in Dranouter

weekend 8-9-10 August:
Marktrock in Leuven
Antiliaanse Feesten in Hoogstraten

Weekend 15-16-17 August:
Pukkelpop (rock) in Hasselt
Deerlycke folk festival in Deerlycke

weekend 23-24 August:
Maanrock in Mechelen
Feest in 't Park in Oudenaarde

toooo many choices (right Jenn ;) ?) ! All within 2,5 driving from our door. I love it :p !!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's New Year's Eve week or something like that

If anyone tells you New Year in Belgium is on January first...don't believe them. All new things, all public life (not only the schools!!) starts in the first week of September in Belgium and it ends in the last week of June. July and August are one long New Year's party that can be filled with vacation/ festivals/ bbq's etc.... But all organisations have stopped for 2 months.

Diving club rehearsals have already stopped a couple of weeks ago...
Tomorrow is last yoga class until September
Step aerobic continues during the summer but is only repeating some routines we've already done during 'the year'.
Tonight we had a goodbye potluck dinner with the choir and tonight we exchanged kisses and waved everybody "a good vacation" when we left , yet we promised each other to send e-mails and to hop by each other during the summer. That might happen, but experience has learned that not much of these good intentions actually come to reality. After all, everybody leaves on vacation or has already 1000 plans. New Year's resolutions always fail.

All will pick up again in September. Then truly a new year starts. Not in January, January is simply the continuation of December. I even often confuse people when I claim something will happen next year or has happened previous year, when really I talk about something that will happen in the fall or which has happened in the months before the summer.

The end of a school still feels a bit special too me. Sad for temporary goodbyes, weird for the different agenda, full of anticipation for the summer plans.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Busy weekend at the longest day

At the end of June just before the official "sales period" (in Belgium those are regulated: only allowed in July and January!) most cities organise a braderie. All stores put stalls in front of their doors with promotions or goodies while the streets are traffic free and some animation is present. In Leuven they see their braderie quite big and is called "De langste dag" (the longest day) which was this year quite appropriately on the 21st of June itself.

It was fun despite the blisters on my feet. Next year I'll have to wear more appropriate footwear I suppose.

Some big-eyed aliens dancing to some accordeon music

A goose parade walking through the shopping streets

Time with family and friends

De Langste Dag was truly a long day as it included beside the shopping also a haircut, house cleaning, a bbq for friends and family at home. No wonder I am so tired today.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blog blast for education

Mid june has been exam period for me for 10 years: a period of solitude with my study books, pencils, study schemes and stress and uncertainty. 8 years later, I don't miss it for a single bit.

However April has invited us all today to participate in a blog blast for education, so I reflected back to my study time:

Here's what April has to say about the event:"Education is an issue that affects every Mommy Bloggers' lives (and the Daddies, too).We've been hearing lately how much power we have, let's utilize it. Let's talk about whatever concerns us most. Let's talk about a brilliant teacher or curriculum. Let's talk about homework. What's the first thing you think about when you hear the word "education?" Let's talk about that. We can learn from each other, right?"

As soon as I read that I thought about 2 high school teachers that I appreciated very much. As a matter of fact both of them were teachers classical languages (Latin & Greek) and Leen was a former student of Piet and had been inspired to become a teacher herself, applying the same teaching philosophy.
Whereas the first years of Latin & Greek are focused on acquiring basic vocabulary and studying and applying the different grammar rules. But once the basic has been set out, focus shifts towards reading classic liturature. But these teachers Leen and Piet broadened the spectrum to philosophy discussions, society analysis and critical thinking.

I remember Leen saying at one point in grade 10 "I don't have the slightest illusion that any of you will still be able to translate these texts in 10 years time. And frankly that doesn't bother me at all. But I'd hate to know that you have not learned anything from our discussions that originated from these texts".

Well Leen, if you ever read this: I cannot translate 3 words of Greek anymore. I have forgotten all grammar and vocabulary. But I do remember all those texts and the themes "hubris" and "gnothi seauton" ...
Piet, I remember how you stressed to be critical when hearing / reading communications and speeches and publicity when reading the Cicero's speeches. I do still ask myself "what's the true purpose of these words? who benefits from them?".

I remember that you both gave us homework assignments "ask me 5 questions" and we got marks from that. After all we could leave a sentence blank in a text when we could not translate them...or we could ask for the missing translation ....or we could tell you that we could not translate the sentence because the only word in the nominative case was an adjectif and we could not find the accompagnying noun in nominative case that would make up the subject of thise sentence.
Funny how often we went through our materials, looking for the things we did not understand well yet....and while doing our best to define the most specific question that pinpointed us to the source of our problem (which would result in higher grades for the question), we usually solved our own problem.
I just realised I still have to apply that when users phone me that a piece of software "is broken".
I remember all assignments having an optional part "do whatever you want"...stimulating us to write a poem, draw, add documentation , start a discussion ...anything remotely linked to the content. They were the only 2 teachers I ever had that truly stimulated us to think out of the box and who didn't force us to stay in "their domain".

I remember our discussions about the triangle (power, money, prestige) that seems to be the motivators in a society suffering from decadence (=> a society where the old values do not work anymore and the new ones have not arrived yet). Whenever I see e.g. the VIP reserved seats with uninterested people in the front row of some cultural event, I see the link again between the money and the prestige.

I also remember Piet's funeral almost 9 years ago where a few hundred people had to stand outside the church on the village square and where former students who had already graduated more than 10 years before showed up. I guess I am not the only one who valued his teachings. And I am sure they didn't come back for the grammar & vocabulary rules or the pure translations he had done. I surely hope Leen keeps on inspiring the teenagers and teaching colleagues.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Discovering a Flemish national park by bike

While searching for a vacation destination I "discovered" a national park at 100 km from our door. Much too my surprise the nature reserves with woodlands and heath in the "Kempen" is being transformed in the first National park in Flanders: Nationaal park Hoge Kempen . If you now get images of immense American national parks with entry gates, remote from all civilisation, with entrance fees etc is wrong. It's just the woods and natural habitats in between the existing villages and roads that are now being protected by a new statute and infrastructure such as guided trails are further being developed. I sure hope they add some interpretative signs and more benches in the future.

We continued on the same type of cyclingroads that we used the day before and discovered the different landscapes while crossing the woods, passing by lakes formed by former sand excavations, passing by a still active sand excavation, lunching in the midst of heath on the top of a hill with stunning panorama view, ... We did pass through 2 nearby villages and crossed the highway on a newly developed "Ecoduct" but in general we could enjoy nature and the absence of many other living souls nearby.

former sand excavation area

wild horses along the water
Panoramic view over the Kempen (with some terrils from historic mine activity)
more views

Heath flowers

When we finished the tour of the park, our buttocks were so sore that I was very very glad to get off my bike again. For the remainder of the day we went for a walk in a nearby village that Jan knew...and which apparently had recently won a tv/radio election as "prettiest village in Flanders": Rekem


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cycling in the Maas valley


Last year I got a "Vlaanderen vakantiecheque" for my birthday: a cheque to spend in a Flemish hotel or B&B for a brief vacation in our own country. I must honestly admit that Belgium is so small that I never really take vacations in my own country into consideration. But those cheques are a really neat system and we were enthousiastically searching in the brochures. A lot of regions got scratched out quickly as some of my relatives or friends live nearby. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind being near them, but it feels so useless being on vacation in their backyard. Somehow you feel you either already know the region or that you'll discover it later on with them. So our search was quickly limited to the western coastal French border region or the easter Dutch border region that we didn't know at all.

And so we went to Maaseik in the flat valley along the river Maas which forms the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. We were planning to bicycle in the armpit where the Dutch province Limburg embraces the Flemish province Limburg.

Packed with thick sweaters, rainjackets, rainpants, big boots and our bikes, we arrived in the little historic town where Jan Van Eyck and Hubert Van Eyck would have been born. Sure enough it was pouring rain the first afternoon so we went on a guided Van Eyck tour including an indoor exposition with a lot of reproductions of these incredible medieval painters. Brilliant. One can never get enough explanations about their skilled works full of incredible details.

Hubert and Jan Van Eyck on the market square

historic houses in Maaseik

We had a cycling arrangment in the hotel so the next day we headed out on our bikes with our international bikeroad map and our prepared lunch. In the past we had already experienced that Limburg is a true biking paradise and the wonderful roadsigns along all quiet cycling roads that connect to each other into different loops allowing you to design your trip as you wish. In this region the cycling loops are even internationally developped.

We rode along the river, formerly gravel excavations transformed in recreational lakes , pittoresque little villages, fields, ...

Lovely nature

Thorn, the white Dutch formerly convent village

Deserted village square in Stevensweert, NL

Guess in which country we were :p

And guess what we didn't bring on our trip: sunscreen! Against our bravest hopes, the sun was our friend all day...maybe a bit too much for my red-burnt face.

While sawing my bra....

Some thoughs while sawing a strap on my bra:
  • Allie teaches me that I am truly not sawing my bra but probably sewing my bra. Ooops.
    [insert hilarious laughing here upon realisation what I was claiming to do]

  • Gosh I don't want to know how often I type blunders in professional e-mails without realising it. At least I never discuss sawing/sewing there.
  • Why doesn't a double thread never pull to the other side equally?
  • Why can't I ever measure off the correct lenght of a thread : either waaaaay too long or too short to finish the job?
  • Can anyone remind me that I should never sew something that is actually doesn't look good.
  • Should I believe Jan when he tells me that his colleagues tell him that a thimble is also called a "finger nipple" in the USA? Yeah right.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vampire flies and conference call etiquette

There was an annoying fly in the meeting room today. It loved to buzzzz around my face and to land on my arms even though I was trying to smack it all the time. Pretty hard to do if you are talking on a fixed phone and concentrating on the call.

At one point I feel my arm stings and I see the damn fly sitting on my arm again on top of my sweater. When I move up my sleeve I see 7 big white bumps on glowing red skin. Oh great I was sharing the room with a vampire-type of fly while being stuck in the call! Argh. It must have been a horse-fly.

And then at the end of my meeting with 2 of my regular supplier's contacts when we are wrapping up all of a sudden a third voice comes in "oh hi, this is X, I still had a question".
Geez isn't there some conference call etiquette that requires to introduce yourself at the start of the meeting if you are listening along??? This is the second time that he has done that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I want sun

10°C today....10°C. Really 10°C on my dashboard in the car this morning and this evening.
Gosh our winters are warmer than that lately.

Brrr I want sun! And I want summer without pouring rain. I want to make bikerides without taking raincoats and thick sweaters and without having to avoid mud puddles everywhere.

Arrrgh this is depressing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TW Classic 2008

As I typed last Saturday we went to TW Classic. This is the one-day festival spinn-off from Rock Werchter which is Belgium's biggest 4-day rock festival at the start of July. It used to be "Torhout-Werchter" in 2 locations and TW Classic brings back the older big names for adults who are nostalgic for the Torhout-Werchter concerts in the 80ies and 90ies. (and the new date at the start of June really keeps the teenagers and students away: it's in the midst of their examperiod!)

After last year's disappointment when The Police cancelled their concert in Antwerp, we didn't doubt long to buy tickets when we heard The Police would be coming to TW Classic. And the rest of the programme was looking very interesting as well. Woohoo.
Off we went with our hiking boots (after a week of pooring rain and local floodings I didn't think the grass would survive the masses very long) to the trainstation where we took one of the special busses to the event. Werchter is a tiny village only 15 kms away.
We missed Milow and the concert of Juanes was ok but not stunning. Maybe that's because he only had one big hit in Belgium so far (but I do looooooove "La Camisa Negra". It's so catchy and happy).
The Scabs however really rocked. I discovered these Belgian rockers when my sister was an exchange student and I was 10 years old and could explore her music tapes all year long. They rocked as in the old days :).

Then Iggy Pop and the Stooges hit the stage. I must hontestly admit that I did not know his music at all. I am so not a rocker really : I went to Rock Werchter in '99 and during 2 days...I knew 2 songs. Yep really, 2 songs. I mainly listen to pop music and folk I'm afraid.
But I cannot deny that Iggy was entertaining and fascinating to say at least. A naked chest, snakelike movements, extreme ADHD attacks, spit enlarged on the big screens, climbing on and off speakers and on off the stage etc etc.... Hahaha what a rebel. A nightmare for the security guards as he actually helped his fans to climb over fences and jump around on the stage etc... And I wonder how they bleep his language on festivals in the USA.
And then the excitement rose. According to most T-shirts most people had come to see The Police. It would be their last concert in Belgium ever. While we were slowly moving forward a bit to find a better spot, we were surprised that the radio music in between sets al of a sudden sounded so much louder, more exciting and so familiar. "Message in a bottle"! We looked up and there they were already on stage starting 15 minutes early taking us all by surprise (who's truly watching the stage all the time in between concerts: that's the moment you go to the toilets and go and eat fries and ...).
and you know what: Sting has grown a full beard! Really. Weird at first but it sure looks good on him. Aging quite well! And they can still perform really well. I really liked the percussion by Stewart Copeland as well. It was a really great concert. Finally I got to see The Police after all.

After the concert I feared that we'd have to wait a long time to get on the busses. After all 42000 people had to leave all at once and 11000 of them were taking the bus to Leuven. Those stopped 1,5 km from the festival terrain and at first we were indeed walking heel by heel, shoulder by shoulder. But that was only at the start and we could soon walk at a normal speed towards the bus stop. There was a bit line-up of empty busses waiting and we were effectively directed in some rows right in front of the bus doors, they opened, the bus filled up, doors closed and off he went on his specially reserved route, while the next bus was filling already. 15 min later we were walking home in Leuven. Wow talk about a smooth organisation. Well obviously De Lijn is used to the Werchter festivals for a few dozen of years now so I suppose they know how to handle this. But still, it went way smoother than I expected. Hats off to De Lijn.

Hello there

The feared mud wasn't that bad if you looked out where you were walking. Watch out for the rubber tiles with holes in them though. They transform themselves into mud fountains when you step on them!

The Police

Looking at the sneeky photographer

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The nightmare camp night part 2

The story started here.

So as agreed L and I went to stay in the other building where all the groups from Ghent were staying. I assume I had a good evening getting to know the other leaders on the camp, but I must honestly admit that I don't really remember anymore what happened before that night.

The next morning I was going to the other building to wake up the girls and have them get ready for breakfast whereas J was going to wake up the boys of our group and L was preparing the morning activity. It felt a bit strange walking up the hill to the other building all dressed already (usually you can dress yourself while the 14-year olds get them ready).

When I got upstairs there, I met already one of the girls on the top of the stairs very stressed out.
"Hi, do you know where Le. is? She is not in the room and is gone already for quite a while? We thought she was in the toilet, but she is not and she would have been back..."
While she was talking to me in a nervous way we had reached one of the 2 girl rooms. Everyone was already awake and there was an almost hysteric atmosphere. As soon as I entered the room they all came to me and were talking at the same time.
"Le. is missing"
"There's been someone in the room"
"Is Le. with you"
"Something happened last night"
"I thought S had rolled over, but she says that she doesn't move a lot at night"
"F's pyama has a hole"
"We already looked for Le. but we did not find her"

All their words were hitting my head as if they were pieces of a puzzle thrown at me. Pieces I could not put together immediately although I felt a great sense of urgency. They were upset and I had to reassure them, but I did not know how. Hell, I didn't even understand what was going on. I wanted to think faster, but I couldn't. And where on earth was Le.? Damn, I had to look for her first of all. Panic started to cramp my stomac.

I walked out quickly and popped my head into the second room where fortunately there was more peace.
"Hey, what's up next here, where is Le.?"
"I don't know, I am looking for her".
I sure sounded more certain than how I felt.

I wanted to run downstairs to look outside, when I saw P. the districtleader of Ghent approaching. I quickly briefed him that something was wrong and while we were still there, we saw some leaders from district Tielt approaching us. They brought good news: Le. was with them. The rest of their message was much more disturbing. There had been an intruder at night in the room of the girls: one room of Ghent and also in a room of Tielt. Le. had woken up and had seen the intruder. The leaders of Tielt had been warned....the police had come and the police was just finishing off the interrogation of Le.

Oh great, a police investigation while we are sleeping. How "polite" not to disturb us.

When going back in the room that was still full of hysterical girls, the puzzel finally settled in my mind:
  • Some pervert had intruded the buildings.
  • He had been in a girls bedroom of Tielt. Some girls had woken up but had not dared to move or react.
  • He had been in one of the 2 bedrooms of Ghent.
  • He had touched some girls but fortunately most of them had slept through it all without realising at night what was happening. But they put 2 and 2 together in the morning and the reality hit twice as hard.
    Some had felt their sheet cover being pulled down and remember pulling it up again one or more times.
    A girl had felt a hand, but thought the neighbour girl had rolled over too far and had mumbled that she had to stay on her side and had turned around again
    A girl had slept through it all, but the buttons from her pyama had been cut off.
  • At one point Le. had woken up when she saw a man next to her bed. In her honest naivity she thought nothing wrong and assumed he was a leader from another district or someone from the domain looking for someone. When she asked him what he was looking for, he left the room immediately (she slept next to the door).
    She had gotten up and ran behind him on the stairs, still thinking he was looking for something/someone. But he ran outside and disappeared.
  • When Le. came upstairs again, the girls next door from Tielt called her in. They were awake but too terrified to get up and go to the leaders 2 rooms further and wake them up. Since Le. was running around anyway and she still kept her cool , she went to get them for them.
  • The leaders from Tielt had assumed that no one else from Ghent had woken up or had been effected. So they alerted the police, but since Le. was the only true witness, she had to be interrogated.

Shortly after Le. indeed returned and could do her story as all the others. Everybody was crying, all were upset at the shock of what had happened that night and of what had not happened that night. Slowly they relaxed a little bit and with faces swollen from all the tears and emotions we finally headed to the restaurant for breakfast where they had to face the few other hundred kids who were not up to date yet. In fact nobody was.
Other groups of Ghent came over and asked questions why they all had been crying but Le. and her best friend quickly sneered "we had a crying contest this morning" ...and no further questions came.

Needless to say that the rest of the day, the planned activities had to be altered. I don't think anybody had an idea what to do or how to react. I surfed on my own intuition the next days. We talked a lot within the group, we talked a lot seperately with the most affected girls, we still tried to organise games and activities to distract our minds, ...but we kept our group seperately from the rest of Ghent to avoid them getting too many remarks and questions from the others. The district leader spent a lot of time with us to give us extra support.

In the evening we decided to let the children phone their parents. We had all talked a lot and the group all wanted to stay on this camp, so they had to been thinking how to phrase the events to their parents to inform them well, but to reassure them. After all, we all believed that it would not happen again. Nobody had been physically harmed, yet our sense of security, our naïvity, our worryless vacation feeling had been stolen. The girls from Tielt did not phone their parents...which would result in a law suit after our return.

Needless to say that we did sleep in the same building again from that night on. The leaders of Tielt had all moved their mattrasses in the hallway and were blocking the staircase. L and I slept back in the little room nextdoors whereas the districtleader P. slept on the floor in the affected girls room. The other girls felt ok enough with all the sleeping adults in the hallway. We were told that the police was going to come by regularly through the domain at night and the building doors would be locked until the morning. Anything to give the children a safe feeling again and to make sure that this pervert could not come back, ... even if that meant breaking the fire escape regulations.

Bedtime was a struggle nevertheless. They feared nightmares, the tears came back, ... and we had to sit on their beds and promise to stay there until they were sound asleep. The presence of the district leader with his big posture sure was helping to bring that safe feeling.

That scenario had to repeated each night although the days slowly went back to normal. Not entirely though. L, J and I both had a totally different attitude and approach...which was maybe good as the individual children dealt quite differently with the situation as well. But it made me feel very lonely.

J pretended the whole time nothing had happened. He hang out mostly with the boys of our group, playing soccer, making jokes, ...and certainly not talking about that night much at all.
L and I alternated focussing on the activities to distract ourselves, stretching the rules by letting some of the girls go relax alone or sit seperately without participating or we sat with them talking about our feelings and thoughts. A couple of more times the police came over to talk to Le. and even our stay in a cabin on top of the mountains had to be in one that could be reached by an arial tramway. The district leader spent a lot of time with us which I appreciated a lot as I felt so uncertain how to deal with this. I know he's been criticised over it by the other groups from Ghent, but we needed his support and experience. And most importantly: he was the man the girls trusted very much (more than their own male group leader J).

All in all we managed to have a more or less normal camp, but it never felt normal at all. I didn't spend any evening with the other leaders anymore, I never went to the bar anymore and I was in bed each evening after the district meeting around 22-23u if I attended and earlier if I did not attend it. It was my one and only camp where I came home well rested :p. At this moment I cannot name any other leader from the other groups from Ghent. I don't remember them anymore.

We didn't know yet at the camp that in Belgium that same week 2 girls had been liberated from the a monster pedofile's basement. We did not know that more corpses had been found in his garden. We did not know yet that Belgium was nationally in shock by the horrendous acts of Dutroux that became global news. We didn't know yet that since Dutroux, parents would feel more paranoia as ever. We didn't know yet that Belgium would be labelled worldwide a pedofile country (a reputation that has now been passed on to Austria due to Priklopil and Fritzl I suppose ) and that foreign school trips and camps to Belgium would get cancelled in a hurry. We did not know yet that J's fathers political carreer would directly get influenced by the Dutroux scandal aftermath. We did not know yet we'd come home to a country in hysteria over pedophilia .

Rather than coming home after an eventful camp to the peace and quiet of their homes and families, the children could see news bulletins all the time showing the horrors of this type of perverts and they'd read their own story in the newspapers. I fear that the "what if" question that had been haunting them already during the camp all the time, stayed alive a bit longer. But fortunately they could wonder " what if", fortunately no serious harm had happened.

I did hear afterwards that Le. had the Swiss investigators visit her once more in Belgium. And 5 years later I met one of the other girls who had become a leader in the same organisation Kazou CM in the mean time. I was so very very glad to see her again there taking up this volunteering role herself and enjoying herself.

Do you feel like reading more Soap Opera Sunday stories. Check out the other participants at Kate who is hosting this week. If you don’t know what the crap I’m talking about? The rules for Soap Opera Sunday are here

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hollandse Nieuwe

Yeaaaah, the seasonal Dutch contribution to world cuisine is back. Yeah I know that previous statement is a real contradition but I am not actually talking about a big dish.
I really enjoy the "Hollandse Nieuwe" or the "Maatjes" as we call them (translation: soused herring??). Hmm I know what will be on my shopping list.


At the AA meeting yesterday

Usually I post something on a Tuesday but I had an important appointment yesterday. I went to a huge AA meeting in Brussels. Yep, I have to admit that I am an Accenture Alumni and yesterday was their annual event.

And that AA joke is not mine but one that Nigel Williams , the British/Belgian stand-up comedian who came to entertain us. Getting together with all your ex-colleagues is a bit weird, but given the fact that I am very tired right now proofs that I had plenty enough inspiration to chit-chat to all old colleagues. So this is going to be a much shorter post than I intended.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The nightmare camp night part 1

2 weeks ago you learned that being a youth leader in Switserland could be quite adventurous. The story about the hike without food however didn't happen in my group, so I learned the story second hand.

Unfortunately the next story truly happened to my group. It was the year following to this and we went to Fiesch in the Swiss region Valais, in the valley down below the Aletsch Glacier (the biggest in Europe). We were staying in a big domain with multiple buildings against the slope and a sportcomplex. Everything looked very promising to have a memorable vacation with our 14 year olds. And it was, but not in the way I had expected.

Together with 2 other leaders I was responsible for 2 dozen 14-year old girls and a couple of boys. Our group really wasn't well mixed, but sometimes that happens. My 2 other fellow leaders had quite a different mentality than I did:

  • J was a fairly unexperienced leader, always looking for fun and parties but sitting on his lazy a.. . The fact that his dad is a fairly well known politician didn't impress me very much.

  • L was an experienced leader and a perfectionist as me...but somehow always with a different opinion than me. Not easy, but at least we stuck together in our camp preperation in lack of J's collaboration.

The district of Ghent occupied one of the buildings but lacked the room of all of the kids (> 150!). The district leaders and the domain directors had decided that the girls of my group would go and stay in the next building, shared with camp groups from other districts. The entire domain was taken all summer by the same Belgian organisation, but the camps and the volunteers and the kids were always organised and working per regional Belgian district. This way the children also knew they'd meet other children from their "neighbourhood" and the same counted for the volunteering leaders.

I wasn't too happy that my 'yellow' group was split: the boys in the Ghent building and then the girls in the Tielt building. Next to the 2 bedrooms with bunkbeds where the yellow girls slept was a tiny room with one bunkbed. L and I started unpacking in there. Being in the other building meant that we'd have to be on evening shift more often as we couldn't share among the other groups. So it meant less free time in the evenings. And I have to honestly admit: the free time in the evening with the other leaders in the bar and in our district room is really the best of any camp. We were all committed leaders and enjoyed the time with our teenagers, but it sure feels good to be off duty in the evening and to be able to chat/laugh/joke around with the people from your age!!

When the teens go to bed, first all the leaders are in the hallway making sure they actually calm down and go to bed. That's often quite challenging with 14 year olds. Little by little most of them leave when they truly are in bed after half an hour and then 3-4 remain on duty while the others go to the daily district meeting where all activities of the next day get prepared once more. Only after 22-23h, the free time starts until we went to bed waaaaay to late :p. However now I'd have to share a room with L alone and we'd have to be on duty 50% of the evenings I figured. I started off the first evening and night.

While I was being in a bad mood for all of this, the district leader came along again the second day. He had talked to the district representatives for Tielt and apparently their leaders lacked beds now. They had agreed that L and I would go and sleep in the building of Ghent anyway and give up our tiny 2-person room to leaders from Tielt. We'd only hang around until the teens started falling asleep and then the leaders from Tielt would also watch our 2 rooms.

Hmm, part of this was very good news. I'd not be stuck alone in the building for 50% of the evenings but I'd be able to hang out with the other leaders anyway. Yet it felt so strange to not sleep near our group. I totally knew the Tielt leaders would be very good as well, and that they'd take care and watch out for our girls. It was a relief, and yet it didn't feel totally right either. But I had walked by their leaders room and they really lacked beds. Even with our room, they'd still have some people sleep on a mattrass on the floor. What a stupid organisation.

So L and I started packing up our stuff again after one day already in order to move down the slope to the next building. We explained everything to the girls, who were fine with the presence of the Tielt leaders next to their room. They probably thought they'd have a bit more freedom. Little did we know that the events would force us to move back already the next day. And that I still feel bad for not having been there that one night.

....(to be continued).

Do you feel like reading more Soap Opera Sunday stories. Check out the other participants at Canadian Flake who is hosting this week. If you don’t know what the crap I’m talking about? The rules for Soap Opera Sunday are here or here.