For the past four weeks, I’ve been living and working at a summer camp in Romania. Life has been crazy busy, working long hours and trying to manage the logistics of keeping a hundred kids at a time healthy and happy, hence my month-long hiatus from blogging.
Tabara Happy Faces is situated in the tiny village of Ighiu, and feels like something out of a novel – the setting, the characters, the occasionally ridiculous situations. Many of the houses are small, brightly colored, and slightly run down, with fallen fruit and stray dogs littering the streets and rolling hills rising up in all directions. Fields of corn and other crops stretch out into the distance and merge into overgrown tangles of wildflower and brambles covering the hills that are a two-minute walk from the center of the village.
The tabara itself is lovely, with lots of fruit trees, flowers, and even a (possibly radioactive) lake. It’s a very peaceful place when empty, but on an average day is buzzing with activity, with kids shouting in Romanian, staff hurriedly organizing the next activity in the Office, dishes clattering in the kitchen, and lots of chants and cheers. The current (and final) camp, as a whole, doesn’t speak much English, so my broken Romanian has been put to good use, in combination with lots of hand gestures and a touch of Korean.
Nearly every day is jam-packed with activities, minor catastrophes, and moments that are pure magic. I’ve met some amazing people, both campers and staff, and absolutely fallen in love with the Transylvanian mountains, as well as Ighiu.
There have certainly been ups and downs – times where I’ve been running on under three hours of sleep trying to teach English to twenty unruly, uncooperative teens, or when I simply couldn’t bear another bite of mămăliga (a polenta-like Romanian staple). There have also been countless moments where I’ve laughed with fellow staff from all over the world, or walked barefoot along a dirt path by a stream eating fresh plums, or had a camper come running up out of the blue for a hug, piping ‘I love you!’.
Though being a camp counselor certainly isn’t for everyone, I’ve been incredibly happy here, throwing myself into each and every day, hour, moment. It can be exhausting, being ‘on’ constantly, but also fulfilling. I’ve formed such strong bonds with a diverse range of people in a very short time, and sometimes it’s just surreal.
Whilst the majority of my peers are starting university, I’m running around in harem pants and Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Vest giving free hugs to Romanian children and screaming about Crazy Wolves – and I don’t regret it for a second.
Like all summer camps, this one is chock-full of traditions, of sayings and chants and jokes that are complete gibberish to any that haven’t been a part of the madness. And with that:
“OOOH! ALE ALE!”
Until next time,