Monday, February 3, 2014

When It's Cold Out, Head North

I have two things to say tonight. The first is about the past week, and the second is about me.

Number one. On Tuesday, Quaker Cottage headed north with eight families to start our January residential.  In case you haven't heard about our September residential and are confused by this word I keep using, residential is basically a four day retreat that we take with the families. We go to a place called Corrymeela near Ballycastle and have adventures and stuff.  The mums and the children are split up during the day. The mums do their own thing. The afterschoolers do another thing, and the babies cry, drool, and poop all day – you know, baby things.

A view of the north coast
Like last time, I was with the afterschoolers. My experience with the last group on residential left me with quite a lot of anxiety going into this one. I had such a difficult time last time, and there were a few children this time around who could have been just as much trouble. Thankfully, we (the staff) had learned a few things from last time, and they served us well. I’m happy to say that we managed to survive the four days without much trouble! Instead of letting the problem children run wild, we gave them an outlet. While the group of kids took a tour of castle ruins, we took one child out to hide chocolate coins for everyone to search for. It was wee things like this that helped us avoid some messy situations.

I tried to make notes of notable situations each day, but so many things happened that I missed most of them. Here are the ones that stood out:
Day 1:

  • We took the kids to a beach for a treasure hunt. I was in charge of hiding all of the clues. Unfortunately for us staff, we had not considered high tide when we planned this outing, so we had to improvise. I hid clues everywhere, but it took me longer than I planned to hide them. As a result, I was running all over that beach to speed things up. Sometime during that running, the camera in my pocket popped out. I had no clue that it was missing. Later, I asked one of the other staff if she had the camera, and she said yes. So we still had the camera. Excellent! But wait! She actually had our other camera that the mums were supposed to have. We didn’t learn that the camera had been missing until some random person returned it to Corrymeela. Apparently they knew where to take it because I had taken a video of the kids singing “We’re all going to Corrymeela!” Anyway, boring story, but significant to me.
  • While at the beach, the waves were really crashing on the beach, and the water was very cold. Despite being told to not get wet, every child got wet. What can you expect when you take children to a beach? One boy in particular got impressively wet though. Here’s how. He walks into the water and sits straight down in it as a wave washes over him. As one of my co-workers pulls him out, she asks him why he did that. His response: “When I go on holiday with my daddy, we sit in the ocean like that.” The only difference is that now it’s January and far from a summer holiday.

  • There is an awesome park in Ballycastle where the playground is like a pirate ship stuck in the sand. For whatever reason, the designers of the park chose to anchor ropes into the ground that were set at perfect angles to trip you as you’re running. I watched the kids trip over those ropes at least 12 times that day, and I couldn’t help but snicker a bit after one boy tripped over the same rope twice in less than ten seconds. (He had also tripped a couple of times prior to this last incidence, but this one set him off. He began to kick sand at the rope with vigor.) Apparently, life doesn’t like you laughing at the misfortune of children though. Shortly after, two children began throwing sand, and as I started to chase after them, I suddenly found myself flying through the air. Not only had I tripped over the rope, I did it worse than anyone yet. The rope had caught me about six inches above my knee. I don’t even know how I made it to that point as there were a bunch of other ropes I had to get through before the rope was that high. However it happened, it was hilarious, and I accomplished my goal of stopping the kids because they came to laugh at me. The line from where the rope caught my leg was still visible 3 days later. That’s how hard I hit it.
Day 2:
  • The same boy who had sat in the water on day one also gave me a line to laugh about on day two. Because of the cold weather, we had to bundle up. This boy came up to me at one point and said, “Silly Andrew! You left my hat on the bus!” I was not aware that I was in charge of his hat. Out of fear of his terrible retribution, I didn’t make that mistake again.
  • While at the castle ruins, our tour guide told us of the luckiest room in the castle. He took us to it and told us that if we all touched the floor, it would bring us luck. After each of us had touched it, he said, “However, with luck comes consequence. What I did not tell you is that this was once the floor of the toilet.” I had a good laugh from that.
Day 3:
  • By day three, I was pretty tired, so I forgot to take notes. However, one thing stands out. We had a wee romance building between a boy and a girl. Each day, we watched as the boy grew more confidant, and he eventually gave her a heart that he drew. This girl showed the heart to her mum and declared, “I’m skundered!” Yes, skundered. Never have I heard this word in any real life context. I wasn’t even exactly sure what she meant by it. In case you’re wondering and to save you the trouble of looking it up, it means she was embarrassed. 

And then on the last day, we woke up, cleaned up, and packed up.  Back home for lunch and a nap on the couch.

Now for part two of this post. Now I talk about myself a bit, and this is where it gets contemplative and somewhat serious. It’s where I ask you a question, and you spend the rest of the evening considering the answer until you go to sleep and forget about it.

We watched a movie during residential called Rise of the Guardians. Yes, it’s a children’s movie, and yes, I enjoyed it. Actually, I really really like most children’s movies, and the one over residential inspired me to watch another three during the weekend. There’s something about children’s movies that captures my imagination. There’s nearly always something magical in them or creatures that don’t belong in the real world. Every time that I watch such a movie or read a book of fantasy, my mind is opened to new worlds and experiences. It brings me back to my childhood. I’m sad to say that I feel like most of the imagination that I had as a child is now gone, but watching children’s movies nearly brings it back. And it reminds me to do everything I can to keep some magic alive inside me because as soon as I lose that magic, I know I’ll become a boring adult. Not that being a boring adult is a bad thing! It’s just not for me. (sorry boring adults!)

Another thing that is so wonderful about children’s movies is that they tend to have a moral to the story or some sort of deep question that kids may not always pick up on or have any interest in. Well, I do, and they often are some of my favorite questions. While watching Rise of the Guardians, one of these questions popped up. Here are just enough details of the movie for you to understand my point – The guardians are characters like Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, etc. Jack Frost doesn’t know who he is or what his purpose is, so at one point Santa shows him…wait, you know what? Watch it for yourself: What is your center?

What is your center? Let that sit for a second. What is the core of your being? Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you bring to the world? … What is your center? It’s like each of these questions at once, and to be honest, it’s an incredibly hard one for me to answer. For the past few days, I’ve tossed around words like silliness, innocence, fun, energy, child-like… But none of them feel just right. I think the last one is the closest though.

So what is your center? I don’t think this is a question that you can answer straight away. I’ll be thinking a lot about it in the coming weeks. So if you feel up to it, find your center. Share it with me if you feel like it, but share it with the world too.

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