Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mentor Camp: Day 1

Last Friday I embarked on a 4 day trip to the YMCA Camp Jones Gulch in San Francisco for the mentoring program for at-risk youth I joined fall of 2013. 49 mentees (teens) and 20-something mentors.

Friday morning (Departure Day) was spent with me scrambling all over my apartment trying to get stuff ready. It was weird, because I'm used to traveling and can usually get my stuff together in about 10 minutes. But that day I was stressed, nervous, and racing to get my stuff together. Part of the problem was that I had to do laundry and the gate to get to the laundry room was locked so I had to go to the front office and tell them to unlock it. Then they looked confused like, "What? You don;t have a key?" And I said, "No", but was thinking: I've been here for 2 years now. At what point did you give me or anyone else here a key. In the past when I was locked out, I had to wait another day or 2 before I had the time to do my laundry again. And then I would just have to pray the gate was unlocked. What kind of apartment complex is this? You say your residence can get laundry, but then lock them out from doing laundry. Jerks...

Clothes were finished and packed. I had to decide whether to bring a sleeping bag or a pile of sheets and blankets. Since I didn't have a sleeping bag I opted for sheets. Really thick, warm sheets. Then I went to go load my car and realized: I have 2 things filling up my trunk already. Crap! So I got out the stacked filing system of scrapbook pages my step-mom gave me and lugged that upstairs and plopped it in my apartment. Then I looked at the other stuff: 2 plastic bags of clothes waiting for me to drop them off in a donation/recycling bin at the nearest gas station. So I figured I'd drop off the clothes when I went to go fill up with gas and kill two bird with one stone. 

Then I got to the gas station -car loaded and ready to travel. But there was no donation/recycling bin. CRAP!!! At this point it's 12:30pm and I told the mentoring program leaders that I'd be at the high school to help out in the process of kids getting sorted around 12:40pm. So I quickly drive around looking for a donation/recycling bin and finally find one. Then it's off to the high school. 

The teens were told to bring their stuff (suitcases, pillows, sleeping bags...) to the high school gym. From their ALL of their items would be sorted through so that any weapons, drugs, alcohol, or other items can be identified and removed so it didn't come to camp. Cell phones and other electronics were also confiscated. Then the kids were picked up and sent over to a nearby church. At the church a body search was done to make sure they weren't smuggling anything not allowed in.

This is where I set up shop. I arrived at the church and was told to guard the area outside of the body scan rooms. I was to make sure none of the kids who hadn't been checked yet went wandering away anywhere. At this point the teens were pissed because some of them had had their cell phones taken away -which they weren't happy about and many of them didn't know a body scan was part of the process. The whole process was long, tedious, and worse than the TSA. They'll never complain about airplane rides again. 

Then after everything was checked they were sent into the church room to sit and wait for all the other kids to come in. I thought we'd depart for camp at 3pm but around 5pm the last of the teens (including my 2 mentees) showed up for the body scan. A problem arose with one of my mentees -Alicia -because the night before she had asked me if she could bring snacks in my car on the ride to camp. I told her, "I don't have a problem with you bringing snacks in my car as long as they aren't messy. But the snacks may be confiscated by the program managers -so let them know the snacks are only for the ride up to camp and not for camp itself." Snacks were the items not allowed for camp, but the mentors were also told we could bring snacks up to camp in our cars. So there she was having her snacks confiscated and I was brought into the room to clarify what was going on. I told them, "It's ok she's just bringing the cheetos and juice to eat in the car. She can throw them away once she gets to camp. Then one of the program managers said: "As of right now, these snacks count as contraband. They are not allowed." And I was like, Seriously??? How big of an a**hole do you have to be not to allow snacks on a trip up to camp. Especially since it was 5pm and the girl may not have had lunch yet.  

So then my mentee Alicia was pissed at me because in her mind I had "lied" to her about being able to bring snacks in the car. All I could think was: I wish I had brought snacks and put them in my car beforehand just in case something like this happened. So when I went into the church room and was waiting for her to come in and I saw her enter the room and I waved at her to come sit by me -her mentor -guess what happened? She openly locked eyes with me and veered off away from my seat and found her friends on the other side of the room and purposely sat with them. Ditched again. For like the 1328645th time by her. Granted she has 5 of her friends in the program, but still... 

Then Ade -a guest host/speaker/program leader from New York came up and spoke about possibilities and encouraged the kids to be open over the camping session so they can make good changes in their lives. 5:45pm we're finally dismissed to leave. I get in the car with the girls and head out. I've got my music, I've got my map, I've got enough gas in my car, I've got the mentees -I'm good to go.

The directions on the map went as follows: 

1. Go head down 280 from San Jose towards San Francisco for about 40-50 minutes (depending on traffic). 


2. Take a left down 84 Woodside towards La Honda. 


3. Pass the city of La Honda. 

NOT EASY. There are 2 small "towns" you pass through before La Honda. They're out in the woods so it's not easy to distinguish the names of the towns you are passing through at 6pm as the light is dimming. I kept thinking "Oh, this must be La Honda". Then 5 minutes later, "Oh wait, that wasn't La Honda, this must be La Honda!"Then I actually came to La Honda. I could tell it was the right town because there was a fire station and a small diner with "La Honda" in their names.

4. Turn left 2 minutes after passing La Honda down Pescadero Rd. 

REALLY REALLY NOT EASY. Pescadero has to do with "pescado" which are fish in Spanish. So I kept looking for fishy, Pescadero road. So I'm weaving through the woods at night in the dark, kind of worried about getting there soon, straining to see the tiny road signs along the way and up comes one big sign that says: "Turn Left to Go to Blah Blah Blah Camp Site". In my mind I'm like, That was NOT the name of our campsite, but it IS 2 minutes away from the town I'm pretty sure is La Honda. So after 20 wasted minutes of going back and forth and realizing that the WAS Pescadero road -I just couldn't see the sign, I turn down Pescadero road. 

5. Turn Left on Gulch Road. 


The road up to Camp Jones Gulch at 6:45pm was windy, tight turned, and dark. I started getting really, really nauseous. The mentees had entirely lost their faith in my ability to find the camp. And then I passed up the turn for Gulch road. CRAPS!!! So for the 357329 zillionth time I turned around and headed down Gulch road. Finally made it to camp. Ubber tired.

So we headed to the main hall -I kept my stuff in the car not knowing yet which cabin I would be in. Then dinner was served at 7pm and I had chicken, scalloped potatoes, a banana, and some lemonade. It was hard eating because the nausea was starting to get pretty intense, but I managed to swallow it all down. Until 5 minutes later when out on the wooden balcony I suddenly leaned over the railing and upchucked my entire dinner. I wasn't sure what to do, but someone nearby alerted "Jessica" the Wellness Nurse to come and help me. So Jessica walked Jessica up to the main office cabin and into the small nurses quarters. Then after 30 minutes of staying close to the bathroom I threw up again. Lemonade was a REALLY bad choice of beverage that night. 

So I was told to lay down on the mattress/cot they had in the room until I felt better. 9pm -still shaking and feeling horribly nauseous. 10pm -I really want to get to my cabin and be with the program, but I also don't want to throw up again because I'm still really nauseous. 11pm -it's sleep time for the camp and I face the reality that I'm going to spend my first night at camp in the nurses office.

The only blanket Jessica could get me was the bottom bedding sheet to cover the mattress. So I slept in my jeans and clung to my warm coat with my life because the temperature out in the woods dropped to about 30 degrees that night. I was also awakened to the sound of a baby crying because of the the mentor coaches who was staying at the main office brought her 6 month old son with her to the camp. 

So that was my Day 1. A long, rather depressing way of starting off the camping trip. :(

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