If I told you that most of the last month’s highlights and moments in general have been dominated by water buffaloes, would you believe me?
You would have to, because it is the gospel truth, my friends. Since my last post, I have had many highlights, one of which was taking my 27 nine year old fourth graders on a three day outdoor overnight adventure to a place called Treasure Island camp (yes, yes, I do live in someone’s nightmare. and I love it. got to get into Heaven somehow).
For a camp counselor wannabe (and pirate joke aficionado) like myself, this is a DREAM COME FAREAKING TRUE. At one point, I wore a tshirt that featured a dabbing turtle. And was PRAISED for it. We went spider hunting. I yelled at kids to brush their teeth and pee faster. It was great.
To understand why this was such a big deal, you need to know a few key facts/”facts.” First – I love camping. I love the outdoors, being dirty, hiking, scarfing down hot dogs and beans and calling it breakfast, putting my feet in the ocean and calling it a shower, staying up too late and waking up too early and the smell of wet grass and the songs and skits.
Second – I teach in Hong Kong, where kids are spoiled as. Nearly 100% of them grow up with nannies/cleaners that live in and we call “Helpers” and they call “Aunties” and it is their job to take care of them, so no shame no blame, but this means kids don’t have chores, don’t carry their own backpacks once they leave school, and get to have a million food preferences. Most of our students are only children and raised in privilege in Hong Kong. Lots of passport stamps, not a lot of experience roughing it. I would say about 90% of them (if not more) had never spent a single night away from their parents.
As we stood on the pier getting ready to go, one said to me “I can’t believe we have to live for three days without Wifi or air conditioning or any screen time at all.” And so I said “do you know that one time I lived for 25 years without Wifi?” and their jaws all dropped until one realized I was just that old that Wifi hasn’t always been around.
Which leads to my Third – I lowkey love making kids do things they don’t want/think they can’t do, and then celebrating with them/crying when they can. I thrive on that.
Fourth – and I wish I could put this shallow part of me into a smaller font, but – there was a counselor there last year I had a mad crush on, and although chances were slim his bald head and beard and sarcasm would still be there, your girl was hopeful and packed all her clean workout pants.
After weeks of planning and stressing and emails from parents and kids worried about everything realistic to fantastic from wetting their sleeping mattress to a vampire bat attack, we finally waved goodbye to the mummies and daddies and aunties and grandmas recording it all on their iPads, and boarded a ferry, then a bus, then a walk, until we made it to camp. The set up is gorgeous – a public beach that doesn’t have a lot of people on it, eight million mosquitos, bright orange tents, chillaxed counselors, and wild water buffaloes.
Legend has it that these were domesticated a long time ago, used to plow the fields by the native Hong Kongers, but then given up when farming was no longer viable in our SAR. Now they do as they please, with their egret friends, dropping huge poos, lowing gently at sunset on the beach, and making us all stare at their majesty.
We hiked, surfed, scavenger hunted, rode bikes, did team building, and roasted smores. For the majority of the kids, it was their first time doing any of these activities. Dads have had the hold on teaching kids how to ride a bike for millenia, but I got to be the Yoda for several kids this year and it brought tears to this dark soul’s eyes.
They had to group shower under hose spigots, use port-a-potties, compost their leftovers, and (GASP) wash their own dishes. And guess what? They LOVED it. They were so tired they barely had time to get homesick, although some attempted it, in order to get attention.
It may be hard or easy to imagine me as a teacher, but certainly you can imagine me as a camp counselor, saying a lot of “what is ACTUALLY wrong with you” when kids emerge from the tent with 0% of the items you requested for the next activity, or hustling them through the group shower routine by telling riddles and not giving answers until they’ve exited. But my favorite parts are the songs. I got to wear my shark costume and lead a prayer to the tune of the Jaws theme, and we made up a seven verse song based off the VeggieTales water buffalo song (included at the end). I held hands with my students when they were scared, pushed their backpacks up the mountains, and sang out “THE OTHER DAY” “I MET A BEAR” about a thousand times. It was epic.
Some other lovely highlights, especially after a few days in the wild with my 27 little chicken nuggets, would be two lovely brunches I’ve had lately. I’ve learned a lot about the world and others and myself while living abroad, and one of the most valuable lessons has been the importance of female friendships in my life; lifting each other up, celebrating the highlights, commiserating the lows, and being there for each other in a world that makes you think you are not quite complete without a partner. So not only did I have fabulous food, drinks, and views, but quality time with some truly inspirational women.
I also got to attend my first wedding in Hong Kong for my friends Vallery and Marco! It was a Filipino/Chinese/Third Culture Kid kind of wedding, with the most beautiful bride and bumping dance party I’ve been to in a long time! I love to celebrate love. A few days later I got to chillax in Thailand with my friend Marie, where we did very little. And it was very good. I slept, went to the gym, read five books, tanned, drank all the beers, found the most amazing curry place, and danced to Filipino cover bands.
AND it’s finally truly hiking weather in Hong Kong! Time to run into massive spiders, hurt my knees, and sweat it out on the weekends with everyone else and their mom.
Week Lowlights: Well, now we are back to our reluctant normal, I guess. California is on fire, Trump continues to be a moron, Hong Kong continues in protest, I still am not sure what I’m doing with my life, but we will just continue to scream into the void when we need to and make quiet plans when we can. I’m not too worried.
Could be worse. Could be raining.
Last meal: A Christmas-flavored Gin and Tonic can from Marks and Spencer. So. Good. Considering my options for dinner. Probably cottage cheese straight from the carton so I don’t have to wash anything except a fork.
Currently wearing: My “She was warned, nevertheless, she persisted” sweatshirt and some boxers.
Fav recent joke: Told by a student, and I can’t believe I’d never heard this:
Why are pirates called pirates?
Because they arrrrrrre.
The Media that has Helped: I love a good documentary/science exploration situation, and recently watching the “Mind: Explained” and the other “Explained” series on Netflix has been a huge point of discussion. I’ve read a lot of books lately, none amazing, but all entertaining. Waiting to find a new series to be in love with.
Quote of the Week: “I don’t have any cartilage at the end of my nose.” – said a friend at brunch. She then lifted my finger to her nose and squished it all around, proving that yes, she had nothing there. I nearly wet myself. The more you know.
Best Conversation I had: While at camp, I had several conversations with my kids asking what they liked and what they’d learned so far. But the most meaningful was with a few girls who realized they needed to appreciate their aunties (helpers/nannies) more.
“I always thought I was neat,” one said, “but now I realize that she was folding and putting away all my clothes and cleaning my stuff, not me. I need to be nicer.” It was a huge learning moment for her and I loved it.
Looking forward to: I’ve been getting a lot stronger from my workouts, recently doing box jumps and going 40 second ropes and pushups and all kinds of things I couldn’t do before, which is really exciting. I never thought I’d be so into strength training kind of fitness, despite being pretty athletic all my life. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can challenge myself in the future and keep getting them GAINZ.
Also – really excited for some In-N-Out at Christmas time. These two things in no way contradict each other.
Alright, here it is, back by no one’s demand. The Water Buffalo Song.
Everybody loves a water buffalo,
Yours is fast but mine is slow
Where we get them I don’t know but
Everybody loves my water buffaloooooeeeeeeeeeeee
I took my buffalo to the store
He got his head stuck in the door
Now they don’t let me in no more but
I still love my water buffalooooooeeeeeeeeeeeee
I took my buffalo to the park
He scratched his head on some tree bark
Then i lost him in the dark now
I gotta find my water buffalooooeeeeeeeeee
I looked for my buffalo in the night
With my fabulous headlight
Found him cuz it was so bright and
I really love my water buffalooooooeeeeeee
I don’t know if you have heard
Buffalos are friends with birds
“Buffalo” is a funny word but
I still love my water buffalooooeeeeeeeeee
My buffalo’s got lots of friends
They wallow out in the wetlands
They hang out on treasure island and
Everybody loves my water buffalooooooeeeeeeeee!!!!