"We did it," said CJ around 10:30pm, as we arranged some things in the office before retiring for a well earned night's sleep. We had just returned from a debrief of a 6 day 5 night trip with 18 students from Poland. The itinerary included a trip to the Grand Canyon, our Base Camp, Chaco Canyon and the property of a company-friend where we often stay in exchange for some labor.
"We're crazy," I uttered, thinking back on the emotionally, physically and mentally draining week that was intertwined with incredible rewards that would only make sense to the 4 of us working the trip.
"Yea-" she started to say, catching herself. "No, people who go to the same place every day are crazy."
"yeah!" I added, "People who wake up and sit in traffic for hours every morning and afternoon to stare at their cubicle walls are crazy!" We laughed.
The next night I found myself chatting with another worker about the tradeoffs of a job like this.
"What did we do to get a job that makes us happy?" he quizzed? "We sweat. A lot" I responded.
"It takes a lot of sweat, though." He paused, reflecting in his head. "a LOT of sweat." His implication was that it almost isn't worth it. At this point of the year, coming off a busy spring, an insanely busy summer, and a sporadically busy fall, it's not unusual for people in this line of work to start envisioning themselves in an autumn wonderland-- a time when they can rock climb without belaying 11 years-olds, hike without being so distracted by asking 20 children to put on sunscreen that you forget it yourself, and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors with love in actual silence, not the shuffling and scraping sounds that come after begging the group for a few silent moments.
I have found myself looking forward to the fall for several weeks now, only to remind myself to wait and appreciate those sun-soaked days. I have a growing list of projects I'm looking forward to do when I'm not working, but I know that after a week and a half of home-bound projects and crafting, I'll be itching to explore outdoors, and wishing I had a company vehicle and a group of wide-eyed 12 year olds to teach to. Maybe a month and a half for that.
This last week was a wonderful way to cap off an exciting year in Outdoor Education. For one, I think I learned at least as much as I taught, but probably more. I learned about my personal needs, and different styles of teaching for people of different cultures. I saw my first wild Tarantula and held my first bat!. I learned a few words in Polish, as well as Polish eating and working habits.
At one moment I sat with my head in my hands, wondering how on earth I could teach them to respect our equipment, because nothing I had done had convinced them yet. On the verge of tears I pondered other jobs, and wondered how many people reading this have cried in their last month or two at work. But then I wondered how many people get to see complete transformations at their jobs. I saw a girl who has never washed a dish in her life, completely do her dishes without any nagging. I saw a teacher give in to our traditions, and a peer acknowledge their occasional hard-headedness. Perhaps it's the exhaustion of hauling 30 lb water jugs around, waking up early to cook and staying up late to plan, or the beauty and openness of the wilderness around us, but these breakthroughs offer an overwhelming reward. Hearing a Polish child ask for a songbook so they can sing cowboy songs when three days ago they were begging to hear their American playlist in the vans is just one of those moments when you know that it IS worth it. I'd sweat buckets for those moments. and I do. :)
I have one more trip of blood, sweat and tears, and all the passion I can muster before I get to collapse into my firm bed and blog away the autumn. I'm looking forward to these last 3 days of the year, spending the nights in my paradise, and sharing whatever teachable moments I can to anyone who will listen.