Have you ever been assigned to be a lifeguard for 30 kids who don’t speak English while they are splashing around in the Pacific Ocean? I have this skill that makes me come off as a person who knows what they are doing; but I really don’t. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but everyone survived.
After I graduated high school I flew on down to Puerto Vallarta for about a month to help out at a summer camp that would be in the middle of no where jungle somewhere nearby. My parents had missionary friends who lived down there and I was going to help them with whatever was needed. During this time I brushed up on my Español, ate good food, played with kids, and met lots of fun people.
I went into this whole experience with no idea what to expect – and I was in for a treat. Before the camps began we took a bus out to the countryside where we would be staying for a few weeks. As soon as Leanne, a girl from Chicago who was also helping out, and I arrived, it was pouring rain. We were to set up a bunch of tents to prep for the camp. For hours we slaved away in the rain while being eaten alive by mosquitoes, but I couldn’t complain – I was there to help… After that first day, we were satisfied with our work and ready for a hot shower.
During those two weeks I helped out as a cook, played lifeguard, reffed sports games, helped set up all sorts of activities, and pretended like I knew what was going on. Luckily, there were plenty of people who spoke English, as well, so I wasn’t completely lost.
I made a lot of friends, had a great time with the kids, and really enjoyed my overall experience. It was definitely a step out of my comfort zone as I was traveling alone, had never really been fully immersed in a non-American culture, and was away from my friends and family. But ever since then, I have wanted to travel and have definitely not been as “high maintenance” as I used to be. It was a learning experience that I am very grateful that my parents threw me into.