Monday, November 12, 2007

If I thought it was cold before...

Puebla city may be plenty cold at night, but it ain't got nothing on El Chico after the sun sets! This past weekend was the junior and senior high camping trip two states north of here (Hidalgo). El Chico is even higher altitude than Puebla city, so once the sun went down, oh man! - layer the coats, gloves, hats, and socks cuz folks, you're talking below freezing.

You can see in this picture people huddled around the campfire using thick clothing and body heat to try to thaw. I know, because I was one of the huddlers, that it was an only semi-successful method of warming frozen selves. Really, after the sun set, there was no way to be warm.

All that aside, I enjoyed the time immensely. We left school at noon Friday and drove about 4 hours north to the national park. Our campground was within sight of a lake and was surrounded by woods - mostly pine.
The air was clear, and when night came the stars were scattered with generous quantity across the sky. We saw several shooting stars too. We pitched most of our tents up a tiny hill, and then the middle level section was where the cooking pavilion, campfire, and volleyball were located. Downhill from there on the road and too near the lake was where we played soccer.

The campsite was beautiful, but it did lack running water and bathroom facilities. Any water you needed, you had to bring with you, and when nature called, well, it was off to the woods. I was so glad for a hot shower when we returned home Sunday evening!

After we'd set up camp Friday, some of us started a game of monkey-in-the-middle soccer. The only semi-level place large enough to play on was the scree-covered road. Just as night began to fall, one of the players kicked the ball with too much energy, and it soared into the lake, immediately floating away from the shore. Fortunately, there were paddle boats tied nearby, and once I'd assured them I'd take any blame for "stealing" the boat, two boys set out after the ball. The rudder didn't work too well, so one of the boys had to lean over the back of the boat and manually push it from side to side so they could stop peddling in a circle and actually get the ball. Hilarious!

After everyone had eaten their many and varied dinners, we gathered around the campfire for worship and a message from one of the fathers. By 10:30 we dispersed to our tents, supposedly to sleep. However, anyone who has been around a large group of teenagers knows that sleep is strictly optional for some of them, and they believe it's optional for the rest of us. By 1:30 the director's wife had to get up and tell the girls to quiet down because they had been loudly talking and laughing almost since we'd gone to bed.

At 4:30 it was the boys' turn to wake the campsite. Finding they were too cold to continue sleeping, one tentful of them decided to play cards. Not quiet cards, but loud, laughing, yelling cards. Oh mercy.

When I got up, layering on practically all the clothes I'd brought with me, I shivered my way outside and saw frost sparkling on all the plants. Preparing breakfast involved thawing the milk in a pan of boiling water since it had frozen through.

After devotions, some people left for rock climbing, but I stayed with the majority at the camp and played soccer again for a long time. The volleyball tournament was set for the afternoon, and I had originally planned to just watch since the last time I played volleyball was third grade. I should have gone with my original plans, but some perverse notion persuaded me to sign up with two of the youngest boys (the games were 3 on 3). If the games hadn't been rally scored, we wouldn't have gotten a single point since the three of us never got the ball across the net. As it was, we lost "only" 2 - 15. Watching and taking pictures of other players was much more fun.

After dinner, worship, and speaking that night, 23 of us drove up to a large field with woody areas at both ends for a game of capture the flag. The teachers went to guard the boundaries rather than play. Brr! The game ended close to 1 in the morning, and numb with cold, we piled the 23 of us back into the 15 passenger van, returned to our campsite and gathered around the fire. That was a mistake on my part, because after that, I felt too tired and dopey to move. People began to move off to their tents, until I and 3 tenth grade boys were the only ones still by the fire. Two of the boys lay down and soon fell asleep on the ground. Finally the fire fell so low that no warmth could reach us, so the two of us still awake woke the two sleepers and we all went to our tents. It was 3:15 by then.

On Sunday after we'd breakfasted, we spent the rest of the time packing and cleaning up. Our long trip home was interrupted only by a lunch stop at Burger King. You'd better believe almost everyone slept the drive away. I think everyone who had been on the camping trip passed the school day today in a fog. Only 4 more days until Thanksgiving vacation! We get a whole week off.

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