Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Too Pretty to Camp

Lovin’ life. That’s what it’s about. Just lovin’ life.

School, check. College, check. Money for food, check. Money to travel, check. Kids and husband, no check. Perfect…

Ok, so after May 4th passed very much like Y2K, with tons of build-up but then no blow-out, I have now allowed myself to believe that I will actually serve out my service right here in Bolivia. It was very much a tentative process before, starting projects I wasn’t sure I’d be around to work on, trying to grow roots but feeling like I could be ripped away at any moment. It’s been so much better now that I feel like I will be here awhile. Who knows if it’s true, but I need the feeling of stability at least.

So here I am, livin’ the dream, as we volunteers are fond of saying. Livin’ the dream.

Life has never been more confusing, contradicting, challenging, and bizarre yet breathtaking, surprising, and wonderful at the same time.

Take last weekend. I woke up with no plans on Friday morning. On Friday night I find myself with a group of volunteers enjoying a delicious steak dinner (very rare on my salary), and then later at a karaoke bar helping out a friend in a very off-key rendition of “Hero” by Mariah Carey. Luckily I am an expert at this song since my sister and I grew up practicing Mariah throughout our childhood.

Then I’m invited to go camping by a bunch of boys the next day, and after verifying several times that it was not just a boys-night-out, (and after recruiting my best girlfriend to come with), I track down a sleeping bag and a tent to borrow from some friends, we go get “provisions”, and we’re set to go.

Who knew that in the same day we would film scenes from Braveheart, find out I am strangely attracted to men galloping on horseback, and then go on a hike that turns into a photo shoot for a friend’s new beautiful white Siberian husky pup.

Ok, quick question. Let’s just see how Peace Corps minded you are. When I said I had to “track down a sleeping bag and a tent to borrow from some friends,” what was your reaction? Did you keep reading to see what nutty story I had to tell next, or did you completely stop, do a double take, and ask yourself, “Did Tammy just mess up speaking English again? Or did she just say she doesn’t have a sleeping bag and tent? Like the most fundamental Peace Corps gear, right next to Chaco sandals?”

Well folks, you heard it right. I don’t have a tent or a sleeping bag. In fact, before I came to the Peace Corps I hated camping. I did it once with my brother and in five days I didn’t get a wink of sleep because I was so cold despite the sleeping bag and six layers of clothing. Add to that the fact that there was only one port-a-pot with a perpetual line of at least 20 people outside, and the fact that I get stage fright, and we’ll suffice to say that by the time I got home after five days my brother was seriously concerned that my lack of bowel movements had surely poisoned my body and I would be in the hospital soon.

Accordingly, when I was invited to camp I certainly thought about turning down the offer. But the question these days is not “Why?” but “Why not?” So, why not go camping?

What I love about my Peace Corps friends is that we totally accept the fact that we are from different worlds in the US. The closest female volunteer to me actually is from the Twin Cities, and we joke that we never would have been friends if we had met back home. She is horrified by the fact that I had no idea how to spend a $150 REI gift certificate (REI is the outdoor lover’s paradise) and I am equally baffled by the fact that she hates clubbing (How can anyone hate blaring music and dancing??)

So yes, I was teased a little for not being a camper. But I can hang. I carved my own roasting stick. I cooked my own sausage over the campfire, and I only had to wipe it off a little from bumping it into all the ash a few too many times. I ate my own slightly burned marshmallows until I found a guy who was willing to roast perfect melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows for me, probably cause he thought I was cute. (I’ve learned, after all, that when living in a macho society, you just gotta work what your mama gave ya. It is especially useful when hitch-hiking).

After having dinner around the campfire (which amounted to only snausages and hot dogs since some animals took off with all the bread while we were hiking), chillin’ and listening to music, spitting pure alcohol and making the fire explode, and then a shockingly amazing group performance of “Regulators” a capella, I retired to the tent and settled down on the ground with my down jacket on top of four layers plus some thermal underwear.

I was totally making progress and gaining respect as a camper. I won a few points for knowing how to pitch a tent. And then for helping one of the guys pitch his tent, a brand new fella that we christened “The Beemer,” because as far as tents go, it was pretty fancy. I finally was able to ignore the cold in my body and fell asleep to a symphony of “Peace Corps Boys Hacking Wood with their Machete, Just Because They Can.” I was doing so well playing the part of a camper up until my tentmate entered, woke me up, and asked me how I was doing. From somewhere in my sleepy haze I jokingly mumbled, “I’m freezing, parts of my body are numb, and I’m laying on a rock. I think I’m too pretty to camp.”

And so after all the work and all the progress, in a moment of weakness when my mouth ran without being attached to my brain, that is what they take away from Tammy’s camping experience. She’s too pretty to camp.

Well, I’ll show them. There’s this major solstice camping event coming up in two weeks. And I’m doing it. Cause if there’s one thing I know, and if there’s one thing that Peace Corps has taught me, it’s that I am NOT too pretty to camp.

No comments: