( Disclaimer: I have altered some names and events in order to protect the innocent and avoid blame)
Thursday already? Tuesday and Wednesday have blurred together. Today is preparation and a dry run before the campers arrive tomorrow. The ranks of volunteers swells along with the work to do.
I manage to sneak off around noon for an hour or so with a friend who lives in Florence. We have a drink at a restaurant overlooking the river on a beautiful sunny day. Hanging out with my friend is so relaxing and I realize that being around people with ASD is more stressful than I anticipated. Having been around neuro normals all my life, I learned how to more or less behave but being around ASD folks is different and reminds me how much work is it to "fit in". I have one foot in each world but I'm not entirely comfortable in either. I wonder if this is the lesson Gaia is trying to teach me.
Back at camp, I decide my best skills will be in the kitchen. It's a full service one and for an aspiring sous chef, it's heaven. Four stoves, a double oven, warming oven, a huge walk in fridge and a "reach in" (which home fridges are). It has lots of work space and an industrial strength dishwasher. My first attempts at being the indispensable kitchen help fall flat. Kindtree has been doing these retreats for several years they have the camp well organized including the kitchen set up. I resign myself to being the lowly dishwasher but Honey, a large, enthusiastic girl completely dominates the kitchen- practically snatching the trays out of peoples hands as they are returned to be cleaned. "I'm almost done." she insists whenever someone trys to intervene. Stymied, I plop down at a table and give up on being any use. The volunteer coordinator notices my sour mood and along with an equally large male coordinator they step in and insist Honey vacate the kitchen NOW. Within minutes another crew is able to get in -including myself- and the place is put into order soon enough. When I leave I'm tired but satisfied at actually getting something done.
The up and down trips to volunteer camp is tiring so I limit my runs. I bring along a small canvas "ditty " bag to carry what I need and it saves me trips downhill. Despite the walk the view is worth it. It's been mild and clear all week with sunsets that glow and a hypnotic view of a ripening moon on the water. A friend gave me two solar powered LED ground lights which I post outside my tent and they are a godsend when I have to find my way back from the outhouse in the pitch blackness. Tonight turned so chilly I had to throw the covers over my head when my nose got too cold. Ah the joys of camping.
My shoulder is still bothering me, I'm not sleeping enough so I decide to move camp up closer to the lodge to save what little energy I have left. The uphill climb was getting to be too much.
Campers begin to arrive in the afternoon and the number is staggering. Over a hundred and sixty people attend the two day camp. Kitchen detail is fast and furious work but very satisfying. For a brief time while the volunteer coordinator is out so I take charge and getting things to flow amid the organized chaos was exciting. I watch the chef carefully and am impressed with his ability to juggle all the meals and people professionally. Having lived with a former professional chef, I know how important is it to stay clear while they work so I do the best I can to keep people out of his way. Not a easy thing to do with all the traffic.
I retire to my tent for the night, a short distance away. The trade off with the new site is the noise level is much greater being closer to more campers. This time I take some heavy duty painkillers I brought and sleep soundly.