On the Run: The Camp Tatanka Redemption

As a slight sliver of sunlight snuck into our TEFL teacher cell on the morning of the third day of camp, I felt truly alive for the first time in days. It was really going to happen. I was going to make a break for it tomorrow morning – Shawshank Style.

The last three days had been brutal, but I could almost taste the freedom that would be within my reach soon. No more soulless monster lady and evil monitors screaming at anyone who crossed their paths. No more poo smell wafting in and out of the open camp. No more little crappy little chocolate sandwiches and garbanzo goulash. No more waking up to the screeching Britney’s Spear’s hit, “Hit Me Baby One More Time” which was used as the camp’s alarm at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m.

And, more importantly, no more expectant little eyes staring at me for some sort of direction during their two-hour sessions of imaginary “English class.”

Needless to say, the materials that were promised to the TEFL inmates never arrived. We had absolutely nothing to teach with. All the kids had was a ball point pen, but there was no paper to be found. None of the rooms were equipped with any teach-y things like a chalkboard or a whiteboard. I had half a mind to create 20 little graffiteros by telling them to feel free to write on the walls.

The “classes” we had each day were akin to a slow torturous death, but on a daily basis. To make matters worse, the kids were actually great students, but they were bored out of their minds. They actually wanted to learn something and here we were scrambling to come up with English language activities because – and I’m sorry I have to repeat this – there were no stinking materials!

The only (kind of) bright star was movie time, where the kids watched a taped-from-the-television VHS cassette tape of Harry Potter every day, in Spanish. It was the only tape the camp had, which is no surprise considering the whole world had moved on to dvd’s about, um, two decades ago.

But, as horrible as the teaching situation was, nothing could compare to the evilness of the camp adults. The monitors were horrible to us TEFL inmates and even worse, they were terrible to the children. Essentially, they were the Crips and Bloods of the Camp Tatanka cell block. Even the ladies in the cafeteria cowered as these beasts lined up to feed their heartless souls. They made fun of the shy kids and bullied all of the rest. It was all kinds of wrong and inappropriate and still to this day, I have no idea what these people were doing working at a summer camp for kids. I imagine that they went on to bigger and better things like working at a prison camp.

I’ll admit that my initial resolve to be positive was very short-lived. I only made it through Monday morning before the my emergency bitch emerged. I just couldn’t do this for two weeks. I hadn’t done the crime, and as such, I wasn’t gonna do the time.

So, I talked to the soulless monster warden and told her that I was unhappy with my prison sentence and wanted to be taken to the bus stop ASAP. Thankfully, she paid me for my time there and took me to the bus stop where she apologized for her hideous behaviour.

No, that’s not true.

The truth is that I dreaded coming up against the evil one again. She had totally worn me out during the two days that I had been incarcerated at Camp Tatanka. So, of course, I devised an immature and dramatic escape plan.

Yes, that’s right – instead of doing the adult thing and demanding to leave, I planned on sneaking out of the camp in the middle of the night – Sleeping With the Enemy Style. All I was missing was a boat, a storm and a broken street lamp.

A Reconnaissance Mission

I had already begun to lay out my jail break strategy on day two. Instead of eating lunch with the children (a huge sin in soulless monster’s eyes) I chose to map out potential escape routes.

I walked about 45 minutes down a narrow dirt path until I came to the main road, although it was little more than another dirt path. I began to walk down it with hopes of seeing a little town or at least a house. It took another 30 minutes walking before I could even see the small pueblo in the distance. I estimated that it was going to take me a good two hours to arrive to that village.

This new time factor was a bit disheartening as I had planned on leaving at a somewhat reasonable hour to get the hell of of Dodge. After analyzing my reconnaissance data, I now realized that leaving at 6:00 a.m. wouldn’t give me enough distance in case the “guards” noticed I was missing as soon as the camp woke up.

So, I made the decision to hit the road at 5:00 a.m. with my suitcase, in the dark wilderness, surrounded by soulless monsters and evil monitors and God only knows what else. I have to say, I probably wasn’t thinking too straight, but I was so determined to get the hell out of there that I would have done anything at that point.

And then there was another hitch in my giddy-up.

The future husband didn’t like my plan one bit. He insisted that I not walk in the middle of the night alone in some deserted road. I didn’t care about safety at this point – I was leaving and that’s that! Sheesh! Andy Dufresne didn’t have a worrying spouse to ruin all of his poorly thought out jail break plans.

Anyway, he insisted on finding me a taxi to pick me up at the camp and I quickly realized that it did make more sense to find a ride. Unfortunately, it turned out that it was basically impossible to find a taxi in such a remote area. Also, I had no idea where I was and was unable to explain where the camp was located. The husband couldn’t find anything on the website either because the camp had been set up at the last moment.

The poor future husband spent all day trying to find a taxi service, but came up with nothing until the very last moment when he found Paco, who claimed to run a limo service. Paco said that he would be willing to pick me up bright and early on Wednesday morning and take me to the nearest town where there was a bus station.

Yes, that’s right – I was going to be escaping the Spanish Shawshank in a madre effin’ limo, people!

But there was one more little problem. Paco turned out to be quite the little priss. He simply refused to take his precious little limo Beamer on the dirt road. It appeared that he didn’t want to get dust and dirt on his fancy, shiny BMW.

Only in Spain.

So, due to Prissy Paco’s refusal to go where his car might get a little dusty, we planned to meet at the main road at 6:00 a.m. I was still going to have to leave at 5:00 a.m. to walk to the main road, but yes, it did seem like a better plan than my original two hour escape route.

The Queso Runs Alone

On Tuesday evening, I told my two lovely TEFL cell mates that I would be waking up very early the next day to escape the camp and that they were more than welcome to breakout with me. They both declined.

I thought I recognized envy in their eyes and was instantly proud of my new found bravado. Later I realized that it wasn’t envy in their eyes, it was fear. Being held in captivity these days had obviously messed with their heads and they were nervous about re-adjusting to the outside life. Life on the inside was torture, but at least they had security there. Much like Brooks Hatlen, they were afraid that they lacked the necessary survival skills for life outside the camp after so much time on the inside. Yes, life is very cruel.

Panicky Paco, My Noble (and Shiny) Rocinante

5:00 a.m. – The alarm (not Britney) goes off. Hop out of bed fully clothed. Say goodbye to soon-to-be former cell mates. We hug and make plans to meet on a remote beach somewhere when/if they ever get out.

5:10 a.m. – Sneak quietly down the hall carrying my suitcase. Pitch-black dark. Holding breath.

5:15 a.m. – Leave camp and haul ass for about 10 minutes.

5:25 a.m. – Stop to pee in the bushes. What? Don’t judge me! I couldn’t go when I woke up for fear of the soulless monster chastising me for drinking water late at night. (Yeah, that actually happened on the first night.)

5:35 a.m. – Already worried a bit about time, I come across a fork in the road. It’s dark and I don’t remember this fork from my earlier info gathering mission. I’m a bit panicked, but I choose one path and keep walking at a quick pace.

5:45 a.m. – Still walking although I start to have a really bad feeling that I’m not going in the right direction. When I walked the trail yesterday, it seemes as if there was only one way to the main road. If I was on another trail, how would I find Prissy Paco?

5:55 a.m. – Totally panicked now. It’s dark and I’m lost and the dirt road I’m on is a curvy one, not at all like the trail I had explored earlier. I decide to turn around and run back to the fork in the road. Still dark out and I can’t see very well. It’s creepy out.

6:05 a.m. – Phone rings, which is good because I had very limited reception at the camp. It’s Prissy Paco demanding to know where I am.

“No sé”, I replied, “I think I’m lost.”

“¿Cómo?”, he replies with an angry tone, “I can’t wait for you much longer. I have things to do!”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Are you tellling me you have other clients that need a limo at 6:00 in the morning in this armpit of Spanish country side?”

No, I didn’t say that. I actually said in a screeching wimper, “Paco, please, for the love of God, please – don’t leave me Paco! I’m running to find you! Please! ”

“Well, I don’t know what we are going to do. This is very, very bad.”

At this point, I am hauling ass to find Paco. It’s dark and I have my roller suitcase embraced in my arms because it was impossible to run with it rolling along the dirt road. I’m hauling ass, sweating profusely and trying to carry my suitcase in my one hand, while I have my cell phone in the other hand, trying to convince Paco to “wait me”.

But Paco decides that he can’t “wait me” much longer and tells me that he can only “wait me” another 5 minutes.

I’m dying now. I’m still hauling ass, but I’m exhausted and drenched with sweat and tears. I’m so close to giving up and just accepting that I’ll die out here when I suddenly hear a wonderful, wonderful sound: Paco’s horn!!! El Claxón!!

I run harder than I’ve ever ran before in my life, full of desperation and hope. I follow the sound of the horn until I turn the corner and see Prissy Paco, all five feet of him, wearing a limo driver cap, standing at the open car window with his hand on the horn,  smoking a cig, and cursing me left and right.

“Joder, tia! What the fuck took you so long? We said 6:00 a.m, no? Menos mal, menos mal. You don’t think it was hard for me to get up at this hour, niña? Joder, macho!”

I slowly make me way to the back door, about to die from exhaustion. I didn’t care that Prissy Paco was mad at me, I was on my way home. I got in the back as the barrage of accusations were still flying out of his mouth. Did I know that this was a new BMW? Did I know that he was going to have to wash his car again? Did I know that he was about to leave me out there? Did I realize that he had gotten up very early just for me?

I didn’t care at that point. I sat back in the new BMW,  happily daydreaming about a hot shower and my return to freedom.

But, after about 10 minutes we stopped and Paco screamed at me, “get out!” Was this guy really going to throw me out on the side of the road?

No, it was suddenly very obvious that I had gone in the wrong direction on my reconnaissance mission. I had originally gone to the left looking for my freedom, but apparently freedom was to the right of the dirt path. There was a closer pueblo in the other direction and it had the only bus station in the area.

After all of that drama, Paco basically took me 3 kilometers down the road and charged me €50 to do so.

Prissy Paco dropped me off without even a “hasta luego” and I waited for a bus to Madrid. I was on that bus when I noticed that I had a ton of messages on my cell phone. They were all from Señora Sinclue, the director of the camp. I guess I had given them quite a scare when they couldn’t find me. They grilled my old cell mates until they spilled the beans about my whereabouts.

Damn snitches.

I instantly felt bad for the ridiculous thing I had done. I should have handled it better. I should have been more mature and dealt with the situation in an adult way. So, I gathered up some strength and called her back. I wanted to explain what happened and why I had left without saying anything. She picked up the phone and told me that the Soulless Monster was so upset that she was crying.

I wish I could tell you that I told Señora Sinclue that I was sorry for the stress I caused by running away like a spoiled child, but instead, I simply called the Soulless Monster lady an “hija de puta” and  hung up.

So, there you have it – my runaway story from TEFL Camp Tatanka. I must say that it feels good to be open about my sorid TEFL past.

Any TEFL terror stories of your own or am I the only one things like this happen to?



This entry was posted in CHAPTER 2, LIFE IN MADRID, Spain, TEFLONIA. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to On the Run: The Camp Tatanka Redemption

  1. Cassandra says:

    So, not only was the Harry Potter VHS in Spanish, but it had been TAPED FROM TV?
    That was reason enough to run away.

    Also–Paco, why ya gotta be so tiquismiquis?!

    Glad you escaped, otherwise there would be no hamming it up on this blog. WHEW.

  2. Jooooo… peles, that history! you compare your experience with the film the Shawshank Redemption situations, but I think that everything is more like the Shining, but as the two films in question, yours deserves to have been written by Stephen King.
    By the way remember having also been at a summer camp in the sierra de Madrid, long time ago I was 10 years old, and if we obviously did us sing fascist anthems, that a monitor was child molester and they made us go to the goose step, I assure you that it was less scary than your experience.
    ¡Y tu novio tenía que haber atizado dos puñetazos al tal Paco, por memo!.

    • Hamatha says:

      Jejeje! Jesus – your comment has me smiling from ear to ear! Perhaps you’re right – the Shining would have been a good comparision as well. Or maybe Cujo? :)

      Your experience sound hideous as well – do you mean that you had to goose step while singing fascist anthems? Crazy! Although, I guess its really not much different than having to pledge allegiance to the US flag everyday of your life until you graduate high school, which is what we had to do. No Goose-stepping though!

      Also, I went to a religious summer camp in the states when I was 8 and I got kicked out for making my bunkmates say “shit”. I should have known then that I do not mix well with summer camps!

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  4. Lauren says:

    Funniest TEFL camp blog post ever– I’ve heard horror stories, but your camp goes beyond them. I can relate to being scared/immature and sneaking out versus doing the adult thing and saying you wanted to leave, I don’t know why it sometimes seems easier just to avoid confrontation! Glad you made it out and wish I could beat up picky Paco!

    • Hamatha says:

      Thanks, lady! It was really a very, very strange experience. And if I ever see Picky Paco again, I’ll give him a slap for you after I finish with him!

  5. Anna says:

    My god this is horrifying but also such a thrilling adventure of a daring escape! I am so inspired! Too bad I’ve always been a sensible and slightly coddled child and thus have avoided even hostels, let alone camps in foreign countries – thus killing any possibility of hatching head-spinning escapes in the middle of the night in unknown lands. I am kind of jealous!

    • Hamatha says:

      Hi Anna,

      Thanks for your comment! And being sensible and slightly coddled is a good thing. If you never have to step foot into a summer camp, consider yourself lucky!

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