ART MILL: birthplace of my wanderlust, 7 yrs later

Trip Start Jun 27, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Plzeňský Kraj,
Saturday, July 14, 2012

The next morning my nose piercing fell down the drain, so I walked over to the center (in shorts and a tank top) to buy a new one. On the way back it started to pour, and pour hard. I walked up the huge hill and got back to the pension completely drenched. The owner was nice enough to drive me to the train station. The trains were late because of the rain, which meant I missed my connecting train…Iīve since learned that Czech trains arenīt very reliable. Also, people in the smaller towns REALLY donīt speak very much English, and they donīt announce what the name of the stop is either. As a travel novice I also didnīt know that when the train stops, the doors donīt open on their own, you have to crank this lever up…ay. Anyways, despite watching the signs like a hawk, I barely made it out of the train at Horazdovice, my stop to go to camp. This gnarly Czech lady with a voice like Oscar the Grouch, curly toenails, and a nice chin beard pretty much forced me out the doors and onto the platform. Bless her heart. 
I was behind schedule but luckily not late for the staff orientation. It was really a trip to be back at camp. The last time I was at the ArtMill was in 2005 with my best friends from high school. This time I was alone, and while the property looked exactly the same, the staff was comprised of many Americans, and Barbaraīs daughters had grown up into teenage girls. I last saw Nati and Gabi when they were about 6 and 9, and now they are 13 and 16! Insanity. I couldnīt stop staring at first, which I'm sure they thought was weird, since they didn't remember me at all. I eventually got over it. Gabi was a counselor this year, and we ended up hanging out like girlfriends. 
Itīs going to be difficult to make this camp part short. I absolutely love the ArtMill. There is something about the land and the Mill that also feels like magic to me. The surrounding landscape takes my breath away. There is a huge lake about 20 feet from the gate, a forest a quarter of a mile away, farm land and meadows and hills as far as you can see, and clouds more bright and vivid than anyoneīs ever seen without sensory-enhancing drugs. Itīs quiet and still and slow and Czech. We slept at a schoolhouse about a 20 minute walk away. In the mornings the kids would bike, walk, or get a ride to the mill. I would always walk through the fields and forest. arriving with my feet totally soaked from the dew. I got in touch with the part of me that really doesnīt care about getting dirty and treading through fields without any roads, getting lost and finding my way in the middle of nowhere, up to my waist in shrubbery and up to my ankles in mud. No big deal!
 Miriam (a returning American counselor from New York) and I got lost one day for an hour trying to find the mill. It was pretty hilarious, we were wandering through fields up to our waists with literally no paths that led to anywhere. Thank goodness the schoolhouse is on a hill, we made our way back over there by keeping our eyes on it and started walking back on the road. In the end someone from camp happened to be driving by because the ArtMillīs other car had run out of gas and was stranded on the road. We got a ride with them and started the other car up…oh, Art Mill. 
The counselors would wake up at 7 in the morning and put out bread, butter, and jam for the children's breakfast. I made a few enormous batches of granola out of oats, treacle (molasses), oil, and walnuts (the kids had fun cracking them), which lasted several days. I also tried making old-fashioned oatmeal because of course I was concerned with their intense bread consumption and lack of fruit/whole grains. They survived. Anyways, after breakfast, weīd get ready to go down to the mill. 
In the mornings, they would do one hour of French lessons with Jerome and one hour of Spanish lessons with Russell, followed by a dip in the lake. I would usually help in the kitchen, do other chores, or try to take some free time on someone elseīs computer. When two Russian campers came later into camp (the campers kept saying, The Russians Are Coming! without knowing why the adults cracked up), I began teaching them English in the mornings. They barely spoke any and no one could communicate with them, so teaching was kind of funny…thank goodness for Google Translate and iPads! 
Then we would serve lunch, clean up, and they would have other classes, such as painting, theater, animation, drawing, etc. There were several Artists in Residence at the mill that were working on their own projects, but did workshops with the kids. I had some great connections with some of these Artists in Residence, they were really inspiring people. 

After lunch I would help Daniel prepare for dinner, and/or teach piano. At the mill it was extremely laid-back, but at the same time as a counselor there was always something to do and some responsibility to be owned, so it was a delicate balance finding personal time. Each of the counselors got to spend at least a night sleeping down at the mill (instead of the schoolhouse) for a break. The rest of the Artists in Residence slept down there every night, and after dinner and all the campers were gone, they would sit around the campfire and drink wine and talk until midnight or so. It got dark around 10pm, so it was really only a few hours of campfire in the dark. 
I think one of my favorite memories from ArtMill was cherry-picking with Jerome. The path from the school to the mill was lined with cherry-trees, and one day we went out with a huge tarp and a big bowl and did some serious cherry picking. Jerome monkeyed his way up the tree and shook the branches, sending a hail storm of cherries bouncing onto my head and the tarp below. We walked home with pounds and pounds of cherries. Marianka, the head couselor, made delicious cherry tarts, and also cherry syrup to mix with water. It was the only way we got the kids to hydrate! 

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