Once upon a time, I worked as a lighting designer for Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico.
It was a defining time in my life. Club Med…changes you. As a staffer, or ‘GO’ (“Gentil Organisateur” or Gentle/Kind Organizer) at Club Med part of your job is to facilitate the pleasant vacations of the guests. Not only do you perform the duties of your titled job, but you also eat with the guests, perform for the guests, and socialize with the guests. It’s a lot. I don’t think I was quite prepared for it when I signed up.
However, it also afforded experiences that I could not otherwise have had…
I have done the high wire trapeze. And I caught the bar on the return, too. Booya!
I have twice dressed up like Wonder Woman and pretended to drown in the pool to be saved by ‘Super Guest’. Amazingly, I still love Wonder Woman. Maybe even more so.
I have been trained and certified to give CPR on seniors, adults, children, and infants.
I have learned a little French, a little bit more Spanish, and all of the Quebecois swear words.
I can hold a conversation with anybody for a good hour. Which is amazing considering I joined Club Med as an introvert.
I can shoot a bow and arrow. And not wildly miss my target.
I have seen gigantic tarantulas up close (not behind glass) and helped wild geckos escape from my room. I have had to take a different route home because the alligator escaped from the lagoon…again.
I have been trained as a volunteer firefighter. Ya, that’s right. Firefighter. Who’s a cool mom, now?
Let me explain…
About 4 or 5 months into my one year with Club Med, our support staff went on strike. For days. No maintenance staff, no cleaning staff, no wait staff, no nothing. The GOs had to step up.
Because of my many years as a soup kitchen volunteer, I knew how to operate the industrial dishwasher and was thusly assigned to kitchen duty. I was the only one on campus who knew for certain how to operate the machine (although it’s not rocket science; I’m guessing there just weren’t a lot of people scrambling for KP). It’s nice to have skills to fall back on, I guess. There were definitely worse jobs. I was thankful that I didn’t have to clean any bathrooms!
The strike went beyond that, though. We also needed a temporary fire brigade. So, they asked for volunteers to be trained by the local fire department as on-campus volunteer firefighters. Sign me up!
They taught us how to connect the hoses, how to turn on the water and to definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY be prepared for when that water comes out. Because it COMES OUT. FAST.
It takes three people to operate the big hose. One to operate the nozzle (which is terrifying and fun!), one to prop up that person (you literally have the nozzle guy sit on your knee and kind of scoot forward together toward the fire), and one to wrangle the rest of the hose behind them. It was crazy and it gave me a huge amount of appreciation for firefighters everywhere. They are strong and probably constantly banged up. None of that equipment was friendly or cooperative!
My time at Club Med was challenging for me. It forced me to come out of my shell and confront a lot of my fears (I had to change lights in an attic full of bats, some of which died and would fall on you).
I made some amazing friends and learned a lot of things. I had fun! I went to a foreign country by myself and there’s something very maturing and emboldening about that. I came out different, but I think better.
At the end of my year in Club Med I knew that I wouldn’t be going back; that I had accomplished what I needed to do for myself. But, I will always be grateful for that time. It helped make me who I am today.
P.S. Two months after my return to the States I met your father, so my timing was good! 😉