Back to School Camel Bite

I’ve got three words for you: back to school. In my house that means a run on number two pencils, wide-ruled composition notebooks, glue sticks, dry erase markers for the classroom, new shoes, new socks and a distinctly more structured schedule. It also means homework.

One of the first assignments that came home for my kindergartener this year was a spotlight poster. You know that oversized rectangle of cardstock you are supposed to fill with things that communicate your child’s essence to the teacher and class? No pressure.

I had ideas about what should go on the poster – and so did my kindergartener. He wanted a list of things he likes AND a list of things he does not like. I immediately felt anxious. This boy has opinions that rival any grumpy old man and I wasn’t sure it was the best idea to throw out a complete catalogue of preferences the first week of school.

But he persisted and I took notes. The things he does not like: chocolate; kisses; and church. But especially church. The things he likes: hugs, salad, fancy cheeses, tennis, animals, privacy; and family travel.

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Pleased that family travel made the list, and relieved that the likes outnumbered the dislikes, I went to close the computer. But he wasn’t done. He also demanded we feature his significant injuries to date on the poster as well. He knew exactly what to include: the nine stitches from a header into the bathroom sink; a broken left arm from a fall off the monkey bars; and the camel bite on the crown of his head that one time in Morocco.

Yes, he said camel bite. Let me explain a few things to put the bite in perspective. First, his dad and I were right there. Second, the bite didn’t break the skin or draw blood so the “significant injury” designation is generous. Third, camels are notoriously feisty and, for the record, don’t take too kindly to little boys taking a gander at their “undercarriage.” And finally, we were in Tangiers.

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My family of five found ourselves in the Northern African port city of Tangiers for a single day as part of a broader trip to Southern Spain in April 2014. Something about visiting another continent and witnessing the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea lured us onto the ninety-minute boat ride across the strait of Gibraltar.

Like other port cities, Tangiers is electric and a little dirty. Picture Times Square of the 90’s but without all of the neon lights and western fashion. Commodities and people pass in and out of Tangiers day and night. Hustlers roam the winding, nameless streets where local boys play marbles around the uneven cobblestones and roughly hewn storm drains.

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We hired a tour guide named Aziz to help us navigate the city. With Aziz we got the history of this once illustrious mecca to the rich by car and stops at local rug and teashops by foot. We ate meat off the bone and sweet dates at a Moroccan-style feast and we got a private camel ride on the shores of the Atlantic.

My kindergartener was only four when he rode atop a camel with his dad in that port city of Africa but he still remembers it. I give most of the credit to the camel and its bite. Thanks to that camel bite, not only does my little boy remember that he visited somewhere incredible, he also has an exotic injury to include on his Kindergarten spotlight poster and something that, hopefully, tempers the fact that he dislikes chocolate, kisses and church.

Republished with permission of St. George News.

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