Camp Augusta, Thursday October 19 through Sunday October 22, 2017
Only 3 weeks after doing the Mankind Project initiation weekend (read all about it here), I went and had my first (rookie) staffing experience.
First of all why did I want to staff at a weekend? Very simple: the person who introduced me to the Mankind Project told me that after the initiation weekend you feel like someone who was in a car crash: you know something BIG happened, but you have no idea how it happened. He suggested I staff to find out how the weekend happens. He also said it would help solidify and enhance what happened to me during the weekend. And since staffing only costs $150 compared to the weekend costing $695, the cheap Dutchman in me was convinced I would get my moneys worth. So I did ...
During the initiation weekend I was impressed with how well the staff executed. So I was convinced it would take many training courses before I would be allowed to staff myself. As it turns out all you need to have done is the weekend and then you can staff! All first time (rookie) staffers are mentored by an experienced staffer. The most important "rule" that the rookies received was: "Don't worry! There is no way you can screw up the weekend". That was quite a relief for me.
I found out about a staffing opportunity during my celebration evening. The celebration evening was a week after my weekend where all the participants and the weekend staff get together to celebrate all the new initiates (called "new brothers"). They told us that we could staff now having done just the weekend and that the first opportunity was the GBTQ (Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer) what they call gateway version of the weekend. I spoke to the organizer and he told me that they didn't really need any more staff. But that I could send him and email explaining what I would bring to the weekend and what I hope to get out of the weekend. He would then send my email to the committee and I would hear of their decision. As soon as I got home that evening I wrote my two paragraph "essay" and emailed it to him ...
Several days went by and no reply. So I decided to send him a link to my blog post about the weekend. Figuring it might help my case. Again several days went by with no response. Finally on October 10 (only one week before the staffing was suppose to start) I send a text message, asking if they had taken any decisions yet about my staffing request. I immediately got a response saying he never got any of my emails! Turns out I had used the wrong email address. I resend the essay and blog post emails to the correct address and within a few hours I was told I was accepted! Oh shit ...
The week leading up to the weekend (which starts on Thursday for the staff) I was in a complete frenzy. I tried talking about it at my iGroups. I tried talking to my wife. I considered postponing. But whatever I did I remained extremely nervous about this "trip". Now I normally get nervous when I have to travel to some place new. But this was a new level of nervousness. Only a few days before the weekend I started to relax (a little) after I had bought myself a new sleeping bag and rain pants (yes the weather report predicted rain and very cold nights).
I was able to get a ride up to camp Augusta (a 3 hour drive) with another staffer who himself was initiated at camp Augusta and had staffed there many times. During the ride up there we connected and my nervousness subsided a great deal. "I can do this".
Rather than giving a blow by blow of what happened. I would like to just highlight a few things that stood out for me.
During one of the exercises I was asked if I wanted to be a (co-)facilitator. I said no, because I still felt too raw from my own weekend. Two minutes later one of the ritual elders approach me and asked if I wanted to take on the role of ritual elder for that same exercise. I said yes, even though I had no clue what that meant. But it somehow resonated with me. After doing this exercise in the role of an elder, I now feel drawn to find out more about what the elder role entails in the Mankind project. This was meant to be.
At one point during the same exercise a wave of emotions hit me and I had to leave the room to compose myself. One of the senior staffing noticed it and came to talk to me. I received some very useful advice on how to deal with this particular emotion. I am so grateful. Now I know why I had to staff in order to "complete my initiation weekend".