The bell chimes and the hoards come running. It’s breakfast time at camp.
The doors to the dining hall open and about sixty youths force their way inside. I watch from my station behind the long serving bench that separates them from me and my staff in the industrial-sized kitchen. They’re all so young and fit; I wonder where all my energy went.
I’m exhausted already and it’s only 7.30AM. I’ve been up preparing breakfast since six, and went to bed after midnight, so it’s no wonder. Still, I feel like I shouldn’t be this tired.
I look around. It’s a young girl, probably about twelve.
‘Is that orange juice?’
I try not to flinch. I just squeezed five kilos of oranges—OK not by hand, I used a juicer—and this kid wants to know what brand it is. I smile. ‘No brand. I squeezed them myself this morning.’
‘So it’ll have the bits in it, then?’ she asks with a screwed up nose.
‘Yes, it will. And no added sugar, either.’ I fold my arms across my chest. Honestly, each year these kids get more and more precious. ‘No one’s forcing you to drink it.’
‘But I have orange juice every morning. Daily Juice. That’s what Mum buys.’
‘I can call her if you like? Ask her to come and pick you up?’
She looks at me, confused. Her head drops to her left shoulder and she exhales loudly. ‘What?’
‘If you’re unhappy? Mum can take you back home. Is that what you want?’
‘Um no.’ She’s still confused, only now her eyes fill with unshed tears. ‘I just want toast and juice, like I normally do.’
‘Hey! Hurry up!’
This comes from one of the bigger lads in the queue behind the girl. He’s sick of waiting. I raise my hand to tell him I got this, be patient. But he’s restless, like a bull in a ring, staring at a waving red cloth.
‘Come on,’ I say to the girl. ‘Get a move on.’
She nods. Collects her toast—which will now be stone cold on her plate—and moves on. Without the juice.
Fine by me.