The Topsy Turvy Bus Tour has been going on without the Topsy Turvy Bus for about a week now. So, dear reader, you may ask–what could the bus crew possibly be up to when forced to leave the safety of mother bus? The answer is frankly, a whole bunch of little things. The loss of the Bellows Kit could not keep us down, for in the past week we have been transformed into the Topsy Turvy Van Tour–driving around in a white, 15-person passenger van carrying the five of us plus all of our programming material including the worm bin, water filter, buckets, tents, cheese cooler, and bicycle blender.
We were very excited to be able to offer our program, sans bus, to Camp Gan Israel in both Greenwich and Westport, Connecticut, last week. The program, after all, isn’t exclusively about debating whether the bus is Topsy or Turvy. As educators, we are trained to be flexible and make the best out of tricky situations and we really enjoyed focusing on our other stations. We even added in an extra station about worms and compost. This challenge allowed us to strengthen the program and gave us lots of practice in adapting our stations to any situation.
One major thing that came out of our adventure off the bus was learning how to confront group issues that come up in times of stress and conflict. As popular group formation theory goes, cohorts inevitably go through a series of stages that allows them to become a successful team. From my assessment, in week two of the tour we are solidly past the “forming” stage in which we established our goals, intentions, and roles and are moving solidly through “storming” and “norming.” Learning how each crew member deals with disappointment, problem solving, trouble shooting, purchasing food, expressing opinions and emotions, and most constructively receives feedback, in addition to figuring out what to do when our needs conflict with each others, has been an important part of our week. I have been proud of our group for placing ourselves into these hard conversations even though they are not fun. I think that we are becoming stronger as a group. This week we have also had fun getting to know each other; after all, we have only been a team for two weeks, even though it feels like much longer than that.
Something that has been important for us was our decision to come back to Freedman until the bus is repaired. While on the van tour we have had incredibly generous hosts who have opened up their homes and kitchen to the crew. Shoutout to Lauren’s Aunt and Uncle in Springfield, Rabbi Jim and Wendy who took us in very last minute in Fairfield, our lovely Shabbat hosts in Northampton (previous Tevanicks Sonia Wilk and Rebecca Steinfeld!), Emily and Molly’s friends Ben and George, and Itai’s friend Hamsa. That being said, we felt that we needed to be more grounded and together as a team in our own space, so we headed back to Freedman. Thanks for the current Adamah cohort and all of the people who live and work here for being excited to see us and making us feel at home.
While here we have done everything we could to feel productive and to spend our time. We have swam in various bodies of water, had extensive planning meetings, workshopped our stations and skit to continue to grow our program, watched movies, played games, had “band practice,” and even spent some time weeding with Adamah on the farm. We have also embraced the alone time that being here has provided us, something that is impossible while on the bus. Despite all of our best efforts to stay busy we are definitely feeling antsy, and needless to say, we are very excited to get back on the bus today (G!d willing).
As Emily said, what this experience has really taught us is how to let go when we cannot control a situation. We have been at the mercy of the mechanics this week (thanks to Dave’s for all your hard work!), of waiting for the parts of the bus to arrive via FedEx from across the country, and of the health of our home, the Topsy Turvy Bus. We hope that she makes a full recovery and remains well for the rest of the tour!
Frances, Itai, Molly, Ya’akov and Emily