camp

Camp 2017 – Blog 4/4 – The Programmes and The Songs of the Summer

Picking up one final time… written 18/08/17…

 

The Programmes

 

Surprisingly, this fun filled summer does become a little monotonous after a while and we need a little bit of change from time to time. This is where the evening programmes, staff recs and two-day programmes come in.

 

There are too many evening programmes to mention, but one epic one was going over to the treehouse with the kids. The treehouse is this awesome, bespoke cabin on stilts on the other side of the lake, it’s all off angle and looks super cool. We got to go over there with our campers one night and make a bonfire. Sadly we didn’t find the firewood until after the kids went to bed, so although we had a great night of chats and staring into the fire and seeing interesting shapes, the kids never got to make s’mores. The counsellors had a great time though.

 

The most interesting staff rec was probably SplashBash, which saw quite a few funny stories come from. Like my shorts being pulled down on the soccer field, spraying watered-down paint at each other and of course, Brian throwing up on himself after being a bit silly. It also saw Caleb get booted as he was being a naughty boy and was having a drink beforehand.

 

There were two lots of two-day programmes this summer, these completely break up the normal scheduling and you compete for your team for honour and glory. The first of which started at Chapel which is the only time during camp that we all come together and reflect, these run every Friday. Once all of the speakers had said their part, the final speaker called his girlfriend up and proposed to her right there in front of everyone. We had a fake wedding a few days later on the beach, but it was gatecrashed by some Minions and we were split into teams of Smurfs and Trolls to fight to get the bride and groom back together. Sounds really weird on reflection but it was really fun and competing at the events was just what we needed. I was on the Smurfs team and we definitely won, but they announced that the Trolls won. It was a fix.

 

The second two-day was at the end of the summer, where following tradition, there was a two-day Olympiad compiled of loads of random sports and challenges between four teams. The opening ceremony is this huge fire-lit display on the docks and was magical to experience. It was also a huge privilege to be part of it; I was asked to take part due to my hard work and dedication this summer. I carried a flag onto the docks and knelt on the edge of the dock (nearly fell in) until the captains of that team collected the flag. The games included sports day like track and field, a swim meet – where I was part of the synchronised swimming team – and a great marathon to finish which was all over camp and a huge sequential marathon. My team may have lost as well…

 

A few last things I’ve got to mention:

  • The outbreak of pink-eye a.k.a. conjunctivitis and gastro which half the staff contracted
  • Laying in the boot of a car for two hours on the way back from a day off. So snuggly.
  • Going on days off and having peanuts for the first time in a week – I had an amazing pad thai in town with prawns
  • Loads of dancing on tables, lifting up chairs and singing to songs of the summer

 

Songs of the Summer

 

A few from the very long list include…

 

  • Despacito – Luis Fonis
  • Heart Won’t Beat – Aja9
  • Be the One – DJ Kaleed
  • Doctor Jones – Aqua
  • Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
  • Every Time We Touch – Cascada
  • Humble – Kendrick Lemar
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
  • Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus
  • Time Warp – Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Sweet Transvestite – Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Good Morning Baltimore – Hairspray
  • Status Quo – High School Musical

 

I’ve had a great time at camp this summer. It’s been magical.

Camp 2017 – Blog 3/4 – The Kids and The Activities

Continuing from where I left off yesterday… written 18/08/17…

 

The Kids.

 

Over the seven weeks of camp, my cabin has seen 29 campers come and go. These span the two who stayed for the full seven weeks to one six-year-old boy who stayed for a day and the maximum age of the boys was 8.

Have you ever had 20 eight-year-olds in one room? I can tell you, from my recent experience, it’s something to watch!

Have you ever tried to control all of them at the same time on your own? Yeah, that’s tough.

 

I’m thankful for the boys who I have looked after, and with one exception I can say that they have all been kind-hearted and caring. My boys have been fun and enthusiastic, sometimes a bit too much, they have been inclusive, loud and silly. Sometimes they have been cautious or outright brave. Each one was a character and each one has been challenge at some point.

 

I admit that I was sometimes a bit too strict or that I should have removed myself from some situations, but we can only reflect and develop from our mistakes and following a high-stress first month, I certainly say that in the second month I was able to be the amazing counsellor I know that I am.

 

Over both months, I lead some unique sessions with the boys, from playing games to do with rhyming or dancing on rainy days or leading my own evening programmes with them. The games of hide and seek on the beach and in the cabin are definitely some non-scheduled-activity highlights. Just being able to mess around with them has been the key to having fun; keeping an eye on them but having fun as well.

 

There is a tradition here at camp to design and create a plaque of all the campers and counsellors that are in your cabin that summer. Yesterday – the final day of camp – I spent three hours making the plaque below, I’m really proud of this plaque and had a lot of fun making it. Guess I’ve still got a bit of creativity in me.

 

There is a quote I have read at camp, (paraphrasing) “Being a counsellor means that you are a drop in the pool of each camper and you cannot be sure how big or how long the wave you create will last”. I hope the drop I have made this summer ripples in the right direction.

 

The Activities

 

As a roamer, I’ve been able to see my boys develop skills which I was never able to improve on outside of school, I’ve also enabled them to improve, or try for the first time, the activities available.

 

One benefit of being a roamer is that I also get to try out these activities myself!

 

I’ve already mentioned how I’ve learned to sail here at camp, I’ve also made my first fire and hit a perfectly exact bullseye. I’ve taken part in the staff play of Rocky Horror where after several late-night rehearsals (some finishing at 2 am), I’ve sung and danced my heart out to the TIme Warp.

 

I’ve found out that I’m an alright canoer but a poor paddleboarder. I’m not half bad in a kayak, which is now my paddle boat of choice. I’ve learned to water ski (on the boom, nearly on the rope) after many total wipeouts into the lake.

 

I’ve thrown kids off the inflatables after helping them climb up them, totally built up some shoulder strength there. I’ve learned how to dive and jumped foolishly off an inflatable backward and nearly knocked myself out. I’ve seen a snapping turtle during our fishing periods and released several fish back into the water and driven a motorboat across the lake.

 

I have climbed up a 30 feet pole for the new ropes course Rob helped to build, sat on a suspended quad bike and sung to myself for confidence to get across the course. On my birthday I even did the Leap of Faith three times in a full body harness, which was pretty cool in the oncoming storm. I’ve also raced up a rock climbing wall against Ben and won!

 

I’ve swam across the lake in a speedy 31 minutes and 47 seconds – without a lifejacket might I add. It was hard but not ridiculously, I’d say a 7/10 for difficulty, 32 minutes of constant swimming and singing to myself to keep myself going – Time Warp, Party in the USA and Unwritten – a few of the songs of the summer.

 

The final part of this story will be out tomorrow.

 

Peace, BA.

Camp 2017 – Blog 2/4 – The Staff

Continuing from where I left off yesterday… written 18/08/17…

 

The Staff

 

The coach that I am on is filled with amazing friends who I met only a few weeks ago. They aren’t necessarily in my team nor did I see them every day but their time spent with me this summer is definitely blog worthy.

 

I’ll start with the first counsellor I met, Chrissie. Following my nine hours sat on a plane and one more getting through immigration, I came through the Arrivals door at Toronto and greeted by Ricki (our driver) and Chrissie, a cheery, sexy and fun young Australian girl who met me with open arms. Chrissie was by far one of the most inviting people I’ve ever met and always has time for you, she’s a great listener and also great at explaining what is going on in her life. Like me, she journals and we’ve bonded over boy chats and taking it easy during rest hours. It’s only fitting that she’s on my bus today heading to Toronto with me, as she was there when I arrived. I’m sure that tonight we will repeat our last drunken time together and either dance on tables or end up crying because of how we’re blessed to have met each other.

 

Raphaëlle a.k.a. Frenchie. This summer Raph has been a member of the theatre team, working tired-ly through five musicals with kids of all ages, from one of my youngest boys Aaron – who due to his breakout performance of Lumiere in The Beauty and The Beast is now a camp star after he was asked to perform in the two sequential nights – to staff in our production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Raph is also Rob’s girlfriend and our triplet has been seen water painting together on rainy days, playing Bananagrams (the game of the summer) and chowing down on ice-cream. I can’t count the number of hugs or encouraging talks we’ve had together or the ranting over meals. Raph, if you’re reading this, I mean what I wrote in your birthday card, you are a star.

 

My third summer gal is easily Leanne. Not only did we click over our mutual love of song and dance but she lives on the same road as me back in England. Seriously, on the second day of Pre-Camp, I told someone I was from Watford and they replied saying there was a girl here called Leanne who was also from Watford, later that night I asked Chrissie to point her out. I sat next to her and our first conversation went something like this

 

B: Hey, I hear you’re from Watford?

L: Yeah I am, are you?

B: Yeah!
L: Oh where about’s do you live?

B: In ABC neighbourhood.
L: No way, I live in ABC neighbourhood. What road?
B: Well on XYZ Road.

L: … I live on the same road

B: No you don’t.

L: Yes I do.

 

We then chatted about our schools and friends, this was around the Pre-Camp bonfire and Leanne and I went onto roast marshmallows together.

Leanne and I were also co-chorus members in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, she was always my dance partner and I weep for the campers as they did not get to see our background dance to Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.

 

The final lady I’d like to mention is my Irish lass Luka. Luka and I clicked because we’re both a little odd, although she may be a bit odder than I am, like me she does it unapologetically. She keeps true to herself and her interests and that’s what makes her amazing. As a member of the Arts & Crafts team, I have had the pleasure to design and create with her as my cabin rotates onto her schedule. We have made glassware together, painted pictures, tie-dyed t-shirts, painted copper, made bracelets and masks. Usually, you can’t make a friendship tangible but with Luka, these objects remind me of the laughs and songs and the sincere conversations we’ve had in the workroom or outside eating cookies. Luka is a dear dear friend and I’m sad to leave her.

 

Outside my cube, there have been three main men I have enjoyed the company of, and that is Josh, John, and Daragh.

 

In short, Josh is perfect. Like, not only is he ridiculously good looking and handsome, but he’s also really hot and sexy. But seriously, he is beautiful but so is his mind. He’s one of the few people at camp I’ve clicked with on an intellectual level, I even told him this when drunk once (read in a slight mumble) “Josh, I really like you. Not just ‘cos you’re hot but also you get me. You get my jokes. ‘Cos you’re clever. And sometimes, most times, my jokes require a bit of smarts behind them”. He left camp early to enter his fourth year of medicine and I cried. As a medical student, and a good one I bet, we’ve chatted about some stuff to do with the human body and he explained some of the things perfectly. After Rob, Josh was probably my best male friend here at camp.

 

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When I first met John, I found out that he had just finished his undergraduate Masters in maths at UEA, not only do I know this university as I considered it as an option for my degree but also this is the same degree that Rob and I completed last summer. John was on the Sail team and taught me to sail (yeah Mum, I can totally sail a boat now). I thought he was always nice to the children, a great teacher and had a lot of patience for them, he even came to help out in my cabin the last few days when his campers had left. One memory of John I have is from the first beach party where he taught me this amazing dance which could be used for any song, I’ll be sure to repeat this dance on the road and show it to my friends at home. He’s also been a fine opponent in Bananagrams.

 

Finally, we have Daragh, a tall, stocky Irishman with long hair and a beard. If you passed him on the street, you could have mistaken that you have passed a viking, which is funny as Daragh’s claim to fame is that he starred as an extra on Vikings. Even better, the first scene he did was a sex scene! Daragh has worked in the office this summer, helping campers, staff and even camper’s parents with their queries and problems, directing them to the correct answer, sorting mail and organising staff. I’m sure that he and his colleague Helen do much more than that and they work late into the night sometimes. At staff awards they rightfully won The Most Unappreciated Staff and they are the only two members of our staff who are leaving with the same skin colour as they came with. The memories I have of Daragh mostly include chats whilst drunk, sober hugs and jokes in the office. He’s a great guy.

 

There are a few other people who deserve mentions as they have contributed to my summer in small but significant ways. Thank you Samac Mike, Mel, Lauren, Laura, Sarah, Evan, Waldo, Toby, Claudia, Nicole, Garratt, Phil, Joe, Fred, Emma, Kristen, Gemma, Laura, Abbie, Niamh, Jeremy, Alun, Dean, Rusty, Gab, Sarah, Mhairi, Abby, Jake, Justin, Brittney, Becca, Nev and Sam.

 

The third part of this story will be out tomorrow.

 

Peace, BA.

Two Weeks In

Hey again! I’m still alive!

This week I’ve passed the two week point of being at camp / being on my travels so I thought I’d write a bit about what I’ve been up to. A few things to note, firstly I wanted to write more but my 15 hour days are quite tiring, and in the past fifteen days I have had one day off – so free time to write is hard to come by. Also, since the kids have been here we can’t have our phones on show or out, so photos are a bit slacking.

What isn’t slacking though is my journal entries. Since I arrived, I have written 28 A5+ pages so roughly 2 pages a day and this is simply down to how much happens in a day.

 

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I’m a Voyager roamer for cabin B1, meaning I look after 19 8-year-old boys from when they wake up to when they go to bed, Voyagers are the younger half of camp (between 8 and 11). And a normal day for us are

7:00 – Wake the boys up

7:30 – Ask them to get ready for breakfast

7:45 – Breakfast

8:30 – Go back to the cabin for clean up hour

9:30 – First period

10:30 – Second period

12:00 – Lunch

12:45 – Rest hour

14:00 – Third period

15:00 – Fourth period

16:00 – Snack / tuck hour

16:45 – Fifth period

17:45 – Dinner

18:30 – After dinner free time

19:00 / 19:30 – Evening programme

21:00 – Bedtime

22:00 – True bedtime

 

The periods are all of the activities available: (water) skiing, archery, skateboard park, ropes course, ball hockey, soccer, basketball, taught swim, free swim, inflatable times, hanging out at the beach, pottery, cooking, textiles, general arts & crafts, BMXing, kayak, canoe, sailing, baseball and theatre.

As a roamer, it’s my job to make sure all of our 19 boys are at their activities or meals on time, that they get involved and that they enjoy themselves. It means that I help them shoot arrows or put on their lifejackets, I’m one of the guys who encourages them to play a sport they dislike or drown myself in attempt to push them above the water onto the inflatables (this last bit has happened several times).

 

periods 3 & 4-159

 

However, it also means that I’m the guy who has to tell them off for pushing other boys, or to tell them to take a timeout when they’re being a bit too much and souring the other boy’s time. Getting them to tidy up after themselves and to make the cabin habitable is an ongoing challenge but the other counsellors and I are slowly getting them into good habits.

It turns out though that with our guidance, our cabin is one of the best and our boys are one of the best behaved, even when they’re misbehaving – this may be down to how the older kids act though.

It also turns out that our cabin is full of some of the best counsellors and we’re doing our jobs quite well, which is great to hear!

 

 

This is where it gets a bit disjointed…

The camp itself has a great environment and when I walk down Main Path which runs through camp, everyone is happy to be here. As a counsellor, I have had to deal with some cases of homesickness but nearly all of these have disappeared as time has gone on.

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The food was simplified a bit after the kids arrived, I’ve never seen so much pasta covered in butter, pizza or chips, but there are good options available and we’re never hungry. The kids eat 5 times a day (3 meals + 2 snacks) and have sports drink available at every meal time to keep them going. Most lunch times finish in a song and dance party in the mess hall (= dining room), with Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara being regularly played. You can’t go two hours without hearing Despacito. (My Camp Timberlane playlist is here.

They are little boys, so we have had quite a few tears along with scrapes and grazes, mostly these are treated with a close eye and a band-aid. There haven’t been any punch ups among my boys yet, just a couple of times when I’ve had to tell two guys from irritating each other.

I’ve made some good friends, one of which being Chrissie who is an Australian girl who was also late to camp, we travelled up together and have drunkenly told each other how much we admire each other, it also helps that she’s on Ropes with my best friend and co-counsellor Rob. There’s Luka from Ireland who is on Arts & Crafts, which all of my boys seem to love doing – today they even stuffed a bear, dog or frog cuddly toy, I’m so upset I didn’t get one. There’s also lots of others that I’m sure I’ll have good stories to mention on here before the summer is out.

Canada Day was fun. Singing Shawn Mendes in the mess hall, a beach dance party and fireworks. Everyone was wearing red and white of course and I had kids on my shoulders for most of it. They take these things seriously.

 

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Some other things I’ve done here include:

  • Going skiing for the first time ever and falling off several times
  • Driving one of the boats across the lake
  • Getting drunk at a friend’s cottage and cutting my hand up on the stones in the lake
  • Jumping off a huge inflatable iceberg
  • Running my own Evening Programme
  • Becoming a veggie again after seeing two fish die in quick succession from fishing
  • Being drawn by Luka which was awesome
  • Seeing a couple of snapping turtles in the lake
  • Pushing my co-counsellors in the lake
  • Playing baseball for the first time in years
  • Jumping off the high diving board and going foot first
  • Going to Tim Hurtons and getting Timbits and an icecap
  • Riding in a car for two hours back to camp…in the boot
  • Starting to learn how to dive properly

There’s a lot more to say but I think that’ll do for now!

Happy July everyone!

Peace, BA.

Day 1: Welcoming and a bear shooting 

Morning campers.
It is currently 6:10 in this eerie woodland that I will call home for the next 8 weeks. The air is fresh and cool with morning dew and last night’s rain. North, south, east and west you can hear different animals chirp, welcoming the new day. 



After 15 hours of travelling, I finally made it to camp last night. Although this was ~midnight English time, the camp was still in full swing with pre-camp activities (before the campers turn up, the staff are trained in what we call pre-camp). 
Yesterday evening I was greeted by my old uni friend Rob and his girlfriend to a broad campsite filled with young adults keen to start their summer. 

The cabins are made of brick and wood, with light-coloured wood paneling on the interiors. 


I learnt about all of these as Rob took me on a personal tour of our temporary home. Rob is now head of ropes, meaning he managers other workers on the canopy course and the climbing wall. As a head, he is granted a walkie-talkie in case of emergencies, just like the one we had last night.The camp is much wider than it is long, as it straddles a lake. There is a skateboard park, two “beaches”, an archery course, football, basketball and beach volleyball courts, a tuck shop and a freeweights gym. 

As Rob was leading us around, someone buzzed in over the radio something about a bear on site.

Now, we are in the Canadian woodland so bears are common, however they usually keep away from camp. 

Rob and I continued on our tour and eventually came to the area with other senior members of staff where standing with caution. The bear was close. 

Immediately after we reached them, a man approached us with a gun, and caught sight of the bear cub just behind us. I turned to see the first sight of a wide animal of this size, it was roughly the size of a grown Dalmatian. 

Sadly, due to safety, the bear was then shot twice, right in front of my eyes. RIP Mr Bear. 
The rest of the evening was slightly less exciting, but still amusing. There were evening activities such as human hungry hungry hippos, a lip sync battle and Apple stacking. 

After this, I made my way back to my cabin, unpacked my stuff and went to bed. 

Who’d have thought that sleeping in a wooden bunkhouse would be so cold? 
Peace, BA.