Monday, 25 July 2011

Silver Spur II, Main Camp, Week IV

Week 4 and somehow I had the foresight to not haul all my stuff up out of the valley before finding out where I was going to be spending the next week. As it was, the powers that be liked me so well in Silver Spur that they just kept me there. And I didn't have to haul all my stuff back down to the exact same location.

Except this week, they threw me something new. An LIT. For you camp-lingo uninformed, LIT stands for "Leader In Training". Theoretically, your LIT is a younger staff member who will one day be a cabin leader, and who will currently act as a mature second-in-command to help lighten your work load while getting a taste of what's coming. In reality, according to a good number of the cabin leaders that I have spoken to, LITs just make you want to push them off the top of the iceberg. Happily, I had a very good LIT. She will make a good cabin leader.

Week 4 was Junior Week, meaning all my campers were nine or ten. And to make up for the one spare bed I had in all my cabins up to this point, Silver Spur was now overloaded so that my LIT had to sleep all week on the floor. She was a good sport.

Twelve girls living in one room. No bathroom. And still no locks on the outhouse doors. I am starting a campaign (and trekking to the Ranch House for hot showers). In addition to the twelve of us, at least three of the girls had a habit of transmogrifying into the "Sleeping Bag Monsters" Wushy, Bob-She-Mo, and Ducky every single time they had a hint of cabin free time.

I was starting to flag this week, so my LIT really proved to be a lifesaver. For some random reason, my left knee started aching and getting stiff and otherwise acting up, which is weird because I have never before injured it or suffered something like it. Yet for a day and a half I was wrapped up in a tensor bandage, wondering what went wrong. Then it got better (lots of people were praying). Then I got a sore throat and woke up all blah-like. I was sickish all day, but recovered well enough to still have fun with my girls. I wasn't the only one with health issues. On the last night, one of my girls said it was really hurting her to breathe. We took a couple trips to see the nurse, then I stayed up with her outside after lights out, talking with her about brothers, video games, stars, and poop until she felt it clearing up.

That night she dreamed about a rather tragic RollerCoaster Tycoon experience of mine I had told her about. I felt oddly flattered.

The weather was ridiculous. The first two days were humid and hovered around 40 degrees (celsius). The nights weren't any better. Our cabin was supposed to have a fan in it, but what a time to discover it was broken. We finally got to sleep on top of our bedding, half-naked, with the door open wide.

I am immensely proud that we managed to keep all our girls from getting heat stroke and/or sunburns. That is an accomplishment, if I may say so.

The days after that were all very cool (we spent some nights shivering) and interspersed with heavy rainstorms. The MUD! The horse corrals were almost knee deep with grossness in some places. Oddly enough, I was apparently one of the three non-riding staff with the brains to wear rain boots.

By this point, I think I have memorized the entire DVRC repertoire of wide games:

1. Sticks and Stones
2. Kiss Me, Dear
3. Capture the Flag
4. Catacombs

Plus, one "wide game" of free swim. Day after day for weeks without end. With younger kids we sometimes play "Going Bananas", and there's been the occasional new game that a program director will try, but they are few and far between.

The musical repertoire may be stuck on repeat, and the food menu is getting a little slim. I guess that's how camp works, though. Kids remember things from last year and want it the same way the following year. If you change things up too much, it may be fresh and appealing for the staff, but the kids will feel totally disoriented.

I liked all the girls in my cabin, and we had some great devo discussions. And *three!* girls made first-time commitments to Christ! I loved hearing them pray, and the different perspectives with which they understood things. They had so many questions on the technicalities of guilt and forgiveness.

Despite the rougher bits, I enjoyed this week quite a bit. I feel like my girls actually matured a bit through the week, which made me pretty proud of them. And I was super encouraged by the way they all treated my grandma, who was working at the DV kitchen that week. They went out of their way to wave hello to her, and were constantly commenting on how she's always smiling. It made me happy. All the same, I am glad to have this week off. I need the time to recover. Then, back to DVRC again for another 4 weeks!

If I don't post again until September, don't be surprised.

Camper, praying: God, it might sound weird, but thank you for letting Eve sin. It wouldn't have been any fun being like robots all the time.

Camper #2: I'm so glad I came to camp! I'm learning so much - I didn't know these things before! I want to be a counsellor one day!

Waiting for the hayride.

Silver Spur, Main Camp, Week III

Week 3, and I was back at main camp! Having broken my flip-flops the week previous, I spent my Sunday off boating with my cousins, then bummed a ride on the back of Randal's motorbike to go pick up sandals in the city.

But back to what actually happened during the week, I was this time banished to the boonies of main camp, at the furthest possible girls' cabin, Silver Spur. It's the last cabin at the tail end of the girls' path in the valley. It's a nice cabin, though, minus the fact that the showers you must use have no hot water and the outhouses HAVE NO LOCKS or even any way to hold them shut from inside. You are entirely reliant on every incoming kid to knock before they whip open the outhouse door. Either that, or you can sing loudly while you pee.

I had nine girls instead of my former six, and they were mostly Catholics. I was initially concerned, because I was once again getting a lot of thirteen-year-olds (and one eleven-year-old), but it seems that so long as the kids are at main camp, they understand they're still kids.

One was another sleepwalker (the eleven-year-old), but she made the girl from week one pale in comparison. Here's her sleepwalking schedule:

Monday night: Get up. Climb into the top bunk where best friend is sleeping. Get told by best friend to go back to bed. Fall off the ladder.

Tuesday night: Get up. Walk to next bunk. Grab and pull on the arm of the girl in the top bunk. Make her shriek as she almost falls out of bed. Poke other girl in the eye. Amble back to bed. Get up again. Fall out of bed. Tell cabin leader your pillow is missing when it is under your head.

Wednesday night: Stay in bed all night. Talk in sleep, instead. Sound terribly confused, make everyone amused.

Thursday night: Talk in sleep again. Announce loudly that you are a girl, not a boy. Fall noisily off bunk. Get up, frantically looking for something. Announce the need for a bathroom. Get sent back to bed, despite bed-wetting risk.

Friday morning: Discover huge gash on chin. Realize it must be from the tumble out of bed. See nurse. Be informed by nurse that it should have had stitches.

Friday and Saturday night: SLEEP SOUNDLY

This week was interesting. In addition to the entertaining nights, I had a couple of girls who ate next to nothing. I don't know that either had formal disorders, but it was concerning. Thankfully, I managed to get them both to eat considerably more than they had been, and both mentioned several times that they were eating way more than they did at home, but it was still barely enough food to satisfy a six-year-old.

There was also some boy/interpersonal drama going on. The favourite cabin pastime seemed to be straightening, crimping, and re-straightening hair, or drawing all over oneself with Sharpies. Part of my sanity this week came from one camper who thought they were all nuts but was still well-bred enough to be kind and thoughtful to them regardless. I considered the week a success when her parents informed me that she told them she was both happy but a bit teary to be leaving camp, as that had only happened to her once before.

I had some really good conversations with the girls and they asked some great questions, the topics ranging from dinosaurs, to priests, to how we know we're saved. I also overslept and was late for staff meeting for the first (and thus far, only) time. I was pretty much consigned to the high ropes/climbing wall during skill times for the third straight week, which I'm mostly okay with, though it was starting to get a bit tedious by the week's end.

All in all, though, as far as July goes, I think this was my favourite week.

Definitely the two best quotes from this week are as follows:

"Are you shaving?!" - one of my girls upon hearing and seeing me wave my mini-fan around my face.

And during a game of Capture the Flag, one of the boys asked me to join his flanking strike team to secretly approach through the trees and overwhelm the opposing side at the precise location of their flag. I was the only female in his group of 20+ people, cabin leader or not. As we followed him through the trees, we met up with two enemy groups, and he used the same line on both of them.

"Hey buddy," a couple of male cabin leaders said upon seeing Josh approaching them, "You better run."

"I don't think so," Josh replied, fully confident we had his back. "I brought an army."

Not entirely sure what we were doing here. Yay crazy Silver Spurrians!

Hoop, Conestoga, Week II

No sooner had I found my footing in main camp than they decided to ship me down the valley to DV's camp for older kids, Conestoga.

"Don't worry," said the program director, aware of my inexperience, "I gave you the cabin with the youngest kids, so it will be the most like main camp."

Uh, yeah. Let me tell you that those two years between eleven and thirteen make a huge difference!

First let's look at the main differences between Conestoga and Main Camp:

-Things dry at Main Camp. They stay damp forever at Conestoga.
-You have to walk long distances at Main Camp. You walk short distances with incredible slope gradients at Conestoga.
-You sleep in cabins at Main Camp. You sleep in "wagons" at Conestoga. If you're lucky, you get a bunk.

Now we can look at the differences between Main Camp and Conestoga campers:

-Main Camp kids are cute. Conestoga kids are pubescent.
-Main Camp kids naturally adore you. Conestoga kids give you attitude.
-Main Camp kids won't shower unless you threaten to hose them down. Conestoga kids ask if they can wake up at five in the morning so they can be ready in time for breakfast at 8:15.

Well, maybe this is a bit unfair. I had some great campers, and they don't all have attitude. And they sure gave up on the five in the morning thing pretty quickly. This week was actually pretty uneventful in comparison to Week I. Having been given a heads-up by a fellow "wagon leader" from the week before, I strategically slept near the wagon door every night to prevent my campers from making any midnight rendez-vous, but it seems to have been unnecessary. I did not need to tie my wrist to the door-knob or set up a tower of pop cans for further security, as the other wagon-leader had been required to do the week before.

Of my six campers, I would say that I became friends with three of them, and had no issue with two of the others. I managed to avoid any angry confrontation with the sixth. The speaker at Conestoga was great, and so was the nurse. As far as the month of July goes, these two were the best yet I've met. They were enthusiastic, entertaining, and made great efforts to get to know the kids and the staff. Oh, also, the speaker spoke about good stuff.

In case you can't tell, I certainly have preferred Main Camp to Conestoga so far, but it wasn't all bad. The cardboard boat race in particular was tons of fun (even though our girl didn't know how to paddle and then sank), and I was impressed by the maturity level of a fairly large number of the boys.

We have an inflatable iceberg at the dugout (which, to my amusement, many of the staff members commonly call a lake) which you can climb up and then slide down. At least, that's the idea. It took a good couple of minutes before I could figure out how to heave myself out of the water and onto the side, and I only figured it out because a helpful camper patiently explained to me where exactly to put my hands and feet. After thanking him for his advice, I managed to scale the rest of the wall up to the top, where I met another problem. It's a fourteen foot drop to the water, so the rule is to go down feet-first. We also have a rule that only six people are allowed on the iceberg at a time.

I was hopelessly tangled when I reached the top; it was certainly not my feet pointing to the water. As I flopped around in a frenzy like a dying fish, trying to realign myself without slipping off, the kids in the water started shouting up at me to let go so they could get on. It was another patient and slightly bemused male camper, perched near the top of the iceberg that yelled back down to them, "Yeah, she's not going anywhere for a while yet."

It was terribly embarrassing, but I remember it fondly.

I also got a reputation for being "smart" this week. During the first chapel, the speaker invited everyone to ask him questions to get to know him, so I asked him his opinion on pre-Adamic man. When, on the second night, he asked us who knew the definition of an allegory and I replied with a dictionary-like explanation, it seemed to seal the deal. Kids (and staff) would come up and quiz me.

Camper: What does "distinguished" mean?
Me: It's being well-known for being good at what you do.
Camper: Ok, what does DNA stand for?
Me: Deoxyribonucleic acid.
Camper: Uh, what does MS mean?
Me: Multiple sclerosis.
Camper: What about Ph. D? What does Ph. D stand for?
Me: Uh, it's Latin. I can't remember what exactly it is.
Camper: Hah! And I thought you were smart...

She made it halfway around the "lake" before the thing got too soggy and folded up on her.

P.S. I am surprised that Blogger hasn't told me "Conestoga" is spelled wrong. I've been trying to figure out what it means all month.

ETA: Apparently it's a type of broad-wheeled covered wagon, which makes sense, seeing as we sleep in wagons.

Martingale, Main Camp, Week I

First week of camp and first week ever as a cabin leader!

Martingale is a nice little cabin (the smallest at Dallas Valley Main Camp), complete with its own bathroom and shower. All my kids were aged ten or eleven. There was actually a fair bit of craziness this first week. In my cabin, I personally had to deal with:

-One camper who flew into hysterics at loud noises or anything that moves in the dark
-One sleepwalker
-One camper so homesick she refused to participate in activities
-Two physically sick campers (three, if you count the final morning)
-Two campers with rolled ankles
-One camper with a seasonal allergies flare-up
-Six campers from completely unchurched backgrounds
-One (point five?) bouts of interpersonal drama involving an overly sensitive camper

I only had six girls.

The camp as a whole also had to deal with:

-One poolside emergency (everything worked out fine)
-One crazy thunderstorm (remember my camper with hysterics?)

Plus various other dramas going on within different cabins. I also had to storm a noisy neighbouring cabin on the last night, telling them to please be quiet and apologize to us in the morning. I guess my surprise, stern appearance was intimidating enough that they complied with both requests (and the rather harried leader of the cabin actually thanked me for my intervention).

Suffice to say, it was nuts, but I actually enjoyed the challenge. One neat thing about having a cabin full of unchurched girls is that they know nothing, and all the Bible stories are new and exciting to them. You can tell them the story of Daniel and the Lions' Den without them yawning and grumbling that they've heard this a million times before in Sunday School. Every new Bible character that a staff member mentioned they wanted to hear about (and act out the story for with stuffed animals). They were all so eager to learn how to look up verses in their Bibles, and had tons of questions about God's nature.

I might also say that it was in this week that I was put in charge of leading FORC (which stands for Fun Outdoor Recreational Cooking). It could be accurately renamed Bush-Pie Hour. I'm not sure what possessed those in charge to give me this task, seeing as I had never before built a fire in my life, but I think I managed to hide my inexperience. I successfully set aflame a stack of wood (with one match, even!), and proceeded to make sure the kids were well-versed in the usage of hatchets and bush-pie makers.

Also, one of the campers (the homesick one, no less) told me that even though she had only known me a week, it felt like I was her big sister.

One of my favourite quotes from the week:

Camper: This may seem like a weird question, but are you a freakishly tall camper?

No, I am not.

My favourite game of the week was called "Going Bananas".

Jess, explaining the game: You are going bananas, and your campers are going to come sedate you.
Staff member: You mean, like, "Hey, baby..."?
Jess: Noooo.... "sedate"... not "seduce".

One of my campers, after the game is over: I want to play the opposite! Can you imagine what it would be like if the kids went crazy and the counsellors had to round them up?

No. We really have no idea what it would be like to round up crazy campers. Sounds like fun.

"Martingale Warriors" - our motto was "Mud on your face, not a disgrace"