Homesickness

So far this summer I have not really had one serious bout of homesickness. But the kids around me have. The past few days have been really bad for some reason… we’ve been seeing a lot of campers becoming homesick in a bad way. It’s very difficult to deal with as the solution is normally to divert the kid’s attention away from it and back onto program, but that’s really difficult.

The problem with homesickness is that it manifests itself in various ways. A couple of kids get really angry with everything and so lash out at all around them, creating some extremely negative vibes everywhere. The past few days have been full of conflict, and yesterday my two favourite campers decided to fall out with each other over a game of basketball because they’re so cranky. It’s not nice to play referee in these sorts of conflicts, but it comes with the job. I dealt with it yesterday and I think I did pretty well. They seem to be OK this morning, but I’m not entirely sure. Either way they’re both going away for overnight campouts or horsepacks for a few days, so I won’t see them.

The hardest part of the job though is dealing with homesick kids when they get tearful. This happened this morning… and it was really difficult for me not to join in crying as well! When I see a kid crying I can’t help but feel really sad myself for them, which clouds my judgement and makes it difficult for me to remain professionally detached. Since I’ve been here I’ve been a friend to a lot of kids, but at times I also feel like I’ve been a psychologist to a number of others on top of that. Some of them have real issues communicating with others, or they’re so desperate to prove themselves that they get ultra-competitive and piss many others off in the process, not to mention beating themselves up for the remotest sign of failure.

It’s been pretty tough… but I’m really enjoying it.

Day Off

It’s nice to get a chance to unwind for a day. The past few days have been pretty hectic. On Wednesday I had to work with other counselors on a small production we’re putting on for all the staff and campers on Sunday night, which was long and tedious. Thursday I went out on a hike with about 10 kids and three other staff, which was great, but we sadly didn’t get a chance to finish the hike as the peaks are all covered in snow and are refusing to melt. So that was that.

Today, however, I’m free. I’m currently in a library in Estes Park, Colorado, and using up the rest of my free time on the internet by writing something exciting and interesting. Yeah right. I’ve done my laundry, it’s pretty hot outside, and I need to think up some way of three hours because I’ve got nothing to do until my ride comes at 6pm to pick me up. It’s nice here, but I can’t face meandering around for that long. I’ll surely die of boredom. Shops suck. I have a friend with me, but he’s as devoid of ideas as I am.

Tomorrow I’m doing something more relaxing in the form of tie dying with six campers and the crafts counselor – who incidentally is a lunatic – and then on Sunday we’re suddenly starting the third week of camp. This is absolutely flying by. At least I’m enjoying it.

News from Faraway Lands

It’s funny how it’s been exactly a week since I last wrote anything. We now have a computer at our camp location, but it’s pretty difficult to find time to get onto it. I’m writing this now back at main camp after having to travel to Boulder, Colorado to apply for a social security number. It seems that everyone who works in the USA needs such a number, and as a foreign national it’s pretty essential I get one. So that’s made for an exciting day out in 27 degrees C temperatures. Great stuff.

Things are going extremely well, although there has been a fair bit of fluctuation in the past few days. I am now used to life here, and since the campers arrived last Wednesday things have gone up a gear. They’re great kids and from such a diverse range of backgrounds that you could just spend all day going from one to the next talking about all manner of different things. But there are program activities to do as well, which are fun but I’ve not had much chance to do them yet as I’ve been busy with plans for campfire activities.

On that subject, my campfires have been going extremely well. The songs are good and the games seem to be going down a treat. The American staff and campers are mostly amused and sometimes amazed by my accent, and they like me saying the word “rubbish” a lot, which is strange but cool. I can’t go anywhere without someone asking if I’m from England. It makes me stick out like a sore thumb, but it’s cool. I’m enjoying the attention. And the kids seem to like me too. Which is half the deal. That makes it easy for me to control them when necessary.

On the whole it’s great fun. I’m not really missing life back in the UK… but things are pretty tiring. I need to sleep a lot more, but the way things are here I doubt that’s going to happen. There’s just too much to do.

Time to go. I will check in again soon.

Ouch

This is probably my first opportunity to send an email since I got here. It’s been a hectic time ever since I arrived in the USA and there is far too much for me to retell in the short opportunity I have here.

I will get other longer chances in the next week or so… hopefully. But suffice to say that things are going well, and I’m finally recovered from jet lag. The flight was bad – mainly just because I’m not used to that kind of tiredness. New York was not particularly nice, but out here in Colorado it is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen since wonderful scenery, and the team I’m working with are really cool.

Real work hasn’t started just yet… the kids arrive on Wednesday. I’ve been in staff training all week, which has been rather tedious.
But it’s nearly over, and I’m ready to go.

I have a pretty tough job… I’m in charge of the evening entertainment in my unit of around 40-60 kids, plus staff. Should be character building, at least. But right now I’m recovering from a bad night spent out camping. Not good.

Will be back to tell more soon. Hopefully.

Pinch Punch

First of the month, as a children’s TV programme of many years ago used to say. Now we’re in June, and my 20th birthday is just one month away. Not good at all. As it gets closer, it increasingly is getting to me how so many people in the media now manage to do things in life, start going places, earlier and earlier. I was watching Bangladesh play cricket on TV the other day, and it shocked me that half the team was either the same age or younger than me. One player was just 16. When I was 16 I had gone absolutely nowhere. I still feel I’ve gone nowhere. And yet these lot were playing for their national side. Ack.

But now I’m home. Things have been happening non-stop since Saturday… I’ve been out every day so far getting clothes and other gear I’ll need for life out in the wild West of Colorado. OK, so the towns and cities won’t be too far away – some 60 miles – but as far as I’m concerned this is the most rural I’ve ever been. Something different. I should really be settling down and looking forward to it, but it’s very nerve-wracking. And I’m definitely not looking forward to the flight.

It’s been a pretty normal experience since I got back. I told my family yesterday that I wish I carried around with me a tape so that on it I could answer the questions “How are you? How has University been? Where are you going this summer? What are you doing? Oh you’ll never come back!” just once… and then if anyone wishes such a status report off me, I can play the tape out for them. I sound like a broken record. Yes I’m good. Yes University is good. Yes I’m going to Colorado. Yes I’m working in a summer camp. No I will come back.

I shouldn’t complain that people are interested in me, but I just can’t help it. Sometimes it’s frustrating answering the same question again and again. I suppose it could be good training to be a politician.

Yesterday I bought a sweatshirt with a hood on it. So you could call it a hoodie. It is a hoodie. I’ve been following the debate in the UK about how all hoodie wearers are anti-social “yobs” with interest. I’ve never owned a hoodie. Not because I don’t like them… I just have never needed one. But my excursion to the US will need something slightly warmer given that it can get cold in Colorado at night.

But I’ve always been concerned at how poor this country is in general terms of debating skills. We like to follow the lead of our print media, and sometimes you can argue with people and suddenly realise that what they’re saying is what you read in a newspaper some days before. I don’t claim to be the most original person in the world, but when I think about something, I like to at least put it in my own words.

So when the “Evil Hoodie” debate began, I began to feel the usual level of rage I get when I see our media whipping us into a new moral panic. It even made me feel like buying a hoodie just to protest that not all wearers of such clothes are “yobs”. In fact, I’d say the vast majority aren’t. So now I have one, and can show a mark of solidarity with my peers. See what happens? If you criminalise something, you make it popular by drawing unnecessary attention to it. Nice one.

Of course, irony follows me everywhere. As I walked out of ASDA last night, the alarms went off. There we go. Hoodie wearer. Alarms going off. Doubtless he’s a criminal. I was gently escorted back into the shop. Turns out the person at the desk forgot to take the alarm tag off the cheap sunglasses I’d just bought. Innocent explanation as usual – as it 99% of the time is. I remember when I worked for a shop which had an alarm system… I don’t think it ever went off for a genuine reason. It was always the assistant’s fault for not taking the alarm tags off. I knew that, everyone knew it. So if the alarms went off on a customer, we were always apologetic immediately and helped relieve them of this embarrassing situation.

Not for me, of course. I’m sure the hoodie had nothing to do with it… but still, I would like to have been treated a little better. It’s just ironic that I could have contributed to the negative image of such clothes to the innocent by-standers.

Disaster follows me everywhere.