How It Flies

It’s been over a week since I last had the chance to check in. It’s not exactly been a really good week, but things are pretty stable round here right now. The problem with this term so far has been the amount of complaining I’ve heard from so many campers. Most of the kids are not fans of doing anything physical… and this is becoming pretty frustrating for the more active ones and the counselors now, that they have to stop every five minutes on a hike because people are dying.

The amount of reading going on is scary. The new Harry Potter book hasn’t helped. Kids all over the place are constantly reading, sometimes at meal times so we have to confiscate the books. Every free moment, even during program, is spent with a book in their hands and reading away. There’s reading for pleasure and there’s reading as a job. These people are experts, but it’s really stopping them from getting the most out of this summer. Our job has been to try to encourage them to take up other things, but it’s pretty difficult. They’re an obstinate bunch.

The other thing is that we have a number of kids who are just pure and simple party poopers. They won’t sing, they won’t dance, they won’t play games… they just want to disconnect. And their parents have spent $4000 to send them here. Scary, I know… but that’s how much summer camp costs. Consequently we’re working with a lot of spoiled rich kids who are used to getting everything their way. This wasn’t a problem first term, but this lot are really stubborn.

I’ve also learned that it’s sometimes really difficult to help out. One kid the other day broke down and started telling everyone about the fact that his home life is really fucked up. Divorce, drugs and the fact that he’s recently been taken from his mum to go live with his stepdad… there’s absolutely nothing we can do. He doesn’t want to go back, but naturally he has to. It’s making things really difficult because everyone wants to help but knows that there’s almost nothing we can apart from help prepare him to stay strong in the face of this adversity.

This term has certainly been very different to the last. And now there’s only 11 days left of it.

Settling Down

Sort of. Right now the new campers are still a pain, but they are slowly becoming accustomed to the way of life we expect from the kids at my camp. It’s been a difficult few days as we continually try to re-emphasise the boundaries, and not to mention try to get them to go to sleep before midnight (!) … but I think we’re finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thankfully there are a few kids who are starting to become my favourites. There are five of them from first term who have stayed over from this term and a couple of those are great, but I’m at last beginning to connect with several from this term. A lot of them are impressed when I go up to the front of the room and sing a song with a bit of rock-and-roll to fire them up. Last night I did Breakfast At Tiffanies and I think it’s the most attention I’ve ever been paid so far by them at my evening campfire activities. I got a lot of applause at the end, but I’m still finding it difficult to convince some of them that singing isn’t stupid. I didn’t have this problem last term but this term there are a few who just want to listen. They enjoy my songs, but they don’t want to sing along. Maybe with time.

But right now I have a nice day off. It’s just what I need to get myself in order for the rest of this week. Sunday is this term’s All Camp Campfire… and this term me and my fellow campfire counselors are putting on some sort of skit based on Scooby Doo. I don’t think it’ll beat last term’s Willy Wonka skit, but we’ll see. Should be fun, anyway.

New Kids

The new term is underway. The second and final batch of campers arrived on Wednesday under glorious sunshine. The weather here has been scorching for the past five days – too hot for me… and I’ve gained a lot of extra sunburn which is bad.

I’m not the greatest fan of the new kids though. There are 20 more than last term and a lot of them have serious attitude problems. They’re disruptive, far too talkative and generally bad mannered. I don’t remember the kids at the start of the first term being like that. It’s making the job a lot tougher and the staff are starting to come to the end of their patience with a lot of them. Most of these kids are older and so understand in greater depth the best way to push buttons and wind people up. They tend to fight each other a lot too. It’s tiring but I’m not going to give up and I hope the other counselors don’t too. I never expected things to be all positive, and so I guess this is going to be a rough week or two while we set the boundaries and they keep testing them. Should be interesting…

In the meantime, I have a lot of laundry that needs doing and no transportation into town to do it. It sucks having a day off on your own.

One Down, One To Go

It’s been a traumatic few days… but traumatic only because it’s been so hard to say goodbye to the campers I’ve gotten to know over this past four weeks. The banquet went really well, and the recognition campfire was just awesome. Each camper came up and was recognised for their contribution to camp life… and several of my favourite campers were awarded with the top awards that are voted on by campers and staff. It was such an emotional evening: I really don’t think I’ve ever cried so much, and many of the staff, campers and parents joined in too. These past few days have really brought it home to me just how much this place means to so many people – and why so many come back year after year – and I’m beginning to feel it myself.

And now they’ve all gone. One camper gave me a speech to proof read and suggest additions before he delivered it at the banquet… it was from a camper who has been pretty quiet but has enjoyed himself a lot. It was awesome to read how he felt like he had made a whole new family, because of the “brotherhood” kind of ethos we seem to have out here. And he’s so right.

I feel like I have a huge hole in my stomach and I’m missing some vital things. I got really close to a lot of them and the others I still cared for a lot. It was hard to find a bad kid… and of those that turned up a little wayward, by the end it was so brilliant to notice that they’re now so much more confident of themselves and not mean to the other campers any more. One of them in particular I’m really proud of… this camper liked me a lot and was in serious tears at the recognition night and the chapel we held the day after. I feel great that I’ve helped these kids out; I’m sure as hell going to miss them. Sometimes they didn’t show their appreciation very well, but I understood them. I know a lot of them liked me a lot… and I could tell that last night by the way most of them hugged me before they had to leave. It’s nice to feel wanted!

I’m looking forward to the next term, but I’m getting the feeling it’s going to be really hard to leave come August because I’m going to be doing this all over again, only this time with 60 kids instead of 40. It’s just so weird that I’ve met all these kids, got to know them and now they’re gone. There’s a good chance I won’t see most of them ever again. Life is cruel.

I would say this is getting close to being the best experience of my life. Right now I’d like to come back next year, but only a few days ago I was totally the opposite. I should give it longer so I can make a more balanced decision.

The new campers come on Wednesday. I hope they’re as good as the last lot.

20

It’s here at last. I have reached 20. I am no longer a teenager. This is a scary part of life. All the campers were amazed that I’m only 20… they seemed to think I was at least a few years older than that. That worries me a little because I don’t want to look too old too soon.

Like most birthdays, it doesn’t feel very different going from one day to the next. In fact, out here it feels even less relevant because of the fact that today and yesterday I’ve been extremely busy with getting ready for the final banquet and recognition evening that I’m in charge of organising. It’s pretty stressful, but the place is starting to look really nice. I’m really going to miss the campers when they go on Monday.

I wish I could write a much longer piece on my thoughts as I enter true adulthood but I just don’t have the time. Perhaps that’s a sign of things to come? I hope I am still able to keep sitting back and just writing about how I feel my life is going. It has quite a relaxing effect.

Unappreciated

I’m filled with a sense of ambivilence at the moment. I really thought things were going well… I get on with most of the campers… but in the past few days I’ve really got pissed off with the way our directors show too much favouritism and give a lot of special treatment to the older campers. They have been nagging me a lot lately, telling me all about the “traditions” of this unit for our final banquet and recognition night coming up tomorrow. It’s only when I ask some of the staff who’ve been here for ages that they tell me almost all of what they say is not true. Amusing. But the directors let them get away with it, and so I have to deal with them on my own. Not good.

The other problem right now is the fact that I feel rather unappreciated. I put in a lot of hard work and I would challenge any of the other counselors to do my job of standing in front of 40-60 tired and ratty kids every evening and giving them something to do. It’s not easy… but most of the counselors don’t respect the effort I put in by not even bothering to show up to my evening campfire activities, let alone help me out in some way.

But it’s not just the staff who I feel are taking me for granted. The campers themselves don’t seem to notice either. Last night the campers all filled in an evaluation form, with a question basically asking who their favourite staff member is. I probably shouldn’t be so sensitive, but I was only named once and it was by a camper who surprised me. The kids who I thought I was getting on with the best didn’t name me at all. Most campers named one of the guys who mostly works in the kitchens as their favourite, and this baffles me. He hardly ever goes out on program with them, but all he does is have this uncanny ability to engage them in endless small talk. Maybe that’s what kids like. But I feel I’ve always been happy, kind, helpful and caring to almost all of them. I don’t think I could go any further.

I just get the feeling that the campers really don’t care what I do. I understand I may have helped them out in some ways, but if they don’t recognise that I’m doing a lot to help make them better people, then I’m wasting my time and they will soon forget what I’ve taught. Kids need role models and they need to be able to identify someone setting examples because then it’s much easier for them to try to learn something. If they aren’t able to identify me then the chances are they will not remember it. The worst is the fact that most of these kids really look up to those very older campers that the staff are so nice to just because they are “veterans” of camp. They let them get away with murder, and the younger campers see that in action and learn from it. It’s a bad precedent.

It’s taken me a while to formulate this into words, but as well I probably have not been paying enough attention either. It’s making things pretty difficult right now, and I’m hoping that things improve with the new batch of kids next Wednesday. Maybe I’ll get a better chance to make a difference this time. Because that’s my goal for this summer… to have made a difference somewhere. It just galls me when the kid I’ve worked the most on, the one who has had the most difficulty communicating with others, doesn’t even recognise that.

Flying

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I wrote anything in this blog. The days seem to be just disappearing at the moment because I’m having so much fun and there’s so much to keep me busy. The past week involved the All Camp Campfire during which I dressed up as Willy Wonka and acted out a part in the eight campfire counselors’ (including myself) play we put on. The kids seemed to enjoy it and I will now forever be identified by what I was wearing. They’re still calling me Willy Wonka. Nice.

I’m supposed to be going rafting tomorrow for the first time in my life but it might not happen now as I have so much to do in preparation for the final banquet that we have on Saturday. Yes… the first time is virtually over and almost all the campers will be leaving to be replaced by new ones. It’s really annoying because I have finally learned all of their names and they are just about ready to leave. It’s going to be sad to see them go – there are some really great kids here, and none of them seem very spoilt whatsoever despite the fact that this is a pretty exclusive camp.

I’ve felt pretty good almost all week. Yesterday was the only negative point where I heard my assistant director badmouthing a whole tonne of campers, including those I’m responsible for. It’s weird… he’s possibly the only person I don’t get along with out of around 20 staff members. That’s a really low ratio of annoying to good people. I wasn’t expecting that… it makes things a lot easier. But the comments he made were so stupid and it put me in a bad mood that all the other counselors just went along with it. I feel OK this morning, and I’m not going to let my miserable assistant director spoil my summer.

My birthday is closing in too. I turn 20 on Saturday. I guess I never did get round to doing the youth review that I promised. Maybe when I get back and my internet connection is not so sporadic.

I shall write again soon. Adios.