A Week

Time flies extremely quickly… and it’s been a week since I last got to post. Since Friday I’ve been in Wales as my parents insisted I had to go see their new caravan there. It was pretty nice, to be honest, and I had a good time. It was nice to relax for a while – probably just what I needed after the stress of the past few weeks.

So while I’ve been in Wales I’ve visited some parks and even managed to climb one hill there, Moel Famau. It wasn’t difficult, which is nice. I guess I have earned some fitness while I’ve been living at altitude. The other thing I gained while I was in America was 4kg (or around 9lbs in old money)… I had suspected I had put on weight as I didn’t remember my stomach having so much fat on it. I’m not overweight and I never have been… some might even say that I needed to put on some weight. But I don’t like it. So now I have to control my food intake: I definitely ate more in America, and now I’m used to that.

It still feels a little surreal to be back home in ordinary life after the experience of the past three months. I’m not at all ready for going back to University, which starts in two weeks time. I’m going to go back to Hull this weekend so I can get settled back down again. I’m actually looking forward to living in the same house but with every room filled with friends this year. No more Evil Housemates to deal with. Woohoo.

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So now I’m home. The flights back were pretty nasty: the first phase from Denver to New York went pretty smoothly… JetBlue give generous amounts of legroom, but they didn’t bring the snack tray around enough. I arrived at JFK airport starving hungry and dehydrating, so during my four hour wait inbetween flights I had to sit… needing to go the toilet but unable to because if I abandoned my bags it’d look like I was a terrorist and knowing my luck I’d come back and find my stuff in the process of destruction.

The flight was overnight, arriving in London Heathrow at 11am. This was pretty good as I got to catch a couple of hours sleep on the plane at the right time, and so I am adjusting to the seven timezone change pretty well. However, the lack of legroom was extremely annoying, plus if the person next to you is sleeping and you need to go the toilet, there’s not much you can do about it.

I arrived back in London and struggled through the long lines at passport control. Once I collected my stuff I strolled down the theatrical Broadway style exit to the meeting place at Terminal 3. Around me on either side was hundreds of people waiting, shouting and trying to get the attention of the people they were waiting for. Hundreds of eyes were on me as people realised I wasn’t who they were looking for. An odd experience. I eventually found my parents who had come to collect me, and off we went back home.

So here I am. Summer officially over. Life here has resumed. The sad part is that at some point during the last 10 days (I hadn’t checked in all that time) the top of a tuning peg has come off my D string on my guitar. This makes me very pissed. I was looking forward to playing some of the songs I’ve learned this summer again, but now I’m going to have to send it away for repair and a service. Needless expense, and it’s going to cost less than the excess on my insurance policy. I just wish I’d checked it more often. I don’t know whether I had broken it last week at some point or whether it happened on one of the flights. Annoying.

I feel I’ve learned a lot during this summer. I feel a slightly different person, more confident in myself, and more able to do certain things. If someone had described my job to me properly before I had left, I am pretty sure I would not have taken it. I would never have thought I had the skills or stage-presence to entertain kids with songs, games and other activities for 1-2hours each night, almost always on my own. But I did it, and it means a lot to me that I stuck it out and in fact did have some talent to carry this off. Plus I got to hike a lot, see some amazing sights, work with some brilliant kids, and learned that American culture is somewhat different to British. It’s hard to put it into words, but sometimes the eternal American optimism and fawning patriotism is just way over the top. Still… it’s their country.

It was a challenge. And I feel satisfied that I completed it. Five months ago I took a step into the unknown by sending off my application to CCUSA. Now it’s over, and I feel like I’ve grown as a person. This is certainly something to talk about in conversations…

Taking Flight

And so my summer comes to an end. It’s Sunday night… the final banquets and campfires have taken place, and my transport out of here leaves at 7am tomorrow morning. It’s been an astounding summer, and I can’t wait to repeat it next year, but right now I’m just about ready to go. I received my last pay cheque, and also received the devastating news that international staff don’t get the $200 contract completion bonus that everyone else gets, and I feel like it’s a case of a job well done. The bosses seem to be grateful for the job I’ve done this summer and they’re keen on getting me back.

What’s weird is the fact that of the seven other people doing the exact same job as me but with different sections and age ranges of the camp… I’m the only one who wants to come back and do the same job. According to my boss this summer, it’s unusual for a campfire counselor (that was me) to want to come back and do the same job again. Most of them want to do hiking or backpacking in future years. Some of them just don’t come back at all. Maybe I’m more stupid than I thought. Perhaps there’s something about second years that bore people of doing the same job. I guess there’s only one way I’ll find out.

So tomorrow I struggle home with my three bags – a suitcase, a guitar case and a backpack. My guitar successfully made the journey across the Atlantic without breaking… and I’m hoping for the same to happen again. I’ve heard so many bad stories about guitars in transit always breaking at the neck. I would cry if that happened to me. I suspect I’m going to have to throw some stuff in the bin though. I just can’t stuff everything back in. Oh well.

Flight #1 at 11:15am.
Flight #2 at 11:10pm… arriving 10:50am next morning in London.

It’s going to be another very long day.

The End is Nigh…

It’s startling just how quickly this summer has gone by. But then again, it’s just like every summer. In fact, since I quit my job in August last year to prepare for University, life has taken on a frenetic pace. My first year of Universiry flew by. Now this summer has disappeared in a blaze of fun and hard work. I doubt it will ever slow down. Even on Sunday of last week, when I was dreading this week to come… it hasn’t been an easy week for me – in fact it’s been a lot of manual labour and hard graft – but it has nevertheless gone by extremely quickly. There are now just two more working days left here… and I leave at 7am on Monday morning.

I’ve finally got a day off. This is my first whole day off for around two weeks. And I needed it. As I said, this week has been pretty tough. I’ve been helping with general maintenance around the main camp, including building retaining walls to stop the rain washing away paths… and I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning cabins where the kids had stayed. It’s been dull as hell, but I’ve got through it. This day off has come at a good time as I was about to collapse with exhaustion. Lifting railway sleepers is a good way to really drain you of energy, that’s for sure. And there’s still a nasty day to come on Sunday which will involve hauling bales of hay around. Not nice.

But now I’m looking forward to going home. I feel like I’m ready for it. It’s almost as if I’ve seen enough. I’d love to come back again, but I’ve been away for too long. I want to see my family again. I want to share the stories I’ve experienced here with them and my friends. I want to sleep in my own bed again. That would be nice. I want to celebrate just how great this summer has been. I can only properly do that at home.

And so when that flight takes off from New York bound for England on Monday night, I’ll be pretty happy overall. I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything behind, because almost everyone I knew or everything that was worth doing has already left me here. I would love to explore the USA a little, but I don’t have the time. I need to get back to prepare for University and see my family for a while. Maybe next year. It’s not exactly going to go anywhere.

Life is… good. Ish.

One Week Left

So… after a tiring few days involving one where I spent the whole day working in the kitchen and another on an 8 mile hike with lots of elevation gain, and now today spent cleaning and “closing down” the place I’ve been working at… things are finally at an end. At least, in terms of actual camping. I would dearly love to be going home tomorrow; it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed this summer a lot, I just feel like I’ve seen enough now and I have very little energy or enthusiasm to keep going.

But I have one week left. I have seven days of “post-camp” to battle through. Unfortunately, this is more cleaning and admin: not the kind of thing I was hoping to be doing this summer. Family camp was fun, but I don’t think I’d like to do it again after how strenuous the final cleanup was. I didn’t really get to do much with the kids either… it’s made me realise that I’m not very good at working with younger children. But I suppose that is a lesson in itself.

So things will carry on. I’m looking forward to getting home. It’s been a pretty awesome summer.

More Changes

The past week has been exceptionally busy for me. Just as last term, in the final week I was charged with organising the final banquet and other activities which draw closure to the term. They all went extremely well, and by the end of the last week I was eventually really sad to see these kids go. Although I didn’t like them as much as the first term kids, it was still a hard couple of days dealing with the stresses of the job and the fact that I’ve had to come to terms with the summer almost being over.

Yes. I find it hard to believe that I’ve been in the USA for nine weeks now. I have two more weeks to go, and one of them is called “Family Camp” this week, where all the kids have been replaced by more kids but with parents in addition this time. So far I’ve not been enjoying this. Some of this might be due to initial adaption to having a new boss and a new crew to work with, but I think the kids at this camp are too young… it’s not that I don’t like 5 year olds, but I just find it more difficult to communicate with them. Also, I don’t like talking with kids in front of their parents. I get more embarrased for some reason.

The other part is that I’m really sad to have left behind a lot of the great friends I’d made during the nine weeks I’ve been here. I have their addresses, and I’m hoping to come back next year – it was all worth it in the end – but I feel that some of them I might never see again. All in all it’s been fun and I’d like to reflect on it a bit more. I’ll probably write something more considered when I finally get home.

In the meantime… life here continues. It’s still a lot of fun.

Negativity

The past few days have been a bit of a struggle. Most of the campers are totally burnt out because they simply refuse to sleep at any reasonable hour, and consequently they’re miserable, moan a lot and often laze around, refusing to take part in activities.

Because of this, it’s not long before it rubs off on me. I feel like I haven’t stopped nagging at campers to get involved, or go to sleep, or various other things for ages now. It’s got me in a spiral of negativity, and a number of campers have been on the receiving end in the past few days. When I get angry, I tend to express it in enormous layers of sarcastic snarks, lashing out at people. This isn’t the way to make friends. I know I should try to express it more positively, and I feel it’s jeopardised my relationship with a few campers because of it.

The other issue is that the staff are generally getting pretty lazy because they’re drinking to excess on their nights off. It’s becoming a joke, and it’s making me distance myself from several because they are no longer helpful as counselors to either the kids or me. That only makes me feel worse. Last night I tried to conduct a campfire that went extremely well last term… but this term I just had people moaning, bitching and whining all over the place. They were rowdy and aggressive, and two campers actually got into a physical fight. Most of the returning staff agree that this has been the worst term they have ever been through because the kids are just so full of the “too cool for camp” attitude.

It’s a shame that I’ve had the bad fortune to be part of it, but I suppose if I can get through this I can get through most things. The challenge is certainly interesting. I just need to try to lighten myself up.