My life has become a whirlwind of awesome chaos, and the kids aren’t even here yet.
So, I guess I will finish off my whirlwind travel adventure that I started telling you about last week but stopped because I was still in the middle of it. When I left off, I was sitting in the Wilmington, NC airport, waiting to be picked up and driven to a dock to take a ferry to an island where my college friend’s uncle owns a house. He was kind enough to allow us to use it for the long weekend and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Upon my arrival, I immediately changed into swimming trunks and went to the beach with a few of the eight other friends staying for the weekend. The waves were decent enough for body boarding, the water was salty, and the sun was shining. It was awesome. Walked along the beach and talked to some people fishing. Mostly, I quickly realized just how out of place we really were on this island. Everyone else actually owned summer/weekend homes on a coastal island in North Carolina… That evening we went out for dinner and played Cards Against Humanity (freaking awesome game, if you like Apples to Apples and wildly inappropriate humor, you would love it) for a while. I slept on a pile of pillows on the floor, which was shockingly comfortable, and got to enjoy sleeping in.
The next morning, people slowly woke up and we had breakfast while watching music videos and listening to music. You’ve probably heard Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” by now, even if you’ve been living under a rock (“I’m gonna pop some tags…”), but if you haven’t heard his more serious stuff, I would strongly suggest checking out the videos for it – “Same Love” and “Wings” would be two suggestions. Eventually, we went back out to the beach for a bit, with even better body/boogie boarding waves. It was a little cloudy, which was nice for the crispy members of our party, but a little disappointing. Walking the beach was great, finding shells, rocks, eroded pieces of drift wood, strange creatures and egg sacks, and burrowing shellfish. However, in the very early afternoon, a storm system started rolling in and forced us back into our house. (NB: transportation is by foot, bike, and golf cart. The only real cars on the island are emergency response vehicles.) Stuck inside, we passed the time playing charades, cards, the name-on-the-forehead game, and other fun games. After the rain subsided, we visited a pond a little ways away to look for alligators, and to our lucky surprise, there was an alligator chilling right in front of the deck! Now, this does probably mean that people feed the alligators, fish, and turtles that hang out right there, but it was still really cool. Back in the house we stayed up late making dinner (taco night), eating, and watching Stranger than Fiction.
On Tuesday morning, we had to get the house cleaned up relatively nice (cleaning up for a cleaning service to come through) and get on the 10:30a ferry back to the mainland so the rest of the group could drive back to the DC area in a reasonable period of time. Unfortunately for me, my flight back to Ohio did not leave until 3:30p. So, I got to spend three hours in the fortunately delightful Wilmington airport. Luckily, I had my computer with me and they had WiFi, so I watched stuff on the internets and ignored the rest of the world. Flight through Pittsburgh and into Cleveland went smoothly, as did my pick up there and drive back to Camp! Ahh. There, I finished my move (ish) into my new digs, did a load of laundry, and went to sleep, quite tired, late at night.
Wednesday morning, Summer Camp In-Service started. All of the other staff members started showing up and moving in. Happy reunions happened everywhere, all of the time. It was delightful to watch. Since then, I can’t really remember a whole lot of specifics about what has happened, but I do know that it has been a ton of fun and everybody that works here is going to be at least two hoots to work with. In the first few days, we’ve focused almost entirely on icebreaking, teambuilding, and norm/expectation-making activities. There about 26 [co-]counselors, and another ten or so Jr. C.I.T.s, plus a few directors. More than half of the staff are returners from past years, so there are a lot of well-developed friendships, plus a lot of new ones to make. I’ve met a bunch of them through the OE season and the respite sessions, so I don’t feel too out of the loop. Fortunately, everyone who has agreed to work with kids with emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders are pretty outgoing people, so new friendships are quickly made. A particularly interesting aid to this friendship making is what we call “violations”. These are actions which violate other people’s physical space. While it sounds like it might drive people apart, it actually brings us closer together. It certainly makes it very comfortable with each other. For instance: standing very close, wet willies, putting your hand in someone else’s pocket, awkward salmon (slapping your hand between their thighs), and licking someone’s eyeball. We’re kinda kooky people. Don’t worry about it. These, of course, must happen away from any kids so that they don’t get any bad ideas. Yes, these are the people educating your children.
On Thursday, we went for hikes. I went with the group into the state park next to camp, while another group went to a farm nearby. On the hike we practiced a bunch of different activities to do on the hike – games, initiatives, stories, neat plants – as well as learned new and old routes. It was a very wet day, at least sprinkling most of the morning, and this fortunately helped the waterfalls, which we visited all three of. It also made it rather muddy. I think one of my favorite things the staff does is act like campers during all activities. A lot of the staff used to be campers, or could have been (ADHD and such), and so can have trouble focusing, but also normal people can have “behaviors”, too, it just depends on how you look at it. It is also really great practice for working with the kids, which is great. Not only did the old, experienced staff members do an awesome job of initiating the new staffers, but the new staffers did a great job of jumping right in and joining with all of their heart. Awesome to see. I feel oddly in the middle of new and old staffers.
On Friday, the most exciting thing we did was a teambuilding activity designed by one of our directors. Basically, a giant scavenger hunt through-out camp grounds, with pictures, videos, and lots of different challenges. We had 55 pictures taken around camp which we had to find and recreate with a team member in the picture. We had to make videos of our team members doing awesome ridiculous things, including making a rap about our Camp mission. It was just a ton of fun! We also made a “cliff-hanger” video in which I interpreted “cliff-hanger” as hanging off of a cliff and did not remember the suspenseful-story telling interpretation of “cliff-hanger” until the moment we finished the video. Luckily, the team did not mind.
Saturday was Orientation Day. This is a day where new families and kids come visit Camp and decide if they really want to come here or not. The kids get to play with the counselors and the parents get some presentations about camp, our mission, and what their kids will be doing. Basically, a chance to learn what camp is all about and if they want to give us their money. We did a great job, because every family decided that they wanted to give us all of the rest of the money! It was also a great chance for new staffers to get a chance to meet camper-type kids and work with them. We played field games (parachutes and tag), did some arts and crafts, and took a hike down to the beach. The new staff totally did an awesome job, and it was really helpful to observe and learn from the returners. After dinner, we went down to the beach ourselves to learn about beach expectations, learn how to teach canoeing, and to go canoeing/kayaking (and swimming, sometimes unintentionally…). After drying off, we hung out around a campfire, sang songs, and listened to the life story of a counselor from near the beginning of camp, who has stayed around and involved with camp since.
Tomorrow is Sunday and it looks very busy, which is why I am writing tonight. We have a presentation which should be pretty awesome, and in the night we start our Home-in-the-Woods stay, including cooking dinner and breakfast over the fire, building a shelter to sleep in, and probably a lot more. I’m really looking forward to it! Plus, another week of In-Service, and then the kids get here for a week!