Summer Camp ’13 – In-Service pt. II

I’m starting out at a loss of words for what I should write. First, because so much has been going on that I don’t think I’ll be cover it all, and second, because we’ve been doing so much that we’ve been staying up kind of late…

In-service continued from Monday through Thursday morning. The weather was fairly uncooperative. Whenever we wanted to do something outside, it rained, and when we were inside, it was beautiful outside. I think I mentioned this last week. I only want to emphasize it because it continued through the second half of in-service. This meant that our second planned camp out did not get to go as planned and our hike was quite damp. The hike that I was not on apparently got rained on whenever they were walking and got sunshine when they stopped for breaks, every time. We also got more classroom style training on “wounded” kids, “at-risk” kids, and First Aid and CPR. The First Aid/CPR class was great because we always go to a nearby town’s Fire Station to be instructed by the fire fighters there, and they are just as tired of giving the class as most people are of taking it repeatedly. Because of this, they want to get through it as quickly as possible and have a tendency to make a lot of snarky comments everyone desires to in these classes. Plus, we were a bunch of people who are already friends giving CPR to dummies. Good times.

The most exciting part of the rest of training was scheduling the first three sessions! We found out what kind of camp we’re running, what age kids we’re working with, and who our co-staff is! Very exciting! So, Camp runs a number of different types of camps for the kids that come through, split up by age group and experience with the Camp. Every week there are a number of “Traditional” camp groups, split into 2-3 year (or so) age groups who stay in camp, go hiking, swimming, canoeing, and tubing, play games, accomplish initiatives, and camp out on property. There are also a large variety of trip camps, where the kids get to go on trips around all of Ohio, and even into other states for their week doing a variety of activities. We have Lake Erie Adventures, Ohio Adventures, Aqua Adventures, Sports Camp, Bike Camp, Science Camp, Art Camp, Crusoe Camp, Leadership Camp, and even a two week long National Trip Camp (the rest only last from Monday to Saturday).

For Week 1, I am working with a female counselor who was here last year on a Traditional camp group of 15-18 year olds.  I’m pretty excited about it, but a little nervous to work with the older kids. I mean, they should be easier to handle than the little kids, at least they will generally be calmer, but any behavior problems will be much more dangerous, if they get violent, which hopefully won’t happen. I have heard from people that worked here last year that my co-staff is really good with the older kids, thankfully. So, we scheduled all of our activities for the whole week – when and where we’re hiking and what we’re doing while we’re out and about, when and where we’re camping out, what we’re eating when we’re not in the dining hall, when we canoe and tube, when we get an ice cream snack, when we swim, what various games and initiatives we’ll be doing when we’re not busy doing any of these other things, and we planned way more of it than we’ll probably need, because that is what you need to do. I am most excited to take these kids up on the ropes course on Friday morning, because I love taking kids up on the ropes course and it should be a really exciting way to cap off our week together. Plus, taking kids on the ropes course is on my “bucket list” for the summer. [One of the directors had us fill out a bucket list of things we wanted to accomplish this summer. Mine also includes swimming across the lake and learning a lot more plants.]

For week 2, I got a trip camp! I get to work with Aqua Camp, which I am so pumped about. The great things about trip camps is that you get to go off camp property and play all over the place, and get paid for it, and the kids that get to go on trip camps are generally better behaved than the kids who do not get to go on trip camps. Because they will be significantly in the public eye, we try to send better kids – it’s kind of a reward for good behavior at camp. In Aqua Camp, the group gets to go to Ohio Pyle, PA and go white water rafting on the Youghiogheny, as well as go kayaking, swimming, and really doing as much around water as we can, while still driving far and giving them time to dry off every once in a while. We camp out pretty much all week and get to go shopping for our own foods to cook, so we can pretty much eat whatever we want to. We are not restricted by the meal options offered by camp. My co-staff has been here for a while, doing a lot of trip camps, so he knows what is up and how to rock it out, so I’m expecting a really great week.

For week 3, I will get to go on another trip camp! I scored Ohio Adventures with one of the OE staff members who is super cool. We get to go to a different park in Ohio to camp out, go hiking, learn about Native Americans, and lots of other cool stuff, in addition to the general cool stuff about trip camps that I mentioned above. My first half of the summer is looking great, as I am sure the second half will be, too.

To end training, our directors had a few traditional group activities to help us really bond for the season and give us some inspiration to go forward into the challenges that are surely ahead of us. First, we used “Back Scratchers”. No, we did not actually scratch each other’s backs, as lovely as that would have been, we each wore a piece of paper on our backs that everyone else came around and wrote nice things about us on. So, now we all have a piece of paper with over twenty compliments on it that we can revisit and read whenever we feel down in the dumps. We also exchanged staff gifts. In the beginning of training, we had each been given a pee cup with someone’s name in it. No, we did not have to obtain this person’s pee, we had to create a gift for this person – from nature and/or homemade. Then, we presented these gifts to the other staff member in front of the group, giving a speech (some briefer than others) about the staff member. Some were very serious, some were very kind, some were silly, but all were wonderful. Finally, the most meaningful, and oldest, tradition we have is the Magic Kettle. Into the Magic Kettle we place aspects of ourselves which we believe we have in abundance, which we can share with the rest of the staff. What we have to give. From the Magic Kettle we take something that we feel we have more of. Things like patience, courage, empathy, confidence, love, etc. We also shared inspirational quotes, fears, thrills, and anything else to lead us into the season. And, of course, we had to close off with some hugs. On Wednesday night we performed the “Cinnamon Bun Hug” where a line of people holding hands wrap around one person in the middle and squeeze, and then on Thursday morning we all hugged each other in an orderly fashion, by doubling a line back. Really appropriate ways to close out In-Service.

With training “done” (I use quotes because week 1 is also known as the second In-Service and training never ends), it was time to focus on having fun. We went out for lunch/brunch in town and then came back to camp to do the ropes course and the Giant Swing. Staff may get the chance to lead these activities during the camp sessions, and they’re really good team builders/challengers for the group. Us OE folks lead the instruction and put everybody through, I even got to be “lead” on the ropes course, which was just a great time. It is so much fun being up there with adults who you are friends with and not kids who really need your attention. However, there were definitely still folks up there who were very nervous and returned to very similar behaviors as the kids who go up there. Additionally, I finally got to go on the Giant Swing, which is freaking awesome, especially now that we have the pulleys replaced and they run smoothly. Then, after enjoying the ropes course liberally, we drove to one of the staff’s family’s house’s near-by to camp out for the night! Oh my goodness, it was such a cool spot. They have an absolutely gorgeous property, but we camped inside of an old sandstone quarry! Basically, a circle 50’ across cut out of the rock. We cooked burgers and dogs over the fire, played music, talked, and hung out together. It’s what we do best, just a bunch of hippies hanging out.

In the morning we came back to camp and considered doing things out and about, but eventually elected to stay in and just hang out. We got groceries to feed ourselves for the rest of the weekend, because camp doesn’t feed us when we’re not working, and made dinner. Friday night, we had a sushi party, and everyone that wanted to could make their own hand roll. A lot of people kind of made a pile of rice with stuff on it on top of Nori. Whatever works. Saturday morning, I went for a jog and spent most of the day cooking. After running, I made a breakfast of hash browns, omelets, and fresh fruit with a lot of assistance from a few other staffers. Then, upon request, I started a loaf of rye bread for dinner, unfortunately just with commercial yeast, but hey, its fresh bread. While the dough was rising, a bunch of us went over the hill to swim in the hotel’s pool, which was a lot of fun – nothing quite like acting like a kid in a pool! Then, back at camp in the evening it was time to make a big dinner of lentils, a salad, roast vegetables, and fresh bread, with a bunch of help, again. I really do love cooking and I absolutely miss it when I don’t get to. Roast vegetables are so delicious. After dinner, it was back over the hill to the lodge, again, for fun times at the bar, which included a DJ and a dance floor that night. Nothing like a bunch of a hippies dancing. I’d like to think that we at least made it a little more fun for the DJs who weren’t getting a lot of dance floor action before our participation. Then, it was time to sleep and prepare for the week ahead!

Today I would like to wish a very Happy Father’s Day to all of those fathers out there who have lived up to the title which they are expected to. I know that mine has gone ABCD for me, even taking a spill down the stairs when I was little. To all of the embarrassing fathers out there, thank you.

Irrelevantly, I also came across this comic, which I really enjoy, but I think that everything but the punch line is awesome and fairly reflective of a lot of my thinking. “I’ve read a great deal of Philosophy. What we are, why we are, where we are going, and the only thing I can come to is that although it’s all pointless, evolution has accidentally given us the ability to perceive our own existence and the awareness that there are things we like. Between those two you can form a closed loop of meaningfulness. And if you accept this notion, there’s a clear conclusion: we must embrace humanness. Embrace high pleasure. Embrace low pleasure. Embrace love, embrace hate, be afraid, be brave, be little, be big.”

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