Dear Mom and Dad,
My teachers old us we had to write you after spending three days at this camp. Seems pretty stupid, but we have to do it…
On Monday morning, you dropped me off at school with a suitcase that I could fit in and too many clothes. My teacher put the suitcase under a bus and sent me to get in the bus. After a really long drive, we pulled into this place with a lot of trees and small cabins.
As soon as the bus stopped, this really excited guy hopped in the front door, welcomed us, said his name was Albi (what kind of a name is that?), and taught us how to use the “Quiet Coyote”. When anyone puts up their hand with their pinky and pointer fingers sticking up and their thumb touching their middle and ring fingers, we’re supposed to put ours hands up, too, and get quiet. Then we got off of the bus and moved all of everybody’s bags under a pavilion in neat rows. With all of the bags off of the bus, we all sat down on some picnic benches in a place that they call the Orchard. It all happened really fast with a lot of people speaking loudly and new adults saying “hello” and asking funny questions here and there.
Once everyone had made it into the Orchard, this big guy who calls himself a Jackalope read a bunch of lists of names. He split all 130 of us into ten tribes. I was really hopeful that I’d be with a bunch of my friends, but only know a few other kids in my tribe. In tribes, Jackalope (another really silly name) told us about camp. First, he introduced the other instructors, who all have silly names that they call “Nature Names”. I didn’t want one at first, but then my whole tribe got excited about coming up with their names, and I decided on Dragon! Its a pretty cool name. Then, Jackalope told us the rules of camp, but he didn’t call them rules. He called them expectations. He told us to be kind, to participate, and to have fun. That seems pretty easy to me! I really hope everyone is kind. I don’t like it when the other kids are mean at school. Then Jackalope told us all of the things we will get to do this week. I was most excited for the zip line and the giant swing! I didn’t realize how high they were then… Then Jackalope read off a bunch more lists of names! We had to be split into different groups for the cabins we sleep in at night. I got a couple more friends in my cabin, which I was really excited about! They had already decided their Nature Names would be Rhino, Lion, and Mouse. I really wish they were in my tribe.
Albi walked us up to our cabin, number 6. It was way up hill and it was really hard to carry my suitcase all of the way up. Mouse helped me out, which was really nice. In the cabin, Albi quickly told us a bunch more expectations for how we should act in the cabin. Some of the other guys in the cabin weren’t doing a very good job of listening, but Albi made it clear that everybody should. He was kind of funny, but definitely seems like he could be strict.
When we left the cabin we finally got to go back to the Orchard to eat our lunch! Hooray! Thanks for packing peanut butter and jelly, my favorite. I was embarrassed by the note at first, but luckily nobody saw it before I put it in my pocket.
After lunch was done, it was already time for our first activity. Looks like it is going to be a very busy few days. It turns out that Albi is with my tribe first, and we’re going canoeing. You know I haven’t been canoeing before. I was a little nervous. First, we had to walk down to the camp’s beach, which Albi said was about 5 miles away, but we walked there in less than ten minutes, so I’m pretty sure it was closer than that. I saw the lake, but not the beach at first. We stopped in a field for Albi to teach us about canoeing. He showed us a paddle and a PFD, told us the sides and ends of the boat (did you know that the right side of the boat is call starboard because they used to have a steering oar on that side and the left is called port because that was the side that they would pull into port?), and had us practice paddling in the air. Then, he split us into boat groups. I really wanted to be with my only friend in the group, but he wouldn’t let us pick. Instead he lined us up by experience canoeing. I was kind of embarrassed to say I hadn’t been canoeing before, but a couple others hadn’t, so I didn’t feel as bad. Then, he put the kids who had gone canoeing with those who haven’t. This was a little intimidating, but I guess I was glad to be with somebody who knew what to do in a canoe. With our canoe buddies, we got our own life jackets and paddles and then had to carry the canoes down to the beach. Boy are they heavy! On the beach, Albi told us how to get into the boats and where we were going. He told us he was very excited because it was a beautiful day on the lake, very calm. It all did look very pretty, with the flat water and some leaves starting to change color for fall. Then, it felt rather sudden, but we were in our boats and Albi was pushing us out into the water! I was a little worried about tipping, but he had said we wouldn’t do that as long as we stayed centered and didn’t ram each other. Canoeing was pretty cool. It felt awkward paddling, but I got used to it, and then got tired arms. But we saw a lot of birds, including a Great Blue Heron and a Ringed Kingfisher that Albi pointed out! After a while of paddling and a little splashing, we went back to the beach and luckily did not have to carry them back up. And then we walked back uphill to camp.
Back in camp, Albi gave us a few minutes to run back to our cabins to put dry clothes on, if we needed to, and then it was time for our next activity, with Albi again – Survival. I heard we got to play with fire in this class, so I was very excited. Fire is awesome! It turns out, building fire is a lot harder than I thought. Before we got to build a fire, we learned about the things people need to survive, and what we need to do if we’re lost and in a survival situation. There was a lot of things to learn, but I definitely remember needing food, water, shelter, air, and mental stimulation. And then we got to go build fires! As we walked through the woods, Albi pointed out different plants n things that would work well for starting fires. We saw garlic mustard, which is not supposed to be here and really dry. And we saw sassafras, which they make root beer out of, but also burns really well. He showed us how to build some different kinds of fires, and said a log cabin was his favorite. Then, with the stuff we collected, we got to build our own fires and try to light them with only one match. I thought we were going to be able to do it, but I guess we didn’t build it quite right. I think if I got to try again, I would be able to, though. Like that, our time was up, though, and we had to go back to the Orchard for something called option time.
For option time, we didn’t get any options, we had to go to the ropes course with another tribe to get ready for the next morning! We learned how to put on harnesses, helmets, and leads, and how to do a “transfer”, which is how we get from bridge to bridge up in the air. Albi was kind of funny, again, but in a really lame way. I can’t believe he actually finds the jokes that he tells funny. I wanted to get up on the course then, but we had to go to dinner. Which was so yummy!
They’re always telling us to go to the bathroom and to drink water here. Its annoying. I’m in sixth grade now.
They are very specific about how they do things here at camp. In the dining hall, we have a whole new group of people that we have to sit with. I’m in lots of groups of people here, and I don’t know most of them. For every meal, one of us has to be a hopper for the table and get food from the kitchen and clean up afterwards. I hope that I don’t have to be hopper. After a tasty dinner and dessert, and a clean-up, our teachers had an activity for us. I thought we weren’t doing school work while we were here. But, I did get a few minutes to see my friends, which was really nice.
After an hour with them, the instructors came back to take us on a night hike. My tribe got to go with Komodo. He took us way back into the woods and taught us about how nocturnal animals can live in the night. And we played some games! One was called Bat-Moth and it was a lot like Marco Polo, but with different words. He even gave us some candy which made light in our mouths! We’ll have to get some when I come home so I can show you. After the walk, we went back to the dining hall for snack and one of the counselors, Amazon, told a story about another counselor who was a super fragile calloused mystic hexed with halitosis. Then, it was finally time to go to our cabins. What a long day!
Back at our cabin, Albi had us go to the bathroom and shower if we wanted to and brush our teeth. He made it clear that our behavior would decide if he was nice to us or not. We all wanted him to be nice. After the bathroom, we all just got in bed. Albi turned off the lights and told us a story, but I don’t remember most of it because I fell asleep very quickly.
Tuesday morning, Albi woke us up at 7;30a and I still thought it was way too early. He had us get everything that we needed for our day, took us to the bathroom, and then to breakfast. Yummy! So much food for us. They had pancakes and bacon and cereal and fruit for us. Unfortunately, I had to be hopper this morning. I have a lot of vowels in my last name, apparently… But I didn’t feel to bad about it. The rest of my table said thank you and I was very excited to get to go on the ropes course. After breakfast, Albi and some other counselors met my tribe the other tribe from the night before in the Orchard and took us up to the ropes course. We reviewed all of the stuff we learned the night before and practiced our transfers while I just really wanted to get up on the course. Once I had all of my gear on stood right under it, though, I realized just how high in the air it was. And then Albi got up there, and so did some of my classmates, and they looked pretty nervous up there… I started to get a little worried. A counselors names Spider clipped me in and sent me up the ladder to see Albi and Turtle in what they called the Treehouse. It wasn’t much of a tree house. I made it up the ladder ok, but then there were just these metal loops on a pole to climb, and I was not fully prepared for that. But then Turtle talked me through climbing up and, step by step, I was able to get up! It was definitely higher than I expected. Turtle clipped me into my first element, one they call the Tarzan Swing. I picked it because it was the closes to the platform, and there was a really long line on the Swinging Bridge. Those wires really do wobble. I do not understand how Albi and Turtle are so comfortable up there. I don’t understand how some of my classmates are so comfortable up there! I was shaking the whole way across, but I made it!!! Then I had to go through the transfer process with Spider, who was on the ground. I had a little trouble remembering all of the words, but I got through it and got to go on the Balance Beam. It was stable, but I still couldn’t let go of my leads as I crossed. Then I went through another transfer, it was easier this time, to go on the Zig-Zag so I could get to the zip line, which I really wanted to do! As I started across the zig-zag, Albi started zipping other kids and made the whole course shake! I slipped off of the wire and was scared for a second, until my harness and leads caught me. Woah, they really do hold me up. Eventually, I made it all of the way over the zip line platform. There were a few people there, but somehow we all fit on. That pole really shook every time somebody went down. And then it was my turn. Albi hooked me up to the line and explained everything as he went. I was still pretty freaked out when he took my leads off of the course and off of me. I sat down on the platform and shouted “zipping!” as I was told, but just couldn’t get myself to go at first. Albi reassured me. I asked if he could push me, but he couldn’t. He could count me down, though, so I managed to go when he got to one. Woooo! The zip line was so awesome! It was just like I was flying. Hanging was a little uncomfortable in the harness, but it was totally worth it! I wanted to get up there again so I could do it. After I took off my gear at the platform, I got to hangout by the ladder where they take everybody off of the zip line until lunch. I watched Albi talk to a girl for on the zip platform for a long time until she finally pushed herself off. She screamed so loud! We all cheered really loud for her because it was clear that she was really really scared about going.
Lunch was awesome, and afterwards my tribe went on a hike with Dessert. He taught us all about rotten logs and ecosystems, some games we can play in the woods, geology, and even some edible wild plants. We got to eat grapes right off of the vine! They were really tart and small, but surprisingly good. It was a long hike and we were pretty tired at the end. Then it was time for option time, again, and this time I actually got to pick an option. I chose to go make a Name Monster with a girl who goes by “Mud”. It was a fun activity and I think you would like it. Dinner was great, again, and it was fun to catch up with my friends during teacher time. Then the counselors put on a campfire for us!
We sang a lot of songs and they did some skits. Again with the really lame jokes. Do they really think they’re funny? My favorite song was about a bear hunt. After the fire, it was time to go back to our cabins. Albi had us pack almost all of our stuff up before we went to bed. I couldn’t believe that it was almost time to go home!
In the morning, we woke up a little bit earlier so that we could move all of our stuff out of the cabin to the pavilion where we originally put our bags before breakfast, which was delicious again.
After breakfast, we got to do the Giant Swing, finally. I was glad that I had already done the zip line, because I knew I could get up to the very top of the swing. Songbird reminded us how to put harnesses and helmets on again, in case we forgot, because we had to share a few harnesses for the swing. The swinger climbs up a ladder and gets clipped in to two wires which go up to the top of really tall poles, and we hold on to an orange strap which connects us to a rope that our tribe mates pull on to pull us up. Boy, did we get pulled up high! Songbird said we were up about 50 feet! Wow! I really wanted to go on it again after my turn. So much fun! After swinging, it was pretty much time to leave, after another tasty lunch. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time went by. But the second half of our school was coming in, so we had to go. We waved goodbye to the counselors as we left.
Can we go play outside this weekend? I want to see if I can find some edible plants in our backyard.
[I got the suggestion to write from the perspective of a student from a summer camp counselor friend. If you have any ideas for a style of blogging you would like to see, I’d love to hear. Anything to keep this fresh so I can keep doing it would be appreciated.]
So, yeah, we do that twice a week.
A big highlight for the week, for me, was the Thursday afternoon ropes I lead (I got to do ropes 8 sessions this week, out of 12 possible times). We had one girl on the platform, who struggled getting out to the platform a bit, for about twenty minutes/half an hour before she finally just went. She was barely hanging on the entire time, too. Her desire to go was so apparent that it was great to see her finally give in. Then, the same session, I had a guy who had balance issues due to a disease which messes with nerve endings, struggling for a long time on the zig zag. Finally got the opportunity to stick with him for a bit and, at first where he was saying that he couldn’t do it and might as well die, wanting to give up on the course, not go down the zip line, he went across the balance beam and decided to take a different route out to the platform (awesome to start with), started saying “I can”, and my heart freaking melted. I’m sure that sentence did not make sense, but deal with it.
All in all, there were a lot of camper kids in this school group, so it was a hilarious week.
Then, the weekend comes. Woo! Well, usually. This weekend, I was recruited to help out with another group, 7th and 8th grade church group. Do some energizers with them, run a communication sculptures, take them canoeing, and run meals. Songbird and Mountain also helped out, running the ropes course and taking them on a night hike/light the forest. They were fun, for sure, a little rambunctious, but fun.
Saturday night, the counselors tried to watch the entire, extended cut, Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We only made it through the first two, but finished it up tonight. And, on Sunday, we got to go to our director’s house for a beginning of autumn brunch (with pumpkin pancakes!) played a fun game called “Smart Ass”, some corn hole, and planned our menu for a dinner pie shop that we’re obviously going to open in the future.
I hope you all had a great week! It is indeed autumn here in Ohio. Cool, crisp, changing leaves. Very exciting.