Sorry for the long blog silence! I will do my best to write more frequently but time off here is sparse. I am supposed to get two hours off a day but this doesn't really happen and half of the time when I do, the computers aren't working or the internet is down. Then when I get an EO (evening off) or 24 (day off) I try to get off camp ASAP. The picture is from Mini Camp in case you're wondering, they're not just very small 14 year olds!
A quick recap on what goes on at Tockwogh- so you understand when I go rambling on about my Utes or Navajos… Camp is organised into villages dependant on gender and age, the girl villages from youngest to oldest are: Pawnee, Navajo, Chickasaw, Ute, LIT (Leader in Training), CIT (Counsellor in Training). After all of that, campers should be 18 and eligible to be (not very well) paid staff like me! Us internationals get to skip all that and get thrown into the deep end of camp.
So, session one. I had a cabin of Utes and was a little apprehensive. I generally like working with younger kids and wasn't really looking forward to dealing with a load of 14/15 year old girls. I had a cabin of eight girls, two showed up late and two went home early, but for the majority of the time I, along with my Co Shauneen, were responsible for eight teenagers. It was challenging to say the least. One of the girls went home early because she had managed to get hold of a mobile phone, which they're not allowed to have on camp, and call her parents. After the third day I spoke to my VC (village chief) and asked not to be with the Utes for the next session. These girls had a whole lot of attitude of 'sass'- I don't know if I'm just not up to date with the lingo or if we don't use that word. I would have preferred to have bookish types who I could identity with, but alas, I got a couple straight out of Mean Girls.
There was one girl in particular who caused me a lot of grief. She rarely turned up to her activities, constantly tried to sneak into the wellness centre (nurse's bit) for a nap and generally made it clear that she didn't want to be here. The thing was that she was a fairly nice girl and you could see her trying sometimes, but not hard enough. We also had another camper who I didn't take to at all and just wanted to break rules. The other six were fairly nice but unfortunately got influenced by the others who weren't the best role models, making for a fairly stressful two weeks.
Away from the cabin, a typical day would be bookended with an activity which you do as a cabin, with 4 periods of something that the kids sign up for and 2 which change every day. For fifth and sixth periods, which change daily, us staff were asked to suggest three activities that we could run that weren't typical camp activities. I had film making, card games and rounders- imaginative I know. Other people had things like extreme tanning, YOLO-ing, cloud gazing and living Cluedo, which all sound a bit more fun. After all these activities, the Utes and Sioux (the eldest boys) have 'cool breezing' and hang out for an hour. This basically means that the counsellors can just chill out too, so I spent a lot of time just sitting on the beach or attempting to play basketball whilst my kids sat in a circle awkwardly talking to the boys.
Morning and evening activity can be hit and miss, from Cookie Making, where you get to put frozen dough in the oven and make that entertaining for 45 minutes to the more exciting Tubing and Giant Swing. The great thing about these activities is that counsellors get to play as well. My personal favourite is the ropes course. On my EO I went to join a different cabin, or much nicer girls, to play on the giant swing and on my 24, as I couldn't find a lift off camp during the day (I'd been at the pub the night before) I went to play on the high ropes course.
My off-camp time off is mainly spent at the pub. Well, they don't have pubs here. It's a working men's club, 'The Legion' where I'm now drinking beer because they either don't sell cider or it's outrageously expensive. My current drink of choice is Yeung Ling which claims to be from the oldest brewery in the state, if not the country.
During the session I had to teach four periods a day. This consisted of guitar, cooking and photography. Guitar is going… okay. I was told that I'd be teaching beginners, however, in one class I might have three people who have never touched a guitar, one who knows the basics and another who is probably better than me, which makes this whole teaching malarkey pretty difficult. Plus, only knowing classical guitar and not songs isn't the best way to keep the attention of teenagers. They only let the older four villages opt for guitar too, which means that I have to deal with their apathy as well. Still, it's not all bad, a lot of the kids don't want to do much and it's so hot that they're content to just sit in the shade, which I'm fine with! Whilst I didn't do a great job of leading the cooking class- I've never been a great chef- I'm doing quite well with photography. The kids seem to enjoy jumping off of benches, pretending to fly and generally roaming around with cameras, so that's good!
Being a Ute counsellor meant that I had a lot of 'free time' where I wasn't doing anything but had to stay in particular areas so that I was still 'supervising'. On the Saturday night we had the All Camp Dance, which is about as fun as it sounds. The theme was superheroes but as I didn't bring any dressing up stuff (I lie, I have my penguin onesie but there's a time and a place for that) I decided to go as The Doctor. I wore my Tardis T-shirt, red Converse and a makeshift bow tie, needless to say, I looked a bit rubbish as most people went all out. During the day we had Sioux/Ute day at the beach where we just chill at the waterfront and the kids have access to everything - tubing, kayaking, boat rides, sailing, water skiing… But it was so hot that it was difficult to keep them happy. They sure do moan a lot. The Sunday was my favourite day - High Ropes day. We got to play on the giant swing and do team building activities. My cabin weren't great at working in a team but I'd come to expect this at that point.
Overall, camp is good, we're getting into the swing of things now. There's a pretty nice family atmosphere here and all of the staff tend to get on. The food hasn't improved - it's the same ten meals on rotation throughout lunch and dinner but I reckon I'm sweating out all the bad American food, so it's okay!
At the end of a session all staff get a changeover, which means time off from Friday 9pm to Sunday 10.30am. EVERYONE went to Will's house which is 'just next door' (read: 20 minutes drive). On the Saturday I went out for lunch to have my very first non- camp meal (pulled pork sandwich and chips), shop at Walmart and generally drive about with some camp folk. The great thing about here is that all the folk with cars are always offering out lifts and taking us internationals out. I didn't fancy going out for dinner so me and a few others made a fire on the beach and just chilled out under the stars. I have never seen such a starry sky, well I guess when I was in the Himalayas the sky was pretty good, but the one here is awesome too. Although I think I've only seen one shooting star, I tend to get those and fireflies mixed up…