So its finally reached the middle of September and guess what? I’m back! I really can’t tell you guys how much I missed writing to you all and telling you everything that was going on, trust me there was a lot going on; but a lack of wifi and an actual laptop really threw a spanner in the works. Right now, I am literally sitting at the airport and typing this up on my iPad, which has been a bit of a god sent for this trip. So anyway, I thought for my first ever post back I would let you know how things went and what camp is actually like. Now I must say that I am writing exclusively about my own experience and for goodness sake this should never be taken as the experience of everyone who involves themselves in camp in America. In fact, my experience though seemly negative at the time was a hella lot-a fun and actually was a real mix.
So I should probably start of by explaining that the camp in which I found myself in was actually not the best camp in the world. I’m not going to name them on here, as that will be a matter which myself and others will discuss with our own agencies. My experience here was made entirely by the children and other councillors, both international and American. The issues I had were with the management only and where in retrospect small and more irritating than anything.
I arrived at camp June 12th 2018 and I was so nervous! Literally. I was shaking from head to toe when I left my parents at Heathrow airport I was so tempted to turn around a go “haha, joke! Okay let’s go home now…” The thought of flying to a totally different continent with no back up or company terrified me. But I got on that plane and low and behold, right in front of me was not 1, not 2, but 4 other girls going to the same camp as me. I was too scared to actually chat tot them other than an introduction, so we just started to talk once we had arrived in Philadelphia airport. Skip forward a fun bus ride later on a real yellow school bus where i talked to so many new people, and we arrive at camp. Immediately we are moved into a huge bunk with a load of other girls. Now this bunk was ummm, questionable. It was so gross, smelt so bad and we actually had something living in the bathroom. But we all kind just went with it. Adventure, right?
Now I wont go into too much detail as to what we did in the first half a week but it was basically hard labour. We had all signed up for pre-camp, but we had no idea that it would involve lugging around 50-pound bags of horse feed (for me anyway) and cleaning out stables that we still dirty from last summer (that wasn’t fun). We managed to get some fun stuff in, like we ran riding lessons for the other internationals and hung out in the evenings getting to know each other and watching people play bad games of football. Life was pretty easy in retrospect, but the food was literally the worst thing in this world and with jet lag and the whole new environment, it was tough.
Then ADA came. ADA was a diabetic group of kids who we basically just had to run the activities for, practice for proper camp basically. And I loved it. ADA was fantastic. They were sweet and fun and so very polite. These kids had it tough and it made them so respectful of everyone else. The food improved a little – breakfast were less sweet (thank the gods!) and everything was more controlled. But at the same time our problems with upper staff began.
When I talk about these problems I am not going to use any specifics. This is to protect people involved and well to not make it sound like I’m just complaining because really the problems with upper staff really made our lives impossible, but by the end of camp we had learnt what to expect and how to manage. I get butterfly’s just thinking about it. I’m going to explain and get it out the way now. Generally, the issues involved were with our supervisor and the owner/management of the camp. The issues basically involved but weren’t limited to; Them telling lies about us, putting money before safety, going back on contracted agreements and lying to our faces. It also involved poor working conditions and a lack care towards us. I’m not going to lie. I was feeling incredibly down about this trip that I had through was going to be incredible. Things got worse the closer we got to the children arriving. The days before we got sorted into our bunks and asked to move the kids in – I was place with the 13-year olds. The one age I had specified that I did not want – not the biggest issue. But then the day we all spend working from 8.30am, dragging the kids bags to the bunks, we were told that we would be handing our phones in. Oh, and that they would be changing the rules, we would only have them from 9.30pm-11.30pm… And this would have been fine, accept, well I live in England where they are 5 hours ahead of America. Which means that I would be phoning my family at 2.30-4.30 am. So, we would be totally cut off from family for 7 weeks. I think that was the biggest issue. But I won’t go into it anymore and I’m going to tell you about the positive stuff. No more negativity! I promise!
I met some amazing kids during ADA and it was amazing. We hung out and talked and if we could we probably would have exchanged contact details. Some of them were amazing. But we only had a week with them and soon they were leaving and I was directing the cars off – should explain that because of my English accent and ‘friendly demeanour’ I was often put at the front of house to welcome new campers and wave them off. Not ashamed to say I even cried a bit.
Soon enough the real kids came and as I said I was a little tentative about the age group I was given. But as it so happens they decided to move a few of the specialists out of the kids bunks and put them in a bunk on their own. Now this was bloody luxury compared to the state the kids left the bunks in, so we were all loving it. During this time, I was put On Duty (OD) for a small bunk of 9-10 year olds. And they were adorable. They all called me Hannah Montana, and actually took a real liking to me. So after a few weeks I was moved into this bunk for the rest of my time. And I loved these kids. They were so much fun, and they really made my time at camp amazing.
I won’t go into much detail about my time during what we all just called ‘camp camp’ this post, only because this post is already way too long. But this period lasted 7 weeks, and then it was time to say goodbye to the next lot. And also, the American councillors. Now it was a little hard for us to mix with them in the beginning. They had literally grown up at this camp and they were rather, um, cliquey. But my cos from the bunk were amazing. I got to know them so well and I really miss them already. We have a group chat and everything!
Finally, we had post camp. I was excited about post camp from the very beginning of camp. It was supposed to be the best part of camp. No kids to care for, only a few activities a day and lots of fun. And it was! Well other than the fact I became a day councillor for a week but that was actually so much fun and my co’s were amazing too! The second week I was entirely on my own with the horses. Now this was tough but, we worked with the most amazing kids – The Vanguard. These were a group of kids who were on the autistic spectrum. Working with these kids were so rewarding and I loved it.
That’s all for today. I just wanted to say hello again and tell you guys about camp. My experience with camp was not the best, but the kids and other councillors really made it one of my best summers for a long time. Thank you so much for reading and let me know below if you want more camp stories or have any questions! See you next time.