TIME?! WHAT’S THAT?!
One tiny small detail I forgot about working at a summer camp is how busy you are! The time you have at camp is so little and so precious, hence why I haven’t been able to devote much time to writing. Despite my best efforts, I was only able to ‘pocket write’ – jotting bullet points down into my little journal. With a promise to myself that I would catch up with this after camp when the chaos dies down. Things get so hectic at camp and the little time you do have, you spend either catching up on sleep, or spending it with the camp fam.
Having a job at summer camp is the complete opposite to your average 9-5 weekday job. Little life routines that people adopt in their everyday lives and ‘looking forward to the weekend’ is non-existent. We get 6 days off for the whole 9 weeks that we work at camp which I know can sound like slave labor but believe it or not, time goes extremely fast when at summer camp, you don’t realise the number of days that have passed since your last day off. We also start most days off at 7:30am and finish every day about 10:30pm with a rest hour after lunch which isn’t actually an hour. More like 45 minutes. I call it precious napping time. If I was reading this as someone who has never worked at a summer camp, I would be horrified too. Sounds bizarre right?! But summer camp is so unique, rewarding and fun – it works. Strangely. I mean maybe they could possibly make the rest hour an actual hour and lives will change. However, as senior staff, we are sometimes expected to work through our rest ‘hour’ and we’re also required to do ‘Night OD’ (I can’t remember what ‘OD’ stands for…) which basically means our working day doesn’t finish until 1am. We have to do about 4 of these on average for the whole summer which isn’t too bad… Oh and not forgetting the All Night ‘OD’s where us seniors take shifts to patrol the camp all night to make sure everyone is where they should be… Like I’ve said previous, working at a summer camp is a lifestyle job, not your typical mundane 9-5. I’m really selling this to potentials(!)
Anyway, back to my point of ‘Time’ at camp. It’s much distorted. You’re so consumed in the job that you do at camp and the lifestyle you adopt, you completely forget about what day it is, the date and that there is an actual world out there still turning. It’s informally known as the ‘Camp Bubble’. People often forget that they actually led a life outside of camp prior to working, “What do I do outside of camp?!? Oh jeez, now you’re asking…”
So half of you are actually expecting a few articles on what it’s like at Summer Camp and the other half are wondering how they stumbled across this Welshie babbling on about time… I could write about my days at summer camp forever and bore you silly but here goes a typical day at summer camp in a nutshell –
7am – Reveille (which I think is French for ‘wake up’ but I could be very wrong…) Basically, a horn blows and we have to wake up.
7:30am – Senior Staff Meeting which conveniently takes place at the Dining Hall. Underneath the Lodge which we live. Where they serve coffee – essential.
8:00am – Flagpole. The whole camp congregates around a pole in the middle of camp where the American Flag is raised and the pledge of allegiance is recited. Two campers at a time takes turn to raise the flag every morning. This is also where announcements from Senior Staff are made. So we all have our own activities to run such as Arts, Drama, Archery, Gymnastics, Horseback, Sports, etc, etc. And Flagpole gives us an opportunity to pitch what sessions were being run at the sites and gather enthusiasm. I did Special Events and Evening Activities so myself and my fellow co Alex would announce what we were running that evening and any other special activities that were going on such as theme days, themed dinners, etc.
8:30am – Breakfast/Activity Sign Up. This is where the camp splits into their divisions. Juniors (ages 5-7) would always go to breakfast as they follow a set timetable and have no need to attend activity sign up. Intermediates (ages 8-12) and Seniors (ages 13-16) would alternate. Activity Sign up is basically where they go up to the gymnasium and choose six activities that they would like to participate in that day.
9:30am – Cabin Clean Up. This time is dedicated to cleaning our cabins and living quarters. Us living in the lodge would see this time as an opportunity to catch a shower or a nap. The nap is the preferred option. No cleaning was ever done.
10:15 – 12:15pm: First & Second activity period. I would sometimes teach a fitness class in the morning as a way to get to know the campers more as we don’t tend to have one on one time with them as Evening Events. And I get to work out. Bonus!
12:30 – 13:15pm: Lunch. Cue the chanting, screaming, and general chaos. Food is pretty standard at camp. Don’t expect 5* food. Or Zucchini. Much to my disappointment. Camp food is child-friendly so typical meals were chicken nuggets, pizza, soup, sloppy joes, hot dogs, tacos, etc. All served with a healthy portion of fries.
13:15 – 14:00: Rest “Hour” which isn’t actually an hour. Still, it’s essential nap time. Or shower time. Nap wins everytime.
14:00 – 17:50: Third, Fourth, Fifth & Sixth Period. Each period lasts about 50-55 minutes. Normal camp counsellors would be scheduled to teach different activities each period depending on their skills (or the same activity for all periods if they’re specialist i.e. Horseback). Personally, this is the time where myself and Alex busts our butts to get our Evening Activity prepped, set up and organised.
17:50 – 18:10: Mail Call. This is the time when the camp counsellors collect any mail or parcels from the office for themselves or the campers. It was mostly always the campers receiving their weekly amount of chips, sweets and chocolate.
18:15: Dinner Time! Cue more chaos. The birthday song is usually played at this time if there’s a birthday so eating off a bouncing tray is an essential skill to acquire at camp. We would sometimes also run bingo games, trivia quizzes, play music to keep them happy and entertained. The counsellors that is, not the campers. They’re happy enough.
19:00-19:40: Evening activity set-up! This is the most chaotic, stressful time of the day for us as we get last minute preparations and set-up done.
19:40: Evening Flagpole. This is where the flag is lowered and any announcements that the Senior Staff have about the day’s activities are announced. Also, the start of evening activity as we get the kids pumped, explain rules, etc. Let the games begin…
19:50-21:30: Evening Activity. My department. We run so many different events, it’s hard to list them and i’m going to save you the bother of scrolling past this out of boredom so i won’t explain the events one by one. But in a nutshell, we run activities such as socials, pool parties, competitive games, sports games, competitions, trivia nights, talents shows, casino nights, etc.etc.. We also organise two proms throughout the summer. One at the end of the ‘First Half’ and one at the end of the summer – ‘Second Half’. This year, we went for a Jurassic Park themed prom and Alice in Wonderland (my personal favourite. Loved it. Smashed it.)
21:30 – 22:00: By this time, Juniors and Intermediates have gone to bed and this allocated time is when we make sure we stuff all the senior campers with as many E numbers as possible with much chocolate, soda and candy before we expect them to sleep soundly.
22:30: If i’m not on ‘OD’ – 1am duty, I tend to fall asleep, go off camp or chill out with everyone. No writing was ever done but was always intended.
Not every day was this structured. Most days, but not every days. We would do special days at camp such as 4th July, Olympics (which goes on for three days), trips to a local theme park, Carnival… Just a few days to shake us up and make sure we’re not turning into zombified robots.
So explanation of why I had no time to write at camp – Complete.