Well, once again I got slightly distracted and forgot to post for quite a while. Here’s what you missed:
Work at Camp Zanika continued to consist of fuel reduction, controlled burns, and painting. Once the counselors and program staff came, we were invited to take part in some of their training and bonding. Part of their training was called “Super Happy Fun Time” which was when then helped us clean up the camp. This was a huge help, as we had lots of long trips hauling wood from deep in the woods to the controlled burn site. It also helped them understand the work we were doing. When we took part in their training, we learned camp games, fun facts about the counselors, and everybody’s camp names. We also were invited on the overnight camping trip. This was the first time I really camped (as in, there was not a porta-potty waiting nearby). We hiked up to Hidden Lake, set up our tents, cooked dinner, and took part in a lost camper drill.
Since meals were provided, we had always taken them with the staff. Once campers came, this meant that we were eating with the kids as well. This was one of my favorite parts about camp. I would often sit at the “head” or “foot” of the table, meaning I helped staff by serving or cleaning up the food. Then I was able to talk with the campers and staff at the table, learning about what they were doing at camp. At the end of each meal, camp songs would start. These weren’t just repeat after me songs like we sung at Girl Scouts, some were interactive as well. (The Buffalo song passes the song around the room, having each person do a dance move that the camp then copies as they “buffalo.”) Meals were used to bring the camp together, do announcements (which started with a song of course), and other fun activities. Anytime a staff member was caught saying another staff members real name (for example, if they called me Jen instead of my camp name Reptar) they would have to jump in the lake after lunch. One meal even ended with a surprise water fight.
At first when the campers came, we still had our own work to complete. So, we hauled wood and painted during the day, but were encouraged to take part in camp activities after work. This could mean camp wide games, late night board games, kitchen raids (where you sneak into the kitchen to get late night snacks, at the risk of booby traps and having the begeezus scared out of you by staff), and cabin raids (toilet papering other cabins or staff areas, those who did the raid were required to clean up any mess the next day). The first full week that campers were there, we were allowed to put our work aside and shadow the camp staff for the entire week. I spent my first day shadowing the youngest boys cabin. My day consisted of a low ropes course, “quiet time” playing zombie attack, and lots of time trying to hurry up little boys who were too busy singing “Gangnam style.” I had a blast! For the rest of the week, I shadowed an older boys cabin and watched them at the low ropes course, an older girls cabin where I lead them as they planned their skit, and the oldest girls cabin where I helped them navigate the high ropes course. I also shadowed the Arts and Crafts coordinator and made lots of friendship bracelets, as well as the Nature director where we went on bug hunts. The entire week the staff was extremely helpful, opening up opportunities for me to interact and lead activities with the campers. The campers were extremely welcoming too, accepting me as one of the staff and including me in all their fun times. It was amazing to watch campers start the week shy and unsure, and the finish with the confidence to break dance in front of the entire camp.
When it came time to leave Camp Zanika, it was one of the hardest moments in AmeriCorps. The staff included us in final activities, such as serenading the cabins on their last night, and revealing our real names to campers at our last meal. It was sad, but I love that the staff welcomed us into the camp and included us in every tradition they could think of. As much as I’m working towards and know that I need to get a job soon, I’m kind of hoping my next summer is free so that I can go back and work at camp. 🙂