The Final Goodbye.

So the day arrived where the majority of staff including myself was to leave camp. Some people were going straight home whilst others like Kyle, Marc and I were to start travelling around the USA before returning home.  In the morning a final checkout was completed to make sure our accommodation was in good condition. I also took the opportunity to write mine and Kyle’s names into history by writing our names, year and ‘Whif Whaf Champions’ onto one of the beams in our room.

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After this we said goodbye to everyone that we could find and the 3 of us guys headed with Becca who would be our driver to a van to start our big American adventure. We were on our way to collect a rental car that I had booked for a week and were going to drive to the White Mountains in New Hampshire in order to summit Mount Washington. We were then going to find accommodation near the mountain overnight and head to Boston the next day.

Now that camp is over and I can basically do what I want with my time and I’m going to experiment a bit with Vlogging. I’ve been following a couple of Vloggers on YouTube, namely FunForLouis and CaseyNeistat who I’ve really grown to like. I’ve always liked videoing things so I thought I’d give it a go out here whilst I have time to record and edit footage. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to put one out every day or every couple of days but I have 3 weeks travelling and I’m going to aim for a minimum of 10 videos documenting individual days which I think is more than possible. Countdown to VLOG #1 commencing….

Winter Is Coming.

The end of family camp and week in the woods at Arcadia signaled the coming of the end of our time at Arcadia. Once the final campers had left from Week in The Woods we had two days where we set down the camp as winter was coming. Maine winters are harsh with frozen lakes you can skate on, snow drifts up to 10ft and freezing temperatures. as a result everything has to be put into storage.

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This was actually a great couple of days; the work we were doing was hard but everyone was in high spirits because we knew that camp was coming to an end and travelling was coming soon. The staff was split into two teams and I was in the waterfront team. Our responsibilities were mainly setting down the waterfront and taking all the sailboats, row boats, canoes and kayaks onto land, cleaning them and then putting them into storage. Myself and Becca, a trips counsellor, literally swam from the docks to the beach with sailing boats and row boats behind us in order to get them onto land. Once on land they were moved by tractor further up the hill in order to be cleaned. We were given a hose, sponges and water buckets and whilst the cleaning was completed to an extremely high standard there were numerous water fights in the hot Maine summer day. Whilst we were cleaning the boats the tractor that was lifting canoes further up the hill drove past with Kyle and Kevin sitting inside them. Of course as we had a hose they were soaked. However, Steve the tractor driver lifted the canoes higher in the air to help them get out the spray zone but the canoes wobbled so much that they nearly fell off the tractor. This caused the funniest faces of panic on Kevin’s and Kyles faces that I’ve seen in ages.

Whilst some canoes were going up the hill, the other ‘red canoes’ were to stay down the hill to be stored in the point cabin which is near the beach. As well as the canoes we also had to store the stands on which they stood during the summer in the cabins. This involved rearranging the beds already there to make as much room as possible. Getting the canoes in the cabin was not an issue as you just had to lift them up the cabin steps and just pivot a few times. However the canoe stands were the issue. Four long pieces of wood in the shape of a square with a leg on each corner proved impossible to get into the cabin for about 30 minutes. We then questioned whether they were actually meant to go in this cabin at all. We tried another entrance to the same cabin that didn’t work and then returned to the original entrance where we sat down and had a think about our strategy. We eventually figured out a chain of movements that would somehow magically allow the stand to go into the cabin. It was so complicated that we got another counsellor to record it on their phone in order for future staff to see how it is done so they don’t waste time banging the stands against the cabin door frames.

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Once everything was packed away after a solid two days work, camp was set down for the winter and we were preparing to leave camp the next day.

The Good Life.

The arrival of family camp and week in the woods signalled a change in the lifestyle of counsellors. Our day to day lives were more relaxed and we had more free time to join in activities that we had an interest in.

I took the opportunity to join the daily swim to the villa when I could. This was a half mile swim to a beach that was on camp property then you had the option to swim the half mile back as well. The swim left at 10am every morning and during the two camps it depended on my lesson schedule whether or not I could go but I managed to join 3 of the swims. The swim was pretty cool as it was in clear water the whole way and you swam over fallen trees and could see the bottom pretty much all the time. One of the parents who swam to the villa was a ping pong coach and he joined the non-lodgers in a game one day. We’d been playing pretty much every day all summer and he taught us a few new skills including the Chinese style pencil hold which is going to take some getting used to as it is so different to the normal hold style!

The food aspect of our lives at camp also improved dramatically. As there were now families living in camp who were paying very good money to be there, the food had to better than it was when the girls were here which was pretty questionable sometimes. We now had salmon and steak on regular occasions as well as a lot of fajitas! There was also happy hour every day on the porch before dinner which was a treat as we had prawns cooked in front of us by the kitchen staff which was so tasty.

Around half the staff had left after the reunion and it was mainly international staff left at camp along with a couple of Americans. Among the people who left after the reunion were three of the people myself and Kyle hung around most with; Sasha, Katie and Kayleigh. As a result we found new people to talk to which was pretty interesting as there were people you hadn’t really talked to all summer. You find out these people are really cool and you wonder why you didn’t talk to them all summer but it was all situational as you were probably never in the same areas until the final two camps.

As our lifestyle changed I’d say I started to feel myself more. We were all getting more sleep so it seemed that I wasn’t constantly a zombie walking around camp anymore. That along with the improved food, the chance to engage in your chosen activities as well as talk to people you hadn’t much before made the last two week of working at camp and enjoyable and interesting time. I for one was chirpier and a lot more energetic which was a nice change.

Teaching is Learning.

Following the reunion we we’re quickly back into camp mode for one week of Family Camp then another week after that called Week In the Woods. Family camp was where family’s stayed in the cabins, and could engage in any of the activities available on camp. Week In The Woods was very similar but there were also couples staying in the cabins.

The schedule during these two weeks was more relaxed than when the girls were here. During the day I had one on one swimming lessons with the children that signed up for swimming. It was very different to teaching the previous campers as these kids at family camp actually couldn’t swim so I was teaching kids how to swim instead of working with children that could already swim like during the main camp. The parents were also at the beach watching and were paying the camp good money for 30 minute lessons so there was a bit more added pressure than there was during the previous camp sessions. I also had less experience in teaching younger kids as I had worked with the older children during the summer so for these two camps I’d probably say I felt less prepared as two of the children I were to be teaching were 3 and a couple of other were 5 and 6. To add to this one of the 3 year old girls was a relative of the camp director. No pressure Michael.

When I found out I would be teaching this age group I jiggled my brain about to try and remember games and teaching techniques I’d seen other swim teachers use back home while I was working as a lifeguard. I also Googled games and songs to use and after about an hour or so I felt relatively prepared as I had a list of games that aim to build children’s confidence in the water which is the first step to learning how to swim!

The first lessons went well as I had lot of games and the kids wanted to play the games that I suggested. Sometimes they really had trouble focusing but they’re very young so it was expected. As they were so young they also became cold very quickly if the water wasn’t at its warmest so some lessons had to be cut short. However over the days you could see the children’s confidence increase in the water and they were not as upset as they used to be when water went on their faces. As the week progressed I kind of found myself running out of ideas for the lessons but I think I just about had enough different games and songs in to last the amount of lesson I had without repeating too much.

All in all teaching swimming at family camp was a new experience for me. I had never really had experience with one on one lessons with such young children before so I was slightly apprehensive. However I helped myself out by drawing from my pat experience watching lessons as well as doing some research so I was prepared for the lessons. This showed in some comments I received from parent saying they wished they sent their child to more swim lessons and they appreciated the work I did. Safe to say I learnt a lot.

The Reunion.

After the counsellor party there was a day off in which to recover and chill out by the beach. The day was pretty strange; after 7 weeks of having hundreds of girls with all their energy and excitement at camp there was now just us staff members left and the camp felt pretty dead. However this ‘dead’ period was not to last long. The next day preparations started for the 100th season reunion that would take place over the coming weekend.

Past camper and counsellors from all over the world including Australia and the UK were to attend. In total around 450 people would be at camp for the reunion with about 200 people staying in the cabins where the campers had previously been. This meant that for us non lodgers this involved a lot of moving beds from cabins as different amounts of people were staying in each cabin.

At the Reunion counsellors were allowed to drink as long as we were not on duty or in uniform. To be honest it felt pretty weird; all summer we’d been sneaking beverages into our cabins so it was nice to be able to drink and not worry about any consequences even if you felt a bit on edge when you saw an admin. The reunion was a lot more relaxed than the previous weeks. The people who came for the reunion basically stayed at the camp for two nights and ate, drank and engaged in the activities that were available such as canoeing or swimming. I had lifeguard duty as well as some clean up tasks but no teaching and more time off than when the kids were here. The food at the reunion was really good with lobster and steak on the menu. The camp also had a company come in and provide plates, cutlery and napkins that is all compostable. It’s called Garbage to Garden and when we were done with our meals we threw it all into to these green bins and then the company came along and took the bins and made compost out of them. It was pretty sweet and really good for the environment – my inner geographer coming out there!

The reunion was also where we started to say goodbye to counsellors who were going home. The First day of the reunion we said goodbye to Sasha who was one of my best friends at camp and my fellow swim coach. When she left I wasn’t that sad because we’re going to visit her in North Carolina when we travel through the USA when camp is done. People were also leaving on the last day of the reunion and as we were busy lifeguarding or doing other jobs we didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone which annoying but we managed to say goodbye to Katie who Myself, Sasha and Kyle hung around with most of the summer! However were also visiting Katie when we travel so again I wasn’t too sad to say goodbye.

Aufedersein, Goodbye

The next morning the non-lodge counsellors got up before everyone else in order to collect the children’s luggage from their cabins and take them up to the top of the hill so they could be put on the coach, picked up by parents or mailed home. Everyone then came up the hill to the main lodge for breakfast and by that time the tears were already flowing. The kids realising they were actually leaving and the older CTG’s realising they won’t be coming back as campers again.

The first batch of kids left on the coach. After some emotional goodbyes among the campers all the counsellors and campers who were not on the coach lined the main road outside the camp to wave the bus off. Every year the bus is meant to leave at 8am sharp and bets of 1$ are taken among the counsellors as to what time it is actually going to leave. This year the bus left at about 8.18 which no one bet on as the latest bet was 8.11. Apparently the bus usually leaves pretty promptly but this year there were some delays. We kept ourselves entertained until it left by cheering on cars and cyclists who passed us while we were waiting…..they secretly loved it.

Once the bus had left it was show time for the non lodgers as we had to direct the 10 or so parent’s cars to park and help them identify their luggage and help move it to their vehicle. There was a steady stream of cars and our lifting and packing skills that we had trained over the summer were put to use from around 9am till around 2pm. Once the final few children had left, the camp was empty and just had the admin staff and counsellors left.

We had a brief meeting saying well done for the Days work and were told about the infamous counsellor party that was to happen that night. It was to be on a boat circling a lake in the nearby town of Naples. We all showered, took a deserved nap and got changed for a 7pm departure. Once on the boat we had a buffet of very good food which was devoured, there was also a bar which was used and abused by pretty much every one of age. Everyone danced and sung on the lower level dance floor. All in all it was a great night; everyone was in good spirits and it was a nice final social gathering where everyone was together as our previous days off only had a portion of the counselors. Once the boat party was over everyone headed back to camp and continued the party at a camp site we owned by the lake. Not much else can be recalled after that. Oops.

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Swim Department 2015!
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I’m on a boat.
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Wobble baby, Wobble.

The Final Night.

So a couple of days after the counsellor play the camp had its final Sunday meeting where the girls who achieved their 4th level swimming received their awards! This was the culmination of a summers work for these 3 girls as well as for myself and Shauni who had taken the majority of their lessons this summer. When girls a camp arcadia PG they receive a gift. This year the head of the swimming department, Shauni, made the girls bracelets with the saying ‘just keep swimming’ engraved on them along with their initials. When I say make I actually mean make. She had a kit where she had letters she hammered into the metal then she bent the metal to fit around a wrist. It was a pretty sweet gift.

The Bracelets For PG Swimers.
The Bracelets For PG Swimmers.

That night was the final night of camp, all the campers and counsellors headed down to the waterfront to perform the traditional ritual of taking the spirit of Arcadia back down the hill to the lake as the summer was over. This involved everyone having a piece of wood which a candle on it which was lit at the main lodge at the top of the hill then walked down to the lake and placed in the lake to float in the darkness. Usually this was done when it was still light but a thunderstorm kept us inside until it was dark at about 9.30pm. I think this was a blessing in disguise because the candles looked amazing being taken down the hill and reflecting off the water in the darkness of the night.

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Taking the spirit down the hill.
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Lining up with candles in hand.
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The spirit goes back into the lake.

Once the candles were in the water a surprise firework display was to follow as it was the hundredth season. The counsellors knew it was happening and I think the campers had an inkling. The fireworks were on a floating dock out in the lake and after a short delay where the starter button didn’t work the fireworks started. The fireworks were donated by a family tied to the camp and they were a lot larger and lasted longer than we expected. A large town would have been happy to use them for their fireworks display and they went on for about 8 minutes. After the fireworks were over the campers headed up the hill to their cabins ready for bed. The CTG’s headed to the main lodge as was tradition they would sleep there on the final night. The non-lodge crew stayed at the beach and collected all the candles from the lake and then made final preparations to walk around the cabins singing goodbye songs.

The goodbye songs we sung were both sentimental as well as humorous. Whilst heading around the cabins we sung ‘leaving on a jet plane’ as well as backstreet boys I want it that way with the lyrics ‘tell me why’ replaced with ‘you’re going home’. Once we had sung to all the cabins it was pretty late and we headed up to the main lodge to our final audience; the GTG’s. We sung our songs to them and then bid them goodnight and prepared for the kids to leave the next day.