So I haven’t been writing in this as much as I’d like recently! However, from now on I’m making an effort to write little things down and when I have time, elaborate on them and create a blog post.
One such thing I’ve been taking notes on is my role in the swim department and particularly the role I have in the swim team and organising swim meets here at camp. Throughout the summer there are 3 swim meets where Arcadia races other summer camps. The second of these meets and arguably the highlight of the swim meet calendar was the Pinecliffe swim meet. I was out on the dock preparing our swimmers getting them ready to race and provide encouragement, the camp were also short on swim touch judges so I also had to decide who beat who in the two lanes I was assigned. This meet was during the second session of camp where a group of talented swimmers had joined camp and strengthened our already very good swim team. We had multiple club swimmers in our squad now which included national swimmers and a national champion. They looked strong in the swim team practices in the previous week, but they outperformed themselves at Pinecliffe. Racing 5 other teams, we won the first race and from then on the swimmers didn’t look back and swam out of their skin. All in all we won 20 out of 23 races and won the meet with 233 points whilst the camp that came 2nd achieved 84 points. It was an especially sweet victory as my co coach Sasha had taken the team the previous year and had come second by one point! We arrived back at camp just after lunch and we announced the results in front of all the camp and the swimmers were recognised for a great days work!
In the afternoon of the Pinecliffe swim meet was the camper vs counsellor swim meet at Arcadia. I had been organising this for a few days and when we returned from Pinecliffe I printed off the heat sheets and headed down to our dock to prepare for the evening. I felt some pressure as this was a pretty hyped up event with announcements made previously and a large sign up rate and I wanted it to run smoothly and everyone to have fun. However despite any apprehensions, the meet was extremely successful and fun. There were multiple events including individual and relay events, each heat had campers and counsellors pitted against each other. Around 30 spectators gathered on the beach to watch and a large proportion of the camp was at the waterfront either spectating or competing which led to a great atmosphere. I competed in the freestyle and noodle relay at the end of the meet in which two big teams, one from the campers and one of counsellors went head to head. For this people came up onto the dock to watch which provided a great atmosphere that you could still here while swimming as people were basically next to you shouting. We counsellors won the freestyle relay by a couple of seconds, however we lost the noodle relay by 0.03 seconds even though I’m sure we touched first! Overall the campers won which they enjoyed hearing when I made an announcement at dinner the next day!
Being a coach on the swim team is one of the things I enjoy most at camp. It lets me experience the role of a coach as I was the swimmer for 10 years previously and it’s just as fun! It’s great to have the team spirit going at camp and see the girls enjoy their swimming! Although organising swim meets can be a bit stressful its really enjoyable once they’ve started and are successful.
Now the kids have been here a couple of weeks things are starting to calm down after a hectic settling in period. The first few days of the kids being here were hectic and free time was pretty much non-existent. Now the schedule has fully kicked in it’s more relaxed, there’s still not much free time but I’ve settled into the teaching schedule and non-lodge duties.
The duties we have are quite fun to be honest. One of the more entertaining duties we have is reading the news during assembly in the morning on the big rock outside the main lodge porch. As the girls are not allowed phones at camp they don’t have any clue about what’s happening in the outside world other than letters or calls they receive from home. The standard topics we read are sport, which is mainly baseball, as well as weather. We can chose fun news stories to add into it as well. We get a bit ridiculous sometimes and say it’s a national day of dinosaurs for instance and give out dinosaur facts. There has also been national ant, pig and bee day so far. No one questions the legitimacy of these national days, such is the authority that comes with reading the news. Admittedly getting up and speaking in front of 250 people was daunting at first but after a few days you learn to take it in your stride – public speaking life skills ticked off!
Another fun responsibility of the non-lodgers is candy line. Every Monday and Thursday we line candy up on the main porch and the kids come up to the main lodge after rest hour and are allowed to buy one candy item for 50 cents. It’s pretty fun, there’s lots of shouting by us guys telling kids that a quick decision is a good decision and that they need to donate all their change to the donation box. Of course us non lodgers get a free candy bar.
Non lodgers also take it in turns in pairs to be on Night patrol. Night patrol starts when the youngest kids go to bed at 8. We make 2 rounds during the night making sure that all is well in the cabins and no one unexpected is on the docks or the beach, we also occasionally have to dodge porcupines on our cabin rounds. In between the rounds we take the opportunity to engage in the gentlemanly sports of Risk and Monopoly in the main lodge. Night patrol officially ends at 11pm but if these games are being played we can be there until the early hours of the morning trying to gain dominance.
Meal times at camp are interesting. Two counsellors sit at a table with either 6 or 7 campers and one counsellor is the head. The campers and counsellors change once a week. One week you might have a really talkative and fun table and the other not so much. You try loads to start conversation but if a kid doesn’t want to talk there’s not much you can do. Food at camp is a bit hit and miss; for breakfast some mornings we have scrambled eggs and pancakes which is great, and others we have muffins – I like muffins, but not for breakfast. Dinner and supper are pretty good but sometimes we have Corndogs or Nachos which kind of puts you in a bad mood because all you want is decent food after a long day teaching. However no matter the food, meal time is another opportunity for us guys to get to know the kids at our table who we might not have necessarily met during the rest of our camp life.
All in all a non-lodgers responsibilities and tasks are very different to the female lodge counsellors. They’re varied and very fun whilst also allowing us to interact with the kids during multiple occasions outside our activity periods. We experience things at camp that the lodge counsellor’s wont necessarily experience so we’re in quite lucky position in that respect.
At camp you learn to cherish your days off. You’re so tired from the previous week that all you really want to do is sleep, but you only get one day off a week so of course we’re going to go out and explore. The only downside of this is that you don’t catch up on sleep, so you’re even more tired after your day off, but you get used to it – and coffee helps. This week Sunday was our day off which also happened to be the day the camp was celebrating its hundredth anniversary. Everyone on our day off decided to spend a couple of hours in camp to join in the festivities. We ate outside in the pine grove on tables that had balloons and special 100th anniversary items strewn over them. The food was typical thanks giving food with lots of cake for desert; the older girls at camp served us our food which was nice. The game of ‘Odds’ has become a popular game at camp. At the dinner I played with my friend Abbi to eat a whole plate of green beans. I won and she finished the whole plate. Once the 100th celebrations were over, the group headed out to carting in Portland. The other day off group had gone carting the previous week and said it was loads of fun. After a safety briefing and a kit change we were ready to race. There were 9 of us – 3 guys and 6 girls, once ready everyone’s competitive mode was enabled – and everyone wanted to win. The carts were decent and could get up to 40mph whilst the track was a decent size with lots of opportunities for overtaking. First race I finished first with also the fastest lap and was pretty satisfied with that. Second race everyone improved by a few tenths but I still managed to cling on to first and set the fastest lap. In the 3rd race 4 people dropped out so there were only 5 of us on the track. I didn’t care about placing this time and just went for the fastest lap. All 5 of us dropped a lot of time but this time I came second! My friend Ryan went 23.5s while I went 23.6s. I was happy but deep inside I was itching to race again so we’re going again so i can get my revenge. After carting we went for some food at this place called Sillies in Portland which is quirky and serves lots of meat so was perfect! After that we headed back to camp which is about an hour away, we stayed up and chatted then hit the hay!
Towards the end of orientation we had all settled in pretty well and each made a few good friends. My roommate Kyle and I had gotten into the habit of going to the camp gym pretty much every day. It’s pretty simple but does the job – one of the weights is a branch with two milk cartons filled with water on each end. We also had a press up set which we did every morning. All the counselors had also gotten into the habit of staying up late pretty much every night and life was pretty chill.
When the kids arrived this all changed. The amount of free time we had was cut down dramatically due to our teaching periods and lifeguard duty kicking in. I didn’t really have many complaints though; the waterfront is a great place to work and is so picturesque. Teaching is also great. Due to my competitive swimming background I’ve been placed with the higher 3rd and 4th level swimmers. There are fewer of these than the 1st or 2nd levels and I usually have groups of 3 or 4 for a period, sometimes even one on ones. The small groups are great as you can really focus on their technique. It’s still teaching but on the verge of coaching and I feel that’s a good position for me at the moment as I’ve taken my teaching course but really want to complete my coaching course when i return to the UK.
As well as life guarding and teaching swimming I’m also ½ of the coaching team for the camp swim team. The other half is Sasha who has become a good friend of mine and she has been a camper and now counselor for many years so can show me the ropes. We have several swim meets through the year and swim team practice is scheduled in 3 times a week. I’ve really enjoyed taking the swim sessions so far and applying different things I’ve learned over the years to see how they work out. The kids are also really good – we have 3 national swimmers and a few club swimmers as well so I’m looking forward to the meets and travelling to other camps!
As well as normal teaching periods, life guarding and swim team, there is also a period after supper called evening unit. At the beginning of summer counselors wrote down all the activities they enjoyed which ranged from nail painting to kickball. Now the kids are here 3 or 4 of these activities are made available for the kids to do for an hour. So far this summer I’ve taken Frisbee, ping pong and kickball. Frisbee has to be the most exciting but tiring of these; around 20-30 kids were chasing myself and two other non-lodgers, Marc and Ryan, around a field trying to steal the Frisbee from us. After 5 minutes I was dead and we played for just under an hour – I was super achy the next day.
All in all even though the arrival of the kids has cut down our free time dramatically I don’t think it’s that bad. Yes I’m pretty much constantly tired but teaching and coaching are so much fun it’s kinda worth it. You just have to use you’re time wisely; when you have time for a nap take it and don’t be afraid to say no to going out one night to catch up on sleep. Don’t let the fear of missing out (FOMO) rule you!
So the camp likes to do different things for dinner during the orientation period to help councilors bond. So one day we made our sandwiches in the main lodge then piled into vans and traveled to ‘The ridge’. The Ridge is about 20 minutes drive from camp and is on top of a large hill which has great views across the endless forests of the state of Maine. The ridge had large open spaces of grass and the weather was sunny. The vans parked up and we chilled out while listening to music and eating our lunches. After this we played Ultimate Frisbee, football and birdie on a perch. Birdie on a perch is a game where you get in pairs, one as a birdie and one as a perch. Perches walk around in a circle one direction and birdies walk outside the perches in another circle but in the opposite direction. When ‘birdie on a perch’ is shouted, the birdie must find their perch and jump on their back. Last pair to do this goes out. It’s simple and addictive. Football got pretty intense, tackles were flying in high and fast but everyone was enjoying it and I have to say some decent play was made. We stayed there for a couple of hours having a really chilled time, we then got back in the vans and returned to camp about 8.
The same day as the ridge was also Emma’s, who I met in the airport, birthday. As she was turning 21 the girls organised for us to leave camp and travel into the nearest local town to have drinks and an eat to bite. We all got changed out of our now very over used uniforms and after some trouble getting enough cars to take all 15 of us, we travelled out of camp to the nearest large town of Windham. We went to this little restaurant called Applebee’s which was perfect as it accepted under 21’s as some of our group weren’t legal. At the bar the girls recommended the Blue Moon beer but it was out of stock so I had a similar one which was alright but no ciders were available which was disappointing. I feel like there might be a lack of ciders in the US, which is worrying as it’s my staple back home! The conversation was good as it was all our first real night out and we were still getting to know each other. At camp we’re all so busy we don’t really get too much chance to have a good chat and when we do we just want to go to bed! Us non lodge males all know each other pretty well but as the girls are in their cabins with the kids at night so this was a good opportunity to get to know them better.
Applebee’s was the site of my first food order in America. I have a few friends who had been to the states before and all pretty much said everything is supersized compared to the UK. Excited for this I ordered a steak from the menu expecting a massive piece of cow. What I actually got was 3 pieces of meat and some rice! I was pretty miffed but let it go, knowing not to buy food from the establishment again! This was also my first tipping experience in the States. Don’t get me started on that – just pay your staff a decent wage.
The journey home was fun as Audrey who was driving had a Mumford & Sons CD and all 6 of us in the car absolutely belted it out the whole way home. Once back at camp we once again collapsed onto our beds ready to get back to work the next day.
Camp is situated on the banks of a large lake in the middle of Maine’s famous pine forests. The camp extends uphill from the lake with campers lodges and activities dotted along the hill with the main lodge situated at the top. The main lodge has the dining hall, the admin offices and the main hall. ‘The Rock’ is also situated outside the porch of the main lodge which is where assemblies and other meetings are held. My department being swimming and is on the waterfront on the beach in-between canoeing and boating. We have a H-dock coming out from the beach and diving dock at the end of the H dock. The water is so clear you can see down about 10ft on a good day, diving down to the bottom kind of reminds me from the lake from the Goblet of Fire – it pretty cool. Us non lodges accommodation is situated at the top of the hill so we have long ass walks to the beach everyday up ‘The Hill, I swear my legs are going to be solid by the end of the summer.
The first two weeks of camp were the orientation period. There were no campers and just counsellors. It was a period to get to know your fellow counsellors, get used to camp life and to prepare to teach in your respective departments. There are around 60 counsellors and it was impossible to remember all their names in the short period of time so there was a lot of “What’s your name again?” going on. Every day we had things to do – talks on how to help homesickness and prevent bullying, bonding activities as well as a couple of social events chucked in. As the period progressed some good friendships were made and most names, i say most, were remembered.
Getting off the plane in Boston I decided to start looking for people who were also on the Camp America program and possibly working where I was in order to find some buddies. Before getting on the plane in London I asked a few people if they were going through camp America but they were all working for another organisation and weren’t working at summer camps. Not deterred I heard two girls in the immigration line in Boston talking about camp America so once we were through to baggage reclaim I got talking to them. Their names were Abbi and Emma and it turned out they were working at the same camp as me, Result!
In order to get to our camp we had to find a bus outside the airport terminal and once on board call the camp so someone could pick us up from the final bus stop in the town of Portland and take us to camp. We got the bus outside the airport fine; however, the calling camp business was a bit harder. My own phone was dead, whilst Abbi’s and Emma’s American sim wasn’t working. Cue walking down the bus asking randomers if we could use their phone. Eventually there was this American couple that let us use their phone, somewhat reluctantly, but it was pretty important so I didn’t feel too bad. With camp called, we could relax and get to know each other on the 2 hour bus ride through the states of Massachusetts and Maine.
Once we arrived in Portland we were picked up at the bus station by a camp worker called Jack. Briefly, a bit about driver Jack – Jack was a lovely character who was a retired postal worker; he was funny, opinionated and not afraid to express those opinions. Later in camp he refused to work because he was ‘retired’ and ‘’Aint fucking doing that’ and he repeatedly swore at kitchen staff. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Jack was later sacked.
Jack drove us from the bus stop to camp which was about an hour and provided decent entertainment with his stories along the way. Towards the end it started pissing down loads. The four of us were going along country roads with no street lighting and Jack started to slow down and took a right into the woods into camp. We arrived at about 9pm and jack dropped us off outside the main lodge, the rain was stair rodding and we ran to the lodge through the rain and opened the door. Then, utter madness. About 20 counsellors were chilling in the lodge and all introduced themselves to myself, Abbi and Emma. It was all a bit of a blur really, after a 10+ hour journey I just wanted my bed, so only remembered a couple of names and filled out a form then was bundled back into Jacks car. Emma and Abbi were dropped off to their lodge first then I was driven to the all-male lodge on another part of camp. I went up to my room on the top floor of a two story wooden chalet and met my roommate for the summer. An Australian by the name of Kyle, we introduced ourselves and had a quick chat, after which we both agreed we were exhausted and collapsed on our beds.