The Counselor Play

Each summer the different age groups at camp produce and star in their own plays which they perform in front of the rest of camp in the drama hut. Traditionally there is also a counsellor play which is held at the end of summer. The counsellor play this year was to be a Camp Arcadia version of the Parent Trap.

The kids really look forward to the play each year but this year we pretty much managed to convince the whole camp that there wasn’t enough time to plan the play and that it wasn’t happening. I had kids come up to me during swimming lessons saying “Is the counsellor play really not happening?” they were devastated and quite angry. The reason we were so good at convincing the kids it wasn’t happening was because in truth, the counsellors didn’t really know if it was happening until a week before. On the morning of the play we found out our parts and had top secret rehearsals up the hill whilst the kids were banished to their cabins making plaques. The non-lodgers would be in two scenes; we were various candies from candy line and had to sing a candy line song to Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday night’, whilst in another scene we were boys from another camp at the camp party.

At announcements on the rock after supper the kids still didn’t know the play was happening in the evening. Each year the counsellor play is announced by a song being sung about elephants and all the counsellors then run down to the drama hut in a line holding hands through each other’s legs. During announcements we pretended to have song practice and then started to sing the song. As soon as the song started the kids went insane and we could hear them cheering as we ran all the way down to the drama hut.

We had about 20 minutes to find some outfits that we could wear. I was a skittles packet so just went with tie die and colourful shorts. The kids came in and the play started. When counsellors weren’t in a scene we stood to the side of the drama hut and watched the play through the large open windows. It was great to watch as we had the scripts in our hand and new how much improvisation was going on whilst the kids were oblivious and loving the show. The non-lodgers candy line scene went well, we each introduced our individual candies, I went for a really chilled out skittles but quite funnily came across high. We sung our candy line song pretty well considering we’d practiced only twice. In our other scene we were boys coming to Arcadia for a party and we were paired up with female counsellors to dance. The girls loved this and shouted out things like “she’s not the one for you!!”

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Considering we only had around 2 or 3 hours to rehears our parts I think the play went very well! We had our scripts in our hands but that’s a counsellor play tradition and the kids didn’t mind! As the play was towards the end of the summer we sung goodbye songs at the end and all the kids were crying their eyes out wailing because they knew they’d be leaving camp soon. For the oldest girls they knew they wouldn’t be coming back next year so it was especially emotional for them. The counsellors left the dram hut satisfied with the emotional rollercoaster we had taken the girls on.

Leveling Up.

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The last week of lessons at camp can be a stressful time for the campers. They have levels that they want to complete and only a few lessons left in which to get all the necessary work done. This can be especially stressful for the oldest girls whose last year it is at camp and their last chance.  At camp there are 4 levels to every activity. 1st and 2nd can each be achieved easily within half a summer so sometimes a girl will get both in a single summer. 3rd and 4th levels however are much harder to attain and will typically take a whole summer each. When a girl achieves her 4th level she’s a post graduate (PG) and PG’ing an activity is a pretty big deal as a girl may only ever PG around 2 activities. At swimming this summer there were 3 girls working on their 4th level. Throughout the summer I was working closely with two of these girls and took a large majority of their lessons.

It was really fun teaching these two girls as they were dead set on achieving their fourth level. You could make small technical adjustments to their stroke that made a huge difference and lesson by lesson their strokes became better and better which was so good to see. In the last week they were getting pretty stressed because we didn’t tell them how close they were to their level, even though we knew they would get their level, they didn’t. Because of this they became very stressed if they couldn’t do something we told them to do in a lesson. We didn’t tell them because we wanted them to come to every lesson possible in order to make their strokes the best they could be, but also so that it would be a big thing when we told them they’d PG’d.

On the last lesson of the summer I was teaching the to girls i was usually with and Shauni, the head of swimming, was taking the 3rd. Whilst we were teaching the other teachers wrote ‘Congratulations 4th Level’ in the sand on the beach. At the end of the lesson we took them out and then got them to look at the sand. Cue smiles, relief and crying. It was great to see these girls achieve their levels as I had worked with them pretty much all summer and they’d actually ended up being better than their level required. It was also a sad moment because it marked the end of teaching at camp and also meant the girls were to be leaving for home soon.

Kayaking And The Importance of Walmart

The trips department at camp regularly have trips going out that take advantage of the many lakes and mountains situated around camp.  These trips take small groups of usually 6 girls on either a hiking or canoeing trip that can range from a day trip to a 4 day trip for the older and more experienced campers. Counsellors who are not in the trips department can say that they would like to go on a trip and a week later they will most likely be on one. I did this and was selected for a canoeing day trip called Crescent Sebago which took in several rivers, lakes and a stop to make lunch.

On this trip there were to be 3 counsellors including myself as well as 6 girls. We travelled to another camp where a previous trip had finished and left canoes and kayaks in order to set off. We counsellors had a kayak each whilst there were 3 girls to a canoe. I took my underwater camera on this trip as I knew it would be scenic. The trip to the lunch spot took about 2 ½ hours and was great. We went through small rivers and across large lakes and it was a great day with no wind so it was very relaxing and a nice break from camp. Once at the spot the girls had to make a fire, prepare and cook dinner and I have to say it was bloody tasty and I had two portions. We then packed up the equipment and paddled on to our pickup destination. It took around 3 hours and on the way we found some swing ropes which we all had a go on and we also had to portage the canoes over a road to the other side of small dam. We paddled down a long narrow winding river to our pickup point and packed the canoes onto a truck and headed back to camp after a very enjoyable day trip.

When back at camp a group of counsellors and I took a trip to Walmart to stock up on supplies, and by supplies I mean pizza, alcohol and chocolate. I remember the first time we all went to Walmart at the beginning of summer; we were like kids in a candy shop. Walmart is our connection to civilisation, we can get cash out and buy pretty much anything we need as well as talk to people who are not from camp.  Every trip since has been fun; you leave with a list of things you need to get and you forget pretty much straight away because your distracted by the ridiculous things Walmart sells. My friend Marc and I became distracted by a football which we decided to throw about and rightfully got told off. As a result you need to constantly return to Walmart to buy what you forgot on your previous trip. It’s a vicious circle.

Swim Meet Madness.

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!

Arcadia's Swimming Dock
Arcadia’s Swimming Dock

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.

The Non-Lodge Lifestyle.

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.

Candy Line in Action
Candy Line in Action

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.

The Birthday and Go-Carting.

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. 11731723_10152853019162003_813468507737041599_o 11728814_10152853018292003_8324177303426547251_o 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! 11229568_10152853008937003_8426233367757579597_o

The Kids Arrive.

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!