Camp Counselor: Pt 2

I arrived at camp (huzzah) only one hour late. The state apparently only had enough money to place  state park signs in one direction. By the time we arrived, by elimination, everyone knew exactly who we were. The theme of the camp was “Survivor”, and all the campsites were named after famous volcanoes, for example, Vesuvius, Kilauea, and Fuji. This was for two reasons

  1. So the girls could learn about the country they represented and earn the World Heritage badge
  2. They had a lot of or left-over Hawaiian decorations from Oriental Trading

Several enthusiastic staff members handed us leis and hot pink shirts, telling us to settle in and get some dinner. When I did so, I was seated across from a girl who, to all appearances, was stuck with her mother. She was trying to get her Mom to leave so she could go do something interesting. It was none of my business, but I stuck my two cents in anyway. “Well, I’m going, and you could come with me.” Meghan and I got along and hung out together for the rest of the week. Having someone to talk to was fun. I later learned that she was the oldest one in her cabin by about two years, and that I had estimated her to be a good four years older than she actually was, anyway.

I found out that although I was a counselor, I wasn’t actually going to be supervising any of the campsites. I roomed with Jessie, the lifeguard, in a nice little cabin about one hundred feet from the dining hall and two hundred yards from the nearest campsite. Before dinner, I walked down to the swimming area to see my roommate, but she was a busy with swim tests and we couldn’t really talk. I saw Meghan here first, actually. I retreated to my cabin and decided to go swimming. It was here that I first encountered the problem which was to dog me the rest of the week. In the water, in the evening, when everyone’s hair is matted to their heads, it’s almost impossible to gauge age, so I wasn’t surprised that everyone thought I was a kid. The more disturbing trend began the next morning when girls repeatedly asked me which class I was taking. “Oh, none, I’m a counselor.” “Really?” This generally escalated over the rest of the week until I had a conversation with my sister’s cabin mates after which I discovered that they had thought that I was my sister (four years younger). It didn’t help that after she discovered the mix-up, she began proclaiming at every following confusion “I’m Joanna!” ;D

I checked my schedule Monday morning. I had breakfast cleanup duty that morning and nothing for the rest of the day. Pretty light. I decided that I’d go swimming again that afternoon. I entered the kitchen. Whoosh! It was like twenty degrees warmer in there. I decided that it was because of the industrial strength dishwasher, which heated everything that went in to almost boiling point. (It had a nice turn-over time and loading system, though.) Or perhaps it was the heating trays, or the enormous stove of champions. Either way, by the end of a week of 90-100 degree temperatures, I had a tremendous respect for anyone who would voluntarily add twenty degrees to the normal temperature. It was about this time, I began wearing my Philmont hat to hide my tremendous mop of sweaty hair. Fortunately, the kitchen was also the only place in camp that was equipped with a walk-in refrigerator could instantly lower body temperature forty degrees. It also produced some amazing food, including refreshments for three birthday parties.

I wandered down to morning “tribal counsel” after breakfast cleanup. As the male dance choreographer put it, “That’s way too much pink this early in the morning!” All the girls were wearing those hot pink shirts because it was camp picture day! Whee! Actually, they continued wearing those shirts well after picture day, so every time a bunch or girls gathered, at least a quarter of them were sporting the pink shirts.

Afterwards, I decided to help Jessie watch the girls swim. I was scheduled to do so on Tuesday and Wednesday anyways. I figured I’d get the hang of it now. Unfortunately, Mom forgot the sunscreen, so a friend gave my lover legs and arms a quick spray. That would work, right? It was almost as hot in the kitchen as out over the water. Also, I had not realized before how hard it is be to lifeguard. There is no guarantee that all the girls are above water at the same time, or where they will emerge when they do come up. That first day, I kept a pretty good count, but on the succeeding days, my count could vary by as many as six from time to time. Ouch. A few days later, I brought my camera along and Jessie and I talked and I took pictures. Every once in a while, she very graciously allowed me to take one of her. With all this being outside, I had remembered to bring water, but every time one of the girls greeted me, I was reminded very painfully of what I had overlooked. “Heya, Joanna!” *Shoulder Slap* “Aaaaaahhh!

The first few days had been devoted to liberal arts classes. Since I taught ropes skills, I didn’t teach until the tail end of the week. I was going to teach a class in a rotating sequence so I got forty-five minutes to teach the girls. (It was shortened twice and ended up fifteen minutes to accommodate extra swim time what with the heat.) However, I taught every. single. girl. in. that. camp. I got better with practice. The target things I was trying to explain in that period were the square knot, half hitch, overhand knot, melting the ends of nylon rope, and whipping (to the younger girls) as well as the clove hitch, tautline hitch, bowline, and timber hitch (to the older girls). I’m still wondering why the younger girls were required to know the half hitch. It’s a very simple concept (loop one rope around another rope going toward yourself), but it’s so hard to state clearly and such a simple concept that no one really got the point. By the time I got to the older girls, I began to realize that specialized language was needed. For example, the tautline hitch employs a number of loops, or half-hitches. I found, that if the words “loops” or “half-hitches” were replaced by “swirlies” my explanation got 20+ understanding, and 5+ humor. In addition, in my explanation of the timber hitch, saying “upside-down U” only sparked attempts by half the class. Saying “rainbow” got full participation, even if some of the “rainbows” were a bit too short for my purposes. I’m sure you can see where this is going with the bowline. The bowline is already associated with an exciting story about a bunny. All I did was add the concept of “bunny burrow” (the loop), and most of the girls understood the “bunny knot”. Toward the end of all this, my classes the teaching got much more fun, and the girls got more co-operative. (At one point I got a round of applause because I’d actually gone to Philmont to get my hat rather than just having brothers who did.)

We were acutely aware from the beginning of camp of one, Fluffy, who crawled around at night in a flash of black and white looking for girls to scare. He looked like a large cat. He was not a large cat. For all I know, he could have been a large cat that looked and walked very much like a skunk. I did not care to test this theory. They later told me that the dining hall stunk (Or at least so they told me) because they had seen Fluffy nesting under there. He provided a great deal of nice skit fodder.

The evening “tribal counsels” were quite interesting. One evening, the girls did presentations for each other on what they’d been learning in liberal arts. The dancers and singers were quite good, especially for the time they’d had to practice, the arts people had done some really cool stuff, and the theatre people had managed to convert their short play into a skit involving Verizon, Luke Skywalker, and a conga line. Another evening, I helped Mary (who’d I’d met because our sisters were calmly “discussing” theology) do an adaptation of the bean skit in which I played Luke Skywalker. Yet another evening, we had a survivor challenge in which the challengers ate frog eggs, tree fungus, and skunk spray–or would have if the challengers hadn’t been plants and the food clever imitations.

I spent the morning of the last day picking up the remains of a small scale water balloon fight, and watching Jessie receive the 25th AHG Stars and Stripes Award ever given. Since I had kept her up late one night talking, we’d been friends, so it was really nice to see the ceremony. The staff and their kids then packed everything up (which included eating about two hundred Popsicles and fifty ice cream cones), Jessie brought out her dog (the cutest, most obedient animal in existence), and our car died. It was only the battery, however, and we had brought our jumper cables of power, so it turned out well. I returned home, showered, washed my fermenting clothes, relaxed, and began to pack for college.

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