June 28, 2009 - 2:00 PM
Today we returned from our overnight hike. Each camping session, each group goes on an overnight hike. It is a great time for the campers to bond and learn outdoor skills. During orientation, we have been doing everything that the campers will be doing, so this also included the overnight.
At first, I wasn't too excited about it. The last time I actually went camping was when I was a lot younger and didn't mind so much about living the rough and grungy life. However, camp is all about pushing one's limits, so I packed up my backpack and got ready to go.
Yesterday we split into our villages. These are the groups of counselors that we will be living and working with for the rest of summer. I got put in the Namelachum cabin in the Overlook village. Overlook is the village for the youngest campers, the nine-year-olds. The picture with this post is of the counselors I'll be working with in my village. Our village is back in the trees behind us. Overlook is close to the dining hall and the lake. It is so cute! The overnight hike was done with the village we had been assigned.
We all grabbed food from the cafeteria and tents from the outdoor shed and began to walk. Since we have the youngest kids, our overnight camping spot was actually pretty close. It probably only took us about fifteen minutes to hike there. Once we got there we set up our tents and began our two-hour long attempt at starting a fire.
Two hours later, we had finally gotten our damp twigs to have enough of a flame that if we stuck our hot dogs and burgers directly into the flame, they were able to get hot enough to eat. We had to constantly blow on it to keep it going. Then, we had to keep it going long enough to make smores! The best part! We had some left over chocolate chip cookies, so we started making smores by substituting the graham crackers for chocolate chip cookies! It was amazing! So delicious!
During the smore making, we went around and shared interesting facts about each other. It felt good to be able to have this time to bond with the rest of my staff before the kids showed up.
We all decided that we wanted to hike over to a nearby porta-potty before going to sleep, so we left as a group. The porta-potty was off in a beautiful meadow by the lake. We all just stood around and took in the beauty. Then, we decided to circle up and discuss expectations under the stars by the lake. It had gotten dark while we were at the meadow. After our discussion was over, we all turned on our flashlights to hike back through the forest to our tents. This should be easy right? Our tents were only like five minutes away. Well, it turned out to be a lot harder than we thought!
We got completely lost out in the forest. We wandered around with our flashlights for over an hour and ended up on one of the other Fresh Air Fund's campgrounds, Camp Tommy! It was tiring, but it was also a lot of fun. I love the excitement and adventure of getting lost! You learn so much during that time.
By the time we did make it back though, we were so tired, so everyone got in their tents to go to bed. Before I got in my tent, I stood in the dark forest and looked around me. The forest was full of fireflies! They kept lighting up and the whole forest looked like it was full of twinkling Christmas lights. It was such a magical moment. The overnight I had dreaded had become another moment where I realized the true beauty and importance of this program. I did end up with three ticks from it that had to be removed by the nurse, but I figured it was just part of the experience!
June 25, 2009 - 11:00 AM
Today is All Staff Day at the Fresh Air Fund camp reservation. This means that we get most of the day off! So, we are off in the little town of Fishkill doing laundry and stealing internet access from the café next door.
Before getting the day off, we had a big celebration to kick off the camp season. The four other Fresh Air Fund camps came over to our campsite (Camp ABC) because we have the largest space. We then all participated in a sing off that resembled the movie "You Got Served" in a way! It was pretty intense. The other four camps walked over to our camp and we could hear their chants from afar. Each camp had its own songs and sang them very loudly and with some funky dance moves. Each camp was trying to prove that it was the best through their songs. Of course, we won in my opinion! Go Camp ABC! "We are the girls of ABC, we're the best girls camp you'll ever see, we're motivated and educated, so come on down and appreciate it!!!"
After the outdoor sing off, we went inside and met the Fresh Air Fund Camp Director and other important staff members. They got us all riled up for the summer and emphasized the fact that we are changing lives this summer. We have the important job of making a difference in these kids' lives. It was great. We sang a song for our Camp Director, Alicia, when she got up to speak.
Next, there was a big outdoor barbeque and the food was amazing! There was chicken, hot dogs, ribs, veggie burgers, regular burgers, brownies, potato salad, watermelon, pasta salad, and more! It was delicious! A little better than the normal camp food. It was actually a really nice day too, so we sat under the tree for shade. It has been really rainy in New York ever since I got here, but it's finally sunny out! Although, it is also very humid.
Anyway, after lunch some of us hopped into another counselor's car and are now here in the laundry mat of Fishkill. We get to relax for the day and then the training continues tomorrow. We still have to go on an overnight hiking trip and then get assigned to the camp villages that we will be living and working with for the rest of the summer. I am hoping to get the little kids (9-10) for a couple of reasons. First, I'm teaching that age group art, so it would be nice to be able to interact with the same group of kids as much as possible. Second, I'd get to move back to the nice cabins!! I'll let you all know where I end up!
Ok, well, I should probably get going. The kids show up on the 29th, so you might not hear from me again for a while. I won't have the chance to write again until my day off. I'm so excited to work with the kids!! Yes!
June 23, 2009 - 8:00 AM
Hello again from camp! I am handwriting this post from my tiny little cabin up in the woods. I'll have to type it up later when I get back to electricity! Last Saturday the rest of the staff showed up to camp. It had only been the program specialists (me) and the administration staff, but now with the addition of the general counselors, there are over one hundred staff members on the campsite. We are in the middle of a nine day long training. It has been very intense so far - packed with information and moments of physical endurance.
Before the rest of the staff showed up, we were living in the cabins that the younger campers (ages 9-10) will be in. They are closer to the camp's dining hall, are more modern, and have electricity. Now that everyone is here though, we are all living in the cabins for the older kids. These cabins are called the "birdhouses" because that's exactly what they are! They are truly the tiniest things you could ever fit four beds into. They're farther up into the woods and full of bugs! I am quickly learning to become one with the five spiders and grasshopper that have decided to make the area around the head of my bed they're home. As long as they stay in their webs, we can stay friends, I suppose.
However, there has been a lot more to this experience so far besides the bugs! This job is quickly revealing itself as one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I have ever chosen to do. Sometimes I feel like orientation is like going through boot camp. I know that by the end of it though, that I will walk away not only helping change the lives of over 1,000 inner city children, but also my own. This job is 100% out of this girly girl's comfort zone! But because of that, I am learning important lessons about pushing myself to achieve more and meeting new people from truly rich, diverse backgrounds. I am also learning how to overcome fears.
The day the general counselors showed up, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I missed home and I missed my original plan of relaxing in Eugene for the summer and maybe doing some leisurely travel toward the end of August. It was pouring rain as I was trying to haul my heavy suitcases up a hill and through the woods to my birdhouse where I would be staying with three new girls I didn't know. Earlier in the day, I had to help clean out the birdhouses - meaning spiders, mouse holes, darkness, and in one case a dead bird that had lived there during the off season. I was mentally drained from the experience. How was I to survive this rustic lifestyle all summer? I thought about how bad I wanted the opportunity to teach these children, but also of my longing for my shiny high heels and hair straightener. I went to bed with doubts and fears.
However, Sunday morning brought with it a new sense of hope and a greater inner strength. I have always had a certain fear of water. I love being in it and the ocean is one of my most favorite things in the entire world, but having to really swim and put my head under it has always brought me a lot of anxiety. When I found out that we all had to be swim tested in the lake that morning, I was petrified. First off, it was drizzling and cold outside. Secondly, swim?! Me?! In the lake?! We had to be given a colored wristband to wear all summer based on our swimming level in accordance with the Department of Health. When I saw many girls just getting the red ones because they didn't want to swim, I almost did it too. I almost just denied the fact that I knew how to swim because I was letting my fear win. However, right before I was going to get a red band, two other counselors told me that I should just try it and that the water wasn't even too cold. So, fears still present, but no longer in control of me, I did. Completely freaked out, I lowered myself from the dock, into the chilly water.
My initial instinct was shock. The water was cold and I was scared, so I had short breaths. I reached over to the dock to hold on while I gathered myself. Then, it was time to do my first lap to qualify for the blue band. With adrenaline, I did it and the lifeguard then asked me if I thought I could do another, but in a different style. I did the backstroke, then she asked again. I did the breaststroke. Then she asked me if I could tread water for a minute, so I did it. I left the lake qualifying for a yellow band, the highest swimming level! My legs were shaky with excitement when I left the lake and walked over to the shed to get my band. From that moment on, I knew that no matter how hard camp gets this summer, I can do it. All I have to do is look over to my wrist and see that yellow band to know that I can overcome my fears in this space.
My spirits were uplifted after my swimming experience. I am going to be one tough woman by the time this camp is over! I know that I will hate being here sometimes. I'm sure the humidity will be awful some days and the exhaustion will get to me. However, when I leave this camp and head back to the West Coast, I will have so much strength to take with me. It's going to be an amazing summer.
P.S. I'm so excited because there are a bunch of counselors here who wear UO t-shirts!! I guess a counselor last year was from Portland State, so she sent them some stuff this year. Represent! I yell out a, "Go Ducks!" whenever possible!
June 18, 2009 - 7:00 PM
I have officially spent two days and soon to be three nights at the Fresh Air Fund's Camp ABC in Fishkill, New York! For those of you not up to date on my blog, the Fresh Air Fund is a nonprofit organization that gives New York's inner-city youth from low-income families the opportunity to get out of the city and experience nature in a supportive and nourishing environment. It has already been quite the experience.
When I landed in New York City, I was so excited! People were so helpful with directions and carrying luggage and just about anything I needed. It was definitely contrary to the belief that New Yorkers couldn't be bothered.
I quickly got on my bus that would take me to the Port Authority where I would be meeting up with my fellow camp staff to take a bus out to the campsite. Driving through Manhattan for the first time was incredible! I was blown away! The buildings were all so tall, there were so many people and taxis, bright signs were everywhere, and the cars started honking even before the light had turned green. Like with any travel experience, I feel as though I'll never be able to quite capture the beautiful essence of the day into words. I was exhausted, but everything was so alive.
I met up with the rest of the staff around 3:00pm and we headed off to the camp reservation. I slept the entire way. When I awoke, we had just arrived to a large, beautiful piece of land. It has a lake and is surrounded by natural beauty.
It was fun having our first barbeque together that night. The staff is so rich and diverse. There are staff members from all over the United States and several different countries as well, including Ireland, the Netherlands, England, Turkey, and Australia.
After the first relaxing night of just getting to know each other, the next two days have been filled with training and planning. The staff that is here now is the program staff. We are each specialists in varying fields, such as nature, ceramics, African dance, and even circus arts! I am the art specialist. We are expected to create professional lesson plans to teach to the kids when they arrive on June 29th. The general counselors who help supervise the kids with us and are responsible for taking them around different parts of the camp arrive on the 20th and we do even more extensive training with them. So far, I have created about four lesson plans and have decorated and cleaned my art classroom to get ready for the arrival! It looks so cute! I love it!
It has been great bonding with different staff members during the cleaning of classrooms and lesson planning. I randomly made plans today with one of them to go to Niagara Falls on one of our days off! She is from that area and said that we will also have to get Rochester's best hot wings while up there.
Overall, it has been a great experience so far. It is definitely out of my comfort zone and can be a bit challenging at times, but I know the rewards will outweigh anything else in the end. I will just have to get used to showering with sow bugs and battling the spiders away from my art supplies! Plus, I am using this experience to get my internship credits for my Planning, Public Policy, and Management major at the University of Oregon. It's two great things in one - life-changing experience and credits!
My final thought, however, is that there is something about the West Coast. I am loving it here and soaking in the experience, but I keep thinking about that special place in the northwest - my home, the most amazing place on earth. I really should spend a summer in Eugene one of these years! We live in a truly special place over there.
Well, I should get going. It is time for bed because tomorrow I have to wake up for behavior management workshops and more work time on my lesson plans. I can't wait until the kids arrive! I get warm fuzzies just thinking about the opportunity I have to truly make a difference in their lives.
June 16, 2009 - 7:00 AM
I am writing this blog post to you from high above in the sky. In about forty minutes, my plane will touch down in New York City! As always, the adventure of just getting to one's destination has been grand.
My flight left last night from the San Francisco International Airport at 11:15pm. Well, that is, it was suppose to leave at that time. My advice to my readers, don't fly AirTran Airlines. It may be the cheaper option, but the customer service is extremely poor. I got to the airport with plenty of time for check-in, but the line moved the slowest I think I've ever seen an airport line move! The check-in staff was having tons of problems, the lines for services were not clear, and people kept randomly cutting in. All of us kept looking at our watches, wondering if we'd actually get checked in on time for our flight.
I was finally checked in at 11:00pm and proceeded to book it to the security line. Of course, I had problems there as well. I beeped through the metal detector, I forgot to take off my shoes, I didn't separate my items properly, and on and on! I was sweating and shaky and just trying to make my flight. I finally passed security, waved a final goodbye to my mom who had driven me down to the airport, and raced for my gate.
I got to my gate and was redirected to the customer service desk because apparently they had not issued me a seat after all of that hassle at check in. While I was waiting for my seat, the lady kept announcing that it was the last call for my flight and that it would be leaving shortly. "I'm coming!" I yelled over to her.
The moment I finally sat down in my seat was divine. I could not believe that I had actually made my flight. It should not have even been possible with all of the hassle I had to go through. As my plane took off, I finally lost the nerves I'd had all day. The nerves turned into an incredible excitement. Little me danced around in my head singing, "I'm going to New York! I'm going to New York!"
After hours of uncomfortable half-sleeping, my plane touched down in Milwaukee, so that I could make my connection flight. It was about 5:00am in Milwaukee and I watched the red-orange sun rise.
After a brief rest, the boarding of my next plane began. I realized that they had issued me two boarding passes for this flight when I was in San Francisco, so I had to go figure out which was my actual seat, but after that, it was smooth sailing. This brings me up to the point that I am at now.
It is definitely a small world because the man sitting next to me on this flight to New York actually lives in the little town of Fishkill where I will be working this summer! What are the odds?
Soon my flight will touch down and more adventure will come. I can't wait! Korrin takes on the Big Apple! Well, I actually think that we are starting to descend, so I have to put away my electronic device, but I will write more as soon as I can! And hopefully I will find Wi-Fi soon so that I can send this blog off!
Have a good summer Eugene! See you when I return west!