Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Last goodbyes are hardest to say - Reflections on Camp Birch Trail

It is strange to think that camp is over. While on camp, it felt like the days would never end, and then suddenly we're attempting to put crying and screaming children on buses, while trying and failing to keep ourselves put together.

What a summer its been. There are different parts of camp that I was glad to see pass away in the rear view mirror. Wake up and bed time for 40 fifteen year olds, dealing with anything and everything they threw at me, a diet made entirely of  of carbs. But of course, I will miss so very much. The night sky with so many stars it's as bright as day, 'star spinning' on the airstrip, the pop raids, the food fights, the random dance parties (RDPs), the long chats, the cheering, the council fires and the sunsets on Lake Pokegama every night.

I found being a project head incredibly rewarding. Seeing the girls in guitar progress from not even knowing which way to hold it, to being able to perform at song for everyone at camp on the final day was the best. As the camp plays in both session slowly came together, I saw the kids come out of their shells more than I could have ever hoped. Sometimes it was stressful, frustrating, but it was all worth it in the end!

Of course, there was TM, my girls. To say it has been an easy summer with them would be a lie. It was hard, sometimes I cried because I didn't know what to do with them. But I think I learnt more about leadership, friendship, commitment and perseverance and myself these past months than ever before. I don't think every girl left camp liking me, but I hope I made an impact on their summer at least in some small way.

On the last night of camp, my girls did not sleep. They literally stayed up all night. I have no idea where most of them were for the majority of the night. We drunk soda by the campfire until past midnight and talked about memories from their seven years at Birch Trail. At some point in the early hours, maybe three, I wandered through camp, just thinking. It was silent and still and it made me sad to think that this was perhaps my last chance to appreciate camp for what it is this summer.

What I will miss the most, of course, is the staff. This jumble of people from all corners of the globe that made up the Birch Trail family. No-one really 'gets' camp unless they've been there. These people get what it's like to sleep for four hours in four days and still be chirpy the next morning and ready to throw the next food item at someone or do the next crazy dance. I can't count how many crazy costumes we all wore this summer, how many dance parties we had, how many late night movie sessions we had in the staff lounge/slounge, how many times we sneaked staff snack to our friends on duty, the staff water ski, the night and day off adventures, the memories made. I made friendships I will treasure for the rest of my life, and tied myself to the US indefinitely (my bank account will not thank me). I can honestly say I love these people with all my heart.

My advice to anyone, from anywhere in the world who is considering summer camp, is to do it. I went through CCUSA and had a great experience with them. There were helpful from beginning to end. If you're looking for an easy, well paid and laid back summer job, camp is not for you. It's hard. You're working 24 hours and day and sometimes the kids hate you and you just want to cry. But it's worth it. Because you do make an impact on those kids, even if they and you don't realise it at the time. You made friends that will last a life time and you just become this family more than I can truly explain. Camp is a place that you don't get until you're there. But it's worth getting, let me tell you.

I will leave you with some cheers and graces from camp, things that will forever be stuck in my mind.

BT cheer:

I go to Camp Birch Trail so pity me,
There's not a boy in the vicinity, 
Every night at 9 they lock the doors,
Don't know what the hell I ever came for,
I'm gonna pack my bag I'm homeward bound,
I'm gonna turn this camp site upside down,
I'm gonna smoke and drink and neck a peck, what the heck,

TM Ending:
Bring the action (bang) Return of the tams get what it is, what it does, what it is, what it isn't. Sometimes you just gotta roll with the flow. Can't go too fast, can't go too slow. What What Yeah You Know. Bum bum bee dum (kiss) (kiss) ah. We're taking over so hold on tight cause this group of girls is out of sight. Just gotta keep on runnin runnin so don't drop that-Boom boom zip zap zoom, la da awooogha! TM 2013 WE DON'T MESS AROUND

First and Last Night Grace:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers and sisters - none goes his or her way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own. We care not your race or creed; one thing holds firm and fast - that into this fitful heap of days and deeds, the soul of a man and a woman is cast. 

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