So there are the classic gap year projects; building huts, teaching English conservation, nannying and then there’s being a camp counselor in the US. My summer needed filling up so after many recommendations I went through the Camp America process and before I knew it I was on a plane to Northern Michigan to be a camp counselor.
I still can’t fully decide how I felt about it which is probably why I’m going back for round two this summer.
So without giving away specifics, the camp is said to be the idea behind (and also said no to filming) a certain Lindsay Lohan movie and the guy that doesn’t play much of a part in the Hangover series also went there. 2 months of mixed gender, very wealthy kids (as in their mode of transport was a private jet) and the recipe for hell but it was the complete opposite.
Not only was I living in the forests edging one of Michigan’s beautiful lakes but I was looking after awesome kids, teaching them fencing, horse riding and then somehow tennis and volleyball (If you know the Lohan film I mentioned I’ve figured I was probably the Janice character). My co counselors were great and our days off were just as good- however they definitely deserve their own post.
So this summer I’ll go into detail of every kind of camp moment but let’s recap on the best of summer 2012 in MI…
That one time I got pied in the face
No explanation needed other than this is what you get if you don’t find a good hiding place in ‘counselor hunt’; it sounds like a deadly witch hunt and yeh it pretty much is.
Second place in the Rock, Paper, Scissor Competition
Not only do you want to seriously win this but it’s also a tell-tale sign of how popular you are with the crowd when you’re up on stage asking for cheers. Won that.
Not winning a single Special Day
So every team I was in was bound to lose on special days (from wrong decisions obviously). I tugged so hard in tug of war, guarded red teams flags so well, even knocked a load of kids out in dodge/volleyball, what went wrong?! Weedy arms that’s probably why.
All this is probably making no sense so here’s a summary of 2 months at camp in a few paragraphs
So first you have your crazy kids in your crazy cabin where you play big sis/bro
This is fun, challenging but mainly fun. For the first 4 weeks I was living with two american counselors and I learnt that a British accent goes a long way. For the first few days I think I was living with parrots. “Say hello” “Hello.” “Hallow…THAT’S SO ADORABLE!” Having an 8 year old tell you you’re cute and adorable is nice, living with parrots, not so. They get used to it eventually and if you play it right by disappearing when they’re doing something wrong and make them laugh with your alien accent you soon earn the ‘fun counselor role’. To be fair I can’t see myself ever getting the serious role, maybe the grumpy one…it’s starting to sound like the seven dwarfs.
The campers that I looked after were definitely the main reason for me returning this year, for sure.
Then there’s night duty/ raccoon fighting
Before my first night duty one of my campers told the story of how she killed a raccoon the previous year. “It was on the path and wouldn’t move so I threw my flashlight at it and then when I came back the next day there was a dead raccoon with blood coming out of it.” Yeh I was pretty shocked too but when once you’ve spent 4 hours with these sneaky, people-chasing monsters in pitch black you’ll understand.
It’s also a counselors job to check in on other counselors cabins (whilst everyone’s down at the bar eating pizza and not being chased by raccoons). Most of the time this is fine but sometimes you get the odd camper who sleepwalks and when you’re peeking through the window to check up on them and see a dark figure with hair over their face sitting upright staring at you running is OK. Once you’re in good distance of that cabin, re-check that you’re not in The Ring movie and go back to the cabin and pray for their counselors to come back.
I don’t know if every other camp works like this but at ours we had A, B and Special days. Other than this you have no sense of real time so once you’re back from camp your brain is working in a very different way to everyone else’s. Check out some tumblr pages dedicated to camp counselor problems to understand my sort of summer, I can relate to almost every single one.
So A/B days were our timetabled activity days. I was usually found being stabbed by kids on the fencing piste, dragging some old horse with a child demanding it to gallop round a ring, ordering kids to not fire their arrows at birds on the archery field or sitting down chatting about bacon with Jewish kids at tennis. Absolute bliss.
Special days were (sometimes) the best. Either we would spend the day on Mackinac Island (land of fudge and ice cream) or in our teams battling it out in sports, capturing flags or creating our own nation. There was also the dreaded American Idol themed day where I can honestly say I gave up on life it was so stressful…let’s say listening to One Direction on repeat is not my idea of fun especially when you add in argumentative girls and dodgy dance routines.
Food for thought
One of the first things I was told by a 2nd time round counselor was “food here is like water in the desert” and that’s pretty true. You get breakfast, lunch, tea and then ‘Punch and Cookies’ (total disappointment because ‘cookies’ seems to be a code name for fruit). Between each of these meals you’re chasing kids in soaring Michigan temperatures so when it comes to meal times yes, it is like finding water in a desert; no matter what’s on offer you’ll eat it and if you really hate the veggie lasagna, ‘Sloppy Joe’s’ or fishsticks then there’s always the classic PB&J sandwich.
Watch out for my Summer 2013 camp and out of camp antics- I’m sure there’ll be plenty of pies in faces, raccoon chasing and running away from sleepwalkers again…