A new season, a new staff team, a new program
03.05.2010 - 24.05.2010
Wow, it feels like ages since I've written a blog. So much has happened! As usual, I'm always super busy and too tired to devote some time to this; I feel like I've been neglecting it recently so I'm going to do my best to sort myself out!
So, phew, straight outta Winter and into Spring. No break in between, just the usual weekend before - WABAM - straight into my second pre-camp of the year before a new program begins. Our family of 12 expanded and divided into a new team of 25, with only 5 other original Winter staff joining the Hector Spring School program. The others had either gone to the ROPES (operating out of Hector end), or Sunship Earth (operating out of Bowfort end) programs.
Overwhelming does not justify it. After the first day of pre-camp, I missed my old team so much! It was so hard having to adjust to a completely different group dynamic and I once again felt a little insecure and out of place. However, since I'd already worked a season and knew my Winter program really well, I definitely felt a lot more confident to put myself out there more and start stepping up as a leader to help the new gappers whose shoes I'd been in 12 weeks earlier.
Now working at Hector end (2 km down the road), I returned to Bowfort that evening to see a few of my old team and I'm embarassed to say that I burst into tears haha! And I never cry?! In my defence, it's so emotionally draining re-making friends with a new team when you'd just got to a great stage with the old team. I just felt overwhelmed and stressed at the prospect of a new season with this completely unfamiliar set of people. So the transition period was really hard for me, and the rest of the original winter staff agreed. The general consensus was that we were looking forward to the season but nervous to work with a new staff team.
OH how times change! I am LOVING the team. We are all really close and have some hilarious times together. I have a bit of a "womance" (what's the equivalent of "bromance"?!) going on with a returning gapper, Els. Gosh she is hilarious. Everyone back at home, you would love her! She's so funny and we get along so well. Definitely one of the highlights of Spring so far.
Tipi living! It's actually awesome fun. Making scorching fires and singing guitar songs to a tipi full of kids whilst they drift off is pretty sweet. How is this my job?! I haven't had any major dramas yet, just the odd squirrel invading my privacy or a bit of leakage of snow inside...dun dun dunnnn. It got so cold in the mornings in pre-camp, but during Spring it's been burning up! We had some sweet sweet Summer days, but now we have been revisited with another dump of Snow. LOL dump.
So how is the Spring program different to the Winter program? We do so many new things!
Tipi building - We teach kids how first nations people originally built tipis: the materials, the techniques, the meanings behind the structures. Then they get a chance to build their own mini tipi out of materials they find in the forest. The highlight of the block comes when I get to test the legitimacy of their tipis. FIRST comes the traditional earthquake - we all jump up and down to see if it demolishes. Then we have the thunderstorm test - tipping a Nalgene full of water over it and then we all blow on it to see if it tips over. Then metor showers! Where I get to throw increasingl larger chunks of wood at it to see if it tips over. If all else fails, my personal favourite "giant comes and sits on it!".
Voyageur canoeing - We go out onto Lake Chilver in a 12 person canoe and teach all about the French explorers/fur traders. It's really interesting stuff; they managed to keep a rate of 50 paddle strokes per minute for 10 hours a day! That's 30 000 strokes per day... I can't even keep that up for more than 5 minutes! Traditionally made from Birch wood, their boats were 11 metres long and could hold the weight of one and half rhinoceruses. Or should that be rhinoceri?
Animal tracking - We teach about the different gaits animals have. Campers learn about animal evidence left behind in the forest, for example different kinds of scat, bones, claw/chew marks in trees etc. We play games and explore the forest like detectives, looking for signs of animal presence in previous times.
I started off spring in the tipi, Wokashon. Each tipi has it's own name derived from Lakota (Stoney) language. I co-counselled with "Honeybee", and after a scorching start to the Spring, we were suprised to wake up to a fresh layer of snow with our first group. We both learnt a lot from eachother, as Honeybee had missed all of pre-camp so had not been familiarised with the program. I, on the otherhand, learnt a lot in terms of group management. Honeybee indirectly showed me strategies to help group dynamics and to better facilitate team work.
My second group were a from a first nations school. It was only myself, and another counsellor that had these kids, so only around 15 of the 250 kids at Outdoor School were from this particular school. I had had two of the campers before in MCT camp during Spring, so it was nice that we had already bonded and gotten to know eachother. We stayed in Shungwaka, the furthest away tipi...groannnn. Whilst being challenging, this group was extremely rewarding. I had to be creative and modify the program to suit their learning styles. I learnt so much from them about their cultures and way of life, and was even invited to a smudging ceremony. For me, it was such an honour to be part of this native ritual, it was both touching and emotional. A ball of sage was lit inside a shell casing, and we washed the smoke over our heads, ears, mouth, arms, torsos and finally our heart, choosing to share aloud an appreciation if we wished. It represents the cleansing of the body. Following the ceremony, this eerie feeling of peace and tranquilty rippled through my body; it was a grateful closure for both counsellors of this school.
My third group were my first all-boy group. Again, I found it challenging to adapt to a group of only boys, especially as I hadn't had a mixed gender group for almost a month now... so was perhaps a bit rusty on my boy focused counselling skills. However by the end of the week, I had formed some great connections and we performed an emotional version of "Fireflies" at the final campfire with myself on guitar and my boys singing and dancing their own routine to the whole camp. Two of their teachers (one being male!) shed tears of pride at the performance, and it was a really special moment for me.
I've been working a few weekends for some extra money. When we go out at the weekends we usually spend quite a lot getting in and out of Canmore and paying for food, drink and accomodation. So working at camp over the weekend means I'm stopped from spending money, and am just earning instead! They've been fun. One was a YMAP which is basically a weekend program for kids of around 15 - 16 years of age who have come to Canada to study from all over the world, and just gives them a chance to be with other kids in the same situation. It was awesome walking through the lodge and being able to speak to people from over 20 different nationalities!
Then yesterday I worked something called Community Outreach which was SO much fun. I got the chance to work with my Womance (Els) and it was just action packed energy ridden good fun! We had a Presidential Bodyguard theme to our hike, which involved protecting the president (Els), hiding behind trees and rocks to check the coast was clear and answering riddles to progress to the next stage of the hike.
I SAW A BLACK BEARRRRRRRRR!!!!!! It was soooo awesome! The whole Hector Spring School team were walking towards the Bowfort end of camp, when through the cut lines we all saw the bear together. It was such a magical moment. This black bear, so majestic and graceful for an animal of its magnitude, perked his head up when he saw us, but just carried on munching on berries and vegetation like he was bored with us haha.
I finally managed to climb Mt Lookout as I'm sure some of you will have seen my pictures on facebook. It took us a good 3 hours to summit it but the view was phenomenal and the weather was a sensational accompaniment. There is a guy called Chip who lives up there looking out for fire across the Bow Valley, and a helicopter pad where his food is delivered to him via sky.
We've booked a holiday with 18 other counsellors to MEHICOOOO which I am super excited for. We go on the break between Spring and Summer. I will update again in a week or so if I can!