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The first week at camp: training and getting settled.

sunny -2 °C

Wow, sorry it's taken me so long to write. Just been so busy, and these travel blogs take up so much time! I'm actually writing this 3 weeks late so I have a ridiculous amount to update on.

So I'm not sure where I left you in the previous entry, but we got the Banff Airporter from Calgary Airport on the 31st January to Canmore, where we were picked up by Ashley, our program co-ordinator, and Grant, another Counsellor. We arrived at Camp and had a mini tour of the site which is thousands of acres, has a lake, and utterly breathtaking views of the surrounding rockies. It's incredible. I really wish you all could see it! The pictures don't do it justice at all...

Then we sort of met staff members in dribs and drabs, but finally spent a night together where instead of sleeping in our bunks we all dragged our mattresses out to this hall, and tessellated them like blocks so we could all sleep in an ensemble.

The food here is amazing! So so so good, I'm always having three helpings! Canadian portions are huge; I feel like I'm eating all the time! Breakfast is at half 8, lunch at half 12, and dinner at half 5.


So the first week was all about: Pre-Camp. A week of talks, activites and learning what our function as Counsellors would be. It was so well put together, every day was jam packed with items on a never-ending agenda. I felt really well prepared for when we officially started camp, and it made me anticipate the arrival of the kids even more.

On the first day we woke up at 8 am which wasn't too bad, and spent a few hours learning and playing get-to-know-eachother games. Then we visited a low ropes course, which is basically a challenge course around half a metre of the ground. We learnt classic games such as "Camoflauge", where everyone has to try and hide without being spotted, and then are called back for "food and water" so have to tag the 'it' person's hand and dash back again without being seen (you have to play it to appreciate it's true awesomeness), and "Flash flood" which is where you have 5 seconds to get off the ground some how before you are washed away by an imaginary tide. It was quite funny seeing 20 year olds run and try to hug trees to be off the ground, and then falling back down haha.

Then that evening, the final 3 gappers came, all Australian, which was good since I was feeling a little overwhelmed as many people already knew eachother apart from Mark and I. It was good having 3 other new people, who were in our shoes as well, it made me feel more comfortable to be myself. I must admit, at first I found it difficult establishing myself amongst the other outgoing and likewise Counsellors. I guess since we're all "leader" type personalities, it's easy to blend into the background and let others lead conversation. So that made up the 12 of us: myself, Mark (UK), Bernie (Australia), Sam (Australia), Alastair (Australia) were the Lattitude volunteers. And then the returning Counsellors Amara (New Zealand), Mot (Australia), Molly (Canada), Rhys (New Zealand), Grant (Canada), Tory (Canada), Emily (Canada). And this is our staff photo for this season:

That evening we told one another ghost stories, and then we went to bed. I tossed and turned alot at night, those particular mattresses were so uncomfortable and I hate being confined to a sleeping bag cocoon.


Next day, I woke up at 8 am which really isn't too bad at all, and headed off for our daily flag raising ceremony. I now know the offical Canadian national anthem which is pretty awesome :) It makes me feel like a native.
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all they sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Then we went to browse some second hand stuff from previous gappers. There was a lot of cool items - even ice skates! Unfortunately too big for moi. I nabbed some snow shoes, a lonely planet canada guide, envelopes, and a thing to put pictures on the computer which has been exceedingly useful.

Next we had a talk on being an Eco camp from Calderrrr, this eco guy. All of the "rrr"s are how you say his name in Canadian. LOL. (My friend, Roody, wrote that part... hilarious Roody, hilarious).

Then we went to the challenge course. This darn wire thing had our panties in a twist... 40 minutes worth of twist... (Again, thank you Roody). We learnt how to teach the elements (each individual obstacle is called an 'element') and how to encourage "Challenge-by-choice": promoting kids to push themselves out of their comfort zone to develop their personalities.

After that, we had this talk from Jill - the general manager of the whole camp. Such a charismatic lady!... I can't quite remember what her talk was about: my concentration was flagging at this point. Just mostly on camp life, the dos and don'ts. We also signed our camp contracts too.

Then we had dinner... Turkey Masla... this guy Roody LOVES turkey Masla.... except camp calls it mufasa... some lion king thing, apparently. (Again, Roody - he was helping my type this out)

Doug Saul, he is Jill's husband. He is the summer camp director. He gave us a talk about camp fires. Did you know they have rules about camp fires? You can't even say 'fart'... My life ended at that precise moment: I sung songs about the various ways in which you could murder an innocent bird at PGL. But in all seriousness, I've learnt loads of cool camp fire songs already and they're heaps of fun to perform so I'm excited to develop my repertoire.
Being musical really helps at camp. Most people play guitar, and there's always one lying around to jam with. Campfire is a huge part of camp life, and whilst in the winter it's technically around a fireplace due to the cold, you still get this awesome electricity in the atmosphere listening to all these kids being so engaged and loving camp.


We do so much stuff I can't possibly remember it all. We are going on a big hike tomorrow, in which I have to include certain facts about the Lodgepole Pine tree... "the building blocks of their nation"... (thank you Roody). I decided on: the official tree of Alberta; pines grow in pair, cones Point towards trunk, fires spread seeds etc. Since camp is actually an "eco school", a lot of time is devoted to the education of the outdoors and encouraging the manifestation of kids' interest in wildlife. So we have around 10 'teachables' that we have to teach kids about by the end of the hike.

I managed to wake up before the alarm went off. It's odd that I'd ever wake up before my alarm, especially since I'm always so tired from the day before. The new gappers went into Canmore, the local town around 20 minutes away, where we sorted out bank acounts... with the Bank of Montreal. WHICH IS RIDICULOUS, might I add. We get no interest, but have to pay $4 per month to have our money in there. We have a limit of 10 transactions per month and are charged if we use any other ATM other than their ones. PLUS, I have to pay like $12 to receive money from any banks outside of Canada. Darn it. Then we went to get the Canadian equivilant of the NIN, SIN. Then Safeway, "WUNDERBARS" and smoothies ♥. Next, it was off to the second hand store for helmets for the bikes we would be cycling 2 km with each morning, as that's how far away the main lodge is.

Came home, had lunch, was confronted by an orchestra of 88 kids, literally... it was a band camp.
"this one time at band camp..."

Then we had a talk on discipline and how to deal with situations by Jana and Aly. It really helped, because we got to discuss and solves concerns and situations that we may have felt ill-equiped to handle by ourselves.

The afternoon climaxed with the infamous: Animal Game! Basically an epic game of tig in the forest, and I mean epic, there is a monsterous portion of land marked out where kids can run around and feel like they are liberated! The kids learn about food chains and ecosystems without realising. It's so much fun.

We had another talk: this one from Amy. I can't even remember... although I do remember the cinnamon heart sweets she gave out! Something about giving kids the best weeks of their lives?

Mot did a lession on drama after. Then we revealed our secret words that we had to subtly slip into polite conversation three times without the victim suspecting (Nikki - Snow Shoe - ACED IT).

Then we went back to the lodge. The stars were out and the constellations were so clear and vibrant: I could instantly decipher star shapes I didn't know existed.


This morning we had homemade pancakes with deliciously plump blackberries embedded. Picture the dark, sweet juice oozing out and being absorbed by the softness of the pancake, intertwined with lashings of maple syrup. Perfection on a plate.

So today we went on a hike, splitting the counsellors into two groups. We did loads of neat stuff such as looking at animal tracks, edible vegetation in the forest and saw spectacular views of the Rockies. I managed to successfully teach my teachable on the Lodgepole Pine. Then we came back and debriefed and made a super sweet adaptation animal: the Fur-ba-sha. Don't ask haha.

Following dinner, Nikki gave us a talk on legalities and child protection issues. We also went through putting kids to bed successfully.

Back at the Cluster (where we were sleeping that week) I played guitar for ages, and got to bond with the rest of the team more closely. It's amazing how song can bring people together!

OH! and every Counsellor has to have a "Nature name": a name that the kids call you throughout the week and that has a story behind it. I am now ORION (Or onion, oreo, scorpion as the kids prefer to call me), so I can tell the kids about the constellation.


Today we finally moved into our permanent residence. I live 2 km away (a 5 minute bike ride), in Hector Housing. I share the front of house with Patrick, Steph (kitchen staff), and Calderrr (eco guy haha). Whereas the other 4 gappers stay in the back of housing. It's pretty much identical to uni accomodation, especially in the disgusting kitchen department.
I'm so lucky in that the people I live with have a ridiculously extensive movie and game collection, so I have free reign of DVD and Xbox entertainment which is a treat! I get on really well with everyone, and someone even gave me an old guitar to use, so I'm pretty much sorted now! I moved in and spent a while cleaning everywhere... it took forever but SO worth it.

The weather here has been really mild. It hasn't properly snowed and tempertaures range from 2 to minus 2, so really warm for winter, and the existing snow is melting already! Not what I was expecting but it makes it easier to work in I guess.

Anyways, that was the first week... I'll write again soon and try to keep it more concise...sorry!
Hope everyone's well at home!


Posted by KatieG11 18:29 Archived in Canada Tagged volunteer

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Hi Katie, Thanks for the update. Great to hear you're have such a fun time and taking everything in your stride. You seem to be learning so much too. I'll update Kieran Jen and Raj on your news. think of you often. look forward to the next installment
Bye for now

by Lyn

wota girl!! you sound like you're having a fab time and your writing skills are superb! Watch out JK!!! LOve Mum.xxxxxxxx

by carol goldsmith

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