The new camp job is...

So, I did a week’s visit at the camp, got hired, shut down my operations in Asheville, and started work. I’ve done a week of part training and part working with the kids. We’ve got a noticeable shortage of counselor/teachers. Hopefully I can be more than a warm body drawing a paycheck.

I’ve been working with one of three groups of boys. I’m told I’ll be moved permanently to a different group after my training. This has its positives and negatives. The group I’m familiar with I knew during my initial visit (after which I knew I really wanted to work at the camp). I’ve become used to them, their moves, their moods etc. I’d hate to start all over with new guys. But, the newness might also be beneficial as I’ll start with the new group as a trained counselor. I’ll know things I don’t know now, and while the guys know each other, they won’t know what makes me tick.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job bearing up under the campers’ verbal onslaughts. I’ve never heard such filthy mouths before in my life. I do my best to indicate where certain language is absolutely uncalled for, ‘cause the educator on me just can’t let it slide without at least a statement. For the most part, though, these kids are there to process what’s going on inside ‘em, and filthy language will come out quite a lot. There are camp standards against certain word choices, but when a kid is angry, we normally let him express. We can tell the difference between expressing and just talking filthy.

The tents we sleep in are pretty neat. At the end of the day, I normally am too tired to care how cold it is in the forest. The sleeping bag I’m borrowing from my family’s stash is incredibly warm. It’s one of those mummification ones that tapers at the bottom so you can’t move your legs around all that much. But I need it for its warmth, and that’s all that matters. The tents have potbelly stoves we can light for heat during bitterly cold nights. I’m not so great at getting them going, but I’m learning. It will take practice.

The food is fine and lovingly prepared. The kitchen staff, whom we call Moms, make many of the dishes from scratch, even though for ease and feasibility canned items must be used often. The food really hits the spot after a day of working with the kids. It’s extremely rare that a serving dish goes back to the kitchen with any food on it at all. At least once a day, dessert is a piece of fruit. There is often salad or a couple of veggie sides. I normally take what I’m given and pass on seconds so the kids can have it if they want or need it. I usually opt for water if powdered sugar drinks are being served. Most breakfasts are served with milk as an option. Sometimes hot chocolate is served at breakfast.

I like the kids I’ve worked with quite a lot. There was plenty of culture shock when I first started. Some kids are extremely loud and expressive. It’s easy to call these qualities “rudeness,” and write a kid off. But if you listen to the words and the mood within the din, you can tell that some kids just talk loudly. I choose my battles with personal codes of conduct. I’m not trying to make soldier drones out of the boys, but there is a time when clowning needs to stop.

I’m pretty impressed with my resolve thus far. I’ve made a 2 year commitment to the camp and we’ll see how that goes. As yet, I am auspicious.