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A Day in the Life of an American Holiday Camp

Going to camp is an American tradition; every year tens of thousands of children and teenagers pack up their bags for a summer of fun. A few go for just the day, most for at least a few weeks, but many for the entire summer. Some camps try to make you fitter, some thinner, some aspire for Olympic medals or world class athletes (sometime in the future) but most are there for kids to do what kids do best; play games and have fun.

Working as a counsellor is also something of a tradition among American college students, but there is also the opportunity for those in other countries to enjoy the delights of camp life. A temporary working visa gives thousands of people each year the chance to earn money, gain experience and see a little of America. With over 10,000 camps in the US no camp is alike, and working with kids, no day is alike; here is just one.

Friday June 30th 2004

5am Woke up to find all six kids standing at the end of my bed: ’can we go for a run’ they asked in unison; happens every morning. Told them to go back to bed as they’re not allowed out of the cabin before 6:30.
6:30 After being asked three more times about going for a run I gave in and got up; promised to take the kids for a run later. I’m now playing cards with Reed. All the others have gone back to sleep now I’m awake.
7:30 Polar bear swim: Only managed to get three of the boys out of bed to come down to the lake. It had been raining so the water’s freezing, but I love this time of the morning when the mist is lifting off the water and it’s totally still. Only about thirty of us this morning; mostly staff, spent about ten minutes in the water, getting washed up and singing daft song; well worth getting up early for a good laugh.
8:30 Managed to get the other boys out of bed. We were one of the last cabins to the dining room and I didn’t have time to get some coffee before everyone else drunk it; how will I get through the day?
9: 30 After such a slow morning the kids really tried hard with cabin clean up (they really want to go and see the film, at the end of the week if they win) and we were first down to the field for activities. My cabin all went off to soccer. I’ve got the first session free but have to spend it repairing some of the sailing equipment that got damaged in the regatta yesterday.
11:15 Second session went well. Had a full class; seven kids to watch over. Got them to do some balancing work on the surf boards; promised a Mars Bar to anyone who could stay on the board longer than me. No one’s beaten me yet but Sam has stayed on for this session to try again.  Joe and Mark are out on the big boards, hope they don’t drift off to the girls’ side of the lake.
11:20 Actually I think that’s where they’re trying to go; better get after them. I’ll get Gareth to cover for me while I swim out to get them.
12:30pm Waiting in the nurse’s office; forgot my water boots and my feet were all cut up on the mussels at the bottom of the lake. After how many times I’ve told the kids I really should start listening to my own advice. Hopefully I’ll still have time to get some lunch.
1:30 Tacos for dinner; best meal of the week but I was late so had to rush back to the cabin for rest hour; have to work on the skits for the talent show at the weekend.  The boys want me to play a woman, but I refuse to wear lipstick or a dress during practice: I almost refused to do it completely before I found out that most of the other cabins have much worse things planned for their counsellors.
2:30 Spent most of the rest hour in fits of laughter after I saw the outfit the kids have made for me; Cabin Six joined for a few minutes to give us an opinion on our singing: terrible was the general consensus.  Have just two kids for this session: Mike and Alan, it’s their first time windsurfing so I think I’ll need the extra time to help them out.
3:30 Sam stopped by during the break to see if he could win that Mar Bar, he got really close but I’m still managing to hold out. He’s coming back in a bit to try again; he’s got some determination.  Some of the counsellors from our sister camp; Merriwood, brought over some cookies for snack time; of course all the boys went wild (over the girls, not the cookies). The social with them on Saturday will be a lot of work I think, but it’s always nice to meet up with the other camps.
4: 30 Sailing was packed so I was asked to help out; spent most of the session going over wind direction and the basics.  Went for a quick sail in the catamaran but there’s no wind this afternoon so we pretty much just drifted past the dock and had to come back.
5:30 Got back to the cabin to find a model boat sitting on my bed. Marcello had made it for me in wood shop to help me with my lessons. Gave him and the rest of the boys in the cabin some of the candy that I’d confiscated from the over the past few days. Found out that we’re at the top of the list for cabin clean up so I figured they deserve a treat.
6:00 Noticed that the kids hardly ate anything at dinner; knew I shouldn’t have given them that candy!
6:30 In charge of dodge ball for evening activities. Clint, one of the counsellors from South Africa had to run British Bulldog and asked me how to play. I think I told him the rules to another game though; still, looks as if they’re enjoying it. Dodge ball is, as ever, the most popular.
8:30 Dodge ball was a success but I ran way to much and feel exhausted; guess I ate too many ribs at dinner. What happened to getting fit before I came here?
8:45 It’s shower night! No problem getting the kids to wash for once as they know the girls are coming over tomorrow. Wish we could use that as an excuse every night.
9:15 Kids got into bed before all the other cabins; they must be the quietest cabin on the hill. Don’t know what I did to get such good kids, but I’m very grateful.
10:00 Forgot to pack for the trip to the mountains tomorrow so woke up the whole cabin as I went back in; my flashlight run out of batteries in the process so had to find everything in the dark; hope I packed the right things.
11:00 Managed to get the hill cabins to sleep quite quickly tonight and had time to plan some of the routes for tomorrow’s hike. Went over the counsellor skit for Saturday night; no women in this one luckily, but I still have to sing.
12:00am A few of us are still in the counsellor cabin, I’d like to stay and watch the movie but can hardly keep my eyes open; just remembered I forgot to take the kids for a run; I’m sure they’ll remind me tomorrow morning.
12:05 Also forgot to buy a Mars Bar for Sam.

Matt Scott went to an all boys camp in New Hampshire; Camp Moosilauke.  The position was arranged by CCUSA, who organised all flights, transport, insurance and visa requirements.

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