Sunday, June 28, 2015

M-37 Take Me Home

So I don't actually know where to begin with this blog post because the last couple of weeks have been such a whirlwind of new adventures, new people and like a whole new world ever since I began my job as a resident camp counselor at Camp Newaygo. But I'm going to do my very best to sum it up, so here I go!

This photo is not a great representation of camp, but it's one teeny corner of a very aesthetically pleasing campground! I just haven't gotten around to getting a good photo of main camp. 
So as soon as I got there on that Sunday night. I was super nervous. I mean, I was going RIGHT into lifeguard training the day after I arrived and I knew that meeting all the people I'd be spending the whole summer with would be really overwhelming. However, right when I got there I was immediately greeted by Kate, Jalisa, Dylan and Christa who are the leadership staff at camp (aka my supervisors) and they all came up and hugged me which was super sweet because it really seemed like they were excited that I was there! Soon after that, I started meeting my co-workers who were super welcoming too. 

So this is one of my first selfies with the staff, and this was taken at some point during lifeguard training. Honestly that whole week was so packed and so stressful that it kinda all blurs together. Basically, in order to work at camp you need to be Waterfront Lifeguard certified because we all need to guard at the waterfront while our campers go for dip aka swim time. To even take this course, there are some pre-requisites which are: a 550 meter swim (which we had to do in the lake) getting a brick from 10 ft under and bringing it up, treading water with no hands for two minutes and fetching three rings from down under! Luckily we all were able to complete these tasks...but that 550 was the worst. 
 So we learned all the various saves, CPR, first aid, etc. that week and had to take like three written tests and one practical exam in the lake. Needless to say I'm glad I'm a lifeguard but it was not an easy week! Luckily everyone at camp was so awesome which made it so much easier. 
Here's a photo of me all lifeguard-ey with my fanny pack and whistle!

So after lifeguard training was over, we had a night off! We all went to this awesome restraunt called the Blind Squirrel where the food was AMAZING.  I love this photo because we look like an actual family with our camp director and husband at the end looking like our parents.
We also went to go see a drive in movie that night too! We went and saw Jurrassic World which was super good mainly because of Chris Pratt. Collectively we love to take selfies and someone even brought a selfie stick so it's super easy to take cute ones!
This is another awesome selfie we took at the drive in! Such a great night.

One of the most scenic and beautiful locations at camp is our waterfront. It's actually kinda similar to one in the parent trap which is super cool! So when I had a little downtime before staff training, which came right after LG training started, one of my new friends and I had a little photoshoot!

This took a couple of tries but it finally happened!

Staff training! Super long week but also super fun. Basically it was set up to kinda simulate a week of camp and teach us about all the many things that camp has to offer. One of the best part of it was our four hour canoe ride and overnight staff trip. A unique aspect of this camp is that every age group goes on an overnight trip during their sessions. The young girls who come to camp and stay in the cabins just campout on a site on camp property, but the older girls who stay in the units (which are more rustic then cabins, more like tents) go on like multiple day trips and either canoe or backpack to get there. So, we kinda practiced this by taking a canoe trip down the Manistee river and stay overnight there with our leadership staff acting as our counselors for the night.  The canoeing was fun, even though my canoe tipped! It was certainly an adventure and the overnight was really fun too. We cooked spaghetti and did some intense bonding too. It was awesome. I don't really have any photos besides the one above of us before we left because I didn't have my phone!

So the all staff campout off site happened on Tuesday, and then we kinda just did team building stuff Wednesday. Then on Thursday, we did another overnight! Except this time, we practiced camping on the on camp sites which we would use for camping with our little cabin girls. Instead of us all being together for this, we were actually split into small groups to give us the chance to practice making fires, putting up tents and all that fun stuff as well as a chance to bond with each other a little more individually. Luckily for me, I had a great group! And in the picture above, we're super happy because about halfway through our campout...Kate on leadership staff surprised us with slushies and popcorn from this awesome local gas station called Wesco! We do this thing called Camp Wishes and someone apparently wished for that so we all go them.
We started our fire and it was a really nice and big one! We made our dinner alright...but dessert was where things got wonky. Basically we kinda failed at making our dough boys even though we got directions so we combined them with cake mix and ended up with this weird, chunky, but DELICIOUS mixture. We calls it hoop and it was super gross looking but so good!
My friends Danny and Mclive enjoying goop!
Another super cool thing we did on this campout was visit Cliff House which is this super creepy old broken down house on camp property which is said to be haunted by the ghost of Cliff Newaygo who like wanted revenge because his daughter was killed or something like that. All the groups kinda wanted to visit, so when we saw another group was inside we started banging on the windows and scared the pants off of them! It was really hilarious actually. 
Here we are inside cliff house!
All in all, staff training was super awesome. We learned tons about each other, camp in general and did A LOT OF SINGING. That's one super huge thing about camp that I haven't mentioned yet! Not only do we sing three songs at every meal, we also have a special song for the beginning and end of meals. Plus, we use the upbeat camp songs to fill in gaps or entertain campers when there is downtime so we had to learn them all! They're pretty easy and now I know a ton which is great. We also have these things called quiet time songs which are songs that you do actually have to sing well because they're used for our special scarfing ceremonies and serenade which I'll explain later. The title of this blog post is M-37, which is a quiet time song about the road that camp Newaygo is on. Since camp has been around since 1926 we are huge on traditions. The scarfing ceremony is probably the most important one, though. Basically the way we ended staff training was by recieving our light blue scarfs which are for the staff only. You gain a stripe for every year that you're on staff, so mine is just plain blue right now. Our camp director and assistant director tied them on us with a friendship knot (which keeps it tied) and everyone sings while they do it. It's sorta culty because we're all wearing white shirts and khakis (the camp uniform for any ceremony) but it was actually really sweet. Then, when campers come, the counselors revieve a colored scarf for their respective cabin or unit and they tie the same colored scarf on each camper in the friendship knot. The campers and staff keep the colored scarf until the end of the session where we have another ceremony to remove them. It's kinda complicated but it's camp tradition!

Just when we thought staff training was over, our leadership staff surprised us with a lady Gaga ice cream social! They told us we had five minutes to raid the costume closet and dress as Gaga as possible. Then, they came out all dressed up including the menfolk in dresses and served us ice cream on these huge rain gutter trays! The point of this was to show us the magic of camp, and how it's our job now to create that for the kids. With that, staff training was over and session 1 was ready to begin. Although it was really nerve wracking that now our job was actually just starting despite the crazy two weeks...I felt ready. 

Session 1 is mini camp, which means it's a little shorter and the kids are younger. I had two co-counselors because we have a huge staff and only 44 kids attended mani camp. I was in cabin 8 with five nine year old girls. I don't have a ton of photos from mini camp because I was so busy watching my girls, attending evening programs like marshmallow paint wars and fun stuff like that...but I do have one from our "ugly counselor" contest! My girls chose me to dress up for the mock pageant and they really wanted me to be a British wolf person named Pawz so here I am.
Hot stuff right? Even though it was tiring , session 1 really did go quite smoothly. The girls were sweet, energetic but well behaved...and I was really sad to see them go. One cool thing we got to do on the last night though was Serenade, which is when all the counselors sneak out of their cabins and everyone gets together and visits all the cabins and we stand in a circle with our arms around each other's shoulders and sing quiet time songs  to our girls as they fall asleep. It's honestly my favorite tradition we have here! Another cool part about camp is we get to teach classes as counselors and so during mini camp I taught drama, ukelele and sign language! I love the fact that I was able to teach things that I am passionate about. For our next session, I'm also teaching those things so I'm super pumped. 
We had this past weekend off between session 1 last week and the beginning of session 2 (which starts tomorrow!!) and this photo is the face of a happy girl who finally got the chance to shower. Currently, I'm in Grand Rapids which is where we are for our weekend off. It's been great to just hang out and relax with the staff. Some people went home but we have quite a few here. Today we went to the market in downtown Grand Rapids and ate a lot of good food and ice cream. It's been actually a perfect weekend.

At the market! I love sunflowers!

I'm so incredibly grateful for everything that's happened to me here so far. I've had some lonely days, and even questioned if I made the right choice in coming here. However, hugging the girls goodbye reminded me exactly of why I was meant to be here and do this. Here's to more adventures and future great sessions!

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