Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yes, We're the Cajun Girls!

FINALLY—A real update! Warning: This is super long.
[I’m writing this on 6-14-08, to be posted at first available access to internet.]

--

Yes, we’re the Cajun girls.

One of the very first questions we were asked upon arriving at camp on Sunday morning (06-01-08) was, “Are you the Cajun girls?” Since Day 1, Allie and I have been oh-so-lovingly referred to by the aforementioned nickname. There are slight variations from time to time, such as, “Hey Cajun!” It’s pretty funny if you ask me. I’m obviously very secure (proud?) in my Cajun-ness, and I love that everyone is so interested in our presence at camp. It’s great.

--

Sunday morning, staff reported to the Commons for more training and pre-camp preparations which included a video about Muscular Dystrophy and reviews of camper applications. Campers began to arrive around mid-afternoon; we unpacked their bags and played games until it was time for cabin picnics. After cabin picnics, everyone went out to the campfire for s’mores and tribe drawings. Everyone settled in for an early night (we did have a whole week of camp ahead of us).

Monday began with flag, breakfast, and then morning activities. My cabin, Moss, went to Art (which was Allie’s assignment) and Nature (held in the coolest place ever—the tree house). Snack time was each day between the morning activities, and lunch follows immediately after the second one. (There’s just something about being at camp that makes you feel like you are eating all the time.) After lunch was the highly-anticipated (ha!) rest period. Following rest period, everyone went out to our new, state-of-the art swimming pool, with a specially designed beach entrance, hot and cold options, as well as a supportive hand rail. The afternoon continued with “clubs,” or special activities which include art, science, games, and survival. (I was assigned to lead the games club. Basically, I led the campers in teambuilding activities, which was a huge success with the littlest kids, but not so much for the older ones…)

My five-hour “paperwork” (break) for the week was Monday night. Matt Eckess (Moss Cabin Volunteer/Counselor) also had his extra long paperwork assignment that night, so he invited me over to his house for dinner. Cody Bost (Yellow Cabin Counselor) and Lindsey Bierle (Moss Cabin Volunteer) came out with us as well. Ah, having a home-cooked meal was absolutely divine!! Ms. Ann (?) made spaghetti and meatballs with salad and bread. Eckess’ parents were super nice; we rented a movie and they made cookies and popcorn for us too. It was SO nice to finally get away from camp and just enjoy a brief night of relaxation.

While we were out, the weather basically turned into a monsoon, so back at camp, all the kids were stuck inside the Commons after dinner. To entertain the group, a talent show was organized. I heard that my campers put on quite a show…it was super cute. J (However, I was disappointed to have missed the traditional “Sundaes on Mondays” event. Maybe next week…)

Tuesday, the schedule was the same; my kids did archery and canoeing for their morning activities. The night’s activity was a pool party. It was super cute the way the supervisors decorated the pool area, music was playing, and I think the kids just had an overall great time. My cabin was severely understaffed for this event, however. Four of our staff members had “paperwork,” and one was assigned to serve as a life guard. This left three staff members to work with seven campers. Luckily, one of our campers sat out, so we let him hang out with some volunteers from the MDA, and the rest of us did our best to watch the remaining six campers. This was one small feat because half of those campers were ambulatory and the other half used wheelchairs, making for an interesting task of figuring out how to assign pool buddies. Everything worked out okay, though, thank goodness.

Wednesday’s night activity was tribe games. The tribe games event consists of beach(basket)ball, a water relay, bowling, and a boat race. As it goes, each person involved with camp is assigned to one of two tribes—the Caddo or the Quapaw. Tradition has it that the two tribes were once bitter enemies but became best of friends after meeting on the land that has now become camp property. For this reason, the Caddo and the Quapaw compete in friendly competition through each camp session and the winner is announced at closing ceremonies each week.

Thursday evening, a bunch of sponsors came out from Target, MDA, and a motorcycle group to provide food and entertainment for a while. That night was the dance, a camper favorite, of course. This week’s theme was Wild West. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive the list of dance themes until staff training, so Allie and I were at a disadvantage costume-wise. We did our best, but our costumes were not nearly as cute as some of the other staff members’, and even the campers’ outfits. It seemed as though everyone had a great time, and it was a generally fun way to end the week.

Friday morning consisted of packing and clean-up. Chris (Moss Cabin Senior Counselor) Robert (Moss Cabin Counselor), and Matt did most of the cleaning while “Bobo,” Lindsey, Sarah, Keenan, and I (Moss Cabin Counselors & Volunteers) entertained the campers. At the closing ceremonies, awards and honors were presented, as well as special thanks, and finally, the camp slide show. Afterwards, campers were released to their parents and everyone said their goodbyes. Staff members met for a debrief session (and to get their checks—ha!) before heading out to the cabins to pack up and leave for our short weekend break. Some of the staff members went out to lunch together; Allie and I went with the group to an Irish pub in North Little Rock while we waited for her parents to arrive (more about that later). We definitely had a good time; it was great to relax and hang out with everyone after a long, hard week, and I was definitely sad to say goodbye, even for the short two days we’d be away.

--

My thoughts on the week…

To give you a better idea of camp demographics for this week, there were about thirty boy campers and ten girl campers (MD is more often found in males). For this reason, many female staff members and volunteers were assigned to work with male campers. I was one of those staff members. At first, I was fairly apprehensive about this assignment, because I’m not all that great in working with males, especially young boys. However, I decided to look at it as a challenging opportunity to better myself and learn from the experience. Needless to say, it’s a good thing I chose that attitude.

Our cabin was perhaps the most behaviorally challenging group in all of camp. I honestly don’t know how to even begin describing the campers and all of their eccentricities. Each child’s unique personality, needs, and abilities made for a very difficult but interesting week. We had some amazing moments, I must say, though. The campers were utterly hilarious, and in times of extreme stress, we counselors/volunteers chose to laugh rather than cry. It was because of this attitude that we made it (in)sanely through the week, and were sad to see it end. (Granted, we were perfectly thrilled for the break, lol.)

…I really wish I could say more…but words just cannot accurately describe the week. Even though we are only half way through our experience here at camp, I have learned so, so much. Staff Training was absolutely amazing as far as learning about personal care of campers as well as childhood medical conditions. (It’s been too long ago for me to attempt to discuss everything we learned, sorry.) But in the grander scheme of things, I’ve learned so much about myself throughout the process. I never thought I’d be able to work with this sort of population, but guess what—I did it, I’m doing it, and I will continue to do it. These experiences have made me such a stronger person, and I know it will continue to shape my life throughout the future, both long- and short-term. These kids, I tell ya…they will take your heart, run with it, and never give it back. But hey, that’s what it’s all about, right? It’s about living for something bigger than yourself, and being thankful for every moment you’re alive, even when things don’t seem to be working in your favor.

We’re one camp week down, and two more to go. One can only imagine the amazing stories I’ll have to tell after this coming Kota I week. (Kota is basically an inclusion/integrated camp for children with disabilities, as well as those who do not have disabilities.) Word has it that Kotas are the craziest camps of all. I can’t wait to write more about life here in Arkansas, but it may take a while. In the words of Allie, we’re “busy like whoa,” and blogging just isn’t necessarily at the top of my “To-Do” list. However, just as soon as I can, I’ll write more about exploring Little Rock and visiting Memphis. Good times.

I really do miss you all and can’t wait until I have time to catch up with everything. Please be patient; I’m doing my best.

Best wishes from Rock-n-sas (or, Dork-n-sas? Hehe.),
-Lauren.

1 comment:

Allie said...

I can't even believe that our first week is over! It went by way too fast!