Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The downside

Ok, so I’ve had a rough few days.  I hurt my back on Friday night and have been in increasing pain since along with difficulty walking. Off work the last couple of days and loopy with pills.  It’s got me thinking about the pros and particularly the cons of a summer camp experience in America.  Here are the things that they don’t really talk about in the brochure that have been the things that I’ve not liked about my experience so far.

The bugs

-          Absolutely top of my list.  One of the best things about staying in the infirmary the last few days has been that I’ve not got any more bug bites.  Of course, I stuck my head out last night for a few hours and normal service was quickly resumed.  Basically, I am unable to leave my cabin when it’s not raining if every single part of my body is not liberally doused in bug spray.  Even then, a few will sneak through.  I must have had at least a hundred bites in the four weeks I’ve been here, and in the most irritating of places.  Scottish midges are bad enough, but they’ve never bitten the sole of my foot, the palm of my hand or my forehead.  I’m going through hydrocortisone cream like water and there’s still three months of it to go.  Bites aside, ticks are an ever present danger and I’ve heard some real horror stories.  At least when a mosquito bites you the itch will make sure you know it’s there!  Ants are like part of the family, crawling all over the cabins and spiders are so common I’m having to deal with my arachnaphobia on a daily basis.


-          I would give anything for a bath right now. ANYTHING!  I’ve been lucky in that my showers haven’t been bad (one cabin only has cold water) and all the cabins I’ve stayed in have had attached bathrooms.  Even so, the facilities aren’t amazing and one ply toilet paper is never going to cheer me up.   You get used to it after a while I guess, but I find myself visiting restrooms whenever we’re out somewhere just to remember what a real one is like.  Sand gets absolutely everywhere too.  A day after changing my sheets, my bed is covered in the stuff.   It’ll be interesting to go back to my life of hygiene and antibacterial handgel and not sitting in the dirt after this summer.

Culture shock

-          Mostly in relation to my work. This is my seventh visit to the US so I’m used to a lot of things, but sometimes it’s the little things that catch you out.  It’s interesting seeing the different attitudes to children in comparison to the way I’ve worked with kids before.  Basic manners are unfortunately not a common thing among the affluent youth of America.  I spend far more time on basic discipline in activity lessons than I ever had before, and the youth theatres I’ve worked with are certainly by no means bastions of good behaviour.   I also probably praise kids less than is expected.  I guess I just have a higher baseline for these things, but praising for getting basic civility and the like correct and generally being good isn’t something that has crossed my radar so much. Normally, when working on a show, I like to give notes and make sure that I give a positive note to all the kids involved.  Now, I don’t have time to do that because I’m so busy dealing with the behaviour issues during a rehearsal. Argh!

    So I went to the doctor’s a couple of days ago and my was it an interesting experience.   So much for being told I was going to experience “the best healthcare in the world” ha ha ha.  4 hours sitting in a waiting room isn’t really any sort of improvement on back home, I can assure you of that.  The first time I was called through, they weren’t bothered about why I was there, just how I would be paying.  Eventually, after a couple more hours I got to see a nurse who took my pulse, temperature and blood pressure.  All of which are clearly essential when dealing with a back injury!  Then I was left in a hellishly uncomfortable chair for my back and told the doctor would be in to see me in “a couple of minutes”.  Maybe it’s another translation error but I didn’t think “a couple” was equal to over 50!  So, almost an hour later, I’m finally seen by, not a doctor, but a nurse practitioner, whatever one of those is.  An injection in the back and some pills, wham bam thank you mam.  Also rather put off by how loudly nurses talk about patients in the corner.  I probably wouldn’t want the whole building knowing about my UTI if I was the lady three rooms over from me.  Luckily they only bitched about me because they thought I’d been discharged and then changed my mind about wanting a shot, rather than the person treating me forgetting, discharging and then coming back to give it.  Aside from that, being hurt here sucks.  I don’t understand my insurance – that alone is worth my taxes back home – you’re left to your own devices mostly and there isn’t a teddy bear to cuddle or a mum to dote on you.

But, you know one of the nicest things?  After being out of commission and out of sight for a few days, so many people are coming up to me, telling me they’re sorry to hear I’m not well, asking if there’s anything they can do and generally being sympathetic.  The staff here are really awesome and it really is one thing that makes a big difference.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


P.S. You may notice the splendid new blog banner atop this post. Many thanks to my lovely boyfriend, the wonderful @SnafuAl, for making it for me :).  I feel all proper blogger now!

1 month in...

So, dear followers, I do appreciate you bearing with my sporadic updates.  As of tomorrow, I will have been here a full four weeks. It simultaneously feels like no time at all and forever.  I have photos of my house and town up in my cabin and they seem like an old dream that never really happened.  As for camp, we're now into session 2, with a new cabin and new kids for yours truly.  Here are some recent happenings.
Wednesday was our worst case scenario theme day. At breakfast, milling around, we had aliens, mutants, zombies, a robot uprising,conspiracy theorists and many more.  I was a zombie and there were a lot of pictures taken so I hope you'll get to see some. I actually wanted to be a conspiracy theorist but was demanded as a zombie as apparently I'm very good at it.  Didn't help my sore throat doing the grunting and groaning (the dreaded lurgy is making the rounds with a vengeance).  I sat at a table of five wee boys and in under a minute was sitting on my own because they all ran off. Scaring small children is a marvellous way to start one's day!  

 Then in the evening, we did an alien invasion thing - the younger kids were split into three army groups (older campers had an outing) with appropriate warpaint and the purple army caught the yellow ones and took them to their jail, yellow caught orange, orange caught purple, etc.  But 2 counsellors from each army were aliens in human disguises and could tag anyone and take them to a fourth secret jail.  Needless to say, I volunteered for alien duty!  It was hilarious fun, doublecrossing little children who thought they could trust me and dragging them off to the other side of camp. A couple of wee boys were still loudly telling people not to trust me at dinner today! Success!
Thursday's evening activity was cabin night, and we chose "Secret Mission". Our secret mission was revealed when the deputy programming director slipped one of us a note saying that his boss had been winding him up so he wanted us to steal Buttermilk, her rubber chicken, plant a ransom note pinning it on the boys and make sure we had a good alibi. So we actually spent our whole cabin night inside making a ransom note from magazines, while the rest of camp were outside causing chaos and it was a really good night! For our alibi and for covering for being indoors, we and the girls spread that they'd got a hideously bad score on cabin cleanup and we forced them to miss evening program to clean it top to bottom.  Apparently heaps of people were falling for it!  
Other things happening at camp this session include the Rock Paper Scissors world championship - every day at lunch there is a cabin vs cabin world championship, with brackets posted on the bulletin board.  There is also a cabin Pay it Forward scheme going on, so cabins are doing nice things for each other, like turning dinner into a five star experience, or taking a cabin on a sunset boat cruise. I got asked to help with one of these for a cabin whose counselors were mostly off last night.  They dressed in black with hoods, delivered a clue to the cabin of 9 year old boys after lights out.  The clue led them to a landmark around camp, where they received another clue, and so on, until they finally arrived at the soccer field for a massive moonlit waterfight.  Would greatly appreciate any suggestions as to what my girls could do to live up to that sort of thing!!!
Today I went to lovely Freeport, home of many outlet shops.  Got Nike Airs for a price so ridiculous the town should be renamed UberCheapPort then ate in the poshest McDonalds I've ever seen in my life!  Back at camp chilling now - it's another special day here.  The theme was Wicked Vacation, and involved a tour of the US, so there were lots of tourist attractions set up around breakfast, including a civil war reenactment ( two counselors in costume with US and Confederate flags having a fistfight), an Amish knitting demonstration, a corn maze and a chance to see Justin Bieber.  I particularly loved that the swimming dock - set out a little bit into the lake, was designated Britain, and the British counselors were out on it with a flag and loud posh accents (one was channeling Prince Philip I swear). They eventually paddled over in a canoe for their American vacation and were welcomed by the staff singing Party in the USA. I got back to camp in time for dinner where there was a flashmob dance before our popsicles for pudding. Now they're about to start KP in the Park (spot the suggestion of another Scottish counselor) - a music festival to end the day.
So that's the sort of craziness one can expect here in the land of summer camps!  I've also spent a lot of time in Walmart and at local ice cream parlours which are particular favourites of we camp types. My new girls are a very nice bunch and things are very positive right now.
Hopefully speak to you all soon my dears!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Ok, I'm trying!

Gosh, it is impossible to find any time whatsoever at summer camp.  And even during my time off I'm out being sociable so can only catch the odd half hour at the computer to quickly tweet that I'm still alive and email mum and boyfriend.  All is going fine and I'm settling in nicely.  Crazy busy but I'm coping.  Anyway, here's how I spent my first day off.

It was kinda needed after last night.  I had one kid up 8 times during the night with homesickness. Joyous 2 hours of sleep lost.  Was actually the last one in my cabin awake this morning.  Wandered down and people were planning to head to a place called Step Falls in New Hampshire.  This is it here and I'm sure you can google some more pics:  I was quite disturbed by the first mention of "natural water slides" that had been made by water erosion on the rocks.  As it turned out I didn't try those (one guy hit his head and another has a chunk out of his elbow) but I did a lot of basking in the sun and lying half in one of the pools.  A lot of alcohol was consumed (by others!).  I actually skipped breakfast and lunch, bad girl! It was really nice and relaxing and I feel like I got out there and did things but am really chilled and recharged after my day off.  Headed back to camp to get the wounded seen to and grabbed some food.  I can barely remember what the actual meal was meant to be but there were two pieces of corn bread with my name all over them woohoo!  The food is generally excellent here but I was really rushing it tonight and trying to chat at the same time.  I totally love the tacos and I've been eating salad or fruit with every meal in an attempt to be healthy.  After dinner, we headed to a spot one guy recommended to watch the sunset and the views were GORGEOUS!  Got some nice pics there - hopefully I will get a chance to upload some pictures soon. After that, we headed to the camp's favourite ice cream place, called the Mosquito.  That was my second time, the first being the scavenger hunt day last week that involved us getting very lost in Portland.  I had an ice cream sandwich with milky way ice cream in the middle, nom!  Then a few of us headed to a pool hall, where I got chatting to people cos of the accent - manager is an English guy and the barman thought I was northern Irish, despite him having served in Afghanisation with norn iron folk!  Got some free goes on the jukebox - Talk Dirty To Me, Final Countdown and Bohemian Rhapsody, oh hells yeah!  Then we had two knockout pool tournaments, the first of which I managed to beat all of the guys playing! Oh I am so flukey sometimes!

Chilling out for a while now and catching up with people, still have no idea what is happening in the world.  Seriously, there could have been a revolution in the UK and I wouldn't know about it!  Anyway, I'll do my best to do more updating, and I have lots to say about the last 10 days or so that I haven't got round to!  Chat soon dear readers!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Trip preparation

How does one spend one's last week preparing for four months in a foreign country?  Particularly with rustic conditions and minimal airline baggage allowances to look forward to.  One might expect that I would take up origami to get me used to twisting things into impossible shapes in order to make it all fit in.  Or brush up on my Tetris skills.  In reality however, I’ve been eating Easter Egg that never got opened (got to use up things in my cupboard), buying so many pairs of shorts I don’t know that they’ll all fit (but I might not want to wear jeans!), making cookie dough cupcakes and watching a lot of Man vs Food (so the pre-summer diet is going as well as could be expected).

Today, Journey – 2, we attempted to pack my suitcase.  Attempted being the operative word.
Now normally, I’m an everything but the kitchen sink sorta girl, the kitchen sink only being omitted because I forgot it.  If remembered in time, it would probably be shoved into my handbag.  But, for once, I thought I’d been really frugal.

Things did not get off to a good start.  I’ve got a great case that is big enough for everything I’ve ever needed it for in the past, and that was too small.  We brought down a bigger case and it was still too small.  Plan for tomorrow is to take out a few things – shower flip flops, my newly bought fleece and try and condense things as much as possible and go with the original (lighter) case.  Scales also being brought down in the hope my luggage is under the weight limit!

In the interests of making blog potentially useful for people who don’t know me, I’ll share my packing list.  The following is for 4 months away from home in the US, 3 of which will be staying at a summer camp:

Carry on toiletries
In a toilet bag, except for liquids:
Toothbrush case
Hair ties
Hair bands
Hair brush
Basic makeup (concealer, powder, mascara, lippy)
Lip balm

Hold luggage toiletries
In a toilet bag:
Feminine hygiene products
Shower gel
Shampoo (1 bottle)
Conditioner (2 bottles –long hair!)
Towel x 2, one being a travel towel
Nail scissors
Toilet bag
Shower cap
Antiseptic cream

After sun lotion
Bug repellent
Bite relief

Swimsuit x 2
Swim cap
Underwear and socks x 10
Pyjamas x3
Jeans x 3
Shorts x 4 (was meant to be 2, but I “accidentally” bought more)
Smart trousers
Football shirts x 2
Polo shirts x 5
T-shirts x 3
Hoodie x 2 (1 light, 1 heavy)
Maxi dress
Little cardigan
Army style cap

Flip flops
Canvas pumps
Heavy duty trainers

Misc. hold luggage
Laundry bag
Camp songbook
Scottish flag
Printed out pictures from home

Misc. hand luggage
Camera + accoutrements
US adapter
Phone + charger
Ipod + charger
Laptop + charger
Cowboy hat
Travel cushion
Mr Pricklepants toy – a gift from my boyfriend!

Monday, 28 May 2012

First post!


Well, I set this up as a bit of a one stop shop for anyone who’s interested to keep track of my stateside adventures this summer.  I’ll try and upload when I can with anything newsworthy and maybe a few pictures too.  Right now, it’s Tuesday and I leave for the US on Saturday.  So lots of paperwork checking, panicking about transport and packing to be done.  The temperature in New York and Maine is in the 20s and I’m trying to get Red Dwarf into my head so I say “Smeg!” instead of any swear words all summer.  Lots of fun to be had.  Now let’s just cross our fingers I don’t get stabbed or hijacked or arrested, ok?

May the force be with y’all!