So, I’ve been to Moscow, I’ve nearly been blown up, what’s next? Well, everything seems to be converging on one particular prospect on the horizon that I’ve been trying to both avoid and not think about, but we’re reaching the time where it is becoming real. I’m talking about summer camp.
What does summer camp involve? Well, I know it involves kids, lots of kids. They need lessons, they need activities, they need looking after. None of that is a problem; lessons is what I do, activities are all prepared and planned, and the looking after part is going to be primarily the Russian teachers’ responsibility. But every camp needs a native speaker, and there are only 4 native speakers available (with Stephen and John due to leave next month) and 5, maybe 6 spots in camps.
The camps are in 4 locations, 2 quite near the city, one a bit further out but still in Volgograd Oblast, and the last one at Anapa, a resort on the Black Sea coast. You would think this would be the plum pick, but there is a catch involved, whoever gets Anapa must stay there 42 days (2 camps) so the school doesn’t have to pay for travel costs of moving people backwards and forwards. It seems Wesley has landed this particular plum.
I had been all set to do my 21-day shift at the camp in Krasnoarmeiskaya (the Red Army district, south of Kirovskiy). I understand I will be accompanied by 2 other Voroshilovskiy teachers, Daria and Alexei – the offbeat Chinese teacher (think Peter Stormare in Armageddon). This morning (on the way, as it happens, to another school contest with The Grinch), I got a call to inform me (to use the verb “ask” would be misleading) that I would also be doing 10 days of another camp starting from June 1st, in Skazhka (near Volzshky). The camp’s name means “fairy tale” but it is implied by those who’ve been there that a better name might be “Colditz.” I am only doing half the camp, before Peter takes over the rest.
Why do I find the prospect so fearsome? Well, the regime is quite intense – 21 days in a row, with only 1 day off. You have to be up before the children, about 6.30am, and you have planning meetings after the children go to bed, about 11pm. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for sleeping. There are shared rooms, communal showers, you can leave the grounds if you really want to but there are no shops or really buildings nearby. There’s no Wi-Fi, even if you had time to sit and surf the internet. The laundry service is only for the kids. You have to have your “game face” on all day, you can’t be grumpy or tired or angry. But my main worry is about the food. You get your food from a canteen, and basically you get what you’re given. My experience so far with Russian food suggests there may be more days where I’m hungry than where I’m well fed. That can only exacerbate the problems with the intensive, high-energy schedule, the paucity of sleep, and the need to be in teacher-mode 24/7.
We will see how it goes but I fear it might not be a pleasant experience. My future in this city may be intrinsically tied to how tolerable I find the summer camps. So far I have casually vaulted every hurdle, absolutely nothing about teaching, or about Russia, or about Volgograd has been as bad as I thought it would be, but that lucky streak has to end sometime, doesn’t it?