img_20170601_104946.jpgWe are tired after the day

But we’re happy that we are one

So in circle we sit and together we sing for the day that was really fun.

We are friends with everyone here

And we love our friends indeed

If it’s hard in the camp and you need any help friends in need are a friend indeed

Candle fire soft and warm

It’s the fire of our souls

It’s the light in the sky that makes us realise love and friendship and even more.

This is the Candle Talk song that we sing after all the camp members have had a chance to tell us about their day and whether it was good (red) or bad (green/blue).  Today was Day 8 in the camp.  Our theme was The Wars of the Roses.  The kids swam for 10 minutes in the pool.  We played games.  We had an evening performance with a queen, and Merlin, and 5 brave nights, and a dance.  The kids went to the disco but the disco was abandoned so they had to come back early, disappointed.

Merlin and 4 of his brave knights

Yesterday was a green day.  One of our members fell down and broke her arm.  The camp initially thought it was a discipline/supervisory error and came down hard on us, the kids were not allowed to have their evening performance or go to the disco.  Both the kids and the leaders think the camp administration have been very unfair on us.

We set off from central Volzhsky 8 days ago, with a police escort, and arrived at the camp 20 minutes later (after some 2 hours of waiting for kids to arrive, registering them, then waiting for the buses to return from the first trip).  On Day 3 we had an opening ceremony with performances from all the groups at the camp, including ours (we are one of 9 or 10 different camp groups).  There were fireworks.  And we have had a proper working disco on previous nights.

The camp located to the south of Volzhsky, it is called Skazka which means “Fairy Tale” and the entrance is like two towers of a castle.  It mainly consists of an arena (where the discos take place), an outdoor stage (where the opening ceremony performances took place) an indoor concert hall, which is in the same building as the canteen, and a medical centre.  Oh, and a swimming pool. Dotted around the camp are 6… I think… dormitories, or Korpuses, we are in Korpus 5.  There isn’t really freedom to roam around, at least for the kids, when going from location to location it is always in crocodile lines, and we are constantly counting the kids to make sure none have gone missing.

My main concern was the canteen and the food, and it is a “get what you’re given” arrangement, there’s no buffets or menu selections or vending machines.  But there are 5 mealtimes through the day – breakfast, lunch, teatime, dinner and supper – and there’s usually something at one of them that I can eat.  For example today I had white bread and butter for breakfast, nothing for dinner, teatime was a banana (which I’ve saved) a jelly candy and a strange warm pink jelly-like drink (which I downed in one having previously tried it on an earlier day) for teatime, and 2 servings of chicken, pasta and tomato sauce for dinner.  Some days I have a bit of soup, or something that vaguely resembles chicken.  If there’s nothing at all I still have some snacks in my room to get by, or things we’ve saved from previous meals (the leaders have a fridge in their room).

Chicken noodle soup – not bad

I have a good rapport with the kids, there’s basically two age groups, the 8-11 year olds and the 12-15 year olds.  Of course there are different characters, some are shy, some are loners, some just want to look at their phones all day, some hang about in their own little gang and won’t interact with anyone else.  There are 5 or 6 younger boys who need a lot of supervision and guidance, but there are a couple of the 15-year olds who can be trusted enough to be deputised as leaders and help us out looking after everyone.  Most of the older group are girls, and there are a couple of really sweet ever-smiling younger girls too.

I’ve been getting on well with the leaders but they have been finding it difficult – for them it is the first time either at camp or as camp leader too, and they are getting pressured in all directions from the camp administration, our school, the kids and the kids parents.  It’s impossible to keep all of them happy and give all of them what they want.  In the early days they made me feel very involved and used a lot of my ideas for games and activities, but with all the pressure recently they are communicating with me a lot less and I’m just having to get on with my appointed duties as best I can.  I’m trying to keep a closer eye on the children than before – it’s true supervision is not my responsibility and if anything happens, it will be the other leaders who are blamed, but if I can stop “anything happening” then that won’t become an issue.

The daily schedule is usually Breakfast, Lessons, Morning Activity, Lunch, Rest Time, Teatime, Clubs, Prepare for evening performance, Evening Performance, Supper, Disco, Candle Talk, Bedtime.  We have three grades of lessons, Intermediate, Pre-Intermediate and Elementary, and I’ve taught all of them, but only partial lessons with the Elementary kids.  The materials are pretty simplistic, and very little preparation is needed.  My involvement in other activities depends on the specific day’s programme and how the camp leader arranges it.  I am also responsible for one of the three clubs.  There is art club, dance club, and my Energiser Club.  This is basically a combination of active games and puzzles, and is the most popular of the three clubs.  I have both older and younger kids and it is sometimes challenging keeping them both engaged – the younger kids lose interest quickly, the older kids finish tasks quickly.  Another challenge is mosquitos – I think they are more likely midges but everyone calls them mosquitos.  Because of the active games we really need to be outdoors, but with the weather having been hot several days in a row, we are basically constantly assaulted by mossies whenever we go out.  We have plenty of insect spray but it seems to have little effect.

My shift was meant to be only 10 days, then I would have a short break before going to a full camp in Orlonnuk (to the south of Volgograd).  Yesterday I had the inevitable call that they want me to do the full 21 days of this camp, but in exchange I won’t have to go to Orlonnuk.  In fairness the leaders and myself had been discussing possibly staying on even before the school proposed it – I’ve adapted well enough, I have a good connection with the kids and the leaders, and I’m enjoying many of the activities.  The adulation of the kids helps.  The overall theme of the camp is Sherlock Holmes, so of course as the only male leader I am Lord Sherlock – I managed to find a few props to try and help me fit into the role before I came out.  It isn’t just our kids who appreciate me, every time we go to the canteen or the disco I am inundated by kids from other camps trying to talk to me in English or just say “Hello, how are you.”  It’s like being a rock star!


Lord Sherlock

There is no wifi in the camp but I splashed out on a data card and have managed to get it working so that I can use the internet to check up on things like the result of the general election.  Charging is also an issue, there are limited numbers of outlets but being a leader I do get priority.  The kids are generally allowed to use their phones at limited times during the day but some are reluctant to let go of them.  There is a pile of phones in the leaders’ room waiting to be charged!  I haven’t been updating the blog because it takes time to write blog posts and I have duties and lessons to prepare, and still need time to sleep, but also uploading photographs might use up a lot of my data.  As you can see, I did manage to attach a few to this post, hope you enjoy them!

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