Day 15 – World of Records
Song – Imagine Dragons, Believer
With Nata gone and Lyena often busy with administrative tasks I now had huge responsibility for the kids but they didn’t seem to mind and it was actually easier for me to just impose my own way of doing things, particularly arranging team activities and evening performances. I switched the lesson material to lower intermediate to make it easier for everyone in the last week.
Today we had another sports challenge – football against the Fourth Team. Unfortunately our star player was one of the three children who had left us, so we only had one 15-year old and four 9-10 year olds. The other team looked inbetween, maybe 11 or 12 year olds. Our players were good at running around and kicking the ball forward, sometimes doing tricks, but they weren’t strong, they couldn’t shoot at goal, and they didn’t know how to pass to each other. The other team took a quick 2-0 lead, they were quiet for the rest of the first half, but then got 3 more in the second half to finish us off. I felt I could have helped team discipline with some useful instructions, but they wouldn’t have understood me anyway, and they were just out there having fun.
In the evening we had performances on the theme of Chimera – strange animal hybrids. The Pumpkins presented us with a camel-ostrich and a giraffe-pig, while the Seals had an Octo-cow. Their presentation had a girl drawing a picture of an octopus with a cow’s head and getting annoyed with it, calling it a stupid thing, and then someone dressed as the stupid thing coming in and chiding the boy. The vocals were done using Google Translate making strange noises with unlikely combinations of letters. “I am the stupid thing. You are a stupid boy. Loobloobloobloob loobloobloobloob!”
We had games too, a quiz about world records, a task to match emoji pairs, and to impersonate various Disney characters. We also had a memory task – one girl memorised 8 verses of This Is The House That Jack Built, and a fast-texting competition for the girls who were always on their phones.
Day 16 – World of Famous People
Song – Avicii, Wake Me Up
Today was another camp performance day, in the morning the group elected one of our 12-year old girls, Valeria to be our entry for the Miss Skazka competition. The rest of the day was spent with her practicing and polishing her act, while the artists made banners and posters to support her. For those not involved (mainly the boys) I was outside supervising on the street. We had been banned from the big football pitch by the camp’s sports chief so we just played around outside the corpus, with a football.
When they got bored with the football there were a couple of games they liked to play – Tukhi Tukhi which was a form of hide and seek, and Cossacks and Bandits (Kazaki i Rasboiniki) which seemed to involve running around the buildings and taking each other prisoner.
There was swimming in the morning and the afternoon today and after dinner we went to the concert with our posters and banners. Lyera had a song to sing, two of the dancing girls were on stage with her, and one of the little boys who had left my club to join Move Your Body was also on stage doing somersaults.
The other squads had their own entries, linked by a series of performances by the Second Team dressed as sailors and pirates. Lyera sang her song and then had two other tasks to compete against the others in her age group – drawing and balancing a ping pong ball on a spoon. She placed 3rd, but I think that is because the Second Team didn’t have their own entrant.
Day 17 – World of Professions
Song – Peter Weatherall, People In My Town (a horrible, horrible song!)
Another student left us in the morning, later on we took some photographs because it was our last day with the camera. I took one of the whole (remaining) team from my balcony.
There was no real evening performance, we had a couple of games based on miming professions (including “cheese sculptor” and “sleeper”) and a crossword that was full of mistakes. The kids were getting more and more time to do their own preferred activities, be it looking at their phones, playing Uno or Mafia, or if they could get me to supervise them outside Kazaki i Rasboiniki.
Day 18 – World of Mystery
Song – Skillet, Monster
A special treat today, a couple of pirates came to do a show with our team and the Fourth Squad, playing several games mostly involving water. The kids seemed to enjoy it though when they realised how wet they were going to get there was suddenly a large line handing phones in to Lyena and I!
Eduard had come in the morning to collect our remaining materials, whatever was left behind was going to get thrown out or at least donated to the camp. He took my big suitcase with most of my stuff too. Lyena and I weren’t going to be able to carry much more than our own belongings as well as shepherding the kids when it was time to leave. I still had my own little camera so I got a few pictures of the pirates.
In the evening we did another camp concert – the theme was Professions (they seem to be a day behind our school’s programme!) and our squad drew Teacher. Naturally they roped me in to be the stooge in their performance, where they became the teachers and I had to learn some words and songs in Russian. They knew the rest of the camp would love to hear me speaking in Russian. They tried to teach me a couple of songs but I had no idea of the words, so instead we went with a song I already knew – Pomegator!
We didn’t rehearse much – one of the kids said it would be funnier if I really didn’t sound too good, but we practiced the staging and where to hold the microphone. Of course when we got on stage there was a huge roar of applause every time I said any word in Russian – the kids in the other camp really loved our show. We actually placed 2nd out of 4, our first concert performance that wasn’t last place! I felt a bit bad because it was about me and not about the kids, and some of the other teams did REALLY good performances – the Second Team did an amazing underwater routine with three dancing divers, and their central Asian strongman as Poseidon, and the First Team had a President wrestling Donald Trump to the ground and being fawned over by Superman and Spiderman, no less! But our team was delighted with the result.
Day 19 – World of Kingdoms
Song – Abba, Dancing Queen
My first tough day in the camp, Another of the girls left us, and I was left in charge of the remaining kids with instructions to do team activities, the kids didn’t want to do team activities so I started to get strict with them and make them all join in. One of the kids kept looking at her phone – I gave her several warnings then threatened to take it if she looked at it again, and when she did she tried to argue back that it wasn’t her fault, someone else had done something with the phone – I wasn’t interested, she had had more than enough 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th chances already.
Eventually I got everyone to finish the games and I just left them to do what they wanted. I made it clear I wasn’t happy with them, and I think Lyena gave them a piece of her mind later on too because they all came and apologised for their behaviour later in the day and in the final candle talk that night.
Day 20 – Reward Heroes Day
Song – Aerosmith, I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing
Our last full day was a bit muted. We didn’t have any lessons or clubs, and 10 more students left during the course of the day. We attended the closing ceremony – without Lyena – and with the oldest boy having left earlier in the day, it was the leader of the other team who stepped up to participate in the flag ceremony. She realised she had to give a short dedication – as did students from each of the squads – but she didn’t know the words, Lyena had not mentioned (or maybe hadn’t known) anything about this. Luckily we were waiting beside the Fourth Team and she knew their leader, who was able to coach her quickly on what to say. She stumbled just once when the time came but everyone helped her remember her lines again and she got a “myaladets” (well done) from the camp head.
We then went to the closing concert where all the squads would sing a song. We had been practicing and learning Waving Flag, the most popular of the Songs of the Day (actually chosen by Lyena who wrote that part of the programme!). We had flags for everyone to wave, mostly just the posters from all our previous performances – I had the big Zombie poster on a broom handle to wave from the back of the stage.
The girls doing the singing (and drumming) did a good job, but during the chorus the rest of the team just stood there holding their flags the same as the rest of the song, it could have been much better if they had understood what the word “wave” meant!
I was amused by the other acts – the Second Team did an excellent self-written song, perfectly sung and choreographed, but the normally excellent First Team tried doing a traditional song in a circle which they clearly hadn’t rehearsed, their guitarist was off key and the singing was painful.
The camp leaders came on at the end with a rap act, 7 well known Russian rappers and Winnie the Pooh (Vinni-Pukh) played by the ever-smiling leader of the youngest team – just like in the style of most of their performances she had a paper hat with a bear-face drawn on it to show she was a bear. They proceeded to have a throw-down which, naturally, Vinni-Pukh won with a children’s song!
The student I had had the argument with asked me at lunch if I liked natural apples. I said sure, why not. She said her parents would bring me some. I thought that was a nice gesture. Later on I accompanied her to the gate to get her parent’s signature as she left, and her father literally filled a shopping bag for me with apples. He told me they were from Sarpinsky Island, Europe’s largest river island. It was very heavy and I was unsure how I was going to get them home on the marshrutka tomorrow!
In the evening we had the final disco – everyone went, and some children from other teams left the camp straight after it had finished.
Day 21 – Final Day
With suitcases packed the night before all that was left to do was return our bedding and towels, get breakfast, and wait for the buses at 9.00 am. All the materials we didn’t need were left out for the cleaners to take – I grabbed a few small things belonging to the school that had been left behind that I could carry with me, such as a computer mouse.
I had some of my chocolate left so I shared it with the students, along with my infinite supply of apples. Some students had left clothes on the balcony clothes line, Lyena would take them with her to make sure they could be returned. Finally we made our way outside to find the Fourth and First teams waiting, I offered them apples to reduce the weight I was carrying and thankfully a large number of them accepted!
We all made our way to the gates and waited in our lines, girls singing songs, boys kicking a football around. Then the buses were there, we were off, and 20 minutes later we were back in Volzhskiy. I tried to help get the suitcases off and by the time I looked round half our students had already disappeared with their parents without so much as a goodbye! Such is the fickle nature of Summer Camp, you can get so close to people for three weeks but as soon as they see their real parents again, you become a forgotten memory. But at least I had my apples.