Children’s Camp

Posted: January 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

So, it turns out that sleeping for roughly 15 hours is a really bad idea. The night after arriving in Ulyanovsk I slept from roughly 11PM to 2:30PM. That night, I could not get to sleep at all. On the upside, it was the birthday of one of my neighbors and they ran to my room around a time that I would normally be sleeping and offered me cake.

Not sleeping was a problem because the next day I had to leave my room early, around 7:20AM, to be at the Resource Center by 8:00. I was invited to go to their winter English language camp, which was held in a Russian children’s camp about two hours outside of Ulyanovsk. The camp featured a number of teachers, all younger than me, from other countries such as Jordan, Ecuador, Palestine, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, China, and Indonesia. After getting organized, I was told to get onto one of the two busses with George. We arrived at the camp and had a brief bit of time to put our things in our rooms before being sent off to work. I basically spent two and a half days with a bunch of Russian children aged 7-16. I had my apprehensions before going, but I really did have a great time.

The theme of the camp was “Country Club,” meaning a camp focusing on other countries. As the theme was mildly travel related, the younger kids all had “passports” that they collected our signatures in. For the opening ceremony, the Russian counselors (Oksana, Dasha, and Yana) and George dressed up like a flight crew and the captain of a plane. Thus, for the rest of the time, George was known as Captain George. Being the annoying person I am, I asked the Russian girls for peanuts and drinks at random breaks when they were in costume. They seemed to enjoy my sarcastic comments.

Captain George

The country aspect meant that there were certain activities pertaining to other cultures. Various counselors made presentations about their countries. Groups of older students had a project to make travel advertisements for some of the countries. The youngest students did a quick play for Mulan. One activity was like a scavenger hunt of sorts. The students were given objects and they had to guess which country they came from. They then had to find the counselor from that country, return the item, and tell the counselor the capital of their country to get a reward. I had not been told to take anything especially American with me, but luckily I was wearing my Superman belt.

During the two days, George and I were sent off to work with different groups. On the first day, we held conversations about America, and on the second day we played Pictionary with the kids. At night, after dinner, we were made to go to the disco and dance. Thankfully, one of the few things I learned at Our Lady of Fatima Regional School was the Macarena. Also, I do not consider Kesha to be an accurate representation of American music. Furthermore, not all Americans brush their teeth with a bottle of Jack. However, if the dental community finds benefits in this practice, I might try it. Actually, a lot of the fun of the camp was just letting loose and making a fool of myself for the enjoyment of the kids. I don’t care that I can’t dance, and the kids didn’t either. They also appreciated my impression of riding in an UAZ and when we had a snowball fight. I think the kids really enjoyed me and the camp. At the end, they all wanted to take photos with myself and the other counselors and many of them have found me on the Russian equivalent of facebook.

Some new friends.

The teachers from the other countries were a blast to hang out with. It was nice to talk to foreigners from other nations about their experiences living and studying in Russia. We quickly became friends and there are plans to reconnect with the group that studies in Moscow a week from now when I have another orientation session for Fulbright.

Aside from the rewarding experience of having fun getting to know and teaching different age groups of Russian kids and teenagers, I got the full experience of a Russian camp. Five of us were in a room. It was myself and four of the other teachers/counselors. The food was not terrible, but it was strange at times. For example, except for two instances, we were never served tea. Instead it was mostly Russian juice called kompot and some sort of strange herbal alternative to coffee, which tasted absolutely awful. In the room, we had to be very quiet at night. Firstly, we didn’t want to wake the children. Secondly, the women in charge of the building were somewhat mean and we didn’t want to upset them by making the slightest noises. George was upset with his room assignment with students. On the second night, he gave up and joined our room. In the morning, when the floor manager went around to make sure that everyone was awake, she just laughed and asked where the sixth roommate came from.

Oksana and Dasha were not surprised to find George on the floor when they got back.

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