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Caitie's Travels

Buffalo's, Broken Bones & Banana Bread: Summer Camp in Canada

CANADA | Tuesday, 6 September 2011 | Views [996]

After a lifetime of dreaming of attending a summer camp, it all felt a little surreal as the buses pulled into the camp road. We twisted and turned our way through the bush along a dirt road until we reached what was to become my home for the next couple of months... Camp White Pine. The camp began with greatings from the head staff and a quick introduction to your section, then it was unload the baggage and off to the dining hall for the start of my summer camp adventure... and what an adventure it was! I could easily write a novel about all of my camp experiences, but I have tried to summarise what I feel are the most interesting ones!

You may be wondering, why the title? I guess I can break up my summer into three core sections... buffalo's is the term given to rubbish lying on the ground, and I certainly did a lot of buffalo hunts! It also represents the new lingo that I had to pick up, and also the words I would use that no-one would understand. Broken bones is fairly self-explanatory, and is there because I broke my very first bone this summer! (more on that later)... and Banana Bread, because that was the tastiest food that we had on camp!

First things first... the lingo. I swear I speak English, but sometimes I felt like I was talking another language! I was with the Kiwi age group, who are around 8 & 9 years old, so I guess they haven't come across a lot of the words I would use for things. For example, they had no idea what a torch was, had never heard of Vegemite (!!), giggled when I talked about putting on my thongs, looked at me strangely when I cursed the mozzie's and asked them to pass the cordial. Togs, Capsicums, Beannies, Jumper and Gherkins also left them mystified! Over the summer I taught them the meaning of most of these words, and they even started using some of them. However, people still don't understand when I talk about what we might be doing 'this arvo', and some even don't understand me when I say 'towel'! It was certainly a learning experience! I also got asked more than once if I was from England, I guess I picked up a little bit of an English accent when I was living there! :S

But onto the Broken Bones... So I went on a bikes trip on my day off with some of the older kids to the mountain bike park down the road. It is a ski resort that they use for bikes in the summer, and had some great tracks to ride. It also had what they called a magic carpet (essentially a large escalator up the hill) to get to the top. Certainly beats riding up! I went down a couple of runs, including some black ones, which were great fun. I came off a couple of times on steep bits but nothing major. On our last run (ofcourse) I was building up for a bit of a jump at the end and hit a rock. The bike got the wobbles so I squeezed what I thought was the back break to slow down a little. However, Canadian brakes are the reverse side to Australian bikes... So I actually put on the front brake, which sent me flying over the handle bars into metre high grass. I did the crocodile roll with my bike a couple of times before landing in a heap underneath it. I was winded and thought that was all, until I tried to lift my bike off me and couldn't. Soon a couple of people came to help and I sat up, and as the shock wore off a little I realised my left shoulder really, REALLY hurt. After a couple of minutes I tried to stand up to walk to the end of the track, and my legs turned to jelly and I ended up back on the ground fairly promptly! An ambulance was called and so I stayed where I was and waited. In my shocked state I was totally expecting a Queensland Ambulance to pull up! I was a little confused when the Canadian version turned up. They put me on a back board and in a neck brace and transferred me into the van. Then came the most painful part... the drive back down the bike track! It was just a little bumpy... Once we reached the hospital they gave me some pain killers and did xrays. The doctor's words where "You've broken your collarbone... you've done a pretty decent break!". They put me in a sling and with a script for more pain killers in hand I was sent on my way. Back at camp I promptly headed to bed for a nap, they were pretty decent pain killers! My kids made me get well letters and presents, and all offered me there spare pillows to prop up my arm. The two other counsellors I was with (Amanda and Maddie) and our sleep in (Carly) were all amazing in being very understanding and helping me get dressed. I felt really bad that I couldn't do anything... I couldn't even brush my own hair! I have never felt so utterly helpless and useless. Carly became my personal nurse and would help me dress and took care of me, including being my mother in some respects ("No Cait, you can't go to town night on the same day that you broke your shoulder. You can't even stand for 2 minutes without wanting to hurl! It's not going to happen"). I really appreciated having people around me that were so understanding. The first couple of days after it happened are a bit hazy, I spent most of them asleep or in bed as the painkillers made me quite nauseous and drowsy. I was lucky in that the onsite doctor's husband was an orthopaedic surgeon and he had a look at the xrays and checked out my shoulder. He suggested a different brace after a week in the sling, which was a god-send as I could then move my arm a lot more and be a lot more helpful. After a week the camp moved me to work on Glass, which I really enjoyed and I could actually do most things in, especially towards the end of the camp. The staff at the camp were fantastic in looking after me and letting me take the time to get better. Seven weeks later, my shoulder is just about fully healed... I no longer have any pain and I have full movement back. I just have to work on getting my strength back and I'm working on that one!

So Banana Bread... if you haven't tried the banana bread here, then you simply haven't lived! I included Banana bread though so I could comment on the food at camp. For the first week, it all tastes amazing. After that, it gets quite repetitive and you begin to dread eating a little... There is a LOT of pasta, bread and tomato pasta sauce. I never thought I would say this, but I'm sick of pasta! (Yes mum, you never thought that would happen!). The bread is amazing, as it is cooked by a French Pastry Chef...it goes very well with vegemite and butter! There were some meals that were not great for vegetarians, I got especially frustrated when everyone else got beef stir fry, and the vegetarians got tomato pasta... again. We also had to fight to get our food, as it was served from the middle tables in the dining hall, and it was a bit of a free-for-all. I survived though, and in Fall I'm allowed to cook my own food if I want, and the kitchen staff often cook me something special anyway. There were some pretty special meals that we had on camp, my particular favourite we called 'The Cookie', it was a giant half-baked cookie topped with icecream, and when they bought that out for dessert the dining hall went mad! Kids were screaming, counsellors where guarding the dessert with their lives and chants of 'its the cookie! it's the cookie! where heard throughout the dining hall. And the madness was totally justified. It was a very VERY tasty dessert.

Summer camp in some ways is very similar to the movies - I got to do a lot of different activities with the kids, go on a canoe trip (across the lake), make s'mores, go canoeing, swimming, do arts and crafts... and then I got to work on one activity and learn a new skill. The experience of being in a dining hall full of 700 chanting people all cheering for their section (KIWIS ARE THE BEST... BOOM!), the intense competition of the all day and half-day programs, seeing groups of kids build giant camp fires to melt a rope to win the day... Wow. Just...Wow. The spirit that is felt on camp is hard to describe, but it bonds you with the people around you, and for these kids that come back year after year, it is easy to see how this place is truly their home away from home.

I am glad that I chose to come to camp, a lot of things were as I expected, but there was a lot that took a bit to get used to. Overall it was a great experience and I have made friends that I will never forget. If this is something you are contemplating doing... DO IT! (Just be careful on the bikes... ;)

Tags: canada, summer camp


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