June 29th, 2017

First of all, apologies for falling behind on my weekly blog post! Sunday was opening day here at Camp Awosting, and the week leading up to it has been CRAZY leaving me very little time to blog (which KILLED me, by the way!).

My last journal post nearly two weeks ago featured Camp Erin, lifeguard training and bear spotting (catch up HERE if you missed it), and a lot has happened since then.

The week began with start of staff training and the joint annual Awosting/Chinqueka campfire. The staff from each camp have been split into summer teams, and were each asked to prepare a song or a skit to perform at the fire. There were some great singalongs, hilarious games and a good amount of friendly competition between the two camps. The staff at both camps are so enthusiastic this year, and I love watching everyone getting involved and each bringing something different.

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As I now work in the office, and we were manic with camp preparations last week, I missed out on a lot of staff orientation (although I can’t say I’m too gutted that I missed out on some of it – there’s only so many times you can sit through a talk about the daily scheduele!). We had lots of last minute calls and emails from parents about camp, and I finally got around to tidying and organising the camp store ready to sell lots of camp merch. I already have SO many camp tops, although mostly Chinqueka, but you can never have too many camp clothes…

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We went on a ‘cultural’ visit to the local Goshen Stampede during one evening of staff training, and boy was this an eye opener for some of the staff who were in America for the first time! The Stampede featured a rodeo, a demolition derby and music from a very interesting southern hip-hip/country/rock band, the LACS (the Loud Ass Crackers). Surprisingly, one of their most popular songs ‘Keep it Redneck’ (the title says it all) has nearly 15 million views on YouTube – it makes for a pretty funny listen for us English folk! The stampede was full of fairground rides and food trucks, and I think I managed to eat my recommended sugar quota for an entire month in just one evening – mostly in the form of a HUGE bag of candyfloss.

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Staff training finished with tribal inductions for the new Counselors here at Awosting. As I was in the Maricopa tribe over at Chinqueka, I automatically became an ‘Iroquois’ here as they are brother/sister tribes. Our tribal colour is red, so expect to see lots of pictures of me going crazy wearing my Iroquois gear with pride.

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I finallllllllllllly had a day off, and we spent the day at Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island. It was SO nice to get off camp for the day, and enjoy the sun (and attempt to start the tan!!). The sunset was beautiful, and Scott (our Motor-Cross Counselor) managed to catch a few beautiful photos of the sky.

The campers are all now here and we are nearly a week into first session already! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?! I managed to get out on the boat with some of the water-skiers a couple of days ago and this morning I’ve been hanging out with the youngest cabin at their activities – it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it! We had our first social of the summer last night with the Chinqueka girls, and it was great to catch up with some of my old campers over there. Although I do miss them SO much, the boys are super cute and leave me messages around camp for extra points during cabin clean up!

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After the bear incident a couple of weeks ago, we have had a few more visitors around camp. Tom (check out his awesome guest posts HERE if you missed them!) caught this amazing picture of a deer down at the waterfront yesterday morning, and I saw a deer and her baby running along the road a few days ago. We also had a snapping turtle walk up the beach and lay its eggs in the sand near the waterfront! The kids are amazed by it, and built a sanctuary to protect its eggs during the summer – we all can’t wait for them to hatch! Finally we had another visit from a huge bear at the top of camp last night – two sightings in one summer, what a treat!

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Right, time to get back to work! Apologies again for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks but now camp has started and things have calmed down (slightly!), I will be back to my regular journal posts to keep you all updated! Don’t forget, I LOVE receiving mail! Write to me at:

Ellie Wilkinson
Camp Awosting
296 West Street
Morris
Connecticut
06763

Thanks in advance!

Ellie

 

June 16th, 2017.

Another week has FLOWN by here at Camp Awosting, and it has certainly not been the easiest of weeks! If you read my journal update last week (catch up HERE if you missed it!), you will know that last week was LGT (lifeguard training) week and for some crazy unknown reason, I signed myself up. Although I’ll be working in the office this year, it is a great qualification to have and I can always help out if they need me on a busy day at the Waterfront.

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Lifeguard training consisted of students from both Camp Awosting and Camp Chinqueka, so it was great to meet some of the staff at the girls camp where I have worked for the past two summers. We were split into three teams, and my team named ourselves the SOS (Sink or Swim) Squad (hopefully more swimming than sinking!).

As I mentioned last week, the weather hadn’t been great here in Connecticut and the lake water was turning us blue if we spent more than 5 minutes in there making lifeguard training very difficult! A few days in, the weather did finally make a drastic improvement and I’m happy to report that I’ve finally managed to start my base tan for the summer – I already have a notorious camp counselor watch strap tan line! Life is always better with a tan.

Over the course of the week, we learnt how to save distressed swimmers, active and 89passive drowners and submerged victims. We also learnt how to make long-distance saves (which involved running into the lake with a paddleboard Baywatch style), rescue victims with head/neck/spinal injuries and the different roles lifeguards can undertake while both on and off duty. Learning the saves was quite fun, even though I did dread jumping into the lake each time due to the water temperature!

We also learnt our camps Emergency Action Plan (EAP), which involves LBD’s (lost bather drills) and line searches in the lake – and this was where it wasn’t quite so fun. Each group would take turns at being ‘on call’, and we were trained to deal with hypothetical scenarios where a child has gone missing on camp. If the course instructors blew their whistle 3 times and shouted ‘LBD’, the group that was on call would have to sprint to the waterfront and begin diving to the bottom of the lake to search for a missing child – or in our case, Jonny the dummy (who kept losing his head, terrifying if you come across that at the bottom of the lake!). They could call you at anytime, such as during a meal, early in the morning before you have woken up or even while you are on the toilet! I was SO stressed about the LBD’s (I am generally a bit of a stress-er in life, sadly), I hardly ate anything all week and went to the toilet approximately 2 times throughout (OK that is a joke, but I definitely learned how to get in and out of my swimming costume faster!).

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The final tests began on Monday, with our first aid theory and practical tests, along with a written lifeguard test and a waterfront specific written lest. We were tested on the variety of saves we had learned throughout the week, and we had our final group LBD on Wednesday. The final scenario was mayhem, and the trained lifeguards from previous years just LOVE being victims and causing havoc for us trainee’s! I’m glad to say that we all passed our Lifeguarding course, and are all now officially American Red Cross trained lifeguards. Looking back, it was one of the best and worst weeks of my life, and I am SO glad that it’s now over!

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Yesterday we had a much needed day off, the first one in just over 2 and a half weeks! I slept in, went out to a diner for brunch (yay for food that isn’t camp food – you will all soon know what I mean!), and spent the day hanging out at Mohawk pond. Although I’d spent the entire week in and out of a lake, it was nice to be sunbathing at the side of a different one knowing that there weren’t any dummys floating at the bottom! It was also PAYDAY! I cashed my ‘checks’ (CHEQUES for us Brits!) from working pre-camp, and got my first ever $50 note – get me to the mall! Finally we went out to a Mexican for dinner, which was DELICIOUS!

A chilled day was EXACTLY what I needed in preparation for staff training beginning today. All the staff have now arrived and the first day finished off with a lip sync battle, where we were treated to performances from Magic Mike, High School Musical, George Michael and the Backstreet Boys. Add me on snapchat: elliewilkinson3 for a sneak preview of the lip syncs and more updates this summer!

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June 9th, 2017.

It has been another busy week  here at not-so-sunny Camp Awostint, filled with Camp Erin (if you missed what this is in my journal post last week, catch up HERE!), a three-day school visit and the start of LGT (lifeguard training).

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Camp Erin was a great weekend, and the sun kindly shone all weekend. Camp Erin bring volunteers to lead the sessions, so our job was to facilitate and help out where we could. This involved kitchen duties, running the zip line and dancing with the kids at the ice cream social. The campers made luminaries over the weekend, and decorated them in honour of their family member that they have lost. Camp Erin then held a beautiful ceremony on Saturday night, where the campers placed their luminary on a canoe during sunset, which then floated away to symbolise the campers letting go of their lost relative.

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We also released butterflies at the end of the weekend as another way to help the campers say goodbye.

Camp didn’t get any quieter after they left on Sunday, as we had 125 sixth grade students arrive on Monday morning for a school visit (best school visit ever!!). I reverted back to ‘Ellie Ropes’, my nickname from 2015, and spent the next three days in the tree’s sending kids (and most of the teachers) down the zipline (and rescuing a few who hadn’t quite made it!). The weather took a dive, and it was SO cold, wet and miserable during their visit. The weather was similar to early March time in England and no matter how many layers I put, I could NOT get warm! If you are heading out to camp anytime soon, I’d recommend you pack a couple of hoodies and at least one pair of jogging bottoms/sweatpants. Even if it is warm in the day, it does get a lot cooler at night and will do for a few weeks at least. Perfect weather to start lifeguard training…

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Lifeguard training (or LGT week as it is more commonly known here) began on Wednesday morning. Although I’ll be working mainly in the office this summer, it has always been something I have wanted to do since I first arrived at camp. Everyone here thinks I’m crazy for putting myself through it voluntarily, as it’s definitely not the easiest of weeks, but by this time next week I will be an American Red Cross qualified lifeguard – if I haven’t drowned first that is.

 

Our first session began with our pre-requisite tests, including a 20 lap swim in the lake (8 lengths freestyle, 8 lengths breaststroke and 4 lengths of our own choice), followed by a timed test to dive for a weight and swim back with it on your chest. As the weather hasn’t been great, the lake is absolutely FREEZING. Jumping in literally took my breath away, and I felt SO dizzy when I got out of the water. I’m happy to say I just about survived my 20 laps, and completed the weight test in 1 minute 11 seconds.

Today we began our classroom lessons, learning about being a professional lifeguard, equipment, the weather, scanning and entries and approaches. I am glad to say that the majority of the work today was classroom based, although we did get in the lake this afternoon to practice our entries and dives. I’m glad to say it felt SLIGHTLY warmer than yesterday and I’m hoping that as the sun comes out this weekend, it will just get warmer and warmer each day (and hopefully it will be a start to my summer tan!). 65

The biggest and most exciting news of the week is that I SAW A BEAR! Yes, you heard right, A BEAR! After two bear-less years at camp, I had been talking all week about how i had hoped I would see a bear this year. As Gabrielle sings (wow, I quote song lyrics a LOT in this blog) ‘dreams can come true’. I was sat in the office when I got a call from one of the staff members to say there was a bear up by the Ropes area. Within seconds, I had my Crocs on (not the best of running shoes, but the closest to hand at the time) and was sprinting over the sports field towards the bear – something I probably wouldn’t recommend to anyone else. The bear was rooting around in the bins and although it was only a cub, it was still pretty big! I was SO excited, and I already feel like my summer has been made by a quick visit from our furry friend.

To finish off for this week, here is a picture of the beautiful sunset last night at camp. The two pictures were taken around 10 minutes apart, so you have to be quick or you soon miss it! Sorry in advance for the sunset spam this summer!

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More from me next week if I survive LGT…

‘Just keep swimming’

Ellie

 

 

June 2nd, 2017.

Wow, can you believe it’s June already?! The sun FINALLY came out today (it has been a miserable week here in Connecticut since you last heard from me) and with more and more staff arriving each day, it’s starting to feel like summer is here.

We are all super busy at the moment getting ready for our first group of the summer, Camp Erin. Camp Erin is the largest national bereavement program for children 55and teens grieving, and is ran by The Moyer Foundation and The Cove Center for Grieving Children. My camp (Camp Awosting) hosts Camp Erin for one weekend every year.  It will be my first time volunteering at Camp Erin, but I have been told it is a great weekend (and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster!). I will update you all more next week once it has happened in my weekly journal post.

‘Work’ (if you can even call it that) this week has consisted of listening to ‘Despacito’ on repeat in the office, errand running and SHOPPING! How many other people can say they spend their day at work shopping? BEST. JOB. EVER! My first stop was Walmart, where I picked up lots of cleaning equipment and some new bedding for camp, followed by a stop at Home Depot (the American equivalent of B&Q). Then I went to the garden centre and bought lots of new plants and hanging baskets to make camp look pretty. I hung the baskets (the easy part) and then planted my first EVER plants in the window boxes – my mother would be proud!

It was my FINAL full weekend off of the entire summer, so I spent Saturday chilling out in the garden and re-filling the hot tub at Ben’s house ready for days off in the summer. Sunday was a little bit more exciting, and after a quick visit to see Steve (Ben’s dad) in the hospital, we went to the Lee Outlet Mall in Massachusetts (YAY for retail therapy). The designer outlets here in the states are SO cheap for things that often cost a small fortune in England. I managed to pick up a classic white Levi’s t-shirt for just $9.90 – bargain! Ben surprised me with a stop to a rare Indian on the way home from the outlets. I was having serious Tikka Masala withdrawals, and my friends back home were all going out to our local Indian and I was super jel, so he had planned the whole day around the location of the restaurant! Indian restaurants/take outs aren’t really a thing here – for some reason American people just don’t seem to eat much curry! He’s a keeper.

We also drove through Sheffield (my home city!), and passed a famous bridge here in the North East of America. This covered bridge is located in West Cornwall, CT, and was built in 1974. There are lots of explanations as to why covered bridges were built here in New England, but the most popular one seems to be to protect the bridge and the wooden beams from the extreme weather they often have here!

Jepo (Ben’s dad) finally made it out of the hospital on Wednesday after a month long stint (if you don’t know who he is yet, or why he was in the hospital, find out HERE!). It was great to see him back at camp, and the boys have done a great job of converting his room so it is more accessible for him now.

I also had a quick trip to Eagle Rock yesterday, a day camp owned by the same family as Awosting and Chinqueka. Their waterfront is beginning to take shape, and we also found a snapping turtle on the way into camp! If you see one of these at camp this year, make sure to avoid it – the clue’s in the name! Ben was doing man things on his tractor, while I was also clearly working REALLY hard (working hard taking good pictures!).

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It has been a pretty miserable week weather-wise, with lots of rainy and cloudy days. There was a huge storm last night which are always super cool to watch (from the safety of a building, of course!). I love being snuggled up in bed watching the lightening, and a big storm usually brings good weather the following day.

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Driving into a storm!

I officially moved to camp today, and I seem to have acquired even more ‘stuff’ (aka crap) since I first arrived 3 and a half weeks ago, which made for a slightly uncomfortable journey. The car was literally overflowing, and I am yet to unpack anything (although the mess is starting to drive me crazy!). I will update you all with pictures of my bunk once I have unpacked and Ellie-fied it.

I write this from my desk in the Office, which I have finally got around to decorating this week. I am sat surrounded by camp friends, having a sing-along to a terrible version of ‘Stand by Me’ played by Tom on the guitar (if you missed Tom’s guest posts, check them out here!), and there’s no place else I’d rather be!

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Have a great weekend!

Ellie