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Summer Camp

A mini vacation... before the big one.

Last week we went to Camp. Well, the Japanese definition of camp, not the Canadian (Our cabin had air conditioning). ECC, in conjunction with another group called Tom Sawyer runs a summer camp. ECC supplies the English teachers and the Japanese counsellors and Tom Sawyer organizes the food and the Japanese activities. The man that was in charge of Tom Sawyer, his English wasn't very good, so we just called him Boss.

There were three camp sessions each for three days and we went up for camp number three, which gave them two camp sessions to work out all the kinks (which they did and our camp went great!) For our camp there were about 80 kids whose ages ranged from 6 - 12. There were six leaders and we each had a group of about 13 or 14 students. We were also paired up with a Japanese counsellor. The Japanese counsellor were ECC University students, studying to become english kindergarten teachers. Basically, we were there to have fun with the kids and the Japanese teacher was there to put them to bed, feed them, deal with homesickness and all the not so fun things. Which was great for us because once the kids went to bed at 9:00 we were free to hang out, drink beer and play cards.

The camp we went to was a three hour bus ride north of Osaka in Fukui prefecture. We could see the Japan Sea on the bus ride. It was up in the mountains and was a lot cooler than Osaka, at least that's what I told myself.

Camp - River 3.jpg

We left Tuesday morning bright and early. The bus left at 8:45. We had to meet at the station at 8:00 to schmooze the parents, so they didn't think they were sending their kids off with some crazy foreigners. For a lot of the younger kids, this was actually their first time staying away from home.

We all loaded up on to two buses for our trip and before I had even sat down on the bus all the kids had their candy out. And they had a lot of candy too. So we had a bus full of hyper kids on our hands. We had a list of activities and things to do with them which was good. We did a scavenger hunt, played bingo, sang "Row, Row, Row your Boat" and played a game with little origami paper. The game was to see who could make the longest single strand of paper. This game lasted for a good hour, we just kept feeding them more paper and it kept them occupied.

Once we got to camp the second camp was leaving so we had to dodge a lot of other kids. Boss gave us a drive to our cabin with our bags while the kids went and unpacked. We got to our cabin and everyone staked out a spot on the floor with their futon. (Cultural note: A Japanese futon is different than a Canadian Futon. In Japan a Futon is a mattress that you put on the floor and sleep on it. You usually use these in a room with Tatami mats, a traditional Japanese floor which is softer than other floors. We have tatami mats in our apartment and they are very soft and comfortable).

Once the kids got all unpacked we had our opening ceremonies and every group, we were all different colours, made a flag. Basically it was a flag that everyone put their hand print on. My team was orange and Courtney's was Red. I bought a bunch of orange bandanas before I went up and cut them into strips and tied one on all of my kids wrists when we got there. That way I would know exactly who was in my group and who wasn't. After this we Tie dyed some t-shirts and did an english lesson. The english lesson was hard because it was really hot, everyone was tired and distracted by bugs and other creatures. But I managed to get through it.

After this we went and played in the little stream by our cabin. This was nice because it cooled everyone down a lot.

Camp - River 1.jpg Camp - River 2.jpg

Then it was supper time. We had a traditional Japanese BBQ. What you do is heat up the coals and put a big griddle over them and just fry everything up on this. IT was really good, we had lots of meat, Yaki Soba (Noodles) and vegetables. After it's done you pick off whatever you want to eat, dip it in your cup of sauce and go to town. After this we played some games and practiced for the camp fire and that was the first day.

Camp - BBQ.jpg

The second day we got up nice and early and had breakfast, which was just two pieces of Toast with some squeezable jam. It wasn't very good. In the morning the kids went off and made bread and Mocchi (It's a traditional Japanese rice dish. It has a really strange texture and I didn't really like it) While they were doing this we had to rinse and ring out all the t-shirts. There were a lot of them and it took all of the Japanese and English teachers about an hour and a half to do this.

Camp - Tie Dye.jpg

(Side note: This is where the battery died in my camera. So I don't have any more pictures).

In the afternoon of the second day we went swimming. Which was just playing in the stream again, but this time the kids were all wearing their bathing suits. A lot of kids had goggles and bathing caps on too. And some of the kids were wearing really bad speedos. It was like they were on the swim team or something. Basically, this turned into everyone trying to soak the counsellors. Boss broke out a hose to soak the kids and they turned it on us. Some of the kids had water guns so they came after us as well. It was a lot of fun. I had my Nalgene bottle, so I would just fill it up and dump a litre of water on the kids. It was very entertaining. (Another cultural note: In Japan and a lot Asian cultures, the definition of beauty is to be to white. So Japanese people try their hardest not to get any sun. I had one student tell me she wore SPF 50 sunscreen on her walk to school. A lot of people use parasols and wear gloves to not tan their arms. When we were all out swimming some of the Japanese teachers were sitting in the shade with towels over their face so they wouldn't tan. However, after I got soaked and took my shirt off by this standard, I realized I am freakin' Gorgeous! Again, that's at least what I tell myself!).

Once we finished swimming it was time for supper. After supper we had a campfire. Each group had to perform a song or a skit. I taught my group, "One Bottle of Pop..." and "Fish and Chips and Vinegar..." which we performed in a round. I was very happy with it. Courtney taught her group, "Baby Shark. Do Do Da Doo... Mama Shark. Do Do Da Doo..." complete with actions. They both were really good. Then Boss got up and did a bunch of Japanese camp fire songs. The kids got a big kick out of us trying to sing them. I tried to get my kids to teach me them on the bus, but they all fell asleep. There was one song that I think Boss was going around saying, "I'm an alien. Are you an alien?" One of my kids hid behind me because he didn't want to be picked and one of Courtney's kids started to cry. Eventually everyone became aliens (I think). After that we gave everyone glow bracelets and then went for a hike (actually we just walked around the soccer field). Then we all got together and threw our glow bracelets up in the air. Then it was bed time for the kids and then we went back and played cards.

The next day we did another English lesson then packed to go home. The bus ride home was a lot different than the bus ride up. They put a movie on when we first left and all the counsellours slept. I watched Finding Nemo in Japanese and Court watched some Japanese movie. Then when the movie stopped all the kids slept. It was a peaceful ride home.

I must say it was a lot of fun to get away from Osaka and hang out with the kids. Even though we can't speak Japanese, a high-five, a smile and dumping a litre of water on a Japanese kid works the same as on a Canadian kid. They laugh and have a great time.

Now we are off on our big vacation. Our trip to Hokkaido. We are leaving this afternoon and are back the night of the 14th.

Posted by agc_cwm 17:45 Archived in Japan

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