Before summer break began, we had to help run the first ever English summer camp in our city. In the main city, English summer camps aren’t unheard of but we have never tried it in our area. Needless to say, preparations took quite awhile and on the actual day, we were a little worried.
However, I had a feeling that things would turn out well. Maybe it was just me being naive, but ever since I ran into Miki and Rei, my former students, and hearing them sound so excited about seeing me there that I began looking forward to it. Still, we were extremely nervous on how it was going to play out when we saw the big bus full of junior high school students arrive.
Fortunately for us, most of the kids shared the same feelings as Miki and Rei and were eager to learn. Naturally everyone was shy at first but once they started making their name tags and attending the opening ceremony, they were more relaxed.
The first day wasn’t without a few bumps though. We had to start late due to people who were staying at the lodge before us making a late check-out which messed with our entire schedule. It led us to improvise a few things but since we’re used to this kind of thing, it wasn’t a huge deal:
The activities my fellow ALTs made were fun. My favorite one was the scavenger hunt—in groups, students had to run around the lodge, looking for English clues and talk to us about various things. I was in charge of taking photos of everyone. I tried to get them to do a normal and a silly pose but almost no one wanted to do a silly one. At least there were a couple that were cool enough to do it:
After doing a few activities, it was time to make dinner. The menu for that day was curry and rice, which apparently is a staple when it comes to Japanese camp meals. The twist this time was that everything was explained in English. We had to run around and make sure everyone was doing everything correctly and not cutting their fingers off. I ran into my junior high kids—Nao and Rie, quite a few times here.
“Diego, how many times are you going to pass by our table?” Nao would always ask me when I made the rounds.
“I have to make sure you guys aren’t hurting yourselves!”
“Suuuure.” For a quiet girl in class, Nao sure was sassy that day.
I also ran into a lot of my old kids from my Monday school. They were all hanging out with each other and demanded I take a picture of the crew. I could only comply:
The boys were stuck doing the worst part of the cooking which was heating up the pots. Since we were away from ovens and stoves, we had to do it the old fashioned way—cooking with logs and fire! The boys were stuck throwing newspapers and stuff into the fire to keep it going the entire time. Keep in mind that this was during late July—the pinnacle of the summer heat (90-95 degrees)! :
After cooking and eating dinner, we introduced the kids to making s’mores at the campfire. Unfortunately we were only able to get small sticks for roasting marshmallows. Combined with the huge fire, it was quite a hassle for us to roast them without burning our arms. Many of the kids had to run in with their sticks for a few seconds and run back out. I guess we know what we have to do next time. The kids really enjoyed them though!:
Due to our schedule being all messed up, we weren’t able to do an activity so we opted to have “free time” for the kids instead. We played a bunch of card games while eating watermelons and American candy. During this time we introduced them to Dr. Pepper. I personally don’t like it that much and a lot of the Japanese students agreed. Some of them began to use it for punishment games—if you messed up, you were forced to drink it! A lot of them were acting like if they were drinking poison, it was hilarious. This was definitely my favorite part of the whole camp since it was so relaxing and we were able to chit chat with everyone. The boys were getting all hyper from drinking all the pop and some of them were buying more from the vending machine outside. One of my old kids, Shogo, drank three 20 oz. bottles of Coke! I had forgotten how much of that crap I used to drink at that age:
The next day we had a little hike and finally my team’s activity was up. We basically played Scrabble except in order to gain more letters, you had to do a bunch of silly activities like throw the most balls in a hole or carry the most beans into a cup by using chopsticks. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time for it but it looked like everyone enjoyed it:
After that it was time for everyone to depart. It was a hectic two days but I had a lot of fun. The responses we got in the survey were really heartwarming. Several girls said they were almost crying during closing ceremony and were looking forward to next year. Nao said she really wanted to come back but since she’s graduating this year, she’ll be unable to. Needless to say it was a success! I wonder how next year will turn out…?