Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Camp Update 1!

Hello from the middle of nowhere, Russia…aka Children’s Camp Green City (Детский Лагерь Зеленый Город).  I’m posting this from the fire stairs, which serve a double purpose as the balcony of the administration building where I live, because my usb modem works best here.  I barely get a signal for the modem or my cell phone inside the building, but that is probably for the best – I’m not here to sit on the internet all day!
After an awesome week in St. Petersburg, I arrived at the camp late Monday morning.  Vadim and Julia showed me my room and stayed until after placement testing and lunch.  After that there were still many an unanswered question (for example, what time I would be teaching the very next day), but with promises from the camp counselors to let me know as soon as possible, just like that I was on my own. I spent a little bit of time unpacking and settling into my room and then thought to myself “now what?”. I put on some shorts and sneakers and set out to find some kiddos and we played a laughed and ran around until dinner time and after dinner until they had to go to sleep.  In such a camp, an English teacher can do nothing better for herself than to get on the good side of the kids’ counselors.  I think they were already happy to see that I was playing with the kids and helping look after them, but when I told them that I would be happy to help them serve meals (the most stressful times of the day) I got a big smile and “that would be great!”. I fell asleep very quickly Monday night, happy to have had such a positive first day!  
Tuesday meant the first day of classes and I continued my endeavor to keep the counselors on my side by hunting down the schedule for the day, finding out which events the kids absolutely could not miss, and then planning my lessons around those times – all before breakfast! J The day was a little hectic, gathering the kids up, walking to the building (completely on the other side of camp) and then taking them back afterwards, but it felt good to be busy.  The lessons went well and I got a better understanding of the kids’ levels.  I can tell already that my youngest group is going to be the most fun because they are so excited and couldn’t be happier to play and sing and say any and every English word they can think of to try to impress me J In the evening I helped out with the first class which a volunteer from Columbia and two volunteers from India will be teaching.  Some of the kids in that class understand hardly a single word of English, so I was mostly just there to translate.   Because it was the first class, pupils of all levels were together and there was a lot of chaos.  They went over colors and family members just so that it would be understandable for even the smallest ones.  Afterwards two of the girls came to me nearly in tears. “Isn’t there any way we can join your classes Chelsea?! We’re so bored in this class and the other girls told us how fun your lessons were,” they pitifully whimpered. “It will be better tomorrow once you split into groups,” I promised them.  Of course I wish they could join my classes – the more the merrier! But I know that the parents of the kids in my classes paid good money for their children’s English lessons and Vadim would NOT be amused if he found out pupils who had not paid were attending my lessons.  Perfectly understandable and fair, of course.  I feel a bit bad for the volunteers who came here.  It seems that they were led to believe that they would be teaching a lot more and doing cultural presentations and activities.  It turns out, however, that they spend most of their days rather bored.  I would feel extremely disappointed if I was in their place. 
Today was another full day of teaching and spending time with the kids.  They had the official opening of the first camp session celebration, which everyone has been preparing song and dance for since Monday.  I went to watch and it was all quite cute!  The kids were bouncing off the walls all day with excitement about tonight’s event – the first camp disco! These camp kids go crazy over disco nights, even the ones who don’t plan to dance.  They hold the discos outside in a field, so the most popular dance move probably just ends up being the mosquito swat. Plus it’s light here until almost midnight and the kids have to be in their building by ten, so the thought of a disco with the sun still in the sky is a bit funny to me.  Anyhow, I love seeing them excited and I hope tomorrow morning they aren’t too tired in the class tomorrow from “dancing the night away” ;)))

So overall everything is so far so good here at camp. I got a text from Vadim this evening asking how everything was going and if I was still alive.  I had a good laugh reading that :) In a lot of ways it’s not what I was expecting, but I don’t think anyone can ever fully predict what awaits them at Russian summer camp!

My room is simple, but it's all my own! :)

It looks a bit less nice from this angle with the broken wardrobe door and sink which looks out of place

My "days until home" paper chain. :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Chelsea! I always love your positivity! I was truly touched to see your "days until home" paper chain. While I LOVE your fearless sense of adventure and wanderlust, it does a Mother's heart good to hear that her baby girl kinda misses her Mama a little bit (you probably miss your friends more, but this is what I'm going with!) Give those kiddos the summer camp adventure of their little English-speaking lives...I know that you will! I, too, am counting down the days until you arrive back home! Love you more than you'll ever know...Mom


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