Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Boy Town

Not only were the lads at camp more knowledgeable about hair care, apparently their expertise also extended to club wear, accessorising and make up! I certainly have miles to go before I can hope to catch up!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heat Wave

The south coast of England has been experiencing one of the hottest and driest summers in recent years. The same can be said for life on campus. Things are heating up.

Last week, I had to add condoms to my list of centre related weekly purchases. This comes after not one, but two emergency runs to the clinic for the morning after pill. After being hauled out of bed at 5 am by a near hysterical 17 year old boy to intervene on his behalf with the group leader who was probably going to go ballistic on him (and rightly so), I threw the rule book out the window and decided that we should start being safe rather than sorry. I figured it sort of count as an on campus activity if enough kids were participating. Heck, as far as I knew, it was probably the best attended activity of them all. Also, I didn't even want to consider the amount of paperwork involved should any of those damn "kids" have a woopsie!

Its not just the kids though. The adults seem to be going sex mad as well. Perhaps its the fact that we're stuck in a remote location and contact with the outside world is minimum; or perhaps its simply the case of what happens at summer camp, is forgotten anyway because we were too damn drunk to sort out the tangles the morning after. Of course this leads to more drama since erm... "overlapping" is bound to occur.

Yep, its been a hot and dry summer. All around me people are on sexual fire, while sadly I've been experiencing a long and very frustrating drought.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Trends: The New Black

The reasoning behind the colour for our uniforms was sound. We needed to be easily identified in a crowd. With a violent shade as this, I'm pretty sure that if you check satellite footage we visible from the moon, all of us in a row like some human Wall of Activity Leaders.

We didn't have a choice. The dice was cast and the colour of summer 2010 was orange. And so we did the only thing we could, given the circumstances.

We made it look good!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fashion Fix - The Summer Camp Edition

When I packed for 7 weeks of summer camp, I included all sorts of practical wear that I figured would come in use for activities involving kids. Stuff that would bode well with arts and crafts sessions involving glue guns gone wild and for days at the beach where I would probably fall over into a pile of soggy seaweed. Jeans, shorts, a couple of scraggy tees and a tank top or two for those extra hot summer days. Same with the shoes - runners, a pair of sandals and flip flops for the beach. Heck, in fact when finally zipped up my bags I was convinced I had in fact over packed!

Turns out I was very wrong. Apparently the memo about after work shenanigans was lost in the mail and so I ended up being the only person on campus who didn't come prepared for multiple nights out at one of the local clubs on (aptly named) Messy Mondays. My colleagues were further shocked to also find out that I hadn't even brought a hair drier and hairbrush; the former on purpose, the latter an oversight. The shock turned to abject horror when they realised that I wasn't too concerned about the lack of hair equipment and declared that my fingers would be fine enough combs. After all I figured, who was even going to be looking?

My colleagues on the other hand had not only got the memo, they'd anticipated all sorts of events including, I believe a Papal visit and planned accordingly. Only that would explain the multiple bags that most of them had brought along. All of this made little sense to me especially since most of the time we were all garbed in those hideous orange t-shirts that passed for a uniform!

After dodging going out for the first few Monday nights by crying poverty, I had little choice after we got our first pay cheques. Fortunately, I had been scheduled for a visit to Portsmouth with a group and a quick poke around the sale bins found me appropriate club attire. But even that wasn't enough. Apparently, my total lack of fashion sense (and sensibilities) and my indifference to doing anything to rectify that had instigated an intervention. While they simultaneously did my hair, tweezed my brows and dabbed on makeup, I came to realise just how bad I was at being a girl. There were at least four of my male colleagues who could not only wield a hair straightener better than me, but also owned their own and most of the boys owned up to being in possession of more hair and beauty products than I even knew existed!

Readers, the kids weren't the only ones getting an education at summer camp. And judging by what I learned that Monday night, I had miles to go before I was going to be able to graduate from the school of Being A Girl.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Vengence is Mine", said the Activity Leaders

Given our relatively isolated location, it has become quite common for the staff to send along a shopping wish list with anyone going on an "Asda run". The most common items that top the list are of course alcohol and sweeties, both being absolutely integral to getting though long and tedious 15 hour work days. There's nothing better than knowing you can head over to the staff room for some post work pints and unwind and forget about any messes from the day gone by.

Imagine our collective surprise and dismay when we woke up this morning to find out that someone had broken into the staff room and cleaned out all of our supplies. After we'd gotten over the first shock, the anger set in. It wasn't an "outside job" as the coppers would have said; only someone living on campus would have known the location of the staff room and the fact that we had recently stocked up. There were close to three cases of beer that had been stolen and it didn't take much detective work to figure out who the culprits were. The red rimmed eyes, glazed no sleep gaze and hangover faces and not to mention the fact that they couldn't meet our eyes was evidence enough. And that was even before we found the stack of empties behind their residence block. Still, we didn't have direct proof and we couldn't accuse them of theft without anything conclusive. Yet, something had to be done. If nothing else, we had to send the message to the rest of the kids that such blatant disregard for the rules and shocking behaviour was not going to be tolerated. We were painfully aware that they outnumbered us 10 to 1!

And so, it was with particular glee we gathered all the kids together later that day to make a special announcement. We explained that the campus management had been getting increasingly frustrated with the growing amount of litter on campus. Repeated appeals didn't seem to have worked and we needed to take things one step further. Which was why, effective immediately the kids were going to take responsibility for their own surroundings. Every day, a random group would be chosen to assist the campus maintenance staff with clean up duties thus ensuring that the campus remained litter free at all times.

The collective groans from the group quickly changed to covert snickers and sly nudges when the names of the first group of clean up helpers was announced. Every single of the (assumed) guilty party stepped forward to collect their clean up tools from a broadly grinning member of staff who had suffered the heart wrenching loss of stolen alcohol.

Three hours later when they trooped back to the office, we had a spotless campus and a properly chastised group of children who we knew would think twice about crossing swords with the ALs again.

Mission Accomplished.

Monday, July 19, 2010


In keeping with the general theme of new beginnings and new experiences of this summer, I've decieded that the blog itself was in a state of a much needed upgrade. A revamped look to match my current sentiments.

The new design templates available is fantastic allowing techically challenged wonders like me to make changes without having to deconstruct HTML coding and the such. But the options are vast and I soon got very confused.

After 4 hours and multiple edits, this is what I finally decided on.

So, waddya think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Popular Vote

Summer camp is lovely; but it can also be a flash back to the high school type atmosphere of groups and cliques and the ever lasting battle between the cool kids and the rest of us mere mortals.

Within a few days of arriving here, I'd sussed out that there were various sub groups forming. Alliances had been made and while some hold all the right cards, there are others who will remain on the outside. By some miracle, I was admitted into the inner circle; but only just as I remain hovering near the edge. It is my inability, or rather my unwillingness to give in and just go with the flow; I ask too many questions, I refuse to let certain things just slide, I don't abide with mediocrity. All this made some people uncomfortable.

Some of my colleagues have been doing this for a number of years. It makes them experienced, but in many respects it also makes them lethargic. They've gone to the same museums, been on the same day trips and facilitated the same activities so many times that they're now running on auto pilot. On the other hand, there are other ALs who although cannot cite years of summer camp experience under their belt, are in fact quite happy and very eager to actually perform the duties for which we were all hired! But, just like in high school, if the "in" crowd isn't doing it, well it just ain't cool for you to go ahead and do it anyway.

Yesterday on a day trip to Brighton I was paired up with one of those cool kids. He made it very clear to me that I was to follow his lead and that meant giving the groups a quicky tour of the pier, pointing them in the direction of the shops and setting a meet back time. This would mean hours of free time for us to go off and do whatever we wanted. It wasn't like he was shirking his duties, just that I know we could have done so much better with pointing out the sights and sounds. And so I made a snap decision and announced to the group that I was heading off to the famed Pavilion and would be happy to take anyone who wanted to go there with me. More than half the group joined me. My colleague didn't say anything, but as he walked off towards the beach I knew he wasn't pleased. It hadn't been my intention to make him look bad, it just that I really wasn't comfortable with the situation.

I hadn't really prepared a walking tour and most of what I knew about Brighton and the Pavilion I had read on Wikipedia the day before! Still, at least it was something and I really do think the kids and the group leaders had a good time. Once done with the Pavillion, the consensus was for shopping and so I left them to it. Even after the additional tour, I still managed to have two hours to myself.

On the bus ride back, I got teased for being a keener. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I will be the butt of many jokes in the staff room. Perhaps I won't be on the next round of text messages inviting people to post work drinks.

Then again, I never did belong at the cool kids table. So I guess I'm ok with that after all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thoughts on an Anniversary

Today is my one year anniversary living in the UK.

I was super excited when I arrived. That quickly disintegrated into long months of grief and loneliness. But I hammered through that, and now its in the past. It won't be easily forgotten, but it will be something that I can learn from.

Happy One Year to me.

Bring on the next 365 days!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Man Candy

About the only drawback about my time here at the summer camp, has been the total and utter lack of man candy around this place.

My male colleagues are a nice enough bunch, but none that would warrant a double take; at least not for me. Besides, they're all way to young. Not inexperienced - if we are to believe all that is said during the various drinking games - but just too young for me. There are a few kids who are drop dead gorgeous. I've counted two lads, a Frenchie and one Italian. But they are all no more than 18 and really I feel a bit pervy even just mentioning them. That being said, I did ask the one if he had an older brother. Discretely of course. I managed to make it into an exercise in English: I have brothers and/or sisters. They are xxx old. Their names are....

Of course the one piece of awesome man meat that was to be found here left. The former Centre Administrator was one very (very) sweet specimen of manhood and I'm just gutted that my good luck at landing the promotion had to come at the price of his leaving. Knowing that you, dear Reader would want to judge for yourself I did manage to take a few shots at the football tournament last week.

Mmmmmm, yummy is my thought. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Love Affair

It was supposed to be 3 weeks of a summer job. Plan activities for the kids; teach them some new skills; take them on walks, trips and excursions; keep them out of trouble; make some friends and hopefully have a good time in the process.

What I did not expect was to become a teacher, mentor, friend, counselor, mother, big sister, vengeance angel, hall monitor, centre administrator and general all round go-to girl.

Over the past two weeks, I have yelled at kids one moment, then comforted another lot the next. Dealt with every type of teenage aggro - smoking, drinking, fist fights, bullying and truancy to name just a few. Just when I want to take the entire lot and drown them in the harbour, they turn around and do something wonderful and caring and so I let them live another day.

There have been water fights, walks to the beach, football tournaments, cross dressing discos, X factor style talent contests, movie nights, moonlit walks, all nighters, heart-to-hearts, stomach aching laughter, some tears, one kiss and more hugs than I can remember.

My contract here has been extended until the end of the month. Perhaps for longer should the need arise. Oh sweet summer, how I am loving thee!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mind That Language!

Last year as I packed for my relocation to G Town I was very conscious of the fact that I was moving to a place where although people claimed to speak English, it was a far cry from the English that I knew and loved. It was a garbly-goo version that drew perplexed looks even folk on the other side of Scotland. Still, I persevered and after much random smiling and nodding during my first few months here, I eventually tuned my ear into the melody of Weegie-speak. We will ignore the fact that I probably agreed to all sorts of unmentionable stuff in the process of being lost in translation.

There was a lot that I was nervous about as I packed my bags to head to England for this summer, but one thing that I didn't think would be a problem was, language.

Well, it should have been.

Other than four Irish folk, the rest of my colleagues are all English hailing from as far north as Newcastle and as close by as Portsmouth itself. All of them claim English as their first language. Yet, I'm having the darnedest time with comprehension. The accents are broad and varied, the phrases they use totally alien and the words don't seem to have the same meanings that I am used to.

And so I've resorted to the tried and tested coping mechanism of smiling and nodding. Again, I'm not sure what I have agreed to or promised out. I'm sure I'll find out over the course of the summer!

Friday, July 09, 2010

All in a Week's Work

It hardly seems possible that it was a mere week ago that I stepped off the bus in south of England, arriving at the destination for my much anticipated summer job. The days have passed in a whirlwind like blur and if I am to judge by the time here, then the summer is definitely going to be an interesting one. The best way I can describe it would be akin to a roller coaster ride; dizzying highs, then some scary lows followed by some twists and turns enough to curdle the milk in your tummy. But put together, a very exciting and exhilarating experience.

The camp houses kids from all over Europe who come here for anywhere from two week to 2 months to improve their English language skills. There are about 12 teachers and 15 activities staff on site and we all share one computer with internet access! I was hired to be an Activities Leader which means that its my job to keep the kids amused and more importantly provide enough distractions to keep them out of trouble when they're not in classes. This includes on site activities like arts & crafts, dance, drama, sport, games, themed nights etc. and also trips and excursions to surrounding places of interest like Bournemouth, historic Portsmouth docks, Beaulieu in the New Forest region, Oxford, London and more.

Two days after I got here, the Centre Administrator abruptly quit and I was offered the job. It meant a pay raise and room and board covered. It also meant that I wouldn't be able to do a lot of the things that I had been looking forward to - mainly the trips! While I was contemplating this decision, the centre managers made the decision for me by offering the job to another AL.... and she accepted. Suffice to say, the next morning when I went into the office to accept the job, I was told "Thanks... but the position has been filled!" This might have phased me at one time, but not now. I was done with being pushed around and taken for granted these past few months and there was no way I was going to take this lightly. So I spoke to the centre manager and let him know that I considered this whole situation was utterly unprofessional and asked simply that he fix it. The solution was that both of us share the job role. To compensate for the mess up, he offered to wave all costs for accommodation and food for the duration of my contract. In retrospect, this has actually worked out better as now I get a higher salary and can still keep doing some of the activities with the kids. But I'm not going to let management know that. They should really know better and hopefully have learned an invaluable HR lesson out of this situation.

For now, I'm settling in and trying to sort out both professional and personal roles here. The other ALs are really nice, but all so damn young! The oldest of the lot is just 25 and the average age is 21. They haven't seemed to catch on to how old I am, and I'm taking care to keep vital pieces of information safe. I'm not ashamed about my age, rather just don't want to labelled before they have a chance to get to know me and figure out that mentally I'm probably younger than all of them put together.

We work hard and long hours. But we party hard as well. This summer is going to be a good one. I can feel it.
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