Friday, January 23, 2009

The Summer of 2008, Ligonier, PA - Part 4

One of the best ways to entertain a whole lot of kids is to play a game.

Chubba Chubba Can Can - Form a circle around a trashcan, linking arms in some fashion. If you touch the trashcan, you are out. If you are the last person not-out, you win.
The Stick Game - Form a circle around whoever's turn it is to be "It". This person then takes a stick, of a foot or a foot and a half in length, holds it high above their head, fixes their eyes upon the tip, and spins around for a prescribed amount of time, perhaps 30 seconds, perhaps more. After spinning, they place the stick flat on the ground and jump over it. Those in the circle should do their best to safeguard the spinner from death, leaving the circle, etc. Note: It is not recommended that you play this anywhere dangerous.
HPC Roof Ball - I never figured how this worked, but it involved hitting a large ball with a foam bat onto the roof of the HPC, a small building in the center of Camp. Maybe it is like Wall Ball?
Prison Dodge Ball - Played just like regular two-team Dodgeball, except that when you get out, you go behind the other team, into the end-zone-like jail. Balls can then be thrown to you by members of your team who are still in. If you catch one of these balls, you can then use it to hit a member of the opposing team from behind, at which point you and everyone else on your team currently in the jail are back in. Note: I played this at least twice, if not three or four times, each week.

The Wide Games
Played every night after dinner on The Wide Game Field, way down the hill from the rest of camp, these may have been my favorite part of camp.

Medic - Divide the playing field into two equal parts, and place a big bucket of water in the middle. Each team has a certain number of "medics", each wearing a red pinnie and holding a plastic cup. Play just like Dodgeball, with two exceptions. First, you can not move when you have the ball. Second, when you are hit out, you sti down where you were struck. Medics get water from the bucket and the pour a cup upon someone is out, to get them back in. If a medic is struck out, they are no longer a medic when brough back into play. The last team with medics still in wins. Note: We never played this with the whole camp; we divided into Units to play this.
Gold Rush - Divide the playing field into two equal parts, with "Safe Zones" behind each area, like the end zones of a football field. In each Safe Zone there should be an empty crate in one corner, and a pile of tennis balls in the other corner. The goal of the game is to get as many tennis balls, the titular "gold," from the opposing team's pile back into your team's crate before time runs out. While in the opposing team's half of the field, you may be tagged out, at which point you sit down where you were tagged, until an untagged member of your own team tags you back into play, at which point you get a free walk back to your side. You may not be tagged while in a Safe Zone, but you can not wait in the Safe Zone forever; a time limit is set on this waiting period. You can not throw gold, it is too heavy. You can not hand off gold; it is too heavy? When you tag someone carrying gold, you must take their gold back to your team's pile, but you can only carry one piece at a time; it is too heavy.
Ninja Warfare - The most popular Wide Game. Teams are divided into four roles: Ninjas, Bombers, Blockers and Medics. Each team also has a Monarch, a role filled by a Counselor, and an Armory with Armory Attendants, again Counselors, a station whose role will become apparent. Points are scored by Bombers striking the opposing King or Queen with water balloons, tossed strictly in an underhand fashion. Blockers surround their King or Queen and attempt to stop water balloons from scoring points. Ninjas run around with Ninja Sticks, flattened plastic golf tubes, and lightly strike opposing Bombers and Ninjas below the knees. When thusly struck, Bombers must place their water balloon, if they have one, upon the ground, and Ninjas must do likewise with their Ninja Stick, then go to their Armory and be re-armed. Medics run around collecting dropped Bombs and Sticks, and taking them back to their Armory. Note: Medics are often the smallest children, but never forget that having good medics is key to any successful team. It is best to start the game with an epic charge of the two lines.
Predator - Campers are given one of three roles: Herbivore, Omnivore and Carnivore. Counselors are spread around the playing area, which in this case is the Camp area, not a wide open field, and serve various roles, such as food-stations, water-stations, humans, natural disasters and disease. Each of the three kinds of animal has some amount of food or water or whatever that they need to collect. Having always been a food-station, and only actually playing twice, I am not sure how all the details work.
Spy vs. Spy - I have no idea how to play this. It was canceled every Session except Session 6, when I was no longer at Camp. It is similar to Capture The Flag, but with frisbees, I think.
Siege - I would call this the mother of all wide games, but it is really more like the child of several, and it was brand new during Session 4 this year. It bears a lot of resemblance to Ninja Warfare, so I will start with the Armories, which are placed in the center of the field, not on the edges as in Ninja Warfare. Armories dispense Bombs as before, and also Swords, which are suspiciously identical to Ninja Sticks. Points are scored by collecting tennis balls, now called Treasure, from a crate surrounded by a rope in a circle on the ground, called the Castle, and taking them back to your Castle. Armories and Castles are both Safe Zones. The team with the most Treasures in their Castle at the end of the allotted game-time wins. Teams are divided into three roles: Knights, Infantry and Blockers. Infantry attempt to steal Treasures from their opponent's Castle and take them to their own castle, but they also can get Bombs from the Armory to lob into their opponent's Jail. When a Bomb successfully detonates in a Jail, everyone in that Jail is freed. Blockers surround the Jail, attempting to stop Bombs and thus keep the captives within. Knights run around with Swords and strike opposing Infantry and Knights below the knees, at which point the stricken player must go to the proper Jail. Knights who strike Knights must take their Sword back to the Armory, and likewise with Bombs carried by Infantry, because there are no Medics in this game. Note: This is the most complicated Wide Game. It is also the most awesome.

Most of the Wide Games only allow for simple strategy, but Siege allowed for a surprisingly effective and unforeseen tactic. Raiding parties in Ninja Warfare are always a group of Bombers, with a few Ninjas guarding, and maybe a Medic or two for cleanup. However, in Siege, there are really two kinds of Infantry, those with Bombs and those without. By placing a group of Infantry carrying Bombs at the head of a Raiding Party, great victory may be achieved. Opposing Knights strike the Bomb-carriers first, but are then forced to return those Bombs back to the Armory, allowing the rest of the Infantry to continue to the castle relatively unopposed. It works brilliantly.

Sometimes we would also play Campers vs. Counselors soccer. 30 vs. 200 is a hilarious game.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Summer of 2008, Ligonier, PA - Part 3

A humongous part of being a Summer Camp Counselor is performance. Another word for performance might be "lying" but it is hard to say that this is the bad kind. Jokes are lies too, so it all gets a bit confusing.

I remember during training that we were told that we'd probably have to do things that we're uncomfortable with, or at least make us look like idiots, but it is fun for the kids, and something about how Paul says we should be "fools for Christ", though that probably is a misappropriation of that scripture. Two of the big days involving painting your face and other tomfoolery were The Fourth of July, and also Christmas in July, but I had both of those as my day off, and I somehow escaped The Big Hair Olympics unscathed. Putting crap (aka hairspray) in my hair to make it big and hilarious freaks me out; I do not know why.

But on the other hand, my day off never fell on Big Relay days, in which the campers (in their Color Teams) would complete a ridiculous relay race, and I ended up helping out with cheering for The Pierogies during The Terrific Tater-Tot Triathalon, which wasn't the same as a Big Relay, but was related. I can't remember now. In the process of cheering for our Water-Polo team, I jumped into the pool fully clothed. This was actually a big deal for me; I am not normally willing to jump into water fully clothed, yet in that moment I did not care about how ridiculous I would look, how uncomfortable wet underwear is, or anything else, just that jumping in was important to Camp being awesome. We made a big letter P with our bodies, for "Pierogies!", and then shouted a lot about how we had made P in the Pool, which most everyone thought was hilarious. I wonder if Leeanne, the Camp Director, thought so. Afterwards, I put my blue raincoat back on, because The Pierogies color was blue, and the raincoat was the only dry thing on my body, and I thought it was hilarious.

Everyday, after lunch, someone would make the afternoon announcements, which included our daily reminder to take care of our Duty Areas, the portion of Camp that you had been instructed to patrol for litter. Everyday we would laugh, because they said "doody", which means poop. By the end of the Summer, this was funnier to the Counselors than it was to the kids. Everday, after dinner, the Indiana Jones theme would play over the Dining Hall speakers, and in would run Indiana Groans and his sidekick Marcus, always incorrectly referred to as Mucus due to his sniveling nose. They were searching for a treasure... The Legend of the Crystal Flamingo (*Gasp!*)(After hearing the words, "The Crystal Flamingo"(*Gasp!*), everyone would gasp really loudly), but the evil Queen Angora was after The Crystal Flamingo (*Gasp!*) too. The purpose of these skits was to introduce that evening's Wide Game, but they were also just a funny bit of entertainment. As near as I could tell, the kids loved gasping and loved cheering for Indy and booing Queen Angora, and so the Run-On Skits served their purpose, but one thing sticks significantly in my memory: The first skit of Session 5, all the Counselors not involved in these skits were pretty curious, because Jinks would not be playing Indy for the first time all summer; the role instead would be filled by Ian, a big guy in the Marines who would leave every now and then to do training, and Mucus would be played by Clayton. Well, Indy ran in, but for some reason announced himself as "Indiana Joe", and it just got stranger from there. At one point, Mucus announced that one of the runes on the map seemed to reference some kind of precious metal, and Indy exclaimed "Like cinnamon!" I don't think that the kids got the joke, but we Counselors were in stitches.

There's a hill on the other side of the valley and down a ways from Camp that is covered in cars, because it is a junkyard. When kids ask what it is, we tell them it is a Brittney Spears Concert, or maybe a Jonas Brothers Concert if we are feeling particularly hip. Some kids, if they're young enough, believe us. Others half-believe us, others know we are lying, and still others knew that Brittney had no concerts scheduled this summer and they probably knew exactly where the Jonas Brothers were scheduled to appear on any given day. We also tell them that if they misbehave enough, they will have to meet the Unit Chief, who is a big, mean, angry and scary man, a story the kids eventually evolved into the belief that the Unit Chief has a large axe in his car. We tell them that all the guys on staff are brothers, or at least the Wilderness guys are, and some of them really believed us. We lie a lot to the kids, but never about stuff that we think matters. Is this okay? I don't know, but I never felt like it was wrong.

We had to dance sometimes at Camp. I am pretty bad at it. Yet there I was, waving my arms around and doing some ridiculous movements to some song about some parable, because a lady going by "Rev. Kim" from New Jersey said it was a good way to teach kids about the Bible, and Camp agrees. I am not going to write much about that woman, because people that actually know her have a much better opinion of her than I who met her for a day, but I will say this: Most of the "Scripture Skits" she comes up with are pretty stupid, and I am not sure that the kids learned anything from them; they just liked seeing their counselors act dumb. The one about Jesus dying and rising again, that skit is incredible.

A lot of other things went on at Camp. On Christmas in July, Jon and Ben burst into the Dining Hall with guitars and sombreros and fake mustaches and lip synced to "Feliz Navidad". Earlier, Jon and Eric ran into the Dining Hall to the tune of Yakety Sax, then ran around chasing each other, and ripped some phonebooks in half. They also did some crazy Japanese dance. Matt Lightfoot and I performed "Be A Man" from Mulan at two or three Coffee Houses. Several times, we got to see a performance of "A Million Ways" by OK Go, and twice we saw a production of Jack Handy's "The Zombies vs The Bees". I leave you with those, via youtube. The two "A Million Ways" videos are from two different Sessions, but see how we can do the same thing over and over and it's okay because it's different kids watching. It always amuses me how "A Million Ways" is definitely not a Camp Appropriate Song, but it's okay because the dancing is the point and really fun to watch. The last one is sort of inexplicably wonderful, and it caused Pat Meyers, Camp Executive Director, to say "...What just happened?"

Photos by Maggie Frick & Brian Jackson
Videos by Julia Swieson & Heather Flowers

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Summer of 2008, Ligonier, PA - Part 2

Being in charge of a bunch of kids is really tough at first. Soon you learn how to do it, when to yell and when not to, that sort of thing. But even when you feel like you have the hang of it, they will exasperate you. I'm sure any parents reading this are laughing and saying "Oh, I know all this already." My least favorite Session was Session 2, because of this very issue. I had a Tribe of pretty good kids, Session 1, and two incredible CITs to help me through that first week as a Counselor. Session 2 I had the standard one incredible CIT to help me, and that Tribe was not full of good kids. There were these two kids, Austin and Avery, and one of them was really good, and the other was not, and I can not remember which name goes to which kid. They both had blonde hair and funky names starting with an A; once I got their names confused and the not-as-well-behaved kid did not let me forget this, repeatedly trying to trick me, which is why I now can't remember which name goes to which kid. The well-behaved one was incredibly forgiving of my mistakes in name-use, but that sort of thing is very difficult to deal with no matter what. On a similar note, there was a kid who, as near as I could tell, was able to injure kids he didn't like, and then make it look like an accident. I did not love that kid the way Jesus wants me to, and I reall wish I had.

On the other hand, it was not all difficult discipline, you know. During Session 5, I taught the Guitar Elective, which was an older group of kids, aged 12-15, and maybe that is why they were easier to handle. Additional factors include the fact that they wanted to be there, learning to play guitar, and also that things were a lot less structured here. A few years ago, Eric Anderson taught a Guitar Elective, but he had a bunch of troublemaker kids, and vowed never to teach that thing again. He then went ahead and wrote down Guitar Elective as a possible elective on the Elective Proposal list, and then got me to teach it. Little did he know, it would be awesome this time. I had never really had to do this before, so I had to quickly draw up some lesson plans, based on Eric's ideas. Next, I discovered that half of the Guitar kids already knew how to play just fine and shouldn't have signed up. I ended up teaching them basic music theory with a guitar slant, an important field of knowledge that they hadn't touched at all. Helping me through all this was a Sharpie and the Camp Cardboard Recycling Pile, from which I produced several practice fret-boards, chord charts and all manner of useful introductory music and guitar diagrams. Because the structure was loose, and because they knew what was okay and what wasn't, we were able to goof off sometimes, and suddenly Electives was a joy and not a chore. By the end of the week, they were able to play "One Name", a Christian song I've only ever heard at Camp, and did so at the "A Night At The Theater" performance event. Also, Nick and Henry sang a song they wrote about the KYBO*.

Photos by Julie Lewis and Dale Weyman

*KYBO - The Bathroom. Stands for "Keep Your Bowels Open". A beautiful, terrible place.