Our First Group of Campers

The first big group of kids have come and gone from camp and it has been so fast it’s unbelievable. So what have we been up to?

Our first group of kids arrived July 3rd and it was all very hectic; which wasn’t helped by a quick planned excursion to the mall with 30+ kids. The group the first two weeks was predominantly Brazilian with a few independent kids thrown in the mix from Korea, Mexico, China and France. I was really lucky and got a group of teen girls called the ‘doves’ for my first group who were all really sweet and fun, so when we went to the mall I was able to just let them go and have fun and have a little bit of shopping time to myself – I bagged myself a Michael Kors purse for like $60 I was super impressed. There was also a super pretty sunset when we were waiting for the light rail to travel back to campus after the mall.

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Monday is what I would consider the first real day of camp, although the dining hall was still closed for renovations so we had to take the kids out for breakfast which was pretty stressful in itself. A standard day here (which is a Monday/Wednesday/Friday) consists of –

  • 7am wake up the kids
  • 7.30am staff morning huddle
  • 8am take the kids to breakfast
  • 9am walk the kids to class
  • 9-12pm counsellor time off
  • 12pm meet the kids in the dining hall for lunch
  • 1.15pm activity number 1 (either arts and crafts or sport)
  • 2.45pm swap to the other activity
  • 4.30pm give the kids dorm time and have an hour off (unless person on duty)
  • 5.45pm round the kids up for dinner
  • 7pm have an evening activity – sports night, disco etc.
  • 9pm conversation club
  • 10pm bed time
  • 10.30/11pm lights out

So we’re pretty lucky that we get 4 hours off most days, however on excursion days we don’t always get a break which makes it a long day.

The first day of camp mostly ran in this order but with it being the 4th July we had a bbq for joint dinner and evening activity. Which was super fun with lots of dancing, games and laughter – typical camp cheesiness I know. We also had a staff photo (minus Laurie who was playing DJ in the background).13626948_10153922940899132_876168073372131998_n

I had the Tuesday off which was maybe a little premature as we were only 1.5 days through but there were 4 of us off, so we headed into San Francisco to be tourists. We boarded the CaliTran which takes about 1hr 15mins to get from San Jose to San Franciso and then jumped on a bus down to Ghirardelli Square. We didn’t really have a clue at all where we were going so we just walked and walked and walked. My first beach experience in California wasn’t what I expected it to be when it was cold and damp! But there was a lovely view of the golden gate bridge

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We walked actual miles but we finally made it to the golden gate bridge, when we decided to walk across it and back again. The group had a trip to the golden gate bridge too so we kept an eye out for them driving across and jumped and waved like an idiot.

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We wanted to get all of the main touristy stuff done to save having to travel back in to the city for another similar day so we jumped on a bus and headed over to Lombard Street. What we didn’t know was that the street is exceptionally long and we got off the bus wayyyyy too early. The hills were soooo steep my legs literally hurt like hell but it was worth it when we got to the top because it was really cool. Then the crossing guy at the bottom played photographer for us and got some cool pictures. I’m not sure what my face is doing on this picture though…13663625_10154881930662069_1398101891_o

It turned out that we walked a good 16 miles that day so it didn’t hugely feel like a day off but it was fun and we were all a little bit delirious by the end of the day so it was really funny.

I had Wednesday morning off so got to have a lie in so only joined in the daily routine at lunch time which was lovely. It was another standard day in the life of a Tamwood Counsellor with a lot of excitement for the next day’s excursion to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was a long day. It was a full day excursion so we left straight after breakfast to head back to San Francisco. It started with a little bit of drama as the bus driver had no idea where to drop us off and tried to leave us miles from where we wanted to be. We managed to get to Pier 39 just before lunch and gave the kids some time to grab lunch and visit the tourist shops and buy some bits and bobs. I had fish and chips which although it didn’t compare to British fish and chips it was a nice change from burgers and fries.

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I actually really liked Pier 39 even though it was a typical tourist place which isn’t usually my cup of tea. There were also Californian sea lions lying on the docks which was so cool I forget that this is where they live in the wild.

The next stop was to get the ferry to Alcatraz, which was the attraction I had most been looking forward to.

13592558_10157049191185231_9094197797245183795_nWhen we have full day excursions we have something called Junior Relief which essentially means that the counsellors that have the teens take over the juniors for a while so the junior counsellors can have a bit of a break. Junior relief for this excursion happened to be during Alcatraz. It meant I was 100% working and didn’t necessarily get the chance to enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked. But it was still super cool a bit creepy. The fact that all these prisoners were so close to the main land that they could actually hear people laughing and having fun must have been devastating. The view was also amazing, it genuinely looked like you were on a mediterranean island.

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It must’ve been a really crazy place to live. Plus I’m sure I heard that all the staff lived on the island too, which is a little weird in my opinion, almost like they were prisoners as well. The best part in my opinion though was seeing the cell that the prisoners escaped from by digging through the wall with a spoon. The hole in the wall is still there and it’s a little bit surreal the fact that it went undetected for so long also astounds me.

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After Alcatraz we went on a visit to Ghirardelli square for a quick chocolate pit stop before heading for dinner at Applebee’s. I’d never eaten there before and I was actually pleasantly surprised, even more so that they provided spinach dip as a starter. I would definitely recommend it as a family meal location.

Friday went by without any major issues or excitement, it was however time for another night out in my eyes. During training we had met a lady outside 7/11 who had told us she would get her kids to invite us out and have some fun so we went on a hunt for a guy named Brian who we had never met, all we knew was which bar he was in. I was so funny – did you know you can stalk somebody on Facebook with just their phone number? Me neither until super stalker Claire taught me! Haha!

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We also went to a club we had been wanting to visit for a week or so called Temple. it looked so much fun, however it was like predator night, maybe 70% men who were all over everybody. That is not my cup of tea I’m definitely a wine and dine kind of girl. So when they did an early kick out I was pretty happy about it.

It was tough getting up at 6.45am after being out until 2 so it was soooo useful to use my 3 hour break for a nap. The afternoon excursion was to go to the Tech Museum but I stayed back to decorate some props for the evening’s Hollywood Disco.

13590294_10157057954515231_5803380857525824170_n I was so excited for the Hollywood Disco, I had raided the props cupboard at the drama school before I left the UK so I had a super swish wig to wear and a feather boa.

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I think all the kids had a great time, they definitely danced A LOT, the macareena went down so well, some songs are just universal! The photo booth was a success too with lots of pictures being taken using the props. We did attempt to play some games which weren’t fantastic but hey ho you live and you learn.13631417_10154238643700871_193913343575033375_n

That marked the end of week one at Tamwood camp. Ready for some new arrivals on Sunday (even though nobody was leaving). I went off to the airport in the morning to collect a new girl, but most of the group headed on a Silicone Valley tour to see the Levi’s Stadium, Google and Facebook. We met up at the Spaghetti Factory for dinner that night, and I must say my meal was soooo good. I have spinach tortellini with an alfredo sauce, it was amazing! With warm bread too, yummy. It was soooo good – the food is always the important part.

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On Monday morning we got our schedules for the next week and it turned out I was off Monday night so I had a nice short day ahead of me. I decided to go and find a pedicure and I’d seen some good reviews on google for a place in Japantown which is 1.5miles away. It was about a 25min walk which was fine until I got there and they had no appointments. So I made an appointment for later in the day. It was a pretty walk at least.IMG_7128

After I finally got my pedicure I went for a walk with one of the teachers Eric, who I discovered knows every single homeless person in the city of San Jose and what their ticks are. It was such a lovely walk through the fairy lights and stuff. I’m easily pleased.

This weeks day off was spent in the waterpark because why not?!?! Plus we found vouchers which gave us $8 off each. There were some pretty cool slides too. Obviously the weather didn’t hurt either.13680545_10157068381215231_7750902667228511678_n

I actually only went on a few slides and discovered I’m definitely a fan of slides you use a rubber ring for but not so much ones where the water splashes you in the face because it freaks me out a little bit. It was a good day though and we had a lot of laughs! On the way out me and Antonia decided to upgrade our tickets to season passes just incase anybody wanted to go back, plus it was only $4 so that was sort of a bargain I thought, plus not the end of the world if we did decide not to go back.

I had crazy bad blisters Tuesday and Wednesday that I was literally hobbling along, damn flip flops being the only shoes you can comfortably wear in the heat but also not good for your toes or balls of your feet. Catch 22 if there ever was one! I did however do something productive and signed up to complete a TEFL, I figured this was the perfect time to do it when I’m surrounded by children who speak different languages and have access to qualified teachers. I have no idea what my ultimate plan is with it but hopefully it’ll come in some use at some point.

It was also survivor night, which I think could’ve went a few different ways. In the end the way we did it was stick some paint on our teams faces, and play some random games. My favourite of which was the frozen t-shirt challenge. In the morning I had soaked some t-shirts and put them in the freezer, the kids then had to try and put them on, it genuinely sounds so much easier than it is!

At the end of the night one of the kids fell fast asleep on my lap it was super cute, but then my leg was so numb I ended up with pins and needles right up my entire leg it was ridiculous!

Thursday was six flags day. Yeyyyyyy! Literally the day the kids have all been waiting for (and the staff).

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The bus company were 40mins late which was super frustrating because we were on such a tight schedule and the teen counsellors were spending the morning with the teens and doing junior relief in the afternoon. Luckily when we got there Jenna and I managed to jump on two rollercoasters before we met up for lunch (where the junior relief swap was going to take place). We road Medusa & Superman which both were super good.

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After a Johnny Rockets for lunch I took over a group of juniors and got lucky that they were a group that enjoyed rides! Yeyyyyy. I did however manage to persuade them we should go and see the dolphin show first because they are my favs. Okay I know keeping animals in zoos etc. isn’t right blah blah blah, however, I am of the opinion that without zoos we wouldn’t be able to fund conversation projects and if you didn’t have some where to go and see animals (not everybody can afford to go on safari etc.) it’s difficult to care enough to part with your money, so whatever that’s my opinion. Plus these dolphins at 6 flags were all rescued and brought to 6 flags because they weren’t capable of being released in to the wild (for example one dolphin had epilepsy). Anyway, the show was pretty good it wasn’t a SeaWorld over the top performance but it was fun.

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They also had elephant rides but I never got a chance to do that and a tiger show. I have literally never experienced a tiger show before. Essentially there were men in the cage with the tigers getting them to display some of their natural behaviours. I was really amazed by how tigers swim, like I literally didn’t know they went in the water I kinda assumed they were like cats. I mean I’ve seen them swim across rivers on documentaries and things but I didn’t realise they would dive for food. It was also kind of weird because they were rewarding them with a mixture of raw meat and milk, like I would never have thought a grown tiger would want milk, but apparently they do.

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Afterwards I managed to get a few more coasters in with the kids but it was soooo ridiculously hot I thought I genuinely might die; the log flume was a blessing! We had a really nice dinner that night too in a place called Pasta Pomadoro I had cheesy pasta with some bread and a caesar salad it was lovely. The day overall was super tiring though, I think I blame the heat more than anything I couldn’t wait to go home and crawl in to bed, and considering half of the kids were asleep on the bus on the way back I assume they felt the same.

Friday was a pretty chilled day. I managed to FaceTime my friend Laura and my Mam in the morning then in the afternoon we had our talent show. It was kind of thrown together a little bit and not totally planned, but the kids had fun and managed to show off some of their talents. One kid was super funny as his talent was how bottle tops stick to your hand if you suck the air out of them! Best talent ever! Then on the evening we had the Crazy Olympics, which consisted of Limbo, Wheelbarrow racing and other silly fun games. My team definitely lost though.

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Saturday was a little bit sad because the majority of our kids were going home. They had a little graduation from English class which was cute and then we took them to Union Square and China Town for some last minute shopping. All I wanted to do was go to the Disney store, but when I was there I just couldn’t justify spending any money… I really wanted a phone case and a notebook but I was good and didn’t get it. Jenna however treat herself to a Tiffany necklace she had been eyeing up for years.

We then went down to China Town with a few of the kids and went to the factory where they made the first ever fortune cookie.

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I’m not a huge fan of China Town it’s a little bit bustley for me and I don’t like how everything is kind of taking over the sidewalk and stuff but it’s pretty cool at the same time, especially if that’s your sort of thing. There was a street parade too with dragons dancing down the street which was so stereotypical it was great.13697121_10157110774190231_1776537379765111372_n

We got back kind of late from Union Square so it was a rushed pizza dinner and quickly get dressed for this weeks disco which was Pirate themed. Once again I had raided the drama school’s cupboard and bagged a costume from when we did Pirates of the Currybean earlier in the year so I had a full costume on which was funny.13718607_10210100149928764_7003336209252112772_n

It was really fun until the kids all started crying because they were so sad they had to leave. We are obviously just so much fun they never want to leave us. But onwards and upwards we have a new group arriving and it’s much more diverse with mixed languages so should be a new challenge!

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