Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Li'l Bird

Rosetaina, our Li'l Bird, the Cheez-it Baby passed away 2 weeks ago. I don't know the details; I only know that she stopped eating again, was hospitalized, went into a coma and finally died. Her biological mother was with her until the end.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farewell First Session

Our First Session here at camp ended a few days ago. It was the usual flurry of activity and tearful good-byes. For me, that last week was particularly interesting.

Every session, we have Lobster and Steak night which, as the name suggests, is a dinner consisting of lobster and steak. A camper named Raelyn is deathly allergic to lobster so I arranged a special dinner for her and several of her good friends. We had our own table complete with flowers and mood music on a deck overlooking the beautiful river. It was a charming evening, starting with "family" prayer and ending with some silly dancing.

Lobster night is rather stressful for me, with the weight of what could happen if I am not extremely careful. So I was deeply relieved when dinner ended with no incidents. 2 hours later, I was fully engrossed in judging camper skits when Raelyn came to me. "Kez, I'm starting to get hives on my legs and my throat is getting tight. It feels exactly the same as 5 years ago when I went into anaphylactic shock and my heart stopped beating."

In less than 10 minutes, I had dosed her with benadryl and was driving to the ER with her, epi pens in hand and an ambulance on its way to meet us halfway. Holding her, checking her breathing and her heart rate, and praying to myself, "God, please don't let this sweet camper die on my watch!"

Long story short, we made it to the ER before she went fully anaphylactic. After a few hours and some IV drugs, they sent us home. My next 48 hours were spent quarantined in the infirmary with a recovering Raelyn while the staff and campers completely sterilized camp and themselves. We believe Rae got contaminated from one of the director's little children kissing her and from her counselor drawing on her face with a marker that she kept licking to moisten. For about a week, Raelyn continued to wheeze and feel weak, but by the end of the session, she was fully healthy. Thank God!

Another patient who spent a period in the infirmary was my friend Hannah's little brother, Andrew. He came down with a horrible unproductive cough. He felt fine, but the cough was keeping him and most of his cabin awake, so he spent a night with me. Isn't he adorable?

I did eventually run out of sick campers so I got to join in the final activities such as beach day...

...and Freeport day where all our European campers go crazy at Abercrombie and Fitch, Ralph Lauren, and the Nike store. I spent the day with a few Mainers instead, eating enormous ice creams, exploring the town, and modeling pink polos.

We finished with a banquet and award ceremony where I gave my campers awards such as "MVP: Muddiest Valuable Player" for Daniel who spent more time diving or being knocked over during sports than he actually spent playing, and "Better Late than Never" for my buddy Alex who arrived a week late. I didn't get to give my brother an award, but next session, I will fight off the guy counselors and claim him for myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Best day off EVER!

Every week, I get 24 hours off. I usually sleep for about 10 hours and then spend the next 14 hours shopping for necessities and catching up with the outside world: sending letters and emails, calling family and friends, and updating my blog. But 2 weeks ago, my day off was a little different...

One of my former campers, Augustin, was staying in Boston and really wanted to see me. Hannah, one of my close friends on staff, opted to come with me for a short overnight to Boston. We were excited to spend a big chunk of time together, talking about girl stuff and camp issues. At dinner, the night we were leaving, Michael Princiotta, a 17 year old worker, discovered that we were going to see Augustin and before I could blink, he had gained permission from his parents and the camp director to come with us. Michael has been at Chop Point every summer that I have, but I've never really gotten to know him. Needless to say, Hannah and I were a bit bummed that our girl time was to be invaded by 17 year old boy.

We got in the car and I prefaced our 3 hour drive by warning Michael that he was in a staff car and everything said over the next 24 hours was strictly confidential and not to be repeated especially to campers. And then we talked. Hannah and I talked about all the things that we would normally have talked about, but this time with a third party who, to our surprise, offered intelligent relevant comments. By hour 2, we were laughing wildly about the flirtatious gas station attendant, eating M&M's and hint of lime chips, sharing stories and feeling like we'd all known each other forever.

We spent the night at my parents' condo and in the morning, we picked Gus up and took him to my favorite breakfast restaurant in Boston, Sorella's. If you're ever in town, you should definitely check it out. Best pancakes in the world!

After breakfast, we took Gus down to the Arnold Arboretum and just walked and talked. He and I have been close for several years but we don't get to talk very often. It was great to hear how he's doing and see how he has grown since last year.

On the ride down, Michael had kept us in hysterics with stories about his crazy grandmother. She lives in the Boston area, so after we dropped Augustin at the train station, we went to her house where she fed us more food than we could have eaten in a week. She was thrilled to meet us and referred to me and Hannah the entire time as "the girls". "Michael, you should show the girls where your dad used to go fishing." "Michael, next time, you need to take the girls to your aunt's house too." She was just as crazy as he had described and it was so hard to keep from laughing out loud.

We got into the car with plenty of time for the ride home, so I told my friends that we could stop anywhere they wanted on the way. Our first stop was at Stonewall's Kitchen in York, Maine. We sampled close to 50 different salsas, sauces and jams, and modeled some of their kitchen outfits.

Our next stop was Cabella's, a giant camping goods store in Scarborough. We checked out their aquarium, the elaborate arrangements of wildlife (dead and stuffed), and practiced target shooting.

Just as we were leaving Cabella's, we realized that I did not have my phone. After an unsucessful search of the car, we decided that I must have dropped it at Stonewall's when I fell on the hill picking wildflowers. So we called Dave, the camp director, told him we'd be about an hour late, and drove back to York. No phone. Hannah called it for the 5th time and finally, someone answered. My phone had been found at North Quincy station, the train stop where we had deposited Augustin that morning. There was nothing for it but to drive back to Boston. The man assured us that he would be working at the station all night, so we could get it any time.

At North Quincy, Hannah stayed with the car while Michael and I went in. There was no one there. We called the T headquarters and were informed that North Quincy does not have staff after 7:45pm. Oh dear.

As I was talking with headquarters, Michael suddenly shouted, "Look, Kez! I can see your phone!" And there it was, sitting on the desk less than 2 feet away from us, behind a locked window.

We waited for nearly an hour until an MBTA official came and opened the kiosk for me. At that point, it was too late to try to drive back to camp, so we decided to spend a second night at my house and return to camp in the morning. We even got to watch the last innings of the Sox game!

All in all, my 24 hour day off lasted 40 hours. And although given the circumstances, it could have been a very hectic and frustrating day, it was actually my favorite day off in 3 years at camp. I could not have asked for better companions and now, we are best buddies. The whole camp teases me about my extended day off, but it was more than worth it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Chop Point fun

What do you do when the weather continues to be MISERABLE and you have 50+ teens who are too cold and too wet to go windsurfing and sailing and waterskiing?

You could try sending all the kids into the woods in 6 teams with just a rope, a knife and a hand saw. The result: 6 beautiful rafts with varying degrees of floatability.

You could also load all the campers into a bus and drive to the Kennebec Ice Arena for some skating. If you can't beat the weather, just embrace it!

All hope is not lost, however! The sun finally made a brief appearance during 4th of July weekend when I was on a 2 day sailing trip out of Rockland. We nearly shipwrecked on the first day during a powerful thunderstorm but after that, it was clear and beautiful. And cold. I wore more clothing than I have worn in the past 18 months.

After 4th of July weekend, the weather shifted in our favor. FINALLY. We were able to start playing outdoors more often and even attend fireworks in Bath.

One of my close friends among the counselors, Maggie, got engaged during community week so another counselor, Hannah, and I planned a little surprise party for her. No alcoholic beverages on camp property, but the sparkling cider was delicious!

Lip sync night, featuring my former camper Lyndsey as Avril Lavigne.

Most people celebrate Halloween in October, but here at Chop Point, we celebrate it in July. I have never gone through a haunted house before, but I allowed the kids to bully me into going through the one we'd created at the farmhouse up the road. I don't think I let go of Tom's hand the entire time!

And throughout it all, I stay very busy in the infirmary taking care of bumps and bruises, scrapes and splinters, heart breaks and homesickness. On an average evening, I have 5 or 6 kids in the infirmary and another 5 or 6 waiting on the stairs for me to be free. It's the official hot spot after evening activity especially for kids who have known me in past years and just want to talk. I occasionally have to physically remove kids at lights out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thank you!

I have raised enough money to help my homeless families from the Ravine! In fact, you have been so generous that I have received more than I asked for. The extra will be put into an emergency fund to help with medical costs in the Ravine such as meds that I can't get donated or fees for xrays and blood tests at local hospitals. My families will receive the money within the next few weeks through my friends at Much Ministries.

A huge "Thank you!" to everyone who responded with donations and with prayers. We are so grateful for both!

"It rained and poured for 40 daysies, daysies..."

OK, it hasn't actually been 40 days yet. It's only been...hmmmm...26 days!!

If that isn't enough of a clue for you, I'll make it completely clear: I am not in Haiti. I am beginning week 5 of 10 weeks at summer camp in Maine. Normally, I look forward to my summer "vacation" as an idyllic time of sunshine, green trees, lots of river swimming, and beautiful sunsets. And thus far, I have enjoyed exactly...hmmmm...3 days of said idyllic weather. The rest of the time, it has been raining or misting or pouring or drizzling or dripping or fogging or drenching or RAINING!

The day the docks flooded:

But here's the thing: we don't let the weather ruin our summer here at Chop Point! My average day consists of staff meeting at 6:30am where we pray for it to get sunny. At breakfast, I give out morning meds and try to convince campers that their sweatshirts don't smell like mildew (a blatant lie). At 9:00, I lead French Bible study with the French campers in the boathouse because it's too wet to sit in the gazebo where we normally sit. At 10:00, I climb the hill to the field where I play a vicious game of muddy soccer with an incredible group of 15 muddy campers with muddy cleats and muddy clothes that they wore in the last 3 muddy games of soccer. Did I mention that we're all rather muddy? At 11:00, I go down to the docks, try unsuccessfully to wash the mud off my arms and legs, and then stand in the rain wearing 2 fleeces and a rain jacket lifeguarding the 10 brave kayakers and 3 very brave waterskiers who have the courage to face the elements. At 12:00, I take off my 2 fleeces and my rain jacket and I put on a shorty wetsuit so I can teach Swim for Fitness, a class consisting of 7 girls who turn progressively blue over the next hour of swimming but do everything I tell them to do. At 1:00, I take a steaming hot shower and shiver my way to the dining hall for lunch.

Waterfront activities: sailing, kayaking, blobbing, and canurfing

In the afternoon, it's pretty much the same picture. Add in a delightful sail in the rain, perhaps a trip to the blob where I sit in the rain and watch campers hurl each other into the water with gusto, a ride in a motor boat to rescue a windsurfer who got caught in the current and is on his way to the next town downriver, and an epic game of ultimate frisbee from which we emerge coated head to toe in mud and completely and utterly happy.

Mud fight with my frisbee co-leader

All in all, we are wet and cold but we are having lots of fun! And rumor has it that in 8 days, the sun is going to come out. So we are hanging in there. I miss Haiti, but I love seeing my American kids again, catching up with them, and partaking in all the fun and mud that is Chop Point Camp.

Staff week: Painting cabins, relaxing in my room after hauling my bed and armchair across camp, lifeguard training on a slightly less rainy day.

Teaching Ella to play piano

Sports night: the incredible Red Team

Campfire with cabin Cranberry

All dressed up for Horse Races

Welcome to Chop Point!