Waking to epic jet lag and a hangover, it was time to start getting things sorted for camp and burning man. I spent a good chunk of the day organising a phone plan to ensure I could stay in touch with my loved ones at home as I knew how hectic camp could be.
We set off East in the evening and eventually found our way through Maple Ridge, an hour out of Vancouver and to Burma Rd
. The camp is located 8klm down the bumpy, dusty Burma Rd outside of Mission and Maple Ridge. It sits on the side of Stave Lake and it was about halfway down the road that we all started to wonder what I was getting into. It seemed, from the state of the road and the calibar of the people travelling on it (in their monster trucks and dirt bikes) that we were heading into the scene of a horror movie. But we persisted and when we rounded the corner into the Zajac Ranch for Children, we had reached an Oasis, lush, green and beautiful. After a tour and farewell to my friends, I met my team, Terri, Colin and Ben, who would be my family for the next few months. We were thrown straight into it and spent the first half of the summer trying to find our feet with our roles and our staff team. There has been a complete staff change over on the Ranch just before I arrived and although the other 3 have worked here before, they had only arrived a few days before me and our counsellors arrived the day after, all 22 of them, and we jumped into staff training. To make things harder, the beautiful mountains that surrounded us were intent of keeping the clouds around and it rained for most of the first 6 weeks of camp. After a 10 day staff training, we had a short break and then it was time for our first camp, a family camp for children with spina bifida or turner syndrome. We then had a camp for children with different medical needs and one for those who are vision impared or blind. Basically back to back, it was an intense 5 weeks and I was glad to have a mini break and get back to see some friends in Vancouver
. After a very hectic 4 days catching up with friends, it was back into it and I started training 2 new staff members before we went into down syndrome/ epilepsy camp. Through out the remaining camps I began to see that I enjoyed the challenges and rewards that working with children wth autism or cerebal palsy presented. I was challanged by the role of unit leader and with keeping a small staff team who were working so hard motivated and focused. But over the course of the summer built my confidance, skills and some great friendships with the staff. My favorite part of camp is the free pass it gives you to dress and act crazy and so I got to dress up as a prince, cruise ship captain, tina turner and a prison guard as well as getting face painted, covered with butterscotch pudding and buckets of freezing water dumped over me more times that I can remember!
It was so different from my camp last year for so many reasons (camp size, my role, proximity to the pub...) but such an amazing way to spend summer. I felt like I acheived my aim to have a different experience than last year while still getting all the positives that come with working at a specialty summer camp.
It was a crazy 2 weeks leading up to my arrival, so that fact that the city was in the middle of a riot seemed a fitting welcome back to Vancouver. I landed late on the night that the city had lost the Stanley Cup, the ultimate Ice Hockey championship and so the fans and a lot of opportunistic thugs started tearing the town apart. I headed straight for my old haunt in Commercial Broadway and met up with Jess and Kiwi Matt who I had not seen in almost 5 months and we talked and drank into the wee hours of the morning.