Tuesday 31 July 2012

Ain't No Social Like A Neon Social!

The Social Dance

This is how we dance at our socials!

Social! Social!

Every girl at camp waits for those magic words just after lunch – it’s a social!
If there is one way to blow every fuse at camp it is to announce that we are going to having a social with the boy’s camp and everyone plugs in a straightener! Whether it’s with our brother camp, Kawaga, or the much waited for Ojibwa or even Horseshoe, Timberlane and Menominee – everyone loves a social!
It’s great if we have the social at Agawak and the boys come to see us – we set up a DJ on the tennis courts or we have a dance party in Happy Camper Hall (and don’t forget the brownies!). Even better is if we get to go on the yellow school buses to the boys camps for socials. Most camps have a DJ or some kind of sound system. This year Monster Entertainment have been doing all of the camp socials and we have had the excitement of real DJs.
Basically it is a giant dance party. Girls are excited to see their friends and brothers from the boy’s camps. The only rule – don’t let your belly button show! Think a 5th grade disco and that’s a social. A little awkward at the start and ends up jumping! Usually the counsellors are the ones right up by the stage dancing away!

Campfire Girl

One of the biggest honours at Camp Agawak is to receive the award of campfire girl.
Every Monday night we gather as a camp to sing songs, show off our talents and enjoy each other’s company around a campfire. It is one of the most special nights of the week and everyone looks forward to it.
As a first year counsellor it can be a little overwhelming to hear all of the songs and realise that EVERYONE knows the words. But not to worry – we sing the songs so often that you soon learn the words.
My personal favourites are One Dark Night, Lollipop, Coconut, Three Jolly Fisherman and Tongo. All of the songs are so catchy and great fun to sing and campfire is by far my favourite evening program.
The funniest part is that even when camp is over and you are home you will find yourself singing these songs. You will be in the middle of the shopping centre and will find yourself humming a tune and smile at the memory of camp.
But the most important part of campfire is the campfire girl speeches. Every Monday there are three lucky campers (a junior, an intermediate and a senior) and two counsellors (a junior and a senior) chosen to be campfire girls. They are given a wood carving of the Agawak campfire to keep forever. They then write a speech about their time at Agawak and things they are grateful for. It is a really important speech and campers often start writing their campfire girl speeches in their first year in the hopes that they will receive the award.
Last year a counsellor received the award of campfire girl. She had been at camp for 12 years and had never before gotten campfire girl. Her speech had parts that she had written in her first year at camp and she had been adding to it since then. It was something that she had dreamed about earning! The fact that she made the speech wearing a ball gown only added to the special occasion.
I was lucky enough this year to earn campfire girl for my second time. Last year, I was granted the honour at the second campfire of the summer and I had no idea what it was. I had missed first campfire because I was on a camping trip and so I did not fully understand the importance of the award.
When I was given campfire girl this year I was honoured. To receive it for a second time was more than a surprise and because I now fully understood the award I was even more honoured. Finally I was able to write a proper campfire girl speech, knowing what it was all about.
Although it may seem silly, and might be a bit boring – I have put my speech in here so that you can get an idea for what a campfire girl speech is all about.

I throw this key log into the fire for my 2 AMAZING summers at Agawak.
When Mary asked me last year if I thought I would like to come back my immediate response was YES! It wasn’t until later that I realised that I had to work out the logistics of being a teacher back home and having to leave mid-year. But I knew that I had to come back to Agawak.
From the minute I drove out of Agawak for the last time and watched that sign fade into the distance I was counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until I came back. The bus ride from Milwaukee this year seemed longer than the 14 hours it took for my plane to get to San Francisco from Melbourne because I knew what was waiting for me in Minocqua.
As an outsider it is easy for me to see the wonder that is Agawak. We don’t have ANYTHING like this back home and I can’t believe that I have the honour of coming her for a “job”. This is not a job. It is a gift and I am grateful to share this experience with everyone here.
Agawak wouldn’t be what it is without the people and without them I wouldn’t be the person I am. To my beautiful girls in cabin D and J last year – you are now CITs. You made it and you are doing an amazing job! Love every minute of these days and love each other. I couldn’t be prouder.
To my crazy, wonderful, fantastic and amazing cabin 11 girls; Caroline, Katie, Ashley, Molly, Sam, Sophie, Nat, Hanna, Abby and Sarah – you have come so far in these few short weeks and I am so proud of you. I couldn’t love you more if I tried. I have so much fun with you guys and you are bringing camp to life for me. You may sometimes keep me up until 3:30 in the morning but I cherish all of the moments we are building together. I am so proud to see you growing into young women.
To my co – Samara – it should be you standing here, not me. You are the backbone in our relationship. You make me laugh, you listen to me whine, we talk about boys, you give me full support and you are amazing. I couldn’t have been luckier with a co and I’m so happy its Ketchup and Mustard all the way! Sometimes I forget that this is your first year as a counsellor. You are so level headed and handle everything so well. Thank you so much for everything.
To the JCs – you are all amazing and doing such a great job as counsellors. I have never met such strong young women in my life. I love it when you guys drop into our counsellor room and I get to stuff you with Australian candy.
To the SCs – I love your passion and dedication to camp. You guys bring so much spirit and you help us clueless Australians understand the ins and outs of camp.
To the international staff – including the New Americans – you are the greatest people ever! To take a chance and travel from all over the world to this tiny little place in Wisconsin – it takes courage and you are some of the bravest people I have ever met. You are there for each other and you always look out for each other.
Lori +Nat – you are like sisters from across the pond to me. I love it when we bump into each other in the lodge and our accents collide.
Liane – thank you for always making me smile and having a hug ready.
Genna with a G – mate you rock my socks! I always have a blast with you and I am so glad to have met you. I can’t wait to go have dinner with your mum!
Lauren – the counsellor room isn’t the same without you. Thank you for those few short weeks that you were in our cabin.
To Mama Suzi – you know I don’t cry, but… I’m glad you always have a hug and a shoulder for me. You are more than a mum away from home to me and if there is one thing on earth that I am grateful for – it is you. You’ve gotten me through some tough times, you always give me an ace schedule and you are there with advice for me (even when I don’t take it).
To Mary and the office staff – what you guys do is totally underrated. I swear you guys are what keep camp running. Mary, I don’t know when you ever find the time to sleep. Thank you so much for building this wonderful place and giving me the chance to come back here for the second time. You have changed my life and the life of so many others in thousands of ways. I don’t think you know how much it means to me that I can call Agawak home. It truly has changed my life.
I came here last year a little bit crazy and felt overwhelmed. Agawak accepted me and gave me the chance to be myself, to be crazy and to have fun endlessly. Agawak taught me to truly trust and rely on others and it taught me how to cry. I made some of the most AMAZING friends that I still keep in touch with. I was able to prank freely – Karissa you better go find your bed! Kobe and Karissa – you guys have unleashed something that will continue forever and I love it!
For Karhlia, who isn’t here to tease me for crying – you are one of the best friends I ever had and I love you like a twin. From those midnight showers in pre-camp 2011 where I lost my pants in the woods to those 20 crazy hours in LA. You got me through so much and I can’t wait to get together back in OZ. This year has been a whirlwind and I wish you were still here. You got me through being camp sick, San Francisco sick and being Karhlia sick. I miss and love you mate!
To finish off, I just want to say that Agawak is a gift. Every day here is precious and should be lived to the full. There are so many people who don’t know about this wonderful place so make the most of being one of those few. Take every day and make it your own. Don’t let anything – bugs, chicken on chicken on chicken or cabin clean up – stop you! Take chances, be daring and brave and make yourself a story worth telling!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Casino Night

One of the most looked forward to and greatly enjoyed evening programs at Agawak is Casino Night.

Happy camper hall is transformed into a giant casino and the campers play games to win Agawak Dollars. Agawak Dollars can be earned to go towards a cabin's end of session prize. There are all the classic games including Black Jack, Indian Poker, Colour Wheel and many more. It is great fun, but watch out for cheating! One of the biggest games of the night is to see how much money counselors can sneak to their campers!

Counselors dress in all black and act as the dealers and bankers. We walk around the "club" as servers with platters of Goldfish crackers, sausage rolls and snacks. Each cabin dresses up in their own "theme" and quite often there are some great costumes to be seen.

There is music, colourful lights and dance parties everywhere. It is a high energy, fun packed night and the kids love it!

I was lucky enough to be a Black Jack dealer and had a great time going "all in" with campers who were convinced they could beat the dealer. I have to admit that I let some questionable moves slide but the kids really loved it when the I doubled their bets or put the whole pot in. 

Naturally, the night turned into a dance party, as most Agawak evening programs do, and we got to bust out our moves to the hottest tunes. It was a great night and I'm already looking forward to the next Agawak Casino night!

Parent's Weekend

Camp Agawak is a 2 session camp. Halfway through some campers go home, some new ones come and some stay on for the whole summer. This weekend is called Parent's Weekend. 

The days leading up to this weekend consist of cleaning cabins and packing up duffles for the first session campers who are going home. Campers who only stay first session all leave on the Friday morning on buses to go back home. Its a very sad, crazy day saying goodbye to new and old friends. Camp feels a little bit empty and everyone feels a bit sad. We hold fun activities like tubing and a movie in Happy Camper Hall for the kids who are still at camp. Its a great night with pizza and everyone sitting together to enjoy the film.

The next morning is one of the busiest of the summer. Visitor's Day. We wake up bright and early and get ready for all of the parents to come. I got myself into KWAK (the camp radio station) at 8:30am to start the radio show for the parents to listen to. 

Its such great fun to meet all of your campers parents. They love to know about you and where you are from. They like to hear all the great things their children have been doing at camp and they are always very grateful for your hard work. For you Aussies - remember that tipping can be common and the best thing to do is be polite, grateful and thank them. It is considered rude to refuse a tip, even though for us it seems really awkward to accept one.

The campers go with their parents for the rest of the day and overnight. They look forward to seeing their parents and showing them around camp and they love being able to introduce their parents to their counselors. On top of that - they love being able to go to Wal Mart to stock up on candy again!

Once the campers are all gone we get a list of any new campers coming into cabins, staff and cabin swaps happen and you get your cabins ready for second session. Depending on whether you have new campers coming in; you may need to make a new job chart, add more beds or make a new candy cup. In all it is a long but fun and exciting day and the pay off is a that you get a night off to get an early night's sleep to get ready to start all over again the next day!

Care Packages are Made to be Shared

The above statement is very true. Care packages really are made to be shared, unless you can sneak it back to your cabin without being seen. And if the said care package contains Malteasers - you will RUN WITH IT!

Never underestimate the wonder and importance of food (especially candy) from your home country when you are at camp. Trust me when I say, any mail is good mail but a care package is the greatest thing you will get in your day! Ask friends and family to send you things like Cherry Ripes, Mars Bars, Crunchies, Chupa Chups and Smith's Chips. Not only are you going to miss these things in the most serious fashion imaginable but they are great to share with your campers.

While the most popular food that Aussies bring over to the USA with them is Vegemite it is definitely not the most popular amongst the Americans. If you really want to win them over come loaded with a few packets of Tim Tams. At camp you will instantly be the most popular person if you have a few of these babies on hand. And don't forget to teach them how to suck hot chocolate through the Tim Tam - this makes for great competitions. 

Other fun things to make and bake are pavlova, damper and lamingtons. All of the ingredients for these are pretty readily available in a local Wal Mart or supermarket and they are pretty easy to cook. They taste great and are a good insight into Australian cuisine. 

Mail is a huge deal at camp. Every day your campers are going to ask you at least 100 times for their mail. And at about week three it can get a bit sad if you haven't gotten any mail at all. Encourage your family and friends to write to you; even if it is only a post card. It helps with homesickness and is a great fun way to stay in touch. 

Most of your camps will stock stamps or you can buy some at the local post office. The average price of international postage is $1.05. You will find yourself writing more than you have ever written in your life. Remember that many camps have little to no internet access and the best way to stay in touch is good old fashioned snail mail. 

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Welcome to the best cabin at camp!

4th of July

Who's the Birthday Girl of the day? It's U...S-A!

Happy 4th of July. Only the BIGGEST day of the year at camp!

Not only does the WHOLE of Minocqua line the main street for the parade, but Agawak for Girls is one of the main attraction. Over half of the camp participates in the parade dance (where they dance over a mile!) and spent the first two weeks of learning it.

Naturally, it was a complete scorcher and half the girls were exhausted before the parade even started but they pulled through like champs and gave the crowd an amazing show.

Following the parade the whole camp went down to the lake to watch the local ski club - the Min-Aqua Bats - perform. Tricks, stunts, skiing, cool boats and all manner of fun later we moved back to our base camp and got ready for fireworks.

The 4th of July Minocqua fireworks are something that I look forward to all year. It's a great show, the kids love it and its the end to an amazing day. Everyone loves it!

I was lucky enough to get a ride back to camp in the camp fire truck. Yes! The best fun to be had ever!

Its hard to believe that another 4th of July is over and done with and I'm already counting down the days until the next one!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Skinny Love

Jamming at camp fire. Favourite part of every week is Monday night campfire

4th of July!

Agawak in the Minocqua parade

The beautiful sunset over Blue Lake! Nothing like taking out the pontoon boat and fishing the evening away. 

Happy Halloween from some of the Agawak Internationals!

Happy 4th of July from Main Street Minocqua, WI!!
White Team Staff preparing for Colour Wars "Spelling Bee".

Counsellor of the Day!

Who’s the counsellor of the day? It’s me! It’s me!

That’s right! Finally, in my second year at camp, I have been bestowed the honour of Counsellor of the Day. With a lanyard to prove it and everything!
But what makes a good counsellor? Well, I talked to campers and counsellors alike about this and here is what I came up with.
A good counsellor:
·         Always has a smile ready for their campers
·         Is approachable
·         Is high energy
·         Wants to spend time with/likes their campers
·         Is a good hugger
·         Can function on little to no sleep
·         Has lots of ideas
·         Is responsible but still fun
·         Can be a good mother/father figure but can still be a friend
·         Is super flexible
·         Has lots of good ideas
·         Is a good listener
·         Commiserates with their campers instead of always telling them how to fix problems
·         Is fair
·         Is interesting
·         Likes to join in
·         Pulls good pranks
·         Gets to know their campers really well

That’s just a few, but probably the most commonly mentioned ones. Being a good counsellor isn’t just about being able to enforce the rules – because realistically you try your best to keep the campers happy and some pranks might bend the rules a little bit. But it’s more about getting to know your campers as people; what they like, who their family is, what they study, what makes them happy or sad. Also, being there for your campers; being ready with a hug or a high five; encouraging them; making them laugh when they are homesick; listen to them whinge about their bunkmate; being firm but fair – all of this makes a good counsellor.
There’s a reason why it is the hardest, but the most rewarding job in the world. Just the other day someone said that campers should be grateful of their counsellors. Who else would have a slumber party with 11+ girls seven days a week, 24 hours a day? Their parents would give up after two days. While it was pretty funny at the time, a lot of the campers agreed and as a counsellor it does make you realise just how much we do to look out for these kids.
Yeah, it’s the toughest, most tiring, full on, intense experience of your life – but it is honestly the most amazing! I think of what life might be now if I had never discovered CCUSA and Camp Agawak. I actually can’t fathom it. My life would not have gone the way it has. I wouldn’t have met the people I have. I wouldn’t have touched the lives of the kids I have met. I wouldn’t have discovered my home away from home, nor had the most amazing time imaginable!