August 30, 2008

After a short and expensive stop over in Boston ($120 for one night!) the bus took me all the way up through the beautiful green mountains of Vermont before hitting the Canadian border which we passed through relatively smoothly despite having to take everything out of the bus and have all our passports checked. When the bus finally made it Montréal, 2 hours later than the 7 hour trip was scheduled to, I realsied the lack of planning would cost me dear again havig to spend two nights in a shady hotel by the bus station before any hostels came available. However once in the hostel, which is less than half the price of the hotel, it had much more to offer, including free internet, free USA/CAN calls and free laundry etc. Before coming to Montréal, I was well aware of the duality between French and English, but was not expecting everything to be so dominately French.

Montréal at night

At first I found it hard to find where everything was in Montréal, but after finding a tourist information and realising the majority of the new city is underground, as part of the interconnected ‘La Ville Souterraine’ it made life a lot easier. On Sunday I explored more of ‘Vieux-Montréal’ and went to the Museum of Contempary Art in the afternoon, before heading back to the hostel to share a few drinks with people there. Monday was more of a lazy day just staying around Old Montreal some more, I went to the archaeological museum which goes under the streets of the old town before meeting up with Jess in the evening. Now being with someone who knows the city I got to see many parts of the city that I would never of found was I here by myself, for example Monday we went to one of the student areas around McGill to a few bars, including ‘Brutopia’, which brews it’s own beer. 

Now comes the interesting part… I’d planned to stay with Jess during my time here, however she doesn’t have an apartment herself yet so we had to hunt a place while crashing at her friends, but everyone has been great and I’ve met people from all kinds of places. Luckily Jess found a place, signed the lease and moved her stuff in on Saturday when her parents came up who kindly took us both to breakfast. However we still had an amazing time and Thursday evening we went to see a film as the international film festival was in town, ‘Brides of Allah’, a documentary on jailed female suicide bombers which raised lots of questions and on Friday we went to the world press photo exhibition which was really interesting to see and some of the photos were amazing and thought provoking. On Saturday while Jess moved her stuff in I climbed Mont Royal and got to see the city from a different perspective while sweating out all that alcohol from the countless nights of drinking!

The view from Mont-Royal

Tomorrow I leave to go to Plattsburgh, NY before going to NJ/NYC the day after…


Week 8: Photojournalism

August 3, 2008

This week has been a very interesting and very rewarding one. To start I wasn’t teaching and nor was I in cabin but had a special schedule outside of Earth Camp to go visit the rest of camp and catch a glimpse of what they do. On Sunday I spent all day in the office uploading and organising all the photos I’d taken so far (~2000) which was something I’d needed to do for a long while. On Monday I was supposed to be rock climbing but this got postponed due to thunderstorms on Sunday but instead I visisted the two day camps, Farm Camp (Ages 5-8) in the morning and saw them doing chores around the farm and petting all the animals. In the afternoon I headed down to Eco-Zone (Ages Eight – Eleven) and got to hike to Devil’s Foot Rock with them before playing some games in the field down there. Since I’ve been working Earth Camp all summer (Ages 9-13) the different ages of the campers made each camp completely different, just in the way that they were run.

Kids on the farm

On Tuesday I headed out early after breakfast to Conneticut to set up the ropes for the ‘Rock and Trail’ Teen X trip. I got a quick lesson in rapelling down the 60ft drop before the group arrived. I spent most of the day hanging halfway down the wall taking pictures of the kids climbing. It was a really fun day and good to go rapelling and rock climbing, something which I haven’t got to do for a while.

Me rapelling into position

Wednesday saw me finally doing some sea kayaking with the ‘Kayak Rhode Island’ Trip, not the type I’m used to but still good fun and nice to know that I haven’t forgotten how to roll. We kayaked around the coast near Tiverton in East RI, unfortunatley there were no waves but it was still good to get out in a boat. The campers really enjoyed it and they got to get wet and play games in the boats.

My nice orange sea kayak

Friday saw me back on campus and back in the office for the first part of the morning, before getting a call down to the farm for a photo assignment where all the kids were in fancy dress for the day. After that I headed back up to the EEC, took the Earth Camp photo, had lunch and ran the camp store during check out. I really enjoyed this week and hopefully will have the last week as resource to work on the slideshow but for next week I’ll be teaching waterworlds where we get to go to the beach!

Week 7: Outdoor Skills

July 27, 2008

This week has been an interesting one, on Sunday Hannah and I waited by the screen houses while the campers arrived after we set up our cosy one person tents that we’d be staying in for the week. The campers this week have been loud and seemingly uninterested in anything that either Hannah or I had to say. So we started the week how we always do with some name games and in the evening we taught them how to build the camp fire for the rest of the camp and finally before going to bed we took all their watches which they loved us for. We used Monday to teach them about everything that they’d need out on trail such as leave no trace, schmooing (pooing in the woods) and they were fitted for the nice, brand new backpacks.

On Tuesday morning we packed and took the backpacks over to the teen X garage to pick up all the group gear that we had to take such as food, tents and in Hannah and I’s case, the stoves, fuel, knives, extra water and first aid. After getting Ben to shake down the things the kids had packed which led to some interesting begging to take those non essential items such as pillows and stuffed animals we headed out to the start of the trail. It wasn’t long before the complaints of heavy backpacks, ‘are we there yet?’ and ‘how much longer?’ began. Four miles and almost four hours later we arrived at the first campsite where we set up and cooked chicken fajitas, after dinner we took them down to the river where we got our first taste of iodine water which they loved, but really didn’t taste that bad. The first night went smoothly and we left in the morning with no trouble, we hiked the next three miles and arrived at the second campsite at around three in the afternoon, where we set up all the tents and were thinking about getting the fire ready when it all went downhill. Just to set the scene, it hasn’t rained here in Rhode Island for almost 4 weeks so when the heavens decided to open it wasn’t going to stop. In the torrential rain the lightning began, at first a minor scare for the kids but when it really started to come down, a flash flood was developing and two trees near us got struck by lightning the decision was made to get out and evacuate to a safer place. We ditched all of the stuff apart from my rucksack (which had all the med forms, and more importantly my camera in it, all waterproofed of course!) and ran up towards research where we were met by a van which all the kids were bundled into then Hannah and I continued up to the house. In the end everyone got out safely and there were 2 further storms that evening, so being inside felt nice.

The view from research after being rescued

Thursday morning our stuff got picked up from the camp site so we had to hose it all down and hang everything up to dry, during another storm, in the evening a few of us had our night off so we went out to Applebys for dinner which was a welcome change from camp food. On friday we set up all of the tents to dry and finally put everything from the trip away before planning our parents program and sending them home.

Friday evening we had the mid summer staff party down at ecozone with the theme of ‘keeping it green’, where all the coordinators raffled off prizes and I won a free ice cream run from a parlour of my choice from Kate so I can’t wait to cash that in! There was food and a slip and slide and a good time was had by all. Next week I’ll be around taking photos and I know that I’m going rock climbing and kayaking so it will be a good week.

From the title of this post you may expect this week to be similar to the last but you couldn’t be more wrong! The week began with 10 kids this time but one kid got pulled at the last minute due to a knee injury. Everyday was 30C+ which led to swimming being very favourable. On Sunday I ran check in again and was MC of the fire but this week is Indiana Jones themed so instead of being Will I was Indy for the evening, swinging in on a rope. On Monday Amy and I ran the same water based games as last week, we played ‘The incredible journey’, a game where the kids act out water and go through the water cycle. We then got the kids to write a story describing a journey water might take and then to act it out, which led to some interesting stories but this time we were being assessed for our mid summer evaluations which went really well before going to the waterfront to do the swim test.

Early Tuesday we left for Prudence Island (a mere 40 miles away) with 2 hours before the 10am ferry, but severe traffic on 95N which let us do the measured mile in a record 14 minutes got us to Bristol 30 minutes late, missing the ferry. Luckily we for sore this and called ahead to change the reservation and get the snorkels put on the ferry back so we headed to my favourite park, Colt State Park with all the gear for lunch and to go snorkel before the next ferry at 1530. As we eventually got over onto the island we headed to the cottage to get settled in and after dinner hiked down to the T-wharf on the island to look at the animals in the Education Shed before heading back after a long day. On Wednesday we met the staff from the reserve in the morning before heading back to the T-wharf to pull in the minnow traps and seine the shore for fish. We found a surprising array of fish, crabs and eels and this took most of the morning before heading back for lunch. After we headed out for the tour of the island and to walk in the Salt marsh before having a free swim/snorkel on the beach on a very hot day. In the evening we did the fishprints onto the t-shirts and headed to bed.

Leaving the next morning we got a last minute change of location for Save the Bay which sent us up to their HQ in Providence where we went out on their boat into Providence Port where we saw the Navy re-float a sunken Russian submarine which was a museum before it sunk in a storm just over a year ago. Back on campus we had the closing campfire for which I was MC again which was a nice way to end the week. That evening we all went out for a meal at South County Grill, Tavern and Bar before heading to Big River for karaoke.

A navy helicopter going to help resurface the sub.

Weekend in Boston

July 14, 2008

After taking the boss’ advice to take it easy at the weekend and come back rested and almost competely doing the opposite, the weekend began by going out for a seafood in Warwick before heading to the usual bar for some pool and drinks. In america they don’t measure spirts out so it’s all by eye which led to some pretty strong drinks which made getting up early the next day hard.

We left for Boston at 7:30am for the 7:05pm Redsox vs Oriels game, as we had to queue up in order to get tour tickets when the ticket gate opened at 10:00, we drove up to the the edge of the city and took the T in. Compared to the tube the T is a bargin at $2 for a single and avoided all the traffic. After buying tickets from Fenway we had time to burn so we headed into Boston where Tom took the role of tour guide. Boston is a really clean, beautiful city and a shoppers paradise where we got to see most of the main bits including parts of the freedom trail, Quincy Market and all the downtown shops. Quincy market reminds me of Covent Garden in London and was full of cool food shops.

Quincy Market at the lunch rush, Boston, MA

After lunch at Quincy Market we took the T back to Fenway where we started to queue for the start of the tour. The tour went around the whole stadium, up on to the green monster and included standing tickets up on the Coca-Cola deck. While on the green monster the guy two seats to my left got a ball hit to him (a good 100+ yards) away from home base, and this ball was still flying as it smacked the wall behind him at what must of been about 90mph. Before the game started we went to the side of the pitch and watched them during batting practice where 5 of us managed to get balls (unfortunately not me) and it was a good oppourtunity to get up close to the players.

Pitching practice for the Red Sox

The game began with the national anthem and was an amazing game to watch with a really good atmosphere, the final score was Boston Red Sox 12 Baltimore Orioles 1 after almost 4 hours of playing.

Fenway park

Week 5: Bay Mania

July 11, 2008

The week began by running the check in on Sunday where I learned that in my group I’d be having 9 children, who turned out to be a really nice group all bar one who must have been the son of the devil but luckily for us he got pulled off the trip before we left.

On monday all the internationals went to URI to visit the payroll office in Kingston. The trip took much longer than expected due to being called back to campus after going half way home because the returning staff ‘Professors’ hadn’t got their visa’s entered and only had 2 days to do so before DHS came a coming to the camp to take them on a trip to the airport. So we had to go back to a different building on campus while they filled in some more paperwork. The URI campus is typically green and old fashioned as you would expect an American universtity to be all based around a massive quadrangle with fraternity buildings dotted around. On the way back we went via Wendy’s and I got loads of international stamps.

The AΦ Frat House

On tuesday we left early to head to Bristol to catch the 10am ferry to Prudence Island, and once over we met Kit and the other NBNERR staff on the island and got settled into the accommodation we’d be staying in. After lunch we went to the T-wharf from the old Navy base to check the water quality station and see what animals the traps had caught in the sand and in the eelgrass. We found a range of animals inculding crabs, eels and shrimp and while we were on the beach Kit found a horseshoe crab which the kids found amazing.  

Kit showing a Horseshoe crab

After letting the animals go we let the kids snorkel out in the bay before going back for dinner. After dinner we left to walk along the division wall which divided the island between the original two landowners back in the 1800’s. In the evening we watched the BBC’s Planet Earth before going to bed. On wednesday we drove up to the northern half of the island where we explored the salt marsh, and in the afternoon we explored some more traps on a different part of the island to compare our findings before having a free swim on sandy beach. In the evening we printed fish t-shirts and tidied the house ready for the morning where we left on the 1040 ferry. After leaving the island on thursday we headed to Colt state park for lunch before going to Wickford to join a Save the Bay vessel where we explored the Bay by boat and pulled up lobster traps that contained lots of spider crabs.

Me with a spider crab out on the Save the Bay boat

Friday was used to wrap up the week by talking over the rose and thorns of the week and performing a little song for the parents. We did the weekly Lorax play where I was the Brown Barbaloot which the kids enjoyed. This weekend I’m going to Boston to see the red sox and I’m so excited, next week i’ll be teaching Bay Mania again and hopefully this time we’ll have more of an idea of what’s going on.

4th of July Weekend

July 5, 2008

After finishing work early this week we all went to Seven Moons, a restaurant serving 7 different asian foods, where I had a really nice Vietnamese dish. On friday we all had a well deserved lie in before doing a dunkin’ run so we could all wake up. During the afternoon we headed to downtown Providence to go to the mall where I bought a few things including some much needed stamps, some trainers and a top from Abercrombie and Fitch.

The ben and Jerry’s store in the food court

On the way back from the mall we went to an amazing little pizza shop called Antonio’s on Thayer Street which is in the student area of Providence near Brown. It sold pizza by the slice and these slices wern’t small!In the evening we went to Coventry to watch fireworks across a lake for the 4th of july, independence day celebrations. It was an impressive display that lasted almost half an hour and there were lots of boats out on the lake watching.

Fireworks across the lake, Coventry RI

On Saturday after another long lye in a few of us headed to REI, a outdoor shop where I ended up spending close to $200 on much needed watershoes, a waterproof, a knife and some more robust sunglasses. Now I just need to plan for next week  and get everything sorted as I’ll be teaching Bay Mania which covers Fresh and Saltwater ecology while staying on Prudence Island.

For the first week of camp I was in cabin, this meant meeting and greeting the parents on Sunday as they arrived and settling the kids into the cabins where they’ll be spending the week. Most cabins this week have 6-8 kids but somehow I seem to have ended with fourteen 9-12 year olds which has led to some interesting times getting them ready in the morning and asleep at night. The first night I was woken up 3 times during the night by a homesick but the Junior counselor also in the cabin was an expert at dealing with these situations and got him through the night. Throughout the week the cabin has smelt, I haved ‘barf’ to deal with and the hassle of making sure that kids do their teeth.

When not looking after the kids in the morning and evening I’m on resource, which means doing odds and ends around the office/EEC which so far has involved checking tents, making arts and crafts and general office admin. It’s also given me my first oppourtunity to get out with the camera with the kids after I met with the manager to discuss what photos he needs. On tuesday I joined a group doing a stream hike which was a great oppourtunity not just to take pictures but to watch others teach before I have to next week.


Hannah on the stream hike

On wednesday we had two nature rehabilitation officers come in to give a talk with some owls they’ve rescued. Aside from that I spent most of the day making necklaces and sorting out the cage, but in the evening I was the MC of the closing ceremony around a fire at the lost and found which gave the kids a chance to reflect over the week. It was a really nice ceremony as we did not know how it would go being the first time that it’d be done. On the final Thursday I took the whole camp photo and the kids got a chance to show their parents what they’d been doing during the week. Two of us ran the camp shop as the parents arrived selling t-shirts, water bottles and my photo! ($10!) and after the parents had taken the kids we had a final meeting to discuss the week and we were done. 

One of the owls brought into see the kids

This week has been really busy and more program orientated. The week began with meeting the CIT’s (Counselors in Training) and getting to know some of them that we will be working with. They were also used to test some of the evening programs that we had designed earlier in the day before we use them with them the kids that will be arriving on Sunday.

On Monday we were divided up into 3 teams, given a quick map reading lesson and then dropped off on the Connecticut border, having to hike back to camp along the same 8 mile route that we will be taking the outdoor skills groups over 3 days. The aim was to familiarise us with the route, know where the campsites were and not to get lost and of course beat the other teams, however we did lose our way once or twice but we were quickly back on trail knowing where we went wrong. Towards the end of the race, pretty much as soon as we got back on campus and met with one of the other teams the heavens opened which did not dent our spirits and made the sprint for the finish much more fun and the ice cream from Marelby seem so much nicer.

The teams before the outdoor skills hike

Without much of a rest, myself and the 3 other counselors teaching Bay Mania left for Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay at 5.30am on Tuesday morning. We arrived in Bristol early for the 8am ferry, which gave me time to explore a town which is very geared up for the 4th of July celebrations and to find the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, because of course ‘America runs on Dunkin’. On the ferry over we met the staff from the Narragansett Bay Research Reserve who we will be working with. Once on the island we quickly got changed and headed to the beach on the West of the island to run through the activities that we would be doing with the kids. This involved, collecting crabs, analysing things caught from traps set out in different habitats and going snorkelling into the suprising warm Atlantic. We then went to the T dock on the south of the island (the research reserve is a former Navy base) to snorkel again but it began to thunder so we quickly pulled in the nets and got dry. After lunch we stayed inside during an intense thunderstorm doing fish printing onto t-shirts and getting a tour of the lab. During a final drive around the island before the ferry home the lightning picked up and we saw a few forks touch down not to far from our van, but luckily the storm passed before the ferry set sail back to Bristol.

One of the hundreds of flags in Bristol

Once back at camp we realised that we weren’t the only only affected by the storm, our house was actually struck with lightning and the basement of the EEC flooded but everybody is ok and no serious damage was done. Throughout the night the weather improved and by the morning it was a lovely day, perfect for our staff trip to the beach for which we had one of the sterotypical American yellow school buses take us over to East beach. Once there we used the nets to catch fish and look at them and then in the afternoon we got to sunbathe and play in the sea which led to lots of sunburn! In the evening we ran through a few more lessons and had a talk about astronomy and the stars from the boss’ boss which was interesting to see.

Me running Baywatch style into the sea, Photo – Sam Whitehead

On Thursday we began by making decorations for the different themes we would have each week, I was making pirate flags and banners. We then got taught how to do all the outdoor skills we would need by the Teen X staff. In the afternoon Amy and I taught our Bay Mania lesson on the food web before concluding our training with a little ceremony. Friday was the last official day and consisted mainly of a review  of the things we had covered and a little test before we finished around 1pm. Once free a few of us took kayaks out around lake Eisenhower for a little explore before we went out for a meal and drinks at JC’s. Today we went to the beach again, but this time to Narragansett where we sunbathed and surfed on a busy Saturday. We saw a rescue by the lifeguards of two girls who had refused our help earlier who couldn’t swim back to the shore. It was a nice day and a welcome rest before the first kids arrive tomorrow…

After lifeguarding finished we had the weekend to ourselves, those of us who were left in the car went on a trip to find the nearest supermarket even if we did get lost a few times. On the way back we stopped at an amazing ice-cream parlour called Jilani’s i think where there were hundreds of different flavours and types.

Deciding at Jilani’s ice cream parlour

On Saturday night we went for a BBQ at Jess’ house where we relaxed in the pool and hot tub, warming up around a fire before returning back to camp, which was a really nice time to get off camp and relax.

So far in staff training we have played games and watched a few movies. Tuesday saw a visit to the Social Security office and Wednesday we learned how to teach a canoe lesson, and I subsequently got a bit sunburnt paddling around the lake. On thursday we completed our non-surf lifeguarding test in the shallow water of Burling game state park near Charlestown towards the Connecticut border, which was really beautiful.

Me after the nonsurf test Photo – Clare Powers

The test itself involved rescuing from the lake using the rescue tube, the torpedo and finally the surfboard. On Friday we learned where and who we’d be living with and the programs we’d be teaching. For the first few weeks at least I’ll be doing bay mania over on Prudence Island and outdoor skills, for which I’m doing a 16 hour ‘Wilderness First Aid (WFA)’ course this weekend. Last night all of the staff camped out which was a good opportunity to meet some of the staff I’d yet to have met.

Me, Karena and AJ at the camp out, photo – Clare Powers

Next week the training becomes more program specific and there’s even a staff trip to the beach, I bet you don’t get that with most jobs!