A long long time ago, when I was just 19, I worked in Hancock, New York State at a Performing Arts Camp.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that it is in fact the top performing arts camp in the whole of America. I’m glad I didn’t know this, or I probably wouldn’t have gone!
So I decided to teach dancing. I remember arriving, meeting a couple of Polish girls at the airport, and off we went in a van which took us to the camp.
We arrived, we got given a bundle of bedding, and were told to find our bunks. I eventually found mine right at the top of the steepest hill, and had 1 of the Polish girls in there, and another girl from my hometown in the UK- small world!
I remember the first few days were very strange for all of us from the UK; wondering if we were up to the hard work and long days, and wondering when we would actually get some kids to start looking after and teaching as we went the whole first week without students, just getting to know one another and our nature-filled surroundings.
The camp was huge- and that is an understatement. There was an orchestra, recording studios, 6 theatres, a circus, a lake, and a forest, among other things. Everyone at camp was really friendly, and in time it became a family, especially with just how much of a bubble we were living in; no mobile signal, restricted internet and no TV.
The smallest things started to become the biggest deals; Who will ask me to the dance? Which bunk will challenge us to a waterfight at lunch? Is the country club open tonight?
The country club was situated on a golf course, which counselors were allowed to go to once off shift. This was actually only around once a week, if that. Sometimes it got pretty crazy up there, with older staff pouring straight spirits with no mixers, music pumping loudly and not finishing till dawn when we had to be up at 6.30!
Meal times were always fun. Pancakes were always available for breakfast, as well as hot dogs and burgers for lunch, and the same for dinner. The food was on a rotation, so you could imagine the rush when a sudden load of fruit came out of the kitchen! Then came the announcements, “Bunk G1A challenge boys G1B to a waterfight after lunch” or “20 years ago, a beautiful girl was born. Next to her was our counselor- Happy Birthday!” and the whole canteen sung an American style happy birthday.
One time, it was a girls vs boys competition, and we had to do one better than the other. All of a sudden, canoes were lifted up with girls in singing “row row row your boat”- crazy! Another time the boys all of a sudden jumped up dressed as Pac-Man and started invading the lunch hall!
Every evening after a long day of teaching, we would always have an evening activity. It was either a magic show, a theatre performance, or an outdoor game. After evening activity we would go to ‘canteen’ for pizza and ice cream, and a disco. People would break out into routines- It was so fun at the time, especially when they were themed evenings- hippys and celebrities were my personal favourites!
It was usually a late night whilst on duty in the bunk with 13, 11 year old girls. Dealing with homesickness and thunderstorms were usually the worst; wails and cries, screams and tantrums.
Everything was extremely over the top, fantastically joyful and always cheerful. Our morning wake up call was normally Miley Cyrus, or an English song when the Brits attempted to take over the camp on July 4th, so you were sure to wake up with a smile on your face.
There was, however, no privacy at all. This included no locks on any doors, and whatever you flushed down your toilet would come up the persons next to you.
There were holes in the wooden floorboards, causing you to lose many an item underneath the bunk.
This experience not only matured me as a person, but also taught me how to look after other people and to take them into consideration before yourself. Being away from home is hard enough, so to have every individual in the same situation was comforting. Although there was an unimaginable number of moans, I wouldn’t have changed my experience for anything.Tweet