Time is just Team with an I

Edmund Rice Camps for Kids WA are a kind of retreat for me. It is a time not only to get together with strangers and unite for a greater good (namely the children we take care of and have fun with), but to break away from the pressing needs of life and spend some time doing some good, real, genuine work for people. When I left to go on camp, I hadn’t signed up for half my units at university, I had cancelled some last-minute shifts at work and was trying to give away others and I had a bunch of other things that were looming over me. I dropped them all for about a week, and now that I’m back it’s so hard and kind of pointless to pick them back up.

I’m really, really stressed out at the moment. I have no desire to continue my work at Curtin Library. Under the new management, it’s a slightly tighter ship with less laughs and more punctuality. It’s not totalitarian by any standards, but I’m sensing more and more pressure from my new boss to be more reliable, and rightly so. I feel guilty turning down and giving away so many shifts, but I just started a new job at PICYS and I haven’t exactly been reliable there either. In my first two weeks, I’ve cancelled like three shifts due to illness and camp, which is all very reasonable. But the work is still going on without me, and the longer I’m not a part of it the more I’ll need to catch up on when I get back. Due to working 2.5 days a week, there’s a lot less free time to work at the library and the conflict of occupations is driving me crazy. I can’t fully attend to either, and by chasing two rabbits they’re both tripping me up. But the thing is, working at PICYS, as good as it is, has a pretty significant emotional toll, and every day I feel exhausted. There are things I can do to re-energise myself, but it’s draining. Furthermore, I don’t want to be the president of SWSA anymore. I was kind of pushed into it, but I barely wanted a committee role in the first place, and now to be expected to be president? To seek out opportunities for SWSA to further itself and to fight for the rights of students while organising and hosting events for them? I just don’t want to pick up the extra slack.

What I really, genuinely want right now is some me time. I realised that I’ve been stressed about how much crap I fill my days with. I thought studying part-time would give me more freedom to do the things I love. What it’s created instead is a large vacuum in my schedule which is sucking in everything mildly interesting. I’m not so much doing the things I want to as the things I kind of should, like keeping some friendships going, working more and volunteering for stuff. It’s not bad, it’s just they’re not what I really want to be doing. I want to train. I want to train so badly, just all day and night going hard at it and honing by body, mind and spirit. I want to read, those dozens of books I have. I want to play those hundreds of hours worth of games I’ve collected but barely tapped into. I want to study Sexology and Psychology and Human Biology. But with all this shit that’s been stealing my time, I’m having a lot of trouble focussing on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

I want to cut back on work. I want out of D&D for a while. I don’t want to go to any conventions of social events unless I choose to go, rather than being obliged to. I want enough space to develop who I am. Maybe I just have to learn to say “No” more. I think I should really investigate this, because I don’t have any time to waste not being happy.

Camp 1, July ’08

I guess this is more for memory’s sake than anything else, but Edmund Rice Camps for Kids are really special to me. The camp I just came back from wasn’t quite what I remembered it to be. The first few hours when it was wet and gloomy made me incredibly miserable. The kids wouldn’t listen to anything I tried to make them do, and no matter what I did to try and make them behave or play with everyone else or follow the group activity, they’d just run off or hit someone or something like that. By dinner, I had thoughts about going home and not being able to cope. I’m not sure what changed after that, but when we went to bed, the kids were still being horribly disobedient and causing all kinds of hell. Somehow though, it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it was because I wasn’t trying to make them do what I thought was best, but I’m really not sure how it became amusing. Those kids really know how to cause trouble, and thinking back, it makes me smile.I have to say, this camp was a lot more challenging than its predecessor. The kids I spent the most time with were Hayden, Brandon, Thomas, Logan and Coddi. Each and every one of them was more than deserving of a backhand, particularly the last three. Hayden turned out to be a great kid, and he really opened up his heart at the end. Brandon is Brandon, hitting people in the nuts and wrestling with everyone, but he kind of made up for it by looking me in the eyes and saying “You’re my best friend.” He gave me lots of hugs and even a kiss somewhere, and even though I knew it was inappropriate, it was a little heart-warming. Thomas… Man oh man, whatever happened to that kid? He was the sweetest little guy last time, and in those six months, he’s transformed into a swearing, throwing, hurting, teasing, disobedient little asshole. I felt really sorry for everyone who had to keep in contact with him for group activities and at night. Logan started out as an enigma, seemed to enjoy himself later on, then turned absolutely foul for no apparent reason. He just kept yelling shut up, even to people who weren’t talking, and he got into a few fights with Hayden. I get the feeling Hayden has a lot to defend. As for Coddi… I’m not sure whether it was his hearing problems or his downright ignorance, but he had a remarkable ability to block out everything that he didn’t want to hear. And let me tell you, when you’re on camp to have fun, there is a WHOLE lot you don’t want to hear. I think he played the broken, four-stringed guitar in every single skit on skit night. He was a nightmare to get to cooperate, but I’m glad he had a good time.

Other kids to mention are Elishia, who clung to my arm and pretended to be some sort of abnormal growth. A giant tumour of some form that could control my brain and tell me what to do. I just thought her vocabulary and creativity were well beyond her years so I played along, even if the clinging did prevent me from doing many other activities. Chris is the brightest little kid I’ve ever met. He’s what Annaliese would have referred to as ‘hyper-intelligent’. He thinks like a witty teenager and saw right through all the activities we were throwing at the kids. He knew they were pointless and nothing would happen if he didn’t participate, so he sort of entertained himself with some of the most hilarious jokes I’ve ever heard. I think a lot of the time he’s quite bored with the life he lives, but he played with the other kids to humour them (and in doing so, got some joy out of it himself). Most of all, I saw that he was happiest when he was running for his life or playing imagination games with the other boys. At heart, Chris, despite his precociousness, wants to be a kid, and I’m really glad he got the chance to be one.

I learned a lot from this camp. I learned about my own prejudices, and to look past behaviour to see the real cause of a problem. I learned that sometimes, there really is nothing you can do, and maybe you’d better leave it to someone more qualified. I learned that sometimes, the rules really kinda suck, and as long as you’re safe and fun, what’s the problem?

Although I enjoyed this camp, it really doesn’t have anything on January. I made some incredible friends there. We were family. I miss them, and I love them. We skipped a day and a half of camp, so we lost a lot of leader-bonding time and kind of got thrown into things. I felt we were forced to cooperate for the kid’s sakes rather than worked as a team on the whole. The winding down, final camp debrief wasn’t as majestic either. Rather than go back to camp and stay up all night eating junkfood and being stupid, we headed back to Westcourt for a few hours to play uno and reflect. Although I’ve made some friends, it’s really not the same. Maybe January, ne?

So that was camp! Back in the “real world” life is as busy as ever. Time really doesn’t wait for anyone, does it? Well, I’m about a half hour late for Bethwyn’s house and lunch, so I’d better scoot off. Sorry honey, I’m on my way! Can’t wait to see you again. It gives me chills just thinking about it. See y’all later, I guess! Peace out from Ninjajohn.


Camp 3, Summer of 2008

My first Edmund Rice Camps for Kids experience was an absolutely mind-blowing one. Although I’ve had little experience with children, every single leader there (all 25 of us) worked together to give the kids the greatest holiday of their lives. It was incredible. I tell you truly, none of you will understand what I’m trying to say unless you have experienced the camp yourself- it’s just impossible to describe with any kind of language. Of the past five and a half days, I will never forget:

  • Being known as ‘The Ninja’ within three hours without mentioning the word once.
  • Chasing Brandon down the road when he ran away from camp. I picked him off the ground so he couldn’t escape and gave a casual “Good day sir!” to someone who was watering their lawn, before piggybacking him all the way back.
  • The Circle of Fun.
  • Sitting on the side of the road with Esther as we tried to get Caleb to come back to the group.
  • The look on Thomas’ face when he got dunked by the first wave.
  • Playing scarecrow in the river. So, so tired.
  • “Are you having a ball?”
  • Katie painting my toenails hot pink.
  • Scrubbing my toenails with nail polish remover.
  • Donna covering me with make-up and saying “You look fabulous darling!”
  • Alier calling me a sissy-boy because of it.
  • Katie singing “I said a boom chicka boom!” in her sleep.
  • Having my energy meter flashing red on Day 4.
  • Awkward turtle.
  • A mata mata hoomba!
  • Chris’ impossibly cheeky smile.
  • “Would you like some cookie with that icing?”
  • The way Katie pouted when I told her I was too tired to piggyback her. No onewould be able to say no to that face.
  • Calling Simon “Redbeard”.
  • “What’s better than a group hug?” “A group hug jumping!”
  • Katie’s song during the performance night. The look on her face at the tumultuous applause, the way Ash lifted her on his shoulder, and the way she signed everyone’s arms.
  • Agot’s big ol’ eyes looking up at me.
  • Ah-dee-doo-dah-doo-dah-day.
  • Zayde telling me I’m actually pretty cool.
  • Megan pretending she was a dog named Splashie for around 30 hours straight.
  • Tempani bursting into tears at every opportunity, often with a huge grin on her face.
  • “I took my knife-ee-ife-ee-ife-ee-ife-ee-ife…”
  • Bicep curling Ryan.
  • Having waterbombs ditched at me.
  • Ditching them back.
  • Jumping-reverse-turning-kicking the ball to Kandyce, who thought I was the God of Soccer.
  • I’m a Little Coconut.
  • Mintoxilicious.
  • Touching the basketball ring with my foot while everyone brainstormed a way to do it. I got disqualified.
  • Great big moose named Fred. [Note: According to dictionary.com, moose is the plural of moose.]
  • The scariest clowns I have ever seen in my whole life.
  • Fun cream!
  • Nothing says civility like a good book and a glass of red.
  • That Ben guy who I waved to on the beach. He was on holiday there and ended up playing with the kids who weren’t swimming.
  • Forgetting everyone’s names and calling them all “Dude”.
  • “Why did the man cough so much?” “Because he was drinking coff-ee!”
  • Getting kicked in the nuts by Brandon. He thought it was hilarious. Every male leader suffered this week.
  • Madol’s crazy dance moves.
  • Alier and his roommate (“Dude”) staying up late talking about condoms and sex.
  • That first breath of fresh night air.
  • Dancing on the disco night.
  • Baby Shark.
  • Clancy crab-dancing with Caleb.
  • Pirate Day.
  • The song from “High School Musical 2”.
  • Shakin’ and Bakin’.
  • A week’s worth of cold showers.
  • “What’s more awkward than awkward turtle? Awkward turtles humping!”
  • Pigging out on junkfood when all the kids were asleep.
  • Everyone spontaneously bursting into song.
  • Making Hanna the most perfect iced milo.
  • Writing myself a warm-fuzzy because I thought no one else would.
  • When Brandon jumped on Richard’s back and Zayde said: “Brandon, get
    off! Can’t you see he doesn’t have legs?” (Richard wears knee braces.)
  • When Brandon asked what happened to his knees, Richard replied
    “There was an accident.” Zayde responded with, “Is that what happened
    to your face too?”
  • Having Katie on my left arm, Megan on my right arm, Ryan on my back and Thomas around my legs. I commando-rolled my way out.
  • Tempani calling Simon Red “Bobo”.
  • Having “tattoos” drawn all over my arms and legs.
  • Nicole and Callum (first year medical students) arguing about which anti-septic is better.
  • Designing the greatest umbrella of all time.
  • Having an acrobat-off with Nick.
  • Writing our own camp-song tribute to the Simons in ~1.5 hours.
  • Paige losing her voice from yelling and singing so much.
  • Scaring pedestrians with mobile phones.
  • Leaning on the rail overlooking the beach while all the leaders sat on the grass behind me. The wind in my hair and clothes, I stood there for a few minutes admiring the incredible view. Out of nowhere, a group of leaders spearheaded by Callum run up to me screaming “I’m flying Jack!” Then someone started singing “My Heart Will Go On” and every single leader ran over in a group hug and joined in. Everyone on the beach just cracked up.

If we get photos, I’ll see if I can post any of them. To everyone reading, Edmund Rice Camps are incredible, life-changing experiences, and you quickly learn how to get along with the kids. Even if you don’t really want to go, after a day with the kids, anyone would want it to last forever. Check it out of you can to enjoy one of the best weeks of your life. Peace everybody!