I mentioned before that I didn’t have much of an idea how camp was going to work and what my role would be day-to-day but I figured I would find out once we arrived. Not a chance. We were thrown straight into specific skills training all day all day for the first week which was majorly intense, we had barely any time to think let alone settle in!
Day one was lifeguard training, but first we had to do a physical test which was 16 laps at 9am (whilst still getting used to the altitude)… let’s just say breathing was a difficulty for many of those laps. But I did it! Then treading water, and the ‘brick challenge’ which was way harder than it looked. Training included first aid and CPR alongside lots of jumping in and diving to rescue our peers using our lifeguard buoys or ‘booeys’ as the Americans pronounce them.
Before camp I have to say i thought of lifeguarding as boring and easy, but trust me my opinion has definitely changed! Getting a lifeguard certification was one of the most challenging things I’ve done, both fitness wise and general out of your comfort zone experiences… especially being claustrophobic with a fear of drowning!
The next couple of days training was much more within my comfort zone, we were learning to belay! Which basically meant I got to do lots of climbing on the wall whilst we learnt to tie knots and belay each other. Not gonna lie I’m a bit of a pro 😉 except for when I’m belaying someone twice my weight.. I had to get two people anchoring me down so I didn’t go flying up in the air!
We also did training for the zip line which was so fun and more chilled than belay, strapping our colleagues into harnesses and sending them zipping down the hill! I got chosen as a demonstration to ‘get stuck’ halfway down the zip line so everyone could learn how to rescue me. Oh the chafing.
American food is of course fabulous – chilli dogs, pizza, enchurritos, waffles with maple syrup.. and we eat outside with an amazing view, so lush. There are definitely some weird foods too like breakfast gravy which is white?! So not into that. Also ‘biscuits’ which look like scones but aren’t quite… and you eat them with the gravy! Most evenings we just chill in the staff area and have smores by the campfire.. so American! I’ve attempted to make English variations of smores before but nothing beats the proper ones here.
Saturdays are our days off and by the first weekend we already needed a break! After getting our starbucks and wifi fix (dont judge) we walked down to big bear lake which was beautiful. It was so nice to chill by the water for the afternoon! Not so nice when we tried going in the water though… muddy feets is naaat fun.
Something everyone probably thinks about America is that their portion sizes are far larger than ours. This is for real the truth. I spent $8 on nachos and when I was full to bursting it still looked like I had barely touched it. Srsly, so full we had to get creme de menthe shots to unfull us. I hadn’t planned on drinking or partying much whilst at camp, but after one beer me and my fomo self just can’t say no so we ended up at the karaoke bar. Of course. Joy and Destiny became the karaoke team of all teams and got the crowd going with Tina Turner 👍 think we may become regulars…
The second week of camp was more general staff training and bonding. We got tours around the camp and were trained in all the non-certified activities – archery, slingshots, rifles (no guns for me plz), panning for gold, astronomy, low ropes, fishing, canoes, crafts… the list goes on. One activity I’m majorly excited about is yoga! I love yoga any day but we got to learn how to teach kids yoga which is even more fun. There’s this thing called ‘yoga freeze dance’ where the kids go crazy dancing then freeze when the music stops and do a yoga pose. So me. That week we also had the big honchos from the YMCA come up to give us a talk which was actually really interesting!
My favourite day was the ‘day in the life of a camper’. We got to experience all the activities like a group of kids and then had a campfire in the evening with ridiculous games like bunkbeds where you run around and jump on each others backs. We then had to do skits in groups and ours involved reenacting a scene in valley girl and hood styles. It was hilarious. ‘She’s fucking dead dude’. Some of the new people (thankfully I wasn’t included) were treated to an initiation of sorts through an ugga bugga campfire skit. And of course we ended with the obligatory smores and dance off round the fire. Soulja boy may have made an appearance…
To top off the camper experience we stayed in a 12 bed three-walled cabin for the night. We did something called ‘devotions’ where everyone shared their thoughts on the theme of the day which was trust, and then talked about their ‘roses’ and ‘thorns’. It was a really nice experience and made me realise that Americans are way more open than us Brits with their deep conversations! In the morning we went to the chapel area of camp and shared some inspirations, plus some morning skits of course to wake us all up!
For our second weekend off we got the opportunity to venture down to the coast with one of the guys working here who lives in long Beach. We spent Friday evening in some local watering holes – turns out food isn’t the only area Americans serve large portions, we found a place that serves half yards of beer. Watching me drinking this must have been hilarious…
Saturday wasn’t sunny unfortunately so we couldn’t have the day of sunbathing we had planned but we got shown the sights and had some yum ‘carne asade fries’. We then drove down the coast and spent the afternoon walking up the beach at Crystal Cove which was beautiful.
As fun as staff training has been, it’s also been pretty intense and full on in the lead up to camps arriving. By the end I was really looking forward to having our first camp here so we could put all the training into action! More on that to come…