Ok so this summer can be divided into 4 major events: Camp Express Yourself, FLEX, Eurotrip, and COS conference (yet to happen). I’ll devote the next 4 entries to each of these 4 events so as to improve coherency and readability.
My second year of Camp Express Yourself was, in a cliche, two of the best and most life-changing and memorable weeks of my life.
The first day of camp also happened to be my birthday, and trust me when I say I’ve NEVER had a better birthday. The day prior we’d been in Yulianovka, my friend Heather’s site, and we had gone to a pizza restaurant for my birthday. We had delicious (and legit! no mayo, no ketchup! thin crust! vegetables!) pizza, and then the kitchen brought out a cake Heather had bought and had them refrigerate. My awesome boyfriend, Ted, also made me a hat and card (and attempted balloon animals, but the balloons sucked), and we all had a super time.
Ted also made me a mixed CD and even wrote me a song. I’ll have to post it when I get my internet, because it’s the greatest song to exist–truth. (You won’t talk me out of it, Theodore!)
The first day of camp was my actual birthday, and Heather made me a badge that said “TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY!” A few returning students knew about it and brought me flowers, gave me hugs, and then the entire camp sang “Happy Birthday to Jilly.” Best gift!🙂 Turning 25 was made much less traumatic by my amazing friends, boyfriend, and students.
OK so camp! I got to teach Photography, which was so great! I started off with a class list of 15, and when the kids found out I was the one teaching the class, my roster jumped up to 21. I had some of my students from last year and some new ones.
My main goal was to inspire the kids. I wanted them to take away the idea that anyone can create art, and I think most of them really got that. I also discovered a few budding photographers. Watching the kids run around on the camera days, experimenting with angles and moving things around, was such fun.
Classes were only a minuscule part of the day. Though I did still spend a lot of out of classroom time doing classroom stuff with my kids, we also did an insane amount of other activities. We weren’t running 8am-12am like last year (it helps having more than 4 people run a camp of nearly 100 kids), we were still quite busy.
Capture the Flag, fashion shows, Cross-dressing day, dance contests, discos, skits, talent shows, Camp Olympics!, and the list goes on and on. Every hour brought a new activity, a new song, a new idea, a new presentation, etc etc. Students came in and sat on our beds with us, we had impromptu jam sessions, reviewed photos, taught english slang, watched movies, and bonded with these crazy kids.
A few students that I’ll really miss are Denis and Tanya. There are of course others: Natalya, Lera, Alexandra, and my little kitten Sasha, but Denis and Tanya made special impressions on my heart. They were like our shadows. Their english is amazing (Tanya is nearly fluent at 14), their personalities are bordering on whimsical (Denis serenaded us in English for THIRTY STRAIGHT MINUTES predicting our futures (we will all live in the village Sinki and raise multiple farm animals with our betrothed)), and they have the heart, spunk, creativity, and inquisitive natures that will get them far in life.
We also completed a great, albeit surrealist take on, the World Map Project. As hard as the kids tried, it didn’t turn out quite like we expected, but it’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen😉
Another major project we completed was AIDS Day. The camp is funded each year by a PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) grant, so we dedicate one full day entirely to AIDS education and awareness. It includes us teaching about the disease, prevention, the stigma attached to it, and the kids’ thoughts and emotions regarding HIV/AIDS. It’s always a really emotional day, the talk is really straight, and we seem to get through to them.
On our final day there were many tears. All the kids had little notebooks and wanted us all to “say me some wishes!” I had my own notebook, and a bunch of the kids wrote super sweet things in mine.
Before Tanya got on the bus to take the kids back to Yulianovka, she ran and leaped into my arms. It, unfortunately, had been pouring down rain for days so was exceedingly muddy and slippery. And I, unfortunately again, when taken by surprise, am not at my quickest or most agile. We both tumbled into the mud, slid for a few feet, then lay there on our backs laughing and wallowing around like drunk turtles.
Other things of note:
The marriage contract
“…Five pigs, three ducks, four goats, and two coooows.”
“You like that, girl?” “I don’t like girls!”
Sofiievka Park (Paddle-boat races, failed jump shots, etc)
Okay so that’s not quite all of camp but probably enough for now. Next part, FLEX! Coming soon🙂