First of all, I’d like to acknowledge my tardiness in making these posts. It is made all the more apparent to me since I am currently writing this synopsis of week one at the camp as we are about to start with the first day of week two! However, my first post is looking quite lonely, so I have no choice but to take a short break from all my wanderings and write at least SOMETHING. So, without further ado…
Quite honestly, I can’t say that I have been surprised by much at this camp so far, mostly because I anticipated beforehand that it would be loosely organized and full of curveballs anyway. This expectation was materialized when I saw that the children seemed to have more unstructured time to play than they had organized activities, and that we were also very much at the mercy of the weather.
Addressing the climate first, it is important to know that the humidity in the Lombardy region makes it very susceptible to not just sporadic showers, but also thunderstorms and even hail. One could then imagine how difficult it would be to control over 200 kids when all three come crashing down in the middle of a soccer tournament. I myself was even impressed by the size of the falling ice, not to mention some of the Americans who had never even seen hail before at all! Thankfully, the forecast for the foreseeable future looks to be much clearer, albeit much hotter and still quite humid.
As for the structure of the camp, I really have no mind to disparage its value just because it can be somewhat unorganized. If anything, I applaud it for allowing the children to have time to compose themselves however they see fit, and hardly ever do I see a sole boy or girl being left out from the groups – even the few mentally disabled campers we have. Aside from the traditional games of soccer and basketball, one game they often play is similar to keep-it-up volleyball in a circle, but with the more forceful twist of spiking it at each other on the third set to eliminate each other from the game.
While, at the end of the day, it is no more violent than say a game of dodgeball, I feel it is just one of the many examples I have seen at the ‘oratorio’ that reflects a difference in culture. While American kids can hardly poke one another before being apprehended by a schoolyard officer, these children are left to be much more physical with each both in games and at rest. The younger kids will often sit on the laps of those bigger than them, and peers will challenge each other to a sort of squatting wrestling match that requires the players to attempt to knock each other over.
Even the physical barrier between the counselors and the kids is much less than in America. We played a game called “Bulldozer” in which the counselors stood in the middle of the field and had to both catch and fully raise off the ground the kids that attempted to run past them and to the other side safely. Clearly, a bit of discomfort was shared between the Americans as we grabbed at the kids and attempted to pick them up through their struggling, myself joking it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen in the U.S. However, no such apprehension materialized in the minds of the others and it was just as fun when the counselors and kids switched roles and is was us who were being mobbed by dozens of kids at once to bring us down and lift us off the ground.
Though I could not say that either culture has a better mentality, it is certainly refreshing to see both the boys and the girls competing earnestly together and playing through the various scrapes and bruises that they acquire. I only wish that there were day camps like these where I grew up as a kid!