Much to the surprise of your average working class, Monday’s are actually our easy days here at Lakewood Lodge. This is usually the day before a group of campers arrive, so we spend the morning making sure everything is in place for our guests, i.e. checking all the beds are made, restrooms/showers are cleaned, making sure the lodge is tidy, etc. We also use this time to train staff on new activities or practice rescue techniques in case of an emergency (which usually leads to more laughing than training, but don’t tell my boss that). Monday’s are pretty much a breeze.
Then we have Tuesdays: The big day! Tuesdays are typically when the group of eager little campers arrive, coming in numbers of anywhere from 60 to 130 kids plus the adults accompanying them. They arrive on busses as we wait at the driveway, vigorously waving back and forth to each other from a distance. As the kids get off the busses, we are responsible for grabbing all of their luggage (severely oversized considering the time of their stay) and getting them in order before the day begins. This includes showing them where they will be sleeping and an orientation with all there is to know about the Lodge: No shoes inside, wash your dishes after each meal, make sure all food scraps go into the correct bin for the animals to eat or sorting rubbish to either be recycled, burned, or to the landfill. And most importantly, WATER. Our entire farm uses water that strictly comes from rainfall. In winter, this isn’t a problem. However, in our summer months when it doesn’t rain for weeks on end, water becomes extremely precious and hard to come by. As a whole, we are limited to three minute showers and making sure not a drop of water goes to waste. It’s interesting, I always knew I should recycle or be conscious of my water usage, but up until now I had never been in a situation where it would actually affect me if I did not abide by these rules. Trust me, when your only source of water is running out, you are sure to use it wisely.
Tuesdays through Thursdays, the kids run through three, one and a half hour day activities during the morning and afternoon. Our main activities (aside from Survival, Ben’s part of camp) consist of kayaking, archery, low ropes, frisbee golf, climbing wall, horse riding, and of course the zip line! (Also known as a Flying Fox here, we still have no idea why). I am trained on the first four activities mentioned above so I get to have quite of variety of activities which also means getting to see the same groups more than once (which can be good or bad, depending on the kids).
In the afternoon, our little campers get a break that includes afternoon tea (snack time) and “Own Choice” when they get the chance to go on the waterslide, swim in the lake, or relax for a bit and have their three minute shower. This is the staff’s time to prepare for the evening activities and take care of any chores such as laundry, refilling cleaning supplies, cleaning dishes, and helping out our wonderful cook, Gareth (better known as G). For anyone who doesn’t know G, you’re missing out. He is the most kind hearted and warmest person you’ll ever meet!
When it is finally time for dinner, the day staff swap with the evening staff and the food is served. Our meals are the same every week and consist of a boat load of carbs. I tried to eat the convenient camp food as long as I could, but the amount of rice, potatoes, and pasta I was eating became a bit excessive. Ben, on the other hand, still seems to fully enjoy it.
After dinner and desert are served and the kids are wired from all the sugar, we go on to our evening activities! Throughout the week the groups of kids will get to play Games in the Hall, Y Games, Spotlight, or the ever terrifying Burma Trail. See Ben’s Lakewood Lodge post to get a better idea of what these evening activities consist of.
After we’ve had our fun, it is time to put the kids to bed. They are reminded to get in their pajamas, brush their teeth, and to be quite both at night and in the morning due to us instructors living right next door to them. The nights usually go well, but I can always tell when they are eager for their next lot of activities when I hear the stomping and yelling of little children at 6:00am the next morning. (I have since invested in a few pairs of ear plugs).
Though Tuesdays through Thursdays run pretty similarly, on Thursday nights our night activities switch from all those fun games to our concert and disco (talent show and dance party)! The kids have been practicing all week to show us their best talents, a funny skit, or some sort of cringy play they put together last minute. I have had my fair share of poorly practiced performances often leading to the adults clapping before the performances are done in order to save them from further embarrassment… but I have also seen some pretty amazing ones as well! I’ve heard the most beautiful vocals along side some ukulele or guitar playing, some well thought out skits that actually made us laugh, and even the occasional Haka which is always impressive.
After the kids have given it their best shot and the applause has silenced, it is time to party! With music blasting throughout the Lodge and colorful lights shining through the dark, the kids let loose and bust a move. Of course, our young campers love today’s newest songs that they know all the words to, but they also get down to some oldies as well because who doesn’t know how to do the YMCA or the Macarena! We dance until we can’t dance any longer and after the last song has been played we thank the kids for such a fun night and send them off to bed for their last sleep at camp.
The next morning the kids will wake up to eat their last camp breakfast and pack their belongings before their final activities of the week. While the kids are away at the Iron Person Challenge and Tug of War, the rest of the staff are busy resetting the dorms that the kids have undoubtedly destroyed throughout the week. Fridays are probably our busiest days since we are finishing up our time with the kids and cleaning every crack and corner of the Lodge and dorms for the new guests to arrive the following week. When the busses arrive to take our new friends home, we are sure to hand out plenty of hugs before they go. As the busses leave, all of the instructors stand outside the last cabin the kids will see before they go, we wave them goodbye even more vigorously than when they arrived as they press their faces against the windows and pretend (and sometimes real) cry as they drive off.
After each week with these amazing groups of kids, we then get to sit back, relax, and enjoy our weekend off. Most of us use this time to go off and explore this beautiful country or possibly stay home and just lay low and get some much needed rest. Our weekends fly by just as quickly as our work weeks do and come Monday we are getting ready to do it all over again.
Without a doubt, I will miss the hustle and bustle of this crazy place and getting to meet a new group of adventurous Kiwi kids every week. Our time at Lakewood Lodge has been everything we could’ve dreamed of and so much more. It has been such a blessing to experience what we have in our nine short months in this country and we will relish these memories as we head off to our next adventure.