The week went off more or less hitchless. A few hiccups, but nothing that truly mattered went catastrophically wrong. I am, of course, speaking of Ultimate Zhelezinka: Frisbee Camp 2009 (A title I came up with mid camp).
Nora Williams, volunteer legend of Zhelezinka, organized this camp last year and I was little more than an innocent bystander caught in her wake as she created dozens of teen "Ultamites." This year it was my turn. I decided to up the ante and work for 60 children, 15 more than last year. I won't bore you with the planning stages because, frankly, they bored me as well.
When the time came for the camp to begin, Zhelezinka was descended upon by five additional Americans who crowded into my cozy apartment and brought with them an arsenal of discs, energy and Americana. Camp began with about fifteen children standing outside my school swatting at bugs and wondering when we'd get on with it. We dragged them inside, ran through an abbreviated version of last years opening ceremony, since there were few people of interest in attendance to impress, then high-tailed it for the field.
Frankly, the details of the camp aren't all that exciting. Mornings were filled with demonstrations and training in the techniques of Ultimate: throwing, catching, cheering and running around, and afternoons were full of games or other activities. I will give you my top ten highlights of the week, some of which include out-of-camp antics.
Number 10: A six level card house built by the talented Mr. Fledder-Johan, with structural support provided by my foot.
Number 9: Rain dances and huddling in metal shacks waiting for the thunderstorm to pass directly overhead.
Number 8: Frisbee golf with the final target being an unsuspecting Aaron "Arboose" Hueth
Number 7: Ice cream and Coke floats
Number 6: Tie-Dye shirts and a camp banner. This was the favorite activity outside of actual Ultimate. The kids wanted to know when we would do them. There was some confusion, because I thought our local sports deparment of the education center was going to donate shirts for us to paint. When I showed up to get the shirts, they wanted to make sure I would return all 23 of the shirts I was taking. I said we had planned on painting them. Apparently they hadn't heard me the first several times I had mentioned that part, and it was a no go. Luckily, I had enough shirts left from least year that the kids could each get one, though some volunteers were left without one.
Number 5: S'mores and Shashlik on our final night. "Slav" pulled off a great feast and marshmellows were a highlight for a culture that considers pure sugar an essential part of each meal.
Number 4: The returning children from last years camp being pros already and improving greatly on their skill. Honestly, they were really good this year and defintely remembered a lot of what they had learned from last year, a testament to the success of the camp run by Nora and hope for future itereations of the camp.
Number 3: The amazing dinners cooked every night by various chefs. Meals included pancakes loaded with apples, chocoalte, bananas, strawberry syrup, powedered sugar, tacos!, and plof.
Number 2: Late night games of Oh, hell!" filled with anger, surprise and hilarity. It's a great card game, for those of you who don't know, where you have to try to make a bid and rarely manage to. I, the all-star, managed to get the all time highest single game score and still come dead last in the overall, end of the week, average score.
Number 1: America vs. Zhelezinka end of camp game. Five or six of us volunteers took on 15-20 children in the traditional Ultimate game to conclude camp. Last year it was a crushing by America. This year, the kids kept their own and brought the game to a 4-4 tie using a "mob" technique that left three or more kids on every volunteer. We did America proud, however, and scored the final goal and called it game. We'll see how America does next year though, when most of the original camp leaders are back in America.
So that was camp, and it was a load of fun. The kids loved it and want to know when we'll be playing more. The volunteers also had a blast. My apartment barely survived the invasion and after a couple hours of cleaning, was more or less back in order. Summer is just beginning and the good times will continue on. In a short while there will probably be another post, of more or less general musings as my service is winding to a close. It's hard to imagine I only have four more months left here. Bittersweet.