Camp Excite 2012

by Danny Zawacki

As I mentioned yesterday, I was at camp for the better part of this week and it took me some time to recuperate. Part of that had to do with being outside camping in the heat without running water and all that, and part of that had to do with wearing myself out working with the kids. It could have been worse, I guess, but I brought my air-mattress with me this year. It allowed for a night or two of solid sleep, once I solved my problem of freezing at night.

For those of you unaware, I help out with our Peace Corps based oblast English camp which we fondly call Camp Excite. Students from the 7th to 11th grades come to practice their English and learn a bit about whatever we choose to teach them. This year’s theme was English-speaking countries other than the major ones for the camps during the school year, and America for our summer camp which we just finished.

I’m not so big on the teaching part of camps and I prefer to focus on conversations with students to help them practice their English. I’m more of comic relief/teaching accessory during the lessons. Trust me, it’s better this way.

One part of camp that I gladly led was the day of baseball. As you might have picked up, I enjoy playing and teaching baseball with Ukrainian kids. I still believe it’s America’s past-time and it’s a cultural thing that needs to be played to fully understand. One thing is for sure, it’s not easy explaining the game to fifty kids who’d never played before, but we managed.

Rule #1 of Baseball: This is Danny’s glove. Only Danny touches Danny’s glove.

Me: Alright, what is this? (Holds up baseball glove)

Kids: Danny’s Glove.

Me: And what do we do with Danny’s Glove?

Kids: We don’t touch it.

Me: Good. Now let’s learn the less important rules for baseball.

Just so we’re on the same page here, I’m not just being a dick about my glove. I had rhyme to my reason. I’ve noticed that anytime anyone other than me uses my mitt, the lining gets messed up and I spend the next fifteen minutes putting it back to where it’s comfortable for my hand. I didn’t explain this to the kids, because there wasn’t a point as long as they understood not to touch the glove. One kid, Ruslan, did grab my glove while I was working on hitting with some of the kids. I saw him and casually called over, “Ruslan, what do you have there?” Ruslan quickly put the glove back where he found it.

Every day there was swimming and campfires, lessons and free time. Meals were mush except when we threw together a pot of chili. I felt bad, however, because we barely had enough to serve all the kids. The few at the end of the line got a small spoonful over their rice (is eating rice with chili a thing somewhere in the States? One volunteer in Ukraine introduced us to it and we all find it weird. Enlighten me).

Anyway, here are some of the better pictures I took from the week. Enjoy.

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