I just got back from a children’s camp my organization is assisting that’s about an hour away from the city. The camp runs four sessions, each hosting about 200 children ages 7 to 15 from children from cities from all over Kazakhstan. Over the next week, I’ll post a series of “Stories from Tau Samal,” but for now I want to give a summary of what the average camp day was.
8:00 Wake up.
8:10. Morning exercise. This is fifteen to twenty minutes of “Raz, dva, tree, cheterdee” activities (one, two, three, four). Like pumping your arms in the air. Touching your toes. Jumping jacks. Aerobics, but nothing too intense really.
8:35. Clean your room. Each room of about six to ten kids must be cleaned every day. All trash must be thrown out and all of the beds must be made. And it must be swept and sometimes mopped.
9:00. Breakfast! Of course its rice milk! Everyday. But it’s good stuff. Also, breakfast, like all meals is divided into two shifts. So while one group is eating, the other group of kids are….well, they are scheduled to be at breakfast. But since they aren’t there, they are doing the most popular activity of camp: just sit around and do nothing!
10:00. Clean the area of your group. Okay so there are seven groups of about 25 kids, and each has their space where they hang out. In the woods, on the soccer field, under the gazebo, etc. Each day this space must also be cleaned. The ground must be swept and sometimes mopped. All the trash must be picked up. In reality, maybe 6 out of the 25 kids do this, and it maybe takes them half an hour. What do the other kids do? Nothing!
11:00. The first day I was at camp, 11:00 was the beginning of organized structure for the kids. They could choose dance lessons, Korean lessons, soccer, Frisbee, basketball, etc. However every other day, 11:00 started a camp game. These games were like find the counselors who are wearing red ribbons, competitions with rival camps, or paint your face like Native Americans. For this part of the day, most of the kids were engaged in something.
1:00 Lunch time! Of course, only half the camp eats at one time, so during this part the other half is once again doing nothing. Soup and a main course with a mug of tea makes for a good midday meal.
2:00 Teehee Chas! (Quiet hour!) From 2:00 to 4:00 every day is nap time. This time is actually intended for the children to do nothing.
4:00. Pool time. From 4:00 to 5:00 the children get to swim in the pool at the camp. This makes all of the children happy and they actually do something.
5:00. Snack time! Snack time usually features cookies, fruit, and a mug of tea. Once again, the shift system leaves some groups with about half an hour of nothing time though.
6:00. Prepare for concert! Nearly every night there is a concert that the children perform in. The theme ranges from Mr. and Miss Tau Samal to KVN to “We are Kazakhstan.” Maybe 8 of the 25 kids in each group are interested in the concert (although this can range from 5 to 20 really). But for the other kids, they have two hours to sit around and do nothing!
8:00 Dinner! Dinner is once again on the shift system. However, because all of the groups are prepping for a concert, there is some structure to the time when they are waiting to eat.
9:00. Concert! A concert with one of the previous themes is held. They are actually rather entertaining, sometimes impressive, and always cute in some way.
11:00 Discothèque! That’s right, every single night they have a dance, but rather than calling it a dance, they call it a discothèque. It sounds much cooler that way.
11:00 Second dinner! Maybe hobbits help plan out camp, but I definitely don’t mind the five meals a day system. This is usually another mug of tea with some small pastry. Notice it overlaps with the disco though, so the children who are not eating are actually doing something with their time.
12:00 Bedtime! Children go to sleep.
Maybe from my tone, you can tell that the schedule of the camp was strange to me. I felt there was way too much structured nothing time for the kids. It wasn’t even free time. They had to stay in their groups. Sometimes they managed to acquire a volleyball or something, but usually they just had their own wits to find ways to entertain themselves for four or more hours a day. I wanted craft time, sports time, game time. Just some structure in which they could organize themselves. Maybe it’s just the American in me, but I think it’s more fun if you have something to do.
More stories from camp soon…