The very word sends shivers down my spine.
I am very much a city mouse. New Zealand’s geographic diversity and remoteness meant that international trips were for all but a lucky few – I never went on as a student or a teacher.
That’s not to say I was at all disadvantaged. My father thought, quite rightly in my humble opinion, that you should know your own country first before you go wandering the planet. I still had varied experiences. My friends and I still talk about the year we ended up wandering through a flooded valley with our packs up over heads 20 years after the event!
I also had the pleasure of watching my students forming those same memories 2 years ago.
In terms of growth and pushing boundaries camp really does stretch teachers and students to the limit both physically and mentally.
Yet being in an international school changes your context. Singapore’s small size meant that my pod of classes would be travelling internationally for their camp in our case to Palau Bintan. Which throughs up an initial set of obstacles for camp: – ensuring kids had valid passports and visas if required!
The kids are a few years younger. The children I teach are 2-3 years younger than my previous students. Many of them have never spent the night away from their family. A lot of them had never been to a developing country before.
I had certainly never accompanied a group of kids travelling internationally much less to a developing country.
We were in for an interesting 3 days.
Which might not seem like much to those in the outside world. But those of you have been to camp will know that 3 days at camp is like a week and a half. Time seems to slow down when you are on camp.
The actual process of getting kids through passport control and to the venue turned out to be the easy part.
It’s the stuff in between.
The Stress that you are on duty 24 hours a day. If there is a problem at 2 in the morning, you will be dealing with it. Making sure the kids are at the right place at the right time with the right gear. Dealing with motion sickness, heat and humidity takes on your own body and then worrying about the kids around you.
Or course the downsides are outweighed by the benefits.
The new friendships formed.
The quiet and reserved student scrambling up the high wires like spiderman.
The students who self-managed putting on sunscreen, bringing their hats and water bottles.
The tired kids pushing each other to get to the end of a demanding trek.
Watching the kids enjoying exploring rock pools for new life.
The often disengaged student at school proclaiming he loved the hard work of the community project.
The child scared of missing home before we went gleefully telling me he was having THE BEST TIME EVER.
The quick thinking guide telling us the snake on the side of our path was dead and waiting until we got on the bus back before telling me it was actually alive (I’m terrified of snakes!)
And the best part?
How happy the parents and kids were to see each other again at the end of the journey.