Wednesday, 30 July 2008

How To Enjoy SummerFun Camp

The last week of July was the final week of Summerfun and so we had been put into a team of four coordinators with no volunteers and with a reduced group of senior kids for the week of camp. Cindy, the church's youth pastor and main organiser for both Summerfun and Kids Club, would be in charge of the juniors with her daughter Ariel (who had helped both teams through the first four weeks) and we had to help the kids organise their camp.

The first day involved planning. Although a campsite had already been booked, the food and activities were to be the kid's choices so that they felt as though they'd had some say in the planning. We ran a heads-down-thumbs-up style ballot and structured a menu and decided on the items to bring along - the location having a lake and a field.

The campsite turned out to be the En's summer home after the original campsite refused a group that didn't contain more than four 25+ year olds. We were to pitch the tents in the garden and play in the lake, jumping off the dock, as with a regular site. A bonus of this set up was having the bathroom and kitchen to ourselves and in close proximity.

The kids were asked to provide the tents and a few of them offered 6-8 man tents for the three groups; 2 tents of girls and one of boys. A joke on the second day written on the chalk board was of mixed gender tent arrangements which troubled some of the kids so we decided to tell them the truth! The second day also involved shopping for items on the menu and a scavenger hunt around Richmond in 2 groups to help the kids bond.

Things to retrieve involved photos of certain locations, items from various fast food outlets, banks or shops and random items such as golf balls and nails. We returned shortly after Bruce's team - tied with 20 points each (probably losing because of a stop we made on the way back)!

On Wednesday we headed out to Mission in the vans and after dropping the things at the house, went on a hike around a waterfall and river. Although most of the day was great, a stray stone thrown to splash me bounced and hit me right on the bone of my knee – dropping me to the ground in pain. After a cold pack on it for most of the rest of the day I felt better and awoke the next morning feeling fine again.

The rest of the camp went well with the kids pitching the tents (apparently successfully!) as a team. Our guys tent turned out to only just fit the kids so Bruce slept in the van and on my way to join him I looked up at the stars and wondering when the next time I’d get an opportunity to see them so vibrantly again, decided to sleep under them; on a roll mat and inside my silk sleeping bag liner!

The next morning I woke up with cold feet but dry and happy, so decided to make a fire for the kids who were slowly awakening. After chopping some wood and making a tipi, I got the fire going with minimal paper and soon had a roaring flame! I spent most of the rest of the morning supervising the fire – allowing kids to poke at it as I had enjoyed when I was younger – and encouraging their smoke trail patterns; although asking them to move away when they were making them!

Most of the kids were well behaved and the two that weren’t, I had offered to talk to for the week so that the other leaders could have a break – Jenny and Bruce having just had two weeks with the pair! After a long talk with the two of them and then a really long talk with the more stubborn one, I managed to keep order between the two for the rest of the trip and was proud of my efforts – for which the other coordinators were also grateful.

The final day of the week, the first day of August, has been declared free for Bruce and I, so I will be packing for Latona and Calgary and then travelling in the afternoon. I am excited for my month off of work and will try to see much in the coming month.

Friday, 25 July 2008

How To Run A Summer Program

Summer Fun has been a summer program for the youth at Fraserview church for many years and usually runs through July. The kids are split into two groups (Grades 1-3 and 4-7) named Summerfun Jr. and Summerfun Sr. and as two of the four main coordinators, Sage and I worked with both groups in rotation - starting with 2 weeks with the seniors and then 2 weeks with the juniors (the reverse order of Jenny and Bruce). As of July, it is the 5th youth program that I have involved myself with since arriving in January and I am becoming quite well known at Fraserview.

As well as the two volunteers on each team, we had a selection of 14/15 year olds from youth programs or schools around the area who had come to help out. They were unpaid but got to experience all the activities for free and earn some experience with kids. Many of these guys were from Fuel, Fridge or Kids Club and I got on well with them all. Some of them showed great initiative and all were liked by at least a few kids – some of us leaders gaining fan clubs that liked to follow us around!

On the Steveston treasure hunt for "Pirate Day"

The first week was a shortened one (with a day off for Canada Day on the last day of June) and we ran activities around the building as well as in the neighbouring park for the first day. With the weather being great we included water fights and a soapy slide across the field as well as ice creams and popsicles each day.

Each week included two field trips where we had access to the vans and could go anywhere that we had planned. Sage had done most of the planning and organising and I had been around for assistance and ideas, during the month of June. In the first week we visited Steveston for a walk and time at the water park on the "pirate" themed day - themes picked by the coordinators from last year to help with ideas for this year. We also went to laser tag and one child got the location’s accuracy record!

We also watched a few movies each week for the chilling out time, and to keep the kids out of the sun since it had been pretty hot for most of the month. Crafts and games included underwater pictures on paper plates, covered in blue acetate for watery effects and colouring pictures, with "kid hunt" and "sleeping lions" being favourites.

Kid hunt involves all the kids hiding and the leaders finding them afterwards. This became the most popular game after the kids tired of trying to find me in sardines because of my difficult hiding spots! Sleeping lions is a game where all the kids pretend to be asleep and lose if they move or talk. This is a favourite of mine because all the kids stay in one place; peaceful and silent.

The next week involved much of the same, with the seniors again (the second of our 2-week period with them before a 2-week shift with the juniors.) including trips to swimming pools and themes more to do with water. The second group was larger but still well behaved and enjoyable to work with. A few times we had to take a child aside but nothing major occurred so it was an interesting experience talking calmly to the kid in question and trying to have their behaviour improve.

The two weeks with the junior children was very different, with a lot of chaos when the kids decided to “dog pile” a particular volunteer or coordinator and jump on them. It was still really good fun – though I spent most of the time with a child on my shoulders so it was more tiring. By the end of the two weeks, where we visited pools, an indoor play area and beaches I was looking forward to the 5th and final week of the program; where the four coordinators (Jenny and Bruce from the other team) were to be taking the senior group on camp!

After the experience so far, I am sure that teaching is the way I want to go although I realise a classroom atmosphere will be very different to a summer program, though now I am looking more towards working with the upper end of elementary school since I enjoyed working with the older group a lot – knowing some from my kids club group.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

How To Be In A Relationship

Since getting a girlfriend in June, I have been able to experience areas of Vancouver that I would otherwise have had no reason to see - as well as finding out what life is like with someone special in my life. Since we live about one hours bus ride from each other, we have tended to explore both Richmond and Vancouver, so that one person didn't always have to make the journey.

The nicest movie theatre (cinema) in Richmond is Silver City and was the location for our first date because we could both get there in about the same amount of time and it had nice screens and food. This was the second time I had been to see a movie there although it was more fun as a date than to see (lame sci-fi filled) Indiana Jones. Despite getting mammoth cokes and popcorn - we consumed very little, enthralled by the film.

Most of our time together has been at our house’s for walks and movies and we have yet to see a bad one so far! Despite being hesitant to suggest "Butterfly Effect" (from other girls’ testimonials), Jill ended up loving it – adding it to her favourite movies list, along with Fight Club, which we also saw together!

Our first weekend together was Father's Day and we went with my family for Malaysian food in Steveston, where we celebrated my birthday and Ron's Father's Day, ordering a selection of delicious food. We then went back to their house and played games of "Apples to Apples" which was fantastic - Jill getting along with everyone. The two of us then walked a few blocks from my family’s house to a park and hung out, talking about life.

A few days before Jill had exams in mid-June, I went with her to the library and helped her study Maths and Science since I was stronger at them than she was and she needed someone to help her through certain topics. We spent most of each day that weekend in Vancouver Public Library and I helped her through the textbook chapters before writing some practice papers for her to do. This was great for both of us; useful to me as teaching experience. She recently got her results and she passed both exams!

In the Japanese Gardens - a section of tranquility in the heart of Vancouver

After one of the day’s sessions, we walked around Downtown for a bit and came to the Japanese Gardens (where Jill and her brother, Jeremy, would go sometimes). We walked around and took some photos of the beautiful flowers and water features. We even got a picture of the two of us together which I love. Though the weather was sunny, it wasn’t too hot and made a perfect end to the day of studying inside.

Recently, we decided to go out again and Jill picked from my shortlist of semi-touristy places that I had wanted to see. We settled on “Gastown” and headed across town on the Sky train. Upon arriving, we viewed the steam-powered clock and walked to the statue of “Gassy Jack”; the area’s founder in 1867 – so called for his tall stories. Despite not knowing of too much more to see, we settled on Starbucks to hang out and discuss things to do – deciding to find somewhere nice to eat.

Jill remembered a cheesecake café that Jeremy had taken her a few times – which had live music on Friday’s – and we decided to search for it, as well as “blood alley” which she vaguely remembered as being nearby and interesting. Although we were unable to find the alleyway in the end, we were fortunate to stumble upon the rotating restaurant with viewing deck, just before sunset and decided to head up the 130m elevator to watch the city as the sun went down behind the mountains. The elevation took less than a minute and the glass elevator offered an interesting view of the nearby area as we rose rapidly towards the deck.

With clear weather, the views were spectacular and we spent a while looking in all directions and reading the information panels, as well as taking photos of the sunset as it cast it’s shadows across the city. We were amused to discover that nearby Burnaby had been confused for Calgary and Seattle by numerous tourists (unaware of Canada’s vastness!) also deciding to see some of the sights, that we could now see from above, before the end of the summer.

After the spectacular sunset, we headed to the café ("Trees") and had some cheesecake whilst listening to the live music. The experience was brilliant with the delicious cheesecake hitting the spot and the room-filling music giving the café a great atmosphere. The band’s frontwoman was witty; keeping the crowd entertained between sets - reminding me of how amusing Newton Faulkner had been between songs, when I had seen him a few days earlier with my cousin, Thea.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

How To Explore Acting

July 10th marked my one month anniversary with Jill and we went out to a nice restaurant in Richmond to celebrate. Not wanting to upset her Mum by getting her home late – having recently missed a bus transfer and adding half an hour to the journey! – I decided that we should aim to arrive back at her house by around 9pm for a few brownie points and also to ensure that it wasn’t our last ever date! The food was excellent and the evening was really nice.

In the taxi back to her house, I received a phone call (which I would have missed if we had not been aiming to get home earlier than usual) from my Uncle (who insists that I call him Ron) inviting me to a film shoot in White Rock. I have been interested in short films for a long time and have also wanted to work on a set for a while to see how it all goes.

Told that I would be doing some “grip” work (odd-jobs) and a few scenes as an extra, I accepted the offer and began to work out how I’d manage my day – having to be back in Richmond before the filming was likely to finish due to having a party to go to in the evening, via limousines from a friend’s house.

Half an hour later I got another call, from Ron again, inviting me to one of the “Bard on the Beach” shows – a local Shakespeare festival - which I had also declared interest in a few times. The show (“Titus Andronicus”) was the following evening and would be my last chance to see a “Bard on the Beach” play this year – having missed opportunities earlier in the summer as well as last year when I visited Vancouver after summer camp.

The next evening I was picked up by Ron and we drove through Vancouver to English Bay, where Bard on the Beach is set up– a group of white pavilions with red flags on top. Ron (an actor - addicted to Shakespeare!) had already seen “King Lear” and “The Tempest”, and although “Titus...” was considered to be one of Shakespeare’s worst scripts (I was informed just before we arrived as Ron tried to run me through the confusing plot line and numerous main characters!)

Although the play was interesting and quite violent, I fell asleep (running around with kids for two weeks beginning to tire me out!) before the halfway point and despite a large coffee during the intermission, didn’t take in much of the second half either – although I did keep my eyes open! I remember being quite impressed by some of the actors that had given pretty believable performances - including a few of the villains and Titus’ daughter.

The next day I awoke early (despite a late night where I had nearly passed out with tiredness more than once!) and with a feeling of anticipation, made the journey to White Rock with Ron. The first set of the day was a café that had a bar. As well as the bar scene (with the extras at the tables in the background), they also decided to use the downstairs office as the main character’s booth in his workplace.

The director of the film, Jason Goode, is one of Ron’s friends through Pacific Theatre – the company that Ron (currently Artistic Director) founded 25 years ago! I first met Jason when the three of us went to see “There Will Be Blood” and I have since seen him act at Pacific Theatre, in a few plays.

This was the first time I'd ever seen a real clapperboard - hopefully not the last!

After exploring the set for a little while, I was asked if I could be the body double for the lead actor, whilst they set up the lighting and camera, so that he wasn’t in the same position for a long time. I decided that this was a really cool idea that would let me see first hand how everything worked on a set and I sat patiently as they moved props, lighting, cameras and people around me – jokingly referring to myself as the lead stunt double!

In the end I did much more “stunt double” and “extra” work than “grip” work and instead enjoyed the opportunity to see every side of the filming – from the directing to the script-checker watching each shot on a TV and taking notes.

To cap the weekend of acting, I went with Jill on the Sunday to see her friend Rosa (who I had met a few times before) perform in a youth production of “As you like it” at the “Bard on the Beach” location. At the event and the buffet afterwards I met most of Jill’s closest friends and got along with them.

Having outlined a few ideas for short films in the last six months on my laptop – landscaping work giving me plenty of time to exercise creativity – I am now aware of some of the steps to take towards making the films a reality. As the years go on I will edit these ideas significantly but one day I may have my own short film – another “Bucket List” goal now that I can tick off “Be an extra in a film”.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

How To Spend Your Canadian Summer

As a general rule, the busiest time for landscapers is the height of the summer. Although the mowing slows down - less rain and more heat causing the grass to turn brown and grow more slowly - the weeding and other neglected areas of the job (taken over by the mowing between April and June) become high priority and so there is much work to be done.

Since my trip here was always less about the working and more about the experiencing life abroad - I had asked a while back about how much time off I could expect in the summer (for travel, family and relaxation after some busy Winter and Spring months!). Initially my supervisor told me that I could expect very little; a few days at the most, but knowing her previous record for reliability I decided to ask the main boss, Larry, anyway.

Being a much nicer person, he was keen to give me time to explore the local area and try my hand at running the summer program, Summer Fun. We agreed on two months off – where I could return at any point if I wanted to – before returning definitely in September and October before I headed off to Whistler.

As well as the summer program job throughout July (Monday to Friday from 9am until 4pm), I also had some travel plans (Youth trips to Camp Latona and Oregon, a family wedding in Calgary, travel around Vancouver Island or Okanagan and possibly a weekend in Seattle!) coming together for August.

During my final few weeks as a landscaper, I managed to meet a guy with contacts in Whistler who said that it would be quite possible for me to find work at a hotel, restaurant or café through one of his friends there – including accommodation! Before the end of the summer, I hope to have secured a place of employment and residence for the 4 month period there this coming Winter – my aim to get in some quality snowboarding as well as meet travellers from around the world!

So far my work with the Elementary school aged kids at Summer Fun has been a blast – with trips to Laser Tag, swimming pools and beaches as well as games, movies, food and crafts on the non-fieldtrip days. I appear to be popular amongst the kids because of my energy and craziness – a highlight being the “String Snort” which has now had around 300 hits across Facebook and YouTube! Other stupid things for children’s enjoyment so far have included breath-holding contests and raw onion eating - with much more to come before the end of the summer I’m sure!

Having fun with the Summerfun kids - making a human totem pole

Currently my favourite part of each day is the “Leader hunt”, where I tend to find an awesome place to hide and will only be found after making noisy “cacaw” sounds that I first used during the Kid’s Club Camp “Pooh Hunt” - to help the kids find me in the dark forest when their interest levels were diminishing (the giant yellow suit apparently not enough!) – for similar reasons!

Another highlight was discovering that I could organise as much soccer as I wanted in the free time – since a lot of the kids and Sage (my co-worker) were really into it! – as well as discovering that Sage was no less crazy than me so it looked like being another fun month in Canada – filled with as much banter as I had come to expect from Danny or some of the other landscapers!

As an added bonus, Canadian West Coast summers are pretty hot and I am getting quite a tan – the beach and pool days giving me reason to even out the farmer’s tan and make my body as brown as my arms! My hair is also being naturally bleached by the sun – making me look more like a “surfer type” – which I like.