Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Camp Hermanus - Best experience ever!

I need to tell you about the freaking awesome camp I sent my boys on for the first 2 weeks of Jan...

They went to Camp Hermanus. Which Quinn's awesome ENT Ollie told us about (He was the camp doctor) and has been sending his oldest boy for a few years.
About Camp
The Annual Hermanus Camp is a summer camping adventure for boys, that promotes an outward bound philosophy. It is styled on Scouting traditions with a Christian ethos. Campers are accommodated under canvas in a beautiful milkwood glen on a perfect grassy site between the lagoon/vlei and the mountains of Hermanus, with direct access to the beaches.
The Annual Hermanus Camp is one of the oldest, continuously-running youth organisations in the world. We are only aware of eight USA summer camps, the UK Scout Movement and a East European youth movement being older than us. We were founded at the same time as the SA Scout Movement, with which we have strong ties.

The Camp aims to provide an opportunity for young boys and men to develop physically, socially and spiritually through a variety of enjoyable and challenging outdoor activities: sailing, canoeing, abseiling, paddling, hiking, swimming, games, competitions, beach games, archery and over-night hiking adventures. Leadership and team-building life-skills are developed in a friendly, fun and exciting natural environment, under the guidance of experienced, adult leaders. Established in 1908, the Camp is a non-for-profit organisation, managed by a volunteer committee of former Campers.

The Camp accepts a maximum of 42 boys aged 11-15 years each summer (Called ‘Circle’ boys). 16 junior leaders ('Staff-Officers', aged 16-20) are recruited from returning campers, who help the core of adult 'Main-Streeters' organise and lead the Camp. Typically, 60% of our campers return each summer.

Our small size means that every camper gets to know everyone else, and our leaders are able to give each boy the attention he deserves. Perhaps most important of all, at the Annual Hermanus Camp, boys form strong friendships. Meaningful friendships that last years after camping days have passed. Our alumni tell us these friendships are the most significant, enduring part of their Camp experience.
Photos of previous camps HERE.

They had SUCH a ball! As in they still seriously can't stop telling me all about it. They were there for 12 nights and got the opportunity to be part of a proper male-hierarchy with role-models and rules and forfeits and mischief and all the kind of stuff that goes on in Spud. There are many rules and much discipline, but it is all light-hearted and in good fun and about spirit and team building. It's about helping to build the boys into robust, capable, thoughtful and involved men.

The boys are from 11-15, then there's a group of mentors and leaders aged16-21 (pretty much always boys who have grown up having gone to the camp each year and loved it so much they want to keep going and to 'give back), and then there's the 21-35ish guys who over-see and manage everything and do the planning. And then there's the older leaders (40-60+), the Padre, Commandant, Medic etc who have been there for generations sometimes.

The boys are split into tents of 6-8, and the tent is a group who then work and stay together as a unit. It's an old-fashioned canvas tent which they have to pitch themselves and they have inspection every morning and have to keep it neat and tidy. Each tent also gets a day to be on 'orderly' duty where they have to clean up, dish up the meals, wash dishes etc and don't get to partake in the activity of the day - but they do get extra food and dessert and get to go to the shop while the others are away etc so even that is fun.

The activities include archery, abseiling, hiking, sailing, pirate battles, paddling, tug-o-war, etc etc. They also do a play and sing songs and act out skits and have camp fires and early morning exercises, and 'bathe-ing parade' etc etc. So it's kind of like a boot- camp, but all fun and no meanness or fear. They take the mickey out of everyone and one of the main major 'punishments' is being vlei'ed. Which is when you have done something wrong, they will start to sing a certain song then call your name at the end. You have 5 mins to run and get away and if they get you are flung into the manky part of the vlei where all the slime and algae is.

Quinn got vlei'ed because it was his birthday on day 2. I emailed and phoned to make sure they didn't forget and that a fuss was made of him. Ooops! In his words 'MOM why did you tel them!? I got vlei'ed.. but it's ok cos afterwards I got my own slab of chocolate!' 

The boys love love loved it and still can't stop talking about it. It made a huge impression on them and they learned and grew so much from it. I think it was an invaluable and unforgettable experience for them. In fact they are already saying they want to go every year.

I can see how it made make a big positive impact on them and will visibly shape the men they'll become. It is exactly what I have wanted for them and what they have needed (esp without having a dad to show them the ropes and be a strong role model). I am so glad Ollie told us about it. It seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Cape Town! I have long said I wish there was a 'summer camp' type thing like they have in America available to us.
One of the things my boys liked the best was the 2-day. Both were in different tents so had different activities and scheduled each day, so were not together much of the time. The 2-day is an over night survival hike where they go up into the mountains and it sounds like they hiked quite far and had limited provisions (bully-beef/spam!, baked beans, sweet corn and condensed milk basically). Some apparently tried to catch fish to supplement dinner, and Quinn apparently caught and ate a crab and frog!! 

You should hear the stories they have. The 2-day was quite um... tribal I guess is the right word. Quinn was an Urakai and Griffin was an Orc. Apparently 'Urakai feel no pain', and to prove this each morning the leader gives each of the tribe members a 'white hand' - which they tell me involves having to lift your shirt and the leader wallops you on the chest with an open hand, leaving a white hand print behind!

Being a 'girl,' it's hard for me to understand how this is is fun and pleasurable. And indeed they tell me it's not nice 'It sux' but they retell the stories with huge grins, and it sounds like the attraction is the thrill of getting to watch the rest of your team endure the torture. 

I mean the stories of the 'pirate battles' on the lagoon were pretty hectic. Quinn tells me he punched someone full in the face!!! When I expressed horror he tells me it was because the guy had just done the same to him, so was fair game... And further if they didn't want to be hurt they had the choice to get off of his boat! Wow. Ok then!? Clearly it's a boy thing and guys thrive on that. :)
(I did like Quinn telling me about the girl who then tried to climb on his boat (there were girls there that one day from another camp) and he decided he couldn't punch or hit her so he yelled at her to get off and when she didn't he shoved a manky stinky tackie in her face and she let go immediately. LOL classic!)

It must be a boy thing because they LOVED the (silly) rules and rituals like the 'vlei'ing' and initiations and strange terms everything had. They loved competing and having the neatest tent, and earning chocolates and everything. Griffin also told me he had the BEST stew ever on their 2-day. A can each of sweetcorn, peas, baked beans and bully beef. LOL. I love that and love that he was tired and hungry enough to appreciate that as a good hearty warm meal out in nature.

Anyway, I really think the boys seriously enjoyed the camaraderie, fun, adventure and freedom of the camp. It was like living through 'Spud'. I am so glad I sent them. It also seems to have bonded my boys a lot, and they are still enjoying comparing notes and memories and retelling all the stuff they got up to.

They also seem to have been inspired by the older boys at camp and are motivated to get their skippers licenses, get fitter, be more sporty and active, do more hikes and camping etc etc. I am very pleased.
Here's a pic from 'family day' which was half-way through the camp. I drove out to go see them. Instead of having missed me both told me they were 'busy' as they were setting up for lunch and would only come see me when their duties were done! We all played games on the beach after they's served lunch and there was an epic tug-o-war battle where Quinn's team won and he gave it every once of strength he had. :)
Doc Ollie the 'Doctor-Vet' is in the centre with his gorgeous family.

Here's a close up of the doctor notice which nicely sums up the spirit of the camp.

Hermanus Camp - Doc&Vet.jpg

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Look how Q has grown!

This child has just shot up and really matured over the holidays. The teachers can't get over it!

He now wears a size 8 shoes and I swear I did a double-take a few weeks ago when I held his hand while walking down the road, because his hands are huge and it totally feels like a grown man's hand now!

He's been lagging a bit in growth compared to friends at school but he is suddenly really catching up at a rapid rate.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My babies started Gr5&7 today

And they aren't babies at all anymore!

I LOVE the first day of school, it is so exciting. :) I hope 2013 is going to be a fantastic school year for them.