Keats Camp 2017 – Day 1

We have not left Vancouver on such a beautiful day for this retreat, since, well, last year. It was beyond spectacular and truly special. The entire process of boarding and getting and staying afloat was effortless – thanks to our Grade 10 students who made a human baggage chain and loaded the 113 or so bags onto the boat (without too much obvious fighting when a garbage bag clearly contained just a pillow – those bags were the most popular to move).

Clearly parents did not do a good job and forget to send their children with sunscreen so the poor kids had no choice but to stay inside the cabin to protect their skin from the harm of being exposed to the sun’s rays. Teachers had no such qualms and it was delightful on deck – BC is a special place and on a day like today there is no other place like ours. It was good to be reminded of the ‘specialness’ when on two occasions our Israeli Shinshiniot shrieked with delight – apparently they do not have seals off the beaches in Tel Aviv (but they do have matkot, give me seals any day!)

So let’s start with math – everything starts with math – just ask Miss Lane. We have 95 students with us after a couple did not arrive  – injuries and illness are not good for retreating. We also have 16 school staff, 2 shinshiniot and 2 wonderful cooks to care for us. Keats Camp has another 12 or so staff to guide us in the activities.  

After arrival we reviewed the camp expectations (given in my best serious teacher voice, with appropriate pauses, to create that perfect ‘teacher silence’). Then, ….dramatic pause, we all found our cabins, ate lunch and ran around (I did two out of these three). At 1:30 p.m. we were off – everyone in their activity group to do one of the camps many activities including Archery, Canoeing, Hiking, Climbing Wall, High Ropes, Low Ropes and Laser Tag. Sadly the Aerial Leap was closed for repair and so I could not do the leap of faith – and this was so going to be my year that I conquered that fear (amazing really I am scared of heights but teenagers do not faze me!).

Then, and allow me to speed up, we had a break (activities last about 90 minutes) for snacks and water (it is hot out!), then another activity, with a 45 minute free time break to rest and wash up followed by dinner.  And what a dinner – for those of us that have cut down on carbs this is not the place to be. Tonight was spaghetti with meatballs (real meat though veggie and gluten free options were available – always) – a little garlic bread (who does not love garlic bread?) and caesar salad (this is not the first vegetable of the day – snacks have been plentiful with fruit and veg). There is also water and fruit punch in glowing colours that suggest it might not be a fully natural product.  

After dinner Rabbi led us in Birkat HaMazon and then I selected some volunteers to clean up (okay, maybe volunteers is stretching the truth but they did a great job). The time had come to relax for about 30 minutes (and we held a Mincha service for those so inclined). Most kids went back to their cabins and did not relax – where do they get their energy and how do I borrow some?

At around 7:15 p.m. the students  gathered in grade groups by gender – the intent was to talk openly and to build bonds between the students by ‘breaking boundaries’ – we are all so much more alike than we are different and this is just one of many specific things we do during the year to try and focus on good character traits (a focus of our weekly TAG program). It seemed to go really well. I cannot tell you about it, you know, "what happens on retreat stays on retreat…" but I looked in on the Grade 9 groups after about 30 minutes and it was going great – and if something works at Grade 9 it can work anywhere!

Then of course, being a Jewish event, it was time for music, snacking and karaoke (and snacking). I have told people before that as a kind human being I do not Karaoke – I do however snack very well (like everyone else I am "above average" in that regard). We listened to some music that the kids played with our music maestro, Johnny, and then Rabbi Berger told everyone a story (usually we do this around a big bonfire but fires are not allowed currently). I have heard lots of the Rabbi’s stories – and this one was a real turkey – and that is a positive – he is the ‘turkey guy’ – every act of kindness is an opportunity…(ask him of what I speak as he loves to tell a story!) Then Rabbi organized a huge sing-a-long (100+ people in a circle – really, the Rabbi is magical). The magic ended…Karaoke began, sigh, when is it snack time again?

Lights out – 10:15 p.m.  I am currently walking around for a couple of hours knocking on doors trying to quiet the ‘unquietable’ – I wish they wanted to go to sleep half as badly as I do (definitely getting too old for this, note to self, change places with Mr. Mo next year). Thankfully the deer are nice to hang out with at night. Tomorrow some kids are going on the Tefillah hike tomorrow morning with Rabbi Berger around 7 a.m. – while the other students will no doubt be waiting for my 7:15 a.m. wake up knock. Breakfast is at 8 a.m., first activity at 9 a.m…..and Day 2 is upon us…

More tomorrow…

King David High School, 5718 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4S9 Canada

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