My brain is fried.
I need sleep.
I am in over my head.
This week has been staff orientation week for the staff working at the Village Camps spring outdoor education programmes in Anzere, Switzerland. I am one of those staff, and without a doubt the most inexperienced when it comes to leading in the outdoors. It has been a massive learning curve for me.
There are about 14 camp counsellors this year, with about 9 attending the pre-camp orientation week. After 8 months on the road alone, it is great being with other people. It is also a challenge, as I now have to think not only about what I need, but the needs of others around me also.
The other camp counsellors are from diverse backgrounds. Countries include Poland, France, Canada, England, Ireland. There are professional teachers, snowboard instructors, mountaineers. All with a lot of experience.
Village Camps has a strong emphasis on environmental awareness. Their programmes actively encourage the participants to connect with their physical environment, and become active in understanding their part in being a responsible citizen of earth.
And here I was breaking off a dead branch of a pine tree to make a pole for my makeshift shelter. It is as much a course in awareness for me as it is for the participants.
Day one of orientation – Navigation skills
‘If a member of your group had a serious accident on the trail, and you had to tell the emergency services to come and pick them up, how would they know where to come to, if you don’t know where you are?’
That was the point behind reviewing our map reading and navigation skills. We learned about scale, guestimating distance, giving grid references, and estimating times to and from set locations.
All along the trail, our instructor and program coodinator, Anthony, was giving us eco-nuggets. Small pockets of information about the surrounding area.
At one stage we walked through an area of bush that had recently been destroyed by forest fire. The air was still pugnet with the smell of scorched earth and wood.
Day Two – Rock climbing
A crash course on group management at a rock climbing site. There is a specialist who does the actual instructing, but as a group counsellor, I am responsible for ensuring that the group is controlled and safe around the climbing site.
Day Three – Living with nature
Outdoor living skills and map making were the name of the game today. Another hard day of learning.
The photo above shows a simple activity whereby a group member makes a ‘landscape’, hides some treasure somewhere in it (a drawing pin), and then makes a map representing the landscape, showing the location of the treasure.
Day Four and Five – Overnight trek
Us 9 counsellors were split into three groups, and given instructions to make our way to Lake Tzeuzier. We were to be sure to keep practising our map reading skills. Each group would be called at least twice during the day to report on our exact location.
Once at the lake, the next challenge was to construct a shelter. My group chose a tall rock to make a lean-to shelter against.
Nothing I wasn’t used to, but at 1,850m in altitude, it was a cold night.
The first group of students arrive tomorrow. Sixty 9 to 10 year old students from Zurich International School for their five day program.
It has been an intense and full orientation and training week, but I feel prepared.