The power of technology!

‘No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find stars lighting up the night sky’ – Unknown

What manages to surprise me time and time again is how polite and helpful the Japanese population can be. I took a trip to Shibuya recently, alone and at night which is totally okay because is so incredibly safe out here. But on the way back I had no idea which train to catch and at that point I didn’t have my PASMO card and I wasn’t as familiar with the train system. I was starting to worry about how I was going to figure all of this out especially as the information desk wasn’t open and not many people speak English here. Eventually I worked up the courage to ask for help from two girls who looked around my age.

The girls who I approached were super friendly and although they were unsure at first of where I needed to go they used their phones, maps and local knowledge to help me figure out which train I needed to catch. We managed to exchange names through our broken knowledge of each other’s languages and it turned out that one of the girls needed to be on the same train as me. I asked if she spoke English and she said no but she is learning and enjoys practicing it. We were on the train for 40 minutes and in true 21st century style managed to communicate very well through the power of technology. Using google translate we were able to discuss our hometowns, where we go to school, what we did during the day and what we want to do in the future, we even managed to show each other pictures of our families and friends. This may not have been the most conventional connection but it was a unique experience that has stayed with me.

This experience was a shock to me in a way as in many popular media forms there is a stigma that Japanese people do not like talking to westerners and so I am happy to have went out and proved that wrong. I hate that the media will portray something and then it becomes what people believe is a nation. Stereotypes are shit and unless I had come to the country and put myself in these kinds of positions I would have never known whether it was true or not. Travelling breaks down barriers and destroys stereotypes and that is one of the many reasons that I love travelling.

Until next time

Tasmin

 

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Tales of a Camp Counsellor!

‘The mountains are calling and I must go’

‘And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul’

Both quotes are from John Muir – who I was introduced to by one of my friends from camp!

Summer camp is such a special place and everyone has their different stories but its so hard to experience your experience to someone who hasn’t taken part but with a willing bunch of fantastic friends I have gathered many stories from summer camp counsellors and here we shall share the true magic of camp.

As I have already explained in a previous post why I love camp so much and keep going back I’m now going to share my favourite story.

I was taking my kids for an activity period and as it was the 2nd day and they were the youngest boys cabin I sat them in a circle to play an ice breaker. I started by telling them that we would all go around and say our name, our favourite animal and what noise that animal made. So I gave the example of ‘Hello, my name is Tasmin, my favourite animal is the Tasmanian Devil and then span in a circle making lots of noise (its all for the kids haha). All the kids managed until we got around to one kid. He looked me dead in the eye with a cheeky smile on his face and said ‘Hello my name is Timmy, my favourite animal is a carrot and they say noooo don’t eat me’. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself and that is my favourite example of how kids take you by surprise. (Names have been changed).

‘Doing camp brings out the best in adults and children. It’s a beautiful place to be, in the mountains and technology free. It gives me a chance to meet many children and adults who all want the same thing, a great memory in life. I try my hardest to fulfil these magical times when kids can be free of parents and make new friends adults and children, and try to mentor young adults into the mission of the YMCA and bettering one’s self to help others. I’ve been participating in camp since 1990 and will continue because I love the feeling of being amongst great people. Some of the best people I’ve met in my life have come from camp. My funniest times are always at campfire when we perform skits in front of the camp. It’s always a blast.’

–          Chito

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‘Well for me camp has always been about personal development. I’ve gone to the same camp for about 16 years and every time I’ve gone home learning something new about myself or how I could become a better person. You meet some people that change you for the better. Camp really helped me break out of my shell a lot! I was quiet, shy, and not very confident in myself, but nobody cares up there. Nobody judged you because they are there being silly and wacky just like you and it’s because of that you feel so comfortable. I would say if anyone had an opportunity to go to any type of camp to jump on the chance and take it! You’ll meet some great people and you could find something new about yourself you never knew was there.’

–          Jacob

‘There are several reasons why I love to go to camp. I love disconnected from the outside world, and I would prefer adventuring outdoors as opposed to being lazy and playing video games. But what I love the most about camp that keeps me coming back are the people. From Counsellors to Directors to Perm Staff, they are some of the greatest people I have had the pleasure to meet. One tip I would give to those who plan on being a counsellor would be to truly disconnect for a solid week. Put away the phone and really take in the world around you! And as for a funny story, I am afraid they are either too long or too inappropriate to be shared! Many stories were have been told, many more will be made and I am happy to be a part of that!’

–          Anon

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‘Summer camp is one of my favourite things to do in the whole world. It is something I look forward to every year, and I make sure that I clear up a space in my calendar for at least one week of it every summer! In the middle of trying to figure out how to become a functioning adult, summer camp helps me remember that having fun like a kid is just as important. There is not one camp session I’ve gone to where I didn’t have something to laugh my guts out to. We always play the most outrageous games at camp, including playing pranks on each other. I remember one time I accidentally volunteered with a friend to go on stage and compete with him in a food eating competition. The food, however, happened to be a concoction made out of marshmallows, cookies, chocolate chips, cereal, milk, and… Ketchup. Yes. Although it did not taste all that bad, the smell was atrocious, and in the competition my friend and I were gagging at each other. The kids watching us were getting such a kick out of it that we couldn’t help but start to snort the food up our noses from laughing so much too. So disgusting. At summer camp, we try to just go all out and do the activities that nobody would think of doing out in the “real world”. The leaders of summer camp try their best to just help everyone forget about labels and come together to do silly things with real people. The best advice I can give to really enjoy summer camp is to just forget about who you’re TRYING to be and just let your instincts tell you what is fun. Nobody is there to tell you not to be yourself. Be as much a part of every moment as you can, make as many friends as possible, and try to do it all. That is how camp has become one of my favourite things in my life.’

–          Nicole

I started volunteering at a summer camp about 4 years ago. At first, I only went because the idea of spending a week in the mountains sounded like a dream! However, after that first week, I was hooked on camp; but, for a different reason. I soon realized that while I may see my time up there as a break from work and social media, for the kids that go up year after year, it’s their second home. I quickly realized that phrases such as “you can do it” and “I believe in you” are all these kids need to conquer their fears of whatever activity they might be doing. Those little positive encouragements go a long way with kids. Being that one person who believes in these kids is the reason I continue coming back to camp. I’ve made so many memories with my cabins over the years that I don’t think I have one specific thing that stands out. My favourite part about working with kids is watching them grow into their personalities and become best friends with the other girls in their cabin. Even though many of them go to the same school, it’s an awesome thing to watch these kids develop true friendships in just a couple of days. I definitely recommend that everyone tries out volunteering at a summer camp at least once! It’s a life changing experience; not only for you, but for the kids you get to meet also. If you’re unsure of how to go, check out your local YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, or churches. Be open and honest about who you are and show that you’re responsible. Chances are, you’ll meet the parents of the kids in your cabin and they’re trusting you with their kids’ safety.

– Karen

Karen was also kind enough to include two pictures of her cabin – one from the start of the week and one at the end of the week. These pictures show how much a friendship can form in a short amount of time in such a special place.

In fact three of the girls within these photos went on to be my campers at winter camp and it was an honour to be their counsellor.

‘Serving as a counsellor at a summer camp has always been an exciting and enthralling experience for myself. It is a very unique place where people are able to truly open themselves up to one another, while engaging in fun outdoor activities. At summer camp there is a joyful spirit in the air created by campers and counsellors as they laugh and cheer though out the week. To get the best experience you must learn how to assimilate into the wacky camp spirit. In a sense, as an adult, you must bring out you inner-child behaviour to make the best memorable moments. Summer camp has the potential to become fascinating when you least expect it. Sometimes I found it to be a little too interesting. During one of my counselling sessions, I had a camper who was known to be a sleepwalker. One late night I was returning from the restroom to my cabin filled with sleeping campers. As I was getting into my bunk I noticed a dark figure in the corner of the cabin walking toward me. I called out to the figure but received no response. I was a little scared. The figure finally made it to my bunk revealing itself as one of my campers. He stood at my side for a good minute the said “Counsellor…. I’m hungry!” My face was priceless according to my co-counsellor. The camper then turned around and went back into his bunk as if nothing happened. As crazy as that experience was, it did make some great conversations when I told the camper what he did in the morning.’

–          Michael

‘I volunteer at a summer camp because I love giving back to the kids. It’s a great experience and feeling knowing that I get to take kids for a week, who might not have a positive experience at home, and give them possibly the best week of their life. I get to be the person that reminds them of how special they are and how they can do anything they set their heart to. For anyone who is thinking about going, I would suggest being as opened as possible and get to know your campers, CO counsellor and other counsellors as quick as possible. You will be with these other amazing people for a week, so don’t waste any time getting to know then and have fun with them. Usually what happens is people start to become comfortable with each other towards the end of camp and that is when your experience is more fun. So why waste time when you can have an amazing experience with your fellow counsellors for the whole week instead of half of the week. A story that reminds me that I’m impacting kids is one when I made bracelet for one of my favourite camper. I didn’t get to see or talk to her for the next three years. One session we finally ran into each other and she was wearing the bracelet I made her. She told me she never took it off. It really touched my heart.’

–          Kwonta

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‘This summer will mark my fourth year as a summer camp counsellor. I’ve got so many warm feelings and precious memories tied to summer camp. I keep coming back for the nostalgia and for the opportunity to help others make precious memories as well. If someone else was going to be a counsellor, I’d suggest bringing extra deodorant, shower supplies, and some air fresheners. Some campers forget about hygiene when out in the mountains. I’ve had campers that refused to take showers all week. Those campers get thrown in the pool so they smell like chlorine rather than pit stink.”

–          Matthew

‘What is working at a summer camp really like?

“Best, and favourite place on Earth” says Anthony Tighe, from Virginia, USA. Tigs, as he is affectionately known by his campers, has been a camp counsellor for four years and specialises in coaching hockey. For the 9 months of the year without camp, Tigs is a high school hockey coach at a high school in Virginia but every June he heads to camp.

“You will make friends from all over the world and the kids will look up to you. You develop strong leadership skills, as well as learning how to be caring and loving to the children for whom you are a surrogate parent for a month or two.”

The ability to care for children with a genuine love, to be intuitive with the campers in your care is a sentiment echoed by Tony Aspel. The Irish ex-international triathlete now coaches sailing and boating in his native Ireland. This past year however, he headed stateside to try summer camp life and he says it’s the best decision he ever made. And he intends to go back for summer 2017, and for many more after that.

“I love it man, I love summer camp”

As a first time camp counsellor he says “It is hard work with long hours, but very worthwhile because of the kids.”

Long hours, tiredness and hard work are a common thread amongst all who have experienced life at a summer camp.

Henrik Ocklind of Sweden, a swim instructor and camp counsellor says “I don’t think I will ever get a job where I work as much as I did at camp. It’s like having a regular job and being a parent – to ten kids.”

Everyone will tell you that being a camp counsellor is difficult and draining, but almost all of them will also tell you that it is undoubtedly absolutely worth it.’

–          Joe (feature paper)

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As an extra Joes Paper included a heading of How does working at a camp benefit me? Which really spoke me and so I’m going to include it so you can aim to relate to these feelings one day.

“These people are trusting us, trusting you, with their most prized possession. Their children.”

Daunting and heavy words to hear from the owner and director of your new place of work on the first day of training. The truth in that simple statement is inescapable and the safety of the children is and will always be the first priority at camp.

On the other hand, being a camp counsellor is so much more than safeguarding; you are a coach, a surrogate parent, an older sibling, a life coach, a role model and an inspiration. The days are long but the summer is short, and the rascals that have terrorized you endlessly for weeks are leaving, and this time there’s nobody else coming to fill the empty bunk.

Dry eyes are hard to come by as that final bus leaves, let me assure you.

It is at this time of reflection you realise that you may have taught them how to shoot a bow, how to swim or how to use a lathe but really, they taught you a whole lot more.

And from someone who’s done both, it’s my own personal opinion that it’s a whole lot more than you can learn through work experience in industry. Education and work experience can’t and never will be able to give you the emotional and cultural enrichment you can find at camp.

The camp bubble is real, and it’s inescapable. The rest of the civilised world fades from conscious thought to be replaced with all manner of things you previously wouldn’t have dreamt you’d be involved with. Before you know it, you have a small army of four-foot tall pre-teens to keep tabs on whilst covered in war paint in a tie dye t-shirt consoling a crying child who lost a game of tug of war.

All this occurs thousands of miles from home working as part of a team consisting of people that you have never met from all over the world, friends that will last for years from all over the globe.

As a fully grown adult you pledge allegiance to all manner of teams for a plethora of different sports and games, jumping up and down in ecstasy for coaching your team of eleven year-olds to soccer world cup glory.

The most wonderful thing about it though, is that at that one particular moment there is nowhere else you would rather be. You are totally immersed in the life of the campers and their happiness is not only the goal as a professional but it is the driving force of everyone working at a summer camp.

Within the camp bubble it doesn’t matter about your political alignment, religion, nationality, skin colour, sexual orientation or gender. All that matters, are the campers and ensuring you’re doing as much as you can for them.

Aaron Cohen, a perennial camper and now a revered counsellor from Boston, Massachusetts says “Camp is the most magical place in the world.” But in reality, the true magic of camp isn’t created for the children. It is created by the children.’

Thank you to everyone who has helped me with this post, your stories are incredible and it means a lot to me that you have taken the time out of your daily lives to help me with something I’m so passionate about. I hope everyone enjoys this post as much I have enjoyed creating it.

Until next time

Tasmin

Kanamara Matsuri…festival of the steel phallus?

‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe, catch the wind in your sails – explore, dream, discover’. – Unknown

(I really struggled to find a fitting quote).

***Before you go any further some of the content below may not be deemed appropriate for certain audiences so if you are under 18 then please ask a guardian***

Kanamara Matsuri or translated ‘festival of the steel phallus’ is a festival that takes place once a year and is a sight like no other. The festival takes place at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, japan. It is definitely a novelty but the story behind the festival is rather interesting and surprising. So with a little help from google search I was able to read up on what I was getting myself into before I ventured there.

THE STORY

‘The phallus, as a central theme of the event, is reflected in illustration, candy, carved vegetables, decorations and a Mikoshi parade.

The Kanamara Matsuri is centred on a local penis-venerating shrine. The legend being that a jealous sharp toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman that the demon fell in love with and bit off the penises of two young men on their wedding nights. After that the woman sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demons teeth, which lead to the enshrinement of the item.

The Kanayama shrine was popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection from STI’s. It was also said that the shrine offers divine protections for business prosperity and for the clans prosperity; and for easy delivery, marriage and married couple harmony.

The festival started in 1969. Today the festival has become something of a tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV research’.

It’s very hard to take the event seriously when everywhere you turn people are sucking on penis shaped lollies or watching the parade where a huge penis shrine is carried through the crowds but it is definitely a worthy cause and some fun at the same time. This festival is better explained through pictures and so I have included a few from the day at the bottom.

Aside from all of the penis themed attractions you can take a walk through the crowded shrine area and make your way through the maze of different street venders. All the different sights and smells will overwhelm your senses and you shall want to try a little bit of everything. I personally decided to try Takoyaki which is a ball-shaped snack made of a batter and cooked in a special moulded pan. It is typically filled with diced octopus (tako) which was a first for me. It is covered in sauce and Bonito, which add to the overall interesting texture and taste of this classic snack. I very much enjoyed the powerful taste of something so new to me and will definitely have it again.

Enjoy the photos and check out my Instagram @theworldaccordingtotaz

Until next time

Tasmin

Crossing the worlds busiest crossing…Shibuya!

‘The bold adventurer succeeds the best’ – Ovid

Travelling around a foreign country at night alone – scary or exciting?

Ever had one of those days where you are so in your own head that you don’t want to be around people? Well that was me on the day that I decided to visit the world’s busiest crossing. Shibuya crossing (also known as scramble crossing) can see 2500 people cross during one signal change at rush hour! So you now be asking why you would want to be surrounded by that many people when you just said that you didn’t want to be around people! Well the answer to that one is simple. If you are surrounded by people that you don’t know then you are still alone in a sense because you are alone in your own thoughts, free to do as you please and not have to please anyone else when you aren’t feeling up to it. So for me Shibuya was the perfect escape.

How independent I can be still manages to amaze me, a few years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of going somewhere so unknown on my own but it was exhilarating. I challenge you all to go out on your own and do something you would normally do with someone else…go and get a cup of coffee and sit in the café, go to the cinema and see that film that none of your friends want to see or even go to lunch, order your favourite and sit there with your favourite book, just go and be free. Something that I have learnt growing up and I think has made me the person that I am is that even if you are alone it doesn’t mean that you are lonely.

Okay so take a minute now and picture Tokyo! What do you see? Is it the lights, the tall building, the rush? These were all of the things that I pictures and I found them in Shibuya. I walked around with my neck craned and mouth open (which was annoying for all of the people trying to get somewhere). In my trusty Lonely Planet Tokyo guide book it says ‘Perhaps nowhere else says ‘Welcome to Tokyo@ better than this’ and I totally agree because it makes you realise how amazing this place is and makes you want to explore even more.

*TOP TIP*

If you are like me and enjoy people watching then make your way up to the 2nd floor of the Starbucks that is on the corner and if you are lucky enough to get a seat then you will have a prime spot to watch the chaos and beauty.

Some of you may have seen the video that has went viral about being able to travel around the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as characters from Super Mario. Well whilst I was waiting at the crossing I was lucky enough to spot them as they revved their engines to pull off the green light…I even got a wave from Luigi. If you want to take part in this unique experience then you need to hold an International Drivers Licence which you will need to get in advance. All the fun of the game without the banana slips. For more information head to the website.

http://maricar.com/

Whilst here make sure to visit all of the shops as I managed to stumble upon some of the most amazing stores that I have ever seen. The first store that I happened to walk into was 7 floors of heaven starting with Mac makeup all the way through to Christian Louboutin Shoes and bags. There was a side for men and a side for women that was separated by a bridge on each floor and the views from the bridge are incredible themselves.

I managed to get some videos of the Shibuya crossing and of the Mario Go Karting which I have uploaded onto YouTube so if you have a spare 30 seconds then go ahead and follow these links for some cool footage.

Super Mario: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKqjfEAOYE

Shibuya crossing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmtBGjgIIP4

*If the links do not work then please copy and paste into your search bar (I’m still trying to figure out the links so bear with me).

If there is anything else you want to know then please comment and I shall get back to you. If you are interested in seeing more of my photos from Japan then head to my Instagram page @theworldaccordingtotaz

Until next time

Tasmin

Camp America interview tips! 

Be confident –

My weakness is that I’m very shy at first and this showed a lot during my interview. Luckily it was an hour long so during that time I got used to my interviewer and let loose. This allowed me to actually show my potential and that was what I was praised on at the end. I will always remember that at the end of my interview the guy said to me that if I had stayed as shy as I was at the start of then he wouldn’t of passed me. He then put things into perspective by saying if I couldn’t handle an interview the how would I handle a summer full of excited children? This has always stuck with me. Now when I go into intimidating situations I remember that I survived summer camp (best summer ever) and so I can conquer anything.

Be organised –

You will spend a lot of time going over your application and paperwork so make sure that you have everything ready the night before. You need everything printed out – including your full application. Take your passport, DBA check and all other forms that have been filled out. Make sure to keep all of those in a folder and keep it all neat.

Be punctual –

If you can’t make it on time to your interview then how can you be trusted to get your kids to activities on time or to be on time to run your activities? Make sure you get a good nights sleep before the interview and make sure not to consume any alcohol as turning up with a hangover isn’t a good look.

Be prepared for anything –

Your interviewer will ask a lot of questions regarding your application and why you want to do camp. Some of these questions may be totally out of the blue and unexpected but as long as you answer honestly and show you have good intentions then you will be just fine.

* Just remember the most important thing is to be yourself. Let your passion shine through and show that you are prepared for the best summer of your life. Although remember that this is a job and not a holiday! Most of all enjoy the experience!

Until next time

Tasmin

Why I did Camp America and what made me return to camp!

You know when you were a child and you saw a toy that you just had to have and would then obsess over it until you got it? Well that was me after I first found out about Camp America. I was in year 7 at school (11 years old) and saw a flyer in the back of our school planners. I remember thinking what could be better than spending a whole summer in the states doing something I love? Well for the nine years that followed that was the aim.

The whole experience didn’t feel real until I was sat on the plane crying my eyes out because of how hard it was to say goodbye to my mum. I’ve spoken to her since and she said there was a point where she wasn’t sure whether I would get on the plane at all.

My first summer was amazing and I met friends who I knew I would always keep in contact with. That doesn’t mean that the summer didn’t have its drama. I had a very rocky summer and there were a lot of moments where I felt like I didn’t fit in but those moments taught me a lot. The hard moments in life are what make you the person that you are and teach you a lot about yourself. Now I’m not going to throw the cliché ‘travelling changed me’ card but the lessons I learnt are hugely important and I will always carry them.

It’s because of these lessons and the connections that I made, that I returned to camp for another summer. I believe that everyone has that place that they feel they can be themselves and feel so at home even if its as far away from home as they could possibly be…for me that place is Camp Arbolado. The place where I decided to become a better person and face some of my greatest fears. A place where the person I am the person I want to be and not the person that I feel like people expect me to be. You meet so many people in life who say they wont judge you etc. but you don’t feel that when you are around them, well at camp being yourself is encouraged everyday and to any parent I will say send your kid to camp as it will change their whole world for the better.

Aside from how camp has improved me as a person, it is also so rewarding in many ways. You see kids who are so painfully shy come out of their shell and bloom into a completely different person. You see friendships form that never would of had the opportunity if not for camp. And most importantly you just see happiness everywhere you go which is magical and so pure.

Over the last few days I have been in contact with many people from camp and have received many stories that people want to share so their will be a post coming soon that will feature these stories.

Until next time

Tasmin