There’s just something about going on camp that sparks a bit of magic. Breaking out of the normal routines of school, pushing yourself mentally and physically, disconnecting from technology, surrounding yourself with nature, all the while working as a team, brings about a sense of connectedness and excitement.
A 3-hour bus ride with 30 ten and eleven year olds doesn’t sound like much fun, but when they all randomly burst into song, a boring bus ride turns into a good time. Between the bouts of singing, we told stories, played cards, made each other laugh, and ate all the snacks! Before we knew it, we had arrived in Lembang. Checking into our hotel, students set up their rooms, excitedly making the space their own. Being able to share your own room with your friends is definitely fun!
From there, we headed up the mountain in our huge bus, barely fitting on the narrow, winding roads. More than once we caused a traffic jam and nearly got into a wreck! While the adults were stressed, this only added to the students’ excitement.
Our visit to The Bandung Treetop Adventure Park was a true adventure! Not only were we tasked with a physically challenging ropes course high up in the treetops of a forest, where we walked across swinging logs hanging from thin wires, climbed rope ladders, crawled through too-small wooden tunnels (my knees!), walked across wires that swayed in the breeze, and shot through the air on zip lines, a thunderstorm blew in quickly while we were all in the middle of our courses! Thunder boomed and lighting cracked as the sky opened up. Being high up in the air next to tall trees and connected to metal wires during a storm isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun time. The workers scrambled to rescue everyone by bringing us down one by one using a rope/pulley system. I was one of the first ones down, so I provided comforting words to stranded children who were understandably scared. We eventually all got down safely, and although we were thoroughly soaked and coming down from an adrenaline high, we were proud of the risk-takers we were!
Our first evening, after we were all showered and rested, was loads of fun! We had a traditional Indonesian dinner followed by some outdoor play, journaling about our day (nearly everyone wrote that the thing they were most proud of is not getting struck by lightning and dying!), and playing an intense few games of Mafia, a game they fell in love with and begged to play throughout the rest of the camp.
Day Two was full-on! Following an early morning wake-up call and a quick breakfast of Bubur Ayam, we piled onto the bus and headed for Tangkuban Perahu, a volcano with three huge craters, that last erupted in 2013. Hiking around the volcano, seeing the craters up close and hearing the history and myths surrounding the volcano, was exciting. The students (and me) were in awe!
After seeing the volcano, we spontaneously decided to go on a hike to see the natural hot springs. Not knowing what to expect, we headed off down the steep trail, with uneven steps carved into the path. The bulk of the group quickly went ahead, leaving a few of us behind. We hoped we were going in the right direction, but the stillness and quiet surrounding us was eerie, and more than once we doubted ourselves. Deciding to take it easy, we stopped and took photos of the natural beauty surrounding us. Craig is a budding photographer who captured a few amazing shots!
The hot springs were worth the trip down, and the students eagerly rolled up their pants to wade in the warm, muddy pools. Fearing that we had to make our way back up the trail that took us about 45 minutes to come down, I was excited to hear that a bus would be picking us up. Little did we know that the pick-up spot was another 1.2km hike away, about a third of it uphill! Bracing ourselves, we hit the trail, huffing and puffing our way through. Coming upon a natural spring with cool, clear water gushing through a pipe, we stopped to drink the delicious water. After making it to the bus stop, everyone was surprised to hear that we’d hiked nearly 10km (based on my FitBit). Boy were we tired, but at the same time, energized. After stopping for lunch and a quick swim at a hot springs resort, we headed back to the hotel, our bodies spent.
After dinner, the real fun started! We built a campfire, told scary stories under the stars (made more scary by Mr Marc’s well-timed screams), and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores. Many of our students, having lived in Jakarta, a major urban city, most of their lives, had never roasted marshmallows before. The excitement and sheer joy of this new experience was rewarding to watch. Fully hyped up on sugar, students danced to their favorite songs, ran around outside, played Jenga, and discovered what happened when you heated up a stick in the fire and swirled it above your head (it makes an orange circle!). We ended the night with a few more games of Mafia, staying up past our normal bedtime. But it was definitely worth it!
The next morning, after a nerve-racking room inspection by Mr Marc, where the students were rated on the cleanliness of their rooms in an over-exaggerated way, we had breakfast and played a few games before the students loaded up on the bus for the long ride back to Jakarta.
Earlier this week, I was able to attend camp with our Year 6 students. Being from America, camp is something that occurs over the summer, so the concept of students attending a camp during the school year is foreign to me. Until this week, it’s not something I necessarily bought into. But now, after getting to experience how camp bonds students together, allows students to partake in new activities, and gives them a chance to shine in different ways, I’m a camp convert.