Since 1989, the Washington Metropolitan Association of Chinese Schools (WMACS) has sponsored an annual, week-long (this year, 8 days!), overnight summer camp. The purpose of the camp is for campers to learn more about the Chinese heritage and culture, as well as develop relationships that will hopefully continue after the week is over.
On arrival at the campsite, campers check-in to receive their room assignments and keys. Campers are assigned single sex, age-based groups, each under the responsibility of one or two counselors. All counselors have had at least one year of college experience and often were previous campers themselves. Roommate pairs are done such that campers in the same group stay together. We also try our best to accommodate roommate requests made on the application form.
After unpacking, campers take a tour of the campus and are introduced to the camp rules. Every camper is also assigned a team consisting of boys and girls of all ages. These teams compete in various activities throughout the week. The top teams of the last two years were Yellow Ballers (2009) and Sizzling Bacon (2010).
Over the next six days, campers have a structured routine of classes in the morning and activities in the afternoon and at night. Wake-up is at 6:30am, with breakfast at 7:00am in the campus dining hall (be sure to try the unlimited soft-serve ice cream!). All meals are included in the camp fees. From 8:00am to 3:00pm, campers take five classes, with a break for lunch in between.
Classes vary from year to year, but include a combination of the following: folk sports (Chinese yo-yo, top, etc), general sports (volleyball, basketball, dodgeball), folk dance (ribbon, silk fan, iron fan, flag, wushu), modern dance, arts and crafts (paper cutting, origami, dough figures, knot tying), chorus, and discussion seminars (personal identity, relationships, race, the media).
Afternoon activities typically center on team-based competitions. These include water games, the amazing race and sports tournaments. Water games involves relay races and other competitions involving well, water. It culminates in a big water balloon fight on the lawn, in which the campers can choose to hit their friends/teammates or their favorite counselors. The Amazing Race is a campus-wide obstacle course requiring teams to work together to solve riddles, and accomplish a variety of tasks. Since its inception in 2004, this activity has been a camper and counselor favorite. The activity gives our older campers the opportunity to develop their leadership and management skills, often sacrificing their own bodies for piggy-back rides to help the younger campers keep up with the pack.
Night-time activities are more varied. One staple event is our night market. For one night, we try to bring the night markets of the streets of Taiwan to our campers here in the United States. Campers play carnival-style activities such as Pictionary, 24, whack-a-mole/counselor, blackjack and game-o-rama, in which campers challenge counselors to one-on-one competitions. Each win earns campers tickets, which they can use to buy snacks, bubble tea, prizes, or the opportunity to buy a counselor to pie in the face or act as a servant for a task. Other night-time activities include game show night, game night, volleyball tournament, and the Friday-evening dance.
Staff providesevening snacks (sticky rice, spring rolls, watermelon, ramen noodles, etc.) for campers before lights out at 10:00pm.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After breakfast Saturday morning, we clear out of the dormitories and return to TECRO to perform for friends and family. Artwork from the week is also displayed. E-mail addresses, facebook accounts, and phone numbers are exchanged so that the relationships formed at camp may continue over the next 51 weeks before camp next year. On the bright side, there is also a camp reunion giving campers the opportunity to reunite one last time before the school years starts.