The Balakan Arts Summer Camp has been my biggest project to date, but I can't find the time to sit down and write about it. I'm busy, yes. I've had my normal club schedule of 13 per week, I went camping for a couple days up in the mountains of Zaqatala, I am planning a baseball clinic with my students at the orphanage on Friday, I am finding guest speakers for the national boys summer camp (ABLE: Azerbaijan Boys Leadership Experience; a one week sleep away camp) happening next week, and my 6-month report is due! However, I must admit that I mostly cannot write about the camp because I really have no idea where to start. 38 kids, 16 volunteers, 3 Azeri counterparts, 6 days, and a whole lot of tie-dye and friendship bracelets later, I'm tired and don't know what to say.
It was an overwhelming success, greater than anything I could have ever imagined. My buddy Matt said it perfectly. It was "organized chaos", and we loved every minute of it. The kids were perfect, coming everyday on time and excited. The counselors were even better, inspiring and energetic. Every event, every game, every art form was met with more enthusiasm than the one before it, and I have my wonderful PCV colleagues to thank for that. They came from all over Azerbaijan to help, and each brought with them their own personal flare. Since their departure, my kids sulk around when asking why Gio, Lori, Marie, Brad, Erika, Clarissssssssa, Cryyyyyyystal, Matt, Mike, Dan, and Jodi had to leave, as if they're kind of over me.
I took on an administrative role, spending the week organizing events, including the Olympics and after camp adult activities like a kiddie pool belly flop competition), purchasing materials, and making sure everything was in order. I have to give special thanks to Stephanie, the mastermind behind the camp, and our 3 Azeri counterparts: Pervane, Ulduz, and Farid. They showed up everyday and stuck with the kids through it all. The Minister of Education even came, and was impressed. Well, actually, she first threatened to shut down the camp because she didn't know about it beforehand. But, after visiting and seeing us at work, she sang our praises all over Balakan, begging us to run the camp again next year. She even came to the showcase on Saturday night where the students performed and displayed everything they had done throughout the week (writing, visual, dance, drama, music, photography).
Anyway, to conclude, I thought in the spirit of sustainability and cultural sharing, if you'd like to see pictures of the camp and read firsthand reactions, check out the following two blogs, owned and written by two of my best students. Last weeks social media club assignment was to write about summer camp. These girls did a fantastic job and I think you'll find their stories very entertaining.
If you have any questions about the camp or want to know, just make a comment and I'll respond ASAP.