This is my Baby Angel arriving at her Year 9 Outdoor Ed camp last Sunday. She is unpacking her things in preparation for the 'search' by Year 10 Camp Leaders, to ensure the kids have not smuggled in ipods/phone/lollies or extra clothing. A Year 10 search reveals masses of contraband!
They have spent all this year preparing for this camp. They have made their own bowls,
candlestick holders and cups out of clay ; they have made torches in Science; they have planned menus in Home Ec and fashioned eating utensils from wood and plastic in Technology classes.
The newspapers and magazines she has there are for warmth. That strange green thing she is sitting on is her bed.
Last weekend she spent several hours out in the garden with Himself, practising knots and tying up tarpaulins with rope. We trawled the internet for instructions on how best to set up a shelter.
We bought two different sized tarps from the cheap shops.
The treebed, as you can see, is merely a stretcher like arrangement which is wedged in the fork of a tree (as far as I can make out) and anchored with rope. To protect yourself from the elements, you erect a tarpaulin over the treebed and secure it to various branches.
During the day, the groups of campers undergo challenges through which they earn points. They can trade these points for raw ingredients at the camp 'store' and they then cook their own dinner and lunch for the next day.
Now all this would be fine except for one thing.
This week has seen some of the heaviest rain, wildest winds and most fantastic thunderstorms that Adelaide has experienced in some time. And where is my child?????
Up a tree.
I cannot pretend that I have not been worried. Well, perhaps worried is the wrong word. I have felt guilty. I have felt guilty as I snuggled under a quilt on my lovely squashy couch in front of the log fire, listening to the rain pelt down and the wind howl. I have felt guilty as I reflected with relief that I was not being forced to sleep in a tree. I felt guilty that I was not snatching my baby from the jaws of discomfort and possible dampness and protecting her with my very life. It just didn't seem right. But then, she's not my baby anymore.
After the Music Suite, upstairs, flooded on Monday afternoon and we spent an hour mopping up ankle deep water with the Annie mops and buckets, I wondered how my child was faring in the extreme conditions and I did something I swore I would never do, I became the over anxious parent. I texted a friend who is a teacher on the camp and posed the question:
"How much rain does it take to wash this camp out?"
Initially there was no response but later I received this text:
"A lot more than we've had! Your kid is tough. Some have gone home already. She will let you know when she's had enough. Camp is running fine."
Can I give you any sense at all of how proud (and how relieved) I was? My kid is tough. I just welled up. I immediately phoned Himself who had been muttering about 'Health and Safety' and 'irresponsible schools' and the Westminster incident to reassure him. I haven't texted again. That doesn't mean that I haven't jumped a foot in the air every time my phone rings.
But here we are, Thursday night and no phone call. She's still out there. Tonight is calmer. After four straight nights of wind and water she may get a dry sleep tonight although I think tonight is the famous 'Esther Watch'.
On this night, the challenge is to stay 'on watch'. They carve themselves out a square metre of ground and stand or sit in that space all night. I wonder if they will let them do it this year?
Tomorrow afternoon I have to pick her up from school. I am on tenterhooks to see her, to hear her experiences, to help her make the transition from extreme challenge to normality. I wonder at my capacity to do this. Perhaps we will sit up together until it's late. Perhaps I'll curl up on the couch with her. Perhaps she won't need me at all?............