Worst Day On A Job: Camp Get-Me-Out-Of-Here

It's hard to top a job where you get paid to evaluate strains, so we thought we'd take it the other direction: Here's our team's Worst Day On A Job stories.


Camp Get-Me-Out-Of-Here

by Kaitlyn Ho


Flashback to Hong Kong 2012. It was the summer after 10th grade and your girl needed to finish off some volunteer hours before the next school year started. My step-mom recommended that I join a day camp as a counsellor, the same one she went to when she was a kid.


"A camp counsellor? Pfft, I can do that." Famous last words.


Out of the mile-long list of camp themes, I was randomly placed in the 5 to 8-year old Outdoor Adventure Camp. Sounded simple enough, I thought. I might even get some unintended workouts in. Summer bod here I come!


Wrong.


I checked the weather forecast for the week of my camp session. Even when I saw that it was supposed to pour the whole time, I was relatively unfazed.


"Ah, I'm sure we'll find some indoor activities for the kids. It'll be fine."


Wrong.


Our Camp Coordinator, my boss, was determined to expose the nature-deprived city kids to fun in the great outdoors, an admirable quality for a 20-something-year-old being paid minimal wage (about $35HKD = $6CAN/hour at the time). Eventually I realized his gung-ho speech was to rally the troops - the lowly, unpaid counsellors - and was rooted in the fact that the camp had already bought all the kids' tickets to Ocean Park and couldn't return them.


Ocean Park: imagine a huge aquarium complex crossed with an amusement theme park. You can see pandas, visit birds, ride a few roller coasters, lose your money playing carney games and finish the day off with a gondola ride that isn't for the faint of heart. Overall, a very outdoorsy affair.


Summers in Hong Kong are a concoction of bipolar weather; it can be bright and sunny one minute, then you're standing in the middle of a Typhoon 8 storm the next. Usually, this was something I welcomed because all schools and businesses close when there's a Typhoon 8 or above warning, but I really hadn't considered the weather implications on my upcoming field trip.


Ah, the rain will probably let up the day we go, I remember thinking.


Wrong.


Picture the worst thunderstorm you've ever experienced. Now double the amount of rain. Then mix in some crazy hurricane-style wind. Finally, add 20 small, unhappy children. You're starting to get it.


We had split up into groups too, so it was just me and another volunteer counsellor herding our group of children from one fair attraction to another. In between every downpour (HK likes to make you think that it's over and then BAM, here's another 10 minutes of straight fuckery), we'd usher our group under awnings, through indoor shortcuts and weave through stores to get to our next destination.


"No, walk in pairs! Stick to the right-hand side! No, I can't make the rain stop. Don't jab people with your umbrella! Keep your poncho on! Stop jumping in puddles to splash the people behind you!"


Every time I fixed a tiny umbrella that had flipped inside-out due to the wind, another kid down the line would be screaming at me to come fix theirs.


"Why didn't you guys just go inside somewhere and hide out?" you may be asking. An excellent question.


I'd like to say it's because I was a determined and committed individual even then, but it's closer to the truth to admit it was all about panic and disorientation.


All I remember is that we eventually found shelter in the penguin show room. Poor choice. Apparently penguins like it cold. It was a minus 20-degree environment. A brief moment of solace from the storm was quickly replaced by dripping wet kids who added uncontrollable shivering to their already annoying symptoms.


"Stop ripping your poncho, you'll need it when we go back out! Don't stand next to the air vents, it'll make you colder! No, I don't know why your mom forced you to come!"


Slouched on the bus seat home, soaked and defeated, I consoled myself with the thought that thanks to me, every one of those children would benefit from catching the worst cold of their lives and have a much stronger immune system as a result. And I vowed that I would never have kids of my own.


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