Some 3-4 weeks back, couple of second year medicine students told us about the ongoing preparations for the Summer Camp. When we showed our interest, they ushered us to the ‘war room’ of the ‘core committee’. There were some 10 people in there, sitting around a table, some of them munching on their sandwiches, and talking. The moment we walked in, the sound level in the room dropped, and an awkward silence spread in the air. The students who took us in there, talked to the ‘core committee’, about our interest in the camp; a group discussion followed, we were asked to write our email addresses on a piece of paper and was shown the door…
Well, that was the end of it; no more news on anything.. Where is the camp? When is it? What am I supposed to do? The questions were aplenty….
Then the mails started flowing in… this happened about a week back.. most of them were group mails, which did not carry any information in particular.. And then on Monday the last, Dr. Hori gave me the details, later that evening, I was called in for a meeting with the core committee and was given a bunch of papers which answered all my queries..
And so, on Saturday (August 6, 2011) all of us assembled near the hospital. The bus was waiting for us there, and the kids had all taken their seats.. We left Tsu (津) at around 8:00. Traveled up north on Route 23, and then got on to a smaller road, one that twisted and turned, and started climbing up to the hillocks around Yokkaichi (四日市). By about 10:00 we were at 四日市市少年自然の家.
Now, I should fill in something about the participants… This is a special camp, organized by the Pediatrics Department of Mie University Hospital; every year, for kids with cancer. We had a bunch of doctors, nurses, students of medicine, and nursing, accompanying the kids and their parents. Parents of these kids are reluctant to send them, out for normal camps for fear of the risks involved. But here in this camp, the presence of the doctors, make it easy for the parents to relax a little bit. Moreover, the camp organizers had taken extra care, to make sure that, nothing would go wrong, and the kids would enjoy every single moment.
We assembled at the big gym at 四日市市少年自然の家, and after a brief
opening speech, we settled into our groups. The groups were pre-decided; five in all… We had our t-shirts, and every one started drawing pictures on the t-shirts.. Some of the pictures were really great.. Anime characters, the Sun, a Space war… After this session, we had an early lunch, and started with the sports events.
We had skipping competition, a tug of war, and then many other fun games… A photo session, and then it was time for shower and dinner. After dinner we had a Huge Camp Fire… where in the Gods of Fire, came by and heard the children talking of their dreams.. Songs, dances, and marshmallows followed.. Later in the night we had a haunted house set up for the kids.. and then it was bed time for the kids.. The parents, the doctors and the elders, assembled in a room and had our own party… this went on till 4 in the morning.. and was real fun!!
Early next morning, at 5:30, the kids were ready for bug hunting. Now for some reason, kids here LOVE BUGS, not the beautiful ones, but those huge black ones with cruel looking head gears… So, the party with all the gear for hunting these black monsters set about into
the woods… A second group, unknown to the kids, had earlier in the day released some of these bugs (caught couple of days back) at specific sites in the wood… The kids were over joyed seeing the bugs… there was this little girl, who would walk up to trees, try shaking them up, making the bugs fall down, and then pounce on them with utter joy, and then exhibit her catch with a huge grin….. At this point the hunters were hunted by a cruel monster… the Leech… but the leech attack was considered a trivial matter, considering the fruits of the entire exercise… ‘the insect boxes filled with the BUGS’.
After the hunt, it was breakfast time.. and here I joined a group of ladies making onigiris (お握り or 御握り) for the kids… Whatever I did, my onigiri won’t take the triangle shape, that it is meant to take.. but with more practice, and much instructions from a group of ‘experts’ in the field, mine started looking like a crude triangle…
After this great achievement, I joined the Kayak group, and went kayaking in the lake.. Another group, went for a walk in the woods (the nature walk).. The two groups then joined together for the BBQ.. During the BBQ we had a war with water pistols, and water bombs… and many small games for the kids…
A photo session followed and then it was time for the good-bye…. With promises of meeting again next year, of course….
Later in the day we met again at the war room.. this was altogether a different atmosphere now.. shouts of excitement, people talking of all the fun, people talking of things that could be done better, people making plans for the next year’s camp.. the day ended with a party…