Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tai Tong Holiday Camp

The kids’ school here in Hong Kong has a commitment to outdoor education with all kids from 3rd grade through 12th grade going away to camp. The high school kids can choose between a number of trips, ranging from ski trips in the Alps to charity work in India. The middle school goes to China. I know the sixth graders do a week in Beijing without parents. Tori’s school, the upper primary, does three days and two nights at various camps in the New Territories, the part of Hong Kong that is on mainland China. And luckily for me, parent volunteers are needed.

Tori and I just returned from Tai Tong Holiday Camp, about an hour and a half drive away from our home on Hong Kong Island. We all stayed in modest but air conditioned buildings, divided into “cabins” by classroom and gender. We did all the typical camp activities, clean up our rooms, go on hikes, and make smores. In addition to the usual, the kids also had hourly outdoor activities like rock wall climbing, bike riding, swimming and archery. It really was camp with a holiday flair and the name of the place, Tai Tong Holiday Camp, is pretty appropriate.

Tori loved it all. She reported that one of her favorite camp activities was climbing on the ropes courses and doing the hike. On the hike, we found an interesting eucalyptus tree. It looked the same as the eucalyptus trees in California except that all of its bark was peeled off in long strips. The bark lay on the ground in a full circle around the tree. Tori and I tried to figure out what happened until an Australian teacher told us the tree was an Australian import, the ghost gum eucalyptus that shed its bark in that way every year. Tori also enjoyed finding a poisonous bright green bamboo snake right outside our cabin. Another teacher whispered to me that a few years earlier they had actually found a couple of pythons curled up on the pool deck. I think I slept as poorly as the third grade girls that night.

My favorite camp moment was watching Tori figure out how to do archery. When her class first tried, everyone got three chances to shoot an arrow at the bull’s eye target. The bows were large and the distance far. Only one of the bows was able to get an arrow into the target. But it made such a satisfying whack that all eyes turned and we clapped for the boy. Tori had some troubles with her arrows and the Chinese instructor made her shoot with her right hand even though she is left handed. After her failed attempts, she came over by me and watched others shoot, also unsuccessfully, for awhile. Then she told me she figured it out and convinced her teacher to let her go back for another try. Sure enough, she got her arrows into the target. There was no fan fare, everyone else was gone. She put the equipment away and ran to catch up with the next lesson. But I noticed a spring in her step for the rest of the week.


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