Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Traveling Back in Time to Ancient Rome: Camp Republic 2012

The second camp that I worked at this summer was Camp Republic. It was from July 22-28 in a town called Borovaya, located in Kharkivs'ka Oblast. It was an English language summer camp for university level students from all over Ukraine. This camp was unique from all other Peace Corps camps that I've worked at because it was a historical role-playing game based on Ancient Rome.
the girl counselors: Ashley, Megan, me, Lauren, Alina, Courtney and Rachel!
Our bulletin board with the daily schedule of activities. 
Peace Corps camps are usually high-energy camps where volunteers teach lessons and campers participate in games and challenges, but Camp Republic forced the campers to debate different issues, defend their ideas, and persuade others to join in alliances or betray their friends' trust. So this camp was on an entirely different level and I really enjoyed seeing some of the students come out of their shells and excel at public speaking in English : )

with our camp tshirts!
Rocking our togas!
Showing off our tans on the beach.
Making funny faces after a nightly Forum. 
During the week of camp, we divided up all the campers into different political "factions", or groups of people that would have lived in Rome at the time right around Caesar's death. For example, my team was the Eqvites - a new upper class formed of merchants, traders and businessmen. Other teams were the Cesareans, Cicerones (philosophers), Plebeians (the common people) and Liberators (conspirators led by Brutus).
Voting on team banners. 
A view from the back of the Forum: members moved the the left or  right to show that they were voting yes or no on each issue. 
Each faction had a designated meeting point around the camp grounds, where they could talk in private or other factions could send "delegates" to negotiate deals with them. It was interesting to see how some factions tended to ally with each other, even though they would not have been allies in real life. Factions also had legions and individual provinces of the Roman Empire under their command, as shown on the map below.
Megan and the Liberators. 
Me and my Eqvites!
Ashley and the Cicerones.
Lauren and the Caesares.
Abe and the Plebians. 
The map of the Roman Empire! Each faction's legions were represented by chess pieces, encircled by wristbands of the  faction's color - for example, the Eqvites (light blue) had 4 legions in 2 provinces in Africa. 
Since we were living in Ancient Rome, of course we had to wear togas all week. This was a great cross-cultural exchange because most of the Ukrainians had never made togas out of bed sheets before. A lot of the American counselors had been to a toga party at least once before in their lives, so we were thrilled to show them how to pin the sheets into togas. The guys usually stuck to the classic one-shoulder toga look, and the girls were a bit more creative in their toga styles. If you've never made a toga yourself, it usually works best to wrap around the waist/chest first (depending on if you are male or female) and then use the remaining fabric for aesthetic support. Girls should leave enough of the fabric to pin over their shoulders, making either 1 shoulder strap, 2-straps, or a halter top. Most of the girls added a belt with string to give the togas more of a figure and shape.

The counselor girls styling different patterned bedsheet togas.
Me with the girls from the Eqvites modeling our white togas and leafy crowns. 
We are toga rockstars!
Megan with girls from the Caesares, rocking gold leaf crowns. 
The guy counselors, with their matching togas in the classic look.
Each day, campers had to work with their faction to deliberate, plan, present, and vote on different civic projects in response to political situations. This was interesting because each faction had to work towards a different political goal, and not all projects were beneficial to everyone's agendas. For example, the common people and the Caesarians both loved Caesar and wanted to build a temple in his honor, but my team of Eqvites and the Liberators wanted to expand the Senate instead to include more votes.
Ashley and Courtney presenting a daily situation: The Battle of Rome. 
Counselors holding the proposals during voting in the Forum. 
Sasha in his element as a Roman Senator. 
Andrew with Alex, Sasha and Vitya. 
The first few days of camp were quite eventful in terms of the changing situations in daily Rome - Caesar was assassinated, a new forum was built, Liberators were denied amnesty (for killing Caesar), riots broke out in the streets, a plague swept through the city, and some factions got frustrated and declared civil war!
Caesar's body after he was assassinated on stage. 
Campers plotting how to move their legions strategically for civil war. 
All the legions are so close to Rome....
Down to the last 2 legions standing... Alina and Jenia rolling the dice to determine who would win! 
Counselors deciding what to plan for the situation in Rome with riots and the plague. 
Camp wasn't all debating and arguing in the Forum though... we had different fun classes throughout the week such as Roman history, Philosophy, Drama, Debate, Astronomy (with a scaled model of the solar system that Abe calculated carefully then build around the campgrounds), Latin, Roman Culture (with an overview of the gods and godesses), Propaganda/Advertising and even a cooking class.
Ashley teaching Philosophy in the cafeteria. 
The girls showing off their propaganda poster. 

Abe explaining how many moons Jupiter has. 
And with all that, we still managed to have fun on the beach! The beach was about a 5 minute walk from our cabins, and we were able to go there every day which was awesome. It was a little beach by the river, and usually we were the only people there. We had fun playing football, throwing around a frisbee, jamming with a guitar and banjo, and just playing in the water!

Ahmed standing on Murat's shoulders!
Sasha has a future career as a wide receiver. 
Blakely managed to capture the one and only time that I actually threw the frisbee. 
Jam session: Ryan on banjo, Derek on the guitar and Abe on the spoons. 
Teaching everybody how to throw a football. 
Murat bench pressing Ashley for an extreme river workout. 
Ashley, Megan, Ahmed, Vitya, Lauren, Murat, Pasha and Alex. 
Naptime in the shade. 
Relaxing with a back massage chain. 
No beach time is complete without burying someone in the sand!
One afternoon, we had a bunch of relay races in the sand and then a very intense watermelon polo tournament. The relay races were a lot more physically demanding than the girls expected, but they loved racing... especially when the winners were given extra votes for the Forum!

Dizzy bat.... minus the bat. 
Andrew and I demonstrating how to run as a wheelbarrow. 
The wheelbarrow race was definitely the hardest for everyone. 
Never heard of watermelon polo? Well,  you just buy a medium sized watermelon, then grease it up with sunflower oil and throw it into the river to play 4 on 4 polo (with counselors standing as goalposts). Each game was only 4 minutes long but that was long enough for the teams to fight each other in the water to score  several goals. This was game turned the Ukrainian campers into fierce competitors with equally fierce faces... I want to shout out to Blakely Neff here for all photo credits, he stood waist-deep in the river with his DSLR camera for almost 3 hours just to give us these awesome action shots!
Greasing up the melon.
Ready, set, go! The melon starts in the middle, just like a regular polo game. 
Jenia and Vitya fighting for control, while Tanya tries to pull Vitya back into the water. 
The melon was supposed to stay in the water at all times... 
Teams started just pushing each other to get to the goals. 
Murat became the most effective linebacker and just barreled the melon all the way to the goal for  victory. 
Ready at the starting line. 
The beauty of greasing the watermelon is that it slips right out of your grip sometimes. 
Sometimes it turns into an arm wrestling contest. 
Mila was a true MVP... look at her taking on all the guys and dominating! 
As Ukrainians like to say... "Friendship wins!" 
And at the end of the afternoon, our camp director Evan decided that we should have a counselor game of watermelon polo! That was definitely the highlight of the day, after standing in the river and sunburning during polo games haha. It turns out that Americans are super fierce too :D
Team 1: Courtney, Lauren, Andrew and Ryan. 
Team 2: me, Megan, Evan and Derek. 
One of the best faces of the day: Derek's "I've got it!" face.
Courtney struggling to stay above the water.
Evan trying to hold everyone off to rush the melon to the goal. 
Evan blocking Andrew's push for a goal... notice people pushing them from both sides haha. 
me battling the girls to take the melon to the goal.
The poor watermelon ended up with a lot of battle scars after the day. 
We also had different evening activities, where we watched Gladiator and played team trivia games. And I can't forget about our camp Talent Show, which was hilarious. We had campers arm wrestling, performing plays, singing, and a group of our counselors did an African dance! Disclaimer: I learned this "African dance" composition at a Peace Corps Russian language refresher camp last summer from another PCV who took African dance classes at her university, so I don't actually know what country its from or what style it is.

Abe and Evan performing improv drama games.
We had to take a prop and use it in different situations.. this one is a flower basket as Rapunzel's hair. 
Watching the screen. 
Vitya, Natasha and  Tanya performing a skit about love between gods and godesses. 
Dasha and Nastia singing Adele with Derek on guitar. 
Andrew re-wrote the Wagon Wheel song with lyrics about camp. 
Evan and Ryan performing their "Kings of the Road" act. 
Murat dominating in arm wrestling. 
Mila and Murat wrestling each other for the title. 
Performing the "Doctor" skit with Ryan as the patient who catches everyone's symptoms. 
African dancing!
Ryan's definitely got it! 
We wrapped up Camp Republic with a bonfire on the beach and cooking S'mores! Its always fun to teach Ukrainians about American traditions, and they really enjoyed roasting marshmellows over the fire because they'd never had s'mores before! If you've never had a s'more, it is a classic! The word comes from a combination of two words: some and more... s'more! It is basically a delicious sandwich with a roasted (and melting) marshmellow and a piece of chocolate inbetween two graham crackers.

Everyone around the fire. 
No need for a blanket, you can lie right on the sand and look at the stars. 
Alina wrote a song about all the counselors!
Enjoying the fire. 
If you'd like to learn more about Camp Republic, you can check out our website at  http://republiccamp.wordpress.com/ and maybe you'll even join us as a Roman senator next year! You can also join the Camp Republic group on Vkontakte to stay in touch. 


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