Over the last three days (Thursday-Saturday) I went up to the northern end of the prefecture to help out at an English camp for middle- and high school students. Since all the staff had been asked to come up with an English language activity, there was plenty to do every day. In addition, we all enjoyed various cultural experiences, such as making chikuwa, a kind of tube-shaped fish patty roasted over an open fire, and going to a Buddhist ceremony at a local temple. By far my favorite was takekomi-gohan: camp staff had hiked up the mountain and chopped down some bamboo trees, then they taught us how to cut and split the bamboo to make a natural rice-cooker! After rinsing the inside of our bamboo cookers, we added washed rice and water, and then this too was cooked over a sort of barbecue. All the preparation kept us up till the sky was dark and the air was quite frigid, but I often find that the meals you appreciate most are the ones for which you've worked the hardest.
One activity the kids had to do was to create and perform "commercial" skits. I loved my group. They seemed so shy and uninterested in the activity at first, but once we had put something together and practiced, their smiles started slipping out all over the place. We decided to make our commercial about a hip hop dance school, and the best part was that they all learned a routine and performed it together. Even though a local TV station was filming, nobody tripped anyone else or had a meltdown. I was so proud of those kids!
I didn't bring my camera to camp. I know some people have to film, for work/reporting purposes, but I always feel like a camera ruins the moment, or at least makes the kids feel more shy and awkward than they already do.
I think it would be nice to run a camp like this here in inaka-cho, too, eventually. I was impressed with the number of staff that were gathered together, though, and I'm not sure I could pull those numbers off in the immediate future.