by Tom Griffin – Staff 2002
I only worked at Big Canoe for one summer. And it was my first time to Canada too. I remember it being like a postcard- when you see unusual landscapes for the first time their differences are emphasized and even more magical. What a fairy-tale landscape, mist on the water, many many tall tall trees, birdsong, raccoons- like on the movies. I remember walking out of the dining hall one day, and seeing a massive turtle in the road- I had been in Canada for a couple of weeks, and sincerely had no idea that turtles were in the wild- I just thought of turtles on the tropical islands, the babies waddling to the ocean in the documentaries- and had no idea that they were around Ontario. So I see this turtle- and it might as well have been a zebra- I just couldn’t quite believe it- I wondered if it had escaped from somewhere…
But it’s not just the space and the nature. The idea and culture is so strong too- connecting kids with nature, and importantly with other people in an environment that fosters friendships through honesty and openness, something that can be more difficult to cultivate in places where peer pressure is different. Seeing the transformation of some kids was amazing. As a CBC first timer I felt some empathy with kids who were there for the first time too- CBC is such a strong culture with so many repeat visitors, that the quirks and different routines- catchphrases, songs, events- that make it so special were, to be honest, at first a bit overwhelming at times. I remember this group of older boys who were new to CBC, and on one of the first mornings of the first session, early on the beach for polar bear, they were clearly dismissive of the idea of jumping in the lake or playing the game- they were uncomfortable, so used to social structures and statuses of their homes where these activities would be sneered at, and they were obviously struggling with the challenges of this new social and physical environment. But by the end of the ten days they were leading campfire songs, dressing up in costumes, acting in skits, and became part of the spirit of CBC, it was wonderful to watch. The happiness that being at camp brought people was memorable, and not really something I’ve seen anywhere else.
CBC was an amazing introduction to Canada, to the landscape, the culture, and more. It helped me form a strong bond with my adopted home, and although was only part of my life for one summer a long time ago, is a place and a community that I am fond of, and part of my own roots in Canada some 15 years later.