Camp America – An Announcement

Note: When you read this, I will already be on my way to the USA.

Camp America is an organisation that provides cultural exchange programs for young people from the age of 18. Every year thousands of people from all around the world travel to the US in order to work in a summer camp for kids and teens.
Since American students have 12 weeks of summer vacation, it is very common to spend some weeks in a summer camp.

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In camp there are different job positions, you can be a lifeguard, a general counsellor or a specialist.
As it is a cultural exchange program, you will be working with Americans who are often former campers at their camp, probably many Britons (everyone in Great Britain knows this program), people from western Europe and even Australians and New Zealanders often take part.

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Types of Camps

There are different types of Camps and if you have preferences, you will be able to add this in you application. These are the camp types:

  • Private Camps
  • Jewish Camps
  • Christian Camps
  • Special Needs Camps (e.g. working with children and adults who have a disability)
  • Underprivileged Camps (Free of charge for the campers)
  • Girl Scout Camps
  • Day Camps
  • Single Sex Camps

I had no preferences in my application and I know have the honor to work in an underprivileged camp in New York.

YES, I WILL SPEND NINE WEEKS IN FREAKING NEW YORK!

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Working at Camp

You can either work as a counsellor, or as Campower.
Working as a counsellor means looking after the kids and you usually share a bunk with them and your co-counsellors. You will also be involved in different activities the campers have every day. Another option is being a specialist and teaching the kids something. You can basically be a specialist for every kind of sports.
Dance, soccer, basketball, equestrian, ropes, tennis etc.
But camps need also specialists for arts and crafts, nature, they need lifeguards, or even specialists for girl power.
In general, working at camp can be a very, very rewarding experience!

Campower staff can be working in a kitchen or be part of the maintenance staff. Basically they experience camp in a different way than the counsellors, since they are not responsible for the kids.

I will be working as a general counsellor and also as an arts and crafts specialist, which means I will be doing arts projects with the kids and also be a counsellor.
I really hope that I can also occasionally teach ballet or jazz modern classes, but the dance counsellor job in our camp mainly focussed on hip hop and street dance, which I am definitely not good at 😂

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How to apply for Camp America

If you want to spend your summer working at a camp in the USA, you need to apply on the CA-website or if you are German, at AIFS. You also need to be free at least from mid June till September. The application process is quite extensive.

You have to write a lot about yourself, why you want to work at a camp, tell them about the experience you have with children, you need at least two skills you can write about (sports, art etc.) and need two references from your teacher or trainer (must not be part of your family).
Additionally, you need to film a video about yourself, presenting your skills and your life, you have to fill in a medical form with your doctor’s signature, you need a certificate of good conduct and CA or AIFS will interview you.

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After your interview with your organization where they will make sure that you are capable of doing such a job, your application will be uploaded and all camp directors have access to it. If they are interested in hiring you, they will contact you and arrange a interview via skype. If they think you are suitable for a job at their camp they will ask if they can hire you. Now that you are hired, you have to apply for a VISA and go to a local embassy to get it approved. During your summer, you will have a medical insurance and if you are a „first year“, they will also book your flights and care of almost everything.
Now you can prepare yourself for camp, get in touch with other counsellors and be over excited for the hopefully best summer of your life 😄!

After your time at camp, you will have another four weeks to travel in the country, usually internationals will travel together, but you can also travel alone or book a Camp America-Track. This part is of course optional and you can choose the amount of days you would like to spend travelling.

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What do you think about this program? Would you be interested in working in a summer camp in the United States?

xx, (overly-excited) Sophie

 

Pictures in this post are not mine, they are from the movie „The Parent Trap“ with Lindsay Lohan from 1998. If you click on the images, you will directly get to the source where I found them.

What we ate in Thailand Part #1

Welcome back to my „Travel-What we ate-Series“,

today I would like to show you my (not so „instagramISH“ food pictures I took in Thailand.  Hope you like it!

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My first Mac’n’Cheese at the Bali airport, but on our way to Thailand 😄
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Pad Thai with tofu in BKK
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Fresh Lemonade in BKK
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A not so Thai Donut in Siam Paragon Mall
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Breakfast at the Eco Resort, Chiang Mai
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Mango Smoothies at Chiang Mai night market
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Pad Thai at Chiang Mai night market
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Mango Crêpe in Chiang Mai
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Pad Thai in Chiang Mai with tofu and eggs
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Waffles at the Mango Café in Pai
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Fried rice in Ao Nang
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Banana Split, not as good as the banana split in Bali
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Again, fried rice

I’m getting hungry writing this, asian food is so amazing!
Have a great week!

xx, Sophie

 

 

 

Zero Waste Toiletries

Take a look at your bathroom cabinet, what is your body lotion packaged in?
Your toothpaste or your body wash? I know we already had this but I am always shocked every time I look at my bathroom.

What can I do about it? Make some products myself. 

The past few weeks I tried some recipes and prepared some articles about different products. This will also be a „critical“ Zero Waste series, since it is not that easy to find the right recipes that actually work, but you will see!
I just want to underline that I am not one of those „proselytizing“ (okay maybe a bit exaggerated) vegans or hardcore environmentalists, telling everyone what to do.
I mean, I won’t spend my summer at home (stay tuned, I will be sharing my plans next Sunday) and I will definitely not be able to make my own products during my travels, since you need a cool space to store them and I am NOT (yet) 100% plastic free.
Additionally, as you will see in the following weeks, it is not so easy to get used to these eco-friendly DIY products.

Alrighty, today I wanted to briefly share with you what kind of products I bought for my experiment and tell you a bit about it and why I chose them.

Almond and Jojoba oil:

Jojoba oil is extracted from the jojoba bush which grows in southwestern American states like Arizona. The woman at the pharmacy told me that the lipides are not ligated through glycerine, but through long-chained esters, which are similar to the ones our sebum (Hauttalg für meine deutschen Leser) consists of. Consequently, jojoba oil perfectly connects with our skin and is moisturising but not greasing.

Almond oil is a cold-pressed plant oil, made of bitter almonds. This oil contains important Vitamins like Vitamin A, D and E, but also different kinds of B Vitamins. It protects the „acid content“ of your skin and is also known to protect your skin a bit from the sun.

Essential oils:

Essential oils are usually produced in the plant’s leafs and stored in the plant tissue. They can be extracted through steam distillation.
However, essential oils do not contain lipides and are liposoluble (fettlöslich).
They are used for aroma therapy, perfumes, but also for different medical conditions.
I bought tea tree essential oil because it is good for your skin (but smells so bad) and peppermint oil for my toothpaste because it has an antibacterial effect.
You can also buy different essential oils in order to change the scent of your products of course.

Arrowroot powder:

This product is often used for cooking and to replace gelatin. You can buy it in any wholefood shop

Xylit:

Xylit (in Germany known as Birkenzucker) is a type of sugar and is almost as sweet as usual saccharose. Good thing about it is, that it does not damage your teeth and you are actually doing something good for your choppers 😄
I will get more into detail in my upcoming posts.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda is supposed to have a natural whitening effect for your teeth, but you can also use it to make deodorant. I will talk a bit more about it in my DIY-Deodorant post.

Coconut oil:

I guess coconut oil is everyone’s all time favourite these days. It is good for your skin, you can cook with it, it has a low dripping point and you can use it as a solid oil as well.
You will need natural coconut oil for every recipe I will share with you!

Shea butter:

Pure shea butter has loads of Vitamin E in it, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids.
Using this amazing product, your skin will be more elastic and it protects your skin from UV radiation.  It is also good for people with very dry skin and neurodermatitis and eczema. It has no significant scent which tells me that it is actually a natural product without any added chemicals.

Cocoa butter:

Cocoa butter is of course vegan and you can use it for cooking and doing something good for your hair and skin as well.

Unfortunately, the only cocoa and shea butter I found in the stores were both packaged in plastic. But I thought it is my first try and next time I might order something in a jar online, but ordering online is not to great as well… Additionally, I like to support our local stores.
The problem with Zero Waste is that our (food-)industry is not designed to provide plastic free products and I try to avoid ordering on amazon.

However, what I love about this DIY project is that all the products are simple, mostly natural products without tons of added chemicals and perfume. The less ingredients, the better 😊

Hope you found this helpful!
Stay tuned,

Sophie

Bangkok, Thailand – experiencing a contrast

Bangkok, the capital of beautiful Thailand in the northern part of the country with 8.281 million residents (wikipedia). But can you imagine this city to be an empty, silent ghost town? I couldn’t, but I’ve experienced it.

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We left Bali on Wednesday the 25th of October 2017 and took a plane to Bangkok. At the airport in Denpasar I had my first Mac’n’Cheese and it was delicious, even though the idea of cooking pasta in milk and cheese does not flatter me.
After having arrived quite late in Thailand, we took a taxi to our hostel for 450 Bath.
The hostel was quite nice but the air in the dorms was not fresh at all but we didn’t care – it’s only a hostel and we were so excited to be in Bangkok!

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The next morning we decided to walk around and get some water and were really confused since the streets reminded us of a ghost town. We always expected BKK to be a bubbly and active city with lots of traffic jams, millions of people running around and street food everywhere. It was the opposite: no people on the streets, no cars, all Thai people dressed in black.
We went back to the hostel and the scells fell from our eyes: it was the anniversary of the death of the beloved King Bhumibol and the day of his funeral.
Walking around, a police officer even yelled at me because I took pictures of the streets… well I get it, it was a bit rude…

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However, we talked to a travel office and booked some flights and a night train to Chiang Mai. The next day we were supposed to leave in the evening and spend the day in the mall. The Siam malls are a big mall complex with different buildings and stores, those malls are amazing! There are so many different shops and all kinds of food – we had lunch at a backery 😄
We later went to the Lumphini Park, a big park in the heart of BKK were many people do sports during the day. The park itself was really beautiful, but again, no people around. Only a turtle on the pedestrian walk and monitor lizards in the pond instead of ducks.
In the evening we were happy to be able to finally take the night train to Chiang Mai, it felt inappropriate to be in a city where everyone grieved for a good king.

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– Three weeks later –

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The Grand Palace

At the end of our travels in Thailand, we returned to Bangkok in order to spend another day in the city and then fly to Australia. This time we booked a very cheap hostel at Khaosan Road, well it was the worst we had (besides the 16 bed dorm in Brisbane). But we weren’t surprised, I mean we paid 3,50€ per night which is cheaper than buying one kilogram of apples in Australia.

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Khaosan Road is an amazing street – very busy, many people, a lot of delicious street food stands and loads of cars and taxis driving around the neighborhood.
By the way, here are two tips for your BKK experience:

  • Someone told me that it is more secure to buy street food from women rather than from men. Women usually care more for hygiene which means that you can reduce the risk of getting sick
  • If you want to cross one of the busy roads in BKK, wait for a native to cross the street and simply follow him/her
  • If you want to take a taxi with a taximeter, make sure that you track where the driver is taking you because they often take a longer way round which will lead to higher costs for you. Also make sure to negotiate a fixed price when taking a Tuk Tuk or a usual taxi. Basically, everything under 100 Bath is totally fine.

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We spend the last 36 hours in Thailand exploring the (now bubbly) city and went to the Grand Palace and took a Tuk Tuk. Unfortunately, we failed to visit other temples, since I fell asleep in the taxi and the driver drove us to the other side of the city and there was no time left to visit Wat Pho 😐
The day we left Thailand was a total mess, we had booked a transfer to the wrong airport and consequently had to take a very slow bus to the other airport… nevertheless, we made it 😊!

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Hope you enjoyed reading!

Have a good day!
xx

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

Hello everybody and welcome back to my Zero Waste series!

A few weeks ago I posted my first Zero Waste Article, explaining the main points and my goals. Today I would like to share with you my first project – Zero Waste Grocery Shopping -!

Many people started to buy unpackaged food the past few years and many package-free food stores started their business. In my city, we also have such a store and I recently started to shop most of my groceries there, especially dry foods like Rice, Cous Cous, Seeds etc.
Now our local Zero Waste store is going to move to the city center which is quite exciting, since I hope that they will have a larger impact on the people in our city and encourage  them to reduce waste.

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Vegan chocolate at its best.

The idea of those package-free stores is pretty simple and I am sure most of you have heard of it.
Basically you bring your own jars and bags and spill your dry foods into your own sustainable package.
Cool thing is – it’s not only sustainable, it’s also so much fun and I recently started to really enjoy grocery shopping.

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Of course you can’t buy everything unpackaged but there are some simple hacks you can try in order to reduce waste.
At this point I have to underline that I only follow this lifestyle to a certain extent at the moment, but I really hope that I will improve within the years.
I strongly believe that we can have an impact together and reduce waste step by step.
Going „Zero Waste“ shouldn’t be another burden for you and you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself if you aren’t able to follow this lifestyle 24/7.
Personally, I feel that the main goal should be enjoying and appreciating this journey, showing respect to our beloved earth and feel good about making a difference.

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So here are some „rules“ I try to follow when shopping groceries:

  1. I buy dry foods at the package-free store and try recipes that include loads of good seeds, nuts, good carbs etc. Here are some of my favourites I always have in my kitchen cabinet:
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    – Brown Rice
    – Quinoa
    – Cous Cous
    – Bulgur
    – Wholegrain pasta
    – Chick peas
    – Red and brown lentils
    – Unripe spelt grain
    – dry soy bolognese
    – different kinds of seeds and nuts for salads
  2. I buy unpackaged fruits and veggies. Although people at a normal grocery store might be annoyed that they have to weight 8 apples without a plastic bag…however you could bring a reusable paper bag 🙂
    If they only have broccoli wrapped in plastic, I probably won’t buy it and look for an alternative.
  3. You can buy vegan chocolate and other kinds of sweets at the package- free store 😍
    I usually bring a chocolate jar, unfortunately most of the chocolate will be gone before I get home 😅

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  4. I avoid take away foods and prepare and cook as many meals as possible at home
  5. Buying at the local market supports local farmers and it’s environmentally more friendly to shop seasonal and local foods. (Unfortunately we don’t have home-grown bananas in Germany 😄)
  6. Due to sanitary and health protection, shops in Germany are usually not allowed to put meat, cheese etc. into your own plastic boxes, however some of the smaller/local companies sometimes make exceptions.
  7. One of the biggest problems for me is that I haven’t found any place yet that sells soy yoghurt in jars. I know you can buy cow milk products in bottles in jars but at the moment I am often trying to make my own oat milk. But unfortunately I am not able to make my own yoghurt. 😄

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As I already said, this lifestyle shouldn’t be a burden and I don’t fail just because I bought foods in plastic. Making a difference is very important and we all have to work together in order to reduce plastic and fight against marine pollution. It is so sad that there are several plastic „islands“ in the pacific ocean and that most beaches are polluted and full of trash. A few weeks ago National Geographic started a new campaign called Planet or Plastic? and I can highly recommend you to read it. We must not keep our eyes closed, we need a change.

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I love using an old smoothie bottle as a reusable water bottle!

What do you think about going Zero Waste and is this a project you will take into consideration?

I wish you all the best!
xx

 

Yi Peng and Loy Krathong Festival Chiang Mai #2

Welcome back to Yi Peng Festival 2017, today I would like to share with you the rest of my festival photos I took in Chiang Mai.
In my last post I talked a bit about the festivals themselves and the ceremony we joined in the city.
The ceremony was really beautiful and around ten we decided to go to the east gate bridge in order to see the rising of the lanterns. You definitely can’t miss the bridge since there are thousands of people walking down the streets of Chiang Mai to the east gate.

Although it was very very crowded, (we were barely able to make our way down to the river without getting lost) we even met a friend we made in Bali which was so cool since tens of thousands of people attend the festival every year.

However, we bought a lantern for 50Bath and „joined the spirit“- it was magical! I will never forget this feeling of almost unbearable happiness!
As there is also the Loy Krathong Festival at the same time, we later went to the river and let my little boat float away. Unfortunately it got stuck, nevertheless it was an amazing experience!

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Have a good week!

xx

Traveller’s Autobarn Australia, our experience

There are two big car rental companies in Australia where travellers under the age of 21 are allowed to rent cars: Juicy and Traveller’s Autobarn.
Since we wanted to rent a car and drive from Brisbane to Sydney, we asked our travel company ‚Peter Pan’s Travel‘ for help and decided to rent a Ford Falcon Station Wagon.
The car came with a tent, a stove (which didn’t work but we bought a new one and got the money back), cooking supplies and two chairs.
Well, our trip was cool but there are some reasons why I won’t go with Traveller’s Autobarn again.

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The staff from Traveller’s Autobarn in Brisbane was quite friendly and the pick-up was totally fine. We spent the first day driving from Brisbane to Beenleigh and made our way to Gold Coast and Lamington National Park the next days.
So, on our last day in Lamington we realised our car battery was dead.
Yes, we did pay attention not to use the lights of the car, the radio or whatsoever.
Problem was, that there was no phone signal, only for Telstra Sim Cards. At that time we had vodafone data sim cards, but fortunately I kept my old Telstra sim and consequently was able to call the road assistance. It took them two hours to get to the park (thirty kilometers uphill) and the guy jump started our car and told us that the battery only had half the power it was supposed to have. However, what he said was something like ‚give it a good ride and you should be fine the next two weeks‘. We were slightly annoyed since we were back on the road at five in the evening, although we had planned to drive to Byron Bay that day. Instead, we were forced to spend the night on a creepy highway campground/parking space.

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Our Falcon broke down a second time in Byron Bay and some Australian guys gave us a jump start. In order to be able to continue our road trip the next day and drive to Port Maquarie, we drove around for twenty minutes. Obviously our plan didn’t work out and we called Road Assistance again next morning. They jump started our car AGAIN and told us to go to the next garage in Byron Bay. Surprise surprise, they told us it wasn’t the battery but the alternator and we had to wait three hours until they had replaced it. Consequently, we lost another day.
The people from the garage also talked to Traveller’s Autobarn and fortunately they paid for the repair.

 

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You think everything was alright then? It wasn’t. The fourth time our car broke down was in Crowdy Bay National Park and we had to ask again for a jump start on our campground. This time we were so annoyed and contacted Traveller’s Autobarn.
A staff member told us that we would get a refund for the two days we had to rely on Road Assistance and said we would get a refund if we returned our car two days earlier.

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Green Mountains Camping Area was the best campground we had!

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At that time, we were totally exhausted and annoyed. The car had ruined our trip and we were scared our car might break down again. It had already forced us to sleep at gloomy motorway rest areas and we just wanted to get rid of this car and finally arrive in Sydney. Since the guy told us that we could return our car earlier, we decided to go for it quitted the trip.

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Again- surprise! We got into trouble with the Traveller’s Autobarn garage in Sydney since they didn’t want to give us the full refund of four days and told us that there was nothing wrong with the car. They said they had checked it and everything was alright. If we knew that they wouldn’t give us the refund, we would have stayed in Newcastle.
However, we returned the car earlier and had to pay another two nights in our hostel.
Too bad.

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Reading ‚Gone Girl‘

To summarise, they gave us a car that didn’t work properly, they gave us false information and the staff in Sydney was rather arrogant than friendly.
Even though we spend a lot of time worrying and waiting, our road trip was still very cool but I know for sure, that I will NEVER EVER rent a car at Traveller’s Autobarn again.
I will probably publish another blogpost where I will be talking about traffic, roads, gas and the positive aspects of our road trip the next few weeks.

I hope some of you found this helpful. If some of you have ever rented a car at this company, please tell me about your experience :)!

xx, Sophie