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Pemi’s heartbeat: daily occupations and activities

Photo by Rob Verger
Photo by Rob Verger

One of my favorite parts of being a camper at Pemi was the mornings spent in occupations, hustling from one activity to the next. “Occupations” is the word Pemi uses to describe the organized activities that occur every Moday through Friday and some Saturdays; each activity is 55 minutes long. Campers sign up for new occupations each week, giving them the consistency of five or more days in a row of doing the same activity, but also a change each week, too. This allows the instructors to develop lesson plans that build day-to-day; occupations are where the most structured teaching happens at Pemi each day.

As a camper, I loved any occupation on the water: waterskiing or canoeing, for example. Lower Baker Pond is more than big enough to host lots of activity on it simultaneously and feel far from crowded. I’ve also always loved the chance to take a canoe or kayak under the bridge into camp and explore the quiet lily pad and reed-filled lower lake, or “swamp,” as it’s sometimes called, with a group of campers and staff. (All campers at Pemi are always very closely supervised by staff on the water, both on the lake and lower lake.)

But most of all, when I was a camper, I loved taking sailing occupations. I loved time on the water in a small Sunfish sailboat, and later, in a larger boat called a Puffin. (Now, the Puffins have been upgraded to more modern multi-person sailboats called Capris.) In my years on staff at Pemi, I taught sailing more than any other activity, and I liked the circularity of it: as a camper, I learned how to sail, and as a counselor, I taught it.

Pemi offers all the occupations you might expect: baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, wood shop, music, and nature occupations galore. If you were to drive into camp on a busy morning, you’d see the fields and the lakes alive with activity, and maybe pass a fifteen-passenger van driven by Larry Davis for a quick outing to the nearby butterfly field. But there are also occupations you might be surprised to hear Pemi offers—night photography, for example, and other arts occupations, like rock painting.

What were your favorite occupations to take or teach when you were at Pemi, and did any of them influence the direction your life took? I know that I can’t pass a sailboat now without thinking happily of Pemi.

Rob Verger