If you know me, you know how much I adore Camp Friendship and what it has given to me. I can say from the bottom of my heart there is no place in the world or experience I have gone through where I have learnt more about myself than my summers at that magical place.
Now, non-camp people don’t really get it. Like don’t get me wrong they try but unless you’ve done a summer camp experience you’ll never really understand what it’s like. You’ll never really get what the friendships you make are like. There is no better way to bond than being thrown together with strangers and then looking after kids with little sleep or rest. It’s not for everyone and the people who do make it are basically as crazy as each other. (Especially if my camp is anything to go by, we’re all nuts) I’m also aware that everyone’s experience is different. I have friends who have gone to camps and it hasn’t been all it was chalked up to be. Which is fair enough. However, for me, camp has made me who I am. I pointed to it in my first blog and now I want to expand a little.
My first summer I was on the ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ programme of Camp America, meaning I hadn’t been placed in the early season. I was basically on a waiting list. Then one Wednesday in June I got an email saying there was potentially a place for me. I arranged a Skype call with the director, Cris for midnight. Staff training had already started out there so it was the only time he could manage. I had the call and Saturday morning 2:30 am I was leaving my house to catch a plane. I guess this experience is one of the reasons I believe ‘everything happens for a reason.’ What a chance of luck that I was picked, that someone dropped out and I got to go.
Summer 2013 was amazing. I’d grown up knowing all about camp; both my parents had been, a lot of our family friends had and my mum was an interviewer for Camp America so for as long as I could remember I’d had people in and out our house saying why they were excited for a summer camp experience. So you would think I would know what to expect. Wrong. I had no idea. Every camp is different and when getting on the plane all I knew is I would be with the older kids and teaching dance. So I had to learn as I went along. My first day of staff training is one I doubt I’ll ever forget. Not to mention I turned up after a very intense game of Capture the Flag and was already overwhelmed.
So my first real day, I rock up to breakfast and sit with my village, all seems good. Then I get breakfast… biscuits and gravy. Let me tell you. In America, biscuits and gravy is not what you think. It’s scones and sludge. (Miss Barbara I love you, but it’s true) It was fine but still, a shock. We moved on to start the day of… learning emergency procedures. So finding out everything that could go wrong and how to fix it. This included everything from a big thunderstorm to a gunman on camp. What had I gotten myself into? I mean really. The afternoon? A lake sweep. Anyone, who has been to a camp with a lake, will have likely experienced this. It is not a pleasant experience. It is as it says on the tin, a sweeping of the lake. It’s a simulation to practice looking for a body in a lake in a worst-case scenario. Safe to say the first day made an impression.
Naturally things only got better from there. Being in
SV1 was a dream. The staff team were so on point. We got on so well, except maybe myself and one other person but it’s cool. I held my tongue and it
was all fine. I taught dance all summer, which was interesting. One week you’d have a class of extremely talented dancers, the next they couldn’t count in time. It was all a learning curve though. The dance pavilion became my happy place and it is to this day. During the summer I got to be a colour wars captain, which again, if you know camp is a big deal. It was I think the most stressful day of my camp experience but one of the best days at the same time. Colour wars in itself warrants a blog so look out for that at some point. Don’t get me wrong the summer was hard work. The hard work is what makes it so rewarding though.
I’m still in touch with a lot of my friends from that summer. I met one of my best friends, Monica there. Two years later, despite an ocean between us she’s still one of my go to gals. I firmly remember first cementing my friendship with Mo. We were playing Powder Fairies, an evening activity and it involved running. I’m not a runner. So naturally I was nervous and she just looked at me and said, “I got you girl.” Just like that she’s been one of my faves ever since.
The decision to go back this summer is a good story I guess. January came and I went into the classic final year panic of what am I going to do with my life and my final summer of freedom? Then the idea of camp entered my head. Having taken a year off I was a bit weary so decided to call a friend who had gone back. Whilst at boozy bowling he called and we had a good chat and from that point on I was excited and knew I wanted to go back. I sent an email straight after getting off the phone. The rest is history really.
This summer was tough. I did miss out on a lot that happened at home for it. I missed my graduation, the last term of my undergrad and not to keep going on about it but it hurt relationships too. Whilst at times I’ve since questioned my decision to go back to camp. I mean my life would be very different right now if I hadn’t. I hate the part of me that thinks it because you know what? Everything happens for a reason. I was clearly meant to be there this summer. I was meant to grow as a person. Something probably would have gone wrong if I’d stayed in the UK anyway! If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have met the incredible people I did. The people I met mean the world to me. If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have met my dream team, my biggest squad that keep me going and reminder me I’m fabulous on a regular basis.
I was nervous before I went to camp. I think I was more nervous than last time. I guess because I was running the risk of ruining the memory of the past summer. I was also going back in a supervisor role so had more responsibility. By day two of training though those nerves had gone. To be honest, there was no time to be nervous. Three weeks later camp started and well there was definitely no time for any worries at that point. So if anyone is reading this and is considering returning but worried about lightening striking twice, fear not.
The summer was a whirlwind. There is no other way to describe it. I don’t know if I could put into words everything I achieved this summer and what I learnt about myself. I’m starting to think perhaps I should have split this post into two blogs. I’ve already babbled a lot so will leave some for another time. (Those of you who were there know there is enough for numerous posts!) So look out for the second part over the coming days where I’ll cover summer 2015 including the infamous rings during lifeguard training!