Camp America… AKA GET READY TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
When I signed up for camp, I had a whole summer free, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I signed up in April which is reaalllyyy late but managed to get signed up within a few weeks (top tip, having water sports experience helps!) and ended up having one of the best experiences of my life!
I spent my summer in an underprivileged camp in rural Michigan with this beautiful view to wake up to everyday:
I worked as a boating counsellor where I taught canoeing and looked after the girls from my cabin. At camp you have to be ready to work 18 hour days, and still be ready during the night to take care of the people you’re there for: the children. The best thing about working in an underprivileged camp, is that if you’re feeling low or down, you can find the motivation again by remembering that you’re helping someone escape their worries for the summer.
I arrived at camp self concious, only crazy with friends and unable to sing. I had to entertain kids for long periods of time, organise large groups of children, discipline them and be responsible for their well being. Camp was obviously going to change me. I came out more confident, more organised, more convinced that I love working with kids… and still unable to sing despite singing each and every day!
The camp taught me to let go, and be crazy… that’s the best way to enjoy life and make some other awesome crazy people life long friends. I definitely recommend signing up to do camp abroad if you want to come out of your shell, spend a summer in the sun and as a big kid away from the real world… you wont regret it.
“They say I may only have a month left…” that’s the statement that hit me hard just before Easter in my first year of university. My friend had just turned 19 years old and had been told this… at first she wouldn’t take chemo. I’m so grateful she did, it gave her a year and bit extra to live and inspire others.
It’s strange how one simple statement can open your eyes, and how it can take one life long friend who was slowly dying to teach you how to live. My first year of uni was wasted away with too little studying and too much partying… the information my friend was given was one factor that changed all of this. I’ll confess, it didn’t happen overnight big things take a little while to process. That summer was wasted sticking around for my ill friend who, over 4 months I only saw twice as she didn’t want to stick around waiting and so went off travelling. It was second year that my most recent adventure called life began.
Second year is where my life began I joined my university kayaking club and found a job (albeit very temporary!). During that summer I did a season at Camp America and therefore got to spend a summer in Michigan, USA, although I loved my experience there, the girl who inspired it all unfortunately passed away at the beginning of my 5th week there. I didn’t get time to process this until I returned back to uni for my second year in September.
Although it’s a sore subject to talk about, all of this lead to many more adventures I have been on from kayaking in the Alps to taking up rugby 7s, partaking in fun university competitions, jumping off bridges and doing a camp season in Europe and so much more… all of which I want to share on here!
My first weekend away without parents was to London with Rachael. We stayed in a cheap Travelodge for two nights and had three days of freedom in the big city! I bought a postcard of the Queen on the first day, this came in handy as we used it as a mask at random points in some photos.
This photo was taken in a restaurant in China Town which served a buffet. We ordered dishes which were then freshly cooked for us, if you don’t eat all you order, you get charged 50p per 100g. Obviously out eyes were bigger than our stomachs, we had a lot of food left when we were full.
As classy teenagers we had been to Harrods during the day to buy brownies, we hatched a plan to remove of the leftovers on our plates. I was going to be on lookout and Rach was Harrods bag filler. By avoiding the occasional stare from the waitress, we managed to fill our Harrods bag with left overs from a cheap Chinese buffet! MISSION COMPLETED! This was a result of training by our stingy Northern Mothers from from a young age!
Camping forms a part of every family’s memories, what’s better than spending a night under canvas in a field? One of my most memorable camping trips was one with Rachael and her family. A weekend away together, always meant more time for mayhem to be caused!
The weekend we went away was a gloriously sunny one. We spent most of our time around the camp and by the pool, relaxing before school started again. This relaxing did also mean that we had to entertain ourselves… and what better way to do it than to speak a made up language and gobbledygoop for the whole weekend?! We went around camp for the whole weekend refusing to speak English, and finding it more fun to speak out new found language. We had a few favorite words which were used more frequently such as “sexy bubblegum” and ‘”voiture” which was used when a car attempted to run us over.
One side effect of the made up language was stares. I remember when I was younger, and I stared, perplexed at couple of women speaking a foreign language, amazed that they were able to communicate to one another. When they realised that I was staring they turned and looked at me and said “hello!”. To say this scared me would be an understatement. Any way, back to the story, one little boy who was with his mother turned and stared at us, his mother pulled his arm and told him “don’t stare they’re foreign!”. That single statement, pinned the weekend into my memory.
We also learnt how to scare our parents that weekend. We (Rach, our sisters and myself) were left as our parents went on a walk. We hatched a plan. We found some ingredients (something like oats, milk, ketchup and pieces of bread) mixed them up for them to become our concoction of fake sick. As our parents walked back towards us, Rach lent over near a bush, and spat out the fake sick as we screamed “Rachael is being sick!”. Our parents ran the final leg of the distance, to make sure she was alright. We had to tell our parents it was all fake before they tried doing CPR or something.
The fake sick recipe has come in handy for me, I managed to use it to get a sick day off of school before! I must also say, this recipe is pretty disgusting and will actually make you gag!
Sorry for such a long winded story, but that is the tory of only one of our eventful camping trips that we have had!!
Meeting up with Rachael was always exciting- I never knew what was going to happen, but I did know there would always be a lot of fun involved. One particular day her family visited mine. We went out to visit the local shop to buy sweets, along the way we noticed some empty snail shells along a wall, there were others around it. We collected the shells and brought them home. As kids, we knew what was better than normal snail shells, and this was colourful snail shells! So our next job was to find something to cover the shells with colour…. the obvious choice was nail varnish! It was time to get arty! This meant it was time to cover the shells with nail varnish in all sorts of patterns, polka dots and zig zags.
I know for years Rach kept the shells a plant to decorate the soil around it and to keep her plant company.
Almost everyone has ‘family friends’. Many will also have some of these family friends whom you will feel such a bond with to simply class them as family. Unfortunately, one of my extended family members recently passed away.
We spent a childhood together full of smiles and laughter and most importantly creating brilliant memories together. My friend passed away at the age of 20 due to a terrible and rare form of terminal cancer. The memories we planned to create into the future had suddenly disappeared and stories only she remembered lay forgotten.
She was one of the most inspirational and talented people you could ever meet, turning any frown upside down, staying positive through her battle with cancer, and always living life to the fullest.
I want to write this blog to keep those childhood memories forever to share with the world, in the future to my children and most importantly: to remind myself that there is always a part of her with me.
So here is the beginning of my blog which will hold my story. Steph’s story.