When Katy told us that today’s theme would be a place we used to visit regularly but haven’t for a while I had one instant thought; camp.
In 2009 I worked at a summer camp in the USA and despite all of the issues I had there the thing that I loved the most was the place. Like many US camps it was a camp deep in history and tradition and every day was like going back in time in many ways to explore how it used to be and to experience it right then in 2009.
The camp was very large, I’m not sure how large but we had two main living areas and probably several acres besides. I spent hot summer lunchtime swimming in Lake Fairlee, cooler afternoons helping young girls to shoot arrows at targets and the odd evening at a treehouse or tepee.
A camp the size of ours (physically) there’s so many places that it’s hard to choose the best bits, but I know mine.
The Archery field – it’s where I spent most of my time working with the children. I helped them to learn to shoot and almost every single child hit the target in their time at camp…and that’s with the targets being twice as far as they were supposed to (doh! tape measure!) In the sessions where no one came to shoot me and my assistant would have a go ourselves, she’d been studying it for years having just finished at the older girls camp a few miles away. Part of the girls’ camp experience is to do ranks in different activities. In archery we had Beoman, Yeoman, Junior Archer and Robin Hood. In the older girls’ camp they choose a specialist skill and Phoebe chose archer. She’s smaller than me (and I’m five foot one) and yet has amazing upper body strength. I spent my summer learning to shoot by teaching others, that may sound a little backwards, but when I went there I knew nothing about archery except having shot arrows for a couple of weeks in the two summers before. When you do archery at outdoor activity centres in the UK they let you shoot and shoot and shoot, chances are if your aim is right you’ll do well, though if it isn’t you have no chance because they don’t help you improve. The archery field was one of my favourite places because I could relax, it was my domain and as far as everyone else was concerned (except Phoebe), I was the expert. It may not have started that way, but check out my progress below.
(I may not have got many yellows, but the fact they’re in a line meant my aim was very good in one direction though not so much in the other.)
Rainbow’s End – every Sunday the whole camp comes together and we have an evening service. It involves lots of singing and anyone who has gained ranks has their name read out. The first time we went to Rainbow’s End everyone had never been before had to close their eyes and we were guided off of Aloha Hill (the camp is called Aloha Hive) through the trees and down some steps. The whole thing was the most magical moment I’ve ever been through (bar the final event at the end of the summer where the Comb [assembly/drama building] is transformed from its usual wooden room to a tree covered place where we ate dinner and sang songs). As we sat down on that first Sunday we were told the story of Rainbow’s End. They used to have another area for the Sunday service and one year they created somewhere near, no one at the camp realised what was going on, they were just told stories to cover up benches going missing. Then at the end of the summer they were taken to Rainbow’s End for the very first time. We’d sit in rows and sing the softer, gentler songs and there’d be a fire in the middle up front. Someone would read/tell a story. Then when the night was over we’d head off down a pathway on the other side of the hill and walk through the trees to the road. That moments every week was what summed up the camp and how important tradition and nature were.
Hanover, New Hampshire and Dartmouth – my third and final location wasn’t at the camp itself, it was a town across the state border in New Hampshire. We’d go there at least weekly to use the computers at Dartmouth library. I haven’t seen many small towns in the USA but it summed them up pretty well for me. It was probably a wealthy town, after all it was the home of an Ivy League school, as well as the author Jodi Picoult. The whole place was rather beautiful in the daytime and at night and I enjoyed very much walking around the streets. They had a Ben and Jerry’s shop where you could buy many different flavours if ice cream beyond your wildest dreams. They had a lovely restaurant which I went to a few times. They also had a small but very traditional cinema where I felt very lucky to see Jodi Picoult’s book My Sister’s Keeper transformed onto the big screen. Then discover on the computers at Dartmouth that she too didn’t like how they ended it.
Oh shoot, now I want to talk about a place I went to the year before I went to camp. With university I was lucky enough to take a trip to California. We stayed at Stanford University which has the most stunning campus I have ever seen. It was its own little town and it felt like the safest place on the planet. The group I was with were a bit frustrating at times and as they all wanted to go out to a town nearby and I didn’t, I was left in the student accommodation alone. The group leader kept telling us that we shouldn’t walk around on our own, but I didn’t care. It felt safe. It felt okay to wander the beautifully clean streets, to walk past half a dozen posts where if you needed help you could go to any one of them and press a button which would call the Police. I think that contributed to the feeling of safety. In the campus grounds was a shopping centre, lots of beautiful greenery and things like cacti growing in the wild. There was a tower on the campus so high that when you go to the top (and you’re allowed to, so I did) you can see right across the whole campus. You can also see the Bay Area in the distance and perhaps San Francisco further afield. Also, the coolest lake you will ever see.
It was like a whole other world away and I long to go back with every memory and every thought. In the centre of the campus is the final resting place of the family who founded the school and right outside was a statue which I will never ever forget.
The more I think about it, the more I’d say that Stanford is the place I should have written this solely about, despite the beauty of Aloha Hive.