Thursday, March 31, 2016

Summer camp aka. church camp

Between the ages of 11 and 14, I went to a summer camp for Orthodox Christian kids. Maybe it was 12 and 15 actually, I can't remember and I don't have the pictures anymore. Telling people about this is always kind of funny.

"I went to a summer camp when I was growing up too! It was a church camp."

I had never done a sleep-away camp before, or really camp of any kind. Fortunately, my sister went with me, so I was way less scared because I could always find her in a crowd for reassurance. For two weeks for a few summers, we went off and spent some time in the woods of southwest Pennsylvania with a bunch of other kids from all over the country. The session that we attended usually lined up with the same other church groups, so I saw some kids from Louisville, Kentucky for at least a couple of years. I learned that it's pronounced "loo-vull". We also went at the same time as two of our closest childhood friends, which is exactly why we picked those session dates!

The church part is not that weird, in my opinion, but I have an obvious bias since I grew up with all of that. The days were split up into different segments: slots of time where you could sign up for different activities like archery, running, arts & crafts, soccer, swimming, as well as slots of time that were dedicated for spending with your cabin mates and brother/sister cabin. Each cabin was paired up with a cabin of the opposite gender and same age. Those classes were about various Christian concepts, bible stuff, chanting (like singing in the church, chant? it's all about tones), trust exercises, I don't even remember what else. What it boiled down to for me was "here are all kinds of things that you can apply to your life to be a good person," which is really not a solely Christian concept! And that fun stuff.

Oh yeah, we also attended church twice a day. WHAT?! Yes. Mornings was orthros, which is just a 30 min service (before breakfast). Even was vespers, again a fairly short service before dinner. We also prayed before each meal. On Sundays, we had liturgy (like the Catholic mass) with communion and everything. That can run about 90 min to two hours.

Okay, you know what? This is sounding a lot weirder as I go along. I met a lot of cool people and enjoyed my time there, even though the last year was difficult for me. My depression was kind of starting at that point, I really missed my best friends from home, and I did not consider myself Christian anymore.

The things I remember most from camp

  • feeling scared, but meeting a lot of friendly campers that made it easy for me to be a little more outgoing than I normally would (super introverted over here)
  • feeling kinda cool because I knew some older kids there (my sister and two childhood friends, as well as a couple of their friends)
  • trying some new things, like archery and walking across a log that was (to my perspective) very high up in the air
  • getting a crush on a counselor
  • counselors covering up tattoos with bandages and campers covering up piercings with bandaids if they had more than one in an ear (boys weren't allowed any)
  • singing some Britney Spears song with my cabin at karaoke night, I think
  • Christmas in July, where we went around and serenaded other cabins with songs that we had written
  • trying to play pranks on our brother cabin (having to clean up the toilet paper after is really no fun)
  • snack time! where you could spend some money that your parents put in your camp account to buy two snacks (a drink and a candy bar, usually). I became a fan of Cherry Coke
  • looking through a care package from my friends and feeling really lonely
  • being comforted by someone in my sister's brother-cabin when he saw my crying at the last night of camp and he made me laugh
  • being identified as "Nika's sister" in the nicest way possible (instead of the annoying way, which is when teachers do it in school)
  • riding horses!
  • feeling pretty sad and witnessing a lot of crying on the last night/day of camp when we all said goodbye until the next year
And now I'm going to a sleep-away camp for adults!

It won't technically be in the summer because Camp Nerd Fitness occurs in September, but man I am SO excited.

Minus the religious stuff and hiding body modifications, I'm pretty much expecting to relive my camp experience and in even better ways. This time I'll have my partner-in-life/crime with me which is pretty fucking awesome. We won't have to share a room with anyone because we booked a hotel room on the camp site. I really want to do the ropes course and will conquer my fears of that blob thing.

But what should I dress up as for the costume night?! Gotta think of nerdy costume ideas, brb.