Monday 6th June
3:16pm I woke up to go to the toilet at about 5.30am and couldn’t get back to sleep – think it’s a mixture of jetlag and excitement. The flat was silent so I went for a mooch down Amsterdam Avenue, in New York! I felt a bit naughty being out from the university, especially as no one knew where I was, but it was a beautiful sunny morning and I wanted to see a bit of New York before we leave for camp. I walked along a few metres and found a run of bars and cafes. I would’ve loved to go out last night, but I was completely exhausted and obviously I would’ve been too scared to ask anyone.
By the time I got back it was breakfast in the main hall. Before I even got through the doors I could smell the fat of a fry-up. I really don’t want to put on weight at camp so I just had cereal. I’m hoping camp will be a detox. We’ve been warned to expect a summer off alcohol, and that once you’re at camp you’re pretty much stuck with the food they give you. I hope it’s healthy – surely it will be with all the fat kids everyone keeps going on about in America? The hall was filled with hundreds of counselors sat around the tables all in their CCUSA-issue t-shirts – it was a sea of green. Some tables were chatting away while others sat in awkward silence. I spotted Emily and perched myself on her chatty table.
After breakfast we had to queue up outside a room in the university to get a social security number to work in America. We sat waiting for hours. At least I made better friends with another one of the girls going to Rockbear in the queue though. Danielle and me got on pretty much instantly. She’s from Birmingham – the nearest city to the village I’m from. She’s pretty funny and has been to camp a few times before, not Camp Rockbear though. She said how she worked at an all girls’ camp last year, which was fun, but they spent too much time singing around campfires and playing team-building games with bits of wood for her liking. She’d heard Rockbear was a bit crazier so she applied directly and got a job on the climbing wall. Hmmm, wonder what ‘crazy’ means? Excited!
Once everyone got their numbers we boarded the bus to Camp Rockbear. As I was getting on, the girl climbing the stairs in front of me was wearing white ¾ length tracksuit bottoms with ‘Love Me’ written in pink across the bum. Random, and hideous.
I’m sitting next to the Scottish girl I met on the plane; she’s not talking much though. I reckon there must be about 100 people on here, all for Rockbear. I’m so nervous! I can’t wait to see what the camp looks like. We’ve been on the bus for about three hours; surely it can’t be much further? The camp is in New York, but upstate, in the mountains. I never even knew New York had mountains.
10.05pm I’m in a bunk with foreigners. No one’s English, but I guess that’s cool, in a way. One of my reasons to come here was to learn more about the world. I was just really hoping I’d be with one of the girls from the plane.
When we arrived we met the camp director Bud, who told us we’d all been assigned to a bunk. Bud was the guy who hired me originally at the camp director’s fair in England. We’d got on instantly and it was good to see him again. I liked that he’d kind of taken a chance on me, as I didn’t really have any of the skills they needed at camp. He said he hires on personality as much as skill though, so I could come along and DJ and do the camp radio.
There will be two to three other counselors in each bunk and up to 13 children. I’m in F13B, which means I’ll be looking after 13-14 year olds. Bud gave us all a camp counselor handbook with a map in and I went on a solo mission to find F13B. I’m so shit at map reading, I ended up doing a lap of camp before I realised I was holding it upside down. My bunk was back where we got off the bus. Felt like a bit of an idiot struggling with my massive bag around camp only to end where I started, but at least I got to have a look around and get my bearings. The valley is surrounded by mountains and the air is so clean and fresh, it’s lush.
On my tour I followed the curved path from the car park unintentionally downhill to the lake. I passed loads of bunks, still struggling with my suitcase behind me. It was a good few minutes’ walk from where we were dropped off, but I could see the water sparkling in the distance and wanted to get closer.
The waterfront is amazing. There’s a speedboat, canoes, water bikes, a big inflatable yellow trampoline and a huge white iceberg-shaped thing with handles and grips to climb up. From the beach there’s a walkway pier reaching out about 20 metres and winding round to make a rectangular pool that I assume they use for swimming lessons. It has those lane dividers in it anyway. There was a row of lifejackets laid out on the beach, and an old woman was crouched counting them all. She must’ve sensed me there and looked at me like ‘what-do-you-want’, so I left. It’s not about making enemies already.
Walking away from the waterfront I carried on where I’d left off and followed the path past what must have been the music studio – it had ‘Pecs, Hugs and Rock n Roll’ scrawled above the doorway anyway – I went by a door labelled ‘costume’ and up to a huge shed structure with a ‘Visual Arts’ sign covering the side. There was a big green space where the path curved around with a basketball court and a net for volleyball. I’d gone off on a bit of a tangent so I came back to the path, which led past the front offices near the car park. I saw the camp director, Bud, again and he was stood with some guy who I soon found out was the counselor who’d taught radio last year. He’d decided to come back at the last minute, so we needed to talk about how it was going to work out.
Old radio guy: “Errrm, there’s not really enough space for two to teach radio. We can make it work, but errr, I didn’t know they’d got someone else. I didn’t know you were coming.”
He seemed so sorry and inoffensive – I felt like I’d made the mistake, not Bud.
Me: “So, errr, what does that mean? Do I go home?”
Bud: “No, no, you’re here now! Meet me tomorrow and we’ll find you a job, don’t worry.”
He walked off, patting me on the head in a friendly, yet slightly patronising way as he passed.
It’s a bit annoying, especially as I was really excited to be teaching radio and working with music all day out in the fresh air. I’ve told everyone at home I’m going to be a DJ and now I’m not. My school friends even made me a t-shirt saying ‘DJ Harper’ and gave me some CDs to play. Sad.
This was when I realised I’d gone the wrong way and needed to be back at the bunks I’d walked past at first. I said bye to the other radio guy and carried on along the main path to come back to where I started. The camp is huge! And absolutely amazing. It’s probably about half a mile long – what I saw of it anyway.
I found my bunk near the dining hall in front of the car park; it’s pretty big. From the outside the bunks are like the American wooden country houses you see on films. These ones are painted cream with the accents – windowsills, terrace, steps and skirting – in brown. There are two doors; one at the side up three steps which leads into the centre of the bunk, and one round the front leading up to the terrace that we share with the adjoining bunk. F13B is in the girls-only section. I bet they put our age group there to stop any midnight wanderers having access to the boys section. There’s a grassy area out the front in the middle with seven bunks surrounding it in a circle and a thick row of trees separating the boys-only and the mixed section from us. Looks like they knew what they were doing when they designed this camp 30 years ago.
There’s no electricity in the bunk, apparently we’ll have some by the end of the week, four days away. It’s freezing and the New York wilderness is so dark at night without any streetlights, house lights or car headlights passing.
Inside, the bunks have eight bunk beds lining three of the walls, rather than sticking out military style, with drawers underneath for clothes. The fourth wall has a big row of cubbyholes from floor to ceiling for more clothes. There’s quite a bit of space to move around in here, probably not when the kids get here though, judging by all the scuffs and marks on the brown interior walls. There are curtainless windows along two of the facing sidewalls at a height where anyone who selects a bottom bunk will have the sun shining in on them in the morning. Some have shutters, but they don’t look like they’re attached very well. I’m going for a bed on the top; I reckon I’ll get a better sleep up there. The bunks are pretty minging – I bet we’re expected to clean them up – and the bathrooms are absolutely disgusting. I’m dreading doing a poo, everyone will be able to hear the plop.
My new bunk buddies are from America and South Africa. On first impressions they don’t seem like much fun at all. The American girl looks like stereotypical trailer trash – complete with a cap, a slogan t-shirt, a bumbag, a few extra American pounds and a southern drawl. I’m sure she’s lovely, but I don’t think there are many lights on upstairs. After an awkward introduction she left. I chatted to the South African girl, she came to camp last year and I tagged along as she went to find her old friends. She introduced me, but I felt like a gooseberry with all their ‘remember last year’ talk, so I left them to it to find Emily.
Whenever you meet someone they want to know where you’re from and what you’re doing at university. I’m not really sure how much you can get from a person from this, but it seems to be standard.
Me: “Lucy Harper. Sheffield University. Communication Studies. From a little village near Birmingham in England, no you won’t have heard of it.”
I guess it’s just making conversation, but it must be annoying for anyone who doesn’t go to university, like the girl I met in the queue at Columbia, Danielle.
I really need to stop shaking people’s hands so harshly when I meet them; I’m embarrassing myself.
Right, sleep time. I’m exhausted. My action plan to make friends tomorrow:
- Sit with randoms at breakfast.
- Make friends with the two other counselors in my bunk – it’s going to be a long summer otherwise.