Friday, July 2, 2010

home for the holiday

Well I made it through my first term of camp alive but only just barely. We get a four day break between terms so that we, and I’m sure they, may celebrate Independence Day in peace. It’s strange being home, in my apartment, on my computer but it’s also nice. I’m not even sure where to begin, I’m overloaded with thoughts and experiences that I’m battling myself on whether I should even mention them here.

Camp is good. Being the videographer is bitter sweet. I get a lot of freedom and flexibility but I don’t have a cabin like the other counselors so I’m not making a lot of connections with the kids. The kids are awesome, well, I should say that awesome kids are awesome and the others and just ok. I have noticed that these rich, privileged kids have a hard time picking up after themselves, but I guess they’ve never had to. That’s not fair of me to say, most kids don’t like throwing their trash away or cleaning up the table at meal time. Some of the boys instantly picked me as one of their favorites and I was very thankful for this. One of these boys that I just mentioned, traded with 6 people so that he could get a movie ticket Silly Band so that he could give me.

Small side rant: Silly Bandz are probably the greatest thing ever when it comes to kids. If you don’t know, Silly Bandz are rubber bands that are colorful and shaped like interesting things, like animals or space ships etc. Kids love Silly Bandz! They love trading and collecting them. If a kid was ever super homesick or crying because he fell down or whatever, all we had to do was get him talking about his Silly Bandz and BAM no more tears! It was actually really amazing. The best thing about Silly Bandz is that they are so cheap. You can get like 20 for a dollar. but I digress…

My days at camp are spent shooting footage, uploading said footage and then editing footage (see picture) into some sort of highlight video for the kids and parents to see themselves and their kids having fun at camp. Every day I try to spend a little bit of time doing something fun like swimming or rock climbing. I have officially shot my first gun, technically it was a rifle, AND I’ve shot my first bow and arrow. I haven’t been on a horse yet but I do have work to do.

It’s not all fun and games. My boss put a lot of pressure on me without being completely direct. He wants me to be creative and produce more videos (which I have already produced twice as many videos as any other past videographers) but he either doesn’t like my ideas or he’s vague about what he wants. Basically he has an idea in mind and it’s like he wants me to guess what that is. Also picking the music for the videos can be tricky. The requirements for the song are pretty intuitive for these kinds of things: they have to be all age appropriate (no drugs, alcohol, sex or profanity). They have to be kind of high energy / fun. They should be semi related to camp, summer, having fun etc. I’m not allowed to use any hip hop or rap because parents don’t like that (I wanted to use some Jurassic Five and I got shut down). I want the songs to be songs that the kids probably haven’t heard before but that they will hear after camp, but my boss wants something catchy or familiar to the kids. Oh and apparently they have to be “boy” songs so no lady singers (I’m sure Heartless Bastards or the Sounds could pass but I never tried). A lot of my free time is spent on finding the perfect song for the videos. It’s all pretty ridiculous.

One of my favorite parts about camp was that I got to be the night time DJ on our radio station. The camp had a small radio tower that broadcast to our a camp and to the small town the camp resides in. It was mostly used for announcements and bugles but since every cabin was required to have a radio on, we played music throughout the day. From 9-10pm it was shower time. The staff used this time to go to all the cabins and make sure the kids were well taken care of which left our radio station unattended. Because I was in the office at night, usually uploading video, my boss told me I could use the night time time slott. I was told to play fun stuff from 9-9:30 but then start winding it down after that. I probably put too much thought into the songs I chose and the order I decided to play them in but it was fun. After my first night one of the campers said I sounded awkward so I adopted the name DJ Awkward Sarah. Everyone agreed it was the best name for me. My friend, Tobbe, would tease me saying that I sounded like a DJ on NPR or that I sounded like one of the ladies from Delicious Dish on SNL.

I like NPR, especially This American Life and Delicious Dish is hilarious (see above video) so I wasn’t insulted. But he kept teasing me so one night I put on my best chessy radio voice I could muster and said something like “ALL RIGHT campers, tonight I have a special request from Tobbe who has been begging me to play this songs because it is his favorite song in the world. So when you see him tomorrow make sure you let him know that you heard me play his favorite song. Here we go, It’s Raining Men for Adam Tobbe.” and then of course I played It’s Raining Men. I tried to put more energy behind my radio voice while still staying true to my college radio, NPR voice. I normally would take requests and shout outs from the boys which usually consisted of Ke$sha or Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or Zac Brown Band. Usually at 20 minutes past the hour I would play a special “girl” song and give a shout out to all the girls at camp, all 13 of us or whatever. The girls seemed to like this. After a long day of work, I genuinely looked forward to this hour, where I got to DJ and write letters to my friends at home.

I’m not going to lie though, I do stick out at camp. Hardly anyone (I’m mostly I’m talking the counselors here) is from Austin and being from Austin apparently makes me a liberal city girl, which apparently is a bad thing. I’ve been called various things, from both counselors and campers, from hippie, hipster, liberal, foreigner, terrorist, lesbo, dyke, vegan, to vegetarian. Sometimes I get called a combination of all “hey you hippie terrorist vegan lesbo liberal! [laughing and high fiving]” Hippie comes from me being from Austin and my general consideration for nature and living things. Terrorist comes from the fact that I will not say the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. This is also why some of the kids thought I was foreign.Vegetarian/vegan comes from the fact that I complain about the poor quality in the vegetable selection on top of the fact that I sometimes encourage the kids I sit with to try the vegetables on the table. Lesbo is because I lectured some of the boys about how they shouldn’t use the word “gay” as an insult for each other or in a derogatory way at all. It’s all very silly. It doesn’t really bother me at all since I don’t take any of their jabs as insults. I think the camp needs someone like me to bring new ideas in and to question the traditions.

Despite the playful name calling, I think I’m pretty well liked. Nobody hates me and slowly, I think, they are all accepting me as their own. I did experience a severe culture shock that first week. I was constantly asking myself, “why am I here?” Those first couple days I was shocked by some of the things I heard people (the counselors) say. For example, there was one black counselor, who closely resembles Usher in that he’s got a good body and is very attractive and he knows it. Some of the other counselors weren’t a fan of [let's just call him] Usher which I thought was because he was cocky. However I heard a couple of them say one day “Man, someone should just lynch that nigger!” (Note that I am quoting someone and would not ever use this kind of language or spread this kind of hate) I was shocked and disgusted and wanted to leave then and there. Who were these people that were about to be the leaders of these campers?! I didn’t think these people were still out in the world saying and thinking things like this but I guess I’ve just been ignorant to what goes on in small town America.

Over time I realized that they were prejudice against everyone that wasn’t exactly like them: blacks, latinos, asians, jews, women, and even the gingers (thank you South Park). I learned to bite my tongue and keep my “liberal agenda” to myself. There was no way I was going to change the way these counselors felt about anything. I did however talk to the campers about if I saw them mistreating one another and open up a dialogue. To them it all came down to “It’s just fun.” It’s just fun to make fun of the jewish kid or the one vegetarian kid or the five ginger kids. okay… I, of course, am a day walker, not a ginger, especially since I have a spanish last name but to everyone at camp, I’m a ginger, not that there is anything wrong with that. The campers would joke that I didn’t have a soul or would not want to touch something I’ve touched. I’m really not use to this kind of behavior. Again though, I should point out that it was really the other counselors who would egg this on.

Again, I had fun at camp. Please don’t get the wrong idea about the whole experience. I’m glad people tease me and try to push my buttons. In their own way, it means they like me. I would be more worried if they ignored me. And I’ve made real friends. I have a camp best friend, a best girlfriend, a crush, a mistake, a friend I constantly try to one-up, and so many other characters. Some of the foreign counselors didn’t have anywhere to go for the fourth of July holiday so I invited them to stay with me. Right now I have two Englishmen, and one South African staying with me and tomorrow the New Zealander will join our house of awkward sleeping arrangements.It’s been super fun having them here. We went walking around today, site seeing. Hopefully they’ve been having a good time. The weather hasn’t been ideal. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my nation’s independence than by hanging out with some of my new international friends. It might sound funny coming from me but the fourth of July is my favorite holiday. It’s a secular holiday that celebrates our freedoms to have fun and is centered around being outside with your friends and family. PLUS there are fireworks which I love.

I’m actually looking forward to going back to camp for the second term. I think it will be much better because now I know what to expect and I won’t be such an outsiders. I’m happy to be home but I’m anxious to be getting back. I’m not ready for my life to start back up in Austin. One of the reason I went to camp was to get away from all of it and to clear my head and my head is not cleared yet.