Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Camp –or—Youth and Young Nudity 07.13.04

I am not at all joking about the title. At all. Guy Sammy and I ended up being the counselors/ caretakers for four 7-9 boys at this year’s Camp DeFambul—yes, the camp I’ve been talking about. We went up on Friday, stayed until Sunday and the long and short of it?

It wasn’t an unmitigated disaster but damn, there is some room for improvement.

This was the first year the camp’s founders, Tami and Tash, were not running the show. Instead, it was myself and a fellow named Mike, who have been with the camp for the past few years, and a woman named Jen who is new to NahWeYone (the organization that puts on the camp) but is responsible for social services within the organization. Being busy with school and work, myself and Mike both did a little less than we thought we should have… and a little less than we needed to.

It showed.

We were a little disorganized on the first day, a fact not helped with our other responsibilities—Mike and I both had a group of four 5-9 year olds. We both had help—thanks to Sammy and Arroz the Rice-A-Homie, judiciously recruited and man was that cat a godsend. Good ideas, good energy, and patience with boys who just wanted to play duck duck goose, run like madmen, get so and so back for what he said, and jump around.

Also, we were not helped by our hosts; though we have been at the same college campus for the two previous years, a sudden upheaval in the facilities departments and the departments responsible for coordinating with out-of-school camps really put a monkey wrench in the disco. And into getting in the dorms. And into getting us a lifeguard for swimming, and into getting us courts for basketball. You know all those little things we do every single year.

The positives? The kids had a good time. I yelled a lot at the talent show. My favorite camper, a boy named Nazi, was just the world’s cutest thing—self-sufficient, responsible, and very nice, all at age 7. There was a boy of 9 named Isaiah who seemed to think he was an adult—informing the other boys that he had a date to the dance, which was met with eeews and laughter. The security guys, thought not always there when we called, were often on time. And they gave it their all. The dance wasn’t very dirty, neither was the talent show. No one tried to sneak into a girl’s room at 2 AM.

It’s surprisingly funny how 7-9 year old boys all want to pull down each others’ pants as a form of embarrassment, and yet will walk around all naked like it’s nothing else. And the dancing like girls, the obviously not yet formed sense of gender roles, the curiosity about gay people, the fist fighting, the desire to run, and the screaming—well, that’s not so much fun.

We had some dedicated counselors, like one of my favorites Laura, who initiated water fights, kept the teens busy, and gave me hug when I didn’t even know I needed one. Which I did. And some that really could have taken some matters into their own autonomous hands, but it’s good they wanted to enforce rules stringently.

There will be a lot of conversation about what we’re going to do better. And hopefully many of my friends will meet these kids when I throw a big ass picnic in a week or two.

Right now, though, my back hurts for some unknown reason (carrying around multiple children all weekend without stretching?), I handed my last paper in late by five hours and hope my teacher will accept it, Eben’s taking me to a Phils game, and I am going to DC and Florida and Ann Arbor and Chicago, all in the next half month.

Despite the slight miseries of the weekend—including that moment where Jen, Mike, and myself stood on the dance floor, allotted to us, in the dark, trying to figure out who should have opened the DJ booth, with food service tables and containers and marble stands with no one else to move them but us, wondering what we did to deserve this, listening to a fire alarm that I suspect was pulled by Isaiah—hey, we’ve got to be malleable.

And we can’t help but do better next time.

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