NaBloPoMo: Surprise Lake Camp’s lake

This summer I took part in Camp America which allowed me spend my summer at Surprise Lake Camp.

I spent many hours on the docks by the lake and it truly made me happy.

This summer, it was ridiculously hot so diving into the lake was very refreshing. I often admired the lifeguards simply because they got to spend all day on the docks and in the lake.

When we all first arrived we had to take a swim test before we could swim in the lake. I expected it to be very cold but because of the hot weather the lake was luke warm.

I never understood the people who complained about going in the lake, it was so fun especially when we got to go on the burger bounce. I would get flung into the air and land with a splash into the water.

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Travel: American street fighting, cool chairs, markets, beer gardens and fast rides!

Last Wednesday was a quiet day at camp as half of Teenside went on a trip. I therefore took pictures and worked on the calendar.

Thursday consisted of similar activities as did Friday. On Friday evening I left camp with Ashley and headed to her house in Long Island. We ate McDonalds in the car on the way home before arriving at her house at around 9pm.

I immediately planted myself in her bed and found it very difficult to move from that spot. Later on in the evening one of Ashley’s closest friends came over with a friend of his (Chris and Mac, like Mac and Cheese – I found that funny!). Chris was what I can only describe as your stereotypical frat boy. They both said ‘YO’ after pretty much every sentence and I began to find it funny.

They both seemed very friendly! A while later one of them mentioned pizza and my ears pricked up…I could definitely move for some pizza, so we all ended up piling into Chris’ snazzy car.

Ashley drove and as usual she did something crazy like not stopping at a stop sign. We can laugh about it now as we survived but I am pretty sure it is a serious thing to skip a stop sign.

As we arrived at our pizza destination we went to find a parking spot but was rudely interpreted by a mass fighting session. Very large, what I assume were American men, just starting flailing their fists at each other in an attempt to severely harm one another. Sat in the safety of the car, mouth slightly ajar, I began to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing was. Shimmying forward slightly we were able to make it past the fighting gang in order to park.

As we walked down the street people were trying to break up the fight to our right whilst a man on our left sat on a wall reading a book with the strangest smile on his face. I mean, who on earth sits on a wall, at gone midnight, casually reading a book whilst a fight occurs on the opposite side of the street?! I couldn’t quite grasp the events that occurred and I still look back with utter wonderment at who the book reading, smiling man was. I sort of think you have to have seen the man to realise how strange the whole situation was. This man was surely from another planet or something!!!!

We then proceeded to walk past a huge log that had been fitted with chair backs – it was a log chair! I was amazed.

We crossed the road and I began to excitedly walk to the pizza shop until I was interrupted, yet again, by another outburst from the big bald American fighters. One man went a little far by grabbing a small blonde and forcing her to cross the road. The poor girl started screaming and tried to put a stop to him picking her up by putting her feet on the floor. The strength of him and the size of her plus her very high heels just did not help matters and she ended up being dropped on her bum in the middle of the road, for all to see.

Sadly it all died down pretty much after the girl got up, swore and walked away.

The pizza shop mission continued and I was very happy to taste the goodness that is Little V’s margarita pizza. I am sad I will never get to eat another slice!

Once we had all finished we headed back to the car and I have to say that I was a little excited to see the log chair and smiling book man again.

This time I actually got to test out the chair and was surprised to find out that is wasn’t that comfy. I should have known.

Up the road I could see that one of the ‘professional’ fighters was wobbling around on the pavement. With nervous footsteps I proceeded to walk past him only to be stopped by him stroking my face and bopping my nose.

After the nights events I wasn’t surprised that he did that. I calming and cooly shrugged it off and got in the car.

The next day we traveled 2 hours to the New Jersey, 6 flags theme park. What a day! I still, to this day, do not know how the three of them managed to get me on the rides. I am not a roller coaster person. They are just so fast and I definitely could not breath whilst I was whizzed aimlessly around. Some even went upside down! I found closing my eyes and yelling at Ashley the whole way round was the best way to get through it.

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The day was a lot of fun yet extremely tiring. We didn’t end up getting back to Ashley’s until 12pm and we were up at 5am to travel back to camp ready for visiting day.

Sunday was a long day and I don’t think I have ever been as tired. I was so tired I nearly started crying whilst I stood taking pictures of all the kids embracing their parents in humongous hugs. I miss the famalam! Sucking it up I continued to wonder round the tents taking pictures of all the families that had descended on our camp.

After lunch I was required to stand and direct cars out of camp. It is amazing how difficult that job was, simply because no one listened or looked at my very clear arm directions. Then the rain came and I was all lovely and soaked by the end of the day, in need of a hot shower and a comfy bed.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of usual camp activities. I photographed the campers and edited the calendar.

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During the week all the Israeli staff worked hard to put together a whole day of activities for the campers. In the morning everyone gathered in the Eddie Canter theatre and watched them perform a little skit. I found it hilarious as the majority of it consisted of them taking the mic out of all the American and English staff. I love the Israelis!

I proceeded to take photographs all day and in the evening the Isreali Friendship Caravan people came to perform. They danced and sang and one even managed to pull me onto the stage to dance with him. It was very awkward because of my awful dancing abilities!

On Friday, I took pictures and completed creating the calendar. It has been a mammoth task as lots of photographs needed to be crammed onto 12 pages. I am however pleased with the result.

Sadly, Friday evening was Kerry’s last night at camp so we all headed to the diner for a fair well meal. As shocking as it may seem, I did not have the French onion soup this time, instead I opted for BBQ ribs. Slightly disappointingly they weren’t as good as Frankie and Benny’s ribs but they were a lot better than anything camp could have fed me.

It was a lovely meal and at the end we got someone to take a group picture…the Super Saturday Specialist Squad :).

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The following day my alarm went off at 6.30am and I sleepily switched it off and fell back to sleep. I was completely oblivious to what the noise actually meant and it was only after my alarm went off again at 6.40am that I realised I was supposed to get out of bed. It was painful but I new a day in the city would justify the early wake up call.

This weekend the camp driver happened to be traveling into the city so we (Casey, Dan and I) were able to catch a free ride in. Typical of John, he slept through his alarms and missed both the bus and train ride. ‘He so stoopid!’

The bus drive was pretty silent due to the early hour but when we made it closer everyone peered out the window and got a glimpse of the Bronx and Harlem.

Dan and I decided we wanted to go to the photography museum in Times Square so we separated from Casey and caught the subway. Whilst we waited to board the cart a woman got off the train with a bag containing a little dog – I found it amusing.

The photography museum was amazing. I was able to see a lot of new photographers work that I hadn’t seen before. One of my favourite installations was a collaboration between photographers Michael Subotzky and
Patrick Waterhouse. The piece was a photographic investigation into the lives of people living in the iconic 54 story Ponte City residential tower in Johannesburg. The photographers had gone into everyone’s flat in the 54 story building and taken a photograph of their television screen, the residents within their homes and their doors. Each project was displayed within a tall light box which complimented the images due to the many silhouetted figures that were featured in the Windows, Ponte City, 2009 piece. It also worked well with the Televisions, Ponte City, 2008 piece because it made the images feel more like mini television screens. The Doors, Ponte City, 2009 piece didn’t necessarily need the light box but as a set it worked well.

Another great piece was by a man named Sohei Nishino, in fact it was more than great. He produces huge diorama maps of his exploration of different cities using a 35mm film camera, yes FILM! He shoots up to 10,000 pictures during his month long journey on foot throughout entire cities. It was absolutely amazing and I aspire to one day produce something as spectacular as that.

Diorama map, New York, February – July 2006

Diorama map, Jerusalem, September 2012 – January 2013

There were many other photographers work that I found interesting and I plan on creating various blog posts about each one when I return from my travels.

After leaving the museum, I headed round the corner towards the New York Library to meet Casey as Dan headed to meet his friends. On my way I bought a ham and cheese baguette from Pret A Manger to eat on the steps whilst I waited for her.

I felt honored to be walking round such a well known building. I can totally understand why everyone makes such a big fuss about the place and I did find it funny how there were more tourists wondering around the place than people actually sitting and reading the books.

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On leaving the library, Casey got a text from John letting us know that he was on the train into the city. We then decided that we had best get an hour or so shopping in before he came to meet us. We went into Zara and I was very good because I didn’t buy a thing. We then walked along the street and popped into a few shops along the way before reaching a huge Forever 21 clothes shop. It was like Topshop in London, ridiculously big with too many people in it. When I was in the changing room I overheard someone say they had been in the place for 2 hours. Again, I was good because I put all the clothes I had collected back on the rails before I left the shop.

John then met us outside the Hard Rock Cafe and Casey decided she wanted to shop on her own so we split up. John and I both wanted to buy some Havaianas and John wanted to walk along the High Line so I followed him. He seemed to aimlessly wonder around the city with a lack of care for whether he was going in the right direction. I sort of just went along with it because I new how much he liked to explore – TEVA! It turned out to be a good thing because we found lots of ‘snazzy’ things along the way and did actually end up at the High Line eventually. I couldn’t quite tell you where exactly we walked but we found a little market that sold lots of old things, including cameras. I was happy to explore the market and true to form I touched all the bits and bobs, stroked the fur coats and tried on all the different rings. If my Dad was there he would have been copying my actions with a bemused facial expression and comments such as ‘why do women always touch the clothes?’

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The High Line was lovely to walk along and I would recommend every tourist visiting New York. As we were walking we found a ‘hip and happening’ bar called Gastro Market that sold their drinks in jam jars. I was very excited by this so we bought a couple of drinks and sat out in the beer garden. We were both fascinated by the rocking metal chairs and I found it very difficult to get back up once I had sat down. The garden had hanging lanterns above your head which I imagine look lovely at nighttime. If I had the money, I would definitely go back there to eat. Lacking in the funds we sadly left the rocking chairs behind and continued our journey along the High Line.

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It was fascinating seeing the old rail tracks amongst newly planted trees and the views across the Hudson river were just great. Half way along John found a friend with matching hair and the guy asked to have a photo with him. We also saw a bride and groom and the rest of the wedding party having photographs. I was very pleased that John had suggested we walk along it!

As we neared the end of the strip, finally getting closer to the Havaianas shop, we heard and then saw a bar that looked lively and fun so we promised to return there once we had bought our shoes. When we entered the Havaianas shop I immediately saw the flip flops I wanted. I hunted through the sizes, trying a lot of them on to actually figure out what American size I was. Meanwhile John was not having as much luck. The mens section of the shop consisted of a small stand in the corner. They did not have the ones he wanted and he was very upset. When I bought mine, I immediately relished in the delights of no longer having paper thin flip flops. I did feel quite bad when I saw John’s sad and envious face…but what can you do?!

I finally found out that I was in Chelsea and just like the London version, it was expensive and fancy.

We then walked alongside the rivers edge and found the lively bar that we passed on the High Line; the Brass Monkey. It was very busy out in the beer garden but we managed to find a seat at the end of someone else’s table. By this time it was around 7pm and my stomach was definitely in need of some food. I was extremely happy to see that the food wasn’t all burger and pizza. I ordered fish and chips and John wanted bangers and mash and we both agreed to share them both. When it came I was in food heaven. The chips had a spicy tang to them and the bangers and mash was very flavorsome. I would definitely go back and eat there again. The atmosphere was great, they sold interestingly named beers on tap so John was happy and you could watch the sunset over the river; lovely.

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After eating we headed back in the direction of Times Square, by this time my feet were in agony and I do not know how I managed to make it back.

On Sunday evening camp put on a staff banquette and we all dressed up to attend. I still can’t believe I wore a dress and heels whilst at camp when usually I am in dirty clothes and flip flops. I danced, laughed, posed for pictures and ate some tasty veggie kebabs. A great way to end an enjoyable week.

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p.s. Check out how long my hair is…when did that happen?

Travel: I love being a tourist

On Wednesday the rest of the campers arrived for session two. As usual I took pictures of all the arrivals and later in the day I officially moved into a new bunk with Ashley.

I am extremely happy with my new bunk, mainly because I share it with Ashley but also because I no longer have to walk all the way up the hill, battling against all the flies!

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed as all the new and old campers unpacked their stuff and made their bunks their homes for the next month.

I cannot quite believe that session one has already finished. Orientation week seems so long ago but the whole of my time at camp also feels like it has flown by.

That night I sat OD but was relieved fairly sharpish so I was able to get an early night.

The next day I took pictures in the morning and then caught up on a lot of different things in the office. I planned what I am going to do with the campers as I now know what to expect having learnt from session one.

In the evening Ashley drove Casey, Dan, Nick (a lovely guy from England) and I to Walmart and then the diner. I bet you can guess what I had…French onion soup for $4 :).

On Friday I met the campers that have chosen to learn photography whilst they are at camp. I am so impressed at how well I managed to remember their names this session. They all seem like a good group and I am looking forward to seeing what they can produce.

In the evening Ashley and I watched a film and ate all our junk food. I ended up falling asleep half way through the film though so we will have to watch it again.

The next day my alarm went off at half 7 and somehow I immediately got out of bed to get ready for my day in the city.

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When we arrived we got the tube straight down to downtown New York as we wanted to go and see the memorial for 9/11.

We queued for about half an hour but none of us seemed to mind. When we got inside I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of people that lined the memorial. The huge waterfalls that mapped out the foundations of where the building used to stand were beautiful and I am glad they got chosen to represent such tragic losses.

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Even the sound of the waterfalls made you feel detached from the city. It was as though they drowned out the hustle and bustle of city life, allowing you to really think about the people who lost their lives that day.

I was also shocked to discover that a tree had managed to survive such a disaster. The stump of the tree was found by workers amongst the wreckage. They removed it and New York City park nursed it back to health. In March 2010, the tree was uprooted by severe storms and still managed to pull through yet again. Then in December 2010, the tree returned to the World Trade Centre plot. It was a honour to be able to touch the leaves of such a magnificent plant. As the guide points out, it really does embody the story of survival and resilience.

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I am glad I was able to visit the memorial to pay my respects.

We then all walked towards the Statue of Liberty. Looking across the sea I was wondering where the statue was and then suddenly, as I walked past a column, there it was. It was one of those moments were I stopped and thought, wow I am in New York right now. These moments happen a lot!

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I have to say, it was a lot smaller than I imagined it to be. Unfortunately we were unable to get the ferry to Ellis island to actually see the statue as we were to late so I will have to do it another time.

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As we walked towards the Brooklyn bridge we passed a lively street filled with small shops and stalls. True to his nature, John Teva wanted to explore and I was happy to go along with it. We wandered through the streets and ended up in a sweet shop. I was pleased with myself for resisting the urge to buy anything.

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We wondered further and found ourselves a small garden so John decided to water the plants.

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Finally we made it to the bridge and started our trek across. Lots of people were walking across it, many of them looked like tourists. Mid walk we saw lots of people had signed their names on the bridge and some had put padlocks inscribed with their names on. Without a padlock at hand, Mia and I decided to use a trusty sharpie to sign our own names.

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We also bought the most amazing mango which happened to be on a stick, it was lovely!

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Just before we made it into Brooklyn we passed a herd of Amish who stood out in their hand made clothes. I found it a little odd especially as all the younger children were crying.

Stepping into Brooklyn felt like a small victory. Once there we found a subway and made our way back to midtown New York to meet Dan and Steve in the MET museum.

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It was about 7pm by this point, I was hungry and my feet were hurting so I don’t think I fully appreciated all the art that filled the building. I did enjoy the photography exhibits, especially when I recognised some photographers work, such as Sally Mann, William Eggleston and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. My favourite piece was by an American man named Larry Sultan of his grandfather reading a newspaper. Something about the mystery of who hid behind the paper had something to do with my attraction, I think.

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As a group we all went to shake shack and I had fries for dinner. For desert I had some amazing custard, ice cream stuff that was really smooth and creamy. I loved it!

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After eating we all began the tiresome journey back to camp. I think we all slept on the train home. City life is tiring but not as bad as camp life.

As usual, on the following day, my eyes refused to open and I begrudgingly got up out of bed to head to breakfast. It was a rainy day at camp so taking pictures was slightly mundane. With the hobby kids I set up a white background and taught them about portraiture. I also started the calendar which I have to create before camp ends. In the evening staff from a different camp came to compete in a basketball game against staff from our camp. There entrance was something I will never forget as they bounded in equipped with their hippy gear on. They all seemed very friendly and certainly weren’t taking any of it seriously. I am glad Steve made me go and watch.

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Monday was a good day. Camp turned into a carnival and all the specialists had to be in charge of a certain booth. I got to run a face painting booth and I had tonnes of fun doing it. During the break from the kids, John painted a glorious rainbow right across my face! I looked like part of gay pride and I am proud to say I left camp and entered the real world with said rainbow still intact.

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In the evening Ronny Ron, a hypnotist, came and hypnotized some of the staff members for the viewing pleasure of the campers. It was hilarious, especially when ‘Big Poppa Korn’ slumped to the floor due to be so relaxed.

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The next day consisted of usual camp activities, I took pictures and taught speciality.

The weather at camp has also improved! It is no longer humid, just nice and sunny with a bit of a breeze. I hope it remains this way because I don’t think I can handle the heat again. As soon as I would get out of a shower my body would immediately feel sweaty. It was not a pleasant experience and I am sure all of camp would agree!

For the first time since I left England, camp provided us with a good meal; chicken, potatoe and green beans. I was happy!

I am also not sure if I have posted a proper photograph of where I am currently living, it is a lovely place…

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Travel: Orientation at Camp

The last three days have been such a whirlwind of different activities and talks that relate to camp.

We have sat through hours of first aide and I have been trained to do CPR! I think my sister, who is studying to be a nurse, will be proud!

At camp the word ANNOUNCEMENTS is apparently a big deal. I found this out the other day as I sat in the dining hall. The camp director mentioned the word and the whole staff started chanting and banging on the table.

Table banging has also become a big deal! I think you are considered a failure if you do not make the salt and pepper shakers fall all over the place. It is very amusing!

On Wednesday evening we all gathered at the canteen (an area at camp where staff can go to chill out whilst on their breaks) for music, games, dancing, cookies and milk. There was also a photo booth that allowed us to take funny pictures. I feel this party helped all staff members interconnect and relax. It has definitely been a high point of the last few days for me.

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At the party we had to wear PJs and we played a game called Coke and Pepsi. This required a lot of running and team work. My partner was very competitive which worked well for me.

That night was extremely cold and the thin mattress was starting to get to me. The next day I decided to go and ask for a sleeping bag to put on top of the mattress to make it softer.

During the day we had more talks from the camp director and various other key staff members.

After lunch we had a health orientation and got our heads checked for lice. I was relieved to be told I did not have them.

We then got an induction into what the adventure specialists offer the campers. I now know how to put on a harness. It all involved more teamwork and fun activities.

My favourite part of that day was the buddy up, buddy down game. I won’t bother explaining how it all worked but it was really fun even if we did have to run in a circle like idiots.

All these games and activities have forced me to become friends with lots of different people. I can also say that I have officially got an American BFF, lol. Her name is Ashley and she finds everything I do hilarious, even to the extent of filming me talk so she can show her friends.

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One lunch time she couldn’t believe I was cutting up my chips and chicken nuggets. she claimed they were finger food! So American! She has also offered to be my tour guide around NY so I am looking forward to that.

Thursday evening, Ashley took me and a couple of other people to Wallmart. I was so amazed by all the different brands. She made me buy some Hershey’s chocolate which English people apparently think is disgusting. I am still yet to taste it!

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Whilst out of camp I had my first McDonalds! I don’t think it is as good as the UKs though. However they do Oreo McFlurries which are amazing!

Once we returned from Wallmart, Ashley and I watched Pretty Little Liars on her laptop. I am so pleased to have found someone who likes to watch the show.

On Friday, similar events took place. I touched a snake which was very strange! They didn’t feel like I expected them to feel!

I also swam in the lake for the first time. It was very refreshing after spending the day in the humid, sticky weather.

In the evening I attended my first Shabat service. It was very interesting to see a different religion.

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It has been a very hectic yet enjoyable few days.

Travel: American adventure begins…

Waking up in New York city finally become a reality. I had approximately 5 hours sleep but as I lay in the dark, on a huge blow up air bed, I felt ready for the day ahead.

I sprawled out in bed and messaged home, as I managed to connect to the hotels wifi. Every time I interact with my dad over Whatsapp it always seems to amuse me. He has limited texting experience and I therefore get very little in response to my long and excited messages. Luckily this morning my dad must have handed the phone over to my mum so I got more than a ‘ooooo’ or ‘nice one’.

At 5am I rolled off the air bed and began getting dressed. By quarter to 6 I knocked on the other girls room to see if they were ready to head down for breakfast. I was starving.

In the hotels dining room, I was amazed at the sheer size of the bagels. Tasha took on the challenge and managed to consume the whole thing.

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I decided on some bacon, scrambled eggs and then fruit with some apple juice to wash it down.

Once breakfast was done and dusted, a few of the CA lot gathered outside the hotels entrance to wait for the shuttle bus that would take us to Grand Central station.

Driving in America is very interesting to watch. They don’t use lanes the same as us, everyone just seems to head for their destination with no real regard for what is going on around them. I am sure the drivers do know what they are doing, it just looks very crazy and dysfunctional. It is making me question whether I will be capable of driving over here in a few months!

America has so many different things to look at all at once! I found myself turning my head from side to side trying to take everything in. As we neared the center of New York, before entering the Lincoln tunnel, we got a great view of the concrete jungle amongst some mist. It really was an amazing site to see!

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On the other side of the tunnel we got a quick glimpse of Times Square as we sauntered through on the shuttle. Now I look back at this morning I can picture my facial expression, jaw dropped and eyes wide with excitement!

The shuttle dropped us off outside the entrance to Grand Central and I practically skipped, with heavy suitcases in tow, towards the mass opening that the station is famous for.

It was huge, lovely stained glass windows towered above everyone and a pale blue ceiling with delicate drawings shone above me.

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I really wanted to stay awake in order to take in more of the American scenery but unfortunately tiredness got the better of me and I ended up drifting into sleep whilst on the train. I blame the gentle jogging of the carriage and, of course, jet lag!

We finally arrived at Cold Springs station and after a little mini case and lift mission we made it onto the mini van.

Steve, a fellow member of the SLC staff, gave us a running commentary of the local amenities Cold Spring has to offer. Oh, if I haven’t mentioned already, it is very very humid here and on the bus it was almost unbearable. That was until we cracked open two small windows which allowed the breeze created by the driving to filter in.

As far as I can see, Cold Spring is like your typical American town. Many of the houses had American flags, in fact everywhere I turn I tend to see the American flag. The houses also had letter boxes at the end of their drive and white picket fences.

After a 10 minute drive I finally saw the Surprise Lake Camp sign. We drove through the trees on the rocky road heading towards the reception area. The lake looked lovely and there were a few people digging away at the lakes edges whilst some sat and relaxed on the grass.

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After an hour at camp I was driven to the cabin I was to sleep in. The cabin is a short walk away from the main reception on a different part of camp called Teenside. The golf cart ride to my bunk was bumpy and fun and we spotted a snake and turtle near the side of the lake. Once we arrived, I climbed the stairs and enter into were I will be sleeping for the whole summer. I don’t really know what I expected but I was shocked when I saw the place. The cobwebs were not a welcoming site and freaked me out slightly. I didn’t really fancy sharing my bed with all the creepy crawlies that lined the bunks so I simply left my luggage and decided to deal withit later.

Hopping back on the golf buggy we wizzed back to camp just in time for lunch; pizza and salad. After eating, I was shown the office that I would be working in throughout the summer with Steve. It was full of cables, computers that needed to be plugged in and general mess so we spent the rest of the day tidiying it all up.

At 5pm we headed to the dinning hall for dinner, it was a strange looking lasagna but without the meat. The cheese sauce sort of mixed with tomatoe paste and turned it pink. It was slightly odd but I gave it a go, the salad and garlic dough sticks were good though.

Later on in the evening we went on an adventure with a guy named Jared, on the buggy he showed us were the staff canteen is that contains a cinema room and games. Jared’s bunk was amazing, he had kitted it out with TV, double bed and fairy lights. It made me realise that the bunks can be good, I just have to decorate it.

I then found out who I was to be sharing with, a girl named Hanneke from Holland. We decided to spend the night on the Mainside part of camp with Tasha, Becky and a girl named Casey who I met today.

Even with the bugs in my bunk, I am still enjoying camp life.

Things I saw today:

The Lincold Tunnel,

American cars have red indicator lights,

A McDonalds sign that was lit up like you would expect a theatre sign to be,

A million yellow taxi’s,

Grand Central Station,

Times Square!

Travel: Cold feet, hundreds of bodies and a place at camp…

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The summer of a life time is slowly creeping up on me.

A few months ago I attended the London, Camp America Recruitment fair in the hope to be placed at a camp I had chosen. A few days prier to the event I searched through all the camps that were attending online to see which ones appealed to me the most. With my heart set on Camp Westmount I got on the train to Reading to meet my friend, Siobhan, who was also hoping to get placed.

The alarm was set for 7am and when it went off on the morning of the big day I couldn’t believe I had even had an hours sleep let alone 8. Begrudgingly I rolled out of bed and got dressed, wrapped cold pizza in tinfoil and left the house. The cold, winters walk to the station woke us both up and we boarded the 9am train to London Paddington.

Arriving in London to be greeted by the hustle and bustle of early morning travellers we headed for the underground to join the monotonous clan. Luckily once we took to the surface the sun was poking its head between clouds but this did not deter the cold effecting us.

As we approached the building, that was playing host to the Camp America fair, queues were already forming. At this point it was 10am and there must have already been 200 young adults chatting and shivering in line. Donning a green #iamCA sticker we joined the back of the line and was handed a large booklet filled with information.

With frozen fingers I sifted through the booklet and circled, for the second time, the camps that looked most appealing. In discussion with Siobhan we each changed our minds on wanting to go to Camp Westmount. Siobhan liked the idea of spending her summer in California whilst I liked the sound of Surprise Lake Camp (SLC). The destination of the camp wasn’t my priority because I new, if I got placed, then I would travel America afterwards. It just so happened that the camp I found most tempting was in New York. What drew me towards SLC was the short right up that described what they were all about. The paragraph sounded friendly and fun which is what won it over for me.

It must have taken us a good hour and a half to come to our final decision about the top 5 camps we would look to get placed at. We both figured that we had best decide on a few favourites because the likely hood you will get placed at any is ambiguous. Once we had sorted this out it was a matter of waiting for the doors to open at 12am.

Without anything to occupy us the impending feeling of frozen toes and red noses came to the forefront of our minds. I don’t think my toes have ever been as cold as they were that morning. In the end I walked down the street to get a cup of tea and as much as I love tea, I didn’t want to drink it because it was keeping my hands warm.

At 12am the que surged forward and the nervous really started to kick in. As we slowly crawled further towards the entrance I realised how hard it was to walk. The frozen toes were truly getting to me and getting a place was ever more paramount.

After what felt like an eternity we finally entered the realm of warmth. We were ushered up a flight of stairs and motioned to sit on chairs facing a big screen. The man spoke and I half listened and half revelled in the fact I could feel my body defrosting. After watching a short video we were left to fight to the deaths to try and get placed at a camp.

I spotted the SLC stall as I was walking down the stairs towards the main room that held all the other stalls. Once I reached the bottom I wished Siobhan good luck and headed towards slot 61 where SLC was based. I smiled at the camp representative and asked if I could collect some leaflets. Reading through them clarified for me that this was the camp I wanted to spend my summer at.

Avri, the camp representative introduced himself to me and I returned the pleasantries. He carried on talking to another girl and it looked like the interview was going well for her. This made me more determined to try and have mine go the same way. After he had finished he invited me to sit on the hot seat and he began asking me interview style questions. I answered them with honesty and enthusiasm. I tried to demonstrate parts of my personality as I was advised on the introduction video. After answering all the questions my heart quickened as I watched Avri write down a few notes. He then turned to me with a smile and said he would like to offer me a place. With a sigh of relief and a shake of his hand I already felt like part of the team.

What I felt was so lovely about Avri himself was that he didn’t sit behind the table like every other camp representative did. He sat opposite me whilst he asked me the questions making me feel more at ease. The fact that he chose to sit on the same side as the people he was interviewing says to me that he is presenting himself as an equal.  After speaking to him for more than a minute I felt comfortable in his presence.

Once the forms were signed and I had bid Avri farewell, I made my way towards the que to have my photograph taken and to pay my deposit. Standing in the line I nervously rang Siobhan to ask if she had also been placed. Luckily she had so we both were able to leave with smiles on our face.

The entire day consisted of lots of queing and many excited people drifting from stall to stall. It was definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to relive in a hurry but it was all worth the nearly frost bitten toes and cold pizza for lunch. I am one step closer to being able to wake up in New York City.