NaBloPoMo: Big baggy tops

When I go to bed, I am the least glamorous dresser. I love wearing big baggy tops that are very unflattering but comfy.

I don’t see why I need to look presentable when I am asleep.

A lot of the tops are sort of souvenirs from places I have visited or friends that I have made, so I guess they possess sentimental value.

I have a collection of t-shirts from my time in America this summer.

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My friends and I had one of them especially made which has all our nick names on it and a famous quote from the summer.

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Whilst I was at camp, a friend from Israel gave me a t-shirt as a goodbye gift.

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One of my friends from university bought me a top for my birthday saying ‘Brizzle is the Shizzle’ on it and this reminds me of my first year at uni and of Bristol. I have worn it a lot which is why the lettering has started to come off.

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When I ran a 10k race with my dad we both wore the same t-shirt so our supporters could spot us both amongst the other runners.

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I have many more baggy tops but these are my favourite.

My large and often paint stained tops are that comfy, I find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. The memories they hold and how comfy they are makes me happy.

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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: “Best overnight ever”

After camp Olympics, I thought any other day would be pretty hard to match it. However on Friday evening a group of us decided to make the most if our night off and head out of camp.

We didnt escape the luxuries that come with camp as the bugs, sweaty bodies and uncomfortable nights sleep still existed on this particular night.

We went hiking up a huge hill, sleeping bag and bikini readily packed. I must be the lamest hiker at camp as I plodded along at the back, complaining, sweating and nearly dying! I daren’t dream of what I must of looked like once I reached the top!!

By the time we reached the top I was so tired I could barely hold a conversation with anyone.

As soon as we got there, John Teva’s survival instincts set in and he went off into the jungle to gather some fire wood.

Callum, a New Zealand adventurer, used magnesium stuff to light the fire. It is pretty handy having a group of guys who all seem to be really into building fires! Actually I think it is generally all males who like playing with fire!

The night consisted of making s’mores, chomping on steak and campfire stories. It was a very enjoyable evening spent with a great group of people.

It was so enjoyable we didn’t end up drifting off to sleep until 4am, by which time the sun was coming up.

Snuggling down in my sleeping bag, crammed between two strong men (for protection from the two dear we saw and bears) in a four way spoon, I actually managed to get a reasonably good few hours sleep.

When I woke up, Steve was already in the middle of cooking breakfast; bacon, egg and sausage with Sunny D! As I was drinking the Sunny D I was reminded of how my mum used to only allow my sister and I to drink it occasionally because it apparently made us hyper.

Steve made me breakfast as I lounged about on my sleeping bag. Ashley had leant me her black pants that are apparently really big in America; Solos. They were pretty comfy and to me they just looked like yoga pants. John was so ‘frickin’ Teva’ he decided to not bring a sleeping bag and ended up sleeping in a ball wrapped in just a sheet – must have been so comfy!

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Once I had let my breakfast digest (I have been taught well, I didn’t want cramp lol) I went jumping off a rock into the lake. It took me a while to build up the courage to actually jump but I did it in the end. It was very refreshing and we all ended up spending the majority of the morning mulling around in the lake.

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At about 12 we started to pack up our belongings and decided to head back to camp. The hike down hill was quite enjoyable in comparison to the hike up. I was able to appreciate the Forrest with the all its creatures, including frogs and mini little orange lizard things.

Once I finally made it back to my unit I ended up sleeping from half 2 until half 7 in Ashley’s bunk. Her bed is so comfy and her fan is very powerful which makes it the perfect spot to nap. It has become a regular thing that I nap in Ashley’s bunk now and she just laughs about it!

That evening, Steve, Ashley, Casey, Laura and I went out to eat at a local diner. I had the French onion soup with a side order of fries which was a nice change from camp food.

So far this week camp has been pretty mellow. It has been so hot that I found it difficult to walk the half a mile between Teenside and Mainside. I managed to spend a lot of time in the air conditioned office, which was heaven, as I have begun preparing the all camp slideshow. This involved skimming through all the photographs that have been taken so far and choosing a few hundred. A difficult task considering we take, on average, 400 photos a day.

At the beginning of the week it rained a fair amount and the loud thunder feels like it is shaking you. The weather here goes from one extreme to the other. I can’t really complain about the rain as it at least cools down a little.

The campers in Ashley’s bunk always seem to have amazing food. I have been introduced to double stuffed Oreos dipped in Nutella! I don’t think I will be loosing any weight whilst I am at camp now!!

The last couple of days have been, what I describe as, your typical days at camp. 8.15am breakfast, teach some kids photography, take pictures of kids doing their activities, walk half a mile to the office and upload pictures, 1pm lunch, take some more pictures of kids doing activities, walk back to Teenside, nap, dinner, bed.

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On Monday evening a muscial band known as the Shlomones came to camp and everyone gathered in the Eddie Canter Theatre to watch them perform. I had to take pictures of the event but half way through I ended up cheering and dancing along with it all. I am pretty sure most people found it horrifically cheesey but for some strange and shameful reason I always seem to love the camp shows that they put on.

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After the show we went back to the diner and I had the soup again. It is so good! I also ordered lemon meringue pie which was ok! Huge but just ok.

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On Wednesday night I had to sit on duty (OD) which requires you to make sure all the campers are in their bunks and stay in their bunks until they drift to sleep. I have done 2 so far and they are normally very boring and tiresome. This time was pretty fun as another counselor ended up drawing a beautiful henna tattoo on my hand.

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Yesterday night it was Casey’s birthday so we all piled into Ashley’s car and headed for a nearby bowling alley. On the way we got lost and Casey and I went a little crazy. I have no idea why we found saying hashtag before every sentence so hysterical but we did and I think it will forever be hilarious. I felt like dressing up last night so I did my hair and makeup for the first time in like 2 weeks. It felt goooood!

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As always, the week has been tiring yet a lot of fun.

 

A lot of the photographs featured on this post are curtesy of Dan Cleare 🙂

Travel: Poison ivy, lake fun and the Olympics,

Over the past few days I have managed to bond a little with the campers who I share my bunk with. They are very sporty and keep asking me to try and do an American accent. Now I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I think I am pretty good at it now! They were impressed anyway!

I also went in the lake for the second time. I did another four laps of the lake which allowed me to use the diving board and a burger bounce.

Both the diving board and burger bounce were a lot of fun and I cannot wait to go back in the lake again! It was so refreshing after I spent the entire day wondering around camp teaching, taking pictures and sweating.

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For the past few days I have been so itchy and my ankles have developed blister spots. I thought I had just had an allergic reaction to mosquito bites but after visiting the nurse I discovered I have a poison Ivey infection. I apparently just have to wait for it to scab over and then I am all better! Mark (a fellow English friend at camp) came with me to the health centre and made me laugh along the way!

That night I also had to sit OD (on duty) in a different unit. This involves sitting in a certain spot from 9.30-12.30, making sure the campers go to sleep. It was very boring and I am not looking forward to doing it again next week. It also doesn’t help that I was nearly falling asleep because camp life is truly tiring!

The past two days have been crazy. Olympics, also known as colour war broke out at camp. It is one of the biggest camp events. The entire camp is split into 4 different colours, this year there was white Captain America team, blue Spiderman, red Iron Man and black Batman. Essentially it is supposed to be kept a secret until the Olympic break out occurs. Steve put together a audio clip and asked two councellors to have a dance off between each other. Half way through the clip Whammy’s (a man who has the most distinctive voice at camp) voice comes booming through the speakers. Everyone is wondering what is going on and then he announces the beginning of the colour war. We had Batman enter on a bat-o-cart, Captain America jumping from a shack at the back of the theater, Spiderman swinging from the roof and Iron Man climbing onto the stage. Everyone was going absolutely crazy and I had to try and capture the whole thing in pictures.

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Overnight, whilst all the campers were asleep, camp had been transformed with banners supporting different teams strung up everywhere! Everyone was dressed in their assigned colours and the constant stream of chants began at breakfast. I spent the day taking pictures of all the different Olympic events and ended up staying up until 2am to edit and upload them all so parents could see. Yesterday was also the 4th July so lots of people had big American flags and we had to sing happy birthday to America in the dining hall.

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I also managed to take a dip in the lake, in between taking pictures, which was a relief because it was such a hot day. I think I have established that my favourite part of camp is the lake, it is just so fun.

Travel: Camp and New York City

Last Saturday, Sunday and Monday involved similar talks about safety at camp.

On Sunday evening I faced a personal fear! Sleeping in the bunks has been out of my comfort zone and yet I ended up going one step further. I slept outside with only a sleeping bag as protection! I still cannot believe I made it through the night. We firstly hiked up a mountain to get to our camp fire. Once there we laid out our sleeping bags, lit the fire and began eating the hot dogs. As I was sat on my sleeping bag eating the food, huge ants decided to crawl all over me. It was not pleasant and I just sat there wondering how on earth I was going to get to sleep that night. We then played a few games around the camp fire which cheered me up. By the time it went dark I had semi forgotten about the bugs. I couldn’t see them so decided to put it to the back of my mind. Later that evening we began singing songs whilst someone played the guitar. Very cliche, I loved it!! Dan, Ashley and Haneke all started to play with light and slow shutter speeds which was fun.

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The days have been long, hot and tiring, so by the time Tuesday came I was glad to be able to leave camp on my day off.

A group of us signed up for a bus trip to Woodbury Commons outlet. At 10am we all piled onto the Surprise Lake Camp blue bus and headed to the shops. I bought 2 pairs of shorts and 3 t-shirts from American Eagle. I only really bought them because I was running out of clean clothes.

For the remaining few hours at the mall we ended up spending it hopping from shop to shop purely for the air con than out genuine interest in buying anything. The boys, Dan from England and John from Australia, somehow managed to amuse themselves in every shop. I found this impressive as boys usually moan the whole time.

At 4pm we jumped back on the bus and returned to camp. Once back we then crammed into Ashley’s car and headed to Wallmart. John nearly bought Brut as he had ran out of deodorant but luckily I stopped him and he ended up opting for some lime fragrance. It took him a good 10 minutes to decide on which brand to choose. It definitely takes a lot longer to make decisions on what to buy when you are in a foreign country.

After Wallmart we met other people at the Diner before heading to the cinema to see World War Z. If I could have chosen the film, a scary one would not have been it. I wish I could make a critical comment about the movie but seeing as I watched the majority of it through my fingers, I don’t think it would be a fair evaluation. I did find the bits I watched interesting, especially the way it had been filmed. I found a lot of the shots had blurred foregrounds amidst action filled middles and scenic backgrounds. Very visually interesting in that respect.

Needless to say, my day off was a goodun!

The following day, which was the final day of orientation, consisted of more talks…one from the Sherif! He taught us what to do if a mass murderer entered camp. All very serious and slightly scary!

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On Thursday the campers arrived. I spent all morning taking pictures of the kids arriving. The American families have ridiculously huge cars and all the campers, even 6 year olds, seemed to bring enough luggage for a year long trip. I helped one young girl unpack and she excitedly told me she had brought her rug! Meanwhile I am living out of my suitcase and my room still looks like a shed. These campers manage to transform their sheds into full monty houses! It was incredible!

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That evening I suffered from a migraine so ended up going to bed at 5ish. Come 10pm I was woken up by an insane thunderstorm. I could see the flashes and the noises were so loud!

On Friday I taught my first bunch of campers. It was very strange being in charge of a group of people. I don’t know where I got my confidence from but I managed to stand in front of 18 kids, commanding their attention whilst I discussed what I had planned for them over the upcoming month.

That evening I was off from 7.30pm. I had a shower, washed, dried and straightened my hair and felt ten times better after I had finished. I then went to the canteen and relaxed with a group of friends. At 10pm we left camp with Ashley to go to Wallmart. If you haven’t guessed Wallmart is a popular place to go whenever you have time off.

Yesterday was also my day off. At 7.55am I got the bus to Cold Springs station ready to catch the metro into New York City. By 10.30am I was walking down Times Square, amazed by all the tall buildings and the fast pace of the city.

Times Square was mental, so many people heading in all sorts of directions, lots of traffic and weird people dressed in costumes. I had a bit of a field day, taking pictures of everything and anything.

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Escaping the hustle and bustle of Times Square I headed towards the Rockerfella Centre with two friends, Casey from New Zealand and Kerry from America. (The original big group decided to split up as everyone wanted to see different things) It was a great spot to take pictures of different people. The building itself was incredible!

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We then walked to Central Park, by this time it was around 3pm and I was very hot. Avoiding all the men trying to sell us a bikes or horse and cart ride, we headed for a bench and sat and watched people play baseball. Central Park was also very busy with people running, biking and wondering around. It was nice to just sit and watch the world go by.

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We then decided to venture a little further a field so we hopped onto the metro and traveled towards the Manhattan bridge. We walked along long streets, heading towards Chinatown and Little Italy. I really loved wondering through Little Italy. I think on my next trip into the city I would like to return there and have a proper Italian pizza.

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By this time my feet were in a lot of pain but we continued to walk further downtown towards ground zero.

It took a while to get there and I was proud of my map reading skills. Casey and I looked like your typical tourists with our maps and cameras!

Once we got there we realised that you had to book a tour to see the memorial and unfortunately we did not have time. However I did read all the information that was written on the walls. I found it very bizarre knowing that a few years ago two huge buildings used to stand there and over 3000 people were working in them.

I will definitely be returning to see the memorial!

Hungry, hot and tired we then headed back to Grand Central on the subway. I had a slice of pizza for dinner and slept the whole train journey back to Cold Springs station.

My 2nd day off was definitely the highlight of my entire American adventure so far.

Today, I have spent the day hopping from different activities, taking pictures of all the campers having fun. Again it was very hot but I enjoyed the day.

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.

Comment: Bantham beach in the sunshine

Today has been a beautiful day and I have had the luxury of spending it on Bantham beach. It has been so warm and sunny, I am so glad I got to take a road trip with one of my closest friends before I leave for America.IMG-20130531-WA0001 IMG-20130531-WA0002

The beach is about an hours drive away from where I live and was well worth travelling the extra mile to enjoy (almost) white sand, in comparison to our red sand. I should not really complain because there are some lovely beaches just down the road from where I live, it just makes a change to go and explore somewhere new.IMG_7739 IMG_7741 IMG-20130531-WA0000

I took my camera and I was able to take some lovely photographs of children learning to surf, donkey rides, blue skies and white sand.IMG_7730 IMG_7734

It cost £5 to park in the car park for the whole day. There were toilets available and a food truck, which you could buy ice creams and snacks from. Before we arrived in Bantham my friend and I had stopped off at a local bakery, The Crusty Loaf, to buy chicken with stuffing baps. These rolls are huge, nearly as big as my head and are always fresh and yummy. IMG_7722 IMG_7723 IMG_7728

As soon as we arrived, we found a spot on the beach and tucked into our food. After applying sun cream we began to relax and enjoy the sun, listening to two women talk about their kids. It is so strange listening to other peoples conversations because it makes you realise how different everyones lives are to yours. The two women happened to be talking about how their children like to wonder around naked. I do not have children but I cannot ever imagine expressing to a fellow mother how my child likes to be naked, so weird.IMG_7712 IMG_7717

The women were packing their possessions away and as they picked up their towel we got sprayed with sand. Sand and just applied suncream do not mix which was highly unfortunate as we then had to sit for the rest of the day with sandy stomaches – fun!

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Despite being covered in sand, I did enjoy the day because it had been such a long time since I had been able to relax in the sun.

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On the way home we blasted our songs and sang along with the windows down with our shades on. It all sounds very cliche but I don’t think I care!

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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.