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: Final week at camp and the beginning of my American journey.

The last week of camp was tough as I had lots of things to edit and finish up. The slideshow needed to be completed as did the calendar and ODs twice in a row was not pretty. I felt mentally and bodily exhausted from late nights and early breakfasts and yet I still had fun.

I spent most of the final week in the office driving Steve insane with my sudden outbursts of frustration at the computer. I think he will miss it really!

Walking back and forth from Teenside to Mainside suddenly didn’t seem as annoying because I new I wouldn’t be doing it for much longer. I guess I was making the most of hearing the goats and looking out for turtles in the lake.

I have truly enjoyed the experience and I will never forget all the amazing things camp has taught me. It felt like everyday I was facing a new challenge, doing something I never thought I would or simply laughing until tears dribbled down my face.

Yes, the days are long and you sometimes feel like you don’t have a minute to yourself. The food isn’t amazing and you are lucky to go back to your bunk to find no spiders making new homes on your walls, but the friends you make and the place you wake up to every morning definitely makes up for any negative points.

As the bus pulled away and I slowly watched the lake and my friends disappear behind a tree, it was a very bitter sweet moment. Bitter because I was leaving behind friends I may never see again and sweet because I was going to meet friends from home in NYC to explore America.

When I got off the coach on 8th Av and started to drag my luggage along the busy streets and up and down subway stairs, I immediately wanted to arrive at the hostel and see my friends.

When I finally made it, amazed that I managed to find the place with no map, I was relieved to find that the hostel was very clean and newly refurbished. I was then extremely happy to see Josh and Siobhan who were all ready to leave for something to eat.

With no time to relax I quickly changed and we headed towards the Rockerfella. At the top, the views of NY are incredible. I looked over the busy city and couldn’t quite believe where I was standing. The lights of all the surrounding buildings glistened and the sound of the traffic hummed below us.

We chose to go up the Rockerfella as opposed to the iconic Empire Estate Building because we had heard that you could see more of NY at the top. It certainly did not disappoint and I am glad I was able to view such a lively city from above.

We then headed to a roof top bar in Brooklyn. One that Josh and Siobhan had been taken to by a local a few days ago. It was sort of hidden away above a hotel in the middle of a part of Brooklyn that you wouldn’t expect a swanky bar to exist.

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The following day Siobhan, John and I went to explore Central Park. We rented bikes and Siobhan and I thought it would be funny to rent a tandem and it was. We had a blast trying to manoeuvre ourselves around the park without knowing anyone else of their bikes. There were near misses but we survived.

Central park is beautiful in the sunshine, the ducks swim in the ponds and we found a few turtles along the way.

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In the evening we got the subway to the Yankees stadium to watch a game. I am no baseball follower so I had no real understanding of the rules but just the atmosphere and the view of the pitch itself was great. We walked into the staidum all wide eyed and excited which I think is what attracted attention to us.

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A man approached us and asked if we would like to be ungraded to VIP, we politely declined by saying we couldn’t afford it. He quickly mentioned it was free and he would like to offer it us if we simply smile and look happy when a presenter hands over the tickets. Quickly getting excited we agreed to appear on the big screen to accept the VIP tickets. With beaming faces we stood and accepted the tickets, on camera, in the comfort of the air condition VIP area with prime views of the pitch. The whole evening was a whirlwind of excitement, buttery popcorn and cheers from the supportive Yankee fans. What an amazing way to experience an American baseball game.

 

Travel: Thick toilet paper, clean sheets, balloon extravaganza and a swimming pool

This weeks day off was spectacular! On Friday evening Kerry’s (an American friend) mum came and picked some of the gang up and Mia (another American friend) drove the rest to Kerry’s house in New Jersey.

It took about 2 hours to drive there and I enjoyed the luxury of sitting in the front of a very big, nice car.

When we turned onto the street Kerry lived on I was amazed at how beautiful the houses looked. In my opinion they all looked like typical American houses even down to the mail boxes at the end of the drives.

We were greeted by an extremely excitable and friendly dog. I would even go as far as saying that the dog was the cutest one I have ever seen.

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Once we arrived we had freshly delivered pizzas waiting for us in the gazebo. Kerry’s dad had even gone to the trouble of decorating the gazebo with fairy lights and the pool (oh yes there was a pool) was surrounded by torched lanterns.

We all sat around the table in the gazebo and tucked into our pizzas that contained both meat and cheese!

A while after we all decided to jump in the pool. By this time it was about 11pm and I expected the pool to be cold because it wasn’t heated. Timidly dipping my feet in I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that bad. Then before I had chance to gently walk into the water I was hurdled into the air and chucked in, all thanks to Dan. I suppose it was a quicker way to do it!

It was a very active nights swim as the boys began diving, back flipping and jumping off the diving board. I stuck to my star jumps and balled up bombs as I didn’t think my bikini would hold up if I decided to dive in.

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After swimming I had a wonderful shower were I didn’t have to dodge the bugs or fear any body part hitting the sides of the shower cubicle. It was blissful!

I was also happy to discover that not all American toilet paper is wafer thin! It really is the simple things you miss when you are at camp!

All showered and in my pjs we dragged mattresses into the lounge and created one big bed. With air con, a decent mattress and feeling the cleanest I have ever felt since leaving England, I slept like a queen.

In the middle of the night I was awoken to Dan pulling my sponge bob blanket off me. I was not pleased until I realised there was another blanket right next to me. I quickly drifted back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 10am. It was ‘awesoooome’.

Once we were up and about we noticed all the food in the kitchen. It was as though the magic fairy, in the form of Kerry’s mum, had come and delivered all this food for us. Strawberries, normal yogurt, cups of tea, bagels, mini muffins, blueberries and healthy cereal!! We were all so grateful to be there!

After filling out faces we all crashed back on our giant mattress and lounged about some more. It was so nice to be able to relax.

Later in the afternoon we all went back in the pool and messed around. More jumping, diving, swimming and handstands.

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Hours passed in what felt like minutes. At around 5pm we started to retreat back into the house by which time Kerry’s mum had returned with yet more food for a BBQ!

Meat and cheese, normal tasting hot dogs, corn on the cob that we hand peeled! It was all delicious and I couldn’t have been more grateful!

After eating we decided to watch a film and for some reason the film that was chosen turned out to be Grease! I thought it was a very strange choice of film considering all the boys that were with us. Sam (a guy from New Zealand) was particularly into the film whilst I accidentally fell asleep.

At about half 9 we all packed up the car and headed home. Dan casually mooned the others who were sat in Kerry’s car whilst we drove on the ‘highway’, which was pretty funny.

I did not want to return to camp after experiencing such luxuries, but back we all went. I am now just looking forward to next Friday evening when we all head to Ashley’s house.

The following day my alarm woke me up and it took me a good 10 minutes before I could move out of bed to begin the day. I imagined Sunday would be difficult because it was visiting day whereby all the parents descend onto camp to see there children. I had been warned that all I will get all day is complaints from parents asking why there child hadn’t been photographed!

I was therefore very surprised when parents called me over to their gazebos (yes they brought big ass gazebos filled with food) to tell me how wonderful the photography has been this year in comparison to last year. Such relief washed over me every time someone complimented the work I had been doing!

I took photographs throughout the day and at 4pm I was finally able to escape the madness by returning to my bunk for a couple of hours.

I seriously cannot believe how excessive visiting day was. When you visit your child why do you need to bring everything plus the kitchen sink?! I am sure many Brits will respond by saying, ‘that’s Americans for you!’

That evening all of Teenside trekked it across to Mainside for a balloon extravaganza. As always I was there with my camera and on this occasion I kept forgetting to use it as I found the magical John Cassidy so captivating. Every magician amazes! How can someone guess what card you choose and have flashing billboards all prepared before you even pick it? He even got inside a huge red balloon and pulled faces through it – he was just nuts.

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Before I was entertained by Mr Cassidy I was feeling pretty down. Simply because I had hardly eaten anything all day because the camp food has begun to make me want to vomit. After dinner I came away wanting desperately to eat some of my mums roast potatoes, feeling frustrated and a little homesick. After the show, I walked the half a mile back to my unit smiling to myself at the fact that every time I am down, something crazy like a balloon magician, always lifts my spirits!

That night I also had to sit OD but luckily one of the campers lent me a DVD to watch; ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’. It’s got to be pretty epic with a title like that, right?!

Monday consisted of usual camp business but on Tuesday, camp went all Zen. By Zen I mean spiritual, which involved a lot of tiedying and stick and wool making.

I also tried yoga for the first time and one camper told me I was pretty good at it! I think I may go to a few yoga classes when I get home. After the yoga I did feel very zen!

At lunchtime on Wednesday, Steve and I took our teenagers to the cinema to see Despicable Me 2 as part of an animation workshop. It was a very stressful and hectic trip and I have the utmost sympathy for my old teachers whenever they took us on a trip somewhere.

Wednesday evening was the all camp show which was lovely to watch. The younger kids were adorable as they acted out Hercules for the rest of camp.

During the intermission we all had ice cream sandwiched between two cookies. It was amazing and I am looking forward to the next all camp show to eat one again.

On Thursday I spent the entire day by the lake taking pictures for the end of camp slideshow. As the lake is one of my favourite places at camp, I had a great day. Half of Teenside were on a trip so it was pretty quiet and relaxed.

For the first time whilst being at camp I got sunburnt! It was about 40 degrees so no amount of suncream would of protected me from the inevitable sunburn.

That evening I went to the diner with John, Carlo and Dan and yet again I had the french onion soup, it’s just so good.

It was also the staff banquet and everyone got dressed up for it. I wore these ridiculously tight paint sprayed shorts with a tank top – what have I become?! It was pretty funny considering no alcohol was to be consumed.

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On Friday, all I did was look forward to my evening and following day off. Come 7.30, ‘the gang’ all piled into Ashley’s and Kerry’s car and headed to Long Island to stay at Ashely’s.

Once we arrived we headed to a pizza place and ordered your average huge American pizzas. The staff must have taken a liking to us as we kept getting given free food. Either that or it was because it was the end of the day and they still had food left.

After pizza we went back to Ashley’s and all squished into her hot tub. I don’t think I have ever seen so many tangled up bodies in one hot tub before. The water level definitely decreased by the time we all got out!

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The evening rolled into the morning and I ended up falling asleep listening to Dan tell a very ‘red flag’ story!

The next day we went to a huge shopping mall and I treated myself to a new bikini from Victoria Secret. I was very pleased with my purchase!

I slept in the car in our way back to camp and also ended up going to bed at 8pm. I don’t think any amount of sleep will help prepare me for a day at camp!

On Sunday I took lots of pictures of the campers doing different activities related to birds. Then at 12.30 we all watched a bird show which was very interesting.

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In the afternoon I ended up half taking pictures and half filming a video for Steve’s birthday. Making the video was pretty funny especially as John didn’t initially want to be filmed but ended up being in it the most.

At 9pm everyone gathered in the Eddie Canter theatre to watch the end of session 1 slideshow that Steve and I had created. I was pretty nervous as Steve hit play, just hoping nothing went wrong and all the campers liked it. I think it was a success as many people applauded and left in tears. If no-one cried, Steve and I took it as a failed attempt!

The next day lots of campers packed there bags and left camp. The ones that stayed will be here for another session but before that begins they have trip break. During trip break all the specialists have to be counsellors whilst the normal counsellors have time off.

After lunch, all the remaining campers and specialist counsellors chilled out on the beach and in the lake. Later in the evening we all headed to the canteen and chilled out some more.

On Tuesday we woke up for breakfast, which was blueberry pancakes and then got onto a yellow school bus. The whole of camp headed for the movies and I got to fall asleep whilst all the kids watched The Croods.

Once we got back to camp we had lunch and then Mia (American friend) , Elisia (fellow English girl) and I all went to get out nails done as we all felt we deserved a treat.

That evening I had to sit OD which turned out to be the worst OD so far. The majority of my unit did not go to sleep and refused to turn their lights out. All I wanted to do was go to sleep but the rude campers prevented me from doing so. An apology from the campers the following morning was appreciated.

The next day, lots of other children arrived for the beginning of session two. I took photographs all day and was happy to finally be in bed come the evening.

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 🙂