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: 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.