It was pouring with rain. Absolutely chucking it down; like the sort of rain where you step outside for just a moment and come back drenched to the bone. I was in Bangkok for a few nights and was completely stunned – I had been in Asia for two and a half months by this point and hadn’t seen so much as a cloud disturbing the liquid blue skies. I was staying in a cosy little guesthouse which had an enormous covered patio where guests would eat breakfast, read books, use the wifi or just generally be sociable.
That morning, I was sitting under the canvas roof, eating breakfast (and of course generally being sociable), watching in awe as the rain thundered down, creating huge pools in the unevenly surfaced road, immensely enjoying the sound and the smell that rain brings.
And then it hit me – a completely overwhelming sense of homesickness.
I want to express here what I mean by homesick. It’s more than just wanting to see your friends or family. Every day there are times when I think to myself “Man, Gav would love this!” or “It would be so great if Tash could see that” and so forth. But when I feel this, it’s more of a fondness; it’s just a part that I accept as a downside of being away from home. What I mean by homesick, is an absolute craving, almost a desperate need for even just ten minutes to be at home.
But I wasn’t homesick for home. Strangely, as I sat and watched the rain, I realised I was homesick for America.
For anyone that doesn’t know much about me; my mother is American and my father is English. We’ve lived my entire life in England but have spent many long, wonderful summers in America growing up. And as soon as I was old enough, I signed up for Camp America, a programme that allows people from all over the world to go and work in a summer camp for kids for almost three months of the year.
I cannot begin to express how much I loved camp. I was 19 and had just finished my first year of university. Like most things in my life, it was done pretty last minute. I got a call from the boss of the camp, Amy, who conducted a ten minute phone interview. The questions ranged from my previous experience with kids to “What would you do if a child is scared of a giant spider in the bunk?” (Scream, whilst shielding myself with the child, obviously) Satisfied with my answers, Amy ended the interview with “So, can you fly out tomorrow?” And that’s where I began my adventure, in upstate New York, with Camp Edward Isaacs.
I think part of the joy of camp was that at 19 I was finally starting to realise the kind of person I wanted to be – and that here I was in a country with a whole group new people who knew nothing about me. That’s not to say I changed much at camp, because realistically I was still the exact same person, it was just incredibly refreshing.
Camp was magical – I was a counsellor in a bunk full of thirteen year old girls who soon became like sisters to me. I was upset if they were upset, I cheered like a proud mum if they did well in sports, I loved sitting around in the evening and talking to them about music, boys, books, boys, school, jobs and more boys. And the rest of the staff – I was surrounded by so many incredible people – the relationships built in camp are some of the relationships I hold dearest to my heart. To this day I am still amazed by the creativity I saw at camp. Entire evening activities built around something as simple as a box of donuts. The genius and imaginative techniques used to reward or punish kids, the level of resourcefulness to keep kids entertained when a bus broke down.
Every day was an adventure; all of the activities that we did (sports, music, drama, swimming, crafts etc. etc.), with trips to theme parks and days away camping. In fact I’m struggling to portray just what an incredible and captivating place camp was.
And that’s where I come back to the rain. When it rained in camp, it was a different kind of adventure. Rain meant silliness – we’d make mudslides and throw ourselves down, becoming covered in dirt and mud. One time my entire bunk and I went out and tried to ‘shower’ in the rain, even claiming a picnic table where we all attempted to shave our legs. It wasn’t particularly successful, but I’ll always remember being doubled over laughing as we tried to find the ‘rainiest’ part of camp to wash off the soap. We eventually ran into the lake, hoping that the shampoo wouldn’t bother Snappy the turtle.
Rain also meant cosiness, cancelling an evening activity to gather the kids in the rec hall and snuggle under sleeping bags while watching a movie. Senior staff would make and hand out popcorn while we attempted to keep the kids quiet and calm enough to get through the movie. Rain meant patience; encouraging the younger, nervous kids out of the bunk and into the rickety bathrooms to brush their teeth, reassuring them that lightning wouldn’t hit. It’s strange the way falling water from the sky can affect an entire camp.
Although I live in England where rain is just part of a daily routine; it’s a different sort of rain. Typically, England doesn’t rain, it drizzles. It’s light, it’s inoffensive, and it doesn’t make you change your day. It just gives you something to complain about. But in camp it was always exciting; you always needed a plan B.
When it rains (and I mean really rains, the way it would in camp), I always feel that same old longing to be back in the woods, in the bunks with the kids. Trying to distract them from the thunder or finding creative ways to keep the rain out from the bunks or coming up with “anti-rain dances”. I look back at the last seven years since camp and I know I’m lucky; I’ve travelled around eighteen or so countries, fallen in love with different cultures, crossed paths with incredible people. I’ve adored and appreciated every moment of each adventure I’ve taken– but a small part of me knows that nothing will ever be quite the same as camp.
Sometimes I question if camp really was as incredible as I remember it to be, or if my memories are distorted. I wonder if that yearning to be back in camp will ever disappear, if I’ll ever find a place which affects me as much as camp did. For the most part, I now try to concentrate on appreciating the experience that camp gave me and the doors it opened instead of yearning for something in the past. I notice that the longing to be back has quietened a lot in the last few years and I find it much easier to accept that it was simply a wonderful chapter of my life.
Until it rains…
Do you get homesick? What do you miss? How do you deal with it? Drop me a comment!
Also, if you’d like any more information on working at Summer Camps in the USA, please feel free to contact me.