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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Camp Okawehna was one of the most surreal, exhausting, frustrating, fun, incredible, and ultimately rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve had some time to think it over now, and I’m still not exactly sure how to describe it, but I will try here.

First of all, it was HARD. It was hard because of many different reasons. Before this, I had never worked with kids before, not even healthy kids, so spending a whole week being responsible 24-7 for 3 girls aged 9, 11, and 14 who have all had kidney transplants was tough. A lot of the times they didn’t want to do the activities, or didn’t want to get out of bed, or wanted to go back to the cabin before we were supposed to, or they all wanted to do different things during free time, or were just moody and upset for no apparent reason… you get the idea. Thankfully, one of the other counselors in the cabin is the kids’ nurse back home in Memphis was very helpful and made my job easier. Still, for a week I was care-taker, cheerleader, meal server, arts and crafts assistant, play companion, bug killer, clothes fetcher, bed maker, child transporter, style consultant… from 7:30 am to 10 pm or later every day. I had never realized how much work it is to take of children before this, but now I have a very good idea.

The other thing is, being an only child and thus a somewhat solitary person, it was quite a change to be constantly around children and other adults all the time. At times I felt like I was going crazy not having more than a couple of minutes to myself each day. I relished those walks to the nightly counselor meetings… which were just about the only “me” time I got each day.

Then there’s the fact that I had to be out in the woods, living in a cabin, with no internet and barely any cell phone reception, with bugs, heat, humidity, and dust. this is probably as far from NYC as you can get, and I’m a city girl if I didn’t know that already. Everyday I was caked in layer and layers of sweat, bug spray, sunscreen and dust, not necessarily in that order. Showers would help a bit but only for about 5 minutes. Ah the lovely wilderness.

But even though all these things made camp frustrating at times and I almost had total meltdowns a few times, I still had a wonderful time. The girls in my cabin, and all of the other campers, were such amazing and special children, so full of life and energy that if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t even realized that they were sick. I know I certainly forgot that fact at times. It’s only when you see them having to take 7 different pills a day or having to miss out on activities due to having to go to dialysis or not being able to go into the pool because they had a catheter that you realize that they are sick, and how lucky you are to just be healthy and alive. And it has been a while since my days were this full and active that at every meal I was starving and ate absolutely everything on my tray (even the salt-less chips).

In the end, I’m very proud of myself for getting through this week. I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience, learned many important life lessons, and met some of the most incredible people. Camp O 2011, it’s been real.



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