It continues to amaze me how easily some of my responses to these daily prompts come to mind; it’s articulating them that proves to be the challenge, but let’s go for it.
Let’s go travel back in time to last summer where I spent 3 months in the most magical place on earth, Timber Lake Camp! I worked in the camp office, lived with 13 and 14 year old girls, and it was the absolute best time of my life.
So what had happened was, for those who may not know, there’s a College Work and Travel Programme that exists where it can be arranged for students to work in other countries, with the aim being cultural exchange. It’s pretty common for university students in Jamaica to participate in the program in the summer, as usually it is an opportunity for them to earn money for their tuition. The jobs they get are usually service jobs in the hospitality industry, food and beverage, or retail. I had gone on this programme before in 2014, where I worked as a Ride Operator at an amusement park near Buffalo, NY. It was the quite the experience, with many ups, downs and great memories in retrospect, but it hadn’t been my first choice for a job.
You see, I had originally wanted to work at a summer camp, but that wasn’t a common choice for work because a) the pay isn’t that great and b) how many people willing want to work with or in close proximity to kids? The answer, apparently no one…except for me, because anyone who knows me, knows I love camp! I had been attending church/pathfinder camps for years, and it was the highlight of my year. That week away from home immersed in nature with friends who are like family, running wild and challenging yourself, was the best feeling in the world! I mean, my favorite movie of all time is the 1998 version on of “The Parent Trap” which premiered my girl LiLo! So obviously, camp is a big deal to me! What many people don’t know is that every year I actually watch the old Disney show “Bug Juice” on YouTube, to get me into a summer state of mind. If I don’t watch “Bug Juice” and “Parent Trap” my summer can’t start and basically didn’t happen!
I had wanted to work at a summer camp since that initial participation in the programme in 2014 but that didn’t work out until last year. I didn’t think I’d be able to do the Work and Travel programme since I was completing university and they’re usually skeptical about giving the student visa to out-going students. Then I tried the camp option late, because I wasn’t sure if they were still hiring…but the camp I was interested in remembered me and my application from 2014 (I’d been stalking them since then), and offered me a job! So I figured out the rest of the process independently with an international agency, and it all worked out!
Looking back, I honestly can’t identify a singular moment when I was most satisfied with my life; instead, the whole experiences flashes through my mind like a music video montage (which my friend Clare was great at bringing to life as the camp videographer! Shameless friend promo, but check out one of her camp videos below lol!)
But honestly, it was all so surreal! Way before getting to camp, I reached out to 2 people that I would be working with in the office, and we made a little Facebook group chat where we gushed about our excitement and traded packing trips! Then I was able to meet up with one of them at JFK and travel to camp together and from that moment is was absolute bliss! It helped so much having them to talk to and laid the foundation for great friendships! (Scroll through to get a glimpse)
Camp had this feeling of being its own little secluded world, where you’re suspended in a bubble where time is relative or completely nonexistent, and all that mattered were the tress, mountains and the people around you.
Thing is, however, I’m not sure which part of it stole my heart…
If it was sleeping in the cabins with all the kids and my awesome roommate, and decorating my little nook in that special summer camp way…
Or if it was walking to meals arm in arm with friends laughing about everything and nothing, then scarfing junk into you system or sitting cross-legged on the floor having “office tea-parties” when you should be working…
Or it was the nights when we’d get all gussied up and head to the Ville (a bar) or Brios (a pizzeria), for no other reason than getting to leave camp, to drink and dance, or celebrate each other or simply to sit and vent about camp and play some beer pong…
Or going out on our day offs and buying E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G…
Or if it was celebrating all the camp activities in an over the top “this-only-happens-at-camp” way…
Or the crazy things we’d do to keep our energy up, and the way we completely threw all inhibitions out the door in the name of fun and entertainment, like acting crazy, dancing around, working through meals, or just putting our feet up for a sec…
Or the way we’d thank God for the power outage that stopped work so we could stop being vampires and bask in the sunlight…
Or the things the memories that I’d like to keep for myself like:
- wrapping up in our blankets in the office or the theater at night watching movies
- running through the rain barefooted after getting caught in the office because of watching movies
- our office dance parties to Disney songs and Justin Beieber
Just to name a few.
Why I felt so satisfied
I think I felt so satisfied with this time in my life because it was an experience I had my heart set on, that I was able to experience and it didn’t disappoint me. It surpassed all my expectations and nothing since has compared! It wasn’t perfect though; one day in particular I had to call my mom crying because I was overwhelmed, but that was a passing phase.
I was in a place where I was free to do what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted, with who I wanted, for as long as I wanted, without fear of judgement or discrimination or exclusion or embarrassment or condescension or rejection. I met open hearts and minds who were always ready and willing to go on an adventure, but also left me to my own devices. WE TALKED ABOUT EVERYTHING, not to give advice but to just spend time together. There were expectations of each other to be specific people; we just were and we all had our role and our place and we belonged. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I feel like it was the isolation and incubation of camp that probably made it feel that way, but it’s truly one of those things where you just wont get it if you weren’t there.
I say all the time that I left my heart on Saddle Mountain because it’s the absolute truth! All I want is to go back there, with my best friends that have become family, and keep having little adventures only we know about.
I don’t talk about them much when I’m home here in Jamaica, except to maybe my mom, but I think about them all the time. Most of these pictures have never seen the light of day and there are tons more that probably never will, but they are special nonetheless. It really was the best time of my life.
I love my camp family with all my heart; they mean to world to me. We all keep in contact and text and Snapchat each other pretty often, and stalk each other on Instagram, being the first to like and comment on each others pictures. I have so much pride in being a Timber Lake Tiger and a rep my gear like some people rep their favorite sports team or college apparel, because I truly feel it is something special, if to no-one else, to me at least.
xoxo, from where my 7 dreams grow,
~ this Timber Lake Tiger forever, Rynzi <3