By Farah-Roxanne Stonebanks
I’ve never liked camp. Or at least, I’ve never liked the idea of camp, since I’ve never been. The group activities, the organized sports, the silly little crafts and the whole “creating new friendships” always seemed ridiculous to me. At the beginning of every school year growing up, I always had friends who would have stories of the great time they had at summer camp. I would always stare at them, bewildered and unconvinced.
“You actually like going there?” I’d ask, after they had finished telling me about the fun they had experienced beading necklaces or playing touch football. (I’m guessing at this point. To be quite honest I usually zone out when people tell me about camp. But I feel like those are the types of activities one does at camp.) “You do that on your own free will?!”
I was always told that I just didn’t understand. The only reason I didn’t like camp was because I had never been. And you know what? That was just fine with me. Why spend your summer outside of your comfort zone with a bunch of people you didn’t even know, when you could just stay home and do whatever you please?
You understand now why whenever I would tell anyone that I knew about my plan to go to Africa that summer, I would get looks of confusion.
“You’re going to spend 5 weeks in one house with a bunch of different people? But Roxy, you hate people.”
I don’t hate people. That would be ridiculous. I am, however, a very introverted and solitary being by nature. You know that kid who, whenever the teacher would give the option to either work alone or in pairs, would choose to work alone? I was (am) that kid. So why was this girl, who was so against camp and who would choose to be alone instead of with a bunch of other people 95% of the time, joining a program that would force her to spend all her time with 10 other people?
To put it simply: because unless I decide to live the life of a hermit, I can’t avoid being around people forever. And considering I don’t really know how to hunt or grow crops or even construct a basic shelter, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the hermit-life is out of the question for me. Like I stated in one of my past blogs, I can’t stay in my comfort zone forever. If I want to continue with my education and to someday go out and get a job I need to be able to live and interact with a mix-match of different types of individuals.
Yes, living in one house with 10 other people can be challenging. You’re with the same people for five weeks; working with them, eating with them, relaxing with them, going on excursions on the weekends with them. You have to spend 7+ hours with them on untrustworthy buses, and 12+ hours with them on (thankfully) more trustworthy planes. And they’re there to witness your finest moments: when your hair is sticking up in ways that defy the laws of science, when you incoherently stumble to the table where you can sit face-down in a cup of coffee or tea and when you walk back into the hostel dusty, windswept and slightly sweaty after spending a few hours walking to various locations.
Even as I write this, my laundry hangs to dry behind me on jump ropes tied to the ceiling beams, my underwear on display for all to see. Boundaries have shrunk down to almost nothing and that’s a hard thing to get into. These are a group of people that, 9 times out of 10, you’ve never talked to before. And now you’re travelling with them to a completely different country to live and work with them for 4 to 6 weeks as you all deal with major culture shock. That’s a lot to deal with and, for people who’ve never lived with a group of people around their own age before, that’s a lot to get used to.
Was it difficult? At first, yes. I’m used to being able to come home from school and going to hide in my room for a while after spending a day socializing. I need time by myself, to have space to breath and just sit quietly with no one else around. While being here, having time by yourself is pretty much non-existent unless you want to sit in your room under a bug net (which I wouldn’t recommend). You’re forced to get used to being around a bunch of people all the time. And you do get used to it. Of course there are still little spats that occur here and there, as that would normally occur in any setting if a bunch of people were put together. But as time goes on you do feel more comfortable with all those other people around.
And now with the first two people leaving this Monday, I imagine that it’s going to feel strange with the lack of two members in our group. We get so used to seeing everyone all the time that with them gone, it’s going to be very obvious that something changed.
I think now that I’ve experienced what this is like, I’ll be more open to activities and educational trips that involve being with other people for extended periods of time.
I’m still never going to camp though.
They’re still super lame.