This post will be a longer text based post!
Yesterday I stumbled across this documentary:
It's about autism and how families cope with it. I can really recommend it. When I watched it I remembered my summer as a camp counselor at Camp Jened in 1995. This post will be a trip along memory lane... for some time now I've thought about e-mailing the Camp, just to say hi, but it seems that they don't exist any more, I haven't seen any website and the e-mail I wrote bounced back. If anyone has any information, please let me know. I watched a couple of videos from camp on youtube earlier today.
What is/was Camp Jened?
It was a camp for people with special needs. As a camp counselor you got one or two guests to take care of and let them have a great experience at camp. The camp was situated close to Rock Hill and Monticello in New York state in the USA.
What was it like?
Well I can only speak of how I remember it back in '95, but a normal day was like this:
Wake up and go to the guests cabin and wake them up and get them to breakfast.
Eat breakfast with your guest.
After lunch you got about an hour of free time.
Get your guests to their cabin and ready for night.
At this time the clock was about 10 at night. You could at this point go and hang out with your friends before it was time to go to bed yourself.
The guests stayed for 5 or 9 days, I'm not sure but it was something like that. They stayed at cabins that were named after the indian tribes, one was named Hopi. I stayed with the male counselors at the Convent. During the guests stay, you got one day off and that day was a whole day including the evening before. I remember that I teased my fellow counselors when I had my day off! I remember that I often went to Monticello, just to get a change of scenery. We went to the cinema quite often, the first movie I saw at an American cinema was Die Hard, with a vengeance! Seeing a movie that takes place in NY when you for the first time are in the that same state, that was so cool!
We got a whistle and a pen, that we had to have on us at all times, I think the whistle is hanging in my old room at my parents house and I think the pencil stopped working in autumn '96...
My memories from that summer are quite scarce. On the whole I enjoyed camp, a lot! But it was also a lot of work. The friendships you got were real friendships. I stayed in touch with a couple of friends from camp, for many years. What do I remember more? Of course the Rock Hill bar! Where a beer cost one dollar! When I left camp in early august, I had to take a ride that left camp crazy early in the morning. And before taking that ride to get me close to NY I shaved, and one of my friends came and he wanted to get a photo of us together, so he did. When they left I sensed that I had shaving foam on my ear, so somewhere there is photo of me with shaving foam dangling from my ear...
The guest that I had that I remember the most was Alan, he liked to paint. On everything, and he was meticulous when I blended the paints. He painted the inside boxes on a Trivial Pursuit board game, that got me in trouble with the games-lady and also with the arts and crafts-lady. So I smuggled paints and paper to Alan so he could paint. I also remember the rain that we got, I then understood the saying "it's raining cats and dogs" the raindrops really pounded on your head. We each had what they called "over night awake duty" which means you stayed awake and took care of the guests during the night. I had some comics that I read and I also spoke to the other counselors. I remember that I also had micro waved popcorn that I ate from 5 o'clock in the morning, so I could stay awake those last hours before the other counselors came to prepare the guests for their breakfast.
We had one longer break between camps so a couple of us travelled to Boston, there I met with my grandma's cousin, which was great, sadly she passed the year after. But I'm very glad that I got to meet her.
So did we experience the USA?
Well, we experienced one slice of the US. I can't say that I know how it is in the USA because I stayed at a camp for 2,5 months.
On my way home I stayed in New York for a couple of days. Which was quite refreshing after experiencing the every day life of camp. On my last day I ran out of money! True story! I managed to get to the airport and to tell you the truth I was very hungry after only eating two bananas...
The year after, in 1996 I got a letter from Camp Jened if I wanted to return. After thinking about it I decided to not go back, because my friends from '95 were not going back and I thought that my summer there in was so great. Can it be as great as it was, the year before? So I didn't go back. I don't regret it, but if I'm going to be in the neighborhood, I will look it up. I would like to revisit the old camp, but who knows when that will be.
I think that summer meant a whole lot for me, I don't think I can express it clearly enough. I think you have to experience it to "get it", and understand it. There is a special feeling with places where people from all around the world meet, and get along. Camp Jened was one of those places!
To all you other camp counselors out there, I hope all is well with you. And I hope that Camp Jened will be up and running some time in the future.