A Letter to ALC – Logs, August 7, 2011
It was our pleasure to share this letter with the ALC Community at Logs last summer and we know you will enjoy it also! Matt Hamilton was co-head of our Out-Of-Camp Trips Department in the Summer of 2009 and has shared with us stories of his adventures since his ALC summer. Thanks to all who keep the spirit of ALC alive across the globe!
A Letter to Alford Lake Camp
Greetings from the other side of the globe! As you read this now, I’m probably just getting into bed. For all of the month of August, the Muslim world is celebrating Ramadan, during which from sunrise to sunset, there is no eating or drinking. The official rule is “nothing can cross your lips,” so no chewing gum or biting one’s nails, either – although many do brush their teeth. Once the sun sets, the feasting begins, and the once empty streets become alive with families, the restaurants fill up, and lively celebrations begin. People gather to eat and party until 1 am, and they get up during the night to drink more water, but once 5:30 am rolls around, it’s back to fasting.
Needless to say, very little work is done – so for someone like me, it is a good time to take a break. I’ve been catching up with family and friends and enjoying the change of pace.
I have been here on and off since September 2009. I formerly worked as a teacher for Iraqi children, but then took on a position as editor for two magazines. I have gone from teaching the poorest children in the region to interviewing the wealthiest families and individuals. Not to mention the incredible political events in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya; it has hardly been a boring two years since I last was with you as OOCT co-leader with Ms. Thayer Rosenberg.
Despite the surplus of fascinating events and living in the Middle East at a time of great upheaval, I still think of ALC often and the wonderful campers, counselors and staff. Although I was only with you for one summer, it stands out as one of the best in my life: I’ve never received such warmth, frienship, trust and positivity as I have at Alford Lake Camp. It is so easy to focus on the positives, but I must admit the negatives too, and counselors can no doubt relate: the hard work, the late nights, the panice that besieged me on my first trip, the burden of merely driving a van full of other people’s children, the knowledge that the counselor’s job is not so much a job as a lifestyle choice: we’re always scrutinized, for what we do (and don’t do) by the young eyes who so unconditionally admire us. I can only imagine what Betsy and Sue experience – a summer of sleepless nights, no doubt.
But the work was truly worth it, because the campers at ALC are and will continue to become strong, capable, smart, independent women. Navaigating the woods, swimming in a lake, learning to make and sustain and negotiate the conflicts of friendships, developing an appreciation for sincere, heartfelt writing and each day challenging yourself to do more, be more and to do it all, well – these are not just “camp” skills, but elements of a well-lived life. Enduring the stormy nights in a canvas tent will equip you to emerge from other “storms” in your life, and relishing the breezy, sunny afternoons with friends and fellow campers will ground you with a real understanding of all that is simple and good.
That, at least, is what a lifetime of camping has taught me – both in the Boy Scouts and at ALC. “Real” or “non-camp” life is not so different than “camp” life – and as the end of camp approaches, the challenge is to integrate, to carve out a “you” that is whole – camp life and non-camp life, combined and united. Your environment may soon change, but that doesn’t mean you must; find little ways of bringing camp home. For some, that may involve taking extremely short showers. For others, you might begin each day reading and writing letters to loved ones. I always try to hum some camp tunes… I think I’ve had “Four Leaf Clover” on repeat in my head since August 2009.
That is all for now, ALC. I hope you enjoy the final days of summer, and be good to each other.
Lots of love,