What’s it like to be a high school camp counselor?

6:30 AM – “Serena, do you have a tampon” (eyes jerk downwards and take a fascination with the ground) “…also could you help me with my sheets.” No need for an alarm clock here!

As a counselor, I was accosted with the tampon question as well as the do-you-have-a-boyfriend and how-do-you-show-that-that-the-totient-function-is-always-even-for-inputs-greater-than-three (nerd camp ftw).

The red extends to Head Counselor Chris, our very own Ron Weasley, red haired, rosy skinned, and gangly limbed with hands often stationed as if about to start the Thriller. His tongue is deep red and it’s difficult to distinguish where his tongue starts and the perpetual fruit roll up dangling from his mouth begins. A Dominos box and a complex analysis book prop up his monstrosity of a laptop, which has League of Legends running.

The nine girls that help comprise our thirty four person dorm (nerd camp ftw) giggle and waylay his computer sessions with valentine-chromatic “friendship” bracelets. Meanwhile, Lucas, our token Hawaiian counselor, notes the many Asians on the mainland who seem to have a knack for classical instruments (nerd camp ftw) and recruits them to do their thing while he does his. What’s his thing? He raps his soul.

Meanwhile Helen causally scrolls through the latest soccer news, noting the quality of trades as well as the men’s physique. During our TA sessions, time not teaching and helping was spent ogling over smitten kitchen and Yelp reviewed restaurants. And when campers were busy rescuing volleyballs from trees or pondering when they should start holding hands, we would ruminate for hours about whether prostitution should be legal or what the telos of a university is. Helen was the jelly to my peanut butter, and I’m not sure I would have been able to get through camp without her.

During the non-math portions of camp, Lisa (pronounced LEE-shaa by Helen and I) could be found leading ab sessions in the lounge and runs around the Stanford dish. Or of course having a go on the deplorable piano that occupied the lounge. Chopin would ring throughout the halls as I corrected problem sets, directing me to the subtleties of the questions. Chris, the other piano player in our house, amused us with jazz improv and his renditions of the top 100 on iTunes.

Although it may seem like we were quite the musical family, it was importantly voiced by one camper that “at camp, I got really good at math and playing sports –well Ultimate Frisbee at least.” Due to Elliot, Ultimate mania whipped the air (nerd camp ftw). No one could help but join the craze and give a flick. When not tossing a disk around, many campers looked lost or confused. Elliot amassed camper love with his crazy Ultimate skill-age and knife-eating-Yoplait competitions.

There is a binary test used to figure out if people should consider each other good friends, namely being able to sit without muttering a word in total silence but with feeling total comfort. This level of ease takes years to reach with some friends, if ever. With us counselors it took exactly 48 hours due to very little sleep and only three meals a day where kids weren’t attacking us with questions on problem sets, launching complaints, or needing to be told what to do. Silence sowed the family that we became.

We led kids through college-level-impossible problem sets, braved leg injuries on concussions on sprained ankles on “my stomach feels a little funny,” and bore an all night lock-down where the obscene Facebook status maker was hunted. Many games of Ultimate left us all bruised and cut. But after 6 weeks, Jessie J’s Pricetag still left us cheesin’.


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