The world is your oyster!: "Q" the Liquid Sunshine        

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My name is Heather.

I am 22 years old.

I am an East Coast girl
who also loves Utah.

I love my life. How could I not?

The world is my oyster :)
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Q" the Liquid Sunshine

I've never really been the happiest of campers, or the campiest of girls. I mean, I went to Girl's Camp every summer when I was in Young Women's, but as Caitlin and Rachel will attest, I also packed a month's worth of clothes, 5 pairs of shoes, at least 2 bottles of bug spray, and an air mattress.

I'm also not particularly fond of middle school. I didn't think it was so bad when I was a middle schooler, but now that I am in college, I don't even really feel 100% comfortable visiting there. Even if I am just going to eat lunch with Jacob or something.

But this morning, bright and early, I was driving down the road with my mom, hot on the tail of a Penske truck full of middle-schoolers luggage for a 3-day camping trip. The farther we drove, the more cows and trees we saw, until eventually we had arrived at Summit Lake, where Outdoor Ed was held when I was in 6th grade as well.

So why, being the noncampy college girl that I am, was I returning to Summit Lake to participate in a middle-school excursion? Long story short, Mom and Dad will be getting on a jet plane tomorrow morning to go visit my mom's family for a few days, so Mom can't chaperone at Outdoor Ed this year. I am going in her place.

We had about a half-hour before the buses pulled up with the kids, so Mom and I got to know some of the other parent volunteers. I don't remember any of their names, just their ages. That was the topic of conversation. They basically just went around in a circle, alternately admitting their ages and rushing to assure the others that they couldn't possibly be that old because they looked so great. They reminisced about the days when 40 seemed soooo old. They giggled at their naivety. They glanced sideways at me, and smiled (not unkindly) at my youth. Then they shared their nervousness, eagerness, and / or apathetic-ness about becoming a grandmother soon. Rain started lazily falling at some point in this riveting conversation, and as I pulled on a musty-smelling, bright red poncho, I knew it was going to be an interesting day.

The kids had been divided into 16 groups (A-P) and lined up in their groups at Camp Central right after arriving. Mr. Fairbanks took the microphone and a hush fell over the room. Glowering around the room, he began listing off his expectations for how the kids would behave over the next few days.

"Some of you may have noticed an extra sign. Is anyone here in Group Q? Raise your hand if you're in Group Q." No one raised their hands. "Hmmm, that's funny," he said, not a trace of a smile in his voice. "Some of you are going to be in Group Q by the end of the week. Mr. Yetter, do you want to tell these 6th graders about Group Q?"

Mr. Yetter is Mr. Fairbank's right-hand man. Sometimes, I can't tell who is talking on the microphone unless I peek, because they even sound similar. Mr. Yetter took the microphone and verified what we had all already guessed: Group Q was where the students who misbehaved went. They didn't get to go to activities. They lost their privileges. They wouldn't get to go to the dance. I was afraid they would be forced to sleep outside, but the teachers didn't go that far.

After Mr. Fairbanks was satisfied that Mr. Yetter had put the fear of God in the students with all his talk about the ominous Group Q, he took back the microphone and addressed the issue of the rain.

"This stuff coming out of the sky right now, that's just liquid sunshine. And you're gonna discover over the next few days that your teachers are a little bit....crazy. We ignore that stuff. Until it gets dangerous. Right now it is not dangerous. So it is full speed ahead with our activities."

Looking around the room, Mr. Fairbanks couldn't resist throwing in this final warning, "There will be no running when I call your group. If you want to run, you can home, because we do not want someone slipping and falling and getting hurt within an hour of our arrival. You do that on your own time."

And with that, he dismissed the groups one at a time for lunch.

Jacob's first activity (after lunch) was canoeing. We schlepped through the rain down to the gazebo, ponchos up, avoiding the puddles as much as we could. Mr. Mike, a biologist and canoeing enthusiast, was our instructor for the activity.

Here are a few highlights from Mr. Mike's talk:

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only unprepared people." (I disagree....I have seen lots of bad weather days in my life.)

"There's two things you need to leave here with: respect and consideration."

"Take a green life jacket if you weigh 100 lbs or more. Otherwise, take a red life jacket." (Everyone scrambles to grab a green life jacket, proudly proclaiming that they are way too big for a red life jacket. I end up with a red life jacket.)

"There's a right way to get in the boat and there's a wet way."

"Are you nervous?" (to a girl who kept squeaking and omg-ing as she sat down in her canoe) "That's alright. You don't need to be nervous. There used to be alligators in this lake, but we haven't seen them in a while. We think the crocodiles ate 'em all. Okay, have fun!"

(Seeing Jacob and I partnered up together) "I like when I see co-ed teams like this. You know why boys are scared of girls? Cooties. You know why girls are scared of boys?.....Babies."

Thankfully, the rain stopped just as Mr. Mike was finishing up his talk. Jacob and I had a great time rowing around and trying to run into other boats, but for some reason, everyone was too afraid to race us.

After canoeing, we went to our second activity: the nature hike. This was also a fun activity, but my favorite part was listening to all the funny conversations happening among the middle schoolers.

Girl 1: Why did you wear those nice shoes here? Didn't you know we were going into na-ture?
Girl 2: Ok! Let me tell you why. This morning, I just wasn't really thinking parents. My parents were rushing me. So I just put them on, ok?
Girl 1: (nods sympathetically) Parents.
Girl 2: Yeah, why do they always ruin everything?

Girl: Why are we doing this? There's no path. This is dangerous!
Mom: Oh, it's not dangerous! We're all sticking together.
Girl: ....well, it's still hard!
Mom: You can do hard things.
Girl: No I can't! I can't do hard things! (voice rising in hysteria) I can't.....
Mom: Yes you can. (pushing her gently toward another parent) Oh, brother....

Girl: AH. What was that?? Did you hear that sound? Ugh. I have to get out of here.
Boy: (singing) You're not my girlfriend.....anymore.....

This boy was my favorite. He continued singing this until we got back to Camp Central. I just love middle-school relationships.

From there, we all reconvened at Camp Central for some fun activities. My favorite was the "Knock your Block off" competition. There were two competitors who put on suits like these:

The object of the competition is to knock the other persons "block" (head) off. We watched a couple rounds and it was so hilarious. Note to middle school boys: if you want girls to like you, win the knock-your-block-off competition. When a champion was named after the first round, the winner and the loser took off their suits and rejoined their classmates. The winner was greeted with thunderous applause from his section, and several girls jumping up to high-five and congratulate him. I can only imagine the conversation those girls will be having tonight in their cabin.

"Ohmygosh, did you see how he knocked that other kid's block off today??"
"He is soooo dreamy."
"I think we're gonna dance together at the dance tomorrow!" *Squeals all around*

And what if it was the same boy from the hike today?

"Too bad he's Sasha's boyfriend."
"No! I heard he broke up with her on the nature hike today!"
"I am so dancing with him tomorrow!!"

At this point, Mom and I had to go home. Tomorrow I will be returning to the wilderness for more adventures with the middle schoolers. My only disappointment is that I'm leaving before the dance. And I was really actually looking forward to watching that little spectacle of middle school awkwardness.

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