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Things I learned at a camp fair

Today you’re going to get a glimpse into something you may never have witnessed: the Camp Fair. Ben and I just got back from one last night, a two-day affair at a university in the lovely mountains of VA, where we spent two long days standing in a drafty hallway along with recruiters from many other camps, calling out things like “Areyoulookingforacampthissummer?” and “Wannaworkatcamp?” to the 18-to-22-year-old masses rushing by our tables, and listening to the same songs play on the same slideshows over, and over, and over, and over.

It’s quite an experience. I’ve done this before, but it had been a while …. and I’d never been to a camp fair at this particular university before. It was a good fair as far as fairs go; free lunch, lots of traffic (almost too much – at times I felt like I was being stampeded), nice people, and quite a bit of interest from the students. It also afforded an opportunity to learn some new things, such as …..

  • Students will rarely take candy when you offer it to them politely. Students will hardly even take candy if you shove the candy bowl in their faces. But if you start talking to someone or move away from your booth for even a moment, students will DASH over to the table and take HANDFULS of candy.
  • When given the chance, mature adults who walk by your table will take much MORE candy than the college-age-ers. So don’t be fooled when a nice-looking gray-haired teacher asks if he or she can have some candy; say “yes,” do NOT cheerfully say, “Take all you want!” assuming that they are a grown-up and they know that this means, maybe, 2 pieces. THEY WILL CLEAN YOU OUT.
  • Some camp recruiters are not very honest with the students they are recruiting. How do you know this? When you hear the recruiters screaming things like “COME TO CAMP, IT’S ALWAYS FUN!!” and “MAKE TONS OF MONEY!!”. Anyone who has worked at a camp knows this is not, as a rule, true. Always fun? Tons of money? Ha, ha.
  • It’s not always hard to tell if a college student is a good fit for your camp or not. For example, take this brief conversation I had:
    Friendly, Helpful Me: “Looking for a summer ministry opportunity?”
    Twentysomething White Male: “I’m looking for a JOB that pays OVER TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS.”
    It was not difficult to realize that we did not want him, and he did not want us. End of story. That was simple.
  • People who work at camps are a funny lot. Generally speaking, they are not afraid to be the center of attention, they are quite persistent in getting that attention, they are eternally optimistic, happy, chatty and sometimes childlike, and they have few qualms about being perceived as unusual or weird. This comes from years of entertaining small children by persistently doing unusual and weird things in order to get and maintain their attention. Obviously, given the difficulty of this task, the only people who would stick with it would be the optimistic, happy ones. No one else would make it. So there you have it.
  • There is much talk at camp fairs about a mystical thing known as The Blob. The Blob is highly sought-after. It is desirable. It is rare, and highly prized/touted by those who possess it. To those who have never heard of The Blob, an exchange like this one might seem odd:
    Student: “Do you have A Blob?”
    Recruiter (proudly): “Yes, we’re one of the few camps in (insert state or region here) who do!”
    Student (ecstatically): “YESSS!!! I love The Blob!!”
    Of course, you wouldn’t overhear many conversations like this because camps who do have A Blob advertise it with prominently displayed pictures and large-print captions that say “WE HAVE A BLOB!!” It seems like Blobs are where it’s at in the camping business these days. Of course, I wouldn’t know, though, because our small camp does not have one. I’m ashamed.

Not only did I learn all those fascinating things …. we also got a lot of names of students who are interested in working with us this summer. And I picked up lots of brochures from other camp booths (as I always do) to steal ideas from. And possibly located a new T-Shirt vendor. And heard about a game which is a strange and awesome cross between Ultimate Frisbee and Dodgeball. So it really was a pretty cool camp fair. :-)

Hard Questions

Could somebody please tell me ….

– why home furnishings cost so much? Specifically, euro shams? Is it really 6X more expensive to manufacture a square pillowcase instead of a rectangular one?

– why shipping sometimes costs more than the item itself?

– why the only lamp shade IN THE ENTIRE WORLD (apparently) that I like and that works with my room decor doesn’t come in the correct size?

– and why (since we’re on that topic) gray lamp shades seem to be as rare as albino crocodiles? Gray is so underrated and underappreciated, it’s just sad.

– why it only rains when I don’t have an umbrella with me?

– why unhealthy food tastes so good?

I mean, somebody has to ask these hard questions. :-P

New England Trip continued … to Newport, RI

Hey folks. Sorry about the delay in getting these posts up. We currently don’t have internet in our house, which makes these posts and all the photo-uploads that they require difficult. I’ll keep trying to get them up as often as I can!

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I mentioned in an earlier post that our trip was kind of thrown together. The day before we left on our vacation, I was trying to remember the name of a place I’d heard about where they had a lot of huge mansions that had once been vacation homes for the mega-rich people during the Gilded Age. I love old buildings and architecture and I really wanted to see this place. Somehow we figured out it was Newport, RI, and we decided we would go there for a day or so. Ben searched for a bed & breakfast online, and found one that was offering a mid-week price break. Cool. So Newport made it onto our itinerary.

Wednesday morning we left Boston and went and picked up our rental car. Since we were using my credit card to pay for it, and I had just turned 25, I signed all the paperwork and stuff. It was pretty cool, I felt like a REAL adult. :-P Our car was sweet … a Dodge Avenger. We soon learned that you can blame a lot of irresponsible driving on an Avenger. If Ben was driving too fast (in my opinion), he would say, “Avengers don’t go slow …. THEY AVENGE!!” If I was having a hard time turning it around in a small space, well, it was just because Avengers don’t turn …. THEY AVENGE!! It became our slogan for the rest of our trip. After that experience I wish we owned an Avenger because it’s fun to avenge everything wherever you go. Also it had satellite radio, which was awesome. I love the coffee house station.

Here’s Ben, avenging.

Newport was only about an hour south of Boston, so we got there pretty quickly. Once we got there we didn’t really know where anything was, and the town is pretty squished together … so it took us awhile to figure out where we were and where everything else was. We finally located the most famous house there, “The Breakers,” which was the Vanderbilts’ summer residence. This place was RIDICULOUS.

I don’t have any pictures of the inside, really, because photography was verboten. But it had tons of enormous rooms, all of which were furnished with marble, mahogany, gold leafing, more marble, paintings, and yeah, more marble. There were sculptures everywhere, and the walls and ceilings were covered with ornate carvings and detailing, all of it dripping with gold of course. There was a huge grand staircase, the steps of which were specifically designed so that when the women descended in their gorgeous dresses they would look like they were floating all the way down. The bathrooms were all mirrors and marble, with massive bathtubs that had different faucets for fresh or seawater; bathing in salt water was said to be good for the health. Back in the day, which would have been around the turn of the century, the house would have been staffed by 40-50 servants. We learned that the footmen had to be at least 6 feet tall so they would look impressive in their uniforms. It was crazy to imagine living like that: waited on hand and foot, surrounded by absolute wealth, spending millions of dollars on parties all summer long. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that this house was built for them to live in only 6 weeks out of each year.

This room was on the second floor of the house, and it was kind of like an indoor porch. We were allowed to take pictures here. Look at that view! If I lived at The Breakers, I would just stay in this room all the time. Taking occasional breaks to float down the staircase, of course. Well, I would probably spend some time in the beautiful library and music room, as well.

Here we are somewhere along the “Cliff Walk,” which is a pathway weaving along the coast with the sea on one side and the mansions on the other. It was beautiful. In front of one of the mansions there was a pudgy little kid selling lemonade for a dollar a cup. Now, I was very thirsty, but a dollar per cup?! That’s just greedy. I guarantee you there wasn’t a drop of real lemon juice in the stuff either. I didn’t buy any. It was a matter of principle. :-D

After seeing The Breakers, we had time to tour one more mansion, so we chose “The Elms,” which is a slightly less over-the-top but still amazing mansion that was once home to the Berwind family. One of the Berwinds lived in the mansion up until 1961, and still had servants in livery and everything up until then. The Elms was built as half art gallery, half party house …. it was designed to show off the Berwinds’ impressive art collection, and also to be the site of some wild parties during the Gilded Age. And by wild, I mean the parties cost millions of dollars and were the talk of the town! For one party they released monkeys on the grounds, some of which escaped and were never captured. Yeah. I think if your party includes monkeys, it can be classified as “wild.”

Sadly, The Elms didn’t contain many of its original furnishings or artworks. In 1961 the house and most of its contents were sold at public auction. The mansion was nearly demolished to make room for condominiums or a strip mall, but the Preservation Society managed to save it and re-open it as a museum (whew!!). We heard this kind of story a lot in Newport … some mansions survived, but others didn’t.

After two mansion tours (by the way they had audio tours which were quite fabulous), we had had about all we could handle of Gilded Age excessiveness. We decided to go check out our bed and breakfast. Driving through the town of Newport is so fun because it is PACKED with old buildings which, unlike those in many towns, aren’t crumbling away, but have been restored and are being well taken care of. That made me happy. There were more bed & breakfasts than you can count (it is a resort town, after all), plus lots of restaurants, shops and all that. I could have spent a lot of time there.

Our bed and breakfast was called Admiral Farragut Inn, because sailors used to be quartered there, and it was over 300 years old!! I snapped these pictures the next morning, but you get the idea.

Our room was cute and cozy, and had absolutely the most comfy bed of the entire trip. It was like sleeping in a cloud.

As evening approached we headed to the beach to see the sunset. All the tourists had cleared out and we had almost the whole place to ourselves. It was so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous…

That night we walked around the town for a while and got dinner in an Irish pub, where Ben had fried clams and I had mini scallop burgers. SUCH good food. Then after an amazing night’s sleep on the Cloud Bed, we had breakfast downstairs before leaving. Breakfast was hilarious because we were seated with a very funny family. They lived in France. The mom was French, the dad was English, and the two daughters were American-born. I don’t think they meant to be that funny, but between the girls’ harping on their parents, their dad suffering in silence punctuated by an occasional witty remark, and the whole family debating energetically about whether English, French, or Italian sausages are the tastiest …. Ben and I were highly amused. Oh yeah, and the breakfast was good too. :-)

Then we jumped back in our Avenger and headed back up the coast to Maine! I was really pretty sad to leave Newport, but Ben’s excitement about seeing Maine was contagious. And that’s where you’ll find us next time. See ya then!