We’re in session! This is a guest post by NBTSC camper Babette C.
I’m assigned a gender-neutral room. I guess it’s a bit of a niche room, because my roommates here were also in the gender-neutral room in Vermont. I wouldn’t have minded sharing with people I didn’t already know, but I’m happy with how it worked out. There’s only three of us — one bed lies empty and we get to use the extra towels to keep the bathroom clean.
The first morning in Joshua Tree, I’m woken by a ring. Not a bell or a triangle or even a knock by the wakeup call committee, but by a roommate’s cellphone at 6:30 in the morning. No one else seems woken but me. I’m alert, still tired, but I know I couldn’t go back to sleep if I tried.
I end up reading a Rookie Mag article on my phone, called ‘Be Your Own Muse’. It highlights how hard it is to create and details how to inspire yourself into creating. My favorite quote:
“Each generation has the privilege of seeing things in a new way; your perspective, right now, is important. You see things in a way that my contemporaries don’t. You are the future! For crying out loud, get on your vision quest and shout your truths.”
I don’t consider myself an artist, I mean at least I don’t feel like one right now. But the article still reminds me of my own goals, and how hard I need to work (daily) to achieve them. It’s still long before wakeup call, so I crawl out of bed in my pajamas and walk out to the little garden/nook/terrace outside the room.
The sun has risen. But the terrace is in shadow and I can feel the chilly air underneath two layers of thermals. I’ve been trying to achieve a middle split for a few months now, and if you know anything about flexibility, it only increases if you stretch consistently. I jump up and down to warm up my muscles, then stretch on the uneven, stone ground. I’m beginning to regret thinking this was a good idea, when my room is much warmer and the floor inside is softer. But I finish out my leg stretches because I’m determined not to disturb my roomies. I stand with my back facing the stone wall, reach back and walk my hands down to the ground, ending in a backbend. I counter stretch my back, and then finish in a handstand against the wall.
After I shower, it’s not yet breakfast time. So I join a crowd of people hanging at the balcony off Friendship Hall. There’s a jam session going on, Matanah and Serena are singing a song I recognize from Vermont’s talent show and it slowly turns into a freestyled song about a bee that’s flying near them. I grab roasted potatoes for breakfast with Lily after the line dies down, and I make it to Check-In before my alarm for it on my phone goes off.
There’s a Magical Mystery Tour afterwards but since I went to a tour of the grounds on arrival day, I decide to sit it out and call my mom instead. I pace around the side of the road and tell her about the all the amazing things that have happened so far, and about my plans to have lunch with an internet friend (who lives an hour away from Joshua Tree) on departure day.
Around noon, it’s advisee time. Tilke is excited about finding a super secret, private hideaway for our group to meet, and I’m anxious to see more of the Retreat Center. We walk two by two and play a game taking turns asking the person next to us questions. We arrive at a courtyard with a white-stone fountain in the middle. After we sit down, we check in with each other, then Tilke leads us in playing Two Truths and a Lie. Before time’s over, we also have a plan for a scavenger hunt challenge for the other advisee groups and a new place to meet for tomorrow.
Before lunch, campers who aren’t work traders meet with their superhero teams. I’m on meal clean-up, which I never really understood what that entailed, because I was a kitchen work trader in Vermont. But it’s pretty simple, clearing the tables of plates and wiping them down, maybe vacuuming afterwards. After everything’s explained to us, we play a game with the huge meal-clean up group where we tell our names, list a food that starts with the letter our name starts with, our favorite food, and a food we don’t like. I’m Babette Bananas, who likes shrimp and doesn’t like coconut. By the end, I’m really hungry but there’s still time before lunch.
I am impatient, and I know if I wake up too early again, I would want a snack. The trip to Joshua Tree for me was a four and half day journey from the southeastern coast to California. The first 36 hours were on a bus, and the remaining three days was a road trip with four other campers. All the snacks we had brought to sustain ourselves were in the trunk of the car. I just want one thing – brownies that Griffin’s mom made. Once I get the keys, me and some others pop the trunk and split the brownies, careful not to make the entire camp aware that we have sweets. I stash them in my room and make it to lunch after the triangle rings. Lunch is lentil soup and cornbread and I eat it on the balcony with our superhero team. There’s lots of conversation about food and eventually about making your own shampoo, lotion, and deodorants, which inspire a workshop that I’m definitely planning on going to.
The talk on consent and boundaries is a bit different than Vermont’s, longer and more comprehensive. But I’m glad it happened.
I spend siesta in my room — organizing my luggage, actually unpacking a few things to put on the vanity or in the closet. Those are major luxuries to have at camp, even when I had a heated room at Vermont. I skip Introduction Circle, just to chat with people on the balcony. I did look at the list of conversations to have with the various people who did go, and later I talk to someone who’s also learning French. The previews for workshops are all amazing, I make a list of just the ones I’m interested in, and it’s about a mile long. There’s Check-In and then dinner, which is lasagna and coleslaw. I usually don’t like either, but here they’re good.
After the community meeting, I talk to Kione about being the one to help deliver incoming mail to campers. We plan to meet the next day so she can show me.
Then the staff talent show begins! I missed the talent show in Vermont, so I am determined to see all the cool things staff can do. There’s art and poetry and yoga tricks and crafts and juggling and belly dancing. Every performer is announced by a weird place in the world that they have peed. Hilarity ensues. (It was one of those only-at-camp-would-this-happen moments.)
There’s a chance for stargazing afterwards but I’m exhausted. It’s only 9pm, but still that would be 11pm in my home’s timezone. I crawl into bed before anyone else, curling up to write about the day.
photos of Babette and Day 1 miscellanea by Reanna Alder