Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mound Ridge Camp Week 1

Hello from Missouri! It's been an interesting week. Since the only computor access I have is at the Welcome Center (with dial-up internet), I have been journaling the old-fashioned way.

I'm typing up my "field notes" (as my anthropology professor friend would call them) for you. The thing about journaling is, the less going on, the more time you have to write about it, and conversely, the more interesting things happen, the less time you have to record them. I'm sure future entries will be nowhere near as detailed, but might as well take advantage while it lasts.

Pictures will have to wait until next week; my card reader is in the mail on its way over.
Without further ado, I present the first installment of:

The Mound Ridge Journal
May 11, 2009 (Day 1)
I'm still very definitely sick. The decision was made to fly today anyway, despite flu-like symptoms which utterly destroyed my weekend, because the nice American Airlines people would not exchange my ticket for less than a $300 extra charge. It's amazing how much strength one can muster when one has no choice.

The flight from Charlotte to St. Louis was uneventful, marked only by a singularly personable flight attendant. I found Jenny (a seasoned summer counselor sent to pick me up) at the baggage claim, on the phone and leaning intently over her sudoku book. She was easy enough to distinguish by her Mound Ridge T-shirt.

The two-hour ride back to Mound Ridge was pleasant enough, but long. We had to go a little out of our way to get some 5 gallon jugs of something for redoing the pool. Don, the grounds/maintenance man, had requested them before 2:00, at which time the concrete truck came. That didn't happen, but he didn't seem to mind. "Hey," he called out from his golf cart as we pulled up to the Welcome Center, "Are you the sick girl?" Yes, I was, and still am. Luckily, Christy, the director, has been incredibly understanding. She said they weren't going to expect anything of me for the next two or three days and told me to get a lot of rest and heal up right.

Mound Ridge isn't quite what I expected. (Is anything ever?) Turning off at a rustic wooden sign reading 'Mound Ridge Camp and Retreat Center,' onefinds oneself ona long, narrow gravel road in the woods, passing signs that say '5 miles, God's Children at Play.' After the colorful totem pole you come to the welcome center / office / gift store, housed in what looks like a doublewide mobile home. A small house with a dog tied out, and some random out buildings that are a little junked up complete the picture. To be honest, the initial impression is more like the trailered homestead of an eccentric, woodsy, multi-generational family than a summer camp. I have to cut them some slack though, this is the off season and they are doing several maintenance projects like the pool revamp. I'm sure it will be tidied up before the campers come.

The staff, as far as I've met of them, are incredibly warm, friendly, and accomodating. The office assistant, Heather, brings her baby Jaspar to work. He is the sweetest thing, dark, with a frequent long-face expression that gives him an old-for-his-years look. chisty introduced me briefly, asked me what I needed, and had Jenny drive me to my cabin straightaway for a much-needed nap.

I saw the bulk of the buildings on the way down. Again, not what I was expecting. They are all small and nestled close together in the steep folds of a beautiful wooded hill. Jenny warned me we'd be on a hill, but still, somehow in my mind it was all flatter and spread out a bit more. But I like it. It all sort of feels like a quaint, rustic, miniature village on a hill, sort of like those Halmark porcelain winter scenes. My cabin is rustic indeed. It's down a steep little hill with mossy stone stairs anda narrow concrete channel in fron that feels like it may become a canal given a good rain. Jenny said it has been flooding lately. (not the cabin, the camp.) I'm staying in the right half, with three cots, and Jenny's on the left. I'm thankful for that; I admit I'd feel a little lonely and frightened here at the bottom of this hill by myself, and sick to boot.

The cleaning ladies were still working on it when we got here, an unforseen obstacle to my nap that I had to muster some patience to wait out. After bringing me a lovely assortment of clear sodas and herbal teas, Christy left me to wait in the Mace cabin porch, a few feet up from my cabin, Kickapoo. Mace is nice, in that quaint miniature way one would expect in this little village. I expect it is one of the older dwellings, at least half a century. According to a faded, peeling collage on the porch, it was renovated in 1997. But the fact of it appearing torn up and mildewed in the 'after' photos while clean and tidy in the 'before' shots, I can only attribute to some prank.

I am being distracted by the pointed bellowing of a group of cows. I was warned of this eerie noise back at the Welcome Center. They called them the Mad Cows and explained that they moo like that because their calves are being taken away from them. I'd be mad too.

When I finally got to take my nap, I had a lovely dream. I was running races with a young boy, a Mound Ridge camper. Over and over again we ran, with no pain or weariness. I was bounding, floating along the ground in great effortless strides only possible in the dream world. Mound ridge was grander, too, populated by stately stone buildings and an elegant water fountain, like a college campus. As we neared the end of our final run, I saw my friend Grace ahead of me, running, then slowing to a stop looking spent. "No, Grace!" I called out jokingly, "I need to see energy and speed, don't show me that!" So she got back up and jogged beside me chattering, obviously unaware I was in the middle of a race. I was sprinting furiously at this the final stretch, rounding the water fountain. Had it not been a dream I would surely have tripped and broken something. I flew at the middle step ofthe main building, arriving just half a second after the young boy. He grinned at me in triumph and I grinned back, mentioning I took the long route aound the water fountain. That didn't mean anything to him of course, but it was impossible to be upset with the endorphins still coursing strong.

As I rose into conciousness, sweating, I was quite sure I could hear a faint snoring in the cot next to me, but when I opened my eyes there was no one. A large black ant was exploring the bedspread next to my face. I brushed her off and listened carefully. I could still hear the snoring sound ever-so-faintly. Now, as I finish up in the darkening cabin, it's been replaced by the sound of birds, crickets, frogs croaking, and the mad cows of course. Every once in a while a plane flies overhead, a faint reminder of the civilization I've left entirely behind.

May 12, 2009
to the tune of "Raindrops"

Ants keep a'crawlin' on my bed
and very soon they could be fallin' on my head
- ants are not for me - oh -
(can) you get these ants out of my room, stop their crawlin'
sometime real soon?

(Day 2)
More ants. Slept all day. Went nowhere besides cabin and dining hall. Made earrings for Mom. Saw a tick crawling on my bed. Still coughing hard. Think I broke the coffee maker. Sick of being sick.

May 13, 2009 (Day 3)
Morning: Drank Tulsi Rose tea on the porch, hung out with the black cat Holly and her grey kitten.
Getting better. Spent a little time in the office getting to know the camp Bible lessons and brainstorming curriculum with Jenny. After dinner, we watched "Forces of Nature" in the conference room. We lined chairs up to make "couches" and spread our blankets and pillows over them.

The camp is really beautiful at night. That's when I noticed all the stone work - paths, waterways and walls everywhere, with big geodes that rise up and sparkle. And the way the moss grows all over it.

May 14, 2009 (Day 4)
Today Jenny and I spent most of the day working on programming. Deciding which games and crafts the camp is going to do when, etc. We did it all day long until we both had brain fatigue. We took some chill time in the cabins before creatively masterminding a meal of macaroni, taquitos, sliced avocados, salsa and cheese dip.
Rex is the camp dog. He is obsessed with playing fetch. He will keep bringing a stick back to you all day long. Today I accidentally threw it on the3 roof. Poor dog, he looked everywhere. I caught him looking at me out of the corner of his eye like 'Oh no, I can't let her kn0w I can't find it!'

May 15, 2009
I looked at a map today. Missouri is so much closer to Texas than South Carolina. When I road trip out here in July, I really don't want to drive all the way to SC, then turn around and drive for 3 days down to Texas with Mom and Dad to visit my siblings.

I'd really just like to drive down to Texas from Missouri, then fly Mom and Dad over and let them drive back with me to SC. Its a lot less time driving and more time with family. I'll have to research 1-way plane tickets from SC to Austin.

May 16, 2009 (Day 6)
Hallie came in last night. She is kitchen help i.e. dishwasher and a junior in high school. We (Hallie, Jenny and I) hung out and watched movies in the conference hall - which is a small stone building that serves as the staff lounge. We got caught in a rainstorm and had to wait it out - 10:30 and then we raced back in the rain and Jenn accidentally stepped on a frog.

Tonight we (Jenny, Hallie, Christy + baby grandaughter Marissa, and I) went to Ruby's, which is a really wonderful ice cream parlor. I had a coconut almond hot fudge sundae with a waffle cone on top. Then the three of us watched two more movies. Wehad a great time being really silly - talking in funny voices and copying each other.

Hallie is quiet at first - well really she's always quiet - but she is much fun. She squirts Jenny and her mom Sue (Sue is the weekend cook) with the water sprayer. Jenny encourages her. She bought her a massive water gun that Hallie doesn't hesitate to use against her. She even made herself a T-shirt with a big bullseye on the back. I wonder if today, after several surprise drenchings, she's starting to regret that.

May 18, 2009 (Today)
Besides a sore throat and that awful lingering cough, I'm feeling pretty much back to normal.
Christy took Hallie and me to Steelville Presbyterian Church. It was very nice. The people were friendly. A man with the Gideons (the people who put all those Bibles in hotels, prisons, barracks and such) gave a talk. I was happy to give $5 for a hotel Bible; I have been grateful to find one while traveling on more than one occasion. There was a small reception for the high school graduates, with some delicious red velvet / cherry cupcakes, and then it was back to Mound Ridge. I'm here all alone now; Christy and Don are visiting Don's sister who just had a stroke. It's peaceful here. I'm going to ride around on the golf cart and explore all the corners of the camp I haven't yet seen.

Until next week!

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