On my list of some of the best things in life have got to be the friends that you make at summer camp. I never went to summer camp as a kid but luckily my BFFL, Pete, convinced me to go as a counselor when we were in undergrad. It was life-changing – about on the same level as when my high school bestie, Stan, convinced me to grow out my visor bangs. Anyway, I could write a whole post, or twenty, about my time in South China, Maine at Friends Camp but for now I have just a few things to say about it:
First things first, I always have to give credit to Pete for convincing me to go and for putting up with my bullshit when we got there and I started having serious doubts about whether this was the best use of my summer. Some of my undergrad advisors had tried to encourage me to participate in biology research instead, they reasoned that it would be much more helpful to my career in the long run. When I got to Friends Camp it was humid and cold, my allergies were out of control, and it became clear just how many toilets I was going to be plunging that summer. Not to mention my now-BFFL and long-lost twin, Alicia, was a bit stand-offish when we first met. I started to feel guilty about not doing research and worried about how long the summer was going to feel. I believe the words “biggest mistake of my life” may or may not have slipped from my mouth when discussing this whole camp counselor gig with Pete. TO BE FAIR, I also believe that by this time I had no less than 57 mosquito bites on my body, had plunged no less than 3 toilets, and had also experienced putting the docks in the lake which was a muddy job full of giant spiders, and I was worn out. The campers weren’t even there yet! Listen, I was tired and frustrated and I said something I didn’t mean. But I said it. And you know what? Being a counselor at Friends Camp has actually been one of the best things I have ever done in my life. So let the record show that Peter B. Van Wyck was right and I was wrong. Just this once.
Second, Friends Camp taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be. The kind of person who knows how to start a fire and make chores fun, who does weird but thoughtful things for their friends, who listens to children, who can bust out a friendship bracelet over lunch, who wears sunscreen and never runs out of fresh hugs. And who knows the sweet sweet relief of having 23 hours off a week, in a row, and has learned how to:
Third, and what makes this topic relevant to this blog post at all, is that I have made some of the best friends, ever. We have seen each other at our worst and best and these people know how to work. They are the best kind of people to have on your side! One of the best parts is that these friends are now situated all over the world. This is the second time I’ve visited my friend Kat in Germany. We spent a lot of days off together at Friends Camp, offered a program on being the best spy, and she made me a collage cup that I still have and use every day to hold my make-up. She’s just the best. Chris and I stayed with her and her boyfriend, Nils, for a few days and had the best time. They are such incredible hosts!
The elaborate breakfast they prepared for us. Nutella AND cheese AND homemade rhubarb preserves on one table. Heaven.
They really thought of everything and it makes Chris and I want to step up our game when it comes to hosting guests! They took us around Recklinghausen and we saw part of the old wall that used to surround the town, they drove us to Münster so we could see the city, they took us to 3 separate farms in search of fresh asparagus, and even showed us a coal mine where we ate a giant sausage in the cafeteria. Here are just a few pictures from our time with them:
After Germany, we took a quick trip to Amsterdam because I really really wanted to see the Keukenhof. Tulips are my fave and this place is a tulip mecca. I’ve been dreaming about going there for years and was so stoked that the time had finally come for me to be surrounded by so many fucking beautiful tulips! But it turns out that they experienced a very warm spring this year and the majority of the tulips were gone by the time we got there. BUMMER. I won’t lie to you, I straight up pouted about this. Then Chris gave me a pep talk, I ate some Dutch waffle cookies, and we still ended up having a pretty ok time.
When we got back to central station after the park we weaved up and down the streets of Amsterdam and ended up walking more than 8 miles back the the apartment we rented. After a week of rain in Germany it was nice to walk without umbrellas for a change!
After our short stay in Amsterdam we were off to Rome!
We had a couple hiccups getting situated in the studio we were renting – it was located about 30 minutes outside of the city center by public transportation and our host said he would meet us at the bus stop so he could show us the way. As Chris puts it, he pulled a Rip Van Winkle on us and was nowhere to be found and completely unreachable by phone or email. We eventually found our way to the address and waited outside for around an hour before he answered the doorbell. By that point I was getting worried and was just so glad we didn’t have to figure out another place to stay at the last minute! Besides the initial trouble, we had a nice stay in the apartment and he even provided breakfast for us while we were there. It was my first time in Rome and I didn’t really know what to expect. The first day we checked out the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon along with about 70,000 other tourists. The place was packed! We took a bunch of pictures but I’ll only include a few because this post is getting pretty lengthy.
The next day we decided to tackle Vatican City. The line to get in the city was pretty long, but certainly not 3 hours like the “skip the line” tour guides would have you believe. I think we waited less than an hour. We downloaded podcasts of Rick Steves so we could have free audio tours of the sites we were visiting. He is awesome and it made sight-seeing so much more enjoyable – I learned a lot! We used his tours for the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. I wish we would have been ready and had them for the Pantheon! Anyway, the Vatican Museums were packed full of people and as we got closer to the Sistine Chapel the river of people became more and more dense until we were all walking at a shuffling pace and I was literally being pushed by tourists behind me – believe me, if I could have walked faster I would have! Pushing was not the answer. It created this claustrophobic, stuffy, and maddening experience and I considered jumping ship more than once. I’m glad I couldn’t find an exit, though, because it really was amazing once I was standing under that famous ceiling. Photography is not allowed but I snuck a couple of crappy snapshots with my phone while listening to the audio guide just to stick it to the man.
After that we headed over to St. Peter’s square and stood in line for a while again to get into the Basilica. Also worth it! That place is amazing inside.
Our last full day in Rome was my favorite. The Colosseum is ridiculous and really made me want to watch the movie Gladiator even though I’m not usually into those types of stories. My man Rick Steves told me a bunch of interesting info about this spot and pointed out things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own.
Killing as a competitive sport and a bunch of virgins get the box seats. The entire stadium could be emptied in less than 15 minutes. The Romans were an eccentric bunch but they knew how to get shit done.
After the Colosseum we took a stroll over to the Roman Forum with Rick. This has been the highlight of my trip, I think. Some of the ruins that remain are so big! Standing there, you can really begin to imagine how huge and beautiful everything was. How did they do it?! It’s awe-inspiring. And it’s also so fucking old! SO OLD. Julius Caesar walked where I am walking, is this real life?!?! I absolutely loved it and would go back in a heart beat.
We left Rome to spend a week with another osteopath in Milan. Post on that coming soon!