Wow, long time no see...I haven't written in 2 months, but there is a lot to share with you now.
I've recently come back from Young Women's Camp; there are plenty of stories, pictures, and memories! In memory of my very last YW's Camp as a youth(?), I decided to blog about it :)
I wasn't sure if I was able to attend this camp, as I'm in the YSA now...but after having spoken to one of the Sisters in the Stake Presidency, she gave me the go that 18 year olds were, indeed, allowed to go to Camps still. I was ecstatic! My favourite stake activity has always been Young Women Camps and I look forward to them every single year. Last year's camp absolutely blew my mind, and I was initially led to believe that that was going to be my very last camp, but alas, I received another plot twist in life.
Savannah, Mara, and I were extremely excited about it. Messages went back and forth between us on Facebook about whether we had sent in our permission slips yet (I wasn't even sure I had to give mine in, as I was eighteen and legally in charge of myself...#independantlady) or if we were even going. The excitement bubbled more and more to the surface as Savannah revealed that she was now coming to camp as well. It has been about 3 years since the last camp we went on together. Our first was in 2011, after Sav and I joined the Church. We were the 'Banana Beez' in our team challenges...and yes, I still do have the Banana Beez banner.
Anywho! The day started with me meeting up with the Northside girls. Though I'm Southside, I knew it was going to be a very special occasion with Mara and Savannah (It being that this will be our last camp together in the Young Women's program, but also with all of us living in the same area)
We crammed into the car: Mara, Savannah, myself, Shafel, Erin, Alexis, and Ari. If you know me, you know that I absolutely LOVE car rides. I'm all for the singing, the close proximity of one another, trying to sleep by resting your head on your friend's head. I love it with a fiery passion. I was very lucky to get a fun car group with my two best friends, and other YW who I know pretty well. As youth do, we got quite crazy as we started singing 'I'm gonna be (500 Miles)' by The Proclaimers and it got to the point of yelling out the chorus as loudly as you could (Because, let's be honest here, that's all that anybody really knows of that song). I took a video, but it is posted on my facebook instead of this blog, so if you're friends with me don't forget to check it out!
It's a 3 hour drive to Narooma, so there was plenty to keep us occupied with. We took #Selfies and tackled challenges that our Leaders gave us at the start of the car ride (Take pictures of things like sheep, horses, water, signs, etc *Be Creative sort of thing*), we played Never Have I Ever, which I always lose at because I'm older than all the other girls...and they know how to twist the fact that I'm homeschooled back on me ("Never have I ever gone to school in my PJ's!"). But the main thing that we focused on was taking pictures - some of them turned out better than others...
(Our car mascot was the Dolelephant - A cross between a Dolphin and Elephant, because two of the girls in the car had necklaces with those animals on it, and it had a nice ring to it. Youth man, I swear)
There's a small cave on the Clyde Mountain which everyone knows as, "Pooh Bear's Corner". I'm not even sure how this tradition started, but it's been there since I can remember, where people leave little bears (Most of the time it's Pooh Bear, but there are others around if you can tell by the pictures) in the little cave. Whenever I'd pass it as a kid in the car, I'd scream the entire way to stop just so that I could pet the Bears and take pictures with them, but alas...my parents feared that I'd join them and never come back. All the girls decided that it would be a really neat photo opportunity, so we all piled out of the car and decided that every occasion needed to be marked by an Ugly Selfie.
After that, we continued listening to music, and scanning our list for things that we still hadn't taken pictures of yet. My jam came on through Sav's ipod, and I pretty much destroyed everyone in the car from pure excitement as Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid blasted out through the speakers and was drowned out by Sav and I's loud singing *That video is also on my facebook, just saying*
As we were stopping the car randomly on the side of the road to take pictures of signs, animals, and trees, we came across a shocking discovery.
A little toy dinosaur.
It was abandoned by the side of one of the roads we stopped at. Mara dubbed it, 'Roadkill', and he became our new best friend. Every couple of hours, I'd lean over to Mara and ask - "Do you still have Roadkill?" - and she'd lift him up with a funny face then he'd disappear again for a few more hours.
Unbeknown to me, Sav & Mara were my support as I walked alongside them with all my bags. I'm sure they could see the pure terror in my eyes, but were kind enough not to say anything about it.
After getting everything sorted (Which just means throwing all our bags blindly into our tents *Yes! All the Laurels were put together in the same tent, so Mara/Sav and myself all got to sleep on the same deflated air mattress for 3 nights!* and choosing to deal with it later), all 65 girls at camp gathered around in a large circle for Devotional. In tradition of every other year, the welcoming was dramatic and had a ceremony for sorting people into their Teams that they would stay in for the entire camp. These teams were to battle to the deat-glory in games that were spread over 4 days. Now, personally, I always hate these parts. I don't like the sensations I get in my gut when I have to walk up in front of a group, be watched doing something, and having the look of pure terror on my face. I'm eighteen, for chocolate mint sundae! I should not be having these sensations. But, sure enough, we all sat down to prepare for this torturous celebration.
Sav was called up first; our leader for the Devotional was very dramatic as she placed the Harry Potter Styled Sorting hat onto her head and declared her onto the Green team! More and more girls went ahead of me, being sorted into Purple Team or Blue Team. Every single girl getting called made me more and more nervous, and by the time my name was called, my hands were fidgeting and clawing at my phone that was in my lap. I don't think I even heard the little antics and dramatic flair as she slowly placed a green ribbon onto my lap. Green Team!? With Sav!? I was ecstatic! The stares that Sav and I had at each other were ones of pure amusement and, not even really shock, at the fact that we were in the same team. For the past four years, in every single Stake activity that we have gone to together, we've been put in the same group. Every. Single. One.
We continued watching as the other girls were called, and eventually leading up to Mara who - you guessed it - was placed into Green Team too. I was secretly thanking Heavenly Father, and the YW leader who sorted our teams out that they placed my two best friends into the team that I'd be with a large majority of the time at camp. It was a real blessing in disguise for me :)
Kermit the frog!
GREEN GREEN GREEN GREEN!!!
After that perfected display of glorious majesty that was our chant, our next game was a Sand Building Competition. We all piled out onto the Beach and were given out spades, shovels, buckets, hand-scooper-thingoes?
It was a really nice breath of fresh air. Having been so stressed out and in a dark place for the past couple of months, I really wanted to come back to nature and to sit on the beach, to feel the sand in my hand and the sun blazing down on my skin. For me, nature is how I really feel Heavenly Father's love. Some get it through music, or service, but for me it's just sitting in nature and realising that He created it all. Even though I was building Turtles (They're green, right?) for our Sand Building Competition, I was basking in the amazing nature there.
At about 8pm, a lot of the girls started dropping off like flies from tiredness, but we had one last activity which was the Movie Night portion. They played the videos that all the YW had prepared for the last few months about the theme for the Camp, which was - 'I'm a Mormon; I know it, I live it, I love it!' - They were all so creative and cute, but not forgetting those sometimes cheesy cringe worthy moments that those home-made videos always contain :) I really enjoyed them and some of them were done so well! *CoughmaybebiasedbecauseMarasangPartOfYourWorldinitCough*
Finally, at 9pm, we all tucked into a sleeping bags and begun the night time sessions of talking about what we did that day, replaying all our inside jokes and laughing hysterically but trying to remain quiet, and of course - boys. Night time talks will never be complete without talking about boys. It's in my blood.
We tried valiantly to stay awake until 11pm, but eventually we all zoned out one by one and fell asleep. The one thing that I don't like about camping is the fact that I'm NEVER warm. Never ever. Regardless of how many blankets, jumpers, jackets, and people I put on top of me, I can never get fully warm and toasty that makes it easier to sleep. Luckily, having Sav elbow me in the face all night gave me a good enough distraction from the lack of warmth. (An idea just came to me that I should have had both Mara AND Sav spoon me from both sides, so that I was warm...darn it. Why do ideas always come AFTER I need it?)
So the morning started very suckily by having to cook for other people who like things certain ways and also having people question whether or not I can cook. I can cook buddy, I just ain't cooking for you...
The only people I will cook for willingly is my family, close friends, and people I truly dislike but that's because it has a hint of DEATH and POISON in it. (Gotta get those skills early man, you never know what you're up against)
Because it was Sunday, we all piled into cars to go to the Narooma Branch's Sacrament Meeting. The little chapel is above an ice-cream shop, and across from the beach. It's such a cute and quaint little chapel that I just want to smoosh my face and make cooing noises! I had been there before because of previous camps, so it wasn't a big surprise when we struggled to fit the Branch members, extra families who came for holiday, and all 65 Young Women and their leaders into a itty bitty living space.
After going to Church and learning in all the classes, we came back to Camp for free time (Within the limits of keeping the Sabbath Day holy, of course!). So, I did what I do best - I went out and tried to socialise with new people.
The only problem with that is that I'm very awkward. Uncomfortable type of awkward. 'I-Don't-Know-What-I'm-Saying-So-I'm-Going-To-Keep-Talking-Regardless-Of-The-Uncomfortableness' awkward. If I think about it, I am led to assume that I was actually the oldest young woman there at camp that wasn't a leader, so that should mean I'm quite familiar with everyone because I'm their senior, right?
With so many new beehive girls (12-14 year olds girls), I really had to go out of my way to say hello and introduce myself...
I'd go over to the Beehive Girls and introduce myself, and of course ask questions about themselves. Being shy, they'd quietly answer then ask me certain things about myself. And, to be totally cool and rad to these youngsters, I'd answer like the following -
Our Leaders then decided that after Free-time we were going to play some awesome trivia games. We all got into our Teams, and played some games that honestly made me laugh so hard I just kind of sat there giggling, looking up at the leaders, then cracking up all over again.
The Testimony Meeting.
It might not sound that scary, or even that intimidating, but I'd be darned if every single person's heart doesn't start thumping out of their chest and the tears are already welling up in their eyes even though the Meeting hasn't even started yet. That Spirit is strong, and cannot be described.
It might also be fear too, but that's a different type of cry.
Anywho! I've always loved Testimony Meetings, because there is such a sweet and astonishing feeling of power from the Holy Ghost during them. If there could be a non-painful wall of fire, that's what I'd compare it to at these meetings. A wall of non-painful fires surrounding the circle.
There's no pictures from this meeting, but I'm actually quite thankful, because there would be too much incriminating evidence for my friends to use against my whenever they wanted to...not that I'm ashamed or anything. It's just a very tender and vulnerable time. I love these meetings because I love hearing the other Young Women shyly bear their own testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what they know to be true. It really warms my heart, so that's why I always look forward to them so much.
The reason why I dread them though is because if the Spirit had a physical, tangible, body it would be literally shoving me up to my feet. That's what it feels like, every single time. This weight is on my back and before I even realise it, I'm on my feet and in the process of bearing a testimony. Like really, Holy Ghost? You always got my back!
This meeting was very special because we had our Stake President there. I absolutely adore him with all the vigour and power in my body that I can possess. He is just so simply loving and emanates this powerful warmth and comfort that every time I'm in his presence, it's a battle on the inside to not cry and just wail.
So our meeting gets underway, and it's dead silent. Pure silence from the unspoken wishes of those who don't want to go first, or are trying to shove that little voice that is telling them on the inside to get up and bear their testimony down back into the hole from whence it came. Finally, Mara gets up to bear her testimony and it really sets the meeting off to a great, sweet, note. Mara cries. Not full bawling, but it's a cute little tender tear of a manly-man. After that, the pounding feeling of cold warmth, like a fire poker jousting into my heart, pulled at me through every single testimony being shared. I tried to fight it, I really did. If you ask Mara, I was pretty much sitting on my own feet so that I wouldn't have the opportunity to stand up. At a certain point, no one went to get up and it was silent for a few moments. I, thinking this was a fantastic opportunity to get up, whispered to Mara that if no one got up in 10 seconds, I'd get up. So, like the best friend that she is, starts counting down. Every second she names off, I'm gaining the momentum to throw myself backwards and do a barrel roll away from the campsite so that I don't have to keep fighting with the little voice in my head that ain't so little anymore. Luckily! Someone stood up and Mara gave me this look of, 'Get real...after this person, I'm restarting the timer'.
Once the girl was finished, she starts again and more and more people stand up. Hahahah! Successssss! At this rate, I won't have to bear my testimony. Genius plan, utter genius.
That voice doesn't last very long as each girl bears a quick testimony and it resolves back to silence...the 10 seconds is over, and no one has stood up. It's show time...
This is why I fear Testimony Meetings.
I thought the Yoga was slightly hard, but I was not prepared in the slightest by the announcement at Devotional that we were going to be taking a hike! I'm used to hikes, as we did one last year at Camp but it was more of a Amazing Race type of hike than a 'Why-Does-The-Mountain-Just-Keep-Going-Up!?' type of hike.
Then we were told about possible Leeches, Ticks, and snakes (More specifically, the Brown Snake).
When they brought out the bug spray for the Ticks and Leeches, that's when I knew that I my mother most certainly did not sign the Permission Slip for this. I was sprayed all over my arms, neck, chest, face, hands, and even my ankles underneath my pants. The fear of Ticks was real, and frighteningly a reality when one of the other YW who I am friends with told me that she was the one who informed the Leaders about the Ticks because she found one on her arm.
Get thee hence, ye devil spawn. Take your Tick babies with you, too.
Donning my Warrior-like Zinc sunscreen marks, I climbed into the car with all the other girls and we set off to our own deaths, like oblivious lambs to the slaughterhouse.
Each time we passed a very small and somewhat easy looking hill, all the girls in the car would laugh, point, and say "Perhaps it's that mountain! I could totally climb that..." and we did that the entire way...until we did see the mountain that we were going to climb.
After we realised that there was no real choice, only the illusion of it, we embarked on the entirely inclined hike up the Mountain.
If I can say there is one thing that I have disliked doing the most in this world, besides all the facts of cleaning up gross stuff or getting a paper-cut, it would be this hike. There were so many times where I honestly was thinking, This is how I die...this is what everything has led up to. Death by Hike.
About a quarter of the way up the Mountain though, a miracle happened. A pure and wonderful miracle happened that I had been wishing for ever since we got into the Campsite.
At the Beach Resort we were staying at, there were VERY poor reception. And when I say poor, I mean none. Except maybe for emergency phone calls, but even then, the emergency was more so for the delivery of pizza and not like, an ambulance or something related to health-emergencies.
At the quarter mark on the mountain, a EXTINCT VOLCANO, we, the youth of today, received the blessing and miraculous wonder of...reception for the internet.
While the Hike was fairly excruciating, I did enjoy the company of two YW that I normally hang out with but didn't have many opportunities to REALLY get to know. Some of the funniest conversations from Camp were on that Hike, so I guess that's a bonus for the torture that I went through.
And yes, we did come across a Brown Snake. #LivintheAustraliandream
By the time we arrived at the top of the mountain, my legs were shaking and I was ready to use one of the other YW as a makeshift slide to get down the Mountain, because I knew that my legs were not going to handle it. Unfortunately, Leaders frown upon using other humans as makeshift items, so that plan was foiled before it even really began. As we walked back down, because for some reason people find it enjoyable to not only walk up a steeply inclined mountain, but ALSO to walk back down. *Cue 'I'm gonna be (500 Miles)'*
I was deeply mistaken when I joked while walking up the mountain that the decline was going to be much easier because it'd hurt less. I was wrong. So very wrong.
Going down was even more dangerous than going up, mainly for the reason of loose rocks and weak, horse-like ankles. Every couple of minutes one of us would slip and practically glide down the path because of how many loose rock beds there were, that eventually it became an inside joke that we were making each other fall on purpose by the power of our points. (Anything is funny when you're willing to throw yourself off the side of a mountain if it means getting down it quicker)
Sometimes the other YW I was walking with would ask me if I was having fun, and I'd just shush them mid sentence with a -
~ I CAN DO HARD THINGS ~
As quoted by one of our wonderful YW Leaders, it really helped me to focus on while walking up and back down the Mountain. I can most definitely do hard things, and I did them, so now I don't have do to anymore. Thanks.
When we reached the bottom, where we started, we were in for ANOTHER nasty surprise. The bus was gone, and so was everyone else. Initially I panicked, but I had Mara, Eden, and Shannia with me who calmed me down and we realised that one of the Leaders stayed back to tell us that the Bus wasn't allowed up, and we all had to walk back down a little further to the houses.
When we finished the entire ordeal, I was so happy and yet so over everything. I was ready to take a 10 year long nap to feel normal again. Luckily! When we did get back to Camp (Eventually) we were allowed free time, so we went to sunbath on the beach and not cry from the pain each step brought us.
The rest of Day 3 was fun games, and strengthening friendships that were formed on the Mountain of Pain.
If someone could invent a tent that could fit in a can AND go back into the can when you're done with it, that'd be absolutely fantastic. Dismantling tents are my least favourite activity, as it requires actual plotting and calculations and not randomly throwing yourself on top of it and hoping that will crush every that it needs to to fit inside the bag. I summoned all the Dark Arts I could and managed to fit all my clothes and shoes into my suitcase/backpack, and even managed to get my sleeping bag to fit back into the bag comfortably, which was almost like being kissed on the face by a majestic creature filled with love.
After we had packed everything up, cleaned the entire campsite, and eaten a quick breakfast, we had our very last devotional. It was a little bittersweet, but it was nice to see the Leaders have a round of applause for all their hard-work and support. They truly did a magnificent job and their efforts paid off in the end. We played a few games, such as starting a fire to survive a Zombie apocalypse - We all failed, by the way. Who is even going to HAVE flint in an apocalypse situation, realistically? - and then had time set apart for photos...which I most definitely took advantage of.
Now, to be relaxed at home and to catch back up on sleep!