Ross McDonald was a part of our camp family in 2004 and 2005. He is from Leicester, England and is currently teaching English in Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea. Here is his reflection on his time spent here as a counselor at Camp Horizons:
Some people say that the human brain is capable of remembering events that cause intense fear and intense enjoyment in minute detail. A defense mechanism of sorts, they say. A gift that our evolution has given us to keep those experiences close, and to carry them with us for use in the future. Well, for me a few years back, the fear was getting onto a plane from London to New York, and then travelling several thousand miles alone to a job. A job that yes, I had seen on paper, but in reality had not the slightest idea of what to expect. The memory is so clear; I can even remember the films I watched on the flight. As for the enjoyment…that was the entirety of the eleven weeks that followed – that year and the next one.
When I hopped off the coach and met two of my co-workers, an idea of the kindness and generosity of the people I was working with was given when they immediately took me to a place to eat, and refused all offer of payment. As a socially awkward 19-year old, this was my first insight into the mind of someone who works at a camp like this.
I came to Horizons at night, so I couldn’t really appreciate the place until the following day…but the following day I took it all in, and what it spoke to me most was uniqueness. A place possibly familiar to others, but like no other I had ever seen. I had arrived. I was a Rocketry instructor. And from that moment on, I was sucked into the miasma of intensity, action, and downright fun of what is called ‘camp life’.
From directing the cars or standing by at the villages while the campers arrived, to helping them pack their gear to head home once again. From the alarm clock buzzing early in the morning to lights-out at night. From opening a package full of rocket kits, to watching and helping the campers build them, to launch day. From thinking of a song, to playing and singing it at the talent show with the whole camp buzzing, singing and dancing with you. From the introduction campfire and “The Big Blue Frog” to the final one and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and the emotion it would stir in everyone.
It was a rollercoaster of work, play, effort, and fulfillment. And I loved all of it. So much so that as soon as I left, I was thinking about the following year.
True, the intensity is sometimes too much…sometimes you feel like you’re going to burn out. But the people you work with – your co-workers, your leaders, your Horizons family – keep you going. And that was another truly special part of the whole thing – spending a summer in a very tight knit community of very different people, but knowing that you had all come to the same place, all wanted the same thing, and were ready to help each other, whenever, wherever. The true definition of the word friend.
The things those two summers taught me are too numerous to mention, but my growth as a person from working at Horizons was clear and considerable. And that growth was a direct result of a fulfillment I got from the two summers working there. That gift, as well as the gift of enjoyment that gives me such clear memories of camp, will be one I cherish for a very long time.
And from those memories, I now select a few to finish with:
- I remember…playing cards on the first night I arrived there.
- I remember…the first campfire, and the moniker “Rocket Man.”
- I remember…the first rocket launch and a rather spectacular fireball.
- I remember…winning on penalties in the football [soccer] match at the first Color War.
- I remember…all-you-can-eat pizza with friends at Cici’s in the town.
- I remember…the sunset over Lake Philippa and the sunlight between the trees walking from the dining hall to the villages.
- I remember…knowing which day it was by the food that was served for lunch.
- I remember…singing at the Talent Show.
- I remember…the final campfire and the tears that I couldn’t hold back.
I remember…so much more than this, but most of all I remember the place. A place that took a lot out of me, but gave so much more back. A place far away from where I was born, but a place I could call home for two summers.
A place I did call home. Camp Horizons.