September 5, 2010
When I was a teenager, I attended Brown Ledge camp in Vermont for three summers in a row. It was an all girls' camp, that offered horse back riding, which my parents believed would be good for me. I ended up loving my experience there. I have great memories and acquired skills there which I have kept for life.
First, I learned how to manage my own time and make the most of an opportunity. I think that is an essential skill for college because, although you have an advisor to lead you, much responsibility is still left for you to handle, and you are really left to do as you like with all the opportunities offered to you.
At Brown Ledge, I learned how to ride, even though I embarrassed my parents when they attended my end of the season dressage test. I also partook in more swim team activity, and swam my famed two miles as a punishment, a first at the camp. I tried canoing and riflery. I practiced tennis even though nothing came out of it. I loved archery and even tried some arts and crafts activities, although to this day I am incapable of wrapping a present myself. I learnt how to stand up on water skis and learned the back dive from a Swedish coach. I have never been able to do either of those things again! I auditioned for a play and acted in a saturday theatrical evening. The only thing I didn't do at Brown Ledge was sail and till this day I regret it, as I would have been happy to participate with my son, even with a basic understanding of the sport.
Besides the sports and the overindulgent eating (brownies and marshmallows), I learned to roughen it up a bit. We slept in an authentic tiny log cabin, with two bunk beds to each cabin. We didn't only have to keep that cabin clean by keeping tab on a housekeeping check list, but I also had to live with three other girls in a very tight space. We were woken up, in military style, by the sounds of a bugle very early each morning, and we had a curfew to abide by in the evenings.
The bathrooms and showers were a distance away so we had to organize ourselves or else venture with a flash light on our own, and risk encountering a skunk or other living animal in the bushes. It was then that I acquired a taste for nature, as I was still living in Dubai and had never been surrounded by so much greenery before. The lake temperature was freezing and I learnt to appreciate a cool dip now and then.
In my camp days, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream was really only a single mom and pop type store called
"Ben and Jerry's". Those two guys probably scooped the ice cream for me! A decade later, my younger brother couldn't resist buying me the T-shirt from the flagship store while he was "immersed" at Middlebury to study Arabic, having taken the oath only to speak classical Arabic for eight weeks. I have since spoken it for four years in a row and it does tire the jaw!
My second summer there, I returned to Brown Ledge with a cousin of mine from Beyrouth who was better at all the sports than I was. It was a great time of bonding with her which I will always remember. The third year, I convinced a classmate from Dubai, who had moved toTahiti, that the best way to learn English was to come with me to camp there and we also had a wonderful time.
That was my last summer at Brown Ledge. I didn't return after I went to boarding school because I had enough of being away from home. But I can say that Brown Ledge Camp was a great introduction for me to the American ways and the mentality that if you want to do something, just do it! It was my motto in college. I didn't waste my time and tried everything even though I didn't always succeed at everything.