It is official. The summer 2011 season has come to an end. The gear bins have been sealed, the tents closed down and all the kitchen equipment stored for the off season. All that is left are lots of memories and good stories. If we were in camp, the chadar ohel would be ringing with the sound of the entire camp singing “shabbos is coming we are so happy, we’re going to sing and shout out loud.” Instead, we are all welcoming Shabbat back in our homes; probably devoid of the service projects, Israeli dancing and massive challah baking (up to 75 challots) that were part of our Friday afternoon rituals at camp.
Our second year was a resounding success. We welcomed over 250 campers and staff to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch. We lead over 30 extended massaot (excursions) and numerous shorter trips. We rode bikes, and we rode horses. We climbed mountains and rappelled down cliffs. We planted our own vegetables and harvested our own food. We laughed, and we cried. We sat in quiet meditation and we sang songs with intense passion.
While 2011 is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share three vignettes with you that capture the spirit of our community this past summer.
#1 Returning from Masa. A new tradition was solidified this year. As each Masa (excursion) returned to camp, they marched back to the gear shed singing a song from their trip, or chanting their masa cheer. (Last month I wrote about a biking masa’s return). Those of us who remained at base camp would come out of the office as we heard their voices to welcome back the returning chalutzim (campers). One of the most memorable returns of any group was group of metayalimers (entering 5/6th grade) who had gone on a day trip to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch to feed the buffalo. On their way back, they found a large mud puddle, and rather than walk around it, apparently began a competition of who could become the muddiest. After the first puddle, they found a second and then a third, and thus began a game of mud painting, and mud sliding. They eventually ran the final mile to camp, covered in thick brown mud, almost as if they had just been hanging out at the Dead Sea. Rather than returning upset to be so dirty, these 10 & 11 year olds were “hooting” and “hollering” and squealing with delight about their expedition. Each bragged about how they were muddier than the next. This type of uninhibited play could only happen at camp!
#2 Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov: Each morning, these are the words that begin Ramah Outdoor Adventure. This summer, Dan AKA “Juice-Boxx” [note the double X], Gabi AKA “G-baby,” and Or, AKA Or, took the lead on leading the Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov cheer when they were at base camp. They would meet at the picnic table at 5:58 or 6:58, depending on the day, and begin chanting. All of us at camp became so used to this chant that we stopped setting our own alarm clocks as their voices would echo off the valley walls. Last Thursday, “G-baby” had already left to go back to school, and Juice Boxx & Or were on a Masa. As a result: the rest of the camp overslept, because no one set an alarm! Eventually people began to wake on their own, and once we realized why everyone had overslept we all had a good laugh. The irony of our community is that we are in a gorgeous natural setting, and often just listen to the sounds of nature around us, such as during meditative teffilot or during solos on our massaot. But much of the time at base camp, there is a constant din of cheering, whether it is chalutzim cheering on their friends in the duathlon, chanting edah cheers in the chadar ohel or at 6:00am during camp wake up! As a tribute to our Bo-Bo Boker tov wake ups, all the staff gathered on the picnic table on our final full day of programming and gave a collective cheer. No one slept in that day!
#3 Increased environmental awareness: At our core, Ramah Outdoor Adventure is a community dedicated to living intentional Jewish lives with a heightened sense of our natural environment. It is for this reason that we focus so much on the food we eat, on our water consumption and on how our decisions impact the broader world around us. (Watch this video by our metayalimers on this topic) Last Sunday we had a final barbeque during lunch to finish off the final 40 pounds of meat that we had left in our freezer. As we always do when we have our occasional barbeque meals, we placed disposable plates and cups on the serving tables (we have no meat dishwasher, and therefore are not able to use reusable tableware at meat meals). But when it came time to serve the meat, I noticed that most of the chalutzim were holding cut out pieces of cardboard, in place of disposable plates. I am still not sure whom, but someone apparently had gone to the kitchen, taken a few of the boxes they had placed outside for recycling and began cutting small “card board” plates. Instead of rejecting these primitive plates, the chalutzim chose to use them in lieu of the disposables that the camp provided. In this way they were making a powerful statement that even if we were serving a meal that had a huge impact on the natural environment (our meat is sadly, NOT organic or local and creates about 4 times the amount of garbage as a typical meal at Ramah Outdoor Adventure), they were going to do whatever they could in their own power to make the meal a little more environmentally friendly. We have put all the paper goods back into storage instead of the local landfill. Just like the previous groups who came through this summer, there were many chalutzim who third session asked whether next summer we could try to serve local and/or organic meat and make the meal far less wasteful of natural resources.
As we draw the curtain on the 2011 season, please know that we are already counting down the days until the opening of camp in 2012. We are expanding our program and expect up to 150 chalutzim at camp at any one time. (See our current dates and rates here, and register here—though know that we expect to add additional programs for younger children AND adults). We already have a number of families who have registered their children for next year. Thank you to everyone who made our second season such a success. We would not be able to be building this camp without the support of parents, chalutzim, donors and volunteers. We look forward to many more successful summers together.