I was at a family friend's home for dinner one night, relating my recent participation in the prestigious Forum for Young Albertans, when she suggested to me that I should apply to the Seminar for the United Nations and International Affairs (SUNIA). "You'll love it!" she assured me.
The idea was appealing. There was only a month left to the summer. I was 17 and bored of my boyfriend. We had spent the whole summer sitting in front of Macs eating popsicles, when I wasn't busy waitressing at the Harbour House.
I went home and researched the camp to discover that it was dedicated to a mock United Nations Assembly. Participants would each represent a county in the Security Council and would be responsible for researching and presenting their own arguments. Speakers from the United Nations would be spending the week with us at our log cabin campsite to further our international political knowledge.
However, the camp had an adsurd aspect. When we weren't busy researching our country's history and political climate in the makeshift library, we would be canoeing, climbing mountains and playing football. It turned out that SUNIA was a combination political camp/adventure camp.
Clearly, the organizers were a little confused. After all, what kind of 17-year-old teenager sacrifices a week of their summer vacation to go to political camp? I'll give you a hint- not the kind of teenager that is interested in climbing a mountain. Or capable of climbing a mountain without the use of an inhaler, anyways. I thought the concept was hilarious.
I had missed the deadline for application, but after I sent several annoying e-mails to the organizers pleading for acceptance I received an e-mail: "Congratulations. You will be representing the country of Jordan in the Security Council. We suggest you start your research immediatly, as all the other participants have had several weeks of preparation already."
I eagerly anticipated my reign as the most popular girl at nerd camp. I would be known for my fuschia pink hair, my abrasively acerbic wit, my overwhelming intellect in the area of international affairs, and my ability to climb a mountain without the use of an inhaler. The boys would all be devasted when they found out I had a boyfriend back at home. It would be perfect!
And then, I got on the bus.
A bus full of funny, attractive, socially competant people.
And there wasn't a single inhaler in sight.
While I had signed up to go to a political camp, begrudging accepting the fact I'd have to physically active on the side, everyone else had signed up for the adventure aspect of the camp, begruding accepting the political aspect. And while I had paid out of my own pocket to attend political camp by myself, everyone else had been sponsored by their schools to attend. In otherwords, everyone else already had a friend.
I was alone.
The worst day was the Wednesday. Early in the morning, after a night of no sleep (a product of sharing a cabin with 30 other girls, one of whom snored like she was having an orgasm, on beds that were covered with plastic) the bell rang and we arose to start research. After reading government documents for a few hours followed by a mid-day game of football, they drove us to a mountain, which we proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon hking up and down. Then, instead of taking us home, they drove us to another mystery nature location and made us play more football. By the time we returned to camp, it was dark out. I was exhausted and breathed a sigh of relief when the bus pulled up to the sign indicating that we would be at the camp in 5 km. I had minutes left on my phone card and wanted to call home.
And then suddenly, the bus stopped. We were ordered to get off, and handed candles. Apparently, after a 12 hour day, we were expected to light the candles and perform a 5 km peace walk back to camp, in silence, thinking about all the victims of war. I started to cry. I overheard other campers whispering to one another about how I was admirable for being so empathetic about the victims of war. It was touching, really.
But the truth is, I was just really homesick and lonely.
When we finally got back to the cabins, I ran to grab my phone card, and ran back to the pay phones. A counselor stopped me. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked, "we have an emergency cabin meeting." Blubbering and nearly crying again, I followed her silently back to the cabin.
Just then, the emergency camp bell rang and we were rushed down to the main cabin. I started bawling. Would the day never end? I was terrified it was a fire or some other disastrous event. But no, we had more fun in store! When we got to the main cabin, the organizers had planned the fun activity of staging a mock emergency Security Council meeting! At two in the morning! Awesome!
It wasn't until the end of the week that I finally made friends. Actually, it was on the bus ride home. In the last 20 minutes. Awesome!
The moral of the story?
I'm starting to get nervous about leaving for Vanuatu.