Today I thanked a waiter at a restaurant for bringing me extra napkins by shaking my hands at him because my mouth was full and I needed to express my gratitude. When my dad bought me fresh orange juice from a stand in Jerusalem I looked him in the eye and said “I really appreciate you”.
Reentering the real world after camp ends is all kinds of weird. I no longer have a group of girls in neon yellow jerseys and swinging ponytails following me around campus. I’m not surrounded by world class Frisbee players (who also happen to be the nicest, most interesting people I’ve ever met). I’m actually well rested. My voice is starting to come back. It’s been 24 hours since I last sung “One Day” or “Wavin’ Flag” or danced to the “Cha Cha Slide.” And it feels so wrong!
I think it took until this day of returning to reality to realize the magic that is camp UP. I realized that despite severe lack of sleep and countless bathroom runs with campers and water bottle fillings, I was genuinely happy for just about every moment of an entire week. It was like a natural high induced by the perfect cocktail of love, energy, friendship, sun, music, and body odor. Only now, eating my lunch quietly in a small restaurant (instead of being in a congo line around the dining hall), am I feeling the symptoms of withdrawal.
I’m not afraid of real life. And I’m not afraid of losing the friendships that I created this week (the active WhatsApp group messages and Facebook walls are truly a blessing). My fear is forgetting the details that I might not have been patient enough to document or archive: Forgetting the cheers and colors. Forgetting the sound of the first hands hitting the table before the rest of the dining hall echoed the rhythm. Forgetting the amount of boiled eggs and cucumber I ate. Forgetting what the moon looked like during closing circle. Forgetting how I felt as I watched one of my Jewish campers help adjust the UP hat on her new best friend’s hijab. Forgetting the high-fives and “I love you’s”. Forgetting the moment that a shy camper opened up to our group or when a 13 year old girl couldn’t quite wrap her head around the impact of a moving discussion and let out her emotions with a mixture of laughing and crying (joined by her coaches and LITs a few seconds later). Forgetting lyrics to “I’m a ducky girl” or forgetting whether “Bshe Yom” or “Yom Echad” came first in our version of “One Day”. Forgetting the few Arabic words I was taught, or the satisfying combination of creamy peanut butter and chocolate spread on white bread. Most of all, I don’t want to ever forget the feeling that I did something meaningful, and that hundreds of people around me were doing something meaningful too, all in their own way, all for the same purpose. (Also can’t forget about the cats!)
Sometimes I forget that the people who make UP happen are in a minority—the group of people who are familiar with the region’s history and current situation, yet still have an unwavering hope and an overwhelming desire for peace. I am so grateful.