Unforgettable Camp Experience

Raymond Gomez

When I first heard about the Roots-Seeking camp in China,I immediately thought: “They have incorrect grammar! Who made that camp name?” And afterwards, thought again: “argh… I hope my mom doesn’t sign me up. It sounds like we are going to just learn about boring stuff that I have no interest in whatsoever. ” At that time, I had no idea how much fun and learning would be awaiting me just 7,000 miles away.

A couple of things happened when I first arrived to the camp. We went to registration, got a hotel room, etc. But one thing that I remember the most is when the counselors took our pictures. We were forced off a nice and air-conditioned bus so that they could herd us into risers for 45 minutes, while the counselors snapped pictures and screamed at us to squeeze together tighter. Honestly, even now I wonder why in the world they would take so many pictures. If you bother to look at the pictures for that day, it looked like the counselors had stuffed everyone into a giant oven and turned the heat up to the highest setting! Even canned sardines had way more room than us campers!

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Speaking of sardines, the food at the camp cafeteria was fine, but not superb, probably because it is not economical to get expensive gourmet food. But when the camp counselors took us out to eat at a restaurant, the food was always extremely good and always had some type of relationship to Chengdu’s culture! On the first day of the camp, We went out to eat hotpot. The hotpot tasted absolutely amazing! While we were there, our table got dozens of different types of foods to put in. My personal favorite of the foods was the meatballs that I dipped in my Coca-Cola. I held them over the steaming hotpot pot to warm them up. Don’t ask – It actually tasted very delicious! On the 3rd or 4th day, we went out to a restaurant that gave us little samples of Chengdu’s special foods, so that we can taste a little bit of Chengdu without leaving our table. I learned a lot about Chengdu’s eating culture just from the food places we went to!

The accommodations at the camp were actually good too, apart from the fact that we could see into the bathroom. There is a frosted glass between the rest of the room and the bathroom, but there was clear glass at the top and bottom and a reflective silver base plate. So, if I looked at the reflective bottom base plate or the top plate, I could see through the bathroom. That is definitely not a good thing. Otherwise, the beds were soft and warm, the pillows were nice and fluffy, and the bedsheets were white and clean.

During the camp, the counselors took us to one culture activity after another. We walked to a massage lesson where we learned about traditional Chinese medicine, visited a traditional Chinese medicine herb garden where they grew all kinds and types of herbs used for TMC (traditional Chinese medicine), and even we got a chance to experience acupuncture! (The acupuncture class was a bit creepy. There were all these people all over the place with needles sticking out of them.) There were other activities, such as tea drinking, history of Chengdu, martial arts, and so many more. Out of all of those classes, my personal favorite was the massage class. In that class, we learned about traditional Chinese massaging, and I even managed to beg my way into a massage from the instructor! According to the instructor, traditional Chinese massage is, quote, “painfully comfortable”. I certainly got to experience that firsthand!

To be honest, this next class was one of the, shall I say, more interesting classes of the camp. We were marched for a kilometer to a little concrete building with little glass windows and little glass doors. On the sign in front of the building, it said in both Chinese and English “welcome to the national drug keeping and distribution center” Of course, if you have a dirty mind, you can see why half of the group suddenly burst into laughter.

​Once we got inside of this little concrete building with its little glass windows and little glass doors, we were met by a little pale scientist in his little white lab coat who seemed a bit irate at the fact that he had to give lectures to a bunch of dirty – minded teenagers. He showed us around and showed us where all of the different little concrete doors went to and the importance of conserving the herbal medicine that they had. In the basement, the most important herbal medicines were kept in freezers. We went down there, and again, there was that weirdly translated sign mentioned above. Again, everyone burst into laughter, and drowned out the now really angry scientist.

​Once we were out of the little concrete building, the counselors marched us to another herb garden. In the herb garden, one of my funnier experiences during the camp happened. We were told to put some useful herbs into a little cloth bag, to bring back to our home and give to our moms. For some reasons, I was accidentally given an extra cloth bag. Luckily in one bag I put in every useful things which make you sleep better or increase blood flow I could find into it. In the other bag, I put every nasty, horrible, and bad smelling herb I could find inside. After collecting dozens of terrible – smelling herbs, I asked someone to smell the “poison” bag. The poor camper agreed, and I shoved the bag under his nose. He gagged and ran away so fast that there was a sonic boom in his wake. That was really funny! The guy that smelled the herb eventually made his own “poison” bag, and put it under my pillow. I could hardly sleep that night.

​This may seem weird, but my roommate was also called Raymond. So, as you can imagine, we struck it up immediately and became friends.  We would laugh, crack jokes, and invite other friends over to our room to play on a PC that was included in the room. Whenever we had time to stay in the hotel, we would go to this tiny convenience store next to the hotel and buy soda and candy to share with our friends and laugh once again. That was one of the best parts of the camp to be making friends!​​ Soon after, I explored the nooks and crannies of WeChat, and got addicted to texting my friends. Sometimes, I would go for 1 hour straight, just texting and receiving messages. WeChat is definitely one of my favorite apps now!

​This may be a ten day camp, but it was so much fun that it felt like it all happened in one day!  All of those days of fun and adventure were only made possible by dozens of hard – working camp counselors, who sacrificed their own time and energy to make all of us campers have absolutely unforgettable time. (Minus when they took pictures. That was a “violation of the Geneva treaty against cruel and unusual punishment.” As some of the campers chose to put it.) Without their hard work and diligence, the entire camp would not have been possible. Those hard working counselors were up and running around at 5:30 in the morning, getting ready so that the campers could have a problem free day. I truly admire their amazing efforts!

​If the whole point of the entire camp was to learn about Chinese history and culture, I believe that the camp achieved that to the tenth power. We learned some basic martial arts, while the teacher told us about why moves were named what they were. We were lectured about traditional Chinese medicine, its usage, and even got to visit a herb garden where they grew all kinds and sorts of herbs! If the goal of the entire camp was to have fun during the learning, the organizers achieved that to the tenth power or more! I would highly recommend this camp to anyone who wants to learn and want to have fun at the same time!

Pictures are provided by the author . The copyright belongs to the Root-Seeking camp.

尹瑞蒙(Raymond Gomez) 今年十二岁,现在 Yorkville Elementary School(k-8年级)上七年级。他喜欢读书、写作、编程和弹钢琴,是一个快乐阳光的大男孩。在《密城时报》上发表过 “我家的愚人节故事” 和 “第一次滑雪”。

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