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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Camp adventure 01

Day 1: The Journey

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

It's that time of year again. June has arrived. School is over.
That means I was off to Deaf-Blind Camp of Maryland. This was my
9th year as a camper.

We began with the journey. Since Joseph's father lives in
Maryland, it works well for us to travel together. His dad meets
him at BWI. This marked the start of his three-week visitation
period, so Joseph would not come home with me.

Joseph was with me on a round-trip flight two years ago. At age
13, he acts like a mature and seasoned passenger. I suppose he
is. He wasn't afraid or anything. We both like that the trip is
only an hour by plane.

The day started too early in the morning. I was dead tired as I
finished packing and had a Nutra-grain bar for breakfast. Joseph
had to pack his technology. That brought up a lot of "where is
my..." questions.

Things moved fast when we arrived at the airport. I was confused
and called for Joseph. A gloved hand told me he went through
security, and I would see him in a minute. I was delighted to
find a security staff member who could fingerspell. She talked me
through the pat down, which is pretty unusual for me.

When we arrived at the gate, Joseph said those magic words that
all mother's are used to. "I'm hungry." That's because he refused
to eat breakfast. The vendors at the airport had already switched
over to lunch. We ended up getting a soft pretzel. Then Joseph
astonished me by telling me all the different types of pretzels
you can buy. Who would have imagined there's such a thing as
pizza pretzels?

We got on the plane. Of course, Joseph took the window seat. He
says Baltimore is more interesting to look down on than
Cleveland.

I couldn't keep my eyes open. Somehow, I fell asleep before we
took off. The smell of peanuts woke me up. I missed take off and
snack-time. Joe was happy with his nuts and didn't seemed
bothered by the fact that I was half-dead.

We were talking, and he forgot to tell me that we were about to
land. But that was okay. I've traveled on my own enough not to
freak out when we suddenly hit the ground.

I said goodbye to Joe at baggage claim, and hello to "Ruby," my
dear friend from camp. I've known her since my very first year.
She was one of my SSP's last year. I cheered when I found out she
would work with me again this year. We have fun together.

The drive to camp took about an hour. Then it was chaos time.
Registration, reunions and meeting new people all at the same
time... It's an exciting sort of overwhelming mass of confusion.
There was a line to get in, but I was able to pass through and go
straight to my room. I have friends in high places and legs that
can't stand long.

After I unpacked, I went out to talk to people. Yes, I got
together with Scott. We pretty much only separated for potty and
bed time. Ruby said we existed in a bubble at camp. I admit, I
didn't socialize with many other campers. I think the main reason
I now go to camp is to spend time with that wonderful guy.

We had dinner and rolled our eyes through announcements. Scott
doesn't ride motorcycles. I decided to skip the ride this year.
They only had a small number of bikes, anyway. So, we held hands,
talked and laughed, and we did that almost all of the time.

The evening activity was the dreaded introductions and welcome
meeting. Having campers stand up to tell their name, state and
how many times they've been to camp didn't work so well for me.
Even with Ruby's support, I was swaying on my feet. I randomly
grabbed someone else. It turned out to be Scott. Why didn't that
surprise me?

The campers asked questions, questions, more questions and the
same questions. Sometimes they got answers, sometimes they
didn't. I wanted to bang my head against a wall. No offense but
I've heard it all too many times.

The good part was that my interpreter gave me a wonderful
massage. He is one of the people who volunteers to give campers
massages. I think Scott was jealous.

There was a situation with the rooms, and I had to re-pack and
move to another room. My new roommates were already asleep. I
felt crazed and loud as I unpacked and made my bed. I was too
tired to think.

This year, I asked Scott to bring me some bedding. He comes by
car, so it's easier for him to carry more luggage. I had sheets,
a nice pillow and two blankets. I still froze because of the air
conditioning. We sleep in ice boxes, not rooms.

I got up to go to the bathroom. I'm now a whiz at finding the
restroom on my own. I can do my night time and morning bathroom
stuff without help... most of the time, that is.

It's difficult when there are other people in the bathroom. My
strategy is to follow the wall until I find what I need. However,
there was a woman in my way. I thought she was standing at the
sinks. I signed "toilet," in hopes that she would guide me there,
since I couldn't easily get past her. she just repeated what I
signed and turned away.

I found the toilet stall and took care of my business. I could
hear voices. I hate it when people talk in the bathroom. It makes
me feel like I have an audience.

When I came out, I bumped into the same woman. I signed "sink."
She said, "toilet." I realized she was saying the word over and
over again. Suddenly, it occurred to me that she, too, was asking
for help. I guided her to a toilet stall and then washed my
hands. It was such a strange, middle-of-the-night experience.
Welcome to Deaf-Blind camp.

Angela C. Orlando

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