Monday, June 11, 2012


Once a year, I turn into a 17-year-old girl (which I never really was in the traditional sense...) and I go to camp. Well, at least for the past two years. I hope it's forever. This last weekend was three days of 84 girls 15-20+ and nonstop screaming for all different kinds of reasons (spiders, mosquitos, cheering competitions, being picked to line up for dinner first, you know). It was a blast.

I think if a boy somehow made it into camp, he would dissolve on impact with the girl fumes.

This was a Muslim camp for youth sisters so it was like one big Islamic halaqa (class) with activities, bonfires, and meals sprinkled in. The theme this year was "Ihdinas siraat al-mustaqeem" which means "Guide us to the straight path". This encompasses everything from staying firm in our faith and learning ways to become closer to Allah to choosing the right friends who will build you up and keep you headed in the right direction. A lot of the girls coming to the camp struggle with their Muslim identity at high school or college and face a lot of challenges trying to keep it all together. Culture gets in the way when their parents expect them to do things the way they did, even if it's against Islam, and peer pressure and outside influences are all over the place, making it really hard for them to practice their religion.

We talked a lot about how fears are usually based on false assumptions, and if you're worried about praying in school or talking to your mom about marriage or whatever, it's likely not going to be as bad as you think. I remember agonizing over when I would start wearing hijab (the Islamic head scarf) and I wasn't in high school. It had taken me two years to finally decide it was right and then the day I did it, my 29th birthday in fact (and the first day of Ramadan 2007), I was shaking as I entered the college where I worked and also had been a student. The reactions were largely neutral, and most people were supportive and kind. I was the only Muslim there so I was imagining much worse. Ok one lady—my previous supervisor—did point, cover her mouth, and laugh, but that's just because she's close-minded and doesn't know any better after sucking up all that Fox news for years. I remember my boss at the time saying, "I don't care what you do", which hadn't occurred to me. Basically, the idea is that most people aren't paying attention to you nearly as much as you think. And if you stick to your principles, you will get respect. Try it out!

The best activity of the camp (because canoeing this year was a huge windy disaster) was the Night Walk. It was about midnight on the first night of camp. We lined all the girls up and had them hold onto a rope. Then we walked into the woods on a path that got darker as we went. It was a simulation of the siraat that we will all have to walk on the Day of Judgement. It will be as thin as a knife blade and hellfire will be below. Some people will go easily across because of how they lived their lives here. Some will stumble and fall. And some will be pulled off by hooks and plunged into the fire. We were being told this as we walked. You can see where this is going. A few people started pulling girls off the rope and told them to go back. It was pitch black and they were scared, not knowing where to go. Some cried and refused to let go. When we got back, we realized that half of the camp was sitting there. They hadn't made it. Many of the girls didn't even realize people were being pulled away because they were so afraid for themselves. This is how it will be on that day. We had a great talk about how it felt to contemplate this event and the point really hit home for a lot of girls.

We scared the silly right out of them girls.

Don't worry, it wasn't a total summer bummer. We also talked about the mercy of Allah and what we can do to ensure our quick passing of the siraat. And we had s'mores. YUM. On Sunday we had a "Beauty Inside and Out" workshop and exfoliated each other. Everybody's fine.


I'm plumb wore out from camp so I am going to bullet-point the physical activity portion of this post so I can switch the laundry and pass out. Here's what I did Friday-Sunday to burn off the Country Time Lemonade and Barq's Root Beer and all the other sugary drinks they kept putting out at meal times:

  • Carried my super-heavy backpack, bedroll, and other stuff back and forth from one place or bus to another.
  • Walked the "Night Walk".
  • Walked a half-mile to the lake, hauled a canoe down to the dock with one of my campers, and just about died trying to paddle ourselves out of a circle because of the wind. Had a mild panic attack when the boat tipped a bit and I thought we were going to get dunked into this huge patch of tall weeds covered in floating minnows. Not sure what happened to those little guys but I did not want to swim with them. We finally had to paddle backwards to shore because that's the only way it would work. 
  • Washed about 100 cups, bowls, and plates on dish duty. Once after taco night complete with greasy ground beef and guacamole and once after breakfast which featured syrup and peanut butter for the waffles. That will identify some forgotten lower back muscles.
  • Danced the buraanbur (Somali wedding dance) in the sprinkler outside on the stone patio by the fire pit. It was about 90 degrees outside on Sunday afternoon so the water was a welcome addition. The dancing was halal (permissible) and didn't include music, just clapping, but it was loads of fun in the sun. You should try it sometime if you get a chance, just don't go to one of those mixed weddings, k?

There was a lot more but these were the exercise highlights. I probably burned 1000 calories this weekend, and I'm seriously considering crashing some women-only Somali weddings this summer so I can dance some more pounds off.

Health Tip of The Day: Shake things up a bit and get loose this summer. Hook up the Slip 'n Slide in the backyard or just run through the spray of water from the garden hose (you will need a partner who has a thumb for this activity). Jump on a neighbor's trampoline or go to the lake and run around on the beach (sand makes running challenging—this is good). PRETEND YOU ARE A KID.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad that you had a great time alhamdulillah. I can't wait to hear more about it.