Back in 2002, I joined a fifteen-day camp that, in a way, molded me into the person I am today. Before this program, I was naïve, somewhat shy, and should I say, a lot less interested with the world. After the camp, the world became bigger but ironically, also smaller; strangers became funnier and friendlier; and I saw the world as a better place with a whole lot of good people to know and to meet. The PRIC spirit of love, kindness, and friendship had moved me so much it had become a part of me. Leaving camp was the start of me opening up to the world and seeing it as it was supposed to be: a place where love rules above all, and friendship is our secret weapon.
I came back to Japan once again, to experience another life-changing rollercoaster ride: PRIC 2008. It is the same camp but a totally different story.Coming back as a staff, I did not have to worry about speeches or presentations nor did I have to worry about whether or not I would be able to make good friends in the camp… After all, my camper days were a blast. PRIC 2008 was definitely going to be just as fun as I remembered camp to be, if not better. I arrived a week before the campers from abroad. This extra week was for staff members to prepare and discuss different programs to ensure that things go smoothly come camp time. It was also a chance for us staff members to get to know each other since majority of the staff were first timers and we had just met each other.
The week went by with scores of NOMYC cafeteria food, which was okay. There were good food days and bad food days. It was good because there were multiple choices. Sometimes up to seven choices. To make eating time more interesting, Tim decided we do a game every lunch and dinner: Each one had to draw a piece of paper from a hat and one had to eat whatever food corresponds to the number he or she got. We played it for maybe three meals then we decided we were not happy with the game… especially getting curry (number 4) three consecutive times. Regardless of how good or bad the food was, I always ended up totemo onaka ga ippai! (Very full). I am sure I gained weight so I cannot really complain about the food.
For campers’ arrival, I volunteered to pick up CFAs arriving in the afternoon and in the evening. From NOYMC(National Olympic Youth Memorial Center) to Terminal 1 South Wing to Terminal 2 and back to NOMYC, I spent almost thirteen hours in the whole picking up business. Everyone arrived smoothly and safely and on time… except for one. It has been PRIC tradition that at least one camper ends up lost in the airport and this year’s winner was no other than Andrew. Embarrassingly walking around the airport a couple of times holding the PRIC sign, three public announcements, and two hours later, I finally found him… just when we were about to phone Canada. It was a stressful day but it did not matter. The campers had arrived and things were starting to get fun.
It was different having the campers around. Earlier wake-up calls and definitely a much busier schedule as compared to the previous week. Nevertheless, nobody complained… verbally.
Edo-Tokyo Museum, Kamakura, and K2 Snowboarding visits were on the days prior to Nishikatsura Home-stay Program and camp. We were walking under the blistering heat of the sun, it was super humidity and practically not much wind. Going inside the air-conditioned Edo-Tokyo Museum felt like Antarctica. We browsed through almost all the different ancient artifacts from prehistoric mammoth jaw, to samurais, and some intricately made miniature diorama of old Japan. It was interesting to see the campers trying out all the interactive cool things like the carry-the-two-buckets-on-a-stick-on-your-shoulder which I remember trying it on myself six years ago. The museum did bring me to the past… a flashback to ancient Japan, and a flashback to ancient PRIC.
Kamakura was new for me. We didn’t come here before. But we did Tokyo Disneyland. Like the campers, it was my first time to visit the ancient city. It was a huge photo-op for me. We passed by the local beach on the way to Kamakura, all crowded and busy with girls in bikinis. It would have been nice if we had the chance to mingle with the people. I guess it will have to be on next year’s Kamakura visit?
We had a good time at K2 looking at cool winter merchandise and listening to K2 management ideals from the boss. After K2, we headed straight for Nishikatsura.
Arriving at the Green Center at Nishikatsura, I was surprised to see the waterwheel not functioning anymore. It was the first thing I noticed when I first came to the place six years ago. With the waterwheel going about, it felt so provincial, it added to Nishikatsura’s ethnicity. This year however, it was dead. Not working. Well, it is not about the waterwheel after all. It was of course the host families and the people of Nishikatsura who made the town so special to my heart.
I was quite surprised to see the same faces from before and I was very happy to know that they still remembered me after quite some time. Spending an hour with probably the friendliest and warmest people around was quite a treat: It was short but sweet. I was extremely jealous of the campers after hearing that not only they get to do home-stay but also about the host families giving each one of them yukatas. Then again, I was so happy for the campers for experiencing genuine Japanese hospitality and for Nishikatsura having able to share their love and kindness to eleven special young men.
The Takato Youth Center looked the same except for some new cabins: that or I did not notice them before. Coming back to camp surely gave me PRIC 2002 nostalgia. I smiled to myself and again, I started to miss the campers. It would be three days before we get to be with them again.
The CFJs arrived a day prior the CFAs and with our obligatory “welcome dance”, I have to say kudos to Tim for pulling-off the dance even with two left feet. After all, it only took him three days to “perfect” it. We danced to “Beautiful Girl” by Sean Kingston… and it was an all boys camp. Taking our dancing shoes off, we went to the getting-to-know-you part of the program. With Hiro, Masa, Hiromasa, and Yu for names, the “pani-pani” name game served its purpose of saving me from mixing up or forgetting some slightly confusing names. I seriously did not expect myself to memorize all the Japanese campers’ names in less than an hour. Amazingly I did.
We gave the “honors” to the Japanese campers to do the welcome dance for the CFAs while they were getting off the bus from Nishikatsura. Finally, with everyone at the campsite, we got into our groups. I was group counselor C and with Pup, Sota, Rhys, JJ, Adrian, Daiki, and Yudai, I think I would not have wanted it any other way. We were a great group. Flag making, outdoor cooking, orienteering, games and sports, kayaking, and not to mention our extraordinary interpretative dance routine at campers’ theater, I think we all did our best.
The cabin was as fun as the daytime camp activities, simply because it was in the cabin where we did “our thing.” I do not know with cabin 11 but in cabin 12; everyone had a taste of the old shaving-cream-on-your-face-while-you-are-sleeping prank, courtesy of Mr. Ian Madinger, and the Great Rhys James. Yes, they had their fun, but the rest of the cabin knew who was to have the last laugh. Thanks to Cai’s special durian cake fresh from Singapore, we knew it was the ultimate payback prank. With Rhys and Ian sleeping together in the same room (that’s what she said) it was a one-two punch easy! The looks on these fine men faces, squirming at the wonderful aroma of Cai’s special durian cake fresh from Singapore clinging on their nostrils was priceless and equivalent to, if not more than, all the shaving cream pranks put together.
Just when everybody had started to feel at home with each other, PRIC had to end. Time flew by so fast; I had not noticed it was time for us to part ways. For me, it sank in at Campers’ Fire. Despite technical malfunctions and overly sung “roll over the ocean,” Campers’ Fire was a special night of laughter, tears, and thanksgiving. The closing ceremony was, for me, a very important moment. It signified the end of the camp and the beginning of a journey.
Fifteen or so days we have shared with each other true friendship and brotherhood. Let me quote myself from six years ago when I wrote, “It is not about the treasures we have in our banks but it is about the treasures we bank in our hearts.” We all made some special friends in this camp and I hope each one of us will never forget the times we had together in those fifteen or so days. Treasure the friendships you have made. Nurture it and watch it bear fruit.
In PRIC, we enter to learn, and leave to serve. I am confident that as we go back to our homes, to our communities, we take with us the ideals of love, kindness, laughter and friendship to everyone we meet. Not only must we give back… But must also pay it forward.