If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m very unfit and don’t do much exercise. Err, make that two.
As a result, blind camp – not actual camping but I call it that because it’s usually a bunch of blind and VI people, plus volunteers, doing activities that are exhausting – nearly killed me, but nothing has ever been more worth it.
Perhaps “killed” is an exaggeration. Tired me out would be better, or caused my non-existent muscles to ache and for me, now, to be so sleepy that I have no filter on my words. Luckily I don’t have school tomorrow so I can sleep, but still; my eyes hurt and so do my arms.
I had been to the centre where it was taking place twice before: in January and February last year, the latter experience causing so much drama that it was almost but not quite funny. Because of that, I knew the place well, and it took a short while for me to stop getting lost, or other people lost. We arrived on Thursday around midday – the success and happiness of Wednesday had made it so that I felt less nervous than I thought I would: having that, feeling human and loved, gave me the confidence I needed to remember that I was okay, that people cared about me and that I did fit in there.
Traditionally, on these “blind camps”, we do quite a few activities – because I’ve been to so many, I’d done a lot before but it was still amazing to get new experiences. Contrary to my misleading nickname for it, we didn’t sleep in tents: we had rooms and it was indoors, with most activities being outdoors. Yes, it’s February and yes, it was cold, but trust me that even I wasn’t cold by the end of each one.
After we had arrived, done our usual screaming reunions with people we had met before and got introduced to those we haven’t, we did the classic unpacking, had “banter” with the volunteers and relaxed. I think that the people were the ones that made it for me – if it weren’t for certain people, I would have hated it.
Firstly, the fabulous L was there: he and I have met up more over the past year then in all other years combined, probably. Violet – a great friend of mine who I’d met first at a family weekend when I was 11 – was also there, and she and I had amazing conversations at 1 o’clock in the morning; she was my emotional rock in Paris, being there for me, as I try to be there for her. A girl who we’d met last year shared a room with us – she’s quite loud, but nice, and made me literally scream with laughter a few times. Lastly, my ex-girlfriend – I call her Rapunzel on here – was there on her first trip like this, and we were utterly inseparable throughout. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year, and so my legendary brutal hug was even more injuring this time, and I may or may not have – in the first 10 minutes of being with all of them – shouted “SHUT THE BLOODY HELL UP!” and screeched whilst laughing.
As I said, activities we did were physically taxing, but only for me because I have the energy levels of a 2 dimensional shape. After the relaxation, we jumped right in with rock climbing. It’s the only “sport” I’m not attrocious at, and I’m proud of myself that I managed to climb the wall fast, doing my terrible impression of a monkey/spider/over-eager little child. My hands were rubbed raw by rope – and by that I mean they were dried out – and I made a new friend whilst helping other people up the wall and making sure they didn’t fall. We moved straight onto archery, the only good thing about that being that I got an accidental bullseye on my first go. I actually remember how to shoot a bow which is shocking, and in between rounds of shooting arrows, I sat with the others. We made terrifying innuendos involving balloons, arrows and various other things, and that continued throughout the weekend: with us making the most inappropriate jokes, me taking the piss out of everyone and showcasing my newly corrupted (thanks to Sav and Mit) nature to people.
We watched a film in the evening, and just “chilled” – re-discovering that the showers were shit, going to bed too late which we subsequently repeated, later and later, the next two nights, and generally making far too much noise. The next day we did canoeing – yelling loudly in time to the oars going through the water, splashing people a little and floating down a lake. Afterwards, we did a thing called crate-stacking: climbing on a layer of crates, building a tower that you stand on as it gets higher and higher. It doesn’t sound difficult, but it wobbles more as you go up, and I was gripping onto Rapunzel and another boy for dear life, scream-swearing with the boundaries of personal space being obliterated. When the tower fell down – after I shoved the boy off by accident – it hit John, one of the volunteers. He’s one of my favourite people in existence: he was there when I cried my eyes out on the Eiffel Tower, which you can read about in this post – and it bruised him because he jumped in front of a volunteer and another boy; I still feel bad for that. It turned into a running thing, where he couldn’t do certain activities like caving the next day because of it.
In the afternoon, we did bushcraft: I set things on fire, used a saw and knife, wreaked of woodsmoke and first started to use the catchphrase “GOOD DRILLS!” – something that the cratestack-boy always says. When we got back in, I stabbed Rapunzel with a sword.
Of course, I mean I fenced – why would you ever suspect me of stabbing people? Hmmph. Anyway, the instructor helped me, and I was scared of hurting Rapunzel or scaring her, but I won the “match”. To protect our faces, we wore a visor which meant that the vision blurred into just nothing, and I got so tired by the end that I could barely think. Having a pizza for takeaway (Dominos is amazing) was a blessing, and even though I didn’t finish it, the evening of tears of laughter and the discovery that I hated the showers even more, more than made up for it.
Saturday was the most interesting day, I think. It started with abseiling – something, again, which I can do – and I’m telling you, abseiling down the inside of a tower whilst you can hear L singing is one of the funniest experiences ever. For the first time, I didn’t freak out whilst abseiling outside, and I ecstatically told John this when I reached the bottom. We next went into caves and crawled along tunnels. Nick – another volunteer – wore a blindfold and so there was only one fully sighted person in that cave system, who was the instructor. My hands were covered in cave shit, mud and dusty bits from the stones, but I loved it because it made me feel accomplished. After lunch I made this fabric swatch in textiles: it’s alternating electric blue, green and vibrant pink thread, is soft and is something I’m proud of because it’s (mostly) neat. I love being creative, and coming up with ideas; I felt as if I was happy doing that, even for the anger I experienced when I got something wrong. I calmed down though, even deviating from the rigid pattern I had originally planned to stick to. Eyyy I’m such a rebel!
For the last meal of the trip, we went to a pub. Okay okay, it sounds weird, but just bare with me. I dressed up. As in I made an effort with my appearance, actually straightening my hair and – yeah, I had to borrow everything from Rapunzel, but she being the patient and fabulous person she is, didn’t get pissed off and taught me how to be somewhat vaguely okay at makeup. Her sight’s much worse than mine, but she could see more before and so knows how to do it both with sight and without; she looked beautiful (I couldn’t see her but other people said so) and I trust her to help me because she actually cares about me – why, I don’t know. I wore a skirt, and top with velvet on it – the boy I made friends with at rock climbing had an awesome conversation with me about clothes and fabrics after dinner, whilst Rapunzel did L’s makeup.
During dinner itself, I felt unbelievably happy: John and I sat with Rapunzel and L, and I was actually crying whilst cackling at one point; R and I copied each other in what we ate, with John having about 500 portions of food. The other voluntiers were amazing in the activities too, and it’s such a relaxed atmosphere that for the most part, they don’t care what you say as long as it doesn’t upset anyone.
This morning – after having about 4 hours of sleep – we did zorbing, which is basically attempting to walk in a large blown-up ball on water. Violet and I had had great conversations the night before and so I was feeling positive, Rapunzel, L and I creating a “blind parody” to Closer by The Chainsmokers, and loudly performing children’s songs after we’d “walked on water”. It was time to pack after that – even though I’d packed before, I was paranoid I’d forgotten something, and spent ages in the room faffing around with my case.
Leaving was the only time I properly sobbed – I’m such a wimp honestly. I hate saying goodbye to people, and I really don’t know when I’ll see any of those people again: I love them to pieces and they made me so happy. Rapunzel and I were the last ones to leave, mainly because I’d made my mum wait for her mum, and I hugged all the volunteers goodbye (almost crying when John said he hated to see me cry).
It was a brilliant experience, because apart from some minor things, I didn’t hate myself. I felt loved, cared about and entirely comfortable yelling at people as a joke; there was no pretending, because I was presenting myself to people who didn’t have preconceived judgements about me or if they did, they were the judgements of my personality that were correct.
I felt alive, connected to myself, light and airy and full of vitality, like I was worth the effort to jump to the moon and back – like I was worth something. I felt human, and every time I hugged someone, or fake-danced, a little spark grew inside me that told me – “Hey, Elm, you have a personality and people can see that.” When I got home, I felt hopeless and dispondent, like I could scream because I missed that feeling. Being with everyone there gave me a purpose, something to do, an objective to work towards that I loved. Now, I feel really sad, but also happy and confused and filled with nostalgic memories.
I’ll bounce back. The little things – like the fact that walls and water are forever ruined for me, or that I found a huge pair of pants that were definitely not mine on my bed which I then proceeded to wear over my trousers whilst howling with laughter, will keep me going. I just felt that much more relaxed with those people, where I could express myself, than I feel here or at school.
I hope you didn’t mind reading that monstrously long post; I just wanted to summarise the few days I’ve had. They’ve been enlightening, and have given me a lot of lovely memories to savour.
From Elm 🙂