Blind Bliss: Camp Bloomfield
There was Bluejay, Cricket, Decoda, Fifi, Flow, June, Leo, Lilo, Luna, Lyric, Magic, Magnolia, Magpie, McGiver, Peggy, Rhythm, Rock, Sandy, Scout, Shadow, Storm, Taz, Tiger, Tinker, Tonks, Tontay, Trip, Twilight, Umi, What's-up, Willow, and my favorite was Gator. This camp, Camp Bloomfield, which was located in the beautiful mountains in Malibu in California, was supposed to be a fun recreational camp for blind people, and the sessions I participated in were for either teens or any minors, but no counselor their used their real names. They told me sharply that these names were set, because they didn't want to cause offense to anyone who were foreign, so it would be fair for everyone, but it was always so confusing to me. "So, who are you, again? Oh right, yeah, you're decoda." It also seemed impersonal as you feel that they are holding you at arms length as most of them would refuse to give you their real names, not even after the summer was over or if you were not going to go back to any other sessions. When we went on field trips, I was just glad they didn't have camp names too. That would have been miserable, I would not enjoy them so much.
However Camp name's were the least of the troubles at Camp bloomfield. The biggest problem with Bloomfield is that there is always drama. The drama was not about everyday problems, but rather excessive problems that seemed to exist. You would think that since this was a recreational camp that everyone would get along or try to be neutral towards each other. However, There were always a clash around camp with several campers, either physically fighting or just arguing. Another part of the drama was many of them teamed up into groups, and excluded everyone else. That happens in life even with sited people, but there is an excessive amount in the blind community. In one small cabin alone out of twelve cabins in the large camp grounds in both the girl and boy sections respectively named girls town and boys town.
Even amongst play there was dramatics. There was a rule that if you had a hat of any sort on or had two elbows on the table they had a chance to be called out. People did this for fun to entertain themselves at meal times. "Around the table you must go, you must go you must go." they would sing that, loudly, while pounding the table for a beat. If you were called out you had no choice, but to stand up and march around the large dining hall with twelve tables while people called out tricks for you. "Cartwheels, hand stands, walk backwards, walk sideways." Often the counselors who were sighted would start it. "Guys, Mary has her elbows on the table, so on three." Then, we would all sing that insulting song and call out tricks as if they were some showcase.
I really enjoyed indulging in this humiliating activity, even giggling when the person was picked, until after being called out once, as both of my elbows were on the table, and had no choice, but to march around the tables. Then, I realized how cruel this activity could be. I especially hated it, after I grew up a bit and stopped singing it, however, I remember my little sister after going to family camp really liked it and wanted to do that in our dining room. That was not the only tradition that was interestingly dramatic.
Before every meal we met outside the dining hall in front of the steps to the dining area. We sat in twelve lines on the ground facing the steps. If a group was late they suffered public humiliation. I never liked this. I only sang part of it when I was little and didn't understand the words. However, I never like the part where they insulted your mother and father.
If you got mail or lost something you had to go up there to either do the bacon, sing little teapot, or spell your name with your butt. Unfortunately, the people who went up could not choose which to do. The other campers would either shout, "bacon," "Teapot," "Spell your name with your butt." I never ever voted for bacon, I think that is rather cruel. Fortunately, though if you were up their with many people, you could all do it together. I remember a girl named ronesha who got voted to sing The little Teapot and didn't want to sing it alone, so a group of counselors went up there to sing it with her. Luckily, I had to do this only once, and I was very lucky to get teapot the least embarrassing of these three.
However, Bloomfield was not only negative. There were even some fun and interesting experiences in the dining hall, such as Mr. T's snack bar would always open at twilight after dinner, where you could buy candy, snacks, and drinks if your parent or you paid the ten dollars for the snack bar. My parents did every time, except for once, so I enjoyed getting snacks. I liked it even better when they finally decided to sell sodas. I always got one. Mr. T was always my favorite, because I love food, especially sweets and Mr. T was the guy you went to for the snack bar.
Another tradition was ringing the bell. No one could go eat until the bell was rung even at family camp. Although at the other sessions cabins had to do things. Before breakfast and lunch they would just have contests. Such as which cabin's line was the straightest, which cabin could do a task the fastest, and some other sorts of contests.
Sometimes, at lunch our contests was simply the cleanest cabin. They would get to go in first and get something called the golden plunger. At dinner time, they would sometimes do a contest, but mostly we did dinner cheers. Cabins are suppose to find time in their day of activities to come up with a creative dinner cheer. The most creative group would win first place.
If you were chosen as first place you didn't only get to go in first, but you also had the opportunity to ring the bell. This bell was a big high bell that was rung by pulling a chain. At one point we were all so very short that either campers had to pick other campers up or counselors had to do it. I remember I was so short I couldn't ring the bell by myself. Despite my popularity I was not picked often to ring the bell.
Other people got picked and it seemed to be just them over and over again, but rarely me. I always wanted to go. They also never did my cheers though, I think I had some pretty good ones. I had an idea for a dinner cheer to the Hogwarts school song and another to How Funky is Your Chicken. It was always cheers from the popular girls.
Before the bell was rung, we also did the mail, lost and found, and announcements. Through out dinner we would have a family style system. One person would go get the food from the front of the dining hall. The rest of us would sit at the long table and wait. My favorite dinner accident was when this blind girl reached out across the table to find someone and carelessly knocked over a glass of juice.
Then, wonder while throwing a tantrum how she got wet.
At seven when all the campers are still sleeping in the squeaky and uncomfortably soft camp beds Taz would call over the loud crackly speakers on the wall to wake the campers up.
We all would wake up and groggily get ready for breakfast. Breakfast was usually normal, but once a camp session we had pajama roma. Where we all wear are pajamas to breakfast. The dining hall was decorated and the tables were covered with paper. After a breakfast, they call cabins one by one to the dance strip to dance down it.
They would line up at the beginning of the strip, the music would turn on and the cabin would start their dances. Then the activity leaders would go. Their were king, queen, prince, and princess of Pajama Roma. My dad was so wild that one time he won king. I remember laughing so hard, because his dancing is quite awful. The king and queen would dance together and the prince and princess would also.
At eight we'd arrive at breakfast and the incessantly complaining of how nasty the food was would continue. After breakfast we would have a couple minutes to rush hastily back to our small cabin with twelve to seventeen squeaky bunk beds, lined up against the walls. We would dress and clean the cabin along with the bathroom at the right end of the cabin, which had no door for either the entrance or bathroom stalls. There were only curtains so if someone felt nosy they could easily open the curtains and see you go to the bathroom. The shower also had no door.
After many years of moaning and groaning bloomfield staff decided to put in doors. I had never seen them, as I never went after 2008, but I was happy to hear. The prospect that people in the cabin could potentially see or intentionally watch as you go to the bathroom made me quite uneasy. Going to the bathroom is quite a private thing for me and I would prefer if no one could see me do that kind of business. The layout of the bathroom is simple as we enter you can see two small bathroom stalls with curtains to your left and a shower with three shower head, on your right.
After beach day this area could be extremely sandy and wet, so often the whole cabin became a mini beach. Then after you walk past the bathrooms and showers you get to the sink area. There are three sinks. The paper towel dispenser is to the left and there is a trash can under the sinks. Also, if you were one of the two unfortunate campers to sleep on the extremely right of the cabin on the last bunker next to the right wall, you could here everything going on in the bathroom. The toilets flushing could potentially wake you up, and sometimes bathroom odors could be smelt.
After we had the unfortunate task to clean that place I described and made our beds we would go to do activities. As you exited out of the cabin you are in the area with all four cabins lined up next to each other. The fifth and sixth cabin are upstairs on top of the staff lounge, which is next to cabin four. Then after you pass that area you are in the slab. We at one point had an activity there as that one year a few guide dog trainers attended the camp to provide there training to teach us about guide dogs. I didn't do much at that station, because I never like dogs.
At another time, a person opened a wrestling area, and we learnt how to do wrestling. That was quite interesting. We did a few things such as kicking, punching, and crawling through the tunnels. I was always allowed to do it as many times as I wish as the other activity leaders would limit me and have to wait, but this one I didn't have to wait. This wrestling station was located across a bridge from the slab and next to the horses.
The horse station was not just about horses, but also had a petting zoo and had other animals. There were goats, sheep, Chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, and birds. It was a very nice patch of natural ground. People would go in there and pet the animals. My sister when she went to family camp would love to spend time there.
The horse station itself was interesting. There were horses and we could ride them. Mostly the people there called activity leaders, would lead the horse, but at times we could do it independently and they would give us directions so we didn't direct the horse into something. I went so many times at the end I was trusted to do it quite a few times. I always enjoyed conversing with the activity leaders or the others who led my horse.
We would get to one end of the bench where the helmets were placed on the end with the inside part underneath. I remember the helmets were either big or small and it was really hard to find one that fit me. Fortunately, we found one almost every time. On the one side of the bench there was a water dispenser with cups on it and tabs to push on so the water would come out. On the other side of the bench, was a set of bleachers.
I usually like climbing up the bleachers, but not at bloomfield, because if you were up there it meant you were going last, so I liked sitting at the bottom and on the left. The more left you were, the sooner you went. In front of the bleachers was a ramp and part of the arena. On either side of the ramp was wood fencing that was made out of the same material as the arena. The arena was fairly large, but across the arena was the stables.
Sometimes we didn't ride the horse the whole time, but rather spent some time to groom the horse. I took up the brush one time and did it, but was scared and hope the horse would not trample on me. I was lucky that it did not. One time we had the opportunity to feed the horse and we were all given horse treats. It looked like an oval hard candy, but was a bit damp.
It was a bit gross and I was ready to drop the treat. We could pick our favorite horse, so I had one in mind. However, I was quite scared to go anywhere near it's mouth, so I asked the activity leader to do it. HOWEVER, since they rented their horses the horses would sometimes be different, but most of the time they were the same. The activity that the horses was next to was wall.
Horses and wall shared two common rules. You must where close toed shoes and long pants. So I was always happy when the two activities were done one after the next. When I picked activities if I wanted to do both I try to get them consecutively, though I didn't like horses that much. I loved the wall, but not horses.
I didn't do them too often unless my cabin did it together or some friend wanted to. First thing we had to do at the wall was get suited up. We had to take off all jewelry and put on the harness. There were never enough harnesses for everyone as we had to take turns using them. I was almost always lucky to be amongst the first batch to use one.
After we did that we had three options, and sometimes four. The fourth was not always open. It opened towards the end of the week if it even did at all. The first thing was a regular rock wall that you would see anywhere.
Campers would be hooked up to the wall and to the activity leader, thus we would start the climb. At the top there were four options. If you are close to the bell you could flick it. If you were close to the squeaky bear you could squeeze it. If you weren't near either or just didn't want to or you were not close you could always use your voice and shout, "Hey I'm at the top!" You could also just not say anything and just come down.
In front of the rock wall there was a bench, however they changed it to a set of bleachers. Then behind the wall, there is a bench and two rope courses, which are postman's walk and vines. The postman's walk is a rope course where you walk along on a bottom rope high up in the air after you climb up a pole with small iron rungs. There is a rope a few feet above the lower rope where your hands grasp on to. Then sliding side ways you would attempt to reach the other side.
At the other side you could ring the bell. Then you would walk to the middle and the activity leader would bring you back down to the ground. The vines was another course beside the postman walk. You would also climb up the iron rungs to a lower horizontal rope. This course had many vertical ropes hanging down.
You would walk sideways along the rope swinging from rope to rope. At the end was a horn. You could squeeze that and then likewise walk back to the middle of the course and come down. The fourth one which is my favorite out of the four is the birma bridge. This is a extensive rope course.
You once again climb up the iron rungs, but the activity leaders climb up with you. They climb up before you do and when you reach the top you duck underneath a rope and go on a lower rope that is between two ropes on the side. This rope course is a long one that stretches across a creek. It goes from girls town to boys town. The bridge is quite unstable, so one needs to push the rope apart to get across.
It is especially wobbly in the middle. I remember I liked to scream in the middle even after I got rather good at it, and go across it better then anyone else. I would laugh so much that I fell off because I was shaking too hard and not because I had trouble balancing. One had to walk to the other end, then back again, then climb down the way we got up.
Up the hill from ropes is arts and crafts, which is adjacent to another station. At this station we made art. Sometimes we beaded, sometimes we glued and sometimes we tye dyed. As we head to the arts and craft area.
There are two tables with benches on either side of the table. They are all made out of plastic, but paper covers the top of both tables. Behind these tables is a shed full of art supplies. Across the way is archery.
Archery is pretty standard, but we use beepers to show blind people where the target is. Many have shot the beeper so it didn't work and sometimes the people who shot the beeper gets to keep it. One time, I completely missed my target, and I shot way above it. My arrow went all the way to the campfire wall which must have to be about twenty to thirty feet away. Unfortunately someone was walking on the campfire wall, and it so happened that it was my mother.
Fortunately for her, the arrow did not hit her, but it could have hit her foot. At the station there is obviously the hay bale and the target with the beeper and the balloons on it. Behind the bale about ten foot was a bench. Between the bench and the bale was two wood stands with foot space and a holder with arrows on each stand. We would shoot from there. The people who were waiting to go or the ones who were there waiting for the others to go sat on the bench.
Above the two stations was the campfire. At the campfire we would make skits for the talent shows or practice there songs. Most cabins created a cabin skit. The skit would be practice on the stage in front. It is a raised platform about two feet tall and has three steps leading up to it. Before the stage is a camp fire. In front of the stage bordering left side is wood benches going up many steps.
As we walk up hill, the pool with benches, bleachers, and chairs around it comes next in line. We did the normal things at the pool such as swim, talk, and play. One time, I spent almost the whole time talking to the lifeguard about Harry Potter. At other times, I would sit on a noodle, and just go around the pool. I would also do some swimming, but since there were so many people there I enjoyed the social part, though I didn't play too many games.
Above hill from the pool was boys town, but above that was happy meadow. Happy meadow was a patch of grass. We went up there at one session of camp for sports. Some of these things weren't all adapted, as they did play capture the flag. The buddies were suppose to help out, but there was no buddy for me, so I just didn't play.
At another time we played olympic games at happy meadow. At that time, they gave away medals and lots of sited people came to the camp to buddy up. I was either really short at the time or I was pared up with a extremely tall five years old. Another time I was pared up with a girl named Rachel, who was one of the older participants. We also played picnic games here. For lunch at some camp sessions we ate lunch once a session in happy meadow. Then we played picnic games.
If you go a bit further you reach the top and this is where the tipis are located. Campers come here once a session to spend a night, have a traditional campfire on logs and mats. We would sing songs and tell scary stories. I once tried to tell a scary story, the keyword here is tried, because the supposedly scary story didn't scare people at all, but induced people into laughter. We would also have smores and hot chocolate.
Other things we would do at night were some various themed dances, campfires, a talent shows, movie night, casino night, and sometimes special production from certain groups that come to present their program for us. We once had a space group come up and they brought tactile books for us who needed them.
At one point some gentleman wanted me to look into the telescope, which was a little too impossible. There was also a christmas season campfire, and afterward we'd get gifts Supposedly from Santa Clause,. I liked it when it happened, because most times I got something. It didn't matter to me if it was something I cared for or not. Then, we had a special awards dinner at the end of the week.
The award ceremony was splendid, and it was on the last full day of camp. Activities would stop one hour short and we all had time to prepare or rather spend that time laughing their head off as my friend spent twenty minutes of her time to get ready in a laughing fit. I was laughing hard too. Another camper and I attempted to make her laugh harder. However, we were dressed up in fancy dresses and such attire as you would where to a party.
After we got ready we met outside and many pictures would be taken including the cabin pictures. Then we proceed to a very decorated dining hall with fancy cups and plates. They would often serve punch and another drink. After eating our dinner while talking with extremely loud music playing in the background, we then started the awards ceremony. Frank or Taz acknowledged all the staff and counselor, then he talked about the camp and asked us many questions.
He told us to clap once or twice. In the middle he'd play around and make someone who wasn't paying much attention clap wrongly. There were either a lot of booing or cheering. The many counselors go up to present the awards. The awards were not for specific people. If you went to the camp you would get an award, the question was what that award was.
Sometimes if there were sisters or friends they would get an award together. Sometime it was two placards made similarly or sometimes it was one for the both. These awards were made on wooden placards and presented to campers. My favorite award I received was the story teller award. This counselor said I could never stop talking, which is quite true. After the awards there was a dance and we could gets snacks.
The next day we packed up and went home. The only drama left was the bus drama. they would drive some campers from the junior blind to Camp Bloomfield and back. The bus was filled with most teens, and a few adults. Thus, very bored, sometimes angry, and sometimes cruel teens would be traveling on the bus for an hour and a half.
So there was always drama. Several times, however, someone would lead the whole bus to sing a camp song or an ordinary song. Once we sung the wheels on the bus goes round and round and another time we sung how funky is your chicken. Overall, camp bloomfield was a drama filled place with a lot of group politics with the fun mixed in. I have not been to bloomfield in a year and do not plan to return.