“Does my tongue looks blue to you?”
I stopped licking, displaying my tongue to Irem making noises such as when a Doctor places a popstick on your tongue to check your tonsils. She laughed.
It’s not the typical question you ask a Turkish girl you met two-weeks ago when sitting by a lake with 400-kids wearing red, white & blue, cheering with excitement or screaming at the loud noise, but in that moment all I really wanted to know was if I could start acting like a blue-tongued lizard and poke my tongue out at unsuspecting bystanders (aka – campers!)
It my was first ever Fourth of July. Well, actually it was my 21st Fourth of July but my first American Fourth of July and it was kind of a big deal (to me and the kids at camp at the very least!)
See I’m Australian, and Australia is still part of the British Commonwealth (cue convict jokes) and despite recent debate about becoming a Republic, it appears that on the whole we are actually rather happy being ‘ruled’ by the British (just between you and me, it’s because we actually stand a chance of winning gold in the Commonwealth games!) In Australia we have Australia Day, but the meaning of the day isn’t inherently ingrained into us as kids. To us, our national day is more of an excuse to head to the River, drink a few beers whilst cooking some sausages on the BBQ and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100.
In America the Fourth of the July has BBQ’s, beers (when your not on campgrounds – drat!) and fireworks. Did I mention we got awesome coloured popsicles too?
It’s actually a lot more than that. If you asked an American kid what July 4th, or Independence Day, celebrated, even the Inters, or the five-to-eight-year-olds would be able to tell you that it was Americas Birthday (cute, huh?) It’s actually a bit more than that, but it’s the general gist.
On the 4th of July, way back in the day, the Declaration of Independence was signed and put into act. This meant that America was no longer ruled by the Kingdom of Great Britain and it was independently ruled or governed.
Red, White and Blue
I didn’t wake-up for revelry (at 8am every morning the head of girls-side gets on the mic and says: “Good morning everyone. Today is going to be blah blah blah so don’t forget to blah blah blah. Alright, everrrrrybody up!” and then play some embarrassing 90s tune of sort), I didn’t even wake up to the squeals of the girls as they prepared for the day – ripping their freshly sorted clothing out of their cupboards or even in the bathroom where they were curling/straightening their hair. I didn’t wake up until Lo, my bunk house counsellor tapped me on the shoulder.
“Uh… Nicolelee, you might want to get up and see what the girls are doing.”
Groggily climbing down from my bed the crazy going on in the bunk didn’t register. Not until I brushed my teeth and wondered why I couldn’t see my face in the mirror did I realise that the Fourth of July fairy had been in our bunk and turned everything into one of three colours – red, white and, you guessed it, blue.
In the middle of the crazy was Lo and my 10-girls looking like cherubs with “I [heart] USA” or stars drawn on their face in zinc; or maybe it was the ever so fashionable matching temporary tattoos they all were sporting which complimented their clothing colour choices; and it’s amazing that I could see them at all through the haze of coloured hair spray still lingering in the air!
Camp is all about the fun and so they make the Fourth of July a big deal, and as a counsellor from outside of America it was a great experience to be apart of. From the American themed activities for the day – I think the jewellery boxes were basically depleted of red, blue or white beads and thread! – to the kids favourite camp meals being served (and for kosher food, pizza bagels rate pretty high in my ‘yummy food’-group as well) and all the international counsellors were encouraged to tell the kids about our countries and how we celebrated our national holidays.
Don’t Show Jack Unless You Want to be Under Attack!
Camp is all about the fun and so they make the Fourth of July a big deal, and as a counsellor from outside of America it was great! We were all encouraged to tell the kids about our countries and how we celebrated our national holidays. The Aussies adorned the Southern Cross, the Kiwis wore black and the Brits donned the Union Jack – and then all three groups of us were under attack. Yes, the kids attacked us.
Not physically. No, but a lot of the campers didn’t approve of us adorning ourselves with our flags – other countries were fine but not ours. What?!
What I failed to realise was that the campers are actually really clued in on what the history of Independence Day is – the day in which America became a republic rather than being ruled by the British; and what does Australia, New Zealand and the UK all have in common? We all have the Union Jack on our countries flags. And here we were using our flags as Superman capes – whoops!
The Main Event
The main event came as the sun was slowly sinking across the lake. The two camps (I was at a camp which had a full-summer program at one campus, and right next door was the campus which had two half-summer programs) combined forming one ‘super camp’ of about 700-people, including campers, counsellors and kitchen & maintenance staff decked in tri-colours and excited with the anticipation of what was to come.
The singing soon began.
In spirit of community and multiculturalism, each nation which was represented sung their national anthem. From the big groups of Aussies, Kiwis and Brits who had 20 – 40 staff singing to the three Israeli staff-members, and even the lone Canadian camper singing, each national anthem was sung. Lyrics were forgotten, the Kiwi boys performed the Haka and the stubborn Irish girl left all the singing to the guy (lucky he had a decent voice!) but it was a good way to pay tribute to the diversity that the camp fabric was made of.
As the tri-coloured popsicles were distributed and the sun had finally flickered out of view the campers became restless with anticipation of the main event. The first low chords of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ began with only a few people singing, but the camp community sitting down by the lake – whether American or not – soon build up the anthem into something of a bravado.
As the final words were sung a boom sent a mixture of screams and cheers through the crowd. What we had been waiting for all night – Fireworks!!!
Just to embarrass the Aussies (including yours truly) from camp I figured I’d post the only video I have of the national anthems. So listen to our wonderful rendition of Advance Australia Fair (complete with people forgetting lyrics!)
Note: I am not an American (I’m an Aussie) and if I get any facts wrong please let me know. This post is just what I was taught by the kids at camp and everyone is prone to get things wrong from time to time so let me know if I do get it wrong! Thanks. 🙂
Credit: Sarah Navin (video and photo 3)
Other posts from the Summer Camp Series