In the summer of 2003, when I was in college at the University of Minnesota, I took a job working for the NYC YMCA as the program director for their leaders-in-training program at a camp there. Despite having moved across the country from Texas to Minnesota, I hadn’t done any real travel or anything on my own. This was my first big adventure.
When I got to the camp, I found it was outside of the city in the country. It was an odd setting which blurred lines of race and privilege. The kids of a famous rapper went to camp there along with kids that were in the foster program. We all lived under the shadow of the World Trade Center attacks because they were witnesses to far more than the TV coverage. I personally had a boy that was next door to the WTC at school when 9/11 happened. He had to walk quite a ways home by himself at age 12 (and this was before cellphones) in that horrible mess of a day. A lot of the kids had problems that weren’t fixable in one summer.
Their ways were a little strange to me. They were all urban, so they didn’t like to walk in the dirt because it would make their “kicks” dirty. They were afraid to swim in the lake because there were fish there. They asked when the bus would come and pick them up to take them to the hike. The pay was crap and the hours were horrible. No e-readers, no wifi. I spent a lot of time in the woods reading big thick Russian Lit novels I brought with me. It wasn’t exactly what I expected.
But, on the weekends… the weekends were a different story. Every weekend several of us got to go into the city to drop off kids, spend the day and night, and get another batch the following afternoon. I got to go almost every time because of my position, and I made the most of it. I explored NYC and fell in love. I loved how anonymous it made me feel to be in a sea of people. I remember how tiny and insignificant I felt looking up at the large buildings and what electricity overtook me when I would get lost and end up somewhere bustling with life.
I recently found an old hard drive of mine, so for this Friday Five, I’m going to show you five pictures from my adventure ten years ago. The quality is a little off because it was a disposable camera, but hopefully you can feel the spirit of the pictures.