Postcard from North Belgrade, Maine
Summer provides Harvard students, typically too busy with extracurriculars to stray beyond the Square, with the chance to fan out across epic spans of the ever-contracting globe. Armed with aspirations of Perry-ian proportions, a great Crimson, pink, and green armada sets out, intent on forcing the world of highly competitive internships into (written) submission. Taking a cue from my illustrious colleagues, I too have set out to conquer the world.
In fact, to date, I have traveled to Norway, Albion (in the hills beyond Rome), Peru, and Moscow—towns all found within the gentrified, yokel vacationland of Maine. As I’m more or less the epitome of the cash-strapped traveler—I’m working at a summer camp, after all—living in a place called Belgrade no less (if you get past the unexploded shells…), I need to do most things on the cheap.
As my fellow students conquer the rarified air of Goldman Sachs, right wrongs at the International Monetary Fund, and campaign against blind illiteracy, I am a camp counselor at a, to put it delicately, unorthodox children’s summer camp based in Maine. Its name: Camp Chunder Camp.
With the official motto, “A great place for kids to learn and grow-in,” and a de facto mantra, “We emphasize ‘camp’ for emphasis,” Camp Chunder Camp has proven to be more than fodder for summer postcards printed in Cambridge’s only breakfast-table daily.
The camp was founded by the now octogenarian Winslow Pogue, an ever quotable storehouse of wisdom, career counseling, and, interestingly enough, eBay expertise. Winslow’s example generally sets the tenor for my bizarre life here.
In this spirit, Winslow recently imparted to a group of campers the pearl, “Wash you hands once a week,” abruptly turning and acridly muttering about “Sanitation: our enemy number one,” and “antibiotic resistance.” Perplexing moments like this one strop the razor of the unengaged summer mind to the acumen of the average I-banker.
Bowing to realism, summer internships involve mostly up-front deposits in the Bank of Upward Mobility, with withdrawals to be made later: fast cars, slower women, issues of The New Yorker that recline, untouched, with a distinguished air on the coffee table until they are casually replaced the following week.
My life at camp, on the other hand, has demanded no upfront commitment, as a septet of my closest friends took it upon themselves to recommend me, without my consent, to the position of Head Counselor of Marksmanship.
This might be a manageable task except that Camp Chunder Camp, departing from traditional values of community and responsibility, promotes order and good behavior among the campers through an incentive system based on soda. My efforts to impress upon the campers the importance of air rifle safety are rendered fruitless with their veins bathing their trigger fingers in pure Sunkist, digits which, in turn pump, out pounds of ordinance in the general direction of squirrels that stray near the range. Winslow’s quasi-senile and marginally coherent mutterings of, “Shoot to kill” as he walks by are less than propitious for one in my delicate situation: the unarmed authority figure.
Opportunities for creative problem solving abound, as I have been placed in charge of procuring foodstuffs for the kitchen. However, with a slightly limited budget, and a mandate from the powers that be to prevent an outbreak of scurvy above all else, I have become well acquainted with the phrase, “Price reduced for immediate sale.”
Gainful summer employment at Camp Chunder Camp, while neither gainful, redundant, nor redundant lacks the glamour of an average Harvard summer. However, what it lacks in resume readiness and career preparation, it more than makes up for in living preparation and the ability to wear a sarong all day, all the time. Success stories abound as we have yet to lose a camper and survived our first electrical storm last night. And few places give one the opportunity to travel so prolifically: Sweeden, South Paris, China, and Dixfield.
Yes, Dixfield, the town known best for its singular motto: “It’s the only one.” Words I am finding germane to describe most things I have encountered as I let time slip slowly by during my summer away at camp.
Matthew A. Busch ’07, an Economics concentrator in Leverett House, is an editorial editor of The Harvard Crimson. He is convinced that seeing all of Maine is just as good as seeing the rest of the world, especially given its fine camps.