“Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning…”

We built a campfire that evening and danced around it. Yes, we really did dance. We didn’t have a choice but even if we had, we wouldn’t have avoided the opportunity. We acted, we pretended to be elephants, we pretended to be thugs.
We squeezed out through the barbed wire into a road to go to visit the grocery store. We bought yoghurt there… for the salad instead of mayonnaise. I tore my dress trying to cross the border, my teacher hurt herself with rusted metal.  We sat underneath an old tree and leaned onto each other. We were actually supposed to be picking firewood. The breeze was too cold, the workload was too much, and our feet were too tired to resist some rest. We slept on the thick cover of the fallen leaves until we thought we heard a snake hiss. We hid from work that day.
We out up our tents under the pavilion and my teachers were impressed about how they looked in the photos that I snapped. I was scolded that day to put my camera away or that it’d be taken away. The teachers said they were to be blamed.
There was a seven year old who accompanied us… he walked around in the night in his pyjamas and we hid him from his mother. He made friends with me and we spoke for a while, until he was found.
At 03:00 am of our final day in the campsite, my friend and I sat outside with six girls from the other school that accompanied us, eating chocolates and chatting up about our schools. It was the first informal conversation we were having and we already felt so close. The stars were up, the cemetery overlooked, we were in a lone ground… what was there to be afraid of, right?
We made clothes racks and shoe racks, we dug holes in the ground, we scraped coconuts in our pyjamas and we ate up the ingredients for our cooking. We saluted the flag we all loved and respected and read out mindful thoughts. We went on our hike, unaware of where we were going. We returned way past lunch time, drenched in water from the heavy downpour. We were a mess… but a beautiful one. We practiced for the campfire night’s events in the mens’ changing room. We had no other option. We finished work past midnight, and official meetings were held at 11:00 pm where we would all assemble under the watchful eyes of the teachers and sing songs and be tested on our dance skills.
Back in 2009 when we did all of these crazy things, we were so tired that when we were called for our surprise dinner, we couldn’t drag our feet. We played basketball after dinner though. The practices seemed to draw our life out of ourselves but the breaks we had afterwards where we would sit under the kottang trees speaking of fruits we’ve never tasted were totally worth it.
Moments from when we wore a green uniform or a dark blue t-shirt that said “Ten million girls, one voice…” are what I always think about when we are asked to do something that seems to kill us. What seemed to be the end of our lives at those camps later seemed to be the moments I loved the most. I wish we had more of those beautiful times, I wish the stay was longer… I never thought I’d say this, but I sure would like to work like we did that day once more.

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