Memories from Mexico City Girls’ Camp

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The mountains near where we camped as Young Women for Girls’ Camp.

Now that summer is heating up where I live, my mind is drawn back to my experiences going to Girls’ Camp as a young woman.  I spent my teenage years living as an ex-pat in Mexico City, where I attended an English-speaking ward in an otherwise Spanish-speaking stake.  Because ex-pats generally left town to visit family during summer vacation (my family included), I only went to Girls’ Camp during my first two years and missed it every year thereafter.  But there are three specific memories that I have from my second year at camp that stick out in my mind.

1 – Because I didn’t live in the Intermountain West, we didn’t have any official Girls’ Camp facilities or campgrounds.  There were no pools, no volleyball courts, no archery ranges.  We didn’t have cabins or mess halls or picnic benches.  We didn’t even have running water, let alone electricity.  We simply went up to a patch of land somewhere in the mountains surrounding Mexico City and pitched a camp.  My second year at camp, we camped with just our ward (we were holding it earlier than the rest of the stake in hopes of getting most of our ward’s youth to come) and we ambled up the mountain roads to a clearing.  There were about fifteen of us camping, plus a few leaders, so we pitched our five or six tents and then were called over to help with our first “camp project.”  We were each handed a shovel and shown where to dig.  What were we digging?  Our latrine, of course!  We were told to dig one foot wide, three feet long, and three feet deep, and we were shown a tiny stool that we could perch upon (with our buttocks dangling off the back) if we preferred to sit instead of squat.  There were blankets thrown over branches on two sides to afford the user some privacy.  I have never met a group of girls who became so quickly adept at holding their bladder and bowels in my entire life.

2 – That same year, all of the Beehives were sent out on a hike for a “team-building activity” while the Laurels stayed behind.  Apparently the “team-building activity” was actually “collecting dried cow manure to fuel our fires,” but it did build a sense of camaraderie and disgust among the girls who participated.  The Laurels had their own “team-building activity” while we were away: they went through the bags of the Beehives, found all of our underwear, and hung it high in a tree.  We were absolutely mortified when we returned, dragging bags of manure, to see the newly-crowned “Panty Tree” decorated in all its glory.  As we sat there, stunned, one of the Laurels came up to me and threw her arm over my shoulder.  “You must have known this was coming, because you hid your underwear so well that we couldn’t find it! Bravo!”  It was only then that I realized that I had totally forgotten to pack underwear.

3 – On our last night, we had all settled into our tents and finally fallen asleep.  Our tents were all clustered on one side of a clearing, with the cooking area behind us in the clearing, and the makeshift latrine on the other side, far away from both the tents and the food.  Very early in the morning, well before dawn, we were all awoken to the sound of movement and clattering.  Something was moving through our camp, and making quite the ruckus as it did.  Sure that we were under attack from either a bear or a serial killer, I had my friend quietly unzip the tent to see what was happening.  She looked out and quietly whispered, “It’s not a bear, but I can’t really tell what it is.  Come look!”  And there, in the middle of the clearing, illuminated by only moonlight, was a man pushing a cart full of machetes.  We quietly watched, frozen in terror, sure we were about to be hacked to bits, as he pushed his cart across the clearing and then off into the woods.  Our leaders came and checked on us afterwards, probably aware of the panic that had gripped us, and assured us that he was probably just pushing his wares towards town, where they would be sold in the market.  Regardless, I didn’t sleep another wink that night and packed up camp with an extra jolt of energy the following morning!

These stories may not be the traditional stories of a Mormon Girls’ Camp, but I feel like we all have camp stories of crazy things that happened, or that bonded us to each other, or that proved to us that we can do hard things.  I’d love to hear any Girls’ Camp stories that people have – leave them in the comments below!

Liz

Liz is a reader, writer, wife, mother, gardener, social worker, story collector, cookie-maker, and hug-giver.

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5 Responses

  1. HJ says:

    Oh, girls camp. I remember the year all of our stuff fell out of the Bishops truck onto the freeway (right at the Point of the Mountain on I-15 for Utahns) breaking anything not cloth in our luggage, the year our campsite was bear infested and bears broke into a van to get to coolers (to their credit, someone had left their window partially down and the bear merely needed to rip out the window to get to the cooler on the front seat) and our leader hopped out of her tent one night at 1AM to scold the girls sneaking out, only to find herself face to face with a brown bear who’d been circling her tent for the last several minutes, and then there was the last year I attended (at 15 years old) where the girls in my cabin were doing seances and other similar things and one went into a seizure and started yelling out strange things in some weird language during one such event, and when I walked in and saw all the other girls freaking out as this girl was writhing on the floor, I ran to go get our leader, who spent the next half hour chewing out the girls and calling parents, and told me to go outside and make sure to rush the Bishopric (who’d shown up for testimony meeting) past the cabin so they wouldn’t hear her string of swear words. So many memories 🙂
    I actually didn’t go back after that year, until I was 19 and they made me assistant camp director. I found I enjoyed the experience far more as an adult (going then and again in my late 20s, where I brought my husband and baby along), but then again, we didn’t deal with bears, broken luggage, or any form of possession, so there’s that 😉 That last year I went, with nursing baby, husband, and an A-frame cabin to sleep in with my family, was definitely the best — but it was also the day after Harry Potter 7 came out, so it was hard to get the girls to focus on ANYTHING else 🙂 And honestly, my husband and I made it through the entire book that trip as well 🙂

  2. We made a latrine too! And I lived in Utah where we had camps with facilities, so I am not sure what the purpose of that was. Maybe they just saw it as an essential outdoor skill we had to practice. I loved girls’ camp and Youth Conferences (which in my area were usually camping, too). Great memories.

  3. Quimby says:

    I remember once on a hike some of us decided to play a prank. We pretended that one of the girls (the smallest girl in the group – we weren’t stupid) had broken her leg, and we’d had to provide emergency first aid. There we were walking into camp with her on a makeshift stretcher, her leg tied to a tree branch with whatever we could find, trying not to laugh as we called for help. As luck would have it, about 5 minutes before we appeared, another girl had sliced the top off her thumb while cutting up potatoes for dinner. We never did find it; I guess someone got extra protein that night. So the leaders suddenly thought they had two medical emergencies to deal with. (We quickly fessed up as soon as we realised that someone in camp was actually hurt and we were diverting resources away from a real medical emergency.)

  4. Violadiva says:

    I remember as a 4th year, assigned with taking the 1st years on a hike, that we tried to get them lost, pretended we were, then convinced them we’d have to make a shelter for the night. Crummy leaders we were. Hope none were traumatized too badly by it :-/

  5. Heather says:

    Liz that panty tree story is hysterical. Love that you forgot all underwear!

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