About this time 18 years ago I was invited to join the Grade 3 (9th grade) Camp at Nou Junior High School. Unfortunately, at that time, I had ears but couldn’t ear English spoken in Japanese. I also didn’t know how to ask the right questions.
Because I was still in the honeymoon, Japan is wonderful phase of moving to Japan, I agreed to go to the camp. Thinking back, I’m trying to remember the exact moment when my colleague told me what to bring by telling me it wasn’t necessary. I was told the teachers would be sleeping in cabins but when I asked what I should bring, I was told I didn’t need to bring anything.
Now, I’m not sure if this meant that because we had cabins I wouldn’t need to bring a tent, or she assumed I understood what was meant by “camp” and “cabin” and would know what to bring. I also pointed out I didn’t have a sleeping bag and that didn’t seem to be a problem. Either way, I went minimal–the camera and a book to read being the most important things I was carrying–and was surprised when I arrived at the gathering point and saw students and teachers loading fairly hefty bags and sleeping kits into a truck.
At that point, if I were smart (and if you’ve been reading regularly, well, you know) I would have hurried home–I only lived a few minutes a way–and assembled a blanket roll but, well, you know. Also, with no evidence whatsoever, I convinced myself there’d be futons in the cabins. We took the train two stops and then began hiking. We went through town, crossed an expressway, went through a field and then followed a road into the hills. The hike itself wasn’t that difficult but it was Japan in August and the humidity was two percentage points away from liquid.
The camp itself looked nice but had apparently been located in the most humid place possible. I, of course, had only one shirt, now sweaty, and it didn’t dry completely while we were there. The cabins did exist, but they were empty rooms with no cots or futons and I would be sleeping on the bare floor.
The preliminaries were fun. The students cooked Japanese style curry for us and there was a bingo game–with the only prizes being a completed bingo–around a campfire. Bingo was followed by everyone heading off to their tents or cabins for sleep. At this point, I was still damp from my hike and, because the camp was in spitting distance of the ocean, it was cool enough to make me feel cold. I figured I could fashion a pillow out of a towel and my pack and eventually fall asleep.
However, the last card had yet to be played. One of my cabin mates, who also happened to be a colleague, also happened to be one of the world’s worst snorers. If I’d had a pillow I probably would have smothered him. I would discover after a manly attempt to suffer through it that he could be heard dozens of meters from the cabins. My usual panic “What have I done” freakout started and went down near the showers and restrooms, which had electric lights, and started reading my book to calm myself down.
I was seen by the chaperones, who would report what I’d done to my colleague who would apologize the next morning even though I was more angry at myself than anything else. Eventually I calmed down enough, and got sleepy enough, that I was able to get a couple hours sleep. The next day we went home and I was never invited to another camp.
The funny part is, as I write this and think back over what was said and what wasn’t said prior to the camp, I’m not actually sure I was actually invited to the camp in the first place. I may have misunderstood what was being said invited myself, which is why I didn’t get any information about what to bring to the camp.