This is the 4th year of Ultimate Peace camp and certain things have come to be expected. Like the Camp Talent Show. Campers from previous years were talking about it on the first day– looking to recruit people for whatever crazy skit or cheer they’d been cooking up.
A natural place to look for talent show comrades is your own team, but this takes time. You’re with new people from different communities, some who speak your language and understand your culture and some who don’t. It’s a bit scary to propose a joint live performance. It’s easier to gather up your friends. But we had 3 full team acts this year, including one that got the whole audience on their feet dancing the macarena. Other acts included a traditional Arabic song sung acapella by a camper from Buena Nujedat, a “magic” show from an American coach, an American camper and a camper from Ra’anana, a musical number mocking the simplicity of all pop songs– including our own camp song(!) from the CITs, beatboxing from Tamra, a piano piece, and numerous goofball skits and jokes. And there were also the “old standbys”: a freestyle frisbee act from a Ra’anana camper and his mentor coach, Yarden; a dabka from Hammoudi, joined this year by campers from various other communities; a poetry reading from Areen; and Masler, Zolo and Jez’s rather pathetic, but very hilarious versions of all the acts that served as introductions to the real thing. Without these, the talent show just wouldn’t be complete– and when I realized this, I also realized that I was watching the birth of many of our own Ultimate Peace community traditions.
Snack-a-time is another blossoming UP tradition: Rebellion would ensue if we were to be deprived of our peaches, plums, Turkish delight, muffins, and bread and chocolate spread. Cheering in the dining room, clapping rhythm games (great for circumventing language barriers), bracelet making, slip-n-slide, nighttime dance parties on the big field, welcome tunnels, camp song… All of these things have become familiar enough and reliable enough that they have earned ‘tradition’ status for next year.
Today was also the first day of tournament play and the campers dug deep to make it through 4 rounds of ultimate. The high spirit of the games was unprecedented as coaches watched kids work out their own foul calls, spontaneously erupt into cheers for the other team, and stand at the ready waiting to play. The only unspirited moment I observed came from a camper from Daburriya after a pretty sound victory. In her lace hijab she walked up to the coach of the other team, pointed at his face and yelled, “You lost! You lost! You lost!” It turns out, though, that she’s in love with America and was just trying to be a part of all the affectionate heckling that the American coaches engage in. She didn’t quite get it right– it doesn’t feel good to be reminded of a loss 30 seconds after it happens, no matter how affectionately– but the “spirit” was in the right place.
The presence of Americans (and this year included other nationalities, as well) does indeed provide an additional cultural complication, but one that forces all the campers to step outside their comfort zone. All of them. And that’s exactly what we want. Equal footing, equal uncomfortableness– all moving in the direction of building our own community, with our own traditions, independent of the various cultures that the campers, staff, and coaches come from.