A Compilation of Short Stories

Greetings! I have a few short stories to share with you today, about my life here at Mount Hermon. There are many other stories I could tell, about day trips to Santa Cruz and San Francisco, about bonfires and beaches, about the memorability and hilarity of daily life … but those would turn this blog post into a novel. So I have selected four of my favorite — and four of my most epic — stories for this blog, accompanied by never-before-seen pictures. Enjoy!

Playing a Real Ukulele

A few weeks ago, I started playing the ukulele. I have a toy ukulele at home (compliments of the Adventures in Odyssey Club), but Daniel and Mark made real ukulele-playing look awfully appealing. So I started borrowing their instruments, absorbing new chords and strumming techniques whenever I could.

I’ve even taken the ukulele to work a couple times, to practice after the phones go off. On one such evening, I was sitting at a desk in the back strumming away, when I looked up and saw Steve Green watching me from the front desk (he was here to do a concert)!

But even without those 15 seconds of perceived fame, I’ve enjoyed being more musically focused this summer. I’m finally getting the hang of a stringed instrument – and not just any stringed instrument, but the one my namesake (Eugene Meltsner) plays – and yet have remained true to my first love (piano).

Saving the Night

One night, a couple Saturdays ago, I was getting ready to watch a movie with some friends in one of the meeting rooms when I heard someone call my name from the back of the room.

“Liz? Liz are you here?”

I stood up. “Yeah, what’s up?”

“There are these people in the Fountain who are saying that they don’t have a room,” explained Maggie, the Fountain manager. It was almost midnight. “There are other people in the room they’re supposed to be in. Could you do something?”

Just like that, I sprang into superhero mode. Maggie radioed the custodian on duty, who unlocked the administration building for me. I found an empty room in the system, sprinted to it to make sure it was clean, then ran back to the Fountain. It’s a strange feeling, knowing you’re the only person awake who could’ve done anything about it. I felt like such a hero.

It was a happy ending all around: Our stranded guests were grateful, and I got a free scoop of ice cream. And speaking of ice cream …

The Mudslide

Last week, I said that I was going to try to eat an entire Mudslide by myself.

That Wednesday, I put on my half-marathon shirt (oh the contrast) and trotted down to the Fountain for my Mudslide. A few people came to watch/cheer me on, and before I was half finished, the place was packed with conferees. And I was in a prime place to be oohed and ahhed at.

Well, I did finish the Mudslide (or nearly so), and in 28 minutes, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I had overestimated my abilities, and had to lie down for over an hour afterward. I was sure I wouldn’t eat ice cream again for a long time. And I didn’t … if four days is a long time.

I’m glad I did the Mudslide Challenge, but I wouldn’t want to go back and do it again. Ice cream really does taste better in smaller doses.

The Production That Was Harry Potter

I’m not just talking about the movie.

In Registration, we send out confirmation letters to our future guests with information about their upcoming conference and what their balance is. I purchased tickets for the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie for about a dozen people, and, on one slow day, I decided to use the confirmation letter template in a way it had never been used before.

I also decided to dress up for the movie. There aren’t very many women with short hair in the series, so I decided to be Tonks, which involved putting together a costume from various thrift store items and dyeing my hair pink for the night. I couldn’t find the right kind of hair dye at the local CVS, though, so I had to order it online.

That Thursday, my work day started at 3 p.m. and didn’t end until 10:30, so I decided that the safest plan of action would be to dye my hair before going to work. And so I ended up manning the front desk for hours with my new pink hairdo. None of the campers said a word about my hair, and most didn’t even have any visible reaction to it. The staff who went in and out throughout the day, however, did react.

When I was on the phones in the back, I didn’t wear the headset we usually use because it would get pinkness all over it when I did. The spray-on hair dye washed out easily enough, but I had to be mindful of my head all day/night.

If you think dressing up and making confirmation letters for Harry Potter is geeky, just wait – it gets better: A few of us also whittled wands out of Mount Hermon sticks, and made Butterbeer with a recipe we found online.

Brandishing our pre-carved wands!
At the theater waiting for the movie to start!

Yes, I choose to embrace my inner geek one event at a time.

Camp Life #1: The Lingo

Mount Hermon Fieldhouse
The Fieldhouse where we have our Sunday openers.

Mount Hermon: Let’s start with the basics. Mount Hermon is a Christian camp that was started more than 100 years ago. It has a fascinating history, and was the first camp of its kind west of the Mississippi River. I didn’t know any of this, though, when I applied to work here a few months ago. All I knew was that Kidder Creek, a camp up north that I attended when I was 8, was affiliated with Mount Hermon.

Summer Staff: That’s me, and about 90 other people in the 18-25ish age range. We work with kids of all ages, man the bookstore, serve ice cream in the snack shop, help those participating in recreational activities, and more.

Registration (Reg): This is where I work. We have crazy-busy times, and we have super-slow times. If you add together the summer staffers, the part-timers, and the full-timers, there are 14 of us in this all-female department. What do I do? Well, generally speaking, I’m usually either on the phones in the back, or at the front desk. I make reservations for our events (typically family camps and our dinner-and-a-concert mini vacations), put together packets, and sell meal tickets and answer questions at the front desk. But there are a lot of other things I do. In fact, I have a 10-page single-spaced list of “things to know”!

Pondy: There are three Mount Hermon camps in the Santa Cruz area: Conference Center (the family camp one that I’m working at), Redwood (K-6th grade), and Ponderosa (junior high and high school). Ponderosa is affectionately referred to as Pondy.

Canopy Tour: Our Redwood Canopy Tour is what Mount Hermon is best known for in a lot of circles — and what we’ve gotten a lot of publicity for. It’s a “two-hour guided tour [that] includes six zip-lines and two sky bridges at heights of up to 150 feet.” I hear it’s pretty rockin’, and am planning on doing it sometime this summer.

Carnival: Our weeklong family camp starts on Sunday with a carnival down at the Fieldhouse. This carnival includes a bounce house, a dunk tank, and other games (followed by a barbecue and an opening program) for our 300-700 guests (depending on the week).

Train Day: For most days of family camp, there are speaking sessions in the morning and evening, with free time in the afternoon. On Wednesday, however, (almost) everyone takes the train down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and enjoys the rides. I plan to do this in August, when my family comes(!).

Pancake Ridge: On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, campers (and staffers) have the opportunity to hike up to “Pancake Ridge” and eat the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever tasted. They make them on this outdoor griddle, and then you can add your own toppings. I’m partial to two pancakes with chocolate chips in between them, and whipped cream on top.

Monday Funday: On Mondays in Reg, we spend an hour and a half or so getting out and doing something fun. Almost all of our Monday Fundays so far have involved ice cream. This week, we mixed it up and went to the beach.

Abbott’s: A couple weeks ago, we went to Abbott’s — a local thrift store — for Monday Funday. Since then, I’ve gone a few times, and the best deals I’ve found have been for books. Case in point: all three of the Hunger Games books (hardbacks in like-new condition) for just over $3.

Taco V: Short for Tacqueria Vallarta, Taco V is the beloved local Mexican restaurant. At least, it’s beloved among the summer staffers I know: I’ve eaten there several times, but haven’t eaten out anywhere else in Felton. It’s within walking distance, and is a good alternative to dining hall food sometimes (though food in the Dining Hall is actually pretty good).

Dorm Hill: One of my fellow summer staffers put it this way: Imagine laying a board across a set of stairs and trying to walk up the board. That’s Dorm Hill. We live in three dorms at the top of a hill, and it’s one steep hill! I sure wouldn’t want to park up there.

Play groups: At the beginning of the summer, we were put into play groups. Now, every Wednesday evening, we meet in groups of five and do something fun: play a game, bake cookies, or something like that. Thankfully, “Can You Keep It Down?” is no longer on the activity list.

Tuit: A round piece of wood with “TUIT” written on the front, you can exchange one for a cup of coffee or a single scoop of ice cream. Or you can treasure it forever as a souvenir (I chose a middle ground: spending it, but only after I had documented its existence with my camera).

Marianne’s: If you type “Marianne’s” into Google, one of the first hits you’ll get is for an ice cream place in Santa Cruz. They have quite the variety of ice cream flavors, two of the best of which – in my opinion – are 10-20 (caramel ice cream with fudge and oreos) and Heaven (peanut butter chocolate goodness).

The Fountain: Mount Hermon’s snack/ice cream shop. I work here one night a week, and there’s usually quite a crowd there in the evenings. We serve Marianne’s ice cream here (hence my familiarity with the flavors), and we’re very generous with that ice cream. I’ll bet that you haven’t seen the likes of our “single” scoops at any other ice cream places.

Mudslide: An eight-scoop $15 mountain of ice cream available at the Fountain. If you/your group can finish it, you get your picture taken with a cute mini Polaroid camera and put up on the bulletin board. This week, I’m going to try to eat an entire Mudslide myself. One of my fellow staffers said he would pay for it if I could finish it in less than half an hour. Stay tuned.

Fireside: The Fireside room is one of the meeting rooms below the Dining Hall. We summer staffers use it often for movie nights.

Pizza My Heart: At how many pizza places can you get a T-shirt with your (gigantic) slice of pizza? Pizza My Heart, of course! There are more than 40 locations in the San Jose area, and one of them even has a touch-screen soda fountain.

Pac Av: Pacific Avenue, the “main street” of Santa Cruz. Lots of shopping, lots of homeless people, lots of interesting sights.

Sketch: Among the people I hang out with the most, the word “sketch” reminds them of me because I say it so much. The funny thing is, I never said it before coming here.

*****

Next up: A compilation of short stories!