We’ve found ourselves, yet again, heading North on the New Jersey Turnpike to one of our final destinations: Camp Kef. Kef – the hebrew word for fun happens to be a pretty common camp name, so when we realized we had navigated to the wrong Camp Kef – outside of Philadelphia – around midnight last night, it became obvious that we would not have the luxurious morning off that we were anticipating. So we ended up parking the bus at a Walmart parking lot on the outskirts of Philly and woke up for our early trip to Paramus, NJ. Well shucks…
As I sit here on the back bed of the bus, bouncing uncontrollably with every bump in the road, and smiling at astounded passengers in passing cars – excitedly snapping pictures with their smart phones of the first purposely upside-down bus they’ve ever seen – I can’t help but realize how much I will miss these moments little that have characterized our summer on the road. Moments like sitting behind falafel restaurants covered in veggie oil attempting to fill our tank without the hand crank, singing along to Jefferson Starship’s hardly-graceful Jane as we roll along country roads, or talking to each other in pterodaktyl squaks and chewbacca groans because the emotions we feel are simply too complex to be explained using any other forms of communication. Moments swimming and laughing in lakes after long, hot days of hard work, playing another frustrating-yet-addictive round of Monopoly Deal on Shabbat, or discussing creative ways to answer the inescapable “Can you drive the bus if it flips over?” question.
As a group, we’ve been through a lot together; and although we’ll all look back on our time together in a positive light, I’d be lying if I said the journey has been easy. We can’t sit here and pretend that the centrifuge has worked perfectly the entire summer, that the kombucha never leaked all over the floor, that our water tank has always stayed full, or that we never argued over the burn-date of our compost. There have been disagreements, wrong turns, days of widespread hangriness and extreme fatigue; and simultaneously, we each face our own personal struggles just like we do back home. But growth is rooted in struggle, and thus we have grown closer as a community and consequently helped each other to grow as individuals.
While many of these instances of community-building and/or utter ridiculousness have served as defining moments of our summer, carrying out the primary mission of the tour – interacting with those who are not so familiar with the bus – has been some of the most rewarding work of all…
Although we like to refer to ourselves as minor celebrities – approached by a variety of strangers nearly every time we step foot onto a city street, grocery store parking lot or camp sportsfield – it’s abundantly clear that the bus is the real celebrity; we are merely representatives of this artful political statement on wheels. Had we shown up to a truck stop in our own cars, people wouldn’t look twice at us, let alone ask us about our shower habits. But just as I explain in my bicycle blender schdick, when we bring something new and extraordinary to our communities, we catch people’s attention, and in doing so, we empower them to think differently about how the world works…sometimes we all need a gentle reminder that the conventional way of doing things or looking at things is not necessarily the only or best way to do them.
When we’re running programs, our real message to camps is that things don’t have to be the way they are – a bicycle used to just be a way to get from Point A to Point B; but one day someone said, “hey, why don’t we put a blender on that?!” Oftentimes our wackiest, most outlandish ideas are exactly what we need to find sustainable solutions to the world’s most daunting problems.