Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu

STELLA

A few words of advice for those attending Camp Ugunduzi for the first time:

Contrary to what the brochure may have told your parents, siblings, grandparents, estranged uncles, teachers, psychiatrists, well-meaning friends, not-so-well-meaning friends, and other people of distant relation who “care about you” and have therefore shipped you to the middle of upstate New York (read: out of their lives) for one month of summer while everyone else just goes kayaking and eats hot dogs, you will probably not discover a way to change your life at this camp.

In fact, despite being at a camp named Ugunduzi—the Swahili word for “discovery,” because nothing says profound quite like Google Translate—you are unlikely to discover very much here. Things like...

Yourself.

The meaning of life.

Love.

What it means to be human

...will generally not be found during your time here. You’re actually fairly unlikely to discover anything other than 1) approximately ten new mosquito bites a day on body parts you didn’t know existed, and 2) at least fifty ways to hide alcohol from the counselors.

But hey, don’t let me get you down. Your parents are excited. Your grandparents are excited. Your therapist is less excited because she’s missing out on four weeks of checks, but still excited because this experience could be the next step to a healthy lifestyle. Your friends are the most excited of all, because they think a month of trust-building exercises in the woods is going to get them the “old you” back—you know, the one who did fun, stupid things with them, like go to the mall and giggle at every cute boy that walked by, or prank-call strangers at 3:00 a.m. while high off sleep-deprivation and Ben and Jerry’s. The one they grew up with, before the monsters under your bed found their way into your head and Lunchables turned into a stackable pile of pills and Truth or Dare started feeling like a confessional.

Believe me, I don’t want to ruin this for you. I know how it feels—like everyone else is so full of hope and excitement they’re counting on this camp more than you are. And I know that even though you yelled at your mom to stop counting down the days way back in April, and even though you rolled your eyes when you promised your psychiatrist you’d immerse yourself, and even though you told your friends it was just some “bullshit summer camp for psychos,” you’re also excited. Because you kind of want the old you back, too.


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