Samantha Leonard (2007)

Samantha Leonard
August 17th, 2007

As I sat on the bank outside of Kiva listening to the waves roll over the sand and letting the wind comb through my hair, I remembered writing a capsule on the back steps of cabin 1 listening to the same waves and feeling the same breeze eight years ago. However, due to the laws of science, the thing I felt and heard this afternoon are not the same ones I felt and heard eight years ago, no matter how similar they may seem. I guess the same idea applies to camp: even though it appears to be the same every year, Sae Jong Camp is constantly changing, making each year unique. Even though one of the girls I became friends with my first year is still one of my best friends and I am still best known as the jumprope girl, counselors, friends, and even the program have changed and evolved. We’ve had our fair share of drama, but all of the ups and downs are part of the SJC I’ve always come back for.

Pretty much every year since my first year, I’ve been pumped for camp as in “counting-down-the-days-since-last-year” pumped. However, this year was a bit different. I was on the bus at Andover and I still couldn’t believe it was time for camp. It still hasn’t really hit me that I might be here for the last time. It’s not like I was looking forward to it or that it’s lost it’s “touch”. I think it’s more like it has become so much of a second home to me that it’s weird to imagine life without it. So, because it will all be over once I step on that bus tomorrow, I have some advice to give:

1) Always try to get the most out of camp. Don’t hold anything back because if you come here half-heartedly, chances are you’ll miss out … it’s ok to be a kid. The one year I didn’t throw myself into it was the one I liked the least. You’ll only get what you put in, so if you just let yourself go crazy, you’ll have a blast. (your friends and parents aren’t here to watch you)

2) Don’t take this camp for granted. There is nowhere else like Sae Jong Camp because if there was, people wouldn’t be coming from California and Virginia to be here. Seriously, this is the only place that I know of that you can spend a whole week surrounded by a bunch of crazy-cool Korean kids and not feel like you’re an alien. Okay, so one of your cabin-mates snores, another won’t stop talking about the cutest camper until 3 in the morning, but if you take a few seconds to try to get to know them – really, TRULY try – you might be surprised to find that you guys are, in fact, from the same planet. So what if someone has this slightly annoying quirk, if you just change your perspective a little, you’ll find it’s people’s differences that make things interesting. (Picture this: Girls doing their make-up in the Greenie and a spider pops out of nowhere … pretty hilarious if you ask me.

You may not realize it, but you won’t find staff like this anywhere else either. It takes a lot of work to keep kids wanting to come back for more every year and if it weren’t for all their hard work, this camp wouldn’t exist.

3) Keep in touch with the friends you make here. You never know when you’ll need a friend to talk about being Korean in the “Big-Bad World” or have an urge to act like a FOB (fresh off the boat) for three hours. Like I said before, you’ll never meet people like these anywhere else and the friends you make will be utterly irreplaceable in the long run

For me, camp has always been my safety net; where I could escape the pressures of my family and social life and just be the crazy little girl I really am. Here, I can express my undying love for this gah soo or that Korean Drama and actually have someone who actually knows and cares what I’m talking about. I also came to love learning han gul and a variety of Korean food through camp, so over the past few years, I’ve become more aware of the Korean-American community around me. Here, I’m not just another Asian girl, I actually have a face and a name to go with it.

I’m not the same scared little ten-year old reading my one paragraph time capsule here eight years ago, but in some ways – like the waves and the breeze – I’m still the same. I’m still proud to be a Korean Adoptee (K.A.D.), but now I am more than just that; I’m my own person. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I never came here. So, I guess all I have left to say is “Thank You” – to all of you who have made my experience here memorable and I hope that, in some small way, I can somehow repay you. Sae Jong Camp, sah rang hab nee dah!!!