August 12, 2011
Before I came to Sae Jong Camp I was not very enthusiastic, but after the first day, I got to know the counselors and campers. One of my favorite things about camp is that we got three 5’s on our skit. Another thing I liked was Model Rocketry. Nick launched my rocket twice. I also liked Carnival Night. My favorite part of Carnival Night was that Jeff, Victor, Nick and Sara got pied in the face. That is my experience at Sae Jong Camp. I’ll see you all next year.
August 12, 2011
When I first heard about Asian camp I was, “dang, that sounds kinda funny,” but my cousins said they liked it so I came along. And I’m glad I did because it turned out to be a lot of fun. I think my favorite thing about was the people I met and the friends I made. Whether we’re spraying ourselves with body spray or falling off the Saturn into the water, it was all incredibly amazing. I definitely want to come back next year.
August 12, 2011
As I’m writing this I’m looking around Kiva. I’m where I have been every August for the past 7 years, with Claire and Jordyn on my side and loving every second of camp. I don’t remember why I first decided to come to camp but I do know why I keep coming back. It’s so amazing to me how all of us different people from all over can come to this one place and connect with each other on such a deep level. That’s not something you can find every day. On my very first day of camp I met the friends that would become my sisters. We’ve walked through every year of camp together and along the way I’ve added more and more to my SJC family. Without all of you I’d be lost. I’d be all, “What? I’m Korean?!” But seriously camp has made me more comfortable and confident in who I am not only as a Korean American but as a person in general. At home I feel like I’m trying to please people and be a certain person, but here I can be myself. Here I can act crazy and weird and still be serious and have deep talks. Here I learned to be proud of being Korean. There is no other place like this and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. In case you haven’t noticed I love this place a lot. The only thing I ask is that you keep coming back and don’t ever stop. We’ve got to keep this place alive so I can be director someday.
Sae Jong Camp Staff
August 12, 2011
It was a bit strange to be asked to write a time capsule to represent the staff this year, considering I retired from camp 5 years ago and couldn’t even remember after all these years if I’ve written one before… However, when I give it some thought, having left for quite some time and coming back, I guess I have gained some new perspective to offer on SJC and what it means to me.
Since I left, serving on the board has been a rewarding experience, but to be honest, the past four years I couldn’t help but feel more and more detached from this camp. The longer spent away from this, what we’re experiencing this week, the more I seemed to forget what an important and absolutely magical experience this is.
Over the years, I thought I always knew what an incredible camp this was, but I could never really express it in words. As some of you may know, SJC has always been a, “you had to be there” kind of experience that was hard to share with others. However, over time I think I’ve realized what makes camp such a special and amazing place, and it is this:
Camp is how the world should really be.
That may seem like a silly thing to say, but once you grow up and get to my age, not only does the world change around you, but you change as well… and not always for the better. Life can get hard, full of compromise and cynicism that takes away the shine the world once had.
However, coming back to this amazing place with all of you, the world regains some of that shine and helps me to remember that despite however much I’ve changed and the world has changed, there is still a part of me that will never, ever change. That remembers that it doesn’t matter how rich you are, where you come from, or what kind of personality you have, you have a home here at this camp. You can take chances, sing and dance your heart out, and wear your emotions and feelings on your sleeves and be met with hugs instead of jeers.
You are accepted as you are, and accept others as they are. You can take pride in your work, find a true camaraderie in your cabin, and you never have to update your FaceBook status in order to tell someone what you are doing or how you feel. It is a place where you can find yourself and take pride in who you are and where you come from, and feel that you are the same as everyone else, yet you are unique and different.
You know you are safe here, because you know that you have a staff that cares for you, and you have cabin-mates that always have your back.
It’s kind of strange, but if you let it, camp becomes a part of you. It gets in your blood, down in your DNA. You take it wherever you go, whether it be the self-confidence to face the world, a talent you never knew you had that you discovered, treasured memories and stories you keep through life, or through the ever-lasting friendships that you make here.
I may be the truest example of this, as I came to this camp over 25 years ago as a shy, chubby, awkward kid who wasn’t really good at anything at all. Year after year, I found myself returning and finding a deeper love of this camp that I just couldn’t pull myself away from. I found my confidence, I found my voice. I looked up to the staff as the coolest, funniest people, and I knew *I* wanted to be on staff. Despite being rejected my first year applying to staff, I fortunately persisted and have gone on to serve for 11 amazing years on staff. As many wonderful memories I have being here as a camper, it just cannot compare to everything I have taken in over the years on staff. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard until I cried so many times than right here at this camp. So much laughter, so much love, so much passion…
Even my livelihood today can be credited to this camp, as I would never have gotten into the restaurant business if not for serving on staff and making lifelong friends with Jeff and Brian. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to actually be working with the friends I’ve made here, and to have been able to carry on the trust, respect, and experience that we’ve built here into our everyday lives outside of camp.
I am a product of this camp, it has defined my life so much that it’s hard to analyze any part of my life and character without somehow tracing it back to here in some way. It really does become a part of you, but only if you let it.
I want to thank all of you, campers and staff alike, for helping me to remember why I love this camp so much. I look to the graduating seniors, and it is my truest hope that you apply for staff and carry on the torch that many of us have carried for so long. In throwing back to all the traditions of the past, there is none as vital today as giving back to camp all of which you have taken from it.
But most of all, I hope that the rest of you continue to come back year after year, and never take this place for granted. Like your family, it is such an easy thing to do, taking camp for granted, because camp has always been here, a constant that we depend on but never think to wonder if it were not here for us.
It is only when you leave the nest and move on, do you really truly understand how much was given, and all the love and care that you took for granted. It is that appreciation that I have come to realize and hope that I have perhaps been able to share with you tonight.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you may become, always know you are loved and have a family here at this camp. Carry that love with you in your heart, and never let it go.
August 20th, 2010
Hi, I’m Maya. The reason I love SJC is the themes and the games after that. I also love the electives and the counselors. At the beginning I was so excited. I can’t wait for next year to see what else I’ll do.
August 20th, 2010
Thank you all for the stupendous time I’ve had and friendships that will last forever and ever.
My favorite things about camp are the new friends I made and the support from the counselors and other campers. Until camp, my overnight record away from home was 1 night. So this was a very rich experience. I hope and know I see you all next year. I thank you all again for supporting me and all other first years.
August 20th, 2010
My name is Ethan and this is my 4th year at camp. Every year I look forward to this week. It’s a week of pure joy for me. I get to see all my friends and all the amazing counselors, but more importantly I get to be who I want to be. I get to be Korean. I get to be an adoptee. And I get to be a regular person.
Most of us are Korean and a lot of us are adopted. But it doesn’t mean we lack any of the personal characteristics of any Caucasian. We still have emotions, we still feel love, anger, jealousy, and embarrassment. We can miss people we’ve never met. We can love people we don’t remember seeing. And we can dream about people we don’t know. I’ve thought about my birth parents a lot this year. I’ve realized that I miss them, and I don’t remember seeing them. I love them and I have no memory of them. And I dream about them even when I don’t know what they’re like.
My adoption story is short. My father went to serve his two years, and he wanted to stay so he went to Australia to finish school and training. When he was there I was born. My mom and dad were young and not married. I was adopted within 4 months. My dad was more than likely not told about me at all. And almost positively my parents are not together any more.
This last year has been very difficult. And drama fills my life. But…I get SJC. You guys are my family. I want every week to be this week. I want every day to be these days. And every second I want to be here. This camp has changed my life. And I owe it my life.
When I’m here, I’m myself. I’m different, but in a good way. There’s no place I’d rather be, but here. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves and waking up to the crisp sun. This is what I live for, and why I live. I don’t want this place to ever die. So, please, I’m begging. Don’t let it die.
August 20th, 2010
Sara , Why did You Come Back to SJC?
For most of my early teen years, all of my efforts went into hiding what I am proud of and embrace today. My Korean identity, culture and family was something that I wanted to hide.
I’m not actually sure why it started. Maybe it was a childhood broken into two parts; the first six years of my life growing up in Korea and starting another life in America. Maybe it was because I wanted to fit in. To this day I’m not completely sure why, but I slowly started to hate my Korean identity and its differences with the American culture.
When I went over to my friends’ homes I noticed more differences. Their homes looked different, the food, their manners, their parents. And I gradually wanted to change. Eventually, it came to a point where I stood in front of a mirror every day for an hour criticizing my Korean features. I wished for bigger eyes, a higher nose and whiter skin. But beyond my outer appearances I was more ashamed of my Korean family and culture. I didn’t want people to meet my mother because she spoke broken English. I didn’t want my father to even talk to my friends’ fathers because of a difference in culture. I resented my parents for bringing me to a country where I stood out so much. I was angry and bitter and tried to cut them and my identity out of my life.
I hid my identity by refusing to eat my mother’s delicious Korean cooking that took hours to prepare. I declined to participate in the Korean language lessons my dad planned out so hard for me. By doing so, I believe I hurt my parents tremendously.
While my parents gave up their lives trying to give me a better start to life than they did, not only did I fail to appreciate and thank them, but I fought against their good intentions and created a big barrier in our relationship.
I hurt myself too. I denied myself my real identity and pretended to be what I wasn’t. I refused to let myself grow and along with that my Korean language skill, my knowledge of Korean culture, and my understanding of Korean respect started to decline. My self-esteem dwindled into nothing. The bright, young, confident, and proud girl became a shy girl who disliked every part of her identity, appearance and family.
I’m telling you about this part of my life because I want you guys to know how much Sae Jong Camp has helped me. It’s one of the main reasons that I was able to get over my identity crisis. After moving to America, it was one of the first times that I got to see Korean-Americans get together and really talk about their identity and appreciate it. There were other first generation Koreans just like me who wanted to learn more. There were also adoptees who didn’t have the resources I had trying to learn as much as they could within a week. Camp just made me realize that there was no shame in being different or Korean. It’s even okay to be silly and loud and obnoxious. Culture is something you should embrace and be proud of because some people don’t grow up with such a unique and interesting background. We have thousands of years of culture, great food and good people.
So, I guess I was asking myself this all though camp…why did I come back? And the answer to that is that I would hate for anyone to think like I had during middle school and high school and I want Korean Americans to be proud of who they are. So don’t forget what you learn here and never try to deny yourself of who you are. It’s going to come out eventually and life’s more fun when you’re yourself anyways.
August 21th, 2009
Hi, my name is Lucas Zimmerman and I am a camper at Sae Jong Camp. I feel that this camp is very cool and fun. For a lot of people that I know at this camp, this camp means a lot to them, and for me I also feel this camp is very special. There are also very fun things to do like Archery, model rocketry, lunchtime fun and a lot more. The most fun activity to do though is lunch with all the songs you sing and all the laughter you laugh. Another thing that was fun was staying with other campers in the same cabin and all the campers in my cabin I became friends with. All of my camp experiences have all been exciting, new, and fun, so I hope you also have great experiences at Sae Jong Camp too just like me.
August 21th, 2009
Hi, my name is Natalie. I am 10 years old, and this is my first year at SJC! I really liked and was surprised at how many friends and support you can get here. My most favorite memory I have from Sae Jong Camp 2009 was probably the lake. Higgins isn’t very deep, and definitely makes sure everyone is wet to the face. Overall, and most important part, was that I got the chance to learn part of the Korean heritage. I truly enjoyed the songs here too! Many in which I haven’t heard of before. The food is very good and I loved tonight’s Korean Dinner best! The cabin I’m glad we are right next to the water! (Great View). Just to say, I would really like to thank everyone for being really nice to me, clueless of my surroundings on Sunday!
August 21th, 2009
I had a feeling I would get the time capsule. Not that it’s a bad thing, I feel privileged to be chosen to speak about my experiences at SJC.
10 years ago I arrived at this camp with a bowl cut, an overstuffed suitcase, and no idea what to expect. I don’t remember much about that first year, except that I must of liked it enough to come back to next year. And the next year. and the next year, and so on and so on until I find myself standing here, at my last closing campfire. This camp has changed me more than anything I can think of. When I first came here I was 7 years old. I was immature, stupid, and naпve. Fast forward to now and I’m 17 and if you ask my cabin, I’m still pretty immature, stupid, and naпve. But more importantly, I have found out about my culture. Yes I’ve been in the beginner language class 10 years running but I’ve learned so much about my background and heritage. Because of this camp I’ve loved and accepted my Korean adoptee status. I can be proud to be an Asian-American. At this camp I can find a level of understanding not found anywhere else.
Now, when people ask me why I keep coming back year after year I just say it’s the place and the people. But after some thinking it’s more than just that. Yes the place is important. Camp Westminster is a place like none other on earth. But it’s waking and falling asleep to the sound of the waves rolling onto the beach. It’s singing the buffalo song at every meal, albeit a little late sometimes. It’s the Big Game, the cabins, and even the capers. OK, not the capers. It’s how you can take 8 strangers and by campout you have a cabin of brothers. It’s staying up late talking about the most stupid and random stuff and arguing about who is the hottest girl. It’s getting fly for the dances, last minute skits that somehow end up awesome and all the inside jokes. It’s how I’ll never look at a trombone or a thumb the same way again. It’s how a dude from Maryland and the junior girl I asked to the dance 8 years ago can end up being your best friends.
To all the younger campers I want to say what every senior has said before me. At SJC and in life, you get what you put in. go all out. Leave it all on the table. If you leave camp with no regrets I can guarantee you’ll have a more rewarding and fulfilling experience. Trust me, I have cross dressed and embarrassed myself more times than I can remember but looking back at these ten years I can truly say I regret nothing. I leave this camp for the last time, once more a complete and better person than who I was when I arrived. And for that I want to thank each and every one of you, camper and staff alike. All of you have impacted me in a positive way and I hope I have done the same for you. And like the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We class of seniors leave for the last time but more importantly this camp goes on. I will never forget this place and how special it and every person here is to me. I end in saying I hope all who can come back will and I hope all of you can take away as much from this camp as I have.
(no name on capsule)
“My first camp experience was awesome. I’ll remember it forever. Cam means to me memories, friendships, fun and laughter. I really hope I can come back next year. My favorite part about camp was the opening campfire. It was my favorite because you had to write a song about your counselor and sing it. After all the songs, you knew who every counselor’s persona. My worst part of camp would probably be the greenies. But camp was an amazing experience and I’ll never forget it.”
“Hi. My name is Kokie Zimmermann. I’m in cabin 11, and this is my first year at Sae Jong Camp. I first heard about this camp from my friend from school, Ethan. He said he had a really great time, so I decided to come. At first, I was terrified because I didn’t know anyone in my cabin, but I made friends right away. My experiences at camp have been very memorable and ones that I will remember for the rest of my life. From learning about myself and my culture in identity, to burning rice in cooking, and making duct tape wallets in arts and crafts, I’ve had so much fun and I definitely plan to come back for many years to come.”
“9 years out of a possible 12. 3 years come and gone with an empty feeling. Every year of Sae Jong Camp has been great, but as time goes on, you realize how much of a prominent role it plays in your growth and life. My growth started in 1997. I know, I’m “aged”. All remember from that year is my first camp crush, a Ms. Elsie Hong, and the complaints from Westminster staff concerning my 5-day showerless stench. From then on, the stories my family told me finally felt real. Theses deep family roots in camp only became stronger as I came back year after year. The years resulted in new friendships, camp romances, a bit of drama, cross-dressing, watching the cute juniors grow into interesting teenagers, but most of all, a discovery of myself.
I learned to take pride in my heritage. I learned about the history of a people who’ve overcome many obstacles, much like all of us. I learned a language, foreign to our tongues, bu entwined with our very being. This place gave me an experience found nowhere else. This place called Sae Jong Camp. Stepping off the bus this past Sunday, knowing that this was my last year, I was determined to make this a year to remember, not only for myself, but for everyone else. I’ve embarrassed myself to no end, contributed to my cabin won the Big Game, and played and lost basketball to a bunch of oldies, which happened to result in a dirty, sandy mess. But camp is so much more than all that. It’s about sharing stories. It’s about our interacting with new people. It’s about making not friends, but brothers and sisters, and turning into the person you were destined to become with the help of your friends and the staff. Writing this message has brought flashes of the past and feelings of sadness and joy. But there’s no reason to be sad. There is only a reason to be joyful and inspired. A feeling this isn’t the end, but a beginning to so many new adventures. That’s why I ask all future campers to not make this a week away from home. Make it a week filled with endless possibilities. Help this camp to grow so that others may come to find a place where they belong. So to all of you listening or reading, know that SJC isn’t just something that disappears from your life. It’s part of who you are. Continue to make this family grow. And with that, I don’t say goodbye, but see you all again next year.”
“I’m gonna give this time capsule my own little spin,
So if you would be so kind, please allow me to begin.
I’m gonna take this opportunity to embrace my creativity,
‘Cause it’s the most prominent gift that God has given me.
It’d be a damn shame if I were to waste it,
Like a childhood dream and I didn’t chase it.
So what about you? What’s your gift to share?
It can be simple as offerin’ the world an onward loving stare.
No one gift is better than another, so no need to compare.
I hope your time spent here..has helped to enhance or refine it.
And provide a platform to apply it.
Don’t ever let anybody keep you quiet.
Let your heart sing through your actions & the words you speak,
Let it sing like you sing so shamelessly during this week,
Knowing that you’re liberated from any & all judgments from your peers.
Instead of pity or ridicule we show you love when we see your tears.
It’s that kinda love that keeps us comin’ back throughout the years.
‘Cause you’d be hard-pressed to find it anywhere else,
You can’t attain it by buying any product a store sells.
You can’t explain it to a neighbor ringing your doorbell.
But I’ll train it to stay in every breath inside my chest,
With every beat of my heart,
To this place my love confessed.
So comin’ back on this staff on this camp on this lake,
I knew there were bountiful opportunities to take.
To inspire you all & help you bend but not break,
So I’ll make the most of it,
I don’t mistake what I covet.
This here is genuine, not fake, and I place no man above it.
You can hate it or you can love it,
But there’s one thing you can’t deny.
I dunno what to call it, but I see it in every star up in this sky.
I see it every time I look one of you in the eye.
‘Cause tonight we gather here together by this fire
Nothing else on our minds, no distractions to inquire.
Memories, friends, and insight to reflect upon,
Bringin’ out from inside what you didn’t know you had all along.
We share an unspoken bond that no one else could ever understand,
So let your guard down and let me take you by the hand.
I’ll show you my world … though it may not be the same as yours,
You’ll always have a friend in me, so have no fear, and say no more.”
August 17th, 2007
This was my first year at Sae Jong Camp and when I first arrived, it seemed like everyone had a friend except me. My cabin never spoke, except Jessica talking about the rules, but other then that, it was like dead silence. I knew Jessica and the other counselors were nice, but being friends with the counselors only would be like teachers pet at school.
Soon, I realized my cabin had great personalities, and were nice. I rarely saw my sister, but in a way didn’t bother me at all. I realized it was a good idea to come to this camp, and everyone was really nice.
I was afraid people wouldn’t like me and think I was trying to be out going, but when I was named best actress and was expressing myself at skit night, I knew people thought I was funny.
During this week I learned to be friends with people who are not Caucasian, to definitely come back next summer, more songs on the guitar, break-dancing, and I’m way too young to slow dance.
This is one of the funnest years of my life. I will never forget it. (And people will never forget the catch phrase “Oh shneal.”)
August 17th, 2007
I’m Casey and Sae Jong Camp is the best camp I’ve ever been to. Ever since my first year at Camp I’ve been anxious to come back. I’ve made more friends in 3 weeks of Sae Jong camp than I have in 1 year of school. Before SJC I knew nothing about Korea, but now I’ve been to camp and I know how to read and write in Korean. Last year I was really disappointed because I couldn’t come. I’m just happy I got to come this year.
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!!!
August 17th, 2007
I wanted to come up with an analogy that would help me describe camp. Perhaps what I came up with was caused by lack of sleep or maybe I’m just slightly weird. But the first thing that came to my mind was Jelly Doughnut. Now, many of you may be thinking “Jelly Doughnut? Um, yeah, you’re weird …” Just think about it for a moment. Jelly doughnuts aren’t very appealing on the outside. They look like a blob of dough; however, if you love jelly doughnuts then that delicious fluffy exterior is quite tantalizing to the tastebuds. Camp can be seen in a similar way. If you’ve been to camp before (if you’ve tasted the jelly inside the doughnut) then for the majority you love it here. If you’ve never been to camp before (or biting into the donut for the first time) this experience might be a little nerve racking. You don’t know how your camp experience will turn out (you don’t know what kind of jelly you will get and if you’ll like it or hate it). Many people love coming to camp and tasting the Korean culture. Many people love jelly donuts for the soft, taste dough mixing with the gooey delicious jelly. However, there are just a few that dislike camp – this place just isn’t for them. There’s also the few that don’t like doughnuts of the jelly variety. The jelly surprise just isn’t their forte.
Being on staff for the first time I had to once again take that first bite into the doughnut. Was it bitter or unappetizing? NO! It was delicious and satisfying! I loved that jelly doughnut. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience being on staff. I got to see the other side. I had the chance to truly appreciate all the hard work that is put into camp. I was thrown in the lake not once, but twice! Gotta love being a C.A.! Yes, being the only CA to get thrown into the lake is a wonderful treat. The icing on top of my jelly donut!
So, in the end, I’ve learned what it takes to be on staff; I’ve suffered through the counselor torment and had the time of my life. And now all this talk of jelly donuts is making me hungry.
August 18th, 2006
Hi, my name is Emma Muldoon! This is my first year at Sae Jong Camp! My experience at camp is it is really fun! My favorite part about camp is that the counselors are really fun! My electives were really fun! The electives that I took were Korean cooking with Liz and Esther and I also took canoeing! I took it with Heather and I have to say that Heather is really fun! My very very favorite thing is that I really like how Jeanah and Victor gave us t-shirts. My feelings about Sae Jong Camp is that I kind of like how I am around other Korean people since I live in a really small town! I like how I get to meet new people and make new friends! I really like how this camp is all Korean-Americans, I really felt like I belong because I have Korean friends now. This is what I will miss about camp is that I will miss the fun activities and the really fun counselors. I hope everybody enjoyed Sae Jong Camp 2006!
August 18th, 2006
Okay, first of all I want to say SJC has been one of the best experiences I have ever had because I get to meet new people, learn about Korea’s culture, Korea’s language, and your identity.
Before I came to camp I wasn’t as proud to be Korean. Last year was my first year and I was really nervous about meeting everyone there. But after the first day the people in my cabin showed me around the camp and introduced me to new people. By the end of the week I was already excited to come back the next year.
This year the week felt like it went by so fast. The first day was a lot easier because I knew a lot of people from last year. I learned a lot more about myself in identity when we went in small groups and talked about ourselves. In language I learned how to read and write in Hangul. In culture I liked writing in calligraphy. My cabin was CRAZY! They are so nice and we all had a very good friendship with each other. My counselor and CA were the best ever! You could always come to them if there was a problem.
SJC has meant so much to me because I know how important Korea is. Also that other adopted Koreans have the same problems. For example, people say are those your real parents? Or have you ever met your real brother and sister? And the SJC staff helped me build my confidence and to be more proud of myself.
After I came to Sae Jong Camp I realized I am who I am and nothing can change me.
I would love to come back and someday be a counselor.
August 18th, 2006
When offered an opportunity to reflect on the profound effects and the value of camp to me such as this, I truly feel overwhelmed. Despite the fact that I could easily write about how amazing camp has been for me, I think that’s where the problem is when it comes to keeping this concise and to-the-point. It’s that camp has been so full of wonderful and sentimental experiences that I could easily write a novel. With this, I apologize. While I’ll try my best to portray what I intend to, I feel that my camp experience is beyond words.
In fact, I feel any description attempting to define how amazing camp truly is would be an understatement. To me, a verbal description is nothing like experiencing camp firsthand. On paper, it seems like any other overnight camp, but it’s the dynamic combination of the eccentric staff, the tranquil camp ground, and the unique group of campers that all share deep connections that make the experience so unique. It has the power to draw people in completely and keep them coming back for years and years.
At first, camp was once something for me to confide in. However, as more years passed, I took each year’s experience home and channeled it into a motivation to better and enlighten myself culturally. Personally, I feel that it’s the most important thing I’ve gained from camp. With this feeling of motivation, camp has become less and less of a need for me. This need has waned because of the confidence and sense of self acceptance I’ve gained at camp itself, which is something I’ll always have even when I can no longer be at camp.
While I’m still relatively immature and obnoxious, I think I’ve definitely matured into a much deeper person largely due to camp and the relationships I’ve established here. What I’ve found very rewarding is how people have slowly changed their impression of me, especially those at camp who have known me since I’ve started coming. It’s given me a sense of gratification that’s truly unexplainable.
This year has definitely been one of my best, and I’m happy it’s the one I’m ending it with. The senior guys this year were truly amazing, and it was definitely an honor to get to know them all. Through the epically manly experience of campout, to just hanging out with them at free time, this group of guys was just amazing. I even branched out more than I’ve done in the past and got to become friends with a few of the intermediates and juniors, and honestly I came to realize I can relate to them so much more than I initially thought. And from all the amazing experiences this year from losing my voice from belting out the Buffalo Song so much, to our cabin’s amazing conversations before we all fell asleep, to sharing our bunks on those cold camp nights, this year was definitely one to remember.
In addition to my actual experiences at camp and the friends I’ve spent them with, the staff has played a large role in my time at camp. I’d especially like to thank the staff members that I’ve had that have looked past my flaws and appreciated the deeper aspects of my personality. To Jeff Cho, Tae Lim, Kavin Chung, and Edmond Cha, thanks so much for not only listening to and understanding me, but thank you for also being older brothers to me. In addition, I’d like to thank the staff for their continued devotion to this program; as there would be no camp without them.
In closing, I’d like to emphasize how amazing I think this camp is, it was such an honor to write something held in such high regard, and I hope that what I’ve wrote here truly portrayed the profound effect it’s had on me. I just hope that the younger campers keep on coming, and develop a love for this camp that I have.
August 18th, 2006
Several years ago, as an intermediate camper, I had the opportunity to contribute to the time capsule for that year. However, I declined, thinking that of all the campers at camp I had sadly taken the least from it, and the next year I would not return to camp. Years passed and I found myself returning to camp as a staff member. This year I was once again nominated to contribute to the time capsule. Upon hearing this I immediately became eager to do this, not because it was a chance for redemption, but because I finally felt that I had grasp on what Sae Jong Camp has to offer.
As a staff member I had the opportunity to experience a few aspects of camp life; the first being that of staff life and duties. I was a late addition to staff, so coming in I was behind and relatively lost. As a weak sauce attempt to prepare myself, I began to pump myself up and build expectations for the coming week. What I didn’t take into account and what I never could have prepared myself for was the spirit of camp and its campers. I was taken aback by the smiles on the faces of the juniors as I read them Korean fables; the involvement of the seniors as we had discussions in identity; the amount of dedication in my elective class; and the amount of respect throughout all of camp. There was a definite living, breathing energy that inspired me and drove me throughout the week. This camp is thriving with respect, spirit and companionship.
There was even an overwhelming sense of commradery within staff itself. Reflecting on being a part of staff, my mind always seemed to wander to my first real initiation of being thrown into the water. Although I’m sure this is not the last incident I will experience, I noticed that as I was standing up from the lake, soaked in water, I felt an odd sense of acceptance. Even though I didn’t see this as I was flying so gracefully into the water, this was an unorthodox metaphor for Sae Jong Camp. If you let it, this camp can engulf you and capsize you in a sea of compassion; acceptance; solidarity; community and indestructible, everlasting bonds. This feeling of uncontrived, genuine acceptance; acceptance without question nor pretense is a rare blessing. It is a feeling similar to that of the unconditional ties of a family.
Being adopted, I know very well that family is not created or defined by biological ties or genetic lineage. Family is made through trust, love, hope, companionship, community and friendship. Family is made through Sae Jong Camp.
August 12th, 2005
Hi my name is Jami. I wrote this because I have to and because I wanted to. So here it goes. This past week I learned about Korean history, culture, and language. But also about my friends. I mean, all cabins like to have fun, don’t they? I think everyone at Sae Jong Camp did. So, let this next half day be cheerful and do good on capers, and have fun!
August 12th, 2005
Hi, I’m Jason. I’m 14 and this is my first year at camp.
When my dad told me I had to go to this camp, I was expecting to do just a ton of stuff all day. When I found out we had to actually do work. I was bummed. But when I actually did it, it wasn’t too bad at all, even though we didn’t win a shu shu cause our cabin sucked at sweeping.
My experience here was better than any other camp I’ve been to. Here, there was more activities and the counselors interact with you well. The counselors treat you more as a friend or a brother than a person that gives you orders.
The real reason why I came was to see my friends and meet new ones. And that’s what happened. And I got to hang out with one of my best friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. And hanging out with her was the best thing that happened when I was here. And hanging out with friends gives you this one certain feelings I guess. And I think that’s what camp is all about.
August 12th, 2005
This year, camp was full of expectations, uncertainties, and changes. Before camp started, I wasn’t that excited. It almost felt like a routine. “Oh you know it’s tme for Sae Jong Camp.” Of course I was disappointed that it was my last year, but I still didn’t feel the same excitement as I had the 7 times before. This was until the night before, when I was putting off packing ’till the last minute and I was talking to Tiffany, Jeff, and Billy and we were talking about some of the memories we’ll never forget. I still didn’t know what to expect though. I had been to session one before and it was a whole new experience. I had also been traumatized by the zebra curtains. But after spending a week together I realized that the combined session wasn’t as bad as I had feared. In fact it was pretty awesome. Maria was such a great counselor! She got us through the crazy confusion of getting ready for dinner themes, and helped us survive campout without beds. Kiva Left “what what” was the best. All you girls are so special. This year made me realize more than ever just how much this camp means to me. It is a part of me. Who I was and who I have become. This one week is one of very few chances I get to experience “true Korean-ness!” Nowhere else could I get made fun of for not knowing colors in Korean. Another thing I expected to be different was having Ben on staff. He did such a great job through teaching his drum class and keeping cabin five under control. He made such an awesome counselor and I’m so proud to have him as my oppah. I know I didn’t get to know all of you campers as much as I wanted to but you each brought a special uniqueness to camp. Some of you however I have known for so long. Victor, I do remember the KCC planning meetings long ago & when you dropped off the camp forms at my house when I decided to go to camp the week before. For so many years I have looked to you as a mentor & role model. I would be honored to work with you on staff someday. To all my seniors I love you so much. No one knows what the future holds, but hopefully it will be full of many more wonderful years of Sae Jong Camp!
August 12th, 2005
I’d be lying f I said this wasn’t my plan all along.
Tell the truth, though, the path hasn’t quite been what I’d envisioned.
Actually, as I wrote this I’m sitting in the boys’ greenie… but that’s a different story
And no, I didn’t wait until the dead-last minute… it’s just that after the celebration tonight, I really didn’t think my first set of words were adequate.
Ok, location change. Beachfront. Truly, the most beautiful weeks of my life have been spent here… cliche, I know, but true.
So at the heart of every closing campfire speech is the idea of what SJC means. So what does it mean to me?
Mary Lee could tell you. I’ve watched her during drumming, or playing mook jee bbah, or during junior classes learning, admiring, building an identity that’s more than facts and faces, moments and songs: it’s spirit. What people like her teach people like me is that the future is safe, bound only to be better than the now. Maybe people like me can make a difference.
Emily Evans could tell you. Truthfully, who knows me better? As her oppah, it has been my job to watch out for her, guide her, but she’s beyond that now, in terms of camp. No, she’s a senior girl, a member of the group that sets the pace even as the boys become the names. She’s seen me more into this role, full of intentions that spell out everything. Synonymous with “passing it on.” Because she has and always will be my first recipient. Maybe people like me can change the world.
Kavin Chung would tell you. The role model, the confidant, the friend… even as I move to become these things to a new group of people, he sets the standard incredibly high.
Kavin would tell you that to be on staff is not to need camp for yourself, but to need to give back all that camp has given you. And he would tell you, as I would, that the most sacred of moments come from that which is given, freely, in the spirit of camp.
The spirit of camp… once something I came to get, I now return to give. This, my friends, is why I believe so strongly in Sae Jong Camp.
Thank you, cabin 5, for teaching me how to be a counselor. I hope that your faith in me has been as strong as my faith in you.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t my intention all along. Frankly, though, I should’ve guessed at the path.
All good things come to an end… Sae Jong Camp, as I know it, is now passed into memory.
Yet, like our closing campfire, the ashes of each passing, uniquely beautiful year will be rekindled, and the spirit of camp will warm our hearts again.
I’ve always wanted to say that.
August 13th, 2004 – SJC Session 1
Hi. My name is Claire O’Brien and I am going to tell you what SJC means to me. First of all, SJC means a lot to me because I can see all my friends again and make even more. Also, SJC means a lot to me because it helps me become more confident about myself and feel even better about being Korean. But most of all it means a lot to me because I can learn more about being Korean and actually be around other Koreans. So thank you for listening to what SJC means to me.
August 13th, 2004 – SJC Session 1
Hi. My name is Nathan Guttendorf, and this is my second year at camp. The reason I came back is because I met a lot of new friends. I felt like I was in a place where everyone knows what I was feeling, I felt like I am at a place where I belong. The morning classes helped me learn about myself and my culture. The afternoon classes were a lot of fun. Evening activities are always a lot of fun. My favorite is skit night. The counselors are nice and almost always willing to help. Last year I had Woei as a counselor. Almost every second of free time Woei had he would sleep. This year I have a counselor who cross dresses and a CIT who is short (no offense Kevin). Even though I had a short CIT and a cross dressing counselor they were and are good role models. I had almost the same cabin this year. My good friend Adam Schwartz, my fellow drummer Clayton Spencer, and Alex Dermody an almost exact copy of Chris Ensor that some of you might remember from last year. Camp is a great experience and for those of you that are leaving I hope to see you again.
August 13th, 2004 – SJC Session 1
To me, SJC has been more than just a campground where a person can swim and eat terrible camp food, but an escape from the daily pressures of life, and a seclusion where the rest of the world disappears. Time seems to stand still, and for one week there is no one else in the world besides 80 Korean Americans. There are only loud obnoxious camp songs to sing, and there are only the sounds of laughter and gentle waves crashing together. Over the last five years, Sae Jong Camp has nonetheless seized to become my second home.
One quality that I have gained from SJC is Korean pride and a stronger Korean identity. It hasn’t been only the morning classes that have shaped my Korean identity but the more simple routines of camp like playing mook-jee-bah, singing sah-rang-hae, and even repeating the only Korean phrase you know over and over. Although these events seem like they would have a minimal effect, they are exactly the things I never have the chance to do at home. SJC’s sense of unity, and goal to have a fun-filled Korean week always makes me proud of my background and who I am.
Furthermore, I have learned many life lessons here – everything from knowing to bring lots of warm clothing, to what being a friend truly means. Sae Jong Camp has taught me that you can never predict what life will throw your way, but you can always get through it, and others are willing to help. The compassion of the SJC staff and campers always amazes me, and makes me strive to be a better person.
Lastly but definitely not least, I cherish mostly the friendships that I have made. To me, friendships here are unique. Only here are you able to have discussions about eyelid creases, and dance to K-pop music. Even though every camper here is unique on the inside, we still have an undeniable connection that I am proud to share with all of you.
To Kiva Left and all my other friends here, I love each relationship that I have with every one of you, and you mean more to me than words can express. Every one of your unique qualities amazes, and It has been an honor growing up with you.
Right now, I am about finished with this, and this whole moment seems surreal. Suddenly I realize that putting what I have gotten out of camp into words is harder than I had expected. Sae Jong Camp has become my home and family. It is a spirit that always gives me pride and hope.
August 13th, 2004 – SJC Session 1
Hi. I don’t know if I should feel honored or mad about the fact that I was selected to do the staff time capsule. At first I was reluctant to do it, but then I realized that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be asked to come back next year. So now that I’m up here, Jeanah… promise me I’m coming back, or I’m stopping now.
So, one of the things that I’ve been hearing a lot this week is that I’m very monotone. People say that my voice never changes, which just isn’t true at all. Now I’ll show you that my voice can change according to my mood. Okay, this is how I sound happy… now I’m angry… now this is me sleepy. But enough of that, back to my happy voice again.
With all kidding aside, this week has just been awesome… there are no other words to describe it. I want to thank Jeanah, Victor, Mark, the rest of the staff, and all the campers for making me feel so welcome and comfortable. I can honestly say that you have all opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed. To a world that many people back home don’t even know exists, but should. To a world where we might seem different, but are all really so similar. To a world where listening and understanding is just as important as the water on the lake, or the trees that surround us. Over the past week, like a dry sponge, I’ve soaked up a lot of things people have said and done, feeling my heart and mind grow bigger with each passing day from all the things that I’ve been learning about people.
Most of the staff and campers have been coming here for years. Some have told that this is their second, fourth, or even seventh year at camp. Most of you have made Sae Jong Camp a part of your lives. All this week, one of the lines that I’ve been hearing a lot is, “it just wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t come to camp.” Hearing this numerous times from different people made me think a lot, it made me think, hey maybe it would be good for everyone if they got to hear a fresh and new perspective of camp. Just think of me as a really big, brand new junior camper, who is wide-eyed and scared of what’s to come of the week and can eloquently express themselves at a high school level.
First I’ll start with the campsite. Westminster is breathtaking, even with cloudy and cold weather. The first day I got here, I loved the sound of the dirt under my feet, especially the sound of walking down the trails and hearing a twig snap under my feet here and there. The smell of the air was clean, and refreshing. The archaic buildings and cabins that were dated from so far back ago made me feel like I was in a movie. The dirt trails made me want to wander off alone, hoping that it would lead me to some great surprise.
Next I’ll start with the meals. I was expecting some really bad food this week, just because I didn’t really know what to expect (I mean, this is summer camp and all). But the food served here was all really good, actually better than the stuff I eat at home. And I learned what the term, “scraping,” meant. The whole process of scraping the food off all the plates was pretty weird to me, and even made me feel bad to the kids who had to do it. But something that was even weirder to me when I first found out about it was the singing. When I saw tables getting up and singing camp songs, I didn’t really understand it. All I could think was, aren’t we supposed to be eating and not singing. But now I realize that the camp spirit is voiced through songs and music, and without it, camp could not exist.
The third thing I’ll talk about is the people. I have learned so much this past week, from the staff and the campers. Whether it was from listening to my guys in cabin 4, staying up for hours gossiping and getting to know each other, or listening to campers speak sincerely and honestly about their lives in identity classes, you have all taught me so much. You might not know who you are, but I want to thank you. Thank you for listening to me and trying to get to know me. Thank you for accepting me, even if you thought we had nothing in common. Thank you for accepting me, a new person, and letting me share your camp experience with you. And if you don’t think I have anything in common with you, I do. I hurt, get sad, happy and frustrated, just like you. Like anybody else, I too have gone through things that I thought would break me, but then I wouldn’t let them shake me.
I’ll stop here with my perspective on camp. I hope that this has given you guys a small glimpse into my brain and helps you understand me a little bit more. And also it might remind you of your first time at camp, so don’t forget and always remember and appreciate how soft the sand is under your feet, how beautiful the lake is at night, how nightly silence can be broken with one person’s laughter from another cabin, how the dark night can be brightened up by a single flashlight, how the greenies have electricity and working plumbing, how all the graffiti and tagging in the cabins can take you into another world, and how talking all night with your cabin mates can be the start of a beautiful relationship. This is our last night here, and I ask you guys to appreciate all the little things here, like it was your first night ever at Westminster because it’s the little things in life that count.
August 20th, 2004 – SJC Session 2
Hi! My name is David Yang from Cabin 1. This is my first year as a camper and I enjoyed it very much.
My counselors were very cool. They were really nice to our cabin. They helped us out a lot of times. If we didn’t have the two counselors I don’t know what would happen to our cabin.
One of the favorite things I did was the activities I did in the afternoon. I had fun playing sports and canoeing. The best part about canoeing was flipping over. You would get soaked. That’s what happened to me twice.
Other favorite things I did were the rally and the dance night. We did these after dinner. The rally was really fun. What our group had to do is get clues, solve problems and run all over the campground. Our group finished first. Yeah.
The dance night was also really fun. I had a great time. Our whole cabin danced at least one song. But one of my friends and I danced for a really long time. The dance night was the best.
I had a super time at SJC. I was really glad I came this year. I wish I come here next year. Thank you for listening.
August 20th, 2004 – SJC Session 2
Even though this is only my fourth year of coming to Sae Jong Camp, I feel like I’ve been making this three-hour journey up north to Higgins Lake every second week of August for my whole life. I was skeptical of coming before my first year because I didn’t know anybody, or how they were going to treat me, but when I got here everyone invited me with open arms. That first year I also realized that I wasn’t the only Cha. This whole time, I’ve built friendships to last a lifetime with never-ending memories to go along with them, like having late night cabin “pow-wows” and chats about things that I shouldn’t say out loud… *cough cough*
Even if this camp seems to be getting smaller and smaller by the year, my love continues to grow for my friends and the camp itself, because this camp has taught me to be proud to be a Korean. Another fantastic week of Sae Jong Camp is coming to a close, I look forward to coming back to camp to see my friends, make some new ones, have my first year as a Kiva girl, and most importantly, make more memories.
August 20th, 2004 – SJC Session 2
This past week has flown by so fast, as time tends to do when you’re having fun. I guess it’s impossible to turn seconds into minutes and allow us to capture every moment we’ve spent here. This is why I can’t stress how important it is to keep coming back and live every second to the fullest.
I’ve been coming to Sae Jong Camp for 6 years now, and every week seems to go by faster as we reach the end. I do not consider this the ultimate end though. I’d say it is the end of one chapter of my life, and the beginning of a brand new chapter that will have as many opportunities and possibilities as its predecessor. The time I have spent here at Higgins Lake and Camp Westminster have been truly amazing. The relationships I have built and the memories I have made are priceless.
I still remember every cabin, counselor, CIT and crush I’ve ever had here at camp, and every paper plate award I’ve ever received. I remember my first time at SJC all those years ago when Victor was my counselor. I find it amazing how he is now the camp director and I’m here standing before you at my last closing campfire. I look back and don’t know where the time’s gone. I still feel like the same little sixth grader full of excitement every time August rolls around and camp is just a few weeks away.
The slight crash of the waves and the cold air in the morning remind me of camp as much as my first year in identity or being nervous before my first camp dance. I remember playing gotcha hug and watermelon football, and a certain camper desecrating the boy’s greenie one year. I will never forget Adam’s late night endeavors into the lake and Chris’ midnight conversations on andromeda and whatever random astrology information popped into his head. I may be getting a little off topic but my point is that memories made here certainly don’t stay here, they are carried with you long after you leave.
This camp is so much more than we tell our friends about. It is more than a week of learning about the language, the history and modern state of our homeland. It is even more than gaining insight on how to deal with racism, and issues on adoption. This is the place where you make friendships that last a lifetime, and memories that you will never forget. Camp is too meaningful to put into words completely. It is bigger than any of us as individuals and I hope we never forget that.
August 20th, 2004 – SJC Session 2
I was a camper who attended both sessions for five or six years, skipping year in between. My senior friends and I left our last year of camp telling each other that, “I’m going to apply for staff!” The next year, I was one of the three who actually did. Jeanah was my very first counselor, and now here I am working side by side with her.
When I was told that I was on the staff team I was thrilled! It was a lot of work going to the meetings, preparing lesson plans, and some nights staying up until 2am talking on the phone discussing classes, but in the end it was all worth it, even though after much struggling to escape, I was thrown in the lake twice. When campers come up to me and tell me their favorite class is identity, or they say that they think my dance class is so much fun puts a smile on my face. The smallest comments let me know that all my hard work has paid off.
I admit it was difficult transitioning from camper to counselor. I couldn’t be as close to my friends that were still campers than I used to be, but in the end, it was all right. I agreed to take on a different role by applying for staff.
I was originally going to attend Sae Jong Camp on staff for the second session, but I was asked to do both sessions. At first, I was a little hesitant, but I liked the challenge. At both sessions I had an amazing time for my first year on staff. Both campers and staff members made me feel more welcome than I could show for others.
It’s an incredible feeling knowing that the campers had a great time, learned from me, and were safe at camp. Now that all these three tasks are complete, I know that my role as a staff member for this year is also complete.
August 20th, 2004 – SJC Session 2
Dear campers, counselors, Victor & Jeanah,
Once again the week has sped by more quickly than anyone wants. Jon Jon and I are somewhere over Nebraska about now and we’ll be back in California in a few hours.
But our hearts will remain with you, and at Camp for many days to come.
The warmth of your friendship, the songs running through our heads and the laughter during the week made it very hard to leave you all.
As you may know, my parents were among the founders of Sae Jong Camp. They hoped it would be a place for us to learn, have fun and find a common bond.
I’m more than pleased than I can say that Camp has flourished and grown for 29 years… and I’m sure that my parents are too.
And, I’m simply delighted that my son was a camper this year – it means a great deal to me.
Thank you all for making us welcome. And a special thanks to the counselors, Victor and Jeanah for carrying on the work that we started in 1976.
I hope that in the fullness of time all of you will know the joy I felt this week – and that someday your children will be here at Camp basking in the glow of the love we share.
With warmest regards and best wishes to you all,
August 8th, 2003 – SJC Session 1
I’ve been going to SJC for three years. I keep coming back to Sae Jong Camp because you get to be with other Korean people and you learn about where you came from. Going to SJC changes how I feel every year but one thing never changes I’ll always be proud being Korean. I think everyone comes back to Sae Jong Camp because it’s a part of who they are. This year meant a lot to me because this is my last year being a junior.
August 8th, 2003 – SJC Session 1
Hey everyone, if you don’t know me, my name is David Urick and this is my first and last year at Sae Jong Camp. So I’m writing this so you will remember me hopefully. New friends back home. They love you for who are, not what you dress like, not for who you hang out with, or who or what you like. When I first got here I taught I was going to have the worst week of my life. I said to myself, “There is nothing anyone could do or say to change my mind.” I couldn’t be anymore wrong. I think it’s beautiful when people of the same race come together and share their language, culture, and realize who they are and why they’re here. For any of you who wonder if being adopted wasn’t meant to happen to you, you can think that but just remember that in no way was it your fault and you were given to a family that loves you just as much as any other family loves their children. It may make you cry or want to cry but you’ve made a difference and I have so much respect for you. This week has been a blessing for me and I’m saddened beyond reason to know I won’t be able to come here again. I’ve met so many people that have made an impact on my life and the people I haven’t gotten to know, I would like to. I’d like to end my year at camp by saying, “I hope I see you all again.”
August 8th, 2003 – SJC Session 1
Well here we are again. It’s the end of the week, and the end of another great experience at Sae Jong Camp – I think we can all agree that this past week has been quite a ride. Where does time runaway to? Like the Higgins Lake sand that slips right through your fingers, time seems to lose itself and return back to where it came. In the end, we all pack up and go home, right? But what is it that we keep? What is it that we go home with? I think it’s a little more than just new friendships and cultural awareness, which by all means are great. However, at the core of camp is the mission to help Korean adoptees understand who they are, and to equip themselves with the means to live in the world as their own person.
Throughout my years here as a camper I have seen everything there is to see. I’ve felt the drama, the love, the same trials and tribulations that you have experienced. I’ve sat at the water’s edge and gazed out at the picturesque image that laid before me in total silence as I contemplated the very meaning of my existence – my existence – the existence of a Korean adoptee, it seems to equal no other at time. Other times it seems meaningless and insignificant. Like a world turned over, ours is unique.
Finding our place within this world is usually one of the most challenging aspects of being Korean adopted. This world is constantly changing. Like life, continuity is nonexistent, and the way in which we live is always under attack by outside elements. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
The good characteristics involving change are too often overlooked. It is all too easy to concentrate on the negative, even when the positive is right in front of you. Without change, imagine how narrow your perspective on life would be. Without change imagine how pointless life would become. Even this camp, its ideals and its people cannot escape change. I remember my first year when a few of my cabin mates said they just weren’t feeling camp in the way that they used to. I myself thought that this idea was absurd, because it was my first year and I was just simply having a blast. But now, three years later, I can understand completely. I have looked at some of you and even talked about it. To those who look at camp differently now, perhaps try to broaden your horizons. Understand that change is a part of life and that sacrifice is required to learn some of life’s most important lessons. Take a look down the road at where you will be in five or ten years. Perhaps you’ll be in high school, perhaps college, or perhaps you will be standing at the threshold of your freedom, that one moment where you are on the open road or standing in the middle of a bustling city street amongst a multitude of different jobs. That one singular instance where you can truly ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” What then? Will you be ready? To take on anything that comes your way? To face the world head on and embrace your own existence with that of the world’s.
To quote a line from a friend’s poem, “To find happiness there is one place to begin your search. That is deep down inside of you, look within yourself. Because you know you better than anyone else.”
The very core of camp – the most important lesson to learn is to be your own individual. To have the ability to walk through life with confidence, knowing who you are, understanding your heritage, and knowing that you are not alone in this world – a world whose change is its evolution into something better.
The little rewards of life are great. Next time you exit the fast lane for a moment of relaxation, just take a little time to step back and look at this big picture called life. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Challenge the world as well as yourself to explore and experience the world to the greatest extent possible. And always always follow your heart. You are Korean adopted, you are your own individual, you are free.
My cabin, you are my brothers, I love you all like a fat kid loves cake. And to everyone else, I truly love you all and only hope to see you someday again.
August 8th, 2003 – SJC Session 1
6 months ago, Sae Jong Camp wasn’t even existent in my mind…I had no idea what it was, what influence it would have on me, or know the people I would meet.
4 months ago, Sae Jong Camp became an idea of something fun to do for the summer.
3 months ago, Sae Jong Camp officially became a place to work for me as Jeanah called to invite me to become a CIT.
2 months ago, Sae Jong Camp staff welcomed me at a meeting and I embarked on a special journey.
1 month ago, Sae Jong Camp was around the corner and I nervously waited and planned my assigned tasks, using color coded notes and folders, knowing fully well that the staff would think I was a little “special.”
1 week ago, Sae Jong Camp became a reality as I arrived in Michigan to meet the staff and head to Camp Westminster.
5 days ago Sae Jong Camp became a wonderful campground on a beautiful lake. A place where I would have to meet 101 campers AND learn all the camp songs.
And today, Sae Jong Camp is a whole other world. It surpassed my expectations beyond my most imaginable belief and I have each and every one of you to thank for it.
When I first heard of Sae Jong Camp, it caught my interest because it was the type of camp that I had always wanted to go to and be a part of. I am very proud of my culture and heritage and is such an important part of my life. The opportunity to spread knowledge of this incredible culture, learn more about myself and others, and make new friends to last a lifetime, was such an exciting prospect for me.
As time went on and I talked to more people about SJC, I heard the same thing over and over again. “You’ll get very little sleep, but it will be one of the best weeks of your life.” If only I had known how much truth was in that one statement.
I have to admit, that at first, camp was very overwhelming. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what I was doing, I had no idea what to sing, or even where to go. And when all the cars and buses arrived, it was a sea of faces of people whose names I would have to learn. And as overwhelming as it all was…I overcame it. How could I not? I began to meet everyone, learned all the SJC traditions and can now proudly say that I know almost all of the motions to the camp songs – although I’m still working on the words to some of them.
I’ve come to learn many things – about camp, about the staff, about the campers, and about myself. SJC isn’t just any ordinary camp. I definitely figured that out. It’s hard to describe, but it seems like another world. I left my hip and happening city in Ohio and came to a place where everyone had something in common – where everyone had many of the same interests. Watching how everyone worked together – whether it was getting the Golden Shoe Shoe (Yeaaaa Kiva Right!), cleaning up the table, the Olympics, or singing songs – unity was so prevalent in the air around us. Unity is an important part of life – and we’ve got it.
Each and every person at camp is so incredible and special in their own way. To the people I worked with, aka the staff, thank you so much for the continuing support and guidance you provided me with – especially in the beginning when I was very nervous and scared. You taught me things that I didn’t know, you accepted me with open arms, and you made me feel so comfortable in such a new environment – even if it was by teasing me. To the campers, thank you so much for allowing me to be your CIT…for allowing me to teach you what I know…and for giving me the opportunity to get to know all of you. Being at Sae Jong Camp and being around everyone here has influenced me in a way that I’ve never felt before. There’s so much love in the air. So much happiness. And so much unity. Everyone strives to include their peers, and everyone wants to have a good time.
To the girls of my cabin, Kiva Right. What can I say? Thank you for being such a great cabin. You are a part of what made this week so incredibly awesome. We had our good times and our rough times, but through it all, we are still one cabin. I am so proud of each and every one of you. We got through our differences, we changed our outlook and we made it. We made it for each other. When times were rough, we allowed ourselves to see the big situation. We allowed ourselves to see that we were about to miss out on the greatest week…and we changed so we COULD make it an awesome week. Thank you for allowing me to be a good CIT, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be goofy, thank you for listening to me, and thank you for still liking me even during my ridiculous moments.
Sae Jong Camp has also changed me. Before camp, I had my hyper and ridiculous moments, but nowhere close to the times I’ve had here. I was a pretty shy girl ESPECIALLY in situations where I didn’t know anyone. I overcame that challenge. I spoke up. I took the initiative to talk to people I didn’t know and allowed myself to learn. I was able to learn about the world. The Sae Jong world. My experience at Sae Jong Camp has been indescribable. There are no words to describe it. The words that I have just said aren’t even close to giving justice to what I have experienced here. But I have tried my best.
As the week comes to a close, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by. I can’t believe this incredible journey that I have just gone on. I will forever cherish the moments of this week. I will always remember the greenies with the daddy long legs who kept busting in on my shower, I will always remember being able to bond with my cabin girls and co-counselor. I will always remember having to re-pack my bag every night because I decided to bring my entire life with me. I will always remember the gorgeous moon over the lake and attempting to see a shooting star. I will always remember my dances with the handsome Adam Schwartz, Greg Lobert, Jon Wiley, Stitch. I will always remember the moment when we won the Golden Shoe Shoe. I will always remember the special people that I have met and what a special place Sae Jong Camp is. I have loved every single moment that I have been here. I love every single person that I have met. And I can’t wait until next year because I’ll DEFINITELY be back.
August 15th, 2003 – SJC Session 2
When I was going to camp I was very nervous. But when I came it was so exciting and so much fun. The best thing was all the subjects that I had. They were very fun. Learning Tae kwon do was very fun. I love going swimming and canoeing it is tons of fun and cool. I had lots of fun learning language it was a lot of work but it was fun learning outside. Identity was so much fun. It made me know myself better, and what kind of person I was. That is why I like this camp.
August 15th, 2003 – SJC Session 2
Hi, I’m David Yong Ha Cook, and this is my fourth summer at Sae Jong Camp. In a couple weeks, I’ll be a freshman at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Michigan.
When I was asked to write this, I honestly had no clue what I would say. I’m not a camp legend, and hopefully, this won’t be my last time here. As I sit in my bunk staring out my window at crystal clear Higgins Lake, ideas flow into my head. Ideas about what to pack for SJC 2004, ideas about what to write and ideas that have nothing to do with this. I think I’m ready to begin now.
Some people my ask, “Why would you go to a camp with only Koreans?” I think the answer is fairly simple. To Learn. Not learn book knowledge, but to learn about the language and culture of my homeland, and to learn about myself as a person. Also, to learn about other people, and what they think about being Korean. Just as important as learning however, there’s another half of my answer. I come for the people. I come to see old friends, and to make new ones. A whole week with my friends at a beautiful camp. There isn’t much better than that in my opinion. Tomorrow, when we leave, there’ll be tears and goodbyes, and one last rendition of “Lean on me.” And then, we’ll ride home and hopefully see each other before next year. Remember that the friends we make here are forever our friends. The people that we meet here are crucial. I guess what I’m trying to say is every time you come here, meet new people. Trust me, you’ll never forget them.
Watching the tennis tournament, I notice that the ball is there and gone in the blink of an eye. Time is the same way when I’m here. It seems like we were just boarding the bus yesterday. And here we are at the closing campfire. For those of you who are depressed by this, just remember that the other fifty-one weeks in the year will go by just as fast as this one did.
What do I love about camp the most? The fact that you can be yourself here and no one will laugh at you for it. In society today, you can’t act naturally without being shunned. Here, just be yourself and you’ll do great. Here, you can sing, dance, and do stupid stuff because everyone here is in the same boat. We’ve all been mocked by the Caucasian society for being Korean at least once. No one understands us anyways, so we can look stupid and be cool with it.
Every week here is unique. Never will you do the same things in morning classes, never will you do the same skit, never will you dance with the exact same people, and never will people say the same stupid, funny things. Between winning four golden Shu-Shus and doing a skit named after a Monty Python movie (both completely new experiences in their own right), my cabin shared some humorous moments, I’m sure yours did too. Don’t try to remember everything because the things that are truly important you will always remember.
At another camp, the director proposed this question, “If you weren’t at this camp, what would you be doing?” Now, I ask you that same question. For those of you who said you’d be hanging out with friends, may I remind you that you would not know a lot of your friends if not for this place. And we wouldn’t know a lot about ourselves.
That’s about it. I only have one more thing to say: “Dae Han Min Gook”, “The People’s Republic of Korea”. Don’t forget your heritage.
August 15th, 2003 – SJC Session 2
My name is Karen Kirkpatrick, I’m 17 and this is my 3rd and final year here as a camper. The past few years I really struggled and never allowed myself to really have a good time at camp. But because this is my last year I tried so hard to make it the best. I even attended both sessions. Coming from first session I knew this week would be different. I can’t even begin to explain how much this session has changed my outlook on life. First session was always a challenge. There were so many campers, so many crushes, so much drama. I never truly belonged in that environment. I always felt left out and thought I must need to change who I am, something must not be right with me. I thought I had to be something I couldn’t be to get along with my cabinmates. Now I know I never needed to be anything but me. I just needed the confidence. That’s why I’m so glad I came this week. If I hadn’t I probably would have left Sae Jong Camp and never looked back. This session I’ve felt as though I truly belong, that I’m supported and loved for who I am. People listen when I talk and include me in everything. I have also taken more pride in who I am this year. I sat back, and took everything in these past two weeks. I’ve realized I am not alone in this world. There are so many people of all ages who can understand how I feel. I can come to camp and see other people who look like me. Sometimes I forget that I’m Korean because I live in such a predominantly white area. It’s such an amazing experience to come together and spend time with other Korean Americans. I’m so glad I kept coming back to SJC. It has become a part of who I am. Camp will continue to be a part of my life. I can’t live without it. I hope to become a staff member but I also know I’ll always have fond memories to carry with me. There will always be a place in my heart for Sae Jong Camp!
August 15th, 2003 – SJC Session 2
Wow! Where to start? For me being a CIT was no question. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a camper. And now I finally am one. Although, I’m not going to lie, the fears of messing something up or not understanding what I was supposed to do made me question what I was getting myself into. But now I can’t imagine not wanting to apply to staff.
I could never even begin to imagine the hard work that went into preparing for camp. All the meetings before camp even started… Making the lesson plans and itineraries for all the morning and afternoon classes and trying to make them fun and interesting for all of you. Not to mention all the late night staff meetings. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sleep deprived in my life!
But despite the lack of sleep, the crazy stress and everything in between, all the hard work paid off. Seeing everyone with smiles on their faces and hearing all the laughter is beautiful.
I’m so amazed at the fact that so many people with so many different ways of life can somehow all join together through our Korean –American identities and look beyond what people’s roles may be back at home in their schools and with friends that we see them for who they really are through unbiased eyes. This experience has been so rewarding and here’s another week’s worth of memories to pack away. And although it’s over for now, it’s good to know that I can always come back next year for my annual dosage of camp memories here at Sae Jong Camp!