Monday, September 28, 2009

NBTSC 2009

Now, how to write about this? I have a mild head cold, so my brain feels rather stuffed up and slow, yet I don't really want to put off writing about NBTSC because I'm sure too much of it will slip past my mind if I wait too long! I don't want to write about it in a chronological way, as I have with the conferences I've been too, so I'll try something different...

To start with, as you'll know from my earlier posts, I wasn't looking forward to NBTSC all that much. I felt like I may have been getting sick, and like camp, perhaps, wasn't right for me at this time. However, from the moment I got there, things were vastly better than I'd thought they'd be! I knew a huge portion of the people there, so instead of being overwhelmed by all the people rushing around, I was cheerfully greeting old acquaintances and friends and happily talking to new folk as well! It amazed me that I genuinely wasn't feeling very shy... I didn't feel like hiding in a corner, or only talking to people I knew well. I was quite happy conversing with those both new and old! So the week got off to a good start in that way. And the getting sick bit I'd worried about didn't happen. :-) Also, we were put into our advisee groups that first evening (advisee groups are groups of about 10 campers and one staffer who meet daily to check in about how they're feeling, play games, or just generally do whatever they want within that group), and the staffer for my group was actually the person I was hoping I'd get after reading the staff bio's on the NBTSC website!! He's a green anarchist, and just a totally awesome guy all around. So that was really cool. :-) Also, I simply loved my advisee group as a whole! The people were awesome, and it was just a really nice atmosphere.

The first night was fucking COLD! That wasn't so cool. I slept badly, was really sore in the morning, and although I was fine in the daytime, that second evening was the worst I felt in terms of mental well-being the whole week. I wasn't really homesick, but I sure as hell was warmth-sick!! However, my mom had dropped off extra blankets around supper time on the first full day (she was staying at a local campground for a couple of nights) so despite my worries that I'd have another horrible night, I slept just fine. :-)

From then on out, the week was just great! I had some wonderful conversations about anti-civilizationism/green anarchy with multiple people, listened to a very interesting debate about anti-civ stuff between other people, had conversations about freeganism, nontraditional paths (i.e. not going to college and/or getting a normal job), unschooling, politics, and a ton of other awesome things. I love the fact that at camp, Monsanto is a bad word, and that if I made some comment dissing corporations, mainstream media, government, or similar, it was practically guaranteed that at least one or two people who heard would instantly jump in with agreement! That freedom to state my opinions openly felt really good. Now, that doesn't mean that most peoples opinions were as overall... extreme(?) as mine, just that I found common ground with many people. I have to thank Julie for her Utopia workshop, and Mike for also being a green anarchist, because those two things made me brave enough to openly talk about my views, when usually I'm not willing to in big groups since I *know* everyone will disagree vehemently and I'll end up feeling bad! After that first time, being open about my views was much easier for the rest of the week. :-)

I also just really felt that I made a lot of good connections with people. Some were small connections, with people I never really talked to, but we'd always share a smile. Others I felt a really strong connection with, whether or not we talked much, or simply spent a lot of time with each other! That felt really good. And I really, really want to keep in touch with people. I also think that anyone from camp who's ever in the area should come visit me. ;-)

Oh, and I also exercised a lot more than I usually do. I was up and down the rocky hill to my cabin multiple times a day, and also went on a great but quite difficult hike (up the side of a mountain. The view from the top of the trail was incredible!), canoed out to a rope swing and swam (now that was tons of fun but damn, that water was COLD!), and just generally wasn't nearly as much of a couch potato as usual. :-P Something I'm actually missing already about camp (besides the people, which is a given) is the amazing, healthy, 100% vegetarian food! So. Good.

So yes, NBTSC was good this year. I still don't really feel like it was *life-changing* as such, but it was certainly good. I befriended amazing people, had some great times, and yeah, it was just generally really *good*. :-)

Now, remember how I said I managed to stay healthy the whole week? Well, on Saturday when my mom picked Emi and I up from camp, I felt fine. However, not long into the drive home, my throat started feeling scratchy. Talk about timing! So I do have an actual cold now, but so far it's mild (*knocks on wood*) so I'm not overly bothered. I'm just hibernating for a few days while I get better, and then I'm going to go out into the world! :-) I do feel inspired in some ways, and I've committed myself to making some changes in my life. Many fairly minor, one or two more major. And, well, I'll just have to see how that goes. :-)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on NBTSC

I leave for Not Back to School Camp on Saturday!! My feelings on going are really mixed, and honestly, right now, I'm not really looking forward to it.

Last year was my first time at NBTSC, and I really didn't have as good a time as I could have... I found being in such a large, high energy group with no one whom I knew well to be incredibly stressful, and then I got a nasty cold on top of that. I wrote very honestly of my experiences last year here if you want to check it out. Come late Winter, however, I really wanted to do it right. To actually be more social, and really get all that I could get out of being with a large group of unschoolers! However, about a month ago, basically when I realized NBTSC was so close, I started feeling that it really wasn't right for me, for where I am in life right now. Now, I don't really feel that I do know what's *right* for me right now, and as a wise friend pointed out, perhaps I'll discover that at NBTSC! Then of course there's also the issue of sleeping outside in two walled cabins in the cold September nights of Vermont, the open air showers, and the outhouses, none of which make me terribly happy. I like camping usually, and don't fuss about stuff like that, but I'm having a hard enough time adjusting to the fact that Fall is here after a ridiculously short Summer, and I'm really not enjoying the colder weather, so the thought of being dumped outside in the cold makes me grumpy! :-P

Complaints about small things aside, I'm a very different person from the one I was last year. I notice it, and the people who've known me a while notice it even more! So I'm sure that my experience this year will be very different from last year. Whether it'll be positive, negative, or mixed, I do not know. I just know that it'll be different!

Moving on to something different, and totally wrecking the flow of this post, I realized that I don't think I ever actually announced that I have a Twitter account. I kind of snuck it into the links on the sidebar, but who reads those anyway? So, my point being, I have a Twitter account, so if you want to connect with me there, that's great! :-)

There are also a couple of cool things going down, but I'll save writing about those for another post...


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Overview of the Northeast Unschooling Conference 2009!

(This first paragraph was written last night. I ended up giving up after then and postponing the rest until today! :-P)

So, you know how I said I was going to write a daily journal entry unless I was having too much fun? Well, I was having too much fun! I'm honestly torn about whether or not I should write about the conference now, because I only arrived home today at about 7:30 pm and I'm ridiculously tired (hanging out with people was the priority at the conference, not sleep), but at the same time I really want to write about it while everything is still fresh in my mind! So I'm going to plow through the exhaustion, and hope that what I write isn't complete crap! (As I said above, I gave up on that idea. Instead, I'm writing Wednesday, when I'm slightly (only slightly) less sleep deprived!)

Day 2 (I counted the first day of travel as day 1) which also happens to be August 27

The 27th was Emilie's 16th Birthday, as well as being the first day of the conference! I felt really bad when I forgot to wish her a happy Birthday in the morning, but a friend of hers had discovered when her Birthday was and made her a lovely card, then got it signed by a ton of people at the conference. It was really sweet, and made Emi happy. :-)

Conference registration opened, and people just hung around the registration area talking. I didn't really know anyone well, so I was being pretty shy... My mom started talking to people so I just trailed around bouncing between my mom and Emi, until I got into a conversation, along with my mom, with Erika. I have to thank her for being the first person to make me relax and laugh!

I went to Eli's World Travel Photos session, and although there wasn't a great turnout (apparently the first time slot in a conference isn't necessarily the best), I enjoyed seeing the cool photos, and I had some interesting conversations with the people who were there about Montreal, Quebec, our culture and history, family history, and similar interesting things... I also got a henna tattoo, which is something I've wanted to do for a while, so I'm happy I finally did! It's mostly worn off by today, but it's still visible...

The whole afternoon my mom was stealthily arranging a surprise for my sister. In the evening, just before karaoke started, they played Happy Birthday and pulled out a cake. She was completely surprised, so that was awesome. :-)

Since I'm not exactly much of a karaoke person, I headed outside to throw a Frisbee around with a bunch of people instead. Now Frisbees, I like. :-)

After that, I headed to bed... Probably my earliest night of the whole week!

Day 3 (august 28)

This day was lots of fun, but so long it almost felt like two separate days! First off, I stumbled down to the Tie Dye workshop, where I greatly enjoyed dyeing my shirt in cool ways. I'm thrilled with how it turned out! I also got my feet and legs dyed, thanks to some very enthusiastic young kids with squirting dye bottles! :-) I then went to the Artist Trading Card funshop. I'd never heard of ATC's before, but I LOVE the idea! You take a small card (2 1/2 by 3 1/2 I believe) and do whatever you want with it. Collage, painting, drawing, basically creating a miniature work of art, then trade it with someone else for their miniature work of art. That way, everyone ends up with awesome artwork from all different people. Really cool!

The card at the top (I couldn't get the picture to rotate for some reason) has the most wonderful little story. It reads:

A lone fisherman sat on a stretch of beach. His single fishing pole was planted in the sand. Along came a businessman on vacation. "Why don't you have two poles so you can catch more fish?" the business asked. "Then what would I do?" asked the fisherman. "Then you could take the extra money, buy a boat, get nets and a crew, and catch even more fish." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Then," said the businessman, "you could move up to a fleet of large ships, go whole-sale, and become very rich." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Do whatever you want!" shouted the businessman. And the Corsican replied, "I am."

After lunch (or in my case most probably after hanging around with people or something, since I was either too busy or didn't feel like eating most of the time while I was there!) I went to a discussion called Unschooling Teens, then to one called Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol, both of which were interesting. THEN I went to a session with Michael about GLBT issues, which ended up being more of a presentation on transgender issues, which I'm glad of. It was a great session! I think that too often people focus entirely on sexual orientation, and forget that gender identity is something extremely important that more people should be talking about! EDIT: Bonnie wrote a cool post on that here.

That evening, I stayed up late talking to people and listening to beautiful music played, and sung, by Julian (check out his stuff here).

Day 4 (August 29)

Went to Erika and Kathryn's Even More Different talk, which was great and really got me thinking. After that, I spent most of the lunch break having fascinating conversations.

I picked at food a bit, talked to people a lot, then went to Eli and my discussion, Untraditional Adult Paths. There was a really good turnout, which tells me that this is something that should be talked about more at unschooling conferences, since apparently it interests a lot of people! I feel it went really well. Most people were a lot more interested in Eli's input, since he's been doing things "untraditionally" for a while now, but I'm happy with what input I did give, and it was great to hear from several people who have managed quite well without either college or regular jobs. :-)

After that, I went to a photograohy funshop! There were only a few of us, so basically we just hung around chatting about photography, then wandered around a bit taking pictures. It was fun.

We fed a couple of people sandwiches, then it was on to the entertainment of the evening. An absolutely AWESOME band called Fishing With Finnegan, made up of grown unschooling siblings, was playing, and they were tons of fun. They play Irish, Scottish, English, and American folk, and they do it with much humour and a unique flair. I highly reccomend that you check them out! After the concert, I sat around talking with a couple of of the band members, as well as the other cool people I'd been hanging out with. Even once the band members were dragged away by the rest of their family, I stayed talking to people for a while more... Are you noticing a theme here? Another long but good day.

Day 5 (August 30)

The last official day of the conference, I was finally relaxed enough to pretty much just be myself. That always seems to happen with me. I only ever relax at the end of an event! After closing remarks, I, can you guess? Yup, hung around talking to people for a couple of hours! Then I played a game that was quite popular, especially with the moms (they were intense at that game. Scarily intense. O_o), called Bananagrams.

Annnd after that, virtually everyone who hadn't left right after closing remarks went out for Sushi! It was kind of funny actually. Someone called the restaurant ahead of time to make reservations, but the restaurant understood the reservation to be for 3 to 5 people, when really it was for 35!! Luckily, they managed to fit all 45 of us in (more people went then had oroginally said they would). My table played hang man (with much laughter and joking around) while we waited for our food, and the sushi was really good. Fun times. :-)

Having entirely given up on getting any decent sleep while still at the con, I was up late with a bunch of people who decided to not sleep at all... I was actually one of the first to bed, at 2:30 or so!

Day 6 (August 31)

The last conference activity was a picnic in Salem, right on the beach. I played Frisbee, hung around with peeps, and went for a long walk on the beach...

I also came very close to heading straight to Texas for the Rethinking Education conference with a couple of friends! It was a crazy plan that ended up not working out (airfare was just too expensive), but it really brought home the fact that it's very possible to just take off across the country when you feel like it, so I've decided I'm going next year. That conference looks awesome, and there's no reason why I shouldn't go!

It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, and the hotel felt so very quiet and lonely that night...

Day 7 (September 1)

We drove home. Pretty simple, really.

Now, this post feels like such a skimming of the surface (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of the surface stuff as well). I had so many wonderful conversations, such a wonderful time overall, so many new thoughts and realizations, that I can't possibly fit it all into one post. There are several issues and things that I plan on devoting whole posts too, but for now this will do. Some interesting posts you may want to check out, that are to do with this conference, are Jean's post on "unparenting" at the conference (it was pretty bad), and Bonnie's posts entitled Shit Happens. Even to Unschoolers. and Highlights from NEUC 2009. Eli also wrote an overview of the conference here.

As I said, more to come soon!