By the time I arrived at the Třemešek camphouse all was eerily quiet. It seemed that most people had already gone to sleep, or the oldies were catching up somewhere, unbeknownst to me. I had no idea what an oldie was, but they sounded rather intimidating to say the least.

Arriving late had it’s consequences; not only did I cause much unneeded stress to Ondrej but I also missed out on the (in)famous opening ceremony. This meant that I was oblivious to what lay in store for me and all the other naive newbies for the following three weeks. It also meant that it was overwhelming to be suddenly submerged in camp life, going from knowing just two other participants who’d travelled with me, to having to meet and greet 70 others all at once. With time, I slowly grew accustomed to all of the bizarre traditions, and quickly became fully engrossed in the camp way of life.

I distinctly remember the mornings. I loved being woken up by Anci each day, serenading me with not only her voice but also with chocolate. I’m not sure whether or not we were the only ones to receive such delightful treats, but I’d like to think that we were. For we were the special ones, at least the other girls in my room were. They were the gossipers, the most valuable commodity to an NAP leader. Funnily enough, I was sharing with Lina, Irati, and Eli, and we all ended up becoming leaders. Conspiracy, coincidence, or fate? Who knows.

I also remember the first time everyone began to hum a certain tune. I had no idea what this tune was, but it was very catchy, and I felt a little sad that I couldn’t join in. The next thing I knew, Anci was being thrown into the murky green waters of the swimming pool, followed by the other leaders and then the oldies too. The other newbies looked on, dumbfounded. Having a pool at an IAYC is a luxury, we made the most of it, no matter how cold.

Then there were the parties! When the skies forbade us to see the stars we would dance until the sun rose. I was lucky enough to experience Josh’s birthday, a party never forgotten. I didn’t know half of the tunes, but when Jungle Drum or Kalashnikov came on, all of the oldies went wild, infecting the newbies with their rambunctiousness. We were dragged into showers, we screamed at the top of our lungs to Bohemian Rhapsody, we danced until we could no longer stand. It was euphoric.

But this is an Astronomy camp, right? Did we ever actually do any Astronomy? Of course we did! My working group was SGA (Stargazing Astronomers) and our leader was Balazs. I embarked on a project called Logarthmic Eyes. As the name suggests, it involved surveying everyone to assess the brightness of stars, and comparing it to the magnitude system. I also learnt plenty of new constellations, and saw my first ever Perseid meteor shower! I loved staying up until the sun rose, as bits of rock fell all around us as we gasped and gaped. My new-found companions felt like friends I had known my entire life.

We also got to check out what the other working groups were up to. Best of all was ET, for they were building rockets! On one occasion the rocket failed to lift off at all, with Jacopo proclaiming soon after, “The hydrogen is gone!”

Often the nights were spent trekking off into the wilderness, in search of the darkest skies possible. One night we heard a rustling and a snorting, Jacopo cried, “A swine!” Another night we sat around the camp fire singing songs that warmed the soul. Performance evening was particularly wonderful, for we had Moiyyad to teach us a beautiful Indian song. And there were workshops galore, from lock picking to poi to massaging.

What was most astonishing was the departure. The owner of the camp house was more than dear to us; she made us deep fried cheese to our hearts content, and cried at our last supper. Personally, I have always been cold hearted when it comes to endings. I never cry. But there I was, having hardly slept for three weeks, surrounded by 70 other sleep deprived participants whose tears cascaded down their faces relentlessly. First one tear, and then another, and before I knew it I too was sobbing uncontrollably.

A perfect ending, to a perfect camp.

By Hannah Dalgleish (UK)