My family and a couple of other families from my community have developed the tradition of going camping every year on the sunday and monday of memorial day weekend. It started about nine years ago, I'd say, or around then, maybe ten. The very first year it was fathers and sons only at a place called Uncle Pete's and, of course, me being the girly tomboy that I was (I say girly tomboy because I was a tomboy, but I was never a jock, I never cut my hair short, I still liked looking like a girl...though a girl in denim overalls, muddy sneakers, and a ponytail) found that arrangement to be terribly unfair. So the next year daughters were allowed, too. The group grew until it got quite large, and sometimes we would do other things besides camping, especially after Uncle Pete died and we had to move to other camping sights, like we once hiked this big mountain called Mohonk, which was fun. And we would always have a rest stop on the way up at a place called Sloatsburg. One boy even made up a song about it that goes (tune: 'you are my sunshine'):
You are my Sloatsburg,
Our faithful rest stop
You're a gas station
And a pit stop
You are my Sloatsburg,
My only Sloatsburg,
Oh please get a
Anyway, this year we did something completely different since Memorial Day weekend was in conjunction with Shavuot. Cousins of one of the original camping families (actually, of two of the original camping families. This family is part owner of the camp, which is what made this whole thing possible in the first place) organized this trip to Morasha for Shavuot, extending the program to include Memorial Day weekend. My mom decided that six days up at camp was too long, so we went up on Friday (a bunch of other families did, too, so it was all good). The trip was fun, for the most part, though it was a bit difficult for me because the only other girls near my age didn't really have an interest in socializing with me, so I ended up hanging out with my sister and her friend, or my mom. But that was alright, because on Friday and all other non-Shabbat days I hung out with the guys, mostly. We played an awesome baseball game, and I didn't even realize I was such a good batter. I haven't played in ages but I hit the ball every time I was up, which was amazing, since I was fully expecting to strike out, and though my ball was caught every time except one, they were good hits. There was once where I hit a really nice line drive but they threw it to first before I made it there, mostly because I wasted precious seconds staring at my hit in surprise before remembering to run.
Sunday was the best day, though. In the morning, whoever wanted to played paintball. For those who don't know, paintball is a war game. It is. People may say it isn't, but I'm going to be blunt about it. There are a few different games to play, but the most common is capture the flag. There are two teams, each with a flag, and everyone has guns which shoot these little pellets filled with paint. If you get hit by a pellet and it splatters on you, you're out for that game. Each game lasts approximately ten minutes (though I guess it depends on who's running it). Paintball is a game of strategy, speed, and courage. There is the opinion, however, that it is also a game of violence and that it is inappropriate for children to play, or even adults. I understand this argument very much, I do, but I would like to suggest that perhaps this argument is a bit unfair.
Paintball is a game just like freeze tag is a game, just like having a water fight is a game, just like dodgeball is a game. Each of those games has the objective of tagging another person, whether it be using your hands, water (often through water guns or water balloons), a ball, or paint pellets. Having done paintball twice in my life (each time playing more than one game, this time we played six games in a row, it was awesome), I can say from experience that it doesn't feel any more violent than playing tag or regular capture the flag, and it actually feels less violent than playing dodgeball, where the objective is to throw the ball as hard as you can at the other team so you can hit someone without that person catching the ball. It is certainly less violent than many action movies and video games out there. There is no blood, there are no real guns, no actual violence. You do get to wear these really cool camouflage jumpsuit things. They're huge and baggy and I didn't want to get my skirt full of paint, so I just wore them, even though I don't wear pants anymore. The other women were doing the same thing. I figured a skirt was inappropriate for paintball, anyway.
The one thing I will say about paintball is that it hurts. Not terribly, but when you get hit it stings and you may end up with some welts. It's not too bad, though. I have only one welt on my leg, though I got hit all over, and I have a bruised finger. It was all blown up and purple yesterday but it's much better now. And anyway, all the fun afterwards is showing off your welts and telling the stories about how you got them (I had the flag, really! But then this guy shot me right here and I had to drop it - we were about to win). There was this one really awesome time, during the last game of the day, when I was hiding behind a huge rock near my team's base. The object of that game was to get the flag from the middle of the area where we were playing in the woods and bring it to the enemy base. I saw a guy from the other team running with the flag right towards me so I starting shooting at him. I finally hit him in the upper arm, but when I did he was closer than twenty feet away and the rule was that if you hit someone closer than twenty feet away, you're out, as well. It was worth it, though. He had to drop the flag right there and another person from my team picked it up and ran to the other side. It was the end of the game at this point and most people were out so he had an easy time hanging the flag on the enemy base and winning the game for us.
I think one of the best things about this paintball experience was the fact that we made a tremendous kiddush Hashem. The men running it were completely impressed with the fact that we had to be teamed up by family, so that no child would end up shooting his or her parent. They also commented that we were the nicest, most cooperative and pleasant group they've worked with in a long time (in addition to providing some excellent entertainment for them. Apparently we're all very good paintball players - good enough to provide some fun action, which they said a lot of groups don't do. Most of it, they said, had to do with the great communication we had with each other, which is probably also a kiddush Hashem - we showed how well we work together as a cohesive group, being mentches even during a very competitive game).