Go Make Me a Sandwich

Image with examples of the derogatory language directed at female gamers in game. Courtesy of Delany Bopp

4/23/16

When playing video games, many people hope to escape the pressures of everyday life. Unfortunately, it can just be a bigger source for stress for women, who often experience discrimination in the gaming community and games themselves.

Video games are one of America’s most prolific forms of escapist entertainment. The industry made 61 billion dollars in 2015 according to CNBC. Many YouTubers have taken advantage by playing video games and commentating over them and then watching their subscribers and profits climb.

However, there is an obvious disparity that arises soon after any interaction with gaming culture. Women are under- represented or outright discriminated against in games and in the community.

Matthew Greenbaum, known online as boyinachickensuit, is a lifelong gamer who got into gaming by playing Pokémon: Yellow.

“Usually, if I am playing a male character and I encounter a female character, one of three things is going to happen. Either she’s going to betray me, I’m going to protect her, or she’s going to sleep with me,” said Greenbaum. “It’s not nearly as much diversity as male characters get. So, that is not a very positive portrayal of 50 percent of the human race.”

Greenbaum’s experiences have some quantitative evidence in recent games. In the top five grossing games of 2015, none have a default female main character. Star Wars Battlefront has a choice of characters in the heroes vs. campaign, but five out of the six options are male. The only claim to diversity is the character customization in Grand Theft Auto V, and Fallout 4 the latest Fallout game, where players can fully customize their characters. However, in the case of Fallout 4, this can lead female players to discover just how lazy game developers can be.

“You can just tell in little ways that [Fallout 4] isn’t made for you when you play as a female character,” said Rebekah Salonnen, AKA mad_shelly, a longtime fan of the Fallout series who is disappointed in the latest establishment. “They didn’t bother to f—— record female pronouns, but they specifically went out of their way to make the guards of a certain city will catcall you, and raiders will call you ‘little b—-’.”

The lack of consideration for female gamers goes farther than the top titles and gameplay though. Many female members of the gaming community have been openly discriminated against for their contributions to the community.

For instance, in 2014, actress and avid gamer Felicia Day was targeted after she spoke out against Gamergate, a movement against independent game developers and female critics. As a result of her speech, Day was doxxed- her home address and personal phone number had been discovered and widely shared, according to the Guardian. Day was not the only one doxxed, and others were forced to move from their homes as a result, according to the Washington Post.

The discrimination goes beyond those who speak out. Female gamers who try to use interactive games as they were meant to be often get called out as soon as their voice is heard on a game server. The most common male response to a female gamer is ‘go make me a sandwich,’ implying that the woman’s place is in the kitchen and not in the gamer space.

“I get to interact with a lot of people and they’re mostly male, and since I’ve definitely been in the minority being a girl on a gaming server, there is a certain kind of attention that gets drawn to you,” said Delany Bopp, AKA Stormy, who likes to play more interactive games with large communities. “It’s not that it’s always hostile, it’s just the fact that [the attention] is there at all is strange to me and not ideal.”

Bopp has had dozens of unwelcome advances since she became involved in the gaming community, just because she was identified as a woman on the servers that she plays on. These advances have ranged from inappropriate sexual advances to stalking on social media.

There is hope for equality in the gaming community though. In 2014 a large gaming company, Bioware, released Dragon Age: Inquisition, where both genders are equally represented in variety, from warriors and villains to spies and politicians.

“I always like to try to remain optimistic,” said Greenbaum. “More people are starting to realize that women are just as prevalent in the community as men are, and more games are being made with positive messages of equality all around.”

Permission to Teach

4/4/16

Should schools have to treat LGBT education different than a regular curriculum? A new bill proposed by the Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives might require special permission slips from parents in order to teach LGBT issues to their children. The bill would essentially require an opt in from parents for anything related to LGBT issues, whether it be a lesson, a field trip or a counseling service.

This bill might seem benign, however LGBT groups, supporters and community members consider the timing suspect.

“All of the legislation surrounding information slips, conferences and content stems from the LGBT conference last spring,” said Ruth Ann Gaines, a democrat on the Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives who opposes the bill. “I think it’s a definite reaction to the conference and its influence in the LGBTQ community.”

The bill was only proposed after last year’s controversial Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBT Youth by the chair of the Government Oversight Committee, Bobby Kaufmann. Speakers and presenters at the conference were accused of “using vulgar language and making sexually graphic presentations to students,” according to the Des Moines Register. However, Gaines is only aware of one teacher who brought forth concerns, while others raised their voices to support the conference.

The worry is, as Rivka Schrodt, a local transgender woman, explains it, that legislators will use the language of the bill to target the LGBTQ community.

“They’re hiding behind the use of the term ‘human growth and development’ to make it sound like it’s not homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, panphobic, when in all actuality, that’s what it is,” said Schrodt. “It’s a horrible bill and it’s a waste of the legislators’ time.”

According to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT research group, there are 65,835 individuals in Iowa who identify as LGBT, which is 2.16 percent of the total population of Iowa. The fear is this bill would affect the LGBT population in Iowa and deprive non-LGBT students from learning about the community.

Iowa Safe Schools has already spoken out against the bill, and One Iowa, “the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization” according to their website, wasn’t far behind.

“Often, anything that is LGBT is, by some people, considered sex education,” said Donna Red Wing, the executive director of One Iowa. “What it might be understood to mean is that any conversations around sexual orientation or gender identity might be construed as sex education, and therefore parents would have to opt in, or give children permission to receive any of that information.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, “three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction.” HSB 647 would make Iowa the fourth state to require that parents opt in to sex education. For comparison, the District of Columbia and 35 other states have opt out policies, and 37 states and D.C. allow parental involvement in sex education.

“The first casualty of this is opt in requirements, and this does not only affect LGBT kids, if affects all kids,” said Red Wing. “It means that every kid, instead of having parents opt out of sex ed, they’re going to have to opt in, which means that most kids won’t get sex education, which is really frightening.”

Although attempts were made to contact the chair and the vice chair of the committee that proposed the bill, no contact was made. There were also efforts to contact supporters of the bill, most notably Bob Vander Plaats, head of The Family Leader, a Christian organization focused on family unity.

According to Plaats’ The Family Leader website, “The Family Leader affirms sexual relations within the bond of marriage, and opposes distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior.”

The Iowa House of Representatives is hearing arguments from members of the Government Oversight Committee about HSB 647 Tuesday, April 5th.

“I do have great confidence in the Iowa senate, I think that they’ll see this bill for what it is, and it’s a measure to keep kids in the dark about sexual orientation, gender identity and sexuality,” said Red Wing. “They know that our kids need more age appropriate education, not less.”

Iowa Attempts to Ban Conversion Therapy

4/10/16

There is an attempt being made in the Iowa legislature to ban gay conversion therapy for patients under the age of 18. The bill passed in the Senate in March of 2015 with a party line vote, 26 ayes to 24 nays, and is now sitting in the committee of Human Resources in The House of Representatives. The bill would also introduce penalties for those found practicing conversion therapy on minors.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or ‘praying the gay away’ colloquially, is a kind of treatment that many LGBT children are often forced to attend by parents. Conversion therapy is often linked to religious concerns about being LGBT, as it is seen in some religious cultures to be sinful. According to the International Society of Mental Health Nurses, conversion therapy can include, but is not limited to, individual and group therapy, electroshock therapy, exorcism, isolation and restraints.

“There is no conclusive evidence that “reparative therapy” is beneficial to patients,” according to a 2008 report by the International Society of Mental Health Nurses.

However, Joseph Nicolosi, head of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, says that conversion therapy can be beneficial to clients.

“’Sexually questioning’ teens must have the chance to investigate all of their options — not just be encouraged by counselors into adopting a gay identity and living a gay lifestyle,” according to Nicolosi’s professional website.

Senator Bill Anderson, a Republican in the Iowa Senate from Sioux City, is against the bill to ban conversion therapy in Iowa.

“Having parents that maybe have an objection to a particular lifestyle, I’m not sure if I’m phrasing that correctly but, that would take away their ability to make that decision if they wanted to have their child go see a counselor,” said Anderson. “The bill would also put that counselor in a position that, if they did do the counseling that the parents requested on behalf of their child, that they would then be subject to disciplinary action.”

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a representative from Story County and a member of the Human Resources Committee assigned to evaluate the bill, has a different opinion.

“I have had numerous young people come to me and tell me how damaging conversion therapy has been for them, and how much they had to go through to get over that experience,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “I absolutely think it verges on abuse.”

Senator Matt McCoy, an openly gay member of the Iowa Senate, introduced the bill and voted for it when it went up on the Senate floor.

“It is the worst form of child abuse that a parent can inflict on a child,” said McCoy about conversion therapy, over the phone. “It ends tragically.”

According to Iowa Code section 232.68, child abuse is defined as, “any nonaccidental physical injury… any mental injury… the commission of a sexual offense” and more.

“Services that purport to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people,” according to the Pan American Health Organization, a regional division of the World Health Organization.

Though Wessel-Kroeschell confirmed that there are currently no known instances of conversion therapy being practiced in Iowa, the bill is seen as a preventative measure.

The Iowa Board of Medicine is also looking into a separate petition to ban conversion therapy. Homosexuality as a diagnosis was taken off of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973, according to The International Society of Mental Health Nurses. The state Youth Advisory Council introduced the petition to the board, which has denied it for the time being so that more research could be conducted, according to a recent article by KCCI.

Conversion therapy is banned in the District of Columbia, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ equality group.

Dylan Shirey, an openly gay student at Drake University, agrees with the bill to ban conversion therapy from Iowa.

“Conversion therapy is wrong, it is not necessary, and I think it’s ridiculous,” said Shirey. “I don’t think it is ethically right in this day and age.”

Merry Band of Geologists go to Sweet Surrender Mine

geologists

Or, how Geologists get Down and Dirty:

On our second full day in Arkansas, the camp woke early in order to prepare for a full day of digging. The destination for the day was the Sweet Surrender Quartz Mine in Story, Arkansas. The title of the mine proved to me that geologists have a particular sense of humor, as I made several jokes about it to Delany on the way. We gathered buckets, rock hammers, gloves, sledgehammers and shovels and crammed into our convoy to make our way to the mine. The drive into Story was scenic and summery. The trees were already showing their leaves, and the air was sweet with the smell of a spring that had yet to arrive in Wisconsin. Our convoy only made a few wrong turns before we found the right dirt track, and we followed it as it twisted through the woods.

After just a few minutes of worming our way through some pines and firs, the ground suddenly dropped off on our right. As we drove on a bit more, we saw the people that run the mine and their lively dog companion, Bubba. As we parked our cars and clambered out, we were greeted by Bubba, Randy, Becky and Mike. Randy owns the mine and he’s helped out by Becky, his wife, and Mike, in order to run the mining tours and dig the quartz crystals.

Randy and Mike took us through the mine safety as we played a little fetch with Bubba, and then we were off! We scampered down a slope into the mine. It was an open pit mine with orange-pink clay and trees all around, and it stretched a good quarter mile along its length. There was one mostly empty end where the quartz vein had been almost tapped out, and then a deep pit on the opposite side of the mine where Mike and another miner were working on exposing the quartz vein with a digger and their hands.

After surveying the mine, the actual geologists (and Drew) got quickly to work, scanning the mine for the best places to dig and find quartz. I meandered along behind them, completely out of my element. I did find a choice piece of quartz that I got to keep, however. It’s a clear crystal with two distinct points and a bit of iron in the grooves so that it shows a bit red in the sun.

geologists

We stayed in the mine for most of the morning and afternoon. During lunch, the geologists had conversation with Randy, a veteran of quartz mining. Randy bought the mine from an old partner of his and is actually making quite a success out of it. People from different countries have visited the mine, and one couple actually comes back every anniversary of theirs to celebrate their marriage with a day of mining. Randy, aside from letting groups mine and keep all that they collect, also sells baskets of unwashed quartz and clusters of cleaned quartz crystals in delicate boxes. We stayed with Randy, Mike and Bubba in the mine for the entire morning and most of the afternoon. (Unfortunately I had gotten too much sun at the mine and had to retire to the shade as though I had a bad case of the ‘female vapors’) After most of the club was done digging, Kyle dug out the drone to take footage of the mine in its entirety. Bubba took particular interest in the drone, and barked at it whenever it got anywhere near to landing.

geologists dog

After our busy day of digging and talking rock shop, the geologists from the club had even better success than I, and they were able to gather buckets and buckets of quartz crystal that they were eager to clean back at camp. Indeed, as soon as we all traveled back to Denby Point (taking the right turns this time), all of the crystals were piled on our picnic table and were being vigorously washed in water from the camp pump. It took quite some convincing on behalf of everyones empty stomachs to get them to stop washing their rocks and actually eat dinner.

Rock On

How to Enjoy Geology:

When someone jumps out of a car and runs at a rock with a bottle of acid, most people would be concerned. However, there is nothing to fear. This is a typical experience for a geologist.

Kyle Vernon was on his way to a weeklong dig in Arkansas when he stopped for gas. Filling up his tank, he spotted a rock that looked like coral, and grabbed some hydrochloric acid. Even though Vernon and his friend Devin Last discovered the rock was not coral, both geologists got valuable field experience. The geology club that they both belong to is dedicated to field experience and camaraderie between club members and fellow scientists.

“Our entire department is like a family and I am really privileged to get to do all this,” said Vernon, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee geology club president. “I like the micro vs. macroscopic thing geology has going on with maps and stuff you can see around you.”

The UWM Geology Club goes on a spring break trip every year, with notable past destinations including the Mammoth Caves, Graves Mountain and the Little Pine Garnet Mine. This year, the group went to three mines (Sweet Surrender, Coleman’s Quartz Mine, and the Montgomery County Quarry) in search of quartz and wavellite. Arkansas was the desired destination because quartz is quite common there.

The club participants consisted of 14 geologists, one biologist and one journalist, all crammed into 5 cars, along with all of the rocks they could carry.

This year’s trip got off to a rocky start because of an EF1 tornado. According to Arkansas Online, three condominiums, four homes and six docks were damaged by the winds and falling trees.

The club didn’t let the storm get in their way, however. Early the next morning, they readied themselves and drove to Sweet Surrender, a small quartz mine run by Randy Skates. The group swarmed over the rose-colored open pit mine, eager to find samples.Delany Digging

The geologists used a variety of tools to gather their samples including rock hammers, sledgehammers and shovels. They had to get down and dirty in order to surface dig and find good samples.

“It was just really cool and really special to be able to get in there and wander wherever we wanted and dig around and find things for ourselves,” said Delany Bopp, a geology club member and geology major at UWM. “It was a great experience overall!”

The biggest find of the trip happened on the second day, when Emma Rebernick found a quartz crystal the size of an infant and clear as glass. The find was made at Coleman’s mine, when previous hours of digging were thought to be futile after hours of prior searching.

“It’s my baby,” Rebernick said on the trip. “Her name is Big Bertha!”

Big Bertha

Later in the trip, the geology club was looking for a way to find some wavellite, a small green mineral. Luckily, when the group had visited the Sweet Surrender mine, they made friends with the owner, Skates. He offered one of his miners, Mike, to give them an off the books tour of a large local wavellite mine run by Montgomery County. Wavellite is rather unique because of the radial patterns it has when broken, and its bright green hue.

The geology club jumped at the chance to dig for Arkansas’ second most famous mineral. Wavellite is rather unique because of the radial patterns it has when broken, and its bright green hue. The wavellite mine isn’t open for public access, but the possible misdemeanor didn’t stop any of the members on the trip- nor did the 80 degree temperatures and direct sunlight. The club eagerly dug for the unique mineral, some staying in the quarry until well after sundown to find samples.

Students Searching for Wavellite

The next day, the group woke up early and drove seven hours to The Garden of the Gods Campsite. The last stop of the trip, The Garden of the Gods is on the top of ancient rock formations that used to be submerged in a shallow ocean that covered much of America’s heartland. The primary interest to the group was the iron bands that formed strange ripple marks on the sandstone. The club members were extremely satisfied with their spring break, and it concluded with a peaceful hike through the rock formations at Garden of the Gods.

“In the classroom and even on field trips we are very heavily science oriented and it’s good to see the other non college bubble side,” Vernon said.

If any Iowans want to see the “non college bubble side” of geology, Vernon recommends the northeast corner of Iowa, near Decorah. Around 470 million years ago, a meteor fell there during the Ordovician meteor event, and the effects on the local bedrock can be seen in the earth around the impact crater. The evidence is buried deep though, as there is no indication of the meteor on the surface.

A geologist’s version of a fun spring break may be strange, but the group made valuable memories. They traversed the country, spent time with their friends and had a good time. Maybe geologists aren’t so strange after all.

How We Survived a Tornado… in a Tent

It wasn’t a Big Tornado, but it Totally Counts:

On the first day of our stay in Arkansas, we mostly explored the campsite that we had set up in the dark and went to get groceries and other supplies. (Grocery shopping with a bunch of college students is neither the most organized nor the most efficient way to buy supplies.) However, shortly after we got back from the grocery store, we all received tornado warnings on our iPhones -despite the trip being an effort to ‘unplug’ on my behalf- and subsequently blew off the tornado warning.

When we started to feel raindrops around four o’clock though, we were a bit more concerned. We immediately took precautions to keep our things dry and tack down the tents, and packed the things we wanted to stay dry in our cars. A few of us started getting antsy because the wind started howling through the thin pine trees surrounding our camp. Our scared little butts were in our cars faster than any of us could say ‘falling branches’ and 13 out of the 16 of us took to the road to find shelter. Three brave souls remained behind to make sure that our tents didn’t try to make their own colony in the middle of the lake.

The rest of us drove for about ten minutes on the road heading East, and we only stopped at an antique shop lovingly named Burl’s County Smokehouse because Emma, the driver of the car Delany, Melissa and I were in, really had to pee. Even though we were only a few minutes from our campsite, there was hardly any wind, no rain, or any hint of a tornado, and only distant rumbles of thunder threatened our safe sojourn.

Outside of the shop there were a multitude of attractions, including an old, stand-alone jail cell, train cars that were converted to motel rooms, an inert tractor and mill wheel , and the ‘Arkansas $&!#house’ outhouse. There was also a tabby tom cat named Smokey who magnetized to the legs of anyone willing to come close and pet him.
Smokey
Inside, the shop held even more wonders. The fragrance of handmade soaps, moonshine jelly, deli meats, and the unique must that always clings to old places permeated the air. We snapped up some soaps and cinnamon apple jelly, and briefly considered claiming one of the antique prostitute licenses for our own; however, the proximity of a skeleton foot in an old boot threw us a bit too far off, so we went outside to visit Smokey again. While we briefly considered kidnapping Smokey for our own, we didn’t want to deprive the owners and future visitors of his purr-ticular kind of hos-paw-tality, so we clambered into our vehicles with our new finds and headed back to the campsite.

We saw some slight devastation as we drove in. Sticks, small branches, and wooden splinters littered the roads coming in, and the sky was still a dark, swollen looking gray. Things at the camp were looking marginally better though, only a few tent pieces had flown astray. After we righted the tent flaps and put our vital equipment back in our tents though, more rain and wind arrived and forced us to huddle in our make-shift village.

In my own tent was the same group that had accompanied us in the car to the antique shop plus one lovely addition, Shelby. We all gathered around the meager light of Delany’s flashlight that we had tied to the apex of the tent. I attempted to teach the group a card game, but Delany, tense and suspicious of my motives, wasn’t having it. Outside, the weather was about as volatile as Delany’s mood. The wind tore at our tent flap, and water dripped in the temporary openings provided by the loosened rain-cover. After the consistent dripping got to be too much for our strained wits, we MacGyvered a solution. In a truly collegiate manner, we jury rigged a plastic garbage bag to the mesh ceiling with hair pins. Surprisingly, it held the water for the rest of the storm, and our tense card game continued.

After about an hour and a half of continuing on in this way, the storm passed, and we emerged into the dying light of the day. Greeting us was one of the most stunning sunsets of my life. The angry purple clouds were marching intently to the East, and the vermillion sun was slipping below the horizon, reflecting a flaming palette of colors onto the backs of the cloud formations.

Later I found out that an EF 1 tornado had passed right by our campsite, and had proceeded to wreck some docks and condos farther down the lake. Luckily though, our tents held us safe, and we were able to continue to enjoy our trip.

The sky over Lake Ouchita after the tornado
The sky over Lake Ouachita after the tornado

All in all, it turned out to be an intents first day in Arkansas.

Rocky Adventures

Why I went Digging with Geologists for Spring Break:

I think I’ll start with the spring break adventure I recently took with a lovely group of geologists to Arkansas.

The group consisted of 13 geologists, one biologist, and one journalist. The geologists were: Kyle, Devin, Mitch2, Shelby, Emma, Ruby, Melissa, James, Jenn, Nate, Delany,  and Angela. The biologist was Drew, and I was the journalist.

Our spring break trip started with a 19 hour drive from Milwaukee to a camp ground in Hotsprings Arkansas called Denby Point. We left the University go Wisconsin Milwaukee on a balmy Saturday morning that quickly turned to monotony when we realized that nine hours of our drive would be through the endless drab cornfields of Illinois. I was in a small blue Mazda with my best friend Delany, who I met in high school, and two other geology club members, Devin and Kyle. For half of the trip though, I kept having to furtively ask Delany what their names were, I’m horrid at names. (Sorry guys!)

Our stops along the way were light hearted, fun, and a great way to kick off the trip. During one of our refueling stops in Illinoying, Kyle and Devin dashed out of the car with a bottle of HCl to test if a decorative rock was coral or not (to the disappointment of all present, it was not).

At another gas station later on in Arkansas, we stopped in what has to be one of the sketchiest gas stations in the continental United States. It was blearily lit by florescent lights that were simultaneously too bright and too dim, the tiles were all either cracked or missing, and the bathrooms had no mirrors, and often, the stalls didn’t lock. The only saving grace of the gas station was a unique piece in it’s knife case. There, nestled among Real Tree patterned hunting knives and pink switchblades, was a Batarang. Truly, a deadly weapon. Yours for only 65 American dollars.

A little while after we entered Arkansas, a storm blew us into Memphis, the land of barbecue and blues. We were hankering for some food that wasn’t Subway, and some music that wasn’t either top 40 or country. We found both in a beautiful little restaurant called Central Barbecue. The wait was long, made longer by the pouring rain, but our goal was in sight: FOOD!

After about a half hour wait, we were finally able to order our food and stake out tables. I ordered and subsequently devoured the most delectable pulled pork sandwich known to man. the barbecue sauce that was hurriedly dribbled over the meat was in just the right amount, and had just the right flavor. The pork was smoked to perfection, and the bun that held all of the glory together was exactly what it needed. I might be exaggerating because of how damp the outside had been, or because of how hungry I was, but in that moment, the food that I had from that place was some of the most heavenly I had ever consumed.

While we were finishing up, Emma, who I hadn’t really interacted with before then, asked me to help her get her and her car, lovingly dubbed the pussy wagon, the rest of the way to the camp ground. Emma was tired and the roads were going to be rough going out of Memphis because the rain had started coming down in sheets. I agreed because by this point I was itching to drive, and having an exhausted person at the wheel is never good. So I started out of Memphis now in Emma’s car, with her eager to nap in the passenger seat, and Melisa eager to navigate in the seat behind me.

The weighed down station wagon passed the gigantic glass pyramid Bass Pro Shop and  bumped over the Mississippi River bridge, back into Arkansas. The rain wasn’t the only obstacle between us and Denby Point though, because right after we got out of Memphis, we hit some hellish construction. The rain was pounding down on the station wagon’s roof hard enough to drum its way into my head and nearly blind us from things only a few feet in front of us. After a short while of this struggle I found myself desperate for a pit stop. The only relief in sight however, was a XXX Adult Superstore.

As I pulled into a lot filled with pickup trucks and semi trailers, I begged one of the other girls to go with me. Thankfully I was able to have Melissa with me in this voyage of creep. Normally XXX Adult Superstores are seedy. This one was even more so. It was the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. The parking lot was gravel, and the windows were whited out. I expected to step inside and find a dilapidated STD filled horror show. However, when Melissa and I stepped inside, it was to a bright white antechamber before neat glass shelves of toys catering to all audiences. We quickly veered to the left where the bathrooms were though, so we could escape as fast as possible.

The rest of the soggy drive passed by in a blur, and sometime during the night, Emma stored up enough energy to retake the wheel. Because of some unfortunate mishaps, we were one of the first cars to arrive at camp. Our first stop was one of the restroom buildings, standing out of the darkness like the light at the end of an exponentially long tunnel. Soon though, we moved away from our beacon of solace and into the night to follow the twisting roads through the camp ground to try to find James, who had found the perfect spot for us to camp in.

The only light we had in the middle of the forest was from Emma’s headlights, and they illuminated steep drop offs not far from the edges of the roads, and empty campsite after empty campsite. It seemed like an eternity until we found James, on a campsite in one of the last looping roads that we checked. He had found the perfect campsite. There was enough room to park all the members of our caravan, and enough room of us to set up our very own tent village.

Therein lay the problem though. Setting up the tents. We had to set up about six tents that first night, so Emma, Melisa and I immediately got to work. The first tent on the docket was a brand new ‘six’ person tent. It was fresh out of the box and a breeze to put together. Emma’s family tent was next, and that was a bit more of a challenge. there were innumerable poles marked with several different colors. Finding out how they all fit together was an impossible task, so we quickly abandoned it to help the others who had arrived set up their own canvas domiciles.

After a few more minutes of that, I hurriedly stuffed my belongings into our ‘six’ person tent that really only fit four, and fell hard and fast into unconsciousness.