By Shishir Timsina

Hindu Jain Temple Youth Camp, HJTYC for short, is a vibrant camp where kids ranging from ages 9-16 learn about our Hindu culture. The camp is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, right around the borders of Lake Erie. HJTYC is funded by the Hindu Jain Temple and volunteers from everywhere come here to participate in this lovely camp. The elder volunteers are called Uncles and Aunties and the counselors are referred by their names. We’re dropped off at camp on a Sunday evening where we find our cabins and get settled with our luggage.

Next day we start off with early bhajans with our uncles and counselors. After about 45 minutes of bhajans , we move on to yoga. Here Tao Ji teaches how to relieve stress and stay fit with his professional yoga techniques. We are required to bring our own yoga mats to camp along with our other supplies. The supplies include bathroom items, bedroom items and personal belongings. After yoga, we head on down to have breakfast. The Aunties serve us delicious food every day and night so we never get the feeling of being hungry. Free time follows breakfast, at this time of the day we are allowed to do anything we want. Sometimes the counselors have a game planned or some other activity to utilize this free time. After free time comes a long, 2hr, lecture about Hinduism. We do this with our cabin groups. The groups are divided by age, “A” group is between ages 13- 16, “B” group is between ages 11-13 and, “C” group falls between ages 9-10. These groups can be changed to fit our specific needs like sharing rooms with a friend. Even though the lectures might get boring, we learn a lot about our culture between these hours. We eat Lunch after the lectures, the Aunties surprise us again with lovely food that’s Indian and American. There’s another chunk of free time after lunch, this one is specially made for activities. We play games that require teamwork, strategy and physical abilities and help tone social skills.

As the day comes to an end we have dinner at the dining hall. Dinner changes alternately from Indian food to American and sometimes Mexican. We say our prayers and thank god before starting to eat our food, we also sing the camp song along with our prayers. Evening prayers follow dinner. We get time to get our yoga mats or prayer books from our cabins. The evening prayers consist of several bhajans and the camp song. We then do Aarati and end the prayer sessions. After Aarati we then get a choice to eat a snack. The snacks are usually cookies or Klondike bars with milk. Lights out is at 11:00 o’clock, and that’s when we are supposed to go to bed. Speaking from experience, we sometimes stay up till midnight and play cards. Our counselors are also ex-campers; they share with us their experience as campers and have gotten a chance to be counselors. Camp experience is awesome and keeps me coming back every year.

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