We Didn’t Even
Like Camping

Between City and Nature

The girl in the picture is probably seven, or eight years old. Contradicting memories of goofiness, a growing body, and teenage jeans, the child in the picture is tiny, a fragile little thing biking in a sparkling pink swimsuit and huge white sneakers. Her ponytail has not been refreshed during the day, and overgrown bangs cover her face. She is struggling because she wants to tuck her hair behind her ear, but the rented mountain bike is too low, and she needs both hands on the handlebar for support.


It’s not a happy vacation. The mountains are beautiful, but she doesn’t see that. Every day she goes on hikes with an annoying backpack, and she tries to avoid her aunt’s husband at all costs—she has been instructed to steer clear, he doesn’t like children. It’s not hard-core camping, though. They sleep in a bungalow on a camping site. It’s summer, but it’s still cold at night. She sleeps in her only pair of jeans, as that’s what you do when camping, she was told, you don’t bring pajamas, you bring only the bare minimum. You carry your own water and lunch on hikes like the grownups, and you go to the camping bathroom alone. Even at night. Well, the night part she had not been directly told, but it had seemed implicit.

“You carry your own water and lunch on hikes like the grownups, and you go to the camping bathroom alone. Even at night.”

The night before the picture was taken, she had woken needing to pee, but knew that waking someone up to go with her was not an option. She needed to toughen up, or so she had been told the day before when she had been complaining about something silly. But the night was dark, and the flashlight seemed to offer very little protection. She kept weighing up her options, crossing and uncrossing her legs under the sheets—the cold wasn’t helping. Finally, she realized she could no longer hold it in and decided on a dirty but effective solution: to go outside the bungalow and pee behind a bush. Not elegant, but much safer than walking all the way to the toilets in the dark. When she squatted to pee, the flashlight almost slipped away from her right hand, so deep is the relaxation of finally letting go. The next morning (the morning of the picture) she wakes up in wet jeans. For a few brief moments, she hangs onto the belief that all is fine. Perhaps, she just got her jeans a little wet while peeing behind the bush with no toilet paper. It would not be so weird. She is a city girl, she doesn’t know how to pee in nature. This hopeful moment is short-lived, and reality is suddenly revealed by a daunting rush of embarrassment, cheeks in flames and heart in throat. 


That morning, after she had brought her soaked jeans to the camping launderette and handed them in to the person behind the counter without being able to look up, she biked away her rage and embarrassment, wearing only her swimsuit and her white sneakers. While she zigzags in the large green expanse between the camping facilities and the bungalows, someone takes a distracted picture of her. As the photo is taken she is in the middle of the curve, not looking at the camera, and there are no mountains to be seen in the background: only the prefab blocks she did not have the guts to reach the night before.