After getting lost on our way to the camp, we finally arrived to sunny Salt Lake City where I was going to stay for a week in the singing camp called “Remix Vocal Academy” at Brigham Young University. I was kind of embarrassed when my mom entered the dorm I was going to stay in, and greeted my roommate Lydia with a kiss; people from the U.S usually just shake hands. Even though she wasn't expecting it, she didn't mind. She did conclude I was not from the U.S.
“Where are you coming from?” she eagerly asked
“ From Venezuela”, I said
She quickly asked “Minnesota?”, but I eventually explained where that was.
The room was tiny with just two small beds and a mini refrigerator. So we decided to walk towards our first place in our schedule: the cafeteria.
At lunch we sat down at a table by ourselves and later many other kids came to sit with us. I noticed that all of them were really nice, educated, and friendly. Just when I was going to start eating, all the other kids closed their eyes and began to pray. I instantly stopped and closed my eyes too, so they wouldn't think strangely about me.
As lunch went by, Lydia asked “What Chapel do you belong to?”
“Oh, I go every Sunday to church, but I am not a Mormon”, I replied. Everyone at the table froze and stared at me.
“Your are not a Mormon!”, they all said. And began asking me a hundred questions about my religion.
“Did you get baptized?”
“What other ceremonies have you done?”
“Do you have a priest?”
“Do you have a purity ring?” They even explained how they thought most Catholic and Christian individuals were some kind of rebels and acted wrongly. Since they thought they party all the time and are not pure like them. However, their ideas seem to change from what I said and as they got to know me better.
After lunch, the camp officially began. We all made our ways through the gigantic campus to the Harris Fine Arts Center- the place where all the music classes would take place. As we got there we received our name cards, and heard the usual welcoming speech. However, the most magical part of that day was when we were divided into our voice sections: alto, soprano, bass, and tenor. And began rehearsing the songs for the concert of the end of the week: “Raging Fire” by Philip Philip, a 2016 medley of the best songs of the year and “All About Us” by He is We. Even though we had a few things to fix, it already sounded like a professional choir. This instantly gave me goosebumps.
At the end of rehearsals, at about nine p.m., Lydia and I headed back to the dorms with the rest of the crowd of kids. Surprisingly inside the girls building, I noticed there was a sign at the door, which lead to the girls room, that said, “No men allowed after this point”. This made it really clear: follow the rules.
After getting ready for curfew, some girls gathered in our dorm. As we talked, I noticed how they mentioned something several times I didn't understand.
“This summer they sent my sister on a mission in Argentina!”, Lydia said.
“My brother went on a mission to the Philippines two years ago”, said Bella, one of the other girls in the room. “I wonder where they will send us, I’m really excited”
“Is it wrong if I ask?, mmm, maybe not, when they finish speaking”, I thought.
“What is a mission?”, I nervously asked
Lydia smiled and explained, “When you are 18 years old, you are able to go to the LDS church and ask for a mission. You do service inside or outside the country to spread the Mormon word. This usually takes from eighteen months to two years.”
“It is not obligatory, but we feel we have to do it for our faith.” Bella added.
Somehow we ended talking about spanish. They would ask me to translate several phrases, and laugh as they would try to pronounce them. In that part of the country, no one actually knows how to speak at least a bit of spanish!
“Sing something in spanish, please!”, Lydia excitedly said.
And all the girls agreed. However, I didn't know what song they would like. So I did what first pop up in my mind.
“Ok, I’ll sing “Pero Me Acuerdo De Tí” by Christina Aguilera.”
Ten minutes later, before going to sleep, we followed the girls who headed to the lobby. When we got there, I saw all the remixers (campers), including boys, sitting in a circle ready to pray. I thought it was a really nice daily tradition.
“Let's sing Hymn 293”, one of the boys said.
Everyone agreed, grab their phones, opened their LDS Music app to see the lyrics and began to sing. Obviously, I didn't know any of the Hymns, but some of them gave me their phones so I would sing along. Even though it wasn't rehearsed; since all the teens were singers, the accapella version of Hymn 293 sounded amazing.
As the week went by, on thursday night they organized a party for all the remixers. It actually was really different from the parties I have been to, there wasn't any reggaeton. It was in the gigantic dark backstage of the Harris Fine Arts Center. They had some neon lights, rice krispie cake, water and music. However, they did not play regular music; they started with some known pop songs. The campers would gather around in circles and dance; but for them dancing was: jumping, moving around, doing cool twirls and handstands. After a while they changed the music to country songs. Surprisingly, EVERYBODY knew the dance steps to those songs. So when they orderly got into four horizontal lines, I was the only one messing up the choreography and unintentionally I bumped into some people as they moved.
“Just copy me” , Lydia shouted
After several tries I was able to correctly dance “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex, it was fun. Later the dj changed the tempo and started putting slow songs. From my background knowledge, thanks to movies, I knew guys would start getting girls out to dance.
Suddenly a boy came up to me and said, “let's dance”
“I actually have never danced this, but sure!”, I stated
He put his arm around my waist, against my back and said, “It's easy, just move side to side.”
After several slow songs and different dance partners, something unexpected happen.
“En los años mil seiscientos, pam pam pam..”, a phrase from the song “La Rebelion” by Joe Arroyo.
“OMG they just put salsa!” I thought.
Everyone suddenly made a circle around me and started copying my moves. That was a really nice way to end the night.
“10 minutes and you're up”, the backstage director announced to all the remixers.
We all gathered in a circle and prayed before going on stage. As this exciting moment ended everyone crowded behind the curtains with their microphones ready.
“One, two, three now”, the speakers whispered.
At that moment, all of us orderly ran onto stage and began singing the amazing songs. I could see all of the remixers enjoying what they were doing, but I actually felt nostalgic since the week had finally come to an end.
“I found the right place where regardless being the only Latina, we all shared the same love and passion for music.”, I thought.
I also saw the purity that represents the values of my Mormon teammates and admired the way this kids behaved when praying before they undertook any activity, and easily accepting and being friendly with everyone. This greatly surprised me, because I imagined the U.S culture as atheist and debauchery. However, my own Catholic beliefs never changed. Since, I came from a family who taught me the same values, while acting within my own culture.