Zoe went to camp last weekend. In Spanish. And this was not Spanish Camp, this was “local kids go to camp” camp.
I was so proud of Zoe that she wanted to do this. We really had no idea what to expect when we saw a one-page flyer about a camp for 8 – 12 year olds. It was for one night and two days. It was in the jungle, it was for artists and it was $35. That was the sum total of the details I had about this camp. Alrighty! I knew the camp would be in Spanish but Zoe had no problem with that. On a daily basis I am so glad we
slogged endured tolerated experienced Panama public school for a year. Our girls have so many opportunities available to them here in Mexico because they can easily transition between English and Spanish.
But we still weren’t sure what to expect. For one, it was in the jungle. Zika, anyone? With a side of Dengue? And then there was the whole “sleeping away from home” thing. Zoe has been on sleepovers but has never been to an overnight camp. But her expat friends who are siblings, Finn and Tali (our name for the both of them collectively is “Finale”, pronounced Fin-Al-Ee), were going and they spoke only a little bit of Spanish. Zoe said if they would go, she would go. So the threesome made a pact and their mom, Sherry, and I worked out the details.
I communicated with the camp director to pay the money. I happened to be in Playa del Carmen a few days later having dinner with Finale’s mom so we arranged to meet the camp director at the restaurant. Here we are, standing outside a busy restaurant where there was a noisy soccer game showing on TV. The kids were in the pool (this restaurant has a pool in amongst the dining tables – yeah, that’s our life?!!) but we dragged them out to meet the camp director. The director and her husband had matching shirts with their camp name and had a small toddler with the same shirt. If they have matching shirts they can’t possibly be bad people, can they? So we paid our money and exchanged cheek kisses and the director briefly met our wet kids.
A few days later Sherry and I get an email from the director with a form to fill out about our kids. Names, parent names, address and phone number and a one-liner about any allergies. We filled it out, scanned it and sent it off. You know what was missing from the form? A waiver. There was not a single waiver to be found. Not a “we will not be responsible if your kid gets a brain eating bacteria from the mosquitoes” waiver. Not a “we promise not to lose them in the cenote but if we do it’s not our fault” waiver. Not a “we will try to use a reliable method of transportation but you just never know” waiver. Nothing. At this point I’m glad we had a trip to the USA in between the filling out of the form and the camp because it kept my
worrying concerned mind busy.
We had to get Zoe a few pieces of clothing for the trip. They suggested long pants and long sleeves in light colors to repel the mosquitoes so Zoe got neon bright swim shirts. Turns out it helped me identify her in all the pictures so I was happy. Zoe also borrowed a sleeping bag from her neighbor friend, which turned out to be only a container to sleep on top of and collect the dripping sweat from her body while she tried to sleep in the heat. #moreonthatlater
So Camp Day came and we met in the parking lot of a mall. The bus showed up and everything looked very organized. It even looked like the bus had been serviced within the past decade so yeah for safety! They whisked the kids off before we had a chance for any tears (parent and/or child) and then they were gone. In Mexico. With strangers. In the jungle. Buh-bye, Zoe.
Shortly after they left I got a WhatsApp from the director, adding me to a group text. Group texts are bueno! As the night progressed I continued to get updates on the campers. They arrived! They are exploring the jungle! They had dinner! They are roasting marshmallows! She sent pictures too and Zoe was in just about every one of them. If there’s a camera pointed anywhere, Zoe will jump in front of it. Contrast this to the daily videos I received when Haley was at church camp in Arizona. Catching a glimpse of Haley was like a rare unicorn sighting. And if I did see her it was usually from the back. Sometimes having a camera-hog child is a good thing, especially for
anxious concerned mothers.
That group text turned out to be my main form of entertainment that night. There were a bunch of other mothers on the text chat and it seemed like everyone wanted to be social. Every time we’d get an update from the director, a half-dozen Mexican mothers would reply. They’d wax poetic about their “angelos” and the light of the moon, wishing them sweet dreams, a wonderful sleep under the stars, with good blessings all around. #sappyanyone
As I was falling asleep my phone was one long continuous buzz. I finally had to turn it all the way off so I could get some sleep. This is a feat for me, because my number is the only contact the camp has for our family. What if something happened and the camp director had to call me? It plays out like this: some emergency happens while I slumber and I have to admit that I got tired of all the blessings and turned it off? What kind of mother does that??
But alas, morning came and I woke up to 28 messages from the night before. A quick glimpse showed me that it was all the mothers giving their best wishes to their blessed little angels for a good night’s sleep, along with all kinds of kisses and hugs electronically and reporting whose heart was missing which angelito. All was well. Turns out Mexican moms miss their kids too. Maybe they didn’t turn off their phones to sleep. #bettermoms
The next day progressed with updates from the director and we were eventually reunited with our little angels that evening. I didn’t even experience the camp and I still had an amusing experience, but I’ll let Zoe tell you about her experience in her own words, with leading questions from Mom:
Tell me about some of your favorite parts of camp.
We had to create little songs for our groups. We were the venados, which means “deer” in Spanish. In our group there was Finale, me and another girl that I met who only spoke Spanish and I became friends with her. Her name was Renata.
My other favorite part was when we were roasting marshmallows. I always got mine burned but I love it burned. Another one of my favorite parts was when we were waiting for the bus to leave and we drew sentences in the shape of something. Kaligrama is the name of it in Spanish. I drew an awesome deer.
Another one of my favorite things was that I raised my hand first to be the team leader so I got to be the team leader and I loved that. We had these signals and Venado F was Finn, Venada N was Tali because her real name is Nataly and Venado R was Renata. It was like our code names.
There was this really cool cave and we saw huge daddy-long-legs, of course, so we went in this cave and at first it was kind of open and we saw this elephant thing laying on the ground and they said it was from the Mayans. And we followed the “line of life” which was this little thread going toward another entrance and they had stalactites and we almost had to crawl on the floor to avoid them. And we saw a lot of spiders. And then once we crawled through those stalactites we got into this open area but there was no sunlight but we had flashlights. It was high enough for the kids to stand but not the grown ups. We sat down in the cave and they told us all about Mayans and what they did with the caves. They told us to put our flashlights pointing up to see the stalactites. That was very cool. And then we crawled through some pretty tight spaces and we finally got to the other entrance and that was really fun.
And we also went to a dried out cenote on our excursion of the jungle. We had to climb into this cenote hole but there was no water in it so we got to climb on the rocks. We didn’t swim in that one, we were just exploring. We talked about Mayans then too. They told a lot of stories about Mayans.
At one point at nighttime one of the team leaders wanted people to sing and he had a microphone. I thought he was looking for a volunteer to do a task so I raised my hand but he was looking for someone to sing. So I decided to sing “Libre Soy”, which is “Let it Go” in Spanish. I think people were surprised to hear I could sing it in Spanish. After that, I sang the Pokemon theme song in English and one boy pretended to faint, and the rest were really surprised that a girl liked Pokemon.
This was an art camp, right? What other types of art did you do?
We did art about the jungle and mine was terrible. It looks like a kindergartner drew it. Our whole group was called “Yum Bes” and I don’t know what it means, because it’s Mayan not Spanish, but we sang a song about the earth and the 4 elements (air, water, earth and fire) and then we would yell all the directions in Mayan, like “north” and “south” and so on.
Tell me about the cenote where you went swimming.
The cenote was half open, half closed in a cave. The open part was actually pretty warm but sadly it was really dirty and we didn’t want to go in. So we went to the cave one where everyone else was swimming and that one was pretty cold. I didn’t want to get my hair wet. After about 5 minutes I got out and dried off. Once I dried off I got to paint and that was my painting that looked like a kindergartner did it.
How was it sleeping there?
It was hot. The group was sleeping together except for Finn because he was a boy and he had to sleep in another tent. I was sleeping with Tali and Renata and it was hot. I could not get comfortable and I don’t like to be the last one asleep so that made me nervous. I was in the Venados tent and I had a sleeping bag but I did not sleep in it because it was too hot. But it was still too hot because it was touching me. I tried to sleep on the ground but it was too rough and I was afraid a scorpion would poke through the tent and it would sting me so I slept on the sleeping bag and when I slept I felt sweat dripping down my face.
Tell me about some memorable moments.
One memorable moment was when I was waiting for the bus. An “air” teacher came and told us about the sounds of the winds and what the Mayans believed were a symbol of something. Once he was done teaching everyone he blew in these things that made wind noises. After he was done everyone blew in those things and they all shared them. I was disgusted that everyone shared the same wind thing. I blew in it, then I let someone else have a turn and I spit before I swallowed again.
The bathrooms were very bad. They only handed you a little toilet paper and they didn’t have any flusher thing so it was full. There were no doors for the bathroom either. It was made out of wood and at night it was very creepy. Luckily we had to stay in pairs.
On the first day we were exploring the jungle and for some reason they wanted to blindfold us and use our sense of hearing to guide our way on the path. I put my hands on someone’s shoulders and that was very helpful. Of course, there were very noisy boys in the back of the line so I could not use my hearing at all and I was basically blind.
Another memorable moment was on our way to the swimming cenote. It was about a 30 minute walk and they didn’t give us any water. We were very thirsty by the time we got there. Luckily we did not have to walk the 30 minutes back because there was this little cart thing that was connected to a truck. It was like a huge wagon with very bad seats and steel bars for a back. It was terrible but it was the best we had and we got to sit down.
How about those mosquitoes…?
They were annoying as heck and I have a ton of bites!
How was the food?
The food was amazing! The first night they served us hot dogs and they were delicious. The next day for lunch we had delicious hamburgers. And the marshmallows were amazing.
Anything else you want to add?
I thought it was funny that we met in a parking lot.
Are you happy you did it?
Yes, I am happy I did it but I wouldn’t really do it again because there were too many mosquitoes and the water problem. Instead of water all the time we had jamaica juice which is like a hibiscus juice and it’s weird but I like it.