Ready for a family camp? Check out our New Year’s Adventure in Oaxaca.
Who needs a comfort zone anyway?
“Who is winning?” “Did I get my points for eating grasshoppers?” “How do I get points for a selfie, I don’t have a phone!” “How many challenge points do I have?”
If I wanted boisterous pandemonium all I had to do was bring up the “the challenges.” For many kids a friendly rivalry is extremely motivating.
This August we kicked off our first two summer camps and took seven girls to Oaxaca for a week. We soaked in Oaxaca’s wonderful people, art, food, and opportunities for self-reflection. There was some serious energy around our “challenge list” during the trip. For every trip I build a journal and we use it to frame our daily meeting to talk about what we’re learning. Part of the journal is a set of challenges that help the girls stretch out of their comfort zones, assigned them one point each, and set the competitors free. Here are some of the highlights:
Get a selfie with a local
Although there was some debate about what constituted a “selfie” the challenge for the girls was to connect with someone deeply. To get to know them well enough to snuggle up for a photo. I love this one of Josie with the matriarch of the Bautista Lazo family, Leonor. Her primary language is Zapotec, but she also speaks Spanish. Leonor was all dressed up because she won second prize in a local cooking contest and her community celebrated with a parade. Look at those beautiful smiles!
Eat something spicy
The challenge to try spicy food led to the best facial expressions! One of the joys of Oaxacan cuisine is that the flavors are so different than we are used to at home. Peppers of all kinds, spicy and mild, make their way in to almost every dish. At this restaurant we were trying tlayudas (an upgraded version of a quesadilla as big as your head with lots of fillings) for the first time on the trip. While we waited Claire called for the sides that our waiter brought to the table to see if she could display her mouth of steel. She triumphed! Habañero is not to be underestimated.
Do something that really scares you
Jordan decided to use the ziplines for her “do something that scares you” challenge. She seemed like the kind of girl that wasn’t scared of anything, but maybe she is just the kind of girl who is scared and does things anyway – that might be an even better trait to have. There were three interconnected lines in Benito Juarez and the girls loved them so much that we scheduled a quick run to Cuajimoloyas for their 1km long zipline that flies insanely high over the town. Jordan mastered that one too!
Eat chapulines (fried grasshoppers)
We called out chapulines, the Oaxacan grasshopper treat sautéed in salt and chiles, because it was guaranteed to make the girls challenge their idea of what things are “food.” Beija ultimately sprinkled some of these on a tortilla with avocado instead of picking them up on her tongue and pronounced them “okay.” We’ve had these in all kinds of meals, including ice cream!
Ask a local about their life
Asking questions is a high level social skill. Asking questions in another language is the ultimate challenge. Camille was always one of the first in our group to get out of her comfort zone. After these two men had rapped for us while we had our daily allotment of ice cream Camille ran over and gave them a few pesos in recognition of their staccato serenade. The juxtaposition of new and traditional is so stimulating!
Try five of the seven moles
Mia was a culinary experimentalist. There were no simple quesadillas for her. I was always impressed by her willingness to try new and unexpected things on the menu. Oaxaca’s moles are world renowned. They say that there are seven different kinds. We were able to sample five: negro, rojo, amarillo, coloradito, and almendrado. We didn’t see the others offered, but I am sure Mia will keep looking.
Sing a song with a local in Spanish
Music is a wonderful connector. That is why I added this challenge. Emelyn, like many of us, is naturally drawn to adorable children and who better to sing with? They got into the Christmas spirit together and sang Feliz Navidad. It didn’t matter to them that it was six months early. Our girls also sang Count on Me (Bruno Mars) to Nancy’s family after they learned to make mole rojo with them. It was a sweet, emotional moment for everyone. I can really get behind singing with people when traveling.
We loved every minute with these girls and saw each and every one come out of their comfort zones to engage the world. It filled us with hope for the future. Challenge your kids when you travel! Bribe them. Build on sibling competition. Whatever you can do to give a little push will help.
Do you want us to nudge them? We are planning our 2019 summer camps and would love to have them along!!