Feliz dia de Mexico, Nicaragua y Honduras!

Dear Parents and Families,

Today was another sunny, beautiful, and action packed day! The day started early for our cabin groups returning from last night’s camp outs. All 10 cabin groups returned before the wake up bell to put away their dirty dishes and replace the smell of campfire-smoke-scented hair with sweet shampoo smells. Breakfast was abuzz with stories about who made the perfect s’more and who slept the best in their camp out shelter. The Echo boys could not stop talking about their SIT (Staff in Training), Evan, who played ukulele lullabies around the campfire. Every cabin group camps out once each session, so if your camper didn’t go out last night, they will be heading to one of the many camp out shelters on property this Thursday for a night in the woods. Some campers feel nervous leading up to the camp out, but for most cabin groups the night spent together out in the woods lives on in their memory as one of the best nights at camp.

Today marked the second day of A-day Discoveries, which is a time when groups can really dig into some deeper level skills. During sessions this morning, campers progressed through the 20+ Discovery curriculum we have on offer this session. Bikers practiced their gear shifting, breaking, and body positioning on our beginner trails around camp. Our Outdoor Living Skills group talked about first aid in the woods and practiced bandaging up pretend wounds. Down at the stables, campers practiced walking and trotting off lead in the riding ring. Creek hikers moved on to a more advanced section of creek and explored the aquatic habitats of our salamander friends. In pottery, campers used the coiling skills they learned on Day 1 to build larger forms. And on in on across all our activity areas… Sign ups this afternoon offered opportunities for campers to try out activities that are not part of their morning discovery line up. Our bikers went on a scavenger hunt around camp that ended with cool surprise at the end. Our climbers were superheros, flying through the air on the tower swing. Sports were popular this afternoon with soccer and castle ball on offer. Down at the farm, campers fed our calves and played with the piglets after picking veggies out in the field. At the Mill, campers made ice cream for the Tajar ball on Friday, though of course they got to sample a cup to make sure it tasted alright!

Our regularly schedule activities were spiced up a little bit today with our celebration of Latin America! At Gwynn Valley, our staff members come from all over the country and the world, and these diverse cultures are an important part of our camp community. The exact numbers change each summer, but roughly 30% of our staff are considered international. Each summer, we have a 10 – 20 countries represented by campers and staff. One day each week is designated an “International Day” with 1 or more countries being celebrated. All of the meals that day are themed according to the host country both in food and with the cultural and historical trivia that is shared before and during each meal. In the evening, our campfire is filled with dances and stories and pictures that help teach campers about that host country.

Today we celebrated Mexico, Nicaragua and Honduras. Most of our staff representing today’s countries work in the kitchen, so much of the cultural expression today was shared through authentic and delicious food. At breakfast we started the day with a chant called “el grito mexicano” and a traditional Mexican dance before chowing down on huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs), chorizo sausage,  queso fresco and cheddar cheese for garnish, baked plantains with a sweet cream sauce, a special mexican sweet bread called conchas, and mexican hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon. At lunch we ate gallo pinto, pollo mantequillado (a creamy roast chicken), roasted vegetables, and auga de sandia (watermelon juice). In Spanish, Gallo Pinto is a rice and beans dish which literally translated means “spotted rooster.” The name is said to originate in the multi-colored or speckled appearance that results from cooking the rice together with black and red beans. For dinner, we made tacos at the table with homemade corn tortillas, rice, mexican pulled pork, stir fried veggies, queso freso, cheddar cheese, spicy salsa, salsa verde. To wash it down, campers could chose between horchata (a creamy cinnamon/vanilla drink) and sky juice (water). No international day menu is complete with out a special dessert, so to top it all off each table received a whole flan impossible or chocoflan, which is a chocolate cake on the bottom with caramel flan on top. Our food is normally delicious, but the food today was truly exceptional. All the hard work, devotion, and national pride they poured into their efforts really paid off in flavor and authentic cultural experience for our campers!! Of course, campfire this evening was also put on by our staff members from the host countries. We enjoyed a few dances, learned about some of the language and geography (mostly showing on a map where the various staff members come from) and we also had a lesson in tortilla making from a Johnston and Wales professor who we have been lucky enough to employ as a baker and kitchen manager. Campers especially loved the frog dance. You may see photos of Roberto dressed up in a giant frog costume, which our Hillside campers found to be endlessly silly and entertaining!

Time must fly when you are having fun, because we are already halfway through the session. Tune in tomorrow to hear about more fun adventures at GV!