Summer camp


We spent the last week at a family summer camp.  I originally had the idea  because going to camp is a big part of diaspora Latvian life, and some of my best memories come from being at camps as a child. Latvians are good at living in camps, having had a lot of experience at this in the five years following the second world war, when Latvian refugees lived in refugee camps in Germany before being relocated to their new "homes" elsewhere.  Latvian camp in Australia or the USA for us, children of the first generation migrants, was a "shot in the arm" of Latvian spirit, language and culture.
Last year I realised that my kids had never had a similar experience, and so this year we spent a week together living at a boarding school in the country, taking part in all sorts of interesting activities, with us adults also having to organize a few ourselves.
I must admit it was a bit of a shock to the system for all of us.  Although we all had a great time overall, there were certain aspects that took a bit of getting used to.  For me, it was the "happy campers" all around us.  The kind of people who comment completely inane, yet friendly and positive things, to people they don't even know: "Well, we've really earned this drink of nutritious plum juice, because we did such a GOOD JOB raking the grass this afternoon!".  Or, "So, you certainly look like you've had a great family time on the ropes course!".  These comments mainly came from people who were trying to make us fit in and feel welcome, though, and after the first couple of days, I began to get used to their cheery inclusiveness.  I may have even said something equally inane to other newcomers who looked uneasy.
Another interesting aspect was food.  Country food.  Apparently we, the inhabitants of the camp, ate two whole pigs over the course of the week.  Meaning, we ate everything.  Lots of hearty country pig fat sauce and traditional meat made from boiled pigs heads.  Well there's a first time for everything I guess.  There were other interesting aspects of the eating process at camp - the boys ended up trying all sorts of things they would never eat at home (eat the pig fat, Johnny, or there's nothing else for dinner).  I also realized two things about myself, not necessarily positive: firstly, that I have been completely in  control of my own eating schedule over the last ten or so years, and I'm getting old and crotchety and don't appreciate it when other people tell me when I can ingest.  Secondly, that I am addicted to coffee.  Totally addicted.  Because the camp kitchen didn't provide enough of the coffee, dammit, and I found myself in the early hours of the afternoon dreaming caffeine fuelled daydreams.
Despite these few grumbles, though, camp was cool.  The boys loved it, and can't wait to return again next year to meet their new friends and run around in the summer meadows - playing snipers, or cowboys and indians, or "capture the flag" or "Werewolf", or suchlike.  Jem and I also ended up enjoying the company of the happy campers, and the various small personal triumphs that come from teaching others something you know.  We left this morning, Tiss howling about having to say goodbye, packing the car with felted camp crafts, exhausted, sunbrowned kids and memories of a happy week.
So without further ado, the visual demonstration...


Jem and the boys made a homemade bow and arrows, which, amazingly, were amazingly effective.  On the last day they had an archery competition, where Matīss got a prize for the best in his age group.  That's my boy!  One day we went on excursion...


 To the largest lake in Latvia, where there is a brand new viewing tower


To an instrument museum and workshop.  The boys stand fascinated by a demonstration of accordions.  I said ACCORDIONS!  


As if Rome wasn't enough - more questions about Jesus.  Tiss ran through this Catholic church reading about the stations of the cross in the the local dialect (which is also different in written form).  Afterwards, of course, came the story about poor old JC and the suffering.  This must be the summer for bible stories.


I was responsible for taking the 18+ kids of the camp traipsing through the country, finding old ladies in their farm houses and interviewing them about life, the universe and everything.


Finally got to have a go at traditional Latvian weaving.  That's it, I've got to get a loom for our country place so I can weave rag rugs.




Nope, kids refused to eat this one.  The Latvian summer classic, cold betroot soup.


Jem taught the kids juggling, and even got to perform a fire routine at the flag ceremony on the last day...

4 Responses so far.

  1. Fifee says:

    Forget the camp and the beetroot soup - how about the great green pottery bowl that the beetroot soup was sitting in. I heart that!

    No, but camp did sound excellent too. Well done! I love that you have all these new experiences after all these years still.

  2. Alex says:

    I can certainly relate to the ethnic youth camp experience, although being quite shy I found it a bit harder than others to have fun in such an intense, enclosed environment. But it did teach you some good skills and and knowledge - although I haven't slept in a tent since...

  3. Love that first shot of Mikus leaping through the air in his yellow crocs ( Roboboy would be impressed as he has lived in his yellow pair since age 2 until enforced school shoes) Camp sounds amazing and so different going back as an adult. Remember those music camps with Andrew and Sean- I can still remember parts vividly! melx

  4. Em Bee says:

    If it's onion-free, I'll have the boys' serves of augsta zupa! :-) And I bags a rag rug from Māja Marianna, too! :-D

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