As I write this, my 17yo A- is in the Netherlands Antilles on the tiny flyspeck island of Bonaire, approx 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. She’s at a three-week community service camp focused on rebuilding the fragile reef ecosystem in the area, including becoming certified as a scuba diver.
“Bonaire Bon Bini is our 21-day teen SCUBA and environmental community service program in the beautiful Dutch Caribbean. Obtain your PADI SCUBA diving certification (or work on next level certifications) in what has been called one of “the best places to dive in the world.” We use our new underwater skills to assist conservationists in restoring damaged reef. Our service continues by lending a hand at a sea turtle conservation center. When not underwater, we will be windsurfing, sailing and sea kayaking. On land we explore this paradise by hiking though lush greenery and enjoying the beautiful coast.”
They started their dive training today, here’s a photo posted by one of the counselors:
I’m pretty sure that A- is to the right with dark hair and the solid, light blue top.
An amazing trip and one that’s in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. I’m totally jealous!
My 14yo boy G- is in a different part of the globe, at a six week — yes, 6 week! — camp in upstate Maine where there’s very little community service but a ton of canoeing, camping, and similar adventures. What’s most terrific is that the camp’s located on an island in the middle of a lake without electricity. No gadgets, no cellphones, no TV, no video games. No lights. Just a camp experience that hasn’t changed much since when it was founded over 100 years ago.
“Our purpose is to give boys an adventurous, happy, and safe summer experience in an atmosphere that increases self-confidence, broadens knowledge, and strengthens character. To this end, we keep enrollment small, the program varied and imaginative, and our camp life simple, unplugged, and close to nature. In this age of cell phones and computers, a summer here offers boys the opportunity to grow in physical skills, imagination, and self-confidence, away from the screens and clamor that dominate our world. We believe it is self-confidence above all that promotes the growth of all the other qualities that we want for our children, including independence coupled with a concern for others, honesty, generosity, a sense of humor, and the ability to find joy in life.”
They posted a few pics from when the boys had just started showing up, including this one of the cabins and sleeping setup:
Looks kind of like it should be close to West Egg, where Gatsby lived. It has that same classic New England feel to it, doesn’t it?
G- went with three school chums, one of whom is related to the family that owns the camp, and much to my delight, the counselors arranged it so that they’re in four different cabins. Great news as one thing G- said to me before he left was that he kinda wished he was going by himself so he’d be able to make new friends and meet new people through the summer, not just hang out with his buddies.
Looks amazingly fun. Six weeks. No gadgets. No parents. A dream.
LEAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Which means that for a significant portion of the summer it’s just going to be my little one, K- (now 10) and myself, just the two of us, no siblings, no hassles with whinging about computer time and the latest tech, no complaining about wanting a ride to a friend’s house, no complaints about not having the latest fashions, just to leave them on the floor for weeks anyway. Just us two.
So she doesn’t feel like she’s completely left out of the adventures, we are flying out to California to visit my Dad in mid-July, and we’ll do what she wants to do rather than have her tag along with what the others want or be stuck in the situation of being the squeaky wheel in our family constellation so as to be heard at all.
It’s a strange experience to have my children so darn far away solo. I worry. And I miss them. In Bonaire, the policy is no communication with home, no phone calls, not even letters from home. We have an emergency contact, of course, but otherwise part of the experience is to unplug from us parents. Now A- can certainly send postcards TO us, so I am hoping to see at least a postcard, if not a letter or two during her three week adventure.
Since I couldn’t mail her any cards or letters, I compensated by pre-writing a series of cards and gave them all to her just before she boarded her plane. The stack looked like this:
Each contains a cartoon, doodle, interesting note about Bonaire, and one even reminds her which day is the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup since she won’t be able to watch it with me, disappointingly!
My son’s camp allows mail, fortunately, and I’ve already sent off one card and K- and I did some sketches and sent that along separately. Tomorrow I’m mailing off a book, Ender’s Game, that will help him get a head start with his summer reading for school. Bonus: it’s also a story about a boy who has to find his own way in the world and it’s great reading too. I think he’ll enjoy it. I don’t, however, expect to get more than perhaps a single letter from him in the entire six weeks. We’ll see if he exceeds my expectations. 🙂
In the meantime, K- and I will enjoy our time together, play a lot of games, and have some adventures of our own in California. But man, this is one different summer and I am confident both my older children are going to grow up quite a bit this summer.