This summer, Alan P. and David and Michelle F. represented a first for a young camp named Ramah Outdoor Adventure – campers from Mexico. David and Michelle live in Mexico City, where Alan, their cousin, was also born and lived until moving to San Diego three years ago. Alan and David, both aged 13, attended Ramah Outdoor Adventure for two weeks in session one, and lived in the same bunk (for campers entering 7th and 8th grade). Michelle, 16, participated in session one’s month-long Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI), a training program for older high-schoolers interested in leading outdoor experiences. (Next Summer Michelle plans to be one of the founding participants on the Ramah Seminar Outdoors program launching this summer in Israel).
While at camp, David and Alan both enjoyed mountain biking on camp property. David also had the opportunity to practice his biking skills off camp on a three-day masa (excursion), while Alan went on a backpacking trip. On this trip, he encountered the famously tumultuous Colorado weather, waiting out a storm in the woods while lightning flashed nearby.
Michelle went on two excursions—the first led by the JOLI staff and the second planned and mostly led by the JOLI participants. She enjoyed the intense bonding on the excursions. “We were with each other 24/7, so we really got to know each other,” she said. While at base camp, Michelle also helped lead the advanced rock climbing sessions for younger campers, and assisted with the Amitzim (special needs) program.
All three had the good fortune to be at camp on July 4th, when they listened to patriotic American music, ate ice cream and waffles for breakfast, and playfully jousted with their peers. “We were just having a lot of fun saying that we were Mexican, and whenever someone came up to us and said something about the USA, we chanted ‘Viva Mexico,’” David said. They enjoyed educating their new American friends about Mexican food and culture—for example that Caesar salad originated in Mexico, while burritos did not.
Camp also presented the opportunity for different Jewish observance than David, Michelle and Alan are used to at home. All attend Jewish day schools, participate in sports at their local Jewish Community Centers, and attend Conservative or Orthodox synagogues weekly, but David and Alan said they were able to experiment with greater observance of the laws of Shabbat and Kashrut at camp. They also found it meaningful to try new forms of prayer. “I liked the t’fillah [prayers] where you’re just thinking alone in nature,” David said.
Michelle and Alan all said that they would take home a lot of knowledge, new friends and memories. Michelle said that all of the JOLI participants became very close, by telling their life stories and experiencing intense outdoor situations together. “My favorite parts were how everyone was so open, making friends, and the WFA [Wilderness First Aid] course,” she said.
During the 2013 camping season a total of seven campers attended Ramah Outdoor Adventure from Mexcio City, with four other youth coming during the second session. This week (of January 12, 2014), Rabbi Eliav Bock will be visiting the Jewish community in Mexico City to reconnect with the 2013 campers and their families, and also to recruit new campers (and hopefully staff members) to come join the Ramah Outdoor Adventure family in 2014. Anyone with family in Mexcio City interested in learning more about camp should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for exact information on the local Mexcio City meetings.