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My Summer Experiment

As the most awaited time of the year starts knocking on the door, the excitement of not going to  school, not having homework, classes or study starts to re-energize a child. Weeks before vacation starts plans and demands start rolling. This year as a family, for a variety of reasons  – no grandparents, no India visit, one week summer class too boring and expensive –  we got the monkey in our minds pushing to go out every weekend, bond more with kids and the idea of a self managed summer camp was born. We proposed it to few friends, exchanged silicon valley style ideas and  struggled but succeeded in finding a common date for a week for five families. The week of  Monday July 23rd  to 27 from 2.30 p.m. onwards made the match. So we decided to band together and have our own local summer camp experience, with learning and fun activities right on our backdoor. Here I narrate the experience straight from the eyes of myself and other campers.

sandip_3_mediumOn first day Murphy’s law came true, “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Massive layoffs happened in the company, fortunately we were not affected but many of colleagues whom I had great bonding and worked closely were and had all hands meeting to attend.  Cancelling camp was a thought but with determination to make it happen we finally started at 5 p.m. or so.

Seeing five lovely girls of 4th and 5th  grade, raring to go  and that sweet “uncle, uncle, uncle” just took away all the layoff thoughts and here we go. Creativity started with naming a camp, each one proposed a name of their choice and through democratic election process “Camp Blooming buddies” from Srushti provided a fitting name to the camp.  Group games started rolling – laughter, you are out, you crossed the line, we won, and the cracking of jokes brought fun, ease and camp to its life. Camp t-shirts in lovely pink were painted by campers. Homemade snacks were shared, small introductory video shot and then off to learn art of photography which is main theme of the camp with first online video class and then self experimentation.  Camper Dhruvi Desai narrated in her first day report about photography ,“ There are three types of cameras in the world. They are, digital, disposable, and analog. The megapixels (MP) are the amount of dots and quality in a picture. The optical zoom is the zoom when you are taking the picture, while the digital zoom is the zoom after you are done taking the picture. Have fun with your camera!!!”.  We also learned how to cook Mexican food, make smoothies and we got to eat what we cooked.

On day two, Murphy’s law could not strike. Does Murphy say it can strike every day? We looked professional  with our t-shirts decorated yesterday in pink with “Blooming Buddies”.  Started with “Kho-Kho” and few other games and the shouts of “me, me” moved the air. After a while we were off to become a store manager at Indian Spices Bazar, Cupertino. We took guided tour of the store by owner Mr. Pankaj, arranged some aisle and then were off to operating cash register. Checking out items, swiping credit cards, returning change, saying “Hi, bye, have a good day to customers” was an experience. Got yummy treats from the store owner as well. We were glued to  cash register so much that we just did not want to move. Future entrepreneurs in the making!  Back to campsite where an art class for making best out of waste was waiting for us and then the next photography session. Here is what camper Vaidehi Sorathia shares in her second day report , “We learned about taking photo portraits and about shadow depth. We took a model and put he or she next to a brick wall so we could snap a great picture. Those pictures turned out really professional. Next, we went to the Indian Spice Bazaar. We had a really good time and camp turned out really fun.  Tomorrow we will go to radio station, can wait until day three!!!”

Day three, let’s hear it straight from camper Vidhima Shetty, “Day 3 of our camp ‘Blooming Buddies’ had gone well and successfully.  Started with games and puzzles.  Then, we started to talk about radio, what is radio tower, and how those towers connect to your radio, what is AM, FM etc. FM means frequency modulation, and AM means Amplitude modulation. Plus, after that we prepared our questions for the radio station. We hit the road as soon as possible and in 20 minutes we were at Radio Zindagi 15.50 AM. As we went inside we met the show host R.J. Khyati. We reviewed the questions and all of a sudden we were on air!!! We answered few questions from RJ. It is amazing to see how they can broad cast to millions of people from such a tiny room.  RJ was very friendly and energetic.  She treated us with yummy cup cakes and juice after the show.  We also took pictures with her. The whole Radio Zindagi team was so supportive and glad that we visited them. Most importantly, it was fun and a unique experience!!! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!!!”

Day four, games-games-games were the shouts and all campers today teamed up against me to beat me. They did it! It was fun. All the Selena Gomez lovers prepared the song “Tell me something I don’t know”. Video of girls dancing in pink camp outfit and singing, we can’t resist rewinding and watching again and again. Henna (mehandi) class followed the song. Sunset was approaching and families started coming well dressed for a great photo opportunity. Camera, background shades, lights were all set. Girls directed each family portrait session with different poses and it felt like we were in a studio. What an opportunity to apply something they had learned. Next time you go to Picture People or Sears don’t be surprised to see one of these photographers guiding you.

Day five was filled with a Humane society visit, games, astronomy and much more. Here is what Saheli Shah wrote “Today is Friday, and the last day of camp Bloomin’  Buddies, today all of the BB campers got to visit the Humane Society,  While we were there, we got to pet bunnies and kittens, They were adorable!!!  After, our terrific time at the Humane Society, we learned a few techniques and ways to play Sudoku, we got paired up in teams of two, Srushti and Saheli , Khyati Aunty and Vidhima, Vaidehi and Dhruvi, and we had to finish the Sudoku together in a limited amount of time, the winning pair was Vidhima and Khyati Aunty. Congrats. As our Sudoku time ended, we got ready for the Picnic at the Park. As we reached Houge Park, we explored the park, and played a few games, groundies, Freeze Tag etc. and had delicious food. At around 9:00 p.m., we got a chance to see Saturn through a telescope, it was so cool, it looked as if it was a drawn picture. “

Summing up here is what the campers said – “During outside camp we usually pay $300-500 a week and we do enjoy ,but not something like this. In the past, we used to go to other camps, but this year us friends decided to have a camp, of our own, it was the best camp yet, we learned about photography, got the opportunity to be a cashier, aired on Radio Zindagi 1550 , took family pictures, visited the Humane Society and most of all learned new things. Bloomin’ Buddies wouldn’t have been possible without all the parents. We, The Bloomin’ Buddies had great time, and hope we will do this for all the years to come.”

sandip_7_mediumIt was an experiment and an experience and jointly each parent shared time, skills and much more. At the outset of activity – games, photography, managing store, radio station visit, songs, astronomy, cooking, art – it was a good package. While doing the activities, the kids created a greater bonding among all of them ( there was never a grouping between them) and certainly we have become extended family in this foreign land which is our “Karma bhumi”.  Being in right company matters so much and I have personally seen very closely for my own life on both sides – success and failures. I was fortunate to have friends, who all were into education and right frame of thinking. My other classmates in those days were into all things which were probably inappropriate that time and today as I see where we are and where they are the gap is too wide. This company of right friends not only has put very positive impact on my career and life but on future generations as well. Having the kids in the right company will have the same effect on our future generations.

Summer vacation has no longer remained liked those old days where the word “Summer camp” was a foreign word to many. All that used to happen was a visit to some close relatives ( “Dada-Dadi”, “Nana-Nani”, “Mama”, “Mausi” etc.) for the whole summer and just chilling out. Will this experiment  be our definition of a 21st century summer vacation next year? YES, of course.

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