I haven't written about it much this summer, but the Shortlings are attending camp again.  The same camp they went to last summer.  We've done a few short weekend trips here and there but we won't take a vacation or do anything that takes us away from camp time.  Why?  Because camp time is sacrosanct.  First, because of the obvious reason that I gotta pay whether they go to a day of camp or not.  And I pay a not insignificant amount. So I insist on getting my money's worth.

But the second, and more important reason, is because this camp is amazeballs.  And if you didn't take that with the gravity it was intended, consider that I have never before used the word amazeballs in a sentence, verbal or written.  This camp is worth every overextended penny I put into it and they need it so I will not take even a day of camp away from them.  They need an experience where they have fun and go outside and ride horses and paddle canoes and swim and learn archery and acting and people like them for who they are and they make real friends and there is no pressure and no testing and they learn and people try make learning interesting and fun and they get to be creative, I mean really creative not just creative in an 'as long as this fits into the state-mandated curriculum and it doesn't require the teacher to spend any time thinking about it outside the classroom' kind of way and oh my goodness, why can't I go to camp??

I love this place. An added benefit is it is also the kind of camp where the campers get older and become junior counselors in high school and then counselors in college and staff as adults if they want to do so.  There are camp people and not camp people.  If you are not camp people, you may not know what I mean, but if you are camp people, you probably get this.  I have never been camp people despite having done my share of camp counselor-ing, but my kids are camp people and I can easily see them doing this as their summer job for a long time to come.  If not, well then at least I have an option for them to not be sitting around in the house all summer when they are in high school and maybe as an added bonus they get some resume experience working with people which will prepare them for jobs they might one day have or at least become fodder for a college entrance exam.

This year the camp director somehow made a connection with a musical duo from Cuba called Blanco y Negro.  My understanding is these two are pretty well known in Havana and they came to the U.S. after some sort of educators' summit/exchange.  They've been here for several months to perform around the area and to teach the kids the at the nearby school about Latin music.  Since this camp is attached to the school, they are also doing workshops at the camp.

This year we also discovered the wonder that is Gaby Moreno when The KingofHearts and I went to see Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band.  Hugh was fantastic, but Gaby was out of this world and I bought every album of hers I could get my hands on. (I sooo hate ending that sentence with a preposition but Oxford says it's OK so I'm going with... that's right... on.)  I highly recommend Postales, by the way; it's an incredible album and I played it non-stop in the car for a month after I saw them.  The Dormouse is often prisoner to my musical selections and she also fell in love with Gaby.

All those things came together when apparently last week, the Blanco y Negro guys were working with The Dormouse's group at camp and they asked if anyone knew any songs in Spanish.  The Dormouse said she knew two, La Bamba (her school chorus sang this last year; don't get me started on some of the pronunciation the school music teacher taught them; I've been trying to undo that for months *shakes fist at sky*), and this other song Gaby Moreno sings on Postales, Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, which is actually an old standard by Cuban composer Osvaldo Farres.  The visiting Cubanos were, I guess, impressed (or dubious) that she knew this one and asked her to sing it for them.  She's listened to the album enough that she knows all the words, despite the fact that she doesn't know what they mean, so she obliged. 

She came home that night uber-excited and told me they'd invited her to attend one of their performances next week and sing the song on stage with them.  At this point, I had no frame of reference for any of this.  I didn't know who they were.  I wasn't there when the invitation was extended.  I half-assumed they hadn't really meant it and it came off as more of a "you should come sing with us sometime" which she'd misunderstood and they meant she could, you know, sing along with the audience.  So I tried to support her enthusiasm, but at the same time, manage her expectations a little bit...

because I didn't want her to get her hopes up and be disappointed...

or because I am a misanthropical shrew.

Probably the latter.

The concert was an outdoor event in the little amphitheater they have near the camp.  The community was invited, as were the campers and their families and the families of the students of the school.  Also, curiously, a group of Buddhists from the Thai Temple down the road. (Thai Buddhists listening to Afro/Cuban music under the stars in suburban Maryland, THIS is why I love D.C., people!). 

We got there a little early because The Dormouse wanted "to practice" and I, in my head, thought that wouldn't be a bad idea so we could scope out the situation and deal with it if she found out that the whole thing wasn't quite what she thought it would be.  In the week since she'd been asked, she hadn't really brought home any credible information or an official invitation or talked with anyone in charge, and she'd been on an overnight trip and not seen the actual guys, so I'd grown more skeptical.

When we walked in, however, the two performers on stage doing sound check looked up and yelled her name, motioning her to come on stage.  "Ok, so maybe it is Something," I side-whispered to The KoH.  They brought her down, showed her where her mic would be and began an introduction to the song she'd been planning to sing.  This was the first time I realized that not only had they expected her to come on stage and sing with them, they expected her to come on stage and be The Singer with them.  

*heavy sigh* I am such a cynical human being.

Their concert was a ton of fun, even without The Dormouse being a part of it.  I liked their take on combining Cuban and Afro rhythms with newer stuff (this clip is especially cute) and they were inherently likable on stage.  Toward the end of their set, they gave The Dormouse an extremely nice introduction and explained how they'd met her and how impressed they were with her, then brought her up on stage.

I felt badly about her microphone cutting out in the middle of her verse (they were having a lot of trouble with that mic), but they handled it brilliantly.

The woman sitting behind us was from Peru and when The Dormouse came back into the audience to sit with us, she leaned over and started speaking to The Dormouse in Spanish.  She and I had conversed a little before and she knew I spoke Spanish, but I had to turn around and tell her that The Dormouse didn't actually speak Spanish, she just memorized all the words from the recording.  "Oh, but her accent is so good! I can't believe it," she said back to me, "You have taught her so well!"  Sadly, I cannot take any credit for that.  That's all Gaby Moreno's excellent diction.

I spoke to both Yenobis and Reimy before and after their set and they said some really lovely things about my daughter to me, which I will not share here. Suffice it to say, for a mom who is constantly being told my daughter is too opinionated, too loud, too confident, too outspoken, just too... much.... they nearly brought me to tears.  I've always held onto the belief that being smart, confident, opinionated kids will serve my children extremely well when they're adults and I still stick to that. But the problem with raising smart, confident, opinionated kids is you've got to deal with smart, confident, opinionated kids.  And most people - certainly most public school teachers - fail to appreciate those qualities now.  Kids who are shy and quiet and don't disturb the class by telling the teacher she's wrong about something get validation.  Kids like mine get told to shut up in class and yes, they need to learn some self-control, I'm aware, but they also need to be told they are valued and that, sadly, has not been the greater part of our public school experience.  I am only too often at fault as well.  So this is one time I get to love and appreciate my smart, confident, opinionated daughter and have some external validation for that too.  I know it's just one evening and a two-minute song at that, but these two guys made that happen. Do I love them for the opportunity they gave my child?