Waldsee and El Lago del Bosque

Zoe spent a week at Waldsee overnight camp this summer. That is the name of the German village at the Concordia Language Villages; this is full immersion in German for a kiddo who knows Spanish and English.

Avi did a week of day camp at El Lago del Bosque across the lake; Spanish immersion for that guy! Both villages really do mimmick the culture they represent.

Both want to return next year! Here was our experience.

I dropped Avi off for day camp on the Monday of camp week. He was due at 9 in the morning and I returned to get him at 3:30 in the afternoon. The first day he was ushered through the ‘customs’ line – chose his Spanish name from a list of options (Romeo it is!), cashed in his dollars for credit in peso’s, and started to decorate his wooden name plate.

After that, Zoe and I went downtown Bemidji for some lunch and gathered a few geocaches. I really enjoyed some one on one time with her before saying goodbye for a week. At the overnight camps, I can send messages to her via email but she can only reply snail mail. We really liked Bemidji; ate at a local place called the MN Nice Cafe before returning to the Language villages to drop her at Waldsee.

Her first day was more of an ‘immigration’ procedure. We started out front of the giant Bahnhof where tables were set up – I turned in some paperwork while Zoe had a little ‘test’ conversation with one of the young adult counselors. She was sorted into beginner! She then got to choose her nametag from dozens dangling – her choice was Silke!

After that, Silke followed a counselor to check in with the nurse, deposit her money at the bank, and get settled in her dorm. She was assigned to Unterammergau. I helped a bit and then she was ready for me to go! sniff.

I had about an hour to get Avi, so I drove to El Lago del Bosque and took a quick nappy nap in the camper with Slim Jim.

Avi had a blast off! Each day he had group time, outdoor activities, a couple formal lessons, and singing all in Spanish. Even the food was from Spanish-speaking countries. He thought it was super fun, and made a great friend Augusto. But, he did find that the day campers didn’t get to do as many ‘camp’ activities as he would’ve liked. Which just made his mind up to do overnight camp next year!

In the afternoons, I’d pick Avi up and then we would return to Bemidji State Park where I had the camper parked for the week. It was nice. We loved the little beachy area, found some geocaches, and took our inflatable kayaks out. One evening we biked and hiked up to a bog and got to see real pitcher plants.

During the day I spent some time writing or hiking with Slim Jim. One day I biked the Paul Bunyan trail all the way around the lake into Bemidji town for a coffee hour question and answer session held for parents of day campers. I was very glad to go to better understand Concordia and the Language Villages organization; it made me even more impressed to hear about all their programs.

On his final day, Avi’s group of day campers did a cute performance of their Spanish songs and then got to tour around their parents. I finally got to see beyond the trees out to the lake and wander in the little gift shop. He treated me to some candy at the dulceria with his leftover peso’s.

That evening Concordia held a reception for parents of overnight campers at the same cute little Wild Hare Bistro coffee shop in town – so Avi and I went into Bemidji for dinner and a wander before the reception, and a bit of silly photos at Paul Bunyan afterward.

On Saturday morning we checked out of the campground to go pick up Zoe. I enjoyed the camping, but it would be better with a pull-behind trailer not a class-C drive camper like ours. It become a pain to unhook each time I needed to pick up or drop off Avi.

When we arrived at Waldsee, Zoe was nowhere to be found so we went to the biohouse for a breakfast they provided for the families. Soon, we were ushered out to a wooden deck stage and got a great introduction to the camp counselors. The campers all got up to perform some songs and skits, too! It was great to finally see my girl!

Zoe toured us around after that. Waldsee was much more extensive than El Lago del Bosque with art cabins, bikes, archery, an easier access to the lake for swimmig and canoeing, plus a nice shop and imbiss, and lots more large buildings as dormitories. She showed us the cafeteria and explained all the German food they ate. She told us that each day was scheduled – Each day she had a few sessions of German work (often sung) with her ‘family’ group, plus a few free times to pick camp activities, then each evening there was an event like a campfire or a (root)beerfest. She absolutely loved it!

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