As summer approaches (even LA there is a slight nuance of greater heat to come), and the kids I work with look forward to a respite from their school year, I begin to reminisce about the humid summers of Wisconsin childhood’s past. So probably not to anyone’s surprise, there is not much to do in a rural Wisconsin town for summer break aside from swim and play endless games of “Sharks” or “blob tag” with the neighborhood kids. With so many options to be had, my sister and I decided from an early age to be a part of the summer swim team. Swimming was hard, but soooo fun and provided endless formative experiences in my young life. One of the pervasive memories was that of the long distance trips to swim meets and the hours filled with camp songs and pump-up cheers. What is so funny to think now is that little did I know that one of those camp cheers would become one of the most successful cross cultural connector I have used to date.
Twenty or so years later summer is here again but will look much different now. In the last couple of year my summers ( and other seasons too) have become filled with journeys of working and volunteering abroad. The journey’s abroad have afforded me great adventures to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Spain, England, and more but most recently to North Africa and the Thai/Burma border. Both of the latter trips were in the context of volunteer service and so as much volunteer work is filled with, lots of time with kids. This, of course, is where boom-chicka-boom comes in. Boom-chicka-boom is the kind of song you find that resonates deep in your soul. This is not because the words are especially inspiring (with a name like boom-chicka-boom, that is difficult to understand) or because (please see attached instructional youtube video) has been my good ole stand-by when my knowledge of Derija (Moroccan arabic) or Karen (Burmese Hill tribe) children’s songs have not been on the tip of my tongue.
My first experience with this was leading a basketball camp in Morocco. The kids at an orphanage were gathered up for a group warm-up time aka “wiggles galore”. This time mostly just turned into an awkward dance circle where each instructor was called out to lead a dance move. Well when “Yasmine” was called, all I had been boom-chicka-boom. Now did I really think this not arabic cheer would go over well, no, but the response was overwhelming to the point where each day the boys would not finish warm up until boom-chicka-boom was done.
My second experience was just as entertaining and such an unexpected surprise. The summer I traveled with a team to volunteer in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border. Our mission was to provide training to the adults there, but asalways happens, the staff asked us to spend some time with the kids. Each of us were professionals who knew little about working with kids and so again, I dug deep to the days if swim caps and brought out boom-chicka-boom. It is just funny that non-sensical words string together to form such a vibrant energy and connection from these kids who are limited to bamboo huts in jungles. Boom-chicka-boom became such a hit that you could hear kids walking around the camp singing it to themselves and naming kick moves to a game they play the “boom chicka”.
I guess at then end of all of this, I am just amazed at the resources our histories afford us. Who would have known, that a silly little cheer I did at swim meets would allow me to cross cultural gaps and create extremely meaningful experiences. What can you draw from your past?