Last Updated on June 21, 2020 by Audrey Scott
Ah, kids these days. The list runs long of their digital addictions: texting, gadgets, Facebook, internet, and video games. But during our visit to the U.S., we bore witness to a few fleeting moments that reaffirmed that kids are still kids.
That is to say, kids as we knew them: little girls leveraging the lemonade-stand model to raise money for an afternoon trip to the toy store, middle schoolers oohing and aahing over stories about eating bugs and engaging with giant rodents, and high schoolers jumping off absurdly high cliffs to demonstrate their mettle.
With cultural evolution at high speed, it’s comforting to know that while many things have changed, a few remain the same.
Note: If you are looking for eye candy, check out the time lapse audio slideshow of the kids jumping off the ledge at the waterfall here.
Little Kids and Lemonade Stands
After a visit to the Saturday farmer’s market, we strolled the residential streets of Black Mountain, North Carolina and encountered Gracie and her friend, Elizabeth. Their sidewalk stand featured a container of ruby-colored juice and a stack of plastic cups.
Even at a distance, there were no signs needed. The scene was immediately recognizable, iconic, and reminiscent of something timeless and American.
“Do you want a glass of cranberry juice?” Gracie asked as we approached from the corner.
“Sure. How much?” I asked
“Ten,” Gracie responded.
“Ten cents?” I asked. We hadn't lived in the U.S. for nine years. I wasn’t sure if inflation had taken such hold that a glass of juice now fetched $10.
“Yes. And you get a free daisy, too,” Gracie sweetened the deal.
Sold. We asked them to combine our two juice orders in one glass so they could cut down on costs (and garbage) and hung out with them as we drank our juice.
“We're raising money to go to the toy store later. We want to buy more bracelets,” Elizabeth explained as she pointed to the colorful bracelets decorating her arm. They looked a lot like gummy bracelets from my childhood.
We wished them luck as we said goodbye. I put one daisy in my hair and saved the other for my grandmother.
8th Graders and Gross Stuff
Before speaking to groups of 8th graders in suburban rural Northern Virginia, we wondered: “Which stories from our travels would 8th graders be most interested in hearing?” We felt a bit out of touch.
So we polled our friends on Twitter and Facebook, and many of the responses boiled down to two things: the grossest things we’ve eaten and the weirdest animals we’ve encountered.
My friend Stephanie captured the sentiment well: “I think that big water rat thing will be a hit.”
Sure enough, the photo of the capybara above drew gasps, shrieks and hoots (one student actually knew what it was called!). The story of Dan eating bugs in Cambodia elicited lots of “eeews!” but the kids wanted more — in particular, to know about the bugs' texture, taste and crunchiness.
Under the theme of the similarity of kids around the world, this Cambodia video we produced made the same impression regarding the relationship between poverty and happiness on the Virginian kids as it did on the groups of Estonian students we spoke to two years before.
“I really liked their video. Happiness doesn't mean you have to be rich and just because you're poor doesn't mean you're unhappy.”
Eighth graders suddenly didn't seem so different from what I remembered after all.
Audio Slideshow: Kids Still Jumping Off “Killer”
Until the police showed up to shoo them away, kids leaped off a 60-foot ledge into a gorge at Nay Aug Park in Scranton Pennsylvania – just as they did decades before, when Dan and his siblings were kids.
The following audio slideshow says it all. Please note that some loud music comes on after about 1:07 seconds. So, if you're at work you may want to use headphones.
Note: We do not advocate jumping off “Killer” or any 60+ foot ledge like it. We would not jump ourselves and we advise others to refrain from doing so. Some of the kids that jumped showed brush burns on their arms, legs, and backs — simply from entry into the water.
But, kids will be kids and not listen to the rest of us. And we will observe and tell the story like it is.
Over the past several years, we've spent more time with kids in foreign countries than we have with American kids. Perhaps as a result, we can't turn off our “traveler's eye” during our visits to the U.S. — and we find ourselves collecting memories and vignettes to weave into a broader thread.
As we do, it’s refreshing to know that even amidst life's growing complexity, evidence of a refreshing simplicity still remains.
14 thoughts on “Gross Eats, Fearless Leaps and Lemonade Stands: Kids Being Kids [Audio Slideshow]”
Pucha, you guys have done it again! You get me all emotional without even trying! I just showed this to my (Chilean) husband, who does not get things like Kool-aid stands and jumping off cliffs in State Parks… That park could easily be in Central New York and it reminds me of the things we used to do (many of which we were warned not to, of course).
Anyone ever heard of Sliding Rock Falls in Cranberry Lake, NY? We used to sit on old potato sacks and literally slide down the falls into a pool of freezing water at the bottom… talk about simple pleasures of growing up “countrified”!!
BTW- I am truly amazed that kids are still allowed to make that leap! I would’ve expected all kinds of guards and fences, etc. to prevent law suits from jumps gone wrong!
Holy crap, I didn’t know capybaras can get that BIG! When we saw them at the Buenos Aires Zoo, they were the size of small dogs. That thing in the picture is an animal that could be ridden if you put a saddle on it! Less cute and more intimidating.
I am planning my journey, this time round I will not be eating bugs in Cambodia or doing the waltz with a giant water rat, I will however be eating Putu and Nyama in a Zulu Kraal, Walking among giraffe and Zebra in the wild, walking the lower reaches of Kili and more.
Before I go though I am trying to host as many interesting couch surfers as possible. So anyone doing the whole Africa thing that arrives in Nelspruit is assured of a hot cuppa java, a shower if needed and if I am not overbooked a bed for a night or three.
PS The capybara is a monster, I knew that they were oversized rats, but had no idea they were bigger than my Rottweiler friend that has passed on.
We had a gorge near our house in New Jersey. When in high school we used to jump off the cliffs about 35 high. That was quite a thrill. It was amazing how deep you went and how long it took to get back to the surface. When we would dive we used our hands to break the water and they would smash into our foreheads. By the end of the afternoon our foreheads would be all red and bruised. Unfortunately, Michigan is so flat there aren’t any places nearby to engage in this kind of fun.
I used to eat bugs too but that was mostly a function of how fast I was going on my motorcycle.
What an excellent job at capturing your traveler’s perspective while at home. I think that often times travelers, including myself, tend to get wrapped up in the frustrations and challenges of returning home, and this is a reminder that that there is an entire world of positive observations to make as well.
As for the ridiculously large animal in the photo, it drew a gasp from me so I have no doubt that it was a crowd-pleaser with the kids!
This post invoked so many emotions! Delight at kids being kids, recoiling in fear at the largest rodent in the world – I have a healthy fear of rats [shudder]. But the impact of your travels in how you view home was icing on the cake.
@Jetpacker: Mimi was the first capybara I ever met, so I didn’t realize she was a super rodent. Although she looks a bit scary, she was really quite sweet…especially since I had her favorite snack – peanuts – in my hand.
@Margaret: Glad we were able to take you down memory lane! Sliding down falls while sitting on a potato sack sounds pretty frightening! I think we were more scared watching these kids jump than they were. Eventually, a cop showed up and shooed everyone away, but the kids were back fifteen minutes later.
@Pete: I laughed out loud at the image of all these kids with red and bruised marks on their forehead from jumping off the rock all day. How did the foreheads look the next day? I’m imagining a group of friends walking around all with red foreheads, as if they were a badge of honor.
Eating bugs while riding a bike – if you got a big bug, that could be quite a shock. I lucked out on the bug-eating – they people in Cambodia took to Dan first and decided to “educate” him on how to eat bugs while I took photos.
@Earl: There are times when we wish we could turn off our “traveler’s eyes” since we’re constantly observing…and that can get tiring! It’s a mixed blessing – there is lots of stuff that really bothers us about our home country (lack of public transport options outside big cities, huge servings at restaurants, what passes as news, etc.), but each time we return home we also notice so many things that are unique and special about the United States and its people.
@Guy: Sounds like an incredible adventure ahead of you! We hope to be following in your footsteps across Africa later this year. We just tried out CouchSurfing this year, but have had such wonderful experiences staying with hosts in Uruguay and Argentina. I’m glad you’re having fun hosting travelers before you go – wish we were stopping by South Africa!
@Nomadic Chick: Being home these last few weeks has evoked so many emotions for us! It’s nice to be in a familiar place with familiar people, but there are so many things that still feel foreign to us (we still aren’t used to swiping the credit card ourselves at shops and look like idiots each time!). So, it’s nice to find these similarities and universalities with kids and experiences that we can connect with. Sorry for the trauma from the photo of the giant rodent!
I like your narration in this video. If you get bored with traveling, I think you’d make a great audio books narrator!
Lemonade stands are the beginning of any multimillion pound empire.
I absolutely love this piece. So many times on my travels I would see kids jumping into fountains as their parents chased after them, or a pig-tailed little girl skipping and it just hit me that no matter where you go, kids are kids 🙂
@Mariza: We’re always looking for other sources of income 🙂 Dan hates hearing himself and doesn’t believe me when I tell him he has a good voice for audio, so I’m glad to have a second opinion on this!
@Jonny: Very true. You always have to start somewhere.
@Shannon: Love the imagery in your comment. I think the more one travels, the more one sees the similarities in people than the differences.
Gross food is almost always a sure bet to get people laughing, weirded out (in a good way), and giggling amongst each other. I’ve done a couple social classes for students in Thailand about weird and gross foods that I’ve eaten, to the shrieking and love of my students. It always gets them excited!
That cliff jump looks like a lot of fun. I don’t think I would be able to resist it if I was there!
Jumped it over 100 times during the summers in the 80’s! Miss the thrill.