Social icebreaker

Following on the “Thoughtful Gift” letter from ITN reader Charles Treadgold (Nov ’05, pg. 44), I offer this.

During the last two years, my travels have taken me on tours to Central and South America. Usually, a half day of each itinerary had us visiting an indigenous village in the jungle. The visit typically followed the pattern of our meeting the native adults and then the children before we adjourned to an area where the tour group viewed various handicrafts that were for sale or barter.

The adults usually performed traditional dances and then chose a tourist partner to join in. The kids then stood before the group and sang several songs. Quite often, this meeting between people of two different cultures was very self-conscious, with not much in common to bond us all together.

But I discovered, and have used on these trips to Costa Rica, Panama and Peru, the ideal “icebreaker” that immediately turns a stilted meeting into a fun-filled experience for all. Prior to each trip, I purchased a colorful Frisbee or two — not a professional Frisbee from a sporting goods store but one with a “smiley face.” They pack very lightly and are not breakable.

When I have approached the schoolmaster or coordinating adult from the village with the idea of teaching the kids this new game with a “flying saucer,” they have been all for it. Within two minutes, after the children have learned which side of the Frisbee is “up” and how to throw it across their bodies, typically there will be a dozen girls and boys pleading, “Throw it to me!”

It doesn’t hurt to have a ladder nearby, because an occasional errant throw will land the Frisbee on a roof. After 15 minutes of parents and the tour group observing enthusiastic kids showing off their new skills, we leave the Frisbee with an adult to keep so our newfound friends can play with it later.

Media, PA