Sunday, July 15, 2012

China Camp, Chapter 5

In some ways, our family is a typical American family, with a mom and a dad and two kids.  But in some other, important ways, we are not.  We stand out.   Sometimes that is kind of annoying and other times we hardly notice, but the reality is we are different.  But there is one place where we blend in and that is China Camp.  Everyone there is just like us.  We don't get odd glances.  We don't have to explain ourselves.  We look just like every other family there.  It is an amazing place.

This was our 5th year at China Camp.  It is our favorite week of the year.  We plan to go back as many times as we possibly can.  Because we have fun there.  And we love the friends we meet there.  And we love blending in.
This year Rachel was FINALLY old enough to leave the nursery and be a part of camp.  She was quite pleased about that!
She made some new friends, charmed her teachers, practiced kung fu, made edible rice flour playdough, and relished being one of the big kids.  Her favorite thing about camp was the "bouncy house" - not exactly cultural, but a whole lot of fun!

Katherine is an old hand at China Camp.  She has gone since she was 4 and always looks forward to it.  When we traveled to China to get her, there were 7 other families in our travel group adopting girls her age from the same orphanage.  Four of those girls have gone to China Camp together for 5 years now.  They have always been in the same class and have formed a deep bond.  Katherine looks forward to spending time with her orphanage "sisters".
Katherine spent camp time with these old buddies and making new friends.  She went to dance class, learned a few words of Chinese, made a book about basic China geography, spent time with a social worker talking about adoption, practiced kung fu, and made a drum.  Her favorite though, was making and eating spring rolls - this girl loves to cook!

China Camp always starts with a lion dance.  It's ten minutes of wild drumming, color, and motion.  The kids LOVE it!  This is a part of their cultural heritage that they eagerly claim!
As for the parents... We meet with friends we have known since before our children were home.  We joke about the startling difficulty of picking our daughters out of the crowd.  We watch the older kids and wonder what our girls will be like.  We watch the babies and toddlers and remember fondly what it was like to have a new one home.  We go to parent workshops about adoption and race and identity.  We go out for quiet lunches with our spouses.  We go shopping.  We occasionally introduce ourselves to people we've never met, but whose blogs we have followed for years.  We spend hours just watching the children, because we never get tired of seeing the astonishing variety of Chinese faces.  We think about how far our sons and daughters have come, and sometimes have to wipe away tears of joy and thankfulness.  We refill the cup of our souls and watch our children refill theirs.  We blend in.

China Camp always ends with Closing Ceremonies, where each class of children perform something they have learned.  There were 285 kids this year, so it was a big event!  The kids sang songs, did dances, recited phrases in Chinese, showed off their kung fu skills, put on a skit about the Chinese zodiac animals, and did another lion dance.  It was loud and chaotic and totally delightful!
Rachel's class showed the kung fu poses they'd learned.  Rachel, in her typical I'm-in-a-performance mode, chewed on her fingers and looked around.   She still made us laugh!
Katherine's class sang Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes in Chinese.  Kate has been tickled by the idea that the Chinese word for head sounds like "toe" and giggles every time she sings the song.

As always, China Camp ended before we were ready for it to.  I'm just grateful that China Camp exists.  It has had a huge impact on our family.  Being there makes us feel just like everybody else.  Being there makes us stronger.  I believe the old addage that it takes a village to raise a child.  And these are some of the people that I have chosen to be in our village.  These are the people helping to raise my children, because they bring knowledge and gifts that I don't have.  The official China Camp shirts this year red "I [heart] China Camp".  I agree.

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