Saturday, July 12, 2014

China Camp 2014

We just returned from China Camp, one of our favorite places to be! We had a wonderful time, as always. We saw old friends, made new ones, celebrated China, and relished being in a place where our family looks like everyone else's.

China Camp always starts with the sound of drums and the magic of the lion dance.
We look forward to the lion every year. This is a cultural symbol all 200+ kids at China Camp are proud to claim!
The girls were so happy to go to their classes and imerse themselves in kung fu and cooking and dance and language and art and all the other wonders of camp.

Katherine and her buddy Sophie spent a lot of time together. They have been friends since they were in the same baby room in the orphanage together.
Steve and I spend much of China Camp shopping and having quiet lunches together, but we always stick around for the Group Photo Adventure so we can play Where's Waldo. Can you spot Katherine and Rachel?
China Camp is divided into "Lower Camp", for 4-6 year olds, and "Upper Camp", for kids who have finished 1st through 6th grade. Katherine was born in 2004, the biggest year for Chinese adoption (over 10,000 children were adopted that year to the U.S. alone), and so has always had a huge class at camp. Her age group has to be divided into two or three classrooms. When she was little, there were around 140 kids in Lower Camp. But soon after Kate came home, The Great Slow Down began. The Chinese government changed the rules and requirements for adoption, more Chinese families began adopting children, and the number of special needs kids in orphanages skyrocketed. That meant that fewer and fewer children were being adopted. We are seeing the results of that at China Camp. While the number of kids at camp has remained about the same over the past few years, the number of kids in Lower Camp has decreased significantly. This year there were only 35 children. And that makes me so sad.
I am so glad that China Camp exists and that my girls get to be a part of it. I worry about how much it will change as Rachel gets older. I want her to continue to be able to be surrounded by kids with stories similar to hers. I hope the handful of campers her age keep returning so that can happen!
On the last day of China Camp, there is always a program for parents. And I always get very emotional there. I look at all of those parents and realize that every one of them knows what it is to long for an unkown child living on the other side of the world. Every one of them knows the hard places in our children's pasts, the struggles they have overcome. We share a connection that is impossible to explain to people who have not been through it. The love and pride in that audience is overwhelming.

And the kids... I will never, ever tire of gazing at all of those beautiful faces. Watching them perform (or not) makes me laugh and cry, sometimes both at once!

Before the program started, a little slide show ran on screens over the stage. There were perhaps 20 pictures and Rachel was featured in no less than 3 of them! I wasn't sure if I should be proud, because she really is adorable, or embarrassed, because her camera ham qualities are a bit excessive!

Rachel's class sang a song in Chinese. It must have been about a horse, because they were all riding hobby horses made out of pool noodles.
And Rachel sang!
Katherine's class also sang a song. I have no idea what it was about, but she continued to sing it most of the drive home!
Closing Ceremonies normally ends with another lion dance, with the oldest kids as dancers. The dance was performed this year, but after it was over, the entire camp trooped back on stage. To the amusement of kids and parents alike, the whole camp sang Let It Go, from the movie Frozen. In Chinese. With Actions. It was terrific fun!
We are always a little sad to leave China Camp. Rachel said she wants to "stay here forever" and I understand that. I am so grateful that my life's journey has brought me to this place!

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