Sunday, July 12, 2015

China Camp, Day 3

Rachel had some interesting experiences at camp this year. She has known adults with hand differences, but never another child. And she has longed to know another kid with a hand like hers. In her group this year was another girl her age with hand (and foot) differences - not like Rachel's, but someone else who has to deal with stares and weird questions. Rachel was thrilled! The next day, Rae's teacher introduced her to his 13 year old daughter, who also had a "little hand". A few minutes later, we met an adorable 4 year old boy with a hand very much like Rachel's. So now Rae knows 3 other kids who have hand differences! And for the first time, she truly knows that she is not alone, that there are other people who share her challenges and frustrations. And that is a powerful thing.

The last event of China Camp is Closing Ceremonies. During this time, everyone gathers and the kids perform songs and dances and kung fu moves for their parents. It is always fun and sweet and deeply moving. I found the girls before the action started. Rae was happy to flash a big smile...
...Kate was not. She was having fun chatting with her friend and fellow orphanage mate, Hannah, when she spotted me. We have officially hit the era when parents are no long cool!
This year, there were performances by a traditional Chinese dance group - beautiful!

Closing Ceremonies begins with performances by the youngest kids, who have stage fright or forget their lyrics or are off beat, which makes them even cuter. Each class follows with their own performance.  Rachel's group showed off kung fu moves they'd learned during the week. Rachel hid in the back row and did her positions with as little enthusiasm as possible. She is so not a performer!
Katherine, on the other hand, knew every move of her group's dance and was happy to stand on the front row and smile through it all.

Closing Ceremonies always ends with another dragon dance, this one performed by the oldest kids at camp, the 12 year olds. This dance is not as impressive as the professional drummers and dancers, but it is deeply moving. The kids are so proud to perform, to be a participant in this part of their birth culture. And the younger kids watching are in awe of the transformation of their friends and siblings. They all want to touch the dragon, to be a part of the magic.

I am always overcome with emotion during the kids' dragon dance. There is so much love and courage, pride and amazement in that room. I am forever in awe of what all of these kids and their families have been through and how far they have come. And I am so, so grateful that my children and I are a part of it all.

We always have a hard time leaving China Camp. There are so many emotions and such deep friendships there that we are never quite ready to let go. This year was no exception. Rachel wanted to show us all of her craft projects. She was especially pleased with the umbrella she decorated.
And Katherine and her friend Sophie weren't ready to leave each other. Quite frankly, neither were their parents. So we spent some time talking and laughing and goofing around.
Then finally, we headed home. But we talked about camp the whole way back. And we'll keep processing it in the weeks to come. And we'll treasure the memories of this week and save them to comfort us during difficult times. I love the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." And China Camp is a very big part of our village.

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