Saturday, July 9, 2016

China Camp 2016

We just returned from another year at China Camp, our adoption agency's annual heritage camp in Tulsa. China Camp is one of our favorite places in the world. For three days, our family looks just like everyone else's and no explanations are needed. We have lots of friends at camp - families we traveled with when we adopted Katherine, people we've met at other camps, friends from our agency, a family from our hometown. And we have shared experiences with everyone at camp, strangers included. I had a conversation today with a woman I'd never met about trying to sight see in China while chasing toddlers. China Camp is a place where no one gives us strange looks or asks questions about adoption, a place where none of us feel different from the status quo. All of us enjoy being in a place where everyone "gets" our family!

Camp always begins with drums and cymbals and a local kung fu group's lion dance.

Lion dances are loud and exciting, no matter how many times you have seen them. After the dancing, all the kids head out for three days of fun. They spend time with other kids their age, some of whom have been in the same class for years. Katherine had two of her orphanage mates in her group. They are each others' oldest friends, born within a month of each other, living their early months in cribs in the same room, adopted on the same day, and spending time together at China Camp 12 years later.
The kids take classes in Chinese cooking, language, dance, calligraphy, art, and kung fu, as well as playing games, learning strategies for dealing with questions and comments about race and adoption, and just hanging out with other kids whose life stories are much like their own.
The parents spend time chatting with each other and taking advantage of some kid free time. There are adoption and culture related classes for parents, too.

The last event of China Camp, Closing Ceremonies, is a time for all the kids to share some of what they have learned during the week. Each class performs a dance, sings a song, recites a poem, or demonstrates kung fu moves in front of an audience of proud parents. I always find Closing Ceremonies to be a deeply emotional time. The joy and pride in the room is palpable. I look around at all those beautiful Chinese faces and think of the sorrow and hard places that brought them to their families and see how far all of us have come and I fight tears. Every. Single. Year.

The youngest classes were, as always, adorable. They sang a song about tigers, wearing tiger masks, and making claws with their fingers.

Rachel's class recited poetry in Chinese this year. She wasn't much interested in language class and she hates to perform at China Camp, but she did her part. She hid in the back of the group, but she did it.

A dance troupe did a few tradition dances - beautiful to watch, but hard to capture in a photo.
China Camp always ends with another lion dance, this time performed by the 6th grade campers.
This year's performance was eve more special than usual because this lion was danced by Katherine. And there will be more on that later...

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