While most Americans were celebrating our country’s independence on July 4th, my family woke in the wee hours of the morning to make a pilgrimage.
My children were reluctant and kept asking why we needed to get up at 5 a.m. and drive four and a half hours to Minnesota. What could possibly be SO important?!?
Upon our arrival, we were immediately enveloped into a touring group. Many adoptive parents huddled around the tour guide as she walked parents and preschoolers around the Girl Scout Camp Lakamaga. In the shade of a large tree, my friend, Dan, worked with small elementary children on their Taekwondo skills. My teenage son began to fume, most likely wondering why we brought him to a tiny kids culture camp.
We walked into a dance studio and were met with swirls of color and graceful toes sliding across the floor.
The dance instructor, Brooke, walked over to chat with everyone and introduced herself to my children. Then, she smiled, looked at me and said, “You must be the adoptee.” My son continued to fume.
Next we ventured to the market, where Korean items could be found and bought. The kids tried frozen confections. I was drawn to a Korean pendant.
Our tour ended in the dining hall. Round tables were filled with smiling, laughing faces. All but a few were distinctly Korean. My son picked at his Korean food. My daughter gleefully ate her meal and said, “I love Asian food!” My husband went up for seconds of kimchi.
Two of my friends, Cam and Matt, counselors at Camp Chosŏn came to chat with my family. They talked to my son and expressed their excitement at possibly seeing him next year at camp. Again, my son fumed, but this time a bit more politely.
As the dining hall emptied, Dan came to sit with us to eat. He talked candidly with my son. He explained that many of the very young campers were Hapa (mixed raced Asian). “They are the second generation adoptees,” said Dan, “We could use you (my son) to come and join the camp. When they grow up to be teens, they will need someone like you to talk to. I’m not sure I can talk to them like you can. You are Hapa, I’m not.”
The shroud of doubt began to slip away. My son began to see his place.
Our day ended watching the young teens play and talk along the lakeside. Cam invited my son to come back and join the group next summer. I watched as the teens gathered for photographs.
I quietly sighed, longing for that chance to connect with kids like myself at that age. Perhaps, Camp Chosŏn will introduce me to more adult adoptees so that I can share and reflect with them. From the number of small Hapa children, I suspect I will not feel alone.
Cam and Dan have such an understanding of themselves and their transracial adoptions that I have yet to fully grasp. Comfort lies in knowing I have them to help me and my children along the way to our independence.
Camp Chosŏn, we shall see you next summer!