Indian Nepalese Heritage Camp

Now that X is 4, we decided it was time to explore the Adoption Heritage Camps. It's been on my radar for a long time thanks to TAFicity, which we found soon after bringing X home. A note about TAFicity, it's been a wonderful resource for us in making connections in the transracial adoption community.

Everytime I talk to someone about Heritage Camps, they are so excited and tell me how much I'm going to love it, how amazing it is to meet other adoptive families and make connections with the larger ethnic community. This was not my experience the first time around as it really was just freaking hectic dealing with both kids and packed schedule.

I was super excited to sign up for the camp, and after filling out the lengthy registration form early in the spring, was eagerly looking forward to the experience. And then this phone call came, "Hi, I just wanted to call because you filled out the registration form for Indian Nepalese Heritage Camp, but you say that your child was born in the United States, are you sure you are in the right camp?" This took me aback, because I wrote X's ethnicity on the form as half Indian, half Latino. The conversation was uncomfortable for me, because it felt like she was trying to force me to go to the Domestic Adoption Camp instead, which I didn't want to do. It left a bad taste, and I was less enthusiastic about going. I have an on-going struggle with feeling like an "other" even within the transracial adoptive community. I don't need more reminders that our situation is unusual compared to other transracial adoptive families.

The schedule of the camp got to us in a big way. It is packed for 2 days with hardly a breather, and the preschoolers don't take a nap. You can get them if you think they need a nap, but unless X is in a room with other preschoolers, he does not nap. He no longer naps at home on weekends, and we knew that pulling him from his activities to try to get him to take a nap was futile. Instead, he was super tired and fussy and tantrumy at night. Also, he barely ate the whole weekend. We would coax him to eat stuff he likes (hot dogs, mac n' cheese), and pretty much resigned ourselves to asking him to take 3 no-thank-you bites. He subsisted on chips, popcorn, animal crackers, z-bars, german chocolate cake and apples. (Parent of the year, obviously)

Thursday:
12:30-3:00: S volunteered to help unpack the moving truck and set up for camp
4:30pm New Families Orientation,
5:30pm BBQ dinner,
7:00pm Opening Ceremony

Friday:
8:45am, drop X off with counselor, find daycare room, schlep pack n play and Baby Z and all his stuff to daycare room, drop him off. These were in two different buildings...
9:30-11:30am: Kid and Adult Workshops
12:00pm: Pick up Baby Z from daycare for lunch (required), meet X at park for lunch
1:00pm: Drop X off with counselor, Drop Baby Z off at daycare
1:15-3:30: Kid and Adult Workshops
4:15: Pick up X, pick up Baby Z
7:00-9:00: Family Fun Night

Saturday:
8:00am: Holi and Rangoli (we didn't make it)
8:45am, drop X off with counselor, schlep pack n play and Baby Z and all his stuff to daycare room, drop him off.
9:30-11:30am: Kid and Adult Workshops
12:00pm: Pick up Baby Z from daycare for lunch (required), meet X at park for lunch
1:00pm: Drop X off with counselor, Drop Baby Z off at daycare
1:15-3:30: Kid and Adult Workshops (I volunteered in the market from 1pm-5pm)
4:15: Pick up X, pick up Baby Z
7:00-?: Bhangra

Sunday
10:30am: Closing Ceremony

It was a lot. a lot a lot a lot...and I ended up wishing we had left Baby Z with grandparents, because having to deal with all his stuff on top of not knowing the layout and ebb and flow of the schedule made it more stressful. We managed to go to the Family Fun night because it was in our lodge, but Baby Z was fussy and screaming and wouldn't go to sleep, so I ended up hanging out in the room while S took X over to the conference room which was supposed to be henna, games and mingling. Well, someone got the bright idea to put on the Jungle Book, and thus sealed our fate. No way was this going to be an hour long, then try to get X to bed on time type of  "fun night". He planted himself in front of the tv and that was that. S and I ended up switching off with Baby Z and S was able to get him to sleep. The whole thing was a mess, and I didn't get a turn to get henna, which I really wanted!  I had a few nice conversations once I got a glass of wine in me and calmed the f-ck down over the looming sleep disasters, and X was very happy with the movie and popcorn. We weren't able to go to the Bhangra night, which is the big celebration/dancing. We took them for a drive in the afternoon (the only way X would nap), and ate dinner in the hopes that we could at least make an appearance. But, X only wanted to play on the playground and had no desire to see any of his new friends. Instead of fighting him, we figured it wasn't worth it. It's too bad, because that's the night people get dressed in traditional clothing and it's a big party. I even bought an outfit for X to wear. Oh well...

S and I skipped the Friday morning workshops to go for a bike ride. I had a sinus infection all week leading up to the camp and hadn't been able to exercise at all, so I had to try to fit it in during camp. It worked out ok, we got a nice short ride in, and we barely made it to lunch on time. On Friday afternoon, I learned how to make stuffed parantha (fun!) and S went to the heavy subject matter workshops dealing with race issues. In fact, one workshop was dedicated solely to interacting with police. Now, we have several years before that should be an issue, but it seems it's forefront in S's mind. 

Saturday morning I went to a workshop led by a professor of religious studies on the history of yoga, and S went to the workshop on how to deal with tweens/teens in the context of race/adoption/basic tween/teen angst. He's way ahead of the curve! The second afternoon workshop we attended was an Adult Adoptee panel, which was made up of the adoptees who were the impetus for starting these types of camps. I love this type of format, as I always want to know what real-life experiences people encounter and how it makes them feel, and how they deal with it.

The market was super cool. I don't know where they get all the merchandise, but all the profits go back to the camp, which is awesome. They get donations of traditional clothing and then sell them at reasonable prices for the Bhangra night. I had a lot of reservations about wearing a sari or kurta or salawar kameez, because I'm not Indian. In fact I was seriously torn over whether this is cultural appropriation or not. During my volunteer stint in the market (which was slow, so I had time to play on my phone), I did some research and ultimately concluded that because in this particular instance, the wearing of traditional clothing is done in respectful and learning manner, that honors our children's heritage, that it's not appropriation. If I wore the traditional clothing in a different context, like out to dinner or for Halloween because I think it's cool, that would be appropriation. S and I still didn't plan on wearing the traditional clothing for Bhangra night, but I bought a kurta for X that he'll never wear. *sigh* oh well, I think of it as a donation. :) 

The Indian community is heavily involved in the camp, and most of the workshops were run by Indian-Americans, and they are very supportive of adoptive families. I guess that goes without saying considering it's a camp centered around adoption.

I've been going back and forth on whether we should try the Latin American camp next year to see how it compares, considering that X is biracial, but S is more keen to stay with the Indian Nepalese camp. Partially because we have contact with X's birthmother, so the Indian influence is definitely going to be stronger, and partially because S is more interested in learning about India himself. Plus, we live in a part of the country where the Latin American culture is more prevalent throughout the city, and cultural events are more plentiful. (except that part where we haven't even been to one yet.) I wish we could go to both camps, but they are only 2 weeks apart, with the 4th of July sandwiched in-between, so logistically, it's too difficult, and expensive. I am keeping my fingers crossed that X will make the lottery drawing to go to the language school for Spanish starting in kindergarten and that will help incorporate the other half of his heritage. Otherwise, we really need to start to look hard for activities we can do to get involved. 

Some Rangoli pictures: