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Families Come Together at Culture Camp

By Sandee McAlpine

On a cool, crisp evening at Camp Courage in Minnesota, my husband and I are taking a break, relaxing in our cabin for a few minutes before heading outside for the children's lantern parade. We just finished a fantastic Vietnamese dinner, complete with mooncakes that our family helped to make this afternoon at cooking class.

The air smells fresh and clear, with just a hint of Vietnamese food from the dining hall, and a whiff of the campfire where we will gather later on. Everyone feels relaxed and content and warm despite the chilly evening.

Dragon at Catalyst Vietnamese Culture CampOur children race in an out of the cabin, playing with the other children at camp. Just outside our cabin, there is a basketball court where families love to gather. The kids play basketball and street hockey, and all sorts of other spur of the moment games. We can hear the happy shouts of dozens of children, and watch the parents gathered in small groups, sharing their adoption stories.

Our seven year old has become especially attached to a 5 year old boy and his 3 year old sister, and is giving them piggy back rides. Our 6 year son has a new girlfriend, who came all the way from Maryland to attend culture camp. They're planning to be pen pals after camp. Our day started with the children marching off with their counselors to their workshops. I went to my first adult workshop, where social worker Maxine Walton talked about adoption issues. Her advice will be helpful as my children enter their pre-teen years, but mostly I found it reassuring to gather with other parents who share the same parenting concerns. In the second workshop, Myriam Pham shared many interesting tidbits about Vietnamese culture. As I walk away, I think that I understand just a little bit better my child's birthmother and the decisions she made.

Our children joined us then, loaded down with the crafts they had spent the morning making. After lunch, we went to two family workshops, a cooking class and a craft class. We all worked together to make mooncakes, even our 5 year old daughter, who discovered that she likes her red bean paste straight from the can. At craft class, we tried our hands at laquerware. Supper followed, and now, here we are relaxing before the lantern parade and campfire.

My kids think the best part of camp was playing with the other kids. For me, there were lots of great things about camp--everything we learned at our workshops, the gift shop, the Vietnamese food--but the best part may have been watching our kids play with all the other kids. Just being among so many families that look like ours is a warm and indescribable feeling. Before camp, Caroline asked us to email her something interesting about our family. Lots of times, in the circles we move in, such as our extended family, our church, and our neighborhood, the most interesting fact about our family is that our kids are from Asia. Culture camp is a place where that fact doesn't set you apart, it brings families together.

More Information: Current Vietnam Adoption Culture Camp events and dates provided on the Families with Children from Vietnam website. Or visit the Catalyst website.

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