Reflections on Culture Camp
It started Sunday night with strains of "Take my temperature. I think I have a fever,"" My throat is sore," I stubbed my toe today; I can't walk." After the litany of ailments come the tears. Over what, you ask? Is it the first day of school
already? No, it's our annual sojourn to Korean Culture Day Camp.
Camp is a wonderful place; my kids just don't realize it yet. Granted it's usually hot and it can he hectic at times, but it's really a wonderful place. It's a place where our kids can be together with other kids just like themselves and work on their "Korean comfort level." They can explore aspects of their heritage in a safe place and try on as much as they like, or ignore as much as they like. (My boys absolutely hate tae-kwon-do, but they love Korean food, so the cooking class is a real treat for them.) I always tell my kids that we have to go to camp so I can learn to be Korean, since I wasn't lucky enough to have been born that way.
Of course I still have to bargain with them to get them to go. We're always very flexible. We usually take one day off and some days we come home for lunch instead of staying to the end. It's a compromise that gives the kids a sense of control over the situation while at the same time giving them the cultural exposure that I want them to have.
Why do I do it? Well, Monday on the way home we belted out as much as we could remember of the "Mountain Rabbit" song - san ttoggi ttoggi ya- then had an informal discussion of ancestors during our afternoon swim. By Tuesday we were eating with chopsticks and on Wednesday - the day we had picked to stay home - we were up packing lunch and wondering what we were going to be making in cooking class that day. Something seemed to be clicking and they were actually having fun!
So once again, I think the effort was worth it. And my kids definitely need it. They are so uncomfortable being different, being Korean, that I can't ignore it. I hope that by attending camp is one of the ways to help us reach this goal.
(Author's note: Please don't think that I advocate forcing a child to go to culture camp. I wrote this article about my twins
who are still very young - only seven- and "temperamentally challenged." They hate to go anywhere: school, church, birthday parties, etc., so everything they do becomes a dance of compromise. I find their shyness easing somewhat as they become older and through repeated to certain events...like camp.)
Credits: Kathy Myles