Saturday, July 01, 2006

'We love our Mu Ji Gae'

Today was the day for Camp Mu Ji Gae—a Korean culture camp that’s held in Albany each summer primarily for kids adopted from Korea.

This is the 20th year for Camp Mu Ji Gae (which means “rainbow” in English). It’s one of the largest camps of its kind in the Northeast and attracts kids from all over the state. The kids who come to the camp range in age from toddlers to high school students.

For the older kids, it’s more of a conventional camp where they go and stay for the week. But at age 3, Thomas is in the second level, which means he only spent a few hours there this morning accompanied by me.

The kids get to learn a little about Korean culture by checking out some Korean musical instruments, working on a craft project and other activities. But most importantly, it’s a chance for them to spend some time with other kids like themselves. When they get older, it will be a great opportunity to share experiences with other kids who know what it’s like to be adopted.

After camp, Kris and Nolan joined us for lunch. Then we stuck around for “Family Day.” As I mentioned, when the kids are older camp lasts longer and might not involve their parents. So the camp usually ends with Family Day, when moms and dads, brothers and sisters all gather together for fun activities.

Camp Mu Ji Gae isn’t strictly for adopted kids. Nolan has attended the camp in the past. Last year he was at the level where for a couple of days I would drop him off in the morning and Kris would pick him up at lunchtime. We thought the camp would be a great way for him to learn more about where his brother came from. It also gives him an idea what everyday life is like for Thomas, when for a change Nolan’s the only white kid and the rest of the faces around him are Korean.

Most importantly, it’s fun. Nolan opted not to go to camp this year and we didn’t press it. But when he showed up for Family Day, I think he kind of missed it and he told us that he wants to go again next year.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the house humming the catchy camp songs that we sang today.

It also put us in the mood to break out Thomas’ hanbok and try it on him. A hanbok is a traditional Korean ceremonial outfit worn only on very special occasions. When we got Thomas as a baby, packed in his bag was hanbok given as a gift from his foster family that took care of him for his first few months.

In accordance with Korean tradition, we had him wear it on his 1st birthday. He was swimming in it then, but it fits him much better now.


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