Monday, August 29, 2011

Skin Deep!

India Fest 2011 - Portland, Oregon
(Photo by Kirk)

Without realizing it, I’ve always located my children in a crowd by first looking for their beautiful brown skin and secondly by the fluorescent colors they are most likely wearing; just as my husband says my hair is an asset to him - an aid for finding me amongst a sea of Caucasian people. I enjoy having a unique quality, but I am an adult and made this choice for myself. I wonder what my children feel knowing that in most situations they are different than everybody else in the most obvious of ways - the color of their skin? I say most situations, as this weekend brought a whole new set of circumstances, where suddenly I was the minority whose ability to track my own children failed me!

Imagine my surprise when scouring a swimming pool’s surface in search of my two brown beauties only to find my keen eyes darting from child to child in a literal sea of bobbing, smiling and laughing browned skinned kiddos? Thus was only one of the delightful scenes at the India fest we attended in Portland this past week.

Treya's reaction to her first road trip.
I love how she clasps her hands when she gets excited.

Devi meeting baby Tanaya for the first time.

The kitchen helpers - Shaili, Tanaya and Trey

Our first shift of eaters on the first night.

On Thursday, two adoptive families; the Mahar’s from Oregon and Werre’s from Idaho and ours converged on a 5 bedroom/2 bath rental home located pretty much smack dab in the middle of the heart of Portland - the perfect starting point for most of the week’s activities. Our nine children fell right into step scurrying about discovering the house while each family introduced their newest members, all home from India for less than six months. In addition, there were several local adoptive families and one family, the Hartley’s, who flew in from California that joined in the hectic schedule of fun.

Cheryl, a local, put her organizational talents to work, directing us to many of Portland’s parks and recreation areas. On Friday Blue Lake park was a huge hit sending the older kids off for paddle-boat rides while the younger set played on the sandy beach literally shutting the park down at night fall, but only after many pizzas were consumed to fuel their effort. The kids dug a huge hole - a hole to India, no doubt - that leaves me pondering if it is still there as I am still digging souvenir sand out of both girls' ears!

Ajay playing in the sand box at Washington Park.
(Photo by Cheryl)

Daya and Devi riding a cement Indian elephant Devi named Ganesh.

Some of our Indian princesses. Shaili, Daya, Treya, Devi and Adia

A scorcher Saturday afternoon found us at the home of Lisa and Russ and their 8 children for a bbq pool party. Nearly 50 in number, the pool was full and so were our bellies after a feast of shared dishes. I was thrilled to find the older Indian girls in love with the pea salad I brought to share (recipe courtesy of our neighbor Carol) because of the curry it calls for, which I doubled! Most of us had never met face to face, though have had long relationships via Internet and word of mouth. It was so great to place faces to names, and see these “friends” for the first time. The evening was full of so many stories sharing the miraculous journeys of how each of these wonderful families were joined. In spite of some pretty tragic beginnings, all of the children are loved and thriving now.

Devi resting and refueling with Henna and Adia.
(Photo by Cheryl)

Devi cooling off at Blue Lake park

Devi and Daya - good buddies
(photo by Cheryl)

Treya making friends with Alesha

Part of our group. From left; Pat, Devi, me, Treya, Kaylin, Eric, Adia, Cheryl, Brie, Tanaya, Kirk, Asha and Emily

The excitement began to mount on Sunday morning as we all prepared ourselves for the festival. One by one the children emerged in their traditional Indian attire, so proud of their fancy appearance. Before me knew it, the living room was alive with the sound of jingling bangles, the glint of bindis and the weave of gold threads.

Putting on bangles and bindis - the final touches

(Photo by Kirk)

(Photo by Kirk)

Asha home just a few months
(Photo by Kirk)

The girls in all their finery. From left, Metali, Devi, Daya, Shaili, Treya, Asha, Eli and Tanaya

Upon our arrival the festival was an explosion of color and music with the spicy aroma of Indian food telling our bellies it was time for lunch. I hoarded a fresh dosa with potato pea filling; not sharing a single bite. By mid afternoon in the 90 degree heat, our girls had drained their mango lassi drinks, and we were off to get mehndi tattoos on our hands. Treya’s face lit up when the artist drawing on her hand spoke to her in Marathi - a language she obviously still understands. I believe this was the highlight of Treya’s first India fest and the name tag with her names written in Hindi, which she absolutely refused to take off.

Devi and Ajay watching the dancing.

(Photo by Kirk)

Intent on watching the henna cone move over my skin, the girls and I were startled when the henna artist broke the concentration by commending me for my choice to adopt my girls. I thanked her and made a mental note that to that point, I was unaware that I, a fair skinned women, was noticeably not of Indian origin at this predominately Indian attended event. It is funny that unless I am looking in the mirror or it is pointed out, I never FEEL that I look any different than my girls. We are simply a family and I am their mother.

Nearly at the end of their rope, the girls get the giggles. Treya with her Hindi name tag, Devi and Alesha

Although India festival is held to celebrate India’s independence day, for us, stretching the festivities over a long weekend, allows our children to remain connected, as many of them lived together before joining their forever families; some were even crib mates. I looked forward to watching all of the kids play together, but also to sharing parenting trials and tribulations with other families built like ours. The result brought fast friendships - the kind that will last a lifetime. Our whole family is all ready looking forward to a repeat performance next year.


The Labontes said...

Julie, ALL of the kiddos look so great. Such an amazing feeling to see them together. What a great event to unite so many families each year!


Anonymous said...

Jealous! It's so neat to see so many faces from various blogs all in the same place together. Milwaukee doesn't have a big India event . . . but I'll have to check if Chicago does. You've inspired me!

Fenwick 5 said...

Man oh man,wish I had a chance to come to OREGON!! I hope to make it one year!!:) The closest Indian Fest we have is in Memphis Tenn hoping to go to that one..and it is so awesome. They have it indoors at the agriculture center. We went before we got Maiya but Shane came down with a BAD COLD. So we had to jet!! Well I am so loving these sweet family reunion pictures. We are hoping on fall break to have a family fun day with another family at the zoo. Well take care Gidget:)

Joy in the Journey! said...

Such beautiful girls!
There are so few of us who have or are adopting from India that I found you thru google :). I look forward to reading more!