Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Bit Of India Found In Tulsa, OK

 ISRC girls who once lived together

For the first time in my life, I walked into a large auditorium filled with people I’ve never met expecting to feel uncomfortable, only to look around and recognize most of the children and a large portion of the adults even though we’ve never actually met. Several people even walked right up and addressed me by name. Wow! near celebrity status. When does this ever happen? Why, at India camp!

 Mom's  and daughters who traveled around the same time.
Us, Karen & Jenya, Anya Rashi & Nancy

For the last five years, I’ve emailed, blogged and Facebooked with a major portion of the people in that room. So even though we’ve never met in person, I feel connected - related to these people. I have happy danced with them from miles away, celebrated their milestones over my own flute of bubbly champagne, had endless conversations explaining who everyone is to my poor husband who can’t seem to keep the players straight, and have stared straight into the lives of others through my computer monitor crying tears of both joy and sadness experiencing the harsh realities of their adoption journeys. Together we have shared the tumultuous road of forming our families through International adoption. They are my Dillon family.

At five years of age, Devi was finally old enough to attend camp this year, so I accompanied her to Tulsa for the 3 day experience, while daddy took on concentrated one-on-one time with Treya at home. We shared a room with crib mate Jenya and her mom Karen, a holiday all in itself for us. This was Devi and Jenya’s second meeting and purely by coincidence (with a little motherly guidance), managed to be on the same flight, sitting together, from Chicago to our final destination, each with a set of headphones attached by a splitter, shared Angelia Ballerina, children’s music and snacks together. 

Ready for camp with one of their counselors

Tagged elephants, the girls were united with several other children in their age group, who lived at ISRC as infants just like them. For the next two days, they took half hour instruction in Indian dance, cooking, yoga, language, crafts, henna, dress up, story time and bouncy house. When asked during breaks which area of study was their favorite, we heard a resounding unanimous vote for dance! Further proof was watching the girls in those undetected moments while waiting for an elevator or studying their reflection in a window, unconsciously break into a bit of the routine they were learning for the final performance day.  Near lunchtime on one of the days, I arrived to find Devi adorned with makeup, bindi and what looked like full Indian wedding attire. Stunned by the false sense of maturity she had suddenly acquired, I could indeed see glimpses of the woman within, and was left wondering if she might choose this sort of traditon as part of her own nuptials someday.

Late afternoons were spent at Leapin’ Louie’s Lagoon, a small water park adjoining the hotel. Renamed “Hawaii” by the girls, the pool was a huge hit. They splashed and went down the slide countless times until with blue lips and trembling bodies, the exhaustion in their eyes from the long and busy day was apparent. For Devi and Jenya; however, it did not stop the incessant whispers at bedtime, with chatter of princesses and castles and friendships filling the silence of the night-night darkness, echoed by the shushes of mothers urging their much needed sleep.

Anna, Devi, Jenya, Anya Rashi
Mihika with Devi below

By now Devi and Jenya, Anya Rashi, Anna Dola, Mihika, Wren Pryashi, Tess, and many others had become buddies all hanging out as if they had known each other for years. Many of the parents (because our children were so close as babies, especially Nancy, Peter, Karen and I)  shared the same sort of camaraderie, some of us dining out for lunches and dinners, taking in Indian food, and exchanging life experiences through voice rather than email. It was so great to finally connect accents of voices and personality traites to these peoples faces and finding that though we are separated by miles and geography we are very much like minded.

Walking into the conference center the final day was reminiscent of stepping off a plane onto Indian soil. The warmth of the  96 degree day, our beautiful brown skinned children running around hugging and laughing in their bright and glittery Indian attire, and the unmistakeable aroma of an India Palace lunch buffet that soon followed, and I was there. Once full to the brim, the parents settled in for the grand finale performances. Each age group had prepared a skit, song or poem to illustrate what they had learned at camp. The elephants performed a fable using the animal masks they had made, about how long ago, mice and elephants learned to share the jungle peacefully. At last the dance! The near 50 campers found their spot on the dance floor and with the assistance of the dance instructors, entertained us with an energetic bollywood dance that we had only witnessed bits and pieces of until today. It was fabulous - hard to believe they had only had a couple hours of practice. 

 Now home a few days with only our photos and the remains of our fading mehndi left, I still hear Devi singing Naani Teri Morni Lo Mor Le Gaye, (a nursery rhyme in Hindi about thieves stealing a granny's peacocks) throughout the house and she is still recalling fun memories made with her new friends. Her camp crafts are proudly displayed and she hasn’t stopped asking me to set up Skype since we touched down. We had such a positive and enriching experience and plan to attend in future years, though we both agree leaving daddy and Treya was so hard too. Daddy and Treya also had a marvelous time discovering the trinkets in the numbered bags I had left for them to keep track of the number of sleeps until we were home, loudly chattering with just as much enthusiasm about their days while we were away. No doubt we all missed each other and grew emmensly from our time away from each other. 


The Labontes said...

It sounds like such a wonderful time. Amazing to see all of those familiar faces together! I so wish we could have attended. It is a definite goal for next year. So happy for you all :)

Kristen said...

What an incredible experience!!! Loved seeing all the girls together :)

Peter and Nancy said...

We just got home 36 hours ago . . . so it was really fun to catch up on my bloggy friends and find your post! You captured some great photos -- and also the spirit of the camp. It was such a joy to meet you in person, Julie . . . and now I must end my comment because a certain little person insists on looking at your pictures again. :o)

Miche said...

That sounds so amazingly awesome!! Is that only for Dillon adoptees or could anyone bring their kids? That would be so amazing to take our daughter too!

Cristy said...

Your pictures are so awesome! Makes me feel excited about one day taking our child to India Camp.