Friday, September 10, 2010

Culture Camp in Colorado

We hope you had a good Labor Day Weekend. Immedium author Oliver Chin spent his holiday at the final summer Heritage camp of the year in Fraser, Colorado. There he shared his Asian American (Tales from the Chinese Zodiac, Julie Black Belt) and other story books with families nationwide.

A two hour drive from Denver, the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch is nestled in the Rocky Mountains. The facility grounds cover a startlingly wide expanse. For the car-less, this made walking a necessary and good workout in the mile high air.

The camp's area seems even wider to those campers who remember how a forest used to blanket the terrain between the lodges. It was so thick that one couldn't even see the next cabin through the trees. After the arrival of the infamous pine beetle, the trees died in the thousands during the past few years. These multi-story matchsticks had to be chopped down (and sometimes are visible in big piles, looking like a stack of twigs in the distance), leaving the surroundings strangely barren to those who remember verdant green woods.

However this desolate contextual memory stands in startling contrast to the vibrant proceedings of the camp itself. This year the theme was "Folktales". Attendance was the highest ever in the camp's 14 year history. Dozens of programs for preschoolers to parents filled three days to the brim.

Oliver taught one hundred precocious 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders how to create their own "zodiac" animals stories as 4 page comic books. Plus he managed to sooth the savage beasts of "post lunch" preschoolers by drawing a big dragon and reading The Year of the Dog.

One of many culture camps held during the summer, this was the 2nd Chinese session. which is aimed at families who have adopted children from China. The program (staffed by local college students who act as counselors) offers many sessions for kids (mainly girls with a handful of boys and non-adopted children) to learn and participate in cultural traditions from a land they don't quite remember. Parents volunteer in a myriad of ways (from cooking to teaching), and learn some ways to help their children come to grips with their dual Asian and American-ness, while their families simultaneous cope with a spectrum of "adoption" issues.

This was a whirlwind weekend full of inspirational friendship that spanned age and geography. Immedium was privileged to be a part of it, and appreciated the opportunity to meet new people who are eager to learn about and proud of their Asian-American identity.