In Yantai the word for week 3 was FLEXIBILITY! It seemed like a comedy of errors, as not only did we lose access to the swimming pool for the entire week, it also rained with some lightning and thunder thrown in for good measure, enough to throw out any plans we had for outdoor activities and disrupt the schedule of assemblies and meetings. Despite these obstacles to our plans, the staff, volunteers, translators and kids came together to have a blast of a week where we even managed to throw in a few surprises!
The kids arrived Monday afternoon and as we ushered them into the pool we were greeted with a shocking sight: the pool had gone from crystal blue to algae green! Not to be dissuaded from enjoying their time with us, the kids jumped into craft time while some of the staff rushed to set up the water-park.
he kids were hesitant to be the first to try the water-park, but after seeing some of the volunteers and translators give the waterslide a try, the kids jumped in line and all too soon it was pandemonium with jumps, somersaults and more than a few water-soaked king-of-the-hills.
Tuesday came in with a roar that would make any lion proud. Rain, lightning, thunder and the staff at the hotel telling us we would have to turn of the electric equipment before anything nearby struck us with lightning. While we had to shorten our assembly, we were able to lengthen family time and give an extra night for the kids to contemplate some questions about what they wanted to be in the future and what they thought it meant to be a man or a woman.
The storm didn’t disrupt all of our plans. In fact for the scavenger hunt it made things more interesting, as we extended the hunt between the two largest buildings of the resort, two buildings that are about 100 yards apart. In the rain that can be quite a run! The kids and their family groups disrupted a few massages and oxygen treatments as they searched for eight staff members hidden throughout the buildings, and after nearly an hour and a half of searching a winner was crowned!
Also as a result of the storm we got to try a new event. By midweek the skies were still dark and stormy so instead of risking a trip to the beach we found an indoor Waterpark. It had two huge tube-slides, one smaller tube and a huge rafting slide, plus a gigantic pool complete with hidden tunnel, a large fountain to run through and a smaller kiddie area for the younger campers to enjoy.
While the tube slides were somewhat troublesome to get through, especially for some of the larger staff members who kept getting stuck halfway down, the large raft slide became a hit both for those daring enough to ride down it and for the spectators who got to watch.
Many of our volunteers this week were Canadian citizens and they were very proud of where they come from! Thursday night they treated the kids to a song they had practiced both in English and in Chinese, and then gave a lesson on the differences between Canada and the rest of the world. The finale of this lesson was introducing the kids to hockey! The demonstration was well received, but the American volunteers got to stand up and challenge the Canadians to a quick match, and the Americans came out ahead, 1-0! But more exciting than any competition was seeing the kids in the hallways the next morning practicing hockey with their very own authentic Canadian hockey sticks!
So while the best plans may be changed or disrupted, we learned this week that love really does conquer all, and you don’t need sunshine or a swimming pool to be a family!
Other stories from Camp:
On Tuesday night we had to announce that television time needed to be limited because we were developing a severe couch potato problem with all the rain and so much time spent indoors. One translator explained that time with the TV. off could be spent in family groups talking, playing or sharing, one of Bekah’s boys reached for her hand and told her in Chinese “This makes so much sense! With the TV off I can spend more time with you!”
Teresa was having a rough week with one of her boys, Xia Dao, who liked to run around and cause trouble, always with a small grin on his face. On Wednesday during assembly they were singing together and for the first time he reached over on his own and took her hand. When she looked down at him, he looked back up and smiled at her.
During our weekly trip to the local KFC Lydia was having ice cream with her boys, both of whom were taller than her by over a foot. Lydia asked the boys if they had a highlight from the week so far and her biggest boy Tim answered immediately: “Right now, because we are all eating like a family.” and her other boy, John, agreed.
The first day of camp we had water-park for the kids and at first Patti’s two boys, both around the age of ten, were hesitant to climb on board. Patti showed them by getting on the slide herself and after watching her have fun, the two boys jumped in line with her. After a few minutes together on the slide she had bonded with the boys and they would be inseparable the remainder of the week.
This week the scavenger hunt was extended to include two entire buildings and eight separate items, and to add even more difficulty it was pouring rain the entire time. Becca and her family group jumped at the opportunity and found all the items first and won together. Not only did they enjoy winning together, they were also able to enjoy their favorite ice creams at KFC as a family.
During the slumber party on Thursday night the boys were doing card tricks, having arm-wrestling contests and eating all kinds of junk food. In the midst of all this noise and revelry I heard a couple of the biggest boys in the group wandering around the room singing softly: “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful day!”
One of the character lessons we have been teaching this year is the story of Joseph, a young man who is abandoned by his family in a faraway land and there comes to great power and responsibility. At camp we had our very own Joseph this week, a young man named Steve. At the age of six Steve was told to wait on a train while his parents took his sister to the restroom. Hours later and miles away Steven was still on the train, but his family never returned for him and he ended up in an orphanage. Now Steve is 17 and has been trained as a design artist. One of the camp sponsors, Terry, a manufacturer who also produces our t-shirts, visited camp and one of our Canadian volunteers, Michael, introduced Terry to Steve. After hearing his story and hearing from Michael what a good man Steve is striving to become, Terry offered Steve a job in one of his factories!