When we arrived at Ethiopian Culture Camp, Maddy gave her brothers a gentle reminder. "Don't be too crazy."
Mikias reassured her, "You don't need to worry about us this weekend. We are with our people."
Their people. They work hard all year to fit in. They know that they stand out. They may be the only black child in their class. Sometimes they are pointed out as 'the kid who was adopted from Ethiopia'. Most of them do not match the people who's last names they share. When many people hear the name of their country they envision the starving people they once saw on television. People think they are lucky because they have new families and live in the land of plenty. It is not always understood that their "luck" came on the heels of incredible loss.
They became Americans. They will always be Ethiopians. Ethiopian Culture Camp is about celebrating Ethiopia's rich culture and history. Ethiopian music is blasted and danced to in the traditional Ethiopian way. Ethiopian food is devoured. The flag of Ethiopia flies. Ethiopian clothing is worn with pride. Classes are offered, hair braiding, art projects, Amharic 101.
For Mikias and Jemberu Ethiopian Culture Camp is the best weekend of the year. They don't care about learning Amharic, they don't want to spend time doing art projects and their hair is too short for braids. They have outgrown their Ethiopian clothes and don't really care about that either. They want one thing and they get it. Their Ethiopian friends. They spend every waking moment of the weekend with kids that look like them, with families that look like theirs. They smile and laugh all weekend as they eat meals together, play tag, play soccer, swim, arm wrestle, dance, hang out with the older Ethiopian kids and dote on the younger ones. Pig piles are perfected. Pinkie swears are made with friends to be 'brothers' for life. They don't talk about adoption issues or anything else really. They are boys. Talking is for parents.
For one whole weekend, they are with their people.