The summer may be ending, but I want to talk about more summer things: Sleepaway camp and cottages. First generation kids (especially Asian kids) in Canada don’t usually go to sleepaway camp. It’s JUST. NOT. DONE. Why? My theory is because the parents don’t understand WHY a middle class child from the suburbs would be sent away to the “wilderness” for so long (a week or longer). They don’t “understand” why it’s important to have that kind of extended outdoor/nature-related experience. That’s why I wasn’t sent to sleepaway camp until I was 16 years old, and even then, it was after a lot of begging and because it was more of an enrichment program (music). Day camps, were, of course, completely okay – at least in my family’s circle (I went to a variety of these, ranging from computers (massive fail – unlike everyone else, none of the programs I created ever executed properly – even though I was 99.999999% sure I copied the correct code) to journalism, science, theatre and visual arts). We weren’t the types who went back to the “old country” every summer.
What’s funny, however, is my parents went camping themselves when they were young (my dad was in Scouts, which means they probably would have been okay with me going to Brownie and Guide camps had I not have bad eczema – something which I grew out of by the time I was 11). However, it was the sort where one spent a weekend in a tent, not the month-long, cabin dwelling variety that is just so a part of North American culture. My grandmother even criticized kids going to camp, not understanding why parents would want their kids to “suffer” in the wilderness, likely without hot water or maybe even plumbing in their cabins.
The same could be said of cottages. I told my parents that my husband and I aren’t going to spend extra money to buy a cottage, but will try to rent something for, say, two weeks each summer if we ever start a family (that way, we could have a different house, or perhaps even stay in different areas each year). They questioned our choice of staying in a house without hotel-like services because they believed that being on vacation meant one shouldn’t have to make their own food or have to clean up. They also wondered what we’d be doing for a week or two out in the country (oh, I don’t know, go to farmer’s markets? Craft shows?). To them, a good vacation in the country meant staying in a resort like the one in Dirty Dancing – you know, with organized activities and such.
I completely get that they want me to be “comfortable.” I understand that to them, a cushy suburban life is better than having to “deal” with the wilderness. However, the whole point of camp or the cottage IS to get “away.” The point IS to experience the country and just do nothing (or close to nothing – I still want wifi if I’m going to be gone for more than a weekend). At the end, it’s about me wanting to do what *I* want. And yes, having been raised HERE means my culture isn’t necessarily the exact same as theirs. Especially now that I’m an adult.
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