Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome News from Far Away... sort of.

This week we got some good news; our letter to the children's Ethiopian family was delivered.

We mailed in last May.

This is the way it goes- we send an envelope full of news and photos of our children out into the world, hoping that it will find its way, and months and months later it is delivered.  Perhaps the letter is sitting proudly on a little shelf in their house. Perhaps it is folded, worn and faded, in his pocket. Perhaps the photos are tucked in the frames we gave to him when we met last summer. Perhaps they were shown all around the village. Perhaps they too, are folded and held in a pocket.  We are unlikely to get a response. We are hoping to send another letter next year.

As Andrew and I contemplate opening up our adoption, and having an ongoing relationship with our children's Ethiopian father and siblings, we are confronted with a list of logistical, physical and emotional challenges. I feel in my heart that being able to communicate, visit and stay connected to our Ethiopian family would be wonderful for our children.  But oh, boy, when I think about it...

First of all, it takes 6 months to send a letter. It's like living in another century. Our Ethiopian family does not have a mail box, nor do they speak or read English.  They don't speak or read the main language of Ethiopia (Amharic) either.  Anything we send has to be translated into a local dialect and hand delivered. We are lucky in that our adoption agency, Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS), offers this service.  But it takes time. Sending letters from healthy, already adopted children in America is not a high priority.  There are too many families to help in Ethiopia, too many unhealthy orphans to care for, school and find families for.  We understand that; that's why I didn't email our social worker to ask about the status of our letter until 5 months after we'd sent it.

So we can send letters and photos, and eventually they might reach our family across the sea.  But what if they move? What if there is another tragedy and the family is displaced?

We can send letters, but we are unlikely to receive any news. Our Ethiopian family does not read or write English, and anyway they are working hard all day staying alive.  I do not say that lightly. They eat what they can grow on a small patch of land. If the rain doesn't fall, they are hungry. If it is too hot, if a pest comes and eats all the crop, if someone is ill and they have to sell the crop to buy medicine, they are hungry. We are desperate to hear news of our Ethiopian family; we are fearful that any news of them will be bad news.

We cannot send our family in Ethiopia money.  For very, very good reasons the Ethiopian government restricts the gifts that adoptive families can send.  There is already too much corruption in international adoption. We know this. But still, we wish we could help our family.

I imagine going there. I imagine what we might bring, how we might dress. Will I do Lily's hair in an elaborate style? Or will that make her older sister, who likely has very short hair and no pretty ribbons to put in it, feel diminished? Will we bring presents- books? pencils? a ball? a doll?  Some new clothes?  Will they despair that our children cannot speak to them in their language?

What will our children's reaction be?

There are very few road maps for this journey we are on.  All I have to go on is my mothering instinct and my memory of our one, brief meeting with their father.  I know that my son, in particular, needs to feel connected to his first family.  I know that his first father will look at the photos that we send and rejoice.

So we'll keep sending envelopes into the future. I'll keep checking the airfares to Addis Ababa (yikes!). We'll keep supporting CHSFS and Heifer International and Ethiopia Reads and The Fistula Foundation, in the hopes that some of that help will reach their village. We'll keep buying Ethiopian coffee, in the hopes that his hands might have picked some of those coffee beans, and that his crop will receive a fair price at the market.

What else can we do? The world is so small. The world is so big. 

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