Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trading Places?

Three brothers. Which one was adopted to America?

Recently I participated in a Facebook conversation with other adoptive parents about whether or not to send or bring presents to Ethiopian birth family. That issue is soooooo complicated (Read about what we gave our Ethiopian family when we visited and why here.)... and it got me thinking...

Would our Ethiopian family trade places with us?


Well, what do think? The answer appears to be obvious at first. Of course they would come live in America! We have running water! Electricity! Medicine! Free (good) Education! Open Democracy! (debatable, sometimes, but still) Social Safety Net! Facebook!

Certainly our rural Ethiopian family would certainly jump at the chance for food security and an indoor water source. They live a hard life, even by "Third World" standards. But.


Would they give up the Ethiopian quiet sunsets, unmarred by billboards, bright lights and the lure of screens, beeping phones and endless email chimes?

Would they exchange the rainy season's annual road wash outs for snow shoveling and freezing temps?

Would they want to give up "13 Months of Sunshine?"  (Seriously, the weather in Ethiopia is gorgeous almost all year.)

Would they want to live in a country with institutionalized racism and police harassment?

Would they want to exchange their worries about safe drinking water for their child's safety from online predators?

Maybe, maybe not.  I often think our family in Ethiopia. I think of how different their life is from ours. And not all of the differences mean that our American life is better...

Daniel has asked several times whether his Ethiopian family can come and live with us. And I've told him, honestly, that although I know for sure they would want us all to be together, our family might not want to give up their little farm in Ethiopia.  They have their struggles, to be sure. But they have their land, and each other, and they are happy.

The longer that I live inside this complicated American-Ethiopian adopted community, the more my preconceptions about poverty and about opportunity have been changed. It's easy to think, "oh those poor Africans, they have it so hard." It is more honest and challenging to ponder: what about their life do I actually envy? And, what parts of my life would make them say, "Oh those poor Americans, they have it so hard."

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