Saturday, August 26, 2006

Media Roundup: "What is Africa to me?"

I mentioned recently I’ve noticed a lot of news and media about Africa, Ethiopia, AIDS, race, and adoption lately. Of course these things, especially AIDS and African concerns, are always in the news; one need only be attuned to them. But I thought I would point out some things and give some links here for those who are interested. (Yes, this is also because we’ve accomplished little on the actual adoption process this week.)

A don’t-miss airing this week: “A Closer Walk,” an amazing documentary about AIDS in Africa. “Narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith, A Closer Walk features interviews with the Dalai Lama, Bono and Kofi Annan, with musical contributions by Annie Lennox, the Neville Brothers, Eric Clapton and Sade. . . . ‘This is a story about the way the world is’ says Close in the opening line of the program’s narration.” It will be on PBS Thursday, August 31, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET.

The Australian version of 60 Minutes aired a wonderful story called “Out of Africa” profiling a family which adopted two school-aged Ethiopian children. You can read a transcript, but you will miss the joy of seeing these exuberant kids on video. (You will need to use Internet Explorer to see the video.)

The Chicago Tribune had this article about Ethiopian and transracial adoptions: “Out of Ethiopia: As more white Americans embrace African adoptions, experts applaud good intentions but point out social realities.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is touring Africa and visited his extended family in rural Kenya. He’s popular here but outright celebrity there. NPR had an interesting story about the expectations (hoping for an open wallet) and preparations (whatdya know, that road’s finally been paved!) for his visit. I’m happy he publicly took an AIDS test to set an example.

I have not seen this, but a friend recommends PBS’s “Wonders of the African World” with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He explores African history and culture, such as ancient Christian sites and the belief that the Ark of the Covenant may rest in Ethiopia. On the more geographical side, PBS also produced the series “Africa.”

NPR recently aired the series “Africa: Portraits of Poverty,” with six parts focusing on issues such as AIDS, educating girls, and the high risks of childbirth. I love the glimpses of life and culture and triumph of these kinds of stories—yet they are filled with sobering realities. These are the challenges facing the Ethiopian families whose children tragically (though joyfully for us) become our children. As adoptive parents we must grapple with these complexities. I wish more people would.

    What is Africa to me:
    Copper sun or scarlet sea,
    Jungle star or jungle track,
    Strong bronzed men, or regal black
    Women from whose loins I sprang
    When the birds of Eden sang?
    One three centuries removed
    From the scenes his fathers loved,
    Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
    What is Africa to me?

—Countee Cullen, "Heritage"

Monday, August 21, 2006

Beautiful Families

On Saturday we drove up to Portland to meet some of the families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting through our agency. They were having an informal barbeque, organized through the online group. Only about six families were there, but kids everywhere! I loved walking into that backyard and seeing them all together—from blonde-haired blue-eyed ten-year-olds to the youngest Ethiopian girl, almost seven months old and in America only a month.

Most of them already knew each other, as three of the families actually were in Ethiopia together last year. One couple is waiting for their referral. But they were all welcoming and kind and excited for us just starting out. I appreciated hearing from people face to face what “everyone says,” the things you read: how amazing the adoption experience is, how they loved Ethiopia, how kind the people there were, how much they loved their children right from the start. We also got to hear some of their stories from traveling and get some tips on what to do and what not to worry about. Plus I tried to mentally file little things like how to pronounce the guest house host’s name.

It was a long drive for a cookout but felt worth it for making those connections and having those firsts: We met our first Ethiopian-adoptive families. I met my first AIDS orphans (now orphans no more). I held my first sweet Ethiopian girl, wishing I had a camera as she looked up at me with her deep brown eyes and contentedly sucked on my ONE Campaign bracelet. Our child will look like this! I can only hope our child will be as beautiful and happy as these.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Little Joys

The little joys of the adoption process:

1. Every time we go to the bank to have things notarized, we get cookies. I love our bank.
2. Teenagers say the darndest funniest things. I love our teenagers.

Toshia: "I am totally willing to babysit for a price of popcorn and chocolate milk."

Max: "Can I be Thor's fairy godfather? I'm not sure even what a fairy godfather does, but it sure sounds cool."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AIDS in the News

Quick paper update: Birth certificate copies ordered. Marriage certificate copies ordered. Passport applications almost complete. Online adoption education course completed. Need to get home study form notarized and we'll be done with our end of that, I think.

I've noted a lot of interesting things in the media related to Africa, AIDS, race, and adoption this week. I will share more soon, but for now a note on the International AIDS Conference taking place in Toronto this week. The reality is that you can't talk about Africa without noting the impact of AIDS, and you can't talk about HIV/AIDS without noting the staggering impact on the developing world and particularly sub-Saharan Africa. I will share more at another time, but for now a note on the International AIDS Conference taking place in Toronto this week. Here is one article on what Bill Gates and Bill Clinton had to say in their appearance together: "PanAfrica: What Bill and Melinda Gates Said." (I chose an article from, a site which collects news from all kinds of African media--interesting to poke around on.)

For a more personal story, you might want to read about the "AIDS Grannies": "African Grandmothers rally for AIDS Orphans."

You go, grannies!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Virtual Friends and Real Papers

One of the early joys of our adoption process has been the kindness of everyone connected to the agency. As soon as we applied we were invited into their online forum of people who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Since I’m addicted to online adoption info these days, I joined right away. My introduction was greeted with numerous welcoming replies on the site and even a couple personal emails. I believe three other familes also joined that week, so a bunch of the “regulars” re-introduced themselves to everyone. And a couple of referrals came through, so there was much rejoicing (yaaaay)! Several familes are from the Portland area and getting together for a BBQ in a couple weeks--I hope we can go meet my new virtual friends!

The group discusses everything from health questions, travel advice, and fundraising to interesting news tidbits, Ethiopian recipes, and the insanity they’re feeling as they wait for referrals. The Ethiopia program is large enough now that although our agency doesn’t send people in groups, it's working itself out that families are going at the same time. I wonder who we will travel with? Certain folks sure seem like fun! It will be interesting to see how it works out as we get closer. Right now we have no real timeline . . .

. . . but we do have real paperwork! We mailed our agency contract (and big fat check, ugh) last Friday and got our dossier packet today. That’s the list and examples of all the letters and documents we need, how many copies, what has to be notarized, etc. Earlier in the week I took care of our USCIS I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (I just like saying all that fast to sound smart). Basically it starts our pre-approval to bring a child into the U.S. So I wrote my first ever check to the Department of Homeland Security. My joke about suddenly feeling safer feels much less funny today, though.

The other day in Ray's grocery store a man stopped me because he saw my t-shirt from the Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor, Michigan—he and his wife used to work there! They moved here two years ago. And I thought it was funny that a man at Young Life leadership camp last year said he had the same shirt; they had visited Michigan from Montana. Okay, I get that it's a small world after all . . . but if I ever meet an Ethiopian in Ray's, I may actually pass out!

Monday, August 07, 2006

For this I scrubbed cupboards?

It's over. We did it. Our home has been studied.

The interview was not at all grueling or probing. No white gloves used or petri dish germ samples taken. I think the only easier test we've faced was our "interview" when we first visited Waldport! Social Worker Sandy is very down-to-earth and unintimidating. She said we did such a good job on our essay homework that we'd already covered most of the areas she would have asked us about. She still needs a few things like our criminal checks back before her report can be completed, but barring something unforseen like discovering our identities have been stolen by one of America's Most Wanted, we seem to have passed the test!

Next we'll start the online adoption education program we have to complete and work on gathering dossier paperwork as soon as we get the agency's packet. Meanwhile, back to working and basking in the (fleeting) glory of my oh-so-spotless house!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Monday, Study Monday . . .


What was I thinking when Aaron was on the phone with Social Worker S. deciding on Monday versus Tuesday and I said Monday morning is fine? Tuesday would have given me 24 more hours to prepare, clean, worry, kill fruit flies (little #&%!*s are driving me nuts but goin' down!), organize, be anxious, safety check, rehearse, and get nervous!

I'm actually not truly concerned, although at times when I think about it I get a surge of nervous energy. Not really butterflies, but kind of jittery. No coffee this week!

S.W.S. has been so nice and helpful on the phone, I'm sure she won't be scary in person. Aaron actually asked her if she's "one of those mean ones" and she denied it. She's extremely chatty and easy to talk with. Should make the visit go fast, but on the other hand, if we have to discuss a bunch of specific things without getting sidetracked, it could take forever. She said not to worry about cleaning--but I was going to use this as my only motivation to clean things I never clean. When will I ever scrub baseboards with a toothbrush if not for home study? Too bad, 'cuz there's no time!

I may now return to my regularly scheduled neurosis already in progress.