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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family

To Rise Above and Just Be

I shared a bit about my experience visiting Leyla's orphanage in my last post. Among the realizations I was struck by while I was there: Kids are kids. No matter what their situation, or where in the world they are, youth appears to carry with it the ability to rise above circumstances and just be.

While planning our trip to Ethiopia, we were worried we wouldn't be able to connect with this part of our daughter's early history because our adoption agency no longer worked with her orphanage. The primary director's mother had recently died, so he was not available to make the arrangements for us, either. Luckily, representatives from our efforts to raise funds to build libraries in our daughter's name were able to arrange a visit through their local contact. We were elated when confirmation came through the day before our arrival.

The morning of the visit, we sat nervously in the small waiting room with the very serious assistant director. His expression remained unchanged as he asked many pointed questions about Leyla's past. He carefully noted each answer I gave him in a book he had pulled out of a desk drawer. I felt my husband stiffening next to me. He had much trepidation about this part of our trip. As I sat there answering question after question, I could feel panic rising from my belly, but I did my best to not let it show. I began wondering if I should have examined my husband's concerns more thoroughly, though I tried to dismiss this fear as irrational. Since then, I have learned of legal guardian who lost custody to the girl's biological father while visiting her birth country (a different land than my daughter's). The circumstances were unique, but I now realize that deepest fear can and does happen, however rarely. Then the assistant director abruptly stopped his questioning and put away the notepad. His face broke into a big, toothy smile and he asked, "Would you like to meet the children now?"

We eagerly said yes, hoping our extreme relief was not obvious. My eldest son was not well and had been led to a spare room when we entered. We passed him, laying on a small twin bed in a room just off the entrance. (The reason for his condition is a subject for another post.) My daughter clung tightly to me and took in everything with her liquid black eyes.

The director suggested we take a picture with the kids. I knelt down and they happily crowded around us. I felt the press of little bodies on three sides and I struggled to remain upright in my crouched position. I clutched Leyla tightly. I could sense that she wasn't enthused by this sudden and extreme violation of her personal space. As you can see, from the kiss, she was more focused on me than on those around her. I smiled and laughed almost giddily as my husband snapped away. Part of me wanted to believe that this happy photo op represented these children's reality. Although, as I blogged previously, their tenuous future, dependant on a family coming for them, was not lost on me at any moment while we were there.

My second son, Damian, who was 10 at the time, was not weighed down with these deeper considerations. He saw the opportunity to meet new friends. As we rounded a corner into the main area, a number of the older boys were spiritedly playing soccer. Damian happily volunteered to play goalie for one group of youngsters. How he communicated that is still a mystery to me. But suddenly he was in position and an integral part of the game. He was a head taller than most of the players. Watching them interact, you would have never guessed that he neither understood nor spoke a word of Amharic. He yelled out instructions to his defenders in English and they did the same to him in Amharic. There was the universal language of cheering when a ball went into one of the makeshift goals. My heart swelled watching them.
As we walked into another area, where music was blaring loudly, my daughter was involuntarily sucked in to a passion of hers -- dancing. Leyla perked up and watched intently as boys and girls moved excitedly to Ethiopian beats. I would barely have been able to coax my body into following their moves with months of yoga practice. When one child was dancing to the deep rhythms, others would circle and clap in time for that performer. The audience became an integral part of the performance.
These scenes were innocent, pure, and joyful. Those emotions drowned out, if only for a brief interval, the deeper and more disturbing reflections of "what if" and life's inequities. No matter what lay ahead for them, these children were finding joy in the moment. What a lesson for all of us.

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Great post!  We have visited my wife’s Korean home town three times now.  So much of her past has been reclaimed, but the orphanage has been torn down!  She has told me so many stories about her time there.  I think it affected me more than her! ! !  smile Great job!  (tidee es)

By Brad, co-author of Songs of My Families on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 12:14 am.

Thanks for the kind words and for sharing a bit of your experience Brad, 

That is amazing to hear.  I am glad your wife is sharing her stories.  I can appreciate how it might have affected so deeply.  She is fortunate to have your support through her journey.  Best to you both!


By Ellenore Angelidis on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 1:33 am.

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