I am deeply tired, but the conference is going well.
I want to talk all about it. I want you to know about the 400+ Africans from around the continent who are here to talk about family-based care. Not just lip service to family-based care but how to do it. How to assess, monitor, recruit foster parents, mobilize communities, involve the church, study the impact, reintegrate children with families, manage residential care at a higher standard for the children who aren't ready for family placement, work with the government, change policies, find resources, and prevent compassion fatigue.
The conference is a physically beautiful thing. It is a mass of people woven through with this incredibly colorful thread of women wearing their traditional clothing. Not the men. The women - they take my breath away with their pride of self, pride of place, pride of country, race, and heritage. I don't believe there is a single person working on "orph.an care" in the United States who could rival one of these women in passion for Africa's children.
But I don't know how to talk about the conference. I don't know if you are interested since this is primarily an adoption blog. I will give the conference details on my professional blog.
Here I will talk about our adoption. Because every second of every minute I participate here I have baby on my mind.
Tonight, several hundred of us went to the National Museum of Kenya for a cultural dinner. We had live performances throughout the dinner. Now, I know a lot of adoptive parents go to Ethiopia and experience the tame dance shows in the restaurants off of Bole road. But tonight it was made so obvious the difference between African dancers and singers performing nightly for tourists who have no way of comparing quality vs. half hearted effort and African dancers and singers who KNOW they are performing for and being judged by an African audience.
It was night and day difference.
There is no way to describe it.
Buzzing, throbbing, pulsating
rythm arriving out of chaos
arms swinging, hips flying, butts shaking
the glow of teeth between smiles
braids clacking and swirling
acrobats, fire, limbo, congo
red, blue, green, orange
kanga wraps, bubus, scarves, Maasai shawls and beads
HIPS, FEET, HANDS, FINGERS, TOES
Flying, laughing, joy, PRIDE
Have you ever been to a professional conference dinner where the majority of attendees are gyrating, stomping, and shaking it? (In the first 10 minutes, lights fully on, and without alcohol!)
This African celebration, and that's truly what it was, Africans celebrating Africans, lasted for 3 hours.
In the U.S. we see this kind of performance as amusement. Show. We sit in a room with white and black Americans and maintain propriety. If someone of another culture is among us we encourage group conformation and blending.
Tonight the Africans made us (the whites from American, Canada and Europe) feel welcomed, loved, and they taught us to be joyful. But it was no tourist performance.
Near the end I sat and looked around with eyes that just kept brimming up. It was awful. I had to do the wide eyed stare, don't blink, thing. I had to step outside for air.
WHO am I to take any baby or child from Africa? WHO do I think I am? Honestly. I am not being selfless or modest or humble. Hah, those of you who know me know I'm not good at the false modesty thing.
How will baby learn to dance? How will she learn to shake her hips and swing her arms and bob her head, the way that EVERY African woman in the room could do, in a way that makes her seem like a gazelle and not a stomping gorilla (which is how I would look doing the same moves)??
Who will teach her to tie up her hair in a wrap or move gracefully with her head held so high on her shoulders its like an invisible string is tying her to the sky? No American I know walks like that.
How will she learn that wide hips and high cheekbones, glowing brown or black skin, and full lips are beautiful? In America we have a sad devaluation of these characteristics.
Where will she learn pride in her national dress, how to trill her throat, and how to throw her inhibitions to the wind when music comes on?
I am not at all sure that what baby will lose by leaving Ethiopia, by leaving AFRICA, can be counterbalanced by what she will gain with us in America. No matter her medical needs.
My baby will be African but she will not grow to be one of these women with their power and pride and passion for their homeland. She just won't. She may have those feelings for Africa, because we will do our best to teach her. But learning second hand is not the same.
She will be black in a white family. African in an American world. Sitting calmly and eating baked chicken and a scoop of mashed potatos and gravy at her professional conferences when she should be dancing with abandon and celebration at every gathering, professional or not.
I am sad tonight. I wish I could have smiled and laughed and clapped and enjoyed. But I could not come up with any reason that any child, even the poorest of the poor, should be removed from Africa. Americans have a lot to learn about truly living and loving from Africans.
I have this growing understanding that we are about to receive SO much more than we are about to give.
- Me. Us. She.
- J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.
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