Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankfully unexpected...

After the last few emotionally draining days, it's time for a bit of hope and celebration. Our family is looking forward to a week of giving thanks. We have so much to be thankful for.

We're also obsessively checking our email for a court date...

The night we received Baby W's referral we decided to celebrate, and we went to the Abyssinia Restaurant here in Raleigh for dinner. It's a traditional Ethiopian restaurant and we were excited to eat food we love and celebrate the end of our long wait for a referral. Because we had decided to keep the referral from friends and family until we had officially accepted Baby W's referral, I was dying to show his picture to someone! I was so in love with his little face already, so I showed his photo to our Ethiopian waitress...

her surprised response: "He's from Ethiopia?" (strange look)
me: Yes, Gambella (with proud, puffed up mama pride)
waitress: I see. Beautiful boy, but he doesn't look Ethiopian. (strange look)

I mention this only to give you an idea of our interesting adoption situation.  We've spent the last two years celebrating/learning/absorbing all things Ethiopian and then we find out we're matched with a beautiful baby boy who belongs to an ethnic group persecuted by many Ethiopians. Um, hello mind flip.

Baby W, based on his name and where he is from, is believed to be from the Anuak tribe. We look forward to confirming this when we meet his birth father. The Anuak are river people whose villages lie along the banks of southeastern South Sudan and western Ethiopia, in the Gambela region. The tribesmen are primarily farmers and herdsmen. When you research Anuak history, basically all you'll find are recent reports of genocide and persecution from the other ethnicities in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian government. Genocide Watch placed the Anuak tribe on the emergency list of ongoing genocides in the world.  There are only 300,000 to 350,000 Anuak in the world, making the Anuak an endangered people. Sadly, the Anuak people are also looked down on by other Ethiopians because of the dark color of their skin.

I wish I could post a picture of Baby W's face and skin...he's gorgeous. I mean, he's stunning. Seriously.

Are you hearing the conflict rattle around in my head? That grinding sound is the recalibrating of two years of waiting for an Ethiopian baby and finding out we're going to be the parents of a child whose family and tribe has RECENTLY been persecuted by Ethiopians. 

I had imagined raising my son listening to Ethiopian music in the kitchen while we cook dinner from any of the Marcus Samuelsson cookbooks blending our Swedish/American/Ethiopian heritage, celebrating Ethiopian holidays with our Ethiopian adoption community, I plan on buying him Ethiopian soccer jerseys for every stage of his young life, birthday cakes with green, yellow and red frosting with tiny Ethiopian flags, baby pictures in traditional Ethiopian garb, the space over our mantle is reserved for a piece of Ethiopian art I plan on buying on our upcoming travels...AND we plan on frequenting that local Ethiopian restaurant, the one where the Ethiopian waitress said he didn't look ETHIOPIAN!! 

But he IS Ethiopian, damn it. And quite honestly, we're still going to do these things, but they are certainly going to feel strangely inauthentic until we can figure out a way to embody them respectfully for Baby W and his birth family and tribe. And while I'm making this personal about my family and Baby W, let's also not loose sight of digesting the horrific facts of genocide, and why haven't we heard about it, and why aren't we doing something to stop it. Whether or not to decorate my home with Ethiopian art is not the big question here, though it is the way I'm shamefully processing it.

Suddenly our adoption doesn't feel so Ethiopian anymore. I feel like we've stepped even further off the beaten trail than we anticipated. But please don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing at all.  Baby W is truly a rare treasure who we plan to celebrate every day. We hold the responsibility of understanding, cherishing and preserving his culture to be a great one, even greater than before. And while our job just got more difficult, it excites and ignites us. It also makes me chuckle at the reminder that Fredrik and I always seem to find ourselves as fringe dwellers, often by our own choosing, but certainly a consistent place for both of us since we were kids. Honestly, we'd have it no other way.  Fredrik and I both grew up feeling like outsiders, but over the years we found each other and have built a loving community of radical truth seekers, community organizers, global entrepreneurs, adventurers, and artists who we consider chosen family and who will embrace Baby W. 

Currently, we anticipate being able to meet Baby W's birth father when we travel to Addis Ababa in (HOPEFULLY!!) a few weeks. We have seriously looked into traveling to Gambella because we really want to see where Baby W is from and try to get a better understanding of his tribe.  Unfortunately, the local Ethiopian staff in Addis don't recommend travel to that region. I'm super disappointed about that, but respect the opinions of the IAN local staff.  But if their opinion should change we'll be heading to Gambella.

So Baby W...are you ready for us? You are not only going to be celebrated for the handsome and rare gem you are as an Anuak, but we're going to celebrate Ethiopia, the country where you were born, and we're going to celebrate Sweden where your dad was born, and where you will have family and dual Swedish and American citizenship, AND somehow we'll find a way to wave your American flag too. We speak English and Swedish in this house and sing in sanskrit. We celebrate many religions, but One Love. We love animals, but don't eat them. We dance in the kitchen, act out stories in bed, and write silly songs about arugula on long car trips. We are a family who celebrates uniqueness and flying your freak flag high (not that you are a freak, son...just speaking for the rest of us). If the four of us need to have our own Anuak/Ethiopian/Swedish/American pride parade through our neighborhood we'll do just that!! If ever there was a community ready to embrace you and us in all our uniqueness and complexity, it's the one we're cultivating here in the purple house on Elm St, and our community around the world at large.  

I look forward to this challenge of digging deeply to help Baby W honor, love, preserve and understand his heritage. Thanks Universe. You know I usually take the path less traveled, and that has made all the difference. 

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