Our family is very conspicuously a transracial adoptive family, though I do occasionally get comments from people who believe that both boys are biologically mine bu have different fathers. Regardless, the question often comes up as to where Melkamu was born and when we reply Ethiopia, the next question is usually "And did you have to go there to get him?"
My response is that yes, we got to go there to get him. I consider it a huge privilege that we were able to see where my child was being raised for the several months after he was relinquished but before we brought him home. I hope desperately in the future to get to see his firstfamily's home in person.
When we decided to adopt, we had some strict guidelines about what we were looking for in a country. We wanted to be able to adopt an infant (we changed our minds before we actually started the process). We wanted to be able to meet our child's firstfamily if possible. We wanted to go to the country where our child was born, but we didn't want to have to make multiple trips or stay for an extremely long time. We were not interested in having our child escorted to the U.S.
Ultimately we chose Ethiopia. I didn't know much about it, other than it "fit" our criteria for adopting. Over the course of the adoption process, we read books and learned about the history, learned a few Amharic words here and there, but mostly prepared to have another child. Getting on the Ethiopian Airlines plane in Washington was when it started to truly hit me--I was going to Ethiopia. Not just that I was about to be a mom again, but that I got to go to Ethiopia to become one.
I was not prepared for my completely visceral reaction when we landed. It was chaotic and busy in the airport. It was unfamiliar. And somehow, it felt right. My heart felt at peace in a way that it hadn't in such a very, very long time. I soaked in every bit of the travel to the guesthouse. I wanted to go exploring all around. I wanted to meet people. The next day, when we started to do some of that, I felt like I'd opened up to something miraculous and new. When we would walk around, people smiled and I wished for nothing more than to be able to talk with them. A few nights later we went to a restaurant for dinner and dancing. The man standing at the table said they had mild versions and spicy versions, and warned us that the spicy versions, while traditional, were much hotter than Americans were used to eating--but it was exactly like it is at our favorite restaurant here in Atlanta. My doro wat and injera felt familiar, comforting.
When we traveled south to meet Melkamu's firstmom, the landscape reminded both Jason and I of the American southwest, a place we both love to go. It felt natural. It didn't feel strange at all. Patrick seemed to feel the same way as he immediately made friends with our driver and guide around Hossana.
I had never expected to feel such a connection to a place I'd never been. Sure, I expected to feel a connection of some sort--my son was born and spent his first 16 months there. I figured I'd feel something for the country and appreciate it, but I never expected to feel such a bond with a place. Jason and I never really talked about that part of it but in the last year or so, we've realized that we both found the same connection--and would like to move there someday (probably not until the kids are out of the house, so don't start panicking yet, Grandparents). When we came home, I went to the grocery store...and it felt weird. Complete culture shock even though we'd only been gone for 10 days.
Most of it can't even be articulated. It just felt right. I look forward to going back in a couple of years with my family.
I miss Ethiopia.