[Written Thursday, January 22, 1:30pm]
Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of seeing where my son comes from. Not just the orphanage he was at, but where he lived the first 11 months of his life. The place where he was born. The place where his mother died. The place where, despite his family's best efforts, he went 9.5 more months slowly starving to the point of death. When I walked in that place it almost brought me to my knees. The visions of Bright's life before he went to the orphanage, and before he joined our family, were very hard to "see." I could see his family mourning upon his mother's death. I could see his family's anguish as they tried to keep him alive. I could hear Bright's cries, going out into the bush and not being answered with what he needed (food).
I was able to meet Bright's family at the orphanage before I took him home almost 2 years ago. That in itself was much more than I could have ever hoped for. Over 10 family members came to meet me and see him off to his new life. But at that time I was so preoccupied with Bright's health (wasn't good) that I neglected to get any sort of contact information from the family. All I had was the village he supposedly lived in--and the hope that if I wanted to see his family again the orphanage could arrange it.
The last few years my relationship with the folks at his orphanage has gone downhill. They went down an ethical path that I vocally disagreed with. I delivered a few small gifts to Bright's brothers about a year ago, and had a very cool reception from the orphanage director. Since then it has become a heavier and heavier weight that I couldn't contact Bright's family myself.
I feel like it was a God thing yesterday that I was able to finally go to his village and get contact information. It couldn't be a priority for the day, because I am here in an official capacity. I can't just use AAI's resources however I would like. But because we ended up only a few minutes away, and because we had extra time after our official tasks, I was able to go.
First we went to the orphanage, where I immediately saw Bright's next oldest brother (Wise), and met with the director's daughter. Steven wasn't around until right before I left, so I only got one picture of him. The director's daughter told me they would send someone with us to show us where Bright's village was. Yea!
I was very sad to learn that the last photo album I had sent to the family actually caused a great argument between them. There was a conflict over who had a right to OWN the photos. His uncle (who provided financially what little he got and made the adoption plan) thought he should get them. The grandparents (who provided his daily care and probably sat up nights with him) thought they should get them. His father (who had issues I won't go into here and wasn't around) thought he should get them. In the end, after a great clash in the family, the photos went back to Bright's orphanage so that whomever wants to see them can go and see them but nobody gets to "own" them. It breaks my heart that this happened. I'm glad to know that next time I should send at least 3 sets of photos! It just goes to show how much they care about Bright, and how proud they are now that he is with a family in America.
We set off from the orphanage and took an immediate turn down a dirt path. It wound around until a village came into view. This was a typical African village. This is the type of village you don't usually see from the side of the main paved road. It was surreal. We drove to the back of the village until we were sitting in front of a small mud and thatch house, and I saw Bright's grandparents sitting outside. It was obvious immediately that they recognized me, but also that they were shocked to see me. Grandpa and Grandma sat in sarongs covering their bottom halves, and that was it.
Immediately all of Bright's family started gathering around and welcoming me. They took me to a small shelter (poles covered with palm leaves) so I could be in the shade. They went inside of a house and pulled out their best chair--a molded plastic lawn chair. When I began to sit on a wooden bench they all jumped up and insisted that I sit on the nicer chair. Humbling. Everybody put their best clothes on (Grandpa cracked me up with his suit coat) and we took pictures.
Through broken English and a bit of translation I told them about how Bright was doing, and apologized for not bringing any photos. Of course they wanted photos--but I didn't think I would have this opportunity so I didn't come prepared. I told them that Bright looked just like Wise and that he is still fat like his mommy. ;-) They like to hear that. We talked about the older boys, and what they want for them in the future.
I asked for contact information and there was a bit of a blank stare. Cell phones are rare in this village. And email was completely foreign. There is no mailing address. In the end I was given the number to an "uncle" and told I could reach the family through him. I also wrote down the name of the village (different than what is on Bright's adoption information--but that is likely because they registered him at a more proper village). The important thing is that now I know where they are. That family has probably been there for many generations, and will probably be there for many generations to come. It's just that kind of place. Fifty years from now I fully expect that I could walk into that village and ask for an Anagbo, and be taken directly to one of Bright's relatives. I love that we have that information for him. I love that Bright's history was not lost and that he has something real to return to, should he decide to visit or live in Ghana when he is older.
Because they could give me very little contact information, I did end up giving them my full contact information. I don't think this is always wise, and am not sure it was wise on my part. I think there is a good chance that I will now receive calls or letters asking for continued support for the family. After all, I made a point of telling them that I see them as my family now--that Bright has connected us. In Africa, family comes with obligations. We will take it one step at a time, and hope for the best. I don't want to be seen as Mrs. Moneybags that takes all of their troubles away, but in my heart I DO want to help where I can. At the same time, We have to be very careful with what we do (if requested) because I don't want any family in Ghana to think that by giving their child for adoption their family will then be supported by the adoptive family. So...some tough situations are likely to arise because I gave my full contact information.
In the end, I feel very blessed to have spent time with Bright's family, in his village. It is a rare privilege for we adoptive parents. Thank you Lord, for allowing it to happen.
Friday, January 23, 2009
[Written Thursday, January 22, 1:30pm]