Monday, May 30, 2011

A liitle Amharic goes a long way

Tabb and I have been hitting the books hard since our first meeting with our Amharic tutor last week. We have memorized about 100 words. Last night we decide it's time to have a conversation. We take the dogs for a walk and we begin.
Unfortunately, we know only nouns and adjectives. This limits our conversation potential. All we can do is point at things and name them. We sound something like this:
Me: "Dog."
Tabb: "Two dog. Two dogS!" He is excited to pluralize.
Me: "Dog pee."
Tabb: "Dog pee. Leaf."
Me: "Leaf?" I don't know this word. Tabb points. "Ah. Green leaf."
Tabb: "House."
Me: "House. Window."
Tabb: "Bird."
Me: "Flower." I point to a magnolia.
Tabb: "White flower."
Me: "White BIG flower. Big WHITE flower. Rabbit."
Tabb: "Rabbit?" He looks at the squirrel I am pointing at. He is incapable of contradicting me.
Me: "Small animal. Small animal fast tree."
We go on like this all evening. We ride our bikes down to a restaurant at the end of the bike path, pointing out trees, houses, men, women, children, cars and dogs along the way. We comment on our bikes - black bicycle, black and red bicycle, fast bicycles. We pass another rider and gossip about her - big woman, slow bicycle. We name colors and count things. At the restaurant, we name foods - potato, tomato, greens, beer, water. Tabb makes faces at the baby at the next table, and I call him "Face Bad." After dinner the ride home is slow, and we lament, "Two beers. Stomach full. Tired. House."
It's a fun evening.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We're gonna learn Amharic

We've decided to spend the summer working on learning Amharic. A few weeks ago I sent an email to all the members of an Ethiopian student organization at a local university, and I got a reply from a lovely young lady who is willing to tutor us. We met her last night, and I think she will be great. We will be meeting with her twice a week. She's going to help us with grammar and pronunciation while we work on learning vocabulary on our own.

To help us study, we'll be using the following -

  • "Let's Speak Amharic" by Bezza Tesfaw Ayalew. You can order the book and CD by writing to the National African Language Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin. The main problem with this book is that it is written almost entirely in Amharic. So to use it, you have to learn to read the language, which we hadn't really planned on doing. But, I've started working on it. I've been carrying around flashcards in my back pocket and I'm practicing during my free moments.
  • "Simple Amharic for Adoptive Families" by Amy Kendall - This is a small, spiral-bound book that comes with a CD. The main problem with this book is it's just a list of phrases, and it doesn't explain what each word in the phrase means. For example, "We're going to your school" is transliterated as "Wuh-DAH ahn-TEH tih-MIRT bayt ee-yeh-HEH-din nohw." Which part means "we" and which means "going" and which means "school" is a mystery. There is no way I can learn a language by memorizing a string of sounds with no meaning. However, once we advance some with our vocabulary, this book may become more useful.
  • "Amharic for Foreign Beginners" by Alem Eshetu. It took a long time to figure out how to get this book. I ended up ordering it from a seller in Canada. It hasn't arrived yet, but it looks promising.
  • An Amharic app for the iPad. This has been the most useful resource so far. It includes a list of vocabulary words organized into a couple dozen categories. When you select a word you can hear the pronunciation. It also has the words written phonetically in English letters. 
In other news, our revised homestudy arrived today. We will send it off to USCIS tomorrow.
Have a good long weekend!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This afternoon we went to a picnic at the home of a local Ethiopian couple. A woman with two children adopted from Ethiopia helped organize it, and everyone at any stage of an Ethiopian adoption was invited.
We made an effort while we were there to go around and talk to as many people as possible. We were the only ones there without a kid yet, but no one seemed to care. The host was very gracious and welcoming (and if I were twenty-five years younger I'd be in love with his son), and everyone was very nice. We talked to eight or nine different families. Most of the kids were young, though there was one couple with four children who had adopted their first child over fourteen years ago. We got to meet a few people who we'd only talked to online, which was nice. And the food was delicious.
Near the end a clown showed up to entertain/proselytize to the kids. Five minutes into his act he was talking about murderers and sin. That was a little strange.
We're really glad we went. Maybe next year we'll be back with a kid.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Changing our homestudy

It seems like forever ago that we started on our adoption paperwork. Ah, how young and naive we were. We thought we knew what kind of child we wanted, and we thought that the only other factors we had to consider were wait times and choosing a good agency. How wrong we were!
Luckily, there are many experienced adoptive parents and adult adoptees out there who tirelessly educate and argue with and encourage us new PAP on the various online forums (like this one and this one and this one). And we started to see that it's not just about what we think we want. It's also about what other adoptive parents want. And about what birth families need. And about what the @%#&!s, who would make money off a child, want. Most importantly, about what the kids need.

After much time and reading and talking, we began to realize that what we thought we wanted maybe wasn't exactly what we wanted. Maybe we could want something a little different, maybe a little less of what the other adoptive parents and the @%#&!s wanted and a little more of what the birth families and the kids needed. To be clear, it's still about what we want. We're not going to adopt a child that we feel incapable of parenting. We’re just slightly redefining what we want.

There are two lists in the adoptive world: the waiting parents list and the waiting child list. The waiting parents list is very long, and most people are waiting for a healthy baby. The waiting child list is for children who don't have anyone to adopt them. These children are there because they are older, or have medical issues, or both. For the last few months, we've been thinking about how we can move farther from the waiting parent list and closer to the waiting child list. We've been talking to many other adoptive parents and some health professionals. 

We know that there are wonderful people out there who have adopted seven or ten special needs children. That's not us. But a slightly older child, we decided we want that. And we found a special need that we feel comfortable with. 

We have decided to ask for one or two children, up to five years old, and Hepatitis B positive.

Yesterday we began the process of changing our homestudy. It’s going to be pretty simple and hopefully will not take too long. We took a long time to make this decision, and we’re pretty excited about it, and confident it was the right one for us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I've discovered something about waiting. Waiting for an indistinct future which may be five or fifteen months away is pretty easy. Waiting for something that will happen in the next few days (doctor's appointment etc) is really hard. Waiting for someone to reply to an email is excruciating.