Wednesday, July 29, 2009

when i wake up

Soon I will board a plane to Ghana. Then I will sleep. I will sleep long and hard! When I wake up I'll be in Ghana!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Perseverence the Sister of Persistence

Yesterday I learned a few lessons in perseverance and persistence. Sometimes you have to ask twice. Sometime you have to wait it out. And sometimes you have to wait it out and ask five times.

May I tell you my story again?
Yesterday, I was assisting a family with an issue related to adoption, and looking for a way to to get their children to American. After a year long wait since they first saw the faces of the children that would become their own, it was time. It was time for their wait to be over.

I contacted the organization that could assist with the uniting of this beautiful family. I told the woman on the phone my story (sorry the actual story is for another blog). A complete stranger, my only hope to grant this request. I needed the help of this woman. I'd never met her, and surely will never meet her again. There is nothing I can do to repay her for her patience with my persistence. One hour, twenty-four minutes and twelve seconds on the phone in waiting , hoping that this woman would have mercy on me.

She told me there was nothing she could do, she had tried and she was genuine. I asked, "May I tell you my story again?" and she agreed to listen. I think I told her my story 5 times before we were off the phone. Somewhere in the mix I told her I was begging for her help, and again asked if I could repeat the story. I was asking for her to give us mercy and grant our request now. And our request was pricey. We were asking for something very expensive. What we were asking for was beyond the means of those involved. Again I asked for "immediate" assistance, and to please assist us finanically with the issue we were facing.

One adoptive mother, now my sister, has persevered a storm. A year long storm. And if she could persevere a year long wait to her children. I could persist to have our needs meet at that moment. The persevering was over, it was time to be persistent.

And the perseverance of one mother along with the persistence of another mother paid off. A waiting family and their children are days away from being united as one!

Luke 18:1-8
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'
4"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "
6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Hebrews 10:35-36
35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Defined: Persevere
-verb (used without object) 1. to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.
2. to persist in speech, interrogation, argument, etc.; insist.

-verb (used with object) 3. to bolster, sustain, or uphold: unflagging faith that had persevered him.

Defined: Persistent
persisting, esp. in spite of opposition, obstacles, discouragement, etc.; persevering: a most annoyingly persistent young man.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
Calvin Coolidge

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak
Thomas Carlyle

Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.

Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel.
Napoleon Hill

God is with those who persevere

No great achievement is possible without persistent work.
Philemon Bertrand Russell

If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer.
Alan Lewis

Friday, July 24, 2009

Next stop Ghana

Only 5 more days until we depart for Ghana. We fly direct from the US into Ghana... no stops in London this time. (Did I mention I got a pedicure in London... sounds kind of hoity toity, but it wasn't!)

I don't know how long the flight is because, in my current state of mind, I lack the ability to calculate time zones with flight time... so after staring blankly at the itinerary for a while I decided it might be about 11 or 12 hours in the air. But who knows. AND I also know that it is less time than to Ethiopia. Which is all I have to compare it to anyway. So I know that the flight to Ghana is shorter than the flight to Ethiopia. I know I will make it... maybe a little tired and smelly, but we will all make it!

Going back to Ghana. Seems more surreal right now than having 5 children. My parents live 5 hours away and sometimes I go 8 or 10 weeks without seeing them. I am returning to Ghana in less than a month from when I left. I think my fear is seeing all my friends again and feeling like it will only be a short time until I can visit with them next... but it will be long. They will change much before I see them again. And Ghana will change much. I hope we all change for good. I hope well all become better and improved in some way. I pray for it.

I feel that this trip to Ghana will be like our trip to Hosanna in Ethiopia.

I already feel torn to take my daughters from the beautiful culture of Ghana. And Ghana truly has raised them. They are not babies. They will remember Ghana. And Ghana will remember them.

This journey to Ghana has two faces. The face of the beautiful adoption of my girls. The joy of my growing family. Being only days from finally having my whole family together under one roof. All of my children can be in my arms at once. What a wonderful dream turn reality. And yet, this journey has the face of good-bye. I must return now to my friends and say good-bye. Yes, I will return to Ghana again some day. But not in one month, or two. It will be farewell for much longer than I would like.

Is it possible that my heart can be broken and made whole at the same time?

I miss the smiling faces of my girls (and the sometimes not so smiling). I miss little Eden Evelyn telling me "mommy, don' kiss me". And Tirzah Syliva telling me to "Mum, go bath". I hope familiarity has been growing in their heart as it has mine. I cannot wait for our reunion. I am so glad that Trent and I can go together and enjoy the reuniting side-by-side.

I remind myself to breathe and then I pray for continued trust and strength.

Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation. - unknown

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

the final and official word on visas

Many of you have heard this hopeful mother announcing we would have visas for our girls today.

We have received word from Ghana that the visas are printed and in the hands of the agency.

We have tickets and we will leave for Ghana on July 29 and we will return with the girls on August 2.

That is the official word!

Thanks you all for your support, patience and words of encouragement. Mostly thanks to everyone who has prayed with and for us!

Pray again for a safe journey and for strength for us and the girls.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ghana Slippers

Carmin had the cutest "flip-flops" while we were in Ghana. Kind of a pink braid of material made up the strap. I was fond of them. I normally don't notice shoes but I liked these. I was a little disappointed when she left them behind... the were cute and they didn't fit me, and who would I give them to?

What we call flip-flop sandals, my friends in Ghana call Slippers. They wear them and use them the same as we do flip-flops or any other shoe, but they call them slippers.

One day I was leaving the guest house to go see my friends and I thought I might grab the shoes to see if they would fit someone. I handed them to the first of my friends to approach and indicated I didn't know who they would fit, but that she should find someone.

She slipped her foot out of her slippers. Her slippers were very worn. The heel was warn out and left behind a crescent moon in the soul of the shoe. The shoes were so worn that they no longer protected the heel of her feet. She leaned over and placed the new shoes on. They fit perfectly. She looked up and smiled at me. "Thank you" she said proudly, and yelled for her other friends to come see.

Another friend approached who was not wearing shoes. The old shoes with worn out heals and very little protection for the feet, were slid onto the feet of the young woman with no shoes.

And everyone was happy and everyone smiled, and I think my capacity to love grew a little more that day. Shoes...
Song of Solomon 7:1 How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter!

And that is one little memory from Ghana that I will never forget!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An interesting day

I am on the fence about something. It's a funny thing to be on the fence about. I can deal in the world of gray but I think I prefer black and white. I prefer "yes" or "no" answers. Yet, I thrive on a loop hole. So what is it that I am on the fence about? Worry. It's about "worry". To worry or not to worry, that is the question. But its not what I worry about. I am on the fence about my opinion about what other people worry about. So it's my opinion. I guess that's why we say "on the fence"... so it is my opinion about worry.

If you're confused now... I'll warn you it's only going to get muddier. There is not a clear thought in my head tonight.

In a clear moment in my head, I can decide what I should worry about and what I should not. And when I say worry, I mean where I should focus my energy and how I should make a decision. So in a clear moment I know to prioritize my decisions.

No, no, no... that's not it, not worry. I wonder about priorities. That's the real question here. Priorities - not worry, or fences, or muddy water. Just priorities.

I think the thing is that we are all handed a set of circumstances in life and in within that set we have to decide what is important and what isn't. But I see life through my filter and my experiences. And right now the least of my worries is the color of my purse or deciding what school my kids are going to get into. So I lack empathy. Really lack empathy for the mother who is stressed out about what school to enroll her child in. I am not stresses about school, I just want to get them all into a school, preferably the same school.

And, in my perspective I have children's lives in my hands and I am trying to decide if any education is better than no education at all. That seems obvious to me... but I wonder if someone else is prioritizing "the best schools" for one child, when they could offer good schools to 2-3 children or even basic education for 4 or 5. So I am not in a position to wonder if it's Harvard or Yale... but I wonder about a starving child. I don't want to judge, I don't want to criticize but it might come across that way when I hear of a family that wants to adopt but can't afford two kids in private schools [note sarcasm]. Right, right, I mean if little American Johnny can't go to private school, what will become of him? But... what about African Joshua, no school. Nothing. For the cost of private school you could bring African Joshua home for a public school education. Then you have changed the world.

And what about priorities in my house. Do I need to feel judged? And by the way I don't much care if someone does judge me, but it's that moment in the conversation where things get awkward. "Don't you think you should home school?", or "Don't you think you should use a Christian school?" Sure, I've thought about it. Then I decided I'd like to expose my kids to the real world. and let I'd like to let them learn lessons at the price a 5 year old mistake in picking his soccer team, not an ethical dilemma on oil reserves. Some day, some where, my kids are going to face the real world, I'd like to instill my values on them now in the face of the real world... not wait until they have lost their decision making skills. (some one is going to feel judged about this statement... don't! that's my point, I get to make my choices for me and you get to make them for you - homeschool away, I might change my mind next week and homeschool too).

And what about this... what about the fact that someone does get to have a horrible day over a broken nail, and another person a horrible day because their car broke down, or a horrible day because their family received shocking news. Each person has their own right to think it's the worst day ever. But some concerns become trivial and shrivel up fast in the light of the things that really matter. In the light of life or death. In the light of quality of life, in the light of being someone who can change the world for another person, do I still have to listen to the person with the broken nail... shouldn't there be some kind of "get out of ______ free card" for this. If my stress of the day is about bringing home children from Ghana, do I really have to be subjected to conversations about "I can't decide what school is the best". For crying out loud some children in this world get NO education and you are worried about the scores of School A vs. School B?

My head is splitting into quickly multiplying thoughts of conversation about this.

I think I have a point.
Life is only as complicated as we make it.
I personally don't have time to stress out about fingernails and germs on a fallen piece of candy. I just don't have time for it right now. But I have to find the time to figure out how to bring to orphaned children to America. How do I get them food and education.

I think I am supposed to be worried about some little things right now. Like getting the kids ready for school or deciding when I will get around to that old project around the house. The thing is those problems could be fixed in a flash. So I am going to decide to procrastinate my worry until the last possible moment. I think it will decrease the amount of over-all worry for me.

So if you ask me, about packing for this trip, I plan to worry about that on Tuesday or Wednesday if I leave on Wednesday. If you ask me about -STOP

Right here.... just right here in the middle of this random blog I am going to stop. I cold continue to worry about it and reword content, but NO. I am just done. Let me prioritize my thoughts.

I have three babies asleep in their room after each eating a warm brownie. I have two dogs that like me and really hope to sleep near me tonight. And tonight I must sleep because tomorrow I start with the packing lists again. I cannot forget anything.

wow, I am tired, off to bed

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, July 19. Sunday July 19.

Yes it is Sunday July 19.

I don't know if there is anything special about today. But what I don't like is that here on Sunday July 19th, we visited by parents in Wisconsin, sans two children. Of we went to sports camp... where I had signed up all 5 of my children. Only three were present.

I am holding a mini jury case in my head about why my children even need visas to enter the US. They are my children. For a second can I take full advantage of my rights and priveldges as voting American.

I am confused by a law that won't let an American bring my own child into America. Looks it's not a loop whole. I don't need a visa to get in the US, why do my kids... Certainly this is not a battle I intend to fight with the real world, but it does keep my brain busy a few times a day.

Packing again is immenent. The time has come to fill them a weight them and determine what else we can bring. Since Trent and I travel, we can bring 4 suitcases of donations. I have a decent portion of medical supplies again.

Anyway if anyone has anything they would like to send, please let us know.

Did I mention it is Sunday July 19? Did I mention I have two heavenly little girls that I am in love with and they are half way around the world and I have no way to give them a hug or a kiss. I ordered more photos that arrived tonight... our family has a void and it is waiting for them.

I haven't felt like this before. It feels as if a piece of me is literally missing. I keep looking for what I have lost or forgotten and I realize there is nothing I can do. I've been buying treats in 5 and plan for 5. I think of my car as full and have to recalculate if someone needs a ride.

Though I connected with old friends over the weekend, I know I need to get back into the groove of my daily-life friends. The ones who know me better than I know me. I need them because I am tired. I feel lonely without my girls. And it's not just me, as the family gathers we notice the girls are not here. Only a short time, I know in my heart it is only a short time, but there are no guarantees. I have to have hope and faith that I will hold those little girls in 10 days, but my heart has to hold out because it might be 14.

God let it be soon, God let the time fill, so we are not empty.
Good give us strength.
Wrap your love around our two little girls give them safety and comfort. Assure them we are coming soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good news

We have a visa appointment.

Now we just need printed visas then we are on our way to get our girls!

Hoping to have visas printed next Friday!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What big dummy came up with this quote?

Who came up with the insane quote:
"Missing someone gets easier everyday. Because, even though it is one day further from the last time you saw each other, it is one day closer to the next time you will”

I've decided I am just plain cranky today. Not mad, not sad, maybe not even cranky... but very, very cynical. And if a cynic believes that people are motivated by selfish concerns and they are skeptical... then that is me, for a just a moment, today.

I don't want to wait any longer for my girls to come home.
I don't care if there is a good reason I have to wait.
I've learned enough lessons through these adoptions, if there are more lessons to be learned let God give me another endeavor in which to learn it.
How can absence make the heart grow fonder? I am in L-O-V-E with these girls, my love will grow if I can look at them or not! Absence is not required or needed in any way.
I do not need more time to get ready. There is no time to be "ready" and no way to "be prepared" to be the mother of 5.
Culture, blah, blah, blah, 30 days in Ghana... I want them HOME!
Shouldn't President Obama's primary concern in Ghana be how Kamille Peterson can get her girls back to America?
When I contact an elected official shouldn't they call me back...and how long should a return call take? What could be more important than my two girls coming to America?
And no I don't want to wait my turn. Me first!

Okay, I feel better now. Who knew a stupid quote could get me so worked up! (I suppose anyone that knows me knows that's possible!)

Shoot who dumped water out of my glass today?

I am fine, just trying to use a little humor to get through

Friday, July 10, 2009

Big Sissy Speaks out!

Stop by this blog and leave a comment!

It is writen by my 9 year old daughter.


More on traveling to Ghana

How is the food in Ghana for a picky eater?

Ohh, Ghana for the picky eater... I had this same questions about Ethiopia. Let me give you the hard core answer, then I'll give you the friendly American answer.

You are traveling to a third world country. Some of the people don't even get to eat 3 meals a day. You don't get to be "picky" you just eat foods that you think or know won't make you sick. Eat rice and if you are worried about any food, pack a box of protien bars. Unless you have some medical reason this won't work, I am pretty sure you'll live on the protient bars just fine. Seriously you will rethink this kind of question after your trip.

Ohh, okay. Here's my nice answer. As the mother of a traveling 9 year old, the above answer would have resulted in some serious drama. It will take a little effort but you'll do fine. If you can't eat spicy food you'll be a bit more limited. But There is chicken fish and rice at most places, local or more American. Not too far from EH you will find some more "American" type foods. You can get Pizza, Fried Rice, French Fries, Chicken and Fish. You can also find ice cream if you look around.

There are a couple of more American markets and you can buy pasta and sauce and cook it at your guest house. There are plenty of breads around. Ramen and Mac n Cheese can be made too. Remeber that you only want to eat fruit that you can peel. I did see apples, but I didn't want to go through the work of peeling them. I personally really, really liked fried/grilled plantains. I wish I would have tried these earlier, they could have helped me through a few moments of hunger.

There is bread everywhere, if you are a peanut butter eater, you might just bring a jar along. I also did bring protien bars, they are a good back-up if you are served food you are pretty sure would make you sick, or if you fail to access food before dark.

One other point, some days it is so hot, you won't be very hungry. Just be sure you are getting enough water. If you like bananas those are easy to find too. I think worst case scenario is if you get ill and you need to find something you can eat... bread and rice and bananas should get you through.

How did you handle the weather/heat? I am very pale and
sunburn easily. I also am very sensitive to
the heat and humidity.

My father is Mediteratanian. At a glace and I have that white, pasty, burn in a second kind of skin. But my skin responded really well to the sun in Ghana, some of his DNA passed on and saved me on this trip. I didn't need very much sunscreen and I never did burn.

However, it took my husband's Norweigan pink skin about 10 minutes to start to look pretty red. My daughter shares his pale sensitive skin, in less than 24 hours she was covered in a heat rash.

A few recommendations:

Take cortizone CREAM along. Not a gel-type, apparently thoe gel can irritate heat rash. If you get the rash, start to apply cream immediately and repeatedly. It only provides relief, but it can help you feel more comfortable.

Take cream/lotion-type sunscreen. My own non-scientific experienment showed that the heat rash did not like the oily sprays, but were much less reactive to the lotion (maybe even nutrogena which was what we happened to have with)

The humidity is intense and you have to prepare to drink water. Bring along a handerchief/bandana of sorts to wipe the constantly dripping sweat. Angelisa was much more pleasant once we implemented this simple tool.

If you are staying at a place with a/c, go and cool down after lunch when it is the hottest. Give your skin a chance to dry.

Having any kind of fan gives you a little relief. Even if this means folding up a paper fan. I bought one that was weaved while I was there, it was very nice to have when the power went out.

Or save yourself some time and just Google "prickly heat" and you can find more scientific answers :-)

We are planning on taking our 7 & 8 year olds with us when we go. I know everyone has different opinions on taking children. We have several different people who are very interested in going with us. We are considering inviting one other close friend to go to help us with the boys while we are there. Thoughts? We had actually planned on taking our boys this next coming year to Africa to visit our friends in Accra prior to realizing we wanted to adopt this year!!

Since I have a running reputation for long answers, I won't even apologize in advance for this long one. You'll note I have a couple of strong yet conflicting opinions on this.

Watch for an update to this post with my complete answer!

*another question:
How do I know if my child understands me, is there a language barrier even though they speak english.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

When the name of the blog brings tears to my eyes

I miss the girls in a big way.

I often chuckle to myself when I think about how little Eden and Tamene are going to get along. I think that they will drive each other crazy and be naughty but it will still be funny. I hope it is as funny when it happens as I think it is now. It makes me laugh out loud. They will make our family laugh in ways we never thought possible.

I think about Eden and Naven, two smart little minds that will come up with some quasi-deviant behaviors. Too brilliant to ever really be mad about, too naughty to ever be able to compliment that master minds who created it. Rules are made to be bent if not completely broken. Ahh, but two little souls who care for the young children. Big hearts! Solid thinkers, they will know what they want from life. They will do their best to get what makes them happy. Resilient!

Then Tirzah and Angelisa. I think it's that phenomenon where you insist two siblings look identical even though they are not. Similar smile and mannerisms, and even similar wardrobes, make them look like mirror images to a stranger. But to a friend they are two completely different souls, barely similar aside from sharing a surname. But for these girls it's only an analogy, the ebony and ivory makes it clear they are different. But as their mother, I sense a kindred soul. Both very bright, very sensitive, mothering, and rule following. I'm sure their differences will bubble up quickly, but for now... they seem so much alike. At an age where there is a right and wrong, two young girls will struggle to understand how they can both be right and both be wrong only because of the vary different cultures that have taught them who they are until now.

When I see her face. Eden and her hands covering her face as she peeks out to say "don't kiss me" - when she really means, "mom, come get me" and Tirzah with her assertive walk and talk. "Mom, go bath" . And Angelisa and I to connect and realize those moments when our cultures clash and we are able to knowingly look at one another and know it's all going to be okay.

I have a little piece of my heart that waits desperately to be able to walk down the stairs and look at each girls' face as they sleep, eat, play and be.

Round 2 (Q &A)

We want to have someone in Ghana make our family traditional Ghanaian clothes. How much did this cost?

This is an excellent idea and an excellent question. You will be able to find a variety of people and places willing to make items for you. The material will vary in price. I am sure one of your fellow adoptive parents could give you a lot more detail on choices in fabric, but we were a fan of "batik". However we did have clothes made out of "regular" material too (whatever that means). Due to a language barrier my 3 daughters each own 3 matching dresses (vs. one dress each). This cost me 140 GHC, which is about 100 USD, which put the dress right around $12 USD each (and totaling 9 dresses). They are very well made and were measured for an exact fit. Keep this in mind as there won't be much room to "grow into". I paid about $17 GHC for a Man's shirt and I think about $10 GHC for a boys. I would say in general it appeared to me that we were paying about 3-5 GHC for the seamstress and the rest was the cost of the material. I would plan for $20 GHC for each child shirt/dress and about $30 GHC for a man's shirt and about $40-$50 GHC for a full length woman's dress. Now... these prices are slightly higher than I paid, however, I felt that the person making the clothing for me was a very close friend by the end of our trip. So I cannot speak to the charges of other seamstresses. Also, the cost of the material will vary day-to-day and customer to customer. We made the mistake of needing additional matching fabric and the store owner increased the prices knowing we were in need of the fabric. All that said, here is what I wrote in my journal for costs all in Cedi: (sizes are estimated as all clothing was made to exact measure)

Man Shirt 18 (xxl)
Man Shirt 18 (xxl)
Large piece of fabric not sewn 35.00 x 2
Medium/Large size woman's dress 37
Large/Extra large size woman's dress 37
Woman's medium shirt 15
Boys shirt (med) 10
Woman shirt (med) 18.00
Calf length woman med dress 18
Womans med skirt 18

Also, how much money would you recommend taking for touring and souvenirs?
Of course this varies by family. And after spending a month in Ghana any number over about $100 seems foolish and selfish. But I imagine that's not the question you are asking. Just for taxi, touring, and souvenirs: $500 should be pretty good (not including food and hotel).

However, I bought my girls Kente cloth for a future wedding gifts and these two sets of cloth cost me $320 GHC.

Also, if you are not careful your taxis can get costly, one driver will charge you 1 cedi, the next 10, and the next will tell you to pay as you feel the Lord leads you, all for the exact same route. I recommend that you find one driver that you are able to stick with for longer trips and plan to pay by the hour. I found some excellent drivers and I decided on 10 cedis per hour. These drivers stayed with me and shopped and ate with me and I bought their lunch/dinner. I had two drivers and I'd be happy to share their names and numbers. In any case, I wouldn't expect any outing to last you less than 5 hours. So it all adds up

I did not tour to any outlying areas which required a driver, I cannot speak to cost.

FRUGAL FRUGAL: You can stay at one guest house for $15 GHC, you can go where you need to by tro-tro (hot, cramped, long, but cheap) and you can find street food and buy just a few nice souvenirs and be there for a whole week for less than $500. I wouldn't recommend this route if you have means for better accommodations, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do! I used this method only for week one, before moving on to something a little more accommodating. So you can do it for a week if you needed to. Find a local to buy your souvenirs, you can give them a couple cedis for the job and still save yourself a small fortune and a lot of time.

Spendy, Spendy: I think the hotels really add up if you stay at the more westernized places. I will tell you I went overboard on the souvenirs. I personally would not like to limit souvenirs to under $700 and more like $1000 if I plan to buy a round of traditional clothing for the family. Again, my souvenirs include items for birthdays and special occasions as the girls grow up. Yes, I plan to travel to Ghana again, but it doesn't mean Samuel, the Kente weaver, will still be there weaving Kente Cloth when I get back.

I would be happy to answer any questions off-line about the amount of money I used for the entire month.

What are some contrasts and similarities you see between Ghana and Ethiopia?
Ethiopia vs Ghana... that's hard. How is Canada different from America?
Ethiopians are very proud people rich in culture and history. Since they were never officially colonized their traditions are hundreds of years old. Being there is a time warp into the past, an amazing and beautiful place. I love Ethiopia and her people. In Addis the elevation is very high and the temperatures are cooler and it makes staying there very comfortable. And as a local-turn-friend told me as we discussed the very high elevations, "In Addis you are closer to God and he can hear your prayers." I felt bad to feel bad for people; they all seemed so happy and even the poorest seemed to live a rich life. From my American perspective, they didn't have much, they didn't need much, and they didn't want much. All of the areas outlying the capital were just fields and huts. You could drive for miles and never see any kind of store or hospital or even another car, but there were always people walking. So many people.

In Ghana, the people are so amazingly friendly. They seem to watch out for their fellow man, but in a way different than we would do it in America. I can't describe the actions, but the spirit of it feels like we should all maintain some level of equality and fairness. I think I'd need another six months there in research to explain that any better. To add confusion, I would also say hierarchy is very important. People want to know you, they want to know about you. They want to spend time with you. My experience was that the people are very humble (there are exceptions). I think the people of Ghana all have the right intentions for their country, people, environment, politics etc... they just haven't had the time or opportunity to demonstrate their potential. Ghana is full of opportunity, it may not be easy to grab onto the opportunity but it exists. I think for my American eyes, I saw more of the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" than I saw in Ethiopia. But it's all American concepts applied by an American to a non-American culture. Maybe life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not all that they are cracked up to be. But I am an American and I believe in those founding values. It's hard for me to see the world any other way.

**** having said all that: I was in Ethiopia for one week, in Ghana for four. My adoption agency for Ethiopia had heavy control on my time and activities in Ethiopia and unless I requested to do an activity on my own, it was done as a group. In Ghana, I was pretty much on my own, unless I asked for help or assistance from the agency. So my view of these countries is completely skewed by the relationships with my adoption agencies. Both agencies have many pros and cons depending on your experience with foreign travel, adoption, parenting, and general expectations. For me, both agencies were perfect for me in the time we worked with them. But I would be giving an unfair review of the country without telling you about the agency filters that are included in the experience.

What things did you took that you wish you wouldn't have?
I am so glad I brought all my techie toys to keep in touch and record my time in Ghana... but those same items were constantly a struggle with the children. They always wanted to "play" with them and they are not toys.
Next, my blow drier, I really had no intentions of using it, I didn't use it. And the person who did use it (ahhem) blew it up!
Next, a small fan that blew up. And let me explain "blew up" as in heat, fire, sparks and burst! I am not kidding! This is not likely to happen if you think about what you are plugging in, but I didn't think, I just acted.
Chocolate, it liquifies in the heat. If you need it that bad you can buy it there (I even found my favorite, KitKat)
Other sugary treats that attracted ants.
My number one answer: Any clothes that were hard to hand wash and dry!!! If you plan to wash your clothes while you are there and re-wear them (and I recommend you do) please consider attempting to wash them at home in a small bathroom sink and then attempt to dry them in the same small area with only wire hangers as tools.

What did you forget that you wish you would have brought (or brought
more of)?

I am a bit of a freakish packer... I don't know if there was anything I didn't have that I wanted. Maybe a generator? Definitely a de-humidifier!
A garbage can? Garbage cans are in short supply in the Ghanaian culture. I'll leave the rest up to your own experiences on this topic.
And if anyone knows my blog from Ethiopia, I cannot believe I am going to say this, but I should have brought more ziplock bags. If you are adopting an infant, a large supply of these is probably a good idea, but any trip requires a good portion of ziplock bags. I countered my previous suitcase full and brought only about 5. It wasn't enough.
I would recommend bringing one or two flat sheets (twin or full). I can think of many uses for these: covering the bed to easily remove the large amounts of sand you bring in, a bedroom dress on a hot day, a towel that will actually dry before your next use, a blanket if you get cool from the a/c, a blanket in case the place you stay fails to provide you one before leaving for the night (hmmm, would something like that actually happen? YES).

During my last week I asked Trent to bring some post cards from our home town. I recommend you get a small stack and fill them out with an email address that you can give out. People will ask you for your contact info and I personally found it difficult to decline (another post on this will come in the near future). Many people asked for my phone number too, it would have been easier to show them the picture of where I am from and give them an email address, I could have avoided a few uncomfortable situations around phone numbers.

Any other questions?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ponderings from a waiting parent:

I asked a fellow adopting parent who has not yet traveled to share her questions with me. I am still working to categorize my thoughts, I am hoping this will help!
(a small bit of background and disclaimer - I am a huge fan of disclaimers!... My husband and I have a background in Mental Health. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Human Development. Trent is a Marriage and Family Therapist and has done some doctoral work in addition to his master's and post-masters work. So some of my comments might be accurate, they might even be quotable. I might know something about what I am writing about. But there is a very good chance due to cultural differences, I don't have a clue. The opinions here are my own, they are not researched or checked for accuracy and do not represent the professional work of myself or my husband. Also none of the information is supported by or approved by any adoption agency).

1) What did your days look like while you were there? ie: Wake up (8am), breakfast 9am), taxi to EH 10am, play with little ones while older ones where in school?, lunch (noon), play with older ones?, snack?, etc.
I remember reading of a parent who got on a specific schedule. I think this was a good idea for the children. I would recommend doing the same thing each day, it creates more predictability for the children and they don't have to wonder when they will see you.

For me, the children were in the process of moving from one house to another while I was there. There wasn't much to do in the old house those last few days, because much of the toys and activities were moved to the new house. In the first days in the new house there wasn't a lot to do because not everything was set up. The children were well cared for and entertained, but it was more spur-of-the-moment activities in many cases.

Honestly I wasn't able to get a handle on the schedule. By the time we would have had some semblance of a schedule there was a change in the schedule due to some unanticipated circumstances.

If I had to summarize what I saw, I arrived at EH about 8:30 each day. The children had already been up for some time, had eaten and were either preparing for or attending school, or if there was no school, then finding an activity. Snack around 10, lunch around noon, nap from 1-3-ish. Playing until dinner, more play and then bed time snack and then bed. I did not stay for bed time, but was there for bed time snack one night.

2) How are the kids to each other in the house?
I have two distinct answers for this. One is what I saw as an American point of view "snap shot" in the first few days and later, with a better understanding of the culture a more open minded view.

American view days 1-3:
Factors: Change in house, lack of toys due to move etc.
Assumptions: We have a "bubble", we use our words, we do not hit, all children are created equal
So I'll just tell you what was running through my mind;
What is going on here? I can't believe the children hit each other. And why are the aunties telling the children not to sit on my lap? Hey... stop hitting each other. WHAT? WHAT do you mean she BEAT you? Do these children get enough food? Is there any schedule here? Oh my, did that person just hit a baby? (keep reading!!!)
Now - with all that running through my mind, I knew it was my American perspective and I needed to reassess, but first I had to categorize my thoughts and think through what I was seeing. I had a gut feel that they were not "attacking" each other.

American view-Meets Ghanaian view weeks 3 and 4:
New Factors: I had made friends with several Ghanaians of various ages, including teens. I spent time outside of EH and saw how Ghanaians interacted with their children in general. As well as children not at EH.
New Assumptions: Age=Seniority. It is equally appropriate to use verbal and physical commands to direct a person (no one is actually being hurt!)... bubbles are only those things your blow with soap!
Now, here is what I am seeing. The children, the people, have a pecking order based on age. If you are doing something that is against a social norm (pestering an adult) it is the job of any and all senior ages to correct you. The likelihood of a verbal correction is as likely to happen as a physical correction. Frankly, we spend a LOT of time tell our American children to keep their hands to their self, to use their words not their hands, etc. These kids are used to someone touching them to move them or to "push" them in a new direction if they are acting inappropriately. (but push is an American concept in the description). BEAT... this word is equivalent to our word HIT... and HIT only means that I might have been swatted accidentally or on purpose. The child is likely not injured any more than when two children bump into each other and insist they have been "hit" by the other child (American version). Culturally their level of physical interaction is more aggressive than ours (American descriptor), to grab a baby's attention an American might "tap" them on the arm, but the Ghanaian way of tapping could easily be considered pretty aggressive and hard by American standards. The baby doesn't cry, she just changes her attention. The baby is not injured, or startled or shaken, but an American baby would be VERY surprised by this interaction.

So, if you have children, neighbors or cousins who "rough-house" and you wish the parents would ask them to stop... spend some time with these kids before you go. Notice that no one is actually being tortured, it's just a difference from household to household about home much rough-housing is allowed. You'll see it in Ghana. At EH I did tell the children to stop. They are going to come to America and surprise other American children with these behaviors. So I think it is okay to redirect the children and ask them to use their words, but just keep in mind it doesn't mean the kids are rude, or aggressive, or that they are not being watched by the aunties. It's just different.

3) This one might be hard to put on the blog...especially if there are negatives...what are the Aunties like? I assume they all have different personalities. Do the kids have their favorites and vice versa? What were your observations on how the Aunties felt about the kids leaving Ghana? What are their thoughts of Americans?

I think I can blog a very reasonable and honest answer about this, I am I leaving the wording of the original question.

The aunties are all great. Yes, varying personalities, but clearly the understand their job and their role and they take it seriously (yet have a great sense of humor with the children). You can ask a child who their favorite Auntie is, but they won't understand the question or the concept. Rather, I took note of who my children preferred, by observing who they wanted to have their picture taken with first. Again, this was not bad or as if the children "didn't like" an auntie. But some of the Aunties seem to be assigned different tasks. So the Auntie who cooks, didn't get as much attention from my girls as the Auntie who plays games. An obvious response! I certainly did not get the impression that there were any aunties the children would shy away from or had an adverse response to.

And of course I watched to see who the aunties had as their favorites! The nice thing about this is that there appears to be a bit of an age related response to this. Certain aunties spend more time with the babies and appear to be in LOVE with the babies!!! One auntie would come and steal one of the babies from anyone holding her as soon as she started her shift. All of the kids seemed to have a link with one or more Aunties. I didn't notice anyone who seemed "left-out" even a couple of the "stubborn" type children would get a humorous nudge from an Auntie now and then. Then there were other Aunties who seemed to really love the older kids... and I noted that some of the younger aunties, talked with some of the older children a bit like "friends". Sylvia had me take her to get her hair done one day and the aunties ALL ooohed and ahhhed over it. Sylvia was sooooooo proud!

I think in Ghana they do not normally acknowledge birthdays, but at EH they do. They sing to the children and talk to them about their age. They mention to others that it is the child's birthday. Usually the stronger the connection between the auntie and the child, the bigger the deal was about it being a special day!

Moving on to the question about the Aunties feeling towards the children leaving.
I watched the aunties say good-bye to 5 children while I was there. Keeping in mind this is a culture that doesn't support crying in public, the aunties looked pretty devastated and I saw many many tears being shed. As expected they are sad at the loss of the relationship they have built with the children. But in post conversations, they explained that they are happy for the children. They are glad that the children get a family and that they know they will have a better life in America. It also appears the EH has had some excellent families coming to represent America, explaining that we plan to teach the children to be proud of Ghana! (sporting a Ghana flag or a President Kwame pin will get you a LOT of positive attention ;-). So I honestly think that those who work at EH support the children coming to America.

Their thoughts of Americans - in general people in Ghana seem to like Americans. But beware that not all white people are American and some other non-American may have said or done something fairly offensive. In my opinion, you are well off to tell people you are American. The Aunties know you are, so it's less of an issue there. The aunties are great people, and they just want to know that their work is appreciated. As families go to visit it would serve us very well to compliment them on their work and note any specific actions the aunties take that we like or that will help the children adjust in America. They are proud of their work and would like to hear that we appreciate it. Do not under estimate the power of saying thank you! And for any bonus or brownie points with the Aunties, learn some Ga! They love to laugh at the way we say words in Ga.

4) trip or two? Although that depends on each families circumstances. What would your "ideal" trip to Ghana look like?
(ie: length of stay, place to stay, places to visit).

Good, just my personal opinion here.
I absolutely love how my trips have worked out for me. I wouldn't likely recommend a repeat for another family, but it has been perfect for me.

4 weeks is a good amount of time to learn the culture. But you have to socialize with the locals. Doing "touristy" things won't teach you much you couldn't have learned from a book or the Internet. Make friends, it's not like America, they really do want to spend time with you. Your willingness to spend time with them is as equally appreciated as their time spent with you.

Leaving my American children home for 4 weeks without a mommy - not such a good plan. I wouldn't "plan" for this kind of thing, it was too much for my 3 and 6 year old.

Bringing my 9 year old for two weeks, also not such a great plan. She was tired, jet-lagged and not feeling well emotionally, and the last thing she wanted to do was share her mom with new sisters. I think 7-9 days should be a max for my daughter. 14 days pushed her to the limit.

Yes, they speak English in Ghana, but do not assume you will not encounter a language barrier - you will! And when you talk to your kids and they smile and nod... they do NOT understand you. And your taxi driver who says, "get in" doesn't know where you want to go... and I thought I bought 3 dresses to be made for my girls, in fact I now own 9! Speak SLOWLY! Do-not-run-your-words-together. One word at a time!! ask for clarification, and often writing something down is a better way to ensure understanding. Keep in mind the person you are with my not be able to read, but they likely know someone who will. I would ask if I should write something down and many times the answer was yes, especially if I was buying something. I brought a journal along and it was a life-saver as a basic communication tool!

So for me the ideal trip to Ghana would be 2 weeks with a local "escort" or anyone who could really tell me about the culture. If any "tourist" activities were to take place, I would want that person with me. I enjoyed making friends who would speak to my girls in their native language and tell me what they were saying. I gained way more insight than if I had attempted to ask the questions on my own. Don't hesitate to ask someone to interpret an important question you have for your child.

I recommend staying close to the children. A guest house near Eban House. Unless you are a highly experienced traveler, then do whatever makes you happy :-)

5) Techie questions: Best way to communicate?
In my humble opinion :
*Computer with skype is the best talking/video communication. But there is a significant delay between PCs. Practice locally before attempting in Ghana... And be aware that it is very, very slow. Trent and I spent the first conversation talking over one another.
*Blackberry/iPhone with data package is the best way to "stay connected" (I used facebook, google chat, and general email) I want to give a plug to the google chat application installed on my phone. I could always look for a green dot to see who was on-line and it helped me to feel less alone and more connected. Kind of my own security blanket.
*Get a local phone, to make local calls. EH has some you can borrow, or take anyone to get you one. You will save money over making calls via a phone from the US. I found a driver I liked and on more than one occasion it cost me more to call him than to get a ride! You can call the US cheap on those phones!! So if you don't need to video option, just a Ghana phone is good.

**Frugal approach: Just get a phone in Ghana and if you find the need to use internet, just go to the cafe for about .50 USD you can use a computer for an hour. After 15 minutes you will be so frustrated with the slowness of the connection, you will likely avoid the internet the rest of your stay. Borrow a phone from EH and pay for the minutes as you go. I think I could have kept my total costs to around 20-30 USD. Instead I have an outrageous bill. But I was able to work while I was in Ghana and I did not "take time off" so the cost was worth it for me.

6) Birth parent visit.

(I promise to get to this one soon, I need more time)

7)Visa medical - Did you have to have the girls poop yet for the Dr.? I am so concerned about how you get them to poop for the test on demand? Of all things to be concerned about!!! hee

My personal take... the staff know what they are doing. Do not go along to the Visa medical. It won't be your worry and your presence won't affect the staff and children getting business taken care of.

8) Do the kids seem to be well toilet trained (especially sleep time)? I have looked at the report on my kids and it seems like they go to the bathroom very little (like twice a day)...that can't be right? Are they getting a lot of fluids?
Potty training - Good question. First let me give you give you my "text book" type answer on this. It does not matter what you hear about the status of your child's potty training experience, you should expect and plan for regression and issues in this area. I wouldn't say that it is likely you will have a problem, I would just tell you it's better to be prepared for this kind of thing. So, think diapers, pull-ups and other protections. Maybe for a 7 or 8 year old you are safe, but 6 and under could easily experience challenges with day or night time wetness, especially on an airplane ride.

Now, for the basic parent answer. The kids are getting plenty, plenty, plenty to drink. It is my understanding that the "potty report" is only for the poo and not for the pee :-). On a side note, don't be surprised if your personal water elimination is minimal while in Ghan, the stuff comes out of your pores, and you rarely have to go to the bathroom. On more than one occasion I consumed 3-4 liters of water and only required one bathroom break all day!

As far as toilet training day and night.. the kids seem to have a regular routine for hand washing, bathing and toileting. So I am guessing it is not an issue in general. I did not note any children having "accidents". Where diapers are being used, they are being used as needed and on children who need/require them. As for sleeping... I can tell you that they do have some mattress covers that they use, so I assume that there are night time accidents. My personal experience included a child with overnight accidents. If you are bringing them to the guest house you might consider a waterproof or disposable liner until you know for sure. And one night does not equal "for sure".

9) How was the malaria? Did you feel that Evelyn had it and how did she react to it and to the meds? Did you take Malaria meds while there? Angelisa and Trent too?
Trent and I took Malaria meds for our trip to Ethiopia and Ghana. Trent took Mefloquine and did have some wild dreams in Ethiopia, but was fine with it in Ghana. No other side effects. I took Malarone for both trips. I had no problems. Angelisa took Malarone and didn't appear to experience any side effects. She had no complaints regarding her health or well being while we were in Ghana (aside from a heat rash).

I went to the hospital with a group of children who were ill. Five children made the trip. Upon review by the doctor three of the children had blood work done and those 3 were confirmed to have Malaria. Two did not have blood work done, but were treated for Malaria, though they appeared less ill than those who were tested. I think the more extreme cases were being tested to see just how bad the cases were.

Within 3 days of the children being treated for Malaria they were all responding better to the meds. I did ask a lot of questions of the locals about malaria, so all my information could be urban myth and wives tales. I personally would not hesitate to be treated for malaria while in Ghana. I would not hesitate to have my children (Ghanaian or American) treated for malaria while in Ghana. Ghanaians are familiar with it. I know some people have concerns about meds, vaccinations, etc, so this advice is not for those folks. My family usually does not have issues with meds or reactions and has few or no allergies. Excellent general health, so I can make this kind of decision without a lot of concern on the front end. Tip: if you get a fever while in Ghana, see a doctor. Assuming your general health is well, it is way easier to get treated there than here (or that's what I hear). It was my experience with these children that the fever will come and go, don't be tricked by a fever that "breaks" it is likely to return as bad or worse within 24 hours.

Any other questions, feel free to post!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

29 days of Ghana, 5 days later

I've been home 5 days. I don't recall much from the first 2 days. I did think somehow it was a good plan to go to a movie on evening 3 home. I'll owe many apologies for my odd and withdrawn behaviors that evening. I did decide that out of country travel should require an emotional quarantine. I have no idea what made me think I could function and hit the ground running upon arrival back in America.

I am very happy to be home and be with my children in America. But I am sure it is obvious my heart misses my girls in Ghana at the same time.

I now view myfamily as seven. I assume people know we are a band. I feel like people see us as 3 African children and 2 American children... Then I look back to count for my 5 children, but there are only 3. Soon. Soon. I look at it this way: I feel good to know I miss them now, rather than to be shocked when I realize there are 5. If you read my first blog you'll recall that I didn't realize that I was the mother of 3 for a good long time. We were 2 plus 1. When I realized there were 3 I immediately understood why they teach you math, I should have applied those skills earlier! Frankly, it was a bit of a shock.

The jet lag is subsiding. But residual culture shock is still there.

I am trying to categorize my thoughts. My children, God, Ghana friends/family, Ghana culture, my amazingly supportive American friends and family. 13 months ago I had no idea what was in store for me. We were just a family who thought we wanted another child. 18 months ago we were a happy and complete family of 4. That seems like 2 or 3 lifetimes ago. I barely remember who I thought I was then. I'm very happy with this journey. I am greatful for all that has happened.

Soon I will write of details of my days in Ghana. Soon.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It's Independance Day

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles and and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . .

Here on independance day I struggle with the fact that someone would abuse freedom of speech while creating inequality between two human beings. "In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on Hate speech" (wiki)

In "On Liberty" (1859) John Stuart Mill argued that "...there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered." Mill argues that the fullest liberty of expression is required to push arguments to their logical limits, rather than the limits of social embarrassment. However, Mill also introduced what is known as the harm principle, in placing the following limitation on free expression: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism as: "the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others."

Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
Benjamin Franklin

(That's all I have to say on this for now, sorry for the random and incomplete thought)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prayers and verses

Some of the children had memorized the following prayers that I wanted to share:

It is a response type prayer. The adult says italicized and child completes the prayer.

Children obey your parent in the Lord for this is right
Children obey your parent in all thing for this is well, pleasing to the Lord
The Angel of the Lord comes around these who fear him and deliver them
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
With God all things are possible

Blessing a meal:
Heavenly Father, bless this food and sanctify it. In Jesus name Amen

I was also told many of the children know the following verses and may have them memorized:
Luke 5:24
Ephesians 5:17
Romans 1:16
John 3:16
Acts 4:12
John 13:17
John 1:12
James 4:17
1 Samuel 16:7
Psalm 118:8
Proverbs 22:6
Colossians 3:20

Translating Ghana

I am finding that I have the urge to blog about all of my experiences in Ghana, but that something is holding me back.

I am worried that somehow my descriptions of Ghana might misrepresent the amazing place that Ghana is. Ghana is very very different from America and I worry that my western description through my western eyes, with my western language may not be able to give justice to the amazing place that Ghana is.

I was thinking it is a bit like an orange we ate in Ghana. It was called an orange, and in most ways it looked like an orange. But Angelisa took one of the first bites and said it tasted different than an orange. I love oranges, they are one of my favorite fruits. This fruit was unlike an orange and any effort to describe its likeness to an orange would only leave you to see it as inferior to an orange you might be familiar with. It was not inferior in any way, it was different. It had its own pros and cons, but I lack familiarity with this kind of fruit, so saying it was a bit more tough and stringy than our orange, and describing it as less juicy and having a light flavor... well it just makes it sound less appealing than a familiar orange from the local supermarket.

So what if I describe Ghana, and somehow I make the wrong comparisons, what if my writing fails to detail the beauty and the people? What if my girls read my words years from now and feel that I failed to honor the country that gave them life?

How can I capture the essence of a place so different from what I have seen before. I lack a vocabulary that would allow me to accurately describe much of what I saw. I would be limited to comparisons to all that is American and familiar to me.

To make things more complex, many Ghanaians that I met wanted to come back to America with me. They told us how much the would love to come to American and how happy they were to make friends with Americans. They talked of our government and our President and wanted to know if we were proud to be Americans. How will I describe this when I write. - I think of my desire to visit Turkey and how I want to learn of their culture and understand their way of life. It doesn't not make me love America any less, but I long to know of Turkey.

I will continue to think on my Ghana experiences. I will look for ways to describe the beauty and the people. A developing country with so many opportunities to grow, yet such a lack of resources.

Soon I hope to have moved my thoughts into words.