Posts Tagged ‘adoption from Guatemala’

English and Spanish

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

All around the world, people speak more than one language, but in the U.S., increasingly, speaking Spanish or anything besides English feels like a political act. We live in California, where my Guatemalan-born children frequently are assumed to speak Spanish. My daughter Olivia, who speaks quite well, describes this assumption as “triggering.” The other day, Olivia and I were chatting to each other in English while waiting to make a purchase at Macy’s. The cashier, a bilingual speaker, addressed Olivia directly and asked, “Hablas español?”

Olivia responded in Spanish, “Yes, a little,” and engaged in a short conversation to prove her cred. But the exchange bothered her. Later Olivia said, “The cashier wanted to see if I was one of ‘you’ or one of them ‘them.’ Why can’t I be both?” This happens to Olivia all the time: At her new large public high school, where teachers and students assume she’s fluent; in restaurants, where staff will speak to her in Spanish and me in English; in the aisles of the grocery store and Target, where strangers approach and ask her questions in Spanish. (“Do I look like I work here?” Olivia sometimes wonders.) For our kids from Guatemala, as for the politicians and other Latinos profiled in this excellent Washington Post article, Why Don’t You Speak Spanish?: For Julian Castro and Millions of Latinos, the Answer Is Not So Simple, speaking Spanish is considered a litmus test, a mark of authenticity. At the same time, in the United States, being bilingual often is viewed with suspicion and contempt.
Witness these sentences: “You’re in America. Speak English.”

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Harper’s article

Monday, March 18th, 2019

I’m posting the link to an article by Rachel Nolan in April 2019 Harper’s, “Destined for Export: The Troubled Legacy of Guatemalan Adoptions.” The piece focuses on a 27-year-old man from Belgium, Jean-Sebastien Hertsens Zune, who searches for his birth parents and discovers falsified paperwork. (Zune’s adoption occurred pre-DNA days.) In addition to telling Zune’s story, the article includes an interview with Susana Luarca (from the Guatemala City women’s prison), references “The Embassy Files” by Erin Siegal McIntyre, and quotes Harvard professor and adoptive mother Elizabeth Bartholet and an unnamed searcher.

None of the information is surprising. I just wish they’d included input from one of the thousands of adoptive and birth families who have reunited in a healthy way. But this is the legacy we must live with. We make sense of it as we can.

The photo above shows my daughter at age seven, reunited with her birth mother and grandmother.

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Annual gathering of GuateAdopt families

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Here I am at the front door in my huipil from Coban, Guatemala, as our first guests arrive for our annual party for adoptive families with children from Guatemala. Our community is what makes this party amazing. About one hundred people attend: Kids everywhere, while parents share stories, fellowship, and food.

I’m always happy when I read about other folks/organizations around the country also hosting gatherings. It’s very special to watch our kids grow up together while we grow as parents. We love our community!

photo by Susan Hurst.

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Road trip to Arizona

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Over Spring Break, we drove 1,000+ miles through the state of Arizona: Phoenix, Sedona, Slide Rock, Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Riverbend, the Navajo sacred lands of Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and the Big Crater somewhere outside Flagstaff. It was the first time we’d been to most of those places, and let me tell you, the landscapes are breathtaking. Arizona is gorgeous!

Every day was magnificent, but the kids especially loved our Jeep tour through Canyon de Chelly with our Navajo guide, Oscar Bia. Olivia said she liked visiting Arizona because it’s so different from California. “It’s like going to another country,” she said. “Except everyone speaks English.”

 

 

 

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Two wishes

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018


Driving home from school yesterday, Olivia said she wished she could change two things. First, her last name so that it sounded, as she said, “more Latino.” And second, the fact that she and I look so different. “I hate that people see us and can tell I’m adopted,” she said.

Olivia’s at a new school this year–high school–a much bigger place where no one knows us and everyone does a double-take. The first day, a girl looked at the screen-saver on Olivia’s laptop, a family photo. “Who are they?” the girl asked.

“My parents,” Olivia said, and you can guess the rest of the conversation. These kinds of occurrences happen often.

I’m putting this out there because if you asked Olivia, she’d probably say she’s comfortable with being adopted, at peace with it. She’s a well-adjusted young woman who knows and loves her birth family as well as her family in California. Still, Olivia doesn’t enjoy constantly being singled out, stared at, questioned. Nobody does.

As we approached the driveway to our house, I told Olivia I could only imagine how tough it was sometimes to be her, that she didn’t ask for any of it. I said she was welcome to change her last name when she was 18–her first name, too, for that matter–reminding her it would need to be amended on her Certificate of Citizenship (!!!).

“What I can’t change is the color of my skin,” I said. Olivia said that was okay. She loves me anyway. ~

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Kallie and Maya

Monday, December 4th, 2017

We met Kallie and her daughter Maya in 2003, as we like to say “on the calle” in Antigua, when Maya and my daughter Olivia were babies in arms and Kallie and I each had moved to Guatemala to finish their adoptions.

Now teenagers, Maya and Olivia remain close friends–”oldest” friends, in fact–and Kallie and I share a bond that’s forever. Our families met up this weekend and remembered those days, and our other dear friends who fostered. xoxo

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Ruth Sheehan of the Guatemala 900

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Over the years, I’ve posted many times about the waiting families of the Guatemala900, whose cases were stalled when adoptions between the US and Guatemala stopped in December 2007. Ruth Sheehan’s son, “Paco,” was two months old when she filed her first adoption document in 2007. Paco is now ten, and his adoption still isn’t final. I rarely share fundraising pleas–there are so many worthy causes!–but this one feels close to my heart. I’m sure any amount will help.

Even if you can’t donate, please read Ruth’s story to understand her struggle and dedication. If you’re a person who prays, please pray for continued strength for Ruth and her son. If you’re a person who sends positive thoughts, please send those, too.

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30 Adoption Portraits essay

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

I’m thrilled that my essay is included in the sixth annual “30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days,” a November series that features posts by people who are adopted, birth parents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents.

My first sentence: “The Guatemalan searcher I hired to find my daughter’s birth mother, Ana, told us to meet in Panajachel, the town guidebooks refer to as Gringotenango. ‘In the village where Ana lives, San Luis, they don’t see a lot of white people,’ the searcher explained, referring to me, the white adoptive mother. ‘Better to meet someplace else.’”

Thank you for reading!

 

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Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Feeling blessed on Mother’s Day and thinking of my children’s mothers in Guatemala. I’m happy we know both women, and are able to cultivate relationships that my children may (or may not) continue as adults. The way the relationships ultimately unfold will be my kids’ and their mothers’ decision to make, but I’m grateful the foundation has been laid.

Also: When my friend Jennifer Grant was asked by the editor of the spiritual website, Aleteia, to compile a list of five books about parenting, she suggested the list include a book about families formed by adoption. Thank you, Jennifer, thank you! (And for including Mamalita). Jennifer is a writer, speaker, and editor in the Chicago area. Among her many books, Jennifer authored a terrific one about her own adoption experience, Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Letter from Kahleah to her birthmother, on the event of Kahleah’s 25th birthday

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

 

On her 25th birthday, Kahleah Chisholm Guibault wrote this letter to her birth mother. Kahleah was born in Guatemala and grew up in Canada. Some two years ago, she moved back to Guatemala, where she works in an orphanage. The opinions expressed in the letter belong to Kahleah, and I’m grateful to her for allowing me to share. ~

 

Kahleah Chisholm Guibault feeling blessed.

February 28 at 4:48pm ·

Dear birthmother,

Did you know I never really liked my birthday? I can imagine you don’t much like my birthday either. I always loved the idea of a birthday; the parties, the gifts, the friends and family. And man did I every get the best ones growing up! I like that part of it. But the actual day itself, meh. I could go without. I think its because more than anything for me, for 5-year old me, for 10-year old me, for 25-year old me it marks loss. I know that 25 years ago, in a little clinic at the foot of a volcano, there was no family patiently waiting in the waiting room for the exciting news that I was born. There were no grandparents excited about my arrival. From what I can tell there was no father waiting impatiently to hold me. I know there was no baby shower or celebration during the months I was in your belly. I know there was probably panic and stress and sadness during your pregnancy. I know there was no joy as they cleaned me and dressed me and took me away. I know that there is a probable chance that we never laid eyes on one another.

Did you know that I spent a lot of years being mad? And sad. And hurt. I spent a lot of time thinking that you should have tried. You should have kept me for better or for worst because that’s what moms do. They fight for their children and give the best they can. That’s what I thought I would do so why shouldn’t you? And that wasn’t fair. It took 25 years for me to realize but you did do what is best for me. I think part of it is a perspective I gained form living here. Life is so miserable here sometimes. This beautiful country that I love so much is lacking in almost every social service. Medical care is something that most people cannot afford. Feeding your children is something that is a daily struggle. Malnutrition is rampant in this country and children die every day. The school system is decent at best, and if you are a girl, you are the last priority. Life here can be so so miserable and I realize that that’s exactly what you didn’t want for me. I think the pain of loss overshadowed that for me for so long. The pain of not being wanted. Or at least of thinking I was not wanted by you.

But here’s the bottom line, the truth and the realization that I have come to accept and realize and be thankful for in my quarter century of life: you gave me life and then gave me the chance to live it, to really fully live it. You gave me a father and mother, together. You gave me a brother. You gave me wonderful aunts and uncles, and later cousins. You gave me the ability to speak three different languages. You gave me education. You gave me a full stomach every single day. You gave me a chance at university. You gave me away because that’s what mothers do: what’s best for their kids.

And I thank you. As I sit here in my comfortable home, with a job I love, friends and family who are incredible, I thank you. I thank you for doing the most unselfish loving thing a mother can do. Something that requires so much strength that just thinking about having to do the same hurts my heart so deeply. So happy my birthday to you. The last time we were together was 25 years ago today, but that’s the great thing about love. You carry those you love in your heart every single day.

All my love, xo

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