Sunday, January 28, 2007

Calling home

We spent part of Saturday morning trying to call Ethiopia. We were trying to reach H and Baby T's Aunt A and her godmother (in Ethiopia). Neither one of them was available yesterday, but her Grandfather answered when we tried to reach her Aunt. They spoke briefly; a mix of English and Amharic when she spoke..."Yes, yes, I mean, ow, ow...sorry, oh no, no Amharic talking!" We did learn, however, that they should both be available on Sunday.
So this morning when we tried again. It was about 9pm local time in Ethiopia and H was bouncing up and down on the sofa as she waited for someone to bring her aunt to the phone. They spoke for 5 or 10 minutes or so, this time mostly in Amharic (H was very conscientious about that-although she said her aunt does speak a little English), when she said something, looked at me and motioned for me to take the phone. So, not knowing much Amharic, I took the phone from her.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello.

Aunt A: Hello. I want to thank you.

Me: (feeling very embarrassed by her gratitude) Oh. No, thank you. H is good. She is very good. The baby is good also. Do you want to talk to H again? Goodbye-Ciao!

I handed the phone back to H, only to find out that her aunt's translation of my English was that the call was finished, and she had hung up the phone. So, we quickly called back for H to say goodbye herself. As I dialed the litany of numbers, a great sadness overcame me. I thought of H, home about 2 months, who was already forgetting words in her native language and *accidentally* speaking in English, which her Ethiopian family couldn't speak. I thought of sleepy Baby T, who had been in my arms through the phone call, who will never *know* that part of his heritage except through stories and pictures. His Amharic, whatever we can teach, will not be enough to carry on a conversation with them, and as time goes on, H's Amharic will fade, too--making conversation difficult, I would guess. I thought of the brief conversation I had with her aunt and my own lack of her language.

I thought of my simplistic English sentences which were painfully inadequate to convey what I wanted to say to her. I wanted so badly to tell her how long H's hair (cut short at the orphangage) was getting and what a good girl she is and how she helps around the house so much and how well she is doing in school and that she has made friends-real friends-already here and that the baby has gotten so big (a whole 4 pounds since he's come home) and that he has 4 teeth now and crawls everywhere and is starting to pull up on everything and how we love them so much and can't imagine the time when they weren't here...but I didn't know how, so I said they're good. Sigh.

The next conversation with her godmother left everyone on both sides of the Atlantic in tears. First her godmother, then H, then me when I saw H and then the godmother's son when he talked to her. But a minute or so after we hung up, H was skipping off to play the Dora memory game with CB. I stood and watched her just marveling at the strength she possessed to handle such difficult things. And wondering if, just maybe, she would share some of it with me.

H, with her godmother and godmother's family in Ethiopia.

H (kneeling in white shirt) and her family and neighborhood friends (her aunt is holding Baby T) and her grandfather is standing wearing the suit jacket in Ethiopia.

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