This is, of course, my daughter Aselefech’s story to tell: what it meant to her to travel back at age 26 to Ethiopia, the land of her birth and where she spent her first six years of life. What it meant to sit with her Ethiopian mother and siblings outside the house she might have also lived in, had she not been adopted. What it meant to her to see the cities and the countryside again, the breathtaking beauty and the breathtaking poverty. What it meant to consider what was, what is, and what might have been.
She will be talking about that, about the film now in development, and more, on her newly launched blog. I’m incredibly proud of her. Please go read and share it!
It is Aselefech’s journey. Still, the thing about adoption is that those of us who love her also accompany her.
This past August, Aselefech, her then seven year old daughter Zariyah, and I spent about 20 days in Ethiopia, visiting with her family, cheering her on in a 10k trail race, and spending time with friends in Addis. It was my third trip there, Zariyah’s first, and Aselefech’s second since arriving in the US with her twin sister in 1994, when she was about a year younger than Zariyah.
It’s Aselefech’s story. The thing about adoption, though, is that it reaches far beyond the adopted person (the “adopted child” grows up). It’s more than the birth mother–it’s also the father, and the siblings, nieces, nephews, neighbors, grandparents. It’s more than the adoptive parents–it’s the siblings, partners, and the children of the adoptee. A very big family portrait, in which smiles and sorrows appear, disappear, and appear again. Sometimes.
We were tourists on the trip this summer, some of us less than others. We were accompanied by translators, tour guides, drivers, a talented photographer, and an insightful social worker. We didn’t all speak the same languages. We loved the food. We were saddened, inspired, enlightened, challenged, and blessed.
The film about this trip will share Aselefech’s story, and that of her Ethiopian family and, to a lesser degree, her American family. I look into the eyes of my beloved daughter and granddaughter, and know that while we have no biological connection, we are inexorably connected. I embrace my daughter’s Ethiopian mother, who is also Zariyah’s grandmother, and who share the same blood. So beautiful, so simple, and so complex.
Zariyah is amazing in the film clip, by the way. She is a gem.
One final note: Aselefech and other Ethiopian adopted adults have been networking and connecting with their fellow adoptees around the globe. For anyone who is or who knows an (adult) Ethiopian adoptee, please take a look at Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora. Please “Like” the page. Many thanks.
Also, a big shout out to Gazillion Strong and to Red Shiba Media for their partnership with Aselefech. Powerful.