Lucky and Unlucky

Ethiopian Culture Camp
For the seventh year in a  row,  I spent an amazing weekend at Ethiopian Culture Camp.  Mikias and Jemberu have declared it, hands down, the best weekend of the year.  I couldn't agree more.  They spend every moment with other Ethiopian kids and their siblings.  I spend every moment with their parents.  As Mikias puts it, "we are with our people".  I know he means that he and Jemberu are with their Ethiopian friends but it is true for me too.

I am with other parents who 'get it'.  Our time together is short so we waste none of it on superficial things.  Yeah, the weather could not have been more perfect, but I don't think anyone mentioned it.  We jump right into things we have waited a year to share with each other, an incident on the school bus, the sadness our kids sometimes struggle with, our fears and anger about the corruption that has happened in Ethiopian adoptions, our worries about how it will all turn out for our kids, and more than anything we talk about the love we have for these children that came to us from a country that we now love like our own.

Monday I walked around in my annual post- Ethiopian Culture Camp fog.  Happy, sad, kind of achy and unsettled.  Happy, so happy, that we had that time with our people.  Sad that we have to wait another year to do it again.  Achy and unsettled about all that our children have had to say goodbye to in order to become part of our families.

I sat down at my computer and tried to find a way to share all of those crazy feelings in a blog post, when my phone rang.  Caller ID told me it was the agency that we used to adopt the boys, Wide Horizons.  We maintain close ties to the agency because of the humanitarian work they do in Ethiopia.  It felt like a happy coincidence that they were calling me while Ethiopia was so much on my mind.
Kurt and me with Helen

My happiness was quickly replaced by sadness.  I was informed that Helen, a beautiful, shy and sweet girl that we sponsor in Ethiopia had died at the age of 13. Her life, her light, cut short by AIDS.  She lived a short distance away from where Mikias had once lived.  Kurt and I spent time with her when we were in Ethiopia to bring Jemberu home.  She cuddled into me while we spoke through a translator.  She told us that she was thankful that sponsorship allowed her to go to school.  She told us that one day she would be able to write us a letter in English and that one day we would be able to speak without a translator.  She got up suddenly during our conversation and ran into her small wood and mud home. When she came back out she was wearing her school uniform.  She was so proud that , I swear, she practically sparkled.  I loved that time that we had with her, her elderly aunt who had become her guardian after the deaths of her parents, her sister and cousins that also lived with her.  The world felt smaller during that visit and I felt honored as I was told that my family was a part of Helen's family.  We felt the same way about them.

I thought of the 100 plus kids that spent the weekend playing, dancing, and just being together.  Ethiopian children, together with each other, but all having lost their homeland and so much more.  Loved deeply by their new families, lucky and unlucky at the same time.

I thought of Helen, a child that had lost her parents, but because of her aunt, and sponsorship that provides for their most basic needs, she didn't lose her culture, her language, her remaining family members.  She didn't lose Ethiopia.  Lucky.  And then profoundly unlucky.

Most of all, I thought about the cruel truth that where you live sometimes determines if you live, and how utterly unfair that is.