It is very important in our family that everyone has opportunities to connect with different aspects of their background/culture/heritage etc...
It has been relatively easy to make those connections for my AA siblings. We live in a very diverse city with many resources. Our church is a blessing as many adoptive, bi-racial, transracial, and AA families attend. We have many books, cd's, and movies that feature strong AA characters. Most importantly, my parents have helped create an environment where our family is surrounded by positive AA role models and mentors. Everyone in my family plays/has played/will play for an awesome inner-city hockey team. Our team's players are predominantly AA, Mexican, and Asian. The coaching staff is also very diverse and made up of strong Christian mentors. These coaches dedicate so much of themselves to helping the players grow academically, physically, and spiritually. They are advocates and tutors for the players in school, motivators and encouragers on the ice, and teachers and counselors 24/7. Summer camp, Bible study, NHL games, skiing trips, and Bible Study are all included in our hockey program :)
It's been a bit more challenging to make those same connections for my Ethiopian brothers. After traveling to Ethiopia and experiencing first-hand the richness and beauty of the culture, I decided I will do everything I can to instill Ethiopian pride and knowledge into Tekle and Aaron.
We have a great Ethiopian music collection for the boys. We were given several cd's that the boys were familiar with from the care center before we came home. Tekle has especially appreciated this. Last night I put in a cd from the care center that we haven't listened to in awhile and he got so excited..."Kels! Where did you get this? This is my favorite!!)
I also found a really fun/child-friendly cd online called Sorene: Children's Songs from Ethiopia (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00002414D/104-7820917-5337560)
We also have beautiful Ethiopian artwork in our house, and many MANY souvenirs from the trip. I believe this is important as it shows we embrace and admire their culture.
The area where we are struggling to make connections is perhaps the most important: MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS. There is a large Ethiopian Community around here, but we aren't quite sure how to access it. One cool advantage is that my school is the center for Amharic (language spoken by many Ethiopians). This means I have friends in every class who speak the same language and share the same heritage as Tekle and Aaron. My friends have been very helpful throughout this whole process. I met two girls after they overheard me talking about my upcoming trip. They were so excited and offered to make food and help translate for Tekle when he came home. Another friend translated a letter I sent to our sponsor girl who lives at AHOPE orphanage (http://www.ahopeforchildren.org) in Addis. It is very helpful for us to have someone to ask when we have questions. The other day Tekle was talking about a song they sing in Ethiopia when a kid loses a tooth. He was so frustrated because he could not remember the tune. I decided to call my friend Yebralem, and she sang the song over the phone for him!!!
I'm hoping that we will find a family for the boys to see on regular basis. Though Aaron and Tekle get to hang out once a month with lots of other children who were adopted from Ethiopia through a cool program called Ethiopian Kids Community, I think it's equally important to connect with Ethiopian families. So we're working on that!
Last but certainly not least...FOOD!! Tekle finds so much comfort in his injera. There is an Ethiopian restaurant about 5 mins from our house, and he LOVES it. We also buy injera at our local Cub store. It's not as good as the restaurant but Tekle still likes it. We found out tonight that Aaron loves injera too! As a baby, he didn't eat it very many times in Ethiopia, but apparently it was enough to get him hooked. Everytime he took a bite he would grin and cheer!
Whew! This is a long blog.
Oh yeah... and we haven't been able to find many children's books specifically about Ethiopia. Anyone know of a good one??