Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Cultural Context

Today, this day after New Year's Day when the gyms reopen and throngs of people flood through the doors to work off their holiday calories, I went to my first "Zumba" class. Zumba is an aerobic workout class done to Latin Music and incorporating the fundamentals of Latin Dance, such as salsa, merengue, samba, etc. It was an awesome workout. I left having worked up a good sweat and feeling a little more guapa and tranquila. ¡OlĂ©!

As I was moving to the rhythms of the latin music, I thought about my year in Spain and how thankful I am to have an insight into Spanish culture. And of course, I've spent the majority of my life right here in Texas! It is impossible to grow up here without a bit of the local Mexican culture rubbing off on you, and for that I am happy and grateful! It made me glad that even though I would never pretend to completely understand the various latin cultures with which I've rubbed elbows, I do have a context for them! And today, I felt humbled and thankful to have a context for the dances I was doing and the music I was listening to. When the Zumba instructor spoke Spanish to our mostly latino class, I knew what she was saying, and when I heard the music, I could dance the salsa with a little bit of flair!

Last night, Brian and I watched a video, which is part of our required adoption training. The video was called "Grief and Loss in Adoption". The idea is that the hub at the center of the wheel of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptee) is loss. Obviously the birth parents have to grieve the significant loss of their child when they make a plan to place for adoption. Whether the adoptive parents are choosing adoption because of infertility or not, they still have to grieve the loss of their genetic continuity. What I hadn't stopped very long to consider, though, was the significant losses that an adoptee faces: loss of medical information/history, loss of knowing biological family, loss of nation of origin (in the case of international adoption), and a loss of control over the whole process (the adoptee never chose to be placed for adoption and didn't choose their adoptive family).

One of the people interviewed in the video was a lovely woman in her 20s or 30s. She was adopted from South Korea as an infant and raised in a caucasian family in Baltimore, Maryland. She spoke with a southern accent, and talked about her experiences of loss through her adoption. One of the things she has grieved as an adult was the loss of her identity as a Korean. Although she feels like an American girl internally, externally she is Asian. She spoke of not really fitting in with the Asian community because although she might look Asian, she has no grasp of Korean/Asian culture. What she did know, above all else was that she was a Cockran (the last name of her adoptive family).

Her suggestion to American families adopting from abroad was to not just think of exposing their adopted child to their culture of origin, but to have the mindset that the whole family adopts a bit of that culture. So in our case, just as we will adopt an Ethiopian child/ren into our family, our family will also become a little bit Ethiopian. Brian and I thought that made a lot of sense. While we will never be able to have a firm grasp on all things Ethiopian, we can make an effort to become a little bit Ethiopian as a family. We can go as a family to eat Ethiopian food (which we did today for lunch!). We can play Ethiopian music at home and celebrate certain Ethiopian holidays as a family.

My hope is that if my child/ren one day return to Ethiopia, that they will have the same sense that I had today in my Zumba class. Although they won't have a 100% grasp of life in Ethiopia, I hope the rhythms they hear, and the flavors of the food they taste will be just familiar enough to feel a part of it all because they have a context for it. And on days when my child/ren feel like they're not quite part of any one ethnic/cultural community, I hope they will know without a doubt they they are Owens!


Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Hi Tracy! We are adopting from Gladney, and we are in Houston too. Just wondering whereabouts you are? You can email me if you want.

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

love this post! not only does it make perfect sense to me, a Latina raised in the US, but also really spoke to me since we are hoping to adopt from Ethiopia one day.

by the way, I love Zumba!!!! :)

(ps: still not 100% but pretty sure we're moving fwd with Gladney, too, but we are in New Orleans!)

The Busters said...

This was such a beautiful post! I also enjoyed that video and found her interview particularly helpful.

Tanya said...

well said!

nell ann said...

Hi Tracy! I was just thinking about you earlier and I'm excited to see you and meet Brian this weekend. I'm not sure what time you're coming, or if you're staying late, but we of course want to talk adoption with you!!! It seems like you are holding up swell, and more than half way through your wait!!! See you soon!