Finally, after a good 40 mn that felt like an hour, I was given the green light to actually enter my own birth country.
I left you guys last week with the Haitian officials making fun of my passport picture and me wanting to feel “sexy every once in a while”. The moment that I realized they were making fun of me, a deep sense of sadness settled in my soul. They were unhappy.
In such a poor country, officials who do government work are not respected to the full. They are waaaay underpaid and often times don’t even get fed on a given day. They too are fending for themselves.
I realized that people laugh at others because they see something they are jealous of. They will never admit it, but they are hurting inside.
As the officials looked at my passport that was riddled with visas in it from so many different countries, I feel they felt a sense of loss. The furthest they probably have gone was to the Dominican Republic, and even then, treated like nothing.
The DR and Haiti have a long standing bad record of racism. It continues today as I watch lighter kids throw rocks and make fun of semi darker kids. I see it when I get into public transport and I am asked to sit at the “back of the bus.” Yes, I said it. Just like during the Montgomery Boycott Era. Rosa Parks is truly one of my heroes. Here, in the DR, Haitians are still treated as 3rd class citizens, because they treat dogs better than haitians.
I am fortunate my daughter did not suffer the way I have in the past. I am stronger because of it though. I have written a bit about my suffering in a book called A Failed Adoption: Who is your Larimar?
If I knew Creole, I am sure my confidence would have been much much higher. I would have been able to communicate with them, crack a joke or two, sit down for a coffee…but alas, my parents stripped me of that part of my identity.
I can’t say whether it was done on purpose or not, but I can say that the many years of observation has lead to the knowledge that they could have made it happen but they chose not to. In some ways my mother wanted me to be a white american, resembling her biological kids in stature and intelligence. But on the other hand, when groups came to do mission work, she wanted me to be as black as night in order to gloat over what “she has done” in God’s name and how she has been the savior.
So I lived my life thinking that I was white both inside and out. If you were to hear me speak, and not see my face, you would think I was a white woman from Michigan.
I would be lying if I said I am not mad at my family for the way they treated me as a child and for their unreasonable expectations. I am hurt more than anything. Anger does not even begin to describe the pain one goes through. Anger keeps me from being able to move forward though.
God and I are pretty close. No, I am not a “Christian” in the former sense of the word. But I do love God and trust God’s power and hand in everything I do. I have learned to forgive because forgiveness is not for the other person but for myself. Without forgiveness, I would not be where I am today.
As I got back on the bus to enter into Haiti, I took a deep breath. I knew that I would not be intimidated the way I was at the border. My lawyer, though odd, is kind and is understanding toward my situation. He is not impressed with the fact that I don’t speak creole, but he does “get it”. He thinks my English is through the roof and says he wishes he could speak like me.
What can we take away from this post (assuming that you have read all the posts leading up to this one)?
If you have adopted a Haitian Child, please please please see that your child does not lose their creole. Their mother tongue is so important.
There are many ways to help your child maintain their birth language. The key is to start right away. I have suggested a few things below. Feel free to add to this list!
1. Tell them who they are from the start
2. Explain to them who their parents are (if you know who they are)
3. Be open with them about the adoption
4. Tell them that they are Black/African. (this may be super controversial but it is important they don’t think they are white-if you are white)
5. DO NOT change their name. (My first name was changed)
6. At night, read to them in Creole (if you can)
7. Let them listen to Haitian music in the bathtub
9. DO NOT try and change their appearance. If they insist, walk them through it and explain, in a positive manner, the outcome.
10. If there are other Haitian kids in the neighborhood, create a co-op that celebrates and unites children of all backgrounds and encourage your child to participate.
11. Encourage the WHOLE family to participate in the language learning process. Soon your child will be the leader. Let him/her teach!
I am sure I am missing some and will add more as they come to mind.
Thank you so much for reading my posts….my next post will focus on Hair so please stay tuned.
Also, feel free to listen to my podcasts. Each week I will be discussing different topics to address as parents of adopted Haitian children. This week I have published the first one and it is called Hair.