Friday, November 4, 2011

TCKs and Adoption: A connection?

As you know, I have two daughters who were adopted from the Republic of Kazakhstan*.  (The earliest entries in this blog are from our second trip to Kazakhstan, although the pictures didn't make the transition from AOL).  Lisa came to us in 2001, and Melanie in 2004.  I created a beautiful (if I may say so myself!) adoption scrapbook for Lisa, and have been egregiously negligent in preparing one for Melanie.  I finally got around to getting Melanie's pictures together to work on her book, and I'm hopeful to get it done by Christmas.  Seeing as November is "Adoption Awareness Month" it's only appropriate that I get to it now.  Oh, and by the way, my husband and I have adopted a cat, Buddy, into our family.  (An interesting story in and of itself!)

Buddy the Cat
We're just celebrating adoption all around!!

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have had the heart for adoption if I hadn't been a Third Culture Kid.  Granted, there are many many people who aren't TCKs who have adopted internationally, but I think my route to being an adoptive parent started all those years ago in Asia.  I can't explain it; it wasn't a lightning bolt moment.  I have written earlier about the poverty that I witnessed, the kind that isn't just "po'" (as Herman Cain puts it) but really, really destitute.  As in living in a shack made of corrugated tin.  In a shanty town where the flood waters would rise to the shoulders.  I saw and felt the great divide between our luxurious house in Forbes park, and the beggars outside the gates.  I didn't feel privileged, I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable.  Most of the underprivileged people I encountered on a personal level, however, were sweet and friendly and always had a smile.  I used to buy my "blue seal" cigarettes (American-made) from a little guy who sold them out of a wooden box by the side of the road.  He was always cheerful and anxious to make a sale.

Melanie and me getting acquainted. 
One time I left my wallet in a delapidated taxi, and the driver made a trip back to my house to return it to me.  He seemed shocked when I hugged him and thanked him.  The last housekeeper we had (I still don't like to call them "maids") truly loved us, and we loved her back.  She would spend the day at our house, cleaning and cooking and then casually tell us she needed to get home because the house was flooded to her waist.  Wouldn't most of us just call in?  Her name was Pacita, meaning "peace" and she embodied the word.  Almost always calm and collected.  She knew how much our dogs meant to us: when we were packing to move to Singapore, one of our schnauzers went missing.  She called my mom at our hotel in tears, frantic that she couldn't find the dog.  We raced to the house, only to find that Gus had been shut up between a stack of boxes and a door.  Pacita was crying with relief.  I think she kinda loved Gus too.

I know there was probably some resentment of us foreigners in Manila, but I never felt it directed at me.  All of the Filipinos I knew, from every social strata, were downright good people.  I'm not sure if this is why I wanted to adopt ... at the time I knew that I had a houseful of boys, and although I loved each one of them dearly, I really wanted a little girl.  I never looked at adoption as a philanthropic endeavor, to save an orphan from poverty.  For me it was simply a selfish thing, a desire for bows and ruffles.  

There is the occasional "discouraging word" from folks who think international adoption is great, but that more people should be adopting from the United States.  I agree ... and as international adoption becomes, sadly, more and more difficult due to the ratification of The Hague Convention, I am hopeful that more people will adopt American children.  Many already have and still do.  But different strokes for different folks.  The foster system in this country is in bad shape, and many kids end up emotionally and psychologically damaged in terrible ways.  I almost wish we could have orphanages in this country run as well as those in Kazakhstan.  No orphanage is ideal, of course, but at least there is some accountability and oversight there.  And believe me, the ladies who take care of those babies LOVE them.  It's hard to love each one enough when you have 15 in a group, but it's better than nothing.  

"Traffic jam" on the road from Almaty to Taldy Korgan.
The bottom line is, our daughters were in Asia, and that is where we went to find them.  I can't specify what it was about living in the Philippines that drove me to want to adopt, but I am confident that, somehow, my TCK-ness played a big part.  Perhaps it was the lack of fear in traveling to a Third World country. (Although today, Kazakhstan is much farther away from being part of the Third World).  Who knows?  Back then, traveling and living in Kazakhstan took a boatload of patience, tolerance and just plain nerves of steel.  Imagine: Driving six hours in the night over the Russia-Kazakhstan frontier;  phone service that required a degree in rocket science; interesting food; giardia in the water; things that went bump in the night (or more like CRASH), BATS in the living room (not the ones you play baseball with).  You get the picture.  Maybe my years in the Philippines (cockroaches, brown-outs, typhoons, martial law) were a prelude to my time in Central Asia.  I'd be curious to know how many TCKs have gone on to adopt internationally.  

In my next post I will address an issue of which not many people are aware: UNICEF and International Adoption.  

* Still don't know where Kazakhstan is?  

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