Sunday, April 26, 2009

things that scare us

Every now and then we still get some good nuggets from when the kids first arrived here. Turns out they were afraid of trees and white hair.

Their home area was barren. The only trees they knew were banana trees, which are not tall and do not have long branches. Then the kids saw our trees, so tall, with so many long branches - and when it was windy - the kids thought the branches were trying to reach out and grab them. Looking back, it makes sense why they were afraid to go outside for about three months after arriving here.

They had never seen white hair before. Nobody they knew grew old enough to have grayed. So when they saw white hair, they thought it was a ghost.

Giving Mom a stroke

A few nights ago Colleen walks into my office and Marin is on my computer. Colleen looks closer and Marin (age 6.5) is on Facebook.

Colleen (horrified): Marin, how did you do that?

Marin (non -plussed) : f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k dot com

I mean, what did Colleen expect Marin to say?

We're just mystified because we thought we had done such a good job of sheltering our kids from the worst America has to offer. For example, our TV has been unplugged and dark for about 30 months. Our kids have never been to a Mall or a movie theater. They don't even know to ask about DisneyWorld. No nintendo, wii, ipod, or cell phone.

And then - boom - facebook. Like who left the back door open?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sister Tyrhas

Last week Marins' first grade teacher sent home a memo that she wanted all the students to dress like their role model on Friday 4/17. It would be a class project/ show and tell. We explained to Marin what a role model is and asked who she wanted to be (figuring she would say Hannah Montana or something).

Marin asked to see her scrapbook, turned some pages, and found Tryhas. Marin said "I want to be her. She was my doctor in Ethiopia. She gave me medicine and bandaids. Do you remember her name?"

So we dressed Marin up in a beautiful headscarf, put a little makeup and an ethiopian necklace on her. Then we had the photo of Tyrhas laminated with a brief description of who she is, tied it to a ribbon for Marin to wear around her neck, and sent Marin to school.

Marin was the belle of the ball. Everybody wanted to know who she was and wanted to look at the picture. The teacher even went to get the Principal so Marin could tell her story to him. It was a great day for Marin and the teachers did a wonderful job of reaffirming Marins' heritage for her.

The water hum

Ever since we met Marin, she always hums when there is moving water.
- washing dishes
- in the bathtub
- rinsing hands
- wetting the toothbrush
- a running hose

It doesn't matter, whenever there is moving water, Marin will hum. Just a soft pleasant monotone hummm.

I've asked her several times what that means or why she does it. She says something like "In Africa we sing when we carry the water."

I was recently reading a National Geographic that described "The Singing Wells of Southern Ethiopia". Apparently, in order to get water, the tribes dig wells deep into the earth, then lower ladders into them, then pass buckets up and down the ladders to get water. The work is very strenuous, so the men often sing in harmony to encourage each other and ward off fatigue.

I'll bet Marin was one of the little kids at the top of the well filling up jugs to take back to the village.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


We found this little East African cafe in town last weekend. Trust me when I tell you this place is pure Africa. I felt transported in time.

The front room is this tiny space with a dirty floor, a couple of tables and a couple of chairs. It is full of men of all ages drinking soft drinks and tea, eating rice and flatbread off a communal plate, and watching English soccer on the TV.

Behind that is a little tiny kitchen in which 4 woman wrapped in layers of robes slaved over a tiny stove.

Behind that is a cleaner dining room where families with children sat. We sat there. It was 3 or 4 men with lots of children. All the men were yapping on their cells in some foreign language, and all the children were silent, staring bug eyed at us. I am the only white person in the place.

Finally, a boy about age 10 approaches Marin and asks her "Is that guy your friend?" nodding toward me. Marin said "No, that's my Dad." The boy scrunched up his face and said "That's weird. His skin is a different color." Whereupon Marin looked at me as if to ask "Now what do I say?"

Nice to meet you, too

I was away at a business dinner, meeting a new client for the first time. I was seated at the table next to a very stylish woman, younger than me, and we were making ' get to know you' type conversation. One of my best friends, Kevin, was seated on the other side of her.

Denise asked me about my kids, and then how old they are. I told her 6 and 4.

She looked up like she had seen a ghost, nearly spit her wine back into her glass, and blurted "Oh my God. You have a 4 year old?" I'm thinking to myself "Wow, do I look that old?" but I gently said "Yes, and she is wonderful". My friend Kevin was almost passed out from laughing so hard. I don't think Denise realized how horrified she looked because she turned to Kevin and asked "What's so funny?" Then Kevin had to quickly make up a lie so as not to offend Denise.

New Preschool Research

Colleen really wants to put Emmy in a kindergarden program, so she took the girls to scout out a place the other day. Marin and Emmy were walking around testing out all the toys, and finally Marin approached the owner and said "Excuse me, can I ask you some questions?"

- Will you feed Emmy lunch?
- What about Emmy snacks?
- Can Emmy take a nap when she is cranky?
- Can Emmy go outside for fresh air?
- Do you have a computer here?
- No dogs gonna bite Emmy, right?
- Are your neighbors nice people or bad people?
- Tell me about the other kids in this school?

and on and on and on and on.

When Marin was finally finished, the owner looked at Colleen and asked if she had any questions. Colleen said " I think Marin covered everything."

Marin still thinks she is Emmy's mother.

April Fools Day

Remember when, as a child, you first learned about April Fools Day? If you were like me (and most kids) you said ridiculous stuff like "There's a chicken on your head" and your Dad said "Oh no! Oh my Gosh!" in mock horror.

Emmy (4 years old) played the most sophisticated tricks on me. She is scary.

First, Emmy talked me into buying a Milky Way bar for her preschool teacher Carla (who happens to love them). When we got home, Colleen pulled the Milky Way from the bag and put it in her purse, probably anticipating that Emmy would eat it before it made its way to Carla. The next morning, we were driving to preschool and Emmy, in her best whiney voice, said "Daddy, we forgot Carla's Milky Way." So I turned around, drove home, ran up the stairs, and tore the house apart looking for this stupid Milky Way. Can't find it. Go back to the car and tell Emmy it must be in Mama's purse and I start to call Colleen on the cell. As I am dialing, Emmy says "Daddy, look in the mirror." And there she is grinning and holding the Milky Way bar. I am about to erupt as she has wasted ten minutes of morning commute time and she says "Daddy, I April fooled you." Just think about the premeditation it took to pull this off. First she stole the Milky Way from Colleens purse and smuggled it to the car without us noticing. Then she waited for the right moment to start whining, because if she waited too long, I would not have turned the car around. Then she maintained composure as I drove like a madman back to the house and ran up the stairs. Then she waited til the very last second, just as Colleen's phone started ringing, to reveal the trick. I am very afraid.

For her next trick. Emmy noticed that whenever I read a magazine, I fold down the corners of the articles I want to keep or send to friends. The day after April Fools, I picked up my Forbes, that I had just finished reading, and found the corner of every single page was folded over, very neatly, at exactly the same angle I fold my pages. I was furious and started yelling for Colleen. Emmy walks by, non-chalantly looks over her shoulder and as she walks away and says "Daddy, that was my April fools trick to you."