I was going to write this post about an amazing show where a professional photographer went to Ethiopia to take pictures of remote tribes in the southern region. I'm still going to tell you about this amazing show, but this post will include something else I was not prepared to tackle, that came as a result of watching it with my Ethiopian daughter.
But first... about the show "Faces Of A Vanishing World". Unlike so many photographers before him, Joey Lawrence returned to Ethiopia to show and give the photos back to the people, many of whom had never before seen themselves in pictures. His return to Ethiopia, bringing the photos back to the people, is what the show is about.
I've known about this photographer for a while now, since my husband Marshall has followed his work. Marshall worked on Twilight, and this guy photographed the Twilight cast for their posters like this one...
I remember when Marshall first told me the guy who photographed the cast of Twilight was going to Ethiopia to spend time there and photograph the people. With the Twilight and Ethiopian connection, not to mention his photography hobby, Marshall has been following Joey Lawrence's adventures through his Twitter page.
His photography, lighting and photoshop skills are unlike anything I've seen. When we heard he made a show about his return to Ethiopia with the photos he took, we had to watch it. It has been playing on the National Geographic and Ovation channels and we set our DVR to watch it. Marshall and I were incredibly moved when we sat down to watch it. Our daughter is from the Sidama people, who are also from the southern region of Ethiopia. Here is the trailer for the show.
If you haven't yet caught it on TV, I highly recommend watching it. You can purchase it digitally or on DVD at facesofavanishingworld.com
I've actually watched it twice on DVR, AND I just ordered it on DVD. I was that moved by it.
After watching it with Marshall, I thought it would be a great idea to watch the program again with our kids. Haven, age 10 (biological), Seamus, age 6 (adopted domestically) and Marlie, age 4 and 1/2 (adopted from Ethiopia).
Normally our daughter Marlie gets very excited whenever she meets another Ethiopian, or hears Ethiopian music. She swells with pride over being a part of Ethiopia. I thought she would love this show. I did not anticipate her reaction at all.
When you start the adoption process, many parents (us included) think... oh we'll get an infant. They'll come with no history, won't experience any loss, won't be affected by adoption... it will be exactly like they are born to us. They won't have any adoption-related issues. WRONG.
Our middle son was adopted domestically. My husband cut the cord when he was born. We took him home from the hospital when he was 2 days old. So far I haven't noticed any adoption-related "loss" issues with him, but his birthmom is a big part of our lives. That and his personality might have something to do with it. He may never feel a sense of loss related to his adoption or it might hit him at a later date.
Our daughter's Ethiopian father died while her Ethiopian mother was still pregnant with her. Her Ethiopian mother died when our daughter was 3 months old. We were matched with her at 6 months old, and brought her home just 7 weeks later. She has 4 older sisters that are being raised by their aunt and uncle. We keep in touch with them and send care packages, pray for them, etc. They send letters and pictures back to us. A logical mind would say she's got no memory of her Ethiopian mother or siblings, and certainly none of her Ethiopian father who died before she was born. Our daughter has been told her adoption story in an age appropriate manner since before she could talk.
Imagine my surprise when she was so greatly affected by "Faces of A Vanishing World". While watching, she asked, "If I grew up in Ethiopia, would I have to work hard like the girls there?" I said, "yes". She then asked, "Do my sisters have to work hard like that?" I again answered yes, knowing her sisters have a much harder life than she does. They live in a mud house. They walk an hour to school each day and an hour back. The food they eat is the food they grow and make themselves. Life is much harder for them than it is for her. It is a hard truth that she will have to someday come to terms with.
Seamus enjoyed the show. He thinks it's "cool" to see Ethiopians like Marlie. Haven was truly moved by the program. He has had a heart for Ethiopia since we adopted Marlie. He cannot wait until we return as a family to visit and especially wants to hand out bottles of water to the children. He also wants to give away all his money to the Ethiopian people.
By the end of the show, I noticed that Marlie was silently crying. When it was over, I asked her why she was crying. Her answer... "I miss my Ethiopian Mommy and Daddy". Logic had no place at that time. I held her tight as she cried and said, "I know you do baby, I know you do."
Haven, my logical son, said, "But how can she miss them if she was just a baby?" I explained that no matter how young she was when they died, she still has faced a tremendous loss because most kids are raised in the families they were born in. And she was not. She lost her parents, lost her country, lost her culture and her language and she can never get them back. It's a devastating loss for many adoptees, and one she may never fully get over. It's NOT fair that stupid disease-carrying mosquitoes bit her parents and made them sick. It's NOT fair that they lived in a rural area with no access to medical care. It's NOT fair that a simple pill could've saved their lives. It's NOT fair that they died.
Then Haven said, "But if her parents had lived, we wouldn't have Marlie in our family." Ahhhhh that simple statement that even I can't fully reconcile. Of course I love Marlie as if she was born to me. Of course I'm grateful I get to raise her as my own. Of course I believe she was meant to be in our family. But that doesn't mean what happened to her parents was a good thing. It's a tragedy. And in this day and age, no one should die from Malaria. NO ONE. But people still do. And my daughter was orphaned at 3 months of age by that hideous disease.
I continued to hold my grieving daughter as she cried and cried that day and I thought to myself... the hell adopted infants don't feel loss.