In 2000, Kristi and I were living in Chicago, both working, both making decent money, saving most of it but still having a good time in the City. Kids would be coming soon, we knew it. We weren’t really making close friends and the pull of Michigan and the stable family life was steadily growing.
Before we started the transition, we decided to have one last big fling. A vacation. Another country maybe. Something that we would never get a chance to do once we settled down and had others to take care of.
We went to Borders Books on Clark and Diversey and looked through all the travel books. We started with continents, narrowed it down to regions, then looked at different countries and cities. Finally, we landed on Spain. It looked like a beautiful country, we knew we liked Europe and could take the train everywhere, and I spoke some Spanish from my classes in high school and college. We did it, and the trip was everything we needed at that time and everything we won’t be able to do again for a long time. (Ah, Sevilla …)
To my surprise, choosing a country to adopt from is not quite the same. With the number of countries and number of orphans, I figured we could pick and choose. We talked about Asia where I had spent some time with work. We talked about Eastern Europe where the kids would look like ours. We talked about Latin America because our kids are going to a Spanish immersion school. We didn’t think much about Africa because traditionally the countries were pretty closed.
Then we started looking at the charts provided by the adoption agencies. Most agencies work with 5 or 10 countries as their specialties. Some have a few more than that, but most of their numbers are concentrated in a handful of countries, mostly similar ones across agencies. Filter that down and you find that some countries take a LONG time to adopt from. Like China, which is likely to take two or three years. Filter further and you find some countries that have regulations against single people, against divorces or marriages that have lasted less than a few years, against families with too many kids already. And the big one – most countries want you to stay there for AWHILE. Colombia is six weeks. Mexico is three months. Russia is two separate trips of a week or two (or three) each.
So all of a sudden, we were down to South Korea and Ethiopia.
When we started looking at Ethiopia, it became clear where the need was the greatest. Out of a country of 75 million, Ethiopia has 5 million orphans. Suddenly, our decision was made for us.
It’s one more learning for us. But it’s also one more sign that we are riding the tide of something bigger than us. The choice was clear. It feels great to follow.