Thursday, May 21, 2009

Things I Have Learned From Mona

My Ethiopian friend, Mona, has an interesting story, some of which I can't share. Yet, talking with her has enlightened and educated me on a culture that is soon to be part of our family. Mona has now lived in Minnesota for 7 years, coming over on a lottery visa. She was very young and spoke little English. She is now a U.S. citizen, works fulltime, studies to become a medical technician and speaks English fluently. She is struggling with how to bring her nieces to live with her. Her sister passed away, leaving Mona's nieces as orphans. They have since been adopted by their grandmother, Mona's 48 year old mother. Immigration has approved Mona to bring her mother here as a relative, but not her nieces. Her nieces, 12 and 14 years, would be left behind in Ethiopia. Our trip to immigration services taught us that there is no consideration for these two girls in whether they are left alone...they cannot travel with their grandmother to the U.S. as they do not have a visa. Understandably, Mona does not want to see her nieces left behind, but what are their choices? When I asked immigration, "what happens to the girls when their grandmother comes to America? They belong to their grandmother." The response we received was, "We are not a babysitting service. We are not responsible for them." She must have repeated that 4 times in our conversation. What?! Is that a recording? We have an open door policy with every other country, some of which are a threat to our country...yet, we don't care about children (who are not a threat) left behind. Interesting...

Some of the things Mona told me were both funny and interesting. In Ethiopia, children believe there is money all over the ground. They think that in stores, you can have anything...for free! Funny, my kids use to think that too!. The people believe that American's have a golden heart, that we take care of everyone else in the world and are especially soft-hearted with children. She believes that is why America is a blessed country.

I asked, "What do the Ethiopian people think of foreigners coming to adopt your children?"
~Mona-"American's are generous and kind, and our own wealthy people do not care about their own poor. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer."
I asked, "Is there a fairly wealthy society?"
~Mona-"of course"
I asked, "Why wouldn't extended family care for a child who will be orphaned?"
~Mona- "They don't do that like in America. They are poor too."
I asked, "what would happen then to a child like ours?"
~Mona- "She is a very good mother to think about her child like this. Many times there are no plans for that child. He would be on the streets."
I asked, "Have your views changed about the American people since you have come to live here?"
~Mona- "a little. Most are very kind, but I have met some that are not. I still think Americans are wonderful."
I asked. "what was the most shocking thing you realized when you came here?"
~Mona- "how much food is wasted here."

Mona also tells me that she has not grown accustomed to our foods and the only thing she likes is pizza! I was a little surprised at that. She is impressed with how open-minded American people are in trying new foods and learning about other cultures. I have to agree.

I realize that one person's opinions of their people and country can be as different as the next, as it is in America. But there is a common thread of respect, kindness and appreciation that I feel has been evident in the Ethiopian culture, thus far. I hope to preserve those attributes and help others to learn more about this intriguing culture.


  1. Thanks for sharing that conversation! I can't believe immigration won't let her bring her nieces.. I honestly don't get how immigration works.

    I can't wait to get to HH, and to meet your son! Hopefully I can get a bunch of pictures for you!

  2. Hi Tina. What a neat conversation and a blessing to hear her perspective. Thanks for telling us about it. It was surprising to hear that Americans have a reputation for being so kind...