Saturday, November 30, 2013

Goddy and Shekina's First Thanksgiving

We celebrated G and S's first Thanksgiving with members of my mom's side of the family this year, and what a day it was! Shekina was so excited to show off her new turkey dress and her tiny-but-ever-growing afro. Godson, for once in his life, was more interested in the company than in filling his little piggy belly. As Godson became more comfortable with our guests' presence, he came further and further out of his shell, and our family really got o see the real Benjamin Godson. My aunt said she hoped it wouldn't hurt my feelings, but that he really reminded her of ET! I personally would go with the Tasmanian Devil or a gremlin. He's a funny, crazy little nut, that's for sure! Here are some pictures from our day, as well as from the day-off before. 

All bundled up for an abnormally frigid November day; both kids lasted fifteen minutes before begging to come inside. 

Communication, from the Beginning

On an unusually cold fall day last week, the afterschool director at Shekina's school told me S had come up to her and exclaimed "I'm FREEZING!" She seemed to think it was cute, and perhaps was trying to hint that S needed a warmer coat, so my reaction wasn't what she expected. "Good English!" I excitedly replied. The word freezing might not seem so exciting to you, and probably didn't to her, but to me, it was quite nuanced. Less than five months ago, we were stumbling through communication with an at-first clumsy mixture of French, Lingala, and pantomime. Cold was froid, hot was chaud. "No touche pas!" my mom would say as she was first turning on the shower in Congo. "Tres chaud!" (We were staying at Sunny Days, for those of you wondering where we had such hot water in Kinshasa!) I had studied a little bit of Lingala through the utalk iPhone app, and was so thankful I had. From the minute we arrived at the orphanage on the very first day, Shekina tugged at my arm with Lingala requests. "Mama, asumba." I filed through my utalk words in my head and realized she needed to go to the bathroom. "Mama, mayi." Water--she was thirsty. (To this day, I think she was checking to see if I would fulfill her needs from the very moment she met me, but that's an entirely different story.) 

We became more adept at our own special creole over time, Shekina teaching us Lingala, Koko Vickie and Shekina discovering Lingala/French similarities (French seems to comprise a good bit of their language). We slowly began introducing English words, and, of course, my mom, dad, and I spoke to each other in English, so Shekina heard it spoken all day long. To say that she was and is a sponge is cliche, but it's accurate. There were frustrating times once we got home when she couldn't communicate thoughts, wants, or needs she wanted to express, and there was one week when I felt we had truly stalled. But no. That was just me having too much time on my hands to analyze things. Now that we are all busy and Shekina has been in school for almost three months, I realize how incredibly far she has come. My daughter might not have perfect English--she especially messes up pronouns, which I have always found to be difficult for ELLs-- but she's understanding almost fluently! We have to spell things out or hide our conversations from her completely if we don't want her to hear because she will understand it all! And her English is nearly fluent! Her loving, nurturing preschool teacher has played a big part in her language development, as have her classmates. She mimics things they have said and comes home with new words every day. Last week, after her teacher taught teddy-bear-themed lessons for two weeks, Shekina told us all about hibernation at dinner! Unbelievable. We still have our frustrating times when she can't communicate the thought she so desperately needs to, but those times are generally due to a lack of proper enunciation, not vocabulary. It's unbelievable! We are so lucky to have this smart cookie and all the people who have helped her in our lives. 
With her class's mascot, Spot, who she got to bring home for the weekend. 

These days, we rarely use our Lingala/French creole, and I'm quickly forgetting it, so I thought I'd record it below, just for the memories. Please excuse the spellings if you speak French or Lingala! I'll keep adding to it as I remember. Thanks for following us on our journey!


P.S. You may be wondering how Goddy's English is. He tested as having a 40% language deficit about four months ago, and therefore has been receiving early intervention services. We knew it was likely that he tested so low because of his lack of English knowledge, and sure enough he has gained English words at lightning speed. Again, being in a classroom with excellent teachers and chatty peers has really helped speed things along. Today, he knows tons of words and speaks in multi-word phrases; our only worry is enunciation, but we're told that will come with time. 

Our creole dictionary:

Cold: froid
Hot: chaud
Water: mayi
Look!: tele!
Oyo: this (learned while watching TV: "oyo, te!" (This channel show, no!)
No: te
Yes: oui
Bread: lipa
Tea: chai
Milk: miliki
Nasumba/asumba: need to go to the bathroom (I'll spare you the details)
Car: carmeaux
Orange drink: Djino (after a Congolese brand of orange soda)
Chicken: soso
Rice: loso
Chicken and rice: soso na loso
Rice and beans: loso na madesu
Bed: mbetu
I love you: Na lingi yo
Sleeping: la la lingi (Shekina taught me this one, don't know if it's correct)
Wait!: zela!!!
Excellent or good job: Kitoko mingi
Shrimp: cossa cossa 
House: ndaku
Paper: papier
Pool: la piscine
Diaper: couche 

*Sure do wish I could remember more, and that I had recorded more at the time.  Shekina now knows our alphabet, many traditional American children's songs, watches American she doesn't know a bit of Lingala. She claimed that long ago. Her rejection of her language and her claim that she doesn't like Africa are perhaps a rejection of her former lifestyle, and/or a way of telling us she wants to stay with us. (Every other day, she also tells us she wants to go back to Africa to visit Papa Fils, Papa Jacques, Ma Blandine, and Papy, all people we worked with in Africa; again, another post for another day!) 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Leaving Maine

We're so sad to leave Maine, our home away from home. I had been waiting for almost two years now for Godson and Shekina to experience the things we love so much about the mid-coast region, and FINALLY we all got the chance to witness that. There were many firsts, some small (first bite of lobster) and some big (first time stepping into the ocean). We hope there will be many more trips to come, time in kayaks, snow, on the beach, in the lake...maybe we'll just have to move up there since we liked it so much. (Don't think I haven't thought about it!) 

Here are some random pictures from our trip that I haven't posted yet. 

Feeding ducks and sea gulls at Camden Harbor

First time at our favorite harborside restaurant, the Waterfront; here with good friend Sheryl. 

First time on a beach (Fort Williams with good friend Hanna) 

Playing in the sand at Fort Williams; we lost that coat about an hour later, never to be seen again. :-( 

Squeezed into the backseat on the way to the Portland airport: sweet picture 

and the crazy picture. 

Hope everyone has had a wonderful week. I go back to school on Oct. 29, so I plan to make the most of my next week in Memphis. My sweet (albeit unpaid) 12-week-long leave is finally coming to a close. Sniff, sniff! Wish me luck! 


Beach Day

Some of you may remember that back in 2005, I worked for about eight months at a gourmet food, wine, and bakery store in Rockport, Maine. At the time, I had just left the magazine business in Memphis, and I was trying to figure out where to go from there. I couldn't have picked a better job or place to live. Working at the Market Basket reminded me of what a healthy work environment with fair, considerate bosses was like; I got to learn even more about food and wine, one of my greatest areas of interest; and I got to meet some fantastic people, all while enjoying the beautiful rocky mid-coast of Maine. Jane, the co-owner of the Market Basket, was one of those people. We've since stayed friends via Facebook, and when I visit Maine, I try to meet up with her, Denny, and Hanna (my other two friends from the good ole MB). Having had some personal adoption experience herself, Jane has taken a special interest in my adoption, and she was so excited to meet my kids during their first trip up to Maine. She showed up with a cake and some wonderful gifts for the kids on our second night in town, and later on in the week, she invited the kids to come check out her beach in a town just north of where we were. The kids had a BLAST! They had seen the ocean previously in Portland (Thanks, Hanna!), but they had not dipped their toes into the icy water yet or played in the sand. Yesterday, they got to do so for a blissful two hours on a chilly, but sunny day. Here are some pictures from our visit with Jane and her husband, as well as some of the kids' moments on the beach. Thanks to the Carrs for a wonderful day! 

The "bridge" to the beach 

Finding things on the beach with Jane's husband 

Practicing Kina's letters in the sand 

First time putting her toes in an ocean 

Enjoying himself so much! 

Running from the ice cold "mayi" (water) and shrieking in delight all the while. 

Countless cartwheels in the sand 

The view from the idyllic cabin. Heaven!

Our wonderful hosts, Jane and her husband Alan.

We couldn't have asked for a better place for the kids to play. Thanks, Carrs! We'll be back as long as you'll let us keep visiting!