Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If you smile at me I will understand...

"If you smile at me I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language"
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young


My husband and I just went and saw CSNY in concert at the out door red rocks amphitheatre. At one point one band member commented that we were lucky- I thought- wow is that ever true. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place and have wonderful friends- like the woman who offered to watch our 5 kids that night so we could see the concert. The last time we saw CSNY was in 1991 in San Francisco. I originally titled this post "Ayo! Ayo!" because that is what Maren shouts all day long- I wanted to comment on language and communication. As he knows more English we hear more Amharic and Wolitan...he also acts out more stories. I remember when we first met the boys- I had learned how to say "Beautiful Child" "Kon Jo Lej" and I was so nervous but tried to say it and all of the Ethiopians were smiling and laughing and happy that I was trying to speak their language. Later- a few days later- I heard Maren say it- we were looking at a photo of him and he said, "Kon Jo Lej" It was then that I knew he had understood me that day and probably how important it was to him to meet these strangers and have them try to say something sweet and loving that he could understand.


Maren is a loud child. We have heard this is common coming from orphanages in Ethiopia...I wonder if its common from all orphanages or just Ethiopia. We say that he has no sense of voice modulation- and his favorite thing to yell "Ayo!" which means "Look!" but as I type this he is actually yelling "Look Maddie Look LOOK LOOK LOOK" it’s a sign that he is losing his language. He was fluent in two languages when he came to us. And now he is learning his third. He can communicate really well with us now, and the more comfortable he feels with English the more he tries to tell us in Amharic or Wolitan. He also is fond of singing. He sings a lot in his other languages- that we will miss when he no longer is able to do that. He has a great voice....and he sings in prayer and shouts Halleluiah! I am sure he learned that at the CWA care center. As I have mentioned, he has a lot of scars and just the other day wanted to tell me how he got one of the scars- I mentioned this before- but I wanted to tell the story again- he acted out a cow butting him with his horns in the leg. He says, "Oomba" for cow. And when we went to this Dairy farm in upstate NY he passionately acted out milking a cow and drinking the milk for us. It was clearly something he really knew about first hand.

So just a few minutes ago I was showing him a photo of a man from Ethiopia and he said Ashango, and said, "Look" and went and got a potato and started acting out picking potatoes. He then said, "Look" again and ran and got a little toy- a small music box with a handle and swung it between his legs like he was digging in the dirt and planting or digging up potatoes. He really wanted us to know this story. And then he made our daughter Maddie (below) be a cow- on all fours- "Maddie- Cow- like this!" and he started demonstrating something with a pencil and the cow's behind. We actually videotaped the whole potato planting reenactment, as well as the odd cow thing- because we are hoping he will acquire enough language soon to be able to share his memories with us before he looses them. He still loves to look at the photos of his caregivers and the friends form the orphanage- but now he actually says their name and tries to tell us something about them. I hope we can get some of these stories into our brains before they leave his brain. We know one day he will want to know so much more than we will ever be able to give him. So his precious stories are like gold for his emotional future.

And then there are words he has completely made up- but we all use, like for Ice Cream, Maren says, "Icesogood" now we all say "Icesogood" like that is what we have always called it. The other day Cal asked me, "Why does he call Ice Cream 'Icesogood'?" I said, my guess was that the first time he had it with Daddy and Phoebe and Cal that they all kept saying "Maren- its Ice cream and it's so good!" and Daddy probably said it so many times that he thought the name for "Ice cream" was "Icesogood" He actually has an amazing ability to repeat what you say exactly- without error- so why can't he say "Ice Cream"? I think he probably can- but this is how he said it and then we started saying it this way. He does this with a few other things like water is "watis" and Phoebe is "peebee" but he can say his "f" sounds and he can say "armadillo" and "hellohowareyou". Lots of phrases are made into one long word- and said loudly over and over again.
"IcesogoodIcesogood!! Ayo! Icesogood!"

9 comments:

Erin said...

Em,
Maren is so gorgeous. I love hearing his stories...our Ben did a lot of that in the beginning too. He lost a tooth a few months after being here and through gestures and English told us that in Ethiopia when a child lost a tooth, they threw it up on the roof and a bird was supposed to come and take the tooth and then bless the child with a new tooth. Josh thought that sounded like a much better plan than giving the kids money. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to say how darling your boys are. (And your daughter is beautiful!!!!)
Best,
Erin

The Barr Family said...

Erin- that is so cool about the bird! Maren again today was acting out something with a cow- and how he was walking through water and the cow was eating- I think it when the cow hurt him. Did ben actually tell you more stories when he spoke more english?

Erin said...

Em,
Yes, Ben tells us lots of things...he remembers his parents giving him money and walking to "a man" who cut everybody's hair in the town he lived in. He said some days he waited a long time for his turn, but he always got his hair cut there. (He is HIGHLY impressed that I can cut his hair).
He talks about walking to a small school, a stray cat that he tried to bring into his "house" but kept running away, fighting with his older sisters, getting sick and taking horrible medicine, the little boy that always peed in the bed at the orphanage and on and on. We love to hear it all and he loves to tell us. He is not as animated as Maren sounds though! He just sort of brings things up as he remembers them. :)

Raskell Party of 8 said...

Loudness, YES! Caleb covers his ears and then screams expecially in the tub! He thinks it is fun. I can't wait to swap stories when I finally get more than 5 min on the computer.
Love, Sandra

5KidMom said...

Grace is VERY loud too! Maybe it is an Ethiopian thing. We love it!!

I am so glad that Maren is able to share stories. That is the coolest! I just wish there was a way for us to know more about our Grace's family background.

Raskell Party of 8 said...

So, I took your advice when I met the kids and told them "konjo" (I forgot the lej). Now Giovanni looks at me or at his meals and says "Konjo". What a sweet boy we have. Thanks for all your encouragement, love, and support. Love, Sandra

Renee said...

I LOVE hearing about your boys! Maren reminds me so much of our Yohannes.

Blessings,
Renee

Heidi said...

This is so awesome. I'm loving the pictures too! Mekdes is also very loud. She also doesn't like to be around EThiopian people or read books. On the other hand, when she sees a pic of someone she knew in Wolitta, she'll get excited and tell me who they are.

Anne said...

Hi, Em, thanks for posting those beautiful photos. I hope Maren continues to tell you stories of his life in Ethiopia -- talk about things to treasure forever!