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Ten-year-old Rosa from Ethiopia - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34281 Broadcast November 20, 2000

Six months ago ten-year-old Rosa was living in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Now she's part of a large American family in Olympia, in the far western state of Washington. Today on New American Voices you'll meet Rosa and her adoptive mother.

Olympia, Washington, on the west coast of the United States, and Ethiopia, in the horn of Africa on the continent's east coast, are half a world apart. That distance was bridged when Katherine and Michael Kier decided to adopt an Ethiopian child. With six children of their own, says Mrs. Kier, they did not feel that they needed to adopt an infant.

"I kind of felt personally that it would be a really rich experience to adopt a child that was old enough to really have a memory of their country, and just appreciate and see things through a little bit more mature eyes. I kind of wanted to experience that with the child, to have that shared whatever."

Although Rosa knew only a few words of English when she arrived, she quickly picked up the language, and now she can communicate easily. She vividly remembers her journey to America.

"I remember we were, like, in an airplane, and I've never seen an airplane. I went 'wow, cool, I'm gonna be in an airplane and stuff', and then we got on the airplane and when the airplane went up I was like oooohhhh and I was really scared."

After six months, Rosa seems to have adjusted to her new life in Olympia.

"I like to do gymnastics and swimming and every Wednesday night we go to church and, like, have fun and play and memorize the words of the Bible, and stuff. Those are my favorite things."

Mrs. Keir says that her interracial family does not attract any unusual attention.

"Well, Olympia is a really diverse community, anyway. And surprisingly -I read a lot, and I expected, you know, I was ready to have certain things happen… I have never seen anyone even blink an eye at me a second time, the fact that I have one African child. I've never had anyone really ask me much about it, or react in any way. I cannot detect anything, at all."

Raising a child who comes from a totally different culture and environment nonetheless poses some challenges for the adoptive family. In Washington state, the adoption agency that the Kiers used recognized this.

"It has started a group for just the parents who adopt from Ethiopia. And we have an e-mail community that we actually talk about everything. We share all of our experiences, and some of the topics are pretty heavy and other things are really light things, but we definitely stay in contact."

Among its other activities, the adoption agency arranged an intercultural evening for children from a variety of backgrounds and their adoptive families.

"Ya. We went to an adoption celebration, and some people danced, like, just like their culture, some people sing and I did this, I like, sing in Amharic. And I had the microphone, and I hold the microphone, and I was singing*, and everybody can only hear me very much, nobody can hear anybody else."

Katherine Kier would like Rosa to remember her roots.

"I really want her to hold on to her Ethiopian culture. We plan on going back and taking her with us to visit. She writes letters to people that she knows there and we receive letters. She's got her Ethiopian flag and we travel down to Seattle and go to the Ethiopian restaurant, we make Ethiopian food…"

But the little girl is learning the songs of her adoptive land as well.

Next week on New American Voices you'll meet another little girl -- ten-year-old girl Nadia, who is one of the approximately four thousand Russian children adopted by Americans each year.