Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Put Everything into Perspective

Bathroom Update - dry wall all taped and plastered. Second coat of plaster tomorrow - so it's coming along.

The next three pictures show the house of one of the nannies that works at the orphanage (borrowed from Donna Barber who used to be the US coordinator for AoH - http://outnumberedby12.blogspot.com/ ). Take a look around you. How many people live in your house? What conveniences do you enjoy? What things do you own just for decoration to make your house look nice? This shanty is shared by 20 people and no bigger than Donna's dining room. They are so poor and we are so rich.

Where do you work? Do you like your job? What benefits do you have? Is it a nice place to work? The next two pictures show the rock hill. They pound rock all day long into tiny rocks and then sell it. They make .40 a day.

Regarding the letter I posted on our blog yesterday, I have another perspective from someone who has lived in Africa, worked in a lot of villages and seen a lot of African culture and day to day life. As Kim and I are working through our adoption class With Eyes Wide Open - one of the things I realized, is that I know very little about Liberian culture. One of the homeworks asked us what we knew about dating and marriage customs, how children are disciplined, how teens are controlled, what holidays they celebrate, what they think of police, etc. Anyways, what we view as appropriate or inappropriate is completely different in a different culture. Does it mean one is right and one is wrong? Usually not - just that they are different. Anyways, here is an African perspective on what I shared yesterday.

An observation was made that when a parent went into the baby room at the orphanage that it was quiet-with babies just sitting in cribs with their faces pressed against the bars. That their baby, who I believe was 8 months old, did not cry when picked up, and did not try to stand on their legs. I can tell you from living in Africa, that an African baby does not cry. They are raised in a culture of appeasement (even the nannies will take instruction on this, but like any African I have ever met, they will end up doing things the only way they know) and Africans are GREATLY disturbed when their babies cry. When we were fosterparenting, and taking care of special needs babies for AOH, we endeavored to put them on a regular nap schedule, to help them get ready for their new life. African babies sleep and eat when they want,there is no schedule. Well, our day guards would come to us all agitated that the baby was crying. We tried to explain we wanted to help the baby get better sleep and waking habits, but they did not understand.

They govern their lives on meeting their needs, and they believe that babies are the same. No training of the baby to a schedule, but rather a quieting of the baby no matter what. I have seen multiplied infants and babies on mom's back, as young as 6 months, with suckers in their hands, ink pens, straws, candy in their mouths, just anything to keep them quiet. I have seen toddlers given pens and allowed to rip up Mom's Bible in church just to let them have their way and keep quiet.

We saw this not only in Liberia, but in South Africa as well. When we adopted our two South Africans as babies, they never cried! In fact, I always had to check to see when they were awake, as they never cried to be picked up when they woke up from naps.

Africans do not understand about the stimulation and play a baby needs. The nannies at the orphanage are doing a good job, but they probably are doing things the Liberian way. Much the same way as a Chinese orphanage worker would do things their cultural way. For us, we would play and hold and sit up the baby, work with the baby to stand, and on and on. To them, well, they do not do it! If you think about it, they come from places where all they have is a dirt floor, or ground, so they don't give the child real movement they need. I know this from long experience with kids there.
Also was brought up the fact that the baby's picture album wasn't apparently shown to him. Only a picture was seen of him with the album, I believe that picture is taken so that you see that the album has arrived, and he is seeing it. But it is unrealistic for nannies to sit with the picture album for the babies in the baby room, as they would really look at that as a waste of time to their eyes. It is a busy room, and for them to be showing the babies the picture albums every day or even every week would be time consuming, and they probably would not do it.

I do know however, that scores of older adopted kids do have their albums with them, do look at them daily, and do know the faces of their new families. I don't think it is reasonable to think that the infants would even remember the facesshown to them in a book. Perhaps even the albums would be unnecessary for children under 1 year.

Also mentioned was the fact that the nannies were listening to 'rap' music, and had to be asked to put on praise music. This made me smile, as I know from experience that Liberians (yes, Christian Liberians) are not very picky in their music. They listen to the gamut of music, they live for the beat, and in fact, they do not prefer our western style praise music. And they don't have an understanding of problems with lyrics. Theirs is a whole different world my friends.

They are very indiscriminate when it comes to music taste. This comes from a true lack of teaching in the country on how to really live the Christian life. You find compromise all over the place(But then, we have that problem in America too!)

However, it is a fact that the children do get Bible stories, lessons, and learn Sunday School songs, as many of your kids come home singing them! You have posted many heartwarming stories of your kids talking about some spiritual truth, or singing songs. So I don't believe the spiritual atmostphere at the AOHL orphanage is lacking.

I would like to also mention that scores of AOH children have intake pictures that tear your heart out. Weak, dirty, sickly, thin, and raggedy. Many of you have these pictures. Then look at the pictures you got every few months, if you got an update. Your children are filling out, clean, nicely clothed. This does not look like a place where the children are malnourished in any way to me. In fact I personally know they children eat very well. I am not sure why the pediatrician diagnosed the 8 month old as malnourished at some time in his past, or how they could tell that, but I do know the children are fed, and fed well.

Lastly, I might add a statement was made regarding an AOH employee seen giving money at the airport to someone. I really have to smile over that one. My friends, have you ever lived in Liberia? Did you take the time to ask what that was all about? We gladly paid extraamounts to Liberian to help us through airports, and the like, because they see it as a way to earn extra money. There is an excellent book calld African Friends and Money Matters, written by a missionary, that really clearly outlines the challenges of living in these countries. It is not something that you can just take at face value and call bribery. Not at all! The Liberians have a system of taking care of your needs, and taking care of theirs. Granted it is not always good to give out money, but if you have an arrangement with a trusted person who helps you out through office situations or airport situations, then you have a working business relationship in their eyes. If someone finds you a parking place, and makes other wait while you park, well, they have done you a service (especially in downtown Monrovia!!!) They 'worked for you' and you can pay them.

The whole country runs on 'contacts.' In fact, you get nothing done in Africa with out your contacts. And of course, they are doing a job for you, so you do give them something. Remember in Liberia some of these poor friends work day after day and no paychecks come for months at a time. There is SOOOOOOO m uch Liberian history to all of this, it isn't possible to cover in this post.

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