Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday morning coffee & a book, "Without You there is no Me"

Before leaving for vacation my husband related the following: "My accountant asked me if we had any computers that were not in use. One of his clients runs an orphanage in the Ukraine. I told him I'd find him a computer if he promised not to introduce this guy to my wife."

Tim was "being funny" in his own way but I almost said, "No worries, you should see the book I'm reading."

"There is no me without you" by Melissa Fay Greene, first published in 2006



It would be a hard book to read on vacation if I hadn't just read another book by the author, "No biking in the house without a helmet."  In which she describes life with her 9 kids.
I don't remember if she specifically discusses vacations, but it does seem that she and her husband raised the kids pretty much like your average American family and I'm willing to guess that vacations were a part of that.

The story is fascinating; but I find it hard to keep up with the author. She switches off telling the story of Haregewoin with the history of Ethiopia, with the history of AIDS, with the history of the West's lack of intervention... And while I understand the need for the reader to gain all of the context, the skipping around confuses me. Part of this is no doubt that I'm reading this book on vacation with my own family, small ones interrupting frequently.

I find that I am shocked that this was written in 2006.  So recently!  Did you know things were this bad? I remember calling in 2006 to initiate Bitsy's adoption.  I called the agency and said I was interested in international adoption specifically Korea.  The woman on the other end of the phone said something along the lines of, "Korea is changing its policy and we do not know what it will be.  Things are uncertain, would you like to consider another country?  Ethiopia is a good program, they have western facilities with western doctors and the process takes only about 6 months."  I explained that I had a Korean adoptee already and for him I felt we needed another person in the house who shared his ethnic origins.  If I was going to adopt again it would be from Korea.  Part of me feels very odd reading this book after having had that conversation.  If I hadn't adopted Bitsy surely someone would have.  (although one month after initiating the adoption process in 2006 we did receive a phone call along the lines of: there are not enough parents in que and we have babies.  Please finish up your paperwork!)

I find myself bristling at her repeated finger pointing at Republicans.  I adore the descriptions of Dr. Hodes and his wonderful boys.  I read aloud the author's recounting of Dr. Hodes family meeting.  My boys roared.

Two particular sayings I hope to keep with me:
"In a place with no people, try to be a person"
quoted from the Pirkei Avoth, the Jewish ethical compendium from the third century (I don't know anything about Pirkei Avoth or Jewish writings but that is what Melissa Fay Greene said, so I'm taking her word for it)

And this bit isn't really a quote - but she wrote: "I had thought I would write a hagiography, a chapter for Lives of the Saints" but Haregewoin isn't a saint.  "Zewedu, her old friend, saw who Haregewoin was: an average person, muddling through a bad time, with a little heart than most for the people around her who were suffering and half an eye cocked oward her own preservation."
"And then I heard, to my delight, that some people say even Mother Teresa herself was no Mother Teresa."

I love that about the saints.  It made me think of Schindler's List.  Do you remember that movie?  It came out when I was in college and as I remember it they took pains to remind the viewer at the end of the film that Schindler was not a saint, he was a man, with strengths and weaknesses who chose to act.

This is a good read.  The story of Haregewoin is fascinating.  In addition, Melissa Fay Greene introduces you to some of the children and follows up with them.  The stories of Ababu, of Mekdes and Yabsira, Meskerem, and Mintesinot  are so wonderful, so heartwarming and hopeful in the middle of the overwhelming numbers.

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