One of the main questions we get from our friends and family now that we are in the States is, “How are the kids adjusting?” so we thought we’d take a minute to type up a fairly detailed response.
In a word, they are doing great. I suppose it’s kind of hard not to be doing great coming from a poorer nation to a nation of toys and shiny things. In the words of Dave, “Moving our children to America is kind of like moving them inside of Toys-R-Us.” It’s pretty hard for them to not be excited about everything.
Here are a couple examples:
The Airplane Ride. On the airplane over here, the main flight across the ocean was having technical difficulties so there were no DVDs available, but that didn’t stop our kids of 12+ hours of non-stop excitement. One of our sons got on the airplane and looked at the in-flight magazines in front of him and shouts out across the aisle, “Mom, it’s duty-free!!” (Does he even know what that means?). Not only were the free blankets and the “duty-free” magazines out-of-this world exciting, but so was the food. The kids devoured everything that was given them, and I mean everything (which includes eating those little packets of butter…plain). Just tonight one of our daughters told me that she “couldn’t wait” to go back to Cameroon so she could fly on the plane again.
Fast Food. In Cameroon, food is anything but fast. You walk to the market, you look at the beans to see if there are any holes in them, you haul them home and soak them, and then you let them cook for hours the next day. Living over there takes about 3 times as long as it does over here. So…one time we went through a drive-through and our kids saw us order our food and then voila, it just appeared. I heard them talking about how it was possible to get our food so fast, and they theorized that restaurants store it up by the windows so that can give it away quickly.
Not politically correct enough. In Cameroon, saying that someone is “black” or “white” is about as inoffensive as saying that someone is “blond” or “brunette” over here. And so, even though we have talked to our children about how it is not super polite to point out someone’s race here in America, they simply think like someone born in Africa (because they were….).
One day, our children were taking a placement test in the hallway of a high school to see what grade they would be put in. An African American teacher walked by and our children stopped him and asked him if he was African American. He responded, “Yes I am.” They then proceeded to say that they were born in Ethiopia and now they are living in America and that is why they could be called “African-American.” They then asked him where he was born. When he responded that he was born in Washington DC, they questioned him, “How can you call yourself an African-American if you weren’t born in Africa?” This teacher later found me and told me about the conversation and was (thankfully) so excited that they had such inquisitive minds. I thanked him for being such a gracious man.
No category for introverted people. The most striking thing about our children here in this culture is how wildly extroverted they are. I think it’s because there is no language barrier for them to converse with others that they do nothing but converse, converse, converse. They seem to see life as a village where everyone who is out is available for social interaction.
What this means is that we have regular conversations about how they cannot stop our neighbor’s cars in order to talk to them, but instead they need for them to wait to get out of their cars to greet them. One of our sons and the mailman are on a first-name basis and when I walk around, our neighbors say things like, “Oh, I heard your mother-in-law’s coming to town?” I have seen our sons walk into a public bathroom and come out having a conversation with a complete stranger and then wrap it up with, “OK, see you later”. Cute, but also can be a little overwhelming for the general population.
There are many, many, many other stories that could be told.
I am beyond pleased that our children are so happy here and yet I feel as if they have so quickly forgotten the less-privileged that we have left behind. I suppose it is a gift that children can be 100% where they are and yet if that does not change with age, there will be people groups that will be left forgotten. My prayer for them is that they will both praise the Lord who has given us all things to enjoy while also remembering the poor, praying for those in prison as if they were in prison with them, and choosing to forgo comforts so that others can know the comforts of the Gospel.