Thursday, May 12, 2016

Becoming American

After passing through immigration on our port of entry in Washington DC, Sensi will become an American citizen. The adoption process includes a complicated Visa application. "Newer immigration officers don't even understand it," the clerk told me at our Embassy appointment yesterday. I had just sworn all my documents were valid and true, my right hand raised high. I did not swear to understanding governmental minutiae, but I apparently not all governmental employees do either.

The clerk continued, "In about two months you'll get an envelope in the mail verifying your son's citizenship. You do not have to readopt. Congratulations."

Sensi and I concluded his Visa appointment and returned to the hotel. In a matter of days he would be a bona fide American. Thus, I've taken it as my patriotic duty and fatherly calling to immerse him in the land of the free and home brave.

Becoming American started with branding. Earlier in the week I taught Sensi the importance of designer labels. We shucked his orphanage dregs for a sleek, Adidas ClimaCool tee. He slid it over his midnight arms and beamed like a spotlight.  He traced his finger across the embroidered letters and flashed a Cheshire grin. The shirt quickly became his favorite clothing item.
Becoming American requires a fair amount of consumption. Last night Sensi ate an entire bowl of pasta and nabbed half my sandwich. Today he ate an elephant. But our temple for consumption is the Addissinia cafe, where we have made a tradition of afternoon fizzy drinks. I witness's Sensi's first soda. Every swallow of Sprite contorted his face in welcomed displeasure. The carbonation bit at his throat; sweet lemony-lime soothed his pain. 
The second day he opted for pineapple flavored Fanta from the cooler. When I took it to the bar to pop the lid, the worker questioned me. "Cold soda? For a kid? I think he like it better warm." The bartender guessed correctly. Sensi drank the 300 mL bottle in six swigs. Hence I taught him the word "savor."

The consumption theme comes in many varieties. For the past two evenings, I spoiled him with American film. Both nights we watched The Peanuts Movie on my laptop while eating Zootopia Fruit Snacks. Call it a double-feature of cartoon-driven consumption. Both viewings, Sensi laughed from start to finish.

To be fair, Sensi was becoming American long before I arrived on the scene. Disney, Adidas, and Sprte are American exports that have infiltrated the Ethiopian market. Overseen from our balcony view is a giant Coca-Cola advertisement in English, which is common tongue not only in our hotel lobby, but throughout the city. Two blocks down the road, the Edna Theater offers show times for The Jungle Book and, yes, Captain America: Civil Wars. (Can you get more American than than?) And two days ago I noticed a bumper sticker for Hillary in 2016. I guess some Ethiopians prefer American goods to American greatness.
For Sensi, becoming American goes well beyond speaking the language (if he ever speaks), sporting the brands, and consuming the goods. Becoming American for my son has to due with geography. He will live on American soil. He will attend American schools. He will have American parents and siblings. On port of entry, he receives unalienable rights.

So each day I have helped my son visualize his new geography. We have worked on this eighty-piece puzzle of our fifty-state nation to give him context for his new home. And I took it as a sign of God's good humor and outstretched hand that the final piece we fit into the puzzle the first day was the state of Indiana. The Hoosier State. Home. Where Sensi will become who God has made him to be.

1 comment:

Heidi Kantenwein said...

Thanks for blogging. I've enjoyed reading about the experiences and how Sensi is learning and growing. Sounds like I might need to teach him two important words... "Ohio" and "buckeyes" :)