I’ve never been one to read travel books. I skim them, of course, looking for the basic, practical things I need to know to prepare for a trip: typical weather conditions, currency conversion information and where I can expect to find Internet access. Stuff like that.
This time, as I prepare for a trip to Ethiopia, I am delving deeper. This time my travel is not about rest, relaxation and the rejuvenation that comes from getting outside your own culture and environment. This time, it’s about telling a story.
I will be documenting the experiences of Brian and Keri deGuzman, a Paradise Valley couple who will soon head to Addis Ababa to formally welcome two young children into their family.
Because I want to fully understand all the challenges and implications of international adoption (something that became a hot topic in the news following the Haiti earthquake) I’ve been reading newspaper articles, blog posts and books about the topic.
Because I want to be prepared to witness this family’s first hours and days together, I’ve been reading about adoption parenting and the process of bonding with an adoptive child. (It’s not always a given and sometimes requires exhaustive effort and patience.)
And because I want to to understand the unique cultural context in which all this will take place, I’ve been reading literature — and travel books — about Ethiopia.
Some of the books in my stack came from Keri, including one called Under Ethiopian Skies, a stunning picture book that is autographed by Gilma Wolde-Giorgis, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopa. He signed it “for Jesmina and Musse,” the deGuzman’s first two children, who also were born in Ethiopia. Kerry has shared other books, a DVD on “Ethiopia: Africa’s Lost Kingdom” and the DVD for a wonderful, uplifting film called “Live and Become.”
One book came from an unexpected source: Barbara Toombs, an East Valley freelance writer who has done several pieces for us and is a friend of mine on Facebook. When she saw me post that I’d decided to make this trip, she immediately wrote to tell me she had once lived in Ethiopia. We went to lunch and she loaned me an edition of the Spectrum Guide to Ethipia, which she edited.
And then there is the most surprising and delightful resource of all. After posting a blog about the shots I had to get to travel to Ethiopia, I heard from a noted author of children’s picture books and novels. Jane Kurtz grew up in Ethiopia and will soon be traveling back there with a group of teachers. She thanked me for my post about the health requirements and I immediately went online to order every one of her books about the country.
She and I have forged a tenuous friendship via email. I read her blog because it is inspiring to feel connected to a real writer.
In one of my posts about The Great Office Flood 0f 2010, I wrote about finding comfort and relief from the stress of our situation by reading two of Jane’s delightful books. She immediately wrote to offer support.
“Karen, you must let me send you another of my children’s books–River Friendly River Wild, which I wrote while I was cleaning up after a flood. Let me know a postal address, and I’ll put a copy in the mail this week. And thanks for this post. So often we float those words out into the universe with nothing but immense trust that some of them will land.”