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A trip to Guatemala every two years ... perfect!
KAHLEAH ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS ON GUATEMALA
Kahleah Guibault, age 12
On returning from her trip to Guatemala in February 2003 (see the whole story in Loving Links, Part 2) Kahleah replied to questions from adoptive parents of Guatemalan-born children ...
Q Do you think that later trips will be better with an interpreter along or are you interested in learning Spanish before the next time?
A Personally I would like to learn Spanish. First of all because I sort of wouldn't like having a translator with me all the time, but don't get me wrong, the translator that was at the foster family's house was nice and all, but you know. And second, because I would love to learn a third language. [Ed. note: Kahleah speaks English and French.]
Q How has your trip changed the way you feel about being Guatemalan, if it has changed it at all, and why?
A I finally feel like "I fit in". I mean I've always had lots of friends and stuff but not a lot of them resemble me. In Guatemala it's different. Everyone has black hair, isn't tall and has brown skin. And the sights were amazing; that makes me feel proud to be Guatemalan.
Q This one is from the teacher/anthropologist in me: How has your trip changed your view of the world, if it has changed it at all and why?
A Since I've been to Guatemala I consider myself really lucky and at the same time I wonder "Why me", why not everybody else ... you know. I look at the world more open minded. It's a combination of thoughts and feelings.
Q Although the people looked like you, i.e. you fit right in, did you nonetheless feel like an outsider; like they can tell, somehow, that you did not grow up there?
A I actually felt like a tourist and a Guatemalan. When I looked at people I would think "Wow! I really fit in here and I'm like everyone else" and then when someone tried to speak to me in Spanish then I would think "I might look and act a little like a Guatemalan but I don't totally fit in."
Q Do you think that a child would benefit from visiting Guatemala every two years after his adoption so that he would "always know" Guatemala to be his "home" and therefore won't feel much like a tourist or outsider?
A Well, in my case after being there for two weeks, I felt "at home''. I would definitely benefit from going to Guatemala each two years or so. But I think a person should and would always know that their country of birth is just as important as their adoptive country, and should never forget that or doubt it.
Q Was your trip what you expected it to be? If not, how was it different from your expectations?
A To tell you the truth, I didn't know what to expect! But I remember when I first got there on the travel/special/reserved bus going to our hotel I felt so good and happy. I mean I was looking everywhere and I was saying to myself "Wow, this is my country!!!" It was amazing. And it kind of makes me sad to say that it's over.
Q Do you think it's important for parents to maintain contact with foster families if possible? Why/why not? What does the connection mean to you?
A Yes of course!! It is very important because that family took care of you as a baby and loved you with all their hearts. Think about it, if you were taking care of a baby, and they had to leave and you never heard from them again, it would hurt.
Q Do you want to visit Guatemala again, or do you feel satisfied now that you've been there?
A I would DEFINITELY, SURELY want to go back any time!!! Sometimes I wish I could go tomorrow. I loved it sooooo much.
Q How did you feel when you saw the school, the houses, the people in the villages?
A Bad. I have to be honest I felt really bad. The schools are awful! They have broken windows and dirt everywhere. And the homes are tiny and look so uncomfortable. The people though look happy even though they live a very hard life. It's an emotional experience but wonderful too, at the same time.
Q What kind of things did you bring back? What things that you have from Guatemala do you value most?
A Some of the things we brought back were wallets, purses, picture frames, picture books, hacki sacks, dolls, etc. I think the most valuable things I have are dresses that I wore when I was a baby that the foster family gave to me and also presents that they gave to me: a painting, Guatemala pencils, purses and earrings. It was weird because they treated me like a princess, not that my parents don't!! he he he!!!!
Q Did you remember the people or the home or smells, sounds, etc. from your baby days when you encountered them again?
A Unfortunately no. I don't remember anything of when I was a baby, I don't think anybody does.
Q I would be interested in knowing if there were any requests or plans made to meet the bio mother prior to the trip and if so were the plans welcomed and did they materialize.
A My mom's friend Caroline has offered to start a search since she is going to Malacatan (where I was born) sometime soon. I must give her stuff like my birth certificate and stuff, so I'm pretty excited and hope to find her!
Q I know that you met up with your foster family in Guatemala. I'm wondering if you met with your birth mother/family?
A Unfortunately no, I did not meet my birth family, but I would definitely love to do a search to try to find them. I'd be very happy if we found them.
Q What would you say would be most important for adoptive parents to have available to our children ... ongoing contact with foster parents ... attempts at contacting birthmother ... cultural "souvenirs" ... etc.?
A Well, all of those things are important. Contact with the foster family is important because they took care of you and loved you from (almost) the time you were born. Personally I think it is very, very important to keep contact. Attempts at contacting the birthfamily are hard because you are not sure what you are going to find, like poverty, etc. Souvenirs are good because it lets the person be aware of what kind of arts and crafts her/his people do.
Q Would you like to go back and live there as an adult? If so, why?
A I would definitely consider it but I know that I would miss my friends and family terribly. On the other hand I could accomplish a lot by going there and helping or teaching or something along those lines. For now I'm going to stick with visits every two years or so.
Q What was the best part of going to Guatemala? What was your least favourite part?
A I didn't really have a favourite part. I REALLY enjoyed everything a lot and I miss it too. It was the most amazing trip and adventure ever. My least favourite part was leaving. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. And even now, weeks later I still miss it and feel a big empty spot in my stomach (if you know what I mean!!!).
Q Why was this a great time for you to go to Guatemala? Should others go when they are older? If so, how old?
A Well, for me I think I could have gone last year or even next year. I was ready for this trip a long time ago and what is too bad is that I have been waiting for this trip a long time and in two weeks it's all over!! You know? It went by so fast. I think that the people who go back to their birth country must understand the problems of the country and they must be ready for all kinds of emotions.
Q From my son, for Kahleah: How did you feel when you saw children who were sick or disabled?
A Well, unfortunately I knew before I left that there were going to be sick AND disabled children. That is one of the things you have to be ready for when you are going to visit your birth country, well, any country for that matter. As you can imagine, I felt very sad and troubled by seeing these children, and tried to help them in any way I could.
Q I'd like to know her feelings about the economic conditions she saw. I wonder if some day my daughter might feel guilty that she was given a chance at such a different life.
A I think that it is terrible that so many people suffer because they don't have money. I know I felt bad, a little guilty and wondered "why me", but I tried my best to help people and I think my mother and I did the best we could and felt good about it.
The story continues:
In July 2004 Leceta, Jean, Kahleah and Tristan travelled to Colombia and Guatemala as a family. They reunited with Tristan's birthfamily and Kahleah's foster family. In June 2005 Kahleah (and her mom) will be off once more to visit Guatemala and her beloved foster family.
More photos of Kahleah on the 2003 trip may be viewed at community.webshots.com/user/leceta100 __________________________________________________
Kahleah was adopted from Guatemala in 1991. Her brother Tristan was adopted from Colombia in 1994. They live with mom Leceta and dad Jean in Joliette, near Montreal.
Leceta Chisholm Guibault is a board member of the Adoption Council of Canada and the Federation of Quebec Adoptive Parents, and co-moderator of the email list Canadians-Adopting (groups.yahoo.com/group/canadians-adopting).
Copyright 2005 Leceta and Kahleah Guibault
First published online on Mar. 7, 2005 at www.familyhelper.net/heart/lcg/lovinglinks3.html.
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