Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Laura
I Moved To Ethiopia To Help My Daughter Connect With Her Birth Family
Laura is the epitome of the phrase ‘a mother’s love.’ The former Washington, D.C. resident decided to move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a few years ago. She decided to move to allow her now 10-year old daughter to connect with her culture and to find her birth family.
We spoke with Laura via email about her move and her life as a mom abroad.
Travel Noire: Why did you make the move abroad initially?
Laura: Before becoming a mother I lived in Nigeria, France, and St. Thomas. I had always planned on living overseas again with kids because I think it helps children develop empathy and international mindedness. Naomi and I moved to Manila, Philippines when she was three years old. It was a fantastic opportunity for me professionally, and it allowed us to do extensive travel around Asia which would not have been possible or affordable from the United States. By age five, she had already visited ten countries and lived on three continents!
TN: How old was your daughter when you adopted her?
Laura: She was 21 months.
TN: What led you to want to give your daughter this experience?
Laura: My daughter was born in Ethiopia. Although we were part of a large, active Ethiopian adoption community in Washington, there is nothing like giving an international adoptee the opportunity to live in his or her birth country. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a job working at The International Community School, that allowed us to move here and immerse ourselves in the culture.
My daughter eats her favorite Ethiopian foods daily — shiro, misir wot and firfir — and she does Eskista (a traditional dance) like a pro, but our ultimate goal is to connect with her birth family. International adoption can sometimes come with absent or altered birth family information and unfortunately, that is how it was in our case. However, we are steadily searching and slowly piecing together bits of information. We are hopeful that it will all come together soon and they can all be reunited.
TN: How has your daughter reacted to life in her home country?
Laura: Overall, it has been an amazing experience. Being Ethiopian and not knowing Amharic has been challenging because when people first meet her, they expect her to be able to speak the language. And of course she misses her friends and family, but she’s content. Before moving, she identified more with being American, but now she fully embraces her Ethiopian heritage as well. She has participated in cultural celebrations and traveled around the country. If you ask how she likes being here and she’ll tell you that she “loves the food and the fact that the culture is still in place. I love it here because Ethiopia feels like home.”
TN: How has this experience impacted you as her mother?
Laura: Living overseas as a single parent is not for the faint of heart! Expat life definitely has its challenges, and it can be lonely at times. When things come up and you don’t have family and friends nearby to guide you, you learn to make and trust your own decisions. This stretches and helps you grow you as an individual.
Living in Ethiopia has also given me an inside view of life here that I obviously wouldn’t get from reading books or by living anywhere else. I always had an appreciation for the country, but now I have a deep and lasting love for her culture and my new home away from home.
TN: How long do you plan to stay there?
Laura: It’s really hard to say. Ethiopia is not the easiest place to live and we are very far from home, but that said, my initial contract was for two years and I just signed on for one more. For all I know, my daughter will end up graduating from high school here.
TN: Where can we follow more of your journey?
Laura: Please follow our journey on Instagram at laurainethiopia