culture shock

It's been intersesting watching Kembe adjust to the culture here. There are many, many things that translate. One of my favorites is our bedtime routine. In the orphanage, they always read a story out of the children's bible, sand songs, and said prayers. We do the same thing here. I think it is a big comfort for him.

We also have a trampoline, and jumping on the trampoline was his favorite thing to to in Haiti. He spends a lot of time out there with his siblings, laughing and jumping (and showing them up with his flips and stunts).

Other things have not translated so well. We like taking the kids for ice cream. He thinks it's disgusting. I think frozen anything is pretty foreign to him. I have never seen a kid throw a fit over the proclamation "let's go for ice cream!" But that's exactly what happens in our house.

He also hates watching tv. He yells at me whenever I turn it on. My kids don't watch a ton of tv, but it is definitely something in our house that serves a purpose. (And that purpose is me taking a shower in the morning). I've been working really hard to warm him up to watching tv. Never thought I would be saying that . . . I'm training a kid to watch tv. But seriously. Mommy needs a shower.

He's perfectly content to ride a princess bike, or walk around in princess shoes. But for some reason, a pink sippy cup is where he draws the line. He will NOT TOUCH a pink sippy cup. But he's cool with the pink bike with pom poms.

He thinks gloves are awesome. He thinks harmonicas are the coolest thing ever. He doesn't like the carousel. He loves India's bedazzled flip-flops but refused to wear jeans for the first two weeks. He is totally freaked out by the blender. He loves Mexican food, but won't touch potatoes. He will eat a chicken bone cleaner than most adults. He is obsessed with all things camouflage - he got a pair of pants that were camoflauge and he refused to take them off for about a week. I think I finally figured out what that was about:

UN guys? Superheroes. But Spiderman? Not so much.


  1. I am new to your blog and your story is inspiring. Can you help me get caught up? How old are both of your sons? When did you adopt each one? Sounds like you got to take your second son home early due to the earthquake? Were you there just to visit him?
    Looking forward to watching them grow and get to know American life. Maybe Ice Cream will grow on Kembe!

  2. what a sweetie. sounds like he's adjusting really well.

    (and i about died when you talked about him probably freaked out by "smaples" in the fridge. i suppose there will be strange barriers for a while!)

  3. Some of those things are sensory, just like my son. Ice cream and soup? NEVER. Still hates anything hot but loves ice cream. (he lived the farthest from the orphanage kitchen so he got cold food).

    Fuzzies on pajamas kept him up until 4 in the morning when I finally changed them. (jeans are scratchy) Wouldn't go near a vacuum for 3 years bc of the sound and was beaten by a broom so badly the first time he saw it he went into shock.

    tv is probably too visual and auditory for him. Try having him just listen to it without watching it. he might do okay with that. Or, have him sit in the room with a book instead. we trained AJ to watch it without sound.

  4. I wonder how he would feel about other frozen treats, perhaps it is just the texture of the ice cream. Calvin has some serious texture issues with food.
    North American culture defintely takes some getting used too!

  5. Even two years in, we had major aversions to cheese and peanut butter.

    Total cammo addict.

    And I had one of those moments where I realized I was actually saying, "No, today we're not going to take our rib bones out of the restaurant so we can suck the marrow out of them on the way home" or "Could you please chew off the tendons a little more quietly, Sweetie?"

    They are soooo not wasteful, and I still find myself very disturbed that it goes against American culture. I don't care at home, but am still trying to help them find a balance in public. Hurts my heart to see them NOT want to embarrass themselves in public, but the thought of throwing away a perfectly juicy bone ...


  6. That last image, and the thought with it, made me weepy.

    Kembe (and all the children referenced in the comments section) is so lucky to have parents who are patient and loving and prepared to do what it takes to help their children adjust.

  7. Anonymous11:12 AM

    You are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What more can I say to you...keep moving forward my friend! You are a great MOTHER and all your kids would be lost without you! Thank you for letting them be who they are...

  8. UN guys are superheroes! That should be what every kid wants to dress up like!

  9. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Oh the 18 month old (at the time) Ethiopian son had nearly identical likes/dislikes. Ice cream was at the top of cruel & unusual punishment list for at least a year home. TV...second on that list for 2 years, unless you count fiddling with the buttons and decks, etc. Anything or anyone with a mask or costume on completely unglued him...which included any superhero, 3 year old, doctor, you name it. husband had to take him out of the house. The carousel was to be absolutely avoided at the zoo. And bird feeding. Oh, and bugs. Good grief...I got all my new, plentiful grey hairs that year from fits over bugs you'd need a magnifying glass to see that were on the outside of his window near his crib. Lord have mercy on us all if one actually landed on him while he was outside.

    Basically any situation that signaled to him that his environment was out of his immediate control, or overly stimulating, was horrifying. And when I say horrifying, I mean commence a screaming fit so loud it causes everyone within a 100 foot radius to stop dead in their tracks to find and help the kid that sounds as if he is being torn limb from limb.

    Any routine that he could get a handle on was extremely comforting for him. From getting a meal on the table to taking out the trash, to naptime/bedtime routines, he appointed himself the resident expert and would point out what to do next to my husband or me. Again, I think it was the control thing. We still see remnants of this now, but it feels like the motivation has changed.

    Anyway...have fun with it when you can and stay calm as much as possible (I totally failed in this during the early months). Three years later, we all like to laugh about how much he used to dislike ice cream and TV. Last weekend, he got on a carousel for the first time and LOVED it. Last month when Reptile Man visited his preschool, he actually let the guy put a tarantula on his head and a very large snake around his shoulders. Can't say I'd be okay with that. Also, he begs me to help with the vacuuming now. Which, of course, I'm happy to indulge. The dude has come a long, long way.


  10. Anonymous7:59 AM

    Interesting color aversion. He absolutely refuses to touch, just touch, the pink cup? Have you tried desensitivation techniques or told him he can touch all cups, no matter what the color?

  11. Like Pickel said... many of those things sound sensory to me. Have you ever read "The Out-of-Sync Child?" Lots of this will probably go away with time and exposure, but it might help to learn a bit more about sensory issues.

  12. My daughter lived in China for her first four years, and the "lick a chicken bone clean, and hates potatoes" statement rings true about her too. She will eat potatoes now, but it took some coaxing.


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