The Enduring African-Ness of Remy Roo


After spending the past few years promising myself I was going to do it, I finally did some very beginning, just-grazing-the surface research on the area of Ethiopia where Remy was born. We were not given the option to travel there when we went to pick Remy up, and honestly we were so thrilled to get the okay from the U.S.Embassy to bring her back to Philly, I didn’t even question the situation. So here are the basics on the Kembata Temboro zone, from various online sources:

  • “very destitute”
  • not given much attention within Ethiopia
  • poor infrastructure
  • depleting natural resources
  • “absolute poverty”
  • thousands of unemployed youth forced to make hard journey to find work in South Africa
  • From December to April-severe shortage of water. However, rainy season from April-September (ie there is very little time when water-either too much or too little is not an issue)
  • main crops-maize, wheat, barley, sorghum, peas, beans, teff, sugar cane, sweet and regular potato, ginger and chili pepper
  • also enset-an indigenous food crop
  • no proper hospital in a zone of 700,000 to a million people
  • round huts with walls of timber covered with mud
  • no foundation
  • about 6 children per family
  • start school around 6 if can afford the fees
  • women often face discrimination and sexual abuse
  • culture rich in proverbs, oral folklore
  • 2% of inhabitants had access to electricity
  • 74% of zone exposed to malaria
  • densely populated and serious shortage of farming land

It is hard to imagine our girl, who skips through her days, who is filled with light and love, in such a place. This is a girl who seldom asks for anything material, except when she sees a canine on the street and says, “I wish I had that doggie.” I wonder, as I imagine most or all parents who have adopted do, what my child has maintained organically from the beautiful culture of her birth. I know the nannies who cared for her during several months in her first year of life gave her a strong sense of love, acceptance, and belief in herself. These women said to us, as we chewed our lips in concern over her delay in meeting certain milestones, “Don’t worry; she is perfect.” And she is; perfectly Remy. We could not possibly love her more.


Of her African-ness, there are two things which stand out most of all, and which I find beyond endearing. The first is how she clucks at things, especially animals, when she wants them to come closer. It is a sound familiar to everyone who I know who has adopted from Ethiopia-a sweet yet attention getting noise that the nannies and caregivers made a million times over as they tended to our little ones. Remy recreated it within the first few days she was home. I thought she had forgotten it over the past year because I heard it less and less. Recently she has begun doing it again, as if a door in her mind gently closed to that part of her life has reopened.

The second thing is how Remy says, “Where are you?”. Remy is still having difficulty with certain sounds and specific consonants, but when she says that phrase it is very clear, yet with completely African intonations.  It sounds like “Wair ahhr yoo?”, and whenever she says it, I feel like I am a different continent.

She is African, she is American, she is so much more than either of those labels. I love every day discovering the soul of this girl, the way she has allowed us in to her heart and repeats our words and actions and how she still completely and utterly maintains her own amazing identity.

I had to crop this photo because it was taken on a day when Remy decided that clothes were optional (goggles, however, were imperative).

I had to crop this photo because it was taken on a day when Remy decided that clothes were optional (goggles, however, were imperative).



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