SIX DAYS until we leave! Oh my! I think I'm having equal parts heart palpitations, giddy excitement and a bad case of the nerves. I'm happy and worried and nervous and excited and ready to go and so far behind all at the same time. I wonder if Ru knows we're coming so soon. I know at least one of the girls in his orphanage is leaving for her forever family on Monday. I wonder if he's scared. I wonder if he has a picture of us or if he's getting sad thinking of saying goodbye to the only family he's ever known.
So here's one of the many things that's swimming around in my head these days. The good, the bad and the ugly.
One of the questions we've been getting a lot is Does Ru speak any English? The good news is that our brave wonderful boy is bilingual! Ru has grown up speaking Cantonese. When he started school he started learning Mandarin, the national language of China, and it's the only language used in his school. (I think that's a thing where he lives, to use a different language than what the kids speak. Go figure, but it works for them, so what do I know!) He's currently in 1st grade so we know that at the ripe ol' age of 7 he's had at least a couple years of Mandarin under his belt. I don't assume he's fluent by any means, but I do think he's probably well in the direction of learning his 2nd language. The bad news, as you've already deduced is that neither of those languages are English. Nope, he doesn't speak any English. Except it would surprise me if he knows Justin Bieber. I hear he's pretty popular there.
After folks ask me that question, the inevitable follow up questions is asked...
Do you speak any Chinese?
Nope to that one too. Have you seen that language? The letters aren't even... letters! They're drawings for crying out loud! No. With the exception of I love you, Hello, and Thank you, I don't speak Chinese. None of us do. We're trying to learn some key words, but seriously it's a tough tough language to learn even when you're just aiming to learn just a few key words.
At first this seems like a daunting scenario. A scared and angry 7 year old stripped of everything he's familiar with under the supervision of new parents he doesn't know and who cannot share a single word between them. Except I love you, Hello, Thank you and Justin Bieber that is. Because I love you, Hello, Thank you and Justin Bieber only go so far. One can foresee a scenario where one might need to say things like, We don't stand on the toilet. And Yes, you do have to hold mama's hand when crossing this busy street. And I'm so very sorry that this world is scary and unfair, but I promise to walk beside you through it from now on. More words will definitely be needed.
Surprising to many, we're not really all that worried about this lack of a shared language. Are we trying to educated ourselves and avoid possible frustrations? Yes! But worried? No. On the day we get Ru, he will be entering a totally all-inclusive 100% English immersion program. Us! We are the immersion English-language immersion program. It's all we speak! It's sink or swim, and we know Ru will swim... eventually. It will be frustrating on both our parts. I wish this wasn't the way it had to be. Unfortunately Ru will lose both his Mandarin and Cantonese as quickly as he learns English. It's almost impossible for an adopted child living in a family that speaks no Chinese to keep their native language. So sadly he will lose his native tongue as quickly as he gains a new one. I wish he didn't have to have the additional hardship of learning a whole new language on top of the loss of this country and culture, but he probably will. Adoption is full of loss and sadly the loss of native tongue will be another in a long line of losses for our brave boy.
Also very important, even if we don't speak each other's language, it doesn't mean we won't be able to communicate. We remind ourselves that communication and language are 2 different things. There are translation apps, modeling and pantomiming to name a few of the methods a that we'll rely on to communicate with him. While in China we hope that Ru will follow Mimi's lead when we're out and about and help him learn to do things like holding hands, brushing teeth and eating. (We hope but we're not necessarily counting on it.) We will also have a translator for much of our trip in China and are looking to hire one to visit us frequently when we get home. Once thankfully once we're home, there will 3 more littles for him to model after.
We are learning that the brain of a child is an amazing thing. From the experience of those who have adopted before us, we expect that Ru might know and use a few key words in English by the time we get back home. We're hoping these words might be bathroom, hungry or help. And after a few months time we think it's very possible that we'll be able to "communicate" even if it's not in English. In 6 months we hope that we'll be able to converse in English well enough to get by. And in a year's time it's very possible that Ru will be fluent in English. I don't know about you, but in a year's time I don't think I could be anywhere near fluent in anything. Did I mention how amazing our boy is?
So that's why we're not worried.
I might change my mind about this whole lack of language thing later. That happens a lot these days.
Right now my mind is worried about packing all these t-shirts. This is only about half of them. Surely a boy doesn't need so many t-shirts for a 2 week trip, yet I can't seem to get rid of any of them! Thankfully I have 6 days to figure it out!