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An Organized Homeland Tour

Our children learned that at the most basic level, families and kids around the world are more alike than different.

We’d always talked with our sons about returning to Central America one day. By the summer of 2001, when Michael was 11-and-a-half and Christian 10-and-a-half, we thought they were old enough to withstand the rigors of international travel and appreciate their birth cultures. And we wanted to make the trip before the identity-building teenage years.

We felt it was important for our sons to share the experience with other children and families like ours, so we opted to travel to Guatemala on one of The Ties Program’s tours for adoptive families.

Our trip featured a wonderfully diverse set of activities. Among the highlights: visiting a zoo and children’s museum in Guatemala City, taking a boat across Lake Atítlan, and climbing the Mayan ruins of Tikal. We visited an orphanage in Zaragoza run by a dedicated Costa Rican nun, as well as a school/clinic run by a retired minister in Guatemala City. In Chichicastenango, our boys played basketball and soccer at a local school, and we enjoyed a delicious meal and lots of joking in both Spanish and English on a visit with a family.

We did see poverty, but our children also saw middle-class families on vacation, shopping in the markets—in short, doing the same things we do back home. They came away understanding at the most basic level that families and kids around the world are more alike than different.

Finally, they had the powerful experience of walking down the street and, for once, having everyone look like them! Everyone we met was friendly and supportive of—if occasionally perplexed by—our decision to adopt Guatemalan children.

One of the trip’s highlights came on our last night in Guatemala City, at a beautiful restaurant with Mayan décor, lit solely by candles. Our children, some dressed in Mayan garb, were chattering away to one another. A young American at a nearby table looked over and commented on how perfectly our group of Guatemalan children spoke English. When I explained why, he pronounced our visit back to their homeland “very cool.” The Ties Program is indeed a very cool way for children to connect with their heritage.

Lehea Potter Kuphal lives with her family in southern New Jersey. Michael and Christian, now 13 and 12, and speak often about their Ties trip.

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