Pin It
Monday, July 9th, 2012

How a Love of Ginger Tea Helped our Multicultural Family

By
a cup of chai/ © joanna wnuk - Fotolia.com

Ella had been in America for about six months. We were making a connection but there were struggles. Adopted from Ethiopia, Ella was enjoying her new country but grieving over the loss of her homeland. She had endured much loss in her seven years, seeing her mother die and dealing with the inevitability of her father dying of the uncontrolled HIV virus in his system.  Eventually, she ended up in an orphanage with two of her siblings. We were blessed to adopt them about eighteen months after they entered the orphanage.

One day, I inadvertently stumbled upon a simple custom that would help to heal Ella and bring much joy into our family. I had always loved making ginger tea (chai).  For one reason or another, I had not made the tea in the first six months of their arrival in America. But one chilly winter day, I decided to make a huge pot of ginger tea. My goal was to have it ready for when the kids got home from school.

As Ethiopia is famous for its coffee, I had no clue that tea also was a staple. When Ella and her other Ethiopian siblings came through the door that day and found the homemade chai, they were elated. They jumped with joy! They screamed! The best compliment of all was that they told me it was just like the chai they remember their mother and grandmother making for them.  I had no idea—we had never discussed tea with them. I instinctively just wanted to have a chai party with them. The tea opened a window of happy memories. They told me about the tea they drank in the morning and after school. They recounted the fresh warm milk from the cow they owned.  The conversations were funny, deep and sometimes sad. But we were deeply connecting.

As they poured out story after story of their memories in Ethiopia prior to their mom being sick, the most beautiful part was that they saw me as an extension of their birth family. They realized their customs and things they loved from Ethiopia didn’t have to die but could be resurrected in new ways. The tea tasted the same but came in different packing in America. I was a different mother than the one they lost but one that would still comfort and love them along with a cup of chai and a cookie.

My other children from Ukraine, Guatemala and America are totally involved in tea time as well. We have learned that tea is a custom in Ukraine and even in Guatemala. But the most precious thing is that the tea is just a sweet means to achieve meaningful communication that binds us together as a family.

Today, I am taking my children to an Indian market where we will pick up Masala tea, cardamom and ginger and see what else we uncover. We will continue to make tea time a cherished part of our family. Although it is different from how it was in Ethiopia, we are building new memories that make them happy.

© 2012, Deanna Jones. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Language Resource Library for Raising Bilingual Kids

The most comprehensive list of language learning resources

Family History

Who knew that becoming a mother merged our histories of loss and grief

Don’t Touch My Child! Lessons from Asia

Has the West taken fear too far?

Si­, Yes: Raising Bilingual Twins

Language acquisition in three-and-a-half year old, bilingual twins.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Deanna Jones is the author of the number one Amazon adoption book To Be a Mother and is the founder of Mother of the World (mothertheworld.org).

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsMeera Sriram   |  Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 1:58 pm

    This is a beautiful piece, Deanna. Its always the the simple things in life that help us heal and bond. We make and drink chai several times every day, almost ritualistically, and I’ve noticed a cup in a corner in most of our family photographs! :)









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Becoming Us: Adoption