The journey from Ivory Coast, in Africa, to Belgium, in Europe


My parents completed my adoption when I was 3 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was what I told my family and the psychologist when I arrived.

One day, in Ivory Coast, planning to go on vacation in Europe with my biological auntie Elisa, her daughter Charlène, 16 years and another kid Abigaëlle, 1 year, who was supposed to be my sister and her new white man Philippe. My hair was braided, by Elisa, a week before getting the plane. She told me a lot about France and more specifically, Belgium. I specifically remember that it was the late flight we would be taking. It was the first time I’d get a plane. Excited and anxious ,the same night, Elisa told me that Abigaëlle wouldn’t come with us because she was too young and was crying a lot.

So we went to the airport, everyone kissed me, gave me picture where they wrote something for me when I learn how to read, wished me to be happy and be kind with people. I still didn’t understand what was going on. We arrived in Paris and spent time with Elisa’s family and friends. There she told me that I was going to visit her lovely white friends in Belgium.

New Beginning  in Belgium

In Belgium, first we drove Charlène to her new home. She explained to me that Charlène would live here forever and be kind with her new family. Then came my turn, we arrived on a Friday evening in a small town. Two lovely people that would change my life forever greeted us. We ate a lot and played cards. Elisa hugged me and said she has to go but that I have to stay with the couple. This was my new home now.

Then she left without any explanation. It was devastating and I couldn’t imagine what was going on. I felt so lonely and so miserable. A lot of questions crossed my mind and I cried all night. The couple understood that I wasn’t prepared at all to live with them. Understanding it wasn’t a joke, after crying myself to sleep, devastation set in again. I wanted to run away as far as I can. The couple started to be anxious and didn’t know what to do with me. So they called a psychologist and then their parents.

My parents efforts

Forcing me to go to a psychologist, she tried to make me understand what adoption is. “You were chosen by this family to be their daughter”, she said, and also that I have to be grateful because they saved me from the African famine and thanks to them I will have a better life.

What a stupid speech. How could a kid understand that. I just understood that those people decided without my opinion to take me far from the only family I knew. It was a very tough period for me. I started to follow my mom everywhere. When my dad was driving me at school, I had every time stomachache. I was thinking that he might forget me and abandon me there.

In the face of ignorance

I don’t really remember how long it took for me to start accepting the adoption. But when I did, I had to face a lot of ignorant questions and comments, such as:

  • “Your adopted parents are not your real parents!”
  • “They are not your real family!”
  • “Why are you the only black in your family?”
  • “You’re spoiled because your mom can’t have a biological baby and she’s afraid of seeing you prefer your biological family!”
  • “Your biological mom abandoned you because something is wrong with you”
  • “How does it feel to know you weren’t desired by your own parents?”
  • (…)

It was very painful! I was living in a small town where I was the only black person… My childhood was conflicting. I didn’t really know where I was from. I knew I was adopted because I was the only black in my family and every person I met reminded me constantly. That really hit me when I was 9 years old and the teacher asked us to draw and talk about our family tree. It was a confusing time. Asking my teacher if I have to talk about my biological family or my adopted family, she replied you’ve to talk about your real family because family tree is related to genes. ‘Family is blood’. So I came back home and asked my mom : ‘ if you’re not my family, where is my real family?’

Research of my roots

Since this moment, I used to talk about Africa and my origins. I thought I had to make a choice between acting like a white person or acting like a black one. So my mom thought it would be a good idea to force me to spend time with Charlène and to call as often I can with Elisa. It was more confusing than helpful. To be honest, it was more hurtful and I didn’t fully accept my adoptive family because of the link I kept with the past. I know now that Charlène had “a job” to do. Getting older, she knew why she was sent to Belgium and she’d to remind me I was there for the same reason, sending money back to Ivory Coast.

“Do This, Do That”

One day a black family moved into town and I thought I would learn more about being black if I spent all my time with them. I started acting like them and the family was manipulating me to be PRO BLACK. The dad was a pastor and he was saying “God bless you, forget your parents, they might hurt you, but they are your real parents, they gave birth to you and you should be grateful, thanks to their choice you’ve a better life, to help them when you’ll be older!’. Meanwhile the mom was saying “you can’t wear outfit like that, you’re not a white girl, you can’t act like that!” Their kids only wanted my toys. They said because we’ve the same color, we’ve to share everything. Naïve, I gave them my money for lunch, my birthday toys, the clothes I received because I didn’t like them, etc.

Moving Around And Moving On

That lasted maybe one year, until my mom went to hospital for a few months. I went to live with my godfather in a bigger town. There he taught me how to find myself and respect myself. We talked a lot and he made me read a lot stories. That did help me to be far from a small town mentality. If it wasn’t for my godfather, I would probably still be in a state of confusion about adoption. Without him, I wouldn’t know what is important to care about, to not care about people’s opinion, etc. If I could tell my 9 year old self anything, it would be do not care, people are just fucking ignorant AND tell them to fuck off!

Acceptance of Adoption

Anyway, this whole process led me to lash out and become somewhat angry, probably due to confusion of where I belong. It only adds to an adopted childs confusion being referred to as “the adopted family member” .Unlike black people who were rejecting me because I was living with white people, they often feel “betrayed”. Even now, grown black adults seem to not understand my situation.

I’ve a lot more to discuss on this topic, but I’ll leave it for another day.

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