My youngest daughter, Bunny, is from Guatemala. We adopted her when she was 7 ½ months old, and she is now a spry and sprightly six year old. While we were in the process of adopting Bunny, I was in my final year of law school. By the third year, my classes were smaller and more intimate, allowing for a certain camaraderie amongst the class knowing we were actually going to graduate.
At the time, we were receiving updated documents and pictures of Bunny, and my classmates were very interested in the process. Partly, they were interested because in my Children and the Law class, I had written a 40-page research paper and had given a presentation on international adoption.
In a Guatemalan adoption, one of the documents we received was an Estudio Socioeconomico…a social report on the birth mother. The original was in Spanish with a translated English version stapled to the back. The document gave us some background information on Bunny’s birth mother, such as her age, her family background, and her address.
Neither Colby nor I speak Spanish…well, Colby thinks he does, but that’s another story, so when we were reading the translated copy of the report, nothing struck us as odd. However, when I shared the report with my law school classmates, one of my friends did see something out of the ordinary. She spoke some Spanish, so she was a little more versed in what the document was telling us. My friend noticed that Bunny’s birthmother’s address was Col. La Reformita, in Guatemala City. With her advanced knowledge of Spanish, my friend translated reformita as jail. Bunny’s birthmother was living in a jail. Oh my God…Bunny was in jail!
Needless to say, I was shocked and a little sick. I was adopting a daughter of a convict. What were we going to tell our family and friends? As soon as I got out of class, I called Colby in tears. I explained what happened and he could understand how my friend’s translation was cause for alarm. But being the calm, cool, and collected guy Colby is, he suggested I get a hold of our longtime friend, Pancho, who is Venezuelan.
After speaking with Pancho on the phone and emailing him a copy of our documents, he reviewed the report that was causing so much concern. As he read through the documents, he started to laugh. What? What? What’s wrong? He told me to calm down because Bunny’s birthmother was not in jail. She lived in a section of Guatemala City called La Reformita. She did not live in jail. “Reformita” was not the Spanish word for jail; “encarcelar” is Spanish for jail. We were not adopting a baby of a convict. Since Pancho was going to be Bunny’s Godfather, I took his word for it. Spanish was his first language, and my law school friend only spoke high school Spanish.
The next day, I was delighted to give a Spanish lesson to my friends at law school. So, here is a word of advice to any who are adopting from a Spanish speaking country…don’t let your friends with only a high school knowledge of Spanish read any of your reports, or if you do, make sure they are FLUENT in Spanish.