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119 – Refined By Fire

Tezita (te zi TA) called me from Sacramento, CA, but she tells a harrowing story that originates in Ethiopia. Tezita’s adopted family had many other international adoptees, but she was singled out for solitary confinement. She was sent back to her homeland where she thrived mentally in a boarding school away from her adopters. When she returned she witnessed more abuse and decided she’d had enough. Kicked out of the family, she was forced to thrive independently relying on her communities in faith and adoption.This is Tezita’s journey. 


Tezita (00:04): And they never once called me, visited me or wrote to me. They only paid for my school to board me and everything else was literally neglected. And unfortunately it cemented the fact that I was truly never wanted in the first place. And that just as something to the psyche of a child, you know,

Speaker 2 (00:29): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:41): Who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members? I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is tested Tom. She called me from Sacramento, California, but she tells a harrowing story that originates in Ethiopia, Tezita’s adopted family had many other international adoptees, but she was singled out for solitary confinement. She was sent back to her Homeland where sheep derived mentally in a boarding school, away from her adopters. When she returned, she witnessed more abuse and decided she’d had enough kicked out of the family. She was forced to thrive independently, relying on her communities in faith and adoption. This is Tezita’s journey. When I asked her to tell me about her adoption and life and her family. She told me that in 1996, she was adopted at six years old from Ethiopia. So she was well aware that her story started years before coming to the United States to gather her thoughts, Tiz, as she’s sometimes called wrote down part of her story about the circumstances for her adoption,

Tezita (01:56): How I ended up and the orphanage that I was in before my parents adopted me. It’s a mystery to me. Those who know the truth are refusing to speak from what little information I’ve dug up. My orphan, who is shrouded in corruption, child trafficking, abuse, and cover up. All I know is that I should have never become an orphan. However, I am now in a split second, my life was completely turned upside down. I don’t have any memories of my dear parents, my biological parents. That is, and one day I lost my entire lineage. I lost my parents, my brothers, my sisters, if I had any, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, all of them lost as history. And so that is the first step of my orphanhood that I vividly remember at the orphanage.

Damon (02:53): Do you recall the orphanage at all. Can you tell me a little bit about life in the orphanage? I didn’t stay

Tezita (03:00): In the orphanage for so long. There’s just like very small memories in my head being raised by two parents, which I presume where my biological mom and dad, but I was so young. I don’t remember it much, but then I remember him being transferred into this orphanage and then from there was basically being adopted. And so all I know is just being very feeling, very sad and lonely and wanting this woman that I was with all of a sudden disappeared from my life, which I presume was my biological mother. And I just remember wanting her back, wanting her to come into my life and the ad, the orphanage itself. There’s not much memory there other than I want this woman who used to raise me to return back to me.

Damon (03:47): Remember some of the images of caregivers at the orphanage nuns in the form of mother Teresa, but she doesn’t remember their faces. What she does remember are the things that were happening to her and around her.

Tezita (04:01): So I remember sitting at the door, gazing out into the distant farmlands and Ethiopia and hoping one of the women walking out at about with my mother. And although I never knew what she looked like, I knew that she knew what I look like because I’m mother knows what her child looks like. You know, and days would turn into months, months into years just waiting for this woman that I used to play with, come and get me. And so that’s just what I remember, but I just remember being very sad child because apparently it’s this relationship that I had with these two man and woman was suddenly taken away. And I was put in an environment that I was completely unfamiliar with.

Damon (04:46): Do you recall in this environment with this man and woman, the other children, do you recall the feeling of siblings around you at all?

Tezita (04:55): No. I don’t remember that. I do remember though, a village and a lot of people, a lot of kids around whether they were related to me or not. I will never know.

Damon (05:08): Six year old Tiz can remember a mother and father figure in her life. She has recollections of the village. She started to grow up in and other children outside with her, possibly some of her siblings, then everything changed. Tiz, sad and lonely was in an orphanage by herself. But her life changed in another dramatic way as well.

Tezita (05:32): While I was in Ethiopia, I was diagnosed with polio and some say that I contracted it through the vaccine. And so I was not able to walk, but I do remember walking when I was very little and I remember running around. So something happened between the time I was adopted and in that orphanage that I contracted polio and I stopped walking. And so the woman that would adopt me, the white woman that will later on adopt me, she had told me this adopted mother of mine had told me that when I was in that orphanage, she used to care for me, take me to the hospital because I had contracted polio and I was very, very sick and I was on the verge of dying. And so as a result of that, them also being Christian, she said that God told her to adopt me and another young girl who is my older sister that I’ll go into details for later on.

Tezita (06:32): We were adopted. And so she came into my life and I didn’t stay in the orphanage for too long. I was taken into a holding center where kids who are being adopted and are put into. And that’s where I met my adopted sister, my older adopted sister, who by the way, is also disabled. And that she only has one arm, her left arm amputated in a fire accident. And so her and I were adopted together. And then we came to the United States where we grew up basically for the rest of our life. After that, with few interruptions in between,

Damon (07:11): When you, when you say few interruptions in between, what does that mean?

Tezita (07:15): That means that after I was adopted and came to the U S and stayed about two years here, I went back to Ethiopia and I had gone there to live and study in a boarding school for about six years until I came back to the U S

Damon (07:33): So TIS and this other young girl were adopted into sisterhood in the United States. I asked her what she remembered about when she was adopted.

Tezita (07:42): I remember the airplane ride, and I remember the surprise and seeing a white person for the first time in my life, because I had never seen a person that looks so drastically different than us Ethiopian. So those are the two very vivid memories in my head. Cause I remember the adoptive mother of mine giving me a bracelet and the kids telling me to throw it away because you know, she was a witch and cause you know, they associate, I know this is bad to say they associated at the time being ignorant and stuff, that white people pretty much, you know, witches and stuff like that. And so I remember throwing it away and being really scared of her cause she just looked so different from us. And so that’s all I remember and the airplane ride and being terrified of being up in the air and just coming into a completely different environment. Those are the only things I remember.

Damon (08:43): Wow. That, that sounds incredibly scary. You, I mean, you know, we think of children being transported into another home, another environment, but it didn’t really occur to me before that the idea of airplane flight could be petrifying. And as you’ve said, the notion that you would come to another country, meet someone who doesn’t look like you, but not only doesn’t look like you you’ve never, ever seen anybody ever. Whoever looked like this person. I mean, that must have been crazy for a six year old.

Tezita (09:22): Absolutely, absolutely completely the opposite of African person, because most Ethiopians, you know, are, are rural people. 80% of Ethiopians are farmers. And so that’s the life I grew up in. And so we don’t have any connection to the outside world. And so when you meet somebody that looks so drastically different from you and especially when that physical appearance of the person is associated with being witches, that terrifies a child, you know, to the point where you can convince a child to throw away the bracelet gift that was given to you because well, it came from witches and we don’t take things from witches

Damon (10:01): Just like most other global nations, many different languages are spoken in Ethiopia Tiz s and her sister originate from two different tribes within the nation. TIS is from the Northern tribe. Her sister is from the Southern tribe. When she first arrived at the orphanage, of course she spoke her tribal language. All of the kids in the orphanage spoke their respective languages. Apparently there was one woman in Ethiopia who worked with the orphanage to help get children adopted out.

Tezita (10:33): I met her back in 2013, I believe. And she came up to me, she said to the top, do you still speak your tribal language? Which is today? Now she asked me if I still speak it. And I said, no, I don’t speak it. I’ve never spoken it. And she said, yes, you used to speak it. Well, in fact, when he came to our orphanage, that was the only language you spoke. I thought that was very interesting because I didn’t never knew what tribe I was from. All I knew was I was Ethiopian, but I never knew what tribe I was from. And this is conversation we can get into, into all the lies. My adoptive mother and adoptive parents have told me. And so it was, although it was on my birth certificate, what tribe I was born into. It was shocking to me to learn through this lady who had run the orphanage that I grew up in that I spoke that language. My older sister was also adopted the one with the one arm. She was from the Southern tribe and she also spoke her language. But by the time we got an orphanage, her and I have completely forgotten our language. And we just spoke hard, which is the national language of Ethiopia.

Damon (11:45): You each had your own native tribal language that you were speaking. And then when you got to the orphanage, you ended up adopting the national language. Wow. And then, wow. And then you moved to the United States and you have to learn yet another language from people who are witches. Wow. Oh my God. I mean, I make jokes. I, this I, I just, but this is an incredible amount of stress on a child. Yes. You’ve got people whom you’re associated with attached to in your village, in your home, ripped from them. You got people whom you’re now placed with, at the orphanage. You’re looking longingly out into the distance, hoping that somebody who knows you will come for you and you’re speaking a new language you then taken, put in this thing that suddenly shoots up into the air and you’re on it forever. You gotta be petrified. And you land in the thing lands in a new country with people that don’t look like you at all. And there’s a new language. I mean, that is a lot,

Tezita (13:01): Absolutely. As a six year old, especially yes,

Damon (13:06): [Inaudible] is continually ripped ing that she knows and moved into an entirely new living situation. At six years old, she’s transitioned to the United States, living with a family. She doesn’t know in Davis, California receiving things that are intended to be gifts that invoke terror. And she and her sister don’t speak the language. I asked her about her memories of that time and how she learned to adjust,

Tezita (13:34): Coming to the U S I remember being scared of everything. And my bedroom there used to be this huge Teddy bear. And I would scream bloody murder because I wanted it out of my bedroom. Cause you don’t see fluffy toys like that. It just looks like an animal. I used to scream that is going to eat me and my language. My parents could not communicate with me to figure out why it is I’m screaming. There was also a huge toy of a parrot. I also wanted that out of my bedroom because I screamed and I couldn’t communicate with my older sister who was also adopted because she also spoke her tribal language at the time. And so communication between all three of us, my adoptive parents, me and my oldest sister was like complete, complete chaos. And so nobody was understanding anybody. And it’s just the fear of learning to use the toilet learning to wash and water coming out of just magic things. Basically, you turn on something and water just comes out of it rather than, you know, in a bucket, pouring it over yourself with a cup. The food was very foreign to me. The language was very difficult to understand.

Tezita (15:10): I didn’t know who the people were that adopted me. Cause how do you explain to a child that you’re being adopted, especially in a language where the word adoption does not exist. All you’re telling them, okay, these are the people that you’re going to be living with. You’re like, who are these people? I’ve never seen people that look like them. You were taking me to a land that I am not familiar with. It was just a huge cultural shock for me. And I’m a very sensitive person. I’m a very empathic person. I feel very heavily. So everything just hurt me a lot more than I would suppose. Other people what happened

Damon (15:50): At six years old Tiz would normally be going into kindergarten or first grade. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for this scared little girl to be taken to a new school, dropped off with a lunch kit, with foreign foods in it and left with strange new adults and children that didn’t look like her. I asked her if she remembered her experiences in school.

Tezita (16:14): No, because my adoptive parents did not allow us to go to school. We were homeschooled on quote unquote homeschooled, but we weren’t really, we’re not. This is where basically the abuse starts happening. I was, I grew up in a very toxic, unhealthy, psychologically and emotionally abusive household. I was not adopted into a good family whatsoever. And so immediately the abuse started happening isolation. So immediately, I do not know what the problem was with my adoptive mother, but she basically was the most abusive person in our family. She ruled with an iron fist. It was either her way or the highway. And immediately I was put into the bathroom and basically locked up in the bathroom and said, basically one piece of bread and one Apple for the two years that I lived with them before, returning back to Ethiopia and was given homework to do, basically she just threw the books at us and said, okay, do the work, no assistance, no questions be asked. You had to just figure it out on yourself. So that’s basically how I lived for the two years that I stayed with them was basically locked up in the bathroom.

Damon (17:42): That is unbelievable. I mean, unfathomable.

Tezita (17:48): Yeah. I mean, it was so bad. I remember vividly one time being so hungry, stealing an entire pack of gum and eating them because I had not been fed for three days because she had completely forgotten about me. And that was to be a pattern that she followed for many years.

Damon (18:06): Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry. That sounds absolutely awful. So for clarity, did you live in the bathroom? Like it wasn’t that, why was it that you were in there in the day and then you went to the bedroom to sleep at night. Tell me more clearly how this was.

Tezita (18:28): Yeah. You can say basically I lived in the bathroom, she changed the lock and the door from inside out so that I can get out and due to severe, I mean, severe neglect. I, and the traumas that I just suffered, I used to pee a lot because this is what happens to children are neglected and suffered trauma. And as a form of punishment, she will actually take a towel, wet the towel, put it in a bathtub and tell me to sleep in the bathtub. That was her form of punishment. And she would leave the windows open so that my body literally shivered in the night with absolutely no blankets or will force me to sleep in my leg braces. But yeah, so I ate, did my homework slept in the bathroom.

Damon (19:19): There were three other kids adopted from Ethiopia and already in the house when Tiz and her sister arrived, five children in total, the other children were not locked away. They had full access to the house and were fed at that moment in time. Tiz, the sensitive, scared crying, little girl was singled out for abuse and neglect, trapped in the bathroom all day, Tiz was miserable. She stared at the walls. She stared at pages and pages of homework that were tossed into the bathroom for her to complete. They were the keys to her release. When the pages were complete, she could leave the bathroom. But if she needed help understanding mathematical equations, which most children do, then how could she be expected to complete the homework without help? It became a cycle of solitary confinement and mental torture, Tiz said the whole situation left her illiterate as a child.

Damon (20:21): I asked her how the heck she got out of that two year imprisonment. She said, one day the woman just opened up the bathroom door and asked if she wanted to return to Ethiopia. Tiz knew enough to say yes, absolutely. Anything was better than what she was enduring in that bathroom. Moving very quickly. The woman had tos sent back to Ethiopia where she spent six and a half years at a Christian school. She was too old to return to the orphanage. Tiz was by herself. Again, I asked what it was like to be away from the woman in a new school, in her home country with a fresh

Tezita (21:01): My time there, I would say that was one of the best things that happened to my life. But unfortunately, her neglect for me still carried on across the ocean as almost like I became an orphan for the second time and the six and a half years that I lived there. I wore the exact same clothes every single day. I would Sue and re Sue my clothes because I grew them on. They tore a lot. And since I had no form of transportation, like a wheelchair, I would scoot around on chairs. Like throughout the dorm rooms, my gracious friends would carry me on their backs to one fro from my classes. And I didn’t even have like the basic necessities that students were expected to have. I didn’t have any of the required textbooks, notebooks and pencils. I didn’t have feminine care. I didn’t have toiletries like shampoo, hair products, toilet paper. I often use leads or paper to wipe no toothpaste toothbrush. Like I said, I became an orphan for the second time.

Damon (22:12): Wow. So she was responsible for providing for you, but it was nothing but neglect from a distance still. Yeah.

Tezita (22:21): Yes. I often survived by begging the other students who barely had anything themselves. I mean, it was absolutely shameful that I, who had wealthy parents living in the wealthiest land on earth, had no choice, but to beg poor students in Ethiopia who had poor parents themselves, who barely had anything. But I was desperate. You know, I had no way of reaching out to my adoptive parents back in America. I had no money to call or postage. I didn’t have postage stamps for letters, or I had no money to call the number. And they never once called me, visited me or wrote to me. They only paid for my school to board me and everything else was literally neglected. And unfortunately it cemented the fact that I was truly never wanted in the first place. And that just as something to the psyche of a child, you know, when you were promised, when a second family comes to you promising to be the mother, you never had the father you never had. And then to turn back on their words is very, very emotionally damaging to a person.

Damon (23:34): What did you think, what kinds of thoughts crossed your mind?

Tezita (23:38): Cemented the fact that I was truly never wanted. I, all I know is neglect. I knew that since I was a child, my biological parents had left me. And although they could have good intentions for why they gave me up that to a child, that’s still neglect the child. Doesn’t doesn’t care about your reasoning for why you gave them up. They just know that you gave them up and that hurts. And so when another family comes up promising to be, to take their place. So you, you have like almost a hope and a second family, right? And when they don’t deliver and destroy you as a human being and it just affirms and the child’s psyche, okay. My biological parents didn’t want me, my adoptive parents don’t want me. And it’s like, and then you look into inwards. You say, what is the problem with me? I often blamed it on my disability. I used to say, maybe it’s because I’m in a wheelchair. That’s why they don’t want me making me I’m disabled, but it won’t be later until later in my life that I realized that the problem is with people it’s themselves and not, you necessarily

Damon (24:48): Tiz is at a boarding school with no resources. She’s begging other students for necessities, she’s sewing and reselling her clothes to extend their life. Under those strenuous circumstances, most students would struggle to make the grade I asked is how she did in school. She shared that she got way more than an academic education while she was away.

Tezita (25:12): I was an excellent student. I was an excellent a student, I think because somebody cared, somebody cared enough to let me know that I can do it. Somebody believed in me and my friends, although I did not have like the basic necessities for life at the boarding school, I still have. I still had a blast. I mean, I built friendships that will last, the last time I was adored by many people. My professors, classmates, my roommates, I experienced love, like never before. I would say I learned so much there. I matured and grew into the person that I am in today. I learned how to stand up for myself, advocate for myself. I was taught about my self worth. I laughed a lot. I cried a lot. I loved a lot. But through it all, I was surrounded by people who could not get enough of me. And that was so good for my self esteem. Because for a girl who only knew rejections and neglect to be loved, like that felt really good. And I forgot just how hard my circumstances were because of the immense love that surrounded me. So Staying there was so, so good for my self esteem basically

Damon (26:38): Around 15 years old, Tiz was ready to return to the U S unknown to Tiz because her family didn’t communicate with her at all while she was away, her adopted sister was also returned to Ethiopia. She had agreed to work at a Christian missionary school for two years when her sister told their adoptive parents that she wanted to return to the U S they said no unbenounced to the children. Their adoptive parents’ plan was to return all of the children to their native Ethiopia permanently. Their parents tried hard to make sure that children could not return,

Tezita (27:18): But let’s just say my older sister, she went to the American embassy because my adoptive mom had destroyed some information and legal information of hers to prevent her from company to the U S. So my sister went to the embassy, to the American embassy in Ethiopia and asked them if they can help her returning back to the U S and they said, sure, we will help you that. And she told them, I also have another sister that lives in Ethiopia. Can you guys try to find her? I don’t know where she is and he feel bad. All I know is that she’s here and our adoptive parents have refused to tell us where she is. And so that’s when a worker at the American embassy came to find me. And he said to me, are you aware that your sister, your older sister is in Ethiopia?

Tezita (28:08): And I said, no, my adoptive parents don’t talk to me at all. So I don’t know what is going on with my family or anything. He says, well, she is, and it was very difficult to get her out of the country, because so basically you guys were trafficked back into the land into Ethiopia, and you guys were not allowed to return back and your parents returned you back, which is illegal to do. And so he said, yeah. And so he said, I’ve been trying to find you. He said, I tried to work with your parents to find you where you are in Ethiopia. I asked for information and your parents refused to give me the address of where you’re located in Ethiopia. So it took me three days to find you. And so I want to know, do you want to go back to America or do you want to stay in?

Tezita (28:54): You feel bad because if you stay in Ethiopia, you’ll never go back. However, if you want to go, I will make the process for you to get back to the U S and that’s when I said, yeah, absolutely. I want to go back. And cause life is easier in the U S for a disabled person. And so, although I love my people, my culture, I still wanted to live in Atlanta that made it livable for me. And he said to me, do you want to go back to America? And I started crying and I said, I want to go back, but I don’t want to go back to my family. I don’t want to go through that pain and suffering anymore. And he said, I promise you, I can get you back to America, but I cannot help you with what happens once you arrive there. And so, by the end of the year, he got me out of Ethiopia, even though my parents, my adoptive parents gave them, gave him hell, trying to get me out of the country. So my understanding was I was going to go into a, maybe a different family or a school, something, but I had no desire to return back to my family or live anywhere near them.

Damon (30:04): The us embassy representative got Tiz out of Ethiopia. By the end of that year, she was about 15 years old. When she returned to America, her adoptive mother told her adoptive father to go pick Tiz up. She didn’t even want to see Tiz’s face. Her adoptive father showed up in Ethiopia, signed a bevy of paperwork that had to be regenerated because her parents had intentionally destroyed papers that would have assisted her return on the plane, back to the United States. Her adoptive father said,

Tezita (30:38): I just want to let you know if you see your mom and you see her upset, just know it’s because she does not want you back. I just remember, like the airplane was taken off from Ethiopia. We’re just leaving. And I looked out the window and there was just tears running down my face because she didn’t want me back. But to hear that, you know, like, Oh my gosh, I was, I was going from what little paradise I knew in Ethiopia and non-material possessions, but in love and compassion, what little paradise I knew I was leaving and going back into the fiery pits of hell that I had left several years back. And so I came and returned back to my family.

Damon (31:24): Unbelievably while Tiz was in Ethiopia, her adoptive parents adopted three more children, African American kids. When the plane landed, their adoptive mother was there with rage, etched into her face for TIS his defiance in returning. She stood there, seizing with the siblings. Tiz already knew who were all grown up after six years and the three new children. She thought they were her siblings, friends until they were introduced as her new siblings, Tiz was shocked. But then she was surprised that someone was missing.

Tezita (32:02): But then I also noticed my older sister was not there. And I will later discover that she was kicked out of the house at 16 years old. And she was being raised by our aunt and another state. And so she said to her, she actually met her at the airport. When my older sister came to the U S she met her at the airport and said to her, find a place to live, turned around and walked out and lets her destitute at the airport. But by God’s grace, my aunt was there and my aunt took her in how much neglect rampant in our family. She will, she will leave you. She will leave you destitute. I mean, it was just petty things that my adoptive mom would, you know, just don’t define her is basically the rule of the house and you’ll live happy. But you know, when you’re being tortured that you have to stand up for yourself. Otherwise people walk all over at you.

Damon (33:03): By the time Tiz returned, the family had moved. They left the home. She knew in Davis, California for a farm out in the middle of nowhere, away from the city away from people, but life wasn’t any different. And what was it like for you? What was life like in the house thereafter?

Tezita (33:21): It was not much different except with me. Once they moved to the farm land, I started witnessing abuse of the two new adopted black American sisters. They started getting tortured. In fact, worse than I was being tortured. I saw things like they were sleeping in the barn next to the horses. They would often eating dog and cat food. And I just, I became really triggered and I had enough. I had enough. I was not about to live in a house witnessing this abuse and turning a blind eye to it. Right? So this is at a time where I discovered something about myself, like my complete hatred for injustice and my fearlessness and being the voice for the voiceless and defendant defender of the week. So I remember coming alive. I was enraged, but when I was seeing, so I’m emboldened, I remember requesting a phone number to child protective services at the library and calling them to just stop all of this pain and suffering that was going on in her house.

Damon (34:32): Wow. Good for you. So what happens after you make this phone call

Tezita (34:38): Without going into details because this is a story that involves them, but basically what happened was they came, they took some of the kids out, put them in foster care. And then one of them was basically split from her biological sister. So these are the two African American sisters that were split. And one of them, she was shipped up off to Africa, basically to be tortured away from prying eyes. And the other one was sent into foster care. And when I turned 18, I was kicked out of the house because I was a menace to, my adoptive mother. And according to her, I had broken up the family. She was wrong. Obviously the family was already broken. I just exposed it for the lie that it was during this time. Also my older sister reached out to me and our relationship basically grew very strong. And to this day, I will say, she’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

Damon (35:41): Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. At 18 years old Tiz was kicked out of her home. She had been living at home for three and a half years, but once she hit the legal age of 18, she was rejected from the family.

Tezita (35:55): She actually dropped me off at an apartment that the house belonged to my grandfather and he had passed away. And so I rent his place basically. She just one day packed up and dropped me off and said, okay, you live here now. And we drove away and that’s a pattern of hers. You know, she never tells you what she’s gonna do. She just does things. Just like when I was sent back to Ethiopia, she just dropped me off at the airport and said, goodbye turned around and walked away. That’s that’s her. That’s what she does. She doesn’t tell you anything. She just does things. And you just know what, at the last moment you just look around completely shocked, like what’s going on.

Damon (36:46): This is really unbelievable. So how do you fend for yourself? You’re you have a disability, you live in a new place. It sounds like you’re by yourself. Is that correct?

Tezita (37:00): Yeah. Fortunately I’m pretty independent. My disability is not severe for me to not, it’s not severe enough for me to, you know, be restricted or anything. I’m very independent. I’m very able to live on my own. What angers me is the lack of life preparation that they failed to, to accomplish in a lot of our lives. That’s what angers me. Cause right now I’m 29 and I’m still getting my GED, a high school diploma because my life was so chaotic and so messed up that, you know, you feel ashamed being 29 years old and you’re still getting your high school diploma at 29. Your average human being is done with school, either buying a house, getting married or doing something right. And here you are still doing 12th grade, you know, K to 12, something that your parents should have prepared you, but because they neglected you and didn’t prepare you for life, you’re having to Trek the road on your own and you didn’t enjoy the privileges that most people have on their own.

Damon (38:19): Yeah. I could see how that would be a huge source of anger and resentment. I mean, among other things that were done to you or not done for you, it’s astonishing, but I’m so impressed though, that you were like, basically it feels like a thumb in the eye to them like, screw you. I’m I’m a make this work.

Tezita (38:41): Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I’ve got no contact with them for the past six years. They’re so toxic just for my own sanity and for my own health, it was better that I separated myself so that I can just be free and not have to live and relive my past over and over again.

Damon (39:03): Can you say more about that? Because it’s, it’s interesting to me that you retained contact with them at all. So this person kicks you out at 18 and says you live here now and they roll out. So what, what contact did you maintain with the family before six years ago? When you said, you know what enough is enough?

Tezita (39:27): The context were very superficial. So it’s just basic birthday celebration that we’re very immature. I guess you could say Christmas, Thanksgiving holiday things that I will see them for like an hour before she just wanted to get rid of me. She would drop me off by back on my apartment and the constant refusal to apologize for the pain and suffering that she caused on all of us always saying that we did it for your best. We were doing what God told us to do, using the name of Christ to abuse and to just be so cruel. And I just thought, you know, toxic people, the only way you can heal yourself is just separating yourself. And so I learned a lot about narcissism, narcissistic people psychopaths and things like that. I just learned a lot about that. And the only way you can start the healing journey is by separating, separating yourself.

Tezita (40:36): And that’s what I did. And I have the closest relationship right now with my older sister ever since I came back, she reached out to me and we are very, very close. I’ve always said that if she had not reached out to me, I would have committed suicide a long time ago. Cause there’s so much other details that I haven’t spoken about that happened in our family. And so just the surface level alone, you know, it was too much. And so she, my older sister, my older adoptive sister has been basically my rock and just been my backbone other than Jesus, of course, cause I’m still a Christian too. So yeah.

Damon (41:16): Oh my gosh. At some one I’m so thankful that you’re here because I could see how you would have reached a breaking point. And it’s always interesting to hear who the person was, what the moment was that saved somebody from, from doing the, the worst thing that possible to escape, right? And for your sister to be that person it’s so cute that she was like, I can’t leave this country without my sister. I mean, that’s just amazing. And then for her to seek you out after she felt like you were back here is incredible too. And it all goes back to you two being in this orphanage together, strangers who don’t speak the same language, but on this same crazy horrific journey together, I told Tiz, it must have been hard for her sister in their early adoptive years to have traveled from Ethiopia together only to be separated by a bathroom door for years Tiz on the inside her sister, wondering why she couldn’t come out. It’s beautiful to think that her sister cared so much about her, that she pulled Tiz through rescuing her from the boarding school and reconnecting with her even after she was kicked out of their home.

Tezita (42:40): Especially since we’re not even biologically related. Yeah. Even, you know, unfortunately I know she wouldn’t mind if I say this. Cause I spoke to her before I spoke to you before I called you in, I think she’ll give me permission to say this, but you know, unfortunately she was actually kidnapped, you know, from her parents and she’s not even technically an orphan, but hopefully without one day that will be her story to share because I told her she should call you. But yeah. I mean, there’s other stories of my siblings too, that I don’t think it’s my right to share, but you know, there’s a lot of evil that happened in our family and it’s not good at all. And you know, it was unfortunate that she was taken away and she was, she had the privilege actually of meeting her biological parents, especially her mom three years before she passed away. She looks exactly like her.

Damon (43:38): Oh my gosh. I so hope that she’ll tell me her story one day. That’s incredible. And I would, I would welcome it, but I want to ask you, so did you, at any point have this inkling of trying to find your biological parents and what happened?

Tezita (43:55): I will love to find them, but I know that it’s basically impossible cause he doesn’t keep birth records. We don’t have records and stuff like that, that we do in America. And also I’m not emotionally ready to find them. Cause I don’t want to know the story of why I was given up. Cause like I said, I’m very sensitive, very, very sensitive and I’m not ready to hear the story. And at the time right now, I’m not very proud of my life and where I am. So if they would need like financial help or something, I will not be able to help them. And I would just feel very ashamed to tell them where I am in my life at almost 30 years old. I’m just not ready for that. And I will love to meet them. I mean, if it comes out of the blue, yes, but I will not make active work to find them because I don’t know. I just, I’m not ready right now.

Damon (45:00): I’ll be honest with you sound remarkably positive to me in terms of outlook, despite your immediate sort of lack of pride for where you are. I feel like you see a bright future despite what the darkness of the past. And I could see how, as you’re starting to lay this foundation as sturdy as you are, as compared with other people that you wouldn’t want anything to set you back until you’ve got that foundation really stable, then you might find that you have the inner strength to face. What could potentially be very harsh truth to hear. Yes.

Tezita (45:42): Then I also know the consequences that comes with waiting longer, right? They’re getting older. So the longer you wait, the older they get and they could die. And we’re talking about people that live in a third world country here where the lifespan is very low. And so I am aware of that consequence, but at the same time, I’m not ready to hear. I don’t want to hear that they were light to like, they were like my oldest sister was like to just share a little bit that her brother left her at a hospital to be taken care of. That’s where she was kidnapped from the hospital. And her brother was told that she had died. And I don’t want to know that story. I don’t want that story to be mine. I don’t want to know. Maybe my parents were told, Oh, she’s going to America to get good healthcare and she’ll come back because this is something that other Ethiopian kids have been told. I know these stories I’m very much involved in the adoption community. And they were told they’re going there to get healthcare. They’re going there to get education. And they will come back. And maybe my mom and dad were told that and they said, okay, take care of her. She’s sick, she’s dying. And then I never came back and it’s like, no, I’m not ready to hear that story.

Damon (46:56): Tiz talked a little bit about the loss of mirror image. The concept children can look into the faces of their parents and relatives and see an image of themselves. Tiz has always been told that she has a beautiful smile, but she doesn’t think she’ll ever know where that smile came from. She’ll never know the stories of her childhood, who she sounds like when she laughs or which relatives she looks like Tiz is starting to get her life together, but she’s constantly weighing her need to press forward and build herself with the ticking clock of time as her parents and relatives age right now, does Tiz is focused on her education. When we spoke, she was working on math, her most challenging subject, but she said, when she first moved out at 18, there was no time for school. She was literally learning about how to live. She had to learn everything from how to buy food, soap and shampoo to how to cook, get around her community and even where to get her wheelchair repaired. Those were all things Tiz had to learn without the guidance of caring parents. She described the experience as being like a person learning their ABCs in their twenties, but she’s highly motivated in many ways. Self-Taught but no one accomplishes anything by themself I asked Tiz who were her rocks of support besides her sister?

Tezita (48:24): I have the Ethiopian community. I have my church family. I have my adopted community. And yeah, those are the main people. If I need help with anything and stuff like that, that will assist me different and different governmental organizations and stuff like that, that I was able to find on my own. Again,

Damon (48:52): May I ask, how do you feel about your home country? Will you go back there one day

Tezita (49:00): To live? No. To visit perhaps to visit my friends and stuff that I knew at the boarding school. I see them through Facebook and I called them periodically over the phone. But to permanently live there, no I don’t. It’s not gonna happen.

Damon (49:18): Yeah, that was, I was wondering because I’ve spoken to a few Asian adoptees. Who’ve said that they feel very disenfranchised from any country, honestly, that they don’t feel, you know, in Asia they’re not Asian enough and here in America, they’re Asian, not white. And, and so there’s no community that truly accepts these people that I’ve spoken with and they feel, you know, some of them have a similar story to your own of just not knowing anything about their origination. And they feel one of them, one of the ladies told me, no, I don’t. I, I feel like my mom rejected me in that country. That country doesn’t accept me as a person that I am, you know, partially because I’m not Asian enough for them. So I don’t really, I’m not, you know, I got into love for that country right now. You know what I mean? And I was just wondering if you had a similar anger, animosity alienation from your home country?

Tezita (50:28): I don’t think so because I got to grow up there for the six and a half years. That was such impactful for me. It’s interesting because this is something that the Ethiopians are very kind people they’re very, very kind people and will accept you as one of their own. But periodically you will hear them pointing out an area that you are not Ethiopian. So they will, you know, they would joke with me saying, Oh, that’s the white side coming out. You know, I will do things and act in ways and speak in ways and behave in ways that they associate with not being Ethiopian. So they will tell me, you look Ethiopian, but you don’t act like it. So, but it’s not an alienation. It’s more, we’re just poking fun or we’re joking around, but still, you know, for you, it’s like they’re right. You know, cause you’re not

Damon (51:25): The feedback that she gets from the members of the Ethiopian community is simply them noticing that she’s had influences from another culture. They don’t mean any harm. She has plans for the future. Tiz is thinking about employment, starting a family and what her past experiences mean in the context of her future.

Tezita (51:44): Going forward for me, I just plan on getting a good job, perhaps get married and relive my adoption process again, because I’ve also thought about, you know, my family and you know how your adoption story revisits you when you have kids, right? If you look into your children’s eyes and you tell them that they will not have to suffer, like you have suffered, right, they will not have to lose their parents like you have. And you can finally, you can finally see your mirror image and your child that you didn’t see in your parents. And so it’s almost like it will never leave you because then your children will only have their father’s side or their mother’s side of the family that has been in tact. But if you were an adopted person that has never found your parents or don’t really have any connections with your biological parents, you know, they even will miss out. So to just answer your question, that’s my plan find a good job, which I will because there are organizations that will help me and perhaps get married and then go on from there. And then maybe, hopefully find my biological parents as well.

Damon (53:09): Oh my gosh. Well, I certainly wish you the best in everything that you do from this point going forward. I’m glad that you’ve rid yourself of the toxicity. That was your adoptive family, and I’m glad you got your sister. I mean, she sounds incredible. And I’m, I’m, I’m so happy that you guys have one another to support each other. Cause this sounds like this has just been awful, but hopefully you’re both. It sounds like looking forward positively. And I love that there’s a lot of resilience in the human spirit and you exemplify that beyond anything I’ve heard in quite a while. So thank you for sharing your story.

Tezita (53:55): When listening to the podcast, I feel like all of the adoptees have been very resilient. Do you notice that? Or yeah, I would agree because even on your story, I mean, you’re pretty resilient too. And all the other adoptees that I listen on your podcast and other podcasts that I’ve found as like we’re very strong people gone, we’ve been refined through fire. I’m come out the other end stronger and it’s like gold and it’s refined by fire, you know, come out beautiful shining jewels.

Damon (54:33): I think that I’ve definitely noticed the resilience of DOP adoptees. I think that your resilience is higher than most. And I think it’s amazing. Keep going, do great things.

Tezita (54:53): Thank you, Damon. I appreciate that. Thank you so much for you. What you’re doing. It’s been such a gift and such an encouragement to see it, to hear everybody’s voices. And it’s great because most podcasts out there are for, you know, adoptive parents and stuff like that. So it was really difficult finding voices for the adoptees and I appreciate what you and others do. So thank you for that Damon.

Damon (55:16): Oh my gosh. My pleasure. I’m I’m so thankful for you to lend a different perspective to adoption. I think a lot of times people have non adoptees have a lot of misconceptions about what adoption can be. And this is why I want to do this because there are a lot of hard truths out there that we as adoptees need to face and that non adoptees need to be more aware of so that they don’t go into adoption lightly thinking, you know, this is going to be awesome. This is building a family and it comes with its challenges. Every family has them, nobody escapes them. And and there are ways to do it that are more correct than others. And this is why I want us all to tell our stories so that we can make sure that others feel supported and understood and it’s educational. So I’m so glad that it has meant something to you. Thank you so much.

Tezita (56:14): Yeah, absolutely. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

Damon (56:18): You’re welcome. Take care Tezita. I’ll talk to you another time

Tezita (56:22): Best to you. Bye bye.

Damon (56:29): Hey, it’s me. How do you explain to a child that they’re being adopted when they come from another country where their native language doesn’t have a word for adoption? It doesn’t exist. Tezita was adopted at six years old with no explanation for what had happened to her and her family nor what was happening next. She spent two years with her adopted family in solitary confinement. Then she was sent back to Ethiopia to attend boarding school with only the support of her teachers and friends along the way she adopted a sister before the two were adopted together. Their bond is just amazing and we all should be so lucky to have someone look out for us as Tiz’s sister pass for her. I respect that Tiz isn’t ready to find her biological family at this moment. She has a daunting task ahead to even try to locate her people in Ethiopia, which has poorly recorded adoption records, where records exist at all.

Damon (57:32): If she ever did find them, her origin story might be hard to hear and accept so I can see why she wants to build herself up before facing that challenge of a search. I wish Tiz and every adoptee or childlike her that has endured abuse and neglect all the strength in the world. I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Tezita’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamIreally You can follow the show at or follow on Twitter at Waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on. Patrion.Com/waireally please subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too. And if you’re interested, you can check out the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adopt the memoir on on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.

Who Am I Really?

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