Anna Maria’s Story
“Be open-minded and don't hold grudges.”
Meet Miss Anna Maria Brodkey, a delightful 14 year old who lives on the west coast with her dog Cammy, pet rats Gus and Sean, her brother David, and her parents, Pat and Jerry. She was adopted from Guatemala with the help of BAAS when she was five months old. Her parents had the chance to meet Anna Maria's birth mom when they visited Guatemala before the adoption was finalized. When Anna Maria was 4 years old, the family returned to visit Guatemala and Anna Maria's birth and foster families. Since then, they have made ten trips in total, most recently last Thanksgiving. Pat and Jerry recently interviewed Anna Maria about her visits to Guatemala, and her remarks follow.
What do you like best about visiting Guatemala?
I like the food, especially the Bistrot Cinq Restaurant in Antigua. I love the Tres Leche cake at Café Condesa, and the buffet at Hotel Antigua. I love the scenery in Antigua – you can see volcanoes everywhere, and the colorful houses are beautiful. It is a different country that is interesting to visit.
What activities do you recommend to visitors to Guatemala?
Go up the Pacaya volcano and ride one of the horses. Visit ChocoMuseo, the chocolate museum for chocolate making, and Antigua. Go to Tikal to see the pyramids and the animals – you might even have a Coati come up very close to you.
What insights has travel to Guatemala brought you?
It has made me humble. I see the lifestyle that I would have had. When I was younger, I just viewed Guatemala as a different place with a different lifestyle. Now that I am older, I always remember this is where I came from. It gives me a constant reminder in my life to be grateful. I take fewer things for granted.
Tikal was a powerful experience for you; describe your reaction
It is a very cool place to see. It made me proud to see what my people created. The Maya are very smart and seeing Tikal made be proud of my heritage. I wish more people knew that the pyramids are in Guatemala and not just in Mexico.
How does it feel to visit your birth and foster families?
I like seeing my nephews (ages 8, 6 and 5) – they are adorable. The visits feel more like they are for the adults and I am on the side. They can feel mandatory. It is easier to connect with my foster mom, Janet. I can communicate with her, as she knows some English, and I like hearing the stories of what I did as a baby.
I like seeing my sister and birth mom to see what I look like physically, as I know we all look very much alike. Next visit I want to compare my height to theirs.
I have learned to be tolerant of my birth family. My birth mom made a smart decision.
It is hard to say how I feel differently because of these visits. I have always gone.
What advice would you give to kids considering a trip to their country of birth?
It really depends on the kid's story. It should be their choice. If they have bad memories, then they shouldn't go. If they don't remember, then go and you can see what a cool country you are from.
The kids need to be open minded about the experience. It is a good idea to go when they are younger. I would say to start at age 7 or 8. If I hadn't gone earlier, I don't think I would want to go now.
What advice would you give kids about meeting their birth families?
Be open-minded and don't hold grudges. Don't expect an instant connection; they are strangers. It isn't like a tv show.
What are your future plans about visiting Guatemala and your birth family?
I want to go more with friends and family. It is great to show people what a wonderful place Guatemala is. I might not be comfortable traveling there by myself. I love the dogs in Guatemala and plan to bring one home in the future.