Oct 13 2010

Female Nomad and Friends Interview: Sandra Hanks Benoiton

Published for maria altobelli at 4:55 am in Sandra Hanks Benoiton

“Following an ever-twisting path, I write, love, parent, and watch the sun set into the Indian Ocean from the veranda of my tropical island home in Seychelles.”


Today, Mutts in Mexico interviews Sandra Hanks Benoiton, the author of Fairy Godmothers…Who Needs ‘Em? (page 202 in Female Nomad and Friends). Now, straight from her island paradise home and without further ado, here’s Sandra.

“I’m one of the readers for whom Tales of a Female Nomad resonated deeply enough to prompt a note to Rita with my praise and thanks. Of course, having trod similar paths we hit it off well and began a conversation that eventually led to her inviting me to participate in the ” … and Friends” project.

I’ve always loved the part in Fairy Godmothers…Who Needs ‘Em? where you are trying to book passage back to the islands from Singapore. You write, “I took off down Orchard Road and began hitting the travel agencies. Who could sell me a ticket on Air Seychelles? Not this one, not that one. Seywhere?”

For those in need of reference (like me, the geographically challenged one), here’s the location of the Seychelles.

North of Madagascar and to the east of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Seychelles does seem to be one of those little jewels that gets lost in the glitter of a lot of world-wide baubles. The link: http://www.go2africa.com/seychelles/african-safari-guide/history-of-the-seychelles is a great source of info for anyone wanting to know about the area. You have to love a country with a botanical sense of humor or a love of the erotic (however you look at it) with the male and female coco de mer palms.

In our last blog posts with Janie Starr, she told us a bit of her journey through lymphoma. Like you, my husband was also told his mortality to be a month or so down the road. The “or so” turned out to be thirteen years and counting. So what does it feel like to have that new lease on life after a major by-pass operation? We packed two trunks and two dogs and moved to Mexico. You were already in Seychelles. So what did you do?

I had already done the shuck-the-world-and-move thing, and since I’d had no idea how little time I had until I was granted the reprieve, there were no dramatic changes. With the extra time, however, I did eventually bring Sam, and then Cj into my life. Parenting little ones again after so many years was something I would not have predicted, and they are the greatest gift these years have given.

Tell us about how they came to join your life. You adopted past the normal (whatever “normal” means) age, right?

Sam –now 7 — and Cj – 5-years-old — were both born in Cambodia and adopted at the age of 13 weeks. I was in my 50s by then, although my husband was 30-something when the kids came home. We had fostered a little boy for a couple of years, and when he went back to his mother we realized that, although we had been happily living childless, parenting suited us and we were good at it. We looked into local adoption here in Seychelles, but the size and culture of the country makes that virtually impossible.

Cambodian orphanages are bursting at the seams, so adopting from there felt right.

You have since become quite active in writing about adoption. What I don’t understand is the flak you seem to be taking from birth mothers. Can you explain?

There is a large contingent of anti-adoption folks in the world, and frankly I don’t understand the stance. As international adopting becomes progressively less possible, more and more children are sentenced to lives of little hope. The pendulum swing against international adoption gains momentum from many quarters, with organizations like the UN insisting that it be considered only as a last resort. Terms like “cultural genocide” are tossed around in arguments that begin at the notion that removing a child from its birth country is akin to robbing it of identity, no matter if life there is guaranteed to be short and tragic.

It is true that my children don’t speak Khmner, the language of Cambodia, but rather English and Creole. They haven’t learned many of the traditions of their birth country, nor do they know their biological families. These are losses, no doubt, and adoption does come with loss. To insist, however, that they would have been better off growing up in an orphanage in a country suffering grinding poverty is a mental step I can’t follow for an instant.

You mention that you live far out in the boonies. That has to be a gutsy thing to do. How does it affect you besides that loooong commute to get your kids to school?

I actually have my place on the market now, hoping to sell and move closer to town. http://seychellesproperty.weebly.com/ I need to simplify my life, and with it being difficult just to find someone to keep my acre-plus of land tidy, scaling down will be a good thing. My social life suffers with my distance from friends, and that twice-daily drive to school … an hour in each direction … does me in.

It is certainly a beautiful place to come home to after that drive, although I can see how all that time behind the wheel could become tedious.I had to Google Seychelles to get an idea about the island. One of the things I miss as an expat in Mexico is access to books. I think how I used to haunt libraries and bookstores and feel a hole in my gut. Do you have any special things you miss? Give us an idea of the pluses and minuses of island life.

Amen, Hermana! The lack of bookshops does my head in. I was in Europe a few weeks ago, and spent hours in English-language bookstores just sniffing. Fortunately, Amazon delivers here, and I have a network of fabulous friends who all read, and share.

We do have one small bookshop here, which is lucky since they sell my latest book Papaya…and other seeds…also available via my website http://sandrahanksbenoiton.wordpress.com/

What I miss most … people. My daughter and granddaughter are in North Carolina. My mother is in California. My brothers are all over the US. Many friends of the heart I haven’t shared time or wine with for far too long.

Oh … and I do miss Mexican food!

Having first come to Pátzcuaro in 1972 and seen tons of changes in the area, I can imagine that you have witnessed some major changes in the local scene in Seychelles. Do you have something you can share with us that illustrates some of those changes?

…”I’ll start with the nuts, admitting that my mother sends me walnuts from California, but you can now often find almonds in the shops, and hardware-ish establishments seem well stocked in screws, bolts and tacks, although most are Chinese-made and break easily…” Find out more on how Seychelles has changed http://sandrahanksbenoiton.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/nuts-bolts-and-changes/

As she quotes from Bertold Brecht, “Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.

Come back next week for another visit to this island paradise…


13 comentarios in “Female Nomad and Friends Interview: Sandra Hanks Benoiton”

  1. mariathe 13 Oct 2010 to 5:01 am

    So glad, Sandra, you came by to visit and share with readers a bit of your island paradise and your life. I feel I’ve had a chance to get to know you a bit through this interview and by reading your blog. I’m looking forward to the continuation next week as well.

    By the way, congratulations on those two fine children of yours.

    And if the hankering for Mexican food gets too great, stop by.

  2. Karen van der Zeethe 13 Oct 2010 to 6:13 am

    Sandra, The Seychelles do have the reputation of being paradise, and from what I have heard, they want to keep it that way by restricting or having quotas for the number of tourists they allow in. I assume this is the case for expat settling there as well. Lucky you to live in such a beautiful place.

    My husband and I also have a foreign-adopted child, who is now grown. He was 6 when he joined our family. Foreign adoption is a controversial subject for many of the reasons you mentioned, but I agree with you, what kind of a choice is it to let these kids languish in places where they have no future, no love, no hope, and often end up dead or brutalized?

    Good luck with you househunting!

    P.S. I have several stories in The Book.

  3. lorriethe 13 Oct 2010 to 4:01 pm

    Hello Sandra,

    I’ve always wondered why people do the shuck-the-world-and-move-thing. I bet there are as many answeres out there as people that do.

    Perhaps this question is a bit of envy on my part, for many times I’d love to do just that. I think it’s a brave adventure.

    The adoption of children and what you have mentioned is such a sad thing. I didn’t know that. I can’t understand the problem either. Kids are kids. To offer any orphan a home, care and love is an amazing offer on the adoptive parents part. Why restrictions are put in place to be quite frank, blows my mind.

    Thank you for sharing, and I’ll be sure to catch the next posting.

  4. Blue Bus Barbthe 14 Oct 2010 to 10:21 am

    Sandra, as one of your co-authors, I am really enjoying getting to know more about each of us as individuals. I was lucky enough to end up with a stepmother after my own birth mom died when I was 5…all that I can say on the adoption subject is that love has no boundaries and can cross all kinds of boundaries. Goddess bless you for sharing your love with your adopted children!

    Love has No Boundaries, Barb

  5. Sandra Hanksthe 21 Oct 2010 to 7:05 am

    Thank you, Maria, for your time and all the effort it’s taken to get this up! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope we have a chance someday to sit over tacos and tequila and talk.

    Karen, Seychelles is very small with a population of only about 85,000, so any huge influx from outside could have serious impact. Tourists are welcome, but since there are limited numbers of flights and only so many accommodation options the numbers are never what they might be in bigger destinations. Ex-pats are not discouraged, but like most places they must fit certain parameters.

    lorrie, on the issue of adoption, adoptive parents are not making an offer, they are building a family, and although I am not happy with present trends toward making the process close to impossible, it is vital that there be hoop after hoop after hoop for potential parents to jump through before having a child entrusted to them. This should not be easy. I only wish it took as much thought and effort to make a kid from scratch.

    And, Barb … it’s nice to be between the covers with you!

  6. maria altobellithe 22 Oct 2010 to 11:26 pm

    Hey, Sandra, it looks like you got in before me with the new hosting. I’m at Victor’s right now getting the last ducks in a row. But it looks like we’ll really be rocking with the new hosting site.

    It has been great fun on my part as well getting to know the contributors so much better via the interviews and all the emails I’ve shot out into cyber space so far. Glad you would like to share tacos and tequila and talk. Sounds good to me. If we meet up with Blue Bus Barb, we’ll have to blab over barbacoa and beer.

    Now I’m off to promote a bit of Papaya.

  7. Sandra Hanksthe 23 Oct 2010 to 8:43 am

    Gracias, hermana. Having the site rockin’ is a huge plus. Abrazos to Victor for the help …

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