Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ethiopia Day 6

Today is the day we have been dreading all week…our last day…the day we had to say goodbye. We were able to spend more time at the Care Center this morning with our kids. After 6 days, all of the little ones were getting used to us being there. Their little personalities really started showing. One little girl provided lots of laughs for us as she giggled and hooted over the bubbles. We also heard our little Achole speak for the first time. She said something to Neni about the crayons although the only word we understood was his name. She also started communicating with us (especially me). She would tap on my arm and point to things. It is a huge bummer that we have to leave her when she was finally beginning to communicate with us! We got lots of giggles from her on video, priceless little snippets to watch until we return to bring them home. We took one last family photo together before we left, although we couldn’t get a smile from the usually smiley Neni because he had already figured out we were leaving at that point. Achole cried when I handed her back to the nanny for the last time. Broke. Our. Hearts! After we got back in the van, there were lots of tears…but we know we will be back soon.
We spent the afternoon doing more sightseeing. We went back to the Former Fuel Wood Carriers so we could watch them make the scarves. The first time we went on day 3, we missed seeing them make the scarves because all the women had left to attend a funeral. I’m so glad we went back! It is quite an amazing process to make the scarves. Jordan and I were able to try it out…it is safe to say, we would need a lot more practice! We also visited the Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa. It is beautiful inside with gorgeous stained glass. It was very interesting when the priest chased us down and rubbed his fingers together asking for money. Since I didn’t have any, he followed me over to Craig until Craig gave him some.
Then it was back to our hotel to finish packing and preparing for our flight home. Our flight left Addis Ababa at 10:15 pm – and after 17 hours with one hour spent on the ground in Rome for a flight crew change and fuel, we landed in Washington DC at 7:20 am. That is a VERY long time to be on one airplane! I’m thinking we will split it up the next time and fly an airline with a layover somewhere along the way.
Thankfully, our flight was on time getting in to DC so we made it to our White House tour with plenty of time to spare. The White House was beautiful all decorated for Christmas! Since we were attempting to keep jet lag from getting us down and switching our days & nights around, we drug the kids around DC until about 4:00. Once we got back to the hotel room, we all passed out…Craig woke us all up at 7:00 to eat and then it was back to sleep again. Jordan could hardly hold her eyes open long enough to eat dinner! We spent Christmas Eve ‘day’ at the Holocaust Museum and then attended a Christmas Carol service at the National Cathedral that evening. Although we were able to have an amazing day in DC, it just didn’t seem like Christmas Eve since we weren’t at home. We went to bed on Christmas Eve with visions of our airplane bringing us home on Christmas Day. Needless to say, we were all super excited to get back home!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ethiopia – Day 5

And…we were off to the Care Center again this morning to play with the kiddos. We stopped on the way to buy bananas for all of the kids. Our driver just pulled up to the curb in front of a fruit stall, told the gentleman what we wanted, and he handed it through the window to us.
We had a wonderful morning! Achole is beginning to show her personality. Braxton was able to get her to smile and giggle! Neni has quickly figured out how to use Craig’s Iphone. He took a gazillion pictures and 2 second videos of all the kids. He laughed (or giggled!) the entire time. He even started posing the other kids for his pictures. We have learned Achole does not like to be dirty or have dirt on her toys, she loves balls, and she loves to cuddle up. We were able to get her to smile very easily while we were holding her, but as soon as we handed her off to a nanny to leave, we couldn’t get even a slight smile.  Neni is quite an artist (he drew a 3-D car, a very detailed person and house), is a huge helper (he took the balls that some other kids smeared mud on to the water spigot to clean it off), and has figured out technology super fast!
A huge highlight of our day was being invited to our guide’s family home for a meal. We were extremely honored to be a guest in his home. His mother prepared the most amazing meal for us. It was truly THE BEST Ethiopian food we have ever eaten! Braxton ate until he nearly exploded – more than I’ve ever seen him eat! She also roasted coffee beans and made coffee for us…it’s quite a process to make coffee the proper way. Once again, Craig and Braxton were in coffee heaven. Thankfully, Fekadu knows I’m not a fan of coffee so I didn’t have to drink any.  Jordan and I even got to see the stove his mother makes the injera on. Fekadu and Joel have become our wonderful friends.
We spent the afternoon shopping. We went to the Hilton to try to find a nativity set (but were not successful). We then went to see the Merkato, the largest open market in Africa. It was absolutely unbelievable!! Our guide said it was not safe for us to shop there so we just drove through it and were in awe. The market is set up in sections (electronics, car parts, food, spices, dishes, clothing, etc.). Within each section, there are MANY small stalls selling the various items. It was so crowded with people walking and other vehicles…and a few donkeys and cows being scooted through the middle of the cars.
Driving in Addis Ababa requires an adventurous, dare-devil spirit! There are only a few stoplights in town. Every other intersection is crossed by just pulling out and making your own way…every man for himself! Drivers must dodge other vehicles that are within just a few inches, people walking every which way playing a game of human Frogger, along with cows, goats, and donkeys. It is amazing that there are nearly no accidents, although we did see our first one today. If you are stopped long enough in traffic, beggars and people selling their wares will come up and tap on the windows of your vehicle. The video camera cannot even come close to capturing the experience. The exhaust from the other vehicles is sooo overwhelming. I am really looking forward to a breath of fresh air! The streets are lined with small stalls selling anything you might need -- car parts, clothing, fruit, meat (slabs of meat hanging without refrigeration), shoes, etc.

Ethiopia – Day 4 – Court Date!!

My day began at about 3:00 am…could.not.sleep!! I laid in bed trying to will myself back to sleep, but to no avail. I finally just gave up and got up at 5:30. A bottle of Coke Light and 5 Advil later, my headache finally went away! Craig nearly knocked himself out after slipping when getting in the shower. The tub is like an ice rink and the little rubber mat was not firmly attached. We left our hotel at 8:30 am for our Court appointment and were all still in one piece. Thankfully Tesfa, our agency representative, went with us. She is an absolute sweetheart! She is so tiny Craig was convinced she could have fit in his back pocket! The court is nothing like I expected. The building looks like all the other buildings with nothing setting it apart to look “official”. Because of the bottle of Coke I mentioned earlier, I was dying for a restroom…let’s just say the restroom there should only be used in serious desperation and with a watchdog at the door (which is actually just the end of the hallway). Jordan served as my watchdog, and I was grateful for the roll of TP in my bag! We sat in a large room with both adoptive families and birth families. It was quite humbling to think we were there for such joy for our family, while the birth families hearts were aching. The sign on the wall requesting “Silence” didn’t seem to matter to the families from Europe. It made us very uncomfortable with their lack of respect. After waiting about one hour, we were called in to the judge’s office with another family from our agency. The entire proceeding took less than 5 minutes. The judge is a beautiful, soft-spoken woman. She asked us a few basic questions and we answered together with the other family. She asked us if we realized this is permanent and final and cannot be reversed; had we been trained in adopting internationally with regard to bonding and attachment; have we met other families who have also adopted from Ethiopia so our children will know other Ethiopian children; and have we discussed this with our ‘own’ children and are they accepting of the adoption. She also emphasized the importance of helping our children maintain knowledge of their culture and heritage. All of the questions required only answering “yes”. At the end, she simply stated, “All of paperwork is here, so it is final.” AND…that was it! We were done! They were officially ours, or we were officially theirs!!
We spent a few hours at the Care Center playing with Neni (Nen is the correct way to pronounce it!) and Achole (Uh-cho-lay)! We were there through lunchtime so we were able to watch all of the little ones gobble down their injera and lentils. They were a mess when they finished, so each one headed to the water spigot to rinse off their faces and hands! We were able to share our family photo books with them. I really think Neni is starting to grasp the idea that we are his family! He was so excited to hang his picture poster above his bed! We also hung Achole’s poster above her crib. Sister (the head nanny) has decided she would fall out of a regular bed….
We celebrated our court clearance with an amazing evening with our new friend, Fekadu. He took us to dinner at ‘Yod Abyssinia’ for a delicious Ethiopian meal and show. The show included singing and dancing from many of the different regions throughout Ethiopia. Craig and Braxton tried some honey wine, Jordan and I declined! We made it back to our hotel just in time to say goodbye to the other family we attended court with. I so wish we lived closer to them!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ethiopia - Day 3

We headed to the Care Center first thing today. We turned in all of the necessary paperwork for submission to Embassy…now we just need to pass court tomorrow morning. We also took all of our donations for the Care Center. Now we’ll have a few less suitcases on the way home!! Today was a very calm morning. All of the older kids were at school, so we were really able to spend focused time with our kiddos. We were able to stay until it was time for them to eat lunch. Thankfully Little A didn’t seem as tired today. N spent a lot of time looking at the pictures on Craig’s Ipad. Jordan loved showing him how to take ‘silly face’ pictures. He figured out how to work that thing very quickly! We played more soccer & basketball today. Braxton loved getting to spend more time loving on Little A.
After lunch, we spent the day enjoying the city of Addis Ababa. We visited Mt. Entoto (and almost died from lack of oxygen!). We were able to purchase scarves from the “Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers”. The Fuel Wood Carriers are unbelievably strong women – the loads they carry on their backs are astounding. The women who make the scarves are part of a project to give these women an opportunity to earn a living without the excruciating labor of hauling the huge loads down the mountain. We bought a lot of coffee at Tomoca, and would have purchased more, but they ran out! I guess we’ll have to go back later this week for more. Craig and Braxton were thrilled! Then we went shopping. This proved to be rather stressful with all of the beggars and street children trying to sell things. Our guide reminded us many times not to give money to the beggars and to buy only from the proper vendors. It was heartbreaking to hear the women carrying babies saying, “please sister, baby hungry”. By the time we were done shopping, we were surrounded by street children and others begging us to buy things, and they continued tapping on the windows after we were in the van. We were all a little overwhelmed after that experience!

Ethiopia - Day 2

Today we had the amazing opportunity to attend church with Fekadu! We went to his church, an Amharic-speaking Lutheran Church. His church partners with Compassion International and serves nearly 400 children in their program. The passion and energy in this church was unbelievable. As an extra bonus, they were also having a wedding! I have never witnessed such a lively wedding in my life!!
We then made a brief trip to the Care Center to visit our kiddos. Unfortunately, I think we woke Little A up from her nap and she started off our visit crying. She calmed very quickly though and spent the rest of our time there resting her head on our shoulders and falling asleep. I think she was scared and exhausted from being in her new environment. N was happy to see us! Braxton, Jordan, and Craig spent lots of time kicking the soccer ball around with N. He knew exactly where his ball was from the day before!! The WORST part was when we were leaving. I took Little A back to her nanny so we could leave. By the time I was almost back to the van, she was following me down the sidewalk crying. Her nanny told me, “She wants you.” I picked her up and rocked her a bit until she fell back asleep. The nannies let me put her in her bed. I certainly don’t pretend that she has attached to me (or us) in any way, but I think I just happened to be someone there who was willing to sit and comfort her after the move to a new place. Jordan ended up getting quite emotional this day also, so the two of us were not a good pair. Thank goodness we had Craig and Braxton to take care of us!

Ethiopia - Day 1

It’s hard to believe, but we finally made it…court date trip!! After 13 hours, we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We had no trouble getting through customs – not one bag was checked, so we made it through with all of our donations for the Care Center. After dropping off our bags at our hotel, we headed to the Care Center to meet our kiddos. Since it was Saturday, none of the English speaking staff were there. It was such an awkward introduction! The staff obviously knew we were coming though because when we got out of the van, one staff member scooted our kids out one door into the courtyard area and another staff member scooted the other family’s little girl out. Julie and I just stood there whispering to each other … “is that them?” All 3 kiddos (hers and ours) looked a bit different than our pictures. N and A are both much smaller than they looked in their photos. Little A is as light as a feather. They had only arrived at the Care Center the day before we got there. They flew on an airplane from Gambella to Addis Ababa. The past few days have been a whirlwind of transitions for them – changing orphanages on one day and then having 4 white strangers show up to visit you the next day. Little A was exhausted and spent much of her time just laying her head on our shoulders and snuggling. We spent time blowing bubbles, kicking around the soccer ball and watching N write. He was so proud to write his ABC’s and numbers to 100. He also wrote 3 words (apple, ball, and spell). He was beaming while showing off his skills!
I definitely had not planned on anxiety taking a strong hold on my body – never had that lovely problem before, and my nerves were in overdrive. It took me 2 days to get myself calmed down enough to eat without feeling like I was going to be sick with every bite. I guess that’s a good diet plan…or not!