So why did we skip Day 2? Well, it wasn’t because we didn’t have a great time. Not at all. We went to church with Fekadu and Joel. The reverend and other staff remembered us, greeted us, and welcomed us as return visitors during the service. Great message on trusting God, not idols, not yourself, not what YOU can do, but to have pure faith in God like Paul. Then we went to lunch at Yared’s house to celebrate his youngest sons second birthday. It was so nice to have an opportunity to spend time with Yared and his family away from the bustle, confusion, and often times sheer joy/stress of the adoption world and care center. Our lunch was fantastic! Followed by a great coffee ceremony and a shot of ouzo. Yikes, I’m too old for that. Did a little shopping and looked around at the Makush art gallery (which by the way the restaurant is still open it appears). Didn’t leave with anything but someone sure had their eye on a large painting of a typical Addis city scape. Finished the day off with dinner at the Top View restaurant with Kasey and Grant Gillis (the Gillis girls had crashed already)
Now on to DAY 3. So we woke up hoping, praying, and begging for an early email from the US Embassy. Yeah, no luck. We hung around the hotel until 9, constantly refreshing the email, then left for the care center. Spent a couple of hours there and again great time with the little kids, Nen, and Aryiat. Played lots of basketball with Nen, built amazing structures with Achole and several other of the young kids with Duplo blocks, watched Kate, Ariyat, and Nen jump rope like no other, even have some great video of it. We ended the morning with the kids (Nen, Ariyat, and Achole) and a few others having a blast playing with Talking Tom on our iPhones. Oh my gosh, if you have an iPhone and are coming over this is an app you don’t want to forget. Nen and Ariyat were talking to it (it simply repeats back what you say to it, and does a bunch of other silly stuff). Then they started singing to it, long fun songs they learned at school, and they would get such a kick out of Tom singing it back to them. We even heard Achole chattering away at Tom sitting on Sherri’s lap (and we had barely heard any words from her before that). It was a complete hoot.
At some point Abebe and I had a good chat about next steps with the US Embassy. Typically they respond very quickly after the birth parent interview (even told Kasey Gillis that when they went up to have a document notarized later that afternoon). Abebe suggested we write another respectful email letting them know we were in country to meet with the aunt and if at all possible to have our interview this week it would be much appreciated. So we did it and sent it off about 1:45. Didn’t hear anything back within the next 30 minutes so we decided we couldn’t just sit around and stew about it. So off we went with the Gillis family for a little retail therapy at the Makush art gallery. In the end, BOTH families purchased similar paintings from the same artist Kasey and Kristen have from their first trip. Negotiated hard and got a fair deal for a beautiful large painting of a typical Addis city scape. By the time we left and got back to the hotel it was about 4:30. So typical Addis, the internet was acting up and it took FOREVER to finally get connected and get Sherri’s email updating. Immediately we see a response from the US Embassy that says….. well it said a whole bunch of stuff, was sent to the wrong agency, but all we really needed to see was you’ve been cleared and can schedule an exit interview. Sherri had to type out a response on her iPhone with shaking hands, but we managed to get it sent off and then jumped in a van to go pick up the kids. Yared had called ahead to the care center so they were expecting us. By the time we arrived the nannies had cleaned up both kids and dressed them very nicely. Achole had on a cut little dress with leggings and Nen handsomely dressed in pants, a t-shirt (donated by Kasey Gillis!), new shoes, and a cool red hooded sweatshirt. The staff were so happy for us and the kids. We were only there 10 minutes then off back to the hotel to hang for a bit, dinner, then bed.
So we played in the room for a while and both kids were pretty calm, but having fun and starting to relax just a little bit. Then off to dinner at the hotel. This was pretty stressful for both kids and neither one ate much but we all had enough to hold us over. Both of them seemed pretty tired so we came back down to the room to play a bit more and get ready for bed. Hummmmm, play a bit more.. well, we pulled out a few toys and that lead to both kids finding the “toy box” (just one of the suitcases). So out came several items, but the BIG hit were little battery powered monster trucks that drove forward. They had a blast running them all over the room, under the beds, over other toys, clothes, US, or whatever they could find. It didn’t take long for Achole to really start to open up and for those of you that have seen her at the care center the quiet, reserved little girl that just wanted to be held, was running around the room, chattering like crazy, laughing hysterically, and just having a blast! We KNEW there was more to her personality and were so happy to start seeing some of it. Finally it was time for bed. The kids both happily put on their new PJ’s, brushed their teeth (well at least Nen happily did that) and we tried to read a book. Achole was still pretty awake, but she did listen some. Sherri and I laid down with them and it took a bit, but finally both finally gave in and went to sleep. No tears, no significant fear we could see. I would call this quite successful for the first night. I’m sure this will change, as it should. There is a whole lot of scary change coming into their world in the next few days, weeks, and months. For now, I’ll cherish the memories we have of finally having our kids with us for the rest of our lives.
Dear friends, this has been a long journey and the last few weeks have been very hard and stressful. We don’t know what we would have done without so many of you encouraging us, lifting us up, praying for us, and being there to share in our joys, fears, and when we just needed to vent or show you the same picture for the 43rd time. You all mean so much to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.