Back from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we met our angel of all angels and went to court to become her parents. It was amazing in every way and the coolest thing is that we get to go back!!!!!
I will admit, I dreaded the traveling with every ounce of my being. I have never traveled well; be it across the state, or across the country. But surprisingly, I did alright! My hubby bought me some homeopathic drops recommended by a pharmacist. I dabbed a few drops behind each ear before lift-off and stuck some gum in when taking off and landing. Magic. But flying across the world does cramp-up the body just a tad. Sleeping wasn't easy, so exhaustion set in quickly. I think we figured it took between 26-28 hours total with stops in Minneapolis, Amsterdam, and Khartoum, Sudan before landing in Ethiopia. We were one of three planes that had to circle the air for a good time, so I did eventually throw up when we landed. Sorry, TMI? We didn't purchase our visas through the mail as most had done so we had to stand in line for about 11/2 hours. We were drained. The rest of our travel group just boogied through the immigration line and out the doors where their driver was waiting. We were scared to death when we realized we were on our own, in a city of 3 million, without a driver.....or directions to the guest house. You know you have amazing friends when they send the driver back to get you!! We almost kissed him (well, I did anyway). He said, "You're late." ummm yes, we know.
We went from busy streets to unknown (and dark) roads. We didn't speak, but were both thinking at every stop we were about to be ambushed. And then we turned into this big, metal gate....the driver honked twice, and it was opened by a man covered from head to toe. We thought for sure we were dead. I dug my fingernails into my hubby's leg. Not until we heard our friend, Brian's voice did we realize this was all part of the plan. He said we both looked gaunt as we exited the van. Let the journey continue!!!!
Let me just say right now that I am soo grateful to have had such great company while we were there. We had traveled with Mariah & Brian, our friends whom we met through our Home Study group, and it was soo great to finally get to see the faces and personalities of the people I've been in touch with through our agency's Yahoo group and on Face Book. We had a blast. It just wouldn't have been the same without them. We realized this when they all left to go home and we were there alone.
The first day we went to the Holt office for an orientation on their expectations and went over our child's information. This was a quick visit and we were off to meet our little "A" for the first time. As we walked up the steps of the care center my heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest! We were asked to leave our shoes at the door and sandals were provided to wear inside. What a beautiful, colorful place! I was really impressed. We all sat in a row in some rocking chairs and waited for our kiddos. I was video-taping for our friends as they met their little guy when I realized that "A" was being escorted down the steps. It was such a quick thing and I scrambled for my camera/video camera. I think I may have even passed off our friends' camera to Dic, as if he didn't have anything else to do! Ha! She came walking down the stairs holding hands with her nanny, wearing a boys' long sleeve Gap shirt and pink leggings. If one of the Holt staff wouldn't have said her name, I wouldn't have recognized her. When we received pictures we only got shots from the waist up. I had no idea her legs would be soo long. Turns out later that, although she is taller than we thought, her pink pants were tight and short and made her look much bigger than she really was. Anyway....her nanny brought her right to us and she gave Dic a big 'ole hug like she had already met him before. I sat on the edge of my seat with tears waiting my turn. Once she wrapped her arms around my neck I didn't want to let go. She held me tight like she already knew I was her mama. Our baby. Finally, we get to hold our baby!! What a blessing. What an honor. What an incredible gift from our God. (I have goosebumps just thinking about it). Her skin against my face was silky smooth and her eyes big and bright with those lashes. Oh my gosh, her lashes! And her hair is quite a bit longer than her referral picture that we received 6 months ago when it had been shaved at intake. It is very soft, but really thick. Lots of the kids had little curls here and there, but "A" had a full head of tight curls. I was dying to touch it, but I'll wait. :0)
(sorry for the teaser :0)
We have been told for months that because we would not be able to bring them home our first visit, they would be introducing us as visitors...playmates, I guess. This was also reiterated at the orientation. They asked us not to refer to ourselves as their parents and to remember that we were only visiting/viewing our child. The nannies called us by name and would tell our little gal to give Mommy and Daddy hugs/kisses. All women in their lives are known as Mommy....I think this is a cultural thing. but Dic was called Daddy plenty of times. What else would they call him? I couldn't see any other way for them to go about it. She definitely knows we are her parents. The second day Sister Martha said she asked if her family would be coming. And when we gave her the photo book I made, I had labeled everything/everyone by name....including Mommy & Daddy.....brothers, Cole, Zachary, Luke in English and Amharic, so she would hear it when her nannies read it to her later. We just went with the flow and let things work the way they were suppose to.
look at that little footsie! we traced it to get her size right
My days all became a blur, as sleep deprivation, altitude sickness, nausea from the smells (I can only explain it like the smoke from something burning--like incense being stuffed up my nose constantly & diesel fuel fumes), and motion sickness from the car rides. The next time we saw her she was very anxious to see us. She ran up and hugged us both and was very interested in checking out every toy we had brought. She was bubbly and sweet and loved the zheu zheu pet that another family had brought for their little girl. "A" wanted to touch it, but when she would push the button and it moved she would jump back and scream. It was a riot to watch--wish I could share the video with you all! :0( We had a full couple of hours with her playing with balloons, bubbles, sliding down the slide (she would go down and then run over to give me big squeezes), and lunch. We were informed that she often needs help eating, which we took as a concern. But what we witnessed was more like distractions from other things which may make her want to leave the table early. She is a very good eater...I don't see any problems there. This day she had the traditional food, injura (like a spongy, sour, pancake), which they dipped in different things like sauce and pureed veggies. I even took a bite to keep her interest going--not too bad, but not my favorite....that will have to change. :0) And then it was nap time. We were able to take her up to her bedroom, which she shares with about 4 other little girls around her age. She was asked by the nannies to take off her shoes, she climbed into a good-sized toddler bed with high sides, and covered herself up. All of the beds are pushed soo closely together it's virtually impossible to get to the children to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight....very much different than our ritual at home, but it'll do. Dic and I blew her kisses, which she returned in delight and we were escorted out.
our "while we wait" bracelets, which all three of the boys have too.
We went to a few different restaurants while we were there. They had an Avanti's, which is a chain in the U.S., and another Italian restaurant with our travel group and they were both very good (aside from me getting locked in the bathroom---every door has it's own little key in about every door knob, including the bathrooms. It can be tricky to get it turned the right way and the right number of times. I started to panic that I would get to spend the remainder of the night in there!) and cheap! It only cost us $35 (about 560 birr) for 8 people with drinks included! The waitresses got some really good tips. :0)
We also had lunch one day at Kaldi's, which is a knock-off of Starbuck's, where we had burgers after much hype from our friends. I didn't feel soo great later. We had been told by our friend, Betty, an American friend who teaches chorus in Addis, that the beef was not the same USDA approved meat as in the U.S. Our traveling friend, Eric, found out the hard way after eating medium rare beef tips one night.....the night they were leaving to go home. He wasn't as lucky as myself (he was sick on the plane)--ouch! I realized that with my belly already being sensitive that mild foods were the way to go for me. Lots of soups....with cooked veggies and such.
not the actual shops-but gives you an idea
We did some shopping while we were there. The guest house arranged a taxi for us and the price was pre-negotiated. We had asked the driver to take us and stay while we shopped since we didn't have a phone to call for a ride. He wanted 500 birr.....our host offered him 200 birr which he took. We went to a shopping strip, not at all like you would see back home. The stores are basically shanties (corrugated metal sides and roofs) that were painted. The sidewalks were crumbled, if there were any. This was the first day that we had been out by ourselves and we felt pretty vulnerable. Everyone wanted our business, kind of like being at the state fair. And I felt the need to buy something in every one of them to help them out, which, of course, I couldn't do. There were children who came to us in search of food, which broke my heart. The day before we went to Mt Entoto to visit an Orthodox museum and church and Lori and I found ourselves giving to little girls who asked. We quickly realized that pulling things out in such a public place was not a great idea as we were swarmed by many more women and children. We decided from then on that we must be in more secluded areas if we wanted to give. But to deny a request such as food was extremely difficult. Our shopping excursion ended quickly this day as I didn't have the strength to keep letting people down. We did return later in the week with another driver who acted as our guide and we were not approached quite as often, but I seemed to handle it better anyway. We had some teenage boys come to us and one begged to trade shoes with me. I asked him what I would wear if I did so. He shrugged his shoulders and asked again. This was in a more-playful manner, but had we worn even close to the same size I would have done it in a heartbeat. I would give the clothes off my back if I knew it would make a dent in their lives. All he wanted were shoes. He didn't ask for money.....he just wanted shoes.
to be continued....................