Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Krem and Me

Perhaps it is because there are two children needing special attention during these early days that Stacey has developed a special bond with Hirut and Krem and I have a connection that is greater than what I have experienced with any of my other children. But I don't believe that. I think that Krem had a vision of what a father was before we even met, and I am filling that void that he longed for. I do not mean to say that the love between us exceeds that between me and my other children. There are still major challenges as we all get used to the larger family and new personalities. Rather, it is that Krem sees me as "The One". Most parents out there know what I mean when I say mommies are special. The bond between a child and mother is greater, more compassionate, deeper. When hugs are needed, or a knee is scraped, mommy is the one they run to. Those special moments before bed when toddlers fight to keep their eyes open, it is mommy who gives that kiss goodnight. With Krem I am finding out what it feels like to be that person for someone. When we are at the store or park, it is my hand he reaches for to hold. It is me who he wants to read books to him before bed. And these moments are very special - it is clear how much he yearns for this bond. It is clear how much he loves having a daddy. But don't worry River, Forest, Stephanny and Hirut, I still have my special place in my heart for all of you. But I feel great warmth in my heart to know what it feels like to be "the one" for Krem.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sweet Baby Dreams

Ok, before I go on attempting to transfer my journals from Ethiopia to the blog, I thought I would give a quick update on my sweet baby girl..

Hirut: Can a baby get much sweeter? I think she should win some 5 star baby award! Seriously, the girl chills in her high chair and allows me to actually wash dishes, giggling when I simply glance at her. She goes to sleep at 7:30pm, and does not stir until 7:30am, then goes back down for her nap by 11am, and wakes at app. 2-3pm. She LOVES just hanging out with her Mama, happily tied to my back while I attempt to play soccer, push bikes, cook food, wash little hands, help with homework, clean and do laundry, wait for the bus, dig out extra playthings from the garage for the neighbor kids, and very feebly attempt to hold a conversation with a friend on the phone. She calmly puts up with her brother's very loving (and possessive) demand for my attention, and her sister's constant rally to convince her that she can be 'Mommy' too. After all of this, and my constant desire to soak her skin and hair with ointments, oils, the whole line of 'Carol's Daughter' African hair products, bows, cute baby outfits, and finally baby pajamas, she still remains sweet, babbling cute baby sounds, and tickled by my silly ways. When she finally sees the bedtime bottle in my hand she goes nuts, trying to climb me to get over to it, until I sit down in the rocker, when she knows that it is on it's way. She immediately begins to drink, her eyes deadlocked with mine. She spends the next ten minutes studying my face, touching my eyes, cheeks, mouth, and hair, as if making up for all of the lost time she was not with her mother, and I equally am playing catch up with her, and am completely and totally in Mommy love.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 6, Addis

The next morning we got ready and headed straight to the care center, River hanging back, still not turning a corner yet. Fortunately, as sad as River was to not be participating in the activities, and more disappointed yet to not have met his new siblings, he was keeping occupied with his movies, games, and books. The compound was gated, with guards and nannies who checked in on him, so we felt comfortable leaving him in the secure setting. As we pulled down the drive to the care center we saw that all of the older children were huddled at the gate. I quickly spotted Krem, and when he spotted us his smile grew wide once again and he ran between the other children trying to get the best view. I got off and held his hand through the gate until the doors were opened and he was once again scooped up into Daddy's arms. I quickly changed shoes and ran up to scoop up my girl. She seemed much more comfortable and was soon interacting with me in a playful manner. We went downstairs to play, but with the many other children who continuously pulled us down to smother our faces in kisses or try to climb Nate calling 'Daddy!, Daddy!', we were soon looking for a more quiet corner. As much as I would have liked to sit down and play and snuggle with the other children who obviously were in need of loving attention, we were trying hard to concentrate on ours, and Krem's face glowed proudly with that fact. We consoled ourselves with the thought that most of these children were being matched with other families soon to come and lovingly scoop them up as well. Peering into their beautiful faces, we saw how easily it would be to fall in love with any one of them. Some were decorated with the beautifying scarring that is performed in most of Ethiopia, which Krem has- two notches at each sides of his eyes- and other with scars across their eyelids, which is said to be a folk remedy to ward off eye infection. All of the children adored my unusually pudgy Hirut, and would pull her down to lavishly coat her face in kisses. Judging by the size of my chunky baby, and the sizes of the ones who will need to do some cathching up, I'd swear she was secretly stealing their food like the town bully. :) We found a quiet corner and played with our kiddos for the next couple of hours, then headed back to the guesthouse for lunch. River seemed to be up and though his stomach was not the best, he managed to down a bit of oatmeal- a good sign. In the afternoon we went to the main office to meet with social workers, prepare the remainder of paperwork, and to watch a DVD. The DVD was specially made for Krem and Hirut, explaining to them their early life in the rural southern Ethiopian countryside. The social worker team and film crew actually travelled to the place that was their home to film! It was amazing to see and we were very touched by the thorough investigation and work that has been put into our children's early lives. Often in adoption the information is scarce, and you find yourself wishing you had more to share with your children as they grow and ask more questions. On a side note, as the adoptive parents, we are said to be the 'guardians of their information', and are to hold it carefully, answering questions as they ask until they are old enough to understand and digest their whole story. This information that we receive is not ours to share, it is theirs, and if they choose to share their story later, then it will be their choice. For this reason we will not be writing about the circumstances of why our children came to be a part of our family, but rather from the point they came to us and onward. Another little blurb I just have to add on this subject is that though this is a very beautiful and joyous time for our family to be meeting these two souls who will be a part of our family forever, it is coming from the hardships that another has had to face. In most cases, when Birthparents made the decision to relinquish their children to an orphanage it does not come lightly. It most always comes from a place of deep love- knowing that life will be a struggle in their family, and wanting so much more for their children. In Africa, at times the decision comes from a dire situation in which a birth parent dies, and it is not possible for the remaining parent to work and keep children in their home. Often the extended families will help, but in many cases these extended families are stretched so thin for resources it is virtually impossible to take on feeding another mouth. When the child(ren) are placed into care, the loss of a child in the greater family is felt by everyone, especially in Africa where families often live in units of huts close together and are with each other on a daily basis. As a mother, I am thankful for our family's ability to provide for our children, and cannot imagine facing such a difficult decision. For this reason, the adoption of all of our children into our family has been a joyous and simultaneously grievous event. I thank my lucky stars to share my life with my children, and I ache for the fact that others out there in this wide world are grieving the loss of my children who I get the priviledge to enjoy and love and nurture. That evening we laid low, and went to bed early- the next day was to start early and stretch long.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 5, Gotcha Day!

I woke with the sun this morning and lay quietly so as not to wake River and Nate. I was running through all of my Amharic phrases in my mind- 'Eenayahnatiknegn' which is 'I am your mommy', or 'Yeh-nay-lij'- 'My sweet baby', and so on... I couldn't help but imagine beautiful scenarios of meeting my children, all of which had me tearing up into my pillow. Of course, the reality is that these kids don't know me, and will most likely take some time to adjust, as is what happened with Stephanny, who is now a bubbly outgoing girl! I finally rose and began selecting the most appropriate outfit, something that might say 'mommy', though I realized it really didn't matter. After a quick bite, we loaded the CHSFS bus with the other adoptive parents while River sadly stayed back in bed all day with a low grade fever and stomach ache. Arriving at the care center, we were instructed to remove our shoes and were ushered into a room for a briefing by social workers. The center is somewhat of an old worn-in palace, with a grand old meeting room and empty deep swimming pool with a great view across the land. There are 5 floors of rooms, all housing children of different age groups. A front patio has small bikes and toys, and there is a small grassy area. The kids are kept to a fairly regimented schedule of school, play, snack, meals, etc. One by one we were to be called away from the group to meet our children, and our names were called first. We walked up 4 flights of stairs and into the baby room. There were many babies lying on a blanket on the floor, and Hirut was sitting upright in a Bambo seat. One of the nannies picked her up and placed her into my arms. The feeling of finally having this long-awaited baby in my arms was overwhelming, and I lowered my face into her neck, arms wrapped round her sweet baby body. Hirut however, was not feeling the same vibe and quickly turned to lean toward her nannies, big tears rolling down her chubby cheeks. They soothed her and sent her along with me to spend some time becoming more comfortable. We walked back down the flights of stairs, Hirut now quietly distracted by the motion and chage of scene, and to the outdoor grassy area. There was a row of classrooms leading away from the main house, and Krem at the time was in 'school'. Our social worker slid open one of the doors and called Krem's name. I searched the many faces of children quickly, and found him sitting in the very back of the classroom with the boy they said was his friend in the center. The boy began poking Krem, telling him to look up. When his face rose and caught sight of us he broke out into a huge smile and leaped from his chair and began running up the aisle quickly and jumped into Nate's arms, squeezing around his neck and laying his head on his shoulder. He stayed like that for over a full minute, while Nate held onto him, big tears falling down his cheeks. When Krem finally looked up to look at me with his big flashing smile, I realized there was no need for fancy words or explanations- he understood who we were and that we were there for him. We spent the next two hours playing in the outdoor area with Krem while I held Hirut, trying to grab her attention and engage wtih her. She remained quiet unless a nanny's voice was in earshot, in which case she would lean toward the sound and cry. Krem wore a proud face while riding bikes, and flashing us his wide smile every time he'd pass. He loved blowing the bubbles and hitting the balloons we brought. We made our way downstairs for more indoor play on the floor, and Krem showed us his incredible ability to turn almost anything into a spinning top- like corners of blocks and Lego's! We were stunned and said 'Goh-Behz!', 'good job!'. By the end of the day Hirut was showing some sweet smiles to me, and spent some time studying and touching my face. At one point one of her toys rolled away and she quickly showed us her crawling skills and went to fetch it across the room. When she looked up she quickly searched out my face and came zooming back to me, buried her face in my lap and lay snuggling. The bonding had already begun, and Nate and I were overjoyed. Krem found a baby toy elephant that he played with nonstop and carried around with him by the arm. He was very proud to have it, as most things are quickly passed around the many children in the center. Soon it was time to say goodbye. We walked back up to the courtyard and changed our shoes. Krem became very quiet when he saw the bus, and his face became increasingly worried. Gripping his elephant, his eyes became filled with tears. I leaned down to re-assure him but his previous joyful warmth had turned cold and stiff and he turned away. We left him amidst the crowd of running kids and loaded the bus. He stood watching us with big tears streaking down his cheeks. A couple of times a nanny tried to push him to run and play with the other children, but he stood still, an accusing look on his face. I sat in the back of the bus watching him, tears rolling down my face as well, feeling guilty to have shown up and told him I am his mother. It was a confusing situation for a 4 year old to digest- these great people show up and play with me, telling me they love me and then leave. It is the policy of the agency to allow the children to slowly get used to us as parents, and while I can see that being effective for a baby, this 4 year old who has already had much disappointment in his short life, was not needing a slow transition, he simply needed his family, solidly, unwavering from then on out. As the bus pulled away I saw another boy run up and tear away his elephant that he had been clutching on to. Krem threw back his head sobbing and ran to stand by the fence watching us fade further in the distance. When I finally turned around, I saw that the other mothers were also crying for us- it was completely heartbreaking.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 4, Addis

This morning we attempted to sleep in and get extra rest- a difficult task when our bodies were fighting the time change. We'd spent a lot of night time hours the past few nights willing ourselves to sleep with little success. This morning however, we finally felt like we'd caught up. Unfortunately, the moment River opened his eyes he was not feeling well. We encouraged him to stay put, and began packing our things around him. Today was the day we moved on to the guesthouse to join the other adoptive families in the quest to finally meet our future children. After years of paperwork, social work visits, fingerprints, Hague treaty requirements, government appointments, and finally the most difficult part- the seemingly endless wait for the magic phone call with news of being matched with our children- and longer still- the call to finally travel- we were definitely ready for this moment to arrive! We booked our room for another half day to allow River to rest with Nate while I hired a taxi and ran around to the markets in search of some treasures. By four o'clock we were being transferred to our new place. The guesthouse was a gated establishment consisting of two 3-level buildings with a common dining room and living room. In Ethiopian standards, it was pretty nice- for us, um, not so much, but we are not picky, don't need things to be fancy, and the place served it's purpose- at least for the most part. It often ran out of electricity, or had a surge of it, which fried our computer and ipod chargers the first night. The house computer is dial-up, which rarely actually 'dialed up', but despite any inconveniences, the guesthouse was located very close to the orphanage. After learning that the building across the hill was it, I went in to 'stalker mode' with my long-range camera zoom, spying on the children outside in the play yard. I felt like a crazy lady, but was so excited to see all of the children over there, and was so eager to spot the sweet face of my boy. I felt butterflies while thinking it would be only the next morning before I would meet them! We unpacked, tried to soothe River who by this time was stomach sick and feverish, and hit the sack. Late that night all of the rest of the guests arrived, and I popped up to say a quick hello, and returned to bed where I lay awake, imagining looking into my children's faces for the first time, and whispering their names under my breath.

Day 3, Part 2, The Nile

The next leg of our journey was comparatively uneventful, covering a lot of ground across wide-open barren fields and clusters of huts. Occasionally we passed through a village where people were gathered around old ping pong tables waiting for their turn amidst the crowd. Goats and cows seemed to be scattered, searching out the few patches of grass they could find. The one strikingly amazing thing about these far-away areas in rural Ethiopia is that they are still full of life. We would be miles past a village and still pass many people (though fewer and further spaced apart) who were herding their cows, goats, or horses down the long stretches of roads or women walking with many jugs tied to their donkeys in search of water. Our driver said that some of the women walk miles a day to fetch their water. We made a quick lunch stop (which we believe later became the source of our demise!) and were back on the road. We at last arrived at the top of the grand Blue Nile Gorge. We took some time to take photos and handed food out to the many children who had come running across the rocky barren landscape (again, with no shoes!) in search of Ethiopian 'Birr', which is the currency or food. Sadly, these children ranging in age from approximately 2-10 years seemed to wear the rough terrain of the land on their bodies with their dry cracked lips, cuts, bruises, tattered clothes and dust-covered skin. They were devouring the food and water we left them before we even stepped foot in the car. For the next 15 minutes we climbed down an incredible decline, making our way down the 1,000 meter drop to the Nile. Sections of the asphalt had literally crumbled and fallen away, leaving partially dirt roads, making it difficult for the big rigs to haul their gas supplies from Sudan. We passed an over-turned bus, tipped on it's side and whose top had come off, partly falling down the incredible drop below. We could only imagine the terror of the people inside as they tipped and nearly fell straight over the edge. Lammergeier vultures soared in and out of the incredible wind currents that whip through the gorge. Every couple of meters we could feel the air become more still and unbelievably hot. Despite the heat, young boys were still driving their cattle and goats up the steep gorge road! They would yell for water as we would pass, and our driver would throw a bottle out of his window for them. We could hear their shouts of excitement at the sight of a bottle flying toward them. When we finally made it down to the incredible bridge that hovered above the Nile, connecting the provinces of Shoa and Gojam I felt like I was baking. I wrapped my head in my scarf and understood why the desert nomadic people of the mighty Sahara were always covered head to toe in cloth in such hot weather- it really helps! We crossed the bridge by foot, and felt a rush of relief as we approached the center where the rush of wind current whipped through the gorge. We stood for some time whipping rocks down to the green waters below and watching the birds fly back and forth between the high red rock expanse of the cliff sides. We can now say we have been to the longest river in the world- the mighty Nile, which flows upward, making it's way through Africa all the way to the shores of Egypt, emptying itself into the Mediterranean Sea.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 3, Part 1, Addis

We woke early today and were soon in our taxi and on our way out of the city. The sun was shining, as it has most of the days we've been here. We wound our way northwest, soon leaving the rows of corrugated metal shacks, stray dogs, street markets, and mass of uniformed school children behind in the smog of Addis. We were climbing another steep hillside, passing the firewood-carrying women who were making their way down from the forests of eucalyptus while Ethiopian elite runners wove in and out of them in a constant zig-zag. Coming up and over the hill we saw miles of green rolling hills of farmland and tukul villages dotted across the land. The sun seemed to illuminate certain hillsides with their scattered huts and worn trails filled with boys herding their goats, women carrying large jugs for water on their backs, and children carting their young siblings in cloth wrapped around their small bodies. After making some travel time we decided to pull off of the road to take some photos in the middle of an area of open country side. Almost instantly children began running across the fields toward us yelling hello! hello!. There were children of all ages, some with babies tied to their backs. They were very outgoing and vibrant, excitedly speaking at the same time, keen on photos, and glowing with confidence. It was easy to see past their tattered clothes, rough shoe-less feet, and untidy appearance with their faces that shined with the typical Ethiopian pride. That is, until I pulled the food out of the car to distribute. The children all quickly swarmed me, pushing me up against the car, grabbing at the food with such eagerness that they were clawing my hands. I shouldn't have been surprised, given their visual appearance. Of course they would react in this way, they are fighting for their well-being in such a hot, dry land with such limited resources. Soon we were back on the road, passing through small farm villages with their boys playing soccer or huddled around an old fussball table, shouting and laughing. we finally came up on the Muger River gorge overlooking the Awash River- a rough river known for it's numerous crocodiles that flows through a rough area called Awash Park- home to lions, ibex, baboons and more along with two tribes who are often fighting for land occupancy. We stopped and did a short trek down the mountain until we reached a wide expanse of sheer vertical cliffs leading straight down below our feet to the river far below. The view was stunning. After a few photos we hopped back in tyhe car to head to one of the most holy sites in Ethiopia- the Debre Libanos Monastery, founded in the 13th century by a priest who was credited with the spread of Christianity in the land. The Monastery is set impressively beneath a cliff on the edge of the gorge. The closer we got to the Monastery, the thicker the crowds of people became, all trekking to the holy site, some from many miles away. Winding our way on the top of the gorge, we passed baboons, the super cute Colobus monkey's, and occasional groups of tired old women with their hands extended and waving up and down in hopes of a donation. We passed through a small village with approximately 500 people all gathered in the center for their once per week market day. We slowly rolled through the crowds while children ran alongside our car yelling hello! and while other's surprised faces would turn and alert others of the 'Ferengi' or foreigners passing through. We passed stands with vegetables, baskets, goats for sale, and incredible sized sugar cane. We finally came to the gate to the Monastery and were out making our way past the crowds of onlookers toward the sounds of chanting and melodic singing. A priest draped in blue cloths and crowned with a jeweled hat met us and led us on a tour, explaining the rituals being performed and explaining meanings of the religious arts covering the entire walls of the inside. We came across a room of young men draped in white whose voices would slowly rise in singing prayer and then come back down again, only to have another voice slowly rise up amidst the others, causing the other men to join and rise again in harmony. In the main area the men and women were separated in two sections, both sides with people ritualistically patting down their bodies, crossing their arms and slowly coming down onto the cloth laid out in front of them to place their heads to the floor in constant prayer. When we emerged into the sunlight we noticed many people walking off into the woods and trekking up the mountain. We decided to follow and began making our way up the steep hillside toward the cliff that held the cave of healing holy water. The sides of the trail were lined with people, all calling softly out to us 'Ferengi' for help. We passed, keeping our heads low in mock concentration of our footsteps. How can one help so many? When we were almost to the top we came across many people unclothed, washing themselves. A small room was on the side, where many were waiting to enter. We passed through and soon were standing on the top of a rocky edge with a sheer cliff looming up above us, and a gated cave opening in front. We were instructed to remove our shoes and wait for someone to come and open the gate. We sat down to wait and glanced around at the many people waiting in line to bathe in the holy water. There were sick people, disabled, deformed, and mothers holding their sickly small infants. There were faces of the lonely, the loved, the prayerful, the sick and starving, the poor, the wealthy, and of the beautiful, with their faces covered with the typical beautifying tattoos and scars. I turned around and rolled my pants as we were led into the now open gate, our feet walking into the holy water of the cave. Many others rushed in behind us as we were led to the spot where the priest Tekle Haimonot did his praying. After a few moments we were again being led back outside while the men and women spoke to us, thanking us in Amharic for the opening of the gates, and an old woman stroked River in a loving way calling him 'Ye-nay-konjo-lij', which means 'my beautiful son'. One of the many things I've cherished in this country (though River might not agree!) is that everyone has referred to him as 'the baby': 'what can I get for the baby?', 'is the baby alright?', 'such a beautiful baby'. They are good reminders that amidst his growth and growing maturity my cherished baby is still underneath, and this trip has been special to be able to share with him, when soon our attention will be split by 5. We passed back through the waiting lines of people, making our way back down the mountain, passing the bath house where we could hear the sounds of a man screaming, his illness being beaten out of him while being washed in the holy water while the shrill high-pitched calls of the women rang out in thanks and praise. Making my way down the mountain, I began stopping to greet the old and the blind, holding their hands, placing a birr or two in each, and asking 'Indeminesh Mama?', 'How are you Mama?' They bowed their heads and showered me with blessings in their soft spoken voices. I couldn't help them all, but I could at least help a few.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Updated Photos

The latest photos have been posted to our online photos, including pics of Krem and Hirut home. We have also upload videos to YouTube. You can view the video playlist here. Forest, Stephanny, and River stayed home from school so the family could have a full day together. It was wonderful. Krem and Forest were mutually trilled to have the other as they spent the day biking, playing, and taking a bath before bedtime. Stephanny is delighted to be a big sister to a content and smiling baby sister. Kristie was here for her last day helping out tremendously (Thanks a million Kristie), and Donna delivered authentic Ethiopian cuisine (Much appreciated!). Thanks to everyone for their warm wishes and generosity.
- Nate

Things that Krem DOES NOT like, part two...

Waking up, sometimes.

Things that Krem DOES NOT like, part one...

Sitting still.

Things that Krem like, part four...

Cars. Or "Mechinas" in Amharic. Big ones, little ones, rusty ones, shiny ones, toy cars, trucks, etc. Anything with wheels and an engine.

Things that Krem like, part three...

Clothes. He spent an hour trying on every pair of socks in the suitcase. The first thing he did this morning was get his jacket on. He did not understand that clothes should be worn underneath. Don't be surprised to see him wearing several shirts at the same time.

Things that Krem like, part two...

Escalators. Use your imagination.

Things that Krem like, part one...

Electric Hand Dryers. They can easily make a trip to the bathroom last 15 minutes.

Sleep Deprivation

You know you suffer from sleep deprivation when you put the lip balm where the deodorant should go. My underarm was minty tingly all morning yesterday, but I'll have to admit it is not chapped.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Home at last...

It was 56 hours from the time we left the guest house in Addis Ababa, to our house. We are home at last.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Travel nightmares...

Sceduled to arrive at 1:40 pm in JFK airport, it is now 2 am and we
are at a comfort in 2 hours outside of Boston. Sheer winds kept us
from landing as sceduled and diverted us and many other planes to
Boston. We spent 2 hours getting through costomes, lost a bag of
luggage, and scrambled for a rental car, to drive the rest of the way
home. Desprate for the family to be together again, we will be on the
road as soon as we can drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.
Sent from awesome persons itouch

On our final flight...

Sending this message from the plane to let everyone know we are enroute, due to arrive at JFK in about 4 hours. Should be home around 6.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Passed Embassy, awaiting our return home...

Dismal internet access continues to greatly hinder updates to our
journal. Last night the computer in the guest house was fried by
further power surges. I now have 60 minutes of battery power to last
us the remainder of the trip. Never fear, the full account of our
journey will be posted, probably after our return on Saturday.

We passed our Embassy clearance yesterday. All that remains is a
couple of relaxing days (relatively) getting to know Krem and Hirut
better. After a nice going away ceremony at the orphanage yesterday,
they are with us in reality and in our hearts from now until the end
of time. Our night went well, with both Krem an Hirut sleeping
through the night, although Krem tossed and turned a bit. We are
playing playing playing today, riding bikes, playing blocks, drawing
with sidewalk chalk, etc. Hirut is being a sweet, smiley baby.
Everyone is past their illnesses here, but we received word Stephanny
has come down with the flu back home.

That is all for now. A handful of pics have been uploaded to our
Ethiopia photos, so be sure to check them out!

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Connection troubles, illness, and a very special moment

Greetings from Addis Ababa. We are behind on our updates not for lack
of effort, but rather the uncertainty of electrical supply and
internet access. Imagine 1985, when a hard drive was a new product on
the market and kids knew what dial-up was (Honestly, River just asked
me). Oh the nostalgia of the
"beee-beee-beee-shsshtshshccctchthhddh..." as the connection is made.

All is well here for the most part. We are all suffering from varying
degrees of stomach ailments and/or fevers, traced back to a
questionable lunch we had while on our amazing tour to the Blue Nile
Gorge. Why it did not cross my mind to NOT eat the cold beef and
chicken, I do not know. Just plain stupid. Fool me once, shame on
me, fool me twice... (e.g. Coming back from Calcutta with dysentary
and mono would be the "once" in this case"). Alas, we are all on the
upswing, and have been in contact with doctors for advice and assurance.

Despite the stomach issues, we have meet Krem and Hirut. To say the
least it was a humbling and overwhelming moment. When Krem saw me for
the first time, from the back of a dark, cramped classroom, he rose
from his seat and ran into my arms, and squeezed me for a long long
time. He knew us immeadiately and why we were there from the photo
album we had sent in advance. The orphanage takes great care to
prepare the children for adoptive parents arrival, and because of this
the moment was so special. This does not negate the challenges we
face on our long road ahead, but it is certainly the best possible
first step. I am going to let Stacey elaborate beyond this, and
describe meeting Hirut. For me, Forest put it best when he said "Wow,
that is something that just happens once in a lifetime!"

I think we have found a more reliable way to update this journal, so
expect further posts soon.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day Two, Addis: We hired a private guide and did the historical tour of the city. We saw the grand Menelik Palace, the Haile Selassie Palace, and then were off to the National Museum, where they house the oldest skeletan ever discovered! ‘Lucy’ is 3 ½ feet in height and was dated to 3.2 millions years ago! A grand scientific discovery indeed. From there we headed to Mt. Entoto- the highest mountain in Addis, with grand views of the city below. The drive alone was incredible- winding up a very steep hillside, narrowly passing the many hoards of women carrying firewood down the mountainside from the forests on top. The loads were incredible and looked too much to bear. As I sat imagining how I could possibly manage to carry something like that ten feet (let alone down the entire mountain) I found my taxi driver experiencing a very different feeling. He seemed annoyed by there very presence, not bothering to move over enough for them, and at times brushing their load, sending them off balance and at one point causing a woman to walk down into a ditch! Unbelievable. Further up the mountain we came across boys hearding goats and donkeys up to higher pastures, and soon found ourselves in a thick forest of eucalyptus trees. Opening our windows, we felt the smog of the city fade away and were soon breathing the fresh scented cool air. At the very top of the mountain, we were able to see over the other side to many rolling green hills dotted with the boys and their herds of animals, and the typical ‘Tukul’ grass-roofed huts dotting the hillside. We managed to get in a hike guided by two very sweet boys who were excitedly practicing their English skills on us. On our way back, many other children ran to us from their Tukul, and one girl pushed a baby forward to greet me. Nervously, the baby stared wide-eyed while all the other children giggled, so I decided it was time to practice my Amharic skills. ‘Selamno baby’ I said, and ‘nimineyedel’ (don’t worry), which did not seem to soothe the baby at all, but at least seemed to produce more laughter from the children! : ) On the way back down the mountain we could hear the singing of the women from the Christian Orthodox Church being played out from loud speakers over the countryside. Much like the Mosque’s, this is a common sound you hear often here in Addis, and is beautiful. We stopped and took a walk around the church, enjoying the sights of the women who were decorated so beautifully, draped in their all-white church dresses and scarves, leaning their heads against the walls in deep prayer. Next we were off to one of the largest outdoor markets in all of Africa, which wind through tiny alleys and streets for many blocks. We stopped and went for a stroll, checking out the very cool handicrafts of traditional clothes, hand-carved wooden masks and baskets. Being out of Ethiopian ‘Birr’s’, we made mental checklists of the things we wished to carry home with us for future ‘adoption day’ celebration gifts. The end of the day was a celebration at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant where we enjoyed singing, dancing, and a nightcap of homemade honey wine called ‘Tej’. Sleep is now calling me, and tomorrow we are off for an excursion to the rural mountainous regions to the north of the capital. Chow!

Day One, Addis Ababa

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday afternoon to a very different atmosphere than the one in Dubai. The simply decorated airport was full with women greeting each other in their high-pitched sweet voices, crying as they embraced loved ones. Immediately I was reminded that I am in the homeland of my children, and couldn’t help myself from searching the faces of these people picking out features that seemed similar to my children in the few pictures I have seen of them. My heart seemed to be skipping beats as I mentally checked off the days, hours, and minutes that I might finally meet them. We quickly arranged our visas and paperwork with immigration and were soon driving the streets of the capital toward our hotel. River initially was skeptical and a bit nervous after what felt like a dangerous cab ride- weaving in and out of the many people who were shopping at the street markets along the way at high speeds. The atmosphere was a bit of a shock for us all as well- the initial visuals of people in a country where poverty is such a real issue is definitely a hard thing to process. Despite any hesitant feelings we may have had, we quickly headed out the door and were exploring the city by foot. Wow, talk about feeling like we were under a microscope! It was great to be able to experience what I am guessing many foreigners experience back in the rural areas of the States- a constant stare of ‘who are you, what are you doing here and where are you from?’!! I decided to make the most of the attention, and soon was greeting people with the typical smile and ‘selamno!’ (hello!), and ‘indemenalek?’ (how are you?). This went well, and soon we were feeling the warmth of the Ethiopian culture.

Monday, March 1, 2010


We arrived in Dubai late Saturday evening after a very long flight, so quickly gathered our things and grabbed a taxi. It had just been raining, and the rain had brought out the smells that the hot desert sun had baked into the land all day- it felt great to arrive to such a tropical feeling. The roads were deep in water- some so much so that I thought it might start seeping through our doors! The taxi driver informed us that despite our impression of such a wealthy impressive city, there were some things that had not been planned well- in this case plumbing! We soon arrived at the villa, where River excitedly began exploring, finding lizards climbing the outside of the walls, all of the different rooms in the house ‘wow, cool!’, and finally the amazing backyard oasis. Before long we were swimming under the stars and full moon. Aaah, how lucky we are to have a friend with such a place across the world from home! The next morning we awoke to the sun shining and the smells and colors of the flowers draped everywhere around the villa. We quickly threw our stuff on and were off to enjoy our one day in Dubai. We began in the old Bastakia quarter, wandering the maze of winding alley ways, passing someone’s camel that was tied to a tree, and soon found a little outdoor art cafĂ© to stop for breakfast. The food, music, paintings and elaborately decorated waitress in full berka were pleasant reminders of being in such an exotic place. We then found ourselves wandering the river front walkways with their decorated wood carved ships, watching the mass of people unloading their goods from around the globe across the river, and the families relaxing in the park. After a short cab ride we were soon standing outside one of the famous Mosque’s, with it’s intricately patterned and shaped architecture. We wandered around the front where we stood watching the men remove their shoes and begin praying on their knees before entering the building. I almost wanted to follow and see what else they were going to do in this religion that is so foreign to me, but alas, was shooed away by a man dressed in white from head to toe. Songs and Prayers ring out from the towers of these Mosque’s 5 times per day, calling people to stop, reflect and pray- the dedication of it is astounding to me when at times at the end of a busy day I wonder where my time has gone. Alas, after crossing the street and reading the beach dress codes and rules, we were taking our first dip into the Sea- which to some is called the ‘Arabian’, others the ‘Persian’. I thought I would play it safe and call it the ‘Gulf’, after reading that the word ‘Israel’ has been banned from all books and one can get into trouble by a mere utter of the word. It was nice to see the many families playing and swimming in the sea- this is by far the most diverse city I have ever been in- there are literally people from all corners of the earth here with different looks, dress and language- amazing. More amazing is that in this country it is not often you actually see Emirati people- they are definately not part of the crowds of working class people. That night we made our way down to the ‘Souq’s’ or shops, where you can finding almost anything while wandering the enormous labrynth of winding streets and alleys that go on for many blocks. After a short time of wandering through the ‘Gold Souq’s’, I caught a whiff of the ‘Spice Souq’s’, and quickly followed my nose. For the next few hours we all had a great time smelling things we had never seen and trying to keep from buying needless things we would not have any idea how to use. : ) Needless to say, it was the highlight of our short layover in Dubai. When we were thoroughly famished from so much walking we caught a ride to a great Lebanese place where the food was awesome, the ceilings were draped in Bedouin-style silk tents, and the violinist played pieces that made your heart ache. Almost deliriously, we finally arrived back at the villa late and still strummed up enough energy to go for a swim and hang out with our Jordanian friend who was also staying with us. The next morning we woke with the sun and the ringing out of prayer. Next up, Ethiopia.