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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 6

4:30am came way too early the next morning.  We had to meet Helen and Sami at 5am in front of the hotel for the long drive home.  We packed up our things and said goodbye to all the ants in our room.  

We drove for a couple hours before stopping in a little town for breakfast.  We drove through a tiny little drive behind the building to the parking lot and followed Sami into the restaurant.  We were seated in this secluded room that was separated from the main area.  It was dark with no lights other than the sun through a small window.  It was also a dirt floor.  I had to use the bathroom, but after Andrew went, he hinted I should wait if I could...so I did.  Breakfast was good and our coffee was very strong.  Just what I needed.  

We continued driving.  Again, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever laid eyes on.  The villages and towns intrigue me so much.  I wanted to badly to stop and visit with the people and see how they live.  But I know that it's not always safe to put ourselves in those types of situations.  So I took advantage of the times when we would stop and people or children would come to our window to look at us.  One man in particular spoke to us in Amharic for over 5 minutes!  I am not sure he even knew we didn't understand him.  We were able to understand "American" and "Jesus Christ."  It seemed as if he was asking us if we knew Jesus.  It was amazing.  Jesus IS everywhere.  Even though we were lost by most of his words, we smiled and just enjoyed the interaction.  The people are not only beautiful, but so loving and friendly.

Later in the day we stopped for lunch.  Sami had asked us what we wanted to eat, and we told him to pick.  They asked us if we liked fish, and we said yes.  Oh boy....we pulled up on the side of the road in front of the hotel where the restaurant is.  It was a cute little outdoor restaurant and it was packed with people!  There was even a local celebrity from an Ethiopian sitcom there!  It must be a pretty well known place to eat.  

Now, I appologize if this is too much information, but I still had not used the restroom and it had been hours!   So I asked Helen to show me where it was.  I wish I had just gone on the side of the road somewhere.  I walked into this little tiny 3X3 shed.  There was a hole in the ground covered by the lid of a 5 gallon bucket, which also had a hole drilled in it.  I knew I was going to have to squat over top of this thing but the smell in the bathroom was so putrid I could barely breathe.  As I squatted down I was picturing my feet sliding out from underneath me and landing on my butt on the ground.  I wasn't certain if the ground was muddy, or covered in feces.  It was not pleasant at all.  But I survived.  It was yet another reminder of how different things are there.  It made me appreciate the simple amenities we have at home, like toilets.  We take so much for granted.  And I definitely can't imagine any American celebrity using a restroom like this.

Back to the lunch.  Andrew let Sami order for him so they got a traditional meal on Injera and fish, I got soup, and Helen didn't eat.  The boys shared their injera and wat while I ate my soup.  Next, the fish came out.  It was...an actual fish.  I mean an entire fish!  It had a head, fins, a tail.  The WHOLE thing.  It looked like it was just dunked in a deep fryer.  I tried to hold any negative expression that might surface on my face., but apparently I didn't do a good job.  Helen and Sami were both laughing at me.  I did manage to talk myself into trying one bite.  It tasted like fish, and dirt.  Not my cup of tea.  But the boys ate it and we left.

All of us, with the exception of Sami, slept on and off the rest of the drive home.  I didn't want to miss the last bits and pieces of our trip, but I was so tired I could barely sit up.  

We found out that Alemu, our Ethiopian rep, thought we were leaving that night, so we were heading straight to the orphanage to say goodbye to Amin. (Leo)  I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping to spend the day on Saturday with him since we weren't flying out until 2am Sunday morning.  And I have to admit, I was exhausted.  I wanted to be fully awake the last time we would see our son.  I wanted to be able to fully enjoy every second with him.  But, I knew I had to make the best of it.  

We snuggled our son as long as we could.  We gave him kisses and just stared at him for over an hour.  It was late in the afternoon and I could tell it was getting to be time to go.  That knot I have gotten to know so well started to rise in my throat.  As I handed Leo over to one of the caregivers, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.  I wanted to hold them back.  I didn't want to be sad.  I didn't want to cry in front of his caregivers. But I had no control over the tears that stung my eyes.  As soon as I let him go, my heart was already aching to hold him again.  It was a funny feeling though.  I was sad for myself, not for Leo.  I knew he was in good hands.  I knew he was happy there and that there was a lot of love going around in that building.  But I could not help but be sad for all that I would miss when we left.  Leo is little.  He is so soft and squishy.  His head barely has any hair and it's so smooth.  I knew he was going to grow and change while we were gone.  I was mourning the loss of time, really.

So we climbed back into the van and headed for our hotel.  I had plenty of time to collect myself.  It wasn't simple.  I was going to miss my son.  The feeling of missing a child you have only spent 5 1/2 hours with is strange.  But he was instantly MY child from the second I held him in my arms.  I felt all the urges to protect him, care for him, and love him that I did when I gave birth to Maya.  I didn't want to miss out on any more time with him.  

When we got back to the hotel, we said goodbye to Helen and Sami and thanked them for everything.  It had been an amazing trip.  I am so glad we decided to travel out of Addis.  I am so blessed we were able to see where Leo is from.  The beauty of Ethiopia is overwhelming, just like the devastation.  When I think it about it today, I am still in awe.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hyenas

The hyena experience gets a blog of it's own.  This was such a crazy fun time!  And also, so scary and borderline reckless.

We drove up through this alley-type road.  There were people all out and about, even though it was pitch black out.  It was like a big giant block party that stretched a mile long.  You could barely fit two cars down this road at the same time.  We saw kids doing gymnastics in the streets, and women cooking on the side of the road.  It was really cool.  We got to hand out some snacks to some kids that came up to our van to inspect us.  This is when I almost got my arm pulled off!  But it was fun.

We finally, after being lost and asking for directions 4 times, found the field where the hyena guy was.  He is this young man who goes out and feeds the hyenas every night.  He has a couple baskets of raw meat, and calls them all in.  They must expect him b/c they keep coming back every night.  We pulled up and only had the lights from the van, which was thankfully left running...in case we needed a quick escape route.:)

We got out and watched him feed the mangy mutts for a bit before we were daring enough to take part.  Andrew went first.  I was still unsure I would even have the nerve to do it!  The hyenas are so big, and WILD!  These are not domestic animals, no matter what our driver jokingly told us.  They are wild animals...and they're hungry!

But it was so fun!  I love adrenaline rushes.  We got to feed them one at a time on our knees beside the man who "knows what he is doing."  He even made us put a stick in our mouth with meat on the end to feed them!  SO SCARY!  There were only about 5 hyenas, that we could see.  You could hear more of them outside the area where the light was shining.  I don't think I let me guard down until we were in the van and well on our way back to the hotel.  I got some great pics and it was something we will always remember doing.


Day 5: Our son's city

We woke, ate breakfast in the hotel, and met Helen.  Sami drove us to pick up the police officer and social worker in Dire Dawa who had worked on Leo's case.  They had the knowledge of what happened with our son, and what had been done prior to us becoming his parents.

After picking them up, we all drove in the van together to the hospital where Leo was found.  It's very different than I imagined, yet very much what I expected.  The hospital is busy.  There were a lot of people there.  We walked over to the waiting area, which was mostly an outdoor, dirt courtyard with a few rocks to sit on.  We got to meet the man who took care of Leo until he was delivered to the orphanage.  I am not going to go into details about Leo's beginning.  This is a private issue and I want to be sure that he has the choice someday to share it on his own, if he chooses.  But it was nice to get some answers that we didn't have before going there.  It was nice to take pictures that I can someday share with Leo when the time is right.  I felt good after we left, like we were beginning to piece together a puzzle...a puzzle we were a part of, but one with many missing pieces.

Next we went to where Michael was found.  We went for my friend, Amy, who wasn't able to make the trip.  We met with another police officer and got to interact with some of the locals working there.  It was nice.

We also got to drive through the city a lot.  Dire Dawa is great!  It is a larger city, but not as large and busy as Addis.  The people there actually seem to have less.  There are less opportunities with it being so far from the main city, the capital.  But, they actually seem happier.  There isn't nearly the feeling of desperation I felt in Addis.  The people seemed more content and we saw more people working than laying on the streets.  Don't get me wrong, this is still a place of poverty.  But I could feel and see more beauty here.  I loved just driving around and seeing the place where I believe my son would have grown up.  It's strange b/c throughout the entire trip to Ethiopia, I couldn't help but picture my children here, in other people's shoes.  I pictured Maya being one of the toddlers who was begging for food or change.  I could picture Leo strapped to his mothers back while she worked her daily life.  It's hard.  It's not a good feeling to know that our lives could be very different, just by being born somewhere other than the US.  My children could be those children.  But in Dire Dawa, people seem happy.  It wasn't all sad when I thought of life there.  I liked that about the city.  It's so colorful.  The buildings are bright and painted.

After all of the meetings and interviews were done, we got to make a quick stop at Engida in Dire Dawa.  This is the orphanage where Leo spent 3 months, just prior to being referred to us.  We didn't stay long.  But we did get to drop off some gifts we had purchased and see some of the children.  The orphanage seemed clean and peaceful.  There were only 3 children there at he time and we got to see 2 of them.  They were both precious and of course, gorgeous!  Ethiopia is definitely in abundance of beautiful people!  It's funny because we were told we are beautiful.  A man told me our skin tone was gorgeous and so were my eyes.  I couldn't believe it b/c to me, they are just the most beautiful people I have ever seen.


Then we ate lunch at a nicer hotel.  Sami and Helen didn't eat with us...they just sat politely with us while we ate.  Then we got to go with them to where they ate lunch.  Not sure why we had to eat at different places?  But we pulled into an outdoor restaurant with bountiful flies and raw meat hanging in a shed.  It was an experience!  I couldn't help but think of my best friend, Katie, and how she would have just died!  I had to laugh, but it also made me a little home sick.  I shook it off and enjoyed some nice conversation with Helen and Sami as they ate their fried goat meat.

Then we were off to Harar to feed the hyenas!!!!!  The drive there was beautiful, as expected.  I have never been so high in the mountains.  We were white knuckled most of the drive.  The roads are so winding and narrow, and there are little to no guard rails along the sides, which happen to be steep cliffs of rocks.  Every now and then Sami would have to slam on the brakes for goats or cattle, or occasionally a toddler running across the street.  Ok, he slammed on his brakes A LOT!  We were lucky we had taken some meclizine or I would have been sick!  Below is a picture of the winding roads we were driving on.

We arrived at the hotel in Harar about 45 minutes to an hour later.  I have to say...this was an adventure beyond my comfort zone.  We walked into our room and I wasn't quite sure what to think.  There were 2 large attached rooms, each with a queen size bed, fully adorned in a nice floral comforter and pillows with shams.  Yes, matching shams, not nice clean white, washable, pillowcases like we are used to.  I had to use the restroom, and this is where the adventure really begins.  There were ants....all over.  I first noticed them in the bathroom.  I can live with that.  But then, after hesitantly pulling back the comforter, I found more, in the bed!  UGH!  I wasn't sure how I was going to handle this.  BUT, I pulled up my big girl pants, and I decided to try my best to laugh at the situation, and try to look at it like camping.  You know you're going to get dirty, but you know eventually you can shower it all off and go back to normal.

We rested a bit, then headed out to meet Sami and Helen for dinner.  We went to a little "pizza" place.  It wasn't bad.  There were lots of stray cats and we ate outside.  It was a little chilly, but it was a cool place.  Of course, Helen and Sami didn't eat with us.  They said they would eat later.  I can't imagine what they had...next we were off to find some hyenas!

Day 4

We woke up early to finish packing up our things, shower, and meet our driver and Helen at 5am.  Man, that is early for me!  We met them down in the lobby of our hotel.  Helen, the social worker who traveled with us, is this 90lb, gorgeous Ethiopian girl.  She's about 25 years old and is so funny!  We got to know her a bit on our 3 day adventure.  She is so sweet, a strong Christian, and laughs a lot!  Especially while trying to teach me Amharic words...:)  Sami, our driver, is so cute!  He is a big teddy bear!

So we were off...driving out of the city.  I have to say, I was happy to be leaving to potent diesel smell of Addis.  I slept a little while it was still dark out.  When I woke up I was in awe!  The country is so beautiful!  We were in a flat area but could see the upcoming mountains.  We saw baboons and camels, lots of goats and cattle, and lush green hills everywhere!  As we drove, we got further and higher into the mountains.  It was breath taking.  I have never seen anything as beautiful in my life.


We stopped at a little hotel in Hawasa, I think, for breakfast.  It was nice.  We had scrambled eggs and ate them with injera.  Injera is a staple in Ethiopian food.  It is a yeast risen flat bread with a spongy texture.  They tear pieces off and use it to pick up their food...no forks.  Then we were off again.

I was more and more in awe as the trip continued.  I was so intrigued and amazed by the villages we drove through.  I wish we could have stopped and learned more about how they live there.  Most of the homes in the smaller villages were mud and grass huts.  Some were made of sheet metal and other things.  There are people EVERYWHERE!  We saw women cooking outside their homes, children playing and running around, and men working in fields or herding goats and cattle.  It seems like each village has a community well near the edge of the town.  You could almost always see women and children pumping and carrying jugs to and from the well.  They walk everywhere!  Now I understand better why they are so thin and fit...and we in the US...well...are mostly not.  They eat what they grow and are so active.  Almost all their labor is manual.  I was most amazed by how content and happy people seemed with so little.  I know you always hear this, but it's true!  These people live day by day.  They have one goal when they wake each day.  Get enough food, water, and work to get them through to the next day.  There are no big motivations of a newer, bigger, better house or car...or other material thing.  They just need to live for that day.  It's inspiring. I am sure they have worries ad fears for the future as well, especially for their children.  But they make the most of what they have, which seems so little.  But they are abundant in love!  Just like in the city, you see so many smiles, holding of hands, friends walking arm in arm, and happy kids.


One of the main things I took away was a new desire to be a better parent.  I saw so many men and women with their children playing outside.  I saw women sitting near their homes just playing with their babies and enjoying them.  The parents are very hands on with their kids.  They don't have all the distractions we have here.  I will be the first to admit that I struggle with distractions daily.  I find it so easy to hop on facebook or pinterest after work and provide Maya with a tv show or toys to keep her busy.  I want to be more than that for my kids.  I want to spend more time on the floor with them, playing with them.  I want to be available and hands on.  I want to appreciate the simpler things in life.

It took us roughly 8 or 9 hours to get to Dire Dawa.  Helen checked us into the hotel and left us to rest for a bit.  She couldn't believe we wanted to take a nap instead of getting lunch, but we were so tired!  Later that evening we met her for dinner in the hotel.  To our surprise, she didn't eat with us.  It was a little awkward, but she assured us she would eat later.  We found this was normal through our whole trip.  Rarely did either Sami or Helen eat with us.  I am still not sure if this is a cultural thing, or if they were not suppose to?

After dinner we headed back to our room for the night.  Meeting with the police officer on Leo's case and with the social worker in Dire Dawa were on our agenda for the next morning.  I was excited to see more of the city, and also to go to the hospital where Leo was found.  I wanted to gather as much information and as many pictures as possible so that someday, I could show them to Leo and tell him about where he comes from.

I have no idea what it is like to be adopted.  I don't know what it feels like to look different than everyone in my family.  I don't know how it will feel to know that he came from somewhere else, from someone else.  I hope and pray that he will feel blessed, like we do to have him.  But I know that somewhere deep down inside, he will have questions.  He will wonder about Ethiopia.  I want to do everything in my power to teach him about his birth culture, while making sure he is proud of where he is also.  I want to be open and honest about things.  I want to have a lot to share with him, although sometimes it feels we have so little knowledge. This was our only chance to gather answers to his questions.  I was ready to dig in!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 3

We woke up in the morning and headed to Kaldi for some macchiatos and breakfast.  Then we met Amy and her dad back at the hotel to head out to the orphanage for our second day with the boys.  We were more comfortable at the orphanage this time.  The pressure was off, we were already in love with Leo. (we had decided on his name the night before, after our first meeting with him)  We snuggled, played, giggled, and got to interact with some of the other children in the orphanage as well.  There were only 6 children there total.  We fell in love with all them!  There was one sweet little girl in particular, Saluna.  She was the oldest child there at 15 months.  She had amazing, big, dark eyes and was soooo sweet.  She was pretending to talk on a cell phone and was kissing everyone on the cheek.  It was a fun day.  I may or may not have caught the adoption bug again...:)

It was harder to say goodbye to Leo when we left because we would not see him again for a few days.  But the caregivers there are so reassuring with there sweet voices and big smiles.  It makes it easier to say goodbye to the kids.


After the orphanage we stopped for a little more shopping with Amy and her dad.  They had not experienced the streets like Andrew and I had so we were hoping to make the experience a little easier for them then it was for us.  I tried to prepare them a little for what they were walking into, although I don't think you can ever prepare yourself for some of the things you see in Ethiopia.

There are some places of sheer desperation.  That is one of the only words that I can think of that really describes parts of the city.  Desperate.  There are adults, and children...young children...who are just desperate.  They are desperate for anything you can offer them.  And they need so much.  In a perfect world, we could help them.  We could give them money, or clothes, or food.  But it's not that simple.  One of the hardest things for me, and one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write about this, is the feeling of helplessness.  You want to help and you want to give.  But there are times when you cannot do this.  You are in a position where you might be compromising your own safety by doing so.  The crowd of people that surrounded us got larger as we shopped.  More people following us, waiting for us outside of shops.  When there are that many people around you, all wanting something from you, it's hard to give anything.  If you give to one, you must give to all.  And it gets a little unsettling when there are hands grasping at you and so many hungry eyes looking at you.  Desperation.  So, what do you do?  You are told to just keep walking.  You do not make eye contact.  You do not acknowledge them at all.  You ignore them.  THIS is what makes me ill.  This is what I struggle with, even now that I am home.  I am not better than these people.  I am not above them.  Yet I walked past them as if I were.  It is very hard to hold your head up while you are turning down the least of these.  In fact, it makes me cringe.  What must they think of me?  Is this what Jesus would do?  Surely not.  It makes me feel ashamed.  I don't like being in that position.  And now that I am home in my big comfortable house full of food and fully furnished with all that I need, I cannot help but think of those people still out there.  The ones who are still walking the streets, waiting for someone to help them....I am now desperate.  I am desperate to help in some way or another...

After shopping we headed back to the room to rest a bit before going to court.  I was nervous about court.  I didn't really know what to expect.  I pictured standing in a court room in front of a judge who would be determining whether or not I was a suitable parent for my son.  I got sweaty just thinking about it.  I was also not feeling well.  I felt very shaky and light headed for some reason.  I kept thinking it was something I had eaten...now I wonder if it was just nerves?  Our guide, Alemu, picked us up and we headed to the courthouse.  We had to stop to make copies of our passports.  It was so hot out and there was a small shop across the street from the copy place that had raw meat hanging out.  I have never felt so close to passing out in my life.  Luckily I was able to hold myself together.  When we got to the courthouse we sat down in a small waiting room.  There were other families there too.  I assume they were all adopting as well.  They got called in one by one.  I had time to eat a granola bar that I had in my purse and I started feeling better.  We were called in all together, Andrew and I, and Amy and her father, along with Alemu.  It was just a small room with a female judge and someone collecting the paperwork.  She asked us a couple questions each.  "Do you have any other children at home?  Does she know about the adoption?  What does she think of it?  Have you met your son and spent time with him?  Do you understand this is final and once it is done, nothing can reverse it?  Do you still wish to proceed with this adoption?"  YES!!!  Then it was done.  She declared him ours by Ethiopian law, and we were excused.  I had a huge lump in my throat again...but this time is was from holding back happy tears.  He was mine.  After all of the waiting...he was ours.

We grabbed a quick celebratory coffee with Alemu.  Then we headed back to the room and decided to grab some dinner at The Friendship Cafe.  Amy and her dad were leaving that night so we said goodbye to them.  It was kind of sad because it was so nice having another family to do things with and experience this with.  We were on our own again.  But we enjoyed our dinner and had to walk back to the hotel in the dark.  I was really nervous, but it turned out to be fine.  We were leaving for Dire Dawa at 5am the next morning so knew we needed some sleep.  We watched some 30 Rock on the laptop, and went to bed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meeting my son...day 2 in Addis

I woke up at 5:30am on Monday.  There were dogs barking outside, a rooster who wanted the world the wake up, and all my mind could do was imagine what it would be like to hold my son for the first time.  All the months of paperwork, waiting, and the emotional roller coaster of it all, was finally going to be worth it.  I could not go back to sleep.  Thank goodness for wireless internet, even on the other side of the world.  Andrew and I got up and ready for the day and headed to our saving grace, Kaldi Coffee.  We have a new addiction for Ethiopian coffee...well...macchiatos really.  After a big breakfast of french toast and a good dose of caffeine, we headed back to meet with Amy and her father.  She is the other women from our agency who was also in Ethiopia to meet her son.  We hadn't met yet but I was anxious for some English speaking company.

Meeting Amy was great, she is so sweet and her Georgia accent is so charming.  Our driver arrived to take us to Engida and we headed off to meet our boys.  The drive there was much like the rest of the city we had seen.  There were people everywhere, walking down the road, laying in the grass, sitting against buildings, selling sunglasses and belts, and just hanging out.  But we had a good 20-30 minutes to chat a little, and think about our first meeting.  I had butterflies!!!!  I didn't know how it would be when we got there.  I sort of had this vision in my head of us waiting in a room and someone bringing him in...then there would be this big moment of pure joy as they passed us our son...

We pulled in to this super bumpy gravel drive with tiny little buildings on either side.  We stopped in front of a little gate and our driver got out and knocked.  We followed.  The lump in my throat was huge!  None of us really knew what to do...so we just stood there waiting for direction.  Someone came to the gate and let us in...I honestly cannot remember who it was.  But we went in and followed her up a windy staircase.  When we got to the top there were two rooms and a couple nannies caring for babies.  I was looking around trying to spot Amin.  Amy was told her son was asleep and we were ushered into the other small room.  Someone told us Amin was being washed.  So we stood there, waiting anxiously and smiling at the other babies.  I spotted a familiar face in an album in one of the cribs.  It was my friend Heidi who's son was also at Engida.  Then, a nanny came out of the tiny bathroom holding Amin.  She laid him on the changing table and took what felt like 10 minutes to put his diaper on and clothe him.  We just stood back watching.  No big anticipated moment, but amazing all the same.  Then she picked him up and handed him to me.  I held him close and kissed him over and over.  I was so overwhelmed with emotions.  It wasn't how I had imagined...but I was holding my boy.  He was soooooo sweet!  He is little, but chubby.  His skin is so smooth and soft.  He has these dark eyes that literally pierce your heart.  I could see my reflection in them.  I let Andrew have a turn as well and we took lots of pictures.  Our driver was sweet enough to record the meeting on my camera, but I don't think he knew it was a video b/c he was kind of all over the place.:)

By now Amy's son Michael was awake too and we were taken downstairs to the "sitting room."  We had about an hour and a half to hold him, kiss him, and play with him.  His smile is enormous!  He is getting a tiny tooth on the bottom as well.  It was great!  He never cried once.  I got to feed him, and then he fell asleep in my arms...all the waiting was truly worth it.  He is perfect.


After saying goodbye to the boys, we headed back to the hotel and grabbed some lunch at the Lime Tree with Amy and her dad.  Next, we had some time to rest in our rooms.  We were sooooo tired!  I guess all the emotions of the morning had wore us all out.

Our guide came and picked us up at 7pm to take us to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  It was soooo cool!  We all sat around a small round table and were served coffee and drinks.  Then we had some amazing Ethiopian food.  We let our guide choose what to order, and it was all yummy!  There was a big stage with performers singing and dancing all night.  It was so entertaining to watch the traditional dances that tell a story.  The music was great and the performers really got the crowd involved.


Overall, it was just a fabulous day.  I needed that after day one.  We slept great when we got back to the hotel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day one in Addis

When we woke up Sunday morning, we felt refreshed!  We were ready to meet with our guide and find out what the week had stored for us.  We had high hopes of being able to visit the orphanage.  But we waited and waited and still heard nothing from him.  The power at the Sadula went out for a while so we had no way to call him either.  Around 11am, we were able to use the man at the front desk's cell phone to contact our guide.  After we met with him, and found out we would not be able to go to the orphanage, we had enough time to go grab some lunch before our guide would pick us up for some shopping.  We walked around and found the Lime Tree restaurant.  Our food was good.  Well, mine was good, Andrew's pizza was just alright.  I got lentil soup and pasta with marinara, and he had pizza.

With very full stomachs we walked back to meet our guide and head off to shop for some souvenirs.  He drove us about 20 minutes through Addis.  It was cool to be able to see more of the city.  There is soooo much going on!!  There isn't a lot of regulations on driving so the roads are chaotic.  There was everything from palaces and men in suits, to shacks, homeless people, and herds of goats.  There is a lot of color everywhere!  All the little buildings lined up along the street are painted in different bright colors.  It's really beautiful.

When we got to the "shopping center" Alemu let us know he would be back in 2 or 3 hours...what?!?!  He was dropping us off!!  Just leaving us there!  My stomach turned a little.  I told him I thought 2 hours would be enough and he told us to meet him back in the same spot.  There were 2 roads that met in a corner to shop on.  There were about 15 or so tiny make shift shops on each road.  Each of the stores carried most of the same items, or similar things.  I found out I am NOT good at bargaining.  In fact, I am awful.  Andrew was a little better.  We got some great items...but the experience was bitter sweet.  There were so many children on the streets begging for food and saying, "hungry, hungry."  There was this one man in particular who was carrying a toddler on his back, while he was on crutches and only had one good foot.  It was just awful the way they looked at us...their eyes were just begging for something, anything.  The longer we were there, the more the crowd of beggars grew.  They could not come inside the stores, but they would wait outside the door for us to come back out.  They were relentless, no matter how many times we said no thank you to their sunglasses, belts, tooth brushes, and maps.  We were so afraid to give any handouts because there were so many people wanting.  We were afraid once we gave someone something, it would get worse.  It sounds horrible to say...but it was really a little scary.  I was so uncomfortable and my heart was breaking for them...I wanted to give...but it didn't feel safe to do so.  I just wanted our guide to come back.  We finished shopping in about an hour.  But we couldn't wait on the street for him to come back so we just kept on pretending to look in the same shops we had already been to.  Finally, we met 2 guys who became a huge blessing!!!!  They took us under their wings and totally looked out for us.  They invited us to sit in the entryway of their shop.  They brought us chairs and offered us coffee and tea.  They very gently encouraged the beggars to stay back and move on.  Some little girls came around and just stood near us, playing, but watching us.  They were to intrigued.  And the guys who were helping us were SOOOO friendly and kind.  I felt so much better.  I wanted to be able to thank them in some way, but wasn't sure how.  Now I wish I would have given them something.  But we just talked with them, taking turns asking questions about each other.  They spoke enough English that we could communicate ok.  I am so glad we met them!!  It was so nice to just be able to interact with the locals a little, without feel intimidated.


One major thing I have noticed in the day we have been here is how much the people here in Ethiopia love.  You see men walking hand in hand or arm in arm.  They greet each other with hugs and often stand with one hand on the other's shoulder while speaking.  It's so endearing to see.  They have huge smiles and are just kind.  God is here....you can feel it.

Flying day...

The day we left was just chaotic!  We had a few last minute errands to run, and wanted to spend some time with Maya before we left.  So we ran around, got new tires, and took Maya to lunch.  After that we went home, packed up the Aspen...and drove Maya to Cassie's house.  It was just awful saying goodbye because I knew Maya didn't really realize how long we would be gone.  Thankfully, she is in SUCH good hands!  I am so thankful for my family and friends who have really looked out us and helped make this time as easy as possible for us.

After drying my tears, we enjoyed the rest of the drive to Chicago full of anticipation and nerves.  We really didn't know what to expect.  Neither Andrew or I have done much international travel.  My sweet sister, Carri, greeted us in Chicago with a beer to calm our nerves before driving us to the airport.

Flight one went well.  It was pretty smooth and we were able to get a little sleep, although it took a while to get tired enough to ignore how uncomfortable plane sleeping is.  Once we got to Istanbul...things got a little crazy.  We got off the plane and were completely lost!  We had no idea what gate we needed, and it wasn't showing on any of the screens.  We tried to ask, but the airport employees didn't speak English and better than we spoke their language.  Eventually we figured it out and were able to relax a little.

The second flight was rough.  We were exhausted, but couldn't sleep well.  Our monitors that each seat have for watching movies and listening to music were broken in our row.  Just our luck.  BUT, we had lots of time to think about what was to come.  I was nervous about the culture shock and what it would be like to be placed in uncomfortable positions that we weren't used to.  I was nervous about court, and mostly just the unknown of the whole trip.  That flight was only 6 hours and soon enough, we had landed....in ETHIOPIA!  IT was a great feeling to finally be there!

The airport in Addis is NOT like our airports in the states, or even the one in Istanbul.  But we got our visas, found our luggage, and then met our very sweet driver who greeted us with a huge smile and hugs.  He drove us to the Sadula, our hotel.  There, we unwinded a little and went to bed.  It felt so good to lay down!!!  My mind went about a million miles a minute with thoughts of what was to come....until I finally dozed off.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

3 more days!!

Well, we leave in 3 days.  What?!  Really?  And just when I was starting to feel super stressed and overwhelmed, a wave a calm came over me out of nowhere.  Not really out of nowhere.  God has really had a way of placing some amazing people in my life along this journey.  I have made some forever friends through the process of adoption, and I could not be more thankful for them.

I have been prayed for, confided in, and calmed by their words and friendship.  So, although I am soooo nervous, I am also excited and hopeful about this trip to Ethiopia.  I know I have family and friends at home who, although they are not coming on a plane with us, will be with us the whole way!  One of my biggest fears is leaving my sweet 3 year old at home, but I also have the peace in my heart of knowing she is in good hands with my mom and cousins.

So, when you ask me if I am ready....the answer is yes.  I am ready.  I am also scared, nervous, anxious, excited, and sort of freaking out.  But my faith in the fact that God is leading us down this path and the knowledge that he has been with us all along, makes me confident that everything will be ok.

Thank you to my family and friends who have supported us in this.  Thanks to my special adoptive mama friends who have really comforted me in sooooo many ways.  You ladies are truly God sent!  And thank you for your continued prayers as we embark on this journey to meet our son.  I will try to keep you all updated from Ethiopia the best I can.

XOXO

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

COURT!!

I got another much anticipated phone call this morning!  It was our case worker letting me know we have been scheduled for court on Nov. 13th!  We got our referral less than 3 weeks ago!  What a blessing that things seem to be moving along quickly!  Time seems to finally be on our side.:)

So we are meeting with our case worker tomorrow morning to go over travel plans, paperwork, etc.  Then we will book our flights with a travel agent.  We are planning on being in Ethiopia for about 10 days.  We will get to spend some time with our son in the orphanage, visit some local sites/markets, and travel down for a 2 night stay to Dire Dawa, where our son is from.  I am beyond excited, and so nervous too!  I don't really know what to expect.  I know there will be a culture shock for sure...but I think we need that.

I am most nervous about leaving Maya for 10 days.  I have never been away from her for more than 5 days...and even that was hard!  I am so lucky to have the best family ever.  My cousin's Matt and Val are going to be taking Maya while we're gone...she is so excited to spend time in Ohio with the family and her cousins!  At least I know she will be in good hands between my mom and family!  I am soooo thankful to have them!

I feel so blessed that we are able to have this experience.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us from here on out.  This journey has been hard, crazy, long, stressful, rewarding, emotional, and eye opening....I am thankful for all of it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Call

I have been questioned lately...a lot.  People always want to know why.  Why did you choose to adopt?  Why don't you just have more of your "own" children. (one of my personal faves)  Can't you have more children?  Do you want more biological children?  Why Ethiopia and not America?

I know the majority of my friends and family ask b/c they genuinely care...and I really appreciate that!  I don't want people to feel they cannot ask questions.  I am not afraid to answer questions from people who ask out of love.

So, I thought I would just take a quick minute and answer some of these questions.:)

Q: Why did we choose to adopt?  A: Why not adopt?

Q: Why don't you have more of your own children?  A: I am...all of my children will be my "own" children.

Q: Can't you have more children?  A: Yes, I am going to have more children.  I might not give birth to them, but they will be mine.

Q: Do you want more bio kids?  A: Maybe, if that is what God calls me to do.

Q: Why Ethiopia and not America?  A: There are millions of orphans all over the world. No matter where they are from, they deserve families.  Our hearts and souls were pulled to answer the call in Africa.  I cannot explain it any other way.

I know people do not mean to be offensive most of the time.  But I am in this.  Every emotion in me is being tested every day.  I have invested my entire being into this process.  So when people question my motives...it makes me feel they think I am making a mistake.  You don't get this far into a process without thinking it through.  Trust me when I say, we have thought this through.  We are 100% aware of what we are doing.

A typical marathon is roughly 26 miles.  On the last mile of this race...people do not question the runner or ask him or her why she is doing this.  Nobody tells the runner to turn around or questions their motives.  They stand on the side and cheer, yelling words of encouragement.  This is what we need right now.

Everyone is called to do certain things.  And most of what God calls us to do is HARD.  Sometimes we choose to listen, and other times it takes a lot of persuasion.  We are afraid to do something that will require a lot of us...something hard.  My life has been pretty easy for the most part.  I can say with certainty, an orphans life is waaaaay harder than my life will ever be.  So I am choosing adoption.  I don't need anyone's approval, or even understanding.  But it sure feels good when I have it.:)


Friday, October 12, 2012

Care Package

I am so excited to be sending our lil man his very first care package from Mommy and Daddy!  I got him 2 pairs of pajamas and a cute baby photo album that we filled with pictures of us...his new family!!  Now, I know that at 4 months old, it may seem silly to think he will know who we are.  But it is more than that.  Just to know that something from us is finally there with him is a comforting feeling.

I had a hard time last night out of nowhere when I was looking at his picture, which is currently my screen saver.  My stomach dropped because it all of the sudden hit me that he doesn't have his mommy right now.  I mean, this seems obvious, right?  But I started to think of all that it means.  I remember when Maya was a baby.  She needed me for all of the necessities of course...feeding, changing diapers, bathing, getting dressed, etc.  But she needed me for so much more than that too.  Andrew and I were her everything.  We held her, kissed her, hugged her....we met her emotional needs just as much.  She knew who we were and felt comfort and love in our arms.  She felt safe with us.  I am sure our lil man had that too at first.  But then...he didn't.  For the past few months he has been depending on the women, the nannies, in the orphanage to meet his needs.  I am praying that they meet his emotional needs as well as his physical ones...but I just can't help but think it's not the same.  There isn't that one "mommy."  I am so scared that he feels lonely...and I know that we are going to have to gain his trust and teach him how to depend on us when we bring him home.  We will do our best to be his everything too...it may take time...but we will be there the whole way.

I do have the peace of mind that God is wrapping his arms around him every day, and every night.  He is, after all, Gods child to begin with.  I also had the pleasure of speaking with a couple families who have recently traveled to the same orphanage our son is at.  They have had nothing but good things to say about the nannies there and the level of care the children receive.  It sets my heart at ease a little.  I know they are holding him and snuggling him for me.

So until we can go to him, we feel so blessed to have other families traveling who are willing to bring him little  gifts for us as we continue to care for him from afar.  Please join us in praying for our little baby...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER!!

4:43pm on Friday, October 5, 2012 was the moment my heart almost exploded with joy.  It went something like this:
"Hello?"
"Amy?"
"Yes, hi."
"It's ____ from your agency."
"Oh, hi, how's it going?"
(this is the part where I was worried something was wrong b/c I was not expecting a referral for a few more weeks and couldn't let myself get excited yet)
"I'm calling with the call you have been waiting for...."
(me sobbing and laughing uncontrollably)
"Sweet!"
(yes...I said "sweet."  I have no idea why...or where it came from...but that was my choice of words...)

She proceeded to tell me the best news I could have asked for.  They had a beautiful, healthy, 4 month old baby boy for us...he was going to be MY SON!  It was more than I could take.  She gave me lots of details...and thankfully also told me she would be emailing me all of it, since I would no doubt forget everything she said to me during that call beyond...."we have a child for you."

It was so surreal!  I paced around the house, my hands were shaking, and I couldn't stop smiling as the tears poured down my cheeks.  This was the news I had been waiting to hear.  I just couldn't believe it actually happened!  I was going to have a SON!

When Andrew got home, we opened the email together so we could see our sons face together for the first time.  He is perfect.  He is beautiful.  He looks healthy!!  His cheeks are so round and his eyes just pierce my heart.  We love him!

And now..........more waiting.  We wait for a court date so we can plan our trip to go meet him, to hold him, to kiss those chubby cheeks!  I will pray that the next month goes by quickly!!  Man, I am going to have to stay REALLY busy!  But for now, I can't stop staring at the picture of this smooth skinned beautiful boy with eyes that melt me to the core.....

Monday, October 1, 2012

On Pins and Needles...

I am on them right now...pins and needles that is.  September was a month full of yearning and hope.  Yearning to hear about progress and of new faces moving to Jane's House.  Hope that the courts would open up on October first, and referrals would start coming again.

We moved up to number 5 at some point throughout the month, which was amazing.  I remember starting out on the list at number 22 and moving up 12 spots in just 2 months!  It was so exciting!  Then we were hit hard by the realization that we were not going to get our baby as soon as we had anticipated due to the rainy season and court closure in Ethiopia.  The next few months droned on as we moved only 4 spots in 4 months.

But as we sit, a little antsy, in number 5...I finally feel like there is a light at the end of this tunnel!  I am currently waiting to get the September updates from my case worker...have we moved up?  I don't think so. But I know there are good things to come...and maybe soon!!  I was informed last week that there are 3 infants at Jane's House right now waiting to be referred.  With only one or two families ahead of us waiting for an infant, this was music to my ears!  Could my son be there right now as I type this??  I pray that he is.  I pray that there are women there who are loving him, and holding him, and telling him it won't be long now.

Mommy and daddy are waiting for him.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Praying for him

At the end of August, we were still number 6, which means we didn't move up since July.  It was a little rough, but at the same time, we kind of expected it.  At the beginning of Sept a referral went out which moved us up to number 5!!  It's hard to believe we started at number 22, and now there are only 4 families ahead of us!!  As we are getting closer to meeting our son, I am reminded that prayer is so important during this time.

It's so easy to remember to pray for our journey...but we often forget we need to pray for our son's journey as well.  The thought of adding a child to our family is so exciting and makes us so happy.  But I need to remind myself sometimes that although our journey began almost 2 years ago, his journey is just beginning.  His journey is one full of loss and grief, and possibly physical or emotional trauma.  As we are gaining a family member, he is losing family members.  This is a part of adoption that that many people forget about.  In order for us to gain a son, someone is losing one.

I often have wondered along this journey, has my son been born yet?  Where is he?  Is he safe?  Is he being loved?  Is he hungry?  Is he with a family or in an orphanage already?  These are not easy things to think about.  They leave me starving to know him.  Every child's adoption story is different, but I have rarely, if ever, heard of one that begins with smiles and joy.  So, whatever circumstances lead up to my son having to lose his birth family, I hope and pray that God is wrapping his arms around him, and the one's who are possibly struggling to give him a better chance at life.  As we get closer, I sense that this is a tough time for those on the other end of this journey.  I hope and pray that they are blessed and comforted by the peace only God can give.

So if you're reading this, please pray not only for us and our journey, but for him, and his....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Things are slow

The courts closed on August 16 due to the annual rainy season.  They are expected to open back up sometime in the first couple weeks of October.  Things have been pretty slow this summer.  There were no referrals for a whole month, which was difficult.  However, things are expected to start moving along again soon.

We had originally hoped to have our baby home by the end of this year.  We have since come to grips with the fact that this probably won't happen.  But we have faith in God's timing, as hard as it is sometimes.  I know that, much like other things in our life, everything happens for a reason.  It is all part of a bigger plan.  I am very thankful for Maya and Andrew who have made this journey bearable.  If it weren't for the two of them, I would have had many more meltdowns.  Andrew has been my rock, always going with the flow and rarely being shaken by the process.  Maya has been a light through it all.  She keeps me smiling and busy every day.

We will receive our September updates at the end of the month.  I am praying for more referrals to go out this month so we will move closer to getting ours!

Monday, June 18, 2012

May updates

At the end of May we had moved up to number 10 on the wait list!!!!!  That's 6 more spots in one month!  We are so happy about our progress on the wait list and eagerly await what June and July may bring!  The wait is getting harder as we get closer to a referral...but I know all the emotions of this wait till be erased when we get that phone call and finally see our baby boy.

As for now...I wait by my phone and hope every day that it will ring with good news on the other end...and try to be as patient as possible.:)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Well, we got our April updates at the beginning of the week.  We are now number 16 on the waiting list.  This pretty exciting news.  It means that in the 6 weeks we have been on the list, we have already moved up 6 spots.  That's a spot a week!:)  However, we also found out that if we don't get a referral in the next 6 weeks, chances of us traveling before the Ethiopian courts close from Aug to Oct are slim to none.  Which also means that we will not have our baby boy home by  the end of this year like we had hoped.  It's a little disappointing to say the least.  I guess I am glad I know so I can mentally prepare for this...but it is hard to think of the holidays without our baby when I had been imagining how fun it would to celebrate with him. Again, God is proving his timing is better than my own. I will just need to have comfort in that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our adoption timeline

I wanted to add a timeline with significant dates on our adoption journey. Here is what we have from the beginning of the process until present.

February 21, 2011: Attended an adoption seminar hosted by Bethany

March 2011: Turned in our preliminary application for international adoption at Bethany

April 2011: Turned in our formal application to Bethany

May 31st, 2011: Our first of three home study meetings.

October 4, 2011: Completed the home study

November 2011: switched to Adoption Associates

February 17, 2012: Completed and sent our dossier to Washington D.C.

March 16: We are officially on the wait list for an infant boy from Ethiopia-Number 22

March update: 19

April Update:  16

May update: 10

June:  8

July:  6

August: 6

September:  5

October 5, 2012: REFERRAL!!!!

Oct 24: Found out our court date

November 13: COURT!



I can't wait to add more significant dates to this timeline!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

19th of 20

So March turned into a great referral month for our agency...we moved up from number 22 to 19 in just 10 days! I am hoping this trend continues as we are so anxious to receive a referral. I cannot wait to lay eyes on my baby boy! My heart aches when I think about him being out there and not knowing we are waiting here for him. I will continue to post where we stand on the waiting list each month. My case worker usually sends an update at the end of each month.

We are currently trying to come up with boy names...not to say we will definitely change his birth name...it will all depend. But in the meantime, it sure is fun coming up with names we like! (and also very difficult.) I have so many girl names I love...and very few boy names...

Monday, March 19, 2012

22 out of 23

We MADE it! We are finally officially on the waiting list for an infant boy from Ethiopia!!!! It is a strange feeling to be here now...it has been about a year since we started this journey. We never thought then that it would take us an entire year to get here. God has definitely shown us once again that this life, this journey, is not in our hands but in his. We have learned to be patient, we have made mistakes, we have felt heart broken and frustrated, and we have felt true hope...and are still learning to keep the faith. I know that Andrew and I have become stronger as a couple, and as a family through this all and I hope that this journey continues to bring us even more joy and revelation.

As of now, March 19, 2012, we are number 22 out of 23 on the waiting list. This doesn't mean a whole lot other than that there are 21 families waiting in line ahead of us. However, each family has their own preferences for a child as far as age, gender, and even health specifications. Therefore, the number is just a number. But it is all we have right now so we are wearing 22 proudly and with much anticipation of the numbers before us dwindling. I will keep the blog updated as the numbers go down.:)

SO thankful and SO in love already with a child we have yet to lay eyes on.<3

Monday, February 27, 2012

On it's way!

Our dossier is finally on it's way! We recieved our immigration approval on Friday, February 16. This completed our dossier checklist of documents to send to Ethiopia. We got it all sent out to Washington DC to be translated and certified the next day. It was an AMAZING feeling, like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We are done with paperwork! (at least for now) There is nothing in limbo, not waiting for paperwork to be returned, or signed, or notarized. It just feels good.

Now the real waiting begins. We are hoping that the paperwork will be sent to Ethiopia in the next week or two which will put us on the waiting list. It looks like we will be number 20 on the list. However, not everyone on the list is waiting for the same age or gender of a child. Fromm the way I counted it, there are 7 families ahead of us who have similar preferences. So once they have accepted a referral, we would be next in line for an infant boy.:)

I have been watching youtube videos of "meetcha days" and different adoption stories....I cannot wait to watch ours unfold! I am so excited to hear that phone ring with the news that we have a referral....that our boy is waiting for us like we are waiting for him. I read a poem last night that brought tears to me eyes:

Kisses in the Wind:

I hold you in my heart and touch you in my dreams.
You are here each day with me, at least that's how it seems.

I know you wonder where we are... what's taking us so long.
But remember child, I love you so and God will keep you
strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your
skin...
Because tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the
wind.

May God hold you in His hand until I can be with you.
I promise you, my darling, I'm doing all that I can do.

Very soon, you'll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the
wind.

May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that I send to you each
night

It's getting so real now. I just want to see his face and hold him in my arms. Hopefully in a few months, we will have a little face put in a picture frame until we can actually meet him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So close I can taste it!

After we resent our immigration request, we received a letter about a week later with our finger printing appointment on it. It was all set for January 3, which is today. Buuut, we went early and although they were not thrilled about it, they took us anyway on December 16. I have been hearing that we should get an approval sometime around mid-January, as this has been the trend over the past few months. Once we hear back from immigration, we will need to get our dossier state sealed. Then we will be ready to send all of our paperwork in! From what I understand, we first need to send it to the Assistant Stork, who then brings the dossier to the Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington D.C. to get authenticated. They will send it back to our agency within about 10 days. Then AAI will be sending it directly to Ethiopia!! (assuming all of our fees are paid) It is at that point that we will finally be a "waiting" family!! We are so excited to be on the wait list! This is when the "real" waiting starts...which is funny considering we feel like we have been waiting since we first decided to adopt and turned in our preliminary application in March of 2011. Once we are officially moved to the wait list, it can be any day that we will recieve a phone call from our case worker that they have a baby for us!!!! We have an estimated wait period of 0-4 months. So it could be any time! We are so ready to hear some good news and be able to share it with our family and friends! Stay tuned!!!!!!