Monday, August 31, 2009

The Long Way Home, Thursday, August 13- 14

Today we spent more time being a family of 4. WOW. I also spent a lot of time packing. Emotions were mixed between being anxious to get home & settled, and the sadness of leaving the place where we became a family with our new son. We will never forget our time in Ethiopia.

Our journey home was an experience of many frustrations. When you arrive at the Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, you go through security to enter the airport. Because of the power outages, we had purchase a "portable" battery pack for Pete's CPAP. It took us at least 30 minutes before they decided that they would allow Pete to bring it, but only if it was in his checked luggage.

When we got to our departure gate, we passed through security fairly quickly. Then found out our flight was delayed. We found a seating area where Michael was able to stretch out, and both boys fell asleep. We were awake. The flight ended up being delayed about 3 hours. The boys slept. We were awake.

We finally got going, and made the fuel stop in Khartoum, Sudan. This stop was supposed to be less than an hour. It ended up being about 2.5 hours. 77 + degrees outside the airplane, no AC inside the airplane. They had oversold & taken on too many passengers in Khartoum, then had to find and remove the luggage of those who they needed to de-plane. Melting, we were finally on our way. We were assured that all of our flight arrangements would be taken care of by the time we arrived in Amsterdam.

Our flight arrangements were not taken care of. We went to what they call the "transfer desk" (for people with connections). I was first in line, aside from the people already working with agents. The agent advised me that they were "too busy" at that station, and I would have to go to the next one. Got to the next station, and there was a long line. When I finally got up to an agent, she said that the changes were already made, and that she would just need to print boarding passes. During conversation, I discovered that she had 40 years working with KLM. Yet, somehow, it managed to take her 45 minutes to print our boarding passes; with the wrong seat assignments. She also gave us a bunch of coupons that would be worthless to us, because we no longer had time to use them. We had to rush to our gate, through security, and have the gate agents fix the boarding passes. Apparently, European airports are not air conditioned (according to another traveller). Amsterdam was no exception.

We were originally to go through Minneapolis. Due to our delays, we went through Detroit instead. We were sitting at the bulk head behind the first class cabin. Michael had to go potty, and both aisles behind us were blocked by service carts. I did what I expect any mom would do, and tried to take him to the forward lav. The flight attendant actually turned us away! I couldn't believe it (I know that this lav is generally reserved for first class, but I expect exceptions for handicapped, elderly, and children). For any of you that have had a child that is bashful about using the potty, you probably understand that this meant Michael wouldn't be going potty at this time. I was just lucky he didn't wet his pants. Then, when we landed, they actually made the coach class wait to get off the plane until first class (maybe they always do this, but I don't recall seeing it before). UGH! I thought stearage sank with the Titanic.

By the time we got through immigration, we had just enough time to get to our flight. This was challenging, because by now, the zipper was broken on one of our back packs. As we neared the gate, we saw that the flight was to be delayed. Michael was quite hungry, so he & Pete went to get a burger. I settled in at the gate, and approached the agent to ask about correcting our seat assignments. She told me I would have to wait for the other agent to arrive. When the gate agent arrive, she walked up and said "Get in line people, we're boarding". I walked up and asked her about our seating, to which her response was "You'll have to take care of that yourself onboard". So, I asked if she could at least make a general boarding call, since my husband and son left the boarding area (I thought this was a VERY reasonable request). She said "That's not my problem".

The highlight of this flight was definately the other passengers going to our city. One went to see if Pete & Michael were coming, many others helped carry our stuff (and the food Pete & Michael had gotten), and by the time we were on the airplane there were 3 seats (one in front of the other two) waiting for us.

Just to top it off, Sid let loose with a blowout while we were on final. So, before we could get off the last airplane, we changed a diaper. It was so nice to be home! We were greeted by Pete's sister Barb & her family, as well as our neighbor Molly & her girls. It was very nice to have them there. We went home, and Barb made us a nice supper. Thankfully, that first night home, Sid slept very well.........

A Day as A Family, Wednesday, August 12

This was our first full day together as a family. We spent the day getting to know Sid and his schedule. We also hung out at the guest house and visited with other families. Michael and his new friends did some plays & a talent show to entertain the families. I went out shopping for a brief time with a few of the others. We went to ALERT, which is a Leper Hospital. To support the hospital, they have a store there with goods that are made on site. We got to see them spinning thread and weaving fabric. The people there were so thankful that we visited their store, it was very touching.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Family Day, Tuesday, August 11

This was a big day with the Goodbye Ceremony in the morning, and US Embassy appointments in the afternoon, and at the end of the Embassy appointments, Sid is in our arms forever. No more visiting & saying goodbye.

At the Goodbye Ceremony, the nannies brought the children in wearing traditional clothes. The nannies also wore traditional clothing. The families circled the nannies, while they prayed in Amharic. It was a sad feeling to then be taking the children from the nannies who had obviously shown them so much love & affection. Handprints were made of each child for rememberance. Next was the cake cutting. By tradition, the 2 oldest children cut the cake. There were a lot of tears.

We returned with the kids to the guest house for lunch. After lunch, we loaded ino the "Magic Bus" for the trip to the Embassy for the children's US Immigrant Visas. While time consuming, the process was fairly smooth. The rest of the day, we spent time relaxing with OUR kids.

I will have to see if there are any pictures from the Goodbye Ceremony I can copy and paste here. We were not able to take any, as cameras are not allowed in the Care Center. Cameras/Electronics are also not allowed at the Embassy.

Tired mom giving Sid his bedtime bottle:

Touring Day, Monday, August 10

We were supposed to get to spend time with the kiddos this morning. Instead, they had to go to their final Embassy check-up. Many of us used the spare time to get our formula & baby cereal. They use different products in Ethiopia than we do in the US, and many children need time to adjust to the change in flavor/texture of what they are eating. In the late morning, we saw the kids for about an hour, had lunch with them, and had to drop them off at the Care Center.

The afternoon and evening proved to be busy. First, we toured some of the CHS projects in Addis Ababa. We went to Sipara Special Mother & Child Health Center. Considering the small size of the facility, what they do is amazing. The doctor estimated that they deliver 200 babies a month. On top of that, they provide pediatric care and vaccinations for children well into their youth. Payments are based on family income & ability to pay, patients are not turned away do to lack of income. In order to maintain a strict line between humanitarian & adoption services, parents may not relinquish their children at Sipara.

We then visited the school, convention, & conference center. This is clearly placed in a higher income area of Addis Ababa. This is important, because the goal of this project is to become income producing, in order to support projects such as the school in Hosanna. Children's families pay tuition for them to attend the school in Addis. They are adding a grade a year to the school, and currently serve K-6.

Next up was the Ethiopian National Museum. We didn't spend a lot of time here, and Michael was ready for a break by this time. He was having a hard time listening, and we spoke stearnly to him. He still wasn't listening, and at this point, I noticed we were being watched & followed. I got to Michael's level, and stressed how important it was that he listen to us and stay close, as there was obvious risk of someone believing that he did not belong with us. We visited the bones of "Lucy" there, although we aren't sure if they were the real thing or a recreation. There was a window in the room, so they could be exposed to sunlight. Seemed odd.

On the way back to the Guest House, a portion of our group stopped at Kaldi Coffee. The Starbucks of Ethiopia. As I understand it, the service was better. I think it was cheaper, too.

In the evening, we went to Yod Abyssinia for traditional Ethiopian Food & dancing. Michael actually liked the Zil Xil Tibs. Everyone enjoyed the music & dancers, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hosanna Town, Sunday, August 9

Today was a LONG day! We made the trip south to Hosanna Town. Above is scenery on the drive. It is very green. In southern Ethiopia, drought is referred to as green drought, as there is enough moisture for grass and trees, but not crops. This is the area where many of the children are from, and it is our opportunity to meet birth parents or care givers (prior to becoming an orphan). We were on the bus and ready to go at 6 am for the 4 hour drive. We stopped about half way there at a hotel in a town called Butajira to use the rest rooms. The rest room here is a combined men's/women's room (used by both sexes at the same time). There was a urinal at the end of the row of stalls, so that a man using it would be facing away from those entering the rest room. You bring toilet paper with you, because it is not generally provided in places like this. Hotel in Butajira:

When we arrived at the CHS-ET south office, we all went into a room and waited our turn to meet with those who may have come. Another nervous time. Our meeting was very touching, we feel confident that we know Sid's story as accurately as possible.

After the meetings were complete, an entrustment ceremony was held that included prayers for the birth/first families of the children, and the adoptive parents. Following the prayer was the exchange of a candle symbolizing the passing of the child from one family to the other. It was beautiful and moving. I was crying quite a lot, and could barely speak the prayer. Here we are holding the candle from the entrustment ceremony:

When the entrustment ceremony was complete, a traditional Ethiopian Coffee ceremony was held. Yes, I did drink the coffee. Pete spilled his! We then walked down to the old orphanage building to use the rest room. We were followed along the road by many curious children! Pictured below is the setting for the coffee ceremony:

We loaded back in the bus to visit some of the CHS-ET projects aimed to help improve the lives of families in the area. First was a drive by a bakery provided where Injera can be made to sell at market for families to earn income. Next was a school that will be opening this fall. It will be tuition free for those attending. One of the CHS school buildings in Hosanna Town:

Our last stop, and maybe most exciting, was a visit to a traditional Ethiopian hut. A passerby saw us there and taking pictures of the children (who ask to be photographed), and was quite insistant about wanting to arrest us all. After quite a long discussion between the man, the Ethiopian social workers, & our bus driver, we were on our way. The social worker boarded the bus and exclaimed "Good thing you are americans!". I think they must have successfully convinced the man that arresting a large group of Americans would be too much trouble! Traditional hut we visited:

Care Team Meetings, Saturday, August 8

Today all the families had meetings with their children's care teams. Care teams include the doctor, one of the primary nannies, and the social worker. We had an opportunity to ask questions, and watch a video containing information about our children's lives prior to coming into care. Watching the video was the most emotional part of this day. Life for many in Ethiopia is hard at best. Makes you really grateful for the many blessings we have in our daily lives. While we waited for other families to complete their meetings, we were able to spend more time with Sid.

While this trip is to pick up our children, it is also about learning about their history, Ethiopian culture & lifestyle. The afternoon was spent on a shopping outing. We went to an open air market. It was quite crowded, the people in the shops were trying to get passers by to shop in their store, and people would approach you trying to sell various items. Adults with things like maps & sunglasses, children selling packs of gum & tissues. While it is expected to barter a bit at these shops, I always find that a difficult task when I feel so blessed. It was a very interesting experience. A little intimidating, too. Below are pictures from the Merkado, the largest market in Africa. This is NOT where we shopped, but they took us through so we could see it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Meeting Sid, Friday, August 7

Got up early this morning to take showers. The power went out during Pete's shower. Power in Ethiopia is hydro-electric. The reservoirs do not have enough water for power 24/7 at this time, so the power is out every other day. We dressed Michael as he slept, and woke him up to go down for breakfast.

We roamed the guest house driveway and terrace momentarily, wondering which door of which building would lead to the dining room (building B, the long stairway, FYI). I was really excited to see that they were serving pancakes for breakfast, because I thought that Micheal would like that. Sadly, he was still in that "settling in" mode, and didn't eat much.

After breakfast, we boarded the bus to head to the CHS Office. There, we climbed the stairs to the 4th floor (numbering: Ground, 1, 2, ...) for the beginning of our orientation. It was short, but seemed long as we were waiting to meet our children.

We then headed over to meet the kids. All families waited nervously for their child's name to be called. When they called Sidamo's name, we followed the Social Worker & the camera man up the stairs to his room. I am sure I started crying on the first step, and I was nervously trying to keep the provided slip on shoes from falling off my feet.

We walked into Sid's room, and one of the nannies handed him to Pete (I think I was trying to set Michael down). Pete handed Sid to me. It was a wonderful moment. Sid is such a content baby, and while obviously concerned, he did not cry or push us away. We posed for the agency photgraphers to snap some photos (we are not allowed to bring cameras to the care center), then we were able to take Sid downstairs to the common room to play. The common room was scattered with parents anxiously waiting to meet their little ones, and other families just united for the first time.

After playing, we took Sid back to his room for lunch. We got to help feed him the very first day! After feeding Sid, it was time for us to go back to the guest house for lunch. The rest of the day was filled with more orientation, then more precious time with our beautiful Sid.

Arriving Ethiopia, Thursday, August 6

We arrived in Addis Ababa on time. After our flight landed, we went through the line to get our Visas, and the lines for immigration & customs. The wait for the Visas and immigration were quite long -- about an hour & a half. Ato (Mister) Girma met us outside of customs & we waited briefly for the other family that was on our flight. Whe they joined us, Ato Girma led us all to the CHS "magic" bus. After load our luggage in the CHS van, we boarded the bus and were on our way to the guest house.

We arrived at the Guest House around 11 pm. Ato Girma pointed us in the general direction of our assigned rooms, and the families all headed off to get settled in. We went to our assigned room, A6. The room is tan, and dimly lit. Outside is cool and damp, and so is our room. There are thick, warm blankets on the bed, as well as a traditional looking Ethiopian bedspread. The following description of the room is primarily for the benefit of future travellers. This room has a private entry. There are slide on shoes provided in the room. It is a large room with a double bed (what we would call a queen bed in the US), a single bed, and a crib in the corner. There are 3 locking cabinets. There is plenty of space to lay out all of your suitcases. There is a private bathroom. The floor is pretty much always damp feeling in the rainy season. The shower has an on demand water heater, there is no hot water for the sink. Also, there is no shower curtain--there is a hand held sprayer, so you can hold it and spray yourself (helps to keep the water from getting all over the bathroom). Sleeping was difficult the first night, and we had to get up at 6 am on Friday morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The busiest baby we have ever seen...

Sidamo is a very busy boy. So far, changing diapers is a 2 person job. He doesn't sit still for very long. He is easily contented and happy. He will cry only if he is hungry. He eats well, and figured out how to take a bottle pretty much right away.

Next up: 24 hours of travel with the busiest baby we have ever seen (or, How do you do a 2 person diaper change in an airplane lavatory?).....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sidamo... our arms forever August 11, 2009.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Here In Ethiopia

Hi All!

We made it to Ethiopia safe and sound. We got to spend quite a bit of time with Sidamo Friday. He is doing great! He is crawling, and starting to "cruise". It is obvious the nannies all love him very much!

Michael is doing great, too. He was sad that we couldn't bring Sid back with us on the very first day. He keeps saying, I love my baby brother. What a sweetheart.

Today we went to Hosanna. It was a long and emotional trip. Much more to share, but right now, I have to share this computer!

Love to all,

Paula, Pete, & Michael

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Test Post

This is a post via e-mail to make sure the function works, in case we have the time/ability to post while in Ethiopia......