Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thanks for all the comments.  They mean the world to us.  It’s been a challenge to find the time and means to blog everyday from Ethiopia, but I’m very grateful I’ve made the effort. This is one of the only important times in my life when I haven’t felt guilty for not recorded more about it. Thanks for encouraging me, everyone.

First, a few notes to add to previous posts:

Often we are not able to add photos to the blog till after I write, because they take FOREVER (as in go cook dinner and come back!) to upload here. So be sure to check the last couple of posts for photos added after the fact.

2. Vomit and Gaetcho
I can’t believe I forgot to mention yesterday that Jasper vomited—ROYALLY—in the van yesterday morning. He had taken his malaria meds about 20 minutes before breakfast, and they are pretty rotten on an empty stomach. He felt fine till he’d finished his whole plate of scrambled eggs, then suddenly thought maybe he’d eaten too fast. We got in the van to head to the airport and pick up our luggage. Jasper was lying down because he didn’t feel good, and we were pretty much ignoring him and telling him he’d be fine. All of a sudden he sat up and spewed all over the floor of the van. It was so powerful it even hit Steve’s shoulder and Ruby’s hair, two rows ahead. I yelled at Gaetcho to pull over, which he did immediately to an angry honk. Jasper hopped out of the car and proceeded to throw up three more times. Afterward he felt great, of course.

We had to go straight on to the airport, where Gaetcho (pronounced Gay-Cho) had no way to clean out the van. We then went to the embassy, and returned immediately because they were closed, so Gaetcho again had no chance to clean out the van. Finally, while we were meeting the girls at the orphanage, Gaetcho went somewhere and hosed it out (that’s how they clean cars at the car wash here—routinely hose out the entire interior. Perhaps you should try it at Jolley’s Car Wash, Williams?). Luckily, it wasn’t very smelly. We apologized all over ourselves and offered to clean it, but Gaetcho refused.

Then, at our next stop, the Internet Café for blogging, there was no room for the kids to stand inside with us. Gaetcho ended up tended our kids out in the waiting area (with 7ups) for an hour. This is not his job—he is just the driver. But our translator/host had not been able to make it yesterday. By the end of the day, we had dragged Gaetcho around for 7 hours. Throughout that whole time, we peppered him with a gazillion questions while he drove—translation and otherwise. Mom and Dad, you know me and my tremendous ability to berate people with questions. Well, I’m so curious I can’t resist being in top form here. Abebe, the lawyer, got very frustrated with me yesterday and told me not to pester him. As if I don’t have a right to understand my own adoption?! Anyway, Gaetcho bore the brunt. Though you don’t have to at this guest house, we ended up giving Gaetcho a 100 Birr tip. That’s only about 8 dollars. And Ethiopia is not as cheap as you’d think—today I spent more on a couple interim outfits for the girls than I would have at Target. Oh, well. Any-anyway, tonight we found out Gaetcho’s wife of 27 years died five years ago, of liver cancer. She was only ill for 20 days. He misses her very much. It was very sad to hear about. He is really a great person. Our experience here would be very different without such people to trust.

Long Live King Charles
I forgot to mention yesterday that I made sure I wore Charles’ necklace to meet the girls, just so we’d all be there for the event. This is a necklace put together from a locket my cousin Jenny gave me after Charles’ death, and a silver plate with his name and birth date my sister Rachel gave me after his death. They make a very lovely necklace together. I noticed the girls looking at it and playing with it yesterday, so today I had Ahki explain to them what it meant. I could tell that Ahki said, “So really there are five in your new family.”

It probably will never come to anything, but I did tell Abebe yesterday that we would like to know if Tinsae and Birhane’s brother is ever given up by his father. Their paperwork lists two brothers, about 14 and 7. The older is mostly independent I’m sure, but we wondered if the 7 year old may someday be relinquished like the girls. Just in case, we wanted to make sure we would be notified if it ever happened.

Today, Tuesday

Last night as I lay in bed I felt that emotional exhaustion that I always feel when I move, or plan a big party, or accept a new job, or have a new pregnancy, or anything big. After the adrenaline wears off, I think, “Nevermind. That was fun idea, but I don’t want to do it anymore.” I used to entertain these thoughts and freak out a bit, but I have learned over the years, with Steve’s help, to ignore those feelings until the morning. I felt that way last night. But sure enough, I didn’t feel it when we saw the girls again today. I felt comfortable and whelmed again. (I mean that I no longer felt overwhelmed, but I certainly wasn’t feeling underwhelmed. It was just good. So, whelmed.)

We started bright and early because Abebe said we should meet him at the embassy at 9:00. This time it was open and he tried to explain our situation in Amharic. It clearly wasn’t going well, so I stepped in and explained in English, and the woman understood fine and answered that another division would have to take our fingerprints. So, we made an appointment for tomorrow at 1:30. Yes, a third trip to the embassy but at least this time it is a real appointment. I believe our wish of being fingerprinted will finally come true tomorrow. Have you all ever been to a US embassy before? I hadn’t but I’ve read several instances in books of Americans abroad fleeing to the US embassy for safety. I don’t know if you really could run in for safety because you have to pass single-file through a couple layers of metal detectors and guards. But once you’re in, it is an odd feeling to be escorted past all the waiting crowds right inside and to the front because you are a US citizen. It makes that navy blue passport feel like gold. I was going to post all my great photos of the embassy, but since it’s illegal to photograph it they confiscated my camera and crushed it into a million pieces. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.

(It’s also illegal to photograph the prime minister’s—formerly Haile Salassie’s—palace, but not the airport. When we landed KLM told us it was illegal to photograph the Addis Ababa airport. Our Ethiopian friends found this very funny.)

Anywhich, we were once again out of the embassy with lightning speed, so we headed straight to the orphanage. We picked up the girls, looking adorable and Tinsae with fresh braids in her hair, in a very nice sitting room. Apparently, this is where families usually meet their kids—more like we’d imagined. Yesterday another family was in the room and that necessitated our cramped office meeting. We had planned to keep the kids for just a couple hours, but this clearly made no efficient sense to Ahki from a driving point of view, so we ended up having them from 11:00-4:45. Ahki had a point—it’s a half hour each way at least to the orphanage, so visits entail a lot of wasted time and gas, and the kids don’t have to be returned until 5:00 PM.

This turned out to be a great, long visit. We first took the girls shopping for a couple of extra things because it’s clear we’re going to have them with us for more than the few days we thought. I think this was a bit overwhelming but also fun for them. Birhane gave us a very pleasant surprise when, after not speaking at all yesterday, she suddenly said “Thank you” very clearly—in English! She had obviously just picked it up and decided to try it out. She had no accent. Kids are really amazing with language. Tinsae also said “Jasper” and “Yes” in English today, which was great because we constantly say “Ow”—“Yes” in Amharic—to her, so she knows we understand it. We were very excited they were attempting so soon.

Our visit was, again, very easy. We don’t want to be naïve about the future, but so far this is going so smoothly it’s amazing. The only thing that has stressed me is the embassy! We showed them the clothes we brought for them, which Tinsae them folded and put away ever so carefully. Obviously, you don’t want to send them back to the orphanage with anything as no other kids have their own things.

We painted toenails, read books, played outside, and had nap time (this is part of the girls’ routine at the orphanage, and when we showed them the bed they got right in and went to sleep). The highlight of the day was definitely when we went outside to “show” Tinsae and Birhane how to jumprope. (Sara and Dave, the Habitat trip wasn’t a waste after all—the jumpropes have been priceless.) Jasper and Ruby made a few awkward jumps, and then I took a turn showing. Tinsae looked on with a pleasant smile. We then handed her the rope to try it, and she proceeded to skunk us all! She jumproped on one foot, then the other, then skipping, then backwards, then off a step—she’s a pro! She had a 1000-watt smile, the brightest I’ve ever seen from her. It was absolute heaven to see her delight at showing us something she is great at—something that transcends the language barrier. She and Ruby jumproped forever while Jasper and Birhane played football (soccer). That girl can throw. She would have delightedly retrieved Jasper’s kicks all day. Those two have definitely hit it off and are two peas in a pod.

We also gave the girls blow-pops, worrying they might choke on the gum. What were we thinking? Tinsae blew bubbles like a pro. This Ruby thought extremely cool.

Another highlight was watching them devour with their eyes the little kids books we’ve brought. A favorite was the board book with the caterpillar that you can stick your finger in and wiggle. Both girls had to look at the back of the book to see how the caterpillar was moving.

They came up and asked me if I wanted a massage at 2:30 because it comes with the stay. I was worried about leaving Steve alone with all the kids, but he encouraged me to go. Of course he was a pro—nobody missed me and I was glad the girls got a chance to bond with him. They’ll have plenty of me when we get home and Steve has to dig out from work.

During that hour we were apart, Steve and I both came to the same decision: we should forget about going siteseeing up North, and take the girls permanently tomorrow. It’s what the kids want, it’s what the orphanage wants, and it’s what makes sense. We weren’t going to take them for good (ie. Permanently with us at the guest house) until next week, but it’s not being as hard as we thought. What does seem hard is driving to the orphanage to visit everyday, or telling them we won’t be there one day while we sight-see. So, we’ll just take them with us and see things that we can drive to, and not fly up north. We may leave two weeks in Ethiopia without seeing its most famous and beautiful city, but we’ll definitely have had our own authentic kind of Ethiopian experience. Also, saving on the airfare will—once again—free up some cash. Jasper has been wanting a flat screen TV in our hotel room. I’ve been wanting a toilet that can handle toilet paper.

Speaking of toilet paper, we went to a very nice restaurant tonight because Jasper was homesick and we knew we could get French Fries there. The bathrooms in this nice restaurant had no seats on the toilet! I have seen both the ditches over which you squat and the toilets, but never something in between. The seats had both been purposely removed, and I wasn’t about to sit on the bowl. Such a contradiction at such a nice restaurant—the orphanage has a better bathroom!

Another highlight of today was having crystal clear phone calls with both my mom and sister Rachel, who both happened to call while we were downtown. The signal is great there, and poor at the guesthouse. Great timing, guys. Afternoons and evenings are the best time to catch us in town. Tomorrow we’ll be there about 4 PM, and Thursday we’re going to dinner downtown.

Thanks Elizabeth and Sara for calling also.  Though you can't hear us very well, we still love hearing you.

Tomorrow we will finally be fingerprinted at the embassy at 1:30. Then we’ll head to the orphanage by 3:30 for a meeting to go over the girls’ medical records. Then we’ll bring them back with us and, what? I guess, be a family forever.


Charlotte said...

Amazing, amazing, amazing! I am so happy for your family. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. love.

mabeybowman said...

Oh Wow! Oh Wow! Oh Wow!!!!!!! This is all such wonderful news! I've been waiting all day to read your update. Thanks and thanks for the photos! Love Tinsae's braids!

Emily said...

So much information, I don't even know where to start. I'll just say, thank you for letting us read and live this along side you. I love that you are real with your feelings. So happy for you-- you guys are in all of our thoughts and prayers!!

emilysouthers said...

I'm whelmed just reading about your amazing experience. Thank you for sharing with us, it is great to know what is going on. The tenderness and love is almost palpable in the pictures you posted. Syd and Zoe have really liked hearing the updates as well. These two beautiful girls will feel like old friends by the time you all get home. Love ya lots, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Jamie said...

Emily- I think of your family often- so proud of what you are doing. You guys are incredible. Much love to you all!

it's just lisa said...

I love reading your story. How wonderful that you and Steve came up with the same idea of taking the girls tomorrow. I was also happy to read that you are feeling whelmed- it needed no explanation, ha ha.

I wish your wonderful family well!!!
Love Lisa Bowman

Brooke said...

Thanks for the update. I will try and call, but I always think about it too late in the afternoon and it's too late for you. I will try and do better tomorrow. Can't wait for more of the story. Good luck at the Embassy. It's funny going in there isn't it! I loved it, it felt like a little piece of America transplanted into Moscow.

Sovic Clan said...

Amazing. Your trip is just amazing! Thank you for sharing with us!

Karl said...

All the superlatives used by others in responding to your blog entries are "right on". I don't have anymore amazing, wonderful, incredible words to describe my feelings. I'm so happy for all of you. Really looking forward to meeting our newest family members.

Preston said...

It is so exciting reading about your trip. Sorry Jasper for the "throwing up" part :( Nobody likes to do that very much. Also, Emily, how are those massages?? Take advantage while you can! I'll bet Ruby is sooo excited for her new sisters, and all the fun girl stuff that they will do together. Steve, hopefully work is managing without you so you won't be stressed...too much! Lastly, my children keep telling everyone they are getting new cousins! We are all excited to meet your new additions! Enjoy your time in Ethiopia. (Posted by Jennifer - who doesn't have an account!)

Charlotte said...

Yeah! Though I will not rest until I hear you are fingerprinted. Thank you for posting and giving us all so much to look forward to (both the blog adventures and your new family).

Charlotte said...

Hibbert--how fun having two Charlottes