Monday, October 19, 2009

Embassy Shmembassy

I know people are wondering, so I wanted to let you know that our embassy visit today did not go well.  Our new fingerprints had not yet been processed, so they would not interview us.  For some reason--I'm really not sure why, as we were very calm and polite--the adoption staffer with whom we spoke was extremely aggitated and rude.  I understand that she could not interview us without fingerprints, but I don't understand why she was so upset with us, or why she wouldn't give us any information.  We asked for an estimate of how long it might take to get them back, or when we might possibly be able to get another interview.  She refused to answer anything, even just to give us an estimate.  She told us not to come back or call--they would contact our agency rep (Abebe) when our fingerprints were in.  She told us we never should have come--that we had been told not to travel without fingerprints and had violated that.  This is not true, as confirmed by our agency.

There is a very nice group of women staying here at Ethiopia Guest Home with us.  They are here on business for a nonprofit called Lifewater.  One of them worked in the state department for several years, at various foreign embassies, even with adoptions.  She tells us there actually is a lot they can do for American citizens abroad, to make exceptions and expedite things.  Both she and Abebe and Radu (agency) told us the best next step was to contact a congressperson or senator for help.  We are currently pursuing that with Ralph's help.

Thanks for all your prayers and concern.  We realize this is not life or death:  it would just be very scary financially to have to find a way to stay here another week, and to change all our plane tickets.  It would also be very stressful.  It is already difficult with four kids in our room, two who have been traveling for weeks and two who don't speak English.  They are a bit stir-crazy. 

We will already have been right in the capital city for two weeks, because this issue has forced us to cancel all our travel to other parts of Ethiopia.  Though we have really loved Ethiopia, everyone is asking us what we are possibly doing in the capital for two weeks.  There are some things to see here, and some day trips, but much of the great stuff is in other parts of the country.  Because of these issues, we have been forced to stay tethered to the capital and cancel all of our other travel.  We have certainly enjoyed seeing a lot of Addis and its surroundings, but we bounce around in an old van all day in heavy traffic in Addis, or on the road.  The kids are starting to hate the car rides and be hyper in the car.  It goes without saying that there are no seatbelts, and T and B have no sense that you must sit in a moving vehicle.  The kids are also getting less willing to eat the food--it's not wholly American and not wholly Ethiopian, so none are very happy.  We can't eat local fruits and vegetables unless they are carefully washed, and our guest home rarely serves them.  So, Steve and I are starting to feel plugged up.  With all this, the thought of adding on a third week is really a tough concept. 

Again, we love Ethiopia and would have loved to really see her sights.  We're just disappointed to have cancelled all the best stuff and stuck around here, only to have things STILL not work out.  I must say, though, that all the people here have been absolutely wonderful.  They are open, loving, friendly, and patient.  They have tended our kids, braided their hair, tried to accomodate their picky food tastes, and driven us everywhere, waiting for hours in the car for us.  The guard fetches us Coke and Fanta.  They all translate constantly for us.  (Today we had them explain Halloween, and that you must apologize to your siblings when Mom tells you to.)  One employee we don't even know went out of his way today to find us and express his sympathy that our embassy visit had not gone well today.  Being turned away from the embassy on the verge of tears today, I really don't know what I would have done if we hadn't had such great people waiting for us back here.  I will never forget the kindness shown us here.  I never would have guessed that we'd feel more comfortable here than at the embassy.

We did try to distract ourselves today by going to the national museum.  We try to go somewhere everyday.  We saw the famous "Lucy" and other of the worlds oldest skeletons, oldest ancestors of man found here that make Ethiopia a good candidate for Cradle of Humanity.  The museum is a confusing contradiction--like everything else in this city.  Some great treasures inside, but outside rundown, weeds overgrowing the statue of Haile Salassie, and the museum's sign resting against an old tree.  The museum guide told us he believes it was the Derg--the socialist government that took over after Salassie in the 70's--who ruined Ethiopia and set her back so far in development.

A few positive notes:

-The receptionist today told me my Amharic has improved a lot since I arrived.  That's good--and I still have another week.  I'll be fluent by then!  Except maybe I'm speaking too much, because the girls aren't attempting much English.

-I still have another week to benefit from this African diet (although today I had them take me to an upscale store and I bought expensive cheer-us-up treats like peanut M&M's.  I bought Steve an Apple-Jacks-Look-Alike cereal for an anniversary gift.  Thirteen years today.).

-Today at the museum there was a group of several French adoptive families there, all with their little babies and toddlers.  Unlike the first day at the orphanage, where I looked a bit longingly at the babies, I had no desire for them today.  Rather, I felt like we were the lucky ones, with our two older African Beauties, and those families must all be jealous that we had these wonderful older children.  That was a good realization to have. Sometimes I look at Tinsae, whose hair is now braided up off her neck, and think she really could be an Afican Queen.  Her bone structure is beautiful, graceful, and elegant--something she never could have gotten from my genes.  And Birhane's dimples and bubbly chatter turn heads.  We are the lucky ones. 

-Blog comments, phone calls and emails of support:  these are definitely a highlight, and have really kept me feeling positive throughout this trip.  I think back on specific things said online or on the phone frequently throughout the day.  All your support--and I mean EVERYONE--has meant the world to us.  We feel already love our girls, and love us, too.

Love to all,

FYI:  In the photos on the last post, the man in the yellow shirt is our translator and friend, Aki.  He goes everywhere with us.  He came to church with us on Sunday and loved it.  I think he made some good new friends there.


garth bruner said...

Happy Anniversary to you, Steve and Emily! I'm sorry for the trouble you are facing with the Fingerprinting and Embassy. Hopefully your dad can contact the right person, and they will be able to pull the right strings! (Or, yank them really hard rather!) Let us know by email if we can try calling anyone too!
Love, Jen

Emily said...

Oh Emily... I really feel for you! We had similar problems on our trip and were told we would have to stay an extra two weeks, which would have been a HUGE drain on our already overextended budget. We spoke with Scot Driscol (I might be spelling his name wrong)... he is the Vice Consul. He was a HUGE help to us and we ended up going home on time!

ellen said...

I hope things work out soon. :) It's fun to read about your adventures.

emilysouthers said...

You all continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I especially thought of you on Sunday as I nervously sang in Sacrament meeting (thanks for that by the way). Hang in there, the Lord will continue to bless you. Love you all!

mabeyssayhi said...

Also, Happy Anniversary--I can't believe 13 years. Thank you so much for writing, explaining, sharing such beautiful thoughts and feelings. I pray that this all works out as it should and you are all home a week from today. You know you have our love and support. Love, mom

Charlotte said...

Are you kidding me? Aye, aye, aye! Go Ralph go. (I've guess I've heard the intro to Go Diego go to many times).

Rachel said...

Happy Anniversary! I cannot believe how terribly you were treated at the embassy. I am so sorry and we will continue to pray that all are not stuck there another week. Your family is beautiful! I love the picture of Birhane with all of her braids out.

We love you and can't wait to see you all again!

Karl said...

We're praying for you and for those who are the "problem children" in this fingerprinting challenge. Thanks for letting us know.

Mabey and I had a great day at work today. She misses you, I'm sure. I've been talking to her and I wish she would/could respond! Love, Dad

Emily said...

Sometimes people can be their rudest when their anger is really at a failing system. You did nothing wrong... if you had had any control over the situation it simply wouldn't be happening like this. Ugh, what a way to celebrate an anniversary: feeling stuck! Glad you are doing the best with what you have in the Capitol. Soon this will all be over and the worst parts won't matter so much.
Thought a lot about you today when I visited LaRae and saw all your UPS boxes in her basement. She's been getting printouts of your blogs and telling me stories about Mabey being stalked by a hawk, which I read about in your blog awhile ago.
I can tell you and the fam are tired and longing for home. Hang in there and look for the tender mercies. Your girls ARE very beautiful.

Lisa said...

I'm sorry you were treated so poorly, sweetie. It's amazing how those at fault are the ones who will accuse, but, no matter. Everything will work out somehow, and you will all be a family. We can't wait to welcome those little girls into this one! Love you all so much! Lisa

Chelsea Erickson Smith said...

Happy Anniversary. What a great milestone for your family. I must say that I still love reading your blog and do so with love in my heart. You have such courage and strength and are creating and extended circle of love by your example. I love reading your thoughts and thank you dearly for sharing them so openly. I am also so struck by the sweet family you have created and the wake ripple that it spreads forth...aka your introduction of Aki and his new friends. Hang in there Swensen clan. You'll be home in His time and before you know it. Much love!!!

Brooke said...

Pioneer, pioneers are what you are Emily and Steve. I know you come from hearty stalk, but you are the strongest of them yet! I know it must be very disappointing, frustrating, and exhausting worrying about it all, but hang in there. No one said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it, and it will all be worth it when you are on the plane heading back to the U S of A. I was thinking about you all day and thinking that maybe you would have good anniversary luck to share on the blog. But alas the good news is that you are STILL positive after all that has happened. Try and take advantage of all the time you have there. I know it's hard with 4 little ones. Try and soak in as much culture as you can. Learn all about those cute lil' ones that you can. Learn to braid, sing native songs(lullabies), and speak as much as you can. You are so smart and very loved by a host of people back home who are all pulling for your fast return. We love you! Your awesome!

garth bruner said...

Unbelievable. As if my respect for you wasn't high already, you have just raised it several notches. We are praying for you every day that all will work out and soon.

We can't wait to see you again.

(garth this time ;)

Jeff and Michelle Galovan said...

I have been following your adventure with such joy! You guys are so great from adopting those sweet girls! Good luck with everything we will pray for a FAST and safe return to the states!

Jenny said...

Aaargg! So sorry about the trouble!!! Happy 13th! Stella wants you to know she has waited all month to have her birthday party with R, T and B!! There, now maybe you have more to look forward to! All the best!