Sunday, October 11, 2009


Hi All,

I’m not able to log in to my blog, or do much at all online.  So, I’m writing this update email to Sara and asking her to post it for me.  I also can’t get into my mac mail, so please email me at  We’d love to hear from anyone, and should be able to check our email almost every night.  Steve is also not getting work email right now, so this is probably the best way to contact him until further notice.

For phone contact, we have a temporary cell phone with the number: 251-910-103-882.  (251 is the country code)  You can purchase an inexpensive phone card by following the link on our guest home’s website,  Their phone number is:  251-114-198-367.  Steve’s phone seems to work fine, though it is very expensive.  Feel free to call his cell number for a very quick message, or for emergencies.  Well.  Now all of that’s out of the way.  The time here is 9 hours ahead of Utah.

It’s always very frustrating to me that I have many emotions and impressions I’d like to record, running through my mind all the time like a continual blog or journal entry.  By the time I get a chance to record them, however, the time is short and most of the thoughts have faded, and something less than short hand is what comes out.  Oh well.

It was hard to leave England.  Steve had a teary moment Saturday night while we were packing, and I cried as we drove away from Sara’s cottage in the middle of the night.  After a blissful two weeks in England, we were hit by the many big things this small departure meant.

The first layer of emotion is that it’s hard to leave Sara and Dave.  We love our time with them, and feel such a closeness with them in England because of the year our two families spent there together.  They saw us at our very worst, and spent too much time with us for us to keep up our usual façade of non-chalance.  This was very much like old times, except with the addition of charming Harriet, and the much older children who have stepped in to replace the little Jasper and Ruby who lived with us in London.  Still, though, if you think about it there are few times in life when you can visit someone five years later and not have new children with you—because we’ve had this six-year gap after Ruby, things felt eerily the same.

Therefore, part of our feeling was that, besides leaving Sara and Dave and England, we were leaving our life of many years—Emily and Steve with two kids—to become a completely new family.  On top of that, we were leaving a place where you get to put your toilet tissue in the toilet (albeit that whoosing British toilet) for one where you have to put it in the waste basket.  Oh well.

One of my chief complaints in life is that there is never enough time to grieve.  In that way (only) real life is so unlike the movies.  I never get to do the Angelina Jolie ‘cry, lean against the wall, then slide down slowly, sobbing.’  Instead, I started to cry as we pulled away, and after about 30 seconds the kids were fighting over who got to put their head down on the console in the back seat.  After 60 seconds, Steve needed help navigating from Besselsleigh to Heathrow Airport.  The Noive!  I remember this feeling with Charles, too—just when I would start to feel something really powerfully, I would have to gather myself to meet a doctor, or answer the door, or mediate a sibling dispute, or to smile for someone who REALLY wanted me to feel happy.  Then, later, when I had time and wanted to let loose those feelings, they just wouldn’t come in quite the same way.  I realize those moments of being forced to go on are what get us through life.  In fact, I guess they are MOST of what makes up life.  Still, though, I don’t think it’s good to have to keep turning off the spigot.  It’s like those polite but annoying people who stifle their sneezes over and over again.  Just let it out, already!!  Oh well.

OH—WAIT—I’m sorry.  Did some of you want to hear about ETHIOPIA?  Yes, then let’s.  So we packed Saturday night, October 9, until 1 AM.  We then lay down for an hour in which Steve stole a few winks and I none (Yeah, right—one hour, with a big day to follow, for someone with insomnia?  Not a recipe for sleep.)  Of course the kids had been asleep for hours.  We pulled away from Sara’s at 2:45 AM.  We’d left plenty of time but ended up barely having enough because when we got to the car rental return busses to the airport weren’t even running yet.  Our plane departed for Amsterdam at 6:45 AM.  In Amsterdam we made a quick transfer to our next flight.  Unfortunately, our largest suitcase didn’t (make it).  From Amsterdam we flew to Khartoum (Sudan), and then on to Addis Ababa.  The sunset in Khartoum as we took of was beautiful—like nothing I’ve ever seen.  It was layers of red and orange, looking more like a glorious sandstorm than a sunset.

We arrived in Addis about 8:30 PM.  We waited in a long line to get visas on arrival, and then a long line for customs.  Understandably, the kids were very grumpy.  One of the best things I’ve done this trip is bring a huge amount of yummy protein bars.  These have already come in very handy, and worked wonders at the airport last night, and today when meal time wasn’t a great success.  Those were money well spent.

After reporting our missing bag, we met Ahki, and very kind and patient man from the guesthouse who had been waiting for us for hours.  Ah-kee is a translator for Ethiopia Guest Home, and picked us up with Gaetcho, our driver.  On our way to the car, I chatted with a very nice woman from our flight.  She is Dutch, and was adopted from Ethiopia when she was five years old.  Some of you may know the famous chef, Marcus Something, who was also adopted from Ethiopia by a Dutch family.  I think there clearly must have been a Dutch program about 20 years ago.  Anyway, this woman was wonderful and very encouraging.  She said she was adopted by a family who already had three children, and it has been a wonderful experience for her.  She was here to visit her Dutch sister, who is working for a time.   She said the hardest thing is that when she comes, people expect her to speak Amharic and she has no clue!  She has learned to say, “English Only.”  I thought it was really nice that when I asked her where she was from she said both the Netherlands and Ethiopia.

We were in bed close to midnight, and thankfully got a great night of sleep.  We were quite miserable with exhaustion last night, so this was much needed.  I think coming from England is great, because we don’t have jet lag like many families do.  Another great travel tip:  I placked flat sheets from home to put above and below us inside the regular bed sheets, and our own pillowcases.  This guest home is very clean and has no bed bugs, but I think I slept better just for the peace of mind, and for having something familiar.  Like my mom, I have an extremely sensitive nose.   Foreign countries, including England, always have a myriad of unfamiliar smells that can make it hard to nestle in for sleep.  That’s part of the reason the smell of your own sheets can help.

As I said, we are staying at Ethiopia Guest Home.  This was not our original plan, but was a place we discovered the night before we left.  It is only one year old, and is run by a previous adoptive father who thought there was a need for specific services for adoptive families.  Therefore, as part of your stay at the guesthouse, you get a driver and translator who will take you anywhere (extra trips have a reasonable $10/hour fee), and translate for you and your new children, and nannies who can watch your children if you want to go out.  They will really do anything for you—they’ve agreed to teach me to do braids.  You also get breakfast and lunch included.  There are several other services, like inexpensive laundry so you can take home all clean laundry, and a free massage for every adoptive parent.  Other adoptive families will probably want to know that we’re paying $127/night for the family suite.  As I said, that includes many services and two meals, so turns out to be a great deal.  The greatest thing about the guest home is that you don’t tip any individuals—you leave one big tip for the staff at the end, if you want.  In a place where everyone is constantly trying to do some service for you to get a big tip, this is a huge relief.  The airport employee tried to get me to give him $10 for pushing my luggage cart a few feet.  When I didn’t have a ten, he wanted $20!  I said No, I would never even pay that in the States.  I am very grateful we found this place and can already see how we’re benefitting.  Today we talked to Ahki and Gaetcho about our the orphanage attorney, who worries us.  They said they are very familiar with his ways, and can help us deal with him.

We weren’t able to make it to church today, but should be able to find it by next week.  There is a fly crawling across the computer screen.  We had a very nice day, though.  We went out on our balcony about 11 AM, and saw two kids next door to the guest home waving at us.  They were playing in the yard next to a sheet metal home.  Jasper yelled, “Yenae sim Jasper no.”  And the girl yelled back in English, “My name is Radit.”  Before we knew it Ruby had asked them if they wanted to play football.  We have very friendly kids.  Radit is twelve and her brother, Robin, is ten.  We went over to their yard and the kids had a great time playing soccer.  These kids were good!  They played with rocks as goals, on a tiny plot on a steep hill.  The laundry was out hanging, and I at least had the wash bucket moved so we wouldn’t spoil their mother’s washing.  When it started to rain, she invited us in to the house.  Her name is Dinkesh.  She doesn’t speak any English, though her kids understand a good deal.  They begin teaching it in school here in first grade.  It was lovely to visit with them.  The house was tiny and dark, two rooms, with an old sofa and chairs, and a mattress on the floor.  They had a tv on.  It was a wonderful way to start our trip, and Ruby wants to play with them every day.  The kids at the market across the street were also yelling hello and blowing us kisses, so we went over and said hi.  They were very smiley and said, “I love you!”  We are determined to learn a few more phrases so we can speak to the children.  This guest home may not be on Bole Road, the center of town and action, but I think it’s better to be out where you can meet the neighbors.

Abebe Guta, the lawyer, came to meet us this morning, which very pleasantly surprised us.  He says we’ll go to the embassy tomorrow to be fingerprinted.  It was unclear whether he’s ever talked to them or they’re planning on us, so we’ll cross our fingers.  We won’t actually have our official adoption interview until next Monday, the 19th.  Tomorrow is just fingerprints.

After the embassy (and picking up our bag from the airport), Mr. Guta says we can go to the orphanage and see the girls.  I thought there must be some official time for first meeting so they can prepare for you, but it sounds like there isn’t.  I guess this is actually a good sign—that they are not afraid to have you drop in on them unannounced.  Ahki says Toukoul is a very nice, very large orphanage.  Here they all think of it as a French orphanage, as it is run by a French couple.

I really hope we will be able to see the girls, since we’ve been promised. Our kids will be very disappointed if we don’t.  I just worry they’re not expecting us, because we’re here a week before our embassy date.  We originally came early because we were going to travel around Ethiopia for a week.  We’ve had to cancel that tour, however, because we’ve become so cash crunched.  We’ll still travel around plenty and maybe even fly to the north, but it will be much cheaper to do less, and to do it on our own.  Freeing up that money has made us much less stressed about the day to day expenses.  However, it makes us very unsure about this week—how will it be to meet the girls two weeks before we can take them home?  Will it make it really hard on them, or on us, to have it be so long?  Will we feel we need to visit every day?  Will we want to?  But we never do things typically, do we.  Oh, well. I’m sure it will work out.

So, we’re preparing for tomorrow.  We’re thinking of dressing up a bit, and we have some necklaces for the girls with their Amharic initials.  No, we haven’t decided on our second name for sure yet.  I know!  I know!  We’re trying.  Sara helped a lot.  No one will like the names we choose, anyway, so just don’t worry about it. J  We’ll take all our camera equipment, and hope to get it on film.  I’m really glad our own translator will be with us.

As far as photos go, I really want to post some—and post some of the girls tomorrow.  But this computer (I’m using the guest home’s) won’t read my SD card.  I’ll try an Internet café, maybe tomorrow night.  I’ll really try to get some.  Otherwise, if my phone ever gets service I can take photos with that and email them.

I’m really sorry it’s been so choppy for those who have called our cell phone.  We love you and SOO appreciate your calls.  Try again tomorrow.  If you catch us in town, it might be better.

We love you all.  We can’t believe we’re finally here.  Love.

This post is brought to you by the number 16, as in about 16 hours until we meet our daughters.  Just like one of my long labors!

(NEXT DAY:  we have been able to post some photos with this entry now, so enjoy!)

Yes, those are cows in the middle of the highway!


Chelsea Erickson Smith said...

Much love to you all during your travels and upon meeting your daughters.

Corinne said...

GOOD LUCK GOOD LUCK!! It's thrilling to follow along on this adventure with you :)

Belinda said...

As you know I often struggle to find the "correct", the eloquent, the just the right words in a particular situation, I find myself in the same boat are missed, loved and are in my thoughts...all my best...I can hardly wait to see the pictures of your daughters.

Sovic Clan said...

Yay for you guys making it this far on your trip!!! Emily and I were just talking at church, wondering how you guys are doing and where you were! Enjoy your time there! (The neighborhood does miss you though:)

Brooke said...

I'm so glad you made all your travel connections and are there FINALLY. I'm sure it was hard to leave England, but you are on the road to your larger family and that has to feel good. Can't wait for you to meet your girls. Good luck with everything that still has to come together. Loves to you and Steve and the kids, all 4 of them.

Lisa said...

We are so glad to hear that you are all safely there and about to meet the newest members of your family! Thanks so much for posting and keeping us all informed. We love all of you, and can't wait to see you all safely home!! Much love! Rich and Lisa and the rest of the crew!

Emily said...

Oh, Emily you are such a good writer. I love the details and all the thoughts you are able to describe. Tomorrow is a big day. My thoughts and heart are with you!!