Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Referralversary and home 5 weeks!

Bike shorts on head made for an hour of fun!

This is a way overdue post! When we got cleared to travel by embassy we really weren't in a place to get excited and celebrate. There had been so many delays along the road that we weren't sure there wouldn't be more last minute ones. We packed the last few things, kept our fingers crossed and still wondered when we drove to the airport if everything was going to go ok! Except for close friends and family we sort of crept out of town quietly because we were just burned out. So many of my emotions over the previous five months had been pushed down hard into 'a bucket.' It was on overflow and the tears started at the airport. First checking in at ticketing I started sobbing, then one of the Emirates agents heard us and came over and thanked us for adopting from her country and was so lovely I started again, then talking on the phone to my sister telling her we were actually checked in it all started again. You get the picture. There had certainly been meltdowns and some ugly cries over the months, but this was just a release of so much that hadn't come out.

Five weeks ago last Saturday we arrived back with our daughters. My sister, brother in law, Bean and her Dad met us at the airport which we were so grateful for. We had reached the point along this journey that "wheels up out of Addis" wasn't the point we were going to sigh and feel relief, rather "wheels down in the US," so family was a welcome sight!

One year ago today, right about this time of day, we saw the photos for the first time of our daughters. I remember it so clearly! The last year with all it's unexpected delays sure has seemed like at least two years though! They were 3 months old then. Yesterday they turned 15 months! They are settling in really well and are really sweet, lovely, adorable toddlers. They are walking and jogging, have about 8-10 words including a couple in Amharic that we continue to use, they each have dimple and the loveliest eyelashes that curl. They both suck their left thumbs which is so sweet. They do that twin talk which cracks me up when I hear them babbling away to each other in a big conversation. They have transitioned easily to solids and will eat everything: fish, meats, love all fruits, mexican, japanese etc.etc. They get super excited over finger foods and their bottles. They are super ticklish everywhere and love to laugh. Love their belly laughs! Rachel was really scared of taking a bath when we got home, but is now good with it which is helps! When we got home they were also scared of stuffed animals and dolls that have faces, so we've worked on it and now they are happily playing with their dollies. They think hanging upside down, lying on our legs when we're sitting down with their heads towards the floor and flipping over is fabulous fun! The dog has gone from being horrible in their minds to the dog working at staying clear of them sometimes because she's very popular. They are big mimickers and it constantly amazes us how quickly they pick up on things that are either physical or verbal. It's a credit to Gladney and the attention and love that they received that they are way ahead on where they should be developmentally. There are a few differences between them. Often if one is worried about a new experience the other won't be and this isn't consistently one, they switch in confidence in different situations. Rachel is a little more independent whereas Isabel likes to hold hands walking from room to room. Isabel tends to be the one having a party when she's supposed to be napping! It takes a lot longer to grocery shop now because of the attention they attract being twins. They are majorly ogled and cooed over in every aisle which is sweet but admittedly getting a little tiring. Just trying to remember when I'm running late or in a rush that it all comes from a good place! The months big question which is unlikely to change I think since they are identical is "Are they twins?" They love their big sis, the Bean, and think their Dad is the most wonderful, fabulous person EVER! Which of course they are right about! He is their bundle of fun! He also is awesome to me, helping with so many things around the house and is so good with them.

The first month home was really tough. Something I'll probably blog about later, but we are now settling in and the girls are feeling more secure. It's been a BIG transition for everyone. Part is having twins, but mostly I think it's this way for a lot of people, but perhaps not talked about too much. I'm especially sensitive about that with the Bean, who just turned 13. It's a lot of work to manage the needs of such a wide age range and make sure she's not short changed. The noise has been an adjustment to her, and poopy diapers have been known to have her evacuate a room!

Today I am so grateful to be home and glad that while we are adjusting to what our new normal is going to be that we are not in the weird, yukky place that so many of you adopting understand, of counting each day away waiting to clear the next hurdle, or on bad days watching the clock waiting for our agency to call with an update, or an e-mail from embassy. So many of our friends that went to court in the couple of months after we did are still in that position and we think of them daily actually a lot more.

There is no time these days to edit or correct so take this as it is: just a stream of writing as it comes to mind!

Yay to be home and start life as a family of 6 one year after we first laid eyes on them!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Update and Good News!

This has been the strangest week! Our document was supposed to have been dropped off at embassy on Monday, but we found out that embassy was closed to visitors until Wednesday because Hillary Clinton was in town. What were the odds of that happening. Not exactly like she's been to visit there before, but on the day our document was to go she's there. Perfect. So if that wasn't random enough that afternoon a volcano in Eritrea erupts creating a bad ash cloud bad enough that air traffic is going to be affected. It hadn't erupted since 1861! To laugh or cry. We laughed!!!! Luckily the document was accepted Wednesday and today we are relieved to say we are cleared for travel to pick up our daughters. It's been along 6 months since we were in court in Addis and able to hold our girls. Almost 11 months since referral. We have hit SO many speed bumps: referral at the beginning of rainy season so no court date for 4.5 months, a five month agency investigation, embassy wanting more docs, and the huge emotional peaks and valleys that have gone along with it. So many of you reading this know exactly what it's been like and how hard it's been. So now I am dying to get on a plane to get my girls! Really hoping that we have smooth sailing from here on out and there are no last minute, unexpected problems.

Other good news update here is that since the Bean has started acupuncture (continues with Migrelief supplement) she hasn't had a migraine! WooHoo! Huge! Her life is a lot nicer without them, and hope this trend continues. We have still to do the biofeedback, so hope next school year is easier for her with fewer absences.

School has been out for 10 days and we are loving it! Bean and I have had a sleepover including painting toenails and staying up late chatting. We all went to Wild Animal Park and did a Behind the Scenes tour which was fabulous. We've done a little retail therapy, gone to her favorite Bead store (she makes jewelry,) read books, made cookies from scratch and really enjoyed being out together. Love hanging out with my girl!

So here's to the rest of the summer being awesome, and going back to life's regular ups and downs without watching the calendar day by day! Our family really hopes that all the other families waiting for their MOWA letters, embassy submissions, and travel clearances get them SOON!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Newest Glitch

So this morning I awoke to news that the embassy needs a change made to a document in the file. We were hoping to be on a plane by now or at least traveling this weekend. Totally bummed, demoralized, depressed. Seriously, another problem? I hope to get more news later today to see how big of a problem this is and given the difference between US and ET timelines perhaps how long this will take. Almost 6 months since we saw our daughters at court they are still slippery bars of soap. Don't know there is anything else to say right now.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Photos of the Nursery:)

It's all ready for the final touch - having our sweet daughters home and in there!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Two months ago The Bean, our 12 year old, started having migraines. Since my sister and mom have them I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me, but still it did. They suck. They hit instantaneously as migraines with all the yucky symptoms: nausea, light sensitivity, sore neck, and of course the bad pain. But worst of all twice a week. Poor thing. We were fortunate to find an awesome Pediatric Neurologist who has migraines herself and has children so she really gets migraines in kids and is so good at talking to Bean. Since they hit so fast and hard I was concerned so we went in six weeks ago for brain scans to make sure it was "only" migraines we were dealing with. Let me tell you how nerve racking that is. The night before I was so cognizant that we were at one of lifes forks in the road. Either we were going to get to go on with life pretty much as we knew it, but with the new normal of trying to decrease the migraines frequencies and get rid of them faster when she got them, or gulp, dealing with something that would turn our lives upside down and her life wouldn't come close to ever being the same again. Very frightening. Very stressful. Made the stress of waiting for that MOWA letter look like a walk in the park. Thank goodness it was wonderfully, fabulously all clear:) So now I feel so fortunate that 'all' we are dealing with is migraines! Funny how life can be put in perspective so fast.

The neurologist put her on a supplement called MIGRELIEF. Omg, love that stuff:) I'm not a supplement person, we eat pretty darn well and have never felt extra stuff was in the least bit necessary, but this stuff ROCKS! It's taken her from 2 migraines a week, to 1 every 17 days. Woo Hoo!!!! You take it twice a day, it takes 4-6 weeks to see a difference, and apparently raises the B2 levels (which if I remember which is which correctly tends to be low in people with migraines) and magnesium levels (which helps reduce the frequency of them or something like that!) I've found it to be cheapest on Amazon - I'm now done with my plug! These migraines are horrible enough just from the pain standpoint but they have also been very problematic in terms of lifestyle too. Each time she had one I had to race to school to bring her home and we'd be there for hours until it eased which meant she was missing a lot of school and I was having very unpredictable days. Teachers were not happy either. Ugh. In addition to the Migrelief we've started throwing everything at them we can. Acupuncture has been shown to be really effective with headaches so 3 weeks ago we started that. She's a trouper about it and is relieved she can barely feel it. It's giving the chance to read "Emma" together twice a week so that's an upside to the visits! Today is Day 17 - according to our previous schedule it should be migraine day today, so we are all holding our breath to see if we can buy a few more days thanks to the acupuncture. Fingers crossed here! The neurologist also suggested trying bio-feedback. I have no experience at all with this, nor any knowledge about it, but if she recommends it we're trying it! That has been a little harder to find than the acupuncture which was more an issue of finding someone reputable that was covered by our insurance. Looks like Childrens Hospital will be doing it through their Chronic Pain Management program. Hoping to get that going next week. So that leaves the prescription meds to try to get rid of the pain much quicker than the Excedrin can, so perhaps it can be treated at school and she can go back to class. We're about to try Imitrex because the Maxalt didn't touch it. Aargh. More fingers crossed that we'll have better luck with the new stuff, but hoping we don't get to try it out soon if we can postpone the upcoming migraine!!!! Crazy!

I'm really wanting this to all work so life's a little more manageable. School field trips, sleepovers, and all those other things have become really problematic since we know have to prep for migraines if she goes. No field trips unless I'm chaperoning right now, and with sleepovers she has to carry a large bag of migraine stuff in her purse: water to take the pills, towel to cover her face etc wherever she goes if they go out for dinner, to ice-cream etc. Not so fun when you're 12.

But thank goodness we are only dealing with migraines.

And perhaps today she won't have one.......

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A huge thank you to our wonderful caseworker, Sara.

First and most importantly I want you to know that it was my intention to write this this past weekend. In other words my sentiments and thanks about this have NOTHING to do with me just being all happy because we got our letter and court decree this week. I just ran plum out of time this weekend and it was Monday before I knew it and after The Call all plans went out the window.

Last Friday I was checking in with Sara and she sounded really tired. I asked her about it and she said she was, and it was raining, and that it was hard not having any news for us day after day for so long. That got me thinking. A lot. I think I've been so wrapped up in my own difficulties of the past few months that I haven't stepped back to think that it's been pretty tough on our caseworkers too to tell us day after day that there is no news when a large part of their satisfaction and enjoyment from their jobs is probably about building families. Also that since they are our only connection and imparters of information from Ethiopia and Gladneys program our frustration and sadness probably feels like it's personal to them and we are frustrated at them instead of the situation. That made me sad because Sara has been so incredible through this whole process to us. I was going to write her a card but then decided to write it 'publicly' on our blog so you all would know what impact she's had on us.

Perhaps if you feel the same way about your caseworkers you could take a minute to give them a call, write an e-mail or a card to say thank you. I wish I'd thought of it sooner:)

Dear Sara,

I cannot thank you enough for everything you've done for us during the last few months. Before we left for court we already appreciated you and what you did for us. You always had all the info we needed, were so on top of everything and we had complete faith in you. Since court during this 5 month delay we have a whole new appreciation for you. You have gone so above and beyond to take care of us the last few months and none of it has been taken for granted or been unappreciated. You had an e-mail waiting for us when we got back, you took the time out of your vacation and family time to call us and see how we were doing. So many weeks you've called to check in on me if we haven't spoken in awhile and when on a couple of those occasions I burst into tears you were so patient and kind and compassionate. I never felt you were rushing me off the phone when you probably had a ton of work to do. You've listened to me vent a few times when you've probably spent the day hearing it from a few other Moms too and have always listened to me. Then there has been your patient explanations as to why my latest great thought for the day won't work to get our letter from ET, and I never once felt like you wrote those e-mails rolling your eyes or wringing my neck. It is easy when things go right in life, but when times get tough people show their true colors and we are so grateful to know you to be such kind, thoughtful, compassionate, patient person.

You are a big part of our adoption journey, and as the girls learn their story of how they came to be in our family you will be an important part in that story. We hope we will have many years of knowing you and that your presence in our lives continues long after the girls are home.

Thank you again for everything,

Zoe, John and The Bean

Monday, May 16, 2011


At last we get to post photos of our identical twin girls!

Rachel Derebe and Isabel Dilnesh, born very loved May 8th, 2010

They smile a lot in person but seem to get pretty suspicious of cameras so they look very serious in the photos. They both have dimples which hopefully in a couple of months we'll have captured on camera and can post those! We'll be painting their big toenails different colors so we can tell them apart so not to worry in the first 10 minutes of having them that we've mixed them up already! Derebe is a little more inquisitive, Dilnesh falls asleep first after eating. They are dear, curious, sweet little people and tonight we are blessed to call them our daughters.

Enjoy meeting them!

The girls about 5 weeks old taken by visiting Gladney mom and sent to us by her after referral! True baby pics!

Dilnesh referral photo taken mid-July

Derebe Referral photo taken mid-July

Late December while in ET


End of April

Taken this week

Really Great News!

Early this morning we got a very happy call from Sara at Gladney! While we slept we got the MOWA letter AND the court decree so THE GIRLS ARE OURS!!!!

We are so thrilled, relieved, happy and grateful.

Our happiness is tempered knowing so many other families are waiting for the same letter and we hope this happens for you all really soon. We continue to think of you and keep you all in our prayers.

We will post more soon when I've wrapped my head around all this.

So many thanks to all of you that have helped prop us up and support us through this marathon. You made such a difference to us while we struggled, and really it would have been close to impossible to get through this without you.

Today I am Mummy to Derebe and Dilnesh!!!! What a great way to spend the day:)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Our Girls 1st Birthday and Mothers Day

It is about 8am in Addis right now. Our babies have probably woken up and I wonder if anyone there remembers it's their 1st Birthday. Happy Birthday sweet girls. When we traveled to court in December and even after hearing about the investigation it never occurred to me that we wouldn't be with them today. Their Easter dresses were then their birthday dresses, we now hope they will at least be able to wear them this summer. These girls are so loved and we so want them home with us so badly.

It will be a bit of a tough day tomorrow given that it's Mothers Day. I don't know if it is ET too, but regardless their birth mother will be on my mind and as think she will throughout so many days of their lives. I am so blessed to be Beans mummy. I tell her frequently that being her mummy is the most favorite thing I've ever been. Only being John's wife equals it. I had no idea I would enjoy motherhood so much. I am really blessed to be one. I am hoping in the near future that I will be luckily enough to add two more officially to my proud list of children when people ask. We count them now, but for it to be official will be big.

We decided yesterday not to celebrate their birthdays in a big way without the girls. I don't think I could get through it to be honest. I could try to describe what the last almost 20 weeks have been like with this wait, but really I don't have the words to explain it, and I don't think I have the heart for that either. I'll just say it's pretty indescribable. There are days I feel I have given up most hope, the other days I dread having hope because of the inevitable disappointment, sadness and funk that follows. Depletion. Helplessness. Void of understanding. We will wait 'til we are with them again to have our own celebration. Tomorrow they will be deep in our hearts, we will be wondering how their first birthday was, we will be with them in a quiet way, but the only way that we can be while still remaining upbeat to celebrate Mothers Day and that blessing with the Bean.

Happy Birthday sweet girls. Now how wanted and loved you are.

And Bean, I LOVE being your Mummy. I am the luckiest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Government Shutdown

This could be BAD for those of us hoping to get our files through embassy soon. Please call every and all congressman and woman you can to tell them you are against a shutdown. We've had enough hurdles. Come on everyone help us out here!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


What Japan is going through right know is so much greater than the difficulties we are going through waiting to bring our children home. For 4 years during college I lived with Annie who was from Japan, except for 4 years or so in New York. She lives in Hawaii, but her father is in Japan. He is low on food, heat and water, but won't leave to stay with her because he's too worried about leaving his house empty. I cannot imagine searching for my husband or children that might have been lost at sea. It's heartbreaking to think of not being able to feed my children or have them exposed to radiation. Can you even imagine? Please keep these people in your prayers today. Please keep Mr. Takechi in your prayers tonight.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An evening to celebrate

A few minutes ago Heather and Rolyn took off to go get Bek and attend their embassy appointment. With 10 days of hard or confusing news out of ET, I am SO glad there is a little good ET news to celebrate. Travel safely guys. Enjoy that long yearned for time with Bek, and I KNEW you'd be with him for his 1st birthday. YAY! An evening to celebrate :) We are thankful and happy tonight.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I often talk to my sister while she's on her way to work and I've dropped off the Bean at school and am on the way to the gym. She's a doctor. Today I was telling her how hard the last few days have been with the uncertainty of changes in Ethiopia. When I asked her about what was up for her day she said that in addition to her patients she had to visit a little girl who she had delivered healthy a couple of years ago. A virus a few days after she was born has left her with a lifetime of heart problems and struggles. She's in the Peds ICU right now after heart surgery. She said how visiting the PICU always puts life in perspective for her. My nephew just had another tummy bug and she said the other morning she was tired, having a bit of a pity party from cleaning up vomit and diarrhea all night, when she walked in and it instantaneously put an end to feeling bad. After I heard that it made me tear up because though it doesn't take away from what's going on for us right now we sure hope this is a temporary situation. I have thought a lot about that little mite today and her parents and the struggles they are going to have for years to come. Perspective.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Introducing the numbers seven, ten and eleven...

It sounds like a Sesame Street episode, but unfortunately not.

Seven months since referral.
Ten months old.
Eleven weeks since court.

Today our sweet girls turn 10 months half a world away from us. It has now been eleven weeks since we saw them and went to court. From the updates we've received they have changed so much since we were there. They look so much older, they are probably crawling by now since they were firmly on all fours a few weeks ago, and are pulling up to standing in their cribs. My heart aches with not being able to love them, hug them, rock them etc. When we accepted the referral the day after they were 3 months old I would never have expected not to have them home by now. Tomorrow is 7 months from our referral day. 7 months. Most days I have been able to shove all this sadness, disappointment, worry and concern somewhere into a box where I still know it's there, but life goes on. Every couple of weeks I have a really bad day. Usually triggered by a new update, which I love to get, but it does bring home how much I miss them, or some other event, then the day is a struggle and I have to 2:30pm to get it together and suck it up so when I pick the Bean up from school she is unaware of any upset so as not to upset and worry her because this is not her burden to carry. That is really important to me. It is so hard for her if she ever sees me upset.

So today when the girls are 10 months old and so far away I can only hope they are healthy, happy and feel loved. I hope their birth family knows we cannot pick them up, it's not that we wouldn't be there in a heartbeat if we could be. Their nursery is almost done, but it's really hard to go in to finish it right now because it seems so empty in there without them and who knows how much longer it'll be. When we left for court we never imagined they wouldn't be home by now. We thought we'd be watching them crawl for the first time, pull up for the first time, and though I remind myself over again that we'll have so much more time with them than we're missing, today I want to hug my babies and be able to tell them how big they are and how loved they are.

This week we found out we have to start renewing our visa which expires mid-June. This means redoing our home study so fingerprints have to be re-done, medical exams, blood work and all the paperwork. The cost about $1,000+. Had this wait not gone so long that would be money that would have been spent on our travel costs, or put towards the girls college fund etc etc. When I woke up this morning I was mad. Yup, I'm being honest. I'm tired of hearing there is no news. Tired of hearing nothing we can do. Tired of hearing we just have to wait. Tired of hearing potentially bad news in the last couple of weeks and not knowing how badly it could affect us or whether it even has validity. Tired of worrying if there is a chance we might not see our girls again. To also put into perspective what renewing our visa means is this: in June we still wouldn't have them home. They would be 13+months old, it would be 10 months since we accepted our referral (almost a year,) we would have missed their 1st birthday by a long shot (despite them being barely 3 months old at referral.) A reality that we have to look at this point since we need to do this renewal. That's hard to look at and keep our chin up.

Sorry this isn't a happier, uplifting, positive post, but today I'm also tired of trying to look on the bright side. 11 weeks is so long. Perhaps I'll have a happier blog later in the week, probably on a different subject than adoption.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


We're rocking the black and gold at our house this weekend...Terrible Towels are ready!

John grew up in Pittsburgh and that's still where his family is so it's a BIG weekend around here!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Who knew we'd be back to counting numbers. Fortunately it's six weeks not months since court. It just FEELS like six months. And may it not come to that for all our sakes.

I've now moved into stress/sad management mode:
Returned to gym to 'work-it-off' after the summers moving hiatus. Trying to catch up with friends for lunch (aka distraction) a couple of times a week. Keeping a couple of fragrant lilies in the house because it's a treat for me and I love their smell. House projects - soon out of the indoor ones and will have to move outside! Scheduling drives to the beach to hear the waves and smell the salty air. Love that! Saw a large pod of dolphins last week:) Each day focusing on what went right and the little things that I have to be grateful for. On bad days this doesn't always work though I have to admit. Crossing each day off my calendar, because that means we're one day closer to whenever the end is.

Think I've decided the hardwood floors might not need a thorough hand scrub after all! Phew!

I'm also thanking my sanity to the other moms (you know who you are! All the support and love is mucho appreciated,) and to my awesome husband who gives the best bear hugs to cheer me up, and sweet Bean who's just lovely!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Word of The Day

This morning I found out that Epiphany is celebrated in Ethiopia on Tuesday and Wednesday. MOWA reopens possibly Thursday, but maybe Friday. Another week gone. Wednesday marks 4 weeks since we were in court.

Word of the day: Despair

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Packing List and Plane List

This list is aside from what I'd 'normally' pack or what I did instead of the usual. Again, thanks from the other adoptive parents that travelled before and let me learn from them.

In addition to our court clothes I took 3 pairs of cotton capri's for both Emma and I along with lightweight long sleeve or 3/4 length shirts. John chose jeans. I wanted to be modestly dressed on the plane but cool enough and comfortable so I found lightweight yoga pants and yoga/workout long sleeve shirt for the plane.

Wool cardigan shrug for plane-kept me warm, just not too warm
My work-out shoes and slippers
Very warm Pj's:Flannels would be good, maybe with long johns!
Shampoo and conditioner, and I was glad to have my own soap too.
Book reading light
Bug spray
Hand sanitizer and handwipes
Feminine hygiene products
Flashlight including one that goes on the head
Wine bottle opener
2 travel clocks (I wanted one on my side of the bed too to check the time when I woke in the night)
TP (in case somewhere didn't have it when we were out)

Food: nuts, different kinds of granola bars, laughing cow cheese, cup o noodle, easy mac n cheese, chocolate, apple sauce pots, other dried meals that you add water too and nuke - many kinds in store these days

Round the neck, hide under the shirt money carrier
Extension cord
Electrical volt converter & plug adapter
Enough luggage locks for each bag including carry-ons and a couple of extra in case you need them in-country for a camera bag, purse etc.

Camera, camcorder, extra batteries, memory cards, or film
Good hand, body, face cream - it's SO dry there!

Tums, zantac or prilosec, claritin, oral benadryl, powdered Gatorade and Pedialyte (if you're traveling with kids,) tylenol, advil, band-aids of different sizes, gauze pads and medical tape, alcohol wipes, latex gloves, fingersplint, butterfly bandages, visine, thermometer, hydrocortisone cream, topical benadryl, pepto bismol, sudafed, delsym cough med, Halls honey lemon cough drops, immodium ad, neosporin.

Prescriptions for: Anti-nausea meds (melts under the tongue,) cipro for travelers diahrrea, red-eye drops. Think about an Epi-pen. We took each of these for each of us just in case.

I know this medical list looks a little long but I wanted to have as much with me as possible in case something happened while we were over there, especially with traveling with the Bean.

On the plane I took:
hand sanitizer
eye mask
books/books on i-pod
noise canceling earphones
inflatable neck pillow from Brookstone
journal - make notes somewhere each day of where you went, smells, sounds, impressions. You'll forget so quickly.
computer with movies (Emirates didn't have any I wanted to see so I was glad to have my own)
For the Bean I found a Panasonic 13 hour DVD player
Different snacks
Light wool cardigan
Modest but lightweight, cool yoga type clothes
FYI my seat power in the seat didn't work
Gladney travel packet and other paperwork
Face/hand cream - it was really drying being in the air that long

For the Bean: different games, snacks and THE KINDLE - omg, love that thing. Might have to get one for me too! The battery lasted the whole trip!

A backpack would have worked better to fit under our seat so we could reach stuff in flight than the roll-alongs we brought that had to go above us. Will only bring a roll along next time for the extra diapers, food and clothes.

A note for when you bring your babies home: I have been traveling internationally with the Bean since she was 6 weeks old. I always traveled with 3 times the amount of food, clothes and diapers than I thought the flight time called for. That way if she got an upset tummy, or we were delayed, or detoured and were on the ground extra hours/days I was covered. I had friends that learned the hard way and I never thought it was worth taking the chance!

I hope that helps someone, or saves you sometime.

Please pray that we will be able to use it again really soon for our second trip.

Let's all hope for all of us this week is the week all will be done and ok.

Lists: Where we went and what we bought

Here are some lists that might be helpful. I can't take credit for them - most ideas have been compiled from previous families blogs.

Where we went:
Souvenir shopping - this took a lot of time because we had to go to so many places to get what we wanted. We wrote a list of what we wanted and told Solomon - he knew where to take us for whatever we needed.
National museum - really enjoyed this
Entoto mountain
Art shopping
Alert Leprosy Hospital - Aside from visiting the girls this was my favourite other thing I think. We bought tons of stuff at their shop for our girls as they grew up, for our home, and for gifts. Would love to go again.
Silk factory
Lake Kuriftu - my preference over Dreamland
Lion Zoo
Cultural dinner
Serenade for dinner
Diplomat restaurant (if it's not American food that month!!!)

Places to go to that we haven't been yet:
Orthodox church
These 2 above are usually with Gladney on the first trip, but with us being there at Christmas no-one could take us so we hope to make it up on our second trip.
Museum at the university
The dump - and I'd ask if taking bananas or other fruit with us from a stall would be ok to give out.
Lalibela - a day drive
Lime tree Restaurant
Indian restaurant on Bole Rd

What we bought:
Scarves to wear
Scarves for fabric to make items they might want as they grow up
Coffee beans (from Tomoca)
Rag dolls
Amharic Bibles
Traditional clothes
Bread baskets
Ethiopian silver crosses
Tablecloths (for our house, but also one each to give them on their wedding day)
Cushion covers
Wooden crosses
Wooden african sculptures eg. animals, tribal figures (These two wooden items we bought at Alert, as well as many fabric items.)

Packing list to come!

Day 6 - Addis - Last day: Friday, December 23rd

This was our last day to see our girls. Bittersweet especially since we were going to be leaving ET without the finality we were expecting. We made sure to be there by 9am to make the most of our time with them. It was a day full of cuddles, and they put their heads on our shoulders which was so sweet. There was as adorable baby boy sitting out sunning, sitting up but leaning against one of the ladies and he had the biggest tummy, looked as content as could be and she was just rubbing his belly round and round in circles. I cracked up and said to all the caregivers "Buddha!" not knowing if they'd understand, and then they all cracked up nodding and saying "Buddha!" Go figure! It was a very funny moment. We'd brought the twins little Santa suits, but we weren't sure what the caregivers reaction was going to be. They saw them, laughed and said "Santa Claus!" Another thing that transcends cultures, but I wasn't sure that would be the case in ET! The girls' caregiver helped get them dressed (apparently we didn't look either fast or proficient enough again - refer back to previous feeding episodes) and Solomon took photos for us. I can't wait to be able to post them. Hopefully sometime soon..... When we went back up to their room to feed them again Bean started crying and was so upset. When we'd been downstairs she'd been sitting and cuddling on the grass with a little girl, perhaps about 2, maybe three, and the Bean was feeling so badly because she said that she was watching John and I and looked so sad. My heart broke for both of them, and though I tried explaining that she would be matched with a family already and if the family didn't already know it they would soon, and this little girl might actually have met them and not known it was she that they were visiting. The Bean was pretty inconsolable. We fed the girls, put them down to sleep and then had to leave which was so terribly, horribly hard. It was just impossible not to be upset, but we hugged the caregivers and left. Just so hard. We had no idea, and still do not, how long it would be until we got to hold them again.

Outside we found Solomon and explained about what had happened to make Emma so sad. He was wonderful as usual and said to come with him into the toddler room, point her out and he would ask the caregivers in there if she had a family. She was relieved but still not entirely fine to find out she had been matched with a family, but I don't know about being referred. I have to admit John and I were very relieved that she had been so we didn't have the pressure from the Bean to adopt a fifth daughter!!! She had a 3 syllable name I believe, it began with 'A' and ended in a 'T.' If she's yours or find out down the road she is, we'd love know of you. I have a photo of the two of them together.

Solomon took us to lunch at his favorite restaurant where he likes to eat several times a week, though he says now he's married he eats there less! He eats the raw beef cut from huge sides of beef hanging, he ordered us the tibbs, cut from this fresh beef and cooked with onions. We washed our hands a this large, metal trough and sat down to this really tasty meal. Both dishes were served with injera and berbere in oil for dipping. Luckily I knew to dip sparingly but Solomon plunged his in!

After lunch we went back to Bejoe to pack. I thought we'd have a lot of extra room in the suitcases but we did buy a lot of stuff! Now that we'd seen most of the things on our list and we couldn't see the girls again I was ready to go. It was hard to believe that it was Christmas Eve the following day. We took the 7:30pm flight to Dubai, landing at half past midnight and a 3:15 am flight into LA. With being up all day, this was a bit of a killer since for the Bean to catch flights through the night. I think next time I'll try to catch the 8am flight out of Dubai and stay at the airport hotel for a few hours sleep. The flight home felt a lot longer. We were really tired when we landed, but given that we'd arrived at 7:30 am it gave us the chance to get home, nap 3 hours, and still be ready for bed a the normal time so it pushed us right onto the proper time zone. Now we can't wait to find out when we can go back.

Later today or tomorrow I'm hoping to write a list of the souvenirs we got, places we went or will go to next time, and a packing list.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 5 - Court - Dec 22nd, Thursday

I woke up happy nervous today, and couldn't wait to have breakfast and get going. We arrived at the Gladney offices at 8:45 for 9am court. A note here. Gladney tells you in their travel package to be flexible in Ethiopia. Schedules can and do change quickly even court times. At first before we left it was the afternoon, then the day before it was am, then pm, and by the evening before we were back to am! Go with the flow! We played with Heather, Rolyn, Davis and her Grandma's until the attorney got there slaying dragons and Rolyns job was to catch the princesses. Both Grandmas did a very impressive job with the dragons I must say. We drove over to court, and by now it was all beginning to hit me. On the elevator ride up to the 3rd floor the tears started flowing. (Although I'd packed a ton of kleenex I'd managed to forget them all but when the doors opened Heather had an extra pack.) The reality of where we were and what was about to happen was suddenly very real and there was no way to hold back this time. We walked into the waiting room and found seats together. The room is a large, bright, square room. There are large windows along the far wall, and beneath them is a 12-18" high platform/stage that people sit on when there are no more chairs. There was no announcement that court has started, in fact it's sort of unclear whether or not it has. As you walk in the room there is a door leading into an adjoining room on the left hand side wall at the far end. This is where the judge is. People seemed to be going in and out, but no cases were being announced in our room. The room was a mix of Ethiopians and what seemed to be adoptive parents from other agencies. A couple of different Ethiopians asked us if we'd like their seats which was very kind of them and it took a bit of politely assuring them the guys could stand. I was sad though to see a couple from another agency take some other people up on their offer and took their seats. I have to say I was saddened and shocked. We are all equal people and in fact we are visitors in their country. Just my opinion, but I think I can stand perfectly well, and most especially if whoever is offering me a seat is older. Alright, I'll move on now. We were prepared for a long wait, but probably within 30 minutes our saw our attorney frantically gesticulating for us over by the judges office. We raced in, then got ushered out again, since they had some business to take care of before we went in. So nervous. Finally we went in. The judge is at a table facing the center on the room with her back against the far wall. There was another table on the wall opposite the door where perhaps an assistant would sit. We went left and sat in the chairs against the wall, H/R et al went right and sat on the chairs opposite the judge. A nice bright room again. Some families had warned us that they found court to be anti-climactic because court was so quick. It was fast but given that's what I expected I found it not the least bit disappointing because of what it all represented. Expect it to take a couple of minutes, there is no symphony or fireworks when you're done, you just leave! She asked about 3 yes/no questions such as "Have you met your children?" "Do you understand this adoption can't be reversed?" "Do you know other Ethiopian families and will you help them understand their culture?" "Have you had training for this adoption?" "Are your friends/family knowledgable about your adopting and are they supportive?" Ok, I guess that was 5, but all she expected was yes/no answers. Then she either says "They're Yours!" or you need your MOWA letter and you thank her and leave the room. I loved it and that few minutes will always mean a lot to me and was emotional for me certainly until we left the court house. We left fully expecting the MOWA letter later that day or the next.

We back to Bejoe and got changed. The other families that were staying there were all gone to the coffee ceremony and then off to embassy. We decided, on Solomons recommendation, to go to Lake Kuriftu instead of Dreamland, and I must recommend that. The drive was really interesting because it got us further out of the city to see other things that I was really glad to see. It wasn't quite the 45 mins that we thought, in fact more like 1 hr 45 mins! There was a lot of traffic getting there and the last 20 mins or so were on dirt roads, so sore on the behind but great to see. Families around here got around by horse and buggy, sometimes so many people on the buggy they were hanging off the sides and backs. It was on this drive that we called Belay and found out about the MOWA investigation and that we had no chance of becoming official parents to the girls before we left ET. Absolutely crushing and upsetting. It made the rest of the afternoon very hard and we were very distracted from the beautiful surrounding of Lake Kuriftu. It is a beautiful resort. Certainly nice enough to be an appealing place to stay for a weekend. The restaurant was really good and a lovely place to sit, eat and take in the afternoon. It would be a nice place to hang out for the afternoon if you had other families with you too. After lunch we walked around the resort. There were stone bungalow type rooms there, with covered patios that had built in stone chaises covered with cushions and with outdoor fireplaced. After a couple of hours we were ready to go back - our hearts just weren't into it. Poor Solomon thought we didn't like it though! On the way back he took us by Dreamland. It's also on the side of another lake, but very basic and not a particularly appealing place to sit and hang out, especially if you saw the alternative where we ate. It was slightly quicker getting back but there were an unbelievable amount of belching trucks, taxis and cars. The air was noticeably thicker by this time in the week than when we arrived. Perhaps it was just me noticing it more but I don't think so.

Luckily when we got back to Bejoe all the families were there and when they heard our story there was a tremendous about of hugs and support which was really appreciated and helpful. If you follow the FBI list an interesting fact here. None of the 4 Gladney families that were at Bejoe with us were on the FBI list, so perhaps it's closer to 50% than 75% as I had always wished when we were waiting? Anyway, after we all listened to Christmas carols on my Mac for a pick-me-up, we went out with them all to celebrate. Serenade was SO good. It's reputed to be one of the best restaurants in ET and I'd agree. We managed to drag our drivers in with us because with out them our trip would have been so much less, and not close to enjoyable. Our table ordered about 5 appetizers, obviously entrees, several bottles of wine and desserts for almost everyone. The food was fabulous (mediterranean with a touch of morocco would be by best guess) and so was the service. Dinner came to the whole of $11 per person. It was almost embarrassing how much the dollar bought, very much illustrated at that moment. Only one driver had eaten there before, and my guess is most wouldn't have spend their money there when they had it. It was very humbling. After saying that I would say on our next trip we'd eat there a lot more because the food was much better value than many of the other restaurants we'd had food from. We hear there's a great Indian restaurant on Bole Rd which we're going to eat at next time too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Addis, Day 4 (Dec 21st)

Up to meet our girls again this morning! Yay! The Bejoe ladies cook good eggs for breakfast along with juice and coffee, then we hit the road again. Less traffic today which is good and today the plan is to stop at Bilo's for coffee and chocolate cake for the Bean. Remember how I said driving (or more specifically being a passenger in our case) was hair-raising in ET, so we'd by driving along the equivalent of a two lane highway, when everyone that's driving seems to realize the road is closed up ahead and just drives across the median into opposing traffic and keeps on going. Think swimming upstream! So as we get a little further out towards the houses and are safely back on our side of the highway and have been for awhile, we're obviously lulled into a false sense of safety. All of a sudden Solomon says"Oh, I forgot, hold on." He proceeds to hang a u-turn ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE ROAD. So we are now headed back where we came from on the same side of the road. Yikes! Coming from the States I am now hoping we survive, but not to worry, it seems that that's just done in ET!!! Anyway, after getting coffee and chocolate cake we arrived at the house to see the girls. They were out in the sun again, this time dressed. We found out that they liked being held high in the air and jiggled - it just made them chuckle, and drool! They were very cuddly, happy to be held and loved putting my hair in their mouths! Emma loved holding and playing with them but she was surprised how heavy they were. She also played a lot with the older kids outside kicking soccer balls and picking flowers. There was a sweet little girls who came up and was touching Isabel's face and kissing her hands. We tried to get the girls sitting up but they still were a little wobbly! I tried picking up both girls together and discovered that it was certainly a skill that I had to get the hang of, but oh how I loved holding both my girls at the same time. I can't wait for that to be a daily thing! The caregivers asked if we wanted to go up and feed them again and you know we weren't passing that up. The menu was smushed egg whites in formula. The Bean thought it smelled really bad and Rachel agreed with her. It might have gone in but she wasn't swallowing it. Isabel was ok with it bless her heart and had a great time being fed by John. The caregivers seemed to think we just weren't shoveling it in fast enough, but especially with raspberries being blown regularly and both thumbs going in the mouth speeding up didn't happen. We also discovered teeth. Rachel has two small ones on the bottom, and Isabel one also on the bottom. Isabel had another coming in though because she loved gumming John's finger! After we left we bought the girls a couple more things to have as they grow up - silver crosses and Amarhic bibles, followed by lunch a Top View - good grilled chicken. We met up with H/R et al at the silk factory and saw the chrysalis in the silk cocoons, silk worms, worm eggs, ladies spinning the silk, and men working on the looms. We also wanted to get the girls some ET stamps to have so Solomon took us off to the post office where we had a lot to choose from and tried to pick out some that we thought represented a variety of ET life: plants, agriculture etc., then back to Bejoe. On the way back we passed miles of roadside stalls, very basic homes, people sitting on the sides of the road, people walking, fruit stalls, deformed bodies, people begging but they weren't worrisome. There were some large apartment buildings with a lot of satellite dishes apparently for military families. Solomon has so much information on everything as we're driving around and always knows where to take us! It's so nice to see how much pride he has for driving for Gladney, and his appreciation for what it's done for his life. His english is so good and he spoke only Amharic until 3 years ago. Pretty impressive. That night was the ET Cultural dinner with Gladney families. We stayed for the food but had Solomon take us back early since we had court the next day. Have to say there was some interesting dancing before we left though. A donkey tail dance that was quite phallic, and I thought it was strange after seeing it that I'd been concerned about wearing only long sleeve shirts in case I pushed the cultural envelope!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Addis, Day 2 and 3

The Bean and I woke up at 4am (before we figured out to take the Sleep Aid!) so I crawled into bed with her and we read. Boy, as I mentioned before it was cold! The Bean said she had a sore throat, something she complained about throughout the day. The ladies at Bejoe made some tasty eggs then we caught up with Solomon to start our day. We started at the National Museum and were really glad we went there. We were assigned a guide who had a lot of pride and interest in the museum and I have to say what we saw was fascinating. I can't remember seeing skulls spanning 4-5 million years in one place in my life. In one room feet from one another we saw how the shapes of human skulls changed so dramatically over this period of time, primarily evident in the jaw and eye socket area. Amazing. Lucy was out on tour but they had a replica and in those days humans were only 3.5 feet tall. On another floor there was a beautiful collection of African Art. We were especially interested in the paintings, perhaps not so much the contemporary ones, but the others were really lovely. They also had sculptures, old artifacts, silver crosses etc. there.
Throughout our visit were were passed by groups of children, perhaps from a church group, that were very interested in us and each shook hands with us as they passed. They cracked us up and we loved seeing them. As we started taking pictures of them we became very popular. They obviously knew that on the back of digital cameras you could see the photo you'd taken, so they'd run together into a group then run over to see their photos. It was so cute and funny and we really enjoyed them! On another level we saw many things belonging to Emperor Salassie. The clothes (really the fabric/brocades) were so ornate and incredible. There was a throne which when the Bean stood next to it dwarfed her. After the museum we visited the Lion Zoo. There were a lot of men in their 30's - 40's standing around which was in hindsight odd, and within minutes we'd had both Blackberries pick-pocketed. Totally our fault for where we had them. My camera bag was locked except for the very front pocket where apparently I'd decided it was a good place for my phone. Duh! John's was on his belt in the holster. Duh again. I mention this so you don't make the same mistake we do. It was interesting to see the animals close up, and they had a couple of nice gardens there too. We were certainly oggled at there. I couldn't tell whether it was curiosity since we looked so different, or being scoped out. Despite having our phones taken I didn't feel unsafe there though. After lunch we drove up Entoto Mountain. Since it was Sunday we didn't see the women carrying their heavy loads of wood down their mountain. Six days a week they pick up sticks and branches from the forest at the top of the mountain, creating roles of wood that weigh 120-130 lbs and carry them down the mountain without shoes to sell for $2-$3. One Mom had gone back to ET to take shoes for these women and had fit them herself to try to help their quality of life and let them do this walk much more safely. Solomon asked if we wanted to go back later in the week to see them but it didn't feel right. I'd seen Lori's photos and read her blog, so knew of their daily burden, but I felt that if we didn't have something to offer to make their life better or easier that driving past them amounted to us gawking. Similarly to driving down the mountain and seeing the homes on either side of the road up close. They were so humble. Blue tarp roofs. Corrugated tin walls leaning up against wood poles. Dirt floors that must turn to wood in the rain. I love photography and rely on my cameras to document so much of our lives, and though I snapped a few photos, again it didn't feel right. I felt like I was driving past gawking. An outsider with a fortunate life having the time to drive by but without anything to offer. Just inappropriate. I put my camera down and just tried to take it in. Hops dried on mats outside several houses. Many of these houses also had a stick outside their house with a white cup on top. Solomon explained that this signified that that house had homemade beer for sale inside! He then drove us through a market area. There were so many people. So many. That was another thing that I will always remember about Addis - the amount of people. Most are walking. I don't know where. Solomon said many were probably off to visit someone. Some sat on the sides of the road either on walls, rubble of crates. Men sitting on crates offering shoe shining seemed to be a popular way of trying to make some money. Being a pedestrian was certainly something you undertook at your own risk if you asked me. Traffic was insane, and the rules of the road were very different than here in the US. If we were going to turn off a road and a pedestrian had just stepped off, the car didn't slow down or stop, just drove in front of the pedestrians nose by about 3 inches. It was a tad nerve-racking! By the time we got back to Bejoe late afternoon I have to say I was burned out from it all. I was exhausted by Addis. I felt bombarded by all I'd seen and perhaps it was all overwhelm. Perhaps we'd tried to cram too much into 2 days. I'm not sure, but I was over it that night. Happily at Bejoe we got to meet Genet and she was a welcome sight. What a lovely lady! So friendly, happy and a great smile. It was easy to see why so many families loved staying with her. That evening we ordered in from Makush. It's a restaurant across the street that is also an art gallery. We gave Solomon money to pick up dinner, though later in the week we stopped by to look at the art and did by 3 pieces from them to bring back. We might well have ordered the wrong thing since most families said the food was good there. We thought it was edible, but I wouldn't recommend the calzones, pizza or 'foccacia.' By the end of our trip I did decide that I thought ordering protein such as chicken seemed to be a better bet than most pastas. I had Nile Perch too which was very good.

Day 3 - Monday -
A BIG day! We were going to meet the girls today! We started off by giving the Bean Claritin though! That cured the sniffles and the sore throat in about half an hour, and fortunately she didn't need anymore the rest of our stay. Go figure! On the drive out to meet the girls we hit traffic. Apparently not too unusual for a Monday:) Imagine a 2 lane highway, but there's no lane lines so there are as many cars/vans across as can fit. We only saw one stop sign and stop light while we were there so all the cars just sort of sort themselves out! Well it's more like to get through an intersection cars just go through and cut off the traffic from the other direction, and when you're in the backseat you just hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed! Anyway, the drive there is really interesting. A ton of construction: buildings and roads. Donkeys wait in the median of the road to be used for the construction. You also see them along the sides of the roads a lot carrying really large water jugs, or roles of hay herded in 2's of 4-5's by a keeper often quite a way back. Solomon would laugh at the Bean (who loves animals in addition to chocolate) because she'd coo "Oh look at the donkeys, they're SO cute." I don't think it had ever occurred to him that donkeys could be cute! On the side of the road was a row of perhaps 8 open-sided stores that sold construction materials. Solomon was explaining that the Chinese are building a lot of the roads there. With all the construction projects we saw each day it really was amazing how few of them had people working on them, or on those that were active how few people were there working. Finally we just drove across the median of the main road we were on and drove onto what appeared to be a rock and dirt road. You'd never have found it without a driver and I'm not sure how you'd give directions to find it. Did I mention there were no road signs either?! Down the road that on different days had different animals along it - cows, sheep, goats, you turn right bend and you're in a really nice neighborhood. This is where Gladney's houses are. We met Heather, Rolyn, Davis and their moms and Genet took us first to #2 to meet their little boy. It was so emotional to watch them meet him for the first time. Heather held him, Davis kissed her little brother. Tears sprung for us all. Then John, I and the Bean walked with Genet to #4 to see our girls. It was so hard for me to hold it together on that walk. It seemed to take forever to walk there (it was very close, it just felt that way because I so wanted to be there.) We walked through the high gate and in front of us on foam pads covered with sheets were all these sweet little babies sunbathing completely nude. All those little bum-bums were such a cute sight and one which we'll never forget! Genet said "Do you see them?" It took but a second to recognize our girls lying side by side, and it was the most amazing sight ever. The lack-of-diaper-risk meant nothing and we just scooped them up. We had told the Bean she could hold one of them first since we knew how much it would mean to her, and I scooped up the other. They were just the sweetest, lovliest butterbugs ever! Their caregiver diapered and dressed them pretty quickly and we just spent our time hugging them, touching them and looking at their little faces, learning their features up close. We were quite certain that though they were identical we'd be able to tell them apart since one had a small spot on her forehead. Then we looked at them and realized they both did! We're in trouble now! We're going to paint one toenail on each a different color with a flash card reminding us whose we painted pink vs purple for when we're tired in case we forget. No, I'm not kidding! About 9:45 the caregivers take them all in for food and an nap. We kept them out a little longer then took them up to their room. We weren't ready to say goodbye since we'd only seen them for about 35 mins at that point, so we offered to feed them which of course was a joy:) The Bean fed her first bottle and did very well! John was having a very animated, nonsense conversation with the other which seemed to amuse the caregivers. We then laid them on their tummys, Isabel crashed out and Rachel bobbed up and down and side to side in front of her crib mirror which made us laugh! We were also thrilled to realize our girls were in the same room as Wes and Layla's son so we were able to love him and photo/video him over the next couple of days for them - so fun! Solomon had mentioned to us that if we had food leftover after a meal we could get it for take-away and we could then find someone who needed a meal to give it to. After having lunch with Heather/Rolyn et al we did just that and not a block from the restaurant we saw 4 boys who lived on the dump who we gave it to. When they looked in the bag as we were driving away it was very humbling to hear there appreciation and surprise as they saw the food. Right after lunch we went to the Alert Leprosy Hospital. An absolute highlight of our trip, and we have Solomon to thanks for that. He made sure we were there at a good time when people were there and the store would be open. Let me tell you, it didn't matter where we went while in ET Solomon knew everyone and everyone loved him. He took care of us, had our backs, knew exactly where we should go never mind what we wanted to buy/do, helped us in the stores, gave us tours and was a wealth of information and history. And to boot he was a lovely man. As the trip went on our phrase was "In Solomon we Trust!" That afternoon he showed the Bean how to spin cotton from the plant into thread and putting it onto a bobbin, he had the women showing her how after he had shown her, we watched the patterns being made that would be used to embroider bags/cushions etc., fabric being made on the looms, door mats being knotted and women doing their beautiful needlepoint. A lot of people there had missing fingers or parts of their feet. Disabilities which could have easily impacted there spirit, outlook or hospitality, but these men and women were so welcoming, happy, friendly and patient. They were great with the Bean, and so kind to let her try everything. I really feel so fortunate to have gone there and met them. We bought a ton of stuff at their store for us, the girls as they grew up, our home, friends and Christmas gifts. Later that afternoon we bought a lot of coffee to bring home from Tomoca, and then did our stop to look at art work. The man who owned the gallery when he realized we were with Gladney had some very touching things to say to us about our adopting which I was really touched by. I explained how fortunate we felt to be bringing ET into our lives and family, but I was pretty choked up from his kind words. We really met some very lovely, kind people in ET. For dinner we met up again with the other Gladney family (H/R from now on to save me typing it over and over,) and decided to go to this cool restaurant called Kurifta Diplomat. It's menu represents a different country each month. Angola had been the previous month, but we should have called ahead. We got there only to find that December was AMERICAN. No way! We ate there anyway, and it was amusing to read the menu. We learned from it that Americans eat corn bread each night for dinner - Heather and I realized we needed to do a better job of that! There's were a little like unrisen biscuits, but overall the food was good and we loved the company:) This was a great and enjoyable day for so many reasons. It restored my enjoyment of Addis and made me ready for what was to come for the rest of our trip. We went to bed that night reliving each minute we got to spend with the girls:)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

LA, Dubai, Addis Ababa day 1

We left LA on December 16th and flew Emirates, via Dubai into Addis landing December 18th. We landed mid-afternoon in Dubai and had grand plans to take a taxi tour of Dubai before eating and going to bed. Yup, that didn't happen. Emirates was lovely - comfy seats, great food and service, nice planes. Despite that just the flying time along with not sleeping well on planes (except John,) we arrived in Dubai really tired. Taking the shuttle to the complementary hotel was very easy and no hassle, but at that point we wanted to check in, eat dinner, shower and bed. The hotel was perfectly fine. The room clean and fairly basic. The walk from the front desks to the elevators were rather like walking down a school corridor or dormitory though. We got up around 5am to eat breakfast and to catch our flight to Addis. A note here about Dubai airport. It's very white and new. I thought Heathrow was busy until I went to Dubai and was amazed at how busy it was at all times of day we traveled. The area between gates was lined with Duty Free shops. One for alcohol, one for make-up, one for fragrances, one for cigarettes etc etc. And just an amazing amount of people. Visiting the womens' bathroom was really interesting. It was like an international world visit in one room: women in traditional Arabian dress - covered from head to toe in black but often with their large beautiful eyes heavily lined in kohl to show them off, women from different parts of Africa in traditional, interesting outfits made of lovely fabrics, women from India dressed in stunning sari's. It was so interesting I didn't mind the wait!!!! When the gate opens for your flight from Dubai you go through x-ray for a second time to wait in another lounge for your flight. Emirates flights have 2 cameras you can follow on your personal tv monitor. One is in the front of the plane - great for take off and landing, the other shows beneath the belly of the plane. This was really interesting flying to Addis because you could see the countryside that you were traveling over. Between the mountain ranges were a lot of farms seemingly quite close into the city. It was an absolutely surreal experience finally being on that last leg flying into Addis. This was a trip that we'd been looking forward and imagined taking since we started this adoption journey, one that we'd grown increasingly excited to take since we'd seen our girls at referral, and one that seemed so elusive waiting for a court date. Now we were on our last leg there.

Our first sight of Addis was a shell of a white plane on the side of the runway. A little disconcerting and I was glad to have seen it after we landed! When you go down the escalators/stairs to immigration there will be no sign for it so it might be hard to remember, but this is where you should look to your left to find a small office with a very small sign above it where you get your visa! After we got the visas, the Bean and I got in line for immigration while John changed money at the bank which was a time saver. After immigration we got our stuff x-rayed again then it was outside! Abey met us outside loaded up our bags. The airport seemed to be on a hill overlooking the city. My first impression was how nice the surroundings were from there, and that the air was not bad like I had imagined it might be. Now keep in mind when I mention the air that we do live in LA! Everything is relative! We seemed to be on Bole Rd really quickly. One of the other sights that we saw right away was a building being constructed, maybe 10 storeys high, and the scaffolding was wooden tree poles lashed together so it was crooked and in some places pulled out quite a distance from the building. I found it fascinating and it was a sight that was repeated in many places around the city that we saw day in and day out around the city as there was so much construction going on. I was amazed at the amount of traffic but more about this later. We dropped our bags at Bejoe and headed out for lunch. We really wanted to make the most of our time in Addis so wanted to hit the ground running. We had a list of places we wanted to go to to either visit or shop at from other blogs talking about their travel experiences and also the things that Gladney families usually did and I was really glad about that. With some of the in-country staff back in the States for Christmas, and Belay dealing with an Embassy glitch for some families that were already in Addis too, we were really glad we could be independent and rely on our own stuff to do with the help of our driver. Abey drove for us on this first day, but Solomon was our driver from then on. We ate lunch with Abey at 'Texas Rodeo Ranch' which did look like a little Texas island in Addis, but we had tibbs for lunch at Abeys recommendation and they were good! After lunch Abey wanted John to try a macchiato (I'm the weird Brit who doesn't drink tea or coffee,) and the Bean finagled a chocolate cake while at La Parisienne. I have to say of the cakes we tried that week this one was my favorite, though Emma thought Bilos was a tad better. Our chocolate connoisseur! We picked up water and berere from a supermarket and for those of you that stay in country for embassy and miss chocolate they had great English chocolate for sale there. Oh the Joy!!!!! After changing some more money we asked Abey to take us to buy some souvenirs. I'm not sure where we ended up but it was a bit of a shock for just landing a few hours before. There were a row of shops, only one which we shopped at, but there were children trying to sell us gum etc outside the store. Inside the store ladies were fun and very nice. We definitely had to haggle, which again was a little exhausting on day one, but we ended up with some nice scarves, wall pictures for the Bean, rag dolls for the girls and a few other odds and ends. The drive home took us past the Hilton and he Sheraton, but with very humble, poor neighborhoods in their shadows. This is one of many dichotomies that we saw each and everyday here in Addis. So many juxtapositions all around. For us that became the defining theme of how to sum up Addis in brief. The new, modern glass building surrounded by wooden, primitive scaffolding. Large, plush hotels with these basic homes surrounding them. So many more to describe in the days to come. One thing that did surprise me as we drove around was how similar, actually the same, the vegetation was here and in SoCal: palm trees, poinsettia trees, ecinacea, dahlias etc. The weather was a lovely temperature during the day, but WOW, can you say COLD at night. I mean COLD. I tend to be chilly, but I wore long pants, two t-shirts, and fleece sweatshirt and socks and really didn't want to get out of bed in the morning! I brought by Ugg slippers, thinking it was a bit of an extra that I didn't really need and I'm SO glad I had them! I'll be packing flannels and long underwear next time! As the evening fell there was a lovely smell of firewood burning. It's one of my favorite smells back home because I associate it with fireplaces and nippy weather. Here though it's the smell of wood burning as people try to stay warm and cook food. Food for thought. I will also always remember the sounds of dogs barking at night through most of the night, and starting about 5am the call to prayer which I loved to hear. There was something exotic, but soothing about it. This is where you might want to think about packing some ear-plugs and that tylenol pm without the tylenol! Without it I woke up at 4am, but when I took it both in Addis and back in LA it really helped getting onto the right time zone. I'm hoping after I finish writing about our trip to write a packing list that I used compiled from others blogs and help from other families that traveled before we did.