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.