Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ethiopia Trip Day Five: Finishing Up... Part 2

After the feeding program we spent the rest of the day touring Addis Ababa. Abel took us up the mountain to see the view of the city. It was such a beautiful view... but that is not what struck me on this trip up. We stopped the bus half way up and took pictures. While we were there, little boys would come up to us and try to sell us things or were simply asking us for money. Some would say, "No father, no mother, give money." Talk about breaking your heart. I wanted to give all I had, but we were told not to. We could purchase from them, but they did not want us to encourage the begging. Some of the guys played soccer by the roadside with the kids and they really enjoyed that. After we took pictures from the mountain side we loaded up the bus and tried to make it up the rest of the way. There was too much weight in the bus to get going and it would roll back. The kids would put wheel chalks behind the tires so it wouldn't roll down the hill. Finally, we all unloaded the bus and walked the rest of the way up. We were quite winded and sweaty when we reached the top, but it was fun. At the top of the mountain there was a village. It was a very poor area. There was also a museum and an orthodox church as well as the first palace of one of the emperors. We toured the museum while Abel gave a history of the area. It was a small one roomed museum where no cameras were allowed. (The Orthodox Church on the mountain)
Outside the church were people all around. There was one lady yelling at us.. "Americans" and then she would wave her hand at us. I asked if she was angry that we were there, but Abel said she was mentally ill. I laughed a little, but soon found out that Ethiopians bring their mentally ill to the church to cast out the demons. He told us to ignore her. We then toured the palace, which is really not a palace that we would think of. It was very small and was made of mud. Later in the day Abel showed us his second palace which was enormous, quite different from the first. We saw the first eucalyptus tree that was planted there. It was HUGE.
(That is me standing in front of the tree)
After we were finished we went back down the mountain. On this road were several women with large bundles of sticks on their backs (about 40 pounds) that they had collected at the top of the mountain and they then walked back down the mountain to sell the wood for 25 cents a bundle. A lot of work for so little a profit. It was amazing how hard they worked.
After the mountain trip, we went back down to finish up some shopping. We then went back to the guest house to finish packing up to go home. Birtukan fed us our last supper there and then we headed to the airport for the LONG journey home. We were suppose to leave at midnight, but our flight was delayed until 3am. YUCK. Once we got to Amsterdam our flight was delayed again for another 8 hours. We didn't arrive into the US (Minnesota) until 10pm but we had already missed the connection to Indianapolis. They put us up in the hotel and then we had to be back at the airport for a flight at 7am. Needless to say, we were EXHAUSTED from the journey home. We will not be flying Delta/KLM in the winter EVER again. They were so unorganized and not helpful at all. But, the trip was worth it all to see our baby girl. We miss her already and can't wait to bring her home!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ethiopia Day Five: YM Feeding Program (Part 1)

Today was a day that I will never forget. All week we had been hearing about Birtukan's feeding program. On Saturday mornings Birtukan's ministry feeds hundreds of orphan children. We were soooo looking forward to witnessing this in person. I mentioned in a previous post that we decided to sponsor a child. Well, Birtukan had the child and her mother brought in from her village to meet us! After breakfast we went to the YM offices and met Birtukan's husband as well as Joseph, one of her social workers. We listened to a short presentation about the program and how it is so much more than a weekly feeding program. They help educate the children, provide for their medical care, teach their care givers a trade, provide meals throughout the week, etc. They teach them a weekly Bible lesson before their meal and then play. Outside after our meeting was this beautiful girl and her mother! Etsub. She was very shy and tentative, but happy. She didn't know what to think and I didn't know what to say to make her more comfortable. But she told me that she likes to jump rope (so guess what I am taking with me when I go back!!! I am also loading up a backpack for her with lots of goodies.). She touched my heart in a way I can't describe. She had a sore on her lip that I noticed and I prayed in my heart that the Lord would heal her.

Soon after our meeting, we all loaded up in the bus (including Etsub) and we drove to the feeding program. The road we went down was not fit to walk on let alone drive a bus. But that didn't stop our driver... down we went! The gate was opened and the kids were soooo excited to see us. They all ran up to us and would say... Hello, my name is _________. They were so proud of the english they knew. Everyone soon got in line for their meals, the youngest first. They loaded their plates with injera. Some of us helped with the water for the kids. They wanted their water filled to the TOP. It made me laugh because we are so careful here at home with how full we put our cups, but they wanted them FULL. I loved looking around and watching the kids interact. There were several adults there (many of them parents of the children). Andy spent a lot of time with one elderly grandpa. He was so grateful to meet us that he said we were God. Andy said, "No, I am your friend." He fuddled the translation and meant, "We are LIKE God" meaning God sent us and they were so grateful. What a special man. I played with several children and one girl in particular. She thought I was her sponsor. She just captured my heart. Her mother was so beautiful and kind. THey loved seeing their picture after it was taken and the video too. It was soon time to leave and Etsub had to go early. I felt so bad that I didn't have anything to give her but I had put several pieces of gum in my pocket. I tried to give them to her, but she was shy. She finally took one. A little girl with nothing only took one tiny piece of gum. I grabbed her hand and put all of the pieces in her hand. She smiled!!! I cried when she left because they few pieces of gum were like gold to her. Things that we take for granted and our children in the states think is minimal. They just don't get it. I saw so much this day that is etched in my mind forever. A little boy about 4 was funneling water from a pipe into a jug to carry to his family. He was only wearning some underwear. Women who watched their children eat while they went hungry. Boys who were soooo excited because they got a granola bar. A crippled man crawling on his arms with his legs strapped to his back. Donkeys walking down the street with no one watching them. So many life changing images I will never forget. Lord, help me not forget what I have seen and help me to make a difference.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ethiopia Day Four: Court Day

Andy and I with Sisay after we had passed court

This is the day that we anticipated for MONTHS!!!! I woke up at 1am and could not sleep so I read some of my book. Andy woke up about 3am. It was such a peaceful and beautiful morning. I wasn't nervous just looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead. We were able to view the sunrise over the mountain from our bedroom window. I must say I don't see many sunrises, so I really enjoyed watching it. As we got ready that morning, we found out that everyone else had gotten up around 3 as well. Something in the air I guess. Birtukan made us homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast with our usual fruit smoothies!!!! YUM. I wish I was there now so I could eat her food. Abel soon arrived and we were off to pick up another family at their guest house. We soon arrived in front of the court building, which looked nothing like our court houses. Sisay, our court liason, met us at the door. As we walked up to the building, a man carrying a package approached Sisay and showed him the envelope. Sisay said, "That is the license." We didn't think anything of it as he and the man walked up the stairs ahead of us. As we sat in the hallway awaiting our turn with the judge, I saw him open the envelope. We soon learned that the judge had requested the original license from Shalom in Awassa! Bethany sent a courier 4 1/2 hours one way to get the license (overnight!). He arrived the same time we did! Had we gotten there any sooner, or if he had been delayed, we would not have had the appropriate paperwork to pass court. God was literally ONE STEP AHEAD of us. The waiting room was FULL of adoptive families with only enough chairs for about half, so we sat on the floor in the hallway. They soon came out and called the name of our orphanage which meant it was our turn. One by one they would call the name of the child and the adoptive families would go in to the "judge's chambers" which was more like a small office. It seemed like forever before they called for our daughter. Andy and I walked into the room and Sisay stood behind us. There were chairs against the wall and a lady sitting in front of the chairs, but the judge was sitting at a desk to the left of us with stacks of papers. She was an extremely beautiful Muslim woman. She began asking us questions... Do you have other children? Have you met your child? Is this the child you wish to adopt? Do you know this is FINAL? Are you prepared for cultural identity problems that may arise in the future? Have you prepared for an adoptive child? Of course, we answered yes to all of the questions. At the end she said, "Congratulation, she's yours!". We said thank you and left the room. I came out a basket of tears and hugged another adoptive parent then turned and hugged Andy and sobbed. Come to find out, Andy didn't hear the judge say she's yours so he just assumed we passed because of the way I was acting!!! LOL. She was very soft spoken and hard to hear. We were only in there about 1 minute. Andy timed others who went in and they were in there for 52 seconds, 57 seconds, etc. Not long. After hearing that we had all passed, everyone sitting around us said CONGRATULATIONS as we walked out. We all looked like a big emotional group. There were 14 of us there! As we walked out Sisay said... Let's go celebrate! So we walked down to a coffee shop and got the best macchiatos (sp?) you have ever had. YUM. We all took pictures and celebrated. We were there for quite a long time, but it was so nice to just talk as a group. After that Abel picked us up again and took us to lunch at a "mall". I had chicken fingers, I know, I went all out. But, I was starting to not feel well at all. I don't know if was all of the emotions of the day or if the altitude was getting to me or if it was something I ate, but I started feeling HORRIBLE. My stomach was a mess and I felt like I could pass out. I had brought stomach meds with me in my bag for instances like this. I took whatever I could but it took quite a while for it to kick in. While I waited at the entrance (hoping to feel better), Andy walked around the mall to see if we could find something for the boys to bring home. This mall was not like our mall. It had several levels but some of the shops were selling used things. But we did find things for them. Abel finally arrived so we loaded up the bus. We were suppose to go on a tour, but I wasn't feeling well so Andy said we either want to go to the orphanage or go to the guest house. I just knew that I couldn't ride around in the bus for a long period with my stomach like it was. Everyone was of the same concensus, so we made a surprise visit at the orphanage. This ended up being the last time we got to spend with the kids, so it was pretty special since we had just passed court and we knew that they were ours. We thoroughly enjoyed our time. The baby is the sweetest thing. She adores her daddy already! She snuggles up to me and cuddles. I am in love. It was hard leaving that day, but we knew that they were in great hands and we would be seeing her again soon. I got to see her with "her" nanny and saw how much they loved each other, so this made it much easier. We said our goodbyes and loaded up. We went back to the guest house and spent the evening there. It was an enjoyable evening. I still wasn't feeling 100%, but I got to look at Birtukan's jewelry and talk with her some more. She is such an amazing lady. My next post will be devoted to her and her work!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ethiopia Day Three: Meeting with Bethany

Abel... Our favorite guide

Picture from the Hilltop Restaurant where we ate lunch

Yet another day that will forever be etched in my memory bank!!! Amazingly we both have been feeling pretty well throughout this journey. Today was no different. Abel told us that he would be at the guest house at 8, so we had to make sure we were up and showered pretty early. Showers were pretty good, we had hot water but the outlet was in the shower on the wall so we were a bit watchful while we showered!!! That would be a horrible headline... "Adoptive Parent Zapped While Showering in Ethiopian Guest House!" It was nice to have hot water though. I made sure I kept my eyes shut tight and my mouth closed so that I didn't ingest any water. Abel said the water was 90% clean but 10% they were working on!!!! LOL. That 10% would likely get me for sure!!! Birtukan gave us a water bottle at the beginning of the week and I asked for water and she asked where my bottle was. She wanted us to refill them! I love her efficiency. She would boil the water for 10 minutes and then filter it for us. It worked great. I remember the first night we all had dinner (at midnight) and we were all sooooo thirsty but we sat staring at the water jugs because we weren't sure if we could drink it. She came in and saw us staring and said... "Drink... it's good for you!" We all sighed with relief. When Abel arrived we had just finished another FABULOUS breakfast. We loaded up, but I took some dramomine for the bus!! Andy and I both did. We were still amazed at the driving. Quite fascinating. Today we went to the orphanage first (after picking up other families at other guesthouses). It was not nearly as nerve wracking today. However, there was one family with us who had not met their child yet. It was fun capturing their first moments with their son. So precious. The goats were still at the front gate to welcome us!!! We spent the morning with Olivia and admired her precious attributes. She is the most beautiful baby you have ever seen. I am in love. Who knew you could fall in love with someone so quickly. I had brought some dolls for the girls and some cars for the boys so the head nanny let me pass them out to the kids. You would have thought I was Santa!!!! The kids swarmed me and just had a blast picking out dolls and cars. I had sooo much fun seeing the looks on their faces and watching them get a gift. It may have been some of the kids first gift they have received! Andy and I loved hanging out with the older children. There was one particular older boy who captured our hearts. If he did not have a family we would be starting the process over for him. What an amazing young man. He was the oldest child there, but he loved all of the children and was just awesome. He loved our camera! I sooooo want to find his adoptive parents to let them know what a precious kid he is. It seemed like our time with Olivia today FLEW by. We got to feed her oatmeal today and man did she love it. Yesterday we got to give her a bottle. Both days she fell asleep in our arms and we just stared at her beauty and loveliness. She is a tiny little thing. I had sent her an outfit earlier this summer that was 3-6 months. She was wearing it today and she is 7 months. It fit her perfectly. I totally thought she would be much bigger, but she is a tiny sweet pea. Abel picked us up again and took us to an amazing hilltop restaurant. I almost felt funny eating there because it was so fancy. You think I would have eaten something Ethiopian, but I didn't want to upset my stomach so I went with Italian! After lunch we went to the Bethany office to do our court day orientation. Sisay was our court representative so he had us all sit around a U shaped table while he gave a powerpoint presentation. The first thing he asked was if we had heard about the orphanage license being revoked. Well, of course we had. He then proceeded to say that one hour ago he received word that our license at been restored. Our group let out the loudest eruption of cheers. The next thing you know Abel pops his head in the door with a big smile and yells CONGRATULATIONS!!! We all laughed. I felt like crying because of how emotional the entire ordeal was. The rest of the time was a blur because I was so excited. We did get to meet with Olivia's social worker and nurse. Basically everything in her story is accurate and her health is perfect. Quick and easy!!! We were able to give some items to other social workers that we had brought from other families. After we had our meeting we went back to the guest house to rest and then later that night we got to go to a traditional Ethiopian meal at a special restaurant. Birtukan met us at the guest house and I was able to talk with her for a while. She was sooooo excited because she had just passed her written test to get her driver's license! She gave us a big hug. You would have thought she had won the lottery by the way she was acting. It made her so happy. I did tell her that I had heard so much about her and that I wanted to hear her story. This story is for another blog post, but hearing it changed my life. It lead to us sponsoring a child at her ministry. The traditional dinner we went to was quite an experience!!!! Lots of dancing, music, incense, food, and drink. The guys in our group had a good time trying to emulate the dancing. Quite entertaining!!! We stayed until we all felt like we needed to head back to get rested up for our court appointment in the morning. We had to be there at 9. To wrap the day up, we spent amazing time with Olivia and received wonderful news about the orphanage license! It was a good day. I think we all went to bed that night with great expectations for the morning.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ethiopia Day Two: Meeting Our Daughter

~~The only stoplight we saw~~

This day will forever be etched in my memories. We awoke early to the sound of the call to prayer over the muslim speakers and to the sound of the roosters crowing. It was really awesome to see the city from the window of our room. We could see the mountains in the distance! The guest house that we stayed in had fence around it to keep us safe, and I noticed the fence across the "street" had a fence but on the top of it there were broken glass bottles used to prevent someone from climbing over the fence. One would think that the crime rate was high because of these extraordinary measures used to provide safety, but we learned that crime is in fact very low in Ethiopia. While we were there we never felt that our safety was in jeopardy. We felt very safe the entire trip. We had an amazing breakfast of FLUFFY pancakes and the best smoothies you have ever had! Every morning Birtukan made us fresh fruit smoothies that were out of this world. My mouth waters just thinking about them. After breakfast, Abel picked us up and took us to the shopping district for the morning. This was amazing too because nothing had prices on them. We bartered on price for everything, then we would check with Abel and he would get the price down even more. After a while, the beggars and kids started gathering around so Abel hurriedly got us back on the bus (we noticed one of the police officers holding a stick and she started shooing the kids away and even hit one of the with the stick). A very thin woman with a 3-4 year old child who was suckling her breast came up to the window of the bus and begged. The child would smile and then get his sad look on his face and start suckling again. My heart broke at this. I wanted to give her something, but Abel told us that it was illegal to give to them because they didn't want them to swarm the bus. Another thing I noticed was how many crippled people were on the streets. Nothing like we see here. When we arrived at night no one was around, but during the day the traffic was crazy and people were everywhere. I will never forget the driving strategies used! It was down right SCARY!!! No one used lanes and we only saw one stoplight. I took a picture of it! The exhaust was AWFUL and the roads were not very well maintained. CRAZY. We went out to a very nice lunch... the most expensive thing on the menu was only around $6 and it was really nice food. We enjoyed it. After lunch we made our way to the orphanage. When we arrived we noticed a herd of goats that were resting next to the gate. We all took pictures of the goats!!!! Abel knocked at the gate and we all eagerly awaited for someone to let us in. It felt like an eternity. FINALLY, the gates opened and we headed up to the door. I immediately noticed the window was open and all of the babies were lying on mats against the wall. I saw Olivia immediately and my heart jumped!!! We walked in the door and the nannies were in the kitchen area and stayed out of our way. I worried that I wouldn't recognize her, but we all knew which child was ours. We quickly walked up to her and I bent down and just looked at her in awe. I didn't really know what to do. Do I pick her up? Do I talk to her? Do I take pictures? I was just overwhelmed. So, I began to speak to her and told her that mommy was here and I was so happy to see her. Her face just lit up when she heard my voice and she started to kick her feet and wiggle. She was excited to hear me!!! It was like she recognized me. I heard Andy behind me say... Pick her up!!! So I bent down and lifted her into my arms. She was such a tiny little thing and she fit so snuggly inside my arms. It was as if she had always been there. She rested her head against me and then would pull back and look at my face... almost as if she was matching the voice she knew to the face she saw. What a God experience it was. I held her for a while and then Andy was dying for his turn. I had her to him and it seemed like she knew that he was her daddy. She looked at him in awe and just checked him out over and over. She would smile and then look back at me. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with her. She is the most perfect little thing and has the most angelic face and disposition. I couldn't ask for anything more. We got to spend 2 hours with her. The time FLEW by and we were sad when we had to leave. That was the only time when I didn't want Abel to show up!!! What a great day. We left the orphanage feeling like we had just experienced a piece of heaven. CLOUD NINE!!! We then went back to the guest house for dinner. Birtukan was so gracious and was THE BEST cook. We went to bed fairly early that night. It was such a surreal experience.

Ethiopia Day One: The Journey

Me and Andy at the airport getting ready to board!

November 29, 2010 finally arrived!!! We had looked forward to this day for a LONG time. We got the kids ready and sent them off to school. We then delivered all of the kids' stuff to my parents house. We returned home to finish getting ready to go... cleaning house, final packing, finishing up work, etc. My dad arrived to pick us up and we left for the airport with tons of luggage in tow. Once we got to the airport we weighed in the luggage (which was full of donations) and each bag weighed approximately 49.5 pounds. We were allowed 4 bags and they could weigh 50 pounds each. We had collected one bag full of educational supplies from Andrea's third grade class. I was so proud of all of their efforts. Two of the bags were donations from families at the preschool where I teach. I still have another 50 pounds at home that we could not fit. We had an uneventful flight to Detroit with about an hour layover. Right when we were boarding for our flight to Amsterdam I decided to check my email. We had an email from our social worker and I nearly collapsed right there on the spot. She informed us that all of the orphanages in southern Ethiopia had just had their license revoked (but don't worry it all works out and the license is renewed!!! but we didn't know it yet). We were left with the difficult decision of going or not going. Earlier that morning we were given a scripture that said, "Arise and Go." So, we knew that we were suppose to go regardless of the news we received. Andy called our social worker and she encouraged us to go ahead and board our flight but she wasn't sure if we were still going to have our court hearing or not. We knew then that the prayers of our friends and family would be carrying us the rest of our journey because the outcome was completely unknown. Would we have court? Would we become her parents? Would someone even be at the airport to pick us up? Needless to say, the flight to Amsterdam was long. I took a sleeping pill but still didn't get much rest. My heart was heavy and restless, but I kept rolling the entire situation over to the Lord. We arrived in Amsterdam and then boarded our plane to Ethiopia. This was another long flight, but we decided to stay awake so that we would be able to sleep once we got there. Landing in Ethiopia was surreal. It was at night, about midnight. We got off the plane and went right to the line to get our visa (which only took about 15 minutes) and then we went through customs to get our passport stamped. After that we exchanged our money. There were two banks there and we couldn't decide which bank to use because one had a long line, but the other had no one. We were hesitant, but the lady kept saying... It's the same!!!! So, we went to the one that had no one, and guess what, It was the same! We went out and collected our bags, surprisingly we found all of them. None of them were lost. Andy was so glad he kept the luggage tags, because they asked to see them before we could leave the airport. As we walked out there were SEVERAL Ethiopian people waiting at the gate. At that point I must admit that I got a little nervous. We didn't recognize anyone!!! But as we rounded the corner there was a man in the back waving a Bethany Christian Services sign. I nodded at him and he met us at the gate. We quickly made our introductions and then immediately asked about the license being revoked. He unfortunately had no answers for us, but in his kind way tried to reassure us and did let us know that we would still appear before the courts. This relieved us slightly, but our hearts were still heavy and nervous. This man ended up becoming a friend as we spent the rest of the week with him. Abel was the most amazing guide and went above and beyond to make our stay so memorable. I love that guy!! He recently published a book about the history of Ethiopia (for dummies... as he called it!! LOL). It is designed for adoptive families to use as a history book for their children. Well, we bought 2 of them! At the airport I had to use the restroom and had my first Ethiopian restroom experience. There was no toilet paper. I was so glad that I had my wet wipes!!! There was no trashcan either! We waited for a short time for 3 other families to arrive. It was great because we soon found out that we knew them from the Forum I follow. All of us were staying at the same guest house and all of our children were at Shalom. These people ended up becoming good friends. We walked out of the airport and the first thing I noticed was the smell of the city. I can't really describe it, but it was very different! We loaded ALL of the luggage onto the top of our bus. I was nervous that it would make it to our guest house, but it did. As we drove through the city of Addis Ababa, I was first amazed at how developed it was, but I was also amazed at how few people were out and about. It appeared deserted! Abel told us that once the sun goes down, the people go home. I also noticed that our driver didn't drive in the lanes on the road, but I didn't think much of this (until the next day!). We arrived at the guesthouse and Birtukan, the owner, met us at the door and insisted that we sit down for a hot meal. It was probably the best soup I have ever had! We were soooo hungry and sooooo tired. We ate well and then soon went to our room for bed. Needless to say, we slept really well that night. We left Indiana on Monday afternoon and arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday night around 11pm. What a long journey!