Saturday, March 12, 2011

Embassy Trip: Day Four (Awassa Trip)

This morning came early as we watched the sunrise. Birtukan’s staff made us a great breakfast and we headed out early for the much anticipated trip to Awassa. We were all so giddy and excited about this adventure. I have looked forward to this trip so much. I was so eager to get a glimpse of Ethiopia outside of the city. It was so much more than I had ever anticipated. The poverty level we saw as we exited Addis was so intense.

Children were carrying jugs of water, four year olds were herding cattle/goats, children were half naked, donkeys were pulling huge carts full of corn, people were defecating along the roadside, houses were small and made of mud and straw, dryness was everywhere, and it went on for miles. It is really difficult to describe what I saw but I have a few pictures to show what we experienced. But I must say it was absolutely beautiful. The people were so striking and the countryside is outstanding and yet desolate.
We passed through several small villages and had to slow down or stop for the cattle crossing the street. Nothing like what you would experience in the states.

We stopped about ½ way to use the restroom. YUK. This was even considered a nice place. I don’t get grossed out by most things, but this was pretty disgusting; but, we were able to stretch our legs. We continued on the road and eventually arrived in Awassa. I must admit that I was surprised at what I saw. It was absolutely beautiful. It was like a tropical resort town. The streets were so manicured and there wasn’t much trash. It was like it an oasis in the middle of the vast desert. We checked into our hotel (beautiful) and headed to lunch at a resort… and I mean 4 star! It was set on Lake Awassa and had an unbelievable view. We were able to walk down to the shoreline. We saw men fishing with stick poles. The bad part about this meal was the some of the chicken was not cooked properly and 2 people in our group got severe food poisoning. I felt so bad for them. After lunch we headed to the original orphanage where Olivia was relinquished. Here we would get to see her birthmom and meet some of the nannies and children currently waiting.
As we walked into Shalom, we walked to the breezeway and saw a group of birthparents sitting in chairs. I looked at a woman and immediately knew that it was Olivia’s mother. I said to Andy, “There she is.” Even though there were others there, we both knew it was her… she looked just like Olivia. We kind of sat there awkwardly waiting for our turn to talk through translators. They decided to let us go on a tour of the orphanage. What I saw I will never forget. It was so sad. The faces of some of the children (particularly one little boy) will forever be etched in my mind. We walked into the main gathering room and saw about 15 toddlers just staring at us. They weren’t playing, in fact there weren’t any toys for them to play with. They just watch us with those big and beautiful Ethiopian eyes. One little boy who was sitting on the end in a blue and red shirt just watched me. I wanted to scoop him up and hold him, but they really didn’t want us to. We then moved to the baby rooms. Yes ROOMS. They were FILLED with infants that were soooo small. We counted about 20 infants under 4 months old. There were 2 little babies that were so sickly. I would be surprised if they survive. They were a couple of months old and looked like they were about 3 pounds. We saw a set of twin boys who broke my heart. NONE of the babies were crying. Bizarre. I had to get my mind off of it so I started to show the nannies pictures of our little girl and they immediately remembered her.

They were so thrilled to see her and see how well she was doing. They showed me her bed and we then exited the orphanage. I won’t forget what I saw. SO sad. Soon it was our turn to talk with our birthmother. Others had come out of their meetings crying, smiling, hugging. Mothers/fathers/grandmothers were hugging their photo albums and showing off their pictures. I was eager to get started. They called us all in and we gathered with the translators. We had such a feeling of anticipation as we sat across from her. She looked so sad and so nervous. Immediately I handed her the photo album of the baby and she quickly opened it. She instantly smiled and kissed the pictures. I saw recognition in her eyes and it was a beautiful sight to behold. I knew that I was giving her a very special and precious gift. I had Andy’s ipad so I read our list of questions and we were able to record her answers. They had to go through 2 translators so it was a bit awkward at first. We were able to ask some important questions about her family, her faith, her pregnancy, her feelings about us, her feelings about adoption, her hopes and dreams for Olivia, and even the difficult questions… the ones that are hard for all of us. She was so grateful that we recognized her as Olivia’s mother and that we made the long trip to meet her. It meant so much to her. I knew that the most important part of this trip was that we were able to help bring closure to this young mother, as well as find answers for our daughter. It was a surreal experience and I still find it difficult to talk about because of the emotions behind it. We hugged her and shared our hearts with her. We promised to raise her in the Lord and provide her with a good education. We promised to send her pictures and teach her about Ethiopia. We got several pictures and were able to get some video of her as well. These are all special things for our daughter and private as well. She can choose to share this information when she is older if she wishes, but until then it is locked in my heart for her. I am changed from this meeting and I will always cherish this young woman who was so beautiful and scared.

After everyone had their meetings we gathered together for one large group picture with all of the birth parents. We then loaded up the bus and headed to a traditional Ethiopian wedding!!! So different from what we had just experienced. Sisay, our court representative, had gotten married and asked us to attend his traditional marriage. We even sat in the front row!!! It was outside at night and the bride and groom sat in a room with the doors open so that we all could see them. Their pastor preached from Genesis 2 and started by apologizing that he was speaking in Amharic… we all laughed!! The goat brayed all throughout the ceremony, but thankfully we left before the killing of the goat/sheep. It was a really neat experience though. We headed back to the hotel and ordered our supper. Another family with us met with their birth mom while we ate because they couldn’t find her earlier. They were so nervous, but we were so happy that they were able to have their meeting. Everyone had a good experience and enjoyed their meetings. It had been a long day and we were all ready to go to bed. We headed to our rooms and everyone crashed!!! What a day!

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