Hello friends! Today I am continuing to retell our Travel Journals from our two trips to Ethiopia. If you are just now tuning in or are behind, feel free to go back to the beginning to catch up (or jump in at any point!)
May 23, 2011
Court / Hannah’s Hope / Bethzatha
The Motrin PM I took to sleep last night didn’t work as well as it did the night before. Apparently pills don’t counteract nerves! My stomach is in knots this morning knowing that today is court. I really don’t have much reason to be concerned, but the unknown is still killing me. Even worse though is the knowledge that tomorrow we have to say goodbye. I don’t know how it is possible to go home and live a normal life with you not there. Even after we received your referral, we had a hard time doing day-to-day stuff. We felt like our minds were a million miles away – and only because they were! You are in our thoughts in everything we do. I’m planning lots of coffee dates, play dates, and family activities…but I don’t think any amount of distractions is going to keep me sane until YOU are in my arms forever.
Time to go get ready…Wass picks us up for court in a matter of hours.
WELL my dear, today was QUITE an emotional day! After that last sentence, daddy and I finished getting ready and popped downstairs for some breakfast with our travel group. I had my normal: an omelet with everything in it, coffee with milk, and French toast with honey. It’s no longer anything exciting, but it fills me up and gives me the nutrition (and caffeine) that I need for the day!
Wass picked us up at 8:30am this morning and we went straight to court. I didn’t expect it to be such a long drive, but as always I enjoy seeing one more part of Addis. We drove through quite a bit of construction and finally saw the true meaning of “dust bowl”! Wass told us stories of the history of Ethiopia throughout the entire drive! He is a great tour guide as well as a driver and friend! We have thoroughly enjoyed our time with him! His laugh has become almost addicting to me – I’m going to miss it so much when we go home.
When Wass told us we had made it to the courthouse, we had no idea what he was talking about. It looked like just another street in Addis with music playing, shops open, people walking by (and staring at a bus full of white faces!)… But he led us into a building and up probably 7 flights of stairs (and we thought the 5 to get to our hotel room was bad!)….we were winded at the top, to say the least! This elevation is starting to make us feel like a wuss…but at least we aren’t all sick. We walked down a small narrow hallway and into a room. The back wall was lined with windows and all the others with chairs. The room was packed with mostly Americans and Europeans, but also several Ethiopians. Wass told us that everyone in this room was here for adoption-related hearings. Although there were signs posted that said “silence”, every five minutes or so, the dull whispers would turn into border-line yelling conversations and someone would come in and “shush” the place or close the door, leaving the packed room even more stuffy. [It irritated daddy immensely and he would sometimes “shush” them himself!] As small door in the corner would open, and a small Ethiopian woman would step out and quietly say a name and a family or a group would follow her through the door, disappear, and then reappear after several minutes. Although our appointments were scheduled for 10:00am, I’m sure it was after 11:00 until our group was called in. The room was slightly bigger than it looked from the outside, but small nonetheless. There were just enough chairs to seat our travel group, and adjacent to us were two desks with Ethiopian woman behind them. They asked our caseworker a few questions in Amharic while the woman who led us in collected our passports for the judge. The judge first made sure each family was there, and then began to ask a series of questions to which we each nodded and answered “yes”. Have you met your child? Have you experienced some culture while in Ethiopia? Have you taken international adoption education? Do you have other children? Are your children prepared for this adoption? Do you intend to celebrate Ethiopian culture with your child? Do you understand this is an irrevocable decision? Do you want to proceed? Then she announced her decision on each case. “T******* – the case is approved. She is yours!” were the words that spilled tears onto my cheeks uncontrollably. All of a sudden, daddy and I could breathe again. After she had shared good news with the rest of the group, we all stood up and left.
We walked out into the hallway again where our caseworker made sure we all understood what had happened. Then we got back into our van, wished each other a “congratulations”, shed many tears, and were on our way! It was amazing how quickly the shaking and queasiness disappeared – now we were all ready to see our children again!
For some reason, every time we arrive at Hannah’s Hope, the road seems to get bumpier. I don’t know if it is because the surroundings are becoming more familiar so we are paying more attention…or what. Walking through the gates now, all of us immediately know where to set our stuff down and we know the top two places our babies are. But this time when I approached the front door to the baby house, three other mothers from our travel group were just standing there! Apparently all the children were sleeping and they didn’t want us to go in. We were all hoping this was just a big misunderstanding, since this was a new crew there today, but it seemed they weren’t budging. Finally I squeezed into the door to use the bathroom, planning to at least go peek at you afterwards. But when I was washing my hands, another special mother asked who my baby was…I said, “T*******” and she told me I could go get you. I went in the baby room and you had just woken up and Seble was about to feed you a bottle. When I asked for you she handed you right over!
I went outside though, and there were still two or three families who had not been allowed in. After some encouragement from me, they soon came out with theirs too. The only thing we can guess is that the special mothers on shift misunderstood and thought that we were picking up our babies today and weren’t ready to say goodbye. Even though it was really hard, it was good to know that we didn’t do something wrong…it was just that they love our kids so much!
You barely drank your bottle – you just didn’t quite seem ready for it. So we made googly faces at you trying to get those cheeks to turn into a smile and those chocolate eyes to light up. For the most part you just wanted to be held and seemed content. But when you get hungry – you get HUNGRY! Later as I fed you a bottle, daddy and Tsige found the damask mats to lay down in the shade where eventually all five of us families sat down and played with our children and ate snacks. We were choosing to forego lunch today to spend more time with our little ones so we had packed accordingly. After you finally downed your bottle, you were awake most of the short time we were there, and very smiley as we tickled and played with you. You even started playing (or chewing on) your giraffe, which you normally ignore. And the big white bow we put on your head was making you look like an absolute DIVA! Love it!!! Brittany said at one point that you just “ooze girliness” and I couldn’t agree more.
We are thinking you are probably teething because you didn’t stop chewing on our hand the entire day. But when I tried to hold you again you started rooting for that bottle. I asked daddy to go inside and get it, but apparently he took just a little too long because for the first time you let out a scream! It dwindled back down to your soft cry in no time, but when daddy slowly stepped outside, it took him a moment to realize it was HIS baby actually crying. We’re just not used to that. With big tears in your eyes and rolling down your cheeks, you instantly took the bottle and began to fall asleep. And that’s when Wass told us it was time to go. It was way too soon, but I tried to comply as quickly as possible to keep us all on schedule. I handed you over to Seble and she finished giving you a bottle. Each day this gets harder and harder….but I just keep reminding myself I have all of tomorrow. I don’t know WHAT I’m going to tell myself tomorrow though.
Our travel group split up a bit at this point. Three of our families were missing a piece of paper at court, but fortunately there was a copy of it at Hannah’s Hope. So the dads of those families were heading back to court with another driver while the rest of us were being escorted by Wass to Bethzatha, the orphanage where our children all started out.
From friends on the AGCI listserv, we were somewhat prepped for this emotional experience. But as expected, you can’t completely prepare yourself… When to drove up to the gates, our first reaction was how beautiful it was. It almost looked like a garden outside, and there were several friendly children playing next to a group of Europeans who spoke little, if any English. We met the director of Bethzatha briefly, who introduced himself and then the kind lady who was going to take us on our tour (of course, I can’t remember her name!).
The orphanage was divided in two homes, similar to Hannah’s Hope. Upon entering the first home there was a flight of stairs right within the first doorway. We were instructed to remove our shoes and slip on a pair of croc-like sandals. We began up the stairs and the smell immediately hit me. It just smelled like urine and dirty diapers – which is understandable considering how many children are there. The first room they brought us in had two cribs. We were told that the precious children laying in them were not only handicapped, but blind and deaf. I had heard about these to sweeties from other families, and my heart broke knowing how long they had already been there. We all took turns holding their hands and rubbing their faces affectionately – giving them the love that they craved and deserved! The little girl didn’t respond to me much, but the little boy began smiling and laughing and squeezing my hand! It put a huge smile on my face to see how joyful this little man was considering the circumstances. He obviously felt very loved here. When another friend from our travel group was holding the little girl’s hand, the sweet girl gripped it and started rubbing it all over her own face! It was just PRECIOUS!
The next room we went in had just a few REALLY TINY babies. Most of them were sleeping, but a special mother there was feeding one a bottle and there were big brown eyes staring up at us with curiosity. Behind her on the bed, lay her Bible open. There weren’t rows and rows of cribs in each room like I had imagined. There were a few, but there were also several bunk beds with rows of babies lined on them. Some big and chunky and looking rather healthy, and others tiny and underweight…skin stretched over bones. It was hard to imagine you here once upon a time. Knowing you were only 6 pounds when you arrived at Hannah’s Hope, I can’t imagine how small you were when you arrived a month earlier at Bethzatha. It would have broken my heart regardless, but knowing my own daughter had lived like this was really heart-wrenching. Don’t get me wrong – each child there was DEARLY loved…I could see that on the special mothers’ faces as we took turns loving on them and holding them and kissing them…but there were too many children for them to get the individualized attention that they get at Hannah’s Hope. Makes me more and more thankful every day for AGCI and all they are doing for the children in Ethiopia.
One of the rooms we went into DID have cribs lined on every wall, with usually two babies in each bed. Many of them were smiling and happy, but several looked scared as well. In another room children were asleep with their legs sticking out through the slats in the crib – I’m not sure if it was the preferred position of the child or just lack of space. After loving on every child in the first home we moved on to the second.
Outside in the courtyard the children were running up to us with smiles. Brittany, prepared as always, began handing out cars, and toy lizards, and other silly things. The boys especially were overjoyed! A few of them even spoke some English to us. The landscape was stunning, with beautiful trees, greenery, and flowers.
We walked into the second home and this room was lined with bunk beds, and in every spare inch was a small crib or bouncer with a baby in it. On several bunks were lined 3 or 4 babies. Some sound asleep, some laying wide awake and expressionless as we kiss their little hands and tell them Jesus loves them. One little girl was a month (maybe?) old and about three pounds….and yet she had the most alert eyes. She just drew me in. On the other side of the room, a little boy sat with the saddest expression next to a special mother. When I went over to talk to him, I reached out my hand so I could hold his and he reached up for me. You know I didn’t even blink to pick him up. Immediately I noticed my arm was saturated with urine, but as those sad eyes stared into my soul I only held him closer and smothered him in kisses. I was sad to let him go – I would have taken him home too in a second. Another little boy was lying in a bouncer and demanding attention from my husband. He was smiling as long as a pair of eyes were locked on him, otherwise he cried out for attention. It took every ounce of us to put those babies down and step foot out of that room. Even though there were two or three special mothers in there, they just seemed to be craving some one on one attention.
From there we just toured other areas of their facility before we sat down in the director’s office. He answered any questions, explained to us a bit more of how our children ended up there (generally speaking, we didn’t get any case-specific information), and thanked us for coming and for the donations we brought. While he was wrapping things up, Wass came in and said we had to hurry and leave because he had to get some documents translated. We quickly said our goodbyes to the director and thanked him for his time and for the tour. He was the kindest man – we all gave him hugs before we left!
Although I held it together pretty well while I was there, we all got back in our van and just cried. It was SUCH an emotional day!!! First court and then Bethzatha – our emotions were drained. On the way home, Wass stopped the van on the side of the road and said he’d be right back. He grabbed those documents he said needed translating and literally ran across four or five lanes of traffic and over the cement barriers, risking his life (or so it seemed to us Americans…not so much to him) to get those documents translated! We were all in shock as we watched him running! Back when we were in the paperwork phase it was so easy to complain about how long everything took, but we all agreed that seeing in person all the efforts the Ethiopia staff put into getting that accomplished…we would try to be a little bit more patient. (So for those of you in that phase – I know it’s hard, but TRUST US!!! They are working HARD to get it done!)
While we were waiting for Wass to return, school was getting out near our van. We watched groups of children, all in uniform, walking by and waving to the strange van of white faces! Some girls posed for pictures, a few of the older boys gave some flirty, winky faces, and a few asked for food or money…which we were a little scared to hand out simply because we were sitting still and missing our driver. Not much longer and we saw Wass jumping across barriers again and off we went. He must have sensed our somber mood after Bethzatha, because he pulled over at Kaldi’s and told us to order to-go!
Now KALDI’S, my dear, is the original Starbucks! It’s what Starbucks is modeled AFTER. Kaldi’s was named after the farmer who discovered the coffee bean! Although daddy and I had already heard the story, it was cute to hear Wass explain it to us:
Kaldi noticed a couple times that his goat and eating the bean off this bush and would act really funny every time he did! So he decided to try it – “whoa, that was bitter!” he thought! But then he noticed the energy he got from it. He gave it to some other Ethiopians who tried it and they thought the same thing…but then they had the idea to roast it and brew it into a liquid – “Ooooo, that’s gooood!” they said.
(This is the way Wass described it.)
We walked into Kaldi’s and it VERY much felt like a Starbucks at home! It had small tables and chairs, the employees were wearing green aprons with the Kaldi logo! They EVEN had the Mocha Coconut Frappichino!!! I knew instantly what I was getting…and Brittany got the same! We also made sure to pick up a Macchioato for Wass as a thank you. Another family ended up trying the amazing looking ice cream (which turned out to be a HUGE mistake – so DON’T…for those of you who are tempted!). We hurried back out to the van with our orders so that Wass would get that paperwork to Hannah’s Hope on time. The rest of the ride we were oooo-ing and awwww-ing over our amazing drinks – best coffee experience of my LIFE!!!
When we got to the familiar part of the city again, Wass asked if we wanted to go back to Hannah’s Hope to see our kids. A unison chorus of “YES!!!!” rang in the van as smiles spread across our faces!
It was the best way to end our day! We ran up to your room where you were sound asleep. Your special mothers gave me permission to pick you up. I rocked you in my arms and you didn’t make a peep. Well….at least not until Darcee’s little M came in the room crying! (It just as well could have been any baby, it just happened that M was the only one awake and was NOT happy about her special mother pulling her from playtime on the balcony.) It wasn’t long before there was a chorus of cries in all the cribs in the small room! The biggest scowl came across your face as you were woken from your deep slumber. Daddy asked for you, so I gave him the opportunity to soothe you. It didn’t take long before you were sound asleep again – go daddy!!!! When we were told we had to leave again, daddy leaned over to lay you down in your bed and you immediately started fussing again. Of course, your special mother was more than willing to pick you right back up again…but it was hard to leave you upset like that. Fortunately, we knew we had ALL DAY tomorrow.
The ride back to the hotel, our travel group schemed our way into staying at Hannah’s Hope all day on Tuesday. We begged Danny (who was driving us) to pick us up early. He said he would check with Tsige, but gave us hope. Then we were taking snacks along too so we could stay until the kiddos went down after bathtime again.
Back at the hotel, the three missing daddy’s were waiting with the great news that they had passed court! Now we’re just waiting for the five of us to get Embassy dates so we can head right back over and bring them home!
Tomorrow Will Be Impossible,