Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Days

The bread that Zimmet made us. We lived off of it for days! It was SOOOO good.

Saturday and Sunday went by in a blur. We spent an ugly 3 hours in traffic going to this beautiful crater on Saturday. That was totally traumatic. At one point it was so hot I took Sam's shirt off in the car and apparantly that is a no-no in Ethiopia. Spent some great times at the Hill Bottom relaxing and drinking AMAZING 50 cent macchiatos.

Sam hanging with some other kids at the crater.

Sam trying his first beer. Just kidding! But he did love the feel of the glass on his lips.
Part of the traffic problem??

Yes, this is a carseat in Ethiopia. In fast, seatbelts were a luxury.

I wanted to share pictures of the coffee ceremony that Wegayu and Zimmet had for us. They also cooked an Ethiopian meal for us and it was SO good. We all (Sam included) ate the entire thing.

Zimmet and her mom decided they trusted us enough to share their homemade liquor with the women. They gave it to us during the times we would share coffee together. This stuff was STRONG! Like shivers all up and down your body strong. They thought it was hilarious as we sat there making sounds after taking a shot of it. They gave us even stronger stuff the next day. My goodness!

One thing Pete and I did which was hilarious was play tennis on Sunday. There were two clay courts at the Hill Bottom and we decided to get some exercise. Well, playing when you are exhausted at 8,000 feet on clay courts makes us even worse than normal. The funniest thing was that they insisted we have two ball boys. These guys were so cute (like 8 years and 12 years old) and thought our lack of talent was hilarious. We made sure to tip generously afterwards. The tennis guy came up to us and suggested we have lessons in the future. We laughed so hard.

Sunday we also took off on a long long journey home. That was an experience (like child birth I imagine) that I'd just like to forget. It was rough. 4 planes and about 36 hours straight of traveling. Considering all the new things he was seeing and experiencing, I'm glad he did as well as he did.

As we left on Sunday I was glad. I missed the comforts of home and the emotional toll that the trip had taken on me. However, as we said goodbye to Zimmet, Wegayu, Macha the dog, and Binyam, I was so sad. I wanted to remain in their presence. I still miss the gorgeous garden and beautiful floors in Ayat House, hearing Zimmet chatter in the background as she washed dishes or cleaned the house, watching Wegayu throw the ball to Macha, having cocktail hour, the shiro wot (chickpea stew), those incredible dancers at Fasika, seeing Binyam's smile every day when he saw Sam, Hill Bottom Cafe and Restaurant, Travis our local Gladney staff and his hilarious remarks, and of course that moment when I saw my son for the first time. I hope to be back someday soon.

Sam on the airplane home....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Hardest Day - Friday

Friday was the day that we met Sam's birth mother. I had been an emotional wreck thinking about it all week, especially because we knew Sam still remembered her. I don't want to go into too much detail since it is something that Sam will share for himself if/when he feels comfortable in the future. I will say that it is truly devastating that some people in life just don't have a chance at a good future.

After the visit, Sam and I just spent some time together alone while the rest of the group toured the government run orphanages. He slept on my chest and I just sat there and cried and cried.

Going into the meeting I worried about how I would feel. Then I worried about how Sam would feel. But what was so devastating was seeing how SHE felt. We all came away feeling for her loss so deeply.

They say adoption is all about loss. That is certainly true.

I will always be able to tell Sam about how much his birth mother loved him because I could see it in her eyes and in her being. She wants him to be a scientist...he is in the right family for that!

That night we all just sat at the table and were quiet. Between the birth mother meeting and visiting the older kids at the government orphanages, it had been a very somber day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 4 - Socializing and Embassy

Wegayu helping Sam walk. See Macha, Sam's obsession, next to him?

Bath time!

Trying out the backpack with Grandma Judy.

Diaper Time!

Thursday morning we left Sam with a caregiver (sniff) and went to the Orthodox church where Haile Sailesse is buried. The church was pretty incredible and it was really interesting to learn more about the political past of Ethiopia, specifically the Derg regime post-Sailesse.

We rushed home and went to our Embassy appointment. I don't know if I was crazy but I thought the US Embassy would be full of marble halls, organization, and efficiency. Instead we were all put into a hot room with no water after being shuttled about from area to area. The embassy was packed with people too. My "favorite" part about the embassy interview (which was about 30 seconds after waiting 90 minutes...thanks to Gladney for making sure there would be NO problems) was when the woman said, "You understand that this is permanent, right? There are no give backs." Can you believe that?

When we were done with that experience we spent a nice relaxing afternoon (see videos). Then that night we left Sam with a caregiver again and went to Fasika which is a great restaurant with entertainment. Even though we were exhausted, it was fun chatting with everyone in the group, having a St. George beer (yum), eating injera and some amazing food, and watching the entertainment. The dancers were from the same region as Sam so we loved watching them. It was intense dancing! And the crowd was having a ball and dancing too. At one point the female dancer came over and got my mother-in-law, step-father and Pete dancing! It was hilarious.

Day 3 - Visiting Gladney

Special Mother! She dressed him in traditional Ethiopian attire as a gift!

Sleeping on me most of the afternoon.

His favorite Caregiver.

Wednesday was the day when we all visited Gladney's four foster care centers and had a coffee ceremony. The coffee ceremony is a very important part of Ethiopian culture. As you may know, coffee basically started in Ethiopia (like everything else) and is unbelievable. It is their main export. The ceremony consists of roasting the beans, adding the spices, and pouring which are all done in a very intricate manner. It was also the time to meet the other parents traveling to pick up their children too. I so enjoyed getting to know these couples throughout the week.

Unfortunately Sam threw up twice before we even got to Gladney's centers that day. He was feverish so we actually visited the Gladney doctor while we were there. Talk about a guy who works under tough conditions!

There are two main reasons to visit the care centers: 1) to see where your child has been living and 2) to thank and meet the amazing caregivers. It was so awesome to see how clean, organized, and loving the environment was at these four centers. We spent a lot of time tracking down kids whose parents have not yet traveled to meet them and the caregivers knew who everyone was and someone was always getting held. They really are saints because it was LOUD in there! We got to meet Sam's "Special Mother" and some other caregivers he was really close to as well. But mainly it was so amazing to see all the kids! I won't post the pictures I took but trust me when I say that these kids will remain in my heart forever.

FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS TRAVELING: The hardest part about the week in Ethiopia for me was having to hand Sam over constantly. Because of Ethiopian law, we couldn't take him in public with us so we had to hand him over to a caregiver babysitter a few times. In addition, we were constantly handing him over to other people, other caregivers, people we met, etc. Most of the time I loved it (when Wegayu and Zimmet and Binyam would take him it was wonderful!) but it was really hard to leave him when all I wanted to do was hug him non-stop.

When we finished the coffee ceremony, we skipped lunch and went back home where Sam proceeded to throw up three more times. Luckily I brought Pedialite. By the end of the day he was doing better but he spent the entire afternoon sleeping on my chest. I didn't mind one bit...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 2 - Family Bonding Day

Today was the assigned "family bonding day." It was truly the day that Sam started to come out of his shell. We tried walking, he laughed, he started babbling, and he started to slowly trust us a bit. And it was the first day that he cried. We were relieved when he cried because it meant he seemed more like a real 14 month old boy!

This was also the day that his obsession with Macha the Dog began. Even this morning, he was babbling Macha's name repeatedly. He calls our dog Chewy Macha, but that's okay!

We had a lovely cocktail party in the afternoon with Wegayu (the caretaker of the Ayat House) and Zimmet (she cleans, she cooks, she does laundry, she is AMAZING). We spent some time getting to know them. They are the most incredible people and I still miss them intensely every day. Can't wait to go back and see them in the future.

Enjoy the pics and videos...

Meeting Sam

We arrived in Ethiopia on Monday afternoon and spent a long time in a Visa line and a security line that I can only call suspect. I was surprised by how modern and large the airport was and how many foreigners were traveling there. We were in the visa line with a huge group of Italians and Germans.

We met Travis, the Gladney rep, and Binyam (butchering the spelling), our driver, post security. I will talk a lot about Travis and Binyam in these posts because, quite simply, they both rock. Travis basically told us that we were going to go to our guest home and have about 30 minutes to unpack and get ready before he brought over Sam. Immediately Pete and I started panicking.

We got in our van and started driving. I wish I could explain how Addis Ababa looked and felt. I'll start with the positives: tons of smiling, wonderful, warm people, a vivacious community, and an amazing diverse population. The paradoxes were unbelievable. You'd see women dressed in tube tops and high heels next to women in full burkas with only their eyes showing, next to women in beautiful head scarves and traditional attire. The town was a mixture of 500000 construction projects with big Catepillar machines next to a herd of donkeys next to a rickshaw next to a BMW. The hard stuff to handle: 1) the fumes...they are SO bad. Bad enough that people were having asthma attacks constantly, 2) the many kids walking around in groups without parents, people sick on the streets, etc, 3) the traffic...there is SO much traffic and so many people around.

So we get to the beautiful Ayat Guest House, which is an amazing refuge, in this city. I will also talk a lot about the Ayat house in these posts because it was the most incredible place to stay. We rush to unpack (and clean up since we had been traveling for 36 hours). I am in a state of total freakiness. We try and find the cameras and get ready and then we hear Travis downstairs.

It's weird but the thing I remember the most about the first time I saw him was this tremendous sense of calm. I choked on a sob and then just walked over to him and slowly took him in my arms. You'll see from the video that he was very quiet and just checked everything out. No crying, just a bit of terror. Our moms were beyond themselves in the corner of the yard. He attached to me right away. It was the most incredible surreal experience.

We spent the rest of the day laying on the couch. He didn't speak, just checked everything out. He fell asleep on me a few times. That night, after dinner, we put him to sleep and he just conked. Poor guy. I didn't sleep much because I kept waking up to stare at this beautiful boy of mine.

And that was the end of the first day...