Monday, January 19, 2015

The Last Day - by Linz

Part one – The Better Part
Our last day in Addis, had an air of sadness over it that was unspoken but we all carried it with us throughout the day. But we had a schedule to keep and the morning held a trip to Entoto mountain, a museum and view point and some shopping for souvenirs.

We were picked up at the guesthouse and headed up the windy steep road to Entoto Mountain. On the way we saw women, tiny women carrying huge bundles of sticks. I marveled at their strength that seemed incongruent with their tiny frame. Our guide explained to us that these women, usually widows wake up early and make the long walk up the hill (probably two miles). At the top they gather branches that they bind in about 8 foot long bundles and strap to their backs to carry back into town to sell for firewood. In town they sell it for the equivalent of $2US…$2 I voiced my curiosity about how much the bundles must weigh and wondered out loud if I would even be able to lift it. 

Our guide asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I didn’t want to make light of their work, but he said people had tried it in the past and that they usually are happy to comply if you give them a tip. So I couldn’t pass up the chance…a kind, tiny but strong, lady set her bundle down and helped me secure it to my back. It took about four people to help me stand with it. I was able to take a few steps, but there is NO WAY I could have hauled it down the hill. I will forever be amazed at the strength of those women.

Next was a tour of a small museum and visiting the grounds of a church at the top of the mountain. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of Ethiopia and we learned a lot! As we left the museum and walked toward the church there was a crowd of people gathered listening to a bishop recite some sort of liturgy. Our guide said that sometimes they offer a specific blessing. Today it seemed they were focusing the service around healing. People with all sorts of ailments gathered seeking a blessing for their health. It was difficult to just walk by them as a tourist. Even though we were within arm’s reach I felt a world away from their circumstances. A feeling that hung heavily on me throughout our time in Addis.

Next up was souvenir shopping. I am not a big shopper in general and it turns out my lack of enthusiasm carried over to shopping in Ethiopia as well! Our guide was great in finding us places to shop for authentic, quality items and even helped us settle on prices, even though he admittedly didn't enjoy that part of his job. I would have rather just paid the first price a vendor said because it’s simple and non-confrontational, but I guess that’s not the way it works.  We got some pottery, a traditional dress for Lielti, a doll that is like the one she has at the transition home a blanket. The boys had some money from grandpa. They soccer jerseys, an instrument, and a chess set. I liked the small local market, but once we got to the city street stores, I was struggling. It was so strange to be just steps away from someone asking for food or money, someone who has no means to provide for themselves while we were buying things we absolutely didn't need. We asked our guide about giving money to people, but it was not encouraged. I will never be able to reconcile that circumstance between my heart and my head, whether it’s in the states or in Ethiopia.

Part 2- The Hardest Part
Emotions continued to run high as we headed to the transition home for our last visit with Lielti. We drove in and were approached with a stoic face. It was quite a bit different than the happy girl that was jumping up and down as we drove in on the second day. We spent our time with Lielti and the kids as we did on the other days, playing games, drawing, sneaking in a hug and kiss for our girl while we played. At the end of the day, our guide said, “it’s  your last day, so it’s really hard to tell you that it’s time to go”.  I gave Lielti a necklace and put a matching on myself.  

The mood shifted even more toward sadness as we all realized what was coming. The boys said good-bye to their new friends at the TH and then it was time for the moment we have been dreading since we started this process. I have not been able to imagine what it might be like because I mostly tried to block out the fact that I would have to tell my daughter goodbye and fly back around the world. We hugged and cried and for the first time I saw her face with tears running down it. The boys gave their sister a hug goodbye and cried and then we gathered our teary selves into the van where we found the other family there crying too. As we waved at kids and drove away we saw Lielti’s friends gathering around her and hugging her, making sure she was okay. We headed back to the guesthouse to pack up our bags and head to the airport for a 23 hour trip home. 

It was an amazing experience for all of us. Ethiopia won us over. The time at the transition gave me a chance to see my boys at their best, meet the amazing people who care for our kiddos before we even know them, and most importantly a chance to meet our daughter. We are so in love and can’t wait to go back and bring her home forever!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Another Day, More Memories - by Brad

Tomorrow is our last day here and the week has gone by all too quickly. It's going to be hard to leave our daughter here, even if only for 4 weeks. 

Our morning started off by hitting up the coffee shop on our way to visit the kids. Lindsey was shocked to see me drinking coffee for a second day in a row. I wouldn't say I like it, but the coffee in Ethiopia is much more drinkable than any US coffee. Wesley even helped finish off my macchiato.

They were taken to a playground with a small field where we played soccer with the kids. Running around for an hour is really a lot more difficult at 7,000 feet above sea level... or maybe I'm just out of shape.

Check out the guns on our girl!

After the playground we were able to take Lielti out to lunch with us. She wanted spaghetti, because that is one of her favorites, but she ate so much bread before the meal that she didn't each much of it. It felt so good to be out and about with our whole family.

She also swiped several toothpicks on the way out of he restaurant, but I couldn't bring myself to tell her no... this won't be a lasting trend. 

We finally returned to the transition house and played with the kids for a few hours. As always, every one of the kids were amazing. The little boys have crazy amounts of energy, the older boys seemed very responsible, and the girls... well the girls stole this guys heart. I want to bring them all home. 

It's just been a few days, but Lielti and the boys are acting like they've always been siblings. They are teasing each other, chasing, and tickling. Spencer even got defensive of his sister when she got into a spat with another kid. We had no doubt that God would put together the right family and he certainly hasn't disappointed. We can't wait to be able to bring Lielti home so our family and friends can meet her. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Court Date - by Brad

Once again, we all woke up around 5:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. We prepared ourselves for a busy day and headed out at 8:30 we drove through town through some very interesting scenery to get to the Ethiopian Courthouse. We waited with several other families in a small courtroom style waiting room until we were called back to meet the judge. He asked us a few quick questions and within 10 minutes we were Lielti’s parents!

After the court hearing we went to Robera Coffee, did the tour, and sampled their coffee. Yes, even I drank a cup of Ethiopian coffee. It was for the experience. Of course Lindsey loved it and thought it was all great.

After that we headed to lunch before going to the transition house to spend the afternoon with Lielti and all the other kids who seem to think we are human jungle gyms. These kids are so fun and amazing. It's good know many of them have families or else we would be trying to adopt them all. There are a few whose paperwork hasn't come through, and others who are older or have special needs. These kids break our hearts. They want families so bad. To see the mixed emotions of these kids who have fun with us, but long to see their own families is overwhelming.

This wore us out, but at 7:30 we headed out for an Ethiopian dinner with live music and dancing. The food was amazing and both Lindsey and I had to dance with an Ethiopian lady that amounted to shaking of our shoulders and head. The boys sat patiently in their seats half awake, worn out by the crazy that was going on combined with a week of long days.

Our heads were a bit in the clouds today as we legally became a family of six. Lindsey and I have the daughter we have wanted, the boys have the sister they have wanted, and Lielti has the family she has wanted.

We already have some clues about what challenges may be ahead, but the same challenging traits are going to bring a tremendous amount of joy and energy to our family.

Side note: we have said Lielti's name about 4 different ways since we first heard it. We have even heard a few different ways her friends say her name. For now, we are trying to pronounce it like she does, but it will probably get a little Americanized. Leh-el-tee. If you say it fast and a bit staccato without emphasizing any of the syllables, it almost sounds like the way she says it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Another Great Day in Addis Ababa - by Linz

Today was amazing. We started our morning off at the transition home where we took photos for families who are waiting to meet their kids. We loved getting photos while we were waiting and it was exciting to get to send a little bit of that excitement to other families. As we entered the gates of the Transition Home, the kids waved and shouted with excitement. When our daughter saw us in the van, she jumped up and down with her arms in the air and her face lit up with an excitement that we will always remember. Soon after our arrival, she swiped Brad’s phone out of his pocket and ran all over the place taking pictures of friends, nannies, and her brothers. She followed Wesley around as his shadow for a long time copying everything he said and did.

After our time at the transition home, we went to visit and orphanage. It was about an hour drive and we got to see a lot of great sights along the way. There were lots and lots of people and cars on the road all just sort of weaving around each other. The driving here is crazy, but all of the people are so kind and patient that even though horns are honking constantly, the drivers are all still calm and smiling. Sometimes, you swerve really, really, really close to other cars and even pedestrians, sometimes you drive on the left-hand shoulder, sometimes you swerve around a mule that is standing in the road to avoid flies in the grassy fields…whatever it takes. I am thankful we have an expert driver and despite the apparent chaos we feel very safe.

The orphanage we visited is relatively new and there were about twenty kids there from infants up to ten years old. There was just something about it that was so joyful. It strikes me as odd that to be in place that exists because of sad and traumatic situations, we can walk into a mass of smiling faces and truly feel joy. The nannies played happily with the kids, a variation of duck duck goose. The kids sat nicely in their school desks and sang us a couple of songs. We returned the favor by singing Jesus Loves Me for them. The boys all played catch and soccer with the kids. Elliott and I wore watches with buttons that entertained a couple of girls for about 15 minutes. As a result, the alarm on my watch went off three times on the drive back.  They gave us hugs and kisses and were so sweet to us. On the drive back Spencer said that he really liked going to the orphanage, but he liked that transition home a little bit better because his sister is there.

The boys are loving all the time they have spent playing with the kids here. Wesley and Spencer have decided they want to move to Addis!

And to top it all off, I had my first Ethiopian macchiato here… it did not disappoint!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Meeting Our Girl - by Linz

Today was the day we had been envisioning since we got our referral 7 months ago. We finally got to meet our daughter! It was a flood of emotion that I am not sure I can put into words. There are many photos and videos of today, but they can’t be posted until our court date (this Thursday).  

After staying up last night until after 1:30, we were awakened at 5:30 by the call to prayer blaring from the mosque. We all spent the morning in nervous, excited anticipation. We didn’t know what to expect, or what to say, or how she would respond. We didn’t know how the boys would react or if we would overwhelm her, all five of us waiting to greet her.

Our guide picked us up from the guesthouse and drove us to the transition home. We parked outside the gate and he went in to tell her that we were there. The super nice family we are travelling with offered to take photo and video for us. We lined up at the bottom of a staircase waiting for her to come outside. As we saw her come through the doorway, we each lit up with a huge grin, Brad and I added some tears of joy along with our smiles. She came right up and gave us each a big hug. She wrapped her arms so tightly around me and I didn’t want to let her go, but Brad and the boys needed their hugs too!

After the hugging and the tears we sat down and showed her pictures on our phone. This girls LOVES pictures, she loves looking at photos, taking photos, posing for photos…and she certainly knows her way around an iPhone to do all these things. (The selfie trend has made its way to Ethiopia!) Before we left home, Brad walked through our house to make a video for Lielti. She must have watched it a dozen times today. I wish I could explain the way her face lit up when we got to the part of the video that showed her room. After we sifted through photos we took out some markers and colored for a while. It wasn’t long before we had a crowd of excited kids joining in. We colored with the kids and got lots of hugs and even some kisses. The boys jumped right in and played soccer and football. They had a great time and made fast friends with the kids there. Turns out our girl has a great arm and can catch a football too! We spent the afternoon playing and marveling at the fact that this adorable little girls was calling us mom and dad, right here with us…finally.

We toured the transition home and she proudly showed us her room. We met nannies and the cook and visited the babies. I cannot possibly do justice to the feeling of being here with my words. To spend the day with our daughter and her friends, to meet the people who do such a great job at the transition home, whether it be our guide, the cook, the nannies, the director, the teacher, they are all such great people. It has been a joyful, exhausting day.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Journey - by Brad

Not completely sure what day it is. We woke up at 5:20 Sunday morning to get ready to leave. The boys woke up shortly after wide awake for some adventure. Left Wenatchee at 6:50 and drove over the clear pass to the Smiths house in Redmond where we were able to chat with Carol for a few minutes before she gave up her morning and dropped us off at the airport with our 15 items of luggage (mostly containing donations of one form or another). We waited around the airport for a few hours until we boarded our Lufthansa flight to Germany.

Adventure you say? Not yet. 10 hours on the plane with electronics galore. Very little sleeping occurred. Heavy jet lag is definitely in the forecast. The boys were happy and patient on their first flight, however they weren't impressed with the airplane food options. Spencer was the only one who accomplished a deep sleep - about 20 minutes before we landed. Lindsey had to rudely interrupt Spencer's sleep and we disembarked in Frankfurt with only 10 minutes before our next flight boarded. We had hoped to have an hour to stretch and refresh but that didn't happen. The nerves were starting to unravel. Fortunately as we boarded our next 9.5 hour flight, the nerves went back onto the spool and everyone kept it together. 

While the electronics weren't as high tech on the second airplane, it didn't take as much to entertain a family of zombies. Once we flew past the alps (I think) it cleared up and we could see Croatia and the Adriatic Sea below. The airspace above Greece was a little slippery and the boys got to experience a bit of turbulence, but that didn't phase them. Elliott just grinned when his stomach seemed to jump up in his throat. Shortly after flying over the Mediterranean, we all got a few hours of sleep on the plane.

Pit stop in Saudi Arabia and off to Ethiopia! Getting through visas and baggage claim seemed a little like aimless wandering for a bit, especially with five of us. We were held as a captive audience in the visa line for a boisterous Nigerian man who kept being surprised by the fact that us Americans were adopting a girl with dark skin because he had many accusations about Westerners been racist. He also called Lindsey beautiful several times and told our kids to be bold stand strong like an African man. Not sure what was going on, but we have a way of attracting the loud people... probably because we looked quiet as we were trying to figure out what we were doing. We finally made it to the guest house around 11:00 PM Ethiopia time. Chatted with the other couple in the guest house who got to meet their son earlier today. Will be fun to get to know them more this week. We now need to go to bed so we can meet our daughter in the morning and make a day that we will remember forever!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Night Before Departure - by Brad

It's Saturday night and all the suitcases were packed and double checked well before the Seahawks game started. Once the victory was celebrated, the bags were triple checked and the boys made sure they had everything they needed to keep them entertained for 20 hours of flight. 
After a week of scrambling and preparation, now the house is quiet. This seemed like a good time to type my first blog post in over two and a half years. We wait (and possibly sleep a little) before we have to get up early in the morning, drive to Redmond, and have my sister drop us off at the airport. It's finally starting to sink in that we are headed to Ethiopia tomorrow. To meet our daughter. We have seen her face, prayed about her by name, and anticipated this trip for 7 months. 
Now I can only think about what her reaction will be when she finally meets us. We have heard how excited she is to meet us, but have to wonder how she will feel about it when she actually sees us. Will it sink in that in a month from now she will have to leave everything she knows, everyone she knows, and the culture she knows to live with people she doesn't know? I'd be frightened. We have been praying for God to prepare her heart as well as ours. 
The boys are excited and nervous for their first flight. We talk about how fast the airplane goes before it can take off, the fact that we will touch down in three new continents, and how our sleeping schedule will be all messed up. Hopefully everything goes as planned. We know we have a lot of family and friends praying for us. We have been so blessed and encouraged through this process it is overwhelming. Soon we will have pictures to post and more interesting stories to tell.