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!

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