Sunday, March 27, 2011

Travel post #3 - Ethiopia!

I've wanted to write this post for a very long time. Maybe not the actual writing of the post but the trip it's about. But how do you condense a lifetime of waiting and a cultural overload into one post? I'm sure others will do it eloquently and much better than I will but I'll put it out there just the same.

We left London in the evening to arrive in Addis Ababa early the next morning. The flight was fine, just not nearly as comfortable as the flight to London. Susan and Erik had a very nice, very large man at the end of their row and I gave up my window seat to the large man stuck in the middle seat. Trying for good karma and getting an uncomfortable night but oh well. Mostly I just wanted to take pictures of my first view of Africa from the plane before we landed but I had to stow my carryon overhead because it didn't fit. grr. It was a beautiful sight, you'll have to take my word for it. It was my first flight where one of the food choices was fish. Seems like an odd dish to serve, fish being so polarizing and well, smelly. I chose the beef :-)

Here's a satellite view of many of the stops on our trip...
We got to the airport and I expected a sign with the guest house name or our name or something but there was no one there for us. I think we came in a bit early? So, it was my first attempt at using the fancy global phone that Verizon provided for the trip. Despite their instructions on how to dial in country, I could not for the life of me figure it out. It was very frustrating! A very nice person at a booth nearby figured it out for me and I reached the guest house. They said someone would come right away. We stood around blinking and yawning, and completely forgot to exchange money at the airport.

Don't forget to change some money at the airport! You can probably get someone to drive you to a bank but we had difficulties with them accepting our bills even though they were newer than 2003 like we were told. Lesson learned, I'll be more put together next time.

We were driven to the guest house and dropped off. Unsure what to do, we just hung around the living room and talked to the people already staying there. I was so grateful to have people there who had their wits about them! Everyone staying there was so nice and helpful! One of the kids there to meet her new brothers even wrote out a bunch of Amharic words translated to English and gave us a copy. So sweet and thoughtful! She'll be a great sister to her brothers I'm sure.

Here's the guest house courtyard, living room and some views from the windows...

Finally we got our rooms and we dumped our luggage. Aggie and Z were our hosts and let us know we'd be going to the transition house to pick up Baby G and bring her back. huh? I was not prepared and felt like the worst mom ever, and I hadn't even started yet! Turns out the other agency using the guest house has the kids stay there. Whew. As much as I would have LOVED that, I didn't bring anything like diapers or food or anything. Sigh. So they took us to the transition house and dropped us off. Here's the transition house and courtyard...

Again, unsure what to do and no one really there to let us know, we headed into the room where there were kids playing. I saw my baby girl, in the corner on a brightly colored mat, drinking away from a bottle. I knew in an instant it was her (had some doubts seeing only a couple of pictures) and she is adorable. Just perfect. I'm not sure what the right words are to describe how amazing it was to finally meet her, get to hold her and play with her. I'll have more on that later when I feel more comfortable about introducing her whole self to the internet.
Aren't these feet just precious?
Thankfully, there on the couch was a couple from New York on their court visit too. They'd been there a week and had many tips for us. Their kids, 6 and 4-yr old siblings were a joy and we were happy to spend time with them during our visit. Happy, playful, polite and friendly even though they didn't speak much English. While we tried to stay awake, they let us know where to get good pizza (Island Breeze) and decent internet (Hilton). They shared their trip and how they spent most of the day at the transition house and evenings at the guest house. Turns out that's what we did too. I would have loved to see more of the country but hated to sacrifice any time with my girl.

We did head out one day to the National Museum with our driver Daniel. He took us to a shop for souvenirs and we ate at the Lucy Cafe, next to the museum. It might have been a tourist stop but I'd recommend it! Susan, Erik and Daniel ate traditional Ethiopian food and I tried the Indian food. They even had diet coke on the menu! (they were out, sadly for the diet coke drinkers in our group). One note to remember, if you're a big fan of diet coke, it is quite rare in Ethiopia. I'd recommend bringing it with you if you really need it.
One day we walked over to the Simien Hotel with another couple staying at the transition house. The buffet was traditional and very tasty (and they had wi-fi!). We also took a look at the rooms and it seems like a great candidate for lodging on the next trip. It was a 20 minute casual walk from the house and the rooms were nice and had a range of prices. We also had dinner at the Zebra Grill with a woman who's been staying in the country since December, waiting on her embassy date. It was great to meet her and her daughter! 

Friday was our court date. We hadn't arranged for the driver to take us, I guess I thought it was already arranged. The whole driver thing got me a bit confused. I'll definitely have a better handle on it for the next trip. I thought they would know when and where we were supposed to go places and they would arrange for it. At least that was my understanding. Honestly sometimes I feel like such a bumpkin! ugh. Anyway, we figured it out and met the lawyer and the other couples at the courthouse.
We filed into a big room with other adoptive parents as well as many birth families. When it was our turn we all went into the judge's room together. She confirmed all of our cases and we answered in unison to all of her questions. It was all pretty easy procedurally but nerve wracking emotionally. One couple was able to meet the birth mother after the court appearance. I can only imagine how emotional that must have been! None of us had our MOWA letters that day. Since then a few have come in, mine included! I am officially a mom!

What an amazing experience! There's so much more to it than a blog post. It was hard to take it all in and still live in the moment. I am counting the minutes until we get to go back!

Good: meeting and spending time with my daughter (duh), experiencing the culture and the people, meeting other adoptive families and their great kids

Bad: leaving my daughter (duh again), leaving creature comforts behind, no diet coke, watching the devastation in Japan on TV

And last but not least...Israel!

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