Ok, sorry it took a couple of days to post again, we're in a whirlwind! God seems to enjoy giving us last minute travel plans. Eric has to keep reminding me that the last 2 calls we got to get on a plane we had MUCH less time (here, when we had less than an hour to pack all of our stuff including a newborn baby! And here, when we got the call about Vivi at 10pm and had to be on the plane at 7ish the next morning, and didn't even have time to make hotel or car arrangements). Enjoy reminiscing with those old posts :)
Anyway! Here's what this trip to Ethiopia is all about. Adoptive parents now have to make 2 trips to Ethiopia. The first one is the court date, and the second one is after the kids have a visa and can enter the US. Before we go to court, we have to travel to Ethiopia, meet and spend time with the kids, and also participate in some Ethiopian cultural things. It is important to them that we have met the kids so we know 'what we're getting' before going to court and making them legally ours, and also that we embrace their culture and keep it a part of our lives as we raise Ethiopian children. Our agency has a few things set up that we can do in a group, with other families who are also traveling. Examples are a silk factory, basket shop, shopping in the market, and eating at a traditional restaurant. A lot of people think of Africa as villages and huts, but we will be in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa. There are churches, museums, and even a university. They even have American style restaurants.
We will be leaving Michigan early in the morning on the 23rd, flying to Washington DC, then taking a direct flight to Addis Ababa. It leaves at noon our time, and gets to Ethiopia around 8am their time. It will be a 13 hour flight. We are going to start adjusting Jenavieve's schedule before we leave (she enjoys her sleep!) so that hopefully she will sleep for most of the flight. I'm dreading the long flight, I get antsy on 4 hour flights. But since we're going to adjust Vivi's schedule, mine should be adjusted too and maybe I'll get some sleep too.
We will be staying in a guest house where water and electricity may not be guaranteed. Our stay there will be very inexpensive (about $10 US a night for each of us, and $5 for Vivi). We will have a bedroom and the bathroom will be shared with anyone who stays there. For about $2-3 each, we can ask them to prepare our meals. We can also pay a small fee to have our laundry washed, hung on a line, and delivered to our room.
Little Boy and Baby Girl are not currently living in the same orphanage, and Baby Girl's is more strict about visitation hours, so the agency recommended that we stay closer to Little Boy's because we will have more opportunity to spend time there, and then we can make a daily trip to visit Baby Girl (about a 20 minute drive). There are a few guest houses that are just a few minutes walking distance from Little Boy. We will hire a driver to take us every day to visit Baby Girl.
On court day, we have to wear nice clothes, and will spend 5-10 minutes getting interviewed by the judge. She will ask us if we have met and spent time with the kids and if we want them to be a part of our family, and how we have prepared to make that happen. She may ask what we have done to experience Ethiopian culture, and how we will incorporate it into our lives after bringing them home. If she likes all of our answers and if the paperwork is in order, we will pass and the kids will be legally ours!
There is a way for us to fail (besides being deemed unworthy, which we're hoping won't happen). There is a stack of required paperwork that the judge needs to have before she can pass us, including a letter of recommendation from the ministry of women's' affairs, statements from birth family if available, death certificates or police reports proving that they are in fact orphans, etc. Sometimes not all of the paperwork makes it there on time. If that happens, we will not pass court while we are there, but we won't have to go back to try again. Once the paperwork is all in place, we will pass and then the process of obtaining visas for the kids will begin.
Failing court is almost never something to panic about. It is extremely rare to get all the way to the courtroom and have the judge deny our petition to adopt. It is, however, fairly common not to pass due to paperwork issues. They aren't the most technologically advanced or organized country, and they run on their own time. It will extend our wait time for them to come home, but won't do anything other than that.
After we go to court (on a Tuesday), we will have the rest of the week to spend with the kids and do some sight seeing. We will leave the following Saturday.
There are a few other families from our agency who have court dates that week, one of whom has become an email friend of mine in the last few months, and we have the same court date! We are excited to have other families like us to spend time with, and a couple of the families have been to Ethiopia before, so it will be nice to have their expertise.
Hopefully I've explained the process well, if not, feel free to ask questions, either by commenting on the blog or sending an email :)