Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 3-the day that felt like a whole week!

If you haven't read them yet, here is Day 1 and Day 2. Again, bear with the long story, I wanted to record every moment!

We woke up early on Monday and Eric boiled some bottled water for tea. Since the guest house didn’t have any water for a shower, we sponge bathed with baby wipes and called Zewdu, the only driver who knows where our guest house is, to arrange for him to pick us up later that morning to go to Layla House, our agency’s main orphanage. We were supposed to meet our coordinator, Gail, who would take us to Journey’s orphanage to meet her.

We had some time before Zewdu came, and our drinking water supply was almost gone, so we walked down to a store around the corner. The road outside the guest house was dirt, but the next road we had to turn on was a walking only road with piles of rocks, pits full of water, it was quite a trek. There were a lot of people walking the road. Jenavieve spotted a woman with a baby on her back and an older girl, and pointed and said “a baby!” The woman smiled and we smiled back and then kept walking. The woman let the baby out of the sling and he came running over, we thought to say hi to Vivi. But once he got to us, he put on a sweet smile and started walking along side us with his hand out. This kid was not as old as Vivi. We were warned not to give money to people so we smiled at him and then kept walking. After a couple of minutes of chasing after us, his mom called him off. A few minutes later, a little girl about 5 years old came running up to us with a smile and her hand out. It was sad how young the kids are trained to beg. We passed a little ‘village’ of tiny tin walled houses, and a couple of big, nice looking buildings. The way ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ mix in this city is fascinating. We finally made it to the store and bought a case of water, and some Addis tea, then headed back to wait for Zewdu.

We got to Layla a little early and were escorted into an office to wait. Finally someone came out and told us that Gail was not coming, another woman would go with us to meet Journey, and the agency family liaison, Eleni, would pick us up at noon. The woman who went with us didn’t speak much English so we didn’t really talk to her.

When we pulled into Journey’s orphanage, kids came running to meet us, hugging our legs or trying to pull us along with them. There was a little play yard with a slide and some swings so Vivi got to play while we waited. The woman who brought us came out of a building with another woman, who led us inside and instructed us to wait there. Yet another woman came out and took us around the orphanage, telling us about what they do and different programs they have. The older kids were in school on the compound, so we saw lots of babies and special needs kids. Most of the women had a baby in a sling on their backs. Crippled children laid on a blanket in the sun, and mentally impaired kids wandered around. Toddlers mostly stayed near the nannies. The nannies were so busy the whole time, hand washing clothes and hanging them on the line, pouring water on the concrete yard of the compound and using a brush to clear dirt away, picking up a crying baby or toddler as they continued on with their chores.

Our guide brought us back to the front of the building and asked if there was anything else we wanted to see. Apparently there was some sort of misunderstanding and she didn’t realize that we were visiting adoptive parents. Journey was actually in one of the rooms she showed us, sleeping on a blanket on the floor with some other babies. We had a laugh and she apologized. She thought it was so funny that she led us right past our daughter without realizing it.

She took us back up to one of the rooms full of cribs and picked her up to show us. She tickled her a little to wake her up and an English speaking nun came in and said she recognized us from our picture and knew we were Selam’s parents. As she woke up and looked at us, Vivi waved at her and said “Hi baby!” The English speaking nun said “this is your big sister!” and both women smiled at them staring at each other. Then she told us that because it was the day after Easter (the biggest holiday in Ethiopia), the nuns had to go to a meeting (I think she meant gathering or service rather than meeting) but that we could take her anywhere on the compound. We went outside and sat for a little bit. She kept looking at us and furrowing her eyebrows like she wasn’t sure about us. She didn’t cry, she was very peaceful. The nannies told us she has always been a very calm and peaceful child. We gave her the little photo album we brought her, meant for babies with cloth pages and a bar with little rings on top. She really liked it, she kept looking at it, and when one of the nannies came by and stopped to say hi to her, she held out the photo album to show her. The nanny made a big deal out of it, oohing and ahhing over the pictures and Journey smiled and looked proud. All of the nannies were so nice and seemed to have endless patience for the kids.

It wasn’t long before some of the kids started wandering over and trying to look at the photo album and trying to get attention or get into our backpack. Journey had a tight grip on her photo album. We let the kids look at the pictures while she held it, making sure they didn’t grab it away. They enjoyed looking at the pictures. Every once in awhile we would get swarmed with kids and we’d get up and walk around for a few minutes.

The big kids came out for recess and came in groups to look at us. One boy and a couple of friends came over and he was so excited to use his English, which was really good. He asked our names, told us his name is Hailu, he is 10 years old, and he likes to learn English. He was very very polite and despite his small stature, was respected by all the other kids. When a younger kid tried to grab the photo album away, he would tap their shoulder and say something to them and they would step back. He looked through the pictures and wanted to know who everyone was. He even knew the word dolphin (the cloth part of the album had sea animals).

Another little girl ran up to us all excited, and said “very good! Very good!” and then giggled hysterically. A lot of the kids pointed at the album and said “photograph”. Jenavieve had a good time playing with the kids. Even the older boys were coming up to her and making faces or mimicking her movements to make her laugh.

Journey warmed up to us and we started getting smiles and even a couple of giggles. Vivi wore her ‘I’m the big sister’ shirt and we brought an ‘I’m the little sister’ shirt that we put on Journey for some pictures. Vivi was pointing at her and identifying her eyes, nose, hair, etc, and Journey reached for Vivi too. There were a couple of sweet moments when Vivi would give her a hug or a kiss or sing a song to her.

Suddenly, we heard drums and then singing, and the guards opened the gates and told the children to move out of the way. A procession of people dressed in religious robes and head dresses came in, singing songs, clapping, and some had big drums they were playing. At the back of the procession were 2 people holding a fancy looking umbrella over an older man in robes. As they came into the compound, everyone followed them over to one of the concrete yards. The older man was escorted inside and everyone else stayed outside and continued singing and dancing. Everyone was clapping and during parts of the songs the women were making ayayayay sounds. Jenavieve LOVED it and was smiling and clapping along.

A man came up to us and asked if we understood what was going on. We said no, and he explained that Easter is their most important holiday and celebration lasts 55 days. They have days where they fast and days where there are festivals. Then he translated a couple of the songs for us. One was about being washed in the blood of Jesus, and one was about believing in God’s word. Then he asked if we liked their celebration and said he hoped we would come celebrate with them again.

The older man came out with a big metal contraption, almost like a chandelier, with some metal rings on it that made noise. There was incense on it and he walked through the crowd with it. Journey started to relax into me and fell asleep while we swayed to the music. The procession danced and sang back out of the compound, and it was time for our ride to come pick us up, so we took Journey back upstairs and a nanny put her in a crib. We waved goodbye, and on our way back down the stairs, Eleni was coming up to find us and tell us that the van was there.

We got onto a full van with other families from our agency. 3 of the families were adopting older children (6, 9, and 14) and they were allowed to take the kids out and spend the day with us. We drove to a restaurant for lunch that had everything from spaghetti and pizza to doro wat (Ethiopian chicken stew). Vivi wanted rice and chicken so we ordered a chicken cutlet that was breaded and fried and came with rice and a potato dish. Eric got doro wat.

It was nice to talk to other families too. One of the families actually sat directly behind us on the plane, we knew we were both adoptive families but didn’t ask what agency. Another family I had been emailing with for awhile before even learning about our court dates because she has a daughter with similar hand issues as Journey.

After lunch we got back in the van and drove up Mount Entoto, the highest elevation in Ethiopia. At the top of the mountain was a very cool church built in the 1800s. It was built in an octagonal shape, representing God and 7 arch angels. There are 3 rings to the octagon, representing the holy trinity. The very inside being for the ark of the covenant, the next one for communion, and the outer one for worship songs. The 2nd ring was completely covered on all 8 sides by oil paintings on canvas pasted to the walls of biblical scenes. It was very cool, but you had to pay extra to take pictures so we just enjoyed looking.

We also went into a cave that was used as a church before the church was built.

We got back in the van and started the drive back down, stopping at one point where there was a clear view of the city to take pictures. We continued down the mountain, and stopped on Churchill street to do some shopping. It was our first experience in the shops. They had so much stuff, and most of the items don’t have prices because haggling is expected. We were also told to expect to be charged more because we are white. The shop employees tried to be very helpful and talk us into buying more things. I asked to see some dresses for Vivi’s size, and he would pull one out, show me, and if I said no, he tossed in into a pile on the floor. I collected a handful of little dresses, and even found matching traditional dresses for Jenavieve and Journey. I showed them to Eric, who was playing outside with Vivi, and decided on a couple other dresses. I also got a dress for a friend who adopted from Ethiopia in 2009 and her daughter is outgrowing her dress. Then I looked at little boys’ outfits and found a nice traditional one to go with the girls’ dresses. They were tough hagglers and hard to talk down in price. It’s hard to haggle when you really want the item you are holding, because you don’t want to walk away from it. Eric was able to talk them down a little though and then it was time to get back in the van. We went back to Layla and exchanged more money (we were only allowed to exchange $100 at the airport) and then headed over to Little Boy's orphanage. As the van pulled in, kids rushed to the doors and crowded around us as we got out. Eleni said something about us being there for Little Boy and all the kids got excited and started yelling his name and running around looking for him. Meanwhile, Vivi saw their playground and decided that she was not going to go meet her brother, she was going to go on the slide. I picked her up and carried her inside anyway, and just as a nanny carried Little Boy around the corner, she started screaming and having a fit and scared him. I took her back outside to the slide while Eric spent a couple of minutes inside with him. The nanny coaxed him outside, and all the kids crowded around him as Eric gave him a matchbox car we had brought for him. We had been told by everyone who had met him that he was shy at first so we were expecting it, but he also seemed uncomfortable by being the center of attention, and after a minute asked the nanny to take him back inside. They were all apologetic and assured us that he would warm up to us, but we weren’t worried. The director of the orphanage came out to talk to us and tell us about their orphanage and other outreach programs, and while we were talking, Vivi was running around with the big kids, and they were doing all kinds of silly things and making her laugh hysterically. The director kept stopping midsentence to laugh too and kept saying what a happy child she is. Vivi discovered that her nonsense noises don’t need translation and she was doing different movements and noises and then cracking up when the whole group of kids did what she did.

The director took us into the office then and put Little Boy's latest report and a few pictures of him on a cd. She told us more about him, then gave us directions back to our guest house and we went on our way.

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