We are in Ethiopia! We’ve only been here for two days and I’ve already written several pages. There are so many new sights and experiences. I am struggling with how to organize it all. I’ve written about what we’ve been doing, and also about some of the feelings being here has stirred up about global poverty and being a minority. My plan is to tell you what we’ve been doing over a series of several posts and then wrap up with overall thoughts. I hope you like to read, because I have a lot to share!
We don’t have great internet connection. Our guest house has a DO connection, not Wifi, and apparently the DO network has been down since just after we got here. And apparently that’s not uncommon. Tonight we are in a hotel. I will schedule what I’ve already written to post over the next few days and then post again when I get the chance.
With that, here we go.
We arrived just as our bodies were telling us to sleep- it was 10pm CST-but the morning sun and our adrenaline told us we were just starting the day. After 13.5 hours on the plane- and 4 hours the night before- we were relieved to just walk and breathe fresh air. We exited the plane via stairs that took us to the ground below, where a bus was waiting to transport us. We got onto the bus and then it drove about 30 feet over to the airport. It took us about an hour to get our visas and go through customs. We were relieved to find our bags as we were a little worried we screwed up by not picking them up for our overnight layover.
As we were exiting the airport a sea of hundreds of Ethiopian faces looked in. It felt like we were celebrities getting ready to walk the red carpet. I think most of them were waiting for family members. It didn’t take long to spot our driver holding a sign with our names on it.
Our driver was friendly enough but not super talkative, so on the short ride to our guest house we observed this foreign world. More about that later.
We didn’t really know what to expect from a guest house. Most of the nicer houses here are on small plots of concrete surrounded by a wall and gate. Our plot has 2 houses- one where the owners live and one that has 3 bedrooms that are rented out. Downstairs there is a small living area, kitchen, and bathroom. The house is nice, nothing particularly fancy, but nice enough.
We were greeted by the owner, Ester, and the director of our orphanage, Lemlem. We talked to Lemlem about our plans for the time we’re here while we ate a light meal and drank coffee. Most adoption trips are fairly short- 3 or 4 days- but at 7 days, we get to spend a bit more time in country than most. There are various reasons for that- we arrived early in the morning instead of at night, our court date is on a Thursday so we are staying a couple extra days instead of leaving right afterwards, and we are meeting the birth mother in a different city. We were incredibly tired, but this first day was a free day and we knew we needed to stay up to get our body clocks adjusted to the new time zone.
Lemlem is an interesting lady. She is a native Ethiopian but lived in the States for 15 years. She has a love for children and when she lived in America she wanted to work with them, but was not qualified. So she got her masters in social work and worked for DFS. She still has children in the US; one is studying to be a doctor and the other is an engineer. As we were chatting she told us a bit about our kiddos. I am not allowed to reveal their names yet. We know that our younger girl is shy and quiet while the older boy is more outgoing. She told us that they know we’re coming this week and that every time she sees the boy he asks “Are they here yet?!” This was very encouraging for us to hear.
We had to run an errand, which was an adventure in itself. Most of the roads don’t have lane markers and cars drive wherever they want.
There are very few traffic signals. People are darting across busy roads, playing human Frogger. Somehow, despite all the craziness, our driver Ester managed to get a ticket. A police man was standing in the middle of an intersection and tapped on her window to signal her to pull over. He followed her, wrote her a ticket, and we drove off. The whole thing took about 2 minutes.
Most of you know about our friend Isak. He is originally from Eriteria, a small country that borders Ethiopia. It has an incredibly corrupt government- their dictator has been named the most dangerous dictator in the world- and suppresses their citizens. Isak escaped to Ethiopia, lived here for years, and eventually found his way to the States. He has been in the US for three years now. Last year his sister and her kids joined him. We spend a lot of time with his family; they have become our own family. The kids are about the same age as the kids we’re adopting and they speak the same language. They will be a tremendous help to us when we bring the kids home.
Isak still has family in Ethiopia- and they live in Addis! His mom, sister, baby nephew, and sister’s husband are still here (The husband is trying to come to the US to join his wife and kids). Isak had sent a few gifts with us to give to his family- a laptop, some formula, and a letter. The husband speaks English well, and we sometimes communicate with him on Facebook. We got his number before this trip and called him today. He came over and we chatted for a bit. Then the other sister’s husband came and picked us up in his van. They drove us to their house, 45 minutes across town.
What an adventure we were on! Here we were, 2 normal people who met in college, in Africa in a van with 3 people who were pretty much extended family but were also total strangers. The husband was the only one who spoke English. What a cool thing we were experiencing! I got a second wind of energy. Remember that crazy traffic I told you about? Well, after eating meals at weird times, not sleeping for a long time, being 5 months pregnant and prone to motion sickness anyway, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I started feeling very warm and like something was wrong- like I was either going to faint or get sick. Sure enough, I got sick- but I was able to put my hand over my mouth and hold it in. Not really knowing these people and not being able to communicate well, I didn’t want to cause a scene. But then it happened again, and I couldn’t hold it in this time….I barfed all over their van! It was sooooooo embarrassing. They pulled over and were really nice about helping me get cleaned up. Luckily the van was lined in some kind of rubber mat so it was fairly easy to clean.
We eventually got to Sister’s house. It was an apartment-style and very small. It was a little awkward as the sister’s husband was the only one who spoke much English, and we were very very tired, but the mood was light. We had a lot of fun playing with the baby. The house had a TV- there was a big soccer match on- but no running water. We stayed for about an hour and then came back home.
At this point we had only slept for about 4 hours over a 52 hour span. That does weird things to your body; we were both feeling loopy and light headed and just overall exhausted. We were in bed by 7pm. As tired as we were, we had a bit of a hard time sleeping. The room was completely silent and the wild dogs that roam everywhere were noisy. We slept til about 2am, when we both woke up naturally. A nine-hour time change is tough to adjust to. We read for awhile and then dozed off again. A little after 3, we were woken by loud singing coming from loudspeakers outside. Ethiopia has both Christians and Muslims. Addis has more Christians, but I thought this was maybe a Muslim prayer call. The singing went on and on. Eventually it kind of lulled us back to sleep. We found out the next day that it was Christian music that plays every weekend.
Next time, what we did on day two!