Ethiopian Adoption Court Trip: Day Three

*Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I can’t post pictures of  kids in the orphange

So, false alarm about meeting the kids. We’re learning that plans are not communicated very well here.

But it was still a good day.  The husband woke up early- still not totally adjusted to the time difference- so our day got started around 6:15am.  We were delighted to find our hotel had Wifi from 6-9 and spent a few hours getting caught up online.  We noticed our flight back to Addis left at 4:50 (we had thought it left at 2:00).  Since the original plan was to meet the birth mom today and we had already done that, we wondered what we would do all day.

We walked around town a bit this morning.  Although we got a lot of stares- I think we saw two other white people here- it is safe and we never felt worried or scared.  (But don’t worry Grandma, we used common sense, were always aware of our surroundings, never separated, etc).

Eventually we made our way back to the orphanage where we hung out with the kids.

The entrance to the kids' first orphanage.  If you look closely you can see the gate and sign on the right.

The entrance to the kids’ first orphanage. If you look closely you can see the gate and sign on the right.

The big kids were at school, so we kicked a soccer ball with the toddlers and cuddled the babies.  One of the big kids, a 9-year-old girl, stayed home because she had a tooth ache.  We hung out and I just fell in love with her.  She has already been placed with a family.  She showed me the photo album they sent, pointing things out using the English word.  She was so proud of herself for each word.  We painted each other’s nails and tossed the ball around.  I was so happy she had a good home waiting for her.

The orphanage our kids are from is a good orphanage, but it is still an orphanage.  She was showing somebody where her toothache was and I noticed her teeth looked like they were caked in dirt.  I doubt they brush often if at all.  Most of the kids were wearing the same clothes from yesterday.  The babies were wearing clothes that were several sizes too big.  Most of the kids were dirty; I don’t think they bathe very often either.  The kids have no belongings, nothing to call their own.  The toddlers do what they want.  There are no educational games, no sing along songs, no one cheering when they accomplish things.

After an hour or two at the orphanage, we left with the director Dawit.  He led us around town as we chatted more about orphan care and about our kids’ background.  It was interesting to hear about how adoption works from an insider.  He told us that over the orphanage’s nine-year history they have worked with several different adoption agencies.  He has terminated agreements with some agencies because they “care more about the business than the kids.”  Some of these were well-known US agencies whose names I recognized.  It was an important reminder that when considering international adoption, your choice of an agency is hugely significant.

It was hard learning more about where our kids came from.  The details will be theirs to share if and when they are ready, but I will summarize by saying that they were very poor.  Leading up to this trip I’ve thought a lot about what the kids have gone through, but I focused mostly on events over the past couple of years.  I hadn’t really given a lot of thought about their lives before that.

It started to hit me in a very real way what a transition these kids have ahead of them.  Obviously they have a new language, new parents, new culture, and a new country to get used to.  But I never thought that an 8-year-old might have to learn how to brush his teeth or how to shower.  I never thought about how these kids have likely never eaten in a restaurant.  I never thought about how these kids will be going from sharing crappy metal bunk beds with no pillows or blankets to having their own solid wood bedroom furniture.  These kids will be going from a very poor African village to living very comfortably in the richest nation in the world.  I always knew that theoretically.  But being here, seeing the poverty first hand, hearing more about their background…and then to think about what’s waiting for them at our home…I’m just really starting to get my mind around what a crazy adjustment that’s going to be for them.

At one point during our walk with Dawit we stopped at a coffee shop.  They had no coffee and no tea!

Eventually we made our way back to the orphanage where we played with the kids for a while longer before a car came to take us to the airport.  The Mekele airport is very…quaint.  Your bags get scanned twice, once when you enter the airport and once when you check/carry on.  As we were entering the airport, I started to feel racially profiled because they were questioning us about EVERYTHING.  They ran everything through the scanner at least twice.  Eventually the lady called me back to look at something on the screen.  I couldn’t tell what it was, so then we had to dig through the bags.  Turns out they were suspicious of my hair dryer and curling iron.  I had to kind of pantomime what they were before they were cleared.  They also questioned several of our food items.  We had some yogurt-covered almonds and I had to eat one to show it was food.

As we were waiting to board, another lady came over and indicated that there was an issue with our checked bags.  She pulled Mark back into some office.  He was back there for quite some time.  Mark can get a little agitated with things and I was starting to worry that something bad was happening.  I imagined him getting arrested and started thinking about what I would do.  Luckily he returned; my hair tools had caused trouble again.  This time Mark had to pantomime how to use a curling iron; wish I had seen that!

There is only one gate at the Mekele ‘International’ Airport.  The arrival and departure times are handwritten on a whiteboard.


We watched a plane land and a few minutes later we were called to board it.  To board we literally walked outside, across the runway, and up the stairs to the plane.  The ride was uneventful- no getting sick today!  Ester met us at the Addis airport. We thought we were going to the House of Hope, where our kids are staying in Addis, but she brought us back to the guest house.  This was disappointing as we were hoping to meet the kids.  But, it was getting late and we were both a little groggy from sleeping on the plane.  We decided it might be better to just meet them tomorrow morning when we were fresh and not rushed.

There are now other guests at the guest house!  A couple named Amy and Brad are here from Omaha adopting a 14-month-old.  She is in an orphanage in southern Ethiopia.  They had spent quite a bit of time there over the past few days.  Their court date is tomorrow.  We enjoyed getting to know them.

Today was our 7-year-wedding anniversary.  Our hosts lit candles to celebrate J  Seven years ago I was a 23-year-old bride.  I had no idea what life held for me; I certainly would never have guessed that seven years later I’d be in Africa preparing to adopt an 8 and a 4-year-old.  Not exactly what we planned, but our lives are turning out so much cooler than they would have if all of our plans worked out!


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