Originally written November 23rd.
Our last day.
We took our time getting around this morning before heading over to the transition home. We knew today would be tough. We did get a bit of good news- we got to take our kids out for an activity today!
As we got there I thought about the last 20 or 25 hours we’ve spent there. Our driver wouldn’t arrive for over two hours. I wondered what in the world we could possibly do for two whole hours that we haven’t already spent hours doing. This place felt oppressive. It felt restrictive. It felt a bit like jail.
We did the usual- kick the ball, play with the cameras- until the director arrived. She came in on her off day to help explain to the kids what was happening. She told them we were going to have a fun day today, but then we had to leave for a few weeks. She promised we would come back and that next time they would go with us.
Both kids cried. Our girl didn’t even want to leave with us. Her wall that we’ve spent the last few days knocking down went back up in an instant.
But some food and some time soothed them and eventually our driver arrived. Both kids went willingly, but as we drove away our girl tensed up and her big sad eyes filled with tears. She was terrified. She cried the whole way there, silently, not letting anyone console her.
It was eye-opening for us. We realized that while the transition home felt like jail to us, it was a security blanket for her. She knew what to expect there. She was safe there. This outside world, this outside world with stranger white people, was scary.
Here’s the world they saw outside their windows on that drive. It was the first time they’ve seen the outside world in over a month.
Our driver took us to an old hotel that had a big kids’ area. It had a pool, rides, an arcade, a playground. Our boy was thrilled. Our girl didn’t want to get out of the car. I picked her up anyway and carried her in. My heart went out to her.
There were lots of Ethiopians at this hotel. Let me tell you, it sure is awkward being the white person holding a sobbing Ethiopian kid that obviously does not want to be held.
Eventually she got over it and managed to have fun for a bit. Both kids weren’t sure what to do at first, but then ran around to the slides, the swing, the climbing net. Later we got ice cream. This was their first time eating ice cream. It was likely their first time at a playground like this.
They have a lot of firsts in their future.
What a different life these kids have. Can you imagine an 8-year-old that has never been to the park or eaten ice cream? It’s going to be so hard not to spoil and overwhelm them when we finally get them home.
The day came to an end and we headed back to the transition home. We played more ball and took more pictures, putting off the inevitable.
No one wanted to be the one who initiated the good-bye. But eventually we could wait no more.
It doesn’t suck for us. We’re going to miss the kids, but we know we’re coming back and we have a giant to-do list to accomplish over the next few weeks. But it really really sucks for them.
You see, before this trip I had an optimistically naive view of what orphanage life was like. Not having ever been to one, my image was formed by looking at pictures of people visiting them. Those pictures were filled with cute babies, smiling kids, and new toys.
That’s not reality.
Orphanage reality sucks. I don’t mean to get all Debbie Downer on you, but there is just no sugar coating it. Babies lie in cribs for hours every day. There’s a six-month-old at our orphanage that can’t roll over from tummy to back, something my two-month-old niece can do. Most six-month-olds are starting to sit and crawl and this baby just lies on its back and kicks her feet all day. Orphanages are filled with old crappy broken toys, toys that even the poorest in America would put in the garbage. Orphanages are filled with kids left to entertain themselves all day every day. Orphanages are filled with kids that could be learning their ABCs or colors but instead are playing with a jump rope that has a broken handle for the 13th day in a row. Orphanages are filled with babies that don’t cry because they have learned that crying is pointless. Orphanages are filled with kids that clamor at every visitor for attention because they don’t get enough attention otherwise. Or, the kids aren’t clamoring for attention at all because they’ve learned that all those visitors are going to leave and they’re going to be left alone again.
And that’s a good orphanage. I’m not emotionally strong enough to handle visiting a bad one.
It’s rough. This whole trip has been rougher than I expected it to be. It’s been eye-opening and heartbreaking to see how so many millions of kids live. Kids don’t belong in orphanages. They belong in families. And while I can understand that our kids are only a few weeks away from being in a family, they can’t. And walking out that gate today while our kids are sobbing because these adults who said they were family are now leaving without them….and knowing what the kids are going to be filling their next few weeks with…ugh. Just ugh.
Adoption is not for the faint of heart.