Monday, April 23, 2012

Hippos, monkees and camels, oh my!

The third email from our trip is below.  We had the amazing opportunity to travel south to see where Edilu came from.  It was an amazing experience...one we will never forget.  Tom did a great job of sharing the highlights in this email...so I will just let it do the talking:)

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Where to begin...so much has happened in the last 2 days, my head is still spinning. Saturday morning we rose bright and early after a pretty restful night-despite the dogs barking like crazy right outside our window (fortunately we brought earplugs and a noisemaker app on my ipod touch). We had breakfast at the guest house, and then embarked on our journey south, a 5-6 hour journey that took us out of Addis Ababa for the first time. Seeing the countryside was incredible and gave us great perspective on life outside Addis. Almost everyone outside cities live in round mud huts with pointed straw roofs, and usually have cattle or grow crops. Everyone rides around and transports goods with a cart pulled by a donkey-our driver David calls them 1DP or 2DP (1 or 2 donkey power). Cows and sheep are routinely herded across the highway, so we either stop and wait or slowly force our way through. And the thing that struck me was just the incredible amount of people-there are people of all ages everywhere you look.

We stopped on the way for lunch and coffee (amazing macchiatos-the italian influence extends to coffee here as well as food). We arrived in Awasa around 4:00, and went directly to the orphanage where Edilu spent a few days of his life before being brought to the transition home. 



We dropped off our donations at Shalom Orphanage, met the wonderful staff there, and spent a few minutes playing with the children.  It's hard not to feel hopeless when you see how many kids are there without families, but if God provided a family for Edilu, then we have to believe he can do the same with each one of those beautiful children as well.  It was an amazing experience to actually stand in the building where our son stayed all those many months ago, to actually look at the crib he slept in.  We felt privileged and fortunate for the experience.

We were taken to a hotel (resort, actually) where they worked very hard at making us feel like honored guests, but to be honest, we felt strange being at such a nice place after leaving an orphanage. Since it was reserved for us and the cost was included in our travel package, however, we kind of forced ourselves to just try to enjoy it. It was right on a lake, and was incredibly beautiful-we ate dinner outside on the water. Afterwards we headed to our room, and barely made it to 8:00 before dropping dead (we were physically and emotionally exhausted by that point, as well as jetlagged). However, we both had a rough night as we were trying to process the crazy emotional journey, as well as the knowledge that we would pick up our son the very next day.

After a restless, difficult night, it felt so good to see the sun come up. And what was there on the balcony to wish us good morning? Monkeys! We never expected to see much wildlife, but it was really cool watching them jump around 5 feet away from us. We wandered down to the restaurant for a very american-themed breakfast (included), and more macchiatos. We were told that after breakfast, we could take a complementary boat ride, so we wandered down to the dock. We stood around like white idiots for a few minutes, then a guy gave us life jackets and pushed us onto a long
flat-bottomed boat, filled with a family of apparently super-wealthy arab women (and one husband/father, though he apparently did not matter much). The mom and three sisters, all quite overweight and very gaudily-dressed, immediately struck us as the non-hollywood-version of the Kardashians (though equally spoiled rotten).

Our captain took us out on the lake at full throttle, and we were moving at about 1/4 knot. But we were out there for about 1/2 hour, and as we rounded a bend, we saw a large group of ethiopian men...in the water...bathing...with absolutely no clothes on. It was rather unexpected, but hey, we are in Africa, after all! We laughed about it, then looked over to see one of the Kardashians (their version of Kloe, I think) leaning forward, video camera in hand, zooming up as close as it would go...she was apparently quite entertained:)

We made it ashore, checked out of our room, and boarded the van with David and Yonas (our guide) for the trip back. On the way back we saw even more wildlife, including a herd of camels, giant ostriches, and hundreds more cattle and donkeys. We arrived back in Addis around 4:30 or so, and went directly to the transitional home where we met other families here on their first trip, spending time with their adopted kids. The nannies brought out Edilu...and it was not quite as it was the first time. He cried (even bordering on screaming), but we grabbed him and held him anyway, and he
eventually stopped. There were many tearful nannies saying goodbye to him (he's been there over a year), and we crammed all three families and Edilu into our van. We drove away, feeling so strange that this little guy is now ours and is coming "home" with us.

We made it back to the guest house, and scrubbed Edilu from head to toe (turns out, he HATES baths:) We tried to feed him, but he wasnt interested in food, until we gave him formula. He drank some, at least, and as we scratched our heads, wondering what the heck we are doing, he started to come around. He is now even smiling, and sometimes even laughing a little. He is warming up to me, but LOVES his mommy-Angela is doing fantastic with him, and he reaches up for her first any time he's scared. Right now they are upstairs cuddling, and he is getting more and more tired (he might even be asleep by now). I am not expecting much sleep tonight, so if we get any it will be a welcome surprise!
Please pray for us-we feel like we have this child now, but we are in a single room with nothing of our own. We would give anything to be home right now. Generally speaking, when parents have a baby, they leave the hospital and go to the comfort of their home, with everything familiar, with the store right down the street, sometimes with family and friends nearby. Not so with us. We have nothing familiar, we're living out of suitcases, we're all in the same room, we have a child who is not comfortable with us yet...it's really the perfect storm. And when it gets dark and you are tired, everything seems worse. We just want to get through tonight, so please pray that we will make it. In the morning we go to embassy, and after that we will be ready to head home. Unfortunately, we have to wait until Thursday to fly out, so we will just do our best to enjoy our time here and bond with our new son.

We miss Mae horribly, and can't wait to see her. We also miss every one of you who is in our lives, and can't wait to get home. Pray that we make it without going insane...I'm guessing if there are any mental hospitals here, they are not places we want to end up:)

Tom, Ang & Edilu

P.S. We also saw a hippo on the way south...I've always wanted to see one. Unfortunately it was just the behind sticking out of the water, and might have been a large boulder, but I'm claiming it-I have now seen a hippo.

 1DP
 Amazing!

 Shalom Orphanage
 Monkeys
 Our boat ride...wanted to post a pic of the Kardashians...but not sure if that would earn us a lawsuit??  Playing it safe.
 Dawit, Yonas...We love these guys!
 We were thrilled to have our son in our arms, he was terrified...we have since won him over.
 Our fist night...
Success!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"We made it...we made it even though we had our backs up against the wall..." (bonus points if you know what song that is)

We arrived in Addis on Friday afternoon:)  We were SOOOOO happy to finally touch down in Ethiopia knowing we would not be leaving without our son:)  This is the email Tom wrote when we arrived in Ethiopia...Pics at the bottom!

Friday, March 30, 2012
I had anticipated that there was no way I could anticipate how long a 14-plus-hour flight was...and I could not have been more correct. Its like trying to understand just how big the ocean is. But it actually went much better than I had expected; we departed from Seattle at 5:30pm, and arrived in Dubai, UAE, at 7:30pm (figure that one out-there was about 3 or 4 hours of nighttime before the sun came up again). I tried my hardest not to fall asleep, because I really wanted to sleep when we arrived. Angela slept quite a bit, I slept for about an hour, and we both slept like rocks at the hotel.

Emirates (the airline) was nice, though the seats were still the same: small. But there were personal tv's for each seat, with a great selection of movies and tv shows, and also a ton of games-I'm proud to say I won a Texas Hold 'em tournament, and rocked at Caveman Maze. The food was definitely airline food, but was quite tasty. And unlike last trip, we were both NOT sick, which in itself made this flight awesome by comparison. We arrived in Dubai, cleared passport control, then were taken to the airport hotel, where we had a free buffet dinner before we crashed, HARD. And apparently they frown on any sort of private shenanigans and goings-on, because there were separate twin beds. We sort of felt like Ricky and Lucy.

We woke up around 7:30am, and went down for another buffet, with strange-tasting sausage and super-strong coffee. We were then taken back to the airport, and with boarding passes in hand we waited in line at passport control, only to be told our passes were no good (cue the slight panicking). We waited in another line, until we were told to go check ourselves in via computer, which we did. We then went back to wait in the initial line, where we were denied yet again. Fortunately a man in a green uniform with giant chevrons on shoulders took our boarding passes (cue more panicking since we had no idea where he went). He returned a few minutes later with new ones that got us through to the end. Angela ordered a cappuccino at a Starbucks-alike, and got a cup the size of a ketchup cup from Wendy's filled with high-octane java. We then walked around the corner to see...a Starbucks! So I got a normal-sized drink for us to share.

We made our way to the gate, boarded the final flight, and had a 4-hour flight south to Ethiopia. We saw some pretty cool geography, and it was so surreal to think about being tens of thousands of feet in the air, looking down on the continent of Africa. We arrived with little difficulty, and were immediately happy to be back-we really missed Ethiopia. Getting visas was relatively easy, and we exchanged some US dollars for Birr: I received a huge wad of cash (one US dollar equals 17.3 Birr). We stuck our 4 giant suitcases into the scanning machine, and were told to open one because they had spotted something quite concerning: tubes of toothpaste. So we proceeded to tear the suitcase apart to show them exactly what a tube of toothpaste looked like. They apparently decided we could not commit any terrorist acts or make bombs out of Aquafresh, so they released us and all of our goodies.

We met up with Job and David (guide and driver, respectively), two friends from the first trip, and spent the ride to the guest house catching up with them. We are now sitting at the computer in the lobby of Yebsabi Guest House after showering and unloading all our gear. We are jet-lagged, sore, and starving, but rejoicing that God brought us halfway around the world to be back in a place that is forever etched into our hearts, a place where our son has spent the first year and a half of his life. We're now going to venture out into the urban jungle to grab some grub, and hopefully we avoid whatever sickness we contracted last time around!

Tomorrow we are embarking on a trip south (6-hour drive) to see the orphanage where Edilu was for a few months (called Shalom), and drop off our suitcases full of donations. We will spend a night there, and then head back Sunday morning to pick up Edilu! There is a crib set up in our room, and we are about to bring home a child and become parents once again...we are nervous, anxious, and excited, and we appreciate your prayers! This journey is a whirlwind of emotion, but it is an experience that is changing us forever, and we are so thankful for the support and prayers of our friends and family. God has brought us through some craziness, and I have no doubt there is more to come...

Tom and Angela




 Dubai Airport
YES!

 Ethiopia from the air!
Last leg to Ethiopia
Baggage and exchanging money


Zebra Grill...

Friday, April 20, 2012

We ARE BAAAAAAAAACK!

Well, I pretty much let the blog go for about 5 months.  BUT we are back!  I want to let you know how things are going, and about our trip to pick up our boy!  We have been home for two weeks today...things are good.  (Although Edilu is currently NOT taking his nap he is supposed to be taking:)  I wanted to post each of the emails Tom sent out to our close friends and family.  It was too hard for us to blog while in Ethiopia, and email was the easiest option.  I know I left a lot of people off the list (not on purpose!)  so I thought I would post them with pics so if you didn't get the whole story, well, now you can!  Tom is a much better writer than I am, so you are in for a treat!  The email below went out the night before we left for Ethiopia...a little history...we waited four months between our court date and clearing embassy.  This is not normal, but there were some paperwork problems with our case, so it took us longer to be submitted, and then longer to clear. 

BUT we did, and here is the story of our final trip to ET!!

Tuesday, March 27th 2012

Hey all,

Let the mass emailing begin! It is official-less than 16 hours from now we will board a flight at Portland International Airport (PIA...oh wait, PDX-that acronym makes sense, right?) for the longest flight known to man...actually, one of the shortest: Portland to Seattle. But THEN, we board the Big Dog, the Mac Daddy of ridiculous flight durations, Seattle to Dubai. Fourteen hours. And last time we thought the flight to Frankfurt was bad...that was a mere 11 hours. We arrive in Dubai for a 12-hour mandatory layover (hotel included-halleluia!) then a short 4-hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday.

We have clothes spread throughout the house, suitcases everywhere, its a melee in here. We have a carry-on suitcase that is just outside the size limits, so we're paranoid we'll get to the Emirates gate at Seattle and get shot down...but hey, we live life on the edge. And of course we also have four (count 'em, FOUR) gigantic suitcases that are crammed full of a crazy amount of stuff, only one of which is clothes we will wear and toiletries we will use to cleanse ourselves and combat the onslaught of body odor. The rest is food, toys, kids' clothes and shoes...donations that generous people are sending over there to give away. So we are packing like greedy squirrels, cramming goodies into every inch of available space, stuffing every nook and cranny with socks, chocolate, Q-tips, toothpaste, pull-ups (for Edilu) and the one thing I wish we would have had last time more than anything else: Saltines! We got a weird stomach sickness last time, and absolutely nothing smelled or sounded good except for good old starchy, crunchy crackers. Instead, on the return trip, the cabin was filled with the noxious fumes of aromatic German airplane food...I'm getting sick just thinking about it. All that to say....here we go. Please pray for us tomorrow, as it is killing us to leave Mae one more time, and we are nervous, anxious, stressed, slightly sleep-deprived, and emotional. We're scared of what the return trip will be like with a 1.5 year old in tow, and really trusting God that his hand is on the trip and will be guiding us, comforting us as we tackle this thing head-on. We love all of you, and will update you as much as possible!

Tom and Ang



 Morning of our flight...on our way to the airport:)
 Outside PDX ready for our journey

14 hours on this beast!