First I must inform everyone that our nickname for our newest little one is Turtle. No, we are not naming him that. However we are not able to share his name or his picture online until he is legally our son. The following is ramblings of my trip to Addis to meet him!
February 28 Leaving Day
It was a snowy Saturday and my flight was delayed 3 hours. I was so anxious to get to Ethiopia and so sad to leave Dawit and Tre behind. After a short flight to Dulles I gathered my luggage and headed off to the DoubleTree Hotel for my overnight layover. I ordered some room service and waited a few hours for Colleen to arrive from Nashville. Colleen arrived around 10pm and we stayed up talking for a few hours. I was so excited for the next day I couldn’t sleep at all.
Colleen called in the morning to make sure I was awake. I was just finishing getting ready and she had a cart for our luggage so she headed up to get me. While taking my bags into the hallway I locked myself out of my room. Colleen was a superstar as she ran down to get another key so I could get the rest of my belongings out of my room. Soon enough we were on the shuttle headed back to the airport to catch our morning flight! Once at the airport we unloaded our massive amount of luggage and walked to Ethiopian Air counter. Of course ours bags were overweight and they even weighed our carry ons! You can only carry on 25 lbs! Between my small roller bag and backpack I was at 52 lbs, so they made me unload my small roller into one of my large bags and told me I would have to pay overweight baggage fees. After I had my bag completely emptied out I placed my backpack into the small bag, the lady at the counter said “ok that is enough you can go, no charge.” I looked over to see Colleen going through the same situation, she had even more donations than me! Once we rid ourselves of our luggage we ventured out to find some buna(coffee)! We had two middle row aisle seats on a direct flight to Ethiopia and thank god no one sat in between us! This was my second time flying Ethiopian Air, the service is not great. I will never eat airplane food again in my life since the last time I had it I ended up in an Ethiopian hospital. They insisted on piling trays of food in front of us and took hours to come back and take them away.
March 2 Meetcha Day
Arriving over Addis Ababa we could see the beautiful sunrise through the windows. I was so excited to finally be there! We exited the plane and got our picture taken together in front of the Welcome to Ethiopia sign, went through the Ebola checkpoint and then the entire airport lost power! We made it through customs with only a minor situation and took off to retrieve our bags in the Bole madness! Of course Colleen got a luggage cart that had a broken wheel! Finally we made in outside and the smell of the air brought back so many wonderful memories I couldn’t believe Colleen and I were actually there to meet our sons! We couldn’t find our ride and we weren’t exactly sure who was picking us up so I stayed with the bags and Colleen went out to search the crowd for a familiar face. It wasn’t too long before I spotted her walking back with two smiling faces! Good thing they each brought their cars because we had a massive amount of donations. We were driven to a guest house near the orphanage, it was beautiful but in the middle of no where. We carried everything up 3 flights of stairs freshened up a tad and headed to the orphanage to meet the babes! It was a very short drive. We were welcomed and headed up to the second floor to meet my son first while Colleen recorded. His room is large and lined with about 15 cribs all the children were gathered in the middle of the room, I couldn’t immediately identify which child was mine. There is a blind about 6-year-old girl who grabbed on to me and was sniffing and hugging me. I pretty quickly got a glimpse of a familiar face and a nanny picked him up and handed him to me. He was huge! So much bigger than I was expecting, he was very cautious of me but he didn’t cry. The whole experience was kind of chaos. The nannies wanted to change him so I handed him back over and headed up to the third floor while I recorded Colleen meeting her son. We decided we liked the atmosphere on the third floor better than the second so I went down and got Turtle and took him up to play with the babies! We only stayed a few hours because we were exhausted and had yet to call home to let our families know we had made it. We were picked up and taken to a Kaldi’s (it’s like an Ethiopian Starbucks but so much better!) We ordered buna’s and fries, we hadn’t eaten in a very long time! The internet was of course not working and our driver was coming back to get us in an hour so after we finished our fries we headed upstairs in the shopping complex to Sole Rebels to have a little retail therapy. We each bought shoes for each member of our family and designed custom shoes for ourselves that would be ready on Saturday. We were picked up by our driver shortly after and he said he knew of a church that had WiFi, it was a short drive and we were there. However he didn’t know the password, it was in this parking lot where I about lost my S#@*! I hadn’t slept for days and my only meal was a few fries from Kaldi’s and I had never even been away from Dawit for even one night! To say I was stressed was an understatement! Colleen basically told me to get it together and she was going to fix the situation. We then decided we had to find a new guest house with WiFi! I know it seems like first world problems but we had to have contact with our children and families at home! Our driver next drove us to the Hilton and we paid to use their WiFi! I’m pretty sure I just sobbed while on the phone with Tre, I sent him one picture of our new son and waited for Colleen to tell me the plan. Luckily Colleen had a connection in Ethiopia and she made a few calls and we were off to get our bags from the third floor and carry them out! I felt terrible for leaving the first guest house at such a late hour because by this time it was completely dark out. We then drove to the Ordinary Hero Guesthouse, we were once again put on the top floor. This place is AMAZING and the staff is so wonderful! AND best of all they had working WiFi!!!! Our room was huge and had three beds, a little kitchen area, and a massive balcony that overlooked the city. We called home again to check in and let our families know we were in a better location and safe!
I awoke early to the sound of city-wide prayer and dogs barking. We showered and headed downstairs for breakfast. The views at Ordinary Hero Guesthouse are simply amazing! We finished our breakfast and sat outside and awaited our ride to the orphanage. Everyone is always late in Ethiopia! On this day I think he was about an hour late which was fine because we were just enjoying the beautiful weather. He took us to the orphanage and we gathered our kiddos and took them downstairs to play in the living room. Turtle was very clingy and snuggled me so tight. I really wanted to bathe him, lotion him, fix his hair and put him in some clean clothes so I was lucky that he had a blowout and I got to clean him up! He looked so cute in the Baby Gap clothes I had brought for him and he smelled like Dawit. He loves being held and he gets very angry when I sit him down. We were not there very long and our driver came to get us because we had to go to another orphanage and take some pictures and videos of some sweet babies for some other families with our agency. This orphanage was very nice and so clean. We were only there a few minutes and got some really cute footage of some really happy babies! Then we went back to our kiddos orphanage and stayed all afternoon! They cooked us lunch which was delicious and also had a coffee ceremony. The orphanage staff seem very nice however they do not speak any English and seem very cautious of us staying hours at a time and hardly ever let us out of their sight with our sons! On this day Turtle really opened up and I got a lot of smiles and giggles and he started making eye contact with me. This was huge for me I was so stressed after our first day meeting. He really is a sweet boy he just takes time to open up and feel comfortable with me. We went back to the guest house that night for dinner. We ate cheese pizza it really was quite good! I watched the sunset from the balcony and organized our donations and tried to pick out clothes that would be big enough to fit Turtle.
I was awoke by the same familiar sounds and showered and got ready for the day. This was definitely the craziest day that awaited us! We ate breakfast, I think I only had a couple of bites and we went outside to meet our ride. As always he was about an hour late and he arrived with the orphanages social worker. They wanted to take me to the place where Turtle was found deep in the Merkato the most densely populated poor center of Addis. As we drove through the unbelievable sights and Colleen and I discussed whether or not bodies laying under rags were breathing or not. Men walked by carrying a hundred watermelons or 10 mattresses on their heads. We finally headed down a steep rock hill and parked the car near a group of people chewing Khat ( an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria). We exited the car and walked down the most foul-smelling alley lined with shacks built out of mud grass and tin. The lady I was searching for was there and I was able to ask her all my questions while Colleen recorded it all. It really wasn’t any different from what was written in his paperwork but hearing it from her made it so much more real. After our short discussion we were on our way. Here’s where things got a little scary! So this narrow alley and that steep hill we probably should have never drove down! Our driver tried and tried to get us out but we ended up getting in a small car accident which probably would’ve been no big deal except he had two frenges(white people) in the back seat. Our car was quickly surrounded by yelling men pointing and reaching in the windows. I really wasn’t that nervous until our driver told us to roll up our windows and I saw the look on his face. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying but I knew what they wanted $$$. One tall religiously dressed man seemed to be a peacemaker and eventually they let us leave and we took several more racing runs up the rock hill sliding sideways until we finally made it to the top! A short drive later the car was sounding a little off. Sure enough we had a flat tire. Our driver told us to walk up to a coffee shop on the corner and he would fix it. We ordered two macchiatos an ambo (sparkling water) and chips (french fries). Before our drinks even arrived our ride was honking out front. We told them we were waiting on our order but they seemed to be in a hurry. We tried to explain to the buna shop that we would still pay but we had to go which didn’t seem to be going over well. They gave us our piping hot coffees and my ambo, we scorched our mouths downing the buna and I ran out with my ambo. Our driver asked if I paid for it and I said yes, but a lady came running out for 15 more Birr for my bottle deposit. I just dumped the ambo into another container in the car and handed her the bottle. We started to drive off and another lady came running after our car yelling CHIPS! CHIPS! CHIPS! It was hilarious! So we ate our chips in the car and went and dropped off the social worker. While stopped in traffic a really old woman approached our car with her hand out. My window was down and she was putting her hand in my face I said BACA which means stop and she punched me in my head. Our driver turned around and said “did she just hit you?! She must have mental problem!” and we were once again on our way to another orphanage to take pictures of a little girl stuck in the adoption process. The children in this orphanage were all older and looked very similar to each other and my Dawit. We asked if they were all from the same region and they confirmed they were. No surprise to me they were all from the Benishangul-Gumuz region where Dawit is also from! They were all so beautiful and friendly and were working on their English. We were bummed we didn’t have any treats for them. Their school teacher told us there was a store near if we wanted to buy them something! We walked across the street and bought them sodas, cookies and candy. They were so happy and kept saying “God bless you” they were so precious! We spent about an hour with the kids and then headed back to the orphanage where are sons were. Turtle seemed a little off on this day and he demanded to be held at all times. We were only there a few minutes when he had a massive blowout! It was everywhere all over me and my skirt and smelled horrendous, he was crying and I was gagging and making terrible I’m about to vomit noises, Colleen was laughing hysterically and all of the nannies appeared peeking around corners cracking up! I don’t really do poop especially that POOP! I used pretty much an entire things of wipes and changed his clothes and got him all cleaned up and smelling fresh, but I could tell he wasn’t feeling well. So I just held him tight the rest of our time with him that day. We got home late that evening and were planning on exploring the neighborhood and trying a restaurant. We walked around for an hour or so and nowhere looked welcoming. We were exhausted and had only eaten a few chips and every restaurant looked strange and only had male customers. We eventually walked back to the guesthouse and asked for directions to a place someone had recommended to us called Whole Foods. A driver at the house offered to drive us there and we gladly accepted the offer. Whole Foods was nothing like the American Whole Foods it was dark and didn’t have any customers. The waiter was friendly and we looked over the menu and ordered an Ambo. The waiter dropped off some spicy chickpeas which weren’t bad but the menu wasn’t what we were looking for, we paid for our Ambo and continued on walking. We ended up finding a small market where we bought African Ramen noodles, Mr Potato (African Pringles), a pineapple Fanta, a Snickers bar, a block of cheese and candy and gum for our kiddos at home. A nutritious and delicious dinner!
Started like all the other mornings. Our plan was to spend the morning at the orphanage and hire the guesthouses driver to take us shopping and to dinner that night. Our driver was late like always and we headed off to see the boys! We had a great day playing and snuggling with the boys. Turtle was obviously still not feeling well on and had I think 4 massive blowouts in the 4 hours we were there. The orphanage nurse said she would treat him. I used all the clothes and had brought for him and had to leave him in one of Colleen’s sons outfits because all of his were covered in poo! Colleen even had to change one of his diapers because I about vomited on him! We were there several hours they fed us some lunch then our driver picked us up, we had him drop us off at Kaldi’s near our guesthouse. The buna there is incredible, I also had veggie sambusa and chips. We stayed a little longer than planned and we need to hurry up the hill back to the guesthouse so Colleen could call her kids. It was super hot out so I talked her into taking a bajaj home! It was an amazing idea, so fun and fast! We made our phone calls home and got ready for our trip to the post office for some shopping! First we went to Tomoca to buy coffee, they didn’t have any whole beans so we just bought grounds (it was delish, probably even better than the beans we bought on our last trip) Then we ventured off to the post office. This was quite interesting the beggars are relentless! Two years ago when we went shopping here we had Elsa with us, she was amazing and people did not bother us and we spent less money because she talked everyone down! We did alright with our bargaining and we got some really great finds! I got Dawit a traditional outfit, an Ethiopia shirt, Tre a football jersey, another Ethiopian flag, a turtle bottle opener, another charm for my charm bracelet and more! Once we were all shopped out our driver drove us across town to Amsterdam Cafe our favorite restaurant from our first two trips! It did not disappoint! The 90’s pop music mixes had not changed and the food was delish!
This was our last full day in Ethiopia we awoke early and had plans to visit Korah (a trash dump where 130,000 outcasts live in extreme poverty) we took food to several families who suffer from leprosy and HIV. The living conditions are very unbelievable, however Korah seemed to be improved from when I last visited in 2012. There are many groups aiding in their development and there are many child sponsorship programs operating there. Places like this make me grateful and guilty for what I have. We really do live a privileged life and I am happy to help out where I can. Next we went to buy some jewelry at Lila Products. Their jewelry is so beautiful! I seriously wanted to buy everything! I picked 2 necklaces myself and a bracelet and I got 3 to give away as gifts. There is also a man there that suffers from leprosy, he weaves beautiful rugs with his hands that are missing all of his fingers. On my next trip to Addis I plan on going back to get one! The jewelry shop had a coffee ceremony for us and showed us how they make the clay and paper beads. It was a really cool experience I highly recommend it! Soon enough we were back at the guest house and getting ready to go visit the boys. We got to the orphanage during nap time. We went to see Turtle first as we did everyday because he stays on the second floor. He was asleep in his crib. I lifted him into my arms and he felt slimy and smelled terrible then I noticed poo dripping onto my shoes. I looked back into his crib to see a pool of poo that he was sleeping in, breaks my heart. I know these nannies try hard but there are just too many toddlers in that room. The nannies seemed embarrassed and quickly snatched him from my arms saying “I clean, I clean”. Colleen and I then ventured up to the third floor and got her little one. When we came back down the stairs they had Turtle all cleaned up and wearing one of the outfits I had brought for him! He actually looked happy to see me and reached for me immediately as I walked into his room. We took them downstairs to play in the living room on the play-mat they sat up for us each day. Once again Turtle only wanted to be held, so I held him as Colleen’s son crawled around like crazy! I once again tried to tell the staff that Turtle wasn’t feeling well. His nanny even pointed to his belly and said “sick” but I wasn’t sure how to get him help. Once again on this day he had a massive explosion about every hour soiling his entire outfit. It was bad, I’m almost certain he has parasites. He seemed to feel a little better after each explosion and would play briefly after each one and then the ridiculous rumble would return and I knew what was about to happen. This poor baby boy. That night we told our agencies in country representative about Turtle’s illness and he said he would make sure they got him medical treatment. That made me feel a lot better about the situation. On this night the guesthouse prepared a tradition Ethiopian Meal and we ate outside with the other guests that were staying there, it was delish. They also served us coke wine, it was a sweet red wine mixed with Coke… Gross haha! We went to bed knowing that the next day would be our last day in Ethiopia.
One of the nannies from Dawit’s transition house was coming to see us. We spent the morning showing her pictures of all of the children that lived there that we know. She remembered all of them and it was so sweet watching her face light up as we showed her how well each of them are doing now! We took a bajaj to Kaldi’s and continued our conversation for a couple of hours. Then we returned to the guesthouse and used their driver to take us to the orphanage to spend one last day with our boys. They once again had them dressed in the outfits we had brought for them. I noticed they had all of Turtles clothes placed under his crib, I know all the toddlers are probably sharing them now but I liked how they made an effort to keep them separate while I was visiting! Turtle was still having massive blowouts and I was so sad that I had to leave him being ill. It was a another super cuddly day. I dressed him in a tie dye onesie I made for him and a precious cute one piece outfit from baby gap. We stayed a few hours until our driver returned. I knew it would be terrible leaving him behind. I sobbed as I carried him up to his room with a bag full of toys in tote. All the children in his room were obviously concerned when they saw my face. I dumped out the toys in the middle of the room with Turtle on my hip. I placed a blanket and lovie in his crib. Then I hugged and kissed him and promised I’d be back soon. I handed him over holding the board book we had made for him that he seemed to love to one of his nannies. I thanked her and turned and walked out of the room and back down the stairs and out of the orphanage sobbing hysterically. We went back to the guest house packed up and prepared to leave Ethiopia. It’s so terrible leaving him behind having no idea of when we will be cleared to return. He is an awesome little guy and he will fit in our little family just perfectly!
Cannot wait to get this sweet boy home!