Sunday Evening: So after the nightime events with the dueling church singers from 3 am until 6 am (I was told today that these are most likely the priests from the orthodox Christian churches and not the muslims), we finally fell asleep around 6 am and slept soundly until 9:15. We then ate a quick breakfast at the Guest Home, fresh squeezed orange juice and scrambled eggs. Nice and easy on the tummy.
We spent the morning showering, and separating all of our orphanage donations. (The shower was somewhat of a puzzle until we figured out black means hot and red means cold, and most of the time it comes out only one or the other (very hot or cold.) We now have 3 large suitcases and 3 rubbermaid containers stacked in the living room just outside of our sleeping room. We have more space in the sleeping room, and the bags are ready to be taken to the Transition Home on Tuesday.
After lunch (cheese pizza with …. Tuna!), we met up with Aki and we headed off in another rickety van taxi to the
With our 2 blonde-haired daughters, we get quite a few curious stares and smiles. At one point, a young lady passed by Maea and ran her fingers up Maea's arm and commented something to her friend. Aki explained that she had said "She's gorgeous". They seem to be very enthralled with the girls.
One of the biggest rewards of today, was simply the opportunity to get out and start to feel comfortable here in
The weather was sunny and warm today (I would guess in the mid-80s) and toward evening it quickly cools off to where a jacket is needed (low 60's?). We returned to the Guest Home around 4:30 and then we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on our balcony watching people go about their daily business. And there was much to observe … Many people were out for a Sunday evening stroll. We watched groups of children walking arm-in-arm, young muslim women wearing bright colors and wrapped in sparkling head-dresses, donkeys and cows and goats, men pushing all manner of hand-carts, busses and taxis overflowing with people, men carrying huge bundles of sticks or grass (to feed their cows?). We also noticed several 3-legged donkeys, but upon looking closer we realized that one of their front legs is tied to their chest. This way they can hobble around to graze but they cannot roam far. Oftentimes people noticed us on the balcony and once we waved or smiled, they would crack into a wide grin and acknowledge us with a big wave.
The little boys in the next yard over were doing all kinds of antics and stunts to get our attention. Once we acknowledge them, they began blowing kisses and trying out their English. Holding up a soccer ball, one would yell "This is a ball, yes?". Then "I am a boy, yes?". Each time I would say yes, they would clap their hands and cheer. Then one little boy yelled "Do you have chewing gum?" We tossed over some candy and they squealed with delight and yelled "Thank you!" and "Bravo". Their big sister was washing her hair in a bucket in the yard (with a bar of soap) and she smiled and made them share the candy with her too.
Driving around the city, again the traffic is unbelievable and there were several near-misses. There were times when I couldn't believe we didn't bump a human or a vehicle! The hired drivers are very good and very quick. The diesel fumes are incredibly strong and I found myself breathing through my mouth many times. At times, the black exhaust spewing from the busses, cars and taxis is overwhelming.
We had a very enjoyable day and now we are waiting for Bob & Kate Hutchinson to arrive. Aki will be meeting them at the airport and I hope they fare as well as we did getting through customs. Emme is wrapped in a blanket and sitting on the balcony watching for them.
The staff here at the Guest Home is remarkably helpful and very sweet. More families are arriving tonight so we will have a full-house in the morning. Tomorrow, we will meet Robel at Kaldis (the
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sunday Morning, Nov 30: 3:00 am Addis Ababa
As I am writing this post, it is currently 3 am and we were awakened by an Iman calling the muslims to prayer. The singing echoes across this neighborhood, which is on the outskirts of Addis. Because our days and nights are still mixed up (it is 6 pm at home), we are now awake and not very drowsy. We stepped out onto our balcony (we are on the top floor of a very tall house, one of the tallest in the neighborhood) and the night air is refreshingly cool and the dogs are barking like crazy - and I mean Crazy! The houses in this area (some are nice houses and most are tin shacks jumbled together in a maze) are so close together, and the chorus of hundreds of dogs is accompanying the call to prayer.
Now to go back and mention a few details from our trip so far… We took the Friday morning flight out of
There were only a few other "white people" on the flight and when we stepped off the plane, their small group quickly separated and headed to another flight. We were the only white faces to actually get off in
We were able to quickly get our visas in what seems like a painstakingly slow process. You pay the $20 per visa and they check your passports and then hand-write your full name and other identification on a visa sticker and paste it into your passport. From there, you walk through customs where they look at your passports again. At this point, we should have exchanged some dollars for birr (before customs) but we failed to do that and walked into the baggage claim area.
Lots of porters dressed in burgundy overalls tried to help and we waved them off repeatedly. We loaded 2 carts with our luggage, and suddenly a porter exclaimed that we had loaded the cart wrong and he grabbed our luggage and started re-arranging it. We waved him off too, but not before he demanded a tip for "helping" us. Then we were gestured toward a long line of people and luggage carts that were slowly making their way through a security detail. As we headed toward the line, a security guard approached and asked us what was in our Rubbermaid containers. "Do you have medicine in here?" he asked. No – we explained that it was baby formula which he did not understand. He gestured for another man who had the same questions and confusion, and then as the crowd began to press forward, he suddenly waved us through the open door passed the security area.
The open door leads outside where a sea of faces is waiting to greet arrivals and relatives. Heading out that door was a bit intimidating because of the number of people and the chaos. But we immediately saw a man holding a sign that said "Karen Wistrom". We waved and he introduced himself as "Aki with the Guest Home" and he helped wave people away from us and we made our way to the parking area. He had 2 drivers with him, one that helped with one of the luggage carts and the other guarding the van. (The van is a blue and white taxi van with stuffing spilling out of the seats and a clutch that barely worked.) We loaded the suitcases into the seats and the drivers guarded the van while we went back to the airport to exchange money. We were greeted by several serious-looking guards (wearing blue camouflage) carrying rifles and not smiling. Jay and the girls waited outside with Aki, while I ventured into the airport again (after nearly getting strip searched) to find a bank. The exchange rate is about 10 to 1. 10 birr is about $1, 100 birr is about $10. I exchanged $200 for about 2000 Birr.
Then back to the parking lot and into the rickety little van. We drove through the city and the driving is insane. I was sure we would hit someone – as we had many near-misses but that seems to be the norm here. We drove through the downtown area of Addis on one of the only paved roads, and then through several "villages" on the outskirts where the roads are just dirt or gravel. People walking everywhere, goats and donkeys and chickens, and cute kids everywhere, and then we arrived at the Guest Home. The van pulls right up to the gate, and then into the yard. We checked in and were shown to our rooms. It was at this point that Maea became terribly home sick and tears streamed down her face as she tried to hold them off. The exhaustion and culture shock hit her with full force. She explained that she had been scared during the drive because the van windows were open and we were so close to so many people. I'm sure she could sense Jay and my apprehension at the airport as well. Needless to say, it was a lot to process for a little girl.
We arrived in Addis at 9 am and we were able to rest and sleep until about 2 pm. We ate a quick lunch at the Guest Home – spaghetti with tuna, and chocolate pudding!! My sister knows that I have a hate/hate relationship with Tuna and she would have laughed to see me try to choke it down. Emme gobbled it down despite the tuna flavor – I guess she loves spaghetti regardless of the meat included in it! We then went with Aki for a walk through the neighborhood. This was great for all of us to get out and walk and feel more comfortable with our surroundings. We are the ONLY white faces here and we got lots of curious stares, but when you make eye-contact and smile and say hello, they are all quick to smile and say "selam" back. The kids love to stare and giggle and wave. Jay commented that he could almost blend in, but walking around with 3 girls (2 blonde and one red-head) was like being in a circus act – we may as well have been juggling flaming swords! But overall, the kids are feeling much more comfortable and the people are very friendly. We saw a lot of beggars in downtown Addis, but not so much in this area which is a very poor but friendly neighborhood.
People are everywhere, pushing or pulling rickety little handcarts, children playing, shopkeepers with tiny storefronts with fruit or large sides of meat on display. Several people carrying large sticks which they use in their cooking fires or for scaffolding on construction projects. I think they even use the sticks as framework for the concrete structures.
From our room at the Guest Home, we have a great view and many people look up and wave. We can look down into the yard next to ours, where they have chickens parading around and a little boy was helping his mother with the laundry. Doing the laundry at a spigot in the yard and scrubbing the clothes in buckets, and then hanging everything to dry. The little boy even bathed in the laundry water, and waved and giggled at us.
A little after nightfall, the power suddenly went out and we scrambled through our luggage looking for flashlights. They explained that the Guest Home always has power because of the generator, but the generator was being repaired at the moment. We were in the dark for about 1 hour (with flashlights and headlamps) and then we left to get pizza for dinner. When we returned, the power was back on. Aki explained that each area knows when they will be without power, because the government rations it and directs it to large construction projects.
We had dinner at
We were the only ones at the Guest Home today – but it sounds like 2 families with Christian World Adoption arrived late tonight. Sunday night, Kate and Bob Hutchinson will arrive along with several other families and the 2 Guest Homes will be full. On Sunday, we are planning to visit the
The Guest Home is very clean but very sparse. All concrete construction, with tile or parquet floors, and wall-to-wall wardrobes in each bedroom (much like Europe or
It is now 4:15 am and the dogs seemed to have settled down although the Iman is stilling singing in the mosques. There are roosters crowing and we are going to try to sleep again. We are feeling much more comfortable with our surroundings, but I am sure we will continue to experience extreme culture shock in the coming days. So far, everyone is feeling healthy but remembering to not use the tap water (for brushing teeth and rinsing things) will be a challenge.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Cultrure Shock!!! We were hit with it right as we left the airport, where a sea of faces greet you as you try to exit the building, and porters are aggressively grabbing at your luggage. After a 25 minute drive in crazy traffic, where you feel like the driver is sure to hit someone, we arrived at the guest home, and Maea shed a few tears. This was a lot to process for a 10 year old. Everyone is exhausted and feeling a little dizzy from the altitude.
Emme and I are emailing while Jay and Maea are still sleeping. We'll eat a quick bite here shortly and then go out to explore a bit with a guide from the Guest Home.
It's very warm and very dry here and from the plane we had a clear view of the dessert and the Nile River. We are told it cools off considerably at night. We are looking forward to meeting the boys on Monday and trying to remember not to slip up and brush our teeth with the water. Hopefully we will be able to get an internet connection and keep the blog up to date. Would someone please email my yahoo account and let me know if this blog posts. Love to all! Karen
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Wow - the day is finally here! Our bags are packed and we are ready. Today was an absolute whirlwind of last minute details - but we are ready ... more than ready ... to meet our sons! We will be leaving Mpls tomorrow (Thursday) morning (HAPPY THANKSGIVING YA'LL!!) and overnighting in Washington DC. Then first thing Friday morning, we fly to Ethiopia ... to our sons!
To all the other waiting AWAA families - we will take lots of pictures of your kiddos and we will love and hug on each and every one of the kids at the Transition Home - and tell them what loving parents they have waiting to come for them!
To dear friends and family - thank you so much for your love and support during this entire journey. We can't wait for you to meet the boys when we return home.
I will blog as often as possible and please keep our family in your prayers while we travel. with love, Karen
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Our packing and preparations are mostly complete - we only have a few loose ends to tie up at this point. We have 8 suitcases packed with nearly 80 cans of formula, along with clothing, medical supplies and shoes for the orphanages. Only one of those suitcases contains our clothing for the trip, everything else will be delivered to the Transition Home and orphanages.
Here is a snapshot of our schedule:
Thursday (Thanksgiving Day): fly to Washington DC.
Friday morning: Ethiopia Air flight from Washington DC to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (flight time 15 hours).
Saturday morning: Arrive in Ethiopia - we have Saturday and Sunday to explore and rest.
Sunday night: Our dear friends, Bob & Kate Hutchinson arrive (also from MN and adopting 2 daughters).
Monday: We meet our sons for the first time and spend the day with the children at the Transition Home (an emotional day for us!).
Tuesday: We spend the day at the Transition Home and the children will say permanent good-byes to their nannies and return to the Guest Home with us (an emotional day for our Ethiopian children!).
Wednesday: Embassy appointment and medical checkups.
Thursday: Spend the day at Kids Care orphanage (this is where our kids spent their first months as orphans).
Friday: Return to the embassy to acquire passports, visas and birth certificates.
Saturday: Meet with Duni (the Africa program director for our adoption agency - she is moving to Ethiopia to lead the program from in-country). She has walked this entire journey with us and it will be such a fitting occasion to meet her personally as we are leaving and she is arriving! At 10:15 pm on Saturday, our flight leaves for Washington DC (flight time 17 hours)
Sunday: Arrive in Washington DC. After a long layover, we will arrive in Mpls at 4:04 pm, Sunday Dec 7.
All times listed are local times - Ethiopia is 9 hours ahead of our time zone (at midnight here it is 9 am there)
During our trip, I will try to blog as much as possible, if we can get a reliable internet connection. Your prayers during our entire trip are needed and very appreciated!
Friday, November 21, 2008
This weekend we are focusing on our final preparations for travelling to Ethiopia to meet our sons and bring them home! Because previous travel groups discovered that we cannot access our blogger account while in Ethiopia, I am writing this blog post via my yahoo account, which can be accessed in Ethiopia. So this blog post is a test ...
Since calling home will be difficult while we are in Ethiopia - I am hopeful that we will have regular access to the internet and I will be able to keep friends and family updated while we travel. Your prayers in the days ahead are very appreciated! We leave for Ethiopia on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day - and we are thankful for countless blessings this year!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This is one of my favorite photos of Tariku! The biggest, most beautiful eyes ever!!!
Two AWAA families received referrals today so the chat group has been extra busy today! The Reno family was referred a 1 1/2 month old baby boy and the Black family was referred a 3 month old baby girl. Congratulations!! Savor these momentous days and reach deep inside for the patience needed until you are united with your children!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Today - three AWAA families got the phone call and saw pictures of their children for the very first time. Congratulations to the Forrest family (a baby girl along with the earlier referral of their toddler boy) and the Blackwell family (a 1 1/2 year old little girl) and the Hall family (a 2 1/2 year old little boy). These families have not even updated their blogs yet as they are so busy celebrating!
We continue to pack and plan for our upcoming trip. I selected a few of my favorite photos of Dagmawi. This little boy has been waiting for us for so long. Shortly after we accepted his referral, and Rachel had told him about us and shown him pictures of his new family, we started to get pictures where he is waving to us. We love getting these pictures and getting a glimpse of his personality! Check it out!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
And here is Tariku with his big brother! Just a little over 2 weeks from now we will be leaving for Ethiopia to meet our sons and bring them home. What a day for giving thanks! (How appropriate that we leave on Thanksgiving day!). Thank you to Lori Laughner who took these pictures for us last week when she was in Ethiopia to bring home their son Daniel.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Amy Lusse and I had quite a bit of contact before the court date and when we didn't pass, I asked her to please tell Dagmawi what had happened and reassure him that we are coming as soon as we can! She promised to do just that and then said, If it was me in your situation, there are so many specific things I would want to say, what do you think about writing a letter and I will bring it to him? I loved the idea and asked her to have Fortuna, the nurse at the Transition Home who seems to have a special bond with Dagmawi, read and interpret it for him.
Here are pictures from that moment - and the boys are holding the care packages we sent ... It is so amazing seeing items that were in our home only days ago, then in the hands of our sons a few days later.
Here is what Fortuna is reading to Dagmawi ... (have you ever tried to write a letter to a 7 year old about court delays that are impossible to understand??)
October 15, 2008
A letter to our sons in Ethiopia …
Dear Dagmawi and Tariku –
It seems that we have known you for so long now … we have your pictures everywhere in our house, and I carry them in my purse so I can show our friends and our family. I tell everyone "these are my sons in Ethiopia and they will be home with us very soon!"
We thought we would be traveling to Ethiopia by now to meet you for the first time. Rachel and Duni are still working so hard to get all of the paperwork finished so that you will be our sons.
Your sisters and your daddy and I were so sad when we found out that we had to wait longer. So I asked our friend, Amy, to read this letter to you and to give you a hug from your family. Don’t be sad or scared, we love you very much and we will come to Ethiopia as soon as we can.
There are so many things I want to tell you – about your sisters and all of your cousins, who ask about you everyday. About your bedroom, which you will share with Tariku (each of you have your own bed) and everything is ready and waiting for you – even with clothes in the drawers and toys in the closet. We think about you and pray for you every day and we can’t wait to have you home with us!
Your mommy and daddy love you and we miss you. You have sisters, and cousins, and grandparents, aunts and uncles that love you so much. You have a very large and loving family in America!! We will come to you as soon as we can. Know that we love you very much!
Love, Mom, Dad, Emme and Maea
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Five AWAA families were united forever with their children in Ethiopia today - Nunez, Terwilleger, Britton, Hammond & Laughner.
Waiting familes received their monthly update on their children today ... We received another adorable picture of our 2 sons and it looks as if Tariku has finally gained some weight. At 2 1/2 years old he now weighs 23 lbs - that chubby little belly we see in the pictures is finally reflected in a healthy, 3 lb weight gain. Both boys look happy and healthy.
Sometime early Thursday night/Friday morning while we are sleeping, a judge in Ethiopia will review our adoption file and hopefully declare a 7 year old child ... our son! Our 2 year old was legally declared our son on our first court date on Oct 8.
Monday, November 3, 2008
5 families just returned from Ethiopia. Another 4 or 5 families are there right now!