Today was a very full day! Robel picked us up around 10 am and we drove to Kids Care orphanage, ~ the home where both of the boys spent their first days as orphans. Dagmawi was there from October to March, and Tariku arrived in April. The boys were referred to us in June. When we pulled in to the gated courtyard, we were met by about 15 smiling children. They were happy to see us and they formed a circle in the yard and began singing. We joined in for awhile and then they saw the camera. I swear every African child is an expert with cameras. They immediately gesture for you to take their picture and they wrap their arms around the nearest 4 or 5 other children and they smile and pose. Then they immediately run around to peer over your shoulder to see their picture and they laugh and point at themselves like it is the funniest thing ever. A few always want to use my camera to take a picture of me - and then suddenly I am surrounded by kids pushing and maneuvering to be the closest. They hug me like I'm their long lost best friend and I can feel several kids fingering my hair and patting my head! Their laughter and joy is contagious. It's tough getting the camera back but after a few appeals, to which I gesture that I now need to take the pictures, they give it back with a smile.
I ended up spending a lot of time in the baby rooms, holding and cuddling with the babies. Anyone that has seen the Gibson's Kids Care video will likely remember the little girl standing in the crib in one of the baby's rooms. She was a thin little girl, with several of the molluscum (?) on her face and swinging her head from side to side. She is still there - and she got so excited when we walked into the room. She was quick to squirm across the bed as the other kids initially reacted with shyness. I picked her up and put her on my lap and she grinned hugely and snuggled in as tight as she could. The nannies explained to me that she has many developmental issues and they told me she is 5 years old. This child looks to be about one year old and is very frail. She loved the attention. When Jay walked in, she squealed with delight and I handed her to him. Each of the girls held her for awhile and she ended up being in one of our arms most of our visit.
We met a volunteer from Denmark at Kids Care and we spoke at length. She had been helping for 5 1/2 months and was due to return to Denmark in 2 weeks. She mentioned that there are so many malnourished babies coming into the orphanages lately because of the drought earlier in the year. Several of the babies had an IV tube in their head.
The boys did great. I asked Robel to make sure that Dagmawi understood what we were doing. He sauntered around the place with confidence, knowing that we were just visiting. Tariku did fine too and most of the nannies recognized him immediately, calling out his name and pointing him out to the other nannies. They would hold out their hands to him and he would bury his head in my shoulder. I handed him to the main nanny that had cared for him and he smiled at her and then leaned back to me and reached for me.
Meanwhile, the Hutchinson's had brought a great project for all the kids and there was a near melee when they saw them unpacking the suitcase that held little teddy bears. The teddy bears had come from a VBS kids project and they had brought about 100 bears and the stuffing for all of them. The bears were already sewn around the edges, with a little velcro opening to insert the stuffing. Bob did a quick demonstration and then the kids began to stuff their own bears. On the back of each bear is a little pocket, and several of the kids saved their package of "smarties" candy we had given them, and carefully stored it in the little pocket. The project was a real hit with the kids.
We left Kids Care and picked up Rachel at the Transition Home. I love to pick her brain about Ethiopia in general and the unique idiosyncracies of the culture. She mentioned that Ethiopians are not afraid of the traffic at all (which was very obvious to us!!) and that we will need to teach the kids a healthy respect for traffic. I appreciated this advice because it is natural to teach this to a toddler, but I may not have been as careful about teaching this to a 7 year old. At one point, Dagmawi tossed a wrapper out the window of the van, and she pointed this out and said it is common practice in ET, and one that we will need to teach the kids not to do. There has been a lot of other great little pointers she has been able to teach us.
She asked the driver to stop at an awesome little basket shop (Ato's Basket Shop) which was near the TH. The proprietor was a character and enjoyed showing us his basketry and all of the carved handi-crafts. Hutchinsons bought some beautiful silver crosses (the symbolic cross for orthodox Christianity) and we bought a hand-woven basket with a fitted lid, for Dagmawi. His birth mother had given him a religious medallion on a necklace and we want him to be able to store it somewhere safe for a keepsake.
We ate lunch at Metro Pizza (great pizza and pasta!) Of course Dagmawi hates pizza, so he and Emme had the spaghetti. Tariku for some reason was not hungry and sat and watched us all eat but would turn his head away every time I offered him something. Jay picked him up to walk around outside and then they both disappeared. I went out to look for them and they were nowhere in sight. A few minutes later they came back in and he explained that a waitress from the next restaurant over had come over to see Tariku, and then scooped him out of Jay's arms to go show everyone she worked with. Jay said he didn't know what to do other than follow her so he was sure to get his son back. This is a common occurrence in Ethiopia. The people LOVE to see children and they will touch their faces and make a big scene and then walk around to show them off to everyone they know. Common practice here but NOT common practice in America :) Ethiopians really place a high value on family, friends, social relationships and their children.
After lunch we went to the Alert Leprosy hospital. After entering through a guarded gate, we drove through some beautiful and well-maintained gardens. Leprosy is a curable disease when it is arrested in its early stages. However, many people who live in the "countryside" (everyone refers to those living outside Addis Ababa, as living in the countryside) are a day's walk or more from medical care and they seek treatment from the local witch doctor. Of course the disease continues to progress and then they are shunned because obviously they are being cursed by god. Many of them finally make their way to this particular hospital where they are given care and respite and a respectable way to earn a living.
As we approached, several women and children were harvesting from a garden, and blankets were laid out and loaded with peppers to dry in the sun. We climbed the steps to the hospital and two men were busily weaving some floor mats. I greeted the first man who then smiled at us and spoke very good English. He demonstrated what he was doing and then said "see, I have no hands but I can weave!" He was very proud of his handi-work!!
We then entered the weaving room – which had about 6 large looms. Three men were working the looms, separating the warp and the weft threads with their feet, and flinging a shuttle back and forth with amazing speed. They were weaving yard after yard of a creamy, soft and thick fabric that piled up in layers beneath the looms. This fabric is then worked into a variety of woven items from table cloths, to hand bags, to dresses and scarves. We asked the attendant about what Kate could use to help carry Furtuna. The attendant immediately went to a specific shelf and pulled out a large wrap and then showed Kate how to tie Furtuna snugly onto her waist. Furtuna was sleeping while this was going on and they both looked so comfortable after the wrap was tied correctly.
We each bought a few items from the store. Emme and Maea each got an attractive woven hand bag and Dagmawi selected a hand-tooled leather wallet. He then immediately went and asked for birr from each of the guys. A smart little boy! I bought a beautiful, rainbow hued scarf-wrap. By the way – this is an item that most women in Ethiopia wear every day. The colors and patterns are endless, and some of them shimmer with metallic threads, and the women wrap it around their neck, wearing it with everything from a t-shirt and jeans, to a more dressy outfit. The wraps are beautiful and there are stacks upon stacks of them in most of the shops. We have bought quite a few as souvenir gifts for family and friends.
From the leprosy hospital, we stopped for a quick coffee at Kaldis. The adults each had a delicious machiatto and the kids had ice cream. It is so funny to watch the Ethiopian kids eat ice cream. They are not used to the cold (even soda is consumed at room temperature) and they wrinkle their noses in distaste over the cold, even though they love the flavor. (The kids needed to use the bathroom before we left - Reminder to future travelers – bathrooms are in short supply and they rarely have toilet paper. Always carry your travel pack of charmin! Also hand-washing is commonplace but no paper towels are provided. It is expected to either air dry, or dry your hands on your clothes.)
We then went to Ahope orphanage which only cares for children with HIV. We visited both of the Ahope locations (little Ahope has kids 7 and under, and big Ahope has kids over 7). By this time, the kids were pretty worn out and most of the grown-ups were too. We dropped off some donations that Bob and Kate had brought and walked around visiting the kids and the babies. I watched two little boys as they played tetherball with a stick, a string and an old sock. The sock was stuffed with something and it was used as the ball, and they were quite good at kicking it with their feet to spin it around the stick.
The children housed at little Ahope are double orphans – meaning both parents are dead – and the children have HIV. They said that a few years ago these kids did not stand a chance of adoption, but with the success of the newest anti-retroviral drug treatments, a few are now getting adopted. There were some beautiful children there and they loved the attention. We had saved enough bears to do the craft project with all of the children at little Ahope, and we dropped off a large bag of "smarties" candy and little gifts for the kids. These children also know their way around the camera and we took dozens of pictures with the kids just hanging and hugging on us, and squealing with laughter when they saw their pictures.
At this point we headed back to the Guest Home. Jay and Bob and Robel were planning to go out (a boy's night out as Robel called it) but Jay was feeling really queasy and it was only getting worse. By the time we got back to the Guest Home, we changed the plans for the evening and Jay went straight to bed. He has started taking the Cipro antibiotic (even if it is just the ET funk and not something more serious). So –one of us has succumbed to the dreaded funk!
We had dinner at the Guest Home and after skipping lunch, Tariku made up for it at dinner. He dozed on the way home and slept for about 1 hour before dinner. Then he was not ready for bedtime at all. In our monthly updates, I regularly got word that Tariku is a biter and a hitter. When someone takes something he wants, or picks him up from something he wants to do, he will hit and bite and scratch and pinch. Then when you say "no", he'll smile and bat his huge eyes at you. Rachel said the nannies didn't discipline this behavior because they are so busy with so many kids, and because he's just too darn cute.
During the day, Maea had picked him up as we were leaving one of the orphanages. He wanted to be put back down so he could keep playing, so he bit her HARD in the cheek, leaving teeth marks and a big welt. Maea was heartbroken and cried for awhile from the pain. He has bitten Emme and he has hit and scratched at Jay – but he will not do it to me. Each time, I take his chin in my hand and sternly say "NO" and he just smiles and bats his eyelashes.
By later in the evening, all the kids were in bed, but he still wanted to play. His jammies were on, the lights were off and I was pacing with him to help him sleep. He wanted his shoes on and I said 'No – Tahn-ye, telling him to sleep. He flailed and squirmed and when he figured out I wasn't giving in, he cried for about 15-20 minutes while hugging me tightly. He didn't try to hit or bite or scratch, he just hugged me tightly and bawled. After he had calmed down completely, I laid him down to sleep (my back felt like it was breaking!), but he still wanted to play. Again, he hugged me tightly while he cried. About 3 minutes later, he stopped crying and laid quietly in my arms and fell asleep after about 15 minutes.
We are making progress and he has most definitely bonded to me. He adores the girls and Jay – but he reaches for me when he has had enough and says " mamamama". Dagmawi has strongly bonded with Jay and hugs and kisses him regularly. He was worried about Jay tonight when I explained that he was not feeling well. Of course this "explaining" is done with gestures, but he understands quickly.
Tomorrow we head to the Mercado to do some shopping and to experience the largest open air market in all of Africa! The Ethiopian kids are counting down the days to their "aero-plane ride to America". Emme and Maea, who have already experienced this brutally long flight, are not looking forward to it! Hopefully Jay will be feeling better in the morning!
With love, Karen