I could not fall asleep last night. I was so tired (emotionally exhausted) and yet I could not get my brain to stop mulling over all the things we had experienced on Monday. And also I was making a mental list of things to take care of in the morning before we left to get our kids. At about 2 am I took a Dramamine hoping it would knock me out .... no luck. I think I finally dozed off after 3 am.
We met with Rachel in the morning to fill out all of our paperwork for the embassy appointment on Wednesday. We then went to the mercado (market) in the post office area and had a great time looking through all the hand-made items and bartering. We bought the boys traditional Ethiopian outfits, and picked up some great souvenirs!
We then had a quick lunch at the Hilton, stopped at the ET air office to confirm our Saturday return flights, and then headed to the Transition Home. Rachel said good-bye to us at this point because she had to go pick up some children from an orphanage to bring to the TH. She said she would meet us at the TH later.
Again we pulled up to the the famous "green gates" ... we dragged in our heavy suitcases full of donations and the children quickly came out to greet us. Dagmawi was quick to walk up and give us a hug - and Tariku wandered out a short while later and smiled when he saw us.
Several children immediately came up to us and reached up to be held. Emme and Maea play with all of the kids and laughter fills the courtyard as the kids climb all over them wanting to be held and be first for attention. Time flies for the girls while we are at the TH because they are so thoroughly enjoying the kids! I delivered the care packages for the Reno and Forrest families - and the Hutchinsons did the same for the Black and Blackwell families. We took lots of pictures of the kids holding the items from their care packages. I so remember how much those pictures meant to us. We spent a big chunk of the afternoon taking pictures of every single child (It seems impossible that we could have missed anyone!) We also took time to group all of the siblings together for a "family" photo.
We spoke to Fortuna to get some details about sleeping habits and food routine. Then I asked Fortuna to sit down with Selam and Dagmawi and translate while we explained about the long airplane ride to America and how we need to sleep as much as possible. They also understand we will take a 2nd airplane to get home. We also asked Fortuna to talk to them about their feelings on a new name - since they are moving to America would they like an American name? Both of the kids were quick to nod yes - so we told them their new names - Lila Selam and Jayden Dagmawi. I pointed to Jay (Daddy) and then pointed to Dagmawi and said "Jayden" and he understood it and said "yes" with a big smile. Of course we still call him Dagmawi right now because it is what we are all used to.
A short time later, Rachel and Barret pulled into the courtyard with 5 children in the back seat. Rachel looked a little distressed, and as she got out she asked for help from the nannies. One child had thrown up in the back seat and another was crying in fear. (By the way, Rachel and Barret are truly 2 of the most outstanding people with a passion for children and for Africa. They are devoted to these kids!!! Rachel is so calm and she empathizes with your feelings and emotions and goes out of her way to make this experience as smooth as possible. And she is just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. You can't help instantly connecting with her and genuinely loving and appreciating her!!!)
So these 5 orphan children step out of the vehicle and they cluster together in fear. They are in a new place with no family and they are scared. Several started crying immediately and it was just heartbreaking. I was able to take one little girl into my arms and she melted into my shoulder and just sobbed. Another little girl cried louder in fear of me until a nanny scooped her up and brought her inside. A little boy held his sister to him and whispered his name to me and then the tears started flowing from his eyes. I grabbed him and his sister too and just wept with them and held them. Two of the children did not speak Amheric and could not be consoled. Finally Fortuna figured out that they spoke "Tigris" (?) and she was able to communicate with them. Meti (the little mother) came up and consoled and talked to each one and slowly the other children approached and touched or said some soothing words to them. I got the impression that the other kids could remember feeling this very same way.
This was truly the most heartbreaking situation I have witnessed here yet, and within about an hour, most of the new kids had already started playing with the other kids and climbing all over the grown-ups. Jay had one of the new kids on his lap much of the time. One of the new little girls was still silently crying big tears as we were preparing to leave, but she was snuggled securely on a nannies lap. These 5 kids (3 girls and 2 boys) were between the ages of 3 - 6 and the families that receive these referrals in the coming month or so will be blessed. I was blessed to have been here as they arrived and to be able to offer some comfort.
So 5:00 rolled around and the tearful good-byes began. The nannies hugged and kissed the kids and tears filled their eyes as they whispered in their ears. Then we all loaded up in the van and left for the TH. Bob and Kate, and me and Jay just looked at eachother in amazement and awe! The kids were so excited to drive in a car and they were all eyes as we navigated the roads. Dagmawi sat by Maea and pointed at things to hear her say them in English (car, donkey, truck, tractor). Tariku snuggled on Emme's lap and watched outside with huge eyes. It has been so wonderful having Emme and Maea experience this with us - they have cried many tears during this trip and they have played with the kids at the TH with reckless abandon and joy! And tonight they were so amazingly helpful with the boys.
We climbed the stairs to our 4th floor rooms and Dagmawi immediately started to explore. There was a lot of running around at first, but then everyone settled down and we had dinner. Dagmawi was quick to fold his hands and pray in Amheric before he touched his plate. Tariku didnt want his noodles and finally I cut up a banana and put it in front of him. He smiled at me (he has this sweet slow smile) and looked at the banana but he did not touch it. Finally I picked up a slice and held it out to him, again the sweet slow smile, and then he reaches out and takes it from me and pops it in his mouth. He ate 2 whole bananas this way - I would hand him a slice and he would eat it.
We then went up to our rooms and Dagmawi looked at his new clothes and pointed out that he now has tennis shoes just like mom and dad. We are actually doing OK with the communication. He doesnt know much English but we are able to figure things out with gestures. I had asked Fortuna about the bedtime routine and she told me they put the kids in their cribs and tell them "Tahn - ye" - which means sleep. The kids were REALLY wired for much of the evening, but we settled them down by showing them pictures from home. Finally I told Dagmawi - "Tahn-ye" and he climbed to the upper bunk and quickly fell asleep. Tariku took much longer and cried when I would try to lay him down. Finally Jay took him and paced for about 20 minutes and then layed down with him and he was out.
Earlier in the night, Dagmawi was exploring and found the bag of gifts and toys for the orphanage we will visit on Thursday. There were some matchbox cars in the bag and he got so excited thinking they were for him. I told him "only one" - he gave me a funny look at first and then proceeded to take them all out of the bag and line them up - testing each one until he picked his favorite. Then he put the others back in the bag. Wow! Later he came back and got the bag and I reminded him "only one". He nodded and put back the one he selected earlier and chose a different one. I hope he does not get upset when we hand them out at the orphanage.
Tomorrow is our embassy appointment and then a little shopping in the afternoon. Another amazing day!!! Hutchinsons are doing great too and little Furtuna is bonding with Kate. Kate is exhausted from carrying her all day but she is so happy that Furtuna is doing well. At one point, Kate was talking to me and Furtuna looked up at her face and just studied her intensely. I told Bob it was like a duckling imprinting on it's mother. And Selam is doing great too. She got her hair braided today (it took about an hour!!) and she is just quietly and shyly taking everything in and is slowly opening up. She is really bonding well to Bob. I took out our picture album and she came over on the couch with Dagmawi and the two of them recited the words together that I was pointing to ... dog, turtles, toad, frog, etc. They have the sweetest voices and such a beautiful accent.
It was great to have some downtime at the Guest Home tonight and we will have a little downtime each day until we leave. Everyone is doing great and we are fully enjoying this entire experience. (Kate asked me to mention that she has not been able to blog because she cannot get a connection here to her wordpress blog. She will catch everyone up when they get home. They are doing great and things are going smoother than they had hoped for or expected.) Between the 2 families we have taken so many pictures and we cannot wait to share them when we get home. We will post picasa albums as soon as we possibly can! With love, Karen