Sunday, December 28, 2008

Learning to ride a bike ... in the snow!

We travelled to Iowa for the holidays to spend time with our families. Wesley was quite intrigued with the nativity set below the tree and was content to examine each of the ornaments. We laughed as he pointed to the angels and with delight announced "mon-jee" (which is how he says "monkey")! Evidently, he thought the angels looked like monkeys.



Ever since arriving home from Ethiopia, Jayden has been quite concerned about the fact that he has no bike. He is quick to explain that Emme & Maea each have a bike, but there is none for him. "Emme bike, Maea bike, Jayden .... no bike," he says with a sad face. We kept trying to explain that we can't ride a bike in the winter and he would have a bike in the spring ... but of course, we could not make him understand that reasoning. So as we drove south for the holiday, I called ahead to see if any of the cousins had a bike they had outgrown. Sure enough, cousin Carson had a bike he was no longer using. So on Christmas Eve, Jayden was presented with his "new" bike and he was thrilled .... and wanted to immediately go out and ride the bike. Again, we explained about not being able to ride a bike in the snow and ice.



The next morning ... we came downstairs to find him attempting to ride the bike in the living room. To his credit, he did seem to understand that we cannot ride a bike inside the house. So after much begging and pleading ... Jay and Jayden donned all of their snow gear and went outside to learn how to ride a bike. It was very cold (about 7 degrees) with freezing mist, but the two of them braved the cold for about 2 hours until Jayden had mostly mastered the bike. Here are a few photos of him first learning to ride a bike ...






There is a trimuphant smile behind that hood!!


On Friday, everyone gathered at my sister's house for our annual sledding party with all of the cousins (there are 10 cousins now). Karla provided the sledding hill, Sister-in-law Becky brought the hot chocolate and the butterscotch schnapps, and Grandpa provided the snowmobile for towing everyone back up the hill. Jayden's eyes about popped out of his head when he saw the snowmobile, and he would sled down the hill only so he could get a ride on the snowmobile back up the hill!






One more quick, cute story ... While giving Wesley a bath last week, I watched him examine his reflection in the shiny faucets and then methodically kiss his reflection in each handle and faucet. A few days later while I was typing on the computer, he discovered the shiny bin pulls on the desk drawers. Again, he proceeded to methodically kiss his reflection in each bin pull. While we were visiting Grandma's house, I happened to have the camera handy as he again noticed his reflection in the tub faucets and stretched out his little kissy lips to kiss his reflection.

Shortly after we got home from Ethiopia, I got a note from Rachel saying that the nannies missed "Jayden's sweet nature and Wesley's quirky ways". I think I know what she means about Wesley's "quirky ways".


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Have a blessed holiday season with family and friends! For those families that are still waiting for referrals and court dates and such . . . know that you WILL be united with your child(ren) soon and the pain and frustration you are feeling during this terribly difficult time of waiting (and not knowing how long you will be waiting) will evaporate instantly once you hold your child in your arms for the first time. It is all worth it in the end!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - from the Wistroms

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Ta da! Here is our new family photo that will grace the front of our 2008 Christmas card. We had a blustery, snowy day on Saturday (a perfect Saturday for sledding, snowman making, and hot chocolate sipping by a fireplace) which made for an appropriate background for our Christmas card photo (I love how the photo even captured the falling snow!). I was lining everyone up on the porch and getting the camera positioned for a timed photo - this is where I set the timer and then run like crazy to join the photo lineup - when our 6 year-old neighbor Katie showed up to see if the girls (and boys) could play. I put the camera in her capable little hands - and this is what we got! Thanks Katie!!! There were several photos that turned out nicely - but this was everyone's favorite because of Jayden's characteristic silly smile! He brings some appreciated silliness and joy into our family.

On Saturday morning, Emme & Maea also got their ears pierced for a Christmas present. They had asked about pierced ears when they were about 5 or 6 years old, but I asked them to wait until they were older. And after such a momentous trip to Africa, and the maturity and helpfulness they displayed while we were there, when Maea asked about pierced ears again, I felt it was an appropriate time.



So ... to catch up on a few events from the last week in the Wistrom household ....

Jayden finished his first full week of school and things are off to a great start! He is really enjoying school and he was quite disappointed on Saturday morning to find out there is no school for 2 days. I had explained this earlier by showing him the calendar, but I don't think it fully registered until Saturday morning. His disappointment faded quickly though, as we watched the yard fill up with fluffy white snow and the temperature hovered around a comfortable 20 degrees so that everyone could play outside!

Wesley is doing great with his naps as we fall into a comfortable routine. I announce "naptime" shortly after lunch and he happily lays down and after a few minutes, he dozes off for about 2 hours. Quite a difference from our first few tries at "naptime".


He is still very stubborn about his food though - often refusing to even try something if he does not recognize it. A few evenings ago, we had chicken for dinner and I knew we were going to be in for a battle. Sure enough, he took one look and clamped his little mouth shut. Maea was just returning to the table with ketchup in hand, when I remembered him eating french fries in Ethiopia and dipping them in ketchup. So I squirted some on his plate ... and within a few minutes, he was eating his chicken by dipping it in the ketchup! So we may be onto a way to get him to eat a more well-balanced diet.

On Friday, we stopped by Judy's house (day care) so that she could meet Wesley and he could meet her and the other kids at day care. I will be going back to work full time the Monday after Christmas and I want to get him smoothly and comfortably transitioned into daycare - this will be another major milestone for us. We visited for about an hour or more, and he was happily playing with some of the kids and interacting with Judy. We'll stop by again next week and I will leave him there briefly so that he understands that I will be returning for him. It's tough to know what our adopted kids understand since at one point in their lives, they were left somewhere by a parent who never returned. This was something I worried about initially - but Wesley has seemed to attach and bond to us in a healthy way, and I think we will have a smooth day-care transition too.

On Saturday night, our good friends and neighbors, Michelle and Dave, had a neighborhood get-together so that everyone could meet our sons and hear about our trip to Ethiopia. Michelle even ground some coffee beans we brought back from Ethiopia and we enjoyed delicious Ethiopian coffee and dessert. I put a lot of our pictures into a powerpoint presentation - and we got to talk in detail about our adventures in Ethiopia. We see our neighbors every day during the summer months since all of our backyards are connected - but during the winter months we all go into hibernation mode. So last night was a real treat - and a fun time for all the kids!

One more funny story about Jayden ... He has been so quick to investigate all of the outdoor toys in our garage and let us know that he was dismayed to not find a bike there for him. (In our defense, we both planned to get him a bike in the spring so he can actually use it! But silly us ... because Jayden can use a bike in the dead of winter!) Everytime we go outside, he drags out the skateboard and the scooter and even the rollerblades - instead of the sleds. We've demonstrated the sleds repeatedly, but in his mind, anything with wheels is way cooler!



And here are a few photos from the last few days ...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Typical Morning ...


Maea and Jayden, waiting for the bus on his first day of school. Having a big sister to show you the ropes is a good thing!



Little brother, Wesley is not too happy about everyone leaving in the morning. But he quickly makes himself busy sorting his buttons. He will spend hours during a day sorting and re-sorting these colorful buttons and will enlist any willing and able-bodied person to help him with this very important project.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Becoming a Family!

Every spring for the last 9-10 years, my entire family vacations for one week on Sanibel Island in Florida. All of the nieces and nephews (there are 10 if them now!) play on the beach, fishing, looking for shells, swimming, finding sand dollars, and making memories together for the entire week. While we are there, we always stop in at our favorite coffee shop - The Sanibel Bean. The walls at this coffee shop are covered with photos of its customers - photos taken in locations across the world. We remembered to pack our Sanibel Bean bumper sticker so that we can send them a photo of our family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! I'm fairly certain we will be the only photo taken in Ethiopia!

Jayden started school on Monday and I am thankful to report that he is off to a great start. He was so excited to be joining Maea at the bus stop and he proudly hefted his backpack over his shoulders and headed out the door. It just happened to be -10 degrees outside that morning (yes - this is Northern Minnesota and we too sometimes wonder why we live here in the winter!). He lasted about 2 minutes and came scurrying back in the door and tried to put his snow pants on. Instead, I quickly ran upstairs and came down with long underwear. The bus was just down the street and Maea was frantically yelling "hurry Mom! the bus is coming!!) I stripped him down to his under-shorts, pulled the long underwear shirt and pants on, and then pulled his jeans and sweatshirt back on. He looked up at me in surprise ... and then smiled and nodded his approval. This morning, he put his long underwear on before he even got dressed.

We anxiously awaited news from school and got a few emails during the day that things were going just fine. At the end of the day - Maea and Jayden clambered off the bus and came into the house with big smiles. Here is the note we got from his teacher after his first day ...


Hello!
Jayden had a FABULOUS day! What a trooper! Most first graders collapse by noon the first month of first grade and they don't even have to deal with language and cultural differences! We worked on vocabulary, he really has his animals down! I taught him how to use the CD player and the books with CDs. He caught on after the first time I showed him! He did some writing and was willing to try everything! ... He seemed to really like the snack (fruit snacks) and he let me know that he really doesn't like pizza !! (His face was hilarious!) I imagine he will be exhausted after today. Let me know how you think his day went and anything I can do to help! ... He is truly a joy to have as part of the class! ~Tari

Today (Tuesday) was his second full day of school and he seemed to enjoy it as much as his first day. We are beginning to fall into a comfortable family routine.

Wesley (Tariku) is doing great too. As I am typing this blogpost, he is falling asleep in my lap. On Saturday, Jay's parents brought our 15 1/2 year old Golden Retriever home (they were caring for her while we were in Ethiopia). Poor Tariku has barely had a restful moment since her arrival. He is definitely more comfortable around her today ~ although he still walks in a wide circle around her. From the moment she arrived home, he has lived in dread and fear of her, and is constantly watching over his shoulder in case she would pounce on him and eat him. Abby (our dog) is over 100 years old in human years, and she acts like it. I don't think she has even noticed there are 2 new kids in the house. Wesley is getting more comfortable with each passing day as he figures out that she is harmless.

The doctor called yesterday to say we have two healthy little boys! All of the bloodwork came back normal and healthy. We've been home a little over one week and I am amazed at how quickly the boys are meshing into our family. As I watched Jayden get on the bus with Maea on Monday morning, I couldn't help but reflect on this little boy's life one year ago and even 2 weeks ago - and the marked contrast to his life today. He has met all of these changes with grace and maturity and strength, far beyond his age. And little brother Wesley, has openly and warmly accepted us as family as if this was meant to be ... from the beginning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our last day in Ethiopia ...





This family photo was taken on top of Entoto Mountain in Addis Ababa on Saturday, Dec 6. We spent much of the morning packing our luggage, getting ready for our flight home that evening. About noon, we met up with Robel for a drive up Entoto Mountain. Addis is located in a mountainous region which keeps daytime temperatures in the balmy 80's instead of the much hotter, drier temperatures in the lower areas and the countryside. The elevation in Addis ranges from about 7,600 feet to about 9,800 feet on Entoto Mountain. This is why many travellers experience dizziness and altitude sickness.

As we drove through the city, the air was thick with diesel fumes until we reached the base of Entoto Mountain. As we ascended the mountain, we all suddenly noticed how clean and fresh the air became. We passed many women who were walking down the steep mountain road carrying a huge load of firewood. These were the firewood carriers we had heard so much about. Walking up and down the mountain to "harvest" wood they could sell in the city for cooking fires. We also noticed many women carrying dried dung patties as well. I have heard that these women labor horribly all day long to earn a few pennies and they look old beyond their years.

Soon we saw donkeys loaded with firewood, and grass or hay. They were running down the steep slope because walking was impossible on the steep terrain. As we neared the top, we started noticing very tall, straight trees. So this was where the "lumber" came from, that we had seen throughout the city being used as building materials and scaffolding. This tall, straight timber was being harvested from the tops of the mountain areas and being put to all kinds of ingenious uses. (See photos.)











This is what I referred to as an Ethiopian "lumber yard". Stacks and stacks of these sticks which were being harvested from the mountain and used in all sorts of construction projects.




We stopped at the top of the mountain to walk around the church and to appreciate a panoramic view of Addis Ababa. There were several little kids that followed us as we walked around the church - many of them holding their hands out to ask for money and gesturing to their mouth to ask for food. Suddenly one of the church men came out of the fenced area and chased them off with a large stick. Swishing it viciously at them, and they darted off in all directions.

We drove back down the mountain to the Guest Home to get ready for the airport. Our first guide, Aki (Aklilu) picked us up at about 6:00 to drive us to the airport. Rachel and Barret met us for a heartfelt good-bye and we took a few final photos.




Getting through the airport was relatively un-eventful other than all the exit visas we needed to fill out. We stopped for a quick bite to eat - and at this point Emme and I had a tearful discussion as she was feeling a bit left out because so much of my attention was focused on the boys. We hugged and cried for a few moments, and I explained again how for a little while, we would need to be focusing on the boys in the earlier days so that we could all get back into a "normal" family routine as soon as possible. I can say that since we have been home, each of the girls has cried tears of frustration and sadness on a number of occasions because the whole family dynamic has really changed and they are missing how things used to be.

We finally arrived at the gate - and we could see the airplane that would be carrying us back to America. It was nearly 10:15 at night, and everyone was very tired (way past the kids bedtime). It was at this point, right as we were getting ready to board the plane, that Dagmawi began to cry big pitiful tears of grief. He had been so brave up until this point, but now that he knew he was saying good-bye to Ethiopia and everything he had known his entire life, he crumpled into Jay's lap and just wept. He quickly rallied and we boarded the plane .. and settled into the most hellish trip of our entire lives.

We ended up being on that airplane for 20 straight hours. Tariku screamed incessantly from the first moment I put the seatbelt on him. He just went crazy - screaming and trying to pull it off. The flight attendants kept coming by telling me I had to keep it on him. People around me were telling me to give him a cookie or give him a blanket - and I just wanted to tell them all to "leave us alone! He is hating the seatbelt and your cookies and blankets aren't helping anything!!!" Finally a flight attendant brought me a seatbelt that attached to my seatbelt. He still screamed the entire time it was on - but at least he was on my lap instead of writhing in his own seat. Have you ever noticed how long those dang seatbelt signs are on???? And then we hit turbulence and on went the seatbelt sign again. By the time we reached Rome 5 hours later - I could not fathom another 12 hours on that plane (let alone the actual 15 more hours it ended up being).

We were delayed on the tarmac in Rome for 3.5 hours before we got up into the air again. Somewhere during the middle of the flight, Emme started feeling the gut pains that were the first sign of the ET funk. And I had packed the antibiotics in our bags, which were in the belly of the plane. Somehow, she rallied for the remainder of the flight ... thank goodness ... because I don't know how we would taken care of her too at that point. During the remainder of the flight, the kids slept fitfully and the grown-ups couldn't sleep at all because the kids were sleeping in our chairs as well. Better to have them sleeping, than awake and screaming.

I had heard from many previous travellers that the trip home is brutal. There are no words to describe exactly how brutal it really is. But again, y0u just hunker down and you get through it minute by minute.

Finally we landed in Washington DC. We took a tram from one terminal to the next, and Jay commented about the clean, fresh air. Here we were in the middle of the airport, smelling jet fuel and tram exhaust, and it smelled wonderful (in comparison). We were ushered quickly through customs and a very nice Homeland Security officer informed us that we could go straight to our next flight - there would be no secondary inspection of us or our bags. One step closer to home!!!! A few hours later - we stumbled off our final flight from Washington DC to Mpls, and our bedraggled crew was greeted by the most beautiful, welcome faces of family and friends!!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

SNOW!!!

If you could see behind that hood, he is all smiles!!! 7 year old, Dagmawi (Jayden) loves to play outside with the neighborhood kids. The first day home, he was sledding with the whole crew!


Even 2 year old, Tariku (Wesley) loves the snow and regularly pulls his coat off the hook and looks for his boots to go outside.



We are all doing great and I am somewhat amazed at how smoothly the transition has been. Yes - there are some tough and awkward moments, many simply because of the language barrier. But we are slowly and surely establishing a new family routine and the boys are responding well. Jayden has asked about school every day - asking means he taps himself in the chest and says "school"? He was fine with our answer of "no - not today" until Emme and Maea went off to school.


So - we went to visit his classroom and school on Wednesday. The kids greeted him with warmth and enthusiasm and he hugged his teacher. He has been assigned 2 "classroom helpers" (Sophie and Aiden - two mature 1st graders that are eager to assist and care for him until he gets on his feet) so that he can have regular help in getting things figured out. Everything is new for him - from drinking fountains (his first experience he wanted to put his mouth right on the nozzle and even after a few attempts and demonstrations, he still doesn't quite have the hang of it), to milk cartons, to recess, to lunch trays, etc. After several conversations with his teacher, Mrs. Waite, and the principal, we have decided to start him in school on Monday, and he is counting down the days on the calendar.


Everyone at the school (K-5) is aware of Jayden and we have lots of watchful eyes and helping hearts at the ready to make his transition as smooth as possible. He is so excited! I did not plan to start him in school until after Christmas and I am just amazed at how quickly he is adapting to our lives. He just wants to fully immerse himself in everything we do and just be a normal kid!!! On Monday, he will get on the bus with Maea and she will help him at his locker and get him firmly planted in his classroom. After school - Maea will dismiss a little early so that she can meet him at his classroom, guide him to his locker to get his coat/hat/boots/mittens/backpack and get him on the bus with her to come home.


Tariku (Wesley) is also doing great. We have certainly had our share of "battle of the wills" - and it has been imperative that I win them. The first day we laid down for a nap, he was so tired but absolutely refused to nap. He sat up in his bed, with his eyes barely open and bobbing from side to side, for 2.5 HOURS before he finally gave in to sleep. I sit in the rocker across from his toddler bed and for some reason, he actually stays in his bed even though he is wailing for me to pick him up - but he stays put. The next day it took 30 minutes, the next day 5 minutes, and yesterday it took all of 3 minutes. Today - he actually pointed to his bed when I said "nap time" and willingly laid down and closed his eyes!!! And when he naps - he naps soundly for 2 hours and needs to be woken up.


Our first night home, he fell asleep on the drive from the airport and didn't wake up until morning. I couldnt leave him in a strange room in a strange bed, so he slept with Jay and I that first night. I don't mind having a "family bed" for awhile if it helps him establish comfort and security. He is so excited to go to bed at night. I think it is one of his favorite events of the day. He climbs up on the pillows and curls himself around my head and pats my face until he falls asleep. A few times during the last few nights, he reaches for my face and then kisses my cheeks while whispering "mamamama" in the dark.


We had doctor appointments for the boys on Wednesday morning. A full battery of blood tests and the TB skin test. Obviously the boys have been through this drill a few times because Jayden (Dagmawi) shivered at the sight of the needle but didn't make a peep. Tariku (Wesley) cried for just a moment while they did the full blood draw from a vein in his arm. TOUGH KIDS!!! So far - TB test is negative - Yay!! And now we just wait for final verification on the Hepatitis screenings. My expectation here is that this will be negative too. I also had to do the "poop scoop" with Wesley so we can verify that he no longer has the water-borne parasite Giardia. He tested positive in Ethiopia 2 weeks ago and did a full round of antibiotics, but we are testing again to be sure before I can let anyone else change his diapers.


We have a busy weekend - my brother and sister-in-law are here visiting. Jay's parents are driving up today to bring our 15 year old Golden Retriever home, and to meet their new grandchildren. Bob & Kate Hutchinson are visiting later this afternoon. We have missed them so much since we parted at the airport. They feel like family after spending an amazing week together in Ethiopia. Sunday we will go to church to catch the Christmas play. I think the boys will be fascinated! Then Monday - School for Jayden!!!!


I still plan to blog about Saturday in Ethiopia and our trip home. I will hopefully get to that later this weekend. THANK YOU for your prayers and your encouragement, dear friends and family!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friday - THE Mercado!

I'm going to blog about the events on Friday while we were in Ethiopia before I forget all the wonderful details (and now I can finally post pictures to illustrate!). I could not get an internet connection on Friday night, and on Saturday we were packing and getting ready for our trip home. On Friday, we spent a relaxing morning at the Guest Home until Robel arrived around noon to take us to THE Mercado. I told Rachel we were planning to go and she just said to remind Robel to keep a very close eye on all of us and to make sure he understood. We had asked the Guest Home to pack us up some PBJ sandwiches but I dont think they understood the idea of a picnic. They actually cut the crust off the sandwiches (which Emme really appreciated!) and brought them out on plates. I realized they did not have sandwich bags, so we quickly ate them before heading out.

Kate and I had reviewed our gift list the night before so we had a pretty clear plan in place for the shopping expedition at the Mercado. Robel explained that it is relatively safe - the biggest threat being pickpocketing which there are many scams and creative ways that people go about to distract you while another picks your pockets. We needed to exchange more money for birr, so Robel asked if we wanted to go to the Hilton. I said "we can go there or another place if it is more convenient". So instead of the Hilton, we ended up parked in an alley somewhere while Robel and our driver, Ismeal, went to exchange our dollars. They explained that people who are travelling to America have a hard time getting dollars so they will offer a better rate (10:1 instead of the normal 9.7:1 rate). Of course you wont get a receipt for this exchange which means if you have any birr left over at the end of your trip that you want to exchange for dollars, you will need a receipt to make the exchange. I was not expecting to have birr left over so we were not concerned.

As we approached the market, we could already see lots of people walking and carrying all sorts of items. At one point, a man walked past us carrying mattresses stacked to an impossible height. I tried to get my camera out in time to take a picture but I missed it. He must have been carrying 20 or more mattresses - Impossible!! We drove through a sea of people looking for a place to park, when suddenly a man materialized from the crowd and gestured us to a parking spot. This man then became our "mercado guide" for the rest of our expedition. At first, I was a bit perturbed to have him there trying to direct us where to go - but after a bit we began to appreciate him. He knew his way around the market and helped us barter at times. He was quick to brush people away that were grabbing at us and trying to get us to enter their shops.



Emme and Maea were overwhelmed and were holding on to us with both hands (see above photo where Emme is holding on with both hands and burying her face in Jay's arm). Tariku was on my back in the carrier, and Dagmawi was safely in Robel's capable hands. We had our "guide" at the front of our group (he said his name was "local reagen"), with Robel interpreting and watching over us, and our driver, Ismeal, suddenly became our bodyguard. Seriously, Ismeal took up the position at the rear, and with his ipod earbuds in his ears, he looked just like our personal secret service. At one point, Kate fell a little behind and he reached into the crowd and pulled her to him and then kept his arm around her as he pulled her back to the group. I turned around just in time to see this play out. Kate smiled and said she really felt safe with him keeping an eye on things.



The first shop we went into was a very small garment shop where they sold traditional Ethiopian outfits. I had remembered that my sister wanted an outfit for her son and daughter, so the bartering began. This tiny shop had floor space of maybe 10x10 and we were all pushed inside to view the wares. There were 2 men doing the bartering with me, a woman to find the emboirdery colors and sizes that I needed, and the "boss" sitting off to the side observing everything. Kind of an odd situation, but we struck our deal and then shook hands and went to the next shop.

We ducked through a low door way into an underground basket shop. Inside, again, there was barely room for 5 people to stand and the ceiling grazed my head - Jay, Bob and Robel had to stand with their heads cocked to the side due to the 5'5" ceiling. Baskets of all sizes and colors were stacked about 3-4' deep from floor to ceiling. Since I had purchased one for Dagmawi earlier in the trip for 25 birr (that's $2.50 for a hand-woven basket) I had a good idea of a fair price. We picked out baskets for Emme and Maea and I found the cutest hand-woven basket purse with leather detailing. **A note to future travellers - if you enjoy the bartering exchange, it is an expected part of the buying/selling process. Of course they will automatically quote you a higher-than-normal price just because you are a foreigner (firenge) and you can afford it. So as a general rule - offer half or slightly less than half of the intial quote price. They will act a bit offended and say "no profit for me" but stick to your price and inch up slowly. We usually ended up agreeing to a price of about 1/2 of the initial quote. And once the agreement was made, everyone was all smiles and happily shaking hands on the deal.




Next, we were off to the spice market which was about a 10 minute walk away. We could smell it before we arrived - delicious aromas of cinnamon and spicy peppers and coffee and other scents. Peppers laying out in the sun to dry and open ivory burlap bags overflowing with spices of all colors. Across from the shop we stopped at, several women were churning butter and setting it out in large pots. I stepped into the shop to look through their selection and began bartering for berbere (a classic Ethiopian spice) and another red pepper spice that is a popular local flavor. I also asked for sorghum (just before we left, I watched a Bizarre Foods episode with Andrew Zimmern, and he was highly recommending the sorghum kernels that were being popped like popcorn). The sorghum kernels were quickly located by sending a young boy running to another shop, everything was weighed on an old-fashioned scale, after a lengthy barter we finally struck our deal and we decided we had had enough of the Mercado and were more in the mood for a less-pressure filled shopping experience.



This is Robel helping me figure out the spices.


We tipped our "guide" 50 birr ($5) and we headed to the post office area to finish up our shopping. By the way - EVERYONE here talks about Obama. The Ethiopians are very proud that a black man is President of the US and memorabilia is being sold everywhere. Our guide had asked us who we voted for and we said we did not vote for Obama. He then squeezed Jay's bicep and said "aaah - you strong man, you like to fight". So that is their general impression of the Busch presidency - a President who likes to fight (war).

On our way to the post office area market, Robel suddenly pulled the van over and called me to front. Dagmawi was sitting up front with Robel and he suddenly started to recognize the area we were driving. Robel said to me "Something amazing is happening - he is recognizing this area from when he was a child living with his mother." I asked if he thought we could find where he had lived and we began to follow Dagmawi's pointing finger. Soon he recognaized some kids he used to play with, and one of them hopped into the van with us to help us find where his mother lives. After weaving through several bumpy, stone streets, we stopped at a little tin door in a wall. This was where Dagmawi had lived with his mother. I was in awe and I asked if he wanted to step inside that door with us and he shook his head "no" and waved his finger at me. He didnt want to go any further.

Ismeal, our driver, knocked on the door for me and we were ushered into the small "courtyard" area where a tiny woman rented 7 one room "homes" to 7 families for 100 birr a month each ($10/month) - which must have been most, if not all, of his mother's monthly wage. There were 3 women there at the moment and they recognized Dagmawi immediately. His mother had just left minutes ago for her clothes washing job. They explained that she worked during the day when she could, and Dagmawi ran the streets with the other children. They shared a communal cooking area which was little more than a tin roof and walls with an open firepit and 2 injera pans. The walls and ceiling were covered with soot, ashes were still in the firepit with a few unburned sticks. No electricity, no water, and a one-room home with a dirt floor. I began to understand only a little bit how this woman lived and how she loved her son enough to want something more for him (the greatest sacrifice a mother can make). I could not see directly into the room they had lived in together because she had padlocked her tin door to protect her few belongings. I hugged the women who lived with her in this tiny compound and asked them to tell his mother that we were there. Then we drove away and Dagmawi did not look back once.

This was the communal "kitchen".

We stopped at a coffee shop to buy coffee and each of us enjoyed a caramel machiatto. I purchased 20 bags of coffee for gifts at about $2.50 per 1lb. bag, for some of the best coffee in the world!! We drove to the post office mercado and the contrast was amazing. A few days ago we had been here and the girls had clung tightly to us. Now, after the craziness of the BIG Mercado, this little market was familiar and the girls walked around freely and with confidence.
Robel met up with several of the street kids that he has been helping put through school. Street kids are children who are either orphans not living in an orphanage, or are from poor families in the countryside that came to Addis alone to try to scratch out an existence. Robel personally finances the education of 23 of these children and he meets with them regularly to provide some sort of parental guidance. He proudly informed us that many of them are doing well in school but one or two are academic standouts! They sell kleenex and chewing gum when they are not in school to be able to buy some food occassionally. At night, they disappear down into the sewer system for warmth and safety.
Robel explained that the old sewer does not operate any more and it is very small and tight. Difficult for adults to access. So the children live down there at night. While we drove around I could occassionally see holes in the ground that lead to the sewer system. We purchased several packs of "much-needed" chewing gum and kleenex from these kids and they were extremely appreciative. Robel is working to try to develop his one-man street children ministry into a more formalized program so he can raise funds to actually rent homes and hire houseparents to care for 10+ children at a time. He explained that most of the children he has contact with are boys because the girls are extremely elusive. The girls living on the street are preyed upon as prostitutes or raped, so they tend to hide alot and are very distrustful. He has only been able to consistently help 2 or 3 girls.

As we pulled away, a new little boy arrived at the scene and came up to the window to beg us to buy some gum. We were pulling away but we quickly scrambled in our pockets and I pulled out a 10 birr note ($1) and we frantically tried to pass it back to the window so Jay could give it to him. He raced alongside the vehicle with such desperate determination on his face, reaching and stretching his fingertips to grab the birr. Jay finally let it drop since we were quickly outdistancing him and we held our breath in fear that he would step into the traffic. He stomped on it with his foot and then triumphantly held it up and gave us a big thumbs up and waved wildly to us. Jay commented "I will remember that smile the rest of my life!"

We drove back to the Guest Home and spent the evening talking about all of the events of the day. After dinner, we bathed Tariku and Furtuna in the big bathtub again, and then began packing for our trip home the next day. Plans for Saturday - a drive up Entoto mountain.

By the way - several families were wondering about the policy of keeping a low profile for adoptive families. We were told that much of this is because of the government officials and diplomats that usually stay at the Hilton or Sheraton. Many of them question all of these white families "taking" Ethiopian children and since their countries don't necessarily have a strong adoption program (or any adoption program) to address the staggering number of orphan children, they don't understand adoption. With our small travel group of 2 families, we were fairly low profile anyway - and as long as we stayed away from the posh hotels where all the diplomats were, there didn't seem to be too much of a concern about us being out-and-about. All of the Ethiopians we came into contact with were very friendly and regularly came up to us to tell us that our adopted kids were very "lucky" to have parents, and to have opportunity in America. I was told this repeatedly during our travels and many times on the airplane home as well.