Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Today was a better day for me with the kids. To start with Roza was looking at me again and overall they seemed to relax some. I’m going to share a secret with all of you who take the time and love to follow us……..

On our fist day at the TH home we had been there maybe 25 minutes when Craig looked at me and said “ you know how I said we would never adopt again…… I’d reconsider for her.” and points at a precious little girl who had been hanging around since the moment we met Roza and Sada. As we spent our afternoon there Craig at a different point looked at me as we watched the children playing and breaking toys just so they could share it with the other children and said to me “I feel so selfish that we live the way we do and we aren’t doing more here” Well the BIG secret is that we have no firm plans at this moment but we are looking into returning for that precious little girl and surprise she has a little sister!!!!!!!!!

The reason to share this tid bit of information is because we had a busy day today at the TH. First order of business was spending time with Roza and Sada, then we were invited into a small office to meet with the kids physiologist and social worker. Sada seemed very connected to the physiologist and I couldn‘t help but feel the tiniest bit jealous. He has done a lot of work with Sada to help him be more interactive and dependent on others. “Sada is very independent.” he tells me “And it takes time for him to form a bond, but when he does it is solid and strong, he may not want to be away from you.” As for Roza the social worker told us how when she arrived they thought she couldn’t speak and had her tested but turns out she just chooses not to. She is very shy and has only really connected with one nanny and a few of the other children. We took this time to ask about ways to better bond with the kids based on their personalities and background and then to ask about adopting in the future. At first they physiologist was concerned that it would need to be the right child for us to adopt, one that would be a good match for Sada and the social worker agreed. He even suggested that he pick the child out, when we told them the names of the little girls we had in mind they were overjoyed. The social worker said she would write a letter of approval for us and that this would be a perfect match. These little girls, especially the older one is VERY close and bonded to both Roza and Sada. Craig then showed Sada on a map of the U.S. where he would be living and Sada made sure to point it out to all of us.

It was because of this conversation with the social worker and physiologist that led to one of the most unforgettable moments of this trip. The Social worker asked if we had met the youngest of the two sisters and when she learned that we had not she insisted on taking us over to the other TH, the one our kids actually live at to meet her and our kids nannies. The last house (or more like compound) on the road stood the un-marked gates to the second and older children’s home ( age 3 and up). The second we walked in 10 or more 3 and 4 year olds swarmed us, pulling on our pants yelling MOMMY! DADDY! MOMMY! DADDY! No way for those little voices not to break your heart right then and there. They wanted picked up, held and loved, a family to call their own and to feel the warmth of safety and security wrapped around them. In all of the chaos of our first moments in the door I noticed a little girl standing back a bit from the crowd of toddlers. As the social worker and two other nannies helped pull children off of us I knelt down and a beautiful smiled appeared on a chicken pox covered face of this little girl and I knew right then that this was THE sister we had come to meet. She gently wrapped her arm around my neck and smiled as she met eyes with Craig. If he wasn’t already convinced at that exact moment every string of doubt in his mind was snipped. Being careful not to undermine the bonding we had already done with Roza and Sada we slipped away from the group of children as they were being seated for lunch and held our kids hands tightly as we were escorted around the facility to see the rooms and beds our kids slept in. We also were able to see Roza’s pre-school room, which was a treat and meet two of the nannies. As we made our way back towards the gates they asked us if Roza and Sada could sit down and eat lunch with the other kids. I had no idea that by us being at the TH our little Roza missed her normal lunch time by an hour and ended up eating with the older kids which then cuts into her nap time. As we agreed they sent Roza and Sada away to wash for lunch and Craig and I were seated at a child’s size table away from all the other children. When Roza and Sada joined us they were served a plate on injera with a red sauce poured on top. Then a second nanny came by with a pot of cooked carrots and potatoes, it smelled and looked delicious!!! Sada turned down the vegetables but ate 4 helpings (and not small ones of injera) Rosa had three helpings of the carrots and potatoes and two of the injera with red sauce. Somewhere during all of this the social worker suggested to the kids to share their lunch with us. Roza’s little hand scooped up a bite of injera wrapped red sauce and as I ate it I was surprised at how spicy it was. Sada shared a bite with Craig and Roza gave me a carrot which WAS every bit as delicious as it smelled. We received our first lesson on Ethiopian culture as the social worker nicely scolded us for not leaning in for the kids to put the food in our mouths. It is a sign of love here for someone to feed you and apparently husbands feed their wives often. I have yet to hear of another family getting to join the kids for lunch and it is for sure a special day for us.

I feel so overwhelmed right now at how blessed I feel by being here and sharing these moments with Roza and Sada. Thank you to the family and friends who have loved and supported us, thank you to NLO and the strangers who felt moved to stand with us and most of all I thank God for matching our hearts with his and providing every step of the way. We were never without, love, guidance, emotional support or financial support because he carried us as we have and will keep making this journey.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day #2

Day one had gone so smooth it never crossed my mind that day two would be hard!!

One of the lessons learned yesterday was that anything in our bag Roza and Sada felt like they could have, camera, video camera, I-Pod, ANYTHING!!! To fix this problem I dug out a back pack I had brought for Sada to use on the airplane ride home and Craig and I filled it with snacks, candy, toys and the kids favorite, their photo albums. I also brought along some hair products and a comb to do Roza’s hair. Blame the cosmetologist in me but the truth is I’m willing to bet BIG BIG bucks that her hair had not been out of those ponies in more than a month. I set to untangling her hair from the hair ties that were twisted in knots and no matter how much conditioner I used it was not a pleasant experience for either one of us. She had 10 ponies that needed to come out, be combed and put back in…..she made it till number 9 and then lost it. I gave in and left number 10 alone but she ran to Craig and ignored me the rest of the morning. I thought to myself, it’s a small price to pay to not have to shave your head girl (yes it was really that bad) and one day you will thank me. Craig was eating up the attention from his girl and I let him enjoy it. I told myself by the time we get back from lunch she will be over it and we can go back to bonding and getting to know each other. BOY WAS I WRONG!!!! When we came back after lunch, which was Pizza by the way, she went right into Craig’s arms and spent the rest of the day there making sure to have NO eye contact with me!!!!

As for my little Sada he spent most of his day with Madison and the other kids at the TH. They sang and played games that I would guess are similar to Red Rover and Ring around the Rosies. He would find Craig and I now and again to blow up a punch ball or open a candy but he is a very independent little person as life has required from him up till now and we can tell that it’s going to take quite some time to bring down the walls he has built up. It was so much fun to see him playing with his friends and sister.

One of the best moments of the trip happened today. A nanny came and sat next to me on a cement retaining wall and complimented my hair. She said it was very beautiful and wanted to know if it was real. All I could do was laugh as I explained that it was in fact real and that I color it to make it look this way. Not 5 minuets later some little girls and one little boy came over to me and began playing with my hair. They went through it layer by layer trying to find where my fake hair stopped and my real hair began. The nanny tried her best to convince them it was all mine but they had to check it out for themselves. When they finally gave up and decided the nanny was right they set to braiding my hair. Let me just say that Roza should have had NO complaints from me doing her hair this morning because I have a VERY tender hand compared to those girls!!!!!!

Metcha Day!!!

I woke at dawn to all sorts of new sounds, the call to prayer, a man who yells YIIIIIIIIIIIIPPP as he walks up and down the rough dirt road selling mops, brooms and buckets and a pack of donkeys trotting in front of the guest house. We were told last night that we would go to lunch with all the other families in-country and THEN go meet our kids, the idea of this drove both Jill and I crazy. We both know enough about Ethiopia time to realize right away that if this happened there would be NO WAY to go pick up her two little ones from their orphanage. Jill’s agency lets you take the kids back to your guest house (GH) with you for the week where my agency requires you to go to the transition home (TH) each day to visit until you pass court. When Craig and I were down stairs having a delicious breakfast I overheard that a van was leaving at 9:30 for our TH, I scarfed down my food and flew up the stairs to make sure everyone was ready to be in that van, no way I was waiting till after lunch to meet R and S!!!!!!

We all piled into the 9:30 van, Jill, Craig, Maddie, Kelli and I. As we made the ½ hour drive I thought I was pretty calm and collected but Craig pulled his hand away from mine and asked me kindly to stop rubbing my thumb across the top of it, the skin was getting raw from the friction. It was at this point that I realized my toes were numb from having them curled up in my shoes, I took a few calming breaths as we sorted out cameras, flips and bloggies but my stomach dropped as Jill squealed with excitement when she recognized how close we were. We drove down the worst road I have ever been on in my life, if you could even call it a road at all. Sharp rock, giant pot holes, dust, goats, people and dogs all crowding the way. We pulled up to a massive metal gate and the driver honked the horn and a guard opened the gate and we drove into the complex. Right away I saw THE STAIRS. The same ones I have seen in all the other families meetcha day videos, the stairs you walk up and wait at as they bring our new children out to meet us. I worked hard at being composed and calm as we crawled out of the van and made our way up the four marble steps. It wasn’t long until I could see two little faces down the dark hallway that led straight to Craig and I. Sada had a smile on his face and his eyes were cautious but the excitement showed anyways and Roza held on tightly to the Nannny carrying her wide eyes and definitely a little scared. I took Roza out of the arms of her Nanny as Craig bent down to greet Sada and at that moment we were holding our children in OUR ARMS and at that moment I knew it had all been worth it.

We spent the rest of the morning getting to know the kids, playing on a blanket and looking through photo albums we had brought each of them. Sada’s shy side started to show until other kids from the TH came around then he was all about protecting HIS PROPERTY which included Craig and I. Jill and Kelli took pictures and videos, played with the other kids and handed out candy and it seemed all too quick that it was time for us to leave for lunch and let the kids have a nap.

I had to laugh when we sat down at the lunch table at a local restaurant and started looking over the menu, it was Mexican food. I whispered to Craig “I can’t believe we just flew ½ way around the world to a new place with new foods and our first meal out is Mexican.” We settled in and placed our orders and at this point Jill became the nervous wreck! A driver was coming at the end of lunch to pick her, Kelli and Maddie up to drive them to her children’s orphanage. Lunch took FOREVER!!!!!! That’s just the way it is here in Ethiopia. If we had not been in such tight seating arrangements I’m pretty sure Jill’s chair would have fallen over when she was told that her driver had arrived and she jumped up from the table. In a flash she had Maddie and Kelli were out the door and a while later we were back in the van headed back to the TH to be with Roza and Sada again.

By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted and as we made our way up the 65 steps to our 3rd floor guest room I was dragging but then I heard the sound of Jill’s kids laughing from our room. It was so much fun to walk in to the disaster of kid stuff all over the place and to see not only the smiling faces of two beautiful new faces that will forever be in my life but the face of their Mommy grinning twice as big! I can’t imagine a better way to end such a remarkable day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

50 Tips for Ethiopia

OH My Goodness! I’m sorry, sorry, sorry to have not posted but NO INTERNET!!! BUT, I have a plan that has already been implemented, I bought an internet stick and I’m no longer internet-less. So I’m going to start with an Ethiopia 101 post and then back track from the day we left to current, so hang on, here goes!

1. Pack EVERYTHING you can’t live without In-country in your carryon! In our travel group we had a family that did not receive luggage until after meetcha day! No worries, the luggage did show up eventually. 

2. Plug in items like flat irons don’t always work even with the plug-in adaptors, it must be a 50/60 hertz OR have a converter and adaptor!!

3.Have a pen and your passport handy when you are on your last flight into Addis! It sure makes filling out the visa information card Easier. You will also need the Name Address and Phone Number of the Guest House.

4. When you hand your visa information card and pass port over to officials make sure you get the visa information card back because you will use it one more time before exiting to baggage claim.

5. When you get to baggage claim DON’T let the uniformed baggage men help you!!! They try and tell you to pay a fee to pick your bags up THEN they make you tip them before they hand them over to you!! IT’S a SCAM, as we found out the hard way!

6. DO have your luggage claim tags ready because they DO check them and put your luggage threw security one more time before allowing you to exit the airport.

7. Don’t forget to exchange money into Birr at the airport. You can do it at the local banks - but the lines are LONG!

8. Don’t put that passport away just yet, when you check into the guest house they will ask for your passport number on your check in forms.

9. When the guest house is near capacity don’t expect internet or hot water. Try showering or getting on-line at user-friendly times like between 2-5 a.m.

10. When packing for the transition home bring a separate bag that is full of toys and goodies for your child. The first day we had everything in our family backpack so the kids thought they were welcome to anything in it like the video camera, water bottles, snacks and so on. On day two we taught them that the blue back pack was off limits but the red one was for them. We also would hide special new item in our backpack so we could pull them out as needed or wanted by us.

11. Pack you child his or her own water bottle. When they see you drinking out of one they want one too.

12. I brought one special gift for the kids number one favorite nanny. I didn’t make a big deal about giving it to her I simply took it off myself and put it on her.

13. Buy bottled water from the street vendors and not from the guest house! It is quick, easy and walking distance to get water this way and saves money.

14. If you would like to call home buy the GREEN CARD from the street shop just outside the doors of the guest house. The card costs 100 Birr and gives you 8 minutes of U.S. talk time. To use the card take it to the receptionist at the guest house and she will load them card number into the house phone and hand it over to you to make your call.

15. David the driver is SUPER HELPFUL but does not work for America World. He is paid a salary wage and then our tips.

16. The “GUYS” don’t really love chocolate as much as it is posted they do. Chocolate is expensive and all staff, AW as well as the guesthouse love the treats but be more creative than chocolate as gifts for the 4 men who MAKE THIS TRIP for you and your family.

17. The best days to visit your kids at the transition home is Saturdays and Sundays because the only children out to play are yours and those of the other families visiting. It is also the day I would choose to meet my kids as well as say goodbye. 

18. Do insist to be taken to Salem’s. It is a “Unique Jewelry woven home accessories and scarves. Beautiful Pottery.” Tel: 091-164-5619 salemk@ethionet.et This is a small shop owned and operated by friends of an AW family. This husband and wife employ at risk women to hand make the items in the small store. Not only are all the items beautiful but they are more than affordable!!

19. Do bring a belt for every traveling member of your family! Weight loss and pants that are too big seem to be a common theme in families, especially those staying more than a few days.

20. Verbal contracts mean NOTHING in Ethiopia. If you are agreeing on something important get it in writing!!

21. Bring an extra pair of shoes. My day to day shoes are a pair of leopard print flats that have not handled the uneven sidewalks well. My favorite flats now have a hole in them and I’m looking for new shoes along the street shops.

22. Take the time to visit the orphanages while in Ethiopia. I have now been to Kids Care, KVI, and Ahope. Each one has been a memorable experience and opened my eyes to a different world.

23. There are many digital photo shops in Addis that print BEAUTIFUL pictures. The one I visited was walking distance from the guest house and printed my photos off my jump drive. Each picture was 2 Birr each and worth it!!

24. The nannies at the transition house love it when you take their pictures and then bring them a copy of the print.

25. You can buy many of your favorite foods at the local grocery store here in Addis. The general packaging looks the same so keep an eye out for your favorite brands.

26. You can bring laundry soap with you but for as little as .30 cents a shirt you can have your laundry done for you. By the way I want to learn how they fold my unmentionables!! It’s awesome.

27. Mouth wash in your mouth while in the shower help kill any germs from water that despite your best efforts sneaks in your mouth.

28. The proper technique for brushing your teeth while in Addis is a water bottle in one hand and a tooth brush in another. This way your hand is not free to turn the faucet on and stick your tooth brush in the running water and back in your mouth making you ill for days. (Take it from me, I know first hand)

29. Bring your own chocolate, not only is it expensive but it taste different.

30. I love the little street shop across the street from the transition home. If you ask the guards they will let you take your child there to pick out a treat like, gum, juice, a coke, pen , paper and do on.

31. There is also a great little traditional Ethiopian cuisine place across the street. For 16 Birr you can bring a platter back to the transition home to eat with your child. I have had it many times and not been sick.

32. You may want to bring ear plugs, people are early to rise here and late to bed with dogs barking and music booming all night long.

33. Every time I pass a cash machine I pull Birr out. I chose not to bring too much cash with me un-sure of when I would be going home or where I would be staying. My bank charges $5.00 and a 1% fee so beware.

34. Feel free to hand out candy or granola bars if you are standing on the street but DON’T DO IT from inside the car. Your driver will get a ticket.

35. If you get pedicure at the spa WARNING it’s in cool water, but felt GREAT!

36. Runny noses……… I’m now on my 7th pack of Kleenex because my daughter’s nose never quits running. (this is common) you can buy more tissues from the street vendors but they are not soft like the kind from home.

37. Be discreet when taking pictures in public. Most Ethiopians want a birr to allow you to take the picture of them or their shop and they are NOT mild mannered about it.

38. When choosing your luggage for your trip choose pieces that fit in each other or collapse.

39. Ambo is a sparkling water that comes in plain, orange, lemon lime and strawberry and Yummy!! It has been a great substitute to the Pepsi and Coke offered here.

40. Not all beverages are served cold so make sure you specify when you place your order.

41. If you have a mini fridge in your room turn on the freezer and freeze a bottle of water to carry with you during the day.

42. Carry a small flash light with you if you will be out after dark. Our family went out to dinner one evening and the power went out. The restaurant had a generator and we finished our meal with lights but the streets were pitch BLACK and a bit scary.

43. A common phrase in Ethiopia is “Maybe tomorrow” It basically means settle down you silly American, it will happen when it happens and don’t ask me again. I pretty much hear this everyday in regards to court.  

44. Be mindful of how you dress, nothing sleeveless or above the knee is preferred by this culture.

45. May is the hottest month here.

46. Meals here can take hours, by asking your wait staff to prepare your ticket when they are serving your food will help speed the process along.

47. It costs 3 Birr to enter the airport to pick someone up, this does not include the parking fee.

48. In many cases your luggage will be tossed on top of a van and not tied down as the driver maneuver the streets of Addis on your way to your destination.

49. It seems to be normal here to have roaches in the kitchen. As we were told “As long as they are not served in your food don’t worry about it.”

50. This is a happy place with smiling faces, enjoy your time and take in every experience you can!!!!!


Day #1!!!

What an adventure!!!

It all began with a family swim night at our hotel room in Spokane. Craig and I have missed many an A.M. flight having to make the drive up from Colfax and this hotel we stayed at offered parking for our vehicle while we were gone . It was a great bargain. Three families including 7 adults and 12 kids swam in the three pools and one luke warm hot tub. We had so much fun but it didn’t stop the tearful goodbyes when Jill, Kelli Craig, Maddie and I had to say good bye.

Craig and Maddie where the only two who slept that evening. Jill and I were up every half hour checking the clock ensuring we didn’t miss our flights and 3:30 a.m. came fast. Craig drove Jill, Madison and I to the airport with our nine 50 pound bags to check in, 4 back packs and 3 carry-ons. None of that includes Kelli’s who met us at the airport an hour later!!!

Check in was a breeze and a BIG thank you to KLM for allowing us to bring the 9th 50 pound bag full of donations for free. We waited to go through security till Craig had driven the now very empty suburban back to the hotel and walked back to the airport. It wasn’t terribly long till Kelli joined us and our traveling party was complete just in time for a few pictures before sending Jill off to make her flights.

Now the story continues with Craig, Maddie, Kelli and I having a little Starbucks and breakfast before boarding our plane to Minneapolis.

It was an uneventful flight but the only one who took a nap was Maddie. She was out despite our best efforts to keep her awake. In Minneapolis we ate some French fries, had our favorite carbonated beverages and I paid a few bills before our connecting flight to Amsterdam. Now this flight was a little more exciting. Not only was the trip starting to feel real but poor Kelli was seated a small airplane isle away from a young man who had a break down. He was shouting and kicking his backpack into the isle accusing the stewards of thinking he was a terrorist and wanting them to check his bags. Craig very kindly changed seats with Kelli putting himself between us and this young man and in all fairness we had no more trouble from him after that.

We all got a little sleep on this flight but it felt like every ten minuets they were waking us up to feed us or pour a beverage. The service and flight was excellent. We then had a VERY expensive layover breakfast in Amsterdam that included a pastry, one coke and one $4.00 black coffee. It felt like forever before the security at our gate opened and allowed us to begin boarding. I’m pretty sure we sat at a children’s table for more than two hours at the crowded gate. I was so tired I wanted to lay down on the yucky airport floor and sleep but I made it to the plane before crashing.

To be 100% honest I had a little bit of fear about our layover in Sudan to refuel and let a few passengers off but it was no problem at all. The international flight was SO different than our US domestic flights. Strangers chatted away walking up and down the rows saying hello, so much more friendly and way less business like.

Our flight was over an hour early but we still stood in line what I thought was forever to get our visas, that was until two more flights came in and the airport exploded with people. We were doing fine till it came to baggage claim. Men in suits swooshed our hands away as we tried to pick up our luggage and that was the beginning of loosing $30 dollars to get our luggage out of the airport.

Now then back to Jill who had different flights that were suppose to come in with in half an hour of ours BUT we were early and after waiting in the parking lot, in the van, our family alone in a strange new world, the driver finally gave up on Jill joining us returned to the van and drove us to the Guest House. Kelli and I were a nervous wreck as we waited for Jill to pull up in her taxi but when she did we screamed, shouted hugged, and jumped up and down despite it was now after 11:00 p.m. and we were waking all the other guests. All I can say about the rest of the night is that I DON’T REMEMBER A THING because I slept so hard until dawn.

Stay tuned for the day we met this kids coming tomorrow………….