Archive for July, 2006

Wednesday, the meeting

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on July 31, 2006 by Avery

Cá fhad é ó
Cá fhad é ó
Siúl trí na stoirmeacha
Gabh trí na stoirmeacha
Cá fhad é ó
Tús na stoirm
Cá fhad é
Ó tús go deireadh
Tóg do chroí
Siúl trí na stoirmeacha
Tóg do chroísa
Gabh trí na stoirmeacha
Turas mór
Trom trí na Stoirmeacha
Turas fada
Amharc trí na stoirmeacha

Enya – “Storms in Africa”

(insert the low sound of a blaring schoffar here followed by Arabic prayers)

It’s 6am. Midnight Ethiopian time. My alarm clock just went off. I don’t have a working phone in my room, so wake up calls from the front desk are unusable, but thanks to the mosque they are totally unneeded as well.

I tried to sleep, I was enjoying my sleep so very much, but I was awake, and my kids are so close. My mind can’t shut off, and I am ready to go spend time with my kids.

I decided to go with the pancakes again, they are actually quite good, and the only other thing on the menu is eggs, and eggs have a tendency to give me heartburn. While I was ordering my food I asked my waitress where I could buy a Bible. She pointed to the one that I carried with me and asked if I meant like mine. No, I want an Amharic / English Bible. My son has asked for a Bible that he can actually read, he was amazed that I had one that I carried with my in my backpack, and he wants one he can carry with him. She goes to her desk and returns with her Bible, it’s exactly what I’m looking for. She tells me she can buy me one when she goes to church tonight, and I can get it tomorrow. I give her the money, 200 Birr, and ask her to buy 2. She is very mystified as to why I want 2, I can tell by the expression on her face, but my food is brought out and she disappears as to not interrupt my meal.

Today was guava juice, it’s a “real” juice, a liquid if you haven’t followed the old post. But it’s brown as dirt. It taste good though.

On my way out for the day I stopped by the front desk to try to pay my bill. They have this huge sign saying you need to settle your account every 3 days to remain active. They looked at my account, saw my money was in their safe, and told me I could just settle the bill when I checked out on Sunday. It’s funny how having huge sums of cash in their possession makes them so willing to do business with you on casual terms.

I had made friends with the owners of the small cyber café on the way to the orphanage. I always stopped on my way there and on my way to the hotel. E-mail was the cheapest and easiest way for my wife and I to communicate. Well I told them I was looking for a new necklace for my kids, their black stands had gotten too old and broke, and I know they had them on all of the photos we have ever gotten from them, so I wanted to replace this important tradition for them.

Well this created a fun discussion as she kept asking me about my kids. I told her I was adopting 2 kids from Ethiopia and that I had 2 kids in America. I knew there was a translation problem in effect when she asked me if the kids in Ethiopia were “black” Laughing I told her to wait a second and I pulled up an online English – Amharic translator and pulled up the word for “Adopt” I pointed to the translation and she began to laugh, and say “Yes, Yes” Then she slowly read the English word adopt and smiled at me. She then said she had thought I had 2 families, and was visiting the Ethiopia family and had another family in the US. Now with the marvels of online technology I was able to put that rumor to rest and she now understood my visit so very much better.

She told me to come back at lunch and she would have the necklaces for me. I gave her enough Birr to buy 10 so I would have a few to take home with me as well.

Today was going to be a crazy day, of this I was sure. Once I arrived at the home I verified everything was till on schedule and I was told everything was green lighted. I was going to meet my children’s only biological living relative today, and the woman responsible for pulling my children off the street and giving the hope of a future. They are supposed to arrive at 3pm this afternoon.

I attempted to stay calm, I played with the kids as was the normal routine, but my mind was so far away I can’t tell you what I did. I know that the kids were continuously putting more pictures into my backpack for me to take to America for their families; unfortunately I found this out much, much later, as they didn’t put their names on it so I have NO idea who drew them or where they were supposed to go. I will use the scanner and scan and post the images at a later time, but I am still trying to catch up from 2 weeks away, this project will have to wait.

I left at 1 so that I would have plenty of time to eat something quick and then be back before 3. I stopped by the cyber café and she gave me the necklaces. I put one on and put the rest in my pocket. They are quite funny actually, they are from Italy, bright green plastic crosses with a silver Jesus on them. They are quite pretty, it’s just funny that they came from Italy and are being sold here. You don’t really think of Ethiopia as being the consumer importer really.

Well I got back a little after 2. As I was walking down the road I saw there was a taxi parked in front of the orphanage, and I immediately knew I would be walking in to meet the grandmother. I spent at least a minute at the gate, afraid to knock, afraid of not of her, but of letting her down. I said a quick prayer and knocked and the guard opened the door and let me in.

I walked in and the director, the nun, and the grandmother were sitting, chatting and talking to the kids. I began to walk in their direction and the grandmother jumped to her feet ran to me and dropped down grabbing the hem of my pants kissing them repeatedly. The director began to translate her comment and told me she was praising God that her children had a future, a father, a family. I grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her up, and did the only thing I could think to do and embraced her and kissed her cheek, thanking her for allowing us the responsibility of continuing with raising her grandchildren.

I taped the majority of the following conversation; the director was translating, but as with any conversation you know there is 30 minutes of dialogue for every 10 minutes of translation. She told us stories of how she was 9 years old when Italy invaded, making me think this was probably the great grandmother, not grandmother, but culturally they are the same in this situation. She told us of her days as a midwife, and how she lost her position once they required midwifes to have a formal education. She gave us the gem of all gems and knew the exact days that our children were born on. She gave us the family history and our suspicions were confirmed that they are Amhara. Although this was probably the hardest thing to get from her as she kept insisting she wasn’t from any tribe, she was just Orthodox. And she promised to bring photos of our children’s biological mother to the orphanage for us to have.

She told us stories of my kids. She told of the time that she was trying to cook some food, and couldn’t start the fire, so she told my daughter to go and find my son. My daughter walked around the neighborhood hunched over like an old lady, talking like an old lady, pretending to be grandmother as she called for my son to come and start the fire. Apparently she did such a good job the grandmother is still teased within the neighborhood for this.

We broke bread, and we drank coffee and for a period of time we were left alone, her speaking no English, me very limited Amharic. I pulled out the trusty lonely planet translation book and we looked at the photo album I had brought for her. It had all of the photos we had of our kids in it, and photos of our home and of us. We wanted her to know what the future was for her children and we wanted her to have photos of her dear ones. I attempted to use the book and she would point to a photo and I would tell her what it was, or the closest thing I could find in the book.

My heart was broken for this woman, and the suffering an lost she has endures, so I spoke to the director about giving her some money to help with things and she told me it would be a good thing to do. So as she left I embraced her one last time then took her hand to shake it and slipped some money into her palm. I gave her what was in my wallet at the time. I wished I had more, but I gave her what I had. For me, it was nothing, a drop in the bucket. For her it was more money than she had seen in a very long time. I don’t know what her reaction was to the money as she slipped it into her robe and took my cue that I didn’t want this broadcast. She would find out the amount later, on her own, hopefully it helped her in some small way.

I was truly amazed by this woman. She had lost everyone in her family. Both of her daughters had died at an early age, the other daughter had 5 children when she died. When the grandmother went to the orphanage in the city of the mother to check on the children they had disappeared, and no one at the orphanage would tell her where. She was later told they were adopted, but she has no idea to who or where. She has lost so very much, and yet she was truly grateful for me, and for what my family was doing. I was moved by her love and strength, and I made sure that she understood that she was just as much a part of our family as the kids were.

She has weathered so many storms in her life here in Africa. At least I know that she knows that even though her lineage has been transplanted to America, she knows that it will live on. I pray that our meeting has helped her to lift her head, lifter her heart and given her some joy in the mourning.

She left me asking for 3 things, well demanding really, but they were the things close to her heart, and incidentally close to mine as well.

#1. Don’t let the kids lose their culture.

#2. Don’t let the kids forget their language.

#3. Don’t let the kids forsake their faith.

I promised her that we had the same desires and that we wanted the same goals in this regard. Of course then she asked if I would bring the kids to visit her every summer until she dies, I told her I would love to bring the entire family to Ethiopia as often as possible, but every year would probably not be possible.

As far as our case the nun explained we are waiting on 1 signature, that she has to obtain, and that she is trying very hard to obtain that signature. It is always a wait. There is a small hope of having the signature before the courts close, but the reality of the situation is our best hope is to be the opening case for when the adoption courts reopen after the break. Everyone feels certain that this will happen, and that my children should be coming home late October, early November. We will wait and see.

Well the rest of the day went extremely smoothly, the kids were happy to have seen grandmother, they were pleased with the visit, and I was so blessed to have had the visit go so incredibly smooth.

So on my way home I tried to email Heather with the days events, and wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of typing her letter, Ethiopia shuts down the internet for the night. I tried 3 different cyber cafes, all of which were shut down before I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to get on the internet to let Heather know about the visit tonight.

I went to the hotel and went directly to the restaurant for supper. When I walked in I noticed a table of 6 white men staring at me. After a weird and uncomfortable moment of looking at them staring at me I approached, extended my hand and greeted them.

No reaction, the one guy blinked, that was it.

My hand still extended I told them I was from America, asked if they spoke English.

No reaction, one man coughed.

My hand still extended, I say the word “English”

No reaction.

I lower my hand.

The man closest to me finally says “Italian”

I say good night, and turn an move to the table facing the television and watch the Arsenals on E-TV.

Why is it that I can make friends with all of the locals around here, but the foreigners are absolute pricks? Now mind you so far the only foreigners I have met have been here in this hotel, and I’m getting the hint that everyone is pretending that no one else is really there. Except for me. I’m enjoying meeting people, and hearing their stories.

Tuesday in the streets with no name

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on July 30, 2006 by Avery

I wanna run

I want to hide

I wanna tear down the walls

That hold me inside

I wanna reach out

And touch the flame

Where the streets have no name

I wanna feel sunlight on my face

I see the dust cloud disappear

Without a trace

I wanna take shelter from the poison rain

Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name

We’re still building

Then burning down love,

Burning down love

And when I go there

I go there with you

It’s all I can do

The city’s a flood

And our love turns to rust

We’re beaten and blown by the wind

Trampled in dust

I’ll show you a place

High on a desert plain

Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name

We’re still building

Then burning down love,

Burning down love

And when I go there

I go there with you

It’s all I can do

Our love turns to rust

We’re beaten and blown by the wind

Blown by the wind

Oh yes, in dust See our love turn to rust

And we’re beaten and blown by the wind

Blown by the wind

Oh, when I go there I go there with you

It’s all I can do

“Where the Streets have No Name” by U2

Having met the kids and having a larger bed helped a lot in getting a betters night sleep. Now I did discover that the new room’s window opened right up to the lovely sounds of the Mosque next door. 6am the shoffars blare away and the chanting begins. It’s actually quite a lovely sound, but it’s a weird thing to awake to. Especially seeing as I didn’t want to be up this early, and the boys there, well they don’t stop!I woke up very refreshed, and very awake so I decided to walk to the orphanage. On the way I discovered a small shop with several computers that sold internet access for a little over a $1 an hour. Two girls owned the shop and the one spoke decent English, all of the computers shared 1 dial up access to the internet so it was very, very slow, and my blog is being blocked, as are all of the blogs, by the government controlled ISP.

There weren’t many beggars on the road on my first walk up, in fact most of the street was empty for the morning. The few that I did pass I gave a few coins to. It was so very, very little yet they were very appreciative of this little amount.

When I got to the home the kids were very excited that I was back. I totally have fallen in love with all of these kids , there are all so freaking great!!!! I let the kids take the camera and take their own pictures. My thought was that these are their memories, and they will cherish the photos they took more than anything I would do.

I spent the morning rough housing with kids and playing a lot of soccer. I had so much fun just getting on their level and playing with the kids. During the afternoon it rained so I pulled out a ream of computer paper I had bought and took all the older kids into a room and we drew pictures for their families back in the US. I spent the day just being with my kids and their friends. At some point in the day my son rummaged through my bags and found my gum from the flight. I only had a few sticks and didn’t want to put my kids into a “haves” in t a society of “have not’s”

I was so overwhelmed with the entire day, so I took a walk around the block just to check out the neighborhood. I can tell you that most of the people around the block aren’t used to the ferenj walking around. 15 minutes into the walk I resigned myself to the fact that every other person was going to offer me a Taxi, and every empty taxi was going to stop and offer me a ride. I stopped in a few of the shops to see what they had, but I was trying to clear my head, not shop so I never stuck around for long. In one of the shops I bought every piece of gum they had. At a fruit stand I stopped and bought some fruit and some soda from the stand for my lunch. It worked for me. The walk itself had the opposite effect on me though. I was here for my kids, and wasn’t really thinking about the poverty I would be faced with. This walk had thrust me headfirst into the poverty, into the middle of the real Ethiopia, the world my kids came from.

I paused while walking over a bridge and looked down into the gully at the stream. Typically I find the small streams to be very cathartic, but looking into what was no doubt the water supply for the huts below I was looking into what would be considered a landfill here in the US. There were tons of trash forming the banks of this small stream, and that is when I saw them. The people sitting in the middle of this trash splashing in the water. Some were doing their clothes, others were bathing their bodies. I don’t know that I could even brush my teeth in a landfill, much less live the life these people were demonstrating. Then I watched as a pile of trash began to move as a man lifted the tarp he was sleeping under and came out of his small cave that was obviously his home.

I wanted to scream, I wanted to puke, I wanted to know why we continue to pump millions of dollars into missionaries to build great western churches in these communities in the third world, while the very people there are going to reach are dying from a lack of water, education, shelter, and food. Why the agencies that are supposed to be raising money for these people use 80% of their funds to keep their fundraising programs and staff alive. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and here I am watching families draw their water downstream from the water that just passed through this landfill.

My walk returned me to the home even more drained than when I left, yet I couldn’t bear to break away form these kids. It was so obvious they were longing for love, for attention, affirmation, and hugs. I was there to do that for them, not just my kids, but all of the kids there.

I found myself feeling very deeply for all of these kids, and I am so glad that the kids have families. I don’t think that I would survive this trip if they didn’t. My daughter is starting to finally warm up to me, but she talks in whispers and I miss half of what she says. Other kids compete for my lap when I sit down on the floor with them, It was nothing to have over 6 kids sitting on or leaning on me all scrapping for a small token of affection, a hug, a ruffle of the hair, a tickle.

I love these kids, and they in turn loved me back. I will be nothing more than a fleeting memory for them as they grow older. Many will forget the week the crazy long haired tattooed American spent with them in Ethiopia, in fact I doubt very few of them will remember the time at all. But this time has been forever burned into my heart, and all of these kids have touched me deeply and profoundly.

I was so drained at the end of the day so I decided I would go back to the Lime Tree for supper. It was a very western atmosphere, and very posh, very “StarBucks” now last night I had the guard get a taxi for me, but I was more acclimated to where I was tonight so I decided I would get my own taxi. I figured walk down to the highway, and get one of the countless taxis that stop for me anyways to take me to the Lime Tree.

Well as I was walking a taxi driver did exactly what I thought he would do, and asked if I wanted a ride. I asked him if he know where the Lime Tree was, he looked at me odd, so I said Friendship Building. Yes, he knew right where that was and we were off.

Well when we arrived it looked nothing like what I remembered from the day before, but I was there in the day, It was night now, he assured me the café was in the top of the building and so I went in, and told him I would be a while to just go. As I got to the door I was stopped by a guard who wanded me. At least there was the appearance of this being a safe place. As I entered I found myself in what could only be referred to as a small mall. Unfortunately there was no place to eat here at all.

On the plus side I found a silver smith who made beautiful jewelry, very heavy, very lovely pieces of art. I found a set that I fell in love with, matching earrings and necklace and a bracelet and a ring. The total was a bit to steep for my blood, and I knew my wife wouldn’t wear the bracelet or the ring, they were way too large for her, and he was willing to split the set. What was left was the necklace and earrings, and yes, Heather loves them.

So I left the mall and began to just walk. Mind you I have NO IDEA where I am, I just want to eat and go to bed. As I am walking I see that there is a building with bright blinking lights across the street so I cross over to see if they are a place to eat. I figured they were probably a restaurant or a bar, either way I would either get fed or be able to get a taxi to take me to my hotel.

Now mind you it’s after 9pm, so I didn’t think aimlessly walking Addis would be the smartest idea, But I guess walking up to a blinking building isn’t always the smartest thing ever either. Here in the states the only places I’ve ever seen decorated that way are the strip clubs hidden in the back alleys that look like you could probably catch something if you were to breathe too deeply near their establishment.

Thank God for small favors, and His irony, because I wound up sitting in the middle of Ethiopia, lost, in the middle of the night, eating at a Chinese restaurant eating mutton ribs, egg rolls, rice and soda for $5. I even got to sit next to the TV and watch the BBC world news. This is where I discovered Israel had declared war, America was backing them, and there was a massive flooding in the US again. Ok the last time I was in Africa we had the New York and LA riots. I’m starting to see a theme here.

After my meal was over I asked them if they could get me a taxi, and they were very happy to do so. Then they asked how I got there without a taxi, when I told them, and told them what he charged me they informed me I was so, very, very,very ripped off. They told me what to pay this taxi to get me back to the hotel and off I went for the evening.

I got back to the hotel and swore off taxis. I don’t know where I am going, how much to pay, or how to get home, I will walk anywhere I want to go until it is time to go to the airport. When I return I will contact one of these guys that you can hire for the day as a guide/translator but this trip was for the kids, not for comfort or sight seeing. I will find what I need within walking distance of my hotel. I have seen enough to know the locals survive in the community and can walk to find all of their needs, I will do the same.

Being lost in the middle of Addis with no idea of how to get home was very much the kick in the pants I needed to see just how lost I am here. How foreign I am. I also understood for the first time in my life just how nice it is to have a travel companion when you undertake these excursions. Just having one person you can be lost with and share the fear and excitement, and overwhelmingness of it all with. I never understood the traveling companion before now, I have always had one on every major trip I have ever done, and you don’t have a true appreciation for what that companion does for you until you are there alone.

The oddest part of it all though, is never, not once in this entire day did I ever feel unsafe. I’ve been lost in a large group in New York before and we all felt unsafe even though we were together. Here I was alone in Ethiopia, lost, stranded and not knowing the language and my concern was sleep, and hunger, not safety.

I tried to watch some TV when I got back to my room, I wanted to know more about the war, but I discovered I only had E-TV and unless I learned Amharic overnight, well I wasn’t going to get anything from my one channel in my room.

I slept and slept deeply. I was with my kids in Ethiopia. My other kids were enjoying themselves with friends and family in Pennsylvania, and it seems like the page is being flipped on this chapter of the book and that our family will be complete and whole soon.

Monday Monday

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on July 28, 2006 by Avery

“Monday Monday, so good to me,

Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be

Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn’t guarantee

That Monday evening you would still be here with me.

Monday Monday, can’t trust that day,

Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way

Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be

Oh Monday Monday, how you could leave and not take me.

Every other day, every other day,

Every other day of the week is fine, yeah

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes

You can find me cryin’ all of the time

Monday Monday, so good to me,

Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be

Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn’t guarantee

That Monday evening you would still be here with me.

Every other day, every other day,

Every other day of the week is fine, yeah

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes

You can find me cryin’ all of the time

Monday Monday, …”

-The Mamas And The Papas

Sleep eluded me even with the drug induced attempt at slumber. By 5 am I was wide awake, by 5:30 I had given up on sleep and was sitting on the balcony of my motel watching the early morning “night life” of the city. I watched the sunrise over the African horizon, the African pigeons cooing and clucking on my ledge of my balcony. I watched the fish shop across the street open and begin to prepare the morning sales. I’m still unsure as to where he got his fish from, there isn’t any major fisheries around Addis for all I know. I watched the street vendors slowly creep out from under their tarps along the road and I watched as the employed ran to catch the busses and taxis on their way to work so very, very early in the morning. I watched as a group of teens ran down the street playing soccer, kicking the ball to and fro, as one looked up and pointed at me, they all laughed, waived, and continued on their way. I saw the small girl carrying water into her house, who happened to notice me watching her, who then returned once her chore was completed to climb into a small tree in front of her home and perch there to watch me watching Addis.

The smell of “goat” still heavy in the air, yet the rain from the night before seemed to have added a “wet smell” as well. As more and more awoke and lit their morning fires you could actually smell the smoke in the air, and the musk of the night was strong. As the sun rose it began to burn off some of the musk and new aromas began to drift into the air. The smells were foreign and invigorating. The air was Africa, exotic yet familiar, it was new yet home. I stood on the balcony for a final moment, filled my lungs with the smells of Africa, then returned back into my room to shower and prepare for the day.

I made it downstairs, and seeing as I had NO CLUE where I was, how to get anywhere, and it was only 7 am, I decided to use the hotels restaurant. My missionary friend would be coming later in the morning to show me where everything was but I had told him I would call some time after 8 am for him to come get me.

I ordered pancakes, I was disappointed in the menu as it was only western food, but I knew I needed to eat and I wasn’t going to try to find any place to eat around the hotel, when I didn’t have a clue where I was. Remember it was raining and dark when I arrived, so I had no clue as to what was around here. The entire meal, pancakes with orange marmalade, toast, fruit juice, and coffee was only 12.50 birr, or about $1.50 US. Well I had discovered a secret to Ethiopia, “juice” means you take the fruit, this morning for example was papaya, and put the entire fruit in a blender, hit puree, and once it “liquefies” pour it in a glass. I picked up my juice, held it sideways and wondered just how I was supposed to “drink” it if it won’t move. My waitress then pointed me to my half of a lime on my plate and told me to squeeze it the drink and mix it up. I have actually gotten to the point that now I miss my juices here in the US. Now the pancakes on the other hand, well they were fluffy bisquick versions of injera. I have some photos of these pancakes, and I promise I will get them posted out here at some point in time, but trust me, they had just as many holes as injera does, I have NO idea how they made them, as they were extremely light and fluffy as well. My best bet is they used seltzer water for the mix.

After breakfast I called the missionary to come and get me to show me where things were around my area of town. He said it would take him about an hour to get there so I went over to try to use the internet at the hotel. You have to go out of the building, across the parking lot, up the stairs and into a small office. This is where the office manager stands up, takes her computer, dials in on a dial up connection, and then stands in front of you while you use her computer to use the internet. As if this wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the computer couldn’t obtain a dial up connection. After 30 minutes of trying I simply gave up. Actually I gave up after 10, but she kept telling me to wait, that she would get connected, and I felt bad just leaving.

I went up to the room to get my stuff together. They were going to move me to the other side of the motel, so I would no longer be on the highway side of the building. When I went up to my room they greeted me and told me to move, but they still had me on the same side of the building. Eventually they got a room ready on the other side and I moved my stuff down, just as my missionary friend arrived. I had taken a bunch of school supplies for him to use with the kids he works with, and he was so very appreciative of this small gift.

We headed to the bank to change my American over to Birr (I ate this morning on the Birr he had given me the night before) The bank was SOOOOOO much fun. They accepted my bills, well except for one from 2003. They said the serial number was marked. I had taken more than I planned on spending anyways, so it wasn’t a big deal, I just swapped it out with another bill. On one hand I was glad to be getting rid of the American currency, on the other, it makes a huge wad of Ethiopian currency when you convert.

By the time we were done at the bank it was time to hit lunch, I wanted to skip eating and get to my kids, but I knew I needed to get the money for the week, and I knew that I wouldn’t eat again until I left my kids, and I knew I would need the energy this food would provide so we went right near by and ate at the Zola Café again. I’m not sure what I ate, it was rice and meat in a spicy sauce. I don’t think it was Ethiopian food, but I have no idea. Well their coffee pot was broken so we headed back toward the orphanage but we swung by the Lime Tree restaurant really quick for a quick macchiato. I noticed this was a VERY plush place and many, many foreigners were there eating. I heard them say this was called the Friendship Building, and I decided to note this place as a safe “retreat” for if I hit meltdown point during the week. We prayed, and I was on my way to meet my kids.

I arrived at the gates of the orphanage, was greeted by the guard, who went to get the director and I pulled the supplies I had for the home out of the taxi just in time to meet a very excited, teary eyed director. She later told me she was so very excited to meet me, that the DVD of our family that we had sent the kids, and the small tokens of love we had sent the kids had meant so much to all of them. She told us they were amazed at our very limited, and often incorrect Amharic, but that we had taken the time to learn what we had learned was amazing. But this conversation happened later in the day, not at the gate.

People swarmed me, took my bags, and left me standing in the gate empty handed and holding my breath saying one last quick prayer. I looked up to see a mass of giggling little kids, pointing and chattering and before I knew what was happening a young man was running up to me calling “DAD!!!!!!!!!!!” I dropped to my knees and embraced my son as he buried himself into my arms. All he said was “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad….” I managed to stop my tears by the time I broke the embrace and looked at my son in the eyes for the first time. He is a strong, and very intelligent young man, and I was looking into the eyes of greatness. I was already in love with this kids, so to describe the emotions I was now feeling, well there just aren’t words for it.

Well more than anything he is a kid, and he wasn’t super impressed with kneeling in the dirt in the gate of the orphanage, so he looked at me, grabbed my hand and said “Dad, Come.”

He took me by the hand and walked me into the building into the directors office. When we go to the gate he pointed at my feet and told me “Shoes off” we put our sandals next to each other and he led me to the couch in the office. He told me to sit, and then sat next to me. He clutched my hand and touched my tattoos and petted my arm hair. Occasionally he reached up to touch my hair, and ran it through his fingers to feel the texture.

As we were sitting here, and I was talking to the director, my daughter walked into the room. SHE IS SO FREAKING CUTE!!!!!!!! She just walked up to me, gave me a small hug, let me hold her on my lap for a second and then sat next to her brother. Now the first thing she did on my lap was to touch my hair, so I guess they were a bit fascinated by the long haired dude who was now dad.

I sat here with my kids at my side, as the poked and pulled on me. As they looked at the scar on my hand from where I cut my finger in half on a table saw (it was my wife’s fault) As they traced the outlines of my tattoos and they counted the moles on my arm. They took turns holding their hands up to mine to see the size difference and they both took turn taking off and playing with and putting back on, my wedding ring.

Through all of this the director is telling me about my children. The fact that they were street kids before they were taken into the adoption program. The fact that they only have one living grandmother, who will come and visit with me later this week, The fact that my son cried when Spain lost in the world cup. That both of my kids are very good, very studious, and very quite. My daughter is extremely quite, and throughout the week she would opt to communicate through charades many times rather than talk, but she has such an infectious and bubbly laugh. It took all I had to keep myself pulled together, many times I felt the tears well up, and I wanted so very much to stay sober minded with the kids, and level headed, and to be strong for them, but it took all I had.

Before I had left the States, my best friend, who happens to be a Navy recruiter (don’t worry I give him heck for it all the time) had loaded me up with a ton of squeezey footballs (American) and basketballs. And I do mean LOADED. Enough for every kid there to have one of each and then some. He also hooked me up with a single strap Navy backpack for me to haul my stuff around in. Well I gave my son the basketballs and my daughter the footballs and followed them around to watch them give them out. The kids LOVED them, but regardless of what ball they had they were being used as footballs (soccer) The sky was alive with flying missiles of squezey toys. This is when I also discovered something else about the kids. It wasn’t enough for all of the kids to have something, all of the adults there had to have one too. My son and daughter both gave theirs away to the nannies that provide their care. But don’t worry, after 15 minutes the balls were simply EVERYWHERE, and they kids were all having a ball with their balls. No one cared about “mine” or possession. They just grabbed a ball if they wanted to play with it and started kicking it around.

Well it didn’t take long for the boys at the home to want to play football (soccer), and I won the respect of the boys when they lobbed the soccer ball towards my head and I manage to juggle the ball with my head with 4 consecutive head butts, before I head butted it back in their direction. Now mind you, that you and I know this was absolutely my guardian angel as I haven’t even touched a soccer ball in the last 8 years, but I was now “cool” and they all wanted to play soccer with me. In fact the very next time they kicked the ball to me it happened to hit my leg just right and without me doing ANYTHING it sent the ball over the wall and out into the street.

My son was very nurturing all day long. If it started to rain, he would pull me inside, or at least under a shelter. If I got a bug in my eye, he got it out. He used a lot of sign language and “looks” but I knew that he was bonding with this care taking and I wasn’t going to stop him from reaching out to create that bond.

Once the shock of actually being here wore off I pulled out the camera to take some photos. Well both of my kids wanted to use the camera, and I just couldn’t say no, so most of the photos from the entire trip are ones they took. I let them go and take what they wanted as this is their memories as well, and it is going to be important to them, even more so than me, to be able to look back and remember their memories. My son figured out the zoom feature and the review feature all on his own, and then he showed me how you can zoom on a photo in the review section, a feature that I didn’t know how to use until he showed me.

Well the kids all loved the tattoos, and one of them had seen a photo of my leg and they pull my pant leg up to see the flaming dove I have there. It was a big joke with them to pull up my pant leg and touch the tattoo and holler “OW!! HOT” Suddenly a child appeared with a box of markers and asked me to draw a tattoo on their arm just like mine. I said we needed to get permission and asked one of the workers there if it would be ok. I got the go ahead, and suddenly every child there wanted me to draw a tattoo on their arm just like mine. Do you know how hard it is to draw the Lion of Judah on a squirming little kid with a kids marker? Or a Bikers for Christ patch on a 2 inch square of flesh?? I was so happy that some of the girls just wanted flowers, and they were so very, very easy to do.

Finally all the kids had at least on tattoo, several of the kids were drawing on each other, and had, many, many tattoos, but they were finally done with me. Or so I thought. The girls had decided I would look good in corn rows and several of the kids surrounded my head and began to braid away. The girls said I was very “konjo” but my son was quite disgusted with them for doing it to me. Well thankfully there was only 1 girl who completed a true cornrow, the rest just fell out right away. All of the kids came by and at least touched my hair as this was going on. I knew they were curious as to the texture and many of the kids giggled as they allowed the hair to pass through their fingers.

We looked through the photos they had, and those I brought and my daughter took every photo out and kissed the face of every person in the photo. Now mind you she was open to hugs, and like it when I kissed her sweet head, but there was no way she was going to kiss me today. Now my son on the other hand, he initiated a lot of hugs, and caught me off guard when he kissed me on the check as he said “I love you Dad.”It was a good surprise, and one I cherished.

This day is forever burned into my mind. I wrote most of the days events that night while I was sitting in the hotel restaurant. Once again, no Ethiopian food, but I orders a “filet mino” and expected some form of steak, just not the breaded chop steak that was brought to my table. But for my soda, my fruit desert, my seafood salad, and my steak, it was only $4.

Shock doesn’t even describe the day. I went from strangers to family in a split second. My heart went from fear to absolute butter at the first touch. We don’t understand a lot of what we say to each other, but we understand enough.

My kids understand, and call me DAD. They both have told me that they love me, and I discovered every Amharic book in existence is WRONG!!!!! I have told my kids, and everyone else it pertains too, Efeckashalow (f), or “I love you” Just like the books tell you too, except they don’t tell you the sexual connotation this for carries, that it’s for spouses and romantic relationships only. So I was informed by the director today I should be saying Ewodashalow (f) You have to love learning a language from a book, you trust the books to tell the truth and you wind up sounding like a crazy nut when you are talking to your kids.

I survived the day. I made first contact. I established relationship.

This day was a good Monday.

the journey there

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on July 27, 2006 by Avery

The journey to Ethiopia left my home a week before I would leave the US. Last year my family had made plans to attend the Regional Conference for the Vineyard Community of Churches. So for a week before I left for Ethiopia I sat in Pennsylvania listening to the leadership of the Vineyard talk about the direction they want to take the Vineyard. I can’t begin to tell you how great it was to sit there and listen to these articulate speakers stand on the stage talking to thousands of pastors and leaders telling them the very passions my wife and I have been discussing for the last few years. Intentional racial diversity outreaches, Women’s enablement within the Church, Environmental care and stewardship, The needs of the poor and downtrodden, I could go on and on, and eventually I will be posting on the things from the conference, but you are here for my trip, not my week of teaching.

So when the conference was over I needed to get to Washington DC and my wife to New York, NY. SO I hitched a ride with some friends going back towards home, and I arranged a stay with a Vineyard Church in DC called the Tapestry. I had never met them before, but I had contacted them via e-mail and they were very excited to open their home to me for the night and give me a ride the next day to the airport. When I arrived I came into the middle of their Friday night get together and found myself a minority in a very racially mixed room. I was stoked to see that the church had such a broad base of nationalities and I felt SOOOOO at home it wasn’t funny. I spent a few minutes talking to the pastor and his wife then we rejoined the group and of course they had questions about the adoption. So via stories of the adoption that progressed into more questions about me, and the pastor and I sitting there comparing life histories I found that I found my skinny twin brother to a different mother. Eventually everyone left, and even his wife retired to bed, but he and I stayed up well past 3 am finding out how similar our lives have been, how similar our hearts passions are, even how similar our humor is. I was almost sad once it was time to retire for the night. The next day, once we woke up, I got ready to fly out. It became obvious my stuff was not going to fit in my bags, and they disappeared to the basement and reappeared with a huge bag and even more supplies to take to the orphanages. I was so stoked and they were excited to be a blessing as well. The supplies were from their mission trip to Cambodia, it was what they couldn’t fit when they went. The bag, well it was a very used “missionary bag” (basically more duct tape than fabric holding it together) Once I was packed it was time to go. I was sad to leave, knowing that I had just made one of those friends that I know will still be a friend in 20 years time. I hadn’t had enough time there, I wanted to visit longer, but I had an even stronger pull to my kids on the other side of the globe. It was a nice reprieve, I was able to not “think” about the journey, and to exist in the “now” for the small stay.

Checking in to the airport was super easy. They didn’t care that I was over my weight limit on the bag. I pulled myself away from my new friends, I was sad to see them go, but it was time to begin the journey. So at 3:30pm I head to the security gate, and 20 minutes later I’m sitting in the British Airways lounge, which Sheba Miles leases for Ethiopian Air Flyers. I sat there enjoying the open bar, smoked salmon sandwiches (with the crust cut off) and the huge bay windows watching the planes take off and land. As I am sitting there I listen to the family on the other side of the room ream out the staff person about the crappy wine, the poor beer selection, and then to top it off the freshness of the salmon. Just when I thought they wouldn’t get any worse they then complained about the temperature in the room, and then they had the audacity to complain that they had to get their own food and drink!!!! They wanted the stewardess from the flight to come in and serve them!!!!

Well laughing just as much as me is the Islamic man across from me, that has been staring at my screwdriver for the longest time, I think if it were to go on any longer he may have started to drool, me I was just glad my God turned water into wine to keep the party going and that I’m not hung up in a bunch of legalism stopping me from calming my nerves before I get on this flight.

At this point I was nervous about everything> I was on my way to meet my kids for the first time, I was flying a rickety old plane from Africa, I was going alone depending on a man I never met for my accommodations, and going into a land that I get “I love you” and “thank you” mixed up all the time.

So I walked up to the bar to get another sandwich half and as I turn around I hear “AVERY!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”

I am looking into the face of woman I have never seen before in my life, and she continues, “You don’t know me, but I read your blog! My name is D*** (censored as I don’t know if she would mind me putting it out here) and I’ve also seen you on the EthioAdopt group”

So I moved over to sit and chat with her, and the next thing I know I am greeting another adoptive family on their way to Ethiopia. In fact I noticed that most of the people waiting on Ethiopian Air in our section of the plane were adoptive families. It was very cool to see.

Well they announced our flight was boarding, and Sheba Miles members are supposed to be able to board first, but no one told the crew that. Finally the other families that I had just met and I got tired of being told no, and we just walked on, surprisingly when we didn’t ask, and just “did” no one said a thing.

I sat in my seat and found myself on the aisle seat, but between a couple, so I swapped with the other aisle seat to let them sit next to each other. I found myself directly behind D***, I threatened to kick her seat for the duration of my flight, as she actually reads this blog and deserves it, but I let her off the hook.

As I was getting myself situated I noticed a woman that the stewardesses kept moving from seat to seat. As she got in ear range I heard her going off about how she was a member of the UN, this was unacceptable treatment, and she was going to have someone’s head. Well a stewardess came up and started to rub my shoulders asking me to be her “buddy” What she wanted was for me to move to the back of the plane and give the UN lady my seat. Well, normally I’m a nice guy, but this is my one and only chance to fly “Cloud 9” and well, she works for the UN, she deserves to be booted from the flight, not accommodated. Well the empty seat next to me soon found her sitting in it, while hollering, as she buckled herself in, “I WORK FOR THE UN, I WILL NOT MOVE AGAIN, I BUCKLED MY SELF IN, JUST TRY TO MOVE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She then showed me her ticket and asked ME why she was being moved around. It took me 2 seconds to see why, she was flying STANDBY!

Wouldn’t you know it though, they wound up assigning her that seat, so I got to “enjoy” her company for the rest of the flight. It wound up she was from Senegal and worked for the UN in Ethiopia developing women’s programs.

To say the rest of the flight was interesting would be an understatement. My headphones only worked in 1 ear. My seat only went all the way down on the left side, the right side stayed up about 2 inches higher. When I asked for new headphones they took my old ones and through them away and then gave me a set that didn’t work at all. I also noticed they brought food according to the time zone we were flying through, not the schedule we were actually on. For some reason Ethiopia Air subcontracts this flight to World Air and all of our stewardess were white ladies from British Airlines. So while I was looking forward to the famous Ethiopian hospitality, I was stuck with the insanely rude Americans who didn’t want to be on this flight.

While were gassing up in Rome I stepped out of the plane for a little fresh air and stood on the platform. This 5 minutes on the top of the rickety stairs made up my Italian vacation. While walking back to my seat I discovered a set of bright red headphones with 2 prongs, and THEY WORKED!!!!!! Now back in the states I found that I liked the music on channel 6, it was stuff like Coldplay, they even played the song “Trees”, actually they only had about 12 songs on loop, but that station had stopped working somewhere around Dublin. I had asked the stewardess several times why the radio stopped working, but I was just told it’s an old plane, there is nothing they can do. At lest I had some headphones to enjoy the movie the “Benchwarmers” and I got to enjoy a landing that reminded me of my first landing in flight school, only I was in a Piper Cub and this was an M-11, or something like that.

I was the 1st in line at the visa section, they were only $20 to get a visa in Ethiopia, unlike the $40 they charge at the embassy in the US, and they didn’t want my passport photos that my visa application told me to bring. I don’t know why I bother using government websites, the data is inevitably wrong somewhere.

So I make it to baggage claim and discover the missionary bag has died. In fact a large amount of the contents and in a grocery bag next to my bag and there is US security tape all over the bag, several of the items were just lying on the belt next to the bag. As you can imagine, the customs official took this as an invitation to pull me to the side and tell me he was going to have to search my stuff. Well I had massive amounts of drugs (cold medicines and such) and used clothing, you know, all the stuff that customs loves to take away. Well I had put my ticket in my Bible on the flight, and apparently you need to have you ticket for customs to search the bags. I looked for my ticket, I even handed the customs guy my Bible and he looked through it while I looked in my other bags for my ticket, just in case I put it somewhere else. After 5 minutes of me looking he told me I was a pain in his backside, and to just go, that I was too much of a bother for him and he just wanted me gone. I made it through customs with EVERYTHING!

Now I am in Ethiopia, looking for a man I have never met nor has he ever seen me. Later he would confess that he assumed I was white, but it wasn’t until he got to the airport that it occurred to him that I may not be a white American. Several of the other agencies approached me assuming that I was there for them, and after the 4th guy I wanted a sign that said you are not here to meet me.

Eventually I found my missionary friend, and we took a ride to the motel he had found for me. The smells of Ethiopia really knocked me back. I can’t explain it, Addis smells like a goat, but there is an overpowering smells of incense and “Africa” as well. It was very overpowering and quite the experience. We got to the motel he had found and I discovered they had rented out my room, but only for an hour. I kept reminding myself it was only $20 a night, but I was so glad when my guide didn’t feel comfortable there either and we decided to find a new motel. I think it may have been the large blood stain on the mattress, or perhaps the fact that you didn’t need to use the door to get into the room. So we went right down the road and we got the same rate at the Central Shoa hotel, and it had security cameras, strong hot water, a restaurant downstairs, and internet from 8am to 4 pm.

The following is from an e-mail from one of my dear friends, who was raised in Ethiopia: “The hotel you stayed, was considered, at one time, a luxurious hotel until of course they built the Sheraton. I was awed by the sight of the Sheraton. I think it was seeing this majestic building and what it represented, and contrasting it with the poor people begging for food, right across from this hotel. “

We went to the Zola Café and grabbed some Doro Wat. The Ethiopians there with my new American friend were shocked to discover I not only knew about Ethiopian food, but liked it and knew how to eat with injera. In fact they had gotten a fork just for me, but by the time they gave it to me I was knuckle deep in the food.

We spent a long time talking, and praying for the week, and I then spent time trying to sleep, but finding myself watching Ethiopian Cable, or sorting out the bags. Eventually I just took some Ambien and finally got some sleep. The only form of air was leaving the windows open, and well the “highway” out my window didn’t help my sleep situation any.

This would be my final rest before I would meet my kids.

I’m Baaaaa’aaaaack

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2006 by Avery

Well after being gone for 2 weeks I’m sure I lost a few of my regulars, but I am back. I spent the 1st week at the Vineyard Community of Churches Regional Conferance. It was a really good time for the family and a great time for myself as well. I just spent the 2nd week in Ethiopia. I journaled my days there, well for the most part I did. And so for the next several entries I will walk you through the experience, day by day. Tommorrow the journey begins, and I will try to keep it going day by day, but you know how it goes.

Just letting you know I am home. And no spoilers, if you want to know how the trip progressed you will have to stick around to read the journey as it happened.

Great News

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on July 6, 2006 by Avery

So last night I kept debating whether or not to post the most awesome of all news, and I decided not to, only to have my wife scoop me at some point last night and post it on her blog!!!!!

You see I have been leaving Heather alone as she has been working on a gift for a friend of ours that just had a baby, yesterday at 2pm actually. She made a very pretty quilt, but she started on it on Monday! Now in her defense she had taken this idea from an adoption group and used it for our friend, but the other people didn’t respond in a timely manner. You see she had people, friends, family, everyone we could find that was important to our friend, and she got them to all give a 6×6 square of fabric that was symbolic of their love for this baby and Heather put it all together in an awesome quilt. Everyone then took a small piece of fabric and wrote a letter to the baby and it’s a keepsake for years to come. I’ll post pictures once she gives the quilt to her (she is in the hospital right now and I doubt she will be on my site anytime soon) All this to say I have been leaving her alone so she can work on her quilt, and she didn’t come to bed until 4am this morning. It’s almost done, I don’t really know what I’m talking about but all she has to do is put the binding on now and she is good to go.

Now for the news.

I am headed to Ethiopia to meet my kids. No, they aren’t coming home, we still don’t have a court date, but I get to spend some time with our kids and they get to meet Dad. Unfortunately I won’t be able to post pictures due to Ethiopian law, but trust me, they will be taken!!!!! Several months ago we had said that if we didn’t have a court date by July that I would be open to traveling to meet the kids. But we had also said that if God wanted me to go He would have to prepare the way for me to go. Well late last week I received the most awesome of gifts, a ticket to Addis Ababa!!!!!!! I get an entire week with my kids!!!! I don’t even know what to expect. I’m not the slightest bit concerned with the travel, I don’t even care that I my lodging is on the couch of a missionary friend’s house in Addis, I don’t care that I barely speak any Amharic, but I am scared to death to meet my kids!!! I am SO in love with the kids, but I know they are kids and as kids self centered and I doubt they have a full comprehension of the love I have for these guys. I know there is a long road of bonding in front of us, but I already love them as my own. Now I will actually be there, face to face, and I’m scared. I guess it’s a good thing. I’m scared because I want to protect them, I want them to be well adjusted, to be safe, and to feel safe. I know they have to be equally as nervous to know they are meeting their new father, and I want to live up to their expectations and dreams. They have seen pictures of me and they have a DVD of our family, but now they have to meet the man that everyone says is “The Big Show’s” twin brother (the big guy from WWE, who is Andre the Giants nephew or something like that) I scare American kids and they are used to big white dudes, I’m a giant in Ethiopia, and my kids are tiny!

I am so excited to go. I don’t know how I will ever bear it when I have to leave them and come back to the US, but from the books I have read on adoption this can actually be a positive thing for the attachment process for the kids. They get to make it “real” yet still have time to process everything for a while in Ethiopia in their environment. Trust me, I wish I was traveling to bring them home, but I have to look at the positives as well as everything else.

Pray for me, even more so pray for my wife who will be staying here with our kids. And most of all pray for my kids.

Beateseb’s Got Family

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2006 by Avery

I know it’s a bit late but I wanted to share with you my father’s day present:

You’ve met Beateseb before, as well as the great story behind him, well for father’s day he got some extended family. Heather had thought it was funny when I did a bunch of research on betta fish, as I wanted Beateseb to live more than a week in our house, and as I did the research I found that I really liked crown tail bettas. Well Heather found a really pretty black and red crown tail, he is in the green fish tank, and she bought a red betta as well. Originally they were in one of those small beta tanks, but the thing was so small I felt bad for the fish, plus the crown tail is so timid that he wouldn’t leave the gravel on the bottom of the tank. So that tank went back and we got 3 seperate tanks for each of the fish. Well when Kaitlyn saw Heather had bought two fish she assumed the extra fish was for her. So like a good dad it’s hers. I guess I have to get two more for when the rest of my kids get home.

So what di my daughter namer her bright red betta. Well after talking her out of Kai Beateseb, and trust me it took some convincing, she decided on the name Konjo. He really is a nice looking fish, and if you can’t tell he is in the tank with red gravel and a pink plant, our kids now think fish have to be in tanks that have the same color as their natural coloring! Well after a bit of debate on what it actually means, my dictionaries don’t agree, I decided to name my crown tail Ras. My dreadlocked betta fish is still very docile, but all 3 of them will actually let you pet them. i don’t know what is wrong with these fish, and don’t you dare tell my kids I pet the fish, I can only imagine how far they would take that! So in tribute to color coating everything I present you with the color coated family. We had a family portrait done for free for the church directory, and we put Lucas in the middle for that shot so it actually makes the Ethiopian flag in the portrait. The funniest part of the picture to me though, is I am wearing a necklace I bought in Kenya, and ther rest of the family is wearing the necklaces we made, yet my necklace looks the least Ethiopian of all of them… go figure.

My post are going to be short for a little while, in fact at the end of this week I will be traveling to PA for a conference and I don’t know when I will get to post, if at all while there. i will be at the regional Vineyard Church conference, and I will be very, very busy. This will also mark the first time my family has ever done a “vacation” where it doesn’t involve staying with family, seeing a timeshare, or sleeping in a tent. It should be fun.