Wednesday, the meeting

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.

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4 Responses to “Wednesday, the meeting”

  1. I just have to comment, you have captured my heart with this most amazing story. Thank you. My sweetheart and I are adopting from Ethiopia too. I haved loved reading your story, and each day I come to my computer just hoping the story never ends. Thank you for sharing with us this very special time in your family’s life.

  2. I just found your blog and am SO happy I did. Your story is absolutely beautiful and so inspiring for the journey we have ahead of us!

  3. Sounds like you have a great relationship with the grandmother. What a blessing.

  4. (ugh, ok, showed my picture, but i’m the one on the RIGHT, not the left….so many problems when you reveal yourself!!)

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