Friday – My daughter’s breakthrough

In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero

I am strong and wise and I know no fear

But the truth is plain to see

She was sent to rescue me

I see who I want to be

In my daughter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes

Everyone is equal

Darkness turns to light

And the world is at peace

This miracle God gave to me

Gives me strength when I’m weak

I find reason to believe

In my daughter’s eyes

And when she wraps her hand around my finger

Oh it puts a smile in my heart

Everything becomes a little clearer

I realize what life is all about

It’s hangin’ on when your heart

Is had enough

It’s givin’ more when you feel like givin’ up

I’ve seen the light

It’s in my daughter’s eyes

In my daughter’s eyes

I can see the future

A reflection of who I am

And what we’ll be

And though she’ll grow and someday leave

Maybe raise a family

When I’m gone

I hope you’ll see

How happy she made me

For I’ll be there

In my daughter’s eyesMartina McBride – “In my daughter’s eyes”

Can you guess what woke me up this morning?Schoffars and chanting???

You got it!!!!!

Well I knew today was going to be “different” Last night another American traveling to visit their children arrived. They would be coming to the orphanage this morning, I knew the dynamic would definitely change, I just didn’t know how. The supplies they had carried in were brought in last night, and the older kids had sorted out the clothing and delevered it to the appropriate rooms in a matter of minutes. It was fun to watch actually.

I walked up to the orphanage and just grabbed some fruit from one of the stands for breakfast. I wasn’t hungry and didn’t really want a big meal. I always confused the guy. You see on some days I would buy several bags of fruit and take it to the orphanage for the nannies to use for the kids. On other days I would go and just buy a few bananas and papayas and the such. He didn’t really speak English, so 3 bananas and 3 kilos of bananas were pretty much the same. And I don’t think her really ever understood that I was buying a breakfast there at his stand. The ferenj don’t really shop at these stands a lot around here. In fact, the ferenj don’t come around her much at all.

Walking into the home I could see the buzz, the kids were stoked and they kept creeping to the windows to peek in. I knew the other Americans had beat me here. The kids were all dressed in the clothing that had been brought in last night from America. They had done the same thing with the supplies I brought in. They are all so excited to have something new, that they all wear whatever is in their size as soon as they can. Thanks to a very, very dear friend I brought in a bunch of world cup shirts, that were brand new and still had the tags on them. These kids are well provided for, and they get a lot of supplies from America, but you could tell they were very excited to actually have World Cup t-shirts, and the excitement was only escalated by the fact that these were brand new shirts bought just for them. Several of the kids had been wearing their shirts all week, and even now, there were kids that had the new clothing on, but had their world cup shirts on either on top, or underneath the new clothing.

I know for me it was funny to walk around and see the clothes that my kids had worn running around on little Ethiopian kids in Ethiopia. My wife found a lot of pleasure in looking at the photos and seeing all of the kids dressed in clothing that used to be in our home. Our son is the smallest in a wave of children in our church, and as such was the recipient of tons of clothing growing up. Honestly I don’t think we have ever really had to buy this kid anything until he reached the size he is at now. You know where he is, the size where they all level out and are all the same size for a while. We will get the next wave when the kids older than he is start growing again, but all this to say the kid had so many clothes handed down to him through the church, some of them had never been worn before. And I do mean never, we removed the tags before I brought them so we could wash them and have everything ready to wear once I arrived.

If you travel to any country to bring you kids home, try to take an extra suitcase full of clothing for the kids. I can’t explain it, but it feels good walking around seeing the kids enjoy some nice clothing and seeing little pieces of your past strewn about in a foreign land. And I know that every orphanage in the world is the same, they can always use quality clothing for the kids. Especially the older ones.

Well I walked in and found the new Americans. They had found their kids and they were in the throws of that first bonding time. The moments where it is just you and the new children and the rest of the world fades into oblivion. I introduced myself and faded into the background to spend time with my own. After a bit, they were asking questions about my stay, I asking about their trip and we were slowly getting to know each other in thousands of miles away from our respective homes.

Have you ever met someone in real life after knowing them on line, only to have them be the total opposite of your mental image of the person? I’m not talking personality, I’m talking physical appearance. Stupid things in fact, I was expecting a brunette, don’t ask me why, I just had that mental image in my head, and I met a blonde. I actually found it to be quite funny, and was enjoying talking to someone in English, that I didn’t have to “Africanize” my dialect for them to understand me, but it was also clashing my worlds together and made me feel unstable.

I had so far removed the American world from this, my Ethiopian experience, that this encounter was forcing me to reconcile stuff that I didn’t really want to deal with. Primarily that my trip was almost over, and that it was evident that my children would be stuck in process until the courts reopened in November. I was going to have to leave my kids, and return to my normal life, and have to return to work. All of these things I had pushed to the back burner to process at a later time, and having to sit and talk to these Americans, it caused the mountain pile on the back burner to crash on me.

Unfortunately my son was having his own collapse this morning. The nannies had told me he wasn’t sleeping good through the week. He is older and was very excited to have this time with me, but the week was taking it’s toll on him as well. All through the morning he would walk up to me and ask me to take him to America NOW. I always hugged and told him he had to wait, but I would come back for him as soon as I could. This would cause him to break down crying and he would bury his head in my shoulder sobbing. We had this break down several times through out the morning over several issues, and every time I would hold him as he cried it out, and I would cry with him as my heart was so broken for my son.

It was enough to break me today. I was so very, very, very over my breaking point. I had the opportunity to spend Sunday afternoon with the sponsor of a grant we received for our adoption, and I knew I would be a basket case if I tried to leave the orphanage to go directly to the airport, so I let Life International know I would like to meet with them. This would give me a few hours to debrief myself while still in Ethiopia with people whose heart was as for adoption as mine was, and the fact that the sponsor lives in Ethiopia for over half the year means the heart is just as for Ethiopia as mine. I knew at this point I would need this reprieve, and they were excited at the prospect of meeting with me as well.

Days in an orphanage are very scheduled, very routine. They have to be or you would have chaos and mayhem. I was so glad when lunch rolled around because I knew nap time would follow soon. Well my son didn’t even wait for nap time, he just went and got into his bed directly after he ate, and was asleep before his head hit the pillow. My little guy was beyond exhausted, and I was so glad to see him sleep.

I stuck around until my daughter had her nap time, and then as a group of Americans we decided we would brave the Shola Market. It’s no where as large as Merkato, but we were told we could find most of what we would want there. I had a very small shopping list, a few shirts, a buna set for 6, and some silver crosses.

The market reminded me a lot of Nairobi’s markets, very narrow, very crowded very busy. Some of the vendors selling household goods, some selling Ethiopian wares, no one really catering to tourist, but they certainly had tourist prices. I could have hired a guide, to dicker the prices with me, but when you are pure silver hand crafted necklace for a few dollars, well I was happy with the prices and they needed to eat too. And if I was helping them buy some meat this week, well good for them, I’m glad I could help.

Imagine you are in a New York alley in So Ho, but you have the atmosphere of Tijuana’s “downtown” district, and the conditions of a post flooded New Orleans. It’s the rainy season, so everything is caked in red mud, the goats and sheep are herded throughout the market for sale, and families and small children live in the middle of the market in their homes/vendor huts. You are constantly chased by young kids who want money or to be your guide, and vendors are constantly calling out to you to come to shops you have NO interest in being at. Just what am I going to do with a new mattress or yards of fabric?

I managed to find 2 beautiful shawls for Heather. One pink and the other blue, both are tye-dyed. And I found very cheap crosses but he only had 2 that I was interested in. I could have bought Arsenal jerseys for a few bucks, Nikes for less, there was even a guy there selling hand made leather jackets, but I was attempting to return home with only my carry on bag, no checked luggage.

After a while of shopping we had enough and decided to return. We were a bit hungry so we stopped and bought a few bananas to eat on the way. All this did was make us even hungrier so we decided to stop at the restaurant for a bite to eat. As we went in I discovered this was their very first Ethiopian meal, they had never eaten Ethiopian before. I also discovered we were there on a fast day, and it took a bit of pestering the waiter to get him to agree to give us some food. Miser Wat, Aleche Miser Wat, and a variety of vegetables were eventually brought to the table, and they thoroughly loved the meal. I attempted to get us some coffee, but although I was able to get us some food on a fast day, there was no coffee to be had. I was disappointed, but life goes on.

We took a quick jaunt down to the cyber café so I could show them where to log on and we headed back to the orphanage.

I stuck my head in to check on my boy and found that he was still asleep. In fact he had two other boys that were using him for a pillow. It was actually a beautiful scene, but I didn’t have my camera so it was forever lost except for in my mind.

I decided to take this time and play with my daughter and her age group and they were loving me. Especially as it was raining and they were stuck in their room and were a bit toddler stir crazy. Having the huge white guy lie on the floor and give airplane rides until his arms gave out, then to use the big guy as a human jungle gym was just what the doctor ordered. In fact I was still in there playing with them when supper was brought in. My daughter sat on my lap, and tried to feed me her supper, a lentil soup. I pretended to take a sip of her first bite, and she wasn’t looking so I think she believed me, but I was feeling ill and there was no way I could eat anything at this point. But this was a major breakthrough with our relationship. She was truly bonding and enjoying my attention, she was having fun, and wanted to be near me and in her own way take care of me.

I sat there holding her as she ate her soup and I loved every second of it. It was a nice opposite for this mornings activities. I was able to leave the orphanage on a high note, and both of my children were happy. My son had woken up a new man, and was very much the happy son I knew.

I had moved from the stranger category to the “Dad” It was obvious, and it was good. She had head knowledge that I was Dad, but it was in this evening that this knowledge moved to her heart. Instantaneously a switch flipped in her that she moved from being a little hesitant to trust me, to pushing the other kids away from me hollering (in Amharic of course) “Mine” or something to that nature. One of the older kids told me what she was saying. Of course I was happy to see it, and more than willing to be “owned” by my daughter. I enjoyed the evening, and although the language barrier kept us from talking, we shared our hearts with each other tonight. I’m not naïve to think we are “bonded” not by a long shot, we have a long road to go on that one, but she has a degree of trust for me, and a degree of ownership in me as well. These are treasures of a father’s heart for his children, and I was glad for them.

I spent a little bit of time with my son just watching television after my daughter went to bed. I played with the older kids as we watched TV, teasing them, and they teased back. I was glad to be able to leave on a high note, and spoke with the director for a few minutes and told her I would see her tomorrow and headed home.

I stopped at the cyber café and had quite the experience there as well. As I was chatting with my wife on yahoo we were listening to the radio. The radio started to play “All My Exes Live In Texas” as one of the men there stuck his thumbs in his belt and began to line dance. The next song was some new age meditational stuff, followed by a techno version of “Country Roads” where EVERY PERSON FROM ETHIOPIA IN THE CAFÉ SANG ALONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can I tell you how surreal it is to be sitting in the middle of Ethiopia, listening to a local radio station playing this kind of music? I was absolutely blown away and I was laughing my butt off. This had to be the funniest scene ever, and I so wish I had video taped it, but I don’t think the scene would have played out had I had a film crew following me around.

Now if you were in Ethiopia, and you saw Chili Burger on the menu, what do you think you would get? Does it connotate something on bread at least? Well if you are passing through Ethiopia and you happen to order a Chili Burger what you will get is a hand patted patty, heavily seasoned with berbere with chili peppers sliced on the top of it. No bread, no ketchup, nothing else, this is it.

Surprisingly though it was actually good.

The fried pineapple I tried though was not.

And my bed hasn’t looked this good all week.

2 Responses to “Friday – My daughter’s breakthrough”

  1. What a good dad you are.
    Thank you

  2. Even though I’ve already heard all of your stories, your blog makes me cry. I’m so tired of waiting for these kids to come home.

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