Archive for January, 2007

Not For the Faint of Heart

Posted in africa on January 31, 2007 by Avery

I was sent a link to the following video, it’s not for kids, it’s real, teh images are real, the victims are real, the deaths are real, Darfur is real.

Normally I wouldn’t post a video like this one here, but with Darfur being what it is, the more peoples eyes are opened to the reality of the situation, the closer we come to an end.

http://my.break.com/media/view.aspx?ContentID=216747

Wednesday – Day 5

Posted in Adoption, africa, ethiopia on January 30, 2007 by Avery

I guess it’s finally time to finish this thing. The story that is. You may have been wondering where I have been, why I haven’t plugged the final day of the trip up on my blog yet.  Well you see when I sit down to write the days out I am actually taking myself through the process of reliving the day, and as hard as saying goodbye to my kids is, having to rip myself apart going through the mental process again isn’t something I really want to jump at. Doing it once was bad enough, having to do it twice, not what I want to go through.  

Wednesday morning was check out at the motel, visitation hours weren’t until the evening, and the rest of the day, we had no idea. We wanted to purchase some small decorative coffee cups that we had seen earlier in the window of a nearby store, the one that never seemed to be open and had no posted hours. So when I woke up I ran down the street to see if they were open yet. No.  On the way back I grabbed some bananas for breakfast. When I got to the motel I tried to find our laundry, that was supposed to be back yesterday, but was apparently still being done. I got permission to stay in the hotel until our clothes were returned, and as I turned around my friend Meaza was there in the lobby. She had come over to say goodbye. And she brought a beautiful purse and head wrap that matched the dress that Heather had bought yesterday.  We just sat in the room talking and having fun, and finally our clothes showed up a little after noon.  A quick shower (with no clothes to change into I didn’t see the point earlier) and a change of clothes we were finally ready to check out.  

Meaza left for home and we put our bags into storage at the orphanage and decided to walk around a bit. There is a very nice coffee shop on the corner of the highway that we sat and enjoyed watching the shepherds take their livestock to market, the kids walking home from getting out of school, the shoppers going to market, just watching Ethiopian life. Occasionally one of the beggars would shuffle towards us, most of the beggars in this area being invalids and blind. It’s one thing to see these people on film or video, but to be sitting there drinking a mochiato, watching a man try to cross a four lane highway pulling himself on his hands, yeah, life doesn’t prepare you for that no matter how many times you have seen it.  The Shoa market is a much smaller market, but still a lot of fun to walk around. They are as used to tourist, so they don’t cater to tourist items as much, but we were looking for things like frankincense and cooking utensils so we were good to go.  Now every 5 minutes or so we would pick up a new kid trying to be our “guide” but typically a “IE!!!” would send them on their way laughing.  But we did pick up one young teenager, still in his school uniform, carrying his books, who would not leave us alone. We tried darting into shops and waiting till he bored of the wait and left, but we soon realized he was just bored of standing in the un and would walk to where the was some shade and as soon as we would step out he would begin to follow us again.  But seeing that he would never follow us into a shop I headed to a set of shops that I knew there where several ways out of. We found a really cute drum for Lucas while inside as well. On the way out I saw the kid, still waiting but his back was to this particular exit, he was still watching the one we went in to, and we took off down the road to find some lunch.  

We ate at a great little place, that has one person that speaks English that works there, and the menu is totally in Amharic. Heather tried to translate, and she could read the menu just fine, we just didn’t know what half the stuff was. Finally we just ordered some Ambo, Cokes, and the fasting food platter.  Ambo is mineral water bottled in Ambo Ethiopia. It is available in the US, http://www.nileenterprises.com/MineralWater.html but I’m not sure as to where as this is a wholesaler. I have seen it on the websites of many Ethiopian restaurants though.  Now apparently there is a Honey that we could never find called  Nidj Mar that is indigenous only to a certain region of Ethiopia. This honey is supposed to looked like butter in it’s raw form, and if mixed with Ambo and placed in the sun for a few hours you are supposed to have a drink similar to a high end Russian vodka, probably less alcoholic, but still we were warned you can get drunk quickly if not careful.  Unfortunately I never had a chance to taste this Ethiopian treat, just as we never found the butter, but I wasn’t going to let Heather leave Ethiopia without having some Ambo.  

Now Ambo itself is supposed to be really good for you, and great for your digestive track, but the stuff taste terrible. Really it does, even mixed 50/50 with my coke it wasn’t that great, but it is still a must do while in Ethiopia. For mineral water it’s not terrible I guess, even if you like tonic water it’s along those lines, but I don’t fancy either of them either.  Lunch was great, but you really need to read my wife’s blog at this point and read her lovely description of the toilets there. Yeah, I was smart enough not to go.  Needless to say we decided to walk a mile to a mall that we knew had cleanish restrooms. On the way there we passed my store with the cups in the window, and it was finally open. So we grabbed them and kept on going, and the funny thing is we were hit up for yet another scam, this time an “artifact” dealer who wanted to show us his wares. He didn’t push to hard though, and he got the hint that we weren’t coming with him. At the mall I got an awesome postcard, the Mona Lisa with traditional Ethiopia tattoos. I love it! 

I wish I had some great story about our visitation with the kids, but it was so very, very sad, they were sad that this was is and we were just as sad, but hopefully not showing it as much as they were.  Once again we helped the kids with their homework, but mostly I just sat there looking at my children praying for them and dreaming of their futures. Mostly just dreaming of the day that I would be able to return and remove them from living an institutional life and bring them into our family life. The care they are receiving is so very loving and nourishing from the foster mothers there, they truly love these kids as their own, but at the end of the day it is still and orphanage, and as my own son has said, his “home” is with me here in America, he just hasn’t seen it for himself yet.  Sitting here on the couch he was perplexed by, you see our photos used to have a blue living room set, and he had memorized those photos, and the new photos had our new leather couch (a gift, not bought) and he didn’t recognize it as in his home, and tears are running down my face and my heart longs to be bale to run to his bed and kiss his forehead and tuck him into his sheets a little tighter, and an ocean separates us.  Our time was up all too quickly and we had to leave. We were too exhausted to even think of doing anything other than go to the airport so we took the child we were escorting back to the states and took a taxi to the airport.  Ethiopian Air had told me I was in silver status with this flight and the lounge is very nice, but they checked me in wrong and they tried to deny us access to the lounge.  When I suggested letting me open my account up on the web and showing her the 45,000 miles on my account she decided to let us in to weather the next several hours.  

For traveling families, the bulkhead is a first come first serve status, so go early and request it, it gives you a small sleeper bassinet for a baby to sleep in during the flight. So very totally worth it! The trip was over, we were on our way home, and our hearts were broken as we were once again leaving part of our hearts behind.

Tuesday – Day 4

Posted in Adoption, africa, ethiopia on January 18, 2007 by Avery

Tuesday we decided to forgo a wake up call and try to sleep as late as possible. Our theory was if we can stay near our “normal” schedule then when we returned our bodies wouldn’t be as out of whack. Our theory fell very, very false but it may have something to do with our cousins who picked up a virus in Cancun and then infected our kids who just so happened to be at the hay day of the virus when we returned and thus infected both of us. Yes, read that right, we go to Africa and come home to the states to be infected by some highly contagious virus that was passed around a cruise ship in Cancun. I don’t even get the pleasure of going to Cancun to pick up their virus, but Heather and I both suffered through it.  

Once we did wake up we had to come up with a battle plan for the Yesus on the Streets campaign. This was our final full day and we had to check out of the motel tomorrow morning so we needed to have this done today. I went down to the lobby to try to contact our friend one last time, and still was unable to go through.  Well the receptionist asked why I was trying so hard to find this guy and I explained our predicament to her.  

She was very confused about why we were doing this. I tried to explain it to her a little and then we were interrupted by the head maid. As they were discussing something about one of the rooms upstairs I was suddenly struck with a wonderful idea. Once the maid left I asked the receptionist if there was anything she would want from the US that is hard to get here, and she said conditioner. I then asked about how much the maid that just left made a month, and was told roughly 300 birr (a little less than $40). From what I have been told by others this is an average salary for this kind of work at this kind of place. Well I ran upstairs to Heather to see what she thought of the idea of giving these bags to the workers at the hotel, and anything left over to give to the receptionist to take to the local church.  Heather responded with an enthusiastic yes, and there was a tremendous peace about this decision.  

Well the receptionist wanted to see what we were talking about before we just started to hand the stuff out, so she came up to our room and sat on our bed and started to rummage through the bags, crying and laughing, and still asking us “why?” She called the bell boy up to carry the luggage downstairs to distribute it and when he got there and saw what he had to carry he was upset that not only did he have to carry it up, but now down too (the stuff was HEAVY) But as soon as he was told what was happening and that the stuff was for him too he suddenly was very happy to carry it down.  Everyone kept trying to thank us for the wonderful gifts, but we kept telling them not us, Yesus, Yesus getano! There were many a teary eye, and much celebration as the workers all came and said that they had never had such a day in their entire life, that ouside of the movies from America they had never heard of such a thing and they were truly blessed.  

As they were distributing the bags, the moment became such a sacred place that we dared not even touch our camera, and we left the receptionist in charge of the distribution, an American man and his Saudi friend walked into the room. We had spoken to these characters on occasion in the hotel, really nice guys on vacation here in Addis. Well the American asked me what was going on, so I explained it to him, and he asked me the question of the day, “WHY?” He even went so far as to ask me if I had stolen these supplies from some other organization, he just couldn’t grasp why we would have brought this stuff to indiscriminately hand out in Ethiopia. Then when he saw the photos and found that every bag was from some one different he was really blown away. His comment to me was that his family was from Ethiopia, he was born in Italy and grew up in New York, but his extended family was still in Ethiopia and he had never even thought to do this for them, much less strangers. He was blown away by the kindness and looked at me and said we must belong to some very special kind of church, to have a group of people that have a heart that would do something like this. He left literally scratching his head, looking over his shoulder at us ever few steps with a look of bewilderment and awe. The last thing I would have expected was to minister to an American here in Ethiopia.  

One of the things we learned though this project is that you really need to have a contact point in Ethiopia for distribution. Had we tried to distribute this on the streets alone we would have had a massive mob, an a bigger issue of safety. Also these bags would have worked wonderfully to hand out to the homeless here in the US, but in Ethiopia the level of poverty is so much lower that they really would have had no use for most of the items. I don’t really know of how to properly do a project like this, but the focus needs to be food, shelter, medicine, clothing if you are doing it to reach the street families of Ethiopia.  

As it was getting late, and we had yet to eat, so we headed down the road to try to find some pizza. I was just extremely curious as to what the Ethiopian version of pizza was. We found a great place, with a very modern atmosphere called “The Great Rendezvous” We sat on a 3rd story balcony on chrome chairs and a chrome table leaning over the railing snapping photos of the city below and shooting video of the day life on the streets. It was a very unique opportunity to sit in a birds eye view of Addis, watching the normality of life without sticking out as the crazy ferenj. I ordered a “personal pizza” and Heather ordered a quesadilla. Yep, Mexican food in Ethiopia as well. Well the reality of what she was served was a pizza folded in half, but it was good. And I had a really good pizza, called the “farmers pizza” with “all the favorite toppings of the Ethiopian farmer” peppers, onion, and pineapple basically.  We had a couple of cokes, and a couple of macchiatos, and the food, and we were still WELL under $10 including he tip.  

On the way back to the hotel we swung down an alley with some shops and came to a place selling gebanas (ceramic coffee pots) and had one of the most hilarious encounters yet. I selected one for a buddy of mine back here in the states, and asked “sent now” or “how much” she replied 80 birr, ok, a bit high, but I was fine with that so I pulled out a 100 birr and tried to pay, but she kept telling me she had no change. So I kept asking for something else that would cost 20 birr. She would hold up a vase or flower pot but then still tell me, “no change” Eventually one of the shop owners hear her came over and asked what was going on. And we discovered she had confused 80 with 8. Yes, you are reading that right, she only wanted 8 birr for it. Once I understood I gave her a 10 birr and all was well. Now when I selected it she whacked it with a stick to show me that it was good, and could be used, and said I could cook my coffee in it, and so we decided to buy another one for ourselves. You see we already have one, but our Ethiopian friends make fun of us telling us that out gebana is too fancy to use, and that we should have it in a china closet or something. I just looke at it as something I bought at a place called “Tourist and Gift Shop” and got the pot, the incense burner, 6 cups and a sugar bowl all for under $15. It is fancy looking, and that is why I bought it, but we wanted a “simple” one as well, just so we could have a simple one for when our Ethiopian friends are over.   

To skip ahead a bit, the one gebana made it through ok, the other one shattered into a powder. Now being as I have experience in pottery I know what that means, it means the pots where never fired. Also as it had shattered I was able to see the inside of this pot and it was never glazed inside either. It was also extremely thin and I’m kind of glad it shattered as it would have been extremely painful when it shattered from putting hot coffee into it. And had it not shattered than we would have been drinking the clay as it would have dissolved into the hot coffee as well.  Now with all this said, I’m still irate with Ethiopian Air for the obvious manhandling of my bags marked “fragile” I saw them being tossed at least 3 times, once in Ethiopia and twice in the US by Ethiopian Air employees.  Now the place I bought this from was well off the beaten path, she doesn’t deal with ferenj, but with Ethiopians. So the simple fact is that this cheap unfired thin pots would have made it into an Ethiopians home if not for me, so I don’t feel as if we were conned for being ferenj, we were just her client of the hour.  

Our visitation time was used helping the kids with the homework again tonight. The kids got done a little early tonight and we had a chance to play a little with them, but we also wanted to get a nice family photo with both kids. I set my camera up on the tripod, as I was doing it all the kids gathered around and watched every move I made. One of the foster mothers informed me that they had never seen a tripod before, well she informed us they had never seen “that” before and we told her it was called a tripod. (by the way all this “we” stuff is just for my ego as this is my blog, Heather is the one who did all of the talking as she is the one who can actually communicate in Amharic) Well I set the auto timer on the camera for 10 seconds and sat next to Heather to take a great picture. The kids were all looking at me and then looking at the camera, trying to figure out what was going to happen next when the flash went off and the picture was taken. There was a moment of shocked silence, then suddenly one of the girls (a very cute wide open boisterous older girl) gasped and exclaimed, “Avery is magic” and suddenly all of the kids were agreeing, “magic, magic, magic” I was dying laughing, and so we just had to do it again. Of course this delighted the kids, and even the nannies were calling out to come see the “magic” 

Afterwards we had an impromptu photo session where I took a photo of every single child there. This is always a fun experience as the kids keep trying to out do each other, and the older girls try to play a game where they say I can’t make them smile, so I tell them say, “sake” say “wusha wat” and they are always stone faced with me until I say “BOYFRIEND!!!!” and I get the biggest smile ever. Of course when I asked Yosef about his girlfriend Tsegerda he got all embarrassed scuffing his feet and laughing as he hid. She came home to her family a few months ago, but they were very good friends at the orphanage and I’m sure they will remain friends through e-mail and the like once he is home.  

Of course the time was gone before we knew it.  And it was time to go.  The kids knew we had to go home tomorrow and the good bye tonight was a very solemn occasion.  

For supper the lunch was so good we decided to go back. On the way a man named Girma told us that he was going to a very “special restaurant” and wanted to take us with him. That it was next door to the Minister of Waters home. Yes, that’s right, different scam, same place. If my coke cost me 600 birr what would a meal cost? Well we were coming up to a group of police and I looked at Girma and told him I was going to invite the police to come with us as the police really liked bunna beats and they would have a fun time coming with us. Surprisingly the guy took off running.  

We ordered one pizza between the two of us and sat on the balcony watching the nightlife below.  It was a bit cold but it was still fun to watch the city, and it was nice to just talk to Heather about the trip and what we hoped to do when we returned. It was kind of a “debriefing” for us and it was a very nice dinner.  

 

Monday – Day 3

Posted in Adoption, africa, ethiopia on January 17, 2007 by Avery

 

Monday morning came all to soon, I awoke at 7:55am and lay in bed as I watched the clock click past 8am. Happy New Year USA!  I go to be 5 minutes after midnight here, and wake up 5 before midnight there.  

I ran to the bank to change some of the currency over. The motel gave an 8 to 1 conversion, but I could get 8.5 to 1 at the bank. And today was “shopping day” so I wanted the best rate I could get. Of course the black market offers nearly a 9 to 1 but I try to stay away from that scene, and so should you, as enticing as the black market may sound jail isn’t worth it, plush American jails don’t exist outside of the US.  

On the way out of the hotel I looked over at the taxi’s waiting for clients and saw Dawit sitting on the hood of one of the taxis. As soon as he saw he saw me he took off running down the alley. I was so angry, I wanted to take off after the guy, but in reality just what would that accomplish for me, other than probably getting me arrested.  

The money exchange went fine, last time they refused to take a few of the $100 bills, but I didn’t have any issue this time around. I was able to get in and get back out in record time as I got there shortly after they opened. It’s amazing how busy they were for just opening though. 

On the way back to the hotel I swung by the gas station and picked up a few yogurts for breakfast. I’m not a big fan of yogurt but I figured we were here, and it’s Heather’s main staple back home. Well, neither of us really liked the yourt, it was very watery, and very sour. I’m not sure if it was just the brand or not, as we didn’t pursue trying any other brands while we were there.  

There was a store next to the hotel that I wanted to see if was open, so I ran down the block while we were waiting for my friend to show up, and Heather was squeezing in a bit more sleep. The store was closed, in fact we never did figure out the hours for the store the entire time we were there, it was just open when they felt like having it open I guess. But when I can back to the hotel Meaza, my friend, was sitting there waiting for us.  Suddenly I was curious as to what to do. You see she was a person I met the last time I was in Ethiopia at the internet café. She was the only one there that spoke proficient English, and she helped me out a ton with getting around and finding things while I was there. Well she had kept in touch with me via e-mail once I left, but I had no idea what was proper now. Well she made it very clear when she saw me and broke out into a huge grin grabbed me in a hug and pulled me in for the famous Ethiopian kissing greeting.   

As touched as I was with this greeting you can’t imagine Heather’s face when immediately upon meeting her she received the exact same. Even funnier was as we walked out to the taxi Meaza grabbed Heather’s hand, not just the casual hand hold either, but interlocked fingers and everything. Really you need to be reading Heather’s blog at the same time as you are reading mine. As we are both blogging about the same stuff, and she has spent a lot of time on this experience on her blog today.  

Well the first thing we headed to was a smaller market that predominantly dealt with clothing, the Sheromeda market was a very open and very organized market. Mostly clothing shops, and Heather found a beautiful dress there that Meaza help find a suitable price for. I mostly spent my time looking for unique little nick nacks, but nothing really caught my eye here. What I did enjoy watching was all of the donkeys carrying supplies and just walking around. As I was watching the donkeys I noticed there were a lot of these donkeys that were just walking around aimlessly, but I didn’t see anyone around really watching them, or guiding them I asked Meaza about this and she told me I couldn’t see the owners but if I messed with their donkeys the owners would make themselves known real quick.  

Leaving here we spun over to Mercado, the place was nuts!! Imagine the mall on black Friday mixed with Time Square on New Years eve and you have Mercado. If you want it you can find it somewhere in here, really, anything you can think of, somebody here has is for the right price. From cars, to motorcycles, there is a travel agency, restaurants, I even saw a place that I am guessing was a real estate agency. Early in the day we decided against buying the drum, I played a few that I saw but was unable to find one with a tonal quality that I would actually use. And unfortunately we forgot about the diner table until it was too late.  

Throughout the day we kept seeing a plant being sold on the side of the road and we tried to ask what it was but there is no American equivalent. Eventually the taxi pulled over and tried to negotiate a price for one single plant, but the vendor wouldn’t sell us that little. Finally he agreed to sell us 1 birr worth’s of this stuff (about 15 cents) and we discovered the Ethiopian version of soy beans. The funniest part of buying the stuff was the 5 minutes of negotiation over 1 birr.  

Well we were picking up some roasted coffee for a friend’s fundraiser so we went to a very western coffee shop to buy the roasted beans. I’ve read about this place on line a few times, they tried to be a Starbucks, but they wouldn’t license a coffee bar in Ethiopia as they didn’t think the concept would be profitable in Ethiopia.  Well the bar was painted just like a Starbucks and the place was full of ferenj and business was booming, but I guess Starbucks knew what they were talking about when they said Ethiopia didn’t have a market for a coffee bar.  

On the way back to the hotel we passed a group of apartments that looked like HUD housing in the Bronx but Meaza told us that was where the rich of Addis lived. It’s funny how different cultures view housing, and what standards we apply to who lives where. 

We had lunch with Meaza at the hotel, a wonderful meal of doro wat and various other Ethiopian dishes. We spent a long time just talking about America verses Ethiopia, family life, and life in the states. It was very, very educational on both sides of the table, well in reality I was the only one on my side fo the table as Heather was at Meaza’s side the entire day.  

As our visiting time today was from 5:00-6:00, and the time was drawing near,  we thanked Meaza for everything she had done for us and headed to the orphanage. When we arrive the kids were doing their homework so we sat next to them and helped them with their work .Yosef was working on his English work and I was able to do a mini study group with the group of kids that were working on English with him. The kids all go to one of the local schools in the neighborhood. As I was helping him with his homework we came to an assignment that really blew my mind.  

Yosef’s homework, was to read sentences such as: (fill in the blank) “My Dad works__________.” “My Mom ____________.” My House__________________.” What was so very cool was that he was filling out the paper with all of the information that he could glean from the letters and photos that we have sent him over the last 15 months.  It was so very sweet to see him so very connected in his mind to a family he knows so very little about. One of the funniest exchanges was when I tried to explain to him that his room was up stairs in our home. He honestly had no framework to understand the “upstairs” terminology so I wound up drawing a diagram on a scrap of paper showing him where his room is. He was very happy to discover his home had an upstairs, and that his room was upstairs as well.  

But then his homework progressed to a piece of government propaganda that broke my heart, he read a paragraph that went like this: “These kids’ parents died from HIV/AIDS. They have nobody to take care of them or love them. They live on the streets. They have no clean clothes. They have nothing to eat. They are hungry. They don’t go to school. Nobody loves them or helps them. What can you do to help?” I know that in Ethiopia once you wind up on the streets no one expects you to ever wind up in school again, but it really broke my heart to have to sit there and help him answer the questions in the book about the paragraph because less than 2 years ago, he was that little kid.  

The hour flew by way to fast and our visit was over.  

Throughout the week we had struggle with what to photo and what not to. We wanted to capture the plight of the homeless, but face to face with it we just didn’t have the ability to remove ourselves enough to photo them. We had decided that there was no way we were going to be able to photo the Yesus on the Streets  bags as we just felt like we couldn’t strip them of that small bit of dignity. Not to mention we still couldn’t get up with our contacts and had no idea how we were going to distribute the bags yet.  

For supper we ate at the hotel, which is a good place to eat for clean safe food, but not for good food. I tried the Gordon Bleu Filet Steak (it’s exactly how they presented it in the menu; and yes, it was a “Gordon” steak; I don’t know who Gordon is though) and I received the nastiest peace of meat I have ever tried to eat. Basically it was a deep fried chop steak breaded with some sort of batter mixed with blue cheese. Even the ketchup couldn’t hide the taste. Heather tried the oriental fried rice, I think she stomached 5 bites, and I think we really just hit the bottom of the barrel because our fruit salad that we ordered to split was really bad as well.  

The day was very long, and full of plenty of stuff that I am sure will slowly seep out over time, but we thoroughly enjoyed today, and it was very neat to be able to spend the day side by side with an Ethiopian who was showing us her life in her world.

 

Sunday – Day 2

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on January 16, 2007 by Avery

Sunday we decided to be very, very lazy and just slept in. After last night we just wanted to crash and sleep in. We couldn’t go to the kids until the afternoon and didn’t have anything to do until then.   We stayed in the room and ate the pineapple we bought the night before. Let me tell you that ever since the first time I ever went to Africa in 92 I have been spoiled by knowing what fresh, vine ripened fruit is supposed to taste like. In Kenya my bed was right next to the window, all I had to do was reach out the window and pick a kiwi for a snack. All I had to do was walk outside and shimmy up the tree to get a pineapple.  It takes a few months of being back in the states before you stop tasting the “green” in all of the fruit and can start to enjoy the American stuff again.  Well we headed to market to walk around a bit more and to see if we could find any of the stuff we were looking to buy while we were there. Pretty much we just aimlessly walked around the market trying to find “whatever” but it was Sunday and most of the shops were closed.  Eventually our hunger caught up with us so we headed to a safe restaurant and ordered some cokes and an order of tibs. Tibs are bite sized chunks of fried meat. Now mind you the meat they fry is the stuff they have hanging on meat hooks out on the side of the road. No, it’s not refrigerated, nothing really is around here, so deep frying the meat is an easy way to know the stuff is dead when you eat it. Tibs are served with a small platter of sauces to dip the meat in and a couple of rolls of injera. They then give you a lime to squeeze over the meat and there you go. A meal that Heather HATES. Yeah, that’s what I discovered once it was served and Heather took a few bites. Yeah, we bombed out on that meal. Mind you I like tibs, but if you aren’t a meat guy you may want to steer clear. 

We were unable to eat all of the food they brought us so we got it put in a bag and we took it out with us to give away. Now most of the time you don’t have to look far to find a beggar or a street person, but every time I have any food I can never seem to find anyone to give it to. Even when I was in Chicago I had the exact same problem, I don’t know what it is but this is a running theme in my life. We did see a small family on the side of the road, obviously not a street family, but we asked them if the would like the tibs and the laughed, and thanked us. They were very happy to have the food. It was time for our visitation and we headed over to see the kids. Today the kids were very excited to see us come and we were ecstatic to have this time with them. The kids wanted to play soccer with us today and we spent the majority of the day kicking the ball around, jumping rope, and watching the kids ride bikes.  I tried to really watch what reaction the kids were having with Heather and I tried my best to play into that reaction and to give her as much time with the kids as possible.  I tried to film a lot of what was going on and I took a lot of photos of the kids with Heather and filmed a lot of the playing. The little guys played the aiya djebo game and I got to watch Mihret run around the room pretending to bite all the other kids. Basically the game is where you pretend to be a hyena and you chase all the kids around tickling and play biting. It’s a total hoot to watch! Also the kids played a full body version of Cat’s Cradle. They play with their legs and it’s really impossible to explain how they play it but it’s very fun to watch them.  The guard dog at the orphanage had puppies a little while ago, the little guys were very cute.  Now the national meal in Ethiopia is Doro Wat, or chicken stew, so we kept asking all of the kids if they liked Wusha Wat. Most of the kids would make nasty faces at us and laugh hysterically, but not my daughter. Mihret kept up with us and was hysterically funny in pushing the issue with us.  She would even run up to the dog making silly eating noises. She knows how funny she is, she and Lucas are going to keep us so busy it’s not even funny! 

Too quickly it was time to leave. I can’t even explain the sorrow that hits your heart as your time comes to an end with your kids.  We decided we would walk up to the garbage city that I saw the families in before, as we had been unable to contact our contact in Ethiopia who was going to help us with the Yesus on the Streets. We were looking to find a way that we could do it on the streets by ourselves but we had no idea how we were going to pull this off if we couldn’t get through to our friend.   Well as we got to the corner of the block Heather found an old man and offered him some chocolate, as he was thanking Heather for the gift she replied back to him, “Ie, Yesus getano, amasagnallo Yesus” The man looked at Heather very oddly and Heather repeated herself, basically translated “No, Jesus is Lord, Thank Jesus” Well the man nodded his head and replied “Yesus getano, Yesus getano” or Jesus is Lord. As Heather left the man she asked me why I was laughing so hard, and I informed her she just got an old Muslim man to say Jesus is Lord. I was blown away.  Later we got to the point where the garbage city was and we discovered nothing. The settlement was gone and someone had gone in and cleared the landfill. There was just dirt and a small stream. I was prepared to see a settlement here, not a clean area. I didn’t know what to think, and wondered where the families went, and why. Well we headed back to the motel even more at a loss than ever for the Yesus on the Streets project.  For diner we decided to try a burger place next to the motel. That was a mistake! Heather ordered an “egg burger” and I ordered a “ham and beef burger.”  Well it was served on a bun that I really can’t explain, but it was HUGE and nasty. Heather’s burger was a normal burger with a fried egg on top of it. She gave me the meat as she couldn’t swallow it. I’m not exactly sure what I was eating but the food was so, so , so very bad, and the fries were only slightly better than the burgers. The ketchup on the other hand was indescribable.  All in all probably a better day than yesterday, although the food was terrible. Tomorrow would be interesting though as my friend would be coming over to take us to merkato.

As we waitied for midnight to arrive to usher in the new year I stood on the balcony pondering the last 15 years. You can read that post from a few days ago if you are interested. Over the hill we could see the fireworks from Ja Rule’s party at the Sheraton. We were now in 2007, ferenj time of course, Ethiopia is still in 1999 until September.

Happy Birthday Kid

Posted in family on January 15, 2007 by Avery

She is a half globe away, separated by tons of red tape, but it’s my daughters birthday today.

 We are so privileged to have this information, so few families do, in fact we didn’t until the day I met with their great grandmother. It is such a blessing to have this kind of information.

Happy Birthday kid. I love you, and wish you were here.

Saturday – Day 1

Posted in Adoption, ethiopia on January 15, 2007 by Avery

Saturday morning we awoke with a certain electric “buzz” as today was the day Heather would meet her kids for the first time.  

We gathered up the 2 luggage bags that were going to the orphanage and headed down stairs to grab some breakfast. As I had tried most of the breakfast food at the restaurant before I stayed safe and got myself the pancakes breakfast, and to Heather’s dismay she ordered the eggs. I don’t know what oil the hotel uses to grease their pans but whatever it is doesn’t quite agree with our American taste for food.  

We grabbed a taxi, as we didn’t want to carry the bags (they were heavy) and headed over to the orphanage. When we arrive we were told we would have to come back in the afternoon as there are now visiting hours. We left the bags at the orphanage and went down to use an internet café.  

After using the internet and walking around for a bit we retired back to the motel to crash in the room until we could return in the afternoon for the visiting hours. Surprisingly sleep came easy to me, although I don’t think Heather slept well at all for the entire trip.  

Later in the afternoon we decided to go walk around in the local open air market and hand out chocolates to all the kids and well honestly, just about anyone we saw. We had brought close to 15 pounds of candy for the orphanage, and close to 25 pounds of chocolate to hand out on the streets. Normally handing out the candy was fine, but we did have to leave the market on our tour when we attracted a bit more attention than we really wanted. We were nearly out of chocolate, but there we plenty of people that had heard of the crazy ferenj. Needless to say we were smart enough to know our “celebrity” status could turn on us quickly when we actually ran out.  

On the way to the orphanage we realized that we hadn’t eaten any lunch so we stopped by a fruit stand and grabbed a kilo of bananas (the smallest amount she would sell us) and we ate a few bananas as we meandered to the orphanage.  

When we arrived most of the kids were watching TV but the fostor mothers had Yosef and Mihret come out to the courtyard for this surreal moment in our families history. Yosef looked up at me with those deep eyes of his, with a small smile, and his “Dad” made the trip worth it. Both of the kids were shy, very shy with both of us. But they quickly warmed up to us.  

We just sat on a bench for a little while just talking, and enjoying each other, allowing the connections to grow organically and just cherishing this treasured “time”. The kids both wanted to give us tours of the orphanage and show us all of their rooms and all of their “possessions” Basically they really don’t own anything outside of what we have given them, they didn’t bring anything with them when they came into the home except the clothes on their back, and I’m pretty sure they burned those, at least I hope so from the photos I’ve seen from their intake interviews. They would pull out the photo albums and point to each picture, kissing their brothers and sisters, and pointing at their beds, and asking us for reassurance that it was real, and really theirs. 

I noticed Mihret had lost a bottom front tooth. I smiled and pointed at it and asked her if she threw it on the roof. Her eyes lit up and she beamed a huge smile at me and nodded her head at me. I told her what the American custom is with teeth, and she was a bit confused with that one, but I assured her that when she came to America she could still toss her teeth on the roof if that’s what she wanted to do (he my American kids want us to pay them for their teeth and then still toss them on the roof now that they know about the Ethiopian custom)  

We had gifts for all of the kids at the orphanage so we distributed them with the help of Yosef and the foster mothers. Most of the kids disappeared back to their rooms as they were tucking their treasures away and savoring these priceless gifts from their families. As the gifts were distributed and an office waste bin was filled to overflowing with candies for the foster mothers to distribute at their pleasure we were left alone with our beautiful kids once again and we were playing together in the courtyard. Soon all of the kids were outside playing with us, many of the kids that I got to spend so much time with last time came up to me to play the “Ambassa” game. All too soon our time had expired and it was time to leave.   

Now mind you we had two large luggage bags with us, and the hotel is only about a half mile down the road, but we were a bit leery of carrying these two bags with us down the street as the sun was setting and we had no idea what reaction we were going to get. We decided we would walk to the end of the street where the internet café is, if I remember correctly the rate is 1 birr for 8 minutes. Well we used the internet for bit longer than we anticipated, and it was quite dark when we left the building, and ALL of the taxis that normally hang out in that area had gone home as well! I guess like it or not we were carrying these bags back to the motel. I guess one of the fortunate things was that it was dark so not too many people saw that we were a two ferenj carrying the luggage down the street, and we only had to deal with those in our immediate location trying to get us to pay them to carry the bags for us. When in Ethiopia you will never have to carry anything if you don’t want to, but you will have to pay everyone who carries anything for you! 

Now one of the things we realized during the day was that we had forgotten our watch back in the US. So while back home we simply use our cell phones for the time (watches are becoming less and less popular and I really think it has to do with everyone having cell phones and not needing 2 clocks) here in Ethiopia we needed a way to tell the time when we were out and about. Now there is a large “supermarket” about a mile and half up the road, a very westernized store with security and labeled price tags, and we figured we would head up there to find a watch and grab some supper.  

We left our cameras and most of our money at the motel and decided to walk the short distance to see the small store fronts along the way. Also we figured the walk would do us some good to clear our heads.  

About a block from the hotel we were greeted in fluent English by an Ethiopian named Dawit. He said that he was one of the carpenters at the hotel and that he had seen us the day before when we checked in. Well the hotel has been super accommodating to me in the past, and the receptionist have helped me on several occasions with getting around town and finding what we needed. As we knew where we were going and had no need for any help we talked with him about Ethiopian life, his life and just general questions. The guy was a very nice guy and was very open to talking to us about Ethiopia and the culture and how it was slowly dying due to western influence.  

Well when we got to the supermarket and we told him that this was the end of our journey with him he told us that he knew about a neat cultural experience around the corner if we were interested. He said that there was a small school next to the home of the head of the Ministry of Water Affairs that was started by Haile Selassie to preserve the historic arts and dance and that tonight was the graduation night. He told us it was a very interesting program and it would be wrong to pass up on this once in a lifetime opportunity. I asked how much it was going to cost and he told me nothing, just come in and sit and have a cup of coffee and watch the dancing and poetry and stories. He seemed like a nice guy, and Heather was interested in going and trusted him (I’m a lot more easily duped into things than she is) so we followed him to the place. At first I was fine with where we were as we stayed on streets that Ethiopia has actually bothered to name, most of the streets don’t have names in Addis, and we were surrounded by the night life of Ethiopian businesses. But after walking for about 20 to 30 minutes I was starting to get concerned as the businesses were getting less and less. Dawit told us he needed to stop at a shop to call his sister who was waiting for him at church and that we could then go in. As he was talking to his sister I asked Heather if she still trusted him, and still wanted to go. She looked at me a little weird and said she still thought it was fine and yes, lets go.  

Well we came to a huge iron gate that was wide open, large enough for two cars to go through side by side and then immediately down a very steep incline there was a small building with loud Ethiopian music blaring from a small PA system. The house was illuminated by multiple strands of red Christmas lights and small blinking multicolor LEDs in the windows. Walking into a small dusky room we were greeted by a group of women in traditional attire. There was a small coffee area in the corner of the room and 3 couches surrounded a large round coffee table. Dawit sat next to me on one of the larger couches and one of the dancers sat next to Heather on her couch.  

I was stricken with the fact that in this room there was only one actually attractive Ethiopian woman, the others all reminded me of the women’s rugby sorority from my college days. These girls were really big, even for American standards they were chunky girls. I was also annoyed with just how loud the music was, you couldn’t hear anything, you had to holler just to speak to the person next to you. It wasn’t a very comfortable environment and I was already ready to leave.  

A waiter came out and asked what we wanted to drink and I told him a macchiato. He told me the hot drink machine was busted and I would need to order a cold drink. So I told him Heather and I would have a coke. Well he brought out a bottle of beer for Dawit, and 2 Cokes for me and Heather. Well I stopped him from opening the second bottle and Heather and I split the one coke between the two of us.  

A strange thing kept happening and Dawit kept standing up to go somewhere and leaving us in the room. Every time he would leave another one of the girls would sit next to me to explain a little more about the program and how it worked. Well the instructor came up to me to ask me if I would buy a round of drinks for the girls as they didn’t get paid for what they were doing and dancing this long would be a very thirsty thing to do. Well Heather was actually get dance instructions from the girls and she was enjoying herself immensely so I asked her how much it was going to cost me. She told me I just order the drink and then I will get the bill later. I wasn’t going to play that game so I told the waiter I wanted to know the price before I placed the order. He told me 70 birr, a little less than $10. I asked several times to make sure that was the total cost for everyone, and he continued to tell me yes, 70 birr for everyone. So I agreed.  

About this time Dawit came back into the room and was holding a cell phone. Odd that we had to stop earlier to pay a shop for him to use a phone. Well they had started to brew a pot of coffee for us in the corner and my spidey senses were going nuts. I was sitting next to the window so I reached over and pulled the drapes open a bit to look outside and was shocked by what I saw. The first thing that caught my attention was that the gate was closed. The second thing was the two men standing outside the door to my building. I could only see the back of the one man, but the other guy was holding an AK 47 in the ready position. Needless to say I was a bit on edge at this point. Heather had sat down now and was still having fun so I just told her to drink her coffee and then we are leaving.  

I don’t know how you live in Ethiopia and don’t know how to brew coffee but this stuff tasted worse than the bitter stale stuff they serve in church foyers here in the States. Needless to say we didn’t bother to drink the coffee, I just said we needed to leave and that I wanted my bill. Honestly I was expecting it to be between 200 and 400 birr (under $50) but when he handed me a bill for 890 birr I about had a stroke.  

Now there are about 15 women in this room, the waiter is a rather buff and tall man, African but not Ethiopian, my guess was Kenyan, Dawit is a skinny Ethiopian kid a little taller than me, but what really concerns me at this point is the two guys outside the door, especially the guy that I knew was holding the gun. Looking out through a small break in the drapes I noticed that one of the men had disappeared but the guy with the gun was still there. In all honesty the thought of the one guy sitting in a crows nest waiting for us to walk out the door made me even more uneasy than I was before.  

Basically the bill was inflated by charging me 70 birr for every single person in the room. It was nuts! I honestly didn’t even have that much on me, but the money wasn’t my concern, getting out was. I tried to pay half, but they wouldn’t take it and the waiter began to push me as Heather was trying to get Dawit to reason with them for me. I had already figured Dawit was in on the scam, and was using every fiber of my being to not put a fist into his face at the moment and had no way to tell Heather to stop. I pulled out what I had from my wallet, 600 birr ($75) and told them I was giving them what I had, there was no more, and if they wanted anything else they needed to take it out of Dawit’s backside as he was the fool who brought the poor ferenj into this evil bunna beat. I then took the money, and threw it at the waiter, making sure to scatter it over the ground and grabbed Heather and ran out the door. We ran all the way to the gate and found ourselves locked in! 

We have a gun pointed at our back and I can see inside the building as they are still reaching under the couch trying to figure how much they scammed off us and I want out before they figure it out. Looking at the gate I could see where the center post was welded in, and there was a bad weld at the top of the gate that was supposed to keep the bar in place when locked. It took everything I had but I managed to snap the weld and push the bar up just enough that I was able to kick open the gate and we ran out into the street and continued running for the next several blocks.  

Well we still had 100 birr in my front pocket, and we still needed a watch so we stopped at a vendor that we could see the watches hanging in the front window.  Heather talked to him in Amharic and they discussed a price that was fine with me but then Heather asked if it worked and he said no so we left. It was a block later that Heather realized that she had only spoken Amharic to this man up to the point that she asked if it worked, and in Amharic she just asked if it was gold. It was stainless silver, and he answer truthfully, but there was no way I was turning around at this point, my feet were headed to the motel and they weren’t turning around.  

About half way home another man stopped us and tried to get us to go to his program about the “evils of Ethiopia and the beauty of Oromo” OK, I get it, we are western, thus we equal money, but to try to lure us in with a spiel about how evil the location we are at is???? I wasn’t ready for that particular speech, no not at all.  

I stopped at a fruit stand to buy a pineapple in case the restaurant was closed at the hotel, mind you we have no idea what time it is, and we finally made it home to the hotel. Luckily the restaurant was still open, but neither of us were very hungry. We ordered the fasting food platter, full of different wats, all vegetables, and we picked at it as we tried to settle down and get over the fact that we just spent $75 on a coke! 

It’s probably needless to say, but no Dawit worked at the hotel. The hotel was very sad that we had been scammed, but apparently as one of the few places westerners are known to frequent they have picked up quite a few of these people.  

Yeah, what a way to start the trip.