Archive for April, 2007

A video Heather made of our adoption story

Posted in adopt, Adoption, ethiopia, ethiopian adoption, family on April 6, 2007 by Avery

 How do you tell the whole story in 1 song? You can’t really, but this gives the readers digest version of the journey. Heather put a lot of work into making the video, hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, The New Chapter Begins.

Posted in adopt, Adoption, ethiopia, ethiopian adoption, family on April 5, 2007 by Avery

Saturday was the shortest day of the trip. Mainly because the fact that my kids didn’t sleep on the plane manifest itself in a 14 hour sleepathon for both of them. We put them in bed at 10PM and they didn’t wake up until noon the next day. Actually they didn’t wake up then, we woke them up.  Me on the other hand, well I got to hear the morning call to prayer at the mosque, yea mosque, you strike again. Then I watched the sunrise, then I woke up in absolute pain and hunted all over the house for Advil for about 30 minutes, finally finding it buried in the bottom of a suitcase I searched 3 times prior, then mostly laid in bed waiting for the family to rise. A million thoughts racing through my head, knowing that today was it, today our family became the manifest reality of the so longed for dream.  

We had hot water so I took a nice long refreshing shower, and made breakfast/lunch. Cherry tomatoes, coffee cake, and papaya. Then we all dressed and got ready to tackle the day. We walked down to the local taxi area and bought some bananas to eat along the way. We also passed several men urinating along the way, but the kids didn’t seem to notice.  We have been told there is a 5 birr fine for public urination, but I have yet to see anyone get fined, I have yet to see anyone care either. Kaitlyn was oblivious to most of the women that petted her ponytail, but she was very disconcerted whenever someone would try to initiate conversation with her. We got to the orphanage area right before 3 so I took Lucas to try to go to the bank and Heather took Kaitlyn to try to check our e-mail. We both struck out. The bank was closed and the internet was down. So we went to the orphanage. When we knocked on the door I could hear Yosef yell “dad” and when we came in we were greeted by very happy children.  The kids made very official introductions to each other, Hi, my name is Lucas, shake hands, Hi, my name is Yosef, shake hands, very cute stuff indeed.  Yosef and Mihret both wanted their dad and mom time for the first 5 minutes, then it was time to step back and let the kids get acquainted on their own turf.  Within 5 minutes there was a soccer game going strong as Lucas was trying to be like his big brother, and doing a very amusing job of imitation. Mind you I can’t bribe Lucas to play soccer with me or the neighborhood boys, but he wants to be just like Yosef, so he jumped right into it.  

 After a few minutes Yosef came to me and asked me to come into his room. I followed him into his room and he pulled out his backpack that I had given him, stuffed to the gills with all of his worldly passions. One by one he pulled out the gifts and letters and photos we had sent him, and for each individual item he asked me if it was OK to take them to America. I have no idea when he packed his bag, but he was ready to go and chomping at the bit to leave. One of the last items he pulled out was a letter we sent with a family that had come in the week prior to us, he pointed to the letter and  double checked with me that we were really going to go to the Lion Zoo later this week.  I confirmed it to him and he was overjoyed, and then asked if we could leave now. He was ready to leave this place, this way to small concrete slab in one of the poorest sections of Addis. I told him we would leave near 6, the end of visitation hours, as we wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to socialize with their friends as this would be the last time they really would have to sit back and enjoy their friends. We would be returning here, but the returns would be to say good bye.  Now the Ethiopian director came to us to ask if we had received the e-mail from our agency, and we informed her we over nighted the check to the US office.  She told us she would have to check her e-mail before the kids were allowed to leave the foster home. Of course the US office hadn’t sent anything telling them that the check ha arrived, but I guess wisdom prevailed in Ethiopia on that day as she looked at us and said “I believe you, take the kids, have  fun.” Had someone tried to tell me that the children that I had full legal custody over were going to be attempted to be detained from being with our family, well I am glad things went the way they did.  

When we left we wanted to make sure they kids had a good experience as their first family experience. Not just Yosef and Mihret, but Kaitlyn and Lucas needed to get this started off on the right foot. With this in mind we walked down the road to a great little Italian place called the “Get Rende Vous Restaurant”, I’m not sure what they were trying to spell, but that is it’s name.  We ordered a soda for everyone, and then 2 pizzas. They aren’t American, not really Italian, but they were really good and the kids loved their food. As we sat on this 3rd story balcony eating our food I started noticing that we were getting our photo taken a lot. People were walking up to us and snapping our photos with their camera phones. (yes they have camera phones in Ethiopia too) It was a little odd to be this kind of focused attention, but what was unnerving me was the individual hat moved to 3 different tables as we were eating, always alone, always facing us, and watching us non stop, taking several photos with his phone.  He seemed to be very upset, as in angry, and I made sure Heather saw him to commit his face to memory. My only thought about him was I wondered if he had been paid to follow us around. Luckily I knew that once we left this restaurant we were going to lose him in the hustle of the taxi ride home. In an attempt to prolong the meal, hoping he would leave first, and to make sure the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, we ordered a round of ice cream.  Think frozen sweet butter and you have what we ate. The kids enjoyed it, which was the point.  As we paid our bill and left I could see the man that had been watching us get visibly agitated that the waiter wasn’t bringing him his bill quick enough, and flustered that we were walking away. Of course he would have done better to remain calm as we had to heard 4 kids down 3 flights of stairs. 2 of whom had never seen a real stairway before in their lives. To them this was a roller coaster that demanded to be played on. Especially Mihret who wanted to hop and jump on every single step.  

Our stalker did catch up with us, on the stairs, but you can’t really validate following a family trying to reign in a herd of cats, I mean kids so he was forced to continue on without us. Eventually we did make it down the stair and outside, and I saw our friend across the street on the corner, but we needed to dart into the supermarket to pick up some food first.  That was a bad idea. A bad, bad idea. Kids that have had a diet of carbs and water for the last two years, suddenly surrounded by food and candy. And two kids that didn’t see anything familiar and things that were kind of familiar but wrong, like the Nestlé Honey Nut Cheerios (I guess General Mills doesn’t fair well overseas)  I don’t know what we were thinking walking in there, but eventually I parked with all 4 kids in the back of the building and let Heather grab what we needed. Of course it would have been great had we managed to find a bank but we were still using the birr from our last trip, which was quickly dwindling down.  

Luckily we had enough birr for the food and enough to get a Taxi to guest house. Our friend seemed to be gone when we came out of the supermarket, but to be safe we crossed this 4 to 6 lane road (depending on how many taxis were there at the time) to hop in a taxi across the street (as they were facing the right direction and wouldn’t have to turn around as I would guess our friend would being as the last I saw him was on the other side of the street)  People complain that their vans are too small here in the States, well the 1980 Toyota Corona that all 6 us plus the taxi driver road in with all of the groceries on my lap, well it was a bit cramped, a bit more than any van I have ever been in.  I was unable to explain to our driver where our house was so I had him drop us off at the tourlahouch taxi station and we walked to the home. Bad idea.  Although this was only a couple of blocks, it was 9PM there are no street lights for about 2 blocks of the walk, and the night crowd is VERY different than the day crowd.  As you can see we are very thankful for all of your prayers, as they were definitely needed on this trip.  

When we finally arrive at the home the kids went nuts, they were very ecstatic with the home. And ran around for a long time just looking around and looking at their clothes and well, just being kids. It was great to be under a roof, not mine yet, but a roof none the less as a family, as a complete family.  We wanted to bath the kids before they went to bed, but the water was turned off, the pump to the reservoir wasn’t working and with no pressure to push it out of the hot water tanks there was no hot water. We could get cold, but nothing hot. So in a moment of genius I put a bunch of pots on the stove and began to boil water and put some cold water in the tub then carried the boiled water to the tub for the kids baths.  The kids loved it. At the agency’s home the kids bathed outside using a pitcher and a metal tub of water, I think there was a shower as well that the kids could use, but I only ever saw the kids using the outside tub when I was there.  This was very probably the first warm bath they have ever had in their life.  This was also the point that we discovered just how ticklish Mihret is. You can’t bath this girl without her screaming in laughter every time you touch her.  

In order to get the water for the baths the guard had to pull up a garden hose from some unknown location and we filled the basins and pitchers and pots and pans with water to carry them inside. As I was standing there with the guard filling these containers up we had a long talk. He was raised Muslim, his family is very devout, and about 6 years ago he converted to Christianity. He converted when his best friend started reading the Bible with him, and he fell in love with Jesus. Well in response to his conversion he was banished from his family and then his extended family went into his friends house and cut off all of their heads. They executed his best friends family because of his conversion. He lived in the church for the next 5 years, working for the church, his only payment, one meal a day and a semi dry place to sleep.  During that 5 years he attempted to go to University, but the school itself ran out of money and they need to buy working computers in order for him to finish his computer technology degree. Read that again, he didn’t run out of money to go to school, the University itself ran out of money to provide the needed tools to continue his education.  After 5 years of living inside of the church he found this job working as the night guard of this house. He told me with tears in his eyes that he was so sad of the current state of Ethiopia, that a young man like himself can’t find a way to get the education needed to get a job, so he is forced to live as a night guard in a small room many of the homeless of America would refuse to sleep in. Every day he prays that the missionaries that have promised to bring in supplies to aid in the development of Ethiopia will manage to follow through with their promises and bring a fraction of the wealth of the western world to Ethiopia.  He praised God for providing what he has, but was heart broken that the political structure of Ethiopia continues to abuse it’s own people, and continues to propagate the shackles of extreme poverty on it’s own children.  His dream would be to get a Visa to the US to continue his education here, but the Visa program is more chance than the American lotto, and with fewer winners. As our conversation concluded my heart was breaking for this young man, this man with dreams of success, dreams of raising a family, dreams of having a decent job,  in a country that has made that dream very distant. The rest of the evening was very solemn for me indeed.  As the evening finally came to a close and we tucked the kids into their beds, Yosef asked me to lie with him as he fell asleep. As I lay in the bed Yosef wrapped his malnourished arms around my neck tighter than any boa , and had a smile on his face bigger than the Batman’s Joker. Within 5 minutes the kid was dead to the world.  

All 4 kids asleep in their beds, our family was complete.  Today was the first page in a new chapter in our lives.  

I had a dream, a dream that one day little black boys and little black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls around the supper table as brothers and sisters. I had that dream.  Today I lived it.

The Final Journey

Posted in adopt, Adoption, ethiopia, ethiopian adoption, family on April 3, 2007 by Avery

Our journey to Ethiopia started on a Thursday just like any other, well except for the fact that we would be heading to
Ethiopia today. Of course we had the last minute errands, we had to deliver some stuff to the church, we had to pack the last minute items, we even had to make a run to WalMart.
 

Now mind you my body decided today would be the day to be sick as a dog too. I’ll spare you the details, but I wasn’t too happy that today was the day my body decided to go on strike against me.  

As we left WalMart an old man came up to us and asked if our van (the Smurf killer) ran on 10W30 oil, although we have no idea what is in it right now, we know it will work just fine, and he proceeded to give us 3 quarts of oil. We mad a very quick and intense prayer that this was NOT a warning sign, that god wasn’t trying to prepare us for our trip. And off we went. A swing through the Chic-Fil-A drive through and we were gone from home. Little did we know this would be our last decent meal until we would be in
Ethiopia.
 

One of the things we have discovered about our van is that the air vents don’t work. The don’t blow anything, not hot, not cold, not lukewarm, needless to say driving on a muggy day through rain, that the only way to cool the van is to roll down the windows, well it’s an adventure.  

We had to make a pit stop along the way at a really good friend of mine, the best pastor in DC (check them out at www.thetapestry.org) to pick up the shoes for the kids as they had to be routed to a location that we would intercept on the way to Dulles. Our shoes arrived just 1 hour before we did, and we were so happy that God provided, just a little thing, but Heather really wanted those shoes for the kids in
Ethiopia.
 

Well as we were sitting there catching up Heather decided to check her e-mail and we discovered a letter from our agency telling us we needed to pay $3,445 if we wanted to take our kids with us. Mind you we don’t really have any communication with our agency as they kicked us off their internet group when we came to
Ethiopia in December. Being as this was the main form of communication for this has made it difficult to know what was going on with our adoption. But God in all His sovereignty knew of this before us, and we happened to have it in the checking account, and although we didn’t have our checkbook with us, seriously do you take your checkbook to
Africa with you? We tried to find a place that would let us get a money order with our debit card, but everyone would only take cash, and the ATM won’t spit out that kind of money, fun times you know. We did manage to find one check and got our friend to overnight it with a tracking number and signed delivery.  Of course we asked for there to be an itemized invoice at our home when we returned as we would like to know exactly what we just paid for.
 

Of course this knocked us quite a bit behind schedule. It was now 6:30PM, we were 30 minutes from Dulles, and our itinerary stated we where to take off at 9:30PM.  We managed to beat DC traffic and make it to the airport in 30 minutes, and we paid one of the air cab guys to carry the bags in for us, with Heather and the kids while I went to park the car in long term parking. Well as I went to take the off ramp to the parking area a guy came flying up on my right side blaring on the horn, I slammed on the brake and heard screeching tires behind me so I hit the gas pulling over to the left, missing the off ramp, running over some orange cones and winding up in a construction zone dodging anything that looked like it would hurt the van. I saw some more orange cones letting me back onto a road, and took it, it just happened to be the wrong road, and there was no exit or turn around for at least 10 or 15 minutes.  Well I call Heather at this point to tell her what is going on and she informs me our itinerary is wrong, that we are leaving at 8:45.  I finally managed to find a place to turn around, and got to the parking area and discovered that these funky shoes Heather bought can run. How did I discover this, well as it was dropping under 40 and my coat was with Heather, and the bus was leaving the parking area I managed to run him down, (by the way this is when I discovered it’s easier to run in crocs than in birks, yes I have moved over to the synthetic side, I have tye dye crocs now) now they run ever 15 minutes or so through there, but it’s already after 8 and I only have 45 minutes to get checked in and to the terminal.  

So I get there, and they had begun to process our tickets, to try to speed things up, yes we were the only people there and yes they knew we had to hurry. So when I threw my first bag on the scale my jaw dropped as they told me they had made a policy change dropping the bags from 70 pounds to 50 effective March 1st. We had 8 bags all of which we just under 70 pounds.  We either had to lighten the load or pay $50 per bag. We decided to lighten the load as we just didn’t have that cash on us. So we had to readjust all of the bags, moving stuff around, and throwing away all of the math text books that had been donated to one of the schools we try to support.  Well the guy who was giving us the hard time had to leave to go to the terminal and the other ladies who were quite upset that he had done this to us decided to tell us to grab all the books we just put in the trash and they opened all our bags and put the textbooks back in them.  Mind you at this point is after 8:30 and the plane leaves in 15 minutes. 

We were very grateful for their willingness to let it through, but it was frazzling to see the time continue to slip away.  

In the repacking of the bags somehow my monopod got forgotten and when I realized it I just threw it in the carryon bag and took off. Well security didn’t like that too much, I knew exactly what they were making the face at the second I saw them, and I tried to tell them what it was, but they had never heard of a mono pod before. My guard decided he couldn’t make the call himself, and called his supervisor, I knew I was in trouble then, in fact they stood there arguing amongst themselves for a good 5 minutes on whether I was allowed to have it or not. The deciding factor for them was does he have a “high end camera”? Luckily my security guard doesn’t know anything about cameras because his reply was, Yeah, 2. My cameras aren’t low end cameras, but they aren’t high end either, they were bought on my budget. So as we had waited there for 5 minutes the guard finally came back to me handed me the bag and said have a nice day. 

We ran through Dulles to the transfer shuttle to try to get to the terminal as they would be boarding by now and we realized we didn’t have any water for the kids to swallow their Dramamine. Heather darted into one of the small places in the airport that sell those kinds of things, and I took the kids and kept running up the hall to the terminal. We got there as they were calling the second round of boarders to get on the plane. Finally we could breath a sigh of relief, that was until Lucas reminded us we didn’t eat supper. Sorry kid, your next meal is going to be airplane food. Sorry Heather, no more edible food for you for a while.  

Well we got on the plane, a plane with more white passengers this time than Ethiopian. A large group from another agency was traveling together, several other families traveling to get their kids, a group from World Hunger, and a group from World Vision. I’m sure there were more stories, but this was all I had a chance to talk to. It’s funny but I was recently “friended” on myspace by a worship leader, and I just discovered we were on the same plane over, in fact we spoke to his mission team on the plane and in the airport (just small talk). It’s a small world.  

For the trip we had the window seats on the edge in two rows. So I sat next to Kaitlyn and Heather sat with Lucas. In front of us was a mother and her 3 year old son, who would deem himself my kids best friends by the end of the trip. This was a blessing, as the kids had somebody to play with, but also a curse, as the kid had no boundaries by his mother.  

The kids managed to fall asleep rather quickly once we took off, Heather was zonked out fairly quickly as well, but I absolutely couldn’t find any sleep and the Dramamine was under Heather’s feet and I wasn’t about to wake her up to get it. So I resided myself to watching the movies on the flight, hoping the movies would be different on the way home (they are supposed to be) After watching “The Illusionist”, “A Good Year” and the “shorts” (Malcolm in the Middle, King of Queens, and a bunch of Discovery channel 30 minute travel shows) Heather woke up, so I was able to grab some sleep aid (of course this also put us in Rome and the kids decided it was time to wake up shortly after that.  

Kaitlyn, Lucas, and the tiny terror decided to claim my seat, and decided to play games like who can jump the highest, punch the hardest, etc. What was even more wild than the tiny terror was we were getting these occasional kids that would just show up sitting in the seats with our kids, after about 15 minutes their parents would show up looking for them, worrying about where they had disappeared to. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. These kids would just show up and decide to sit with us for a while, some of them would just wonder off on their own, some would stick around until mom came to retrieve them. We should have started charging a babysitting fee.  

The flight was too long, way too long, but eventually we landed and made our way to customs. As we get our visas when we arrive ($20 cash) we headed to the visa section, and so did tiny terror. We plopped all 3 kids down in the corner of the visa office and let them play as we played the paperwork game getting the needed stamps. Well the my kids said their goodbyes and were happy to be on their way, but the tiny terror had a melt down when we had to leave, he was in his words, losing his “best friends” Kids are funny things. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper trip if at least one of my bags wasn’t searched by US customs, so of course the bag with most of the text books came through wrapped in homeland security tape.  Now mind you we packed very organized, but then we had to repack to loose weight, then repack again to fit the books back in, so we had no idea what was where, we had a large cardboard box, 4 huge glad ware storage containers, 3 huge suitcases, and everyone had a carry on bag, and the camera bag, and 2 exhausted kids, and they don’t have guys to hire in the baggage claim to help you with your bags. All this had to fit on 2 luggage carts, where I can push the big one, and the kids and Heather can do the other.  

Somehow in all of this, the tiny terror found the kids again, and they plopped down to play with each other as we got all of the bags from the carousel. When we had to leave the kid threw himself down on the ground and started screaming. I think he would have been content to leave his mother if it meant he could play with Lucas for the rest of his trip.  

I played it smart this time going through the gate, although we had a brief problem finding the claim tickets again, and the guy running the x-ray machine told me he wanted some of the clothes I had brought in, as they couldn’t all be for me. I tried telling him they were my clothes, but the supplies were for orphanages, but he continued to tell me he wanted something from my bags, until his supervisor told him to stop. It may be common practice, but it’s not legal and if you hold your ground they typically leave you alone after a while. Of course I knew this interaction with the x-ray guy was going to flag me for the bag search guys, at least it has in the past, but I waited until all the employees where busy harassing someone else them did an arcing walk right around everybody and out the door. I could see out of the corner of my eye one of the guys was waiving for me to stop, but feigning dumb is always a good thing, a kept on going, he just shook his head and let us go.  

Well we were trying to meet 2 different parties here. One was taking a bunch of supplies for a missionary friend of ours, and some stuff an Ethiopian mother from the states was sending to her kids in Ethiopia. The other was a Canadian missionary picking us up to take us to the guest house she managed to find for us as we had lost our stay at the Hilton.  

Kaitlyn decided now would be a good time to be sick, and starving to death as well. So we sat at the café in the lobby and ordered the kids a sprite each and a bowl of popcorn to share. As they were munching away we had to repack the bags again as they had to be separated into the different directions they were going from the airport. We used the cardboard box for our missionary friend, all of his stuff went in there. The mom’s stuff went into garbage bags we had brought for this reason, and everything else was shuffled around into the suitcases.  Of course we couldn’t find the one party we were there to meet (she was in the wrong section of the airport) and the Canadian escort was stuck outside the building, as she couldn’t get in.  A group from World Hunger had seen the woman from Ethiopia we were supposed to meet, but  she had disappeared, eventually I had the genius idea to get the Canadian to call the Ethiopian on their cells.  I’m a genius, we got everything where it was supposed to go. Stepping out into the Ethiopian air, there is a sense of “home” and a reminder of “alien” all at the same time.  Of course now we are swarmed with people trying to help us (for money of course) and I keep telling them to go away, but they choose to wrestle the bags out of your hands and put them in the same place you were going to put it. Of course then you have to pay them for this “help” that you didn’t want to start with, but eventually we were in the car and on our way. 

The guest house was awesome, it is near Tor Hi Loch, and they have a blog they are blocked from over here:  

3 beds in a boys room, 3 beds in a girls room, and a master bedroom with it’s own bathroom. A living room, a kitchen, a dining room and a small garden, it was a great place to start being  a family.  It was a great place, and they were so nice and had left us a bunch of snacks and some fruit in the kitchen, it became both diner and breakfast as we were totally disoriented and had no idea where we were.  

The only cruncher to it, we could only book it till Wednesday morning, as there was another family coming in Wednesday night. One crisis at a time. We will deal with the residence issue later. 

For now, the priority is tomorrow, when we have visiting hours from 3 to 6 (you are allowed 3 hours on weekends in the agency’s home, 1 hour on weekdays) And we need to get over the “I’m leaving my home for the last 2 years and going with these strangers I now call family” hump in that 3 hours.  

The journey is finally coming to a close. Tomorrow our family is united forever.  

Today actually becomes the official end of the book of the “Death of the Cleaver Family” Tomorrow the dream of the multiethnic family goes from future tense to present.  

It was hard to fall asleep, but I was so happy to be at this point.