Saturday, The New Chapter Begins.
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.