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
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
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.