I thought I would be able to blog in Ethiopia, but there was one computer for the entire guest house and every time I tried to get on someone else was there or the power was out. We got home on Sat.noon and today is the first day that I am not napping when she is napping and able to get online. Jetlag and those flights were killer-- 18 hours from Addis to DC, a 4 hour layover in DC, then a 4 hour flight to Denver. All were long and difficult with a toddler that is not quite sure about this world she is finding herself in.
I will try to log back on and tell chunks of the amazing journey we experienced...
The flight there was just as rough-- almost worse in some ways because of the nerves and anxiety. Being purely uncomfortable and wanting to sleep so I won't be tired when I get there, and not being able to. We arrived in Addis in the morning-- our flight was 2 hours late due to a mechanical problem in DC. Once off the plane we had to stand in a line for almost an hour to get our Visa into Ethiopia. It cost $20 per person. Once we finally had that then we had to go through Immigration and get our passports stamped. Then we changed money quickly at the "bank" in the airport. They were very rude. We were told we'd get a better exchange rate with $100 bills and to get "old" bills-- older than 2001. However they had a machine that ran the bill through it and 4 of the $100 did not "pass" the machine. They kept saying NO GOOD and throwing them back at me. It was odd. Very rude people at the bank. While I was doing this, Dad was getting our luggage off baggage claim. We had 5 suitcases, all weighing 50 pounds a piece. Dad isn't supposed to lift more than 40 pounds so I was trying to do it all. Not possible. So a official looking man approached dad and helped him get the bags. He asked for the baggage tickets, so Dad thought he was with the airline. He wasn't. He loaded them up on the cart and then demanded money. I had just gotten the money, hadn't even looked at it. Didn't realize the exchange rate and he is asking for 100 Birr. And I take a 10 out and he says, too small. and then says, give me 200 birr. So stupidly I do (that's about $18). And then he wisks us over toward the exit where they have to scan the bags to get them OUT of the airport. So now we have to load the 5 suitcases and our backpacks/purse onto the scan machine. I'm stressing because we are now 3 hours later than I thought and I don't see my "name" on a sign anywhere. The Guest House was supposed to pick us up. I have no address for where we are going if they don't meet us. So now the luggage goes through and this official airport man with a clipboard yells at me and they take my purse. And the man says, you have TWO cameras in here? And then says to my dad, do YOU have a camera too? Show me. So I show him my 2 digital cameras. He says, are you a professional? I say no. he says WHY do you have TWO camera. I said, I'm adopting a child and this camera is old and I wanted to make sure I got the photos. And he says, only ONE camera is allowed per person. You must pay a tax. He is very rude this entire time. And then finally waves me off. Then we notice one of my suitcases has been pulled aside-- it is one full of donations for the orphanage. The same rude man with the clipboad says, what is this? What is in here? I say, Donations for the orphange. And he makes me open it. A lot of the clothing inside the suitcase are in those vaccum packs to make sure I could zip the case. He makes me open it. It explodes clothing all over. And he leans into it and then waves me off. It was very stressful. Finally the man we paid 200 Birr to takes us outside and there we find my man with the sign. He was VERY polite and happy to see us. I relaxed then. All the people at the guest house were WONDERFUL. But the airport was stressful.
We then load into an old van and drive for about 30 minutes through Addis. From one paved road you see all the dirt roads intersecting. You see extreme wealth right next to extreme poverty. I am moved close to tears imagining the life Tihun COULD have if she stayed in this city. I see two women crawling through the streets-- the leg was limp from the knee down. I wonder how different her life would be with a wheelchair. But realize there are no sidewalks, no paved roads most places. She couldn't get around in a wheelchair in this city. We drive past herds of cattle walking, then herds of goats. Chickens tied together sitting on the side of the road for sale. Donkeys hauling straw and grass. Stray dogs running through the streets. People walking. Men peeing in the ditch at the side of the road. One man weaving baskets and selling them.
We finally bump down a dirt road full of holes and rocks. All the homes have giant gates you can't see over from the car. We stop and we are "here." This wall has barbed wire spun at the top-- some serious security. We walk through the gate and into the guest house. There we are met by a pleasant girl who shows us our room. She gives us our "two liters" of water we get a day. The room is a simple room. One queen size bed, a pack-n-play in the corner, a small bedside table with a locking door, a small table, and a wardrobe. They bring our 5 suitcases up the 3 flights of stairs. The bathroom we "share" with another family is nice and clean. We have about 20 minutes before lunch and then we will go to the care center to pick up Tihun. I jump in the shower and take the fastest shower of my life. I am very aware of not opening my mouth and letting the water in-- I am uber paranoid about getting sick from the water as the bacterial dysentery expereince from Greece was all I EVER need in my life. We come downstairs and they have fixed spagetti for lunch. The meat sauce tastes like "wat" -- the Ethiopian stew. Very spicy. We shovel it in and then get ready to go. We meet on the stairs a woman holding a very calm little girl-- both look completely overwhelmed. We learn that the woman is from Grand Junction, CO and she just returned from the care center-- just having met each other. Later this couple become our closest friends in the guest home and we shop together and hang out. And her quiet daughter turns out to be the life of the party and the cutest thing in the world. We make plans for our daughters to keep in touch as they grow up.
Suddenly the van is there. I have told my dad I'd like him to video tape our meeting. I've been watching for months these "Gotcha Day" videos of other families meeting their forever children. I have plans to make my own. We ride to the other guest house-- only a few blocks away-- and pick up another couple from Michigan. We are all chatting in a nervous manner as we drive to the care center, about 10 minutes away. They are picking up a baby girl, about 6 months old. We finally arrive and unload the van. They knock loudly on the tin door. A woman opens the door. Dad is behind me and can't hear what is being said. We walk through the door and they say, there's Tihun and point to the woman who opened the door. There on her hip is my girl. My dad has no idea what is happening. The nanny then kind of shakes Tihun and says, Tihun Tihun Tihun. This makes Tihun unhappy. Then she says Mommy Mommy Mommy!! And points at me, which makes Tihun cry. Then the nanny hands her to me and Tihun launches into a full out tantrum. She is pushing off my stomach with her feet. Then collapsing. Then launching back with her head. It is not the beautiful calm transistion of my dreams. My dad finally figures it out and starts taping the screaming child. Then about 10 minutes later says, I don't think I pushed record. I'm trying everything in my limited bag of tricks to distract and calm and it just isn't working. I hand her to dad and she does the same thing. Finally the head nanny comes outside-- we have been in the driveway this entire time. And she says, I didn't know you were still out here. And takes Tihun who immediately stops crying. Clutching the nanny. We then go into the care center's main room and sit together. I try to let Tihun look at me and touch my cheek. I sit close and talk soft. The nanny is holding her and kissing her. She finally says that we will need to let her get into a deep sleep and then she'll pass her to me. I try to ask questions-- what is she eating? Regular food. Cow's milk. What is her routine? Naps? One nap in the afternoon, bed at 8, just lay her down and she will be out. That's about all the info I get. To date, she has refuse ALL milk and formula. Usually falls asleep about 10AM and 3PM. And has never laid down at 8 and fallen asleep. But, life has drastically changed for her, so I guess so would everything else.
She finally falls asleep and I hold her. We wait for our ride to take us home. It takes 30 minutes. She wakes up. I fear. I stand up and walk away from everyone else and sing her 3 songs. She stares at me. She is calm. I return to where the others are. The nannies are all inside. Our van arrives, and the nanny comes out. Tihun immediately arches and looks for her. I distract her and run to the van-- it has started to sprinkle so I sing a song about rain. I climb into the van and she is silent. She is against my chest and stays there....