Friday, June 26, 2009

Awassa - June 6-7

We learned that Shalom Children's Home in Awassa, where Dawit lived for 4 months, was celebrating its one-year anniversary today, and they would wait for us to arrive so we could celebrate with them. What amazing timing! Spence and I set off with Bethany staff Sisay and Kate, and our driver Asserat.

Once outside of Addis, the scenery changed dramatically. Roads clogged with fume-laden vehicles gave way to open plains, small towns and donkey-drawn wagons. Kids herded goats alongside the road. Cows that seemed to belong to no one wandered around willy-nilly. Close-set compounds were replaced by mud huts with grass roofs. The countryside was gorgeous. In some ways we were simply leaving the city for the country, but it felt like we were entering a different country.

We were all pretty astounded by the livestock running around loose, crossing roads in front of cars, causing traffic to come to a standstill. I'm not sure how ownership works, but I felt sure that every cow, goat or donkey belonged to someone, that there was some unwritten code of that's yours, this is mine. To people who have so little, each animal must have great value.

 

About 2 hours into the drive, we stopped at a hotel in Shashemane to use the bathroom and have a macchiato in the courtyard. This was the first of several stops that made our journey to Awassa so memorable. The five of us sitting there drinking incredibly sweet, wonderfully rich, caffeine-laden coffee was just the thing I needed to relax and soak up the slow-paced culture.

 

We headed out again, then stopped for lunch at Sabana Resort/Restaurant alongside Lake Langano. As the dry landscape turned strikingly mountainous, this dramatic lake seemed like a mirage in the desert. The restaurant was perched on a cliff overlooking the lake and down below people swam and splashed. Lunch options were a mix of Ethiopian, Italian and American fare, and Johnny Cash and James Taylor rocked in the background.

 

We learned we needed to hurry as the Shalom staff was waiting for us. We dropped our bags at the Lakeside Hotel, which incidentally wasn't lakeside as far as I could see, sponged off (did I mention how hot Awassa was? I actually took a full-blown cold shower), then headed to Shalom.

 

We were greeted by the entire staff, including Israel, Abreham and one other man whose name escapes me, and a feast of cake, popcorn and other traditional snacks (I can't remember the name of the barley snack). They made a short speech about the accomplishments of the orphanage in one short year, all the staff helped cut the cake, and they served a traditional coffee ceremony. After the fanfare died down a bit, I revealed to some of the staff that we had sent our dossier to Ethiopia on June 6, the very day Shalom opened, so the day was special to me in two ways. We talked briefly with one of Dawit's nannies using a translator, who told us Dawit likes to play in the middle of the night. I asked when he usually sleeps. She said, "When he's sleepy." Spence videoed the discussion so we could show it to Dawit later.

 

They gave us a tour and I saw small pictures of Dawit posted on bulletin boards in a couple of places. The babies there are clearly loved, Dawit especially as he came to Shalom very young. The baby beds are painted bright colors, and small pictures hung on the walls, they said, for babies' enjoyment. We were blown away by the love and caring that emanates from the staff.

 

After our visit we went to a place (restaurant?) for Cokes and orange sodas. I started feeling slightly weird and decided to forego dinner. I think I was partially scared that I would get sick and not be able to make the trip back to Addis. But I went to bed early and was fine the next morning. I woke fairly early, about 5 minutes before a herd of monkeys stampeded across the roof of our room, making a serious racket. We ate breakfast and headed to the fish market on our way out of town.

Hordes of men and boys were cleaning and selling fish alongside Lake Awassa. Our light skin attracted lots of followers hoping to get a birr or treat of some sort. I make a dumb mistake and covertly gave a boy a sucker from my backpack. I was soon mobbed by young boys. You'd have thought I was giving away hundred dollar bills. We checked out some cool Marabou (birds) and Columbus monkeys.

 

On our way back to Addis we made a quick side trip to a small town called Wondgenet. There we hired a guide to take us on a walking tour of the hot springs up on the mountain. I say "we," but I mean Sisay and Asserat, who negotiated with a slew of young men to choose one lucky boy to be our guide. We paid him 50 birr for about an hour's tour. It was cool to hike up the mountain and touch water that was 130 degrees. Locals come up here and pack the hot sand around their bodies for healing. We were frequently followed by one man or another, one of which carried a large machete. (I tried not to walk at the back of the group, lest I disappear.) At another location men were huddled around a bubbling spring of steam that pooled for a minute then tumbled down the mountain. I chuckled at Sisay who, always stylish, walked in cowboy boots and a pressed button-down and never broke a sweat.

 

We stopped briefly for lunch and one more time at the same hotel in as before for macchiatos and potties, then rolled into Addis about 6 p.m. to meet Shadley, Dan and Esias for the first time. We enjoyed visiting with them over Birtukan's amazing dinner of wat, tibs, spinach, carrots and injera until we couldn't stay awake any longer.

 

Tomorrow: Dawit, ours, forever!

 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meeting Dawit - June 4

First of all, Happy Father's Day to my dad, my stepdad John, and Connie my dad-in-law! Oh yeah, and my hubby, who's now a father of two.

While we hung out waiting for Bethany's directions, Birtukan took us on a short tour of their home. Before they launched Morning Cofee Guest House, she, Nesibu and their four kids lived in the entire house. When they opened up three bedrooms, two baths, a living area and a kitchen to guests, her family squeezed into a little space across patio. Birtukan believes that opening her home to visitors is another important part of her mission to help orphans of Ethiopia.

We sat in her small living room, which was one-third the size of the GH living room. I admired photos of her and Nesibu on their wedding date and adorable pictures of her children. Meanwhile she and one of her helpers prepared a traditional coffee ceremony for Spence and me. We washed our hands in a wash basin that her helper brought around. No towels, just drip dry. Then Birtukan explained how the three traditional cups of coffee are offered. The first is the strongest, mixed with generous amounts of coarse-grain sugar. It was the BEST coffee I have ever had. It kicked Starbucks' hiney. The second cup is made with the same grounds, making it and the third cup slightly less strong but no less good. Along with the coffee, she served injera and shiro. Ahmed, my friend in the states was right, the injera is different, better. And the shiro was wonderful. Again, no napkins. You just wiped your fingers on the injera.

Once we were adequately buzzed, we walked with Birtukan across the street to Yezelalem Minch where we met the staff and learned more about the sponsorship, community feed and women's self-help programs. They had just printed new brochures and we brought a bunch back for anyone who's interested in supporting YM. I'll post more on YM later. It's a wonderful ministry founded by Birtukan herself, and the story is too amazing not to devote an entire post to it.

While at YM, the royalty of Bethany walked in (at least that's how I came to view them). Mekonen, the new director, with his quiet confident way, Tendaye, who oversees all the Africa programs, with his James Earl Jones smile and charisma, and eventually Milkiyas, who did most of our adoption legwork, with his briefcase and suit coat revealing that he rarely sits still. We talked about our hopes of going to Awassa tomorrow, which they totally supported, and of possibly seeing Dawit today. Even though it was nearly 5 p.m., Birtukan agreed to escort us to Shalom's transition house for a quick visit. We had no idea it would take 45 minutes through crazy Addis rush-hour traffic to get there, and we were all the more grateful.

When we arrived, they directed us to replace our shoes with slippers and passed around antibacterial gel. The place was spotless, the nurses decked out in matching uniforms. And by the window in a generously donated exersaucer was the cutest little boy with the famous curly mohawk gazing up at us with his enormous eyes. Spence said, "Is that him?" With only one picture to go by 3 months earlier, he wasn't sure. But I knew. It was strange to hold him, but it quickly felt natural. We played with him for about 30 minutes, toured the facility, then reluctantly left him, promising we'd be back Monday. It was totally surreal.

We went back to the guesthouse where Birtukan fixed spaghetti and marinara with an Ethiopian twist. Nesibu and Birtukan ate with us so we got to know them better. Then, I think, we crashed. Big day tomorrow!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sidebar: sweating vs. sweaters

I'm going to continue my travel journal over the next couple weeks, but every now and then I may insert a sidebar about our adjustment at home or about some unique thing about Ethiopia. This post's subject: enduring Africa's heat in long sleeves.


Before we left for Ethiopia, everyone said everyone dresses in layers. This was hard to figure. Why would you need layers in the middle of summer? First of all, Ethiopians are conservative people. They tend to stay covered; they don't wear shorts or tank tops. I saw a handful of people who strayed from that rule, but most people wore long pants and long sleeve shirts. Second, it does get cool at night and the air is very dry, so if you're not in the direct sun it's fairly comfortable. Still, I was quite dewey a good bit of the trip, especially in Awassa where it was significantly hotter.

Once, on our way back from Awassa, the road turned into a big pitted, dirt path. Everyone quickly rolled up their windows to keep the dust out. Then an amazing thing happened. The driver switched on the A/C. Spence and I just stared at each other as the cool air enveloped us like a little piece of heaven. Two minutes later when the road turned back to pavement, he switched off the A/C and rolled the windows back down. Hmmm. Truth is, A/C is very rare in Ethiopia. Even the fancy traditional restaurant we went to one night had no air, and the dancers never even broke a sweat.


The biggest mistake I made was bringing only summer clothes for Dawit, not because I felt he was cold, but because everyone thought he was cold. I spent a lot of time wrapping him in blankets so I wouldn't be judged for being the worst mother ever.

I miss Ethiopia like crazy, but I'm loving being back in the good ole A of C.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Settling in

I'm not sure what day of the week it is -- that's an improvement over two days ago when I couldn't complete a coherent sentence. I think it's Thursday, which means we've been home for 5 days.

Dawit is doing amazing. He's all smiles and giggles and loves to talk. He rarely cries, especially if we get him fed on time and down to sleep before he gets overtired. He's starting to transition to US time. Gradually he's going from 2 naps of 2 hours each and 8 hours at night to 2 shorter naps and 9 hours at night. We're aiming for 12-hour nights and two shorter naps. He can eat as much as Caroline, so I expect him to be a butterball very soon. I don't know what he weighs, but we'll find out Monday when he goes to Vanderbilt's adoption clinic.

Spence and I are not faring as well. We've both had fragile stomachs since returning home and are still suffering jet lag. We alternate "Dawit duty" each night. This gives us each snuggle time with Caroline and a full night's sleep every other night. We're starting to get our appetites back, but even the mildest dishes don't sit well. We're just trying to stay hydrated and get as much rest as possible.

The house is still a wreck, but we are so happy and feel so fortunate to have been matched with this happy little guy. He's a total joy and really so easy.

We broke all the rules Sunday at our coming home party (I'll post pics soon), but for the next month Spence and I will be the only ones to feed and hold Dawit in an effort to establish a strong parental bond. This is very hard, but in the meantime everyone can enjoy his beautiful smile!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting to Addis - June 3

On our way to the airport this morning, I got an email on my Blackberry from the NVC saying our reprint approval was cabled to Ethiopia. Whew! It was a good feeling knowing all hurdles had been cleared.



We flew to JFK and waited 4 hours to leave for Dubai. We were very glad we chose Emirates. The service was great and they fed us constantly. We arrived in Dubai and were shuttled to our hotel, where they gave us dinner vouchers that we had no intent of using. Full from airline food, which was mostly Indian fare, all we wanted to do was sleep. Because in true Inman fashion, neither of us slept on the plane. Because we left NY at 11p flying east, basically chasing the sun, they made us keep all windows lowered so people could sleep through the daylight. We arrived in Dubai at dusk. It was all very weird. Our Dubai experience consisted of a 30-second walk from the shuttle to the hotel where we gasped at the ~100 degree humid temp.


The next morning we made the 3-hour hop to Addis. After studying my travel tips carefully and following some nondescript, handmade signage, we got our visa and exchanged $100 for 1,124 in birr. It's a good thing we did because a very assertive porter immediately pounced on us and held us hostage while he retrieved our bags. Our travel agent said to refuse this service if we wished, but let me tell you there was no refusing. He wasn't asking. And now, after 8 days in Addis and watching Ethiopians negotiate, I have no doubt we were taken ripped off. But, birr goes a long way and the pushy porter turned out to be helpful as we could not locate our agency rep outside of baggage claim. He called Nesibu and they arranged a taxi to bring us to the guesthouse (thank God I had Nesibu's number!) And because we didn't arrange the taxi fee before the ride, we were introduced to Birtukan and Nesibu over some very spirited negotiation with the taxi driver.

Birtukan helped us get settled in our room, announcing that we were not guests but family. Then we hung out waiting to hear from Bethany about when we could see Dawit.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Delayed

We missed our connection in Cincy, but got a good night's rest at a hotel. Should be home by 9a. Dawit is a trouper and he slept most of the night even though it was his daytime. See y'all soon.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coming home

We're in NY. Should be home 5ish. Our little man was a charmer all the way from Dubai, except for one hour when Mama thought he was sleepy not hungry. Can't wait to be home and see our little girl.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leo Dawit Inman...

...is ours! We breezed through the embassy after a little disturbance when a man fainted in line. Dawit stayed awake until the man at the window said, "Congratulations." And two seconds later, he was out. I know you're dying for a photo, and I may be able to post one later today. Technology here is sketchy at best. On the way to the embassy appointment yesterday, we decided on Dawit's name. However, we are calling him Dawit. 

The first day he was curious but tentative. Yesterday he started smiling and today he's all smiles and giggles. So far he's been incredibly easy. He eats like his sister, loves to babble. He has the cutest little curly mohawk. He sleeps about 8 hours, then has a bottle, then sleeps 2 more. We're eager to extend that! The best thing we packed is Mylicon. When he eats our American cereal, which he loves, he gets gas and he screams louder than anything I've ever heard. Caroline's gas cries had nothing on this boy's lungs.

Later I'll post a day-by-day account of our adventures, but wanted to give you a few tidbits on our little bundle. We are having so much fun with him and in Ethiopia. Yesterday we met Mesay, the young man we sponsor through Yezelalem Minch, and his brother. It was great. Dan, Shadley's husband, showed them iPhoto, and made everyone crack up. We had a wonderful visit with a translator from YM. Mesay is so handsome and his brother is a little joker. You'll see the pictures soon. Mesay's brother needs a sponsor if anyone is interested. I can send you some pretty hilarious photos of him. I don't know his age, but I guess 8.

We're getting ready to eat a traditional Ethiopian breakfast and visit YM. This afternoon we'll go to Gelgela and tonight a traditional Ethiopian dinner and dance.

Can't wait to show you our giggle box. We love him!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back in Addis

We just arrived back from Awassa and are sitting at the guesthouse with Shadley, Dan, Esias (what a doll!) and Lindsey from the Bethany Iowa office. We had a wonderful time and saw amazing countryside. I'm half delirious from being in the car for a zillion hours so I'll post the details later. But here's one tidbit:

Shalom Orphanage is amazing, so wonderful. Yesterday, June 6, they celebrated their first anniversary. They waited for us to arrive and we celebrated with cake and a coffee ceremony and the director made a little speech. We were so honored to be part of it, and it was clear they all loved Dawit. I will share some great stories they told us about him later. Here's the really special part: One year ago June 6 when Shalom first opened its doors, our dossier was leaving the U.S. en route to Ethiopia -- the very same day!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We've arrived

Greetings from Addis Ababa. This is going to be quick as we're leaving for Awassa this morning. We arrived in Addis yesterday and had lots of time to relax and unpack. Birtukan and Nesibu are the BEST hosts and we love the Morning Coffee Guesthouse. We had a little snack of Shiro Wet and beets with amazing injera, then we had an informal coffee ceremony. And yes, I had three cups of the best coffee that has ever crossed my lips. Starbucks be gone! Then...Birtukan took us across the street to the Yezelalem Minch office where we met all the staff and learned more about our sponsored son. After that, she took us way across town to meet the most beautiful baby boy. There are no words to describe him, so I'll leave you with that until we can post some photos. We met all the babies as well, many of whom will soon be going home to America too. They are all adorable. We only got to visit for a few minutes, take a tour of the house which is just pristine, then leave for the guesthouse as it was getting late.

We had dinner and went to bed and slept wonderfully under the haze of Lunesta. We're starting to feel normal again.

Okay, gotta run. Spence is jiggling his pockets for me to get up. We'll leave for Awassa this morning and come back tomorrow afternoon. Shadley and family should arrive while we're gone.

Oh yeah, we miss Caroline to the point of tears. Please give her hugs and kisses for us. Love to everyone!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We're off!

Sitting at BNA waiting to board a plane to JFK and ultimately ET. Oh
boy! Posting from my Blackberry and preparing to be incommunicato for
a while. Love to Little C.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy day!

On the eve of our departure, my 40th birthday, I got the best present ever: notification that our Visa 37 (reprint approval) is en route to Ethiopia. That is hopefully the last paperwork hurdle we'll encounter in this long journey. Now we can board the plane with peace.

I hope our cheap old suitcases hold together. They are stuffed to the gills, mainly with donations and gifts.


Last Sunday, our church held a send-off party for us and gave all these items to donate to the various organizations we'll visit. Many also gave us money so we can purchase one or more big-ticket items once we learn what their specific needs are.


And this is what Caroline did to her room this morning while I packed. Allison, you asked for a housesitter's to-do list. Here's item #1.