Now on to the real meat of the story. This is edited from an entry I made once upon a time when I thought I would be able to journal each day from Ethiopia. I ended up with a grand total of one entry - this one, so I guarantee the rest of my web entries will not be this wordy. I also chose not to share pics of our first meeting here on the website because it was a difficult day for us all. I think they are just a bit too personal. The rest of my posts will be more photo heavy, I promise. I also want to thank Erika, who was my photographer for basically the entire trip. My camera mostly belonged to Sparkle :)
Erika and I slept very little in Dubai, in spite of the fact that we were exhausted. We just couldn't sleep � I don't know if it was nerves or jet lag or both, but we started the day at 4:30 am with no more than 2-3 hours of sleep. We arrived at the Dubai airport before 6 and were in the Departures Area by 6:30. The Dubai Airport has a crazy shopping area and it was so busy the crowds were hard to navigate around by 7 am:
Many of the morning flights were delayed due to the fog, including ours. We were scheduled to depart at 8:30 am but the plane did not take off until 10:30.
We napped a little on the four hour flight from Dubai to Addis. Things went smoothly at the airport until it was time to find our driver � he was not there. We were having trouble using the payphones, then a stranger offered us a cell phone. I think he regretted it eventually though because we must have made ten calls before K, our driver, could understand it � either the phone had poor reception or I didn't know how to talk into it. The man who loaned us the phone ended up talking to K for us and letting him know where we were and that we were waiting for him:
We made a couple of stops on the way, to exchange money and to buy bottled water. It was about a half hour to The New Flower, where we are staying. We brought our suitcases to our rooms right away � both very nice and right next to each other. We also share a balcony that looks out over the neighborhood, and our view to the left is the mountains. Erika's door doesn't close though � we'll have to discuss that with the management. We went downstairs to call our agency rep, to let her know we were in town. It was after 3:00 now so we weren't sure we would see the girls today. To our surprise, she said she was on her way to KM with another family right now. Our girls were waiting. How fast could we get there?
I scrambled in my room, emptying a bag to just bring water, the documents, etc I needed to give our agency rep, and Erika's camera. We were in the van again within 20 minutes of our arrival. I think we both were in shock. On our way to KM we got stuck in traffic. A group of buildings were on fire and the road was filled with spectators as well as buses, cars, vans and the usual Addis traffic. The fire was very close to a gas station and K was worried about what would happen if the fire reached that or the electrical lines. It was not well-controlled and was spreading quickly. He very skillfully turned the van around in spite of the crowd and the bumpy dirt and rock road. We were going to have to backtrack and drive around.
I called our agency rep to let her know we would be late. They had arrived and she was there with the girls. She said they were dressed and ready and very anxious to meet us. She also told us that members of their biological family were there to say goodbye. We had hoped to meet someone from their family during our stay in Ethiopia, but I had no idea it would be at the same time that I met the girls. I could not even begin to process all of this.
We got a little lost after backtracking and having to find a new route, but we made it to the KM office within about a half hour. We spoke with orphanage staff in private briefly before the girls were brought in by our agency rep. Their hair was freshly braided, they were wearing the t-shirts we sent them and the traditional dresses that a member of their birth family had bought for them over that. They had the hair do-dads we sent them in and were clutching the Welcome Bags we sent them � which to my surprise appeared to be intact. They looked so sad. Our agency rep said that they had been very excited about our arrival all day. When the other little girl�s family arrived without us, they thought we weren't coming. This, plus seeing members of their birth family, was very confusing and upsetting for them. I pulled Bug on my lap and Sparkle sat next to me. Neither made a sound, but they accepted my kisses andhugs. Eventually Sparkle was leaning into me too.
During this time members of the girls� birth family also came in. We will keep the details of that meeting private, and will allow the girls to decide how much of their story they wish to share with others as they get older. However, I can say that we feel confident that the girls were/are well loved, that their family cannot care for them, and that they have no expectations for themselves, but are very relieved and have found peace with the knowledge that the children will be moving to America and will have a bright future. We were also given a more than a dozen priceless family photos. The meeting was very emotional and difficult for everyone, but overall I think it was good for all of us to experience that closure.
We were then shown around the compound. This was also very emotional for everyone, so I ended up cutting the tour short. We made plans to return on Saturday at 10:30 am for a good-bye party with the other families whose children were leaving this week. We got into the van � Bug on my lap and Sparkle clinging to my side. She leaned her head into me and grabbed for my hand. I kissed the girls on their heads and cheeks and kissed Sparkle's hand that I was holding. We drove back to the compound. Erika helped me carry the girls upstairs to our rooms. Our suitcases were out and open but not unpacked or organized at all. Bug immediately made quick work of things � pulling out all the candy and toys she could find. She chattered in Amharic as she worked. They found the backpacks I had put together for the plane ride home, but I just let them take them � hoping they would distract them for a while so I could get my suitcases organized and things put away:
It didn't happen though. I got pulled into playing with the girls, which of course I was happy to do. They loved everything they had � the Barbies, the magna doodle, the stickerbooks. Sparkle still had not said a word. She opened up her stickerbook � obviously overjoyed with it � pointed to an animal and said its name in English (I wish I could remember what it was!). I praised her and she moved through the book, pointing to and naming animals, colors, body parts, everyday objects, etc and correctly saying their name in English. She has an accent and says many words with a rolling "r" like "car-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r" but she is easy to understand. She smiled hugely as we went through the book and as I praised her for naming things correctly. Later she said "I love you, Mommy" and I told her I loved her too.
Bug was very busy this whole time. She is in constant motion, opening things, collecting things, and carrying armloads of stuff (especially snacks) to her backpack. She actually has trouble walking because her backpack is so heavy. She is a happy kid � smiles easily and loves affection.
We went downstairs and had Ethiopian food for dinner. Bug ate a ton of injera and some misirwat too. Sparkle did not eat as much. She was shy about telling us which foods she liked and which she didn't and I encouraged her to tell us. Bug, on the other hand, made her thoughts clear by doing the Ethiopian shoulder shrug (a negative gesture with a snotty connotation) and tossing what she did not want directly on the floor. We were escorted to the other guest house, which is three compounds down. There are a lot of dogs in the area and the girls seem frightened of them, so we carried them. Erika was able to reach a friend on email who then called Jeremiah and ask him to call us on the landline at the guesthouse. It was wonderful to hear his voice and my Sunshine's and to tell him about our whirlwind day. I had thought of him often throughout the day, wishing he and Sunshine were there with me. Sparkle also got on the phone and said "hello" to her daddy, which she was very excited and happy to do.
When we got back, I began to get the girls ready for bed. They LOVED their toothbrushes and were very enthusiastic about it. They kept brushing them and asking for more toothpaste when it was gone, until I finally had to just put it away and say "no more". I was using bottled water to brush my teeth and initially tried to get them to do the same, but soon learned it was impossible. It was all I could do to keep Bug from dipping her brush in the buckets of standing water used to flush the toilets (and she still managed to do that twice). After the toothbrushing was the enthusiastic face and hand washing. They both love soap. They lathered their faces and hands heavily and multiple times, then cupped their hands to catch water from the faucet to wash with. Bug cannot reach the sink so I must lift her up for this. I don't think they were used to having free access to running water so this was a huge treat. Again, I finally just had to warn them that this was the last time and end it. Neither girl wanted to wear their pajamas so I just put new outer clothes on them and decided to bath them in the morning. They both insisted on me sleeping in the middle. They clung to me, moved around a lot in the night, and both talk a bit in their sleep. I was very nervous about them falling out of bed � particularly Bug. Eventually, once they were asleep, I went to the outside and moved Bug to the middle. I caught Sparkle once falling out of bed. A second time I did not catch her, however, and she fell. She was disoriented but not hurt. I held her for a few minutes, then laid her down in the middle and got in next to her. Needless to say, I got very little sleep once again � but it was good :)