Tuesday, May 6, 2008
To Ethiopia and Home -- Part III
I remember praying as Kassahoun knocked on the gate, "God prepare me so that when I am disappointed that it doesn't show... prepare me so that if the kids are sad or even angry that I don't take it personally". And then the gate opened!
From Part II
It all is a bit fuzzy right now, I remember this... I pushed my way to the front of the group and looked up as the gate opened. Standing in front of me was this gorgeous and skinny Ethiopian boy who was grinning and smiling and lunging at me... I knew right away this was my Addisu and I RAN to him as he ran to me. He clenched me and hugged me and said, "I love you, Mommy... I love you!" At the same time I was clinging to him and saying, "I love you, Addisu!" I was also blabbering incoherently and trying to get Ben who was a few feet away with tears streaming down his face to come here. I peeled myself from Joseph and watched father and son meet for the first time. They are about the same height and were both wearing orange and then were hugging so tight that in my teary eyes they looked like one big blob - a happy blob. As I was taking this all in I realized that Esrael Jacob should be here and looked up in time to see a little person launch themselves into me! Esrael just held tight and let me kiss and hug him! He was so sweet and cuddly and his eyes just sparkled. The kids gave Aunt Rebecca kisses and shared smiles and hugs with her. All the sudden Kassahoun decided to give us a tour of the area. From pictures and even from the outside it looks very nice and cozy... it is, in a sterile and very minimal way. The kids proudly showed us their beds and sat on their bunks so we could take pictures then we met their friends and were shown the room with the babies, the bathroom (I only saw 2 for 40 boys and their nannies), the courtyard and the eating area. It was clean and well run but broke my heart for the kids. We wandered around and were shown so many things, many of which I cannot remember -- I just keep thinking how happy I was and how I wasn't disappointed at all!
When it was time to go get Marta I became excited all over again. The girl's area is about 100 yards away from the boys separated by an alley in a nice part of Addis Ababa. We walked up a tiny hill towards Marta and I remember saying something about the altitude making the walk hard -- or was it my nerves? We knocked on the gate and I remember thinking that I should be holding their hands but how would I hug Marta at the same time. I really don't remember the next part -- just being hugged harder than I ever have in my life for a REALLY long time! She just kept hugging me and we were rocking back and forth and we were saying, "I love you and Thank you, God" I think we were both saying it, but I am not completely sure. After several tries, I finally handed her to Ben and grabbed the boys so they wouldn't feel left out. We were given another tour of the area and I remember taking a picture of Marta on her bed but I don't remember when that was. After a while the girls began crying and holding Marta and it was so very sad. They were clinging to her and saying, "Marti we love you." Ben said later that he never expected to feel bad for taking them from the care center - but we did. After a while the nannies pulled the girls away and led us upstairs for a prayer. The nannies prayed over the kids and over us -- it was a truly amazing experience. The Holy Spirit was very much present in that room, it gives me shivers to think about it now. We finally left the girls area to go back to the boys area where our car was. Addisu Joseph and Jacob Esrael decided they needed to say a more proper good-bye to their friends and we spent quite a while with this. At this point, we were emotionally done in and really ready to go but we were told that we would stay here while the driver took the other family back to their hotel... so we were going to stay. Hmmm.... there was a flat soccer ball at that was it. We didn't bring their backpacks so we didn't have anything to do. The kids were sent back to their room to watch America's Funniest Videos and that left us with our 3 and Aunt Rebecca. After a few panicky seconds we decided to look in their zip-lock bags which contained all their possessions. Jacob had the photo album we had sent him and we talked about the pictures a little bit. Marta had her same photo album and some pictures of the nannies and her friends and we looked at those too. At this point the boys started playing basketball with the sad looking flat, pink, soccer ball - they had a blast. I wondered to try to find the babies of my web-friends but my brain couldn't remember a single babies name. I had the video camera and began showing her a video of Danny, Lilly and Addy doing a "show". She laughed and laughed! Then the kids went to eat - all of them and I got to see the kitchen and the area where they cooked for 85 kids. It was smaller than my kitchen, had no running water or refrigerator and was outdoors. I was amazed! The kids 2 and older washed their hands in the communal hand washing bucket, got their plates and sat down. The babies were placed on a large bench and fed spaghetti one handful at a time by the nannies. I will never forget that. The kids were served HUGE plates of spaghetti and bread. They ate and ate then took their dishes to the washing area. They all headed for naps and it was time for us to go. I must admit that I was relieved to be leaving.
We got in the car, blew kisses every which way and headed back to our hotel. I don't remember who sat where or what was said... I remember thinking that I had 6 kids and then I remember thinking that Jacob was going to hate car seats (I was right).
We got back to the hotel and headed into the elevator. Their eyes were HUGE when they saw the gold and mirrors and fancy buttons. Their eyes doubled in size when we started moving. They were gripping the bars with all their might and were really scared. We dropped Aunt Rebecca off at her floor and then headed to our room. We took them to the room and showed them around. They looked at their backpacks, we showed them their new clothes (big eyes again), showed them the view from the balcony to which Marta said, "My Christo" in a scared and excited way and then they sat down on the bed. It was at this point that I looked at Ben and said, "Now what... why didn't we figure this out before... what should we do...... oh, boy" I babbled on like that for a while and in a stroke of genius he turned on the TV to ESPN. The kids laid on the bed and watched for a good 20 minutes while I tried to come up with a plan. We decided then that we would take them swimming... yeah, brilliant plan - take 3 kids (who have never swam before) to the pool after knowing them for less than 3 hours! GREAT IDEA! We thought that Marta knew how to swim - we were wrong. After showing the boys how to put on their suits (super easy) it was my turn to show Marta how to put hers on. That was not so easy, she had never worn one before, was modest, and confused by my charades routine. We finally got it figured out and headed down to the pool. I remember being so excited, I remember laughing hysterically at Jacob as he jumped right in and moved around the pool like a maniac. We kept saying, "he and Danny are TROUBLE". I remember laughing at Marta as she tried to walk in the water, it was so awkward for her and she was so funny. I remember laughing at Mr. Cool (Joseph) as he just lounged in the pool - I know now that he was completely unsure of what to do and was observing everyone else. We swam for about an hour and then headed back up to the room. It was at this moment that Jacob said his first words to me since we had left the care center. He looked up at me and in this sweet voice said, "ice cream?" I was so sad to tell him that it was closed and that we would get it tomorrow. I asked one of the Hilton employees to translate for me and he was happy again. We decided on fresh fruit smoothies instead. The kids were excited about the fancy GLASSES and Jacob loved his first drink with a straw.
We headed back up to the room for showers and new clothes. It was so fun to watch them choose what to wear from this pile of new clothes. They were even more excited when they got to try on their new shoes. It was so much fun to watch. Marta and I headed down to have her hair done. She was really scared and I kept saying, it's OK... over and over.... it wasn't until we got to the hair salon that she relaxed and was giddy with excitement. I think she was scared because she thought I was taking her back to the care center. She had so much fun having her hair done in a salon and all the workers made a huge fuss over her. Marta lit up when we got back to the room and Ben said, "Konjo, Marta, Konjo." (Beautiful, Marta, beautiful) While we were gone the boys enjoyed bonding over a soccer match on TV and they both quickly learned the ins and outs of a remote control. We decided to call home and it was so fun to watch the kids talk. They were so happy to talk on the phone and it was so wonderful to be able to tell them that everything was wonderful. They were on their way to church and Grandma was happy to be able to tell our church family that all was well!
Dinner was next on the agenda... so we headed to the pizzeria downstairs. Pop, pizza, and enormous bread sticks were a hit! It was really hard to communicate but we kept the conversation going as much as possible. Jacob had brought a book from our room and we looked at all the animals and learned their Amharic names.
By this time the adults in the group were exhausted. We had slept for less than 6 hours in 3 days and it was time for bed. We went upstairs, put on PJ's, prayed and everyone was asleep by 8:30. I woke up around 4 and was praying in bed when I hear Marta talking. I went over to check on her and found that she was crying and praying too. I sat with her as she prayed, the laid down next to her where we both fell asleep again. Around 7:30 we woke up happy and ready for our next day together!