"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, September 8, 2008

Part IV Ethiopia and Home

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!
From Part IV

It was so strange to wake up cuddling with Marta, who 18 hours earlier had been a stranger. We all woke up about the same time and gave hugs and kisses. The kids quickly learned, "Good Morning" and said it about 10 times each. We hung around for a little while and then slowly started getting showered and dressed for the day. (The kids made their beds and did a great job brushing their teeth), 1 1/2 hours later we headed down for breakfast. We decided to eat at the hotel buffet and the kids were so happy to see tibs, injera, doro wat and other familiar foods. They each tried pancakes and seemed to like them. I was so glad to have translators help us explain the concept of a buffet to the kids - I wonder what they were thinking? I was dying for a glass of their fresh squeezed orange juice but debated about the safety of it. I decided to go for it! The juice was so refreshing and smelled like home. Ben tried some Nile River perch that had been caught the day before (or so we were told). He didn't like it but was glad to be able to say he has had fish from the Nile.

After breakfast we headed out to the lobby to wait for our driver who would be taking us to the CWA offices to fill out paperwork and pay the remaining fees. The lobby was filled with important people and we quickly decided that 3 kids with a new ball should NOT be playing with it on the marble floor in the hotel. The beautful gardens called to us and we went to wait outside and play on the steps. The hotel was home to 2 large conventions, one was some sort of UN conference and another was about Agriculture. A senator from Florida shared our elevator at one point during the week.

In typical Ethiopian time (which Ben became a HUGE fan of) we were picked up about an hour late and taken to the care center. There were 4 other families with us - 2 with small babies and another with twin 8 year olds. Our kids were so glad to see their friends and had great fun looking out the window together at the things going by. We were more relaxed this trip and also enjoyed the scenery. The sights were everything I had thought they would be and then so much more. When we got to the CWA office (a beautiful building with marble stairs and a horrible bathroom) we quickly sat down and got to work. Ben said that he loved standing outside the building watching the kids and watching the sights... He was most amazed at the beer delivery happening across the street. The truck pulled up and honked twice. From every direction kids (7 - 14 years old) ran to the truck and turned around so that their back was facing the bed of the truck. The driver would then DROP and full beer keg onto their backs and the kids would RUN into the bar and come back for another load. It was AMAZING and sad all at the same time.

When the paperwork was done we took a couple of pictures of our friends and then headed back to the hotel for lunch. We had a delicious lunch by the pool at the Hilton. The kids tried their first hamburgers and didn't think they were so great. While we were eating we ran into a friend that lives about 3 hours away who was also picking up her son. They had decided to spend the day at the Hilton and were enjoying the pool side restaurant. Our kids had fun talking and getting to know each other and then we were off on one of my favorite parts of our trip.

Ben's cousin has 3 children from Ethiopia and has stayed in close contact with their kids biological grandmother, aunts, and extended family in Ethiopia. Amy had asked us to take a few things for them and we were excited to meet the family. I must also say that we were VERY nervous. We had been pretty insulated up to this point and we were unsure about what to expect. We also were very wary of making any cultural mistakes or offending anyone and that added to our "stress". We had hoped to be able to take dinner to the family but with all the uncertainties surrounding our German visas we decided we should make the visit to this family our first priority.

The drive to their house was a lot of fun. There are over 6 million people who live in Addis Ababa and it is obvious when you drive through the streets trying to outmaneuver taxis, buses, herds of animals and pedestrians. We only saw 2 accidents the entire time we were in Ethiopia - it is shocking that there are not more! :)

Our driver Dawit had also been Amy's driver so he knew the family well and knew right where to go. Because of our nerves, excitement and a million other things - I forgot to call first to let them know we were coming. I still cannot believe I did that - so much for being "culturally aware". I wish you all could have been there to greet this family. Their warmth and excitement for our visit was something I will always remember. They live in a compound which is about 1/2 an acre surrounded by corrugated metal fencing and a gate with 3-4 other families. The government owns all the lands and crops in Ethiopia, so even though our hosts own their own home they still must pay land rent each month. Their house was very nice and very small. They had a living room, small indoor kitchen, and 2 bedrooms for 8 or so people. Their bathroom was outside and was shared by all the families who lived in their yard. We had a great visit and it was so much fun to watch our kids interact with the family. Joseph can talk to ANYONE and we witnessed this about 50 times during our trip to Ethiopia - this was another one of those times. Ben and Rebecca, who are both a bit on the quiet side, barely said a word the entire time we were there. So I LOUDLY, nervously, and enthusiastically babbled on for about 2 hours. I always talk with my hands, and those were waving wildly too! They served us dabo and shai (bread and tea) and it was wonderful! We took lots of pictures and headed on our way to begin shopping and getting the kids some dinner.

It was about this time that Rebecca's battery died in her camera. This was the camera she bought specifically for this trip and she was so mad when she realized that her battery was at home. We had our junky camera that we brought mostly for the kids to use because we had lost our nice one about 2 weeks before we left on our trip... so the pictures for the rest of the trip are not as great as we had hoped. Oh well!

After a small tour of the city we headed to dinner at this a small Italian restaurant. They had pictures of Kennedy driving through the streets of Addis on the walls and it made me feel almost like I was home. We sat outside with Dawit and the kids and talked and laughed a bit too. I leaned over to Ben and asked if we wanted to have THE NAME conversation, he said yes so we asked Dawit to translate. We talked to them about having the choice of keeping their Ethiopian names in America or having American first names and keeping their Ethiopian names for their middle names... At this point, we really didn't care but wanted them to have the option. We were a little worried about Addisu because his names sounds a lot like Addy (and we have an Addy) and also sounds femenine. So we started with him and gave him the choice of keeping Addisu or going with Thomas, Robert, Andrew, or Joel. Right away he said, "I like Joe". We thought he said Joel and were so excited because that was the name we most liked for him. He was so excited to be Joseph Addisu - it was really cute. Next we asked Dawit to ask Marta what she wanted, and the only thing that was important to her was that she have Ben's last name. So Marta Grace it was. Jacob had been following this coversation and told Dawit in Amharic that, "I like football." We all laughed and still call him Football sometimes! I thought The Name conversation was going to be a huge ordeal, and it wasn't at all!

We headed home for the night and hung around the hotel room getting to know each other. We called home again and all the kids said 'hi' to the kids at home. They loved talking to each other and it was so fun to see them excited. Being in the hotel room at night was a great bonding time. The kids told us about their life in Wolayta and how much they loved their dad. They talked about how kind he was and he laughed a lot. Marta cried just a little as we talked about him. They looked through the small photo album that we brought and loved talking about the kids. We also watched the videos of the Danny, Lilly and Addy that were stored on our digital camera and they laughed and laughed as they watched them play and show off for the camera.

We said our prayers and went to bed... what a day!

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