Oh. My. Goodness. Waking up with my 3 "new kids" was like a dream. A dream I had played over in my head a hundred (maybe a thousand) times. We all woke slowly and a bit hesitantly. Would today be as amazing as yesterday? Would the kids still be so utterly and totally wonderful? Would they still like me? Thoughts swirled around my head as we got ready for the day. We practiced brushing teeth (the kids were experts already - thank you Nannies) and kept reminding the kids to not drink the water. We didn't want them to get sick from the parasites. It was 2 days before we realized that they did not need to worry about the water... they had lived with it their whole lives :). The kids had so much fun trying on their new clothes and picking things out to wear. Ben took them out to look at the view from our balcony and Jacob's heart was pounding like crazy.
Today was the day that we wanted to do some sight seeing and buy some balls for the orphanage. We also had our VERY IMPORTANT (we can’t leave without it) Embassy Appt. We started the morning with what we became to understand as “typical Jacob” because he was up and ready for the day at about 6am. He even spent a couple minutes with me on the patio of our hotel room making a phone call home. The first thing he did when we went outside was to put the phone way above his head and say, “Hello DANNY!” It was so cute and we still tease him about it today. After calling home the rest of the kids and Ben started to wake up too. We spent about two hours hanging out in the room and getting ready and then met Dawit our driver downstairs for our excursion. Ben, in his traditional laid back Ethioipian style, was the last one to the car. We decided to skip the big breakfast and brought along dabo (Amharic for bread) in the car. The bakery at the Hilton is fabulous and the kids loved it. Our first stop was the Ethnological Museum which is in the palace of the former Emporer of Ethiopia Haile Salasie. This is on the same compound (armed guards at the gate) as the Addis Ababa University. What I imagined we would see and what was actually there were 2 very different things. Addis Ababa University is the biggest in the country… and the Ethnalogical Museum is one of the only 3 museums in the country. So my expectations of lush gardens, beautiful exhibits, typical university/museum atmosphere was pretty much dead wrong. I quickly remembered that I was in a 5th world country and my American expectations were a bit shameful. The museum was wonderful. Right away we found an English speaking “guide” who was a graduate student at the university. He led us through the museum teaching us about the history of Ethiopia, traditions and cultures of the Wolaytan Region (where our kids are from) and translating information back and forth between us and the kids. It really was eye opening. My favorite part was the section on Fables for Children. The one about the husband and wife who couldn’t get pregnant makes me laugh still. Seriously, that is considered a fable for kids?
We then moved onto the palace portion of the museum and saw Haile Salasie’s bedroom. Haile was the dictator/emperor of Ethiopia for more than 25 years. He was pretty much terrible at his job and Ethiopia is still trying to recover from his reign. Despite this fact, many people still believe he was wonderful and celebrate his life. His palace not what I expected. It was falling apart and in a sad state. We learned a bit of history and then went to walk the grounds. The pictures above are from gardens between the university and the palace.
The Blue Top restaurant was our next stop. Ethipoia was occupied by the Italians for many years and with the exception of Ethiopian Food, Italian is the most available. We enjoyed a nice lunch at a nice little restaurant and again tried to explain to the kids that when we get back to America we don’t get pop with every meal. (They are still wanting pop with every meal) After our quick lunch we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our Embassy appointment.
With clean clothes, backpacks stocked and teeth brushed we headed downstairs to wait for the driver from our agency. We knew that there were 6 families with Embassy appointments and we all smooshed together to ride to the embassy. Yet again, my expectations were wrong. I imagined that the American embassy would be similar to the embassy’s that are in San Francisco and New York. Big beautiful buidings that were well guarded but still pretty. What I saw when we parked was a 1960’s cinder blockish mess surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. We could not park in front of the embassy so we had to walk about 300 yards to our appointment. This happened to be just when the kids were getting out of school and our group was surrounded by kids both young and old smiling at us and trying to touch our ferenji (white) skin. It was also raining slightly and one of the students held an umbrella up to cover one of the dads who was adopting a sweet little baby. They didn’t follow the group and for about 3 scary seconds they got lost in the crowd. Once we crossed the street we went through a preliminary security screening and then had to wait in the rain until there was room for us to be admitted into the embassy security room for another more thorough screening. Etch-a-sketches, cell phones, cameras, video recorders, calculators and anything else resembling anything remotely electronic is confiscated and then each person is individually sent through another metal detector. Trying to explain this to our kids was difficult but the experience was good practice for the airports on the way home.
The kids were all fantastic and it was fun to talk with the other parents as we waited for our appointment. Once our agency was called to present our cases we moved to another room that reminded me of a bank - glass walls separated the tellers from the customers. We watched as each group went to the “teller” was sworn in and then spent a couple minutes answering questions, submitting paperwork and filling out papers. The look of relief as they returned to their seats was beautiful. We began to get nervous as it became apparent that our family would be last. We were also nervous about Joseph because children his age were sometimes “grilled” by the embassy staff. I remember very little about our actual time at the window. Other than the fact that it was so easy and there were no surprises. The staff was very nice and it was over in less than 10 minutes. I think I remember (although this probably didn’t really happen) that when we turned around everyone clapped and cheered for us. I know both Ben and I had tears in our eyes as we walked back to our seats! We quickly headed out of the embassy, made plans to meet for dinner on Thursday and headed back to our hotels.
That afternoon we walked around the hotel grounds, played on the swings and then got ready for dinner. It was fun watching the kids play on the slides and swings...
We went to the Crown Hotel that night. It was on my list of MUST do's. The Crown Hotel offers a buffet of Ethiopian food and about 90 minutes of traditional singing and dancing representing the different regions of Ethiopia.
I was really excited to be there! Once we got seated and situated a waitress came to send us to the buffet. We walked over to the buffet and were just about to pick up our plates when a manager told us to go sit down. He explained that there was a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON and he and their group would need to go first. Just as we were returning to our seats this VIP came to us and INSISTED that we go first... all the while asking us about the kids, talking to the kids and thanking us for "saving Ethiopia's most precious gifts". It was really a special and humbling moment. We enjoyed the food. Except Ben who still teases Marti about her giving him cow stomach to eat. I was so glad to have the opportunity to see all the foods... now I know what ethiopian cheese/butter looks like.
I can't tell you much more about The Crown Hotel because we left soon after the dancing started. Our kids had NEVER listened to "not church music" before and were really uncomfortable with being there. When we go back to Ethiopia, I definately plan on trying it again!
That night as we got ready for bed and said our prayers the kids talked about Kaleab, their dad. Marti cried as she talked about him and remembered him. It was so wonderful to hear that they were loved so well by such a godly man. We gave thanks to God that night.