Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tamanyuh- "Faithful"

Still no adoption-related news. Last week our agency said that the country-rep had to pick up a letter saying that the agency had been relicensed. Then she had to take that letter to the courts. Then she would be able to request courtdates. We haven't heard anything though. I'm hoping that she at least has the letter by now. I'm really hoping that we receive news of at least a little bit of progress by the end of the week. I really hope I can put a cool ticker on my blog soon that is counting down the days until our courtdate. Then an even cooler ticker to count down the days until we travel to Ethiopia to bring our kids home!

I have really been keenly aware of God's love for me lately. This adoption has been so hard in so many ways. I'm definitely not the same person that I was when we started this almost 2 years ago. For the past 16 months since we accepted the referral for Yosef and Mihret I have been in an absolutely helpless position where two of my kids are concerned. That's not exactly a position I'm used to being in! I have a real mother-bear spirit inside of me that tends to come out where my children are concerned. But this time, there's nothing I can do. I tend to have a very feisty spirit too. One of my good friends, an older lady I know, says that I have a real "fire ball" inside of me. And yet again, there's not a thing that I can do with my feisty spirit this time. All of this has made me feel so helpless which makes me feel even more feisty. And feeling more feisty makes me feel even more helpless when I once again remember that there's not a thing I can do to help my kids. You know, like a caged lion that paces around for a while, then gives up and lies down. Then he gets agitated again so he gets up and roars real loud and paces some more. Only to give up again. That's how I have felt!

It's in the "giving up" that I have felt God's love, perhaps more than I ever have before. Giving up feels like I'm letting go of my children. Giving up feels like I'm letting go of a piece of my heart. And maybe I am. It's definitely easier for me to spend all of my time trying to think up different ways that my kids might be able to come home. But even if I came up with some genius plan, reality says that there is nothing I can do. At least if I'm wracking my brain for an answer I feel like I'm doing something. Yet the truth is that there's nothing I can do this time. So in knowing this, I've come to a place where I have given up. It's not a bad thing though. For my own sanity I have had to accept that God is God and I am not. God is sovereign over Ethiopia, over my children, over the adoption industry, and over me too. Regardless of what answers I am or am not getting from the seemingly hundreds of people in charge of this adoption, God has the final say. I have come to a place where I understand that. I understand that sometimes hearts do get broken. I understand that perhaps my heart will be broken. Or worse yet, that Yosef and Mihret's hearts might get broken. But I don't think so.

But even if this adoption never happens, I've come to a place where I really can trust God in this. I can trust that He is sovereignly in control of the universe and I am not even in control of my own life! Much less the affairs of nations! He has given me so much peace in my heart these past several months. It's a peace that I couldn't achieve on my own. When we had our social worker come to our house recently to do an update to our homestudy, she commented that we seemed so laid-back about all of the problems we're having. I don't mean to seem like I don't care! And for a long time we were anything but laid-back about this adoption. And we're not really laid-back now. I feel very passionate where injustice for orphans is involved. And I think it's a definite injustice that two kids are growing up in an orphanage when they have a family who desperately wants them. But I understand that my only hope in this is God.

He is the only thing that has been constant throughout this process. He is the only place where I have always been able to turn for answers. He is the only one who has been able to give my heart any measure of peace. He is the only one who could have put us together with so many incredible people who so faithfully pray for us! He is the only one who could know exactly when I need a friend to stop by the house to hug me and cry with me without me having to ask. He has shown me just how faithful He is. Tamanyuh.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Addis!- New!

Yesterday I had one of those moments where you suddenly decide that you absolutely must rearrange the living room furniture all so that you can make a new decoration look just right. Except for me, it was a new count-up graphic that I wanted to add to my blog. It counts how long it's been since I had the burak (blessing) of meeting my Ethiopian kids who will be home very soon I hope. But the problem was that my new graphic was too big for my old blog. So Avery was so nice that he put his own plans aside so that he could give my blog a whole new look and allow for room for my new graphic. So, ta-da! Here is my new look!

I first saw this particular style of counter on a really cool blog by a family who is currently adopting from Ghana and is also in the very beginning stages of adopting from Ethiopia. The funny part is that I just stumbled upon this blog yesterday. I left a comment, and in turn, Anita, the mother on this blog, left a comment on my blog. It seems that she's been reading my blog for a little while, but I had no idea. I wish she would have commented a while ago so I could have found her blog! So, if you're out there and you're reading my blog, and if you also have your own cool blog, I hope you'll give me a comment so that I can know where to visit you!

And now, a picture to make your taste buds water (if you like Ethiopian cuisine that is!). This is the meal that we shared at our house with some good friends on Sunday afternoon. Good food. Good friends. God is certainly so good to us. So many burakae (blessings).

Monday, January 29, 2007

Goodbye For Now

I didn't like the last day with Yosef and Mihret and I don't particularly like writing about it. But it's all part of the story of what God is doing in the lives of these two children, in my family, and in so many who have been touched by God's goodness in all of this. And in the end, I know that God is faithful until the end of the age...

The moment we walked through the gate of the orphanage, both kids looked up at us from their homework with eyes that were so sad that it immediately brought tears to my own eyes. They knew it was our last day and that they weren't coming with us this time. We knew that we had to make this a happy time with them though so I choked back the tears and sat down with Mihret to help her with her homework. She was so much more sullen today than she had been the other days. She just quietly practiced her reading and I tried to memorize how it felt to hold her on my lap, how her hair smelled, the softness of her cheek next to mine. How unnatural for a mother to have to leave her child on the other side of the world. My heart was breaking...

After a while I switched with Avery and went over to sit next to Yosef who was practicing the parts of the body in English. It's kind of funny to see a bunch of Ethiopian kids pointing at their chin and calling it a " (roll the "r" for full effect)!" I sat next to him and kept my hand on his back. I've not been a mother to a kid this age before. I can't wait to have him with me everyday. He's so smart. He's older than Kaitlyn and Lucas and he already has an independence that I haven't mothered before. I can't wait to really know who this little man is. I wonder what he wants to be when he grows up? I know that God has surely made him for something very special.

As it was getting time to leave the nannies began to tell us goodbye. The first one (somewhat awkwardly) stuck her hand out to shake it and I told her, "Aiy- habesha" (No- Ethiopian) and all of the nannies smiled and laughed at this. They began to give us the traditional Ethiopian cheek kisses as we said goodbye. We were going to be taking a baby with us to escort him to America where his family had anxiously been awaiting his arrival since his courtdate last fall before the courts closed. The nannies had gotten him dressed in a traditional Ethiopian outfit that he would wear as he left his country. I was so happy to be able to escort this baby. But at the same time I pray that Yosef and Mihret don't feel betrayed because we took this baby but we didn't take them. I made sure that Yosef understood that the baby did not belong to our family and that we were just taking him to his new family. Then he explained it to Mihret in Amharic.

Those two little faces were so sad. They just stood there quietly, looking at us. We knew that we needed to leave them on a happy note, not a sad one. So we reminded them that the next time we come that Kaitlyn and Lucas will come too and all six of us will stay in a hotel and swim in the pool. We asked them again if they wanted to do that and both of them gave a smile as they replied, "yessssss." We asked them if they wanted to fly on the plane to America next time and again they both smiled and said, "yessssss." Lord, please let that be a promise that we can keep. Our friend who has so graciously paid for us to go has already told us that she will continue to send us back to visit until our children are able to come home. I am so thankful to know this. Yet my heart can't bear the thought of more visits. I want the next time to be their homecoming.

I took the baby in my arms, said a final goodbye, and quickly walked out of the gate to where the taxi was waiting to take us to the airport. No sense in having long, sad goodbyes. The moment I got into the backseat of the taxi with the baby, he began to cry. Poor little thing had just had his entire world ripped away from him. I would have cried too! I began to sing to him softly in Amharic, "Yenya Exhiabihair yinegsal, Yenya Exhiabihair yinegsal, Lazelalam Mengistuh yinges" (Our God reigns, Our God reigns, Forever Your Kingdom reigns). After a couple of minutes he stopped crying and snuggled up very close to me. I used a piece of cloth we had bought to wrap him tight to my chest. He was very still and very quiet for the next several hours. No doubt feeling very scared. I talked baby talk to him in Amharic ("baby talk" is about my level of fluency anyway, so we got along very nicely!). God is so good to have allowed me to have such a beautiful little baby in my arms on that long flight home. I held him most of the time. God knows me so well. He knew how much comfort I would have in holding this baby. It brought me so much comfort in knowing that at least this one was going to be safe and sound with his Mommy very soon.

God, let that be true for Yosef and Mihret too. They are obviously loved at their orphanage, but no love on earth can compare with that of a mother. Soon....

Friday, January 26, 2007

Random Stuff...

It's almost midnight and we just got home from a most fun night with a family we are close friends with. They have a son and a daughter who are older than our kids, but all of the kids are great friends. Their son is 14 and Lucas is 5, but Lucas insists that they are best friends and wants his "best friend" to come for a sleepover. What's so sweet is that the 14 year old is so kind to Lucas and allows Lucas to continue in his "best friend" role. These truly are great kids. I hope mine turn out as well at that age.

No news about the adoption yet, but I really didn't expect any. However, I'm hoping to hear by the end of next week that the country representative in Ethiopia has gone to court to "open a file" for us, which means that our court dates will have been requested. We'll see what happens.

I spent some time with Abeba again today working on injera. She showed me exactly how she does the first step which did have a few little Ethiopian secrets that I never would have guessed. I have to back to her house tomorrow morning to do the middle step. Then from there I'll bring it home to actually cook it. My mitad lid came today! I'm so excited. I feel quite confident now that I've done this injera thing a few times. The next time I make it I will take some video and upload it to so that anybody who is interested can actually watch. It is so much easier to watch the process than to try to make sense from reading it.

Next week I will post one final entry about our trip to Ethiopia. It will be about our last hour with our incredibly beautiful kids. Have I mentioned that they are the two most adorable children in all of Africa? Well, if you've adopted or given birth to an African child, I am so sorry to disappoint you, but this is positively true! :)

Tomorrow Kaitlyn is going off to a sleepover and Lucas is staying with "Miss Kim" whom he says is one of his "grown-up friends" so Avery and I are going to have an entire evening and night to our selves! Yipppppeeeee! I so cherish these little vacations with each other. Avery surprised me tonight with a ukulele. I can play "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" which is pretty funny on the ukulele. Avery is always so sweet to buy new a new instrument whenever he finds a good deal. (He knows me and knows that I would be upset if it wasn't a good deal!) Then he doesn't even complain while I'm learning to play it! Now that's love! :)

To all: Enjoy your weekend and thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tasfa- Hope

We just received the news that our agency has been licensed, though it seems that they still have to provide more paperwork. I was unclear. But the post definitely said that they currently have a license as of today. I'm so afraid to be excited, as this has been such a long road. Yosef and Mihret are totally ready for their courtdate. Please continue to pray for them to be quickly united with our family. I miss them more with each passing day. Also, we are seriously praying that God will protect their grandmother's health. She is nearly 90 years old and she is the only living known relative. She must be present for their courtdate. God is certainly able to preserve her health for such a time as this. Hopefully in the very near future I will have extremely good news about our adoption! Soon...

Our Final Day- Shintabet

Well, this was our fifth and final day in Addis. We couldn't see our kids until 5:00 and we had to check out of our hotel in the morning so we figured we'd just explore the Shoa Market some more, eat, check our email, etc. until it was time. If my blog made you cry yesterday, hopefully it will make you laugh today!

It was lunch time and so we stopped at a little restaurant where we sat outside to eat. The waiter used his best English to tell us that he didn't have an English menu. We replied, "Amharenya eshi." He brought it, and while I could read it, this was only mildly helpful since I didn't know what most of the things on the menu were. I'm a very slow nonfunctional literate when it comes to Amharic! We just asked for fasting food knowing that was probably safer than ordering meat. You see, I'm not really a big meat eater as it is and I really have a hard time making myself swallow meat when it's tough, chewy, fatty, or greasy. The fasting food was absolutely delicious though! And we tried a mostly clear soda called "ambo." It seems to be all the rage. Some people mix their regular soda with ambo. I thought it was basically tasteless and when I mixed it with my coke, it just watered it down. But I couldn't leave without at least trying it!

So, after we ate I really had to use the bathroom. As in, waiting until 5:00 so that I could use the orphanage bathroom wasn't an option, as that was 5 hours away! Finding a bathroom hadn't really been a problem all week because we had always just used our hotel room bathroom. Now that we had checked out though and no longer had a room, this was a problem. The restaurant was behind a gate and I could tell that the back portion of the little compound was living quarters with small shacks that all opened up into a central courtyard. As I scoped it out, I saw a sign that read "Shintabet" (bathroom) and I thought that this was so perfect. Just to make sure, I asked the waiter if I could use the shintabet and he motioned for me to go back. I followed the sign and found myself in the family's courtyard, but I didn't see a bathroom. I asked some of the women, "Shintabet yet now yallo?" (Where is the bathroom?) and they pointed me in the right direction. I walked back a very narrow passageway between two shacks. I pretended that the stream of liquid flowing down the passageway was water. Only water. Only water. Only water is what I kept telling myself. So, at the end of the passageway there were three tiled "closets." I could hear that somebody was in one of the "stalls" so I peeked into the next one. It was a tiled room with absolutely nothing in it. Perhaps this is where you just pee? I really have no idea what it was for, so I didn't go in. The floor was wet though. Again, I am sure it was only water! Yes, I'm sure that's it. In fact, they had probably just cleaned and sanitized it and it simply hadn't had a chance to dry out yet! I looked into the third stall and saw that it was a tiled closet with a hole in the ground. Okay. I can do this I thought to myself. After all, I really have to go. Waiting for another 5 hours just isn't an option. It will be have to do this. I decided to go in...until I noticed that a previous person was evidently having a stomach problem and also a problem with their aim. I saw the pile of caca (send me a private email if you need an English translation!) on the floor just before I stepped in. Okay. I just couldn't do it. I quickly walked back through the passage way with WATER running down it. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do about my own personal dilemma, but I knew I couldn't solve it here! Avery was nice enough to walk a very long way to The Great Rendezvous, a more western-style shopping building. I had carried a tiny roll of toilet paper with me all week, but that particular day we had left all of our luggage, including the toilet paper, at the orphanage. So, much to my dismay there was no soft (toilet paper) at the Rendezvous. Oh well. At least it wasn't a hole in the ground with caca next to it and a stream of WATER leading up to it! :)

Now, since I don't really feel like crying today and since I'm sure my readers don't want to cry every time they read my blog, I'll save our last hour with Yosef and Mihret for another day. I mean, I have real-life obligations such as laundry to take care of and I'm not so productive if I'm crying about these kids! Tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moments With Yosef and Mihret

Yesus On The Streets: If you sent a bag for this project and I did not email you a link to a video I put together after we got home, please send me a personal email so that I can do that.

Correction to previous post: Avery tells me that the mitad lid does not come from Bethany House Publishers. I need him around to correct me on this type of stuff! Regardless of where the lid comes from, I found it (Okay, Avery found it) and I can make injera with it!!!! I still was so positive that the website said that they were Bethany House Publishers...then again, I'm the same person who has watched a pink North Carolina (tarheels? UNC? I know nothing about sports) shirt at Target all winter. I really wanted it because it's pink (my favorite color) and it said North Carolina (my state of residence). My desire for this shirt had nothing to do with the sports team it represented. So, I watched it all winter hoping it would go on clearance so that I could buy it. Finally, my opportunity came last week. I sorted through rack after rack of random clothes until I found my size and I bought my pink North Carolina shirt. I got it home and pulled it out to show Avery and wouldn't you know it- my "North Carolina" shirt now read "NC State"????!!!!! How in the world did that happen on the way home?!?!?! When Avery saw it, he was less than pleased with me for buying it. He said, "Heather, you know that's not our team!" OUR team? I don't even have a team! All I know is that our "family's team" (this means that this is the team that Avery has designated as our family's team) is blue just like our car. That's how I remember it. Our car is blue and our team is blue. The fact that my shirt was pink had really thrown me on this little system for remembering. Evidently, I bought the competition's shirt instead. I really felt like I might be crazy since I had watched this "North Carolina" shirt all winter. Yet here was "NC State" in my bag. Well, I do feel better to know that I'm not crazy, as Avery later went to Target to try to buy me a more appropriate shirt and he did manage to find my "North Carolina" shirt. Unfortunately, not in my size! So, I've been wearing my "NC State" shirt and am discovering that they are really not the favored team in my circle of friends! People have been making derogatory comments to me and giving me dirty looks as though I just cursed at them! I guess this sports stuff is serious business around here!

Okay, now...where was I...Oh yea. I was writing about my two incredible kids whom I had the good fortunate of spending a little bit of time with earlier this month. Day 4. The day before we left. It wanted to be a sad day, but we wouldn't let sadness steal the joy of spending an hour with our kids during our allotted visiting time at their orphanage.

This day was incredible. The moments that really stand out for me are as follows:

The kids spend this time doing their homework outside and it tended to get a little chilly as the sun was starting to set. Mihret's legs and hands would get really cold while she did her homework. She liked to touch me with her hands where upon I would exclaim in a whisper, "Beredo!" (cold!) She would smile. Then I would take both of her hands in mine for a few minutes until they warmed up. Then I would kiss them and she would smile. This was a game she liked to play all week and I was more than happy to be able to take care of her in this small way.

Today, she was sitting in an adult-sized plastic lawn chair so I picked her up to hold her while she rehearsed her reading book. She whispered, "aiy" as I picked her up, but I sat down with her on my lap anyway. If she really didn't want me to hold her, I was going to put her down, but she immediately relaxed in my arms. At one point, my hand that had been around her waist got so relaxed that it slipped down to my side. She stopped what she was doing, reached down for my hand, and once again placed it around her waist. I love this kid so much!

The nannies had oiled her hair before we came and some of it had run down her face and neck. She softly reached up to get some of the oil on her hand and with a most gentle caress, she rubbed the oil into my face. Talk about my heart melting!!!!! Would you think it was gross if I said that I still haven't washed my face since that moment?! Well, rest assured, I have washed my face. But I contemplated never washing it again! :)

Her school work this day was to read sentences about various pictures. She was so sweet. She would point at pictures of people and say their names. Their names were always, "Mom, Dad, Yosef, Lucas, Mihret, and Kaitlyn" in all varying orders. When there was a picture of a dog I would continue our "wusha wot" game. I would point and ask, "wusha wot?" (dog stew?) She would give me a mischievous smile and say "yesssssss!"

My time with Yosef was incredible too. He was reading sentences in English and saying whether they were true or false. One sentence said, "My mom is short and thin." He giggled and said, "false." False? I am only 5 feet tall and I'm not a skeletal model that you see in magazines, but I think I'm thin enough. I wondered if he didn't understand the sentence. Or maybe he thought i wasn't thin! Or maybe he didn't consider me to be his mom. But after he thought for a moment, he corrected it. He said, "My mom is tall and thin." I said, "Yes?" He replied, "Mom, you are very tall!" Oh gosh. I suppose in Ethiopia, where many grown men are shorter than me, I am rather tall! I don't think that has ever happened to me in my life! I'm usually mistaken for a little kid from a distance here in America! Funny. And how incredible to realize that yes, he really does consider me to be his mom. What an undeserved gift.

Yesterday I had told him that I would bring chocolate for all the kids. He was very happy when I told him I had brought it. The orphanage director had already approved the chocolate, so I passed it out to all the kids. Yosef really really really likes chocolate! What kid wouldn't?! :)

It was obvious that he really liked having me sit there next to him. As he continued to read the true/false statements about family, he would give answers about his family, us, where he was able. One sentence said, "My brother is good and healthy." He looked at me with a questioning expression and asked me if it was true. I assured him that yes, his brother is very good and very healthy. He was most pleased to learn that this was true. I think that only a very good God could have put the hope of a family in their little hearts...only a very good God could enable their little hearts to identify themselves as a part of our family on such a real level as this. Certainly, their fantasy is full of unrealistic ideas, but I'm so thankful that their little hearts can even engage in the fantasy of being in our family. They seem to intuitively know that we belong together.

As homework time ended and the kids were taking their backpacks to their rooms, Yosef turned back and said to me, "wait." So I stayed put in the chair I was sitting in. He came back was quite affectionate. We held hands. Both kids liked it when we hugged them, but didn't reciprocate the hug. This day, I instructed, "I hug you. Then you hug me." Simple enough. I thought that maybe they just needed "permission" to hug back. Evidently that was the case. As we hugged the kids, they returned with huge squeezy hugs. I love these kids so much. We took some pictures which I treasure so much. I wish they each had a copy of the photos we took that day. My prayer is that we will return to bring them home before I have the opportunity to send them the photos though.

They were sad when we left. They understood that tomorrow would be our last day. We promised them that the next time we come to Ethiopia that they will stay in our hotel with us and that they will go to America with us. I pray that this is a promise we can keep. This prospect made their sad little faces happy again. We said goodbye and stopped by the director's office on the way out to discuss a baby that we were supposed to escort for a family in the US. He had cleared the courts before they closed last fall and his family was anxiously waiting for his homecoming. When we left her office and headed for the gate, Yosef saw us and came running out to us again. He looked so sad. We hugged each other again and I promised we'd come tomorrow. I told him, "Aiy Zo, eshi?" (Basically, Be strong, okay? or Chin up, okay?). He smiled a sad smile and said, "eshi." Then he ran back with the other kids. We walked out the gate and the tears came down my cheeks yet again. I love him so much. My heart was breaking because my son was so sad and I was powerless to ease his pain. He just wants to be with his family and I cannot make that happen for him. There is no feeling as helpless as the one that overtakes a parent who is incapable of easing the hurt inside their child's heart.

For all who are praying for our kids to come home soon, our agency was not given their license on Monday as we had hoped. As usual, the answer was to come back another day. Wednesday is that day, so perhaps we'll hear good news today. Our prayer is that regardless of what happens with the agency that the government will do what is best for these children by uniting them with their families. Believe me, the moment we have good news, everybody will know about it! We are forever grateful for your prayers.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Yesus On The Streets

Tuesday was our fourth day in Ethiopia and I couldn't even allow myself to think about the fact that tomorrow I would have to say goodbye to my children without knowing when I would be able to come back to take them home. Despite the sadness that was starting to overwhelm my heart, it was an incredible day. Before I get to my kids though, I'll share about how Yesus On The Streets went.

Avery had asked one of the hotel's receptionists if she could help us to take the Yesus On The Streets bags to her church. She came up to our room to see exactly what we had to give away and when she saw all of the bags she was completely astounded that we were giving it all away. She just kept asking us why we were doing this. We told her that when we had told the people in America about the people in Ethiopia that they wanted to help. We explained that each photo was of the person who had made the bag. She had tears in her eyes as she looked at them. We told her that she could have one and she was overwhelmed at this. She looked through the bags to choose one like a little kid on Christmas morning. As we saw how deeply she was touched by the gift, we had the idea to allow the hotel employees to have them first, then to take the leftovers to the church. You see, we knew that the employees of this hotel, though employed, made very little. Hana (the receptionist) was one of the highest paid employees and even she was overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing a bag filled with makeup, jewelery, medicine. When we asked Hana if this would be okay she exclaimed with tears, "Nothing...Nothing like this has ever happened at this hotel before!"

She had all of the bags carried down to the ground floor where she helped us to lay them all out on a table. We told her to allow everybody to take one for themselves and one for their kids as well. We asked her to take charge of the distribution and to make sure that everybody understood that though we were the ones who had brought the bags that they were not really from us. We told her to make sure the employees understood that the people in the photos had made the bags because they understood how much God loves the people of Ethiopia. We put a little card inside each bag that said, "Exhiabihair kananta gar yehun" (God is with people everywhere---this is the best translation I can offer. Abeba wrote it for me).

As the maids, cooks, wash people, waitresses, etc. began to file into the room to see the gifts that the ferinj had brought, the scene was truly sacred. We had our camera with us, yet we couldn't bring ourselves to take a single picture. It felt like we would have been completely intruding on a very private moment of joy. As much as we wanted everybody in America to see how much their gifts had touched the recipients, we just couldn't do it. People began excitedly shouting at each other in Amharic as they would hold up their bags to display the incredible treasures contained within. Hana was explaining to them how to use the various medicines and they were in awe that taking just two advil would make their fever go away. Or that giving their kids Pepto Bismal would make their diarrhea stop. One maid held up a size 3T boy's T-shirt and exclaimed to another, "For your baby!" They kept coming up to us gushing with gratitude and we just kept pointing up and saying, "Amasegenalo Yesus! (Thank you Jesus). They would look up toward Heaven and say with great emotion, "Amasegenalo Yesus!"

One maid seemed to be acting quite selfishly, as she was hoarding bags in a corner and chasing away anybody who tried to go near them. Hana was handling things though, so we just stepped back feeling confident that she would do what was right. Later, we saw this same maid congregating on the 3rd floor with all of the maids and wash people who hadn't been able to get down to the ground floor in time to choose a bag. The "selfish" maid had been thinking of her coworkers the entire time! She gave all of the bags away.

These are good, hardworking people who were created in God's image. And yet because they were born in a 3rd world nation instead of America, life is so hard for them. And despite their difficult circumstances, we saw such contentment and happiness on the faces of the people we came into contact with during our short stay in Addis.

This project didn't turn out anything like we expected, but we know that it turned out exactly as God intended it. To all of my readers who sent bags, please know that your gift gave these people hope that God has seen them and cared for them. I wish you all could have been there to see with your own eyes.

Now, since I've received many emails from people who would like to do this project, this is what we learned. This particular project is not something that will work for street people. I've already talked about this with a few people who seem to know a lot more than me, as they kind of already knew this. But, some of us seem to have to learn these things the hard way! (US!). Anyway, even though this didn't reach the street people, this really showed God's tangible love to many employed Ethiopians who though they have an income, still struggle just to survive in an unfair world. I would absolutely recommend this project to people looking to reach this group of people. However, we have found out just how imperative it is to have a person, church, or organization in Ethiopia that can assist in the distribution. God, (because He knows Avery and me so well!) was good enough to provide Hana to us. But I wouldn't do this again without a solid plan in place ahead of time.

I forgot who sent me this idea, but one of my readers shared that they bought ALOT of bread and drove around in a taxi for 2 hours distributing it to the poor on the streets. She said that she was amazed at the selflessness of those who wanted the bread to be given to those who hadn't eaten, as they had already had bread that day. I don't know if we'll have time when we go back to Ethiopia to bring Yosef and Mihret home, but if we do, this is something we'd like to do.

I'd love to hear from anybody else who has done a successful project like this. The more of us who are working toward helping those who are less fortunate than the majority of Americans, the better place this world will be.

My Genius Husband Found The Real Mitad Lid

Well, after I finally resigned myself earlier today to buying a 16 inch stainless steel bowl to go on top of my mitad, my husband came home and saved the day! He was so smart that he looked on the box that my mitad came in, saw that it was made by Bethany House (yes, the book publishers), then he found Bethany House's website where he located the actual lid that goes with the mitad! So, here is the link for the real deal. They don't make it easy, as you can't order it on the internet. You have to call. It was $22 including shipping. Rich over at No More Counting The Cost also found a 16 inch lid that will work, but I couldn't figure out how much it would cost. My guess is probably about the same, as that seems to be the going rate for a lid based on my shopping experience this morning.

Abeba came over today and let me borrow her lid so that I could cook the injera that I started working on last night. And I'm so excited because it actually worked! I did it totally by myself and it worked! There wasn't quite enough ain (the bubbles) around the outside edges, but Abeba said it's because I used too much teff and not enough self-rising flour. It tasted like injera should and I did it completely by myself! Did I mention how excited I am?!?! After I do it a few more times, I'll share everything that Abeba has taught me. I just want to do it myself a few more times so that I can be confident in what I share.

Mitad Lid

Okay, I spent several hours this morning dragging two not-so-enthusiastic kids from store to store trying to find a lid to go with my new mitad. Well, I failed miserably! It seems that there is very little demand for a 16 inch lid. Or a 16 inch bowl or cake pan, or a 16 inch anything! So, I finally gave up and did what I should have done to begin with. I checked the internet! So, for those who have thought of buying a mitad, here is a link for the lid. It is a stainless steel mixing bowl. It is the best I could come up with and I already ordered. It will be here within a week. The total cost including shipping was $18.??. (I can't remember exactly how much).

More about our Ethiopia trip later this week. (Maybe tomorrow!) For those who are praying for our kids, keep on praying. Tigist did not get the license for the agency today. She is checking back on Wednesday.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Day 3-The Best Part- My Kids!

Monday. The best part of Monday, though Merkato was great fun, was definitely the hour we spent with Yosef and Mihret...But before I go on, I must correct myself. It is not Merkado! I know, this is probably not news to most of my readers! But it was news to me! I have such a hard time hearing certain sounds when an Amharic speaker is talking. But an Amharic friend let me know that it is Merkato, which makes a lot more sense since it is like the Italian word for Market. Anyway...

When we got to the orphanage, I was kind of disappointed to learn that 5:00-6:00 is homework time, as homework is very serious and quiet business. Oh well. Just having the privilege to lay eyes on my kids in real-life was such a blessing. I was pretty impressed with how well Mihret can read Amharic! She recited page after page in her little sing-song whisper. She was having a snack, kolo (it would be like the Ethiopian equivalent to Americans eating sunflower seeds), and I was most honored when she gave me some of her kolo. After I sat next to her for a few minutes, she remembered what I had told her yesterday. She looked up at me with her huge chocolate eyes and whispered with expectation, "Mom- Gum?" I whispered back, "Oaw. Ye muz mastika tefelagialesh?" (Yes, do you want banana gum?) She gave me her adorable smile that is missing a tooth and raised her little eyebrows to say "yes." Such simple moments like these were so priceless to me. I had already checked with the director of the orphanage to make sure the gum was okay, so I handed it out to all of the older kids.

When I went to sit down by Yosef, he had laid out a picture of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. He handed it to me and said, "Gift!" Again, what a priceless gift. I pointed at each person so he could tell me their name. When he got to Joseph and said, "Yosef", in disbelief I asked him if it was a picture of him. He thought that was hilarious. Oops! Better not make him laugh lest he get in trouble for not doing his homework! :)

As the hour drew to a close the kids packed up their homework and went off to play while they waited for supper. But, it was time for us to leave. Once again, I cried as the gate shut behind us. These kids couldn't be anymore mine, and yet legally, they are not. How I long for the day when the government will catch up with my heart!


Yesterday I spent the day with a very dear friend. She is a lady who is nearly 60 and I have learned so much from her friendship these past few years. She's been stuck at home for a couple of months due to a broken leg, so I wanted the day to be special. I took my fancy djebena (coffee pot) along with my pretty new sini (little coffee cups, but I learned this word from Ma'aza and Abeba who are both Tigray and I think this might be a Tigray word, not an Amharic word, but I'm not sure) and together we sipped shai (Ethiopian tea) and caught up with each other, as I haven't seen her since I went to Ethiopia and in this time, she has had a new grandchild born.

Lucas made sandwiches for us for lunch, as he said to me earlier this week, "Mom, I think your New Year Rev-o-luj-an should be that you will let your son cook." So, I've been letting him be the "chef" for lunch. Then he went off to watch a movie in another room. I had brought my guitar with me and together, we began to sing some worship songs and we spent some time praying for Yosef and Mihret, for Ethiopia, for justice to be carried out for these children and also in their situation. Without a faithful God to fall on, I cannot imagine having gone through the past 2 years! And not only is God always there for me, but He has blessed me with some of the most amazing friends to walk this road with me. Truly amazing!

For any who would like to pray, the Ethiopian person who is processing our adoption is supposed to meet on Monday with the government officials who have authority to license our agency, thus enabling our case to go to court so that the kids can come home. We are praying that she will have great favor with this official and that the matter will be cleared up next Monday so that justice can be carried out for these kids and they can have a family restored to them once again. Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 3- Photos


Ma'aza pointed out to us that you can only afford to live in these apartment buildings if you're rich! Funny, but here, once you're rich you move out of an apartment building (unless it's some luxurious penthouse suite!) and build yourself your very own house!

Day 3 With Ma'aza Continued

Here I continue the story of the day we spent with Ma'aza, my new hand-holding Ethiopian friend!

So, after Mercado, we went back to the hotel for a bite to eat before it was time for Avery and me to go visit Yosef and Mihret at the orphanage. We had injera (of course!), doro wot (spicy chicken stew), 2 types of gomen (cabbage), mesir wot (spicy lentil stew), and aiyb (Ethiopian cheese similar in appearance to ricotta cheese). Our meal together was delicious! And so much fun. Here's the thing about girsha (Ethiopian method of eating where the people feed each other bites of food to show love, intimacy, respect, etc.) that I don't care for. Whenever people feed me bites of food wrapped up in injera, they give me such big bites that I can barely chew them! Everybody does it to me. So I am assuming that I must take smaller than normal bites. But when I have a huge bite of food in my mouth, I just keep chewing and chewing and chewing, then I feel sick! If it weren't for that little problem, I wouldn't mind girsha one bit.

However, that's not really my point. Because overall, the day was incredibly wonderful! As we ate, we discussed America and Ethiopia, and our lives, our families, God, etc. Ma'aza's perceptions of America were so funny to me. She couldn't understand why I don't have a job. I tried to explain that because Avery makes enough money, I am able to stay with our kids because it's what I want to do. She said with disbelief and utter lack of comprehension of the situation, "But why doesn't your servant take care of them?!" Servant? I don't have a servant! I AM the servant at our house! We tried to explain what Walmart is, but I don't think we really got through to her. I'm going to take a picture for her when we go back next time.

The funniest part was that she was enjoying the food very much, as did we. Once Avery and I were full, we stopped eating, but Ma'aza continued to eat. Now, she's a tiny little thing! She's about the same height as me (5 feet), but skinnier. And I'm only 105 pounds. So, I was amazed that she could pack away the food like that. As she continued to eat, she kept telling us, "eat, eat!" and we kept saying that we were full. She finally explained to us that if we didn't eat it all that it would be very rude. Now, I really didn't want to waste the one hour I was going to have with Yosef and Mihret on being sick from eating too much food! So, we told her we'd ask for a bag so that she could take it home to her family. She thought that idea was hilarious. She said she couldn't possibly do that. She wanted to do that, but she thought it was so funny to even consider it. She said with laughter and her heavy Ethiopian accent, "My father will say, 'What are you now? A beggar?!?!' " But, she did like the idea of giving so much good food to her mother. So, we called the waitress over to ask for a bag, but her English was non-existent and I don't know the Amharic word for "doggy bag." So, Ma'aza asked for one. The waitress seemed very confused and Ma'aza started laughing. Ma'aza tried to explain what she wanted and the two of them talked back and forth for a few minutes while Ma'aza just kept laughing and the waitress continued to look confused. Without understanding a word, just watching them was quite amusing. When the waitress walked away, Ma'aza explained that the waitress had asked her, "Why do you want a bag? Do you want the food for a beggar?!" The only bag the waitress could find was small and used. So I went up to our hotel room to get a Ziploc bag (I travel prepared for any circumstance!) for the food. Ma'aza said that in Ethiopian restaurants, people don't take the food home with them unless they're going to give it to a beggar. We had been taking the food all week for beggars! No wonder the waiters always looked at us kind of funny!

I explained to Ma'aza that in America, all restaurants have special little boxes so that you can take your food home with you. She wanted to know why we would do such a thing. I explained that the next day, when you're hungry, you can heat it up in the microwave. "Micro....Micro....Micro-wave?" was Ma'aza's response. How do you explain what a microwave is?! We explained that it was a tiny little oven that was electric and you put the food in, push the button, and 1 minute later, it's all hot. I'm not sure that she believed us! I saw her later in the week though, and her family was so very happy with the food, especially her mother. So, it was worth it!

After lunch, we walked back up to our room until it was time to go see the kids. She saw all of the Yesus On The Streets bags everywhere and asked about them. I explained to her what they were all about. She started looking at them and was amazed at all of the medicines. I told her that she could have one and pointed her to the pile of bags made by women. As she started picking them up, she kept asking about the various medicines and it was obvious that even to this girl with two professors for parents that medicine was a luxury. She just couldn't believe that she could really have one of the bags. After she chose one, I told her to pick one for her parents too, and she was so happy. She really just couldn't comprehend that she was allowed to have even one bag, much less three. She carefully chose for her parents and we sent her home with a bunch of chocolate for her brothers. I also gave her all of the cough drops I had in my backpack, something she had never heard of. She was amazed that eating just one would help her to stop coughing. My goodness! How many times have I been unable to sleep at night due to a nagging cough and one little cough drop afforded me a good night of peaceful sleep? And have I ever once stopped to be grateful for a cough drop? Have I ever once stopped long enough to be truly grateful for a chocolate bar, or Advil, or hair conditioner, or an ink pen? If I stopped long enough to be grateful for each of the luxuries that God has blessed my life with, I wouldn't get a single thing done in a day because I'd never be finished with thanking God! And I just kept realizing that these things were "luxuries" to this girl from a professional family!

Now, we'd distributed 3 of the bags, what about the rest of them that were flooding our hotel room?! We had given up on reaching our contact in Ethiopia. You see, we'd actually ridden over on the plane with him, and he gave us his phone number, but when we arrived, we discovered that the phone systems had been revamped since his last visit and his phone number no longer worked the same way. We tried everything! We got in touch with friends in America who had his number, but their number was the same as ours and didn't work anymore! We began to really pray to find out what God wanted us to do with all of the bags. But that's another story for another day!

As fun as this day was, it was finally almost 5:00PM, the very best hour of the entire day, as this was the hour when I would see my sweet Yosef and Mihret. We exchanged our customary Ethiopian kisses with Ma'aza and said goodbye. What a sweet young woman she was. Whenever we find ourselves in Addis, her family will be our family. God is so good to have put her in our path. It was really one of the most fun days I have ever had.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ma'aza, Me, and Mercado

This is Ma'aza and me at Sheromeda. It was a smaller market that we visited before going to Mercado. The photo is of standing on a hilltop with Addis in the background down below.

Mercado was delighfully busy. This game is like "Where's Waldo?" except it's called "Where's the Ferinj?"

Ma'aza and me walking back one of the crowded walkways at Mercado.

Day 3, Part 1- Mercado Was So Much Fun!!!

We woke up this third day in Ethiopia, as we knew that a lovely young lady named Ma'aza would be there for us very soon. Ma'aza worked in one of the internet cafe's from Avery's first trip and was so very helpful to him. She had helped him with buying a few items so that he wouldn't have to pay the ferinj price, which is always much higher than what would be charged to an Ethiopian. Ma'aza, whose name means "perfume", arrived at the hotel right on time, 9:00AM. As we walked out of the hotel together, she casually reached over to hold my hand. Whoa!! I was fully aware of this practice throughout most of Africa, that is the fact that same-sex friends are quite comfortable with showing non-sexual affection to one another. I had never considered that I might be in a position to practice this local custom though...let's just say it was a bit weird at first. But, I didn't want to offend this nice young lady, so I returned the gesture. I evidently wasn't doing it right though because she took our hands and entwined our fingers. Okay. Note to self- there must be a right way and a wrong way to do this! So, we got into the taxi, Avery in the front and the two girls in the back. Rather than leaving the middle seat empty, which most Americans with all of our "personal space issues" would have done, Ma'aza scooted over right next to me. She reached out for my hand and casually placed it on her thigh. Then she rested her hand on top of mine. How many of my American readers are already freaking out?!?! Well, I was freaking out too, but only on the inside. On the outside, I was as cool as a cucumber. :)

Honestly, by the end of the day, I was perfectly comfortable with Ma'aza and realized that as Americans, we could really use a dose of healthy, same-sex affection. Perhaps men even more so than women, as women do tend to be at least a little bit more affectionate than men in our western culture. Anyway, off to Mercado we went.

No wait. Before it was off to Mercado, Ma'aza had to negotiate the taxi fare down to about 1/5 of the original asking price. There it is again- the meaning of ferinj! To be ferinj is to be rich, at least in the minds of most Ethiopians. And truly, next to the lifestyle of so many in this country, the poorest of the poor in America is rich by comparison. But I still don't like to have to pay more than somebody else for the same service!

So, off to Mercado we went, and what an incredible experience it was! Due to the conflict with Somalia, we almost missed out on this. But before we left, my Ethiopian friend here in America, Rosa, told me that it would be a tragedy to visit Ethiopia and not go to Mercado. That was the best advice I've gotten in a very long time. Next to seeing my kids, this was the most fun we had in Ethiopia!

Mercado is the largest open-air market in all of Africa, and what a busy place Mercado was! It was so large that we didn't even begin to discover all of its wonders. And it was so full of vendors selling bunna and shai (tea) spices and frankincense that the smells permeated every corner of the market. And I got to have lots of up-close and personal encounters with goats and donkeys wandering around the streets and walkways. To me, they seemed to be wandering aimlessly without owners, but if you watched long enough, eventually an owner would come along to steer them in the right direction. Too bad for me that I'm really prissy when it comes to animal dung on my shoes!

Ma'aza said that she'd never seen Mercado that crowded before in her entire life! She figured that it was partly due to the fact that Ethiopians were preparing to celebrate Christmas in just a few days.

I got to try out my Amharic a lot on this day, and I learned a lot too. Really, when you're willing to try out a second language regardless of how stupid you fear you might sound, you will learn so much faster. Mind you, I was far from fluent, and Ma'aza had to step in and help a lot, but I was able to negotiate price by myself. Mind you, I usually had no idea what a fair price would be. And of course, Ma'aza could negotiate a far better price than I could ever dream of since she's an Ethiopian, but knowing Amharic fluently still won't change the fact that I am forever ferinj. I managed to get myself a sufid (round, flat, basket-like object used for removing injera from the mitad after it's finished cooking) for only 10 birr more than my original stated price. It didn't look quite like Abeba's sufid, but I was pretty proud of myself! When I was able to make another shop owner understand that I wanted to buy a wrap for securing a baby to my back, I was equally as proud of myself. His sudden look of recognition told me that I had communicated the right thing to him. But, he returned a few minutes later with some humongous leather and seashell contraption, and I knew that there had been a breakdown in communication! Sure enough, it would hold baby to my back, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. It was more like a horse saddle! But, I did manage to make him understand when I said, "Aiy! Cotton efelegalo ebakah!" (No, I want cotton please!) That's when I got the sorry look with a polite, "Yellum" (Not here). All I can say is, FUN!

Everywhere we went, we saw street- side vendors holding huge bouquets of green vegetation. I asked Ma'azawhat it was and she negotiated a price on a handful for us. It's called "eshat" and it's a vegetable. You pick off small pods to find a pea-like vegetable inside. You eat the pea. It tasted like soybeans to me. It must be a popular thing to eat though because two days later when I gave the remnants to one of the hotel maids she was really excited about it.

One of the things I needed to buy was roasted whole coffee beans for a friend in America who is putting together a fundraiser. Various baskets of coffee from all over the world will be raffled off (I think). Well, it was no easy task to find pre-roasted beans at Mercado! Duh! Ethiopians roast their own beans at home. Why would they sell them pre-roasted?! The only pre-roasted beans we could find were also pre-ground, which I did not want. When Ma'aza would try to explain to the shop owners what we wanted they seemed perplexed that anybody would want to buy coffee that way. Finally though, we found a nice up-scale Ethiopian equivalent of a Star Bucks. Sure enough, they had exactly what we wanted. We even had the choice of buying clean or dirty beans. Okay, really they were called "washed" and "unwashed" beans, but it sounds funnier to say "clean" or "dirty." I've never been faced with such a choice in America!

Another thing I wanted to buy was a traditional dress. The clothing shops were mostly very tiny, and though you could see just fine from outside, the owners would always insist that we come inside and sit down on a little stool. Mind you, these shops were so tiny that with Avery, Ma'aza, and me along with 1-2 employees, we were so close we were touching. But, I'd already realized that Ethiopians definitely aren't hung up on "personal space", nor do they seem to realize that Americans are hung up on this concept! I finally found one that I liked and Ma'aza said I could try it on. I wasn't exactly sure where the fitting room might be since we were in a tiny little shed, but before I could inquire the male store owner left. I signalled Avery to leave too. That left me alone with Ma'aza and the female store owner inside this little shop with no door. I was positive that people on the street could see me, but when in Rome....I really didn't know what the proper protocol was in this situation, so I just asked Ma'aza. Apparently, it's appropriate to take off your clothes to try on the new clothes. Perhaps everybody is just on the honor system to not peek in through the door?! What a day! Nothing like being totally immersed in a culture! I loved every minute of it!

I was particularly amused when a young Ethiopian guy came up behind Ma'aza and me holding hands and began singing Michael's Jackson's song, "It doesn't matter if you're black or white..." Ma'aza and I both laughed hysterically at this. We had such a fun day together. Ma'aza later in an email said that it was one of the happiest days of her life. For me, it ranked pretty high too! More about this incredibly fun day in a later post...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 2- My Kids Are Awesome!

As I sat in our hotel room recording this wonderful day on my laptop journal, I could hear the staccato beat of the music playing loud outside just a few blocks away. It was a beautiful, cool night in Addis. I had spent glorious 3 hours with my kids, followed by something at a restaurant called an "Egg Burger". Mind you, in Ethiopia, I'd much rather eat Ethiopian food, as at least I know they can do it well! This particular place didn't have anything traditionally Ethiopian on the menu though. By the way, an "egg burger" means a hamburger with a very strange taste topped with a fried egg with an equally strange taste! But at least my belly was full! Now I sat here nice and clean after a shower that had washed away all of the dust of the day. Along with the music, the smells of Ethiopia wafted through the open balcony door; berbere, incense, dirt, bunna, goats. All of the things that signified the nearness of my children....oh's also New Year's Eve. Well, that's what CNN said anyway! Aside from those wanting to be welcoming to the ferinj, you wouldn't know it, as Ethiopia's New Year celebration happened back in September!

The best part about our second day in Addis was seeing Yosef and Mihret. They were a bit more comfortable with us today. Mihret came up to me and kissed me on the cheek all of her own will. It was worth gold. I bribed her to sit on my lap. She wanted to use the video camera and I told her she couldn’t unless she sat on my lap. So she agreed and after that, she was okay with sitting on my lap. She’s so cute!

Yosef handed his Bible to me and said, “Gift.” I thought he was trying to give it to me, but it’s very important to him, as Avery gave it to him on his first trip in July and Yosef told me that he reads it everyday, so I of course didn’t want to take it. I laid it down and later he tried to give it to me again. I was incredibly honored that he wanted to give me something that is so important to him. Yet I couldn’t take it. So I asked him if I could have a different gift from his room instead. He agreed and took me to his room. I noticed that he has a bunch of small religious pictures, mostly Mary and some Jesus pictures too, taped up in the corner of his bed where he lays his head. He hunted around for a minute before choosing a different gift. He handed me a small pink booklet and said something to me about “Catholic” I think. It’s all in Amharic and the front says something about Mary and the back has “Ye Exhiabiher Law” which I assume is the 10 commandments. Anyway, I will definitely treasure it! It's one of the best gifts I've ever received.

Today was definitely a little more relaxed than yesterday. I sang the Aiya Djebo (Mr. Hyena) song, which helped them to relax and laugh a little, especially Mihret. The nannies must play that game with them too, as when one of them heard me singing it to Mihret, she got the little kids in a circle and put one in the middle, the Djebo, and they sang. When Mihret got to be the djebo, she was so cute, as she ran around pretending to bite the kids.

I laughed at the boys, as shortly before we left, all of the boys were near the gate riding bikes and scooters. That’s when two of them got a jump rope, held it out across the courtyard, and all the rest lined up ready to…to...I actually don't know what they were thinking! But one of the nannies saw it just as I did and made them stop, as they were obviously getting ready to hang themselves! Boys are boys the world over! Yosef was right in there with them. Lucas is going to love having Yosef for a big brother!

A couple of times, Yosef and I were trying to communicate, but we just couldn’t find the words and when that happened, I would start laughing and then he would laugh too. I will be so glad when I can really know him; his thoughts, his dreams, his fears.

I was sitting on the floor holding a couple of toddlers and Mihret kept coming over to me to kiss me or touch me. I really think that she understands that I belong to her. At least I hope that is what she was demonstrating. Once, I felt little hands rubbing my hair and it melted my heart all over again to turn around and see that it was her. Priceless. Truly priceless.

About 10 minutes before our visiting time was over, I was watching them play and was so overwhelmed with the fact that I will have to tell them goodbye. I felt the tears come to my eyes, but knew I had to hold it together while I was there. It will be so hard to leave them. They are so very much mine. When I was holding Mihret, I teased her saying, “Yane Mihret!” (My Mihret) like a little kid saying, “Mine” over his favorite toy. I squeezed her close when I said it and she thought it was so funny.

Yosef read some of his Bible to me, and he reads Amharic really well! I read a book to Mihret, sort of! She chose a kids’ Bible story book. I suggested an ABC book, but she shook her little pointer finger at me and said, “aiy” and held up her Bible book. So, the way we read this English book is one of the older girls read the English with my help, then I explained what it meant to the older girl in broken Amharic/English/pointing, then the older girl explained in Amharic to Mihret. Perhaps not the most efficient way to read a book, but it worked and all three of us had a great time.

When we had to say goodbye to the kids, as soon as we walked outside the gate I began to cry. I can't tell you how fast three hours feels when it involves spending time with two of your favorite people in the whole universe! Two kids who are so very much mine, yet the "system" hasn't realized this yet! I just looked up all of the synonyms for the word "sad" but none of them really even touched on how sad my heart was. When I looked up the synonyms for "anguish" we started to get a little bit closer: "torment, agony, torture, pain, distress, sorrow, grief."

And yet, in spite of my sorrow that day, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Those three hours were so precious to me. I wish it had been more. But I've said before that no amount of time will ever satisfy my heart until they are safe and sound in America with our family. Soon...

Happy Birthday, Mihret!

To my beautiful little Mihret,

Today you are 6 years old!!! I doubt you're aware that today is your birthday, but my prayer is that by this time next year you will be here in America celebrating with our family. Did you know that in our family, the tradition is to fill the living room with balloons? Oh, and we don't always do this, but a particularly fun birthday tradition in our family is to eat cake and ice-cream for breakfast. (But that only works when the party was the weekend before). Your birth- mother, Denkenesh, must have been so thrilled to pieces on this day just six years ago! She must have marveled at your little toes and your enormous chocolate eyes. I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on you, well, your picture; they said that you were just 3 years old! And you were so beautiful to me that day. And just to think that only a couple of months ago, when I accepted that you wouldn't be home for your birthday, I was so sad that I wouldn't know you before you turned six! Isn't our God so good like that? He was so good to give us the opportunity to know each other while you were still five, wasn't he? My beautiful little baby, someday soon, I pray that I will be holding you in my arms again, but next time, for more than just a few hours. Forever sounds like a much better plan to me! Soon...

With Love,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mom, Are We Having Chicken For Dinner Tonight?


This was one of my favorite things about Ethiopia. The best is when I would somebody carrying a live chicken with one hand while they talked on their cell phone with the other. I loved the collision of the traditional with the modern. Classic!

Day 1, Part 2- The Bunna Baet Scam

So, we got to see our kids on this first day, which was great. Afterwards, we decided to walk down the street to a little restaurant for a bite to eat for dinner. Well, a block or so from the hotel, this guy came up to us and started speaking terribly accented English with us. He said he was a construction worker at our hotel and that he was going to church, it’s a Muslim festival day, blah blah blah. He invited us to come with him to see a "special program" and have bunna (coffee). It did seem a bit odd to me that this guy who was named Dawit (A traditionally Christian name) who was headed to church would be so interested in informing us of the Muslim holiday, but I'm a very trusting person. I was unclear as to why he kept telling us about the Muslim holiday, but assumed the "special program" had something to do with the festival and thought that maybe Christians took it as an opportunity to have a festival too????? Too bad I often miss these types of serious red flags until I'm already in over my head! So, we, the silly ferinj (white foreigners) that we are, agreed. We should have stopped at our destination restaurant as originally planned, but we decided to continue on with him. He took us to a different section of town that was far from our hotel. He stopped on the way to “call his sister.” Then we walked some more. And some more. And some more. But Dawit was so nice and so hospitable in wanting us to be able to experience Ethiopian culture, blah blah blah. And what a nice bit of Ethiopian culture we got to experience that night!

Finally, we got to the place, and we were the only ones attending this special “program.” This too was odd to me, but I actually had a lot of fun at first. There were 12 or so dancers who performed traditional dances from all of the various regions and tribes of Ethiopia. They wanted me to dance with them, so I did, and it was a lot of fun. Avery played the cabarro (drum). I was actually really enjoying myself. I was a bit thrown by the fact that our “friend” Dawit had told us the “program” would be very interesting, yet he barely paid any attention at all and even disappeared during the “program.” I was also a bit concerned when he started talking on his cell phone, yet on the way, we had to stop at a little shop where he paid money to "call his sister." And yet, because I'm trusting and want to believe the best about people until they prove to me that they are less than honorable, I continued to have fun.

Avery and I ordered a soda to share. Then, the “manager” asked Avery (unbeknown to me) to buy drinks for all of the employees there (about 16 people). He asked how much and was told “70 birr.” He clarified that it was 70 birr total, which is about $8 US dollars, so he agreed. They all enjoyed a round of tej (Ethiopian honey wine). Then the “manager” asked him to buy another round and when he refused, she wasn’t pleased. I didn’t know that all of this had happened.

However, I could see that Avery was no longer having a good time, though I assumed he was merely bored with the music. We waited until they served the bunna (coffee) and then said we needed to leave. They brought us the bill for 800 birr! That’s $100 US dollars! Avery argued with the guy for a bit, to no avail. He said he would pay 200 birr. The dude was not into bargaining at all though. Avery had already caught on to the fact that our “friend” was actually part of the scam on the ferinj and said that since Dawit brought us here, he would pay the rest. I hadn’t caught on to that yet! Boy, am I slow sometimes! I began to pray, as I was pretty scarred at that point! And I didn't want our "friend" Dawit to have to pay. Eventually, Avery gave them 600 birr ($70!) and said we were leaving. They said we could not, but Avery grabbed my arm and I knew it was time to just leave. We walked out, praying the entire time, mind you! That is when we discovered that we were gated in! And when we got to the gate, the padlock was locked! Talk about panic! I was thinking I could climb the gate easy enough, but I didn’t know how fast I could do it and I didn’t think Avery could climb it at all. I'm really very attached to Avery and certainly didn't want to leave him behind! I was ready to go back in and demand that the gate be opened. Then, Avery tried the latch and somehow got it opened. We briskly walked away and let me tell you, I was scarred to death! We walked very quickly. And they did not try to come after us. Why should they?????? They made an absolute fortune!

I didn’t realize until after we left that Dawit was part of the scam! I can be so slow sometimes! He hadn't stopped to call his sister! He stopped to alert this little bunna baet (coffee house) that we were on our way! As we walked home, Avery told me that the reason he had suddenly stopped having a good time was he had looked out the window and realized they had closed the gate on us and he saw a guard with one of those nice big guns with ammo strapped around his neck! I don't know if I've ever been that scarred in my life!

So, we’re halfway back to the hotel when another man starts speaking even more terribly accented and hard-to-understand English to us. He wanted us to see a program about Oromiya culture and started telling us how Ethiopia is really Oromiya. Pretty lousy sales pitch to people who are obviously visitors to Ethiopia! You don’t visit a country you don’t like and the dude's pitch made it evident that the “program” was about how Ethiopia was bad and Oromiya is good! Not that I'm taking a political stance either for or against Oromiya. I just think it wasn't a very bright sales pitch to a couple of ferinj tourists! Anyway, we kept telling him “aiy” but he wouldn’t take “aiy” for an answer. He kept asking us why. I told him “Yane alga efellagallo” (I want my bed) but he didn’t seem to like that answer either. He kept walking with us and we told him “chow” several times. He was pretty persistent. Or maybe he didn't understand our good-bye? He was so persistent that I thought there might be something wrong with him! I thought that maybe he was drunk, but he was walking just fine. Then I thought that maybe he was mentally handicapped. He was not. He was just a persistent salesman because he wanted a nice little cut of the profit just like our friend Dawit got. He asked if I was English. I laughed and said, “aiy” so he asked if I was American. I said, “aiy” (please forgive the lie, I just wasn't into chit chatting with the guy given our little experience with Dawit that I still hadn't recovered from!). He persisted in asking where I was from. I turned to him and said quite sarcastically, “Neny Abesha! Ow! Abesha!” (I'm Ethiopian! Yes! Ethiopian!) I was scarred to death at that point, as I didn’t know how my sarcasm would be taken. But it worked! We crossed the street and he didn’t follow. It probably helped that we stepped right in front of a taxi and he wasn't brave enough (or stupid enough???) to follow suit. Good grief!

We should have gone with our first instinct and eaten supper instead, as my legs were so sore from the long walk. Well, maybe they were sore from the time I spent jump-roping with Mihret. But still, all that walking, all that money, and we were still hungry. We could have fed the entire hotel for the price we paid just to get out of that place in one piece!

Now, mind you, Avery and I went back and forth on whether we should share this on our blog. We finally figured, what the heck? Of course we'll share it. It was definitely not funny at the time, but now it's kind of funny. Okay, it's kind of funny as long as we don't allow ourselves to think about how much money $70 is! At some future point, I'm sure it will be extremely funny! And if nothing else, maybe somebody else will recognize this scam when it happens to them so that they won't agree to go the way we did! Now, mind you, we were fully aware of the "bunna baet scam" but we didn't understand that the scam artists would befriend you on the street in order to draw you in.

Oh yeah, the next morning when we left the hotel, we saw Dawit hanging out in the alley behind the hotel! He saw us and he turned around and started running the other direction! We were solicited two more times this week. One time, it was the exact same scam for the exact same location. He had the exact same story about being a hotel employee. The hotel was very upset and assured us that neither man was an employee.

When I told my Ethiopian friend here in America, Abeba, what had happened, with her limited English, she just kept exclaiming, "He is a bad bad man! He did a bad bad thing! That was a bad bad thing!" For sure. A bad, bad thing indeed!

***Disclaimer to my family who might be reading: please don't have a heart attack. You're reading this blog, so we obviously made it back to America in one piece. Just to make you feel better, I'll let you know now that nothing else that dramatic happened to us that week. The rest of the week was much better than that first day. :)

Friday, January 12, 2007



This is what it looks like if you walk down the streets of Ethiopia and you happen to be a ferinj like us! Talk about turning heads! It's really hard to blend in here. :) Coming next week, you'll get to hear about how the silly ferinj ended up drinking the most expensive Coca-Cola of our lives.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Love At First Sight

I expected to hear Avery's mosque ringing in the dawn this first day here, but I didn't. (Read Avery's blog about his first trip to Ethiopia in July if you don't know what I'm referencing!) In fact, I never once heard a mosque the entire time we were there! Avery says it's because he was on the other side of the hotel last time, right next to the mosque. So, instead, we slept until about 9:00 AM before we got up. We got ready and headed for the orphanage with a bunch of supplies. When we got there, we were told that we had to come back during visiting hours, so we left the supplies and headed out to explore until 3:00PM, the hour I have awaited for a very long time now.

Really, we didn't do much that first day in the way of exploring, as we were both just so ready to be with our kids! We went to the Shola Market for a little while. It's an open-air market, smaller than Merkado and more geared toward locals than tourists. And it smelled like Ethiopia to me. You know, incense, bunna, goats, berbere, fire, sewage at some places, and Ethiopian cooking. Ahh... the smell of Ethiopia; the smell of being near my children; the smell of adventure and excitement.

We took about 20 pounds of chocolate to Ethiopia with us and never left the hotel without our pockets full, so we handed out some chocolate. However, it quickly became evident that the market, though small, wasn't a very good place for this. We were almost immediately surrounded by people wanting some chocolate. It was one of those "okay, let's get out of here NOW moments." Silly ferinj! (white foreigners) Lesson learned. :) The first lesson of many on this trip!

Finally, after a day that seemed entirely too long, it was time to head for the orphanage. It is within walking distance of both our hotel and the market, so we pretty much always walked. We turned off of the main road and headed down a dirt alley. There it was. The huge green gate that keeps their orphanage secure. As we approached, I couldn't hear any children, but it was surreal to know that my Yosef and Mihret were separated from me by nothing more than a sheet of metal. The orphanage guard opened the gate when we knocked and we bowed ever so slightly, a sign of our thanks. Then one of the nannies brought our kids out from one of the rooms of the orphanage into the little paved courtyard and in an instant, my heart melted. I really can’t even put words to what it was like to first lay eyes on them. The moment I saw them was…I don’t know….they were so very much mine. Suddenly, right before my eyes I was looking at my children. Just an overwhelming flood of love…unconditional love…they were so much smaller than I expected. They’re both very tiny, especially Mihret. And very shy too. Yosef was wearing a sports jersey Avery gave him in July and Mihret was wearing a necklace and ring that we sent her a while ago.

The four of us sat on a bench for a little while as I tried to soak in the fact that we were finally together. Yosef wanted me to see his room, and he proudly showed me his bed where his Amharic Bible that Avery had given him in July was neatly laid next to his pillow. He told me that he reads it everyday. He showed me his journal that we had sent him a while back. He has used it, which is what I was hoping for when I sent it. He has glued pictures of his favorite sports stars into it, especially pictures of "Reyes", his favorite Arsenal soccer player. On one page was a picture with the words, "I love Mom" and on another page, a picture with, "I love Dad." He showed me all of his pictures that we've sent. This kid loves our family so very much and he wants nothing more than to come to America with us. I think that only God could have given his heart such a deep understanding of this. I was truly shocked at how much he identifies himself as a part of our family. Pleasantly shocked, that is!

Mihret wanted me to see her room too. She showed me her "Abesha" doll that sits high on a shelf in her room. It's a Barbie doll that I transformed into a traditional Ethiopian woman. She also showed me all of the other things we've sent her. She really likes the pictures of her room here in America especially. She especially likes the pictures of her bottom bunk bed with a new baby doll sitting on it. I looked at her Abesha doll and asked the doll, "Samesh mano?" (What is your name?) and Mihret thought that was funny. Finally, I got to hear her famous to-die-for giggle in person. And I assure you, she has a giggle that truly is out of this world. This first day, I didn't get to hear her voice though, as she is a typical Ethiopian child and whispers whenever she talks to me. A friend of mine who grew up in Ethiopia explained that often, the culture dictates that children are to be seen and not heard, so children learn to whisper when speaking to adults. She mostly just smiles and whispers occasionally. She is so beautiful. Everything about her is beautiful. I can see in her eyes that her heart is beautiful and radiant too. I can't wait until her true self starts to come out. She has lost a tooth too. When I noticed, she was quite proud of herself and told me (through Yosef) that as is the tradition, she had thrown it on the roof. She said that there are lots of teeth up on the roof!

Our visiting hours lasted from 3-6:00 that first day, Saturday. Needless to say, they were all too short, but truly, no amount of time will satisfy my heart until they are safe and sound in America with our family. They had started to warm up quite a bit by the time we left.

I want nothing more than to wrap my arms around these kids and lavish my love upon them the way I do with Kaitlyn and Lucas. But because I love them so much, I knew that I had to restrain myself, lest I scare the daylights out of them! I have to love them quietly and let them come to me when they are ready. This is exactly what it's like with Jesus. He just quietly knocks on the door to our hearts, asking us if we won't please open our lives up to His incredible love. He's not pushy though. He knows that unless we willingly choose Him, that our love won't be genuine and lasting. But when He gently waits for us and we respond to His love, it's a love that's so deep and real that we can't possibly turn away from Him. So it is with our adopted children. We love them unconditionally as we wait for them to return that love. And in allowing them that time and space, we are assured that their love is deep and genuine. From their hearts. And what a special, priceless gift that is. No hugs or kisses from my kids today, but stay tuned, as tomorrow is a new day and there is still more to come of this tale. Hint: It only gets better! :)

I really hate that the Ethiopian government doesn't want picture of orphans on the internet! I know that every agency's policy on this is slightly different and I honestly don't know what our agency's policy is, or if they even have a policy. But, I figure I'd better just wait. It's really too bad because I sincerely think that I have the two cutest kids on the entire continent of Africa! No, I'm completely serious about this! Below is a picture taken by Mihret of Avery and me at the orphanage. For now, it will have to do. Once we have a courtdate though, this blog will be full of pictures!