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!