Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Metcha Day

We arrived in Addis Ababa on a Saturday night.  While we were originally told that we would meet our son on Monday, we were surprised to learn that plans had changed and we were now scheduled to visit the Transition Home on Sunday afternoon.  We woke early and loaded our backpacks with with the necessities: the camera, the video camera, bottled water, snacks, and toys.  We met one of our awesome guides in the lobby of the Yebsabi Guest House and headed off for worship at the International Evangelical Church (more on that experience another day).  After lunch at Lime Tree restaurant, we loaded back into the van with the Milligan family from Alaska and were on our way.

Once we arrived, the guard opened the gate to the property and we pulled into the Transition Home courtyard.  We were led to a large outdoor porch where we handed off the camera and video camera.  It was time.  Being led by the hand, a beautiful little boy with a magnificent smile appeared in the doorway, took a few reluctant steps, and walked right into Dave's open arms.  After a solid embrace, Toby and Samantha each bowed down  to wrap their arms around their long-awaited brother.  Feeling confident that things were going smoothly, I reached out to lift him up and was relieved and delighted when he lifted his arms in willingness.  It was a perfect new beginning.

Families are only allowed to visit the Transition Home for a few hours each day.  There are approximately 80 children under the care of the staff and some semblance of routine is attempted.  The first half of our visit was spent cozied up on the couch playing with stickers.  The second half was spent with "C" hoisted up on Dave's shoulders and chasing the soccer ball around the courtyard.  When it was time for our departure, we received hugs and kisses before our sweet boy was escorted down the road to the quarters the older children call home.

After all of this loveliness, we were almost giddy to be returning for day two on Monday morning.  You can imagine our surprise when this time our son made his entrance through the doorway with a troubled expression on his face that said, "What in the world are you strange people doing back here?"  I have no idea what occurred between our affectionate good-byes on day one and this unexpected greeting on day two, but it was clear that we had misjudged the ease of our initial bonding.  Most of day two was spent following our child around the courtyard in exhausting efforts to recreate some of the good times we experienced on day one.  While he would reluctantly give in to us for a few moments during our time together, we left that day feeling defeated and emotionally spent.  As we loaded back into the van with the other families in our travel group, I found myself wishing I could trade my malaria meds for a pitcher of margaritas.

During the following visits over the next five days, we were more emotionally prepared and almost developed a routine of sorts.  Each day would begin with an attempt to reject our attention.  After persistent efforts on our behalf to prove that we are a fun and loving family, he would eventually allow himself to enjoy some of our limited time together and would even share his delicious smile.  We would play hide 'n' seek, color with markers, kick the soccer ball, look at books, race toy cars, and chase balloons.

We may never know what thoughts were running through his young mind that week.  His primary language is Sidamigna, a language that is not common in the capital city of Addis.  So even the staff, who primarily speak Amharic, had difficulty communicating with him.  I can only imagine, however, that being in a similar circumstance at age four, my first two children would have been terrified.  I am also certain that while far from ideal by our American standards, the Transition Home is the nicest place he has ever known.  Therefore, in addition to adopting a four-year-old child, we are committed to adopting a spirit of unlimited patience and understanding.

The hardest part of saying good-bye at the end of the week was not being able to whisper in his sweet little ear..."Listen, we know this is confusing and that you are scared, and we understand that.  Soon you will see that we have great things planned for you.  We're going to love you for the rest of our lives.  We're going to love you until you can't help but love us back."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Toby

Happy 9th Birthday Toby!! 
Thanks for being such an awesome kid!!
Your mama's crazy about you!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Our court date took place on Thursday, day seven of our trip to Ethiopia.  We, along with three other families adopting through America World, traveled to the court house together.  The building was quite crowded and we stood tightly together at one end of a long hall.  Eventually, we were led into small waiting area that was lined with chairs.  Most of the chairs were taken, filled with Ethiopian families and guardians who were also required to be present for the same court appointments.  However, while we were there to promise that we had met our new children and would embrace them as our sons and daughters, they were there to permanently relinquish their rights.  Our group stood together in our own inner circle, waiting patiently for our child's name to be called.  For me, it was a rather uneasy moment filled with anticipation, anxiety, and awkward glances in all directions.

While our son has no known biological, living family members, he was cared for at one time by a man who was appointed as his legal guardian.  It was this man who had taken him to Shalom Orphanage in the Southern part of Ethiopia, with the hope that he would one day be adopted into a family.  The night before our court appointment, we received a DVD from our agency containing an  interview with the guardian.  Interviews are conducted whenever possible during the agency investigation, a procedure to ensure that the child being adopted is truly an orphan.  Dave was quickly able to recognize him in the waiting room.  I tried to casually sneak a peek in his direction, but found him staring directly back at me.  No doubt he was trying to assess which of the American families floating in the middle of the room was there for a common reason.  He gave a quick upward nod of acknowledgement and lift of the eyebrows.  It was an infinitesimal moment but one that I replay in my mind often.

Once we were called, we entered a small office-like room.  The judge sat behind a desk dressed in blue jeans and asked us approximately five questions in soft, Ethiopian-accented English.  Dave responded with simple yes and no answers, reluctant to respond in greater detail in case he had misunderstood the questions posed.  The entire appointment lasted little more than two minutes.  After returning to the waiting area, Duni, the Ethiopian director for AWAA, explained that the judge would be waiting for one more piece of documentation before approving our adoption.  This is common in Ethiopian adoptions and came as no surprise. 

Recently, all of the orphanages in the Southern part of Ethiopia were under investigation.  This was not necessarily due to specific concerns, but was in most cases a matter of process.  Shalom Orphanage, where our son was placed, is in this area.  In addition, Shalom is due to have their license renewed and the final letter of approval for our adoption will not be submitted until they have a current license.  It is our understanding that Shalom has passed their investigation and have been informed that they will receive their renewed license, but it is just a matter of time.  So we wait.

Upon returning to the guest house after our appointment, we were able to sit down at a table in the lobby with the guardian.  Job, one of our guides, acted as an interpreter as the guardian spoke both Amharic and Sidamigna, but not English.  We introduced Samantha and Toby and then dismissed them to our room while we took turns asking questions of each other.  He shared the little information he had about "C's" past and asked that we send him updates on occasion.  The visit was brief and at the end Dave shook his hand and thanked him for the care he had provided.  The guardian extended his hand to me as well, but I hugged him anyway.

Our next court date is scheduled for November 26.  We do not need to be present for any upcoming court appointments and will receive news through our agency if we "pass court" this time.  If this final piece of paperwork is not yet ready, we will receive another court date, most likely in December.  If it is ready, we will have the joy of officially calling him our own and finally be able to share pictures and a name.  Once we pass court, an Embassy appointment will be scheduled, which Dave will travel back to Ethiopia for and will bring our son home.

Side note:  Our flight from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa was aboard German owned Lufthansa Airlines.  Before exiting into the airport, the German flight attendant asked me if I planned to take any pictures while in Addis.  I answered that I was.  He then felt compelled to warn me that the "secret police" were everywhere and that I should be certain not to take any pictures near any government buildings.  While I appreciated his warning and had already been instructed that this was the case, I did not spend much time worrying about the "secret police."  While it would be nice to share some pictures from our court experience, the numerous young men with automatic weapons draped casually over their shoulders near any government building were enough to deter me from breaking this rule.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Going Home

We returned from Ethiopia last Sunday.  We managed to unpack a few of our things, but found ourselves crawling into bed early in the evening before the sun had set. Completely off-schedule and wide awake at 2:00 a.m., I had just finished making the morning coffee when we received a phone call from Dave's sister, Paula, with news that their father had passed away in the middle of the night. Within hours, we were back at the airport for flight number seven, destined for Dave's home state of Arizona.

While the get-togethers do not happen often enough due to the many miles, to be in the company of Dave's family is always a blessing, regardless of circumstance.  Dave and his sisters, Paula and Shelley, have a wonderful relationship based on mutual respect and a deep admiration for each other. Also in Arizona, Dave has two top-notch brother-in-laws, three charming nieces, and one handsome nephew. Poppa had good reason for the pride he possessed for his family.

Wednesday evening Shelley and Lee held an open house for family and friends in the Tempe area. Many of Poppa's childhood friends, his union electrician brothers, and family attended. All agreed it was a wonderful combination of remembrance, laughter, and tears.

Thursday morning, the three siblings and their families caravaned 138 miles to the small mountaintop town of Young, Arizona, where Poppa spent the last years of his life. A "Celebration of Life" was held at the family home of cousins Stan and Karen Marshall on their mountaintop acreage.

Family and friends gathered in blue jeans and boots around an outdoor fireplace in the cool mountain air. Samantha, Toby, and cousin Catherine began the ceremony by carrying up a wooden cross that a friend of Poppa's crafted for the occasion. Cousins Kelsey and Katelyn shared readings from the Old and New Testaments. Cousin Myron, a pastor from California, delivered a heartfelt message. Nieces led the gathering in "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace. "

Dave shared about his father as a teacher, not of things learned in books, but of things learned through his life experiences. Paula spoke about her father as a motivator, a provider, and his relationship with Christ. Shelley, the newly published author (proud sister-in-law had to throw that in there), recited a poem she wrote the night her father passed entitled "The Mountain".

The ceremony was uniquely wonderful and Poppa would have loved every thoughtful detail.  He would have loved the fact that his family traveled together up the long and winding dirt mountain roads.  He would have been thrilled when his children stopped to enjoy a few moments reminiscing at their grandparents cabin in Strawberry, Arizona.  He would have beamed at the sounds of the crackling fire, children playing in the background, and the horse whinnying at the most perfect moments.   It was a perfect, most appropriate way to celebrate the life of a man who deeply loved his family, his friends, and God's glorious outdoors.