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.