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."