Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You're kidding, right?

So today is the big day. We have to be at the Embassy for our 1pm appointment. It's a good idea to get there early so that you don't start at the back of the line and have to wait for hours. So the day before we made a plan with the orphanage to meet a little before noon, leave at noon and get there in plenty of time. Good traffic means 25 minutes but it could be 30-40 in bad traffic.

As typical Type A parents adopting we were at the Layla House (the name of the orphanage) by 11:35. We told everyone we were there and then we promptly left............at 12:15. The van was late getting back from a very unimportant errand that they conveniently scheduled right before ours.


So we hit the road and the van is ancient, so any incline renders it to a 25 MPH putter. As we start to get close to the Embassy -- say within a mile -- I begin to recognize some landmarks, and I'm starting to feel better about the prospect of getting there on time. I should preface a little by saying that if we miss our appointment, it's not a "come back tomorrow" kind of thing; it's more like "come back in two weeks" which would mean having to stay the whole time or fly back home only to fly back again to Ethiopia in a week and half to start over with the whole thing.

But I'm feeling a little better at this point since it's like 12:39 and I think we're like 1-1.5K (.65-.75 of a mile) away. Right at that moment....literally at the moment of cautious relief....in the middle of a very busy roundabout, the van completely dies. Like dead dead. Like it won't start or turn over at all. It turns out the reason we were going so slow uphill is because the driver coldn't push the motor at all because the cooling system was basically shot and he was trying to keep it from over-heating. Which it still did.

This is a very religious country, and anyone who knows me, knows that I don't swear often, but a blue streak came out -- at a whisper at least -- like a hot flame out of my mouth. The only one who could have heard me was Gezaghan because I was carrying him, but he doesn't speak a lick of English so I think I'm all good.

None of us in the van -- there were two other families heading to the Embassy -- even gave a thought to helping the driver. We ditched him, hopped into the intersection, dodged traffic, got to the sidewalk and started running toward the Embassy hoping to flag down a taxi.


We ran/speedwalked about 400 yards where we came upon a taxi stop (they're actually equally ancient vans), we jumped into the first empty one, our escort from the orphanage told the driver where we were going and I thought we were going to be off. But we sat there.


Our escort informed us we had to wait until we had a full van in order to make it financially viable for the driver. When I heard this, my vision went white -- it may have been a stroke, I'm not sure - as I about exploded "How much is it per seat?!?!" There are 12 seats and they wouldn't leave without their 36 Birr.

Let me digress into a short currency lesson. So it was 3 Birr per seat. At the current exchange rate, 3 Birr is the equivalent of about.....(tap, tap, tap).....uuhhhhhh.....$.17. Yep, you read that right -- point-one-seven. 17 cents!


So a little over $2 for the whole van. So we all literally were throwing Birr at him until he got the van moving. He was careful to give us exact change back though.

The van then puttered 25 miles an hour for about 2/3rds of a mile and pulled up in front of the Embassy. The door shot open, I picked up Gezaghan to jump out.........and he peed all down my left leg. A lot.

The orphanage hadn't put a travel diaper on him -- hell he didn't even have underwear on, so the combination of going "Commando" and all the excitement was too much for the poor guy and that translates into a considerable soaking of Dad.

We had brought a second pair of shorts just in case, thankfully, but now we were at the back of the line waiting to get in. Our escort told me to go ask the guard if I could take him inside to change him. I left all my stuff with Chrissy and was allowed in -- I gave my passport to the first heck-in and they told me when I come back out I would get it. So we entered the main part of the Embassy, went thru another metal detector, and got to the bathroom.

the US Embassy is pretty impressive -- it's brand new and likely the most heavily secured bulding in the country. You'll never see a picture here because you can't take any pictures, nor can you bring in any electronic devices, which is an important point since Chrissy now had my bag.

After I cleaned him (and me) up in the bathroom as best I could, I was heading back toward the first of the two checkpoints, when one of the guards met me there with my passport. he was now teling me I could stay right here and get started with my Emabssy appointment. Sweet.

He told me to go to window #14 and wait for someone to meet me there. Ten seconds after getting to window #14 (by the way there were no other families even in this room yet) Gezaghan peed on me again. A lot, again. How much water did they give this kid today? It's been my experience that the caregivers, who are great with the kids, and really take good care of them, tend to restrict their water intake since it means more pants and diaper changes. I was beginning to think that one of them had it in for me and loaded the boy up with liquid beer-bong style or something.

So I ran back to the bathroom and did what I could, came back out to window #14 and mopped up a big puddle, washed up and was then called to the window. They took my passport ad told me to take a seat. Unbelievably I was still #1 in line. By now some families were beginning to trickle in. After about 5 minutes, Chrissy and the other families came in too. Remember how I gave Chrissy my bag -- well it turn out that I had a lot of electronics in there, and she kept on having to dig through all the pockets of it to find them. She thought she had them all out finally -- my Kindle fire, my cell phone, digital camera, extra battery for the camera, iPod headphones, and earpiece for my cell phone.

But the lad running the X-Ray machine said, "You've still got something in there......it looks like....a toothbrush!" A toothbrush?

Sure enough I had left one of those cheapy electric toothbrushes deep in a hard to find pocket. Finally they dug it out to hand over (that toothbrush will be getting thrown after being handled this much) and Chrissy was able to proceed.

So after that things were pretty good. I went to the window when I was called first, we went through the paperwork (the embassy officer ended up being from Leadville and he was really nice and helpful), I signed something, he gave me some papers and he congratulated me.

Done and done.

We drove back to the guest house (up until this point Gezahagn was staying at the orphanage) where I was eager to get him into the bath, only to find that we had no water again. I had been able to take a shower this morning but it had been out the whole night before so I was forced to take a bottled-water-and-a-washcloth-plus-baby-wipes bath before bed (read as "hell incarnate" for my sister Liz). So I had to do the best I could with a washcloth and baby wipes again, and then I laid him down for a nap where he promptly crashed for two hours.

He ate a great dinner -- authentic Ethiopian -- doro wat with injera (a spicy beef stew served with their spongy flat bread). And by ate, I mean he shoveled. He'd stick a huge spoonful in his mouth and as quick as he could follow it with another. I thought he was going to choke by shoving two servings in his little pie-hole but to my amazement the first shovelful was swallowed already. He finished a huge bowl of it in about 3 minutes. Sammy is definitely in trouble

Well, that's about it for now. he went to sleep tonight pretty easily so we'll see how he reacts when wakes up in this strange place.

More tomorrow.

Recovery Day

I'm writing this entry on Tuesday but it's for Monday the 9th. We just got in yesterday and we pretty tired the whole day so we ended up turning in early on Sunday, slept for what seemed like 6 hours and it turned out to be about 80 minutes, dozed some more until 2:30 and then was wide awake the rest of the night so I read for about 4 hours.

Monday night was a little better. I struggled to stay awake until 9PM local time, proceeded to sleep hard for about an hour and a half, then woke again at 2AM briefly and then fell back to sleep until about 4:15. Up again reading for anoutehr 3 hours. I finished my book though.

As for during the day on Monday, Chrissy and I spent a lot of time with Gezeghan in the morning. I had some time alone and learned he is a great mimic and can kick a soccer ball (watch out Sammy).

We did a little shopping at the basket market and at the Sabahar Silk Factory. The silk factory is pretty cool. This time we got to see the butterfly-looking things that spin the silk into little pods, then the workers stretch, roll, and twist it into usable material. They make all sorts of scarfs, shawls, table settings, etc etc. They do everything there including the natural dying and the weaving on special looms.

The little "pods" that the moths make

These are the real silk "factories".  They were still moving

They pull the silk out into strands and then wind it up

Then they're dyed

lastly they use their special looms to make the finished product

Felt like we were starting to get our legs underneath us a little today. It's still pretty difficult to get used to the poverty, the squalor, the poor air quality. But, as I mentioned back in October, they are building and improving things quite a bit in the city. Lots of new construction.

Anyway, tomorrow is the big day where we go to the US Embassy to get our travel visa back to the States for Gezaghan: he's our son officially, but he;s still an Ethiopian citizen, and just like Sammy did, he has an Ethiopian passport -- hence the need for the visa.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The final trip

So a lot has happened in the last 6 months since we've been to Addis.  Lots of delays mostly -- now that I'm back in Addis to pick up Gezeghan and staying at the orphanage's guest house many of the families here are comparing notes on their process.  They're all lamenting having had a December or January court date and are only now in mid April having their Embassy visit.  Little do they know that for us it's been since October!

Getting here was not too bad.  I really like Ethiopian Airlines - nice big planes, it's clean, the food's not bad and the flight here is direct from DC.  I left early Friday morning (the 6th) from Grand Junction, and flew to Denver and then Washington.  The flight to Addis wasn't until saturday morning so Ethiopian put me up in a hotel outside Dulles - definitely a highway and mall wasteland.  Can't really walk anywhere and I had to do something active so I ended up jumping rope for 25 minutes in my hotel room (I know that seems weird but it worked out great).

Met Chrissy at Dulles without incident -- her connecting flight out of Chicago got in just fine.

Then it was on the plane for......I forget how long.  I watched 2 or 3 movies (I liked The Descendents but the new Sherlock Holmes was awful) and tried to sleep but even with benadryl, could not seem to knock off fully.

Then mercifully off the plane and into a very long line waiting for our visa -- which took about 2 hours of shuffling through the line.  Then finally out into the terminal to meet our driver....except no driver in the terminal.  But I had read that some of them were having trouble getting into the terminal and that you might have to meet them on the ramp.  So out on the ramp we went and paced it for the better part of an hour.  We had no phone number to call (my fault) but didn't have a functioning phone to call from anyway.  Thankfully a helpful worker from an Italian adoption agency made some calls while driving us to their hotel, found our driver (he had picked up one family but didn't know there was a second to get from our flight so he just left) who finally came to pick us up.

By this point, Chrissy and I were pretty brain dead and formulating a plan seemed like a herculean task, but we managed to do it -- we walked up to the market to get a few things since lunch was soon and being Sunday we were on our own at the guest house.  We stopped at the orphanage to see when the kids would nap but we eneded up seeing Gezeghan  right away -- he remembered me and clamped his arms around my neck in a death-grip hug where he didn't really let go for about half an hour.  I was relieved that he recognized me, and astounded how quietly he could sit there and look at me...then look at Chrissy....then look at me...then at Chrissy....then back to hug.

Hopefully he will be this agreeable on the airplane ride home (hah!)

Anyway, for now the guest house computer is working so I may be able to update regularly on this and even upload a few pictures

More later

Monday, October 24, 2011

First trip to see Gezaghen in Addis

 The wall above and below are very typical of any large structure, be it house, business, embassy...it doesn't matter.

Probably the only wall we saw without razor wire on top of it was that of the US Embassy -- it is the cleanest, newest, and undoubtedly most heavily protected building in the country.  We're not allowed to take a picture of it, so I can't show it to you.  It also has small patches of grass in front of the wall much like you'd see in any business park.  It looks like "American" grass -- nice and smooth, well manicured -- unlike any of the grass in Addis (including the soccer stadium).  The local school kids like the grass so much that when school lets out, dozens walk across the street to the embassy and lay down and roll around in the grass.

I thought it was funny that the word "stop" in Ethiopian sort of looked like a Greek letter followed by "Go" 

When we walked into the courtyard he looked at us and screamed "Ababa!" which the house mothers told us means "My father" -- but it was quickly apparent they don't see many men, because he was wary of me. 

Mom is in tears already....and Gezaghen looks pretty comfortable.

"Wait....who are you again?"

One of the four "bash brothers"; he was the oldest and the rowdiest as well.  They kept wanting to take my sunglasses.

This concrete courtyard is the play area for the toddlers

Down to business at lunch time.  3 of the 4 bash brothers

They loved faking being terrified of a little windup toy that I would put on the table.  They scramble away from it hooting "Ooh!  Ooh!"

This stew with the injera (bread) is spicy and even the toddlers are used to it

BIG eater....Sammy is in trouble, I think.

These are from the top of Entoto mountain -- about 10,000 feet above sea level

On the drive up and down, there are these old women (some are in their 60s) hauling these enormous bunbles of sticks down the mountain.  They must weigh about 150# and they hump them down about 2500 vertical feet and sometimes 4 or 5 miles each way

They hike up, load up, hike it down, and do it all over again a couple times a day.  Yikes!

 View of Addis from the top of Entoto

The entire mountain was deforested long ago so they brought in eucalyptus trees from Australia to prevent erosion and give them a continual source of wood

One of the nicer shopping areas -- most buildings rely heavily on corrugated tin panels....for everything