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.


  1. John,
    Sending good thoughts your way! Cannot wait to meet him! Safe travels, Kelli and Max

  2. Welcome Home John and Gezahagn! What a journey it has been for you all. He is already in the most amazing family! Sounds like you'll need to take a bath and get some sleep, so feel free to ask Auntie Shannon for some babysitting! Thinking of you all,

  3. John, I hope the rest of your trip was uneventful! We've been thinking about you, and hope your family & addition have no more van troubles. Yeesh! We'd love see you as we head out to UT for a fall trip, unless you have a trip planned to the Springs a bit sooner. You guys are welcome at Camp W (in Woodland Park) anytime!