Monday, August 27, 2012

Embassy Trip {Day Seven}

Well, it's true...I dreaded our 16 hour flight, 6 hour layover, and 2 hour flight to get home with pretty much the same level of anxiety as the 24 hours before giving birth to Melia and then to Camden.  Pre-labor jitters is my phrase for it.  However, Bek was a total rockstar!

We went to the airport at about 6:00 p.m. to ensure that we'd get a bulkhead seat with a bassinet.  That was five hours before our flight was set to leave, so we walked around the little airport for the first four.  I was pleasantly surprised at how Bek behaved...he was thrilled to have a big, open area to practice his walking.  It was also great how people responded to us.  They seemed to be genuinely happy for us and for our little man.  We had lots of opportunities to tell people how God had blessed us throughout our journey and we truly enjoyed our time in the Ethiopian airport.

We boarded the plane and, as had been explained to us at the ticket counter, I had a bulkhead seat, we would get the bassinet for B and Trevor had the middle seat of the middle section...ugh.  Luckily, this super sweet Ethiopian lady was sitting beside me and, when she realized what was going on, offered to switch him!!  So great!  Bek fell asleep shortly after take-off in his bassinet and slept soundly for five beautiful hours until we hit Rome and they landed to re-fuel and turned on all the lights like it was morning!  He woke up and cried for about five minutes, then calmed down and we gave him a bottle.  He was awake and happy for a couple of hours and then fell back asleep for another four hours.  He woke back up and took another bottle and just hung out on our laps or walked the aisles of the plane with us happily for the last couple of hours.  He really was AMAZING!

We then landed in DC and went through customs.  The worker at the customs window opened the big packet, stamped about a bazillion pieces of paper and sent us to the baggage claim.  Bek was officially a US Citizen!

Once through baggage claim and then rechecking our luggage, one of the most surreal moments of our journey occurred {second, of course, to meeting our son!}: I met my friend Emily!!  Emily and I found each other through our blogs after we had started the paper chase portion of our journey and we became fast friends.  Millions of phone conversations, E-mails, texts, and Facebook messages later, we FINALLY met face to face!  It was so amazing to actually be able to hug the friend that has meant so much to me on our journey.  We each met the other's sons before we actually met each other and we got to tell Emily and Jim {and her sweet sis, Sarah} about how we'd just loved on their little Moses.  I really have no words to describe how forever grateful I am for how God placed Em in my life.  Just so thankful!  My only regret is that I was in my pajamas jet-setter clothes when we met for the first time!  HA!

We had some Starbucks and hung out and talked and laughed and just enjoyed the moment during the layover.  It was exactly what my heart needed.  Have I mentioned I'm grateful?! 

After a few hours {NOT LONG ENOUGH!}, we said our good-byes and headed to our gate where we had some dinner {or lunch or some form of a meal}, freshened up in the bathroom and then caught our plane for home.  B took a bottle and then fell fast asleep in my arms for the entire plane ride.

We had a beautiful homecoming, uniting our family for good.  It was a sweet, sweet moment that will forever live in my heart.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Embassy Trip {Day Six}

July 1st was our last day in Ethiopia.  We spent the day hanging out at the guest house, repacking, and, quite frankly, dreading the LONG trip ahead of us.  I look back at that day and laugh at how much of that pre-flight-with-a-fourteen-month-old-who-barely-knows-us panic I could have avoided if I'd just trusted that God would not give me more than I can handle!  More on that trip tomorrow.

For today, pictures of the last day in the land that is our second home:

It's interesting...Ethiopia on this day was a place we were so ready to leave so that we could get back to our home and our other children and our friends and our family.  And, it's great here...we are so blessed.  But, there is this piece of me that misses Ethiopia so there, deep within my heart.  I don't know where it would lead or what it means, exactly, but I know that I miss it.  And, I know that our plan is to return someday {this has always been the plan when the kids are older} to serve the land that gave us our precious baby boy.  And, for today, that has to be alright with mission field is here.  But, I just can't shake Ethiopia...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Embassy Trip {Day Five}

Our fifth day in Ethiopia was on June 30, 2012.  It was a Saturday and our agency's driver had the day off, so we just hung out with our new son at our guest house.  To be honest, we were kind of dreading being stuck in the house all day {knowing we would be there on Sunday, too}, but it ended up being such a blessing.  We had 48 hours in the same building where we were able to completely focus on our little man.  We bonded, began to establish some semblance of a routine, and just enjoyed getting to know him. 

Morning Time

B's favorite game at the guest house...up the stairs, down the stairs, repeat. 

I LOVE this shirt we bought says "the greatest CHASE of all time!" Hehe!

His beloved toothbrush 

Funny faces...this is his TRUE personality! 

He played for hours in this little bathtub 

The lady that runs the guest house and her sister also did a coffee ceremony for us and the two ladies that were staying there {Sarri and Visty}.  In Ethiopia, inviting someone to a coffee ceremony is a show of friendship.  It was so sweet that they did one for us!

Coffee ceremonies consist of coffee and popcorn 
{and puffs if you're a one year old who's never had table food!} 

Sweet Tsige and Kalkadin {Tsige's daughter}...LOVE them! 

The view from our balcony... 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Embassy Trip {Day Four}

{Written June 29, 2012}

Bek slept 11 hours last night! Amazing! I slept from 7:30p.m. to 1:00, then got up and took Unisom and read until 3:00, when I went back to bed and sleep soundly until bottle time. Trevor fed Bek his bottle and, though he fussed about it at first, he ate the whole thing. We went downstairs and had breakfast and B walked around a little and showed off for the other families staying here. He wouldn't go to anyone else except me and the lady that runs the guest house, Tsige, who he loves! He continues to show some amazing attachment to me, which is really a blessing, and he is making some strides toward his attachment with Trevor.

I did want to note here the other people who are staying with us. There are two ladies who came to visit one of the lady's daughter's birth town. When she adopted her daughter two years ago, the region her daughter is from was so volatile that they were unable to visit, but she wanted that part of her daughter's history, so she and her friend came here to do that and to bring donations to the orphanage and to a couple of other organizations that work with orphans. The other people who are here are with a group working in Kora, an area of the city that I will address later in this blog post. One of the men works for Children's Hope Chest, an organization that does community-based sponsorships for children across nine different countries. There is a girl here with them from Australia and a man from the Philippians. The couple and the man are adoptive parents and have been loving seeing B each day.:)

Hermella and Amara came to pick us up at 8:45 and we went to the National Museum. It was interesting, but mostly for me just a nice time to hold my baby while he slept soundly in the Beco and talk to Hermella. Trevor enjoyed it, though, and took about a hundred pictures!

We then went by the Embassy and got the sealed envelope to give to customs when we land in DC. This is the paperwork that ensures him citizenship and proves that we are his parents.

We then headed back to the guest house and had lunch and a quick nap (all 3 of us!) and were picked up again for our next outing.

Our agency focuses its humanitarian efforts on a government school called Bright Hope school. It is a K-8 school that educates approximately 2,000 people in the area of Addis known as Kora. Kora is a community that is built around a dump. Some people actually live on the dump site and get their food from ravaging the garbage for left-overs. We did not get to go to the dump site, but we drove through what I would say is just a step up from that.

I knew we were there when the roads ceased to be paved. Now, let me just say that in Ethiopia, side streets are not typically paved, but this was different. It was so incredibly uneven and bumpy that I held Bek's head close to my chest (p.s. no car seats in Ethiopia) so that he would not get whiplash. The "streets" were lined with shanties which are houses made of metal sheeting. These types of houses are all over Addis, but in the other places, they are peppered in amongst three and four story apartments, guest houses, malls, and businesses. Here, however, it was shanty after shanty. It smelled of trash and there were kids everywhere with dirty, quite ragged clothes. In between some of the shanties, there were bags of trash, attracting just some of the plethora of flies in the area.

It occurred to me that the kids here were so friendly and happy. The smiled and waved and were thrilled to see a baby. Once we got through the "streets" and pulled up to the gate for the Bright Hope school, the van was surrounded with kids, all asking for candy, money, gum, or footballs. Since we left for this trip in such a hurry, we hadn't even thought to bring any of this for them and felt so horrible. How we could have blessed those kiddos! I vowed to never come back without bringing something with me for the kids.

When the gate was open and we pulled onto the school grounds, it occurred to me what a nice, open plot of land they had for the school. There was plenty of room for the kids to play football (soccer) and, though the school was out on summer break, there was a handful of children there doing just that. The buildings were concrete and reminded me of being at a primitive church camp. We could see most of the classrooms from the play area, as they were set up in a U-shape and the outside of each classroom had a nice educational painting on the wall, like the periodic table or a map of Ethiopia with a key to the regions. We walked around the grounds and saw more classrooms, some play equipment for the younger students, and the humanitarian aid projects our agency has done and is currently working on. This included a HUGE garden where they grow cabbage and other vegetables, a chicken coop with 500+ chickens, a barn with two cows and a calf, and a fresh-water well so that the children could have clean water at their school. Each of these things, aside from the well, have provided jobs for some of the students' parents, giving back to the community in a practical way. We were thoroughly impressed and pleased with how our agency has funneled its money to help sustain the quality of life in this area.

Just before we left, we went inside one of the classrooms and were speechless. The "desks" are metal tables with benches large enough for 2-4 students at each and there were about 25 desks in the tiny classroom. There were no posters, etc. on the walls and there was a large rectangle painted in chalkboard paint at the front. The floors were concrete, but very dirty, and the kids had written on the walls in chalk. Hermella asked me if we used chalkboards and I told her we mostly use white boards and then told her about smart boards and about our schools' emphasis on technology. It was difficult to envision the kind of money that we use in our school on technology alone and then to compare it to what we saw today. The gap is heartbreaking.

Once we were done at the school, we made the bumpy ride back through the shanties and dropped Hermella off at her apartment. It was the last time we will see her and I was a little taken aback by how hard the goodbye was for me. I have enjoyed my time with her and consider her a friend, so it was difficult to know that I was saying goodbye to someone I may never see again on this earth.

Amara took us back to the guest house and we told him goodbye and that we would be praying for a procedure he will be having tomorrow and then we headed inside.

We went upstairs and played for a while with our sweet baby and he discovered his love for his toothbrush, which he carried around with him all evening. We went downstairs for dinner (pizza!) and stayed in the living room until Bek seemed to get tired. Once the sleepy-eye had hit our boy, we took him upstairs and gave him a bath, which he loved again, and got him ready for bed. He fought us going down, but Trevor eventually got him calm and laid him in his crib. We went downstairs and visited with the other guests for a bit and then everyone headed to bed just before 10:00. It was really a great, heartbreaking, fulfilling day and we are so thankful to be here!