Sunday, February 27, 2011

From Ethiopia - Post 12 - Wednesday - Answered Prayers

Although we were told that Holt would call in the morning to let us know, we decided that since we had seen the 9:00 AM time on the letter that we read from the Embassy, we would get up early and get ready -- just in case.  Turns out that it's a good thing we did because as we were finishing breakfast, the Holt van came to get us.  The lady from Holt, after having to wait a few minutes for us to grab our stuff, said, "Did you misunderstand when we were coming?".   (ugh!!!!  Seriously Holt, you HAVE to work on the communication in country!!!)  I kind of laughed and responded, "no, we didn't misunderstand.  We were told that you would call and tell us if we got the appointment confirmation."  She simply said, "oh."  And off we went.

We arrived at the embassy after a few stops to pick up other staff and some paperwork.  We waited in line outside the embassy as before, but this time we actually got to go through the second security point, through the metal detectors, and into the embassy.  At the metal detectors, I was asked if I had any electronics in my bag.  I responded no (because we had been warned that we were not allowed to take phones or cameras or anything else electronic into the embassy), but the guy looked at me like 'are you SURE?'   Again, he asked but this time he clarified, "any toys with batteries?" and I remembered that in the little toy bag that I had brought for Markos, there was a little spinning flashlight toy (which he loved).  I pulled it out, at which time Markos freaked and wanted it.  The guy was actually pretty nice with Markos about it and told him he had to leave it there, but he showed Markos where he was going to put it (in this little wooden cubby hole/mailbox type bin along the wall) and he gave Markos the claim ticket to pick it up.  It was kinda funny because the big plastic ball on the top of the toy was too big to fit in the cubby so the whole ball part was sticking out and looked absurd.  I was thinking, "oh great!  now I have to make sure Markos doesn't lose this little slip of paper or he's not getting that toy back and is going to freak out!", but thankfully, Markos quickly bored of carrying the slip of paper and gave it to Eric.

We went in and the Holt lady took a number and went to the window to start submitting the next travel groups cases while Eric and I sat down in the very full waiting area with Markos.  It was a little funny because the Ethiopian man sitting next to me started talking to me in English and was telling me all about how he wanted to be a reporter and how had written several articles and was there to try to get a visa to come to the United States to go to school.  I complimented him on his English and wished him luck.  He was very nice, but he started to ask things like where we lived in the United States and could he have our address or our email or our phone number so that if he got to go to the U.S., he could "be our best friend".  :-)  I chuckled and kept avoiding the questions.  Then, he began to talk about our adoption and asked about our agency and then started saying how he could write an article about it...when he gets his visa and comes to the U.S.....and again, could he get our email or our address so he could write this article.  I told him about Holt and suggested that if he wanted to write an article, that he could contact them and they could help him out with any information he needed.  He really was very nice, and was very hopeful when his number was called and he went to the window to apply for his travel visa.  He didn't come back so I don't know if he got it or not, guess I'll have to find another new best friend.

When our number was posted on the electronic boards, we walked to the window (the Holt lady was already up there), but she told us to go to the other side of the room and wait over there because they were just transferring us to the other side -- the U.S. Consulate side.  So, we headed to the other side.  There was a little play area there and the bathrooms were there, so that worked out.  There were some other families from another agency there ahead of us.

When we were finally called to the window, we walked up with our paperwork, Markos, and the Holt lady.  The gentleman working was very nice (we thought).  He began asking simple questions, then proceeded to the questions we knew to expect -- "did you meet the child prior to court?  Can I see your visa stamps on your passport to verify you were here for court?  Is this the child that you wish to adopt?" -- easy, peasy;  then, as slick as can be, he slipped in there...."So, I understand that you met Markos' birth mother?"  We both were taken back and said, "no.  his birth mother died."  "oooh, oh, yes, I must have been looking at some old papers."  We didn't think anything of it.  He continued with the normal questions.  "You understand that the child will enter the U.S. on an IR3 visa.  Are there any medical conditions that you are aware of?  Did you meet the birth father?"  Then again, another slick question..."so, I see here that Markos' birth father has remarried."  (we knew that this was the issue that the embassy wanted Holt to clarify prior to them rescheduling our interview, so now we were a little suspicious.)  We both were taken back again, but responded, "No. Not that we know of."  And, again, he shuffled things around and said, "oh, yea, ok, I must be looking at someone else's file."  (uh huh.  right!!)  So, after a few more questions, he said, "ok.  I will issue Markos' visa and we should have all of his paperwork ready by 10:00 AM Friday morning."  Again, taken back, and panicked, Eric and I both looked at him and before we could even start pleading, he said, "oh.  Is your flight before that?"  We explained to him that we were supposed to have had an appointment the day before and that our flights were leaving on Thursday night and asked if there was any way they could rush the documents and have them done the next day.  He said he'd check for us when he was done.  He did, and said it wouldn't be a problem, that they'd have them done by Thursday morning at 10:00 AM.  Praise God!!!!!

So, with HUGE sighs of relief and maybe just a few tears (mostly just of relief/release), we happily headed out of the embassy.  Markos traded his claim tag for his flashlight toy.  When we got in the van, we shared some Twizzlers with Markos and the Holt lady and driver.  As we drove, they asked us if we wanted to go to Markos' care center to talk to the head nurse (whom we STILL had not gotten to talk to despite the fact that we had now had custody of Markos for 2 days!).  We went, but most of our questions we had already figured out for ourselves.  When we pulled into the courtyard, the kids who were out there playing started chanting, "Markos! Markos!".  He smiled, but he was clinging to us for all he was worth.  We weren't there for long.  She answered a few questions for us, although she seemed highly annoyed with it.  Markos did calm down a little when he saw one of his favorite nannies upstairs on a little landing.  He ran up the stairs to give her a big hug and kiss.  By the time he came down, we were finished and were heading back into the van to leave.

We arrived back at the guest house and learned that one of the other families had received news that they had been cleared and they were headed to the embassy that afternoon.  There were still three families that had not been cleared.  They were talking directly to the embassy and attempting to figure out what they wanted to do.  Upon talking to the families who had gone to the embassy the day before, we discovered that the interviewer was, indeed, purposely trying to trick us with the suspicious questions.  He had done the exact same thing with several of the other families.  Wow.  And, he seemed so nice, too.

We played for a while, ate lunch, and then Eric took Markos to our room to lay down for a nap.  I went to the living room to hop on a computer to send an email to family and friends to let them know our good news.  After a short while, someone ran up and said, "Lori, Dr. Fikru is here to see you.  He wants you and Eric to come downstairs."  My heart immediately began to pound, because of course, after the events of the past two days, I immediately expected some horrible news.  Instead of getting Eric (because I didn't want to wake Markos and we couldn't leave him in the room by himself), I walked down the stairs.  He and Tesfaye were standing at the bottom of the stairs and someone (I forget who now) asked me, "Lori, do you remember Dr. Fikru and Tesfaye?"  I said, "yes, I do.  Hi.  It's nice to see you again....I think."  They kind of laughed, but not really enough to calm my nerves.  I explained that Eric was in our room with Markos napping and asked if they really needed him to come.  Dr. Fikru said, "it's ok, we can go to your room.  He should really be there, too."  (ok, can you say - PANIC?!!)  Seriously, I really wanted to just start crying right then and there, but I didn't.  I went in and got Eric up and then opened our door and the 4 of us stood inside our room while Markos slept in the bed.

Dr. Fikru began to talk and started apologizing for the situation in Durame with our camera being stolen.  [At which point, I almost felt like laughing because I was immediately SO relieved that they were here about the camera.  As long as it had nothing to do with Markos, I could have cared less at this point.]   He assured us that they took it very seriously, that they questioned every staff person and every volunteer that was there.  He explained that it was the first time that anything has been stolen from an adoptive family at the birth family meetings, but that a few years back, one of the staff's cameras had been stolen from an unlocked van.  He acknowledged that there were definitely some loose points in the Durame trip this time around, and he assured us that they were working very hard to tighten those areas to ensure that this never happened again.   He stayed very professional and very serious, until he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out our camera!!  Then, he had a huge smile on his face as we cheered and hugged him.

I grabbed the camera and quickly turned it on as I was saying, "honestly, I don't even care about the camera!  Are the pictures still on it?!"  He chuckled and said, "I think they are, maybe even a few extras."  And, sure enough, they were all there!  All the pictures that we took on the way to Durame, and all the birth family pictures!  Oh, happy day!!!!

He explained that from time to time, they hire outside people who need money to do odd jobs around the care center.  That day, there were a few men there doing some work for them.  They were not to be in the area where we were at all; however, when they began questioning staff, one of the staff reported seeing one of the men in the room where we all were.  He was questioned and denied being in the room.  Other staff were questioned and confirmed that they also saw him, so he was questioned again.  This time, he admitted being in the room, but denied taking the camera.  On the third questioning, he finally admitted to taking the camera and returned it.   We don't know what will happen to the man, but Dr. Fikru informed us that "theft is a very serious offense in Ethiopia."  When they left and went downstairs, Eric said to me, "I'll be back.  I want to talk to them."  I didn't know what he was doing.  I assumed going to thank them again.

I found out later that Eric had gone down and asked them not to press charges against the man who had taken the camera.  He had, after all, given us the camera back.  Eric pleaded that the driving force behind the theft was poverty and need, and that we would rather give the man some money, than see him punished for resorting to stealing to possibly feed his family.  Dr. Fikru understood Eric's desire, but said that they can't do that.  They can't set the precedent that, if you steal, you'll be given money (which we also understand), and that as unfortunate as it is, they have to press charges for the same reason.  We understood, but Eric felt like he had to at least try.  An answer to our prayers that we got those pictures back, but a sad situation overall.

My notes from the trip stop on this day.  I'm pretty sure that we spent the remainder of the day waiting for news for the other three families, wondering what we were going to do about the farewell ceremonies that were supposed to occur that day but had been postponed until we found out what was happening with the other families' embassy appointments.  I know that at some point, the staff at the guest house cut down some sugar cane outside the guest house and showed us how to chew it.  All the kids already knew how.  They happily gnawed at the opened pieces of the plant, and with sticky faces and sticky hands, ran around outside the guest house playing with bubbles, other toys, and playing ball with Workineh, Isaias and even the guest house gate guard.

One thing is certain though, that night when we laid our heads down to sleep, we did so with prayers of gratitude, with intense relief and with overwhelming thankfulness.  It would have been enough to simply recieve the embassy appointment and obtain approval for Markos' visa, but to receive our camera with all the pictures still on it, that was amazing.

...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,  
together with all the Lord’s holy people, 
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen. 
Ephesians 3:17 - 21


  1. What a wonderful and tiring day for y'all!!! I am so enjoying reading about your trip!

    (I think I posted on here yesterday, I'm friends with Shonda @ don't want to be an unknown lurker!!)

  2. Hi Shiloh! Feel free to lurk (although commenting is even better!) ;-)