Friday, February 18, 2011

From Ethiopia - Post 8 - The Rest of Saturday

After our visit to Workineh's church, he took us shopping to an area that he knew well. We wanted some different things than we had seen in the typical tourist shopping areas. He graciously helped us all negotiate prices for our purchases. I felt a little guilty about this whole process, because frankly, I'd have paid the originally quoted prices (which were generally significantly higher for us white folks). The thing is, they were still CHEAP! And, really, do I need the money more, or do they? But, Workineh kept insisting that, "no, it's not right. It's not worth that." and so he would squabble with the sellers, occasionally telling us "no. we're leaving." Mariah had me laughing at one point because she looked at me as we walked away and said with a sad face, "But I really wanted that!" Workineh said we'd go back later, and we did, and I believe she got the dresses (for less than the original price). I understand that bargaining is just part of shopping in some areas, but I'm just not a negotiator when it comes to buying stuff - which is why I generally hate shopping for cars!

Some of us had decided that we very much wanted to buy Bibles in Amharic while we were there, so we had Workineh take us some place where we could buy them. He took us to a very small book store, containing all religious material. When Eric and I had exchanged money for this trip, I insisted that we make sure that we exchange enough for this Bible - thinking that it might be a very pricey purchase. HA!!! No negotiating needed for the Bibles! In fact, I think we all WANTED to pay MORE! Price for a nice Amharic Bible.....80 birr. About the equivalent of $5.00. We bought 2 - one for us to keep, and one for Markos to have when he's older (more on this in the next blog post). Had we thought about it, we would have purchased a lot more and given them to Workineh for his church. Us and the 3 couples shopping with us all bought Bibles. I think someone bought some Ethiopian Christian music as well.

We returned to the guest house after shopping, and after a lot of confusion and things just not working out, I ended up canceling our visit to AHOPE for lack of time. I'm still a little disappointed that we didn't get to go, but it's just so busy when you're there and Holt really leaves very little free time during your scheduled days there. Unfortunately, in this case, part of the problem is also that AHOPE requires an appointment to take you on a tour, and Holt doesn't give you the schedule for you to even see when the tiny bits of free time are until you're there. Oh well. There's always next time.... ;-)

Around 2:30, we went to the care center to visit with Markos some more. He ran to see us when we arrived and the three of us went into that same room for the time we were there. No Miruk this time, so we were pretty much totally on our own the entire time we were there. Again, the head nanny/nurse was not there for us to talk to. We were told that she'd meet with us on Monday before we took custody.

As always, Markos loved playing with our camera and video camera.  He loved seeing himself on the video camera and would laugh at himself and us; he would sit very attentively looking at the pictures.  And, of course, as dads do, Eric had to run around, chasing him, and tickling him, and picking him up and swinging him around.  Markos loved it, and would just laugh and laugh.  He has the best giggle in the world!! 

Sometimes, when Eric would start to crawl after him to "get him", Markos would run to me and cling to my legs and hide behind me or want me to pick him up.  It was so sweet.  He would playfully scream, "ahhhhh, Emama, Emama!" while laughing and smiling as he clawed at me.  Of course, I would pick him up and protect him from the big, bad Ababa.  ;-)  The nice thing was, when I would chase him or pretend like I was going to get him, he would do the same to Eric - run to him for protection.  We felt that it was a good sign as to the bonding and attachment that was to come.

We had a fun time playing, but it also became a little awkward because all the other children were out in the courtyard playing while we were there. They had all just gotten up from their nap time. It was warm so the window to the room we were in was opened. As was the door....until the other kids came out. Then, Markos got very defensive of us and kept running to slam the door shut in any kids' face who dared to try to enter the room with us. He would actually push them and claw at them to get them out. I was really afraid that someone's fingers were going to get smashed, and I think the nannies got tired of intervening, so we eventually just left it closed.  I was a little sad because I really wanted to hug and kiss on the other kids - especially those whose adoptive parents I have met and who I knew were waiting to come get them and desperately wanting news of how they're doing, news of them getting hugs and kisses, news of them...well, pretty much ANY news. But, I also understood Markos' need to claim us as his own. Also, we had taken toys for him - more machinas (cars), the magna doodle, etc. - and when the kids see new toys, they kind of go crazy wanting them.  (By the time we left, after a few kids stampeded into the room a few times, all toys were gone, except one small machina.)

The kids didn't get mad or upset with Markos at all, they just begged and pleaded and yelled to him.  (BTW, if anyone is going to care center 3, seriously, all the kids seemed to LOVE little cars.  Take cars.  And punching balloons.  They loved those, too.)  Eventually Markos started sacrificing the toys in order to try to appease the kids and keep them away from us.  Not the machinas, he wasn't giving those up without a fight, but he did end up throwing all the punching balloons that we had blown up and were playing with out into the courtyard for his friends to play with.  He was also sweet and stood at the window for a while and blew bubbles out the window for his friends who were gathered outside.  (Of course, they were all still begging for the machinas!)

There was something very disturbing about trying to play with Markos and enjoy the time, while there was constantly a group of kids climbing up to the open window, yelling and begging for Markos' cars, reaching their arms in, desperately wanting what he had. Very sad. Very heart-breaking.

When the Holt driver showed up to pick us up, the kids had gone back inside.  The nannies were not around, and we had yet to really meet anyone there who actually spoke English anyway.  Markos ran to the door, grabbed his shoes to put them on, and was saying, "Markos, mini-bus; Markos, mini-bus" over and over again.  Eric and I gave each other a panicked look, realizing that Markos thought he was coming with us that day.  We kept trying to tell him that we weren't taking him yet, but he continued, "Markos, mini-bus.  Markos, ewedahalu (I love you)".  In a total panic and almost tears, I grabbed the driver who speaks some English and knows Markos and I told him that he had to explain to Markos that we'd be back and that we couldn't take him that day.  So, he picked Markos up and he talked to him and again explained that we had to go, but that we would be back after 2 sleeps to get him and take him in the mini-bus.  As this was going on, the nannies were leading all the other kids into the room where we had been so they could all sit and watch a movie.  Thankfully, Markos was ok after his talk with the driver and quickly joined the other kids who had gone into the room.  We saw him run over to his friends and sit with some of them against the windows, they watched us out the window and Markos smiled and waved and blew us kisses.  (shew!!!  Talk about calming a mother's heart!)

Those are the sort of things that are exhausting while you're there.  The extremely emotional moments.  They seem to come one after the other with no reprieve.  Then, when you have some tiny bit of downtime, you're so exhausted that you can't even begin to process anything, or think, or journal.

After getting back to the guest house, we basically had about an hour or so before the driver was coming back for us to take us to our big group Cultural dinner.  It's always fun to go to the Ethiopian restaurants and see the singers and dancers while you eat, but I will admit that between the exhaustion, the emotions, and the fear and anticipation about what the next day held, I did not enjoy the evening as much as I would have liked to have.

The food was ok (we had better at the other place we went last time we were there though).  The dancing and singing were great.  Very entertaining....although the part where the dancers come out into the audience and drag people up on stage to attempt the dances, or to get them to dance with them in the dining room might have been more entertaining.  Apparently we stood out, because Kendra and Allegra were both taken up on the stage at different times.  Stephanie, Mariah, and Dic were all chosen to dance in the dining room.  I think someone else was also chosen at the other end of the table, but I couldn't see them so I'm not sure who.  Also not sure which was funnier, the panicked looks on the chosen people's faces, or the "oh, wow, you are terrible" looks on the faces of the dancers as the chosen few attempted to copy the dancer's moves.  :-)  Actually, they all did great and were very good sports about it.  I have most of them on video, but due to my being incredibly unphotogenic and fearful of terrible retribution, I will not post them.  (And, once again, I was very thankful that I recognized the music preceeding the whole - go out into the audience and embarrass people - part of the night and was quickly able to make myself look invisible.)  ;-)

Next post - trip to Durame, birth parent visits, and other chaos

Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Ethiopia - Post 7 - Christ Foundation Church

During our trips to Ethiopia, we had the pleasure of getting to know Workineh, one of the guest house staff persons.  He is a committed Christian and is very involved with his church - the Christ Foundation Church - an evangelical Christian church amidst a largely Orthodox country.  We wanted to give him some of the donations that we had taken because we knew that he takes them to his church and gives them out to those in need.  He wanted us (and we really wanted) to attend one of their worship services, but unfortunately, Sunday is the day that we had to drive south for our birth parent meetings so we were unable to attend with him.  We did, however, want to visit his church and take our donations so he took us on Saturday morning.

He explained that his church used to be located near the airport, but that the government had come and closed it down some time before.  The church then moved to it's current location - a tent inside a gated area.  Since moving, the church has "added on" three different times!  They have grown to membership of close to 1000 people, with an average of 700 attending each week!

the drive back through the gates to the church

We had to laugh at the "parking lot".  And to think how many times during our church involvement that we've had to hear complaints about the parking!  :-)  They reported that they also use this area to host a youth program every Wednesday night.

the "parking lot" (for an average attendance of 700 people!)

The inside of the sanctuary tent

The Sunday school room/prayer room

The pastor gave us a tour of the church.  Mike spent some time praying with/for him.  We were all moved to hear the pastor's prayer requests for their church -- all spiritual!  We somewhat expected requests like:  money, Bibles, a church building!  He reported that there is such great poverty that it is hard for the church to get people to see that the church is not there to meet their physical needs, but it is there to help to meet their spiritual needs.  He said that although they do provide for people in extreme need, they try not to give things out too much because they don't want people coming to the church just looking for "stuff".  His prayer requests:  that people would come to a relationship with Jesus and learn to trust God to provide for all their needs; and that people's hearts would be open.

We asked what it cost to operate their church.  He reported that it currently took about $2000 a month to operate their church.  1000 members, average attendance of 700 people, services on Sunday mornings and a youth program every Wednesday night, 3X needing to enlarge the church.  Money well spent!!

Workineh and his pastor

Side note:  the pastor's wife is pregnant with their first child.  He was practically beaming when he told us that they were expecting. 

the inside of their Bibles

Kids everywhere feel the need to color in the Bibles  :-)

Us girls

The men

When we first pulled up to the gates, some boys went running to help and open the gate for us.  They were hanging around the church, coming in and out of the gates.  We gave them lollipops and they were so happy.  We asked about them and discovered that they were just neighborhood boys who like to come and hang out there.  I felt it was special that they found sanctuary, solace, and comfort just hanging out at the church in the midst of their difficult lives.

Sweet neighborhood boys who come to the church to hang out
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28 - 30

Monday, February 14, 2011

From Ethiopia - Post 6 - Day 1 of official schedule

After our two free days sight-seeing around Ethiopia, the official adoption schedule started on Friday morning.  Holt sent two vans to drive our travel group to the office for orientation that morning.  We had the schedule explained to us; we were given a list of some common Amharic words and expressions that we might need to know when talking to our children; and we were walked through the process of filling out our paperwork for the Embassy interview.  Once all the forms had been completed and turned in to the Holt staff, we filed upstairs and paid for our trips to Durame for the birth family meetings.  Then we filed back into the vans and headed out to lunch before we went to meet with our children.

We went to a restaurant called, "The Face of Addis".  It sat high on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the city of Addis Ababa.  Eric and I could see the large area where the Timkat festival had been held.  We could see the airport.  It was very beautiful.  We all enjoyed a nice lunch, while anxiously awaiting our first visit with the kids this trip. 

View from The Face of Addis Restaurant

Travel group at The Face of Addis Restaurant for lunch
After dropping off the others at the Niana Care Center, Eric and I were taken to Care Center 3.  Miruk, the correspondence head for the Holt Ethiopia office, accompanied Eric and I to the care center to visit with Markos.  When we first arrived, we walked into the courtyard area and Markos was just walking out of his room.  He ran over to us and gave both Eric and I big hugs.  Miruk stated that they had gotten our comment sheet from our court visit and that one of the things that I had mentioned was that I was disappointed that we had not gotten a tour of CC3 and hadn't seen where Markos slept, etc., so she wanted to rectify that.  She showed us Markos' bedroom and allowed Markos to show us his bed.  I felt a little bad because it was nap time so all the other kids were trying to nap (or at least pretending to).  Markos' room was a small room with 6 or 7 toddler beds lining the walls.  The children slept 2 to a bed - either head to toe, or side by side - whichever they preferred.  Markos and his bed mate slept head to toe.  Markos showed us where he slept.  The other boys all peeked out from under the covers that they all had pulled tightly over their heads.

Care Center 3

Care Center 3
Markos showing us the bed where he slept

After we saw his room, we went back to the open room where we had played with Markos during our court trip.  He remembered all the toys that we had taken during our first trip and one by one, asked for the same things.  Thankfully, I had remembered the toys that he loved our first trip and had taken similar toys the second trip!  His slight disappointment over the machinas (cars) not talking this time was quickly abated by his delight over the magna doodle with a built-in light.  He really loves all electronic things with buttons.

Ababa and Markos

It was nice having Miruk there with us for most of the visit because Markos knows her and likes her a lot, so he was very comfortable and talked to her, and because she could translate for us!  She let Markos play with her phone last time we were there and he hadn't forgotten.  He played with her phone - taking pictures of us all and listening to her music.  We laughed when he started dancing in his seat and told her that "She's Not Just a Pretty Face" by Shania Twain was his favorite song on her phone.

Miruk letting Markos take pictures with her phone

Having her there to interpret allowed us to see a little of Markos' wit and intelligence.  One of the more funny moments occurred when Eric finally broke down and had to go to the bathroom.  Markos walked back into the little room next to the bathroom with him, so Miruk and I did too.  We could totally hear everything going on in the bathroom.  Eric had been holding himself for quite some time, so he was peeing and peeing.  Markos got a funny look on his face, turned to Miruk, and asked, "is my daddy getting a shower in there?"  She laughed and told me what he had asked.  Very cute.

Markos and his electronics

After a while, Markos ended up with our camera.  I think I must have deleted about 47 pictures of his feet, then once he got the camera turned around, his nose or eyes.  He did manage to get one or two (not so flattering) pictures of Eric and I.

Taking more pictures

Sadly, after a while, the van driver came back again to get us.  Miruk explained the process to Markos again, in detail -- Mommy and Daddy have some more to do, but they will be back to see you tomorrow, then you will have 2 sleeps and then they will come and take you with them.  She had him repeat back to her each detail to make sure that he understood.  He seemed to understand.  We hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes and headed back to the guest house.

We knew that once we took custody, we were not allowed to leave the guest house with the children so we would be eating most meals at the guest house, so we took advantage of the free evening to go out to dinner with Mariah and her mom, and Dic and Kendra.  We went to a Chinese restaurant that the guest house staff recommended.  It was definitely not the American version of Chinese food, but it was very good!  There was a grocery store next door, so we had planned to go try to buy a few things when we were done eating, but it was closed when we left.  However, Isaias took us to another grocery store on the way home so we could pick up some bottles of water, soda, and a few other things to have in the room after we took custody of the kids.  Then, we headed back to the room and crashed again, dreaming happy dreams of our kids.

at a Chinese restaurant for dinner