Ethiopia Day 1 September 19, 2008
For the last hour I have been laying in bed listening to the sounds of my first morning in Africa. Darkness surrounds my room but the world on the other side of my wooden blinds is coming to life. We are not too far from the airport. Now and then the sounds of a helicopter or a turbo prop plane will break the stillness of dawn. In the very far distance I can occasionally hear chanting…. morning prayers of the Muslim faithful. A dog barks. Birds chirp. Cars begin to fill the streets. Horns honk. A baby cries. Something is making a noise I cannot identify…I can’t tell if it is a bird or a child. Quick, short throaty moans…5 short uh uh uh uh uh…the last one rising in pitch. A dog cries…it’s in pain. As quickly as it starts it ends. So I am sitting here..in the darkness…preconceived ideas of how the world will look on the other side of my wooden blinds based on the noises I hear.
The airport is bare bones. Kind of a culture shock from the Amsterdam airport. Got our passports stamped, fought off eager men trying to earn a small tip by assisting (grabbing) our bags, loaded….unloaded…loaded again our luggage as we pushed our way through customs and finally were met by the very friendly face of Mr. Teklu. Phew….but the fun wasn’t over… then we had to make our way out of the airport and into the parking lot filled with more men trying to earn a tip. Lots of men standing around…somewhat ominous in the dark hour we arrived in Addis..
The New Flower is wonderful…and Helen is a very special lady. I anticipate a wonderful stay. I have a small lamp in my room that I use as a night light. Several times in the night it would just go out and maybe an hour or two later come back on. In the corner a tiny cot is set up for Noah Musse.
The dog is crying again. I can tell right now I am going to need to find the strength to tune some things out this week…like Cindy and I said on our final approach…we are moments away from something that will be life changing…whether it is something we like or not we will leave this country changed. I can tell your right now that change is happening….and so now I am going to my window and opening my wooden shutters…and soak in Ethiopia with my eyes as well.
Ethiopia Day 2 September 19, 2008
There was no question in my mind or Musse’s mind that he would be going back to the New Flower guest house with me today. When we pulled up to the WACAP house Cindy tapped my shoulder and said, “Isn’t that him?” I looked out the front window of the van and peering through the window of one of the rooms of the house was a very wide eyed handsome young face. Before we had a chance to unload ourselves from the van Musse was out the door. I had hardly stepped foot on the ground when he ran to me and wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me…a very tight hug that no one was going to deny him. We hugged and talked for a few minutes and then went into the reception/play room of the WACAP house. Inside the cook was preparing a formal coffee ceremony for us. On the ground were long blades of cut grass. A small stove about the size of a lunch box heated wood to be used to warm the fire. Several small coffee cups, a little larger than a jigger, were set out on a tray. Coffee beans were roasted over the fire while we visited. There are not many children at the house right now…in fact there are only 5 infants. That is changing however as Mr. Teklu has said he is bringing 6 more 4- 8 year olds in to the house this week. We shared our donations with the staff. They were very grateful…they truly were. Cindy brought some donations as well. She brought a hat that had been her mom’s (who passed away a little over a year ago) The hat was kind of like a Gilligan hat with flowers on one side and if you reverse it a solid blue hat would appear. Well, Mr. Musse loved the flower side of the hat and wore it the rest of the day. It was pretty sweet…kind of like the spirit of Cindy’s mom was with her in Africa. The hat certainly made Musse happy.
We are learning, because of the language barrier, that we really don’t know what Mr. Teklu has in store for us from one day to the next. We may think we are doing one thing and then are in a totally different place then what we imagined. The second half of our day was like this. After our morning at the WACAP house he treated us to lunch at a very very nice Italian restaurant. We met up with Jessica, who is another new WACAP mom with a 3 year old daughter. Mr. Teklu said we would be driving to the mountain to see a view of Addis Ababa. The drive up was beautiful…winding our way to the elevation of 10,000 feet through Eucalyptus forests. It was also numbing as this is where I have never in my life seen such poverty and desparation to just live to see another day. What struck me the most was the wood carriers…women with bundles of sticks on their backs that must have weighed in the hundreds of pounds.. Most were barefoot. We must have passed 50-75 of these women on the way up and even more on the way down. The wood is used for fuel…I can’t imagine how much longer the forests surrounding Addis can survive. From what I could see though they were not cutting the trees from the trunks but rather cutting the branches. All the branches were sheared from about 7 feet down to their base. There were times where children were hanging in the trees…and if we as much as gave them a glance and a smile they would jump from the trees and follow our van as far as they could muster the energy to run.
When we reached the top of Mt. Entoto a very soft spoken man met our van. He had very good English and was to be our guide to the viewing point. A worn thatched roof hut and an orange cargo container rested at the peak. We walked through a small meadow where a couple of female goats rested with their kids. It soon became apparent that on this little trek to the top of Ethiopia Cindy would have her own guide and the rest of us would follow picking up the rear. : >) She learned about a cement mixing building that could be seen through binoculars through the trees…she learned about the official indigenous flower of Ethiopia…she learned about the wild animals that roamed the mountainside. We learned how to say, “what was that he said to you?” as most information went straight to her. So we walk back toward the van and were invited into the cargo container which actually turns out to be an art studio of our soft spoken guide. Inside were amazing oil on canvas of Ethiopia through his hands and eyes. There was no way I was leaving without purchasing one…they were too beautiful. So once again he is keeping his eyes on what Cindy is looking at when she stands before a spectacular colored depiction of a lady performing a coffee ceremony but is longingly glancing over her shoulder at something besides her coffee cups. He says to Cindy…the lady in the picture is in love. He’s smooth…really smooth. So then Mr. Teklu tells us that last week when Beyonce was in town for the Millenium celebration she came to the top of Mt. Entoto to view the art of Mr. Wassi Hu. She has asked him to paint a mural for him. It is apparent this is no bohemian artist trying to make a living off of tourist suckers….he’s the real deal who has found his inner soul to create masterpieces on the top of a mountain. So…back to the cargo container…I decide on a painting and Mr. Wassi Hu says he must have one last picture of his painting and motions me into the picture. I joking say, “Well…I’m no Beyonce but I guess I can.” He just says…”no no no…Beyonce beautiful.” Ok…got to agree with him and just shrugged of the possible diss. Next Cindy finally decides on her painting…and it is the woman in love yet trying to perform a coffee ceremony. Once again Mr. Wassi Hu says he must have a picture. Once again I make a Beyonce comment thinking he would repeat how beautiful Beyonce was…but instead he smiles at Cindy and comments on her beauty in comparison to Beyonce. Of course I would not let her live that down…nor the fact that he not only gave her a discount on her painting but also gave her his telephone number AND an offer to show her the town. Ok ok…in all fairness I got a discount too…but to get a phone number not but 24 hours into being in Addis…you go girl.
Ethiopia Day 3 September 21, 2008
It’s Sunday morning around 6:30 am. Morning prayers are being chanting beyond my window. It is really a peaceful sound rising from this city that seems so restless. Of course the tortured dog next door at times drowns out the prayer but sadly I have become accustom to its periodic pain as well. I’ve learned to ignore it because I have no other choice. I can’t fix the problem and I can’t run from the problem so I must ignore the problem.
Yesterday we had a wonderful day. Mr. Teklu met us @ 9:00. We drove through the city to meet up with Jessica and her little daughter Melat. Teklu’s plan for us today was to drive south of the city to lakes created by volcanos. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking a large lake south of the city. A huge variety of African birds flew around our overlook. Parrots, ravens, storks. Every meal is followed by an offer for coffee. Today we said yes and incense, popcorn, and coffee were served. Musse has love his poloroid camera….it’s been a hit! He knows he is only allowed 10 pictures a day and he is very conscience of his choices of what to take for the day. Yesterday he took a picture of our beautiful waitress at Dreamland Family Resort. Although she was dressed in her waitress outfit and looked very put together I am guessing when she left the gates of the building her life was not as put together. She was SO thrilled when Musse gave her a copy of the picture (much to my selfish sadness because the pic Musse took was beautiful and I would have loved to have kept it) She immediately bent down and kissed Musse on the forehead and tucked her picture in her pocket. It was a prize for her…and she wasn’t going to let it go.
The drive to and from was beautiful if you could cast your eyes to the horizon and ignore the suffering and poverty along the roadsides. You truly never get a break from the despair when making your way around Addis. You turn a corner only to encounter worse suffering then what you were just witness to a minute sooner. I have seen a dead horse carcass rotting at an intersection, I’ve had a man with no legs come to my taxi window begging for a birr (= 10 cents), we’ve had a mother and her 4 children follow us back to the guest house so crazy with hunger and despair that they had a mad laughter rising from their tired souls.
Last night we topped off our day with dinner at Fastika…a restaurant that serves traditional Ethiopian cuisine. The building itself is this beautiful simulation of a grass hut. Inside the ceilings are painting with murals of Ethiopian life. Dinner is served on a giant silver pan resting inside a basket that is similar to the shape of a drum. After dinner we were entertained by tradition music and dance from Ethiopia. It was one of the best evenings I have ever had. Musse stayed back at the guest house with the other children so it was just the parents out on the town. It was a nice break for all of us and really and enjoyable evening all around.
I find it so ironic that through out all of this I sit here this morning on my bed and hear prayers being chanting across the rooftops…the people on the streets do not have anything material to hold onto but they have their God and that is enough to pick themselves up off the side of the road every morning and start their day of despair all over again. Are they happy? I can’t imagine. Are they at peace with their existence? I don’t know. Do the have faith? They must because they are still on our earth. I have come to witness that this situation…this situation of poverty is so big I cannot even begin to imagine how it can be fixed. This is one city in Africa…a city by some standards is said to be progressive. I cannot fix this on a grand scale but I can focus on Musse. I can fix Musse. The rest…I can just pray for them because that is the one thing both they and I share… we both share faith.
Ethiopia Day 4 September 21, 2008
Yesterday we had a wonderful day. We hired a driver through Helen, Ayella, who drove us north of the city to and area called Debre Labanos. It was about a 2-3 hour drive. We saw the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. This is one part of Ethiopia where the new and successful floriculture industry is thriving. Leaving Addis we drove up and over Mt. Entoto…gave a quick wave to Mr. Wassi Hu…and descended down the other side of the mountain into sweeping green valleys lush with grasses and flowers. I am sure 75% of the population in Addis has know idea how beautiful their country is on the other side of the mountain. As we drove farther along round thatched roof huts with cow dung siding replaced the corrugated steel shacks of the city. We passed through a couple of bustling villages…maybe about a half mile strip of condensed shacks where children played in mud and standing water, older boys kicked soccer balls, fuse ball tables were crowded around, women tended to their daily chores, and buses loaded and unloaded their passengers. Donkeys, cows, goats, and dogs wandered the streets. I put dogs in the same category as the others because they really are not domesticated, as we would assume. If a person has a dog it is for guarding or herding…not for companionship. Most of the dogs in the city are stray and wild. Not to be approached of petted by any means.
We reached the Portuguese Bridge about midday. Any road not on the main road is exceptionally rough to travel. The roads we took yesterday were no exception. I’m not sure about the elevation we ascended to on our drive but the air was definitely thin. We went for a hike to the bridge. We paralleled the ridge of canyon that in width could easily be compared to the Grand Canyon. Baboons played and feasted on prickly pear cactus and grass just below us. On this canyon there were no safety rails, so there were a few times where there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the edge of the cliff and our path. We walked through a gate, which apparently was the border between private property and government land. A self-appointed ‘guide’ for the remainder of the hike joined each of us. We really had no choice as they wouldn’t take no for an answer. They all were around 20 years of age. The Portuguese Bridge crossed a river, which created a waterfall just beyond the bridge. It truly was a breathtaking site….and at times I was still pinching myself that I was standing at a waterfall in Ethiopia.
As I mentioned earlier, Noah loves taking Polaroid pictures and showing them off. At one point of our hike I was walking along and realized he wasn’t behind me. I went back a few hundred feet to look for him. Children of the local farmers, with their herding staffs, surrounded him in hand, showing off his pictures to them. I stood back and observed for a minute. He is very expressive in his hand gestures and was rattling off what I figured was an explanation of who he was and why he was with this white woman because all at once they took their eyes off him and all turned their eyes on me. I called his name and he ran to me and put his arms around me, glancing back to the children as if to say, “See…I told you so.” For the remainder of the trip they followed at a safe distance observing Noah and his new mom.
The only down part of the whole hike was at the end when we were finished and our guides become somewhat aggressive in wanting us to buy their souvenirs. Not only were they aggressive but also about 15 more boys came from nowhere to try to sell their things to us. One even tied a pendant around Noah’s neck and told him his mom would buy it for him. Fortunately Ayella stepped in and pushed them back for us and we made a quick walk to the other side of the gate where they could not follow.
Our next stop was the monastery at Debre Lebanos. The road into that was lined with lush forests. Every now and then we would spy families of baboons. There were also pockets of children who would chase our car for handouts. It’s so hard to ignore them…so very very hard. There were also large groups of elderly sitting on the side of the road holding their hands out for handouts. The actual monastery was an oasis in such a dire surrounding of poverty that lined the streets the mile or so before we reached the sacred grounds. Once inside the monastery, we were greeted by a very gentle and kind monk who gave us a tour. He reminded me of Jeff’s oldest brother Don in his quiet demeanor. When we approached the front of the building Noah did the sign of the cross. A defining moment that sealed the deal of our question of what faith, if any, was he raised in. Once inside the church he stayed by the side of the monk the entire time, asking questions, pointing to things etc. At one point he asked where the stain glass of Jesus was and was very relieved to find it front and center behind the alter. Noah is Christian.and last night he was telling Helen that he lived around the corner from a church in Dessie.
We had to stop and use a bathroom on our way back to Addis. Ayella pulled into a village and got out at a restaurant. (loosely used term: restaurant) We were traveling with another family, Lucy and her young daughter who she had recently adopted as well. Her daughter had to use the bathroom but when Ayella came around to her door to take her, Demamie went crazy. Something about where we were must have triggered a memory of her relinquishment because she screamed blood curdleing terror filled screams. Maybe on the day she was abandoned a man took her away from her mom in the back of a car. Who knows…except the screams she had were like no other I have ever heard. Ayalla shrugged his shoulders and took Musse to the bathroom and left Demamie to scream. When we figured out she thought she was going to be pulled from her mom again, Cindy, Lucy and I were able to piece together the sentence, “Mommy will go with you to the bathroom.” So Lucy, Demamie, and I got out of the car and ventured into the restaurant. When we walked in it was clear that it was no place where women were welcome. In the corner was a black and white tv flickering Aljazzera news while elderly men with their shephard staffs sat watching the going ons on the world. Of course there was no indoor plumbing so we walked past the men to the back door and saw Ayella in the very rear of the property. Musse came out from behind a thatched screen holding his nose, indicating that it was a pretty stinky hole on the other side of the curtain. Lucy led Demamie to the hole and stood watch on the other side. A very sweet older gentleman followed us to the back of the property and for a few moments stared at Lucy and I. He then motioned to her…he sensed her discomfort in the situation and surroundings that she was in. In very sweet broken English he spoke to Lucy…”Do not be scared…I am your brother…you are my sister.” Pretty cool. The men at the restaurant were very curious yet very kind to us. We shook hands when we left and when I got back to the car all I could say and think was, ‘that was SO cool!’ It was, beyond a doubt, the most enriching bathroom break I have or ever will have in my life. : >)
On our way out of Debre Lebanos I became overwhelmed with the contrast of beauty and poverty under the same sky. It can be overwhelming at times. For about 15 minutes I held my head out the window while the fresh Ethiopian mountain air blew on my face. Children tending their herds, women on the side of the streams doing their laundry waved excitedly when we passed. They have so little yet they have so much as they know no better. It was a defining day in my life…one I will never forget.
Ethiopia Day 5 September 22, 2008
Today was our embassy appointment day. Mr. Teklu came over to the guest house with Jessica and Melat so we could all go together to file our papers. Unfortunately the embassy lost one document that had been cabled over from WACAP so there was a few hours where I honestly thought I would not be leaving on Thursday night. Fortunately Megan got on her e-mail right away at 3:00am and emailed the embassy insisting that she had filed it and it was their oversight. We returned to the embassy after coming back to the guest house for lunch and suddenly the document appeared. Phew…so I turned in the paperwork, answered 5 questions about Noah Musse’s life before he came into my custody and Waalaa…he was declared our son. Amazing how much anxiety can accompany what would seem to be a simple task.
Another defining moment today….we are in the van waiting in traffic (as it seems like we always do) when a woman whose eyes were clouded with cataracts appeared at our van door, begging for food. She stood at the window in front of Noah and motioned with her hands that she was hungry and wanted him to give her food. He locked eyes with her and in a very sad sorrowful glance shook his head and raised his hands up to the sky motioning that he could not. She asked again. This time his big brown beautiful eyes just took her in. He just stared at her as she continued to motion for just one piece of food. Cindy and I sat in silence…watching this little guy who, only months earlier was in that beggars shoes pleading for just one bite, be on the other side of the coin. I brought a new jacket for Noah to wear…he is so proud of it and he wore it today because it was bit rainy. He put on that new jacket today and suddenly in the eyes of those who beg…he was a ‘have’ to those who ‘have not’ on the streets of Addis. One clean new jacket…
After our embassy appt. we went to AHOPE an orphanage for HIV infected children. The children were beautiful, kind, respectful, funny…and were loved as best they could be. What a place. I held the hand of a 2 month old baby who had just been relinquished earlier that day. I laughed at an adorable little boy, Ebram, who did the old top of the thumb disconnecting from the rest of the thumb trick…and he was really good at it. I stood in line to use the bathroom ( if you gotta go, you gotta go) and we celebrated the adoption of a little girl with 23 beautiful children who are just a drop in the bucket of the children infected with HIV throughout Ethiopia. Almost one million…so now I am crying. The first tears I’ve shed in all the days we’ve been here. Yes…what is going on over here is mind boggling, unfair, wrong, and seemingly impossible to fix…but we cannot give up on these children. As we were leaving Mr. Teklu was taking the names of a couple of children. He will advocate for them. It’s people like Mr. Teklu who drive these streets every day and sees the despair, yet he forges on, he finds our children and he makes it his personal mission to fix this problem one child at a time. It’s the least any of us can do.
Ethiopia Day 6 September 23, 2008
This morning we walked up to Kaldi’s coffee ( a very good knock off to Starbucks….even down to the trademark green sign) to meet Mr. Dawit who was driving us down to Nazareth to visit his schools. While we were waiting for him I took Noah up to the counter to see if there was anything he wanted, thinking a pastry or something. He exchanged conversation with one of the waitresses and I decided a guava juice would be perfect for him. So we sit down…and soon three blended smoothies arrive at our table. Hmmmmmm…Cindy and I look at each other and then the waitress and tell her we didn’t order anything for ourselves but I had ordered a single guava juice for Noah. Ok, so the waitress takes the two drinks away. Soon she arrives back with a giant hamburger and a plate of fries. I looked at the waitress and said…”we didn’t order this”…she looked at me and said, “he did” gesturing to Noah. The conversation Noah had with the waitress that I thought was idle chit-chat…he was ordering a hamburger and fries for himself AND drinks around the table for Cindy and I. So what should have been a simple 5 birr tab turned into a 37 birr table tab…still extremely cheap as all of that cost about $3.50 in US dollars. As ‘cute’ as it was I had to reprimand him…and the tears did not go over well with the waitresses as they stood by with evil eyes for the remainder of the time it took for Noah to finish his burger. ANYWAY….we got out of dodge quickly when Mr. Dawit arrived.
We drove south of Addis to Nazareth. He and his wife have dedicated their lives to educating the poorest of the poor children in that community. They have opened up two schools in the community, the English Alive Academy. Most of the children are there through sponsorships. Our first stop was a school for Pre K- 2nd grade. The children were in line washing up for snack time when we arrived. After snack they had playtime. It was during this time that we got to play with them…take pictures of them and show them on the digital screen of the camera…and just laugh with them. They were soooo cute and so happy to be in school. At the first school we visited there were 83 children in a school building and yard that would equal about 2 classrooms in size. After play time they went back to their classrooms. We had brought candy for them so Noah went into each classroom and handed out candy. He was very proud of the chance to share the candy. He really enjoyed playing with the kids as well.
Here’s today’s defining moment with Noah: We are in the ‘library’ (which consists of maybe 75 books for 83 children) when Noah comes running in. He asks for his blue bag that has all of his crayons. I get it out for him and he takes it to the 1st grade classroom and hands out all of his special crayons and colored pencils to the students in that classroom. I didn’t tell him to. He did it on his own. So there is my son…with nothing really to call his own except for the clothes on his back only days before…taking his new pencils and crayons and handing them out to someone who needs them more. A very proud moment for this new mom.
Next we traveled to the school for older children…2-4th grade but the students were as old as 13. Mr. Dawit had told us about one little girl who is a student in this school. Her name is Hana. Hana’s parents are both dead of AIDS and she had been living by herself since their death. Hana is 8 years old. Hana is HIV-positive. The neighbors told Mr. Dawit about Hana and he took her into his school. After school he believes she is taken care of by neighbors. We met Hana and yes, she does look sick but for 6 hours a day she can be the little girl she should be among the children of Mr. Dawit’s school. Cindy and I are hopeful in talking to Mr. Teklu about Hana in the hopes that he may advocate for her to enter the AHOPE orphanage where she can get proper medicine for her HIV. It would be a dream if she could eventually be advocated for adoption but first she must get her health back and so tomorrow we talk to Teklu.
Today I was hugged, kissed, and touched by 136 children in the poorest of the poor region of Ethiopia. By the end of the day Cindy and I conceded that there will be a ‘fungus among-us’ but how could you not be touched, both physically and emotionally by these children. I think we both agree as well that a piece of our hearts will forever be in beautiful little oasis of learning on the edge of the Great Rift Valley.
Ethiopia Day 7 September 24, 2008
We started our morning by going to the Heile Selasie market to buy souvenirs. Noah was not interested in a trip like that at all and chose to stay back at the guest house with the staff while Cindy and I had Ayella drive us. The Heile Selasie market is a no bartering store where can purchase wonderful items made in Ethiopia. We spent a couple hours just looking around and buying. We also made it back to the Weaver’s co-op to buy some more scarves. Funny story: We are in one store where the walls are just covered in colorful fabrics made into scarves and dresses. We are talking to one of the owners when the second owner sneaks in, a small woman with a scarf wrapped around her so the only thing showing is her face. She silently stands behind Cindy for a couple of minutes while Cindy peruses the scarf selection. Cindy turns around right when the lady makes a slight move and it sends Cindy to the ceiling with surprise. She thought the lady was a mannequin and when she moved she startled Cindy so much she screamed. We were all laughing about it when Cindy let out her trademark snort and that just sent the two ladies into doubled over laughter. The one lady with the scarf was laughing so hard she had to turn her head into the fabric to keep her composure. We all laughed for about 5 minutes and when Cindy walked out the one owner smiled at her and said, ‘this is good’…meaning we all crossed the language border with our laughter. It was priceless. Traveling with Cindy is a refreshing…she is quick to have conversations with anyone and can break the ice with a simple smile. I am grateful to have her along this adventure.
We made it back to the New Flower just in time for Mr. Teklu to drop by Noah’s passport and visa. He is officially cleared to come home. Yahoo! After that we drove to the WACAP house for a goodbye party for Noah. We brought gifts for the staff, played with the babies, and had more coffee. Love this coffee! It is clear that Noah was well loved at the WACAP house. They were all very excited to see him and were very sad to say good-bye. They are wonderful there…the have a genuine love for the children. It was a most memorable goodbye. I just pray that someday Noah can come back and give back to such a special place. I also told Mr. Teklu about Hana, the little girl in Nazareth who is orphaned and has HIV. Cindy gave him Mr. Dewit’s contact information and Teklu has promised us he will help Hana. She will have to be brought to an orphanage first and then hopefully will be processed at AHOPE so she can get the proper medicine to slow down the progression of the HIV. Her face will be in my thoughts…her heart and health in my prayers.
Tonight we took Helen out for dinner at a fine Italian restaurant. We had beautiful Ethiopian artwork surrounding us. We even caught a glimpse of one of Mr. Wassi Hu’s art, although Helen swears it isn’t the one and only one who gave Cindy his phone number earlier in the week. We had such a wonderful time…so much laughter…so much conversation. Noah was pretty bored for most of the meal and at one point even called the waiter over to clear our dishes off the table so we could leave. Helen explained to him that was not appropriate and that he is not the boss. He then said if we wanted to continue talking we should take him home so he could go to bed and we could stay up and talk. Hmmmmmm….maybe he is a descendant of the Emperor Heile Selasse as his last name by birth would indicate. So we get home and he gets his pj’s on and is expecting to watch tv tonight. Through Helen I tell him no…he was so tired at the restaurant that he needs to go to bed. Also his bossy behavior at the restaurant to a stranger is reason enough to have an early bedtime without the reward of t.v. He was truly sorry when he saw how disappointed I was and actually hugged me and said he was sorry…in English. I’ve got my work cut out for me…but deep down he’s a great kid.
So it’s my last night in Ethiopia and I have been changed forever. I LOVE this country, it’s people, it’s landscape. There is so much love among the people. Yes the poverty is overwhelming…yes their government is beyond corrupt and anyone you talk to will tell you as much…but I love this country and the people at the grassroots level who are trying to make a difference. I have been touched…by the families who were with us at the New Flower…the staff at the WACAP House…Mr. Teklu…Helen…Mr. Dewitt…our driver Ayalla…Wassi Hu : >)…a little girl named Hana…the beggars on the streets…a two month old baby at AHOPE with HIV…a little boy I am bringing home to his family forever… I am changed.
Ethiopia Day 8 September 26, 2008
The Beginning of Firsts
How can I describe the past 36 hours but time passed laughing, crying, celebrating, hugging, sadness, exhaustion.. I haven’t laid down in over a day and a half now…as we filled our final day in Addis in Starlet, Helen’s car. She wanted to take us to a coffee factory for a tour as well as take us by one of her favorite shops. Starlet is a cute car by Addis standards but you are still taking our life into your own hands when you close the tin can doors of the blue Toyota hatchback. As Cindy said, she hasn’t got the shifting down so that makes it just about as nerve racking as it gets…especially when she stalls out at a major intersection or when a 1962 VW bug passes us on a steep hill because she forgets to put it in 1st gear. An adventure and laughs to say the least. Helen insisted on taking us to her favorite bathroom in the city…she goes there all the time when she is out and about. We crossed the poverty barrier that are the gates of the Sheraton Addis and treated ourselves to the luxury of actually sitting on a toilet and using toilet paper from a roll, not a wad from our backpacks, and washing our hands with liquid soap and not Purell. You honestly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. : >) After the Sheraton we drove to the Hilton to check in at the KLM office for our flight out later that night. We had a nice tour of the coffee factory and have walked away with a great appreciation of what goes into a single cup of coffee. The labor alone…amazing.
We treated Mr. Teklu and Helen for lunch at the Aladdin after the factory tour. Once again we had good laughs and good conversation. Mr. Teklu is such an amazing advocate for the children of Ethiopia as is Helen. I can see a great future of them working together for the children of their country.
Helen and her staff had a final coffee ceremony for us before we left for the airport. We gifted her with a book of the origin of coffee…Kaldi and the Dancing Goat…as the night before she attempted to tell us the story but completely botched the whole thing totally confusing us and leaving us in hysterics. We figured a book with the real story would keep other guests from being as confused as we were. : >) We gave the three ladies on staff scented candles and Solomon, a gentle soul of a man who really was such a positive male for Noah this week, a tool box I had picked up before we left for Ethiopia. I knew somewhere in Ethiopia there would be a man deserving of a set of tools and Solomon was that wonderful man.
Mr. Teklu and his driver took us to the airport around 7:30 pm. It was a very bitter sweet goodbye and I don’t think Noah really understood that this was really goodbye until we were at the ticket counter and tears just began to stream down his face. He realized that the wonderful kind Mr. Teklu would no longer be on this adoption journey with him. It was a sad realization for all of us.
We met up with Melat, Jennifer, and Tigist for the final step of this journey to bring Noah home. They flew with us to Amsterdam and are continuing on to Seattle on a separate flight. In the past 24 hours Noah has encountered many firsts…his first backpack…his first plane ride…his first escalator ride….his first moving sidewalk ride….his first drink from a drinking fountain…his first ice cube….his first listen to Rhianna, Coldplay, Madonna…and he has smiled his smile of amazement with each and every moment. This long long day is just the beginning of an amazing journey with Noah Musse Barclay.