Travel Journal – April 30, 2010

30 04 2011

Friday, April 30th

I am actually writing this at 5:25 am Sat.  I fell asleep quickly last night. Although I have been awake most of the time since 2 am.

On Thursday night I decided to stretch/do yoga before bed.  And I pinched my fascia in my low back.  So I was in a lot of pain yesterday and have limited mobility.  I was hoping I had just done it a little bit like sometimes happens.  But no, it is pretty bad  (Not the worst I have ever done – but not too far behind.)

Yesterday we had breakfast downstairs and met a few more Agency families.

Then we all piled into the modern white vans – they have pretty big windows etc… and so far I haven’t felt sick in them, and went to the agency offices.  The offices are not far but you have to cross Old Ring Road which requires a “Michigan left”  That requires getting stuck in insane traffic for a mile and then going left at what is the craziest “intersection” I have ever seen.  Totally unregulated cars/buses/trucks coming from every direction.  Every one trying to intimidate everyone else to make the turn.  Men, women, children, goats and donkeys walking in the middle of it all.

Those cars pointed in every direction in front of the truck are NOT parked. They are all just trying to get where they are going. Every time we came here (usually at least twice a day) I thought I took video, and every time I somehow messed up.

Once you get turned around on the road you come almost all the way back to the place where you entered the “highway” to begin with and go right.  You drive through an extremely upscale neighborhood including residence for government officials etc… Despite the mansion/mini mansions we saw an elderly man and child walking a beautiful Brahma bull down the middle of that street yesterday.

The agency office staff is very nice.  The women are all so beautiful.  We also have two staff members from Agency Uganda (D and C) traveling with us as well as R (from Agency based out of N.C.).  She is a fellow diet coke and spider solitaire addict who used to live in Eugene.  What a great job she has traveling the world for a good cause.

At the offices (where the building is painted a beautiful grass green) we got an orientation.  While we waited a PowerPoint flashed on the wall with sayings like, “Jesus is my bride groom.”  Although that was the only religion we got.

At one point during the orientation they told us not to ask others about their child’s story.  But later in the afternoon we “practiced” for the Embassy appointment.  They went person to person asking the questions that might be asked at the Embassy.  This resulted in us all telling parts of our child’s story in front of the group.  It was impossible not to listen in.  (NOTEThis was the second time my Agency put me in a situation of talking about my child’s story in front of other people.  At some point I will write a post about how unacceptable that is.  In the meantime, I wish our Agency staff would read THIS post written by the ever brilliant, turns-out-I-do-have-a-PhD-in-Engineering Claudia.)

After orientation and a tour we got back in our vans and headed to the care center.  The one single woman in our group, M, went by herself to the school care center because the daughter she is adopting is six and lives there. The rest of us went to the regular care center which is right next door to the hotel.  You have to take your shoes off before you go in and trade them for crocs/sandals.  We all sat around in the front room and waited for them to bring our children down the stairs one-by-one.  They announced your child’s name first so you went and stood at the bottom of the stairs.  They have a videographer who records it all.

One 4ish yr-old boy – T – ran into his new father’s arms.

The whole thing is pretty overwhelming.

LD was 2nd or 3rd to last.  No kids cried but most were clearly a bit overwhelmed.  Some did relax into their parents arms, but LD remained rather stiff and made almost no eye contact with me.

And then we met.

Before handing him to me the nanny lifted him above her head trying to get him to relax. So I copied what she had done.

Despite the Nanny's' and my best efforts, he was having none of it. That body language is crystal clear.

After a few minutes of us all hanging out together they told us they had not finished lunch and asked us to take our kids back upstairs.  The toddlers were eating at little tables but they told me LD was still in the baby group.  So we went into the room on the left.  There were cribs and small beds lining the room.  There were a few babies asleep or in the cribs peering out.  The other kids were sitting on the floor by themselves or in bumbos or with a nanny eating.

I asked about LD’s food but they said he had already finished.  Some of the kids had very large heads and teeny tiny arms and legs… clearly very malnourished.

I sat and made friends with on tiny girl who was eating independently.  She kept trying to give me her injera.  I know that all the kids in those rooms already have homes – and their parents have probably already passed court and will be here soon.  I still could have scooped her and a few others up and brought them home.

I asked which bed was LD’s and they pointed one out and said he slept in it alone.  But later when we put them down for naps there was another kid in it.  I don’t believe they have assigned beds.  Ethiopians want to answer your questions.  They are not necessarily lying but they provide you info that may be true in context only.  Jamie surmised that maybe that was the crib LD had slept in last.

Theoretically one of these cribs was his, however, I suspect that ALL of these cribs were actually his.

Eventually we went back downstairs.  I could not get LD interested in playing with anything.  I tried to put him down to see if he could crawl and he immediately cried – so I picked him back up.

Look up surreal in the dictionary, you should find pictures of adoptive parents meeting their kids for the first time.

We just sort of sat in the crowd of other families and observed.  Some kids were very playful and outgoing while others were more subdued like LD.

Our initial meeting was like a bad blind date - over enthusiastic me, and if-I-don't-look-at-her-she-might-go-away him.

Pretty quickly it was nap time and we had to leave them.  Some of them were crying when we put them down and the nannies were very responsive.

They even took one little girl back out of bed and put her on the floor with food which she ate happily.

LD cried when I put him down so I picked him back up and cuddled him until a nurse took him from me.

Most of us walked to a particular coffee shop for lunch.  There were other Caucasian people there and a few Asian people there as well. (NOTEI was disappointed that we were being sent to eat at a place that in no way represented the population we were surrounded by.)
I wasn’t hungry so only ordered a milkshake.  It was pretty good.

After lunch we went back to the offices to fill out paperwork.  Everything about this was annoying.  There was one bottle of white out that was passed back and fourth from family to family.  We kept reassuring each other that this final piece of embassy paperwork could not prevent us from taking our children home.  After the paperwork was done we paid for our trip to Durame.

At one point a discussion broke out about spanking.  Apparently some of the young families with lots of kids are pro-spanking.

The reality of meeting your child for the first time or even the second time as pictured here. What you are feeling and what he is feeling may be very different.

Next we headed back to the care center.  LD was not “Stiff” this time.  Eventually he became interested in a book I brought as well as balloons.  Eventually we saw him crawl and even stand and walk. (NOTEBased on a conversation I had later with a Care Center staff member, it is likely that these were his first independent steps.  How random and fortuitous that I would get to see them.  Of course, I didn’t know that I should be celebrating them.)

Learning to walk is a great trick to show his new Mama.

The nannies don’t speak English but this didn’t stop me from asking one if LD ever smiled.  She got him to smile a bit by snuggling his neck.  Later towards the very end of our visit I got him to do the same.

All the kids have a URI and LD was quite sweaty at times.  I wonder if he doesn’t feel well.  In the beginning of the visit he yawned a few times.  I was trying to guess if he was truly tired of if it was a coping mechanism.

Very few of – maybe none of – the kids that are going home now look malnourished but LD is definitely the biggest chunk.  It was fun to watch the two older boys of the group interact with their new parents.

During the visit LD kept watching the door where the nannies came in and out.  Every once in awhile one would come and give him a kiss.  Is he a favorite?  Does he have a favorite?  If I could only see ahead to six months from now.

Teaching me how to make him smile.

Dinner was on our own.  We are in a part of the city far from anything in our guidebook.  We tried to hire a taxi to take us to a recommended restaurant but he wanted to charge $400 bir.  Jamie and I decided to walk up to the “golf club”.  It was supposed to be a nice place.  When we got there and got menus we decided not to stay.  We came back and ate pizza at the hotel.  They put the same spice in everything.  It tastes pretty good but not fantastic.

Walking next to the dirty highway and over to the restaurant was not particularly intimidating.  There are so many people on the streets.  But it is dark and dirty.  I can’t imagine how much we must stand out.

I really wish I could stretch but my back is in a bad way.  I am really going to need caffeine today.  Hopefully I will be able to get a diet coke near the museum.

After finally meeting LD today – I felt more relaxed than I have in many days… strange that I couldn’t sleep.

The day in Ethiopia seems to belong to the blue and white mini buses – but the night belongs to the dogs.


What Now? Selam Update

30 04 2011

You know I never thought much past, “Selam.”

I didn’t think about the fact that I have a REALLY hard time understanding people who have accents.  I didn’t think about the fact that I don’t like entertaining at our rental house for 1,000 reasons.  I didn’t think about the fact that taking our kids OUT requires at least 76% of SAG’s attention and at least 76% of my attention at all times.  That leaves less than half of an adult to pay attention to a new friend.

Yep, didn’t think it through until the euphoria wore off from Sahmel asking to exchange phone numbers a few weeks back.

I came home and read up on Eritrea.  I came home and blogged about my success.  I came home and had a mild anxiety attack, “Now what?”

The weekend after I met Sahmel I thought about calling him and asking him to dinner – but I came up with a million excuses why it wasn’t the right time.  Then my phone rang and when I looked at the screen I saw his name.  I didn’t answer.  He left a message.  It got deleted.  I swear it wasn’t intentional.  And I had his number anyway so it did not matter, I could have called him.  But I waited.

Then it was Easter weekend.  I figured he probably had big Easter plans.  I figured lots of things that made it impossible for me to call him.  Then I figured out just how silly I was being.

So, this afternoon I called him and he was available for dinner.  Now What?

Where could we go for dinner that my two, 2-yr-olds would be welcomed?  That a recently arrived Eritrean would feel comfortable?  That wouldn’t ask us if we wanted to “super-size it”?

We decided to take him to a family friendly, Mexican chain.  Sahmel had no idea what I was talking about when I said we were going out for Mexican food.  But he seemed excited about the potential.  Anyone who will travel half-way around the world to start a new life must either be adventurous or learn to live with uncomfortable situations.  Sahmel seems genuinely adventurous.

I didn’t think about the fact that he wouldn’t be able to read the menu – duh.  I ordered a version of chicken fajitas for him.  He seemed happy.  I thought there were some parallels between the fill your own tortillas and eating with injera.

I think Sahmel’s English skills are impressive.  And our conversation flowed fairly smoothly.  I am looking forward to spending more time with him.  He told us about his family in Eritrea.  He told us that his mother has been asking him, “What is it like to live with all those white people?”

Sahmel is 18 years and six months (his wording.)  When he asked SAG how old he was and SAG told him, 43, Sahmel seemed genuinely shocked.  I remember my first job out of college, I was turning 22, one of my new work friends was 29 – I could not believe I had a friend that was THAT old.  We must seem ancient to Sahmel.

Well, that is one more adventure for Sahmel – being friends with white people, middle-aged, white people at that.

Travel Journal – April 29, 2010

29 04 2011

Thurs April 29

 I woke up at 6:30 am.  Spent lots of time looking out our window and watching Ethiopia flow past.  The public transport system involves lots of blue and white mini buses/vans.  All morning long they were going up and down our street along with work trucks and people walking.

Our street in Addis

It seemed like the majority of people walking were women – later on during the day it would seem we were seeing more men.  A man came by with a herd of ½ dozen goats.

In my journal I called these goats, it is my understanding that they are probably a variety of short-haired sheep. But hey, I grew up in the suburbs, and really a sheep without wool is a goat as far as I am concerned.

Across the street there is an entrance to a home that seems to lead to other shack homes.  I saw numerous kids leave this morning in a variety of school uniforms.  Sometimes someone from the street would look up and notice me.

This is the house across the street. I made up all kinds of stories in my head for this place. I do think they prepared food there for the Care Center, that was actually next to the hotel.

 I woke Jamie up at 9:15am and we eventually headed downstairs for breakfast.  A local Agency rep called me and said they had sent a car to the airport for us.  Since Agency specifically told me we had to arrange our own transport I didn’t feel too bad.  Of course it was technically the wrong day/night anyway.

A person at the hotel arranged a driver for us to take us to Wusha Mikael Church also known as Tekel Haymanot also know as everyone says they know how to get there but no-one does.

This stone church is supposed to be a few kilometers out of Addis.  Between the taxi breaking down (another car and driver joined us – our original driver stayed with us as well) and trying to go up the mountain to find the church seven different ways – it was about 3.5 hours before we found the church.

We FOUND it.

Also, because the church was extensively bombed by the Italians, it wasn’t that cool.  Incredibly remote and theoretically interesting – yes.  The “guide” kept saying the same 5 phrases in English over and over “7 meters, 10 centimeters.”  “The Italian bomba.”  “When we excavate.”  “Very large.”  “Letter Ha.”

I am fairly certain that he also told us repeatedly that this church housed the Arc of the Covenant.

Currently the church houses a couple cows.

He did, however, take us on a Five minute walk from which we had an amazing overview of ALL of Addis.  I think the taxi drivers enjoyed the church… the one shot video and pictures with his phone.

Amazing view of Addis.

We could not communicate at all with our drivers, but they were working very hard to find the church for us.  The last 3 kms of the drive was on a road that was completely washed out.  The taxi definitely had a serious new squeak when we were done.

While on our search we were in an area that was a cross between suburbs, rural land and villages.  In each area there were groups of school kids wearing uniforms.  Each school has a different uniform.  If you look close you notice many of the clothes have large tears.

We saw tons of goats being herded or hanging out next to the road.  There were also plenty of donkeys… some with people, some on their own.  I saw a man with a couple of wooden yurt shaped cages with a cross pole in between.  There were chickens in the cages.  There are lots of people shining shoes next to all the roads (big and small).  Everything is so dirty and dusty.  I just can’t imagine getting your shoes shined.

At the top of the mountain when we once again passed the church we came to a look out over a pastoral area.  A boy about 5-yrs –old was tending goats with his father.  These kids are all so cute.

Our first time seeing young kids herding animals.

At the top of the mountain I saw one solitary woman moving between the trees carrying her bundle of wood. (NOTE:  I have a friend who leads tours to Ethiopia.  She had told me about the plight of wood gathering women years ago.  Seeing this woman, who I did NOT get a photo of, felt like seeing a ghost.  The image of her moving through the woods is burned into my mind.  For more information on wood gathering you can start by reading this.)

I wish I knew more about the tribal differences.  The people seem to come with two different styles of facial features – both equally beautiful. I wonder if it is related to tribal differences.  Many women wear head scarves but many don’t.  Men are dressed in any and everything.  I have only seen a couple Rastafarians  and only one woman in a full birka.  I saw many, many children with their fathers.  Almost always holding hands.  I also noticed a lot of touching between friends – arms around shoulders, etc…

I have given away a few power bars and fruit rollups – but not that many.  Little kids seem to be the most interested in the white women in the taxi.

After the church we asked our drivers to take us to Entoto Market – another Lonely Planet recommendation.

It was 3:15 at this time and driver number two must have been aggravated because his driving became super agro even by Ethiopian standards.  I finally had to yell “Stop, Stop.  She can’t see” when he was running over a blind woman in the market.

We also saw two younger women with very long and large bundles of wood walking through the market.  They kept having to turn sideways to maneuver around things, but it was clear they knew exactly how wide the bundles were on their backs.

Of course our drivers did not know where the market we were looking for was.  So there was more backtracking and asking directions.  But we found the market about which Lonely Planet says, “This is the market were locals do their shopping.”  I bought a dress for PJ, a dress for me, three scarves and three outfits in different sizes for LD.  I still need to buy SAG a traditional shirt and at least 1 or 2 larger outfits for PJ.

One young boy followed me around the market and just when I decided to give him a power bar, he disappeared.

We got back to our hotel after 5 pm and we both fell asleep.

We eventually called for a wake-up call so we wouldn’t sleep too long.  I asked for a 6:45 call.  They called at 7:15.  I think it might be an Africa thing.  (NOTE;  Our agency hired drivers were always EARLY.  We frequently had 20 people plus the guides loaded up and on the road before we were supposed to be meeting.)

We were going to go out for dinner but instead stayed in and met/sat/chatted with three other Agency families.  Two families are young, religious, military.  One family is not so much any of those things.

I can’t believe I will meet Little Dude in the morning.

This morning when the local agency guy called he asked me if I wanted to meet LD today.  Agency has specifically told us NOT to ask to see our kids early – so it was strange to be offered.  I felt bad saying no. I would have felt bad saying yes.

Tomorrow is good.  Tomorrow is soon.  I hope he isn’t scared.

Travel Journal – April 28th? 2010

28 04 2011

Istanbul to Addis Ababa

 We could see a bit of Turkey when the plane was landing.  From the gate at the airport we could see a cruise ship in what must be the Black Sea.  I paid $5.19 for a diet coke at the airport.

We could see a little more of Turkey when we took off and then we saw a beautiful moon rise over the Mediterranean.  The moon is almost full and while the wing partially blocked the view, it “rose” twice due to cloud cover and us changing altitude.

Both our flights were uneventful and I am happy for that.  The ride from the airport to the Union Hotel was a little intense.  I think watching “Amazing Race” helped prepare me a little bit.  They tied most or our luggage to the top of the taxi.  The car was quite old and rickety.  The driver had to pull off the side of the road to recheck our paperwork.  There were many dogs in the streets and some people.  I think I may have seen a dead body just laying in the street.  On our 20ish minute drive around the city there was only one traffic light.  It was red but the driver only slowed down before turning left.

At customs there were separate lines for foreigners, flight crews and Ethiopians.  The Ethiopians were in two long lines and they were pressed up against each other body to body.  It was only young men.  I wonder about Little Dude crossing cultures when I see something like that.  When we walked outside the airport Jamie noticed how quiet it was.  You could hear crickets.

I am writing this from our hotel with the sliding glass door open, there are lots of dogs barking and howling.

There was another white family on the plane that I guessed was coming here to do an adoption.  I disapproved of them.  Do I disapprove of myself??

I can truly say I am very afraid.  I don’t think I often feel fear – fear, not worry.  It feels different.

It is 2:15 am – I need to sleep.  I need to trust the judgments and decision making SAG and I put into this for months when we were not exhausted.

Hard to be so close to LD and not be able to get him.  So worried about how afraid he will be when we are leaving here.

A view of the Care Center where Little Dude lived from our hotel room balcony.

Travel Journal – April 27, 2010

27 04 2011

April 27, 2010

We are on the plane getting ready for takeoff.  The last few weeks have been very eventful.  Because our move coincided with the trip there were many things to take care of.  Many mistakes were made by the travel agency, the moving company and finally by me.  I did not know my passport had expired until we arrived at the airport to leave last night.  We had to stay in Chicago – Jamie had to talk to the passport agency while I sat on the floor of the airport and cried.

Today Jamie, PJ and I spent the day in downtown Chicago dealing with getting me a new passport.  It was sunny but with a cold wind.  We actually were able to get some sightseeing done.

NOT Addis Ababa

We happened upon an excellent cab driver who met our deadline exactly while introducing me to a fantastic view of the city from the Planetarium parking lot.  PJ had to take her nap in the Ergo but as usual she was a trooper.  She loved the train ride and the taxis honking downtown.

An extra day as an “only child” – not bad for her and not bad for me.

The woman from Turkish Airlines who helped us last night, Sylvie, helped us again tonight.  $550 later we were finally on our way.

This woman happened to also be an adoptive mom. She was incredibly sympathetic to my stupidity, but did not succeed at getting any fees waived for us.

I am excited about going to Africa.  I am worried about my father who was checked into the hospital tonight, SAG who is driving across the country with three cats, two dogs and a parrot and PJ who is away from me (and both of her parents) for the first time.  But most importantly I am thinking about becoming a mother to Little Dude.  I did not anticipate that those fears would be overwhelming everything else, especially when everything else is so overwhelming.

I do keep noticing how most people in the world are kind and friendly.  How interesting and diverse the world is:  a great world to be a part of.  I am not sure I have ever been so embarrassed about something as I am about the passport.  But I plan to leave those feelings behind right now, because I want to be the great mother I know I can be.  And because the world is such an amazing place.  Beating myself up serves no purpose and does not add any beauty to the world.

Speaking of beauty in the world… how about my compression socks because I carry the gene mutation for blood clots? How about my face a stressful 24 hours after laying on the floor in O’Hare airport crying? Can you believe I looked this hot and we hadn’t even boarded our first flight yet?

My Traveling Companion

26 04 2011

Friendships often start in weird ways.  And Jamie’s and mine, well, we had inauspicious beginnings.  We worked together for a couple years.  Technically I was her boss’ boss.  Whenever we had the opportunity to collaborate directly, I was impressed by her intelligence, but there were more opportunities for misunderstandings then team-building.

Eventually, she more-or-less tried to get me fired.  She is the first to say that the karma from that action has come back to bite her, HARD.  But I had no role in the karma.  In fact, about six weeks after she tried to get me canned, I promoted her.  Working closely together we quickly developed professional respect which morphed into real friendship.  She is the closest thing my kids have to a God Parent (although I am pretty sure she is agnostic – as am I.)

Early on in our adoption process, we knew that there was almost no chance SAG would travel to Ethiopia.  I had a number of friends who offered to go.  But it all depended on the timing of the trip (my friends tend to be gainfully employed and therefore need to go to work.)  Some of those people would have made good travel buddies.  Each had both strengths and weaknesses.

Then one night we were sitting around our house, PJ was asleep and Jamie was beating all of us at some game, when I looked at her husband and said, “Trent, you should come to Ethiopia with me.”

Trent is an amazing photographer.  Trent is a practicing Buddhist who likes to sit quietly (except when discussing big business or Microsoft products – oh, and don’t get him started on the font C0mic Sans MS.)  Still, he has an adventurer’s heart, is mellow, and did I mention his photography?  I wanted a low-maintenance companion who could visually document my journey.  Trent did have one big con against him, he basically does not like children.  But I was willing to overlook that problem.

Jamie immediately said, “What about me?”  To which I replied, “You can’t take pictures and you would starve to death.”  The photography thing, well, Jamie is the one who claims she can’t take good pictures.  And she doesn’t need to, because, you know, she has Trent.  (However, it turns out she actually CAN take good pictures.)  The starving thing…

Jamie is a picky eater.  For example, she doesn’t eat things like, say, vegetables (except lettuce).  She loves candy, but doesn’t eat chocolate (freak).  As for drinking, well, she actually likes wine coolers (and she isn’t 17, and this is not 1983).  I have traveled with her in the past and know she is content with a box of Sk1ttles for breakfast.  But I didn’t think that would work for 12-days.

I went to bed that night hoping she was serious.

Not long after this conversation she sent me an email:

Ms. Semi-Feral Mama:

I hear you are seeking a travel companion and would like to be considered for this critical role. Attached you will find my qualifications. (Please pardon the quality of this document; my regular resume writer was unavailable.)  (Usually I do Jamie’s resume).

I look forward to discussing this position with you in more detail.


Jamie, World Traveler and Expert Diaper Changer

The attached pro/con chart included funny, and yet truthful bullets such as she would be a light packer but would remember important random stuff like tape, safety pins and gum.

Jamie loves kids, as it turns out this was an important qualification.  Jamie is low-maintenance.  Jamie is probably the smartest person I hang around with on a regular basis.  She is not JUST book smart (I actually know lots of PhD types) she is practical, organized and has a disgustingly good memory.  There are only two problems with Jamie as a traveling companion;  she doesn’t swear and she absolutely refuses to talk smack about anybody, ever.  (Despite these issues she is never annoying.)

I had NO idea how valuable Jamie would be.  None.  Of course I had no idea my passport had expired.  As I sat on the floor of O’hare Airport (instead of on a Turkish Airlines plane), I dialed the phone number of the local passport agency (it was about 11 pm).  I started sobbing and couldn’t track all the menu options.  I handed the phone to her, melted into the floor and proceeded to stop functioning.

She fixed everything.

She actually enjoyed spending an extra day in Chicago where she had never been before.

PJ loved having a day with her Jamie.

Eventually we did actually leave Chicago.  Throughout the trip Jamie kept all my papers (I am the type who loses the movie ticket between the box office and the popcorn counter.)  She took GREAT photos.  She helped with Little Dude as well as other kids.

And most importantly, I never worried about her.  I was dependent on her for organization and baby help, but I was not co-dependent on her moods (always frickin’ chipper) or her physical needs (what do you know? as an adult she took care of herself.)

Jamie came to the hospital less than two hours after PJ was born.  Jamie was with me in Ethiopia when I first held Little Dude.  Jamie is my friend and I will supply her with Sk1ttles and wine coolers for the rest of her life (or until her palate matures).

Travel Journal Prologue

25 04 2011

I am fascinated (and at times horrified) by reading my journal a year later, seeing what I wrote about, seeing what I didn’t write about.  Some of the things that have haunted me for the past 12 months are not mentioned in my journal at all.  On the other hand, there is more detail about LD’s first reaction to me and our early time together than I remember.

 I am taking a leap of faith that whoever reads this will give me the benefit of the doubt.  Parts of it seem so crass, so first-world-privileged-tourist staring at the “exotic humans.”  I assure you, that is not me.  Yes, I found the culture(s) fascinating.  I found the people intriguing and regret that on this trip, for the most part, I only observed them through taxi windows.  Not a great way to get to know people!  But the sections of this journal where I sound like some 17th century anthropologist are a result of my short-hand to myself, my exhaustion and my desire to simply make as many basic observations as possible.

 Also, in writing this journal, it became obvious to me how dependent I am on the internet.  For example, I know that the primary spice used in Ethiopian food is berbere, but I wasn’t sure how to spell it, and I wasn’t absolutely sure that is what I was tasting.  So, in my journal it becomes, “they use one spice a lot.”  And even when I say that sentence in my head, I use a “stupid-hick” accent.  At home I can quiet the “stupid” accent with a click of my mouse.  And of course using the word “they” to describe what?  every chef in Ethiopia? every home cook as well?  Yes, journal short-hand can make a girl sound ignorant.

When we started the adoption process I loved the idea of spending months learning about Ethiopia before I went.  The small little hiccup in our plans (moving to Missouri) preventing me from doing the research I envisioned.  More research up front would have enriched my experience (and made me sound much more intelligent in my journal.)

I do not know how many of my readers are APs, PAPs or “others.”  I remember as a PAP reading other APs travel logs.  At that point in time there was lots of infighting in the adoption community (go figure) with one camp of parents who said they hated Ethiopia and one set who said they loved it.  Of course the debate was framed by loudmouths in both sets who accused the other group of being wrong.

I thought I would love Ethiopia.  I have longed to go to Africa since I could remember.  I have many VERY well traveled friends who say that Ethiopia is one of the most fantastic places in the world.  Still, I didn’t know how I would react to the hard-core poverty.  I was concerned about my reaction to the way the animals are treated.  I was concerned about blatant sexism.  And I didn’t understand how you can “love” something where so many people are suffering.  I still don’t understand it.  But I do – I loved every minute of it (okay, almost every minute of it.)

A few random notes:

The agency I used does group travel.  My gut reaction to this was YUCK.  But then when it became apparent I might be traveling without SAG or a friend, I thought “thank goodness.”  In the end my friend Jamie went with me.  While there was a little yuck associated with the group thing, mostly it was wonderful to share this journey with others.

Interestingly, the people I spent the most time with in Ethiopia are not the people I currently correspond with that often.  Some of this has to do with geography.  Some of this has to do with friendships that pre-dated travel.  Some of it probably has to do with first impressions.  Some of it has to do with who tends to get car sick.  Usually we traveled in two of three vans.  There were at least three of us in the group with a propensity to get motion sickness.  We all had strong preferences for where we sat in any vehicle and therefore almost NEVER traveled together.  In the end, I have learned so much from this group of travelers, mostly by interacting with them post-adoption.

Editing notes from a recovering perfectionist:

By and large I am publishing this exactly how I wrote it.  I am skipping many details from one life-changing afternoon where everyone in our group got to meet people who are significant in our childrens’ lives.  For most people that was a first family member.

I am moving around a random sentence or two when they are extremely out of context because I was sleep deprived and my writing was purely stream-of-conscious.  However, there is still lots of other out-of-context stuff to confuse you.

Even when I am just editing for errors, it is so tempting to start editing for grammar and STYLE (for goodness sake).  But I know if I started, this would not be posted until our 2-yr anniversary – and it would certainly not be an accurate accounting of my experience.

Also, I have been obsessing about exactly when to publish each entry – by day or the week, or by actual anniversary date?  What about days I wrote a couple times?  I know, publish at the same TIME.  Wait, Addis time of Central Standard Time?  See how a girl like me can drive a girl like me nuts?  I am going with publishing by Date and by Time but using CST… if you think I should have done it differently – please be quiet.

Additional disclaimers:

I LOVE Ethiopian food.  I barely ate ANY Ethiopian food while I was in Ethiopia.  First, I don’t speak Amharic.  Second, I eat seafood but no other meat.  Third, I really, really did NOT want to get sick.  The restaurant in our hotel was great and they were willing to make you anything you asked for.  But trying to explain my food preferences was quickly cumbersome.  I had foolishly hoped “fasting food” would get me what I wanted.  One night they made me a veggie wot and I became very sick.  Fortunately the illness did not last.  But I was afraid to try again.  This is one of my regrets (although I do not regret being healthy 99% of the time.)

Other Regrets:

Some of these may deserve their own posts in the future.

1)  That I was not WAY more generous with our taxi drivers on our first day of adventure.

2)  That I did not change which vans I sat in more so I could learn more from the drivers/guides who spoke English.

3)  That I didn’t journal about the day we explored our neighborhood.

4)  That I didn’t fully explore the Addis Care Center and ask more questions.

5)  That I didn’t give away many of the protein bars I brought with me for that purpose.

6)  That I didn’t take a photograph of the painting titled “Famine” at the National Museum of Ethiopia, the painting that felt like a punch in my gut.

7)  That I didn’t buy more – more trinkets, more jewelry for the kids when they are older, more textiles, more everything.

I love what the airport lighting does for this tired mother after 10 days of travel... sexy!