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!

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12 responses

25 04 2011
Christine

I can’t wait to read it. I would feel like this, wanting to preface it. Thank you for doing it, I know it will be good for me.

25 04 2011
Shonda

The suspense is killing me. Love your disclaimers. I feel like I need to put disclaimers on my travel notes that I published near a year ago. I should have done the smart thing and wrote them in a journal and then published them with you (from the advantage of being another year wiser and with better perspective). I’ve thought of deleting them, but couldn’t do that as it’s a part of Joseph’s story.

Second biggest regret – not being more generous, especially with the crippled beggars on the street. What did I think was going to happen? Them jump up and chase me down? Travis did have that one mob experience which I think made us gun shy.

Absolute biggest regret – not asking birth fam more questions … LOTS more questions. Now I know the questions I needed to ask then.

One great thing about going back for the second adoption – I will be much more bold about exploring and asking questions. Too much probably. They may end up posting my photo on a bulliten board somewhere with the title “avoid this woman at all costs.”

And I’m sorry you didn’t get to ride in Tsegaw’s van more. He taught me so much about Ethiopia, told us something different around every turn. He was amazing.

25 04 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

Shonda, I feel bad about not being more generous as well. I took 4 or 5 cases of food items to give away and brought most of it back home. I became a little freaked out when I saw a “begger” woman with one or two small children counting out her money while a man stood over her shoulder. I have no doubt he was there to get his cut. But that is WHY I brought the food so I wouldn’t have the cash issue.

25 04 2011
Shonda

p.s. What’s the current record for longest comment? I knew I should just write my own blog post 🙂

25 04 2011
leigh

Even with the disclaimer, I still think you’re brave to post it.

But then again, maybe you just know who your real friends are. (psst, that’s us)

25 04 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

Leigh, if by brave you mean stupid… actually, if I was willing to post that last picture of me, clearly I am willing to post just about anything.

25 04 2011
leigh

Hey SF, you already described you and your DH checking each other for ticks by candle light, so uh, what more is there to share….

that’s a rhetorical question, please don’t answer it.

26 04 2011
claudia

Wow, now I REALLY can’t wait to read it!

This makes me regret one thing from our trips: that I didn’t write more down! Seriously, I barely wrote anything. Only what I posted on the blog. Kind of annoyed at myself about that now. Wish i had journals like you do!

ps LOVE that pic of you.

27 04 2011
Wendy

Absolutely fabulous, honest post. Having traveled to two different countries with all sorts of expectations to adopt my daughters, I can so relate to so much of what you said. Bravo!

27 04 2011
Scooping it up

i am ready. bring it on.

28 04 2011
Sam's Mom

I love love love that picture of you and LD. HE, passed out in your loving arms. YOU, trying to capture every single moment of your trip, knowing it was a complete blurr you would lose once you landed and were back on familiar ground. love it.

27 04 2012
stickymangofeet

I admire you for documenting. I didn’t do nearly enough (any.) of that. Crap. And that photo? Priceless.

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