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.




4 responses

1 05 2011

I didn’t realize you got to see LD’s first steps – how amazing.

Laughed out loud at the bad blind date comment – so, so true. I was the girl trying to do everything but stand on her head to get the cute boy to pay attention to her. S. clearly thought he was out of my league and had better things to do with his time (like trying to escape by crawling towards the door.) It feels really, really nice to be over the “courting” stage.

1 05 2011
tamara b

Hey friend. I love reading your perspective on the trip. So, what didn’t you like about the golf club? We didn’t go there but I’d heard it was good.

2 05 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

The food may have been fine. I think my problem was the expectation thing. And, with my not eating meat it didn’t seem to have anything different or better than the hotel. Since we were already comfortable with the hotel, we just walked back.

4 05 2011

Oh, his face in those pictures. He looks so little there.

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