A week ago yesterday, I came home, casually checked my email, and had to grab on to our kitchen bar as I read an email from our adoption agency saying we had a court date in Ethiopia of July 5th! This came as a HUGE shock as we had not anticipated traveling to meet him and make him our son legally until the fall. I think Mama’s working her magic somewhere and wants him with us as soon as possible 🙂
Since then, it’s been a mad rush to buy airfare, get our necessary immunizations, come up with a plan to collect donations to take to the children’s home where he lives, decide what we want to do with the week we have between meeting him and our court date (we can’t spend unlimited days with him, unfortunately), and about a million other little things that add up to a HUGE list of to dos!
I know a lot of what I may write until the trip is boring to most people, except those other adoptive families who may read this at a later date and have questions answered as they prepare for the same trip. The blog world and fellow adoptive parents have been my guardian angels this past week, especially those who have “been there, done that.” My hope is to one day help someone who is as clueless as I feel right now! Plus I want to write down all the details and my emotions as I go through this, so I’m forcing myself to put the master list aside tonight and write before I start forgetting details. A fellow adoptive parent told me this stage of the adoption is like being in labor but it takes an extremely long time to get to the delivery room. Perfectly said. But I want to remember it all–like labor, this will be emotional, painful, and stressful. But also like labor, there is the greatest reward on the other side of the hard work. I am truly trying to enjoy this phase, as chaotic and stressful as it can get.
So amidst the whirlwind of activity, we have bought airfare for all four of us (yep, Buddy and Lou are going with us and not a soul could convince me this isn’t what we’re supposed to do–I want them to be as much a part of this experience as we are), We will depart from Atlanta, connect through Washington/Dulles Airport, and then take Ethiopian Airlines nonstop to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. We’ll arrive in Addis the morning of the June 23rd after 15 hours of air time (and that’s just air time, my friends. It doesn’t include airport and connection time–can we say jet lag?!) For those who are interested, we used Scott Nordwall International Travel and he has been great. He’s a little scattered sometimes but he did just return from a trip to Africa so I’m cutting him a little slack! He has been extremely helpful and knowledgeable and his quote was about $300 less than Susan Parr Travel for the same flights (and much more attentive to us).
The following day we’ll travel to Awassa which is about 5-6 hours south of Addis. We’ll stay in Awassa for 2 more days and that’s when we meet sweet W. I am doing my best to have no expectations and no visions of what it may be like. I want it to be it’s own unique experience without preconceived ideas of how it “should” be but only how it’s meant to be. I am thankful we are traveling with two other families as they meet their children. One family is adopting an infant and the other,
a 4-year-old boy. I hope our personalities mesh on the long drive and we are able to reflect on this magnificent experience together in years to come. We will also meet W’s uncle, if he chooses and is able to come and speak with us. Tragically, W’s parents are both deceased. He has 5 brothers and sisters and we don’t know where they live currently. So many questions. So many things we want to know and may never know. It’s all part of the journey but it’s one of the more difficult parts for me. I want to trust we will know the full truth about his past, but I know sometimes that’s not always the case with adoption. I try to respect the reasons why the entire story might be withheld on his birth family’s side, but for W’s sake, I want to know as much information as I can,. Obviously I want to share the first 3 years of his life with him in words, especially since he will have few, if any, memories of his past before being relinquished.
On June 28th, we will leave Awassa and head further south to an area called Aleta Wondo. In an ideal world, I would have really loved to have traveled to W’s birthplace but it’s even further south and more remote and I don’t feel comfortable going without more knowledge of what we’d face when we arrive. If we weren’t taking the kids, I might be braver, but as it stands, we will have to rely on his uncle to paint us a picture of where he spent the first two to three years of his life. In Aleta Wondo, however, we will get a glimpse of rural Ethiopian life and all it’s challenges (and joys). There is a non-profit group called Common River, www.commonriver.org that has an incredible story rooted to this area. I won’t summarize it here because it’s on the website. Check it out and see the difference two people have made in this tiny village (and especially check out the link to Abraham’s story–prepare to be heartbroken yet amazed and inspired). We will visit Common River for two days, helping with what we can, probably something at the school. There are 17 other visitors there at the same time–some University of Texas medical students who will run a health clinic and an adoptive family whose children are originally from this region. We are staying in a hotel that costs $15/night–can you imagine the amenities (or lack thereof?!) I can’t and so I’m trying to just think of it as glorified camping and roll with that idea!
After leaving Aleta Wondo, we will travel north again to Addis. This part of the trip is still a little fuzzy. We are hoping to hire a driver from a tour company that was recommended by other adoptive parents and stop and see some sites on the way back to Addis. There is so much to see–not nearly enough time but obviously we’ll be back one day.
When we return to Addis on the 1st of July, we’ll have 3 full days before our court hearing on the 5th. We plan to spend this touring parts of the city, visiting the WACAP House where W will live in the 6-8 week interim between court and our second trip, and doing some shopping. We will then leave for home around 10:30 p.m. that night (and it takes even longer to come home, thanks to a refuel in Rome and whatever it is that the winds do to make it longer flying that way around the globe) and return to Atlanta on the 6th and Waynesville on the 7th. Whew–I’m exhausted just typing it all!
The kids and I went and got our vaccines yesterday in Greenville at a travel clinic and all I can say is thank God our insurance covers travel vaccines. It was nearly $1850 for a total of 13 shots between the three of us with some antimalarial medication thrown in!! Part of the cost may have been because we were in a private clinic versus a county run health department but STILL!! The kids did GREAT! Paige lost it at the last minute when they were about to start her injections but quickly recovered. Aidan got panicked as they swabbed his arm and was starting to fight back tears. Then the nurse stuck him and he jumped a little and started giggling, quickly admitting, “That wasn’t so bad!” My amazing kids.
I know some people think we’re nuts to travel with them this far andinto a developing country, but no one knows my children like I do. They will do fine and we will talk about this trip for the rest of our lives as one of our greatest adventures together. After our vaccines were over, I treated them to a day at an awesome water park in Greenville. Paige and I surely set a record with how many times we went down one of the slides together. They told me they weren’t sure it was an even trade off (all those shots for a day at a water park) but it came pretty close 😉 A quick trip to Trader Joes ended in frustration because they couldn’t find the damn frog or whatever it is that TJs hides it the store and my kids can never find to get a surprise, but everyone was happy when they got to pick out their favorite bag of snack mix for the trip! On the way home, I said to them, “I cannot tell you guys how proud I am of how well you did for your shots.” Aidan said, “Well, tell us!” Gotta love colloquialisms they don’t understand yet!
We’re also collecting money for donations as I mentioned in the previous post. Since this post has turned into a small book, I’ll wrap it up and save that story for tomorrow. I get choked up just thinking about the tremendous generosity of our family and friends who are collectively helping to make children’s lives easier in Ethiopia. I can’t wait to tell the story to W one day of how many people already loved him and his country’s children to collectively help make some of their lives a wee bit more comfortable. And there’s still time to donate! Follow this link if you’d like to make a difference in the life of a child: http://nancyeast.chipin.com/ethiopian-orhanage-fundraiser