Yesterday we took a road trip to Rural Ethiopia. I had heard that you really hadn’t seen Ethiopia, until you’ve been outside Addis Ababa. Boy am I glad we went!
I travelled with a lady (from Steinbach MB!) and her two adopted Ethiopian daughters, as well as our driver/guide.
As we left the city, I was amazed to see the lush eucalyptus forests. It was gorgeous.
Farther along, we began seeing small villages and farmyards such as this. It was beautiful to see! I only wish I could have gone inside the yardsite and mud-hut to have a peek.
Our destination was the Portagese Bridge. To get there, we had to hike a short way. In hindsight, I really can’t believe I did this with a baby carrier filled with 30 pounds of…baby! We walked along a path that seemed rather close to the edge of the 1000 meter cliff. Since this is Ethiopia…there were no guardrails! I wouldn’t have wanted to be there with active children.
It’s difficult to see the beauty of this magnificent valley in the photos. I didn’t expect the valley to be so vast! We could see small huts at the bottom, and farmers plowing their fields.
The bridge was intriguing. It is said to be partially constructed from eggshells and constructed in the 16th century by the Portuguese.
There was a small waterfall under the bridge. After the rainy season, the waterfall is much more significant. It was amazing to see the valley below. I get queezy just thinking about it now.
Today we had a relaxing day…lunch at the Hilton again. We also visited a leprosy mission. The people create lovely cotton embroidered household items and sell them to support the hospital. I couldn’t resist purchasing a few things. Hope I can fit everything in my suitcase tonight! Olivia and I head to the airport in a couple of hours. What a wonderful experience this has been.
So this morning my driver asked what I wanted to do today. I told him, that at home I usually go to church on Sundays. So he suggested a church called the International Evangelical Church. So that’s where I went!
As soon as I arrived a blonde lady and I exchanged a few words. She told me where the nursery was for the babies. We asked one another where we were from. It turns out, she is from Rosenort, Manitoba! We played a short game of Mennonite relations, and it turns out her maiden name is also Friesen. Her mother is a Loewen…so we are probably connected somehow! She and her husband have been missionaries in Ethiopia for 12 years. Her name was Angela and she blogs about her life at Life In The Village. I love these special moments that God causes to happen along life’s path! Meeting someone from Canada…let alone Rosenort…in a random church my driver suggested, in the huge city of Addis Ababa. That’s what I love about my God! These things aren’t just by chance…it was a little gift.
I spent a few minutes playing with Olivia in the church Nursery.
After church, I went to the Hilton for lunch. It was pouring rain, but we were nice and cozy. It’s the rainy season here. I could/should have brought warmer clothes! Looking forward to coming home to the Manitoba heat!
Today Olivia and I had a day on the town! We went to the market in the morning on Churchill Road to pick up a few gifts. On our way to lunch, Olivia had a bout of car-sickness. I guess you could say, she “lost her bottle”! If you could experience driving in Ethiopia, it would not be difficult to imagine how one could become car sick!
So, we went back to the guesthouse…washed up and went to the spa! Olivia conveniently slept through most of my pedicure. At only 175 birr (approximately $10) for a pedicure, I should be going to the spa every day while I’m here! lol
Next it was Olivia’s turn. She got her hair shampooed in the bowl. It must have looked so cute! I couldn’t take a picture because I was holding her. I can’t say she liked it…but she didn’t scream. She was just to terrified to make a sound!
Then she got her hair braided. Wow…the stylist whipped up those braids in less than 10 minutes. They look so cute, but I’m afraid it might take me a while to master braiding a 1 and a 1/2 year old’s hair! Sure turned out cute though, and it only cost 70 birr (less than $4).
Olivia has attached to me really quickly. I’m astonished really. I thought it would take all week! Today she refused to be held by anyone but me. There have been lots of giggles and smiles. She’s very easy to care for. Three more days here…can’t wait to come home!
Today was the day that I took Olivia (Meseret) permanently out of the foster home. It’s rather sad, but it’s part of this process I suppose. You can tell her caregivers love her very much and were sad to see her go. She’s been at the foster home for a long time!
We had another great day together…out for lunch…a bit of shopping (for scarves and dresses), and hanging out with other little adopted friends at the guesthouse. Update on the guesthouse…I requested a room with a balcony, and WOW what a difference it makes to have some natural light. Much better than the dark little room I started out with.
I’m absolutely fascinated at how quickly she has transferred her “mommy” affections over to me. I thought it would take several days, but today she refused to go to anyone else but me! She’s a busy little toddler…better lock those cupboards before I get home guys!
Bedtime also went fantastic. I was a little worried how that would go. We turned out the lights, and all I heard was some whimpering…then voila! In fact, she’s still sleeping. It’s the middle of the night here now…it’s ME that’s having trouble sleeping!
Emma…if you are reading this…you will be pleased as punch to know that Olivia said your name today! I showed her a picture of you on my phone. ”Mema” she says! And then she kisses your picture…she likes to do kisses! You’re going to have so much fun with her, I can tell already!
Here’s a glimpse of our day…
So here is a glimpse of our first day together…it went REALLY well. I expected a lot of crying today, but there was hardly any at all…just at first. By the end of the day, she would hold out her hands for me to pick her up. No smiles yet though. Maybe tomorrow!
I’ve arrived! Thanks to everyone who prayed for me yesterday as I jaunted around the globe. The flights were perfectly smooth. I admit I’m a little bit afraid of flying, but when the CEO of United Airlines mentioned they do this 6000 times a day (during the pre-flight video), I suddenly felt so much safer. (half smile)
It was kind of neat… from Chicago to Frankfurt, the flight was full. It was the largest plane I’d ever been on; 10 people in each row. There was at least 60 rows on the “main floor”. Who knows what was “upstairs”. Well…there was one….get this…ONE empty seat on the entire aircraft, and it happened to be between me and a sweet German exchange student. We felt pretty special, and made sure to make use of it.
That flight was 40 minutes late, so in Frankfurt I literally had to sprint through the airport to catch the next one. I was mentally preparing to miss it, but thankfully I arrived JUST in time.
Once we arrived in Ethiopia, everything looked as it did last time I was here. I purchased my visitor’s visa, found my bags and headed out the door. I was told that our drivers were not allowed to come into the airport to get us like last time. We had to find them in the parking lot. So I walked down the ramp, and there were small crowds of people with signs waiting for others. No sign of my driver though. I walked a little further and there was a barricade. That’s where all the “yellow taxi drivers” were standing. No sign of Ketema (my driver). I was a little worried right away.
The yellow taxi drivers were like yellow bees swarming around me. Everyone was offering me a ride. Yikes. The adoption agency has drivers arranged specifically for us. I thought he must have forgot about me. The yellow taxi drivers adamantly told me that if I was waiting for someone, I needed to stand behind the barricade. They said I shouldn’t go further into the parking lot. I tried several times, because I thought maybe Ketema was further in the parking lot. “No, No…” they convinced me. You have to stay here so he can find you, and if he doesn’t come “We can give you a ride”.
Finally….after waiting an hour, I decided I wanted to go back into the airport to find a phone number for the guesthouse, or the driver. I had to be mentally and verbally firm with all the yellow-jacketed bees…I mean drivers…as they swarmed around me. I was going past the barricade, whether they liked it or not!
As I walked past them further into the parking lot….to my amazement! Another small crowd of people waiting for passengers to arrive! I was SO happy to see Ketema in his bright yellow hoodie. Those sly taxi drivers…there was a reason they didn’t want me to go any further! Perhaps I might find my driver!
It was good to get to the guesthouse. I wish I wasn’t such a spoiled Canadian, but I will admit I am. There was no more hot water left for me, so I couldn’t have a shower. The room was cold, and the stupid shower dripped ALL night. Good grief. As I lay in bed, I determined to check out the price of the Hilton one more time. It can’t surely be $250 a night, can it? Today I go to the foster home to re-introduce myself to Olivia (Meseret). It’s been almost 7 months since I saw her last. I’m sure I will be a stranger again. Looking forward to it though!
The shower is still dripping…
I’m back home now! Everything went so well. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but thank the Lord…it all went right!
The internet was down a lot during my last couple days in Ethiopia, so I wasn’t able to keep in touch.
The last 2 days I got to take Olivia out of the foster home for the day. At first, she was wide-eyed and nervous. There are around 60 children in the foster home. They are all children who are “referred” to parents in Canada. From what I understand, they do not leave the home, so driving in a vehicle was a new experience for her!
My goal for the next couple days was to make her smile. It didn’t take long! The internationally recognized game of “peek-a-boo” did the trick!
Then, just like any other baby, she spent a good portion of the afternoon sleeping.
Olivia’s skin isn’t as black as some of the other children I saw. She’s a lighter shade of black, but still dark in contrast to my white skin!
And…just like any other baby, she did her share of pooping! I gave her a bath in the lovely pink sink at the guesthouse.
As you can see, Olivia doesn’t fit the stereotypical picture of a starving Ethiopian baby! She’s definitely well taken care of at the foster home!
And one more smile for the camera (which she must have thought was an extension of my hand at that point!).
On the second-last evening in Ethiopia, we went to a restaurant called “Yod Abyssinia”. It had an African atmosphere with traditional Ethiopian food and music.
Here is the group: myself, Kristen & Evan (my new acquaintences/friends from Alberta), and our driver, Ketema.
The meal starts with a hand-washing ceremony. Historically, the hand-washing before and after the meal, was a religious ritual. They give you a bit of soap, and then they pour water from the pitcher over your hands, into the basin. You are given a towel to wipe your hands, and then you discard it in the empty basket. It’s actually a great custom! Even on the flight to Ethiopia (on Ethiopian Airlines), we were given white cloths to wash our hands before the meal was served.
When the meal is served, it is placed on a woven basket table. It consists of one large Injera (flat, sourdough Ethiopian bread) placed on a covered tray. All of the stews and meat are placed on the large Injera, and smaller Injera are rolled around the edge. You take a small piece of Ijera and use it as a utensil to eat the stews and meat.
We also enjoyed traditional Ethiopian music and entertainment. The instruments are unique and different than I’ve seen in North America.
One of the most fameous Ethiopian Dance is called Oromo head spinning. It’s historically a dance that originated from the Oromo tribes in Ethiopia. The lady spins her head at a flying speed! It’s unbelievable, really. Here’s a photo. The lady on the front stage is head spinning. That’s why it is a blur.
All in all, the trip was a good experience! I got to see Olivia, met some wonderful people, and enjoyed getting to know a foreign culture. The Ethiopian people were very gracious and beautiful. Amid the poverty, there is great beauty. God loves the Ethiopian people, just like he loves the whole world.
In 10 weeks or so, I will go back to pick up Olivia. It takes about this long to process her permanent resident Visa. Until then, I will enjoy the comforts of home!
Today was the big day!
Me, another couple, and some adoption agency workers piled into the taxi van and headed to court.
We all assembled in a room that was jam-packed with at least 50 other people. I was told they were all either adopting a child, or reliquishing a child to the courts. There were people from all over the world. Thankfully we were called in front of the judge within an hour. The judge was a beautiful Ethiopian woman. The court process was very short, and within a minute she was pronounced as belonging to us! I anticipated I would cry, but it went so fast…I didn’t have time for emotions.
Then we piled back into the van and started to make our way to the foster home. On the way back, we stopped. No one knew why we were stopping. Someone asked the driver, and he simply said we were meeting a man. After a while, a man came to the window with a little baby in a blanket. He handed it over to the foster-care worker, and away we went. I felt like we were in some illegal child-trafficing transaction! It was rather strange, but I suppose there is a process of getting a child from point A to point B, and we just happened to witness this exchange.
Then we headed to the foster home. For 2 reasons I suppose. One, so the other couple and I could meet our children, and two…to drop off the newly acquired baby.
It was a very special moment when they handed (Olivia) Meseret to me. For the first few minutes she was stunned. These children have not seen white people before! So to be put in the arms of someone with no pigment is quite alarming I’m sure! We must look like aliens to them!
She did well for the first while, then she started to make the realization that I looked very strange. She started to get worried and cried the rest of the time I spent with her. It didn’t help that the child of the other couple was beside himself with fear. Poor little guy!
She sure is a chubby little thing though! My goodness. I will get to take her to the guesthouse with me tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes! Hopefully it won’t be so scary seeing me for the second time.
Today was supposed to be my court date, meaning the day we make Olivia officially ours. But since Sunday was a Muslim holiday, no one worked today either, so our court date is set for tomorrow. Looking forward to that!
I did a bit of touring around Addis Ababa with a super-nice couple I met here at the guesthouse. Turns out they know Leigh’s sister and her husband from when they lived in Strathmore Alberta. That was kind of neat!
They had been to Ethiopia before, and are familiar with third world countries. I was glad to spend the day with them, because to be quite honest…it was an experience. Here I am at the guest house before we left this morning.
You see pictures, and hear of other people’s experiences in poor countries, but nothing prepares you for looking into their eyes and seeing it for yourself. I get it now. Until today, I didn’t understand how a mother could relinquish her child to an adoption agency, or simply abandon them. I’ve always thought that I would live in a cardboard box if I had to, as long as I could be with my children. However, now that I’ve seen the “cardboard box”, I can understand how these families come to that (probably) very difficult decision. I can see now, how hard it must be to raise children in these conditions.
We went to a market where I purchased a few souvenirs and some authentic Ethiopia dresses for Emma and I. At the market, a little boy wanted to sell me a pack of gum. I did buy it, as I knew it would help his family. He had the biggest smile on his face when I gave him the 20 Birr. When my kids sell something in Canada, they get to use the money for things they “want”. I’m sure this money went for things his family “needed”, yet it still made his day that I bought that pack of gum!
Then an Ethiopian lady holding a baby walked up behind him. She blew me a kiss, and said “I am his mother”. That’s when I lost it. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. It was just a moment that touched my heart.
Next we went to a weaving factory. From my understanding, it is an organization that helps widows and single women make a living by weaving fabric, and making scarves. It was neat to watch!
There were quite a few little children around too. Again, from my understanding, these are the children of the ladies who work at the factory. They loved having their picture taken, as you can see!
Then we went to a women’s pottery place. Again, I think it’s an organization to support widowed ladies. I did buy a beautiful bowl. I hope it makes it to Canada without breaking!
My favorite picture of the day, was of an Ethiopian mother and her baby girl. The colors are so beautiful.
Will be back again tomorrow to post about the reason I’m here! Little Olivia Meseret!
For some reason, I was very scared on my flight from London to Ethiopia. The Lord and I walked very close those seven hours! I think I was worried, because it started to feel “foreign”. Air Canada, felt very familiar. Ethiopian Air…not so much. The plane seemed old, and the washrooms weren’t clean. I don’t know…maybe I was just getting tired.
A few minutes after we took off, the engine went silent. It was probably supposed to get quite, but it freaked me out. I looked beside me and a black man looked back at me with fear in his eyes. I thought for sure this was it, and we were going to die. Then I looked at the monitor and saw that we were continuing to climb in altitude, so everything must have been all right. Got my heart racing, anyway.
Later on, we had some major turbulence. Once again… the black man and I shared a worried look. I kept telling myself that I know I’m in the Lord’s will, so if I die, it must be what He wants for my family! I think I was just over-tired. I assumed I was going to die, so it was quite a relief and blessing to arrive in Ethiopia unscathed, and ALIVE!
It took an hour and a half to get the visitor’s visa. Then I went through customs, and met up with Etema, one of the adoption agency’s drivers.
Our first stop was the Weygoss guest house, where I am staying. I was so tired. It isn’t possible to get a great night’s sleep in an airplane as far as I’m concerned. I got to the house at 9:00am. I laid down for a little rest, and woke up at 3:30 feeling so much better! Here are some photos of my room, and view from the balcony. Tomorrow I will take a picture of the outside of the building.
Then, I had a shower in the pink bathroom. Yes, Clarissa…my bathroom pink!!!
Then I needed to change my US cash into Ethiopian Birr. This is done at the Hilton Hotel. So two other drivers (Getu and Mesfin) took me there.
Inside the Hilton compound, isn’t a true portrait of life in Ethiopia! I did take a few photos though, as it was very beautiful. There are so many lovely flowering trees here.
Once back at the Guesthouse (which is costing $40.00 US per night), I ordered in some supper: a chicken salad and a Cocoa-Cola light. This came to only $3.00! I will try to take the empty bottle home! Kind-of a unique keepsake, although I will have to try to find a Pepsi while I’m here. I think Leigh would appreciate that more!
My court date was supposed to be tomorrow (Monday), but has been changed to Tuesday due to a Muslim holiday we are told. It’s a little disappointing, because it just means I will have one less day to spend with Olivia. We are only permitted to visit our adopted children after the court date.
Will post again tomorrow!