"Every child deserves a home." --Harry Holt

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Day 3 In Country 5/17 (THE DAY WE MET OUR DAUGHTER)

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**
 First, the phrase, "our daughter" still seems surreal, but it feels so good coming out of my mouth.

I think I slept a total of 2.2 hours all night, and not in a row. Seriously, no exaggeration. I was so excited to meet CUPCAKE. I was worried we would oversleep. I was worried about not sleeping at all and then being sleepy on the drive when I wanted to take everything in. I was worried that I would get sick on the drive (because I'd heard it isn't exactly smooth, but I'm not a carsick person). Turns out, when I finally fell asleep, we did sleep right through the alarm clock. UGH! I KNEW IT! Luckily, without even making a request, the Guest House staff called our room at 5am to make sure we were up. Thank you, Jesus! We both got ready in 30 minutes, ran down to eat breakfast and into the van with the 2 other couples making the trip to Durame with us. 

I never did get carsick on the drive. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I think those that are prone to carsickness may have some difficulty with the quick slams of the breaks (so livestock aren't hit), but the last 25 km or so is where the roads aren't paved, and it is actually kinda bumpy. Other than that (I felt) it was smooth sailing. It IS an extremely emotional ride. ONe can't help but think about FINALLY reaching your child in mere hours/minutes when the wait has been a year/month/weeks/days. I was constantly trying to take in the sights, sounds and smells of our daughter's birth country. I didn't have a great vantage point for photos, but one of our travel party took some amazing photos (to be shared later). 

I was SHOCKED by the amount of people and livestock along the road. I am convinced that we knicked a cow's leg, but nobody believed me... The entire drive, I couldn't get Sara Grove's song, "I Saw What I Saw" out of my head. There was literally a soundtrack for how this experience was changing me, and it was playing on loop in my head the entire time. Indescribably feeling. People were constantly on the trek for water. We were able to observe some people taking their water canisters to the nearby well for safe drinking water, but I saw countless people filling their canisters up in puddles and rivers that I am convinced that I wouldn't want to put my shoe in, and they are going to consume this water. This sight literally froze me in fear. Speaking of shoes, there were so many people without shoes! To think, I spent 2 weeks making sure I bought the "perfect Africa shoes," you know, functional, quiet and cute! I disgust myself. Children without pants, children not at school. We also observed many kids walking to school in their oh-so-precious school uniforms. I have students that won't walk a block to school because it is raining out (seriously, I picked up an 8th grader a month ago because he didn't want to walk in the rain). Hmmmmm, these kids were literally walking MILES in uniforms!

I realized that I have a very strong bladder on this trip. I never did have to use a "porcelain hole" on the trip. I just held it as often as possible. :)

We arrived in Durame, we had lunch (spicy spaghetti) at the Durame Hotel. Families used to stay there following their orphanage visit. The hotel is no longer able to "accommodate the needs" of groups like ours. The hotel was not 4-star, and indoor camping probably is an accurate term, but the staff was so helpful, kind and friendly while we were there. I definitely would have spent time in our daughter's birth area and with these people for a night! Especially as it would have meant the opportunity to see her for a brief period in the morning. 

FINALLY, we got to head to the orphanage (PC term= care center). All 3 kids were in a "playroom" when we walked in. I was already crying which meant my vision was blurred, and I couldn't recognize HER right away. MAJOR PANIC for a second there as that was my BIGGEST FEAR, as the photos we had of her were 4 months old. Suddenly, my tears cleared enought for me to see she was the cute bundle all in pink. Her hair was in 2 mini-puffs (pig tails for the white folk). MELT. MY. HEART.
Here we go...
At first, I could tell she wasn't sure what to think of the 2 crazy ferenjis holding here and cooing at her. She didn't quite want to make eye contact. Luckily, I had mentally prepared for the fact that while I had been falling in love with her photo for 3 months, she had no idea we existed. She just kept focus on the familiar faces in the room. Slowly, she started to explore my hair, face and jewelry with her hands. Shortly thereafter, she was smiling and giggling with us, and she is a a big fan of making this goofy grunt/squeal. It is precious. She doesn't have any teeth, yet. She was sucking away at her sleeve, hand, and then gnawing my fingers, so I think we have teeth in the nearby future. The nannies noticed that she was hungry (either this was a sign I missed, or it was a scheduled feeding time). There was an awkward moment because her "main Nanny" either didn't want me to do "any work," or she was feeling protective of 'cupcake' and wanted to be the one to feed her. The Ethiopian people (in my experience) definitely go out of their way to lend a hand or meet a need, but I felt like this particular interaction was the nanny wanting to care for her girl. It is a beautiful thing how much the nannies at the orphanage care for their little people in their charge. Cupcake has many people in her life that love her dearly. I was grateful with a capital "G" when the head nurse insisted that I be the one to feed her. BEST. FEELING. EVER. to feed our daughter for the first time. Most of the pics of me feeding her are horrible because I'm doing what Oprah calls the "ugly cry." 
We can't show Cupcake's identity until we take custody of her on the 2nd trip. Cutest foot ever, no?!
Cupcake fell asleep 3/4 of the way through her bottle. She was OUT for the next 45 minutes. The nannies were worried that I would be upset that she was sleeping and not playing. So not the case! It was her normal nap time. We were told that she is a great sleeper. I may have trouble falling asleep, but usually, once I'm out, I'm OUT. Daughter/mother traits, ya know?! With her sleeping peacefully, we got free reign to check out her fingers (10), toes (10), belly button (innie), hair (so soft and long and continuing to grow), eyelashes (insanely long...I love when babies have long eyelashes), ears (2), lips (puffy, kissable...she is always making a "kiss face" because the naturally stick out), knees (cute baby knees...no chub rolls, though), ankles (skinny). She really has no major health concerns. There are a few things that we will be having checked out once home. I can't help but think about the 'checklist' that we filled out (what seems like eons ago) about possible health concerns that we were open to as a part of the adoption process. Somehow, we were referred a child that seems to be healthier than we are! ;)
Oh, how I long to hold this hand...
While she was sleeping, a 5 year old boy came into the room. He saw K was free and grabbed his hand to play. (Anyone reading this who gets our agency e-mails...he is the featured waiting child of the week). Melt. my. heart. K got out some fruit snacks out of my bag for him. He wasn't quite sure what they were. K opened the bag and he peered into it trying to figure out what it was all about. K tried to dump them out in his hand, and he snatched the bag back. He, oh-so-carefully plucked one out of the bag, and then the best thing happened. Instead of consuming all of the fruit snacks, he ate just one and then ran into the hall to summon his roommates/friends. He shared with all of them. PRECIOUS. We made sure each kiddo had their own bag of fruit snacks and one of the other couples in our travel group had other yummy treats for the kiddos. They LOVED it. That little guy stole my heart. I didn't really discover the waiting child photo-listing until after we had our referral. I 'knew' what it was, but hadn't really taken the time to investigate. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. This little boy's smile stole my heart a few months ago, and now his personality has stolen my heart in person. We pray over the children on the photo-listing to find families. I can't get this particular guy off of my heart and mind. I keep telling K that I pray his family comes for him SOON, and if not, then I have to think it is us, and we will be starting this process over, ASAP. Ha! I can see the fear in his face when I say these things, but interestingly enough...he has never said, "No." :)

 Cupcake awoke again as our time together (for now) was nearing its end. We took more pics (we discovered when we were home that in 2 hours we had snapped 160 pics and taken 4 videos... Ha! We are THOSE parents. We said a prayer together and heart-wrenchingly handed her back. I immediately put on my sunglasses as I started to cry, and I walked outside. I was putting my shoes back on and I could hear the giggles and good-bye calls from the window form the fruit snack and candy sugared up little peoples. Couldn't help but smile through my tears. 
All of that hair! Oh hurt me, cute...
We handed out more snacks to the kiddos in the neighborhood of the care center. We piled back in the van as sadness and exhaustion set in. All voices were silent. We embarked on a different route than the one that brought us to Durame. This one included 35 km of bumpiness on unpaved roads. It was telling that everyone in the van (except for the driver and myself) feel asleep on these roads. It was the perfect illustration of how emotionally drained everyone was. 

It took about 2 hours to get to Awassa. We stayed at the Lewi Hotel. My preference would have been to just get all the way back to Addis, but I'm certain the driver was fried from the days travels, and it is probably not recommended to drive on these livestock filled roads in the dark! The Lewi was a nice hotel, but the room was super stuffy. Couldn't really open a window because we were right on a busy street. 

I've loved every inch of Ethiopia and its people. The only thing I was missing at this point was our daughter in my arms and some Diet Coke. :) 2 more sleeps until court!


SaraLyons said...

I just loved reading this post, what precious moments you had. I'm so happy for you and your hubby.

Carin said...

I love that Sara Groves song too and totally agree with it playing during the trip!! Love reading all our different stories of the trip!

Carin said...

and oh yeah, who knew spaghetti could be spicy?? I thought that was crazy!

LBWV said...

Yeah,seriously...I was kind of taken aback when I felt the spaghetti 'kick.'

Thanks for all of your kind words, Sara!

Becky Nakashima Brooke said...

I loved the spaghetti!:) So sweet:) I think I saw her and I think they noticed:) It seemed as soon as I noticed her she was gone. She is beautiful! Absolutly beautiful.


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