We made it! We're in Addis
Our flights out of London were delayed for about an hour, and we learned that we were making an additional, unexpected stop (apparently pretty common), in Amman, Jordan. After a five hour flight into Amman, we were there for just over an hour, and stayed on the plane while it was re-fuelled. Finally, finally, we were off on the last almost-five-hour leg of our journey. After eating a meal and chatting a bit, Geoff and I were both able to fall asleep for a couple of very badly needed hours and woke up to the announcement of the flight attendant that we would be landing in Addis in ten minutes.
Immediately upon hearing that announcement, I was overcome with emotion and I strained my eyes looking out the window for the first sign of city lights through the darkness. Finally I could see them down below, and I could feel my stomach turn over and my heart rate speed up exponentially. It was such a surreal moment; as odd as it sounds to say, it's like that moment was the one where it struck me that we had just flown half way around the world to bring additional children into our lives...living, breathing little people who suddenly felt more real than ever. And we were about to land in the country of their birth. I was so awed by the enormity of the moment.
We entered the airport and were immediately guided to fill out visa application forms, which took a minimal amount of time before we were stamped through by women sitting behind tables in a long, narrow room. While I got into line (a very short one) to have our passports stamped, Geoff went to change U.S. money into birr, and soon afterwards, we were on our way to the baggage claim, just through the glass doors. We were skeptical that our luggage would make it, because our plane changeover in Toronto was so very quick, but lo and behold, by the time we got to the baggage carousel, we could see it all: orphanage bins and suitcases.
Officials stopped us to compare our luggage receipts (note to self: hang onto those luggage receipts and keep them handy) with our luggage and then directed us to security, which we had to go through to get out of the baggage claim area - that was a new, but painless experience, and in minutes we willed our tired bodies out of the baggage claim area, hoping that we would be greeted by the lodge staff we'd been promised.
I wish we'd taken a picture of Asofar, holding up a sign with our last name on it, but as soon as I nodded to him, he crumpled it up and tossed it into a bin. We walked through a surprisingly large airport to the outside, where Asofar went to collect the white van.
As we left the airport premises, I could see through the dark night skies the palm trees all around us and on the boulevard, and for a moment I was reminded of our recent trip to San Diego. For an instant, I was lulled into a (false) sense that Addis and San Diego would provide a similar experience. Even in the dark, though, that impression could be no more than fleeting. I'm honestly glad that we arrived during the night, because it was, perhaps, a bit of a gentler introduction to Addis than we might have had during a day-time arrival. Even in the dim light provided by the street lights, it was clear that we are now in a world that is completely different from anything I have experienced before. Looking down side streets and alleys, we could see endless rows of corrugated metal dwellings and shops crammed in beside each other and seemingly attached together. Every once in a while, on the main road that we were driving on, we saw still-open places of business, usually bars, and they were brightly lit up with rows of Christmas lights draped over the exterior.
After driving for about fifteen minutes, we turned off onto a road that was not really a road - it was rutted and gravelly, and our driver crawled along, trying to protect the van, I guess. It looked like a back alley at home that you'd never go down during the night...or during the day. I wondered where on earth we were headed, but it became clear moments later as the one lit up building a block up on the right started to resemble the pictures we'd seen online of our lodge - called Afro Land Lodge! Sure enough, we came to a stop in front of a rather nice looking building, and were immediately greeted by two blue-uniformed porters, who literally leaped to the back of the van and started unloading our luggage.
Inside, we were greeted by a lovely young woman who guided us through the check-in process, and the breakfast-order form. She gave us our room key and gestured to the two porters, who once again hefted our bags and, with heavy suitcases on their shoulders, they loped up the stairs past us, to our room at the top.
Our room is lovely, and very clean in appearance. I'm sitting right how in a spacious sitting area with couch and chair (and an ancient tv with rabbit ears...it gets about five channels, Geoff says), and there is a king-sized bed on the opposite side of the room. There's a bathroom, complete with western toilet, and a separate, galley-style kitchenette. We feel quite comfortable in here already, and feel fortunate to have this place to stay. The wi-fi seems to be working, too, happy news for the blogger in me!
And so...we're here. We're very tired, but not terribly sleepy, so after unpacking a few things, we've just been sitting here chatting, and trying out the internet connection. How incredible it is to be able to connect to everything familiar to us by internet connection!
It's pitch black outside and we don't know yet what lies outside our window, but morning will come soon, and I guess we'll find out. For now, I am glad to be here, and looking forward with anticipation and some anxiety about what the day will bring.