When the new rule was first introduced, it caused considerable angst on the part of many adopting families, which I can certainly appreciate given the considerable amount of additional money and time that it consumes (after an already very costly and very time-consuming adoption process). But for me, although the money was a big swallow, it was money incredibly well spent. Not only were we able to explore a little bit (without children in tow) the country of the children's birth, but most incredibly, we were able to meet the children who we pray will join our family.
But let me not get ahead of myself...this is, after all, a two-part post!
Adama is a city approximately 2.5 hours south of Addis and, most importantly from my perspective, it is the city where our children's orphanage is located. Just over a month ago, on February 10th, the day before our court appearance, we drove to Adama to meet our children.
This is a hard day to write about, knowing now what we didn't know on that day - that we would not see the children again while in Ethiopia because of our failure to pass court the following day.
But on the day itself we were full of anticipation and excitement and hope. We were up early, my heart pounding, and I felt like I had a huge amount of adrenaline energy coursing through me. We were down in the lobby early, waiting to be picked up...though we ended up having to wait there for almost an hour because the driver had to find fuel to fill up the van (not an easy task on the first day of the Ethiopian calendar month...more another time).
Here we are in the lobby of our guest house, waiting eagerly to be picked up for our trip to Adama. The bin in front of us was filled with donations from home, that we were taking to the orphanage (blankets, medicine, clothes, etc). In addition, our back packs were stuffed with things that we wanted to give to the resident children ourselves: soccer balls and pumps; hot wheels cars (about 60 of them!); stickers (about 70 sheets!); sticker earrings; and little soccer bobble head thingees that a store owner donated (and which the kids loved!). We were sooooo excited at the moment this picture was taken!
Because I get very easily car sick, I ended up sitting in the front seat of the van with one of Imagine's Ethiopia staff, Germatchew (pronounced: Ger - MA - cho...with a slight rolling of the 'r' and a long 'o' sound).
It was lovely to spend time chatting with someone about whom I have heard for at least a few years, and so interesting to talk to a person who knows so much about the adoption process in Ethiopia. I consider myself to be a fairly informed person when it comes to the international adoption process, particularly as it concerns Ethiopia, and it was very interesting to my knowledge base with the first-hand experience Germatchew has on Ethiopian soil. He confirmed many of my thoughts about the system, and added nuances to my understanding in other areas. It seemed as if I could ask whatever questions I wanted and he was happy to answer, and to expound in other areas as well. For those who know me, it will be easy to understand that I did ask a lot of questions...at one point, others in the van wondered if I was grilling poor Germatchew! But when I posed this question to him a little later, he laughed and said that he is always happy to talk and answer questions - whether that was the truth or not, he certainly acted as if it was ok with him. It was also moving to talk with him about the circumstances around our agency's bankruptcy in mid 2009, and I found myself near tears (again!) as he talked about the impact of the former Executive Director's actions on himself and the other staff, and particularly on the children who were (and are) so dependent on Imagine's continuation for their very survival. Imagine staff in Ethiopia were without salary for months because of what happened (fortunately this was paid later on, after the agency was restructured, but the staff didn't know that at the time), and yet people like Germatchew gave money out of their own pocketw to purchase food for the children in the Transition Home. I was very appreciative of all that he told me, and thanked him on behalf of so many families in Canada who depended on him and the others during that time.
Leaving Addis was an experience in itself. Traffic was terrible on the road exiting the city, full of gigantic trucks and other vehicles making their way to and from the neighbouring country of Djibouti. Djibouti is a port country, and thus many of Ethiopia's imports must travel down that highway in impossibly high volumes. The fumes, the pollution, from those old, belching vehicles, was horrible! I had been warned by an online friend (thanks Ange!) to bring dust masks for this exact purpose and, in fact, I had brought some along...but (sadly) I never ended up using them. I occasionally longed for those little masks sitting a foot away from me in my bag, but I felt a little foolish, to be honest, as if I couldn't tough out what others have toughed out before me. The impact of pride, huh?! Also, I didn't know when purchasing the masks that we would be traveling to Adama with another couple whose children are living in the same orphanage as our kids; and I didn't have enough masks to share. But no matter - we got to experience 'the full meal deal.' I really can't describe how heavy or strong the fumes really were, but it certainly explained to me why a dark pollution cloud hangs over Addis by nine each morning, and it was no surprise when, throughout the remainder of the day, I blew black gunk out of my nose - which seemed to get plugged very easily and often that day. Take kleenex and water, is what I will advise families travelling in the future. Lots of kleenex. And maybe an oxygen tank.
After the first hour, traffic lessened significantly and, though we still encountered the occasional truck pile-up of traffic, the ride became much easier, the pollution a thousand times better, and the scenery very different. The countryside outside of Addis was beautiful. I hadn't known what to expect, and was really quite delighted by the rolling hills, the endless fields of recently-harvested teff flour, the people and animals wandering everywhere, and the sparse vegetation. Here are some pictures of the drive to (and from) Adama, though they in no way do justice to the truck traffic, pollution, or beauty of the countryside:
(below - three pictures)
Finally, some open road and a chance for breathing in some fresher air!
Clearly, there was much teff grain being harvested; all the way to Adama were closely cropped fields of teff, and these huge piles of grain to be processed.
Mules were everywhere, including heavily laden ones such as these.
(below - two pictures)
Outside of Addis, these little horse and cart combinations were to be seen everywhere.
(below - 3 pictures)
With excitement levels at a high level, we headed into the city of Adama...only minutes from the orphanage where we would meet our children.
Before heading to the orphanage, we needed to make one last stop...at a grocery store, to spend donation money that friends had sent along with us for this purpose. Imagine's rep, who was there with us, called the orphanage while we were in the grocery store and asked them what they needed at that moment. Based on that phonecall, we were able to purchase so much: boxes of cereals; bags of pasta; containers of formula; diapers (which were the one thing that seemed terribly expensive in Ethiopia - we would have been better off bringing a few boxes from home); tins of oats; and on and on. It was wonderful, and we felt so blessed to be able to spend our friends' money in a way that was current and needed.
Walking around the block, trying to find the grocery store in Adama.
The grocery store...apparently, this is where the orphanage purchases many of its supplies.
Imagine's rep, waiting patiently while the goods are piled up.
Just a few of the many things we were able to purchase.
Starting to box up our purchases.
The very expensive diapers.
Transporting the heavy boxes to the van.
Finally, with supplies purchased, there was nothing left to do other than make our way to the orphanage. We were just minutes away from our children now...and I could hardly wait!
But you will have to wait to hear more...until tomorrow!