After a long flight to Addis, and a restless night wondering what she would be like, I finally got to go to Layla House. Gail picked me up at 9:30 in the morning (I had only been up for about 6 hours at that point - plenty of time to unpack and lay out Marta's things) and we drove the 2 minutes up the street and around the corner, and we were there.
The gate opened, and in we drove. I walked down the little ramp to the soccer area, where I found Denise and Fekerte sitting on the little wall that would become one of my 2 favorite perches - perfect for watching kids, and becoming part of their ebb and flow around you.
I went straight to Denise for a hug, as it seems like we have known one another for ages, though this was our first time to meet in person. Her account of meeting Marta is here. Then we went on past to the classroom behind the West soccer goal, where Group 5 was in science class.
Gail called for Marta through the door, and she went around the room to each kid to give them a hug goodbye. Her last moments in class at Layla.
Then she was out the door and into my arms. She is so very quiet and shy, but I wasn't going to miss a first hug opportunity. Then we went to the older girls bedroom (really a bunkroom with 6 bunkbeds, a shelf for clothes and little else - where we would spend many hours in the coming days visiting her friends) to retrieve a few of her more precious things.
After more kisses goodbye, Gail took us back to the guest house where we looked at her things, looked through her photo album from us and I explained everyone to her, and had our first talk. She told me how her Habesha Mom loves kids too, just like Mom does. We wasted no time.
After a tour of the guest house (home for the next 5 days) we were off for a walk up the hill to Adam's Pavilion, a nice shopping center for a quick email home and lunch with Alicia, her baby and Sara, her childhood friend.
This picture is of us at lunch at the Paradise Garden (?) where we enjoyed doro tibs and Coca, and I enjoyed being in her presence.
We went back to Layla on the way down the hill, and made our first short visit to all of her friends and to get another round of cheek kissing. Worth the 24 hours of travel all by itself. Lisa likes to say that we all need our love tank filled up every so often, and this has to be the best place to get it done.
I got to watch my first Layla House soccer match while there, met Julie's boys who are sweet beyond measure, met Freweyni, and watched 8 new kids being checked in. We took a big bag of Marta's things back with us to the guest house, and we showed Denise all of the things I had brought for her, others and Layla in general. Her delight in the Santa hats, top hats and soft was worth the packing and unpacking, and a little extra baggage fee.