As I sit down to write this, and load these pictures, I realize the ache in my gut is because I miss it so much. I never dreamed this could happen.
I have always loved Chinese culture, but after bringing our 2 kids home from China, I can't really say that I miss it, or want to go back to any of the places. It isn't that I didn't enjoy my visits there, but they were just trips to places, and extended stays in very plush hotels. We will go back some day to take Joy and Song to visit, but that is different.
But, big but, my feelings towards Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and Layla House in particular are very different. My feelings aren't really for the place, but for the people there, mostly the children. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with them all, and if I could go today I would.
So it isn't these buildings, or these staff people and volunteers who make me choke up, but it is the children they represent, the ones that live here and are cared for and loved by these people that make me respond to these pictures with such emotion. Everyone I saw and met - from the guards at the gate, to the gardener, to the cooks to the house mothers - were loving and wonderful to the kids.
This is one of the house mothers braiding Marta's hair in the midst of endless drying laundry on our last day in Addis.
Behind them is the cafeteria area where all the parties, dramas, singing, etc. take place.
Jamaal and Sarah at the guest house during our nightly hang out-share stories of the day. Sarah was with Alicia and her baby, and Jamaal picked us up at the airport, drove us to appointments, to the pool, and back to the airport to go home. He drives the kids everywhere, but does so much more for Layla, and the kids adore him.
And the bottom picture is of Nate, the infamous Denise and I at AHOPE. They did all the work so we could throw a pizza party for the AHOPE kids. After hours work for these guys is constant, but in the midst of the kids they make it all fun.
No discussion of Layla can happen without talking about them, and all of the other volunteers who go to love the kids. Fekerte was there while we were, but I didn't get a picture of her.
They all deserve such great praise and reward, but what could compare to the love of so many precious children.