Monday, October 22, 2007

Tuesday (part 2)

Sele Enat is a smaller orphanage where all of our Ethio kids except Mary started their journey home. Terefu really wanted to go there and say good-bye to the house mothers, and I hadn't been, and was eager to see another of the Addis orphanages.

The donkey train is on the road to Sele Enat, and as we took this picture I told the kids they would not see this in America. They looked at me like I was crazy.

It was touching to see the love that Terefu and the house mothers had for each other, and their obvious love for the boys. The boys weren't really emotional about it and mostly played, but still you could see the love the mothers had for them. God bless boys.

Lisa was on a love on the babies mission most of the trip, so we lost her for a while in the babies' room.

Occassionally she would emerge with someone on her hip, smiling from ear to ear, and then we lost her again.

But then, who couldn't fall for these little ones!

Sele Enat is a much more simple and humble place than Layla. Children move from places like this as room opens up at Layla, and we got to see these kids here one day, and arriving at Layla the next - their next steps towards life with families again.

The thing that all of the orphanages I have been to in Addis have in common though is the love for children that is so evident. These house mothers, and drivers, and guards, and cooks, and gardeners - who all love, and touch, and hug, and kiss, and speak words of acceptance and affection to these children - leave their marks on their lives.

Thank you God for their lives and what they bring to our children. Your fingerprints are all over them because of these people.

Bless them in return, Jesus.

Tuesday (part 1)

Our first morning with the kids. Their first opportunity at Dad's cooking - scrambled eggs, dobo, bananas and more of Teddy's bunna and shai. I think they tolerated the food, and loved the shai.

Denise hung out with the kids in the morning so Lisa and I could go to Layla and see Rebekah for the first time. We met in the social workers' office, and it was really good to see her. It was also really emotional, and at that point I don't think anyone in the room knew where things were headed, which added to the emotions of the morning.

After that Lisa and I went back to get the kids, and we headed to the Hilton to verify plane tickets (there is an Ethiopian Airlines office there) and to grab some lunch by the pool.

One of the differences with this trip is that we were there during the tail end of the rainy season, and it was raining and cold while we sat and waited for lunch.

Chicken nuggets and fries washed down with Merinda didn't last long enough for the rain to stop, so we headed out to the pool in the rain. Not a downpour, but a good steady rain. Nobody was dismayed even the least, and the water was so warm and nice.

The kids loved it, and except for nearly losing Asher when he wandered into the deeper water in the middle of the shallow end, we did great.

Samuel was doing handstands and not very pretty crawl strokes by the end, Terefu was doing pretty nice breast strokes, and Asher was having fun. There is no better fun activity with new kids than going into the pool, and burning some nervous energy is not a bad idea either.

After that we found Dawit waiting for us outside, and we headed for Sele Enat, which will come in part 2.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


At about 9 am Gail showed up to take us to Layla. We took Denise along to be there for our first moments with the kids. It completed the event for her as she is the one who asked me back in February if I knew Terefu. She is so proud of herself being the family matchmaker and all.

We piled into Gail's SUV and in minutes were honking at the gate at Layla House. The gate opened and we rolled down the little slope into the parking spot. There was a group of kids down in the soccer area by the little wall, and from that group I saw Terefu's head poke up, and she sprinted off towards the other half of the compound.

We got out, and there was Samuel (Alemayehu) standing right there. He jumped into my arms and gave me a little boy's bear hug. Not a bad start.

After a few moments I handed him to Lisa, and walked around to the other side of the car just in time to see Terefu come running back around the corner and up the ramp to us. She didn't even break stride and sprinted right into my arms, where she put her head in my chest and started to sob. Wow. I could have stayed right there all day. It felt like she cried out every moment we had been apart since March.

When she stopped crying, I passed her to Lisa, and then Asher was there for his bear hug. Then I think we all huddled for a long group hug, with lots of smiles, and kisses and a tickle or two.

From there it was off to each of their classes (what they call bedrooms) to get their things. Terefu kept her arm around me the whole time we walked around Layla. I was not expecting this affection right away, but it was as if she were attached to Lisa and I right from the first moment.

Then after the customary round of hugs and kisses to say goodbye to EVERYONE at Layla, we were back in Gail's SUV and headed back to the guest house.

We got the kids some of their things to try on, and a toy or two out for the boys.

Then Terefu sat us both down on the bed, and gave us some gifts. A scarf knitted for each of us, bracelets she had bought at the church bazaar, a millenium bracelet for me, and things for the kids at home.

We hung out for a while, and then headed up the road to Adam's Pavillion to have lunch at the Paradise Garden, where I had my first meal with Marta in December. She wanted me to bring her home some of the doro tibs, but the best I could do was a picture of Terefu about to eat them instead.

Denise parted ways with us, and we walked back towards the guest house in the rain. Part way back we stopped for machiattos and chai at the cafe where Layla gets the pastry for the going away parties, and then finished walking as the rain let up.

We went back to Layla later in the afternoon for a visit and to hug and kiss everyone on the way in and again on the way out. Don't ever expect to make a quick visit, as the greeting and goodbye take atleast an hour.

It was good to see the children who are still there from my March visit, and exciting to see that there are so many new faces. So many kids have made the long flight to the US to be with their families.

Lisa got to meet some of the kids she has heard about, and seen so many pictures of. She got to hug and greet Marta's old friends Rahel and Tsion, meet Meron and her sisters, and so many other children. She is such a kid person that they were all over her in no time.

Terefu got to play mailperson, and handed out all of the letters we took to deliver to children from their families waiting for them at home. It is an exciting time for everyone, and also a hard time for those without families yet. It is both something for them to look forward to, but the waiting is difficult for some.

The boys played like crazy and got hugs from many friends and house mothers.
On the walk back to the guest house we stopped for pizza, and had a fun dinner beginning to figuring out who these 3 new kids are and what family life will be with them in the mix.

Once home (for a few days atleast) the boys got to discover what taking a bath is all about. It was obviously something new for them, as they had no idea what to do with a tub full of water. Once convinced to not get in with all of their clothes on, and bargained with to atleast get into swim suits, they were all over it.

That bathroom may never be the same.

Speaking of this bathroom, this was my second time staying in this room, and I didn't even know there was a bathroom with a tub off of this room. Mary and I stayed there and shared the other bathroom with Ted and others, not knowing that there was a bathroom right through the doors that look like part of the closet! I couldn't believe it.

Oh well, atleast I know for the next trip.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Travel Day And A Half

Travel day, just what everyone wants to hear about. What about the kids and babies you ask? Patience.

As painful as it is, you have to get there before you get to see the kids, so months of excitement and preparation are over and you head to the airport to start your very long journey to bring them home.

For Lisa and I this was waking at 3:00 am to head for the Pasco airport at 4:00. Lisa's sister Karen drove us, gave us hugs, got my final instructions about how to get back to our house, and we were off.

Our flight from Pasco to Denver left at 6:00, and I think for this short leg Lisa was really feeling like being on vacation. Once in Denver though she said, "are we there yet?" Oh my first-time-to-Ethiopia wife. So wonderful, and such a homebody.

As we walked through the airport to find our gate (Denver is a LONG stretched out airport) I told her that I wondered where my Ethiopia connection was. She asked, so I told her that every trip I connect with someone from Ethiopia on the leg to DC. I travel buddy who is also headed to Addis. We found our gate 2 minutes later, plopped down in seats, and not 30 seconds later, 3 feet in front of us sat our connection. A lady headed to Addis to visit her partents. I love the whole process of getting there.

Then we were in Washington DC, where we wrote out DC postcards for all the kids at home. We couldn't find a mailbox (they removed them all post-9/11), so the wonderful Ethiopian waitress at the restaurant just down from our gate (who of course knows Julie Hehn) took them and mailed them for us. I really do love the whole trip.

Until now.

Lisa is 5'11" and lovely and slender, and I am 6'0" and none of the above. Where did we get to sit for 17 hours to Addis? In row 29, the seats in front of the middle bulkhead, the ones that don't recline but maybe .25" or so. One of us could be comfortable at the expense of the other, so we took turns sacrificing for each other, and finally made it to Addis.

Incredibly the Visa line was short and efficiently dealt with, our bags were out right away, and in no time we had Visa, luggage, exchanged birr, potty break behind us, and we were out to see the wonderful smiling ferenge face of Denise! What a great surprise! After hugs, "what are you doing here's" and a little teasing of Jamal who is without his beloved dreads, we were quickly to the guest house.

We got Denise her things we had brought for her, and then the 3 of us went to Absynnia for some tibs and firfir to start our stay the right way. So good...

And speaking of good, in the morning, bright and early and eager to get to Layla for Lisa to meet our kids for the first time, Teddy brought us this tray of Ethiopian gold, machiattos. They are worth the 17 hour flight all by themselves.

If you stay at Ritmo with Denise, a couple of these babies in the morning and she is your buddy for life.

I had told Lisa about them, and now she believes me. Pure bliss. If you stay at Ritmo Guest House, Teddy's number is on the buletin board in the kitchen. If you call before 8:00 am just have his aunt wake him up. He really doesn't want to miss the business, and by the time he delivers them he is very cheerful.

A couple of Lisa's first sights on the way to meet our kids.

The goatherd makes me think of the Sound of Music puppet show for some strange reason, although I can't imagine the Habesha version...and the road leading up the hill towards the road to the right that goes to Layla.

Long Story Short

To save confusion, and to make a very long, emotional, difficult story short, here is the deal.

We came home with only 3 of our 4 kids. Rebekah (Freweyni) did not come home with us. If you read my last post, we found out just prior to leaving that she had been removed from Layla House due to some behavioral issues. She returned to Layla the day after we got there, and we had the other 3 kids with us.

It was a long, hard trip for us all, and the emotional end of it was as much as we could take each day. We were thankful to come home, excited to have these 3 wonderful kids with us, and heartbroken to not be home with all 4.

Rebekah will be coming home in ~3 weeks, and we eagerly await her arrival. I won't go into details, but the delay was and is necessary, and we know it will not be an easy transition. But God is in the business of miracles, and we have faith that He will see this to completion.

So as I said, this is to save confusion as you read and see pictures of our trip.

The Post That Was Not

I was just finished with the below post, and it was saved to be posted Friday night, late, before our early departure for the airport the next morning.

Then we got a call from AAI, telling us that there was a problem with one of our kids. She had been removed from Layla that day. Needless to say, everything about our trip changed in that instant, and the post, as well as much of what we were going to do on the last night was forgotten.


Bags packed - 2 at 50# each, 2 more at ~70#

Lists written and instruction given to Lisa's 2 sisters and wonderful aunt Sue who are here to take care of the 7 we are leaving at home.

Groceries bought for 10 while we are gone.

Bunk beds built and in the bedrooms where they are made and awaiting 4 new tired kids in 8 days.

Kids kissed, tucked in and prayed for by Mom and Dad who long to be away and are already aching to have to be away from them.

Endless thanks and praises to God for His goodness to us.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Weary but home

We are home now after a very emotionally tiring trip to Addis.

Here we are with our 4 at Layla House.

Lots to tell, but it will have to wait for energy and desire to catch up with me.