Friday, March 30, 2007

The Last Day

It seemed like I had just got there and really I had. Day three and I was needing to pack us up to leave that night. I packed up all of the things I had brought to donate at Layla, and Meklit, Ted and I headed over for breakfast.

By now when we walk in the kids swarm us, and we are hugged and kissed all over again. What a great start to the day. Meklit is taken by Tsion, and she will again spend much of the day with she, Rahel and Tigist, as Marta’s friends continue to show us love as if we were family.

Ted heads off with a throng of boys in tow to skateboard, and I started to make my rounds greeting with a touch, hug and/or kiss every little face that I could find. I have always struggled to know what I want to do when I grow up, and now I know. I want to be the head of hug therapy at Layla House – that is my dream job. Merrily, if you ever read this, let me know what you think.

Breakfast today was the pancakes Marta had been describing to me. They are very big around, so you get slices like you would of a NY pizza. They are big wedges of pancake that look more like injera than our pancakes, but are denser, thicker and don’t have the sour taste. They are cooked on the injera mitads, and just like injera are not flipped, so the top is the bubbles just like injera.

They are smothered in VERY sweet syrup, and of course there is very sweet tea too. Breakfast is when these guys get their sugar fix for the day, and the dense, sweet slice filled me up.

I let Terefu have my camera for the day after showing her how to use it, and she took ~200 pictures throughout the day.

I spent 2 periods of class time with the 2 groups of combined 4/5 kids in Ku Ku’s music class. He played the guitar, I played the djembe I left last time, and we all sang worship songs that Ku Ku has learned by ear, and taught the kids. We had a great time, and I now have an obligation to get him some music to read.

I also played soccer for 2 periods, and if you are uncertain if the elevation will affect you, play soccer. Wow! I was one tired, hot ferenge.

Lunch was shiro and alecha cabbage and potatoes that was awesome. I could eat like that every day. So good.
After that it was hot so we spent most of our time hanging out in different bedrooms (the kids call them classes, like “J” class, or “H” class, which are really just the room numbers).

Terefu was taking pictures like crazy of everyone, and they were having fun posing for her. I brought my laptop over and loaded them all so they could see a slide show and watch the movies we took too. There is a great one of all of Marta’s friends being silly and saying hi to her, saying goofy things in Amharic that I still don’t understand, and singing songs for her.
While we were there that afternoon there was a film crew capturing Tigist and her siblings getting their family gift bags. What an exciting time for so many kids, to see what they will someday receive. But it must be a scary time for them too - a time when they feel doubtful about it all as well. I want so badly for them all to get homes soon.

If you have ever felt your heart tug towards adopting these older children, you won't regret it. I would take ALL of them home with us if we could.

Going Away

Tuesday evening we went to Meklit's orphanage for her going away party. I was hoping it would be with all of the kids - both young and old, but it was such short notice that they could only have the younger kids and a few of Meklit's older friends.

It was still really good. Lots of singing and praying by the kids, and snacks and my first and only (so far) coffee ceremony.
It was obvious that the house mothers really love these kids, and it is a mixed bag of emotion when they are leaving. Like Denise told me a few weeks ago, it is so wonderful to see them doing well at home, but also hard to see them leave.

This is Hanna clapping with the white wrap on her head, and she is amazing. Such love for the kids, and this fun, playful, affectionate relationship with each of them. She got really emotional when it was time for us to go, and I said I would be back to visit her again. Last time I was there and she was taking a number of kid's temps with an under the arm thermometer I told her I would try to bring her something quicker. I took her a digital one that goes in the ear and she and the nurse were delighted.
The highlight for me was one of Meklit's friends praying over her. I have it on video as well as a number of the songs, so I don't know what she said, but it was so sweet.

After the party we went to see the big kids at the other compound.
They too are a delight, and their singing was beautiful.
The staff person who was with us and took us back to the guest house was very sweet, and very committed to teaching the kids.
She led the songs that she has taught them, and then led prayers for Meklit and our family that were so full of passion and faith. Wow!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Some of my favorite people...
not all, just some from this last trip...
each is different in their own special way...


full of life...

passionate about our kids...

too cute to not stop you in your tracks...

all precious in His sight.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day 2 - Back to Layla

After yet another bad night of sleep in Addis (for me that is, Meklit slept like a baby), Ted, Meklit and I headed to Layla for breakfast again. This morning it was bread with peanut butter and sweet, hot tea. The food is good, but the company is better than can be imagined.

When I had picked up Meklit, Gail recommended that I take her to a hair salon to get her ready for her going away party, and then for the trip home. What Gail hasn't seemed to figure out yet is that she has the best salon in town. I went to Tigist after breakfast and asked if she would braid Meklit's hair for her. She, Tsion and some of the other girls washed, combed out and then braided her hair beautifully. Have I said I adore these girls yet?

They had fun doing what they do best, gabbing, giggling and braiding hair - such a social event for them, and I got to hang out and play with the kids. I got in some b-ball time with some of the younger boys which was lots of fun.

I even sat through an Ethiopian History class with one of the Group 4/5 classes. Julie Hehn is the director of the Layla school, and she has done a wonderful job as have the teachers, and the work these kids do is tough. Not an easy task to teach a group of kids, some of whom will be there a while, and others a very short time. They are doing a great job.

My class time was rewarded by being invited to join the teachers for tea and cookies during break. I can see why this was one of Denise's fun times of the day.

Lunch was sega wat, green beans and more delightful injera. It is so funny to see these kids who do not want to eat ANYTHING green. I think it is universal. Marta is that way, and a bunch of the other older girls too. I thought they were great, and they were not impressed at all. There was one older kitchen mother who was really getting after the kids and making them all take a scoop of beans. Then the other kids who liked them would come later and help the now sad kids by taking them off their plate when grumpy kitchen mother wasn't looking.

We stayed and played through the afternoon, and then got a ride to Meklit's orphanage for her going away party.

Friday, March 16, 2007

First Day In Addis

***Again, this post was written on the trip, just not posted until now with pictures added.***

Without the jitters of meeting Meklit for the first time I thought I would do better, but as soon as I woke up the first time (at 4:30) I was done. My mind started racing about all the other kids I would meet or be reunited with, and there was nothing to do but get up.

I jumped in the shower, met Ted Burton, grabbed a cup of coffee (thanks Salina – she couldn’t sleep either) and then Ted and I headed for Layla. As I told Salina I had already met my kid, so I didn’t have to wait for Gail to come and take me somewhere, so Ted and I went to have breakfast with the kids at Layla.

That is my new favorite place ever to eat breakfast. I finally found out about the bread Marta had been trying to describe, and learned why she likes her tea 2/3 tea 1/3 sugar, which is the way they serve it at breakfast. Or you can have hot milk with lots of sugar some days.

I love to share meals with the kids. It is such a social time, and they are all there, and every meal I sit with a new group so you get a chance to talk to some kids you wouldn’t otherwise. I never want to eat breakfast in Ethiopia anywhere else.

After breakfast I played soccer with some kids, and Ted showed them how to ride his wave board. Think skateboard with only 2 wheels that freespin in any direction and the board has a pivot point in the middle so it twists and turns too. From a non-skater/skier type like me it looks impossible and like many trips to the ER waiting to happen. Needless to say he was a huge hit with the boys.

I was at Layla for ~2 ½ hours before Gail came to bring Salina to meet her little guy, and I rode back to the guest house with them and then on to pick up Meklit from her orphanage. My travel was such short notice that they had their wires crossed, so she had gone to school that day and had to be driven back to meet me. Poor thing had not much time to get ready for me, but she did great.

I met her van and she smiled at me when I called her name, then I swooped her up and smooched both cheeks like I was doing at the end of our last visit. Her smile and giggle told me she didn’t forget either. She changed out of her uniform (rabbit trail here – all the school kids in Ethiopia wear uniforms which are provided by the parents or in this case the orphanage, so why can’t we seem to pull this off in the US?!) and we were off to the guest house to start getting warmed up again.

We were going to go out for lunch, but the guest house cook had the place smelling so good that I couldn’t pass on her mesir wat, potatoes and injera. If you sign up she will make you lunch and/or dinner, and your bill at the end of your stay reflects the meals you eat as well as drinks, etc. Last time I didn’t eat at the guest house at all, but we were so tired and it smelled so good, and she had made enough for all of us, so we stayed in. So good. Nice chewy sour injera. Mmmm…

In the afternoon we hired Dawit to drive us to the Hilton’s Ethiopian Air office to verify our return tickets. If you don’t, chances are your tickets will be cancelled and you will have to buy them for a later flight. Crazy as it sounds, it is Ethiopia. Then we went shopping at 2 different stores, had everything we needed for the trip done, and went back and napped, ate dinner, and went to bed. I was so tired, and Meklit must have been too because she slept for 2 hours in the late afternoon and then slept all night.

The highlights of the day were many. First of all was getting Meklit. She is so shy, and literally won’t say a word to me. She spoke 4 words to me that I remember on my last trip, and I was so shocked that I don’t have the slightest idea what her voice sounds like. I know she understands some English, but she isn’t about to prove it to me.

Then there was meeting the kids I grew to love in December. While all of the kids are wonderful and fun, I really got to know the older ones, mostly the girls who were Marta’s friends and classmates. They were all shocked to see me, and it was fun to see their different reactions. Some were quiet and shy, while others literally jumped into my arms and hugged me for all they were worth.

Also it is always fun to get to know the other families at the guest house, and hear their stories about how we came to be sharing a roof in the middle of Ethiopia. I really hit it off with Ted, and through our conversations of the day we figured out that our stories of building our families through adoption are very similar. His daughter who came home last summer is Meklit’s close friend, and he is here visiting a very sweet 12 year old who is Marta’s friend and will come home soon. Since we live close to each other the girls will have the opportunity to remain close while growing up, and our families will certainly grow closer too. What great people.

Off Again

***This post was written on the trip, just not posted until now, so things are a little out of order - oh well.***

This trip to Addis seems almost surreal. Getting the news on Wednesday, leaving town Friday for an early Saturday flight, there hasn’t really been time to process it all. It seems odd. Part of it must be that this trip is different though. There are no butterflies about meeting Meklit for the first time, because I have already done that. No jitters of the unknown-ness of going to Addis for the first time - been there. I know the guest house, the airport, the restaurants, how to get around, so none of those things need to be worried about.

It felt so strange that I had to send a last minute email to Erin just to make sure that the ticket, passport and money I have with me are really the only things I need. No paperwork, no appointments, nothing. Just pick her up, hang out for a couple days and fly home. I think the only thing scheduled will be her going away party.

I am sitting in the airport in Washington DC waiting another 3 hours for the flight from here to Addis to leave. I have a fresh outlook on flight lengths, so the trip here from Portland seems like a hop rather than a long flight. Maybe it is all perspective because my rear end didn’t even get sore. If only I could say that after this next flight.

I sat next to a Dr. from a Christian medical relief agency on the way here from Portland. His wife is Ethiopian, from Addis. The regularity that these connections happen doesn’t even surprise me anymore. We had a great conversation once we got over the American habit of not talking to the people sitting next to you. I hate that and regularly practice it at the same time.

Another cool connection is that Ted Burton will be staying at the guest house at the same time I will be there. He is going to be spending time with an older girl at Layla that his family is adopting, but the cool connection is that he is the dad of Meklit’s close friend who went home last summer. They live near Portland, so we can get the girls together, and now they are adopting one of Marta’s friends too, so it will be fun to get to know him.

Last night we drove over to Portland so that this morning’s 5 am trip to the airport didn’t have to start at 3, and everyone has so much fun playing in the pool. Playing hard is a good way to start a week away from Lisa and the kids. Protect them while I am gone Lord.

Home With Meklit

Meklit and I got home late last night. What ever you do, if you can avoid a 3 day stay in Addis do it. The trip there, 3 long days to try and do what you want, followed by the trip home is just about enough to kill you.

This is a picture of 2 of Marta's close friends, Tsion and Rahel, and Meklit, a newer girl Maria and I in "J" class hanging out. Then picture of Meklit and Rahel. These older girls are just so amazing, and really adore Meklit. They took her everywhere with them while we were at Layla.

We had a great time, spent almost all of our time at Layla with the kids, and had a completely awful, emotional time leaving. I was a wreck and wanted to take so many home with us, but couldn't this time. I did tell them that I would be back though...