Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Since I got back from Ethiopia I have been in a funk. Can't really explain it, or express my feelings and thoughts about it, because I don't really understand it all.

Much of it I write off to the burdens and stress of my life right now, which is just a temporarily abnormal amount. It will go away with time.

But one of the issues I know I have been stewing on (I am a crock pot kind of guy) is my reaction to Ethiopia, to Addis Ababa, to Layla and to AHOPE. I still can't put my finger on it and really talk about it, but today I read a post by a family who is adopting from Liberia, and who spent 5 weeks there. Even through my fog of understanding this jumps out as clear as day and shouts TRUTH.

So go to The Isaac's Liberian Journey and check out an honest assessment of what it is like to be an American in Liberia, or Ethiopia for that matter.

Even my trip, which I considered minimalistic - staying at the guest house, eating at local restaurants and Layla, and time spent with the kids just wasn't the real thing. I still felt calloused and hardened and utterly without compassion - so far from what I think it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

I specifically remember sitting in the seat of the van with Marta stopped for traffic as we drove through the city. That is when the beggars would come to the windows, and plead for something. I don't know what they were asking for in Amharic, food, or money I assume, but I do know that as I sat there with my daughter, I wanted more than anything for her to know that the heart of her father was good. I sat there with hundreds of US dollars in my pockets so we could eat, and shop, and take things we don't need home with us - so uncomfortable - wondering what her thoughts of the situation and of me were.

I went to Ethiopia, but I made sure to cushion myself and my daughter from reality there. I really do love the people, but I have no idea what their life is really like. I tease Marta all the time about relinquishing me some minor percentage of Habesha status. She relentlessly shakes her head and says no, I am 100% ferenge. She is right.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One Year Ago

Last year at this time my son Jeff, our friend Jan and I had just returned from China with Song.

We were there for 2 weeks, spending time in Nanjing, a visit to Suzhou (his city), and in Guangzhou.

Our last full day in Guangzhou was my birthday, and we ate dim sum to celebrate, played on the playground and drank our last hot ginger cokes.

The day before we received Song's US Visa, which was a happy day. (If you couldn't tell.)

The morning of the 27th we got up early for checkout and the customary red sofa pictures, and began our long journey home.

It was a long fever filled trip for Song, but the greeting of Mom and family made it all worth while. We had known about Song and first tried to begin the process of adopting him 27 months earlier, so Lisa's smile was well earned.

He has been home a year now, and has made such progress. When we met him his only English words were "hello" and "good morning" which we heard maybe a thousand times while there, and now he talks non-stop in English, with very little accent.

He is learning braille, rides a bike, swims, and so many other things. The new things and wonders of parenting are different with adopted kids, but no less joyful or amazing.

Friday, January 12, 2007


I have been trying to write about AHOPE for a week now, and I just can't seem to do it. This little bit will have to suffice for now.

If you go to Addis and don't visit these kids, it is a huge mistake. Not to take anything away from the other kids, but in a country where so many are orphaned by a disease that has left its mark on everyone, these kids were not only orphaned, but left to live a life with the constant reminder of what ravaged their families and home. They are the full story of what has happened in Ethiopia and most of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The biggest difference between Layla and AHOPE was the feeling of hope you feel at Layla, other than that they were all the same wonderful children, full of life, and eager for just a little attention, a kiss and a hug, a few moments in your lap or arms, and they are yours forever.

But there is a difference in the spirit of the place compared to Layla, and I have to think that it is the result of not having a steady flow of families passing through, of gift bags and t-shirts announcing to the world and their peers that they have been chosen, and regular going away parties. They just don't know these things well enough yet.

This lack of hopeful excitement is real and tangible, but will begin to change over time as more and more families are realizing that these beautiful kids need families too, and that the presence of HIV in their bodies is really not that big of a deal. And when you walk in and see the meds table full of Retrovir, you know that there is hope for these kids, they just don't understand it all yet.

Don't take this the wrong way. I'm not saying that AHOPE isn't a good place, or isn't well run. The staff at AHOPE does a great job, and it is a wonderful place. They are doing their part, we just need to do ours. Layla is full of life in part because of families going there and adding hope and excitement, and even pizza to the mix. So here is the pitch. Sponsor some kids. Get other people to sponsor some more kids. Go see them if you travel to Ethiopia. And lastly, find out if one of your kids is currently living there, and then do something about it.

Monday, January 01, 2007


The purpose of my first trip to Addis was to bring Marta home. The other purpose was to get to know Meklit so that my second trip to bring her home, alone, would be a success. Everything else I did and experienced was gravy.

Meklit. First thing was pronounciation. Meh-kleet, as in baseball cleat is how you say it. Early on we thought it was Mary, but it is obvious from Marta that she has never been called Mary, and they don't even know where it came from. So Meklit it is.

I don't think she was expecting me, and my first moments with her were right after school (she gets back at ~4pm) and she was just changing out of her school uniform. All I can say is overwhelming. This picture is from a different day, but the super shy, bashfull, doe eyed, I'm not going to speak to you look is all I got that day I think.

By Wednesday I think, and definitely by Thursday she was warmed up to me and would sit on my lap, let me cuddle and tickle and play games with her, and there were even a couple times when she came to me rather than Marta. I feel so much better about going back alone to bring her home.

I wasn't too sure what to expect personality wise. I had heard plenty of talk about princess, and pistol, and center of the universe, atleast in her eyes, and didn't really see any of that. Not that I don't think it is all true, I just didn't see it myself.

What I did see was an adorable, shy little girl, with a very sweet smile, who is probably trying to figure out what is going on. She doesn't have the experience of Marta, or the exposure to a steady flow of families coming to bring kids home, so I can understand what she is uncertain of. Soon though her perspective will change.

She did get to spend a couple nights at the guest house with us that we didn't expect, so that won't be new to her when it is her turn. The big change will be no Marta, and I don't know how much English she knows, and then the ordeal of the plane trip.

Above is Hanna getting her ready for school, and then saying goodbye to us on Friday morning when we took her back in the morning so she could get off to school. I didn't get a chance to talk to Hanna very much, but she is so good with the kids, and I know they all adore her. She takes Meklit and 2 others to public school each day as they are the oldest.