Today is Sunday, and we're on the very long flight home from Africa... 16 hours to be exact, and that just lands us in DC, with another leg to Detroit, then an hour drive home. In all, it's a 30 hour jaunt from this sweet newly beloved land of Ethiopia, to our home in Ohio.
I'm going to try and recap our week, both for those of you that are interested in all that we experienced this week, but also for our own memory. I don't ever want to forget what I experienced... the emotions that I felt... the things that I saw.
Day 1 in Ethiopia was last Sunday. We arrived in Addis at 10:30am, after a VERY long flight. It was extra long, due to the fact that although it was supposed to be a direct flight from Dulles to Addis, there was a passenger that was experiencing swelling in her leg, and the flight staff was concerned that it could be a blood clot! So... our pilot turned the plane around, yes! around, and went back to Rome to drop her off. I am thankful that she was okay, but sooo extremely over being in this flying sardine can!
It took us probably an hour and a half to get through customs, get our baggage, exchange our dollars for birr, and get through security. Thankfully all of our bags made it, and security didn't tear through our luggage, even though we had lots of donations that tend to make extra problems... as they are wanting to be sure that we aren't there to sell our goods.
We met up with some amazing other AWAA families, whose stories we've been following throughout this whole process and headed to lunch with our AWAA group.
a dear friend, Debb Marquez
The Hatmakers and us
another dear friend, Anna Dreyfus
Now realize that we had been awake for like 30 hours... sleeping on the plane is totally overrated! and we literally had 5 minutes to drop off our stuff and head to lunch, then on to meet our kids!! We were soo overwhelmed with excitement that we threw our bags in our room and took off! Thankfully I did have a chance on the plane to freshen up a bit... wouldn't want to look like a haggard mess when I met my kids for the first time!
Our agency's sign outside the gate
the gate of the Transition Home
Our agency is soo amazing that they set up everything from where we would be eating, to making sure that we had a driver available to get us there, as well as 3 different travel coordinators that acted as our translators, tour guides... and our entertainment. We were so honored to become friends with Yonas, T, and Eyob... as well as one kick butt driver... Dawit!
Yonas and Eyob
Me, Eyob and our friend Aliya Snyder
Dawitt and Jeff
Our meetcha day was, well... pretty amazing!
Our kids had been told by the on staff psychologist that we would be coming this day, so they were as well prepared as you could be at ages 4 and 2. I don't think that I can describe the emotions rolling through both Jeff and I as they walked out that first day, but I'll give it a shot... excitement, thrill, fear, joy, hope, sheer terror, peace, and the list goes on...
The language barrier was probably the toughest thing, especially for B****** as he's old enough to talk and relate, but a bit too young to understand WHY we aren't making any sense. For example, B***** has been in an orphanage his whole life (almost 4 years), minus the 8 months that his nanny took him home with her to raise him... but I'm getting ahead of myself... so for almost 4 years, he's been without a family. He's been without a mommy who will kiss away his boo boos. Without a daddy to wrestle with. Without a mommy to sing him lullabies at night. Without a family to laugh with, pray with, rejoice with. He had no one who he could call his own. And for the last 5 months, he's been in a transition home ( a really good one, mind you) where other kids have had care packages delivered to them from their new parents, pictures of their new family, new home. Notes of love and encouragement that they were coming soon, new clothes, and treats. Something to make them feel special. B***** was never called to the front of the line for such treatment. No one sent him a care package. No new pics of family that was coming soon. No packages so lovingly put together by a new mommy. No new pjs, or cool tshirts... no match box cars or fruit snacks. There was no one taking his picture to send back to America to a new family.
... that is, until we were matched with him and his new sis to be, M*****! In June they received their first care package just for them!! New pjs. and fruit snacks, underwear, and tshirts, pics of OUR family, that would now become THEIR family. It brings me to tears to think about how exciting it must've been for B***** especially (due to his age), to receive some of that "center of attention" treatment for the first time in his life.
So, fast forward to our MEETCHA day on Sunday. He'd been told that his mommy and daddy were finally coming! I can't imagine the excitement and probably fear that he had coursing through his body. We received hugs and smiles all around when they were brought out. One thing that is truly amazing is that B***** has TOTALLY taken on the roll of big brother to M******. Many of you know that they are not biologically related, however, once they are legally ours they will truly be brother and sister. B**** is so very protective of his baby sister... looking out for her... sharing with her etc. It is amazing.
The emotions going through both of our kids must've been overwhelming, to say the least. Here come 2 strange looking people, that although I've seen pics of them, they smell different, their skin color is clearly different, they don't speak the same language... these are just a few of the many thoughts that must've been racing through especially B*****'s little head.
I will say that the language barrier was probably the MOST difficult piece to all of this. For example, we would get out a new toy, such as side walk chalk, and he'd be THRILLED. We'd want to help him open it, as it is almost impossible for a 4 year old to break through the indestructible plastic packaging. But instead of it looking like we were trying to help, since he doesn't understand, "oh, let me help you with that... mommy will help", it looked to him like we're grabbing it back out of his hand, after just giving it to him and speaking in a language that he is TOTALLY not able to understand. It must've been soo confusing.
Days 1, 2, and 3 were pretty much a jumble of highs... B***** laughing and smiling, to lows B***** crying and frustrated because he didn't understand all that was happening. In the meantime, M***** whom we concerned about, because we only saw a few photos of her even smiling, was bonding very well with both of us. Snuggling, laughing, smiling, soo happy to be in her mommy's arms etc.
After many tears, both from B******, as well as Jeff and I... and LOTS of prayers going up, Jeff and I were able to learn several key words in Amharic that TOTALLY changed things for the better. Such as "good job", "wait", "come", "no", "I love you", "Okay". It made a WORLD of difference! And yes, I totally believe that the prayers going up from our friends and family back in America definitely helped!
So, I'll end this post with those encouraging words and will share "the turning point" as well as B***** and M*****'s birthday celebration in the next post.