Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Addis Ababa we went...

 So remember me saying that we had $2,000 + $5,000 = $7,000 for the kids plane tickets they had been praying so long for??     Half of what we needed.   Which would really have been sweet with a BOGO deal?

Ethiopian Air - if you booked by January 31st, and traveled in March of 2012 - you could get BOGO.    Slim to none chance as we had just gotten our referral on January 9th and court dates are usually assigned two months later.  

We got our call with our court date on January 31st at 1:30 pm.
Our court date was March 8th, 2012. 
Miraculously, our 6 plane tickets costed a little less than $7,000.  

And to sing the praises of my wise friend Farrah - we had been contemplating getting the kids shots 'just in case' (even though we didn't have their airfare) months prior and Farrah had said, "Get the shots.  Move like God has already put that money in the bank, have faith".  So we did.   Thankful that the Lord choose to show off a bit with minutes to spare, just so that we could laugh about his sense of humor and how it could only have been a loving God to provide such an awesome surprise.   

100's of dollars of shots in preparation, about 6 old and huge suitcases purchased from GoodWill, clothing sprayed down with the highest powered bug spray I could find online, and a TON of donations for the orphanages that I had been collecting for about, oh, 3 years.  

So it was great the kids got to go - otherwise there is no way we could have taken all those donations - toys, diapers, clothing, medicine, you name it.  I wish I had charted how many hours I packed, weighed, repacked, weighed again, repeat.   50 lbs is easy to hit with heavy baby items!   We each got one carry-on and 2 suitcases.    (Our friend Mindy had also volunteered to go to help with the kids).  This is just a portion of our finished pile.

The kids actually have commented how they loved flying and miss the airplane food.  (I think it was the drugs I was giving them... had to be).     Breakfast consisted of a bread, more bread, and a fruit cup.   (can't help but think of the K & W Cafeteria ladies - "bread, bread, serve you bread??")  

We landed in Addis Ababa and collected our mountains and mountains of luggage.   It was frankly, hilarious.   To see these clumsy Americans trying to roll along carts of 12 large suitcases and 3 carry-ons, all with backpacks on their backs.   We looked like the Queen going on holiday.   I wanted to tell everyone staring, "really, this isn't all for us.  I promise!  We aren't this high maintenance!!"

Riding through the steets of Addis Ababa, it felt like I had come home.   Having been there in 2009, not much had changed on the ride from the airport.   The same maneqquins that hang out in front of EVERY store.  

The same charcoal / car exhaust smells in the air.    The sights of donkeys, goats, and sheep being led by children down the busy streets.

The city is such a mish mash of old vs. new.   Villas and tin shacks side by side.   Internet cafes but yet a jungle of power lines criss-crossing every which way.
 Half finished buildings are everywhere.  It's like they start a big project and run out of money before completion...
 Raw meat hanging for sale in store front windows.   Our guide said that it can stay there for a day and still 'be alright to eat'.   I'll take his word for it....

And those on the streets -  Kids on the streets just laying around, or flocking our van signing 'eat, eat, mama - eat??'.   Teens on the streets busy shining shoes or holding their boxes in hopes of a customer.  
Mothers with babies begging for coins.  
 Traffic is crazy busy with an unspoken rule of drive fast, pass quickly, and somehow miss the millions of walking pedestrians.   There is a lot of beeping going on as well.   Beeping your horn can mean a host of things - and somehow the drivers understand their meanings like a mother understands her baby's cry.   There are no stoplights, or stop signs.  Just speed and quick turns down the hundreds of little bumpy streets.   Paved and unpaved.  We were amazed we didn't see a hundred accidents with the way we sped down the streets and pushed the nose of the car into traffic until we gained right of way.   It is a finely tuned instrument I suppose.  One I hope to never have to play on my own...

  Disabled dodge in and out of this crazy traffic begging...

 And it wasn't unusual at all to see someone sleeping (or using the bathroom) in the middle of a median.   Thankfully, I think the kids missed the latter of the two... 

We kept seeing tiny boxes we assumed are living quarters.  
 And tiny patchwork tin shacks we know held entire families.   And wondered how they withstood the rainy season when sheets of rain flood the city...
 Gorgeous homes that seemed so out of place dotted the city as well.  Most had high walls with broke glass across the top as security systems.  And most were next door to the tiny tin shacks like above.

And over my 2 trips - what became my favorite landmarks -
The familiar Coca-Cola store

The 'Tupperware' store.

Again, I thank God my kids were able to see a world where everyone doesn't own a car, kids walk to school in torn and ratty uniforms, children lay around on the streets as their parents can't afford for them to go to school at all.    Because although my photos are interesting, there is no way I can describe or help you to picture such a land without seeing it.   As I once told someone, we see these photos and they are but snapshots of a land far away.   A photo in a frame.    But to realize that the reality is, they are not singular shots, but a moving narrative that continues on, and on, and on.   The pictures of poverty never ended.  Those in Ethiopia cannot just 'leave the bad part of town' and resettle, as this is their everyday life.   And yet, it has a rare beauty in it's simplicity.

We later left the city for the countryside for a whole other view.   The beauty of this land is amazing and the contrasts in city/country and new/old stood out even more with each mile our bumpy van raced down the mountain, away from the capital, Addis Ababa, and into the true country of Ethiopia.

But that is a story for later..... 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Unwritten Story

This week has been a week of memories.    Remembering how depressed I was this time last year as we sat at #1 on the waiting list for 2 months, and had just missed another Christmas without our baby.   Remembering how many walks I went on on Friday afternoons, praying for that blasted phone to ring.  

And then Sunday, our pastor mentions taking that first step.  Walking in faith.   When God says move, making that move so that you don't miss the story he has for you.   And I wanted to jump up and run to the front to say "that was us!!  that's our story!!!  It was hard, it was long, but it was worth it to take that step!"  

And then another friend asked our story and I wanted to point her here - until I realized that in all the hard, long days of last year - I really didn't write our story.    Sure, I wrote the prelude but our actual story was lost in the excitement of 2 trips to Africa and bringing a new baby home.  

So here is my attempt to journal the story I forgot to write.  And if I have 2 readers still left after my months of no blogging - here ya go.

During the months and months of us waiting, the kids had been begging to go with us to Africa.   Knowing that tickets are around $1,400-2,000 a piece, I told them what any mom would tell a kid asking for $2000 X 3.  PRAY.

Pray for God to give you the money to go.  Because we sure don't have it.  So they prayed.  Like every night.   They even set up little lemonade stands asking for donations.   (I pity anyone on our block who received a dirty little cup of cheap Minute Maid Lemonade - but thank you for being sweet and helping my kids fly to Africa).    I told them, "if God wants you to go, he'll provide the money.   IF he doesn't, then we'll know that HE knew that if you were to go, you might get sick, or really sad, or hurt.   And we'll know he wanted to keep you safe at home."  

A couple months before our referral, we got the most unexpected gift from precious friends who donated $2000 specifically for our kids plane tickets.   They were saving for their own adoption but felt the Holy Spirit telling them to donate toward our kids as it was 'investing in their spiritual growth'.   Who knows what our kids will accomplish with this knowledge of missions so early??  

And $2000 was wonderful, and unexpected, and so, so generous.  But a far cry from the $6000 we needed just for them.   $14,000 for all of us to go. 

And then we found out Tony's job had an adoption stipend for adopting state employees.   For $5000.   So, work with me here - $2,000 + $5,000 = $7,000.    Half way there.  

Half way.   Which would be perfect if tickets were half off.  Which they were, IF you booked by January 1st and traveled in March.    What were the odds??  We didn't even have a referral yet.    (hold that thought)

Tomorrow is our one year anniversary of our referral day.   And looking back, in my frenzied state, I didn't set up the scene well enough for you.    

I get the call, miss the call, call her back and we can't get Tony on the line.  
I race to the courthouse where he was working.   Race up the front steps and run through security.   Seeing another deputy I tell her I need to find Tony because I have big news.  She lights up and asks, "THE news???"   I nod and try not to cry.   We run from room to room in the courthouse looking for him - no dice.   She says he must have walked a judge out so we head downstairs and out a back door.

Now I'll set this movie scene up for you - one year ago - I open the door as my husband is walking up a long handicapped ramp.   I run and jump in his arms and whisper in his ear, choking back tears, "we got our girl".    It was so Hollywood it is crazy. 

Until he had to go on a top secret job interview to change police departments.   15 minutes later.   So no going home just yet for Daddy.

Have I reminded you yet that it's about an hour since I got the call and I still haven't seen my baby's picture or know her name yet??

I race to Seth's school where I ask to sign him out.   I go to the front and wait a stinky for.ever when he comes walking down the hall.   He sees me and mouths 'a referral????"    He runs and jumps to hug me.  

We both go to the elementary school and I ask to sign Braeden and Addison out.   Addi arrives through the door first and I hug her and say "we got your baby!"  To which she says "Where????"

Braeden comes through the doors with HUGE eyes.    He takes one look at me and says, "Did we get a referral??"  When I nod yes - he jumps to hug me and for some reason (I later see on the video), I lift up my arms and he completely hugs thin air.  Whoops, middle child.   I completely stiffed you of your hug and I will forever hate that when I smile at your face when you found out.   

We go home, set up the video camera and about 30 minutes later Daddy FINALLY arrives home.  New job in hand, and we all sit together on the couch and open the emails with her photos.   These photos:  

She looked so sad.   And SO big.   A week before, a friend of mine had told us she saw them taking pictures of a 3 months old with long, curly hair.   I had just sent a 3 month outfit in a care package to Ethiopia with a friend.    This was NOT that tiny 3 month old I had pictured in my mind.  

But then I printed her photos out.  And took the middle one to my room that night to place on my dresser.  I placed it right beside a painting an adoption friend had sent to me ONE week before to try to cheer me up. 

And once again I knew that God had this all under control. 

And this my friends, is just the beginning of the rest of the story.... be continued......